I’m delighted to be hosting ‘Duck Egg Blues’ today here at Books Are Cool!

Synopsis

Duck Egg Blues is funny, sad, mysterious and thrilling. “A robot butler detective, what’s not to love?”

‘A clever and ambitious story’

This perfect slice of ‘cozy crime’ is narrated in the voice of a pre-war English butler and concerns a rich and powerful businesswoman whose daughter goes missing from their country house estate. That the story- teller is a robot belonging to an impoverished detective brings a fresh and original take on ‘cozy’, and as for ‘crime’… well, it does begin to escalate, what with MI6, criminal gangs, corrupt police, and that’s not to mention international cybercrime!

As the plot strands weave together, we discover that behind one mystery lurks a greater threat. No one is safe, not even PArdew…

This is without doubt the robot-butler-detective thriller you have been waiting for!

Martin Ungless is a WCN Escalator Prize winning author who has twice been shortlisted by the Crime Writers’ Association for their Debut Dagger Award.

My review

It’s always great to discover a novel that’s definitely different, and the quirky Duck Egg Blues fits that bill. Cozy with robots, an unusual but excellent combination.

PArdew, the robot butler, is a wonderful character. His aim is to serve, and if he can make his master happy whilst doing so then all the better, but he’ll settle for doing what he’s told. His very logical, uncritical take on life and programmed acceptance that humans know best, even when they so patently obviously don’t, makes for lots of humour. I’m really not sure Don, his dour master, deserves him! However, Don does lighten up a bit as the story progresses, and his kinder side emerges.

Don is a private investigator. He’s looking into car thefts as the story opens. Not the most exciting thing, you might think, but it’s amazing how, with input from Pardew, Don soon finds himself caught up in a thrilling mystery that goes very deep. Things get progressively more complex, and Don and PArdew find themselves up against some rather intimidating adversaries. There’s mystery, tension, excitement and, whenever we need it most, comic relief in this fast-paced, clever story.

The whole novel is as charming and idiosyncratic as its main character. You don’t have to be either a hard-boiled mystery and thriller lover, or a sci-fi aficionado to enjoy this book. If you like being entertained and made to chuckle every now and again, then this is absolutely for you.

Purchase Link – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Duck-Egg-Blues-PArdew-Book-ebook/dp/B071226XSW

For the duration of this blog tour, Duck Egg Blues will be on a Kindle Countdown Deal, so if you are tempted, purchase before the price rises

Author Bio – Following this year’s success, Martin Ungless had now been shortlisted three times by the Crime Writers’ Association for their Debut Dagger. He has won a WCN Escalator Award, and been successful in a number short-story competitions. Martin started life as an architect though now lives in the Norfolk countryside and writes full time. Martin is currently studying for the prestigious MA in Fiction (Crime) at UEA.

Social Media Links – https://twitter.com/UnglessM

Synopsis

A shocking death turns a homecoming into a nightmare. 

It’s Easter 1970 in the seaside town of Tamarisk Bay, and for one family the first Easter of a new decade brings a shocking tragedy. Amateur sleuth and professional librarian, Janie Juke, is settling into motherhood and looking forward to spending time with her family. When her Aunt Jessica is due back from Rome after nine years travelling around Europe, she arrives back in town with a new Italian friend, Luigi, and the whole family soon get embroiled in a tangle of mystery and suspicion, with death and passion at the heart of the story.

As time runs out on Luigi as prime suspect for murder, Janie has to use all of her powers of deduction in the footsteps of her hero, Hercule Poirot, to uncover the facts. Why did Luigi come to Tamarisk Bay? What is the truth about his family?
As Luigi’s story unfolds, tragedy seems to haunt the past, present and unless Janie acts fast, possibly what is yet to come.

 

My review
The main action of this story is set in Tamarisk Bay, after the theft of a briefcase on a train which is what sets events in motion. The book opens with a little map of the small town to give us an idea of where everything is. That’s a nice touch.
As mentioned, the story begins with a theft. The suitcase belongs to Luigi, who is the friend of Janie’s Aunt Jessica and that is how our librarian and new mother heroine Janie becomes involved. This apparently random crime turns out to be anything but, and brings some dark, passionate secrets to the fore.
The 1960s setting is evocatively created, and brings back memories for those of us who remember that period! The travelling in trains and ferries at the start of the book are both so well described you can feel the tray swaying and the boat heaving on the rough sea. This trait of beautiful, vivid descriptions remains throughout. It’s enhanced by the fact that Janie’s father is blind, so she always gives him very detailed accounts of things he can no longer see, and this really lifts the images from the page.
The book is filled with engaging, interesting characters, all distinct and convincing. Family relationships are central to the story, both close and happy ones, and difficult, strained ones.
The author has a down-to-earth style that is very approachable and flowing. You quickly find yourself immersed in the writing and whisked along by events. The story is complex rather than complicated, with interesting twists and turns and it keeps us on our toes. There’s a strong Italian flavour to it, which adds to the richness.
It’s an enjoyable and absorbing read.

Amazon US – https://www.amazon.com/Invisible-Case-heartbreaking-tragedy-cold-blooded-ebook/dp/B07D5BLMG6/

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Invisible-Case-heartbreaking-tragedy-cold-blooded-ebook/dp/B07D5BLMG6/

Author Bio –

Isabella Muir is the author of Janie Juke series of crime mysteries – all set in Sussex.

‘The Tapestry Bag’ is the first in the series, followed by ‘Lost Property’. Now – ‘The Invisible Case’ – the latest in the series is available for pre-order from Amazon.

The ‘Janie Juke mysteries’ are set in Sussex in the sixties and seventies and feature a young librarian with a passion for Agatha Christie. All that Janie has learned from her hero, Hercule Poirot, she is able to put into action as she sets off to solve a series of crimes and mysteries.

Isabella has also published ‘Ivory Vellum’ – a collection of short stories.

She has been surrounded by books her whole life and – after working for twenty years as a technical editor and having successfully completed her MA in Professional Writing – she was inspired to focus on fiction writing.

Aside from books, Isabella has a love of all things caravan-like. She has spent many winters caravanning in Europe and now, together with her husband, she runs a small caravan site in Sussex. They are ably assisted by their much-loved Scottie, Hamish.

Social Media Links –

TWITTER  @SussexMysteries

FACEBOOK  https://www.facebook.com/isabel.muir.96

WEBSITE: www.isabellamuir.com

Giveaway – Win a signed copy of The Invisible Case (Open Internationally)

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

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So what is this book about? Here’s the blurb:

Blood Ribbon

When there’s more than secrets buried, where do you start digging?

When Brooke Adams is found battered, bleeding, and barely conscious, the police are at a loss as to who her attacker is or why she was targeted.

Then, PI Rod Morgan turns up convinced that Brooke’s attack is the latest in a string of unsolved disappearances dating back twenty-five years.

The police, however, aren’t convinced, so Brooke and Rod must investigate the cases themselves.

As secrets from the past start unravelling, will they find Brooke’s attacker before he strikes again, or is that one secret that will stay buried forever?

Publication Date – 10th August 2018

And now here’s the cover…

Isn’t it tantalising? I’m definitely looking forward to reading this.

About Roger Bray

I have always loved writing; putting words onto a page and bringing characters to life. I can almost feel myself becoming immersed into their lives, living with their fears and triumphs. Thus, my writing process becomes an endless series of questions. What would she or he do, how would they react, is this in keeping with their character? Strange as it sounds, I don’t like leaving characters in cliffhanging situations without giving them an ending, whichever way it develops.

My life to date is what compels me to seek a just outcome, the good will overcome and the bad will be punished. More though, I tend to see my characters as everyday people in extraordinary circumstances, but in which we may all find our selves if the planets align wrongly or for whatever reason you might consider.

Of course, most novels are autobiographical in some way. You must draw on your own experiences of life and from events you have experienced to get the inspiration. My life has been an endless adventure. Serving in the Navy, fighting in wars, serving as a Police officer and the experiences each one of those have brought have all drawn me to this point, but it was a downside to my police service that was the catalyst for my writing.

Medically retired after being seriously injured while protecting a woman in a domestic violence situation I then experienced the other side of life. Depression and rejection. Giving truth to the oft said saying that when one door closes another opens I pulled myself up and enrolled in college gaining bachelor and master degrees, for my own development rather than any professional need. The process of learning, of getting words down onto the page again relit my passion for writing in a way that I hadn’t felt since high school.

So here we are, two books published and another on track.

Where it will take me I have no idea but I am going to enjoy getting there and if my writing can bring some small pleasure into people’s lives along the way, then I consider that I will have succeeded in life.

 

Social Media Links  

https://twitter.com/rogerbray22

https://www.facebook.com/rogerbraybooks/

https://rogerbraybooks.com/

 

 

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.

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.

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.   

From the very start, I was gripped by this novel. I have to confess that I thought I probably would be, as I’m a huge fan of Aaron Paul Lazar. And this wonderful author didn’t let me down.

Gus and his wife Camille are on a long-awaited and much-needed holiday. But, as is so true when you’re leaving family members behind, they’re torn. They need this break but they miss home too. This is just one of the lovely touches in this book. As with the other novels in this series, there is such a warm domestic background.  In fact warmth is what characterises the book: bad things happen, but there is security and love and loyalty in the background. Gus himself is such a warm likeable character. People can’t help opening up to him, and he can’t help getting involved. Camille is far more than a token sidekick. She’s a strong character, and has a strong role to play in this exciting mystery.

When a car crashes onto the beach close to him, Gus is drawn into a mystery concerning two feuding families. One is dysfunctional in the extreme whilst the other is very close but challenged. Sinister events pull Gus into thrilling events that have their roots in the eighteenth century. We have pirates and lost treasure alongside very modern problems, such a single mum struggling to make a living and also trying to save her baby’s father from the abuse he appears to be suffering at home.

The title Murder on the Brewster Flats is a clever one as there are actually two we learn about – one in the past, connected to the pirate element, and a modern one that puts several other characters in immediate danger. Also clever, there’s a crossover element: Gus and Camille encounter Jack and Scout Remington from the Paines Creek Beach series. It works so well!

This is an exciting and polished novel which you can’t put down. 

This is a murder mystery that involves a busy but secluded religious commune, New Life, headed by Father Ambrose. A trash bag containing the mutilated remains of a young girl is thrown onto their property, thus forcing the community to be dragged into the real world it tries hard to avoid as the murder is investigated.

The book begins very well and this author’s forte is in narrative writing. However, it rapidly gets bogged down with a lot of tedious and repetitive dialogue. Too often characters are telling, and retelling, each other things where it would be far more efficient if the author just told us, the readers, once. There are too many phone calls – two long ones in one chapter alone. Phone calls are notoriously difficult to portray in any novel – should we hear one side only, both sides, how much small talk need there be, and so on – and it’s best to avoid them if possible. Luckily these days we can have brief texts or emails to do their job, because as in this book, they do jar and slow the pace.

The plot is interesting and the descriptive writing generally excellent, but elsewhere the quality is much lower. The book is written in the third person but the author also uses, rather inconsistently, first person techniques such as direct thoughts. These rapidly become intrusive since you start to wonder why particular paragraphs are presented as his thoughts whereas others aren’t. There’s too much inconsistency. The majority of the characters aren’t well developed and remain shadowy.

There’s much to admire but generally I found this book disappointing after such a good start.

 

This is an office-based cozy mystery, which, it has to be said, makes a welcome change from the plethora of bakery-based ones! It’s set in Bostoff Securities where Janet Maple, our heroine, has just been given a job by long-time but rather controlling friend Lisa. Having worked in the DA’s office, Janet has a nose for intrigue and cover-ups. So she quickly becomes alarmed when she notices that things, such as the complicated company structures,  don’t seem to add up and starts to do a bit of digging. Janet finds herself in the awkward situation of suspecting her friend and boss guilty of wrong-doing. She’s not the only one. Her apparently nerdy work colleague Dean (the alias for Dennis Walker, an undercover agent) is on the case too and the pair find themselves working together, as well as becoming increasingly attracted to each other.

The author has a very clear, concise, polished style that makes for enjoyable reading. The characters are nicely rounded  and I suspect the major ones will develop further as the series progresses. The plot is clever and it’s interesting to get an insight into how a securities firm works. All in all, a different and enjoyable cozy, although it has to be said that Baxter the dog could do with being let out a lot more often!

I received a free copy of this book from the author, but this is a voluntary review.

I am a great fan of cozy mysteries, as you’ve probably guessed by now. What you may not know is that I’m also equally addicted to scones. So how could I possibly resist a cozy involving scones and that’s also set in Oxford, where I spent three wonderful years as an undergraduate rather longer ago than I care to remember!

I was hooked by this book from the very start. It has a very dramatic opening: “I never thought I’d end the week facing an American with a sharp knife.” Gemma is our narrator. She owns the Little Stable Tearooms in Meadowford-on-Smythe. She’s turned her back on corporate life to follow her dream, much to her parents’ despair. But she’s sure she’s made the right choice for her. However, when the unpleasant American turns up dead outside her tearooms the next day with one of her scones stuck in his throat, then even she begins to wonder if she shouldn’t have stayed in Sydney.

She decides to investigate, helped by a group of very nosey old ladies and her own inside knowledge of Oxford, where, like me, she was a student. The police are busy hunting down the killer too, led by Devlin O’Connor, Gemma’s ex-boyfriend who was at Oxford with her. His reappearance results in a lot of mixed feelings for Gemma and definitely causes complications.

There’s a great deal of fun and clever writing in this book. It’s delightful – sweet but never cloying, and tongue-in-cheek at times but never slapstick. Extremely entertaining, it’s cozy at its most delicious. It comes with an explanation of very British terms for readers from different backgrounds, and has a glossary of those strange terms that Oxford University positively revels in. And there’s a recipe for scones too. What more could you ask for! More books in this series? Then don’t worry, there are currently four more books to enjoy, and there’s even a prequel too.