A Raven and Fisher Mystery: Book 3 Edinburgh, 1850. This city will bleed you dry. Dr Will Raven is a man seldom shocked by human remains, but even he is disturbed by the contents of a package washed up at the Port of Leith. Stranger still, a man Raven has long detested is pleading for his help to escape the hangman. Back in the townhouse of Dr James Simpson, Sarah Fisher has set her sights on learning to practise medicine. Almost everyone seems intent on dissuading her from this ambition, but when word reaches her that a woman has recently obtained a medical degree despite her gender, Sarah decides to seek her out. Raven's efforts to prove his former adversary's innocence are failing and he desperately needs Sarah's help. Putting their feelings for one another aside, their investigations take them to both extremes of Edinburgh's social divide, where they discover that wealth and status cannot alter a fate written in the blood.
Calcutta, 1923. When a Hindu theologian is found murdered in his home, the city is on the brink of all-out religious war. Can officers of the Imperial Police Force, Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant Surendranath Banerjee track down those responsible in time to stop a bloodbath? Set at a time of heightened political tension, beginning in atmospheric Calcutta and taking the detectives all the way to bustling Bombay, the latest instalment in this 'unmissable' (The Times) series presents Wyndham and Banerjee with an unprecedented challenge. Will this be the case that finally drives them apart?
Whether you’re an aficionado of novels set in the Tudor era, or are looking for an atmospheric page-turner to keep you reading into the wee hours, Steven Veerapen’s Of Blood Descended is likely to float your imperial barge. It’s a veritable feast of un-put-down-able historic fiction. It’s the summer of 1522 and as Henry VIII’s court receives Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, Anthony Blanke is summoned back to Hampton Court by Cardinal Wolsey, his former employee. The cardinal wants Anthony (the son of the king’s late black trumpeter, John Blanke) to take centre stage in a gift he’s preparing for Henry - a masque of King Arthur and the Black Knight. But Anthony’s role at court takes a very different turn when Wolsey’s historian is murdered, his body discovered as part of a grisly tableau scene, and Anthony is called upon to investigate the historian’s death. With “the shadowy, faceless, nameless murderer… abroad in the city streets”, he must “hunt him” on a labyrinthine inquiry as Anne Boleyn comes onto the scene. Witty, often funny, and always sharply evocative, Anthony’s narrative voice is incredibly engaging and gives this history-rich thriller broad modern appeal.
This magical debut set in Victorian London is bold and profound yet somehow uncomplicated as it lays out a mosaic of vibrant themes and characters for your reading pleasure. Star theatre performer Zillah has climbed out of the slums, so while uncomfortable with the part she performs, she does what it takes to remain the headline act until one day she is faced with a life-altering and dangerous decision. Zillah tells her own story, I immediately heard her voice, so vibrant and alive. Lianne Dillsworth ensures all of the characters have an individual vital energy, they can be seen, felt, sensed. While the era throws itself around you and immerses you in all things Victorian, it feels as though the human responses are timeless. That feeling echoes through the plot as Zillah’s mixed heritage, and the fact that she was born free in London, marks her as different. All of humanities character traits are on offer from greed, selfishness, ignorance and indifference through to empathy, kindness, and courage. The mystery aspect of the plot was thrilling, yet it was Zillah’s personal journey that will stay with me and that is why I’ve chosen this novel as a Liz Pick of the Month. Vivacious, provocative, and compelling, Theatre of Marvels comes with a standing ovation stamp of approval from me.
A twisty new murder story from the bestselling author of the Dr Ruth Galloway Mysteries. An old man lies dead and it looks like poison, but his wife isn't the only one who had reason to kill him. Brighton, 1965 When theatrical impresario Bert Billington is found dead in his retirement home, no one suspects foul play. But when the postmortem reveals that he was poisoned, suspicion falls on his wife, eccentric ex-Music Hall star Verity Malone. Frustrated by the police response to Bert's death and determined to prove her innocence, Verity calls in private detective duo Emma Holmes and Sam Collins. This is their first real case, but as luck would have it they have a friend on the inside: Max Mephisto is filming a remake of Dracula, starring Seth Billington, Bert's son. But when they question Max, they feel he isn't telling them the whole story. Emma and Sam must vie with the police to untangle the case and bring the killer to justice. They're sure the answers must lie in Bert's dark past and in the glamorous, occasionally deadly, days of Music Hall. But the closer they get to the truth, the more danger they find themselves in...
Full of enthralling action, with a mix of fictional and real characters, this is a striking tale set in thought-provoking times, Dr Nicholas Shelby finds himself again acting as spy for Robert Cecil as Ireland rebels against Elizabeth’s rule. The Jackdaw Mysteries Series is one of my favourites, S. W. Perry is wonderfully consistent with his conjuring of the era, introducing thrilling plots and fascinating characters. Here we are at book five, and I highly recommend starting with The Angel's Mark and reading in order if you’ve not yet had the pleasure of meeting Nicholas and Bianca. The court of Elizabeth thrums with activity and intrigue, and The Jackdaw inn remains at the centre of the tale even as Nicholas and Bianca travel to Ireland, a country fighting for its freedom. The mix of real characters and fact blended with fiction is really successful, it is all too easy to imagine the instability of the times and compare them to today. There is a strength to Nicholas and Bianca being together, their relationship allows a deeper exploration of the precariousness of being wound up so tightly in Cecil’s web. The Rebel’s Mark is a fabulous continuation of a winning series, long live the Jackdaw Mysteries!
F J (Fiona) Watson is a medieval historian specialising in warfare and Scottish history. This is her first venture into the world of fiction and she uses her knowledge to good effect. As a portrayal of a mediaeval town under siege, the novel is excellent. Daily life, religion and working conditions are well described and the first-person present-tense narrative helps to create a good sense of atmosphere. To my mind, a decent mystery should persuade the reader to seek not only who did it, but why, where and how. This was a time before forensic evidence and before technology helped investigators. The basics of criminal investigation were paramount – accept nothing, believe nobody, challenge everything. Benedict Russell learns this the hard way as he is lied to and sent down blind alleys. Step by step though, he gets closer to identifying a killer. Whether he will be successful before the rampaging Scots arrive to take the town is uncertain but he needs to be, because his life and the lives of those around him may depend on it.
In Willow Close, everyone is a suspect . . . Nina and Conrad thought they'd discovered their dream home. But on the day they move in, a body is found - the victim attacked and killed in the woods. As police interview witnesses, they soon discover each resident hiding their own secrets. Because few in the Close are exactly who they seem . . . Nina and Conrad thought they'd found their dream home. Now, it might just be their worst nightmare . . .
I read this beautifully stormy dark gothic mystery while perched high up on the edge of my seat. A dreadful fire has haunted Ivy for years, she mourns two deaths, and now seeks the truth. Beth Underdown’s debut The Witchfinder's Sister was a bestseller and winner of the Historical Writers’ Association Debut Crown Award 2017, this is her second novel and it more than lived up to my expectations. The two time frames, sitting either side of the First World War, are initially fractured before they gradually fuze together. Information dripped and then seeped into the pages before hiding in my thoughts. The story is secretive, occasionally sullen as it begins to unfurl. Cornwall, and the house in particular cast a brooding presence which adds to the intensity of this tale. The characters are perfectly imperfect, trust is a scare commodity, and each casts a deep shadow. I was held in limbo while I read, totally immersed in the writing. Expressively powerful The Key in the Lock thrills and chills in equal measure. Chosen as a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month and LoveReading Star Book, this historical mystery is a worthy contender for the very top of your reading list.
This thought-provoking and exquisitely written novel has touched my heart. In 1923, Esme Nicholls travels to Cornwall in the hope of learning more about her husband who died in the First World War. This is the first book I’ve read by Caroline Scott, and it won’t be my last. Her debut The Photographer of the Lost set in 1921 was a BBC Radio 2 Book Club Pick, and When I Come Home Again set in 1918, was one of The Times Best books of 2020. The Visitors is so eloquently emotional and earthy it will stay with me for some time. The Cornish setting just sings, the house full of former soldiers where Esme stays made me feel welcome. The garden and natural surroundings soothe and act as a foil for the feelings of the people who reside there. Diary entries and articles add hidden thoughts and an awareness of the war. I adored the ending, the closing information so simply imparted, yet so satisfying and fulfilling, made me smile. The Visitors is beautifully expressive and heartfelt, and I’ve chosen this gorgeous novel as both a LoveReading Star Book and Liz Pick of the Month.
The most wonderfully wild, smart, and hugely entertaining novel awaits your reading pleasure. It’s 1946 and Lillian Pentecost and Willowjean Parker find themselves at the circus when one of Will’s friends from her performing days is murdered. I kept a beady eye out for this, the second in the Pentecost and Parker series, as Stephen Spotswood’s debut Fortune Favours the Dead was an absolute delight. I have to say that the cast list alone had me at hello. The circus comes to roaring vividly vivacious life, with the ups and downs of life on the road making the investigation particularly tricky. Little digs and pokes of humour nestle themselves in alongside the social issues of the day. The concerns faced by the residents of the sideshow in particular ensure that while this heads towards cosy crime, it comes with a sharply provocative edge. The writing is so visual, the descriptions come to colourfully dramatic life and as I read, I could see. The cunning ending ensured a resounding round of applause from me, Stephen Spotswood has done it again! A Liz Pick of the Month, and another LoveReading Star Book, Murder Under Her Skin is a charming, darkly amusing, and fabulously stimulating read.
Whoopee, isn’t this just the bee’s knees of a murder mystery! I’ll stop with the 1920’s slang now, but seriously, this really does rather beautifully conjure up the years after World War One. Sleuth and reporter Poppy investigates the death of a female scientist in Oxford. I have just adored every one of the Poppy Denby Investigates series which began with the Crime Writers’ Association Endeavour Historical Dagger Award shortlisted The Jazz Files, a wonderful historical mystery that I described as: “supplying oodles of 1920’s fizz and fun alongside a firm foundation from the suffragette movement and scars of the First World War”. These books could be classed as cosy as well as historical crime, but I’d say the cosy comes with a good twist of provocative nudges and digs. The Crystal Crypt is the sixth to feature Poppy, is it the last? Potentially, as a few of the loose ends from the series are rather nicely tied up. Poppy really does know her onions (sorry, sorry, definitely no more 1920’s sayings from me), she’s likeable, bright, and forward-thinking. The surrounding characters are fabulous too, though a favourite of mine has to be the wonderfully witty Rollo Rolandson. Fiona Veitch Smith encourages the plot to sing, while allowing the reader to investigate not only the crime, but also the social and political issues of the time. The Crystal Crypt is a wonderfully entertaining, vivid, yet thoughtful historical murder mystery that I can most definitely recommend.