Echoes from Afar by Tamara McKinley

May 2017

5/5 stars. Echoes From Afar is an epic tale, told with a confidence and mastery that engaged and surprised me from the first page to the last.

Description

So this is Paris, she thought in awe. Spread out before her beneath a clear blue sky, it was like a precious gift after the smog and filth of London. No wonder it was called the city of love . . .
After a spiteful rumour ruins her career in London, Annabelle Blake must travel to Paris to start afresh. There she makes the acquaintance of Etienne and Henri – one a poet, the other a painter – both charming, talented and handsome. They spend their days flirting and drinking with the city’s artistes and Bohemians, and soon Annabelle too is swept up in the exotic and exhilarating world of 1930s Paris. But as ever more young people are drawn to the fight against Fascism in Spain, Annabelle must wake from the dream and confront the reality of war. A lifetime later, gifted artist Eugenie Ashton falls in love with Paris the moment she sets foot outside the Gare de Lyon. Like her mother Annabelle before her, the artistic delights of the city are a bright new world to her: but Eugenie will soon find that in its shadows are hidden the secrets of her family’s past.

My thoughts

This is not my usual read, but a good story is a good story, and this one swept me along with its sumptuous cover, vivid characters and stunning descriptions of life in the 1930s and 50s.

Can love endure? Can it survive the onslaught of war, lies and secrets?

Those are the questions facing Belle and Henri as their young love, ignited in Paris, is tested by the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath.

From the sublime descriptions of 1930s Paris to the heart breaking horrors of war, this is an elegantly written story, brought to life with memorable characters that sweep you along on an emotional ride filled with twists, surprises, and love that transcends tragedy.

Echoes From Afar is an epic tale, told with a confidence and mastery that engaged and surprised me from the first page to the last.

5/5 stars Highly recommended.

It’s a dog’s life

It’s late April at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida. The sun’s beating down on a line of restless children, patiently waiting to meet their heroes. But there’s an adult sandwiched between Scooby Doo and Shaggy, laughing and joking with them, posing for a photograph.

Yep, that was me.

Scooby Doo Shaggy and Robert Crouch

I’ve loved Scooby Doo since he first appeared on British TV in the early 1970s. I was only 11 or 12 at the time, but I loved the adorable Great Dane that unmasked villains and never missed an opportunity for a Scooby snack.

Assisted by Shaggy, Daphne, Velma and Fred, Scooby Doo and the gang reminded me of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, updated and transposed to the USA.

The Famous Five stories were the first time I’d encountered a dog in fiction. Like many children, and adults, I’d sobbed a few tears watching Lassie struggle home, but I’d never read about a dog in a book before, certainly not one that was also a character.

Scooby DooMy love of Scooby Doo stayed with me over the years, prompting work colleagues to occasionally buy me mementos, like a Scooby Doo mug, which is filled with tea in front of me as I write this blog. I’ve also had various soft toys, pens, and a colouring book.

The Scooby with the nodding head travelled on the dashboard of my car for around four years early in the millennium, coming out on the district with me. When I had to change car, the sloping dashboard meant Scooby retired to the house, where he’s remained ever since.

Scooby even got a mention during a management training day I attended. When the tutor asked us to name our heroes and what made them special to us, I had no names to offer.

To me, heroes are the people who selflessly dedicate themselves to help the disadvantaged, out of the glare of publicity, and usually without financial reward or recognition. These are people like young carers who look after disabled parents, people who tirelessly raise funds for charities, those soup kitchens in the bitter cold of winter, or nurse injured animals through the night.

When the tutor insisted there must be someone who inspired me, I thought of Scooby Doo. ‘He’s unique, inventive, entertaining and he makes me laugh,’ I explained, characteristics I aspire to.

Harvey, our West Highland White Terrier, shares Scooby’s love of food. We met Harvey as a 10 week puppy on a farm near Arlington, about 10 miles inland from the South Coast. He was twice the size of his brother and two sisters.

We soon found out why when we got him home. He ate so fast he seemed to finish within seconds of us setting down his bowl. We’re sure he wolfed down his own food and then raided the other pups’ bowls.

harvey and trainer

Back at the farm, mother led her pups out of the barn and left along a path into the garden. Not Harvey. He turned right, exploring under a car, happy to do his own thing, ignoring the owner’s calls to join the others.

Now eleven, he’s still unique, inventive and entertaining. I’ve lost count of the times he’s made me laugh with his antics, especially his love of sleeping on top of the sofa.

harvey sleeping

I had to give him a part in the Kent Fisher mysteries, naming him Columbo after my other fictional favourite.

Columbo started as a rescue dog in No Accident the first Kent Fisher mystery. In the second, No Bodies, he plays a big part in defeating the killer. He’s an attentive listener, which means he’s the only one Kent confides in. They’re best mates, of course, but Columbo always goes where the treats are.

And his namesake, Lieutenant Columbo, had a laconic, but adorable, Bassett hound as his companion.

Why not comment below to tell me about your favourite fictional dog?


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