I can’t understand how I’ve managed to miss such a wonderful series for so long. (Originally written by Heron Cavic, Hamilton Crane took over after his death.) But at long last I’ve discovered it, at book no. 23 in the series, so I’ve got a lot of reading to do to catch up.  I’m not complaining!

The books works perfectly as a standalone story. The long-standing characters and their relationships soon become very plain and so there’s no confusion about what’s going on. Miss Seeton, or Miss Ess as the computer insists on labelling her as, works as an artist for Scotland Yard. She has a sixth sense that appears in her pictures. She can’t see it, but The Oracle, Superintendent Delphick, knows how to translate her drawings and find the clues. He needs Miss Seeton with her sketchpad and umbrella wherever there’s a mystery that needs solving.

Miss Seeton is delightfully polite and apparently harmless, but she’s quite a force to be reckoned with. She’s clever and witty and courageous. In this story, for example, she heads up to Glastonbury Tor on her own, encounters a range of eccentrics but deals admirably with them all, and also goes up in a hot air balloon. Nothing fazes this elderly lady, although I think she’s a tiny bit scared of Martha, her housekeeper!

This is a busy book with three plot lines going on – a kidnap, a murder and a missing drugs stash – and they all weave themselves firmly around our demure heroine. Her drawings provide clues to help in solving them all. All the characters we meet are rounded and fascinating, and with the hippie, late 1970s setting in Glastonbury for much of the book we get to see some alternative interpretations of the local landscape and find out a lot about the Zodiac. All very interesting.

This is a quirky, fun novel. It’s a pleasure to read and has you chuckling every few pages at the wit and the bizarreness of the situations that Miss Seeton continually finds herself in.

The cover is classy and eye-catching (and clue-containing). All in all the book is a total delight.

Tenacious, conscientious DI Erika Foster is back in this sixth book in a series that started off brilliantly and just keeps getting better.

The action starts on Christmas Eve when a burlesque dance, Marissa Lewis, is viciously attacked and murdered on her doorstep. This keeps Erika preoccupied on Christmas Day when she’d otherwise be going for lunch with her superior officer. Her victim turns out to be a complicated young lady, with as many enemies as admirers. As with many of DI Foster’s cases, the implications spread out further and further and bring many people under suspicion. A further attack and suicide attempts, successful and otherwise, just keep the surprises and ingenious twists and turns coming in this very cleverly constructed police procedural mystery. Once you start reading, you can’t stop. You simply have to know what’s going to happen next.

The past never lets go of Erika and in this story her relationship with her father-in-law is brought to the forefront. Also, colleague James Peterson, with whom Erika was previously in a relationship, returns to add some complications.

As ever, we’re presented with a gripping, exciting story and some totally fascinating characters. Those we already know, such as Erika and her team, continue to develop subtly which makes them ever more interesting. The new people we meet in the story are all strong and diverse. Robert Bryndza excels in portraying totally convincing characters from all walks of life.

This is another top-class novel from Robert Bryndza, but then we’d expect no less from this consistently outstanding author.

Hugh Fitzgerald is damaged, physically and mentally. Invalided out of the army after being blown up in a vehicle in Iran, he’s now in a downward self-destructive spiral of drinking too much, smoking too much, depression and apathy. His ex-girlfriend is about to get married and he feels he has nothing in his life.

Then comes an unexpected plea from his over-achieving younger brother, Nick. The son of a friend of his has gone missing in Thailand. Knowing that Hugh has been there several times, and that he can handle himself when the pressure’s on, thanks to his army background, Nick suggests that Huge goes to try and find Jack and bring him home. Hugh is reluctant at first, then motivated by the fee alone. However, after some reflection he realises this mission is exactly what he needs. It seems that saving Jack may also be his own salvation. He can prove that he still has value.

He hits the ground running in Thailand, where he soon becomes immersed in its seedier side. He picks up Jack’s trail and doesn’t like where it’s leading at all, but he’s an honourable man and will see his commitment through to the bitter end. Flawed as he is with his addictions and failure to take better care of himself, at heart we see he has a strong moral code. It may not entirely agree with that of the general populace, but he plays by  his own rules which he has thought through. He’s intelligent, surprisingly empathetic and loyal. He’ll do whatever it takes to get this job done.    

Events take him from Thailand into the no-man’s land of between that country and Cambodia, namely Poipet, which has its own rules. Hugh has to track down The Chairman who is ruthless in the extreme. It’s going to take all his courage and determination to survive, and succeed.   

We experience the glory and the horror of Thailand. The writing is no-holds-barred, and stunningly beautiful imagery is found next to the shockingly jagged and brutal. We see our hero’s finest moments as well his lowest. We get a real sense of the desperation of so many lives, and yet sense the optimism and spirit of these same people. You can feel the humidity, the energy, the tension. Christopher Bardsley takes you by the throat with his writing and hangs on for dear life. The book is unputdownable, combining thriller, social commentary, politics, travelogue and self-discovery, and it stays with you long after you’ve finished it. It’s a haunting, challenging and powerful book.

‘The Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay’ is a wonderful example of kick-lit – ‘chick-lit with a kick’, as the author likes to describe it. That kick comes from the strong heroine we have in this story. Rosa Larkin has had plenty of knocks in life and so she’s built up a tough shell around herself. She’s thus rather cynical about the mysterious inheritance she receives: the Corner Shop in a Devon seaside town. However, with the support of her friend Josh, and Hot the sausage dog, she heads down to see what the story is. She intends to sell it and get on with her life without this millstone round her neck.

However, that plan is soon scuppered but, out of work and with time on her hands, she decides to give running a shop a go. Of course, it’s not going to be easy and she faces obstacles and resistance, but unexpected friendships crop up along the way and Rosa’s soft centre starts to emerge from that hard shell. Rosa learns a lot about herself in this lively, uplifting story that’s original, touching and totally enjoyable.

The writing is wonderful and sweeps you along, much as events do Rosa. It may appear to be a quiet seaside town but there’s a lot going along under the surface. Cockleberry Bay comes alive for us in the detailed descriptions of the place and its residents as well in the exciting action we encounter.

This is an accomplished and heart-warming romcom from a talented author.

Follow Nicola as she goes on tour with this super novel.

 

Charity Ends At Home by Colin Watson is the fifth novel in the Flaxborough mystery series. The book has a smart, intriguing cover that gives a new, modern look to a novel that was first published fifty years ago. It recreates that era for us in a timeless way that doesn’t feel dated. We are conducted back in time very enjoyably.

The stately town of Flaxborough is awash with colourful characters. They’re not quite eccentric but definitely not quite ordinary. And a lot of them aren’t quite as respectable as they try to make out. The place is also awash with charities that don’t take very kindly to each other at all. So when a leading light of one of the charities is found dead, there are plenty of suspects, including her husband whose alibi quickly disintegrates.

DI Purbright leads the investigation, assisted by Sergeant Love. And there are another pair of investigators at work – Montgomery Hive and his friend Lucy Teatime. They interact, as do all the characters, in fascinating and delightful ways.

Comedy simmers below the surface in the form of razor sharp wit and situations that are almost ridiculous but somehow retain their dignity. An example is one magnificent scene where everyone is at cross purposes. The headteacher thinks one of his guest speakers, recruited at the last minute, is someone rather important but he is actually a private detective, although he’s masquerading as a photographer. He himself thinks he’s at a prize-giving rather than a careers evening. Add a few too many double whiskeys and some cheeky students and things don’t go as expected.

The whole book is full of wry observations and tongue-in-cheek humour, but it never collapses into farce or slapstick. This is what keeps the story lively, even though the action moves at a sedate pace and our characters are Britishly self-controlled. It’s thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish.   

Recently widowed Evie, who’s 75, realises she should never have sold her home and moved into a care home in Dublin. She’s bored and going into a decline. So, she absconds. A four-tuitous (four is her lucky number!) win on the horses gives her the funds she needs to head first to Liverpool and some other cities, and then south for some sunshine. And so she leaves the UK for France, where she encounters some fascinating people and situations. It’s an emotional and developmental journey for her as well as physical one.

Meanwhile, her son Brendan, whose marriage to Maura is floundering, takes it on himself to track hi mother down. He doesn’t have much to go on other than dogged determination. He’d rather go alone, but Maura insists on joining him in the ailing Fiat Panda. Time after time they narrowly miss Evie but in the process learn a lot about themselves.  

Part picaresque, part coming of age, and with a touch of travelogue, this book is a total delight from start to finish. Every character is fascinating, although none can outshine our ordinary yet extraordinary heroine. There’s humour and tragedy, conflict and love. It’s simply unputdownable. A grand old novel.     

 

‘The Goat Parva Murders’ is a very entertaining and quirky cozy mystery. It’s populated with many very colourful characters who are a delight,even if some of them are a touch creepy. Our investigative heroes are Inspector Knowles and his sidekick Barnes. They have their hands full trying to make sense of things in Goat Parva, that’s for sure.

Julian Worker is a wonderful writer. There’s sharp observation of detail, loads of tongue-in-cheek humour, and an ingenious and imaginative plot. The story bounds along and drags you with it, with lots of action and excitement.

This is a super piece of writing, one of those indie gems that make you so grateful for the ebook revolution.

Murder She Knit is a gentle, enjoyable cozy. Yes, there’s a murder but it’s offstage, although the dead body is found in the garden of our heroine, Pamela Paterson. Widow Pamela is on her own now that her daughter Penny is off at college, but she has a busy life editing a craft magazine, and knitting and baking fill any time left. Plus there’s a stray cat that keeps appearing and demanding attention.

It’s her turn to host the Knit and Nibble group that meet on Tuesday evenings. At the last minute she invites an old acquaintance she unexpectedly bumps into that day. However, this friend, Amy, never arrives and she’s the body that Pamela subsequently finds, stabbed by a knitting needle.

Pamela, with help from friend and neighbour Bettina, sets about investigating. The mystery she untangles is well constructed, interesting and convincing. The town of Arborville, a small college town, offers plenty of possible needle-wielders. There’s some very special yarn involved, and another victim. The author keeps us all on our toes in guessing who the perp actually is.

The book is well written, with light touches and lots of tension. Pamela is a convincing and likeable heroine, and we’re quickly pulled into her world. We encounter lots of equally fascinating characters. Arborville is described in careful detail and starts to feel like home. And as an extra treat, after the exciting denouement, there’s a recipe and a knitting pattern for us.

An easy, absorbing read, and the first in a series that I look forward to following. And what a lovely cover!

 

Praise for Nicola May’s books

‘This book will twang your funny bone & your heartstrings’ – Milly Johnson

‘A fun and flighty read’ the Sun

‘A funny and fast-paced romp – thoroughly enjoyable!’  WOMAN Magazine

*

Rosa Larkin is down on her luck in London, so when she inherits a near-derelict corner shop in a quaint Devon village, her first thought is to sell it for cash and sort out her life. But nothing is straightforward about this legacy.  While the identity of her benefactor remains a mystery, he – or she – has left one important legal proviso: that the shop cannot be sold, only passed on to somebody who really deserves it.

Rosa makes up her mind to give it a go: to put everything she has into getting the shop up and running again in the small seaside community of Cockleberry Bay. But can she do it all on her own? And if not, who will help her succeed – and who among the following will work secretly to see her fail?

There is a handsome rugby player, a sexy plumber, a charlatan reporter and a selection of meddling locals. Add in a hit and run incident and the disappearance of a valuable engraved necklace – and what you get is a journey of self-discovery and unpredictable events.

With surprising and heartfelt results, Rosa, accompanied at all times by her little sausage dog Hot, will slowly unravel the shadowy secrets of the inheritance, and also bring her own, long-hidden heritage into the light.

 

Pre-order Link

Amazon US – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07B8KML35/

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07B8KML35/

Amazon CA – https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B07B8KML35/

Amazon AU – https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B07B8KML35/

 

 

About Nicola May

 

Award winning author Nicola May lives in Ascot in Berkshire with her rescue cat Stanley. Her hobbies include watching films that involve a lot of swooning, crabbing in South Devon, eating flapjacks and enjoying a flutter on the horses. Inspired by her favourite authors Milly Johnson and Carole Matthews, Nicola writes what she describes as chicklit with a kick.

Follow Nicola May

Website – www.nicolamay.com

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/NicolaMayAuthor

Twitter – https://twitter.com/nicolamay1

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/author_nicola/

 

Excerpt

PROLOGUE

‘Are you sure you’ve got the right person?’

Rosa took off her bright red woolly hat and scratched the back of her head furiously, causing her dark brown curly hair to become even more unruly.

The tall, pinched-faced solicitor nodded. ‘Yes, of course we have. Evans, Donald and Simpson do not make mistakes. You, Miss Larkin, are now the official owner of the corner shop in Cockleberry Bay.’

He handed the bewildered twenty-five-year-old a battered leather briefcase and pointed to a small combination padlock on its brass clasp.

‘Here. The will stated that you – and only you – can open this, using your date of birth.’

‘This is all very strange,’ Rosa said.  ‘And where exactly is this Cockleberry Bay?’

‘Devon, dear, Devon.’  The solicitor looked under his rimless glasses. ‘I take it you know where that is?’

‘I may have a cockney accent, Mr Donald, but I’m not stupid.’

‘Well, open it then.’ The solicitor was shifting from foot to foot in anticipation. He confided, ‘We’ve been wanting to know what’s in there for days.’

Showing no emotion, Rosa gazed at him with her striking green eyes and asked coolly: ‘Is there anything else I need?’

‘Er, no – but are you not going to . . .?’

‘I need to get to work.’ Rosa put her hat and scarf back on, zipped up her fur-lined bomber jacket and headed for the door. ‘Thank you so much for your help.’

And she was gone.

‘Rude!’

The solicitor peered crossly out of the window of the offices in Staple Inn and watched as the young woman, the briefcase in her arms, strode across the frosty cobbled courtyard and out into the bustle of London’s ancient legal quarter.

 ‘A comic tale of lessons in life, love, dating and the odd samosa party’

The contents lists seems to cover every possible thing you might want to know about dating from creating a profile to telephone interviews with prospective dates to handling speed dating. And that’s only part of it.

We begin with finding out about our author. Raj is sadly divorced but is now back in the dating game. He describes himself at the beginning of the book, and claims that he’s not a writer, but that’s not true at all. He has a wonderful way with words and a wicked sense of humour. Once you’ve started reading, you just can’t stop. I’m the absolute proof of that. I’m in my fifties and have been married to the same man for thirty-two years, so you might not think this book wouldn’t appeal to me at all. However, I loved every minute of reading Raj’s entertaining anecdotes and now reckon I could hold my own on Mastermind with the specialist subject of the dating game, having investigated the process thanks to Raj! 

After meeting Raj we get the lowdown on the Indian perspective on dating, and all the extra complications that brings. We meet the all-important Aunties (matrimonial intermediaries) who make things happen, and tag along to a function introduction samosa party where the faux pas are just waiting around every corner. I love how Raj describes how internet dating is really just the digital version of a match-making Auntie. We then go through all the various stages and explore this minefield alongside our very entertaining guide. If you thought, as the author did, that internet dating was only for freaky nerdy recluses or scary cat women, you’ll soon learn otherwise. There are a lot of perfectly normal people out there who are just needing a little help to meet their Mr or Mrs Right. For them, but actually for anyone, this is a superb hands-on, slightly tongue-in-cheek account of everything, and more, you need to know.