The Wife, the Maid and the Mistress

The Wife, the Maid and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon, book reviewDuring the early part of the 20th century, there was a rash of public figures that were barely more than puppets for the many gangsters that flourished. From this time comes the story of Judge Joseph Force Crater and his mysterious disappearance on August 6, 1930. The investigation and speculation that followed for decades afterwards, garnered him with the title of “the missingest man in New York.” This cold case has now been fictionally re-opened from a new angle – that of the women in Crater’s life, in Ariel Lawhon’s debut novel The Wife, the Maid and the Mistress.

The fact that this infamous case may not be familiar to most readers should have nothing to do with their decision to read it or not.

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The Goddess and the Thief

The Goddess and the Thief, Essie Fox, book reviewAlice Willoughby’s mother died soon after she was born, but she had a happy childhood in 19th century India with her beloved ayah, until she was 8, when her father decided to send her home to live with her aunt Mercy in Windsor. Shortly afterwards, he died too.

Alice’s reactions to England contained echoes of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s stories of girls brought up in India and sent back to England, The Secret Garden and The Little Princess. To Alice, Windsor seems damp, dreary and grey compared to India with its beautiful vibrant colours. She finds consolation playing with Mercy’s jewellery, silks and other clothes while her aunt is out, discovering mysterious mementoes of a past that Mercy refuses to talk about.

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The Troop

The Troop by Nick Cutter, book reviewImagine finding yourself plunged into an episode of The X-Files. Forget the convoluted alien/government conspiracy that nobody really understood; I’m talking about one of the early episodes, where something that shouldn’t exist and yet is frighteningly plausible seems to slip into the real world. Yet in this scenario, you are just fourteen years of age and Mulder and Scully aren’t coming to save the day. That is almost exactly the atmosphere generated by Nick Cutter’s new novel, The Troop.

The Troop in question is a small group of Scouts from Prince Edward Island, Canada. Led by Scoutmaster Tim (otherwise known as Doctor Riggs, their small town’s only GP), five fourteen year old boys set out for a long weekend of camping on Falstaff Island, a tiny uninhabited dot of land a short boat trip away from their homes.

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Perfect, Rachel Joyce, book reviewByron Hemmings is a clever boy with an equally clever best friend James Lowe. When they hear about adding an extra two seconds, the idea astounds them both. But then Byron notices his watch moving backwards at the exact time the accident happened, and nothing will ever be the same. Together, these boys attempt to put things right during that spring and summer of 1972. 40 years later, the mental institution that Jim has been in and out of since he was 16 is closing its doors. Now Jim has to figure out how to live in the real world, and how to protect it from any harm he might cause. In this fascinating story, told in chapters that alternate between 1972 and 40 years later, Rachel Joyce (author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry) once again takes us on a uniquely personal journey in her second novel Perfect.

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The Treasure of Kafur

The Treasure of Kafur,  Aroon Raman, book reviewGoing through the first few chapters I was tempted to ask whether Aroon Raman’s latest was fantasy or adventure because the hero is just 19 and accompanied by a troop of animal friends, a cow, a tortoise and a pair of ravens with whom he seems to be able to converse quite easily. It took a little time adjusting to that, but not too much since the animals are not too busy being twee and, in fact, so little time is given to their animalism that they could just as well be human.

It is 1580 and the ruler of Khandesh, the despotic Asaf Baig is gathering forces together to rise up against the Emperor Akbar who in twenty years of rule has made many enemies.

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The Last Kashmiri Rose

The Last Kashmiri Rose by Barbara Cleverly, book reviewThe time is 1922, the place is Calcutta and Commander Joe Sandilands of the Metropolitan Police is packed and ready to head back to England after a six month secondment to the Bengal Police. He can’t wait to get out of the heat and intensity of the city, but his plans to head home are thwarted by a phone call from Sir George Jardine, Active Governor of Bengal asking him to help out with an investigation. The wife of an army officer has been killed in Panikhat about fifty miles out of the city and Sir George’s niece Nancy is married to the local Collector and suspects foul play. Could Sandilands hang on a bit longer and help out? It’s not the sort of offer a police office can really turn down. It might be a chance to see a bit more of the country and there are the undoubted charms of Nancy to attract him to the case. With considerable reluctance and a regret that he’s not on the boat to Blighty, Joe agrees to stay and we get to read his story in Barbara Cleverly’s first Joe Sandilands mystery The Last Kashmiri Rose.

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One Night in Winter

One Night in Winter, Simon Sebag Montefiore, book reviewOne Night in Winter……a group of teenagers who love poetry – and adore the dead writer Pushkin – dress up in costumes and go out in the streets to play ‘The Game’. Shortly after two of them lie dead in the street. They are in Moscow, it’s June 1945, and the city – indeed the whole of Russia – is celebrating Stalin’s victory over the Nazis. Nobody in Russia is a stranger to death after the war years, but the deaths of these two are something different.

The young people – dead and living – are not just ordinary teenagers. The all attend School 801 – the best school in Moscow, the place where the offspring of the great and the powerful are educated at great expense.

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The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion

The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion, Fannie Flagg, book reviewMrs. Earl Poole Jr., better known as Sookie, is almost 60 and still can’t get out from under her overpowering, and mentally unstable mother, Lenore Simmons Krackenberry. Lenore’s rich Simmons background and standing in the community is in a league of its own, and not one that Sookie ever felt comfortable in. But apparently, much of her family history was fiction. When Sookie finds out the truth as it applies to her in particular, it puts her into a tailspin, and takes her back to events in American history she never knew existed in a journey of discovery both of her own life and her heritage. This is Fanny Flagg’s The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion.

There are far few too authors out there that can make their readers laugh and cry at the same time.

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The Sea of Innocence

The Sea of Innocence, Kishwar Desai, book reviewWhen Simran Singh and her adopted daughter, Durga, go for a holiday in Goa, they’re not looking for any excitement. They just want to take things easy, soak up the sun, hang out on the beach and relax. But when Simran is sent a video of a young blonde girl dancing with some local men, followed by footage of the girl lying on a bed with the men, she’s instantly concerned about what might have happened to the girl. The clips have been sent to her by Amarjit, the policeman who’s her old ‘friend’ and occasional lover and he wants Simran’s help. Simran’s resistant – she’s on holiday, she wants to spend time with Durga, she’s not looking for a ‘case’ to investigate but Amarjit’s newly single, getting a divorce and might it be worth her while to help him out? Wouldn’t her mother be thrilled if Simran could get herself a man as well as a tan?

This is Kishwar Desai’s third Simran Singh novel – The Sea of Innocence.

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The Copper Promise

The Copper Promise by Jen Williams, book reviewI’m rather glad now that I didn’t know a week or so ago that Jen William’s The Copper Promise had been previously published as four e-book only novellas. Call me a literary snob, but it would likely have put me off trying the new release of the four parts drawn together into one thumping great paperback. Weighing in at a hefty 500-plus pages, it is Tolkienesque in size if not so much in content. (And that is not a criticism – after being force fed Farmer Giles of Hamm in school, it soured any enjoyment that may have been left to find in reading Tolkien’s other books). While not a great reader of the fantasy genre, I can confirm that this book has the expected swords, sorcery and quests, but it also has rather a lot more.

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Under the Wide and Starry Sky

Under the Wide and Starry Sky,  Nancy Horan, book reviewFanny Osbourne is running away from America with her three children. She’s had enough of her husband’s cheating ways; surely Antwerp is far enough away. But when her youngest son falls ill and then dies, she’s encouraged to recuperate in provincial France. There she meets Robert Louis Stevenson, who immediately falls in love with her. As he’s several years her junior, she doesn’t initially return his affections. But soon she’s under his spell, and thus begins the whirlwind lifetime of land and sea, from frozen mountains to tropical rainforests, in sickness and health, for richer and poorer and until death did them part. This is Nancy Horan’s Under the Wide and Starry Sky.

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The Puttermesser Papers

The Puttermesser Papers, Cynthia Ozick, book reviewRuth Puttermesser is a keenly intelligent woman and a fervent feminist, who by all rights should have been living an exceptionally amazing life. But despite her Ivy League law degree and total dedication, at age 34 she seems stuck with her lack of ambition in an ambiguous sounding New York City municipal department. But that doesn’t mean she’s boring. In fact, she’s anything but that, mostly because she’s been observing things – everything. So when work suddenly turns sour she takes things into her own hands. But are the upheavals and chaos that ensue her own doing, or not? This is The Puttermesser Papers by Cynthia Ozick.

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