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My Book Reviews for February 2024

My Book Reviews for February 2024

My Book Reviews for February 2024 comprise a ghostly crime thriller by Simone St James, an Arnhem-based mystery by Lin Le Versha, a spiky lockdown cosy/thriller by Jennie Ensor and several NetGalley titles.


Silence for the Dead by Simone St James

Set in 1919, this is part ghost story, part romantic suspense, part historical fiction and, with shades of Pat Barker’s Regeneration Trilogy, part literary fiction.

Londoner Kitty has been on the run for four years, taking a variety of factory jobs under assumed names. Now she heads to the North East, to a remote country house that serves as a hospital for men deemed insane after their experiences in the Great War. Somehow, Kitty must pass herself off as a nurse. But that’s not easy for a girl with no nursing training and whose temperament is to fight for herself even if that means breaking the rules.

Despite her lack of nursing experience, it slowly dawns on her that the men’s anxieties, nightmares and screams may not always be down to their wartime trauma. The house itself seems possessed by a sinister force that means to do its occupants harm.

The novel is really well written, with a compelling protagonist and a strong supporting cast of nurses, patients and orderlies.

Simone St James is one of my favourite writers. I have previously enjoyed and reviewed The Sun Down Hotel and The Broken Girls.


Blood Ribbons by Lin Le Versha

This is the latest title in the Steph Grant Murder Mystery Series. With an ex-copper sleuth now working as a head teacher’s PA and solving crimes connected to the school, the series provides an unusual take on the police procedural whodunit.

In this fourth outing, Lin Le Versha spins the genre again by weaving a historical fiction timeline into a modern-day crime story. She develops the mystery by getting, via an old diary, into the head of a World War Two solider caught up in Operation Market Garden at Arnhem. And she keeps up the tension from the viewpoint of his great granddaughter, Zoe, on a school trip to Arnhem in 2018. When bad things happen, Steph – one of the school trip chaperones – is on hand to investigate.  There are mysteries within mysteries here and my favourite was the one surrounding the WW2 soldier, which took on a twist I wasn’t expecting. The modern-day mystery turned out to be one of those reads I have now and again when I guess what might be about to happen. By no means did this spoil my enjoyment of Blood Ribbons. Instead I finished the book with a smug grin on my face.

I look forward to catching up with the first three books in this well-thought-out series.


Lin Le Versha and Blood Ribbons featured on my first Front Page Fridays post this month. Click at this link to find out more:


The Bad Neighbour by Jennie Ensor

Tara sees herself as the Lady Bountiful of her village. Naturally, when the pandemic hits, she takes it upon herself to lead the community in helping vulnerable residents. But when one of the recipients of her largesse prefers the company of a new arrival in the village, it’s fair to say Tara takes umbrage. The Bad Neighbour was different from anything I’d read before. The author rides the current wave for cosy crime but keeps up the suspense and also hits a topical button with COVID-19 and lockdown references. Very clever.


I also had the privilege of reading several advance copies of new books in exchange for independent reviews. With thanks to the authors, publishers and NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read the following titles:


Paper Cage by Tom Baragwanath

Lorraine is the records clerk at the police station but far more in tune with the local Maori community than the police officers are because she lives in that community. When children start to disappear, the white police assume it’s as a result of trouble within underprivileged families and don’t take their enquiries as seriously as they would if white children went missing.

Lorraine is a very close-up first person narrator, at times almost stream of conscious in her delivery, and the style is colloquial.

The story raises thought-provoking questions about law and order, community, race, privilege and opportunity.


Twenty-Seven Minutes by Ashley Tate

A car crash leaves Phoebe fatally injured, so why does her brother wait 27 minutes to call for help? Ideal for readers who enjoy slow-burn suspense led by character study.


Fourteen Days: A Collaborative Novel by Margaret Atwood, Douglas Preston and many others

Ideal for fans of storytelling set in the lockdown years and written by a collaboration of well-known authors. Lots of scene setting, character description and social commentary.


Anna O by Matthew Blake

Ideal for readers who enjoy twisting thrillers with a strong premise.


Deadly Animals by Marie Tierney

This could appeal to readers who like unusual protagonists. Ava is thirteen years old. At times her voice is that of a much younger, neglected and socially maladjusted child. Her senses, especially hearing and smell, are heightened and she is able to mimic a middle-class pensioner on the phone. At other times, she has the intellect and eloquence of an adult academic whose specialist subject is the decaying processes of roadkill carcasses. When she comes across the body of a teenage boy in some bushes in the dead of night, she is able to analyse the corpse by torchlight and glean as much information as the subsequent post-mortem, conducted by a trained pathologist in a fully equipped lab.

We also see the autopsy from the viewpoint of the policeman investigating the case. He too takes a deeply intellectual approach to describing the cadaver.

Given the way the story evolves, I’d say it’s more literary horror than crime. An interesting approach.


My Writing News

This month, I had a meeting with my publishers, Rebecca Collins and Adrian Hobart of Hobeck Books. They laid out their exciting plans for my Gloucestershire Crime Series. Book 1, Her Deadly Friend, will be relaunched on 23 April and then hot-off-the-press book 2, Her Charming Man, will be published on 14 May. At the meeting, we discussed the rebranding of the series with a stronger regional setting and agreed the brief for eye-catching book covers.


Front Page Fridays

As well as posting this, My Book Reviews for February 2024, I have started a new feature on my blog this month. I showcase the opening page of newly published books that have caught my eye. As well as featuring Blood Ribbons by Lin Le Versha, I threw the spotlight on Fatal Blow, the latest title by Brian Brice. Please click this link to read the post:


Chef Vanessa

We’re just back from a weekend in London, where we gathered to celebrate our daughter’s birthday. Our daughter-in-law and Cordon-blue chef, Vanessa, baked and iced the most wonderful cake. To find out more about Vanessa’s mouth-watering creations, check out her Instagram by clicking this link: Vanessa Woods (@vanessaleighwoods) • Instagram photos and videos

I’d recommend her posts and reels to anyone with foodie interests – whether that’s baking, cooking, eating or simply admiring edible works of art.  Her posts and reels have high production values and feature a variety of cakes, sweet treats, breads and sometimes savoury delights.

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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