The Housekeepers by Alex Hay


The Housekeepers by Alex Hay
Publisher: Headline Publishing Group UK
Genre: Historical, Action/Adventure
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Mrs. King is no ordinary housekeeper. Born into a world of con artists and thieves, she’s made herself respectable, running the grandest home in Mayfair. The place is packed with treasures, a glittering symbol of wealth and power, but dark secrets lurk in the shadows.

When Mrs. King is suddenly dismissed from her position, she recruits an eclectic group of women to join her in revenge: A black market queen out to settle her scores. An actress desperate for a magnificent part. A seamstress dreaming of a better life. And Mrs. King’s predecessor, with her own desire for vengeance.

Their plan? On the night of the house’s highly anticipated costume ball—set to be the most illustrious of the year—they will rob it of its every possession, right under the noses of the distinguished guests and their elusive heiress host. But there’s one thing Mrs. King wants even more than money: the truth. And she’ll run any risk to get it…

After all, one should never underestimate the women downstairs.

Mrs. King has worked in the most illustrious home in Mayfair since she was a teenager. Now the housekeeper, having worked her way up throughout her whole life, she is suddenly dismissed with no character and no references. Determined to take her revenge, she knows exactly who to turn to – other working women who have been similarly treated poorly. So on the night of the biggest ball for the season, these women are planning their own grand event, the biggest heist of the century.

I am always a sucker for a really good heist novel and the fact this book was set in the middle of 1905 and has a cast predominantly of women – and “downstairs” working women at that – only made me more eager to give this book a try. And I was really happy with the story as a whole. The characters were believable and multi-layered, the plot was logical and for the most part quite believable too. This is the author’s debut novel and the story stood very well by itself and I didn’t feel like I’d missed anything from previous installments. I was really happy with the story.

The first half or so is the preparation phase really. The cast had to all get together and for such an enormous task there was obviously a lot to set up and prepare – so getting to see the workings of all this was really good. I also felt the pace of this part of the story was really well handled. The author didn’t skim by it which I was pleased about since this is clearly a massive part of the plot and the story itself. But I didn’t feel like this part dragged too slowly either. Much like any heist movie the setting up of the parts, the organizing and planning beforehand is of almost equal importance to the actual “go night” itself. Without proper planning and structure put in place the main event simply won’t happen. So, reading through all that really helped sell the book and event to me. Equally – the actual heist night was about the latter half of the book along with the repercussions, so I felt this was really well handled as well.

With interesting, complicated characters who all have their own reasons and agenda’s along with a lovely plot of the heist itself this was an interesting and many layered story that I really enjoyed and can strongly recommend.

The Creek by LJ Ross


The Creek by LJ Ross
Publisher: Dark Skies Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

YOU CAN RUN, BUT YOU CAN’T HIDE…

Kate Irving arrives at her grandfather’s cottage at Frenchman’s Creek in the dead of night with her young son, a small suitcase and little else. Its scattered community of fishermen, farmers, artists and jetsetters barely bat an eyelid, because theirs is a rarefied world, tucked beneath the lush forest that lines the banks of the Helford estuary, deep in the heart of Cornwall, where life is slow and people generally mind their own business. Unless, of course, your grandfather happens to be a pillar of the local community…

Kate’s left the past behind and guards her privacy and her son fiercely. She’s wary of accepting the friendship her new neighbours offer, but their kindness is too great to refuse and she begins to feel she has found her place in the world. That is, until tragedy strikes, and her new friends look to her for the answers…

Kate soon learns that the past always catches up with you, in the end—the question is, will she be able to face it, when it does?

Suspense is peppered with romance and humour in this fast-paced mystery, set amidst the spectacular Cornish landscape.

Kate Irving hasn’t been back to her grandfather’s small cottage in Frenchman’s Creek since the unexpected death of her parents over fifteen years ago. Yet she has nowhere else to turn, not now she’s convinced she needs shelter for herself and her young son. Much is as she remembers it from her childhood, though her childhood friends – including the now very handsome Nick – have all grown up. But just as Kate thinks maybe she can escape the violence and constant fear she’s been surviving with her abusive husband, tragedy strikes again and Kate is shown that nowhere is safe.

This is an interesting and well plotted summerish style of mystery. While I don’t feel it’s a traditional mystery – there’s no police procedure or much of a who-dun-it style of plot – there is definitely plenty of tension in the plot of Kate leaving her abusive marriage and trying to start fresh again with the only remaining member of her family. There is a lot of characterization and character-driven plot as she reconnects with the small coastal town people and as Kate rebuilds. There is a bit of a mystery plot as well but that isn’t a strong part of the story until the second half of the book.

Readers looking for something a bit lighter and more romantic suspense likely will find this book a good fit. I found the characters sympathetic and the pace of the story is easy to read in a few sittings, but I do feel readers looking for a strong murder mystery story might find this a little light and lacking in the plot department. That said the romance is subtle and slow building with no real graphic scenes so readers used to more mystery and less romance should find that appealing.

A good book with interesting and relatable characters this is a light and fun summer read.

A Painted Doom by Kate Ellis


A Painted Doom by Kate Ellis
Publisher: Piatkus Books
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Teenager Lewis Hoxworthy discovers a disturbing painting in a medieval barn; a find which excites archaeologist Neil Watson, who is excavating an ancient manor house nearby.

But when a man is found shot through the head in Lewis’s father’s field and Lewis himself goes missing, it is Neil’s friend, Detective Inspector Wesley Peterson, who faces one of his most intriguing cases yet.

It seems that the Devon village of Derenham is full of secrets, both ancient and modern. As Neil uncovers the story of Derenham’s medieval past, it becomes clear that the Doom, a 500-year-old painting of hell and judgement, holds the key to the mystery. And as events reach a terrifying climax, Wesley has to act swiftly if he is to save a young life . . .

Newly promoted DI Wesley Peterson is enjoying a rare slow period, relishing the chance to catch his breath before the tourist season begins once again. Only the peace is shattered when ex-rock star Jonny Shellmer is found shot in the head in a farmers field. When a local teenage boy disappears – the son of the farmer whose field the rocker was found dead in Wesley and his team need to sort out what might really be going on in the small village.

This is the sixth book in the DI Wesley Peterson series and I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the British mystery series. While the plot and mystery can certainly be easily read as a stand alone – and there is no cliffhanger or dangling threads to deter readers picking this book up by itself – I must admit some of the relationships between the police team, and Wesley and his wife, does have some aspect of history to it and so readers should be aware they might miss a few of the smaller points in these respects.

That said I felt the plot itself was very well handled and I really enjoyed it. Complicated enough I didn’t guess what was happening straight away, but not so convoluted I got lost, I felt he author had a really good balance in this book. I admit some of the archaeology took a bit of a back seat this time around in the story but that didn’t bother me because the mystery part to the plot really was larger in this book and so it didn’t feel like anything was being padded out or embellished a little too much.

A really strong series and a great British police procedural this is a great book and an author I am definitely addicted to.

The Engine House by Rhys Dylan


The Engine House by Rhys Dylan
Publisher: Wyrmwood Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

You can bury the bodies, but you can’t hide the truth.

When a landslip on Pembrokeshire’s stunning coastal path reveals the harrowing remains of two bodies, ex-DCI Evan Warlow’s quiet-one man and his dog-retirement is shattered. As the original investigator for the two missing persons eight years before, Evan is recalled to help with what is now a murder inquiry.

But as the killer scrambles to cover up the truth, the body count rises.

Working with a new young team, Warlow peels away the layers to reveal the dark and rotten heart that beats beneath the chocolate box tranquillity of an area renowned for its quiet beauty.

But does he still have what it takes to root out the monstrous truth before all hell lets loose?

It’s been over a year since ex-DCI Evan Warlow has retired at the height of his career for deeply personal reasons. Content to work on his small cottage, walk his dog and take it easy, he is surprised when a landslip on a coastal path reveals the hidden remains of two bodies – a married couple Evan never managed to solve the disappearance of eight years ago and one of the few cases he could never really let go of. Reluctantly allowing himself to be talked into returning to consult on the new case, he’s surprised when a few leads immediately pop up giving a new rush to the investigation. Only with the new leads, new dangers also appear to lurk.

I found this Welsh police procedural crime novel to be really exceptional. The first in a series, I admit the first few chapters initially felt a little slow to me. Once the main characters had been introduced, however, and the investigation really began to start along my interest in the plot and the pace of the story really began to pick up and I soon found myself eagerly along for the ride.

I was pleased that most of the characters weren’t too young – I felt there was a good range for the team, with a few highly experienced leaders, a few middle-career characters and a few new and somewhat naïve additions. I felt this gave the team balance but also a believability that helped sell me on the case and team as a whole. And while having one obvious villainous colleague was a little over the top to my mind, it did add some good drama and conflict.

I felt this book had some great atmosphere. The story was faintly dark and gritty and I felt was very atmospheric – very coastal and small Welsh town. Readers should be aware that there are a few issues with DCI Warlow’s personal life and private health questions remain unanswered in this story – but I expect they should/will be addressed in future books in the series. The aspects to the plot and a few of the interesting twists all get answered and squared away very nicely at the end. I felt this was an excellent police procedural style of story and I am very happy to have found a new series.

The Bone Garden by Kate Ellis


The Bone Garden by Kate Ellis
Publisher: Piatkus
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

The ancient gardens of Earlsacre Hall are being excavated by a local team of historians in preparation for plans to recreate the gardens in their former glory. But the dig is called to a halt when two bodies are discovered under a stone plinth. More than 300 years old and buried on top of one another, there is every indication that one of the corpses had been buried alive. Despite the intriguing circumstances, DS Wesley Peterson has little time to indulge in his hobby for archaeology: a man has been found brutally stabbed to death in a trailer at a popular vacation site. There are no clues to the dead man’s identity except for a newspaper cutting about the restoration of Earlsacre. Soon after, the body of local solicitor Brian Willerby is found during a game of village cricket. The postmortem reveals that his death was caused by being struck by a hard ball several times with some force. Now Wesley must decipher the connection between Earlsacre and the murders before any more victims arise.

DS Wesley Peterson is called in when a body is found buried under a three-hundred-year-old plinth. Even though it’s soon proven that the body was buried all those centuries ago, work in the gardens of Earlsacre Hall is halted when yet another body is found to be buried under that original grave. Wesley is deeply curious about who these people were – and why were they buried in the large gardens – but soon a man is stabbed in a rental caravan and Wesley is called away to investigate something more recent than the old skeletons. And when yet another body turns up, Wesley realizes there might be some deeply sinister secrets floating around after all.

I have been greatly enjoying this series and found this book to be a lovely addition. Wesley is really beginning to settle into the police team and the small township, and I was pleased that the author had what I felt was a good balance between the history/archaeology angle and the more current police procedural aspect of the current murders. Readers who enjoy both historical mysteries as well as modern British police procedural style murder mysteries should find this book – and the series as a whole – a good read.

I definitely feel the plot of this book can be read as a standalone. The characters are linked throughout the series, but this book does stan well by itself and aside from catching up on how everyone knows each other I feel readers shouldn’t worry about whether they’ve read the previous books in this series.

An interesting plot with a good balance between history/archaeology and the present times, this was a good read.

Do Unto Others by John Carson


Do Unto Others by John Carson
Publisher: Vellum
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

THEY’RE RICH. THEY’RE POWERFUL. THEY’RE DEAD.

Settling into his new life, Detective Chief Inspector Harry McNeil is being kept busy, but life is going to become a lot busier.

The body of an MSP has been found slaughtered in an empty house in Edinburgh. But this is no ordinary crime scene. It’s one that Harry McNeil thinks he’s seen before. Down to the last detail, including the position of the bodies.

As they start the hunt, they’re looking for a killer who seems to know far too much detail of what goes on behind the scenes at a kill site. Somebody who doesn’t want to stop.

Then Harry recollects where he saw this crime scene before.

This killer is copying murder scenes from the past. But the past is very much going to catch up with the present…

Life is finally returning to normal for DCI McNeil, his new team is all settling down together, his home life is blissfully happy and his toddler daughter is happy and healthy. So when a particularly brutal and unusual murder scene sticks in his mind, it takes him a while to work out what his subconscious wouldn’t let go. He’s seen the exact same scene from another murder that occurred decades ago. Can his team sort everything out before another murder occurs?

I have been enjoying this long running series for a while now. While the cast of primary characters is quite large, there are a number of rambunctious and thoroughly enjoyable characters all working together. I was quite pleased that DSup Calvin Stewart played a fairly large part in this investigation as I quite enjoy him and feel his character has grown very much over the last few books. I was also pleased that for much of the book Stewart and McNeil were working two different cases. I really felt this dual approach to the plot helped the book feel a little more complicated and deeper than a lot of the previous books have felt.

Readers who pick this book up without having read any of the previous installments might struggle a little with the large cast of characters. While the plot and murders are clearly introduced and defined in this story there are a lot of characters and I do feel readers might struggle a bit to keep everyone in mind, especially as a few of the various Scotland units cross over a bit. That said, readers who have only read a few of the previous books should definitely know enough of the longer term characters that this shouldn’t prove too overwhelming and the enjoyable plot and good pace to the story should still leave this as a thoroughly enjoyable book.

Readers who enjoy a well plotted police procedural style of murder mystery – especially one set in Scotland – should find this book a really good read. I thoroughly enjoy this series and found this book to be a good addition to my collection.

Gone To Ground by Bronwyn Hall


Gone To Ground by Bronwyn Hall
Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers Australia
Genre: Contemporary, Action/Adventure, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Fern

HUNTED. ALONE. AFRAID…
A heart-in-the-mouth and utterly addictive adventure thriller from a phenomenal debut Australian talent.

UN surgeon Rachel Forester is posted at a remote medical clinic deep in the jungle of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. With violence escalating in the region, Dr Forester risks her life by remaining to tend an injured child while the rest of her team evacuates. On the cusp of her final desperate chance to leave, a soldier is carried into the camp by three other members of his unit, his condition so critical, his airlift must take priority over hers.

With no help coming, and in the path of warring militias, this small unit must flee through the heart of the jungle to reach the safety of the province capital. But in the dark wilderness lies a strangling web of crime and corruption. As they get deeper, they discover a sinister mining operation and stolen children with evidence indicating shadowy ties to the UN. But aren’t those the people Dr Forester works for? The only people who know she’s still lost out there? And now, the people who want her dead?

The further they delve, the more the web closes around them. Will they make it out alive?

Dr Rachel Forester is an Australian working with the UN deep in the jungles of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. What was meant to be one week delivering much needed vaccines to the tribal children living in the remote jungle areas has turned into more than a month. But with the violence escalating she and her one remaining nurse, Michael, are about to be evacuated when the fighting suddenly explodes and – while saving a Canadian soldier – Rachel finds herself fleeing with the military team into the jungle in a rush for their lives.

I picked up this book on a whim having never heard of the author but the blurb and first few pages really captured my attention. I’m so glad I listened to my instincts as this is absolutely one of the best books I’ve read this year – and possibly a new “must read” author for myself. I found this book had a really wonderful blend of action, adventure, military plotline combined with medical attention and a small hint of romance amongst the mystery/suspense. I never would have guessed this was the authors debut novel – but Google assures me this is Ms. Hall’s first novel. I found the plotlines, pacing and writing exceptional and really enjoyed this read.

Readers who like very strong military (ie loads of description about the guns/weaponry/helicopters etc) might not find this quite to their tastes. While there is ample description for me – I’m more of a reader who enjoys the plot/character lines and I am very satisfied with enough description for me to imagine what’s going on without needing to go overboard on the army/military angle. I was pretty pleased there were a few plots interweaving throughout the whole story – as well as a very slowly simmering romance which is given very little screen time but just enough to keep you guessing will they/won’t they.

I feel this story should appeal to a wide range of readers and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve already noted for myself that I want to buy the next book (another stand alone it appears) and I am eager to see if Ms. Hall’s second book matches the highly satisfactory outcome of her first. A really enjoyable book and one I will reread very soon.

The Furthest Station by Ben Aaronovitch


The Furthest Station by Ben Aaronovitch
Publisher: Gollancz
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

There have been ghosts on the London Underground, sad, harmless spectres whose presence does little more than give a frisson to travelling and boost tourism. But now there’s a rash of sightings on the Metropolitan Line and these ghosts are frightening, aggressive and seem to be looking for something.

Enter PC Peter Grant, junior member of the Metropolitan Police’s Special Assessment unit a.k.a. The Folly a.k.a. the only police officers whose official duties include ghost hunting. Together with Jaget Kumar, his counterpart at the British Transport Police, he must brave the terrifying crush of London’s rush hour to find the source of the ghosts.

Joined by Peter’s wannabe wizard cousin, a preschool river god and Toby the ghost hunting dog, their investigation takes a darker tone as they realise that a real person’s life might just be on the line.

And time is running out to save them.

When PC Peter Grant is contacted by a friend in the Transit Police about people being harassed on the Metropolitan line in the subway, he’s curious but doesn’t think too much of it. After a bit of investigation, he discovers that there absolutely are a various number of ghosts, all with a purpose, on the early morning commuter trains. With Abigail lending a hand, and Nightingale as back up can Peter decipher their message and unravel everything before things get critical.

I really enjoyed this short story and was exceptionally pleased that despite it’s shorter length there is a quite solid and intricate plotline and a few of our favourite characters front and center. I was particularly pleased with the movement and maturing of Abigail’s character and plot arc, I’m thinking there are definitely much bigger things in her near future. I also really enjoyed seeing Peter doing what he does best and it was a pleasure as always to see Nightingale in action.

Readers who enjoy a strong element of magic and paranormal rolled along in with their mysteries should find this an excellent book – and a great series as a whole – I’d happily pick up this shorter book as a brief introduction to the magical world Aaronovitch has created. This is a great, shorter taste of his writing style and the series, but readers who do enjoy this should go back to the beginning and enjoy the story from the start. I don’t feel readers who start here should be too confused though it’s quite clear there are a number of books preceding this one and why miss all the fun?

A quick read and loads of fun with a strong mystery and some exceptional magic and paranormal beings, this is a good time and I recommend it.

Crooked River by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child


Crooked River by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing, New York
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

A startling crime with dozens of victims. Appearing out of nowhere to horrify the quiet resort town of Sanibel Island, Florida, dozens of identical, ordinary-looking shoes float in on the tide and are washed up on the tropical beach—each one with a crudely severed human foot inside.

A ghastly enigma with no apparent solution. Called away from vacation elsewhere in the state, Agent Pendergast reluctantly agrees to visit the crime scene—and, despite himself, is quickly drawn in by the incomprehensible puzzle. An early pathology report only adds to the mystery. With an ocean of possibilities confronting the investigation, no one is sure what happened, why, or from where the feet originated. And they desperately need to know: are the victims still alive?

A worthy challenge for a brilliant mind. In short order, Pendergast finds himself facing the most complex and inexplicable challenge of his career: a tangled thread of evidence that spans seas and traverses continents, connected to one of the most baffling mysteries in modern medical science. Through shocking twists and turns, all trails lead back to a powerful adversary with a sadistic agenda and who—in a cruel irony—ultimately sees in Pendergast the ideal subject for their malevolent research.

Special Agent Pendergast is taking a well earned rest down in Florida after closing an unusually nasty case. But when over a hundred severed feet wash up on shore in equally baffling green shoes Pendergast finds himself drawn to the case despite his best intentions. With the Coast Guard blustering around and a whole bunch of other authorities trying to stick their oar in can Pendergast uncover what is really going on?

I have been a big fan of this series for ages so I was really pleased with this latest addition. With a complicated and well woven plot there were a number of angles to this case and it wasn’t until well over the half way mark of the full length novel that I began to unwind which pieces were red herrings and which were related to the main case surrounding the feet. There were a number of strong secondary characters who I felt really added to the tension and plotlines – but Pendergast really was front and center doing exactly what he always does and I loved this.

I was particularly pleased to see Agent Coldmoon return – albeit recovering and not the pushover he was in the previous book. I am really growing to love this character and I sincerely hope he makes more appearances in future books. Roger Smithback also makes a strong appearance in this book. While he will never take over my love of William Smithback I have to admit Roger made a solid contribution to both the tension and moving forward of the plotlines. He really was a positive addition – I just sadly feel he can never come out from under his brother’s shadow in my personal perspective.

Readers who enjoy a solidly plotted and well woven mystery with a few unusual twists and turns (usually very faint paranormal or “other” illusions to the plot) and characters that are definitely outside the usual box should find this entire series an absolute hit. This book can certainly be read very easily on it’s own. There are a few subtle hints that the characters have had previous adventures together but the entirety of this book and particularly the plot stands utterly on it’s own merits in this book and readers can be comfortable picking this up having never read a Pendergast book previously.

A smashing adventure and one I really loved.

The Funeral Boat by Kate Ellis


The Funeral Boat by Kate Ellis
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

When a skeleton is discovered on a Devon smallholding, DS Wesley Peterson, a keen amateur archaeologist, is intrigued by the possibility that it is a Viking corpse buried in keeping with ancient traditions. But he has a rather more urgent crime to solve, when a Danish tourist is reported missing.

Wesley finds disturbing evidence that the woman has been abducted. His boss Gerry Heffernan believes that Ingeborg’s disappearance is linked to a spate of brutal robberies and that she witnessed something she shouldn’t have.

But is her disappearance linked to far older events? For it seems that this may not have been Ingeborg’s first visit to this far from quiet West Country backwater . . .

A skeleton is discovered on a small farm and DS Wesley Peterson’s boss is convinced it’s the remains of a criminal that had lived on the land then mysteriously disappeared three years ago. But the skeleton appears to have been buried in a boat – one of the rituals many Viking graves have. Wesley’s archaeologist friend, Neil, is convinced the body is extremely old, but a number of questions remain. Then when a Danish tourist goes missing, Wes and his team have to juggle both cases as well as a spate of robberies that have occurred with the local farms.

I have been enjoying this series of police procedural mysteries and am feeling the author is starting to hit her stride. I find there is a decent balance of police procedure and murder mystery – though I do admit readers looking for a heavily historical or strongly archaeology based series might find this side of the plot is often not as front-and-center as the more modern mystery and police aspects of the plot.

I am also enjoying the fact Wesley’s police colleagues and team are definitely being fleshed out a little more and the team is knitting together very well. This has been more of a slower paced arc covering the series as a whole but I am really starting to enjoy it all. This book can absolutely be read by itself and while I am enjoying the longer arc having read each of the previous books in the series, it definitely isn’t necessary to thoroughly enjoy this story on its own merits.

A fun and well written British police procedural murder mystery I enjoyed this book and can definitely recommend the series as a whole.