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The Fourth Victim by John Mead: police procedural with a strong sense of place

The Fourth Victim

Whitechapel is being gentrified. The many green spaces of the area, which typify London as a capital city, give the illusion of peace, tranquillity and clean air but are also places to find drug dealers, sexual encounters and murder.

Detective Sergeant Julie Lukula doesn’t dislike Inspector Matthew Merry, but he has hardly set the world of the Murder Investigation Team East alight. And, it looks as if the inspector is already putting the death of the young female jogger, found in the park with head injuries, down to a mugging gone wrong. The victim deserves more. However, the inspector isn’t ruling anything out – the evidence will, eventually, lead him to an answer.

 

My review

This is a carefully written police procedural with a strong sense of place. London oozes out of every sentence and is created in detailed imagery. It’s not always pleasant but cities have their blemishes. There’s also the added dimension of mental health issues in the form of Dissociative Identity Disorder, which is dealt with sensitively although we see the devastating consequences it can have in this novel.

The author gets inside his characters’ skins. We see how and why they annoy each other, why they’re attracted to people they know they shouldn’t be, how they’re crippled by grief, driven by the desire for justice, as the case may be. The human interest level is always there, which sometimes isn’t the case in procedurals where it’s all about unmasking the villain. The author admits to being a ‘people watcher’ and that comes through very clearly. He creates real people, warts and all.

The plot’s an interesting one, particularly with the element of DID as part of its complexity, and it’s particularly clever how we have three dead bodies, yet indisputably four victims. A nice touch.

The Fourth Victim is an absorbing novel that will appeal to readers who enjoy solving crimes alongside fascinating protagonists.

Purchase Links

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fourth-Victim-John-Mead/dp/1912575361/

https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-fourth-victim/john-mead/9781912575367

Author bio

Born in the mid-fifties in East London, on part of the largest council estates ever built, I was the first pupil from my local secondary modern school to attend university.

I have travelled extensively during my life from America to Tibet. I enjoy going to the theatre, reading and going to the pub. It is, perhaps, no surprise that I am an avid ‘people watcher’ and love to find out about people, their lives, culture and history.

Many of the occurrences recounted and the characters found in my novels are based on real incidents and people I have come across. However, I have allowed myself a wide degree of poetic licence in writing about the main characters, their motivations and the killings that are depicted.

 

Social Media Links 

Amazon author profile: https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B07B8SQ2ZH

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JohnMeadAuthor

Goodreads profile: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17891273.John_Mead

Follow the tour:

 

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The Holiday Cruise by Victoria Cooke: lovely, lively reading

Synopsis

As if it weren’t enough to be cheated on by her husband of ten years, Yorkshire lass Hannah Davis is losing her beauty salon business too. Luckily, her big sister is there to pick up the pieces, but Hannah is desperate to find some independence.

Impulsively, Hannah applies for a spa job…on a cruise ship! Christmas in the Caribbean, springtime in the Mediterranean, what’s not to like? But, despite being in her thirties, Hannah has never done anything on her own before, and she’s terrified.

As the ship sets sail, Hannah has never been further from home…or closer to discovering who she is and who she wants to be.

 

My review

This book makes for lovely, lively reading. The opening is quite brutal though, as we find Hannah just recovering from what’s pretty much a total breakdown after her husband of many years suddenly leaves her. She’s neglected her business for too long to save it so things look very bleak. Her stalwart of a sister, Jen, is there for her and helps her start to find her feet her again.

An expected nail-mending job introduces Hannah to the idea of working in a cruise ship, which Jen encourages her to do. So Hannah courageously decides to take this career leap, and with her we travel to many locations, deal with frustrations and tribulations, and possible heartache.

Hannah is a great character. She’s fun and feisty, but flawed in that, as her sister says, it’s a crisis if she misses her favourite TV soap. In this novel she faces a real crisis, and while it floors her to start with, she does cope, and with humour and fortitude. You can’t help but like and admire her.

The author has a lively sense of fun too, and creates some great people, places and happenings to entertain us. She gives both sides of the coin when it comes to the cruise ship – it’s not all excitement and glamour, in fact, there’s a lot more drudgery and rule-following.

This is an easy and enjoyable read, light but not without sharp comment here and there, and a super book to while away a few hours.

 

Purchase linksmybook.to/TheHolidayCruise

Author bio

Victoria Cooke grew up in the city of Manchester before crossing the Pennines in pursuit of a career in education. She now lives in Huddersfield with her husband and two young daughters and when she’s not at home writing by the fire with a cup of coffee in hand, she loves working out in the gym and travelling. Victoria was first published at the tender age of eight by her classroom teacher who saw potential in a six-page story about an invisible man. Since then she’s always had a passion for reading and writing, undertaking several writers’ courses before completing her first novel, ‘The Secret to Falling in Love,’ in 2016

Social Media Links –

https://www.facebook.com/VictoriaCookeAuthor/

https://twitter.com/VictoriaCooke10

https://www.instagram.com/victoriacookewriter/

 

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The Amber Maze by Christopher Bowden: erudite and intriguing

Synopsis

While staying in a Dorset cottage, Hugh Mullion finds a mysterious key down the side of an antique chair.  No one can say how long the key has been there or what it opens.

Hugh’s search for answers will unlock the secrets of the troubled life of a talented artist, destined to be hailed a neglected genius fifty years too late.  And no secret is darker than that of The Amber Maze, from whose malign influence he never escaped.

The trail takes Hugh from Edwardian Oxfordshire to 1960s Camden Town, where the ghosts of the past are finally laid to rest.

Delicately crafted noir fiction at its best.

 

My review

This novel is an intriguing and erudite mystery. More noir than cozy, it’s a thoughtful, intelligent story. There’s definite menace and a lurking threat, embodied by the maze that is the symbol of Assendene Court. You get a hint of that from the cover: what exactly is round that next bend

Our protagonist Hugh plunges into a maze of investigation. Progress is slow and cautious to start with, but gains momentum. However, there are wrong turns and dead ends. But like a determined terrier, once he’s got his teeth into this mystery he’s not going to let go. There’s an old box, paintings, a journal belonging to underrated artist Lionel Pybus and the amber maze itself of Assendene Court that all need investigating and, let’s move to a jigsaw analogy now, piecing together.

It’s nice to have a male protagonist, since this type of more literary and less violent mystery is generally the preserve of female sleuths, and a slightly more mature one too. He’s not a perfect person – he’s definitely on the obsessive side, can’t let things go. He’s sharp, curious, personable, and he works well with a number of knowledgeable people to delve deeper into this mystery. He’s methodical, almost a little plodding, but that just means we can keep up with events clearly and  understand exactly what’s going on.

His life partner, Kate, is a perfect foil for him. She’s more impulsive and upbeat, equally likeable and sharp, and is drawn into Hugh’s investigation despite herself. She’s very supportive. She’s just one of a compelling cast of characters that accompany Hugh through the story, all rounded and interesting.

Despite Hugh’s meticulous approach to his investigation, the story progresses steadily, gaining momentum, and the book is a real page-turner. You keep wanting to know what next, fascinating snippet he’ll uncover and how it will fit in with what we know so far.

A delightful and rewarding read.

 

Purchase links:

Amazon UKhttps://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0955506751

Amazon US – https://www.amazon.com/Amber-Maze-Christopher-Bowden-ebook/dp/B07FRH481F/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1532280455&sr=1-1&keywords=the+amber+maze

Waterstones https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-amber-maze/christopher-bowden/9780955506758

Smashwordshttps://www.smashwords.com/books/view/880652

 

About the author

Christopher Bowden lives in south London. The Amber Maze is the sixth of his colour-themed novels, which have been praised variously by Andrew Marr, Julian Fellowes, Sir Derek Jacobi, and Shena Mackay. 

Social media links

https://www.facebook.com/christopher.bowden.90

Keep following this book’s blog tour, and catch up with what you might have missed so far!

 

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Miss Seeton Flies High: quirky, witty cosy mystery set in 1970s Britain

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.

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Charity Ends At Home by Colin Watson: wry and witty mystery

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.