The Reckoning – Jane Casey

The Reckoning

The Reckoning is the second, after The Burning, in the Maeve Kerrigan series by Jane Casey. Now, although I’m well behind most bloggers in the Jane Casey series, it’s easily apparent that Casey is a very popular author among the crime fiction blogger set. So, to be honest, this review seems superfluous even before I write it!

It’s so long since I read The Burning that I’m not really able to compare the two, although from what I can remember it seems as though there’s a far better developed plot in this second book, as Casey finds her feet as a novelist (she also wrote a standalone crime novel prior to The Burning, called The Missing. Loved it too, but also don’t remember much apart from that!) The majority of the novel is from Maeve’s POV, although later in the book we get a few chapters in Rob’s voice, to reveal what happens on occasions when Maeve isn’t present; it also helps give us a flavour of him as an individual. In her personal life, Maeve is trying to stop seeing Rob (again – your guess is as good as mine as to why…!) and has just moved (again!), to a large house shared with a bizarre mix of people: a computer games reviewer, a dope-smoking landlord, an OTT actor from a kids’ TV series, and a couple more.

This novel essentially consists of two separate investigations, which end up seguing into one. The first involves the brutal torture and murder of paedophiles, all within a certain area. The torture and murders all reflect the crimes the victims committed: for example, a collector of child pornography has his eyes gouged out; a paedophile priest is burnt with heated rosary beads.

The trail left by PNC searches mean Police IT workers manage to identify the person who accessed a list of names, beginning with the initial victims, and get a copy of the rest of the list. The police decide to check on the health of them – and this results in DC Maeve Kerrigan and her opinionated, mouthy (and not unamusing!) new boss, DI Josh Derwent, a great new character, walking straight into the next torture scene. After some drama, the scene is secured, and, among the arrested, there’s a familiar face – Mr John Skinner, over from the Costa del Crime, where he’d been evading justice. He was on a family mission – his 14-year-old daughter Cheyenne had disappeared 5 days previously. Cunningly, the cops had held back on announcing much news on Cheyenne, hoping to tempt Skinner out of hiding in Spain and back into the UK to face outstanding charges. So what began as a murder investigation evolves into the case of a missing teenage girl.

Immediately prior to disappearing, Cheyenne had updated her social media to say she was going to a “pop-up club” – but who did she meet there that caused her disappearance? Maeve’s team combine with the Missing Persons unit, and decide to visit the warehouse where the club night was held. There is what they’d feared finding since hearing about Cheyenne’s disappearance – her dead body, which had been replaced in the warehouse after the police search.

It’s the result of the post mortem that really shocks the team, though, as Cheyenne wasn’t murdered – she died from an asthma attack. (My son has mild asthma, and, at 21 and always in a big hurry, is dreadful at not taking an inhaler out with him, so I found this part really tragic.) Also, there’s saliva on Cheyenne’s hand – but it belongs to a woman who’s been missing for 18 months. Just how did it get there?

This is when the investigation really heats up, and of course, when left behind on the trip to arrest suspects, Maeve heads off on what should be a cursory investigation of a house belonging to a relative of the arrestee. She is accompanied by DC Liv Bowen, who has been working with Rob, and of whom Maeve was initially jealous. However, at the house, the two women find far more than they bargained for…

I love Maeve Kerrigan, and can’t wait to get into the next book in the series. Jane Casey almost gives you two-books-in-one, with the initial paedophile case leading into another investigation altogether. If that’s not enough for you, there’s also a subplot involving Maeve being stalked. Casey is really finding her feet as an author when it comes to plotting, taking her time with it. All the characters are well fleshed out, even the most minor, although Maeve, and Rob, are the ones we obviously get to know best. Unlike many “romances” in police procedurals, theirs doesn’t feel “tacked on” to make up the word count.

I’m aware I’m pretty much preaching to the converted here; indeed, most of you are probably way ahead of me when it comes to the Maeve Kerrigan series. But if there’s anyone out there reading this who’s missed this series, do grab a copy of The Burning – although that’s not to say The Reckoning doesn’t work fine as a standalone, as it’s not hard to pick up on who’s who. But Casey’s characters, and their interactions with each other, work best when you read the books in sequence – I’m especially looking forward to getting to know DI Josh Derwent, who’s Maeve’s new boss and quite an interesting character. And, of course, I’m dying to know what happens between Maeve and Rob. So, once I finish my current reads, I’ll be diving into The Last Girl.

The Other Typist – Suzanne Rindell

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This book is told from the perspective of Rose Baker, who is a typist in a police precinct in New York in 1924, at the height of prohibition. Her job is to take down the confessions or statements of suspects on a stenography machine in the interview room, before translating it into a typewritten record. At the beginning of the book she works alongside two other typists, of which we learn little, the Lieutenant Detective (of whom Rose is none too keen), and the Sergeant (who Rose sees as a man of strong moral fibre, comparing him to herself.) Rose has had a tough upbringing. She was brought up in a convent, but did well in her education, and is a fast and accurate typist.

Then into the precinct comes Odalie, a new typist. From the start, Rose is fascinated by her – she is glamorous, fun, and attractive, and seems to lead an exciting life. In short, she is everything dowdy Rose is not. Rose quickly falls under her spell, and after lunching together several times, where Rose confides in Odalie the awfulness of her room-mate, she is soon asked by Odalie to move in with her. Odalie stays in a hotel suite, and clearly is not short of money. Odalie explains to Rose that her father pays for the hotel suite, but asks her to keep this quiet down at the precinct. At this point completely in Odalie’s thrall, Rose would agree to do anything for her. However, there are already rumours flying about the station – that Odalie is a bootlegger’s girl, in the precinct to spy for her other half. Rose has also heard Odalie give other people different explanations for her being so affluent – particularly in regard to two diamond bracelets she only seems to wear while at home in the suite – so knows her new friend is economical with the truth.

The descriptions of the speakeasies Odalie takes Rose to are also fascinating. Initially Rose assumes they are merely customers, and that the establishments are run by Gib, a paramour of Odalie’s, but as time as goes on, she suspects Odalie has more of an involvement in them than she first suspected. However, she is so dazzled by her, and the glamorous lifestyle she has opened up to Rose, that she ignores her better instincts, and does pretty much all Odalie desires. But little does Rose realise how dangerous this new friendship will be for her, and how her naivete and poor judge of character (initially seen in regard to the Sergeant and the Lieutenant Detective) will lead her into a web of intrigue and deception from which she will be unable to escape…and which, she eventually realises, began when she first saw Odalie, on the day she came to the precinct to be interviewed. From that day, when Rose picked up a beautiful brooch that Odalie “dropped”, her fate was sealed.

This book reminded me, in parts, of The Great Gatsby (and indeed, at the end of the book, the writer admits she paid deliberate homage to her favourite novel.) There is one particular outing Rose and Odalie go on, to a house in the Hamptons, which particularly made me think of Gatsby’s mansion, and I’m sure any other readers will see the similarity.  At that party, the two girls meet a young man who clearly recognises Odalie, and she is desperate to avoid him at all costs. But he has an interesting story to tell Rose, about a mysterious car accident which resulted in the death of his cousin, and the disappearance of the cousin’s fiancée. It seems likely he will not be palmed off by Odalie’s claims she grew up in Santa Fe, and had never visited Newport, where this accident occurred, and, indeed, he isn’t.

I really adored this book. It is so easy to see why Rose is dazzled by the delightful (on the surface, at least!) Odalie, when Rindell describes her glamorous life, her laugh, her fashionable haircut, her apparent generosity. But as the Russians say, “The only free cheese is in a mousetrap.” She is, as I said earlier, being bound into Odalie’s life until Odalie no longer has any use for her. The atmosphere, of New York, of the police precinct, of the hotel, and Rose’s cheap boarding house, comes across as highly authentic (although I’m no expert on 1920s Prohibition-era New York!) So assured is Rindell’s writing I found it hard to believe this was a debut novel. Now I KNOW I’m guilty of having said that of a number of writers this year! But Rindell’s prose really is particularly sparkling and fluent, and very atmospheric. I do have “issues” with the ambivalent ending, and would be interested in comparing thoughts on it with anyone who’s read it already. But to write any more here would take us into spoiler territory.

I absolutely cannot wait to see what Rindell comes up with next – I’d love it if she stuck with the 1920s as a setting; it’s a decade she clearly adores and is knowledgeable about. If you missed The Other Typist, or have it sitting on your shelf or Kindle, please do yourself a favour and get round to reading it!

4.5 out of 5

(It would have been a definite 5, except for the end!)

Friday Finds

Friday Finds

Hosted by Miz B at ShouldBeReading, this weekly meme allows you to showcase the books that have come into your possession this week – many of you will have a list of presents to show off. But also included are any purchases, books you’ve borrowed, ARCs – anything that’s new to you…

First on my list was a book I’ve been interested in since it came out earlier this year, but after reading FictionFan‘s glowing review of it, I knew it was a must-have. So my parents very kindly bought me a lovely chunky hardback copy (I prefer non-fiction to be in “real book” form, as it’s easier for reference purposes) of John Campbell‘s Roy Jenkins: A Well-Rounded Life. It’s going to take me quite a while to get through this, so expect a review round about…ooh, March…!

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I received a great early Christmas pressie through the post – an early proof of the new DI Marnie Rome by Sarah Hilary, called No Other Darkness. After the fantastic Someone Else’s Skin, which has made many a blogger’s “Best Of…” list for 2014, this is something to really look forward to. I really can’t see me lasting til April before reading, so I’ll have to review it as soon as I read it, and keep the review, lest I be influenced by any early reviews! I don’t have an image for what the final cover will look, I’m afraid.

I also enjoy a good spy thriller, and Edward Wilson‘s come highly recommended. And as there were three of his in the current Kindle sale, where there are some really good books at 99p upwards, I did that frighteningly easy one-click thing. I’m sure you all know what I mean…

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Also in the Kindle sale, I picked up something spooky, The Small Hand by Susan Hill. And, this book was picked in Sarah at Crimepieces Top 5 Of The Year (and she knows her stuff; if you haven’t come across her excellent blog before, do yourself a favour and pay it a visit!) It’s White Crocodile by K.T. Medina, and it’s partly set in Cambodia – a new country for me when it comes to crime fiction!

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So, these are my Boxing Day Friday Finds (a day late as I’ve been battling with my mum’s laptop, which is much more swish than mine!)…do let me know what you think of them, and if any of them pique your interest. And if you have some Friday Finds to showcase, do leave a link to yours below. Or feel free to leave any other bookish thoughts!


WWW Wednesday greenHosted by Miz B at ShouldBeReading, this weekly meme asks you to answer three questions:

1. What have you just finished reading?

2. What are you reading now?

3. What do you plan on reading next?

And here are my answers!

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1. I’ve just finished The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell, and Potter’s Field by Chris Dolan. I’d had The Other Typist for ages, but was never in the right mood for it…as I’ve been saving The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters for over Christmas, I decided to read something also set in the 1920s (albeit a very different city!) I really enjoyed it, and will review it shortly.

I also enjoyed Potter’s Field by Chris Dolan, which is set in Glasgow and about Maddy Shannon, a PF (similar to CPS in England.) It’s about a series of murders of children in Glasgow, and Maddy and the police working their way through a multitude of suspects. Also to be reviewed.

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2. I’m currently reading Shallow Waters by Rebecca Bradley, which is a police procedural set in Nottingham. Again, the victims are children – I know, pretty gruesome reading for Christmas! I’ve struggled to put this down the last couple of nights; it’s very enjoyable. I also started Confessions by Kanae Minato, which is a slim book, translated from Japanese. I picked it up as it’s going to be featured In The Spotlight on January 6th,on Margot Kinberg‘s excellent blog, Confessions Of A Mystery Novelist. Again, it’s a hard book to put down, and begins with one of the most bizarre opening chapters – basically a monologue – I’ve ever read.

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3. Next, I’m going to FINALLY dive into The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters, which I’ve been holding off on reading, despite buying it on the day it came out. On the Kindle, I’m going to read Paula HawkinsThe Girl On The Train, of which I have read several excellent review. Hopefully I’ll get more reading done than this over the next week, but I’m making no plans – although I have packed a paperback of Robert Harris‘s An Officer And A Spy, for emergency purposes, of course!

I hope all my fellow bloggers and any other Crimeworm readers out there have a lovely Christmas and a fantastic New Year (although I do hope to get a couple more reviews posted before the year is out, if I can get my hands on Mum’s laptop!)

Friday Finds

Friday Finds

Hosted by Miz B at ShouldBeReading, this weekly meme gives you an opportunity to showcase your week’s new books, whether they’re bought, begged, or borrowed, treebooks or ebooks, everything counts…and as regular readers will be aware, I’m going to do my very, very best to participate in…

tbr dare 2014The idea of this, hosted by JamesReadsBooks, is that for the first three months of 2015 you only read books that are already in your TBR pile…it’s relaxed for ARCs, book clubs, gifts, etc., but for me the main things I hope to achieve are

1. A drastic reduction in my TBR pile, both real and virtual, as it’s gotten very out of control (and believe me, it’s bad when even I am admitting that!); and

2. If I save a few pennies by staying off Amazon/out of Waterstones, then that’ll be appreciated too!

But I have until December 31st to make any additions to the pile that’ll be included in the Dare…so what I have I piled on it this week?

I finally decided it was time to see what all the fuss was about author David Mark‘s creation,  Aector McAvoy, who I think Cleo at CleopatraLovesBooks said was “the nicest cop” in current crime fiction, and after an email to the lovely people at Quercus, they very kindly sent me a copy of Dark Winter, the first in the series. So, having heard nothing but good things, I’m looking forward to FINALLY meeting Aector!

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I was also lucky enough to win a copy of Dying For Christmas by Tammy Cohen, in a competition on Elena’s blog, Books and Reviews, which is one of my favourite blogs – I’m sure the majority of you are familiar with it; if you’re not, I urge you to check it out (as soon as you’ve finished my post, of course!) This is another book I’ve read good reviews of, and feel I should read it as soon as I can, in keeping with the seasonal setting…oh, decisions, decisions! I can see a second suitcase coming to my parents, filled entirely with books (Mr Crimeworm will be carrying THAT!)

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I also received a copy of the brand-spanking new Jeremy Thorpe biography, courtesy of NetGalley. It’s been written by Michael Bloch. I know political bios aren’t to many people’s taste, but as an ex-student of History and Politics, I do have a weakness for them. Jeremy Thorpe became head of the Liberal party at just 37, and, as a natural politician, seemed destined for great things. But an alleged affair with a sometime male model, Norman Scott, in the 60s, when these things were still illegal, and Scott’s indiscretion about it, ended with Thorpe in court, charged with conspiracy to murder, and, although acquitted, his parliamentary career was in ruins. It was the biggest political scandal since the Profumo affair (one of the two girls who became infamous in the wake of that scandal, Mandy Rice-Davies, died yesterday. I hope she finds more peace in death than she ever had in life.) Thorpe only died on December 4th, so I assume this book has been sitting, waiting until Thorpe’s death, to be released (for legal reasons?) Which seems somewhat…mercenary. But possibly I’m completely wrong, and the book was always planned to be released now. But it’s a couple of months since all the big Christmas books were released, so they certainly missed THAT boat…

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Not TOO bad, this week, then, in terms of books IN this week – maybe The TBR Double Dog Dare won’t be so tough after all, then – except I’ve got a funny feeling I’ll be having a good look round Amazon on Hogmanay, just in case I’ve missed anything I’ll desperately want to read in the next three months. The problem is, that covers an AWFUL LOT of books…

Apologies for this post being late – had a rotten tummy ache yesterday and much of today. But I hope you find it, regardless. What were your Friday Finds, this week (if I haven’t already seen them)? Or have you been too busy buying for others? And do you fancy any of my (somewhat restrained!) haul? Do let me know, or leave any other book-related chat in the comments…



Dandy Gilver And The Reek Of Red Herrings – Catriona McPherson

When I was kindly sent this book by Hodder and Stoughton, in the summer, I have to confess that initially I thought it probably wasn’t my cup of tea. I assumed it was what is called a “cosy” (although having never read any such books, I’ve no idea how I came to that conclusion!) However, I finally got round to it…and I absolutely adored it! I’ll do my best to explain why, and perhaps I can persuade you into giving Dandy a whirl.

Dandelion “Dandy” Gilver, a well-to-do, married woman in her 40s, with two almost-grown sons, and her friend, Alec Osbourne, who’s a bachelor of 35, investigate crimes, or odd happenings, in an unofficial capacity. There’s no hint of impropriety; it’s just that Dandy is clearly too bright and sparky to be a 1920s society matron, paying visits to neighbours or doing charitable deeds (her husband, Hugh, comes across as rather dull, and a bit of a figure of fun, poor sod!) Hence the duo’s investigations, all of which appear to find them, through word-of-mouth. They’re often called upon when the matter is delicate, and requires discretion, meaning the police can’t be involved. Also brought along for the ride is Dandy’s adored ageing Dalmatian, Bunty.

On this occasion they are called to Aberdeen by a Mr Birchfield, who is a well-to-do merchant of herring, buying barrels from fisherman from the ports of Gardenstown (known as Gamrie) and Macduff, who follow the shoals of herring all over Scotland throughout the year. However, he has had horrific reports – of several barrels of herring he has sold on containing body parts! Thus far he has managed to keep it quiet, and as so many livelihoods would be at risk if this scandal were to become public, Birchfield wants Dandy and Alec to go to Gamrie and investigate. They know the barrels originated in Gamrie, as they are always stamped with the town of origin, and as the boats land a catch there in July, their intention is to try and discover whether anyone disappeared in the area around that time. In order to find all the fisherman from that area at home, they must go there at Christmas, when wedding parties, with age-old traditions take place.  Also, Mr Birchfield reveals there is a possibility of one – or even two – barrels containing body parts still being out there…

So Dandy and Alec (and Bunty) head to Gamrie, having booked into The Three Kings lodging house. Their landlady is Euphemia Clatchie (what a fabulous name!), who’s very frugal, which doesn’t result in the most comfortable of lodgings. She is the first of a huge collection of fascinating characters they meet. They present themselves as philologists, documenting the traditions and folklore of different communities. The people of Gamrie are tight knit, interrelated, and many have the same names, to cause even more confusion, although they use “tee names” to differentiate one, say, Margaret Mason from another – one might be known as Meg, the other Nettie. And being fisher-folk, they have dozens of superstitions, all followed carefully in the hope of keeping everyone, but particularly the fishermen, safe. There are also the bizarre elderly brothers, Durban and Warwick Searle, who are expert taxidermists, and live in a huge dilapidated manor house on the clifftop called Lump House. They create bizarre scenes with taxidermy, such as a Garden of Eden, which Dandy, particularly, finds horrific and repulsive, rather than admirable or a source of entertainment. Dandy and Alec also meet a couple of English artists just along the coast, at Crovie. So Gamrie consists of quite a mix of people, although they all know each other, and almost all their business. You would imagine it would be easy to find whether anyone is missing, and it is. The problem is, they end up with up to seven possible candidates…

I don’t want to give away any more about the mysteries, but I will say that Dandy Gilver And The Reek Of Red Herrings is very funny, and Catriona McPherson is fantastic at creating the most bizarre and intriguing characters, in the strangest places. I’d really love to read more of her adventures to see what jinks Dandy and Alec get up to. As to the central mystery – the missing person (which became the missing people) – it is resolved in a completely satisfactory way, and, although I guessed one, small, part of the mystery, the rest came as a complete and utter surprise. There was also a highly dramatic and exciting ending. So I can only suggest that, if you’re a fan of good, witty, well-researched historical crime fiction, PLEASE do go and investigate the charming Dandy and the dashing Alec in one of their adventures!

5 out of 5

I would like to thank Hodder and Stoughton for sending me this book to review, in exchange for my honest opinion.


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Hosted by Miz B at Should Be Reading, this weekly meme asks you to answer three simple questions:


1. What have you just finished reading?

2. What are you reading now?

3. What are you intending to read next?

And here are my answers!

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1. Well I have finally completed Dandy Gilver And The Reek Of Red Herrings by Catriona McPherson – there is a reason I’ve taken so long with this one. I wasn’t going to ‘fess up, but the truth is, I’d had it in the bathroom and read it in there! Bizarre, I know, but now you know my secret. Or perhaps it isn’t bizarre – maybe some of you do the same? So now I’ll have to select another book to become “the bathroom read”. Mr Crimeworm and my daughter, Gemma, who was up from Glasgow for a couple of days last week, did ask, “Why do you have books in the loo?” And I said – why not? Every couple of precious reading minutes should be used! So, now you all think I’m quite mad, I’ll move on…I also read (and reviewed: The Weight Of Blood by Laura McHugh which was an enjoyable debut – the sort of book that would be perfect for, say, a long train journey, as it has no dips in it – it’s pacy and keeps you reading. Which is easier said than done.

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2. While perusing the usual end-of-year lists in all the broadsheets, making sure I hadn’t missed anything that looked interesting, I saw a Scottish crime debut mentioned twice in The Herald of which I hadn’t heard. Potter’s Field by Chris Dolan was recommended by authors Alice Thompson and Caro Ramsay (who is excellent), so not wanting to miss out, I bought it straight away for my Kindle (it was £3-odd, so I wasn’t betting the house on it or anything.) I’m about halfway through, and I’m loving it. I’m loving that it’s set in Glasgow (take note, FictionFan!) and I’m loving the main character, Maddy Shannon, a Procurator Fiscal (Scotland’s version of the CPS) of Irish-Italian descent. I’ll say no more about it, in case it all goes a bit rubbish at the end (highly unlikely, at this rate) but will review it once I’ve read it. However, as it’s maybe a new one to many bloggers, here’s the blurb:

In Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Park, the bodies of two youths lie with bullet holes in their heads. Hungover, nicotine-starved and ill-attired, procurator fiscal Maddy Shannon attends the scene, unaware that this grim morning is about to spiral out of control. The corpses have been carefully disfigured, perhaps signs of gangland revenge or, worse, ritual slayings.

As the gruesome complexities of the investigation multiply, the fragmented story of Maddy’s immigrant ancestors emerges as a counterpoint to brutality and corruption. As she struggles to prove her worth against the darkest side of human nature, we discover the history and heartbreak that created this strong-willed woman.

Potter’s Field is the first of a Maddy Shannon crime mystery series. 

What do you think? Sound good to you?

Also, in paperback, after a slow start, I’m beginning to enjoy Marcia Clark‘s The Competition, which is about a high school shooting. Initially it looks as though the killers shot each other in a suicide pact. However, closer observation of the scene shows that it was staged, and they are very probably still alive, out there somewhere – possibly planning further atrocities. I’ve been intending to read this for AGES, so I’m glad it’s really starting to get moving now. Then The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell is a book I ended up digging out last night, mainly because I’ve been dying to read The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters , but want to save that for over the festive period, so I thought this one, set in a not-dissimilar point in time, would “fill the gap” until I can get stuck into The Paying Guests. I reluctantly put it down at 4.15 am, as I had a doctor’s appointment at 10 am and didn’t want to roll in as though I’d been on the lash all night (chance would be a fine thing!) In case you’ve not come across this book, which came out last year, here’s the run-down:

New York City, 1924: the height of Prohibition and the whole city swims in bathtub gin.

Rose Baker is an orphaned young woman working for her bread as a typist in a police precinct on the lower East Side. Every day Rose transcribes the confessions of the gangsters and murderers that pass through the precinct. While she may disapprove of the details, she prides herself on typing up the goriest of crimes without batting an eyelid.

But when the captivating Odalie begins work at the precinct Rose finds herself falling under the new typist’s spell. As do her bosses, the buttoned up Lieutenant Detective and the fatherly Sergeant. As the two girls’ friendship blossoms and they flit between the sparkling underworld of speakeasies by night, and their work at the precinct by day, it is not long before Rose’s fascination for her new colleague turns to obsession.

But just who is the real Odalie, and how far will Rose go to find out?

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3. So, next on the menu – the aforementioned The Paying Guests by the wonderful storyteller Sarah Waters. In case anyone’s been asleep for the past few months, here’s the blurb…

It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned; the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. And in South London, in a genteel Camberwell villa — a large, silent house now bereft of brothers, husband, and even servants — life is about to be transformed as impoverished widow Mrs. Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers.

With the arrival of Lilian and Leonard Barber, a modern young couple of the “clerk class,” the routines of the house will be shaken up in unexpected ways. Little do the Wrays know just how profoundly their new tenants will alter the course of Frances’s life — or, as passions mount and frustration gathers, how far-reaching, and how devastating, the disturbances will be.

Also, I intend to read the remainder of Rebecca Bradley‘s debut crime novel, Shallow Waters, which I couldn’t resist reading the beginning of, but I really want to save it and get stuck into it over the festive period. I need my crime fiction fix! And I’m pretty sure this police procedural will fit the bill perfectly.


When the naked, battered body of an unidentified teenager is found dumped in an alleyway, post-mortem finds evidence of a harrowing series of events.

Another teenage death with the same MO pushes DI Hannah Robbins and her team on the Nottingham City division Major Crimes Unit, to their limits, and across county borders. In a race against the clock they attempt to unpick a thick web of lies and deceit to uncover the truth behind the deaths.

But it doesn’t stop there. When catching a killer isn’t enough, just how far are the team willing to push themselves to save the next girl?

What are on your W-W-W-Wednesday lists this week? Please leave your links below, or I’d love to hear any of your comments on my choices…And who’s to say Santa won’t be good to us all and leave us EVEN MORE books! (I’ve asked my parents for either the Roy Jenkins’ biography, A Well-Rounded Life, by John Campbell, after reading FictionFan‘s great review, or Germany: The Memories Of A Nation by Neil MacGregor – which was actually a hint for both, but I think I’m just being greedy…but nae cheek, nae chance, as we say up here!) ANY bookish thoughts are welcome – and do let me know what’s on your Christmas list…

The Weight Of Blood – Laura McHugh

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The Weight Of Blood is Laura McHugh’s debut novel, set in the small town of Henbane in the remote Ozark mountains in Arkansas, USA. The first sixteen chapters are alternately narrated in a time-split, by Lucy, in the present day, and her mother, Lila 19 to 20 years earlier. We know that Lucy’s mother is very probably long dead, having disappeared one day in a local cave with a dangerous network of tunnels and passenges running from them, back when Lucy was almost one. We also know she had a gun at the time. What happened after that is a mystery to the folks of Henbane – or nearly all of them. And I call them that because that’s what they are – “folks”; old-fashioned, hard-working people who run the same farms or do the same jobs their ancestors did, and they don’t need no outsiders. Lila’s mother was an outsider. She came in response to an advertisement by Crete Dale looking for a waitress-cum-farmhand. She was an orphan, and then had been shunted around various foster homes, but didn’t talk much about her past – which of course made folk suspicious. She looked exotic, with long dark hair, olive skin and green eyes – just like Lucy. Her beauty led to talk of her being a witch.

The book begins, however, with the discovery of the body of an 18-year-old girl, Cheri, a local who had disappeared a year previously. Her body is found stuffed into a hollow tree opposite Dane’s store, owned by Crete Dane, Lucy’s adoring uncle. Crete is an important man in the community, with plenty of money, some of it from questionable sources, and plenty of people frightened of him. Cheri had initially been in Lucy’s class at school, but had learning difficulties. When she had been younger, she had hung around Lucy’s house – where she lives with her dad Carl, Crete’s younger brother – as though she didn’t want to return home to her mother’s nearby trailer home, and her succession of redneck boyfriends.

One day, when working for her Uncle Crete, Lucy ends up being sent with Daniel, a boy who also works for him, to clear out a trailer which had belonged to her uncle and been on his land. In the bedroom there’s a large stain on the floor, and in the bedroom closet Lucy finds a distinctive necklace she’d gifted Cheri – distinctive as it was slightly chipped, as was this one. Lucy starts to wonder exactly where Cheri had been for the past year, and feels she’s let her friend down. She persuades Daniel to help her investigate Cheri’s disappearance – the police are uninterested as Cheri’s mother said her daughter had run away, and she’d assumed she’d return sometime. So who was renting the trailer from Crete? And who would keep a teenager hidden for a year, only to ensure she was found quickly after her death? Why not dispose of her body deep in the mountains?

Also haunting Lucy is what happened to her mother, who wouldn’t have been much older than Cheri when she disappeared. Everyone in the community assures her her mother adored motherhood, and was happy to be married to Carl, and the photos Lucy treasure seem to confirm that. In the second part of the book, when chapters are narrated by other local characters, the pieces of the puzzle start to come together. Many people have guilty consciences, some worse than others, and the picture the puzzle creates is a far from pretty one. Lucy ends up with two investigations on her hands, with too many similarities. And some people feel they’ve been keeping secrets for long enough…Then another girl disappears, and Lucy can’t help thinking she knows where she might be, and who could be responsible.

There are all sorts of apparently odd, eccentric characters in the township of Henbane – a midwife-cum-nurse, Birdie, who treats Lucy like a granddaughter; Sarah, Daniel’s mother, who is some kind of herbalist. There’s talk of drugs, specifically in connection with a man called Emory, whose large estate is guarded by ferocious dogs. There’s Ransome, an elderly farmhand who’s seen too much but has no-one who’ll listen to her. Gabby, a good-time girl who’d been Lila’s best friend, and whose daughter, Bess, is now Lucy’s. There’s Ray Parker, town lawyer, then judge, who’s one of the few locals not intimidated by Crete, and is a good friend to Carl and Lila. There’s James, involved in the local drugs trade, but who long remembers a random act of kindness – something he’d had little of in his short life – from Lila, when she was a beautiful newcomer. And there’s Carl, who took time to crawl out of the bottle after Lila disappeared, but is now a devoted Dad to Lucy. My feeling though, is that none of them were quite eccentric enough to make you feel the place was quite that strange, and isolated, and suspicious of strangers. I’d have preferred some much more odd folk peopling the Ozarks. I felt in that respect the author missed a chance to create a really, spooky, atmospheric area. But the themes the author touched on – What limit would you go to for someone who is your kin, your blood? When – for different people – does family ties and debts trump morality? How would you choose, if you had to, between your birth family and your new family? – worked well within the book. Most of the characters, but particularly Lucy and Lila, are well drawn. It’s not a book it reminds me off, a little, but a TV series – Top Of The Lake, which was on maybe a year ago. It was written and directed by Jane Campion, and starred Elisabeth Moss (Peggy in Mad Men), as well as Holly Hunter and a scary Peter Mullan. Moss returns to the remote area from whence she came (in New Zealand, in this case) to see if her insider knowledge can help with an investigation into a missing girl. In doing it she has to confront her past, and the fact that although she’s left her home way behind, it’s still part of her. It did a similar thing, but better.

Still, for a debut novel, The Weight Of Blood’s storyline and writing impresses. It seems Laura McHugh’s name joins the (long!) list of authors who I’m looking forward to reading more of.

3.5 out of 5

This copy was provided by NetGalley and publishers Cornerstone/Random House in exchange for an honest review.

Have you read The Weight Of Blood? Did you enjoy it? Did it remind you of any other books, or anything else? Please leave any comments on it, or anything else book related below!

Friday Finds

Friday FindsAs hosted by Miz B at Should Be Reading

Not too bad a week in terms of books in (plus I am allowed to stock up on titles for The Double Dog Dare challenge…)


This week from NetGalley I got The Girl On The Pier by Paul Tomkins, which I thought sounded intriguing:

The Girl on the PierBLURB: Abandoned time and again by those he holds dear, Patrick Clement is forging a reputation as a forensic sculptor, helping to identify the unclaimed missing. But he can’t leave behind a remarkable summer night in 1993, spent alone on Brighton’s derelict West Pier with Black, a beautiful photography student. Patrick is haunted by the fact that no sooner did he get to know her than she disappeared from his life…

Who is this girl? And where is Black, the one who got away? 

Decades on, while at work, Patrick is tasked with reconstructing the skull of an unidentified girl found on the pier in the 1970s – the pier he still thinks about. A crime he recalls from childhood, when his family life was in turmoil, Patrick works to discover the truth behind what has happened. 

Set in Brighton, The Girl on the Pier spans several decades, from the seventies to the present day. Inspired by literary novelists such as Ian McEwan, Anne Tyler and John Updike, Paul uses vivid images to make the reader feel as though they are right there in the story. The Girl on the Pier will appeal to lovers of psychological thrillers and suspense novels. 

I also couldn’t resist Ann Cleeves’ Dead Water, the fifth in the Shetland series, as it was a 99p Kindle Daily Deal.

Dead Water (Shetland, #5)BLURB: Ann Cleeves returns to her critically acclaimed Shetland Island series with this stunning mystery featuring Inspector Jimmy Perez, who readers will remember from Raven Black, White Nights, Red Bones, and Blue Lightning. When the body of a journalist is found, Detective Inspector Willow Reeves is drafted from outside to head up the investigation. Inspector Jimmy Perez has been out of the loop, but his local knowledge is needed in this case, and he decides to help Willow. The dead journalist had left the islands years before to pursue his writing career. In his wake, he left a scandal involving a young girl. When Willow and Jimmy dig deeper, they realize that the journalist was chasing a story that many Shetlanders didn’t want to come to the surface. In Dead Water, a triumphant continuation to her Shetland series, Ann Cleeves cements her place as one of Britain’s most successful crime writers. 

And then, of course, I saw Peter May‘s Entry Island at £1.99, which I’ve heard lots of good things about, and I’m hoping it’ll convert me to become a true Peter May fan!

Entry IslandBLURB: When Detective Sime Mackenzie boards a light aircraft at Montreal’s St. Hubert airfield, he does so without looking back. For Sime, the 850-mile journey ahead represents an opportunity to escape the bitter blend of loneliness and regret that has come to characterise his life in the city.

Travelling as part of an eight-officer investigation team, Sime’s destination lies in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Only two kilometres wide and three long, Entry Island is home to a population of around 130 inhabitants – the wealthiest of which has just been discovered murdered in his home.

The investigation itself appears little more than a formality. The evidence points to a crime of passion: the victim’s wife the vengeful culprit. But for Sime the investigation is turned on its head when he comes face to face with the prime suspect, and is convinced that he knows her – even though they have never met.

Haunted by this certainty his insomnia becomes punctuated by dreams of a distant past on a Scottish island 3,000 miles away. Dreams in which the widow plays a leading role. Sime’s conviction becomes an obsession. And in spite of mounting evidence of her guilt he finds himself convinced of her innocence, leading to a conflict between the professonal duty he must fulfil, and the personal destiny that awaits him.

Quite ridiculously, I’d forgotten until I’d almost finished this post that I’d seen this book in Waterstones today and bought it on a whim…It’s not my usual cuppa, but I thought, what the hell, buy something different for a change!


BLURB: Motherless Alathea Sawneyford, her charms grown disturbing as she rebels against her father, has made the city’s streets her own, while Annie Cantabile is constrained, by her own disfigurement and her father, to his pianoforte workshop under the shadow of Tyburn gibbet. One afternoon the dusty workshop receives a visitor. A man, representing an unscrupulous band of City speculators, Alathea’s father among them, require a pianoforte and its charming teacher to find titled husbands for all their daughters: sisters Evelina and Marianne; stolid Harriet and pale, pining Georgiana. It seems an innocent enough plan but these are subversive times and perhaps even a drawing-room piano lesson isn’t exactly what it seems. All of which will suit Alathea perfectly. Fierce and bawdy, uproarious and exquisite, Sedition takes its plot at a racing gallop: bold, beautiful and captivating .

I was delighted to receive an early copy from Rebecca Bradley (of the wonderful blog Rebecca Bradley Crime) of her debut novel, Shallow Waters, which will soon be available as an e-book. It kept me up until stupid o’clock, when my Kindle Fire finally died on me..

Ebook cover

BLURB: When the naked, battered body of an unidentified teenager is found dumped in an alleyway, post-mortem finds evidence of a harrowing series of events.

Another teenage death with the same MO pushes DI Hannah Robbins and her team on the Nottingham City division Major Crimes Unit, to their limits, and across county borders. In a race against the clock they attempt to unpick a thick web of lies and deceit to uncover the truth behind the deaths.

But it doesn’t stop there. When catching a killer isn’t enough, just how far are the team willing to push themselves to save the next girl?

And finally…

Dare Me

This week I (quite amazingly!) have a “Friday Loss” to report, if such a thing is allowed to exist. My daughter ended up staying two extra days with us as the ferry to my parents’, where she had been heading for a few days, was cancelled due to the weather. When she was younger, she was an avid reader, particularly of Jacqueline Wilson, but at 19 now, as a typical teenager, seems more interested in her iPhone and social media. But I gave her this book last night, and she read quite a chunk of it. So I was delighted when she asked if she could take it with her to finish. I haven’t read it yet, but I’ve read some great reviews. Hopefully it’ll remind her how enjoyable reading is.

So how’s your list of Friday Finds? Have you managed to control yourself and stuck to buying books only for others? Or did you manage to grab a few? Remember, they don’t have to be bought; borrowed and library books count too! Leave a link to your Friday Finds, or if you’re not a blogger, just list them below. And let me know what you think of my picks…Will I hate Sedition? Should I replace Dare Me – do you think it’s really good? Leave any manner of book opinions, thoughts or gossip below…

Dangerous To Know – Chapman Pincher

Product Details

Chapman Pincher was probably one of the best known, if not the best known, journalists when newspapers were the primary way people got their news. Indeed, on the back of his book is a secret minute from Harold MacMillan, to the Ministry Of Defence, and it begins, “I do not understand how the Express alone of all the newspapers has got the exact decision that we reached at the Cabinet last Thursday…Can nothing be done to suppress or get rid of Mr Chapman Pincher. I am getting very concerned about how well informed he always seems to be on defence matters…It is really very serious if a Cabinet secret cannot be kept for more than two days.”

This book, written in 2013 when he was 99 years of age (he survived to 100 but died 5 months later, in August this year), introduces Mr Pincher to a new generation, one who may have heard his name mentioned in connection with the Cambridge Spies, or Peter Wright and the notorious Spycatcher case. As well as being a journalist, he was a prolific author for most of his years, producing children’s books, novels, books written from the viewpoint of his dog (yes really!), and, most famously, Their Trade Is Treachery. It was a book written with material provided by ex-MI5 officer Peter Wright about spies, their craft, double agents, and containing compelling evidence supporting the accusation that one time head of MI5 Sir Roger Hollis had in fact been a Soviet agent. Wright went on to write his own book, Spycatcher, which, although it contained very little more information than was in Their Trade Is Treachery, sparked a huge court case, with the book ending up being banned in the UK.

But let’s go back to the start. He was born in India, where his father was stationed in the army. In 1922, when he left the army, his father bought and ran a sweet shop in Darlington, then a country pub just outside it. During his childhood Pincher learnt a love of the country, and particularly fishing, which would never leave him. He won a scholarship to grammar school, then went on to King’s College London at 18 to study botany and zoology. He became a schoolmaster in Liverpool, but supplemented his income by writing for farming and scientific magazines and journals. Were it not for the outbreak of WWII he may have remained a teacher, but in 1940 he was called up. The army were looking for scientifically qualified soldiers to work with scientists creating new weapons. His eventual posting, as captain, helped develop rocket weapons for the army, navy, and RAF, and would change the path of his life, as would many of the people he met in the course of his army career.

By the end of the war, he was sharing a flat with an old school friend, who now worked for the Daily Express. He cannily (or ruthlessly, depending on your viewpoint!) managed to gain information in the course of his army career which gave him a series of scoops in the Express, which led to him being offered a job on demobilisation. Incredibly, “no official ever connected Captain Pincher with Chapman Pincher.” He was on his way.

What follows is some wonderful stories of the things he experienced; the people he met; the places he travelled to…unlike many reporters, who would take sources out drinking, or wait until a Government paper was issued, Pincher had a different method – he engaged with (by now) high-flying old army pals by meeting them for lunch (and undoubtedly plied them with booze, those being the days of a 2+ hour lunch, although Pincher was always a modest imbiber – to enable him to remember conversations word for word, he says.) His other, most prolific way, of meeting sources, and getting exclusive news from friends in high places who were sources, was while grouse shooting, stalking for deer, or fishing. He mentions one incident where Lord Mountbatten gave him a top secret scoop while driving in a Landrover, with Pincher struggling to write on the bumpy road.  At each shoot he goes to, he invariably meets Sir This-and-that, or Lord So-and-so – and there are always plenty of hipflasks getting passed around at such meetings. Not bad company for a grammar school lad from Darlington! And of course, as his social circle increased, so did the type of stories he worked on, as he was getting information about a lot more than defence issues. Some of the more notorious stories he mentions in this book are the Profumo affair and the unveiling of Guy Philby, then Sir Anthony Blunt, as Soviet spies. Even after he retires from the Daily Express, in 1979, he remained in investigative journalism, writing Their Trade Is Treachery in 1982, and continuing to write for various publications such as The Field.

Re-reading some of this review, I realise it may give the impression that Pincher was a name-dropper – but these were, genuinely, the sort of people he met in the most exclusive of the huntin’, shootin’, and fishin’ brigade – Lord Mountbatten, Sir Harold MacMillan, Sir Hugh Fraser, Sir Charles Forte, etc, etc…and yet you get the impression he has never forgotten the humble stock from whence he came; indeed, he is proud of it.  And it isn’t just the toffs he hobnobs with – it’s the sheer mixture of characters you meet in this book. He reminds me of my father – he can talk to a tramp or an aristocrat with equal ease. Pincher is also now in a position to name the majority of his sources, them having pre-deceased him. Many of his sources used him to get stories printed for their own private reasons, although he cheerfully admitted he knew this, but didn’t care as what mattered was to be the one who got the story. It’s also incredible to think that he really only become a journalist by accident, although he would have probably succeeded in any field he chose to pursue. His love of the countryside runs right through the book, although to be frank I’d be quite happy never to read anything more about grouse shooting EVER!! But I did really enjoy this, although I appreciate it won’t be to everyone’s taste, and is more likely to attract readers of a certain vintage. My final thought was how sad it must have been for him (and his old boss, Lord Beaverbrook, “the Beaver”) to have seen The Daily Express deteriorate from the scoop-winning paper he worked for, to the paper whose lead stories concern either the weather or health, and which is seeing its readers die off, as it eventually will. But really, a very enjoyable yarn, from a chap who certainly lived his long life to the full.

4 out of 5