It’s been an interesting month this month. My reading didn’t go quite to plan as it was overtaken by my ‘Camino’ challenge which saw me reading a number of books about the Camino from my existing (unread) collection. Sadly I’m reading them in stages so I won’t be finishing any of them any time soon, but at least I’ll be able to tick a fair few off my list by the time I get to the end. Still on the Camino theme I’ve discovered that my Kindle Fire hangs over the handlebars of my exercise bike perfectly. As I mentioned last month, my library now offers audio and eBooks via Borrowbox which is compatible with the Fire, so I can now happily read while I’m cycling. That’s certainly helping the miles pass much quicker.
Further bookish good news this month (apart from the opening of bookshops – hurray!) was attending several online literary events. I attended The Cork World Book Festival to enjoy an hour in the company of some of my fellow bloggers and Crime Cymru for 2 events so far with some of my favourite authors. I’ll be spending more ‘virtual’ time in Aberystwyth at a number of events this weekend. This will inevitably result in my buying far more books but hey ho, what’s new!
Books I Bought this Month
Midnight at the Malabar House by Vaseem Khan
Bombay, New Year’s Eve, 1949
As India celebrates the arrival of a momentous new decade, Inspector Persis Wadia stands vigil in the basement of Malabar House, home to the city’s most unwanted unit of police officers. Six months after joining the force she remains India’s first female police detective, mistrusted, sidelined and now consigned to the midnight shift.
And so, when the phone rings to report the murder of prominent English diplomat Sir James Herriot, the country’s most sensational case falls into her lap.
As 1950 dawns and India prepares to become the world’s largest republic, Persis, accompanied by Scotland Yard criminalist Archie Blackfinch, finds herself investigating a case that is becoming more political by the second. Navigating a country and society in turmoil, Persis, smart, stubborn and untested in the crucible of male hostility that surrounds her, must find a way to solve the murder – whatever the cost.
The Rage of Plum Blossoms by Christine M. Whitehead
Attorney Quinn Jones is in over her head. Her husband, Jordan Chang, Annapolis grad and superstar businessman, has been found dead outside their Greenwich Village brownstone. He’s wearing clothes that aren’t his, and was last seen at a place he never went while consorting with people he shouldn’t—and he’s vastly richer than he ought to be. Since NYPD has labeled Jordan’s death a suicide, Quinn is on her own to uncover the truth. Courtrooms, Quinn knows. Chanel No. 5, horses, frizzy hair, and martial arts, she knows. Murder, she doesn’t know but she’s learning fast in order to stay alive. With a few clues to work with, including a photo of Jordan with a stunning unknown Asian woman and a copy of a 1986 check payable to Jordan for twelve million dollars, Quinn stalks the back streets of Chinatown, haunted by the need to know what happened that day and why.
A Single Swallow by Zhang Ling
On the day of the historic 1945 Jewel Voice Broadcast—in which Emperor Hirohito announced Japan’s surrender to the Allied forces, bringing an end to World War II—three men, flush with jubilation, made a pact. After their deaths, each year on the anniversary of the broadcast, their souls would return to the Chinese village of their younger days. It’s where they had fought—and survived—a war that shook the world and changed their own lives in unimaginable ways. Now, seventy years later, the pledge is being fulfilled by American missionary Pastor Billy, brash gunner’s mate Ian Ferguson, and local soldier Liu Zhaohu.
All that’s missing is Ah Yan—also known as Swallow—the girl each man loved, each in his own profound way.
As they unravel their personal stories of the war, and of the woman who touched them so deeply during that unforgiving time, the story of Ah Yan’s life begins to take shape, woven into view by their memories. A woman who had suffered unspeakable atrocities, and yet found the grace and dignity to survive, she’d been the one to bring them together. And it is her spark of humanity, still burning brightly, that gives these ghosts of the past the courage to look back on everything they endured and remember the woman they lost.
Fallen Angel by Jenny O’Brien
She looked like she’d drifted off to sleep, curled up in her white dress, blonde hair floating in the breeze. They called it the Angel Murder.
Eighteen-year-old Angelica Brock is found dead at a local beauty spot, dressed in a pure white nightgown, her white-blonde hair arranged around her. For years her death is a mystery, her killer the one who got away for a whole generation of police.
For DS Gaby Darin, it’s not just any cold case – the victim is intimately linked to someone close to her, and emotions are high. But just as the team finds a breakthrough clue on Angelica’s nightdress, another case crashes into the station. Could they be linked? After all this time, can Gaby finally discover what really happened to Angelica?
The Strange Journey of Alice Pendelbury by Marc Levy
Alice Pendelbury believes everything in her life is pretty much in order—from her good friends to her burgeoning career. But even Alice has to admit it’s been an odd week. Not only has her belligerent neighbor, Mr. Daldry, suddenly become a surprisingly agreeable confidant, but he’s encouraging her to take seriously the fortune-teller who told her that only by traveling to Turkey can Alice meet the most important person in her life.
What’s more, the peculiarly insistent Mr. Daldry has even agreed to finance Alice’s trip—one that against all reason seems to be predestined. It’s on this journey, crazy from the outset and strangely irresistible, that Alice will find out that nothing in her life is real, that her past is not true, and that the six people she’s about to encounter will shape her future in ways she could never have dreamed.
Here and Now by Santa Montefiore
Faced with losing everything, all that matters is Here and Now . . .
Marigold has spent her life taking care of those around her, juggling family life with the running of the local shop, and being an all-round leader in her quiet yet welcoming community. When she finds herself forgetting things, everyone quickly puts it down to her age. But something about Marigold isn’t quite right, and it’s becoming harder for people to ignore.
As Marigold’s condition worsens, for the first time in their lives her family must find ways to care for the woman who has always cared for them. Desperate to show their support, the local community come together to celebrate Marigold, and to show her that losing your memories doesn’t matter, when there are people who will remember them for you . . .
Venetian Vendetta by Merryn Allingham
A terrible accident—or the murder of someone keeping dangerous secrets?
The music soars. The opera reaches its finale. And a woman falls to her death.
Newlywed Nancy Tremayne is a shocked witness to the tragedy at La Fenice. How could it have happened and what could lie behind such a terrible death?
Nancy is accompanying her new husband, art professor Leo, on a work trip to Venice, a celebration, too, of their whirlwind romance. Leo is adamant the death is an accident. The police suspect suicide. But Nancy has spoken to the dead woman only hours before her death and feels increasingly compelled to uncover the mystery surrounding the fall.
As she explores the beauty of Venice, helped reluctantly by Leo’s assistant, Archie, she finds herself caught in a thrilling roller coaster of suspense, plunging more and more deeply into the city’s secrets. Together, they discover a Venice as sinister as it is beautiful.
Determined to reveal the evil she suspects, Nancy walks ever closer to danger. Until she realises she may be forced to make a choice – the truth or her life?
Things Can Only Get Better by David M. Barnett
For elderly churchwarden Arthur Calderbank, there’s no place like home. His home just so happens to be a graveyard.
He keeps himself to himself, gets on with his job, and visits his wife everyday for a chat. When one day he finds someone else has been to see his wife – and has left flowers on her grave – he is determined to solve the mystery of who and why. He receives unlikely help from a group of teenage girls as he searches for answers, and soon learns that there is more to life than being surrounded by death.
Set during the 90s, when we were all just common people believing things could only get better, this is an uplifting story about the power of a little kindness, friendship and community.
Finding Home by Kate Field
She might not have much in this world, but it cost nothing to be kind…
Meet Miranda Brown: you can call her Mim. She’s jobless, homeless and living in her car… but with a history like hers she knows she has a huge amount to be grateful for.
Meet Beatrice and William Howard: Bill and Bea to you. The heads of the Howard family and owners of Venhallow Hall, a sprawling seaside Devonshire estate… stranded in a layby five hours from home the night before their niece’s wedding.
When fate brings the trio together, Mim doesn’t think twice before offering to drive the affable older couple home. It’s not like she has anywhere else to be. But as the car pulls into the picturesque village of Littlemead, Mim has no idea how her life is about to change…
The Resistance Girl by Jina Bacarr
Two women. One heartbreaking secret.
Sylvie Martone is the star of French cinema, and adored by fans. But as Nazi officers swarm the streets of Paris, she is spotted arm in arm with an SS Officer and her fellow Parisians begin to turn against her.
However Sylvie has a secret – one she must protect with her life.
Juliana Chastain doesn’t know anything about her family history. While her mother was alive she remained very secretive about her past.
So when Juliana discovers a photograph of a glamorous French actress from World War Two amongst her mother’s possessions, she is in shock to find herself looking at her grandmother – especailly as she is arm in arm with a Nazi Officer…
Desperate for answers, Juliana is determined to trace the journey of her grandmother. Surely there is more to the photograph than meets the eye?
But as she delves into Sylvie’s past, nothing can prepare Juliane for the tales of secrets, betrayal and sacrifice which she will uncover.
Boomerville at Ballymegille by Caroline James
Join Hattie and Jo as they head to Southern Ireland to open Boomerville Manor, a holiday retreat for guests of ‘a certain age’. There’s Irish craic and shenanigans aplenty for the colourful cast of characters as everyone gathers for the grand opening.
Meet Melissa, an ex-cabaret singer running from her abusive husband, and Bill, a bachelor bullied from beyond the grave by the ghostly voice of his mother. Along with local bobby Harry the Helmet, ageing aquatic team the Boomerville Babes, eccentric artist Lucinda Gray, and heartthrob Finbar Murphy, they gather in Ireland and the fun begins. But murder is in the air and there’s mischief afoot. Will the residents get more than they bargained for at Boomerville?
A Quiet Death In Italy by Tom Benjamin
Bologna: city of secrets, suspicion . . . and murder
When the body of a radical protestor is found floating in one of Bologna’s underground canals, it seems that most of the city is ready to blame the usual suspects: the police.
But when private investigator Daniel Leicester, son-in-law to the former chief of police, receives a call from the dead man’s lover, he follows a trail that begins in the 1970s and leads all the way to the rotten heart of the present-day political establishment.
Beneath the beauty of the city, Bologna has a dark underside, and English detective Daniel must unravel a web of secrets, deceit and corruption – before he is caught in it himself.
The Runaway by Linda Huber
Keep your secrets close to home…
Bad things happen in threes – or so it seems to Nicola. The death of her mother-in-law coincides with husband Ed losing his job and daughter Kelly getting into trouble with the police. Time to abandon their London lifestyle and start again by the sea in far-away Cornwall.
It should be the answer to everything – a new home, a new job for Ed and a smaller, more personal school for fifteen-year-old Kelly. But the teenager hates her new life, and it doesn’t take long before events spiral out of control and the second set of bad things starts for Nicola.
Some secrets can’t be buried.
Or… can they?
Black Widows by Cate Quinn
Blake Nelson moved onto a hidden stretch of land – a raw paradise in the wilds of Utah – where he lived with his three wives:
Rachel, the chief wife, obedient and doting to a fault.
Tina, the other wife, who is everything Rachel isn’t.
And Emily, the youngest wife, who knows little else.
When their husband is found dead under the desert sun, the questions pile up.
But none of the widows know who would want to kill a good man like Blake.
Or, at least, that’s what they’ll tell the police…
A Dream of Italy by Nicky Pellegrino
Live your dream of Italy…
Here is your chance to buy your own home in southern Italy for less than the price of a cup of coffee. The picturesque mountain town of Montenello is selling off some of its historic buildings for just ONE EURO each. The only conditions are that purchasers must renovate their new home within the next three years and that they plan to contribute in a meaningful way to this small community.
To be considered as a future resident of Montenello contact the town’s mayor, Augusto Rossi. Live your dream of Italy for just one euro.
When the Mayor of a picturesque Italian town launches a new scheme to rejuvenate the community, his advertisement is read with interest and excitement by many. Zara is in her thirties and desperate to get on the property ladder. Tim and Lynda are retiring and need a project. Some are looking for a peaceful bolthole. Others hope to make a profit, start a business, escape a dull life or an unhappy relationship. And there is someone who just might be hiding their true motivation…
Their lives are about to change forever – but can they make their dream of Italy into a reality?
The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin
Life is short. No-one knows that better than seventeen-year-old Lenni living on the terminal ward. But as she is about to learn, it’s not only what you make of life that matters, but who you share it with.
Dodging doctor’s orders, she joins an art class where she bumps into fellow patient Margot, a rebel-hearted eight-three-year-old from the next ward. Their bond is instant as they realize that together they have lived an astonishing one hundred years.
To celebrate their shared century, they decide to paint their life stories: of growing old and staying young, of giving joy, of receiving kindness, of losing love, of finding the person who is everything.
As their extraordinary friendship deepens, it becomes vividly clear that life is not done with Lenni and Margot yet.
Six Tudor Queens : Katheryn Howard, the Tainted Queen
A NAIVE YOUNG WOMAN AT THE MERCY OF HER AMBITIOUS FAMILY.
At just nineteen, Katheryn Howard is quick to trust and fall in love.
She comes to court. She sings, she dances. She captures the heart of the King.
But Henry knows nothing of Katheryn’s past – one that comes back increasingly to haunt her. For those who share her secrets are waiting in the shadows, whispering words of love… and blackmail.
The fifth of Henry’s queens.
The Wild Silence by Raynor Winn
Nature holds the answers for Raynor and her husband Moth.
After walking 630 miles homeless along The Salt Path, the windswept and wild English coastline now feels like their home.
And despite Moth’s terminal diagnosis, against all medical odds, he seems revitalized in nature – outside, they discover that anything is possible.
Now, life beyond The Salt Path awaits. As they return to four walls, the sense of home is illusive and returning to normality is proving difficult – until an incredible gesture by someone who reads their story changes everything:
A chance to breathe life back into a beautiful but neglected farmhouse nestled deep in the Cornish hills; rewilding the land and returning nature to its hedgerows becomes their new path.
Along the way, Raynor and Moth learn more about the land that envelopes them, find friends both new and old, and, of course, embark on another windswept adventure when the opportunity arises.
Exit by Belinda Bauer
Meet Felix Pink. The most unlikely murderer you’ll ever have the good fortune to spend time with.
When Felix lets himself in to Number 3 Black Lane, he’s there to perform an act of charity: to keep a dying man company as he takes his final breath . . .
But just fifteen minutes later Felix is on the run from the police – after making the biggest mistake of his life.
Now his world is turned upside down as he must find out if he’s really to blame, or if something much more sinister is at play. All while staying one shaky step ahead of the law.
We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker (Capital Crime sub)
Thirty years ago, Vincent King became a killer.
Now, he’s been released from prison and is back in his hometown of Cape Haven, California. Not everyone is pleased to see him. Like Star Radley, his ex-girlfriend, and sister of the girl he killed.
Duchess Radley, Star’s thirteen-year-old daughter, is part-carer, part-protector to her younger brother, Robin – and to her deeply troubled mother. But in trying to protect Star, Duchess inadvertently sets off a chain of events that will have tragic consequences not only for her family, but also the whole town.
Murder, revenge, retribution.
How far can we run from the past, when the past seems doomed to repeat itself?
Those Who Disappeared by Kevin Wignall (Capital Crime sub)
It’s been thirty years since his father went missing. Now there’s a body, can he finally find out why?
When a man’s body is discovered in a Swiss glacier thirty years after he went missing, his son, Foster Treherne, hopes he’ll finally have closure on what happened to the father he never met. But then the autopsy reveals signs of a struggle, and what was assumed to be a tragic accident suddenly looks more sinister.
Foster tracks down his father’s old friends, but when he starts to ask questions it becomes clear that there’s something they don’t want to tell him. While some are evasive, others seem to wish the body had never been found. What exactly is their connection to each other, and why are they so reluctant to discuss the day his father disappeared? Who are they trying to protect?
If he wants to uncover what really happened, Foster must follow the trail of secrets and lies—no matter how devastating the consequences, and what they might reveal about his father. Because the truth can only stay buried for so long…
Judas Horse by Lynda La Plante (NB Magazine sub)
‘Do you know what a Judas Horse is? When the wild mustangs are running free, you corral one and train it. When he’s ready, you release him and he’ll bring his team back into the corral – like Judas betraying them…’
Violent burglars have been terrorising residents across the English countryside. But when a mutilated body is discovered in a Cotswolds house, it becomes clear that this is no ordinary group of opportunist thieves.
As Detective Jack Warr investigates, he discovers locals with dark secrets, unearths hidden crimes – and hits countless dead ends. With few leads and the violent attacks escalating, he will have to act as audaciously as the criminals if he hopes to stop them.
When Warr meets Charlotte Miles, a terrified woman with links to the group, he must use her to lure the unsuspecting killers into one last job, and into his trap. But with the law already stretched to breaking point, any failure will be on Warr’s head – and any more blood spilled, on his hands…
Books I Read
A Shadow in the Sun by Francis Cottam
Polish war exile Julia Smollen has escaped the horrors of a Nazi labour camp to forge a new life in California with her daughter, Tasha. Sent to the best school her mother can afford, growing up through the Cold War and the Space Race and coming into contact with the aspiring young Democrat, Jack Kennedy, Tasha is precocious, wilful and politically engaged. As intensely close as Tasha and her mother are, however, she remains unaware of the true identity of her father, the courageous German officer Martin Hamer, who was fatally wounded helping the then-pregnant Julia flee her occupied homeland. But Julia cannot keep the truth hidden from her daughter forever. A sinister figure from the past is about to emerge, with his own dark, vengeful agenda.
Someone Else’s Skin by Sarah Hilary
Called to a women’s refuge to take a routine witness statement, DI Marnie Rome instead walks in on an attempted murder.
Trying to uncover the truth from layers of secrets, Marnie finds herself confronting her own demons.
Because she, of all people, knows that it can be those closest to us we should fear the most . . .
Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon
The twisted maze of Venice’s canals has always been shrouded in mystery. Even the celebrated opera house, La Fenice, has seen its share of death … but none so horrific and violent as that of world-famous conductor, Maestro Helmut Wellauer, who was poisoned during a performance of La Traviata. Even Commissario of Police, Guido Brunetti, used to the labyrinthine corruptions of the city, is shocked at the number of enemies Wellauer has made on his way to the top – but just how many have motive enough for murder? The beauty of Venice is crumbling. But evil is one thing that will never erode with age.
Death in a Strange Country by Donna Leon (Brunetti 2)
Early one morning Guido Brunetti, Commissario of the Venice Police, confronts a grisly sight when the body of a young man is fished out of a fetid Venetian canal. All the clues point to a violent mugging, but for Brunetti, robbery seems altogether too convenient a motive. Then something very incriminating is discovered in the dead man’s flat – something which points to the existence of a high-level cabal – and Brunetti becomes convinced that somebody, somewhere, is taking great pains to provide a ready-made solution to the crime …
The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman by Julietta Henderson
It was a journey they would always remember . . . for a friend they’d never forget.
Norman and Jax are a legendary comedic duo in waiting, with a five-year plan to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe by the time they’re fifteen. But when Jax dies before they turn twelve, Norman decides a tribute act for his best friend just can’t wait, so he rewrites their plan:
1. Look after mum | 2. Find Dad | 3. Get to the Edinburgh Fringe
Sadie knows she won’t win Mother of the Year and she’s not proud she doesn’t know who her son’s father is. But when she finds Norman’s list, all she wants is to see her son smile again… So they set off on a pilgrimage to Edinburgh, making a few stops to find Norman’s dad along the way.
The Funny Thing about Norman Foreman is an inspiring, feel-good novel about a small boy with a big heart – and even bigger dreams.
So how did I do with my reading intentions?
Death at La Fenice (Bought c2008)
Death in a Strange Country (Bought c2008)
Someone Else’s Skin (Bought 2015)
The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman – 2021
Something Borrowed (NetGalley/Library)
The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman (via Pigeonhole)
Something Blue – pot luck as long as it’s blue!
A Shadow on the Sun (Bought 2013)
That’s me for this month so all that’s left to say is : Happy Reading!