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Quickie review: Murder in the Christmas Tree Lot by Judith Gonda

Blurb

Landscape architect Tory Benning returns in a holiday mystery tied up with a bow!

Still struggling with the death of her husband, Tory Benning is doing her best to get into the festive spirit of the holiday season, but when her landscaping company’s email is hacked and there’s a break-in at the office, it’s enough to make her see red. And then the unthinkable happens, when the owner of a specialty food truck is brutally slain at the company’s Christmas tree lot, and Tory finds herself mired in murder once again.

With a long list of suspects—including an untold number of revelers disguised in Santa suits, seasonal employees handling tree sales, and even a vengeful jilted suitor—the police investigation grinds along slowly and methodically. But as Tory begins piecing together clues on her own, she finds she’s the target of a menacing stalker who may be out to do more than just scare her. Refusing to be intimidated, Tory vows to nab the culprit, even if it means that catching a Christmas killer has become her lot in life . . .

 

My review

A thoroughly enjoyable festive cosy with a strong and likeable heroine. Unlike many amateur sleuths, who tend towards the ditzy, Tory is understated, calm and gracious.

The plot is clever and intriguing, with plenty of seasonal overtones. Setting is well constructed, and you get a very strong sense of community. People pull together here – apart from when they’re bumping each other off, of course! The author gets the balance just right – we get glimpses of enough people to show this is a small town but we don’t get swamped by a sea of names.

Throughout Tory is continuing to come to terms with the loss of her husband, and this adds an extra layer to the story.

There’s excitement, tension, friendship, loyalty and courage. A wonderful read.

 

Kindle book available at all Amazon stores.

Published by Beyond the Page Publishing.

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Murder at the Gorge by Frances Evesham

Synopsis

When the Exham-on-Sea residents are targeted by anonymous emails containing apparently harmless nursery rhymes, no one knows whether to laugh or shudder until an unexplained death touches the town.

Libby Forest, baker, chocolatier and Exham’s very own resident private investigator, alongside her partner Max Ramshore, set out to solve the puzzle before more people die. But when Max’s ex-wife arrives on the scene, ahead of Max and Libby’s long-awaited nuptials, things go from bad to worse.

With the town and their relationship under threat, Max and Libby need the help of the Exham History Society if they’re going to find the nursery rhyme killer in time.

Murder at the Gorge is the seventh in a series of Exham-on-Sea Murder Mysteries set at the small English seaside town full of quirky characters, sea air, and gossip.

If you love Agatha Christie-style mysteries, cosy crime, clever dogs and cake, then you’ll love these intriguing whodunnits.

 

My review

This is an enjoyable, absorbing read, very much character-driven but with a strong sense of setting and a plot that’s complex and clever. You need to keep your wits about you because there’s a lot more happening than you might think. Murder at the Gorge is a deceptively simple.

Max and Libby are both very likeable characters, both empathetic and sympathetic. They make a good team with a variety of strengths between them. However, Stella’s resurfacing – she’s Max’s ex-wife – threatens to throw a very big spanner into their smooth-working machinery.

There’s a good cast of supporting actors, with plenty of action to interest the reader all the way through. It’s well written, and makes for a rewarding read.

 

Purchase Link – https://amzn.to/3cnJN1F

Author bio

Frances Evesham is the author of the hugely successful Exham-on-Sea Murder Mysteries set in her home county of Somerset. In her spare time, she collects poison recipes and other ways of dispatching her unfortunate victims. She likes to cook with a glass of wine in one hand and a bunch of chillies in the other, her head full of murder?fictional only.

 

 

Social Media Links

http://facebook.com/frances.evesham.writer

http://twitter.com/FrancesEvesham

http://instagram.com/francesevesham

http://bookbub.com/authors/frances-evesham

Newsletter sign up: https://bit.ly/FrancesEveshamNewsletter

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Quickie review: The Unexpected Mrs Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman

Synopsis

Mrs. Virgil (Emily) Pollifax of New Brunswick, New Jersey, was a widow with grown children. She was tired of attending her Garden Club meetings. She wanted to do something good for her country. So, naturally, she became a CIA agent. This time, the assignment sounds as tasty as a taco. A quick trip to Mexico City is on her agenda. Unfortunately, something goes wrong, and our dear Mrs. Pollifax finds herself embroiled in quite a hot Cold War—and her country’s enemies find themselves entangled with one unbelievably feisty lady.

My review

In a nutshell, the best book I’ve read this year – and I’ve read a lot of books. Possibly the best book in several years!
If you’re expecting, despite the title, a cosy mystery with a feeble old dear as the main character, think again! This mystery takes on international dimensions and involves real, modern threats. Mrs Pollifax certainly starts her volunteer work with the CIA in at the deep end!
Everything’s pretty much perfect about this book – a delightfully likeable heroine, who’s more of an anti-heroine until push comes to shove, quirkiness grounded in brutal reality, the right combination of lucky coincidences and thwarted plans in the exciting action, and detailed, lively background..
The characterisations throughout are wonderful, the settings dramatic, and frequently terrifying, and the plot is clever with sheer brilliance thrown in here and there for good measure.
I literally couldn’t stop reading this book once I’d started. I was hooked from the start.
I can’t wait for Mrs P’s second adventure!

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Excerpt from ‘Dead in Tune: A Christmas cosy mystery’ by Stephanie Dagg

Chapter 1

“That was fun,” smiled Martha, climbing into the passenger seat of the bright red BMW X4.

“Wasn’t it just,” agreed driver Lottie, starting the engine. “Not keen on the French carols, though.”

Martha shot her an astonished glance. “But, apart from ‘Nouvel Né’, which is absolutely lovely with that haunting tune, the only other carols we sang in French were ‘Silent Night’ and ‘Angels from the Realms of Glory’. And they’re just France’s versions of traditional British carols.”

“But that’s what I mean,” explained Lottie, reversing rapidly out of her tight slot, without looking, which made Martha cringe. “They’re simply not the same in a foreign language.”

“We can hardly expect the French contingent of our Worldwide Friendship Club to make all the concessions, now can we,” said Martha reasonably.

‘Worldwide Friendship Club’ was a bit of a misnomer. The vast majority of members were either British or French, with just a handful of other Europeans and one South African. But Martha supposed it didn’t hurt to be ambitious.

“As it is,” Martha continued, “six of the nine carols we’re singing are English.”

Lottie gave one of her characteristic snorts in response to Martha’s reasonable remark. Snorts were her vocal version of the French shrug in that they came with a practical endless variety of meanings. This latest one clearly implied ‘that’s six too many’.

Martha knew it was pointless trying to argue further when Lottie was being so very Lottie, so she sat back in her luxuriously soft seat and reflected on the last hour and a half. The Worldwide Friendship Club, under the capable if relentless leadership of chairperson Belinda Parsons, was organising a carol service in Boussiex for Friday in the modest but beautiful St Claire’s church. The Club had decided that a couple of rehearsals – today and Thursday – would be a good idea so that at least some of the French attendees at the service would be familiar with the English carols, and vice versa. Lottie had joined the WFC back in March, and had badgered Martha into doing likewise until she finally relented a week ago.

Martha wasn’t really a club sort of person, but Lottie seemed to enjoy herself at WFC functions so that was a good recommendation. However, Martha’s main motivation was mercenary. She was about to submit her demand for French nationality, given all the unnecessary uncertainty and mess that Brexit was creating, and membership of a society or two would look good on her application. For the same reason she’d also signed up to a handicrafts club in a nearby village and had started turning up to listen in at municipal council meetings. She had initially felt very guilty about doing so for such selfish reasons, but she had since soothed her conscience by assuring herself that her membership fees were doing the organisations involved good, and her mayor and councillors had been delighted to actually have an audience for once. Plus she was benefitting. She’d met some lovely people in the two associations, and was picking up a lot of fascinating village gossip from the council meetings.

She was roused from her musings by Lottie’s sudden outburst of, “But I really don’t see why we need to have a Scottish piper at the carol service.”

“I think it’ll be rather fun,” countered Martha.

“There’s nothing Christmassy about bagpipes,” snapped Lottie. “It’ll ruin the atmosphere.”

“But he’s only going to be playing outside, near the Christmas tree in the square, until the service starts,” Martha reminded Lottie of the arrangements. “And I dare say he’ll play carols.”

“He’s not even a member of the WFC,” protested Lottie. “And I thought the Scots were more about New Year anyway.”

Martha was of the opinion that people of any nation were surely allowed to indulge in more than one festive celebration, but she chose not to voice it for the time being.

“And they have that haggis festival in January as well,” Lottie ploughed on.

“You mean Burns Night,” Martha corrected her mildly.

“That’s the one, with that poem about mice and men and plans going googly, or whatever.”

“You’re muddling up ‘Address to a Haggis’ with ‘To a Mouse’. And it’s ‘schemes o’ Mice an’ men
gang aft agley’, not plans going googly,” Martha persisted patiently.

Lottie, of course, snorted. “Both versions are daft. And what sort of person writes poems about meat and vermin anyway?”

“Just the national poet of Scotland,” murmured Martha.

“You’re very knowledgeable about Scotland all of a sudden.” Lottie shot her an annoyed sideways glance.

“My grandmother was Scottish,” Martha informed her.

“Huh. So that’s why you like the bagpipes so much,” concluded Lottie. “Mind you, the French members didn’t seem that impressed. They seemed to be saying something quite rude about them. Sounded a bit like ‘unicorn mucus’.”

Martha sighed and wondered, as she frequently did, how her friend could have lived in France for so long but picked up so little of its vocabulary.

“They were saying ‘cornemuse’. That’s French for bagpipes.”

“That’s a silly name,” declared Lottie. “In English it says exactly what the thing is – a bag with some pipes stuck into it. It ought to be ‘sac… sac’ something in French.”

“It is. A ‘musette’ is a type of bag, and ‘corne’ is a musical horn, amongst other things.”

Lottie muttered something about know-it-alls. Martha smiled to herself.

“You’re on the committee,” Martha reminded her friend after a few moments. “Couldn’t you have voted against the idea?”

“I can never make it to the committee meetings. They’re on Saturdays,” explained Lottie, “so I can’t go because of work.”

Martha frowned. “But I thought you didn’t work on Saturdays.”

“Of course I don’t!” Lottie sounded appalled at the very idea. “But I’ve been slaving away from Monday to Friday so I’m not going to give up my precious weekend for silly meetings.”

There wasn’t an answer to that, only questions such as “Well, why did you put yourself up for the committee in the first place?” and “So why don’t you resign your position and let someone who can spare an hour or two one Saturday a month take your place?” Martha, however, knew better than to give voice to those. She made do with rolling her eyes and pulled the conversation back from such dangerous territory.

“You’re not the only anti-bagpiper, by the looks of things,” she mused. “Did you see old Matisse’s face when Belinda made her announcement about the Christmas bagpipes? A perfect balance of shock, horror and fury!” She chuckled at the memory.

Lottie laughed out loud. “He always looks like that! He strikes me as a sour, mean-spirited old git, but I may be warming to him a little now that we have a shared hatred of Scottish musical instruments.”

Lottie swerved to avoid a hedgehog that had suddenly launched itself at full trot into their path, meaning they rounded a blind bend on the wrong side of the road, but fortunately the road was deserted, other than themselves.

“Actually, the bagpipes might not be the worst thing about the carol service,” she confided, once she was driving on the correct side again.

“Oh come on, our singing wasn’t that bad!” protested Martha with a forced laugh, which she hoped would cover the sound of her heart thudding.

“I don’t mean our singing. That was really rather good, apart from Horace, the growler. And as you obviously heard, Matisse has an amazing voice. I do love a nice, deep bass. No, what I mean is that Belinda told me earlier that that she’s just booked a Spanish couple to do a flamenco dance the service. Really lovely young people, apparently, only been here a month or so and want to get involved in community things. But seriously, flamenco dancing? In a church?” Lottie couldn’t summon up a snort that could convey precisely how appalled she was, so she made do with dramatic and dismissive hand gestures, making the car swerve and Martha’s heartbeat temporarily soar again.

Belinda had made the decision unilaterally, something she did rather a lot, and something which other members of the WFC grumbled about when their chairperson wasn’t around. But Belinda was in charge, and had been for four years now, and frankly no one else wanted to take on the significant workload that went with the post. So they left her to rule the roost. Belinda’s husband, Horace, had held the equally unpopular position of treasurer for the same length of time.

“I love flamenco.” Martha actually wasn’t a particular fan but she couldn’t resist winding Lottie up, just a little bit. “It’s associated with religious festivals and rituals, so I dare say there’s a Christmassy version of it. And did you know that UNESCO recognises it as a cultural heritage?”

“Well, I do now,” snipped Lottie. “I suppose you’re also going to tell me that Dutch clog dancing is a UNESCO wotsit too so we should ask dour old Gerrit to do a number between ‘Hark the Herald Angels’ and ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’. And while we’re at it, why don’t me and you do a quick Morris dance before the final blessing?”

Martha knew she should but she couldn’t stop herself from laughing. Lottie in full-on grump mode could be very funny.

“Bagsy be the one with the hobby horse,” she chuckled.

Lottie’s annoyed expression resisted for a moment then morphed into a smile. “No way, I’m having that. You can make do with bells on your knees and hankies to wave.”

“I’d rather have sticks than hankies,” said Martha.

“Tough,” riposted Lottie. “You could do too much damage in the church with them. You might behead one of the crumbly old statues or take out a stained glass window! It’s hankies or nothing.”

“Big hankies then,” bartered Martha.

Both women laughed.

“You know, I think I might actually suggest a Morris dancing session as an activity for next year,” said Lottie.

“It would be fun,” acknowledged Martha, “but it would confirm the French in their view that the English are crazy.”

“They already know we are,” smiled Lottie.

“Excuse me,” riposted Martha. “Philippe doesn’t think I’m crazy.”

Philippe, a senior officer in the local gendarmerie, was her French beau. A family friend for years, he’d always carried a candle for Martha but it was only recently, more than three years after she’d been widowed, that he’d plucked up the courage to act on his feelings. A series of brutal murders that had appeared to centre around Martha had brought the two firmly together in the summer.

“Of course he does,” teased Lottie, “but he still loves you. How’s he getting on in Norway? I still can’t believe you didn’t go on that ski-ing holiday with him.”

“Well, you should because I’ve given you my reasons enough times. One, he booked the holiday with a group of friends, all male, a year ago. Two,  it’s cross-country ski-ing, which is a well-known form of torture. The appeal of ski-ing downhill is obvious, but ski-ing on the flat has nothing going for it whatsover. Three, my leg isn’t up to any sort of ski-ing at all.” She’d been hit and injured by a car driven by the man behind the summer’s murders.

“You didn’t have to ski,” Lottie ploughed on. “Just gone for gentle strolls in the snow and sipped hot chocolate by the glowing fireside of your log cabin.”

“Yes,  I know I could. Philippe tried to persuade me to come along, which was sweet of him, but I didn’t want to intrude into a guys-only thing. He’d have felt obliged to spend time with me when he’d have much rather been snow-yomping with his mates, and I’d have ended up feeling guilty.”

“I wonder what this ‘feeling guilty’ thing is like,” remarked Lottie with a smile, but she was only half joking. It was a sentiment that featured only rarely on her emotional compass.

They turned into the drive that led down to Martha’s farm.

“Thanks for the lift, Lottie. I hope to get the Renault back before the Thursday rehearsal so I can get there under my own steam.” Martha’s ancient but usually ever-reliable car had decided not to start that morning. The garage had collected it for, allegedly, urgently dealing with, but Martha had had no further news of it since watching it disappear on the back of the breakdown truck. She knew better than to waste time and phone calls on chasing it up too soon. It would be ready when it was ready.

“Not a problem. Just shout if you’re still without wheels on Thursday.”

They pulled up outside the house, sending two of the half dozen farm cats skittering into the shadows, away from the rude and intrusive flood of brightness from the headlights.

“I won’t come in,” said Lottie, as Martha opened her mouth to invite her in for hot chocolate. “Got a bit of paperwork to finish up before tomorrow’s mammoth acte de vente.”

Lottie was never normally one to use a French word or term when there was an alternative in her mother tongue. However, there was no direct UK equivalent to the acte de vente, which was the final stage of the cumbersome but watertight house-selling process in France. All the parties concerned met at the Notaire’s office, where the lengthy contract was read through, word by word, and everyone got up in turn and initialled every page of the document. Even a straightforward one could go on for hours. But of course, things were rarely straightforward in France.

“How mammoth exactly?” probed Martha.

“Think herd of mammoths. No, more than that. Massive herd of humungous mammoths,” sighed Lottie.

“How come?” asked Martha.

“For a start, there are six vendors. Old Papa Champolivier was a widower so the property passed to his four sons and two daughters. They’d hardly spoken to each other for years, so naturally the bickering continued for a few more until they eventually agreed on selling price, solicitor and salesperson. Moi, obviously.” She flashed a proud smile. “One or other of them has rejected all the previous decent offers I got for them on the place, but I think finally common sense but most likely greed prevailed and they all accepted this latest one straight away. I hoped at least some of them might grant power of attorney to the notaire to sign the contract on their behalf, but no, they all wanted to come along in person. So, with me and the notaire, that brings tomorrow’s attendance up to eight.”

“Quite a crowd,” nodded Martha.

“Ah, but that’s not all. Whilst all the bickering about selling was going on, the place was let out to a pair of brothers for farming. So they’ll be there too, tomorrow, and their wives, to relinquish their rental rights.”

Martha nodded again. The same thing had happened when she and Mark had bought their farm, only in their case it was just the confirmed bachelor Monseiur Josset.

“And now enter the buyers. Four of them as well in the shape of two sets of Monsieur and Madame Dupont.”

“The men are brothers?” hazarded Martha.

“Correct. And, what’s more,” Lottie went on with a twinkle in her eye, “their wives are sisters.”

“Goodness!” gasped Martha. “That’s unusual, surely.”

“But what’s even more, the brothers and the sisters are both sets of identical twins.” Lottie beamed triumphantly at the bizarreness of her news. “You couldn’t make it up, could you!”

“Nope,” agreed Martha, impressed. “That’s definitely material for a gossip magazine.”

“So that’s sixteen of us all crammed into Maître Cognac’s stuffy office, and having to take turns to sign every page of the contract. Given how doddery half of them are likely to be, it’ll take ages. They’ll be diddling around with spectacles, having to take a rest halfway between their seat and the desk, then dropping the pen, then needing the loo between pages three and four and again between eleven and twelve… aargh! That’s why I need to get on with the paperwork I won’t have time to do tomorrow. Half the day will be spent at the office.” She groaned.

“Yes, but think of your fee,” Martha consoled her.

“True.” Lottie brightened. “I got a good price for the property. A very good one.”

Lottie always did. She really knew how to turn on the charm with the buyers and put the fear of God into the vendors so pretty much dictated terms to her own advantage.

“Well, I hope it goes as swiftly as possible for you tomorrow,” smiled Martha, patting Lottie’s arm and then, reluctantly, opening the door of the luxuriously warm car to brave the freezing elements outside. Her house would be warm enough, since she’d stoked up the fire before leaving it this evening, but there was a cold trudge and a chilly hallway to brave before she got there. “See you Thursday.”

“Ciao.” Lottie blew her a kiss, then did a high-speed three-point turn, showering the waving Martha with gravel and hoar frost, before flooring it back up the drive.

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Cover reveal: The Mystery of Montague House by Emma Davies

When Summer meets Wynter…

With enough rooms to fill a Cluedo board several times over, Montague House has often been the subject of rumour and gossip. Tales of strange goings on, an owner who disappeared one day and was never seen again, not to mention the treasure that rumour has it lies at its heart… But now the present owner has died and the house is to be sold. It looks as if the opportunity has come to finally settle the stories once and for all.

Clodagh Wynter doesn’t believe in ghostly goings on and tall tales of secrets. She has her feet very firmly on the ground and, tasked with the job of valuing and cataloguing the house and all its contents, she’s simply looking forward to working in such a glorious setting. And if she happens across a priceless painting, well, that’s just icing on the cake.

Andie Summer is a Finder of Things and desperately needs this job; she’s down to her last few tins of baked beans. So looking for hidden treasure sounds right up her street, even if there was something very fishy about the mysterious Mr Mayfair who hired her. Because it’s just like she said to her faithful Basset Hound, Hamish; I saw something out of the corner of my eye as I was leaving, and you know what that means. It’s never good news when I see something out of the corner of my eye…

As the unlikely pair are thrown together, it soon becomes very clear however that they are not the only ones searching for the treasure. And they’re going to need all their ingenuity, resourcefulness, not to mention chocolate biscuits, if they’re ever going to untangle the web of secrets that surrounds Montague House. One that reaches even further than they ever thought possible…

 

Here’s the cover….

I think it’s great!

 

Purchase Link – https://smarturl.it/MontagueHouse

Author bio

After a varied career, Emma Davies once worked for a design studio where she was asked to provide a fun and humorous (and not necessarily true) anecdote for their website. She wrote the following: ‘I am a bestselling novelist currently masquerading as a thirty-something mother of three.’ Well the job in the design studio didn’t work out but she’s now a fifty-something mother of three and is happy to report the rest of her dream came true.

After many years as a finance manager she now writes full time, and is far happier playing with words than numbers. She lives with her husband and three children in rural Shropshire where she writes in all the gaps in between real life.

 

Social Media Links –

@EmDaviesAuthor

www.facebook.com/emmadaviesauthor

www.instagram.com/authoremmadavies

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The Beach Party Mystery by Peter Bartram

Synopsis

Brighton is about to host its most exciting beach party ever – with the world’s biggest name in rock music headlining the show. It seems a world away from the work of Evening Chronicle crime reporter Colin Crampton. But that’s before fraudster Claude Winterbottom is beaten to death.

As Colin investigates the crime, he finds there are too many suspects. Like Manfred Crouchpenny, the fattest loan shark in the world. Or Jeremiah Clarke, leader of a band of purity campaigners. And who is the mystery woman who hides behind the pseudonym Astraea?

The climax explodes on a pirate radio ship moored off the British coast. There are laughs alongside the action as Colin and feisty girlfriend Shirley Goldsmith race against time to save countless lives at the beach party.

 

My review

This is a lively, thoroughly entertaining mystery set in the 1960s and centring on a pirate radio ship Seabreeze. That’s a unique setting that immediately adds an extra sparkle of interest. (I did a bit of research and discovered that, despite internet radio being such a thing these days, there are still a few pirate stations illegally hopping onto FM. Good to know!) The three characters most closely involved with the radio station – Perry, Charles and Zena – all appear to embrace the lifestyle of turning-your-back-on-mainstream that you’d associate with such people. And yet all is not as it seems.

The action gets going for amateur sleuth Colin with the discovery of a dead body. He’s also, and principally, a journalist so from the start his occupational skills are on display. He’s sharp, cunning (always wanting to be first on a scene ahead of the rival papers calls for that) and can see connections before others. His even temperament and general unassumingness make him a likeable and reliable hero for this story, and all the others in the series.

The era is wonderfully portrayed in every detail. For journalists it was a time of always knowing where the nearest phone box was, and hoping it worked. It’s good to revisit a time before mobile phones. There’s a definite feeling of people living on their wits and being more resourceful. Today that’s been swamped by instant access to everything.

There’s a host of fascinating characters, good and bad but mainly bad, to rub shoulders with along the way. Their lives entangle, and a compelling and enjoyable (for the reader) mystery emerges that I guarantee will keep you turning the pages, either physically or electronically.

 

Book details

  • Paperback : 282 pages
  • ISBN-13 : 979-8689870687
  • Publisher : Independently published (28 Sept. 2020)
  • Product dimensions : 13.97 x 1.8 x 21.59 cm
  • Language: : English

 Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Beach-Party-Mystery-Chronicle-adventure/dp/B08KBMLGKR

 

 About the author

Peter Bartram brings years of experience as a journalist to his Crampton of the Chronicle crime mystery series. His novels are fast-paced and humorous – the action is matched by the laughs. The books feature a host of colourful characters as befits stories set in Brighton, one of Britain’s most trend-setting towns.

You can download Murder in Capital Letters, a free book in the series, for your Kindle from www.colincrampton.com.

Peter began his career as a reporter on a local weekly newspaper before editing newspapers and magazines in London, England and, finally, becoming freelance. He has done most things in journalism from door-stepping for quotes to writing serious editorials. He’s pursued stories in locations as diverse as 700-feet down a coal mine and a courtier’s chambers at Buckingham Palace. Peter is a member of the Society of Authors and the Crime Writers’ Association.

Follow Peter on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/peterbartramauthor.

Twitter @PeterFBartram

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‘THE ACCIDENTAL MEDIUM’ and ‘THE GIN PALACE’ by Tracy Whitwell

The Accidental Medium: synopsis  

Tanz is a wine-soaked, potty-mouthed, once successful TV actress from Gateshead, whose career has shrivelled like an antique walnut. She is still grieving her friend Frank, who died in a car crash three years ago, and she has to find a normal job in London to fund her cocktail habit.
When she starts work in a new age shop, Tanz suddenly discovers that the voices she’s hearing in her head are real, not the first signs of schizophrenia, and she can give people ‘messages’ from beyond the grave. Alarmed, she confronts her little mam and discovers she is from a long line of psychic mediums.
Despite a whole exciting new avenue of life opening up to Tanz, darkness isn’t far away and all too soon there’s murder in the air.

 

My review

This is a refreshingly different novel with a refreshingly different heroine. Tanz isn’t the usual twenty-something ditzy lead character you find in a cosy mystery, nor a Miss Marple wannabe. She’s somewhere in the middle: a thirty-eight year old, moderately successful Geordie actor who’s genuine, likeable, occasionally irresponsible and fun to be around. She has gifts of clairvoyance and clairaudience which suddenly make themselves clear to her. She’s been aware of vague ‘symptoms’ of both but it’s only thanks to Sheila at Mystery Pot that she realises what they fully mean. Now she’s coming up against spirits, good and bad, happy and sad, at almost every turn.

The writing is lively and clever, with lots of wit and humour. All the characters, dead and alive, are interesting and very convincing, particularly Tanz’s family with their many foibles.

The story moves swiftly and the writing really flows. All in all, a highly unusual and enjoyable novel.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Accidental-Medium-Tracy-Whitwell-ebook/dp/B08DJ9PKJ7

 

The Gin Palace: synopsis

After a fast-paced introduction to the world of clairvoyance, ghost busting, mystery and murder, Tanz is currently hiding in bed, having nightmares about a suicidal psychopath, drinking red wine, irritating her cat and waiting to be evicted. Life as she knew it seven months ago has turned on its head and only the prospect of a new TV job in Newcastle and a month with her best friend Milo can help pick her up off the floor.
But when she gets home, the Newcastle of more than a century before decides to haunt her bringing all kinds of spooks and horrors with it. She also finds that her new job involves more than it’s own share of intrigue and humiliation. Then it’s a case of six of one and half a dozen of the other, as Tanz, along with her dead friend Frank, attempts to expose a brutal murder that nobody even knows about. Join Tanz and her friends on another crazy, supernatural ride in GIN PALACE, the second in The Accidental Medium series.

 

My review

The mayhem continues in this excellent sequel to ‘The Accidental Medium’. It’s every bit as enjoyable and good quality as the first book, with added character development. Tanz’s honesty lands her a job, at last, and she’s happy to go back to her home town for a while. Having lived both north (in Northumberland) and south (in Cleveland) of Gateshead, it’s a part of the world I know well and its atmosphere comes over brilliantly in the background to the action.

What’s really great about these books is their energy and humour. They’re a real pick-me-up: trust me, their vitality is contagious.

A series not to be missed.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08DJ8NPBM

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Tracy Whitwell was born, brought up and educated in Gateshead in the north east of England. She wrote plays and short stories from an early age, then had her head turned and ran off to London to be an actress. By 1993 she was wearing a wig and an old fashioned dress and pretending to be impoverished on telly in a Catherine Cookson mini-series, whilst going to see every indie/rock band she could afford.

After an interesting number of years messing about in front of the camera and traveling the world though, Tracy discovered she still loved writing and completed her first full length play. A son, many stage-plays, screenplays and two music videos followed until one day she realised she was finally ready to do the thing she’d longed to do since she was six. She wrote her first novel. A crime/horror/comedy tale about an alcohol-soaked, gobby, thrill-seeking actress who talks to ghosts. (Who knows where the inspiration came from, it’s almost like she based it on her own ridiculous life.) Then she wrote a follow up and realised she couldn’t stop writing books.

Now Tracy lives in north London with her son, still travels whenever possible and has written novel number four. Now being edited.

Tweet her @WhitwellTracy

 

 

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Murder Ahoy! by Fiona Leitch

Murder Ahoy!

Famous crime writer Bella Tyson is hired to co-host a Murder Mystery cruise, on a luxury liner sailing from Southampton to New York. She’s expecting an easy ride; fun and games, surrounded by amateur sleuths and fans of her books, all the while staying in a deluxe cabin and enjoying the spa and the amazing restaurants on board, culminating in a visit to one of her favourite cities in the world – the Big Apple.

She’s NOT expecting to be stuck on a boat in the middle of the Atlantic with her two least favourite people in the world, her hot but unfaithful bastard ex-husband Joel Quigley and fellow crime writer, bitch goddess and Twitter frenemy, Louise Meyers. And when real live dead bodies start turning up – as well as fake not-really-dead bodies – Bella’s dreams of being pampered on the high seas turn sour.

Accused of a murder she would have liked to commit but didn’t, and helped (or hindered) by a gang of unlikely detectives, can Bella find out who the real murderer is before the ship reaches its destination and New York’s finest drag her off?

 

My review

There are certain things that just have to be there for a good cosy mystery: an off-stage crime usually quite near the start of the story with an unlikeable victim; a somewhat limited setting such as in a small town or, as here, a boat; a clever villain but who, fortunately, is not as smart as our generally reluctant amateur sleuth; plenty of humorous touches; a cast of quirky if not downright eccentric characters; clues galore, and a catchy title.

These, as I say, are crucial for any good cozy. Murder Ahoy, however, isn’t a good cozy – it’s a brilliant one! It has all the above and so much more. This author could make an instruction manual for installing plumbing sound scintillating as she has such a lively, sparkly, humour-laden style and vibrant imagination.

Belle is an awesome heroine. She’s feisty but not brashly so, and is wonderfully human with her insecurities and other foibles. She’s down to earth, funny and kind, but can give the occasional tongue-lashing when necessary.

Louise, the victim, is wonderfully vile. In fact, everyone we meet is an enthusiastic example of the role they’re playing. Will is a truly dependable, loyal partner, for example, and Joel is the epitome of the scheming, cheating ex.

The plot is fun and peppered with delightful action of every kind. The story might take place on a stolid cruise ship but it whisks you along as though you’re in a speedboat.

Everything about this invigorating, breath-of-sea-air novel is enjoyable. Grab a copy. Now!

 

Purchase Links – mybook.to/Ahoy

 

Author bio

Fiona Leitch is a writer with a chequered past. She’s written for football and motoring magazines, DJ’ed at illegal raves and is a stalwart of the low budget TV commercial, even appearing as the Australasian face of a cleaning product called ‘Sod Off’. After living in London and Cornwall she’s finally settled in sunny New Zealand, where she enjoys scaring her cats by trying out dialogue on them. She spends her days dreaming of retiring to a crumbling Venetian palazzo, walking on the windswept beaches of West Auckland, and writing funny, flawed but awesome female characters. Her debut novel and first in the Bella Tyson series, ‘Dead in Venice’, was published by Audible as one of their Crime Grant finalists. Fiona is represented by Lina Langlee at the North Literary Agency.

Social Media Links

https://twitter.com/fkleitch

www.fionaleitch.com

https://www.pinterest.nz/fionakleitch/

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Lady Anne and the Menacing Mystic by Victoria Hamilton

Synopsis

While in Bath preparing for her upcoming marriage to Lord Darkefell, Lady Anne learns of a profoundly accurate mystic working in town whose uncanny predictions have stunned the gullible and the sceptical alike. Certain there’s a harmless rational explanation for the medium’s supposed otherworldly abilities, Anne’s tolerance turns to defiance when the seer’s dark pronouncements begin having a decidedly harmful affect on her friends—and a troubled local vicar takes his own life.

Convinced that the woman is orchestrating a devious scheme, Anne begins to suspect that she’s working in league with a shrewd newcomer who’s attached himself to many of the town’s wealthy widowers. As she navigates the swirling rumours of Bath society to confirm her suspicions and unmask the charlatans for what they are, she discovers that the treacherous conspirators are plotting to make her own future very dark—and very short-lived . .

 

 

My review

This is an entertaining historical cosy mystery set in late eighteenth-century Bath. Lady Anne is a very forceful heroine, in some ways ahead of her time but, sadly, still constrained by it. She’s quite austere and it takes a while to warm to her, but if you’ve read earlier books in the series this fondness might already be in place. She’s well-meaning and interesting, that’s for sure.
The setting is beautifully described and the era comes over very convincingly with the details about everyday life, dress, furniture, means of travel and so forth.
The plot, although perhaps a little slow to get established, is ingenious and absorbing. It keeps you guessing all the way through.
Much to enjoy.

Buy the book here

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Vanishing Act by Charlie Hodges

Synopsis

A darkly funny whodunnit of sex, death and the tragi-comedy of old age

Ex-SAS officer Tom Knight is now a 73-year-old private detective in a seaside town, with a bad leg, a taste for good weed and a morbid fear of growing old. He’s also fallen in love with Fran, a sprightly 52-year-old carer at a retirement home. The bad news is that she’s dumped him for lying about his age.

So when she’s framed for the murder of three old ladies at the home he resolves to win her back by proving her innocence. His quest takes him behind the town’s veil of respectability, into a murky world of Oxbridge hookers, a lovelorn Tarot card reader and England’s most obnoxious policeman. He even faces up to his fear of old age and dementia, by going undercover at the care home where the murders happened.

But will it be enough to win back the lady of his dreams?

Proving that you’re just as young as you feel, the Tom Knight mysteries combine delicious comedy with a precision-engineered plot.

 

My review

This is a cosy mystery rich with black comedy. We have an unusual – for this genre – protagonist in the elderly Tom, but he’s as energetic as any younger one! You do worry  a bit about his hips and knees when he gets into kerfuffles, but he’s made of stern stuff! I hope I’ll be that robust at his age…

Mature Tom has the added benefit of experience and wisdom, both of which he uses when dealing with the intriguing case, but unfortunately not so much when dealing with the attractive Fran.

The plot is clever and the action brisk. It’s an absorbing, bittersweet read, and highly enjoyable. The author has a lively, light style that’s gripping and entertaining.

 

The book will be published in mid September by Farrago. Pre-order here.

I received an ARC via Netgalley, and this is an unbiased, honest review