blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Living Candles – Teodora Matei*

The discovery of a woman close to death in a city basement sends Bucharest police officers Anton Iordan and Sorin Matache on a complex chase through the city as they seek to identify the victim. As they try to track down the would-be murderer, they find a macabre trail of missing women and they realise that this isn’t the first time the killer has struck. Iordan and Matache hit one dead end after another, until they decide they’ll have to take a chance that could prove deadly.

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My thoughts:

This is a clever police procedural from Romania. The two detectives are smart and dedicated, despite the distractions of their private lives.

The plot leads you through the streets of Bucharest as they hunt for the killer of several red headed women over the years, tracing it back to the apparent suicide of one woman over thirty years before.

The writing is crisp and lean, with minimal unnecessary details and precise use of language. Giving it the feel of a tense episode of a TV drama and creating a sense of the claustrophobia of the crime scene.


*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Rhubarb Rhubarb – Mary Jane Paterson & Jo Thompson*


Rhubarb Rhubarb collects the witty, wide-ranging correspondence between Leiths-trained cook Mary Jane Paterson and award-winning gardener Jo Thompson. Two good friends who found themselves in a perfect world of cupcakes and centrepieces, they decided to demystify their own skills for one another: the results are sometimes self-deprecating, often funny, and always enlightening.
Jo would find herself one day panicking about what to cook for Easter lunch: a couple of emails with Mary Jane and the fear subsided, and sure enough, a delicious meal appeared on the table. Meanwhile, Jo helped Mary Jane combat her irrational fear of planting bulbs by showing how straightforward the process can be.
The book is full of sane, practical advice for the general reader: it provides uncomplicated, seasonal recipes that people can make in the midst of their busy lives, just as the gardening tips are interesting, quick and helpful for beginners. Mary Jane shares secrets and knowledge gathered over a lifetime of providing fabulous food for friends and family, while Jo’s expertise in beautiful planting enables the reader to have a go at simple schemes with delightful results.

Mary Jane Paterson trained at Leith’s Cookery School where she completed the one-year diploma. She worked at various places including at the English Gardening School at Stoneacre in Kent creating feasts for trainee gardeners. Since then she has taken on various culinary projects including hosting cooking days at her house in Sussex, most notably with CJ Jackson who runs Billingsgate fish school. In the last few years she fulfilled a life long wish to go to drama school. She ended up with a certificate and a little more stage fright than when she started. Her love of food is legendary, her fare is fabulous and everyone looks forward to going to her dinners. Her first rather sad culinary adventure was documented in her mother’s novel, Yadav-A Roadside Love Affair.

Jo Thompson is one of the UK’s leading garden designers, which came as much as a surprise to her as it does to everyone who knows her. She is renowned for her exquisite planting and innate sense of place. Jo’s Wedgwood Garden won a gold medal at the 2018 Chelsea Flower Show, and she has won numerous other awards including a smattering of Chelsea golds. Apart from being a full time designer, she lectures and writes for the Sunday Times.

My thoughts:

This is a delightful epistolary year long guide to delicious food and beautiful plants exchanged between two friends, both very knowledgeable in their respective fields. Full of recipes and illustrations of plants, this book is both enjoyable to read and useful in both the kitchen and the garden.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: 18 Tiny Deaths – Bruce Goldfarb*

‘For most of human history, sudden and unexpected deaths of a suspicious nature, when they were investigated at all, were examined by lay persons without any formal training. People often got away with murder. Modern forensic investigation originates with Frances Glessner Lee – a pivotal figure in police science.’

18 Tiny Deaths is the remarkable story of how one woman changed the face of murder investigation forever.

Born in 1878, Frances Glessner Lee’s world was set to be confined to the domestic sphere. She was never expected to have a career, let alone one steeped in death and depravity. Yet she was to become known as ‘the mother of forensic science’.

This is her story.

Frances Glessner Lee’s mission was simple: she wanted to train detectives to ‘convict the guilty, clear the innocent and find the truth in a nutshell’. This was a time of widespread corruption, amateur sleuthing and bungled cases.

With the help of her friend, the pioneering medical examiner George Magrath, Frances set out to revolutionise police investigation. Her relentless pursuit of justice led her to create ‘The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death’, a series of dollhouse-sized crime scene dioramas depicting actual cases in exquisitely minute detail that Lee used to teach homicide investigators. They were first used in homicide seminars at Harvard Medical School in the 1930s, and then became part of the longest running and still the highest regarded police training seminar in America.

Celebrated the world over by scientists, artists and miniaturists, these macabre scenes helped to establish her legendary reputation as ‘the mother of modern forensics’, influencing people the world over, including Scotland Yard.Frances wanted justice for all. She became instrumental in elevating murder investigation to a scientific discipline.

Bruce Goldfarb is the executive assistant to the Chief Medical Examiner for the State of Maryland, US, where the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death are housed. He gives conducted tours of the facility and is also a trained forensic investigator. He began his career as a paramedic before working as a journalist, reporting on medicine, science and health. He collaborated with Susan Marks – the documentary filmmaker who produced the 2012 film about Frances Glessner Lee and the Nutshells titled Of Dolls and Murder.

My thoughts:

This was a really fascinating read, I’d come across the Nutshell models on a TV crime show, but had no idea they were real, and created by such an extraordinary woman. Frances Glessner Lee was so far ahead of her time, pushing forensic science into the modern age, creating some of the very techniques still used today in solving crime.

Obviously she had the benefit of being born into wealth and a social class that tolerated her “eccentric” interests.

But she was also incredibly determined and intelligent, if she had been male she would have been a doctor and probably have been the head of the department she funded at Harvard herself.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Virgin & Child – Maggie Hamand*

Patrick, the first Irish Pope, discovers he is intersex and finds himself pregnant.

Maggie Hamand’s Virgin & Child grips onto this wild premise and runs from there. This isn’t a book about miracles.

Maggie is a journalist, has a science degree, and what happens in the novel is within the realm of the possible.

Virgin & Child is alternate history, that lets the reader expand their sense of what is credible. What gives this novel true bite is how real it feels.

Maggie grew up as what her era called a tomboy, and gave birth to three sons. She worked and campaigned for women’s fertility rights. She has also studied theology and this book began as a PhD in that subject, before she changed to creative writing. ‘I found the theology PhD too constricting, and felt that only by writing fiction could I fully explore the issues I wanted to tackle,’ says Hamand. ‘I felt that only through an imagined direct and bodily experience could a celibate Pope understand a woman’s experience. I hope that by reading the novel others will identify with the character and be shocked into a new understanding.”

Like works by Brian Moore, Graham Greene, Robert Harris and Piers Paul Reed, the novel reads as a gripping thriller while at the same time tackling questions of religion, faith and gender.

What makes Virgin & Child different is that it’s not written by a man. Did a mother conceive the notion of a virgin birth? Probably not. Mothers know the act of creation is all too human and messy. This novel takes a Pope, God’s elect on Earth who tradition says has to be a man, and feminizes the whole concept.

How would that alter a male worldview?

Virgin & Child gives an answer as an act of searing storytelling.

Maggie Hamand is a journalist, novelist, and creative writing lecturer. She was the first winner of the World One-Day Novel Cup and her novel, The Resurrection of the Body, was published by Penguin and has been optioned for film and television. She was founder and director of the award-winning independent publisher Maia Press. Maggie has a degree in biochemistry, a Masters in theology, and a PhD in creative writing from the University of Hull. She has taught in a range of institutions including Holloway Prison and is author of the best-selling Creative Writing For Dummies. She lives in East London.

My thoughts:

This is somewhat strange novel, with a pregnant, intersex Pope, trying to keep his secrets and somehow carry out his very public role.

Lyrical and full of philosophical questions which Pope Patrick struggles with along with his personal concerns.


*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Arrowood and the Thames Corpses – Mick Finley*

South London, 1896.

William Arrowood, Victorian London’s less salubrious private detective, is paid a visit by Captain Moon, the owner of a pleasure steamer moored on the Thames. He complains that someone has been damaging his boat, putting his business in jeopardy.

Arrowood and his trusty sidekick Barnett suspect professional jealousy, but when a shocking discovery is pulled from the river, it seems like even fouler play is afoot.

It’s up to Arrowood and Barnett to solve the case, before any more corpses end up in the watery depths . . .

My thoughts:

This was a fun read, what with Arrowood railing against the better known Sherlock Holmes, and dealing with the women in his life, mostly by running away from them.

A clever, knowing Victorian murder mystery, replete with street urchins, Cockney thugs, rat catchers and hopeless coppers. Add a twisted plot involving revenge and a rather vile use of human remains and you have a gritty little thriller on your hands.

Considering how much Arthur Conan Doyle came to hate his creation, he might have been glad to hand the torch on and let another consulting detective take the limelight.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Dark Corners – Darren O’Sullivan*


You thought you’d escaped your past

It’s been twenty years since Neve’s best friend Chloe went missing. Neve has never recovered and promised herself she’d never go back to that place.

But secrets can come back to haunt you

When Neve receives news that her first boyfriend Jamie has gone missing, she’s forced to return. Jamie has vanished without a trace in a disappearance that echoes the events of all those years ago. Somebody is watching and will stop at nothing until the truth about what took place that night is revealed …

My thoughts:

This was a clever, creepy thriller. Neve is the ultimate unreliable narrator, holding things back from the reader all the way to the end.

The cold and depressed landscape of old mines and the dying village add to the atmosphere of menace and secrecy, everyone has their own agenda here.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Deep Dark Night – Steph Broadribb*

Working off the books for FBI Special Agent Alex Monroe, Florida bounty hunter Lori Anderson and her partner, JT, head to Chicago. Their mission: to entrap the head of the Cabressa crime family. The bait: a priceless chess set that Cabressa is determined to add to his collection. An exclusive high-stakes poker game is arranged in the penthouse suite of one of the city’s tallest buildings, with Lori holding the cards in an agreed arrangement to hand over the pieces, one by one. But, as night falls and the game plays out, stakes rise and tempers flare. When a power failure plunges the city into darkness, the building goes into lockdown. But this isn’t an ordinary blackout, and the men around the poker table aren’t all who they say they are. Hostages are taken, old scores resurface and the players start to die.

And that’s just the beginning…

Steph Broadribb was born in Birmingham and grew up in Buckinghamshire. Most of her working life has been spent between the UK and USA. As her alterego – Crime Thriller Girl – she indulges in her love of all things crime fiction by blogging at crimethrillergirl.com, where she interviews authors and reviews the latest releases. She is also a member of the crime-themed girl band The Splice Girls. Steph is an alumni of the MA Creative Writing (Crime Fiction) at City University London, and she trained as a bounty hunter in California, which inspired her Lori Anderson thrilliers, She lives in Buckinghamshire surrounded by horses, cows and chickens. Her debut thriller, Deep Down Dead, was shortlisted for the Dead Good Reader Awards in two categories, and hit number one on the UK and AU kindle charts. My Little Eye, her first novel under her pseudonym, Stephanie Marland was published by Trapeze Books in April 2018.

My thoughts:

Lori and JT basically walk into a pretty obvious trap, but the people in that room are in more trouble than the protagonists because everything has been engineered to get them there.

There’s a mysterious new power player in town and a recorded voice demands to know who in that room is Herron. Everyone denies it, bullets start flying and then the only thing left to do is escape.

This was a very clever book with a twist I didn’t see coming and some very untrustworthy “good guys”.

A strong plot and characters meant you get pulled right into all the action and you’re rooting for Lori and JT to get out and go home.

I read this in one sitting as it was so compelling.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.