My Book Reviews for April 2024 (Part Two)

My Book Reviews for April 2024 (Part Two)

My Book Reviews for April 2024 (Part Two) include a mystery by Daniel Aubrey, set in Orkney and featuring a likeable, determined journalist; and a well-written, authentic mystery by Julie Anderson, set in post-war London. All the books are review copies I had the privilege of reading. I thank the authors, publishers and, for most, NetGalley for the opportunity to read early copies in exchange for independent reviews.

Dark Island by Daniel Aubrey

I have a soft spot for mysteries where the sleuth is a journalist. This was an excellent example of the genre.

After a difficult few years working at The Herald, Freya Sinclair returns to her homeland of Orkney for a fresh start at The Orcadian. Her husband, Tom, has given up his job in Glasgow, convinced the slower pace of the islands will be good for Freya’s mental health. But on day one in her new job, remains are found at Skara Brae. At first assumed to be ancient relics from the prehistoric village, the bones are revealed to be more recent and are soon linked to a contemporary of Freya’s, who went missing from her school twenty-five years earlier.

Freya’s obsessive personality and tendency towards sensory overload compound an already overwhelming scenario. With Freya going rogue before she’s even got to the newspaper office, is her new life set to derail on the first day?

The suspenseful plot is revealed logically and at a good pace, and Freya makes an engaging and relatable protagonist. The prose is ‘invisibly’ good – smooth, devoid of pretension and nothing to trip or distract the reader. Yet descriptions still manage to evoke superbly the distinctive setting of Orkney.

I look forward to reading book two in the series, which is neatly set up at the end of book one.

The Midnight Man by Julie Anderson

The title and cover made me think I was in for a hard-boiled detective like Philip Marlowe or Sam Spade but 1940s London style – Clapham Noir, perhaps. However, this turned out, instead, to be an excellent example of women’s historical fiction with a jolly good mystery attached.

We see the developing roles of women and the changing – and in some cases unchanging – attitudes of the population to those developments. This social history is shown through the eyes of two women, both in their late twenties, who work at the South London Hospital for Women and Children.

Faye is a working-class girl, who left school at fourteen and has worked her way up to a position of responsibility in the hospital’s admin department. There’s a promotion in the offing but only if she doesn’t pry too closely into hospital affairs and if she can persuade her parents that opting for career over marriage is a respectable choice.

Ellie is the naïve, down-on-her-luck daughter of a country clergyman, who finds work as a cleaner at the hospital and takes meagre lodgings with one of her colleagues.

When a nurse is murdered and police jump immediately to the conclusion that the killer was a vagrant passing over Clapham Common, Faye and Ellie decide to make enquiries of their own despite being warned off by several people.

Their suspicions fall on various men with links to the hospital, who could have had a midnight assignation with the nurse.

The writing style is true to the historical fiction genre, with thoughts, words and attitudes feeling authentic for post-war London. The author has done her research and sets the story against the backdrop of politicised workforces, tuberculosis treatment and the formation of the National Health Service.

The murder mystery is well plotted and what the two amateur female sleuths are able to uncover feels entirely plausible within the confines of their situation.

Julie Anderson has managed the rare feat of writing a book that sits comfortably in two genres. It’s an ideal read for fans of women’s historical fiction as well as for readers of historical crime novels.

I thoroughly enjoyed it.

(This wasn’t a NetGalley title. I thank the author and publisher, Hobeck Books, for the opportunity to read an early copy in exchange for an independent review.)

Julie was a recent guest on Front Page Fridays. Please have a look at the post to find out more about The Midnight Man and Julie: Front Page Fridays Week-10 – Rachel Sargeant

Whale Fall by Elizabeth O’Connor

It’s 1938 and Manod lives on a remote Welsh island with her father and little sister, whom she has to look after following the death of their mother. Manod longs for a bigger life and willingly becomes the assistant to two ethnographers from England, who manipulate their research to correspond with their preconceived ideas of traditional island life. In reality, the old ways are changing as islanders prepare for an uncertain future, and some move away. The decaying carcass of a beached whale symbolises the erosion of island culture. A literary coming-of-age story that conveys a sense of longing in its protagonist for both change and tradition. With thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to read an early copy in exchange for an independent review.

Not Like Other Girls by Meredith Adamo

Ideal for fans of YA thrillers that deal with important and topical issues narrated in a snappy, colloquial style.

How to Kill with Kindness by SR Masters

Tessa and Andy move to the village of Nether Appleford, and are warmly greeted by the Kindness Committee. Ideal for readers who like straightforward, explanatory, cosy-style narration, but with barbed wire hidden in the sugar bowl.

The Darkest Night by Victoria Hawthorne

Told across timelines and viewpoints, this is historical women’s fiction meshed with psychological mystery. We learn the secrets of the Reid family against a backdrop of witchcraft and the associated oppression of women.

 

I hope you enjoyed My Book Reviews for April 2024 (Part Two). There are more reviews this month in My Book Reviews for April 2024 (Part One).

 

My Writing News 

My novel Her Deadly Friend was relaunched on 23 April as the first title in my Gloucestershire Crime Series. Lots of lovely bloggers reposted their reviews. Here’s what some of them said:

‘Wow!  This book is absolutely fantastic!  … it has more hooks than a fisherman’s tackle box and I was hooked from page one.’ – The Book Magnet

A good read, a shocking conclusion and I’m looking forward to book 2 in the series. – Lynda’s Book Reviews

This book grabbed me from the start and the action never really lets up as there was always something happening to keep my interest. … I’m looking forward to reading more from this series in the future. – Joanna, Over the Rainbow Blog

Her Deadly Friend is a wryly amusing examination of the lasting effects of the decisions we make in our formative years along, with five corpses and several litres of noxious soft drink. A thoroughly entertaining police procedural and a cracking start to a new series. – Peter turns the page

And book two is on its way. Her Charming Man is published on 14 May. Multi-published suspense writer, Linda Huber, has read it and provided a lovely cover quote:

‘A fast-paced and intricately woven murder mystery, packed full of secrets and lies. The book with the ultimate twist.’ Linda Huber

 

By Rachel Sargeant

Rachel Sargeant is a British author. She writes the Gloucestershire Crime Series, published by Hobeck Books. The first title is Her Deadly Friend, and the second is Her Charming Man. Her titles with HarperCollins are: The Roommates, a psychological thriller set in a university during freshers' week; The Good Teacher, a detective mystery, featuring DC Pippa “Agatha” Adams, and The Perfect Neighbours, a psychological thriller set in Germany. Rachel studied at Aberystwyth University, spent several years living in Germany and now lives in Gloucestershire with her family. She holds a PhD from the University of Birmingham.

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