Round up – the best of the rest

By | January 7, 2015

It always feels a bit like cheating when I group some reads together – but I’ve seriously fallen behind on my reviews because of my personal issues last year, and I hope the authors and publishers will forgive me. Normal service will be resumed for all future reads, I promise!

The first book I’d like to tell you about is Pop Goes The Weasel by MJ Arlidge, published by Penguin on 11 September 2014.

A man’s body is found in an empty house. His heart has been cut out and delivered to his wife and children. 

He is the first victim, and Detective Inspector Helen Grace knows he will not be the last. But why would a happily married man be this far from home in the dead of night?

The media call it Jack the Ripper in reverse: a serial killer preying on family men who lead hidden double lives.

Helen can sense the fury behind the murders. But what she cannot possibly predict is how volatile this killer is – or what is waiting for her at the end of the chase..

You may remember I reviewed the first book in this series, Eeny Meeny, last year (here’s a link) and found it a really compelling read, very original: I particularly loved the relationships between the investigating team that ran in the background of the story, and found Helen Grace quite fascinating. This second in the series was also an excellent read, something a little different, well constructed and written, and I’d certainly recommend it to anyone who enjoyed Eeny Meeny – but for me it just lacked the extra edge of that first book, and I was less engaged in the story. I’m still a big Helen Grace fan though, and this is a series I’ll be staying with.  The next in the series, The Doll’s House, is due for publication (in paperback and for kindle) on 12 February.

Then there was A Week In Paris by Rachel Hore, published by Simon and Schuster on 9 October last year. 

The streets of Paris hide a dark past…

September, 1937. Kitty Travers enrols at the Conservatoire on the banks of the Seine to pursue her dream of becoming a concert pianist. But then war breaks out and the city of light falls into shadow.

Nearly twenty-five years later, Fay Knox, a talented young violinist, visits Paris on tour with her orchestra. She barely knows the city, so why does it feel so familiar? Soon touches of memory become something stronger, and she realises her connection with these streets runs deeper than she ever expected.

As Fay traces the past, with only an address in an old rucksack to help her, she discovers dark secrets hidden years ago, secrets that cause her to question who she is and where she belongs…

This was a really lovely read, the Paris wartime setting beautifully drawn and evoked, the story beautifully told and very engaging. Rachel Hore has long been one of my favourite novelists: I particularly enjoyed her earlier books like The Silent Tide and The Place of Secrets, but I was a little disappointed with A Gathering Storm and approached this one with some trepidation. I needn’t have worried though – although I was perhaps a little less engaged by the modern story, Kitty’s wartime experiences are vividly drawn, thoroughly engaging, and with a real edge of authenticity. 

Then came Dying For Christmas by Tammy Cohen, published by Black Swan/Transworld on  20 November. 

I am missing. Held captive by a blue-eyed stranger. To mark the twelve days of Christmas, he gives me a gift every day, each more horrible than the last. The twelfth day is getting closer. After that, there’ll be no more Christmas cheer for me. No mince pies, no carols. No way out …

I’ve been aware of Tamar Cohen’s books for some time – in fact her first four novels are either sitting on my kindle or bookshelves, sadly unread.  Had I known her books were this wonderful… well, they won’t be languishing unread for much longer. This was a quite mesmerising book, the first half magnificently tense and claustrophobic, totally engrossing, and keeping your heart in your mouth. Halfway through comes a twist that’s as unexpected as it is ingenious, and kept me reading until the early hours of the morning. I thought it was wonderful – if it’s passed you by, I’d urge you to get your hands on it as soon as possible. Meanwhile, I’ll be putting her earlier books into my reading diary…

Then there were the last of my pre-Christmas reads.  Christmas just isn’t Christmas without the latest book by Carol Matthews, and The Christmas Party (published in paperback by Sphere on 23 October, also available in hardback and for kindle) didn’t disappoint in any way.  Set around the sumptuous party thrown by Fossil Oil, it follows the stories of some of the main characters – to say it becomes a night to remember is a massive understatement. Thoroughly enjoyable, a quite perfect Christmas read – if a tad darker than some of her others – and leaves you with a smile on your face. What more can you ask?

And finally, a short read. I had really intended to read the latest book by Julia Williams, Coming Home For Christmas – published in paperback by Avon on 6 November – before the festive season hit me, but I’m afraid it’ll now have to wait until next year (when I’ll start my Christmas reading rather earlier – so many excellent books escaped me this year!). Just so I could get my Julia Williams fix, I tried instead her kindle-only short, A Hope Christmas Love Story.  

I was a little uncertain at first – young characters in their first year at college, perhaps not quite the story for me? But I needn’t have worried – Julia Williams is a quite lovely writer, and even with such a short story (69 pages) I became thoroughly tied up in the problems of Mel and Will. The characters were really well developed considering the length of the story, the problems real and well drawn – and the ending appropriately feel-good for the season. Really recommended for a pick up and put down read when you’re planning your reading for next Christmas. 

My thanks to netgalley and the publishers for copies of Pop Goes The Weasel, A Week In Paris and Dying For Christmas. My copies of The Christmas Party and A Hope Christmas Love Story were my own, purchased for kindle.