Tag Archives: mystery

Review: In the Shadow of Winter

In the Shadow of WinterIn the Shadow of Winter by Lorna Gray
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Source: eARC courtesy of publisher

For some reason, I had a different impression of the blurb. I’m blaming it on my currently permanent status of babybrain. Somehow, I thought the stranger rescued had amnesia… I love this type of stories! He didn’t have amnesia at all so I was a little disappointed but I did quite enjoy the book anyway. I’ve just read A Time of Secrets which is also set in 1940s in Australia which I loved (my blurb). These readings weren’t planned to be back to back but as it happened, of course, I’d automatically compare these 2 historical fiction works… I think I might like this book better if I didn’t read it right after A Time of Secrets.

I loved the descriptive narrative employed by Lorna Gray in In the Shadow of Winter. She’s made nature come alive and I could feel the crispness of the snow, see the cold puffs of horses’ breaths, and oh… those hot cups of tea just sound so divine. I’ve never been to England though I’d like to one day visit nor am I someone who would live on a farm but I do really want to now. Despite the hardship felt by Eleanor (shortage & rations due to WW2), everything sounds beautiful & appealing. This, I believe, is contributed by Eleanor’s love of her surrounding area, her horses, and her highly sympathetic nature. She is an easily likeable character; generous, loving, courageous, funny, and at times, clumsy –in other words, human… a woman who is just like your best friend.

The mystery element was interesting enough. The ending was hardly surprising but I do love following Eleanor and Matthew sleuthing around. There were that combination of tension (of discovery and of romance) that was just lovely. The one surprising thing with this novel is just how clean the romance is! There is barely a kiss and even then, so very circumspect. I’m not complaining as the romance is still quite sweet especially when you consider the world these characters are inhabiting. I’d describe is as just a tad more racy than Jane Austen’s 😉

I could just imagine myself reading this in the middle of winter curled up in a very comfy armchair by a roaring fire with a rug over my lap and a very hot cuppa nearby. It would’ve been just the perfect setting to read In the Shadow of Winter. As it is (we’re in Autumn in Australia), I really had to depend on the author’s words to bring me her world and she truly had me ensconced in British winter. It was a lovely & easy-going read for my busy mummy days.

Thanks to HarperImpulse for copy of eARC via NetGalley in exchange of honest review

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Review: A Time of Secrets

a time of secretsA Time of Secrets by Deborah Burrows
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Source: paperback copy courtesy of publisher

A Time of Secrets was an absolute joy to read. It is an engaging tale of wartime in Australia, combining mystery and romance with a distinctive Aussie touch.

I was drawn into this world immediately from the beginning of the book and was completely immersed in this era for the next few days as I read this book. I find this era quite romantic possibly because of the desperation because the insecurity of the future just makes the passion you feel that much more intense. And there was so much passion in this book and I don’t mean just the romantic kind. There was passion for live, for joyful living, for art and buildings, etc. This has definitely brought the book alive to me –I basically had a film reel going on in my head as I read.

There are quite a number of interesting characters from the very capable Stella Aldridge who kept her past close to her heart, the lively Dolly –Stella’s flatmate, the troubled Nick –Stella’s superior, the reserved Eric –Stella’s romantic interest, to the voluble old Mrs Campbell who lived in the apartment downstairs from Stella and who is actually very sharp. Never have I been so torn about a love triangle! There isn’t actually a love triangle in this book as Stella is very certain on who she’s attracted to but… I can’t help but feel for the other guy. I am very happy that Stella isn’t one of those characters who can’t make up her mind and I am satisfied with the ending of the story. And yet… I am also just a tad devastated.

In a way, A Time of Secrets reminds me of the Wonder Woman -tv series but without the super power thing, of course. Diana Prince (aka Wonder Woman) worked in the army’s intelligence services with Captain Steve Trevor as her superior and they caught spies, solved mysteries, and basically saved the day. I just adore this tv series, and I supposed it’s one of the reason why I connected so well with this book as it just so similar in setting. My one petty complaint though was that each time Stella complained about having to wear her khaki uniform all the time, I kept thinking of the green uniformed girl on the cover. I just can’t reconcile this though I still love the cover, it is gorgeous, but green is not khaki.

Whilst there was no surprises in terms of the resolution of the mystery, the plot itself was fine woven and a delight to read. I would unreservedly recommend this to historical fiction / mystery lovers. This was my first Burrows’ but I am keen to hunt down the rest of her works.

Thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia for copy of book in exchange of honest review

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Review: Dancing on Knives

dancing on knivesDancing on Knives by Kate Forsyth

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Source: eARC courtesy of publisher

Dancing on Knives is rather atypical of Kate Forsyth’s books. Its contemporary setting in Australia and lack of the magical element may disappoint her fans of fantasy works. Fortunately, as a fan of Forsyth, my reading appetite is quite eclectic and I could appreciate the amazing effort she’s put into this baby. Whilst it was first birthed over 30 years ago, this novel has gone through a number of revisions (and was also previously published under different title) until the form it has achieved today.

This mystery novel is told from the perspective of twenty year old Sara, eldest daughter of the Sanchez family. It’s an interesting perspective noting her limitation / weakness however it was a lifting experience as Sara, in loving her family, slowly found her strength. The Sanchez family has weathered many troubling times and yet, there were love to be found in each other to sustain them through these hard times. With a focus on family and their secrets, this novel could easily have been a family saga (unfortunately, it’s a little short…).

What impressed me of this novel wasn’t the mystery itself but the whole aura of the novel and the number of things packed into 300 odd pages. The research itself must’ve been a colossal undertaking; mostly in reference to the Spanish culture of cookery & art. I must acknowledge my ignorance for both but I can’t help but be awed by the details that were included without being overwhelming.

The novel itself isn’t a ‘retelling’ of the tale in the strict sense as it was rather of Sara who identified herself with the fairytale mermaid her Spanish grandmother used to tell. This tragic tale combined with the stormy weather, the decrepit condition of the house, and the sinister circumstance of Augusto Sanchez’s accident gave the novel a very gothic atmosphere. Whilst the usual ‘magic’ element is missing, there are references to the supernatural which again lent force to the dark & eerie feelings of the story.

Fans of Kate Forsyth may found Dancing on Knives somewhat hard to swallow / enjoy especially for the fantasy-die-hards. I, however, loved the atmosphere, the well developed characters, and the Spanish flavour of this story. If you’re a fan of Kate Morton, I think you should give this particular work of Forsyth a chance.

Thank you, Random House Australia for copy of eARC via NetGalley

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Review: The Deliverance of Evil

deliveranceThe Deliverance of Evil by Roberto Costantini
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: Paperback copy courtesy of Pan Macmillan Australia via The Reading Room

The curious thing, when you’re reading a translated work, is that you’re always wondering about the original work and how close the translated version is to the original language. Whether there are nuances missed or certain implication that’s inadvertently lost on you due to language / culture differences. Nevertheless, translating literature piece is not easy and my compliments to all translators out there who do not just translate the words but also succeed in bringing forward the atmosphere, the nuances, and the effect intended by the authors. This is coming from someone who is fluent in 2 languages.

Reading a crime / mystery novel, you’d always try to pick up all the clues and guess whodunit before it’s revealed. I tried it with this book as well and whilst I did get it near the ending, I kept questioning whether something’s amiss due to it being translated from another language; especially in regards to one particular clue which I cannot disclose. Setting this aside, however, I managed to enjoy the beauty of Italy and of life there.

“You’re a likeable idiot, Michele, but a dangerous one. Paola advised me to steer clear of you.”

Michele Balistreri, to begin with, was an aimless, self-centred, womaniser –basically, an idiot. He’s hiding from his past and yet, unable to move on. He was living for himself and for pleasure, nothing else truly matter until his attitude in solving a murder brought some inexcusable consequences. Fast forward 24 years into the future, this unsolved murder came back to haunt him but this time, he is an older man somewhat broken with damages wrought by time and lifetime of pleasure. This time, though, he is determined not to let evil stand.

I downed a bottle of whisky and found myself reflecting drunkenly on the fact that this wasn’t the usual childhood melodrama that the infant Mike had fed himself on. I was no longer the ‘Michelino’ who watched Westerns, the fearless cowboy who killed all the bad guys. I was a man of thirty-two who didn’t give a shit about anyone, not even himself. I knew the reason well enough – they were all very clear.

And now what the fuck was I looking for? Did I want to absolve myself? Did I want to avoid eternal remorse by finding evil? And what evil?

It changed little; fate was not in agreement with me anyway.

To begin with, the mystery sounds quite simple: a beautiful woman went missing and years later, more have gone missing. Things are never quite what they seem, however, as the nature of each characters are revealed, piece by piece. The crimes, the deceptions, the corruptions are woven in a complex layer and brought into a well fitted jigsaw puzzles. The Deliverance of Evil is a sterling piece of crime novel featuring a world where corruption reigns and evil abounds; where a broken man haunted by his past seeks to put things to right and yet he is only a man. Despite the dark world of crime and corruption, there was also innocence to be found and beauty and… love. I would highly recommend this book to mystery lovers.

Thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia via The Reading Room for copy of book

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Review: Letters From a Murderer

lettersLetters From a Murderer by John Matthews

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: eARC courtesy of Angry Robot Ltd via NetGalley

I love mysteries and seeing that it was on Netgalley under Angry Robot, I got really really and I mean, really excited! At first, I was sort of hoping that it will have some steampunk component to it or something unexpected or a funky element (we’re talking about an Angry Robot publication here, c’mon!) but it was pretty nearly strictly mystery historical fiction albeit with some fact-stretching involved. I have, however, enjoyed the reading fairly well.

This book, however, was similar to the Archie Lean books I’ve read late last year. In fact, Joseph Argenti reminded me a lot of Archie Lean –both detectives of lower/middle-class background with good deductive minds who loved their jobs and are good at it. Their respective partners are both brilliant though world’s apart in temperament. I found Finley Jameson a lot more interesting though, faulty, nutty with some sweetness thrown in.

Whilst I’ve read a lot of mystery, I’ve avoided most Jack the Ripper ones somehow. I’m not sure whether that was on purpose or whether none so far has truly grabbed my interest. Here’s where I confess my ignorance of the historical details of Jack the Ripper so I can’t comment what’s possible or not in this novel but I found the ending (personally) frustrating. Let’s just say that I wanted more than what I got.

The crime was brutal. The case was intriguing. The chase thrilling. The characters appealing. With a great cover and Angry Robot as publisher –this one is a safe bet. If you loved Archie Lean, you’d like this book too and vice versa.

Thanks to Angry Robot Ltd via NetGalley for the privilege of reading & review eGalley

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Review: Banish

banishBanish by Nicola Marsh
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Source: Book courtesy of Harlequin Teen Australia

Just look at that cover – extremely eye-catching pink (have you seen my nails today?) with close-up of a gorgeous blond-blue-eyed chick. Yea, I am totally a sucker for pretty covers. I’ve not nailread any other of Nicola Marsh’s works though she seemed to be a prolific author; mostly adult romance novels which I rarely touch. This particular work in the YA / thriller / paranormal fits right within my comfort zone though so it was a snap decision to pick this up.

Alyssa came to New York to live with her aunt in order to escape from a painful past. However, just as she thinks that things are settling down, she’s moving on and is starting to dare to grasp happiness once again, the past came back to haunt her. It’s driving her crazy because she refused to believe in the supernatural… She believes someone’s got it bad for her and her logical head is pushing for a realistic answer. Is she going to get the result she wanted and will it be free of the supernatural?

[Alyssa describing herself] …beanpole strawberry blonde with blah-blue eyes, no curves and a nasty habit of picking at her cuticles

Alyssa was an easily likeable character though I really get the feeling that all her refusal to believe in the supernatural was a little too forced. The lady doth protest too much, methinks. However, she really is a mature character as is evident by her dating older guys. And Ronan! Well, I’ve to say that not only is he HOT, he sounds to be really mature for a 21 year old musician! It was lovely to read a relationship where both sides knew the need to communicate and tried hard at it – a refreshing change in a romance! And let’s not forget the sizzles!

His knuckles grazed my cheek in a strangely intimate gesture that had me wanting to leap into his arms and wrap my legs around him, like some corny scene out of a romantic movie…. He stared at my mouth for another few seconds before he shook his head slightly, as if trying to clear the fog. I know the feeling. Confused, befuddled and totally in lust.

The book opens with a Prologue that was quite thrilling then the book started the week previous to explore events leading up to the prologue. I don’t usually find this type of start annoying but this particular one, I actually did. The start was pretty explosive that I found it hard to settle to read the book. I kept getting distracted and was really impatient to get to that part so I can move onto the next exciting bit but it turns out to be the ending of the book and it was repeated word for word which was somewhat disappointing. I skimmed that couple of pages to read the closing of the book.

Despite the above slight disappointment and the predictability of the mystery (I figured it out midway), I still quite enjoyed the book. Primarily due to the turn of language and the suspense was still there though hubz dared to show up (to pick me up from the station) when I was 5 pages from the end! Arrgh! Banish is a good-easy-read with enough sweetness and suspense to spice it up. I’d recommend it if you’re after some sweet brain-fluff to while away a summer’s day. This is the perfect book to read out in the sunshine.

Thank you, HarlequinTeen Australia, for providing copy of book in exchange of honest review

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Blog Tour: Poisoned Waters -a Review

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Welcome to today’s stop where I will be reviewing this amazing mystery book by Ermisensda Alvarez.  Firstly, a bit about the book, if you don’t yet know anything about it.  If you do, just skip down to the review 😉

About the Book

Book-Cover-Poisoned-Waters

Poisoned Waters by Ermisenda Alvarez

Bloody mistakes, ugly scars, and beautiful lies. A tale of corruption.

Helen Gardener is murdered on a trans-Atlantic cruise. The Diamond Royale sails from Southampton to New York with her murderer aboard. Set in the 1950s, Poisoned Waters follows the stories of seven unfortunate characters and how they are affected by her death. Was it merely an accident? Mr Phillips, the owner of the ship, and sponsor of the cruise, rules with an iron fist, in search of something or someone.

Lies spiral out of control as the suspects try to survive the final days on board. Conflicted by their sense of morals, greed, and lust, they realise what kind of people they really are. Who will rise? Who will fall? Who was Helen’s murderer?

My Blurb

For some reason this book reminded me for Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None.  It’s not quite of the same calibre but it is dark and sinister and played upon that particular human nature which proved too great a temptation to many of us.  It is mostly their settings which are somewhat similar in that they are isolated and outside assistance is not available.

Set in the 50s on a trans-Atlantic cruise ship, the scene first began with a dinner where the first class passengers are dressed to a t.  I can just imagine the glamour, the backless shimmering dress, the bright red lipstick, the black & white contrast of the gents’ tuxedos, the tinkling of polished cutlery, the vivid redness or sparkling clearness of wine in glasses… what a beautiful world to be in!  Unfortunately, things very quickly deteriorated as darkness descended upon these passengers.  A woman was murdered, an investigation instigated, and no secrets can remain safe.

There were so many things happening and so many greatly flawed characters that it was hard to decide if there is one thing to focus on.  I think the most amazing thing about this book was that each character from different walks of background was confronted with their own brand of temptation and was faced with a choice and for some, deadly choices.  I wasn’t expecting this book to be so sinister, so heartbreaking (despite the blurb) because this is so much more than a murder mystery.  It’s about the dark-side of human nature which comes to light when overcome with temptation.

Humanity was like any animal under pressure, whether it was for love, money, or life.  When it counted, the dark monsters inside of ourselves, the part of us we denied, would shed our compassion, feast on blood, and consume our hearts.

4 out of 5 stars

About Author

Author-Photograph-Ermisenda

Along with numerous solo works, Ermisenda began writing on role play sites at fourteen and completed her first crime novel at fifteen. Driven by the desire to evoke the kaleidoscope of emotions her favorite authors are able to, she kept writing. Growing up bilingual amongst her Spanish family in Australia, she found a love and deep appreciation for language and the power it wielded.

Now she’s working on a joint project with coauthor Eliabeth Hawthorne. Ermisenda has written Leocardo’s perspective of Blind Sight #1, the first book in an urban fantasy series that changes depending on whose perspective you’re reading.  So the question is, “whose eyes will you read through?”

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This post has been part of the Poisoned Waters Blog Tour. Poisoned Waters is a thrilling mystery set on a trans-Atlantic cruise where a murderer walks amongst passengers.

preview on Amazongoodreadsmark copy