Family Secrets by Shawn McGuire

25th July2021.

I enjoy discovering new authors and series, especially at the cosy mystery end of spectrum. Family Secrets, the first of a series set in the town of Whispering Pines in Wisconsin, features ex-cop Jayne O’Shea and her Westie, Meeka. They arrive at the home of her late grandparents to find the body of a young woman on the lawn.

With the help of Tripp, another visitor to the community, Jayne slowly becomes involved in an investigation where nothing is as it first seems. The sheriff appears uninterested in the murder. His nephew and deputy, Reed, is openly hostile to Jayne’s involvement. And a whole host of local characters, from a green witch to some local councillors, become suspects.

It’s all lovingly written and described. Jayne’s a strong character with her own baggage to deal with, picking away at the loose threads to piece together the relationships and motives that will help her solve the case. It’s fairly standard fare, but lifted by the setting, the Wiccan religion that guides many of the people, and the distinctive characters who add warmth, humour and charm to the story.

It’s a gentle, easy to read novel that charms and leaves you looking forward to the next in the series.

Description

Sixteen years after a family feud drove her from the cozy Northwoods village of Whispering Pines, Wisconsin, former detective Jayne O’Shea returns to prepare her grandparents’ lake house for sale. Once there, not only does she find that the house has been trashed, her dog discovers a dead body in the backyard.

Jayne intends to stay out of it, but when it becomes obvious the sheriff isn’t interested in investigating the death, Jayne can’t stop herself. Her list of suspects grows faster than the plants in the commons’ pentacle garden. Could it be the local Wiccan green witch with her stash of deadly plants? The shopkeeper who slips into trances and foretells death? The visitor determined to practice black magic?

What Jayne knows for sure is that the closer she gets to solving this crime, the more the sheriff wants her to back off. And when a local fortune teller provides a crucial clue, Jayne knows it’s up to her to solve this murder.

Family Secrets by Shawn McGuire

Left You Dead by Peter James

20th July 2021.

It’s been a year since I read the last book in the Roy Grace series, but it’s been worth the wait. Once again Peter James has delivered another clever and twisting story that grabs you from the first chapter and never lets go.

Eden Paternoster nips into the local supermarket and disappears. It’s not the first time she’s played games with her husband Niall. Only it’s no game when he’s arrested on suspicion of her murder. As Roy Grace begins the investigation, he has his own problems to deal with when his son Bruno is hit by a car outside his school gates.

As both threads of the story unfold, it soon becomes clear that something is awry with Eden’s disappearance. Struggling to maintain his focus, yet needing to work to distract himself from his personal problems, Roy Grace slowly pieces together a tangled web of deceit that leads to another breath taking climax on the cliffs of the Sussex coast.

Everything I’ve come to expect from Peter James is here – the direct, easy to read style, characters I’ve come to know and love, the procedural detail that gives his writing that authentic ring, and plots that always intrigue and throw up the unexpected.

It all adds up to pure reading pleasure.

Description

Niall and Eden Paternoster start their Sunday the same way they always do – with a long drive, a visit to a country house and a quick stop at the local supermarket on the way home.

But this Sunday ends differently – because while Niall waits and waits in the car park for Eden to pick up supplies, Eden never returns. She’s not waiting for him at home, and none of their family or friends have heard from her.

Gone without a trace, Niall is arrested on suspicion of her murder. When DS Roy Grace is called in to investigate, it doesn’t take long to realize that nothing is quite as it seems – and this might be his most mysterious case yet . . .

Left You Dead by Peter James

The Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie

19th July 2021.

The second Hercule Poirot story, published in 1923, is a complex murder mystery where nothing is ever as it seems. On two occasions, Poirot seems to have solved the murder, only to discover something new which turns everything on its head and forces him to start again.

Talk about a masterclass in how to wrong foot the reader.

It all starts with a cry for help from France. Hastings and Poirot arrive to discover a murder with the body lying on an adjoining golf course. All is not quite as it seems, though French detective Giraud seems to have worked it all out with this forensic approach to crime scene investigation.

The rivalry between the two detectives adds another layer of intrigue and entertainment to the story. Then there’s Hastings, losing his heart to a woman he meets on a train. She returns later to be part of the plot and a possible murder suspect, along with the man’s son, wife and next door neighbour.

The story is ably narrated by Hastings, who struggles to keep up with the deductions of his friend, Poirot. It allows Agatha Christie the chance to recap on what Poirot has deduced, helping the reader to keep up with the complexities of the investigation. But then we discover a new piece of evidence that casts doubt on all the great detective has deduced.

It’s easy to feel a little sorry for Hastings, whose struggles and efforts to form his own theories often result in gentle admonishment from Poirot and his superior intellect. But Hastings has to struggle with the investigation to ensure the author doesn’t give too much away too soon.

And, when the mystery is finally solved, you can’t help wondering how you missed all the clues.

This is a first rate whodunit that’s so complex, I wondered how Agatha Christie planned and worked it all out with such clarity and detail. But that’s why she’s known as the Queen of Crime. Her easy to read, direct style, takes you straight to the heart of matters without frills. Her characterisation is as succinct, creating believable characters and plenty of suspects.

But it’s her grasp of the small details that ultimately solve the crime that impressed me the most. Not once, did I truly feel I knew the identity of the murderer or the motive for the killings. Then again, it didn’t matter. This was such a complex, yet fascinating story that swept me along until it was time to reveal everything.

Description

On a French golf course, a millionaire is found stabbed in the back…

An urgent cry for help brings Poirot to France. But he arrives too late to save his client, whose brutally stabbed body now lies face downwards in a shallow grave on a golf course.

But why is the dead man wearing his son’s overcoat? And who was the impassioned love-letter in the pocket for? Before Poirot can answer these questions, the case is turned upside down by the discovery of a second, identically murdered corpse…

The Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie

Rosecliff Manor Haunting by Cheryl Bradshaw

17th July 2021.

This is the second story in the series featuring Addison Lockhart. She dreams about twin girls who died as children many years ago in a nearby manor house. It seems like they fell to their deaths from an attic window. But did they?

This is another entertaining and well-written murder mystery with a supernatural twist. Though Addison is psychic, she uses determination and deduction to solve the murder and bring peace to the spirits of the children.

If you like a cosy mystery with strong characters and a bit of a twist, this series is well worth a try.

Description

Psychic medium Addison Lockhart jolts awake, her brow sweaty, head throbbing. The dream had seemed so real.

The twins, eleven-year-old Vivian and Grace, were so full of life she wanted to reach out, touch them. But she couldn’t. The girls had been dead for forty years. Why then had they appeared to her, summoning her help? Were their untimely deaths really an accident, or was something far more sinister to blame?

Rosecliff Manor Haunting by Cheryl Bradshaw

The Lady Vanished by Greta Mulrooney

17th July 2021.

In the first book of the series, private investigator Tyrone Swift is asked to find Carmen Langbourne, who has gone missing. The police investigation has stalled with no evidence of any crime being committed. With no real clues to her disappearance, Swift makes enquiries, chipping away, uncovering family secrets.

It’s a slow investigation that meanders due to the lack of any firm leads. There’s a lot of description about day to day events like meals, which don’t move the story along. While it’s not badly written, I’m afraid the story never gripped me.

Description

How did she vanish without a trace?
Carmen Langborne is a woman who no one seems to like very much, and now she’s gone missing. But there is no body, no leads and no real suspects. And the police have given up.

Carmen’s stepdaughter Florence hires private detective Tyrone Swift to find the missing woman. If the body is found, Florence will inherit half of a very valuable house.

As Swift delves deeper into the family’s affairs, he discovers dark family secrets that threaten the reputations of powerful people. Will Swift get to the truth before those with much to hide stop him?

The Lady Vanished by Greta Mulrooney

The Shrine by LJ Ross

16th July 2021.

In an explosive start, DCI Ryan’s pregnant wife Anna is injured in an incident at Durham Cathedral. As the dust settles, it becomes clear that the explosion was no more than a smoke screen to hide a robbery of an important artefact. Why would someone steal something so easily recognisable and well known?

While trying to work out that mystery, a local police officer is murdered and the investigation takes a sinister twist. With Ryan concerned for his wife and his colleague and friend Phillips dealing with family issues, there’s plenty to distract the police from their twin investigations.

Thankfully, DC Melanie Yates steps up to deftly solve the crime, leaving only one mystery outstanding – who stole the artefact and why? The answer to that question will have to wait until a future story.

Like all the Ryan novels, this is well-written with plenty of time given to the characters and their respective backstories.

Description

After a long and eventful winter, DCI Ryan and his team are looking forward to the joys of spring. But, when one of their colleagues is shot dead on her own doorstep and the brass think it’s an inside job, Ryan finds himself drafted in to investigate.

He’s barely scratched the surface when reports flood in of a terror explosion at Durham Cathedral. Chaos descends on the sleepy, historic city and, when the smoke clears, they find a priceless artefact that once belonged to Saint Cuthbert is missing.

With tensions running at an all-time high, unable to trust the local police, can Ryan and his team bring a killer to justice — and restore Cuthbert’s cross to its natural resting place?

The Shrine by LJ Ross

Playing with Fire by Bill Kitson

16th July 2021.

Once again, detective Mike Nash has to deal with a big scale drama in a quiet part of rural Yorkshire. This time it’s double trouble. A convicted killer is about to be released and seems determined to return to his home despite death threats. Meanwhile, as local politicians increase racial tensions in the local community, an arsonist takes more direct action.

As both situations intensify, the call for more resources is rejected, leaving Mike and his small team to manage as best they can. Somehow they maintain their sanity and sense of humour as the body count rises. Mike even has time for a spot of romance as a local reporter comes to his aid.

As with the previous two novels in the series, the author piles on the suspicions, cranking up the tension and excitement, testing and stretching his characters to deliver complex crime fiction that lives on in the memory after the story finishes.

There’s so much happening on so many levels, that like Mike Nash you don’t have time to catch your breath

While you can read this novel on its own, it’s best to start with the first book in the series to get the full benefit. You’ll be itching to read the next in the series long before you finish the first.

Description

Gary Vickers killed his lover’s daughter. There was overwhelming evidence of his guilt. He is now due for release from prison. Against all advice, he insists on returning to Helmsdale, where Detective Mike Nash must protect him.

But Nash has other, more pressing worries . . . With extremist politicians fanning racial hatred and provoking attacks on migrant workers, Nash has to prevent an explosive situation from boiling over into civil unrest.

SHOULD YOU PROTECT SOMEONE CONVICTED OF AN UNSPEAKABLE CRIME?

Nash’s small team of detectives has little time to spare for convicted murderer Vickers. But as Nash becomes acquainted with the facts, doubts start to grow about Vickers’ conviction.

Proving him innocent will be difficult enough . . . but keeping him alive until they find the truth may well be impossible.

Playing with Fire by Bill Kitson

The Stabbing in the Stables by Simon Brett

14th July 2021.

When Jude’s asked to help heal one of her friend’s horses, she doesn’t expect to find a body at the riding stables. But this is Fethering and murder is never far away. Jude’s friend and fellow sleuth Carol has her own problems. She senses marital problems for her newly-wed son and his wife.

With the police releasing no information about their investigation, Jude and Carole have to resort to what they do best – make their own enquiries. They soon latch onto a former Irish jockey and horse whisperer, who seems to know a lot more about the murder than he’s willing to tell.

Like the previous books in the series, this one is filled with the usual red herrings, humour and puzzles to solve. Jude and Carole slowly work their way to the truth, putting themselves in danger once more as events twist in an unexpected direction.

Their chalk and cheese relationship provides additional layers of conflict and humour as their friendship and partnership overcomes all challenges to solve another murder.

If you like a cosy mystery with a strong underbelly of humour and social comment, the Fethering Village mysteries may be just what you’re looking for.

Description

When healer Jude pays a visit to Long Bamber Stables one evening – to meet her unusually horse-shaped new client and his owner Sonia Dalrymple – she does not expect to stumble across a man lying in the darkness. Walter Fleet, co-owner of the stables, has been viciously stabbed to death.

Sleuthing neighbours Jude and Carole begin to make discreet enquiries, but it soon becomes clear that Long Bamber Stables is a hotbed of dangerous passions, murderous rivalries and hidden truths . . . and this horsing community will do anything to protect their reputations.

The Stabbing in the Stables by Simon Brett

Shadow Crimes by Michael Hambling

13th July 2021.

The Sophie Allen series is one of my favourites. Not only is she a charismatic character, the stories are highly original and well-written, providing intriguing murder mysteries. The backstory and relationships are first rate, helping to build the characters, add humour to the novels, and give rounded stories that live long in the memory.

Shadow Crimes is no exception with another story that starts out with a murder and soon develops a number of strands that stretch the team in different directions. And with every step forward, there’s the feeling that someone powerful is pulling strings and interfering with the investigation.

But Sophie Allen has proved in the past that she’s more than adept at dealing with the bigger issues. Determined and single minded, she’s a formidable investigator, pulling all the strands together for an exciting twisting climax to yet another breath taking story in the series.

If you’ve never read the series, you should start with the first book and enjoy the development of the characters and teams as they investigate some of the most difficult murders you’re likely to come across.

Description

An undercover detective disappears.

A retired prison guard is found dead.

Drugs and contraband phones are out of control in the local prisons. How are they getting in?

Can Detective Sophie Allen discover the links between these crimes?

AND WILL SHE FIND THE MISSING DETECTIVE BEFORE TIME RUNS OUT?

A shadowy group with more influence than anyone suspected will stop at nothing to protect themselves.

Shadow Crimes by Michael Hambling

The Successful Author Mindset by Joanna Penn

13th July 2021.

This is a useful guide for writers about the challenges and issues you’ll face in your career. For each issue, the author gives practical guidance, often based on her own experience, on how to deal with the problems and stay positive. It covers everything from writers block to imposter syndrome and being overwhelmed by what you need to do once you are published.

As a published author, I’d encountered many of the writing issues, though I still found the advice interesting. You never know when writers’ block might creep up on you. The guidance on marketing and making a career from writing was more pertinent and useful to me.

Wherever you are on the writing journey, it’s good to know others have experienced the same challenges you face. It’s even better to know, they’ve found the answers that could help you.

Description

Being a writer is not just about typing. It’s also about surviving the roller-coaster of the creative journey.

Self-doubt, fear of failure, the need for validation, perfectionism, writer’s block, comparisonitis, overwhelm, and much more. When you’re going through these things, it can feel like you’re alone. But actually, they are part of the creative process, and every author goes through them too.

This book collects the mindset issues that writers experience, that I have been through myself over the last decade, and that perhaps you will experience at different times on the creative journey.

Each small chapter tackles a possible issue and then offers an antidote, so that you can dip in and out over time. It includes excerpts from my own personal journals as well as quotes from well-known writers. I hope it helps you on the road to becoming a successful author.

The Successful Author Mindset by Joanna Penn