My Book Reviews for May 2024 (Part One)

My Book Reviews for May 2024 (Part One)

My Book Reviews for May 2024 (Part One) include: a ghostly mystery in an isolated mansion by Lake Superior; an all-action police thriller set in Malta and Libya; and a heart-warming story set on the shore of Lake Constance, Switzerland.

The End of Temperance Dare by Wendy Webb

Feeling increasingly unnerved by the crimes she covers as an investigative reporter, Eleanor Harper quits her job to become the director of an arts retreat. The mansion, where the retreats are held, used to be a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients. When the facility closed, the owner, Chester Dare, moved in with his two young daughters and turned it into the retreat for artists and writers. After Chester and one daughter died in a car accident, the other daughter, Penelope, became the director. Eleanor takes over from the now elderly Penelope, who is retiring. However, Eleanor’s first day in post becomes her worst nightmare – except it turns out that her nightmares are only just beginning.

The themes and writing reminded me of books by one of my favourite authors, Simone St James, in particular of her Silence for the Dead. Both feature isolated country houses, convalescing patients, shadowy staff, ghostly apparitions, a hint of romance, lots of mystery and a big dollop of something very sinister indeed. I thoroughly enjoyed The End of Temperance Dare and will be seeking out other titles by Wendy Webb.

Inspector George Zammit Boxed Set by AJ Aberford

In 2022, I read Bodies in the Water, a crime adventure set in Malta and Libya. Now, when I fancied reading book 2 in the series, I discovered I could get a three-book boxed set for a bargain price. To refresh my memory before diving into Bullets in the Sand, I’ve reread Bodies in the Water. It’s been great to get reacquainted with likeable, accidental hero Inspector George Zammit of the Malta Pulizija, and to be drawn again into this action-packed thriller. With all the different threads and viewpoints – gangsters, smugglers, money launderers – it would make an excellent TV crime drama. The chapters involving a migrant raft are particularly memorable and cinematic.

I’ve now reached chapter three of Bullets in the Sand. It’s another gripping, explosive read.

Wedding Bells at the Lakeside Hotel by Melinda Huber

In a change from my usual reading diet of dark suspense and horror, I chose this feel-good novel. The story starts at a family-run hotel on the shore of Lake Constance in Switzerland before there’s a journey through Switzerland and into Germany.

The travel element brought back vivid memories of holidays I enjoyed along the same route from my home, at the time, in Germany. It was lovely not only to reminisce about the sights – Appenzell, the bears in Berne, the Swiss Open-Air Museum Ballenberg, the ferries across the Bodensee, and the Zeppelin Museum in Friedrichshafen – but also to savour tasty recollections of Kaffee und Kuchen.

The story centres on the upcoming wedding of two hotel staff and is told from the viewpoints of these characters, their assorted family members and some colleagues. As I haven’t read a novel in this genre before, I’ve nothing to compare it with, but it felt like a gently caressing People’s Friend serial.

Apart from a maybe-baby theme that ran throughout and a case of unrequited love, it seemed for a while that the worst these characters would face was a defective soap dispenser in the hotel gym and the imminent arrival of a mystery wedding guest called MJ. However, something happens at the midpoint that literally turns the world upside down for two people, with repercussions for several others, prompting some to make major life decisions.

The book brings a quintet of novels in Melinda Huber’s Escape to Switzerland series to a close. Although it worked perfectly well for me as a standalone, if you want the full feel-good experience with heart-warming stories and likable characters, I’d recommend stating at book 1, Saving the Lakeside Hotel.

I thoroughly enjoyed my detour into light-hearted reading. And my detection skills (honed on crime fiction) came in handy when I guessed the identity of MJ early on and finished the novel with a grin on my face.

 

The rest of My Book Reviews for May 2024 (Part One) comprise early copies I had the opportunity to read in exchange for independent reviews.  With thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley.

The Two Deaths of Ruth Lyle by Nick South

Written by an experienced author, this is a standard police procedural with all the usual ingredients: a detective inspector with an unsettled personal life, her bantering team, one or two shady colleagues, a smattering of technical CSI-type detail and a well-described setting, in this case North Devon. What sets it apart is the mystery. DI Jan Talantine is called to the murder of a middle-aged woman. Although the murder weapon strikes Jan as unusual, there’s nothing else to suppose this case will be out of the ordinary. That’s until Jan discovers the victim, Ruth Lyle, was murdered with the same type of weapon fifty years earlier. How could someone die twice?  Perfect for fans of the genre.

The Next Girl by Emiko Jean

Anyone who enjoyed the second series of BBC TV’s The Missing might like this one as the premise is similar. A girl who has been missing for a long time reappears, but what is she not telling her parents and the police?

The story is told from two perspectives: Ellie, the girl in question, and Chelsey, the detective charged with unravelling the mystery of Ellie’s reappearance. The most striking feature of this book is the writing style. Significant backstory from both viewpoints is revealed in brisk, quasi stream of consciousness writing.

The Family Experiment by John Marrs

Satirical rather than suspenseful, this dystopian novel poses terrifying questions about fertility, artificial intelligence, reality TV popularity contests and social media.

Several people participate in a TV show to raise virtual reality children. The winners, chosen by viewers, get to keep their VR child or undergo fertility treatment to have a real baby. One contestant, Hudson, had a, page-turning backstory, and I liked the twist.

 

As the title My Book Reviews for May 2024 (Part One) suggests, I have more reviews to come this month and I’ll be posting Part Two later in May.

Crime Readers Association

If, like me, you’re a fan of crime fiction and thrillers, it’s worth signing up to monthly newsletters from the Crime Readers’ Association. Get the lowdown on newly published gems.

Their website explains:

‘The Crime Readers’ Association offers a unique perspective on the largest community of crime writers in the world: the Crime Writers’ Association. Established in 1953, the CWA is behind the prestigious Dagger Awards.

Subscribers to the CRA receive a bi-monthly edition of our online magazine, Case Files, along with all kinds of fascinating features and articles from CWA members: the authors who bring you crime fiction.

In addition, we’ll send you the monthly CRA & Debuts Newsletter containing exciting updates of special events, crime reading (and writing) opportunities, book launches, author insider news, competitions and giveaways. Become part of the CRA today and enjoy crime writing insights you won’t find anywhere else.’

Gloucestershire Crime Series

Book one in my Gloucestershire Crime Series is still – as at 9 May 2024 – on special offer. You can get a copy of Her Deadly Friend as an ebook for 99p. I send a big thank you to everyone who has kindly taken the time to write a review and to everyone who’s talked about the book on social media. It plays a big part in making a small, invisible book visible. There are currently 46 reviews on Amazon. I’ve heard rumours that something exciting happens to the algorithm when the book reaches 50 reviews. I’ve no idea if that’s true, but I’m keen to find out. If you have read it and have time, please pop up a short review. Just a few words will do.

On Tuesday 14 May, Her Deadly Friend will be joined by Her Charming Man when book two is published.

This time, DI Steph Lewis of West Gloucestershire Police is working two cases.

A woman is found dead in the Cathedral grounds. Few, not even her family, mourn her. And a man has gone missing. His wife, colleagues and neighbours fear for the safety of this perfect gentleman.

A witness comes forward to say the cases are linked. A breakthrough, perhaps? But the witness has form for finding dead bodies and she knows things about Steph that the detective wants kept hidden. A reliable witness? Or a fantasist with the power to cause chaos in Steph’s personal life?

What could possibly connect the murder of an unpopular woman and the disappearance of a charming man?

 

That’s it for My Book Reviews for May 2024 (Part One). My next post will be this week’s Front Page Friday. And with a book of my own out next week, I’ll be cheekily featuring the opening of Her Charming Man.

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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