Liz Robinson has been an Editorial Expert writing reviews for LoveReading since February 2014. At LoveReading we only recommend books we love, and each month Liz now has the tricky task of choosing a small selection that really caught her eye. All are highly recommended and come with Liz's seal of approval.
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.
The perfect murder mystery for fans of Richard Osman and Robert Thorogood. New York, 1946: The last time Will Parker let a case get personal, she walked away with a broken face, a bruised ego, and the solemn promise never again to let her heart get in the way of her job. But she called Hart and Halloway's Travelling Circus and Sideshow home for five years, and Ruby Donner, the circus's tattooed ingenue, was her friend. To make matters worse the prime suspect is Valentin Kalishenko, the man who taught Will everything she knows about putting a knife where it needs to go. To uncover the real killer and keep Kalishenko from a date with the electric chair, Will and Ms. Pentecost join the circus in sleepy Stoppard, Virginia, where the locals like their cocktails mild, the past buried, and big-city detectives not at all. The two swiftly find themselves lost in a funhouse of lies as Will begins to realize that her former circus compatriots aren't playing it straight, and that her murdered friend might have been hiding a lot of secrets beneath all that ink. Dodging fistfights, firebombs, and flying lead, Will puts a lot more than her heart on the line in the search of the truth. Can she find it before someone stops her ticker for good?
Sink into medieval times (and glimpse other ages), explore new thoughts and become more aware of the women who are part of our history. Author Dr Janina Ramirez looks beyond and behind the obvious masculine influence and features the women who were as much a part of history. History is in its very nature manipulated by the tellers and even people who are yet to come. I love the introduction, where we start and why, it really does hit home. Although featuring females, this feels larger and more complete in scale, actually, perhaps it’s just that is is balanced, as it should be. The text is supported by artwork, ranging from photos, posters, paintings and maps, to drawings, mosaics, and plans. By the way the cover is beautiful and I exclaimed in pleasure when I met the picture further in and further on, it’s always fabulous when you are given enough information to want to explore beyond the book you are reading. Dr Janina Ramirez explains that this is just the start of the conversation, and at the end invites you to explore on your own. Joining my Liz Picks of the Month, Femina sparkles with what it achieves, a fresh voice and beautifully engaging ideas.
With a powerful foreboding energy The Redeemer thoroughly provokes thoughts and feelings. Journalist Shanna Regan investigates a series of vigilante killings with links to the local Jewish community. Written in the first person, Shanna is determined and courageous, along with the flip side that can bring, of being obstinate and headstrong. Her prickles initially created a barrier and I found myself viewing her from a distance, as her defences lowered I began to admire and root for Shanna. Her personality fills the pages and at times encourages an unsettling edge with echoes of sadness as she determines to find answers. As the jigsaw began to form and information filled in gaps, insight and recognition arrived in lightbulb moments. The key themes of identity and revenge hammer home with vivid concentration. In the interests of integrity I want to state that I know the author Victoria Goldman personally, but I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending this novel as a Liz Pick of the Month. With an almost glowering intensity The Redeemer not only creates a chilling mystery, it also takes you into the heart of a Jewish community, and for me, opened up a new world of understanding.
'What is wrong with you?' Laura has spent most of her life being judged. She's seen as hot-tempered, troubled, a loner. Some even call her dangerous. Miriam knows that just because Laura is witnessed leaving the scene of a horrific murder with blood on her clothes, that doesn't mean she's a killer. Bitter experience has taught her how easy it is to get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Carla is reeling from the brutal murder of her nephew. She trusts no one: good people are capable of terrible deeds. But how far will she go to find peace? Innocent or guilty, everyone is damaged. Some are damaged enough to kill. Look what you started.
A darkly beautiful dual-timeline novel with a captivating mystery, for fans of Diane Setterfield and Kiran Millwood Hargrave When Tartelin Brown accepts a job with the reclusive Marianne Stourbridge, she finds herself on a wild island with a mysterious history. Tartelin is tasked with hunting butterflies for Marianne's research. But she quickly uncovers something far more intriguing than the curious creatures that inhabit the landscape. Because the island and Marianne share a remarkable history, and what happened all those years ago has left its scars, and some terrible secrets. As Tartelin pieces together Marianne's connection to the island, she must confront her own reasons for being there. Can the two women finally face up to the painful memories that bind them so tightly to the past? Atmospheric and deeply emotional, The Unravelling is the captivating novel from the author of The Illustrated Child.
Opals... In the desolate outback town of Finnigans Gap, police struggle to maintain law and order. Thieves pillage opal mines, religious fanatics recruit vulnerable youngsters and billionaires do as they please. Bodies... Then an opal miner is found crucified and left to rot down his mine. Nothing about the miner's death is straight-forward, not even who found the body. Homicide detective Ivan Lucic is sent to investigate, assisted by inexperienced young investigator Nell Buchanan. But Finnigans Gap has already ended one police career and damaged others, and soon both officers face damning allegations and internal investigations. Have Ivan and Nell been set up, and if so, by whom? Secrets... As time runs out, their only chance at redemption is to find the killer. But the more they uncover, the more harrowing the mystery becomes, and a past long forgotten is thrown into scorching sunlight. Because in Finnigans Gap, nothing stays buried for ever.
Goodness, take note before you start, this novels bites, provokes and doesn’t lose its grip, even though at times I flinched as the words buffeted my thoughts. The Bewitching is based on the events surrounding Alice Samuel when she was accused of witchcraft between 1589-1593 in the village of Warboys in the Cambridgeshire Fens. While fictional, author Jill Dawson has obviously completed meticulous research about the period. In the acknowledgements she mentions the title of a pamphlet published in 1593 that details the trial and that alone is enough to send shivers coursing through you. She weaves and stitches together a story that feels chillingly real. Even though centuries old, the details are as relevant today as ever, where a stray word and vicious mind can do so much harm. Women feature at the centre of this novel, with men on the sharpened edge. I felt as though I was being carried towards an inevitable conclusion, and yet I was still challenged, and still surprised as I was drawn into the inner sanctuary that a mind creates when speared. The ending of Part Four hit with exquisitely painful precision and left me feeling drained before Part Five lulled me into dreams. As devastating as it is powerful, The Bewitching is a fascinating and thought-provoking novel that joins my selections as a Liz Pick of the Month.
This thoughtfully handled story of love, in all its guises, sits on two timelines creating questions and answers as you travel between and the 1940’s and 1960’s. When Elise meets German soldier Sebastian in Paris towards the end of the Second World War, they begin a love that simply can not be tolerated by those around them. Ruth Druart’s debut While Paris Slept was also set within the same field of conflict, yet this has a very different feel. While simply told and handled with gentle generosity and compassion, you shouldn’t expect light and airy as it also squeezes thoughts and feelings in a vice-like grip. Secrets and lies twisted and changed shape as they extended into the future creating contradictory feelings as I read. The sections from the war have a haunting intensity, and clearly affect the later time frame. As the ending settled around me and I read the Author’s Note I heaved an emotional yet satisfied sigh. Dwelling in sadness yet expressing hope, The Last Hours in Paris is a compelling tale and sits as a Liz Pick of the Month.
Winner of the 2019 UEA Crime Writing Prize, Lightseekers is the start of a major new crime series introducing investigative psychologist Dr Philip Taiwo. When three young students are brutally murdered in a Nigerian university town, their killings - and their killers - are caught on social media. The world knows who murdered them; what no one knows is why. As the legal trial begins, investigative psychologist Philip Taiwo is contacted by the father of one of the boys, desperate for some answers to his son's murder. But Philip is an expert in crowd behaviour and violence, not a detective, and after travelling to the sleepy university town that bore witness to the killings, he soon feels dramatically out of his depth. Will he finally be able to uncover the truth of what happened to the Okiri Three?
Just a little bit mind-blowing, this immensely fascinating and satisfying book kicks known thoughts out into free-fall. Award-winning science writer Ed Yong's first book I Contain Multitudes was shortlisted for The Wellcome Book Prize and Royal Society Science Book Prize. In An Immense World his writing connected me to the unknown. While I love nature and often seek it out, I’ve never really thought beyond my own senses and viewpoint. Here he takes you into the senses of other animals and lets you to use them. It’s completely wonderful, and eye-opening (you will also note how often we use words connected to our main senses). He encourages you to think beyond now, to what the future could be. We have to look beyond ourselves to appreciate the damage we are sometimes unwittingly causing to ecosystems. Conservationists are able to make huge changes by seeing the world as though they are the animal rather than from a human viewpoint. As Ed Yong states, how do we solve a problem that we don’t realise exists, sensory pollution can be reduced but societal responsibility needs to be motivated enough to make the changes. He shows us that we have the gift to be able to appreciate the differences in animal senses and how it affects everything on our planet. Chosen as a Liz Pick of the Month An Immense World is eloquent, engaging, rewarding, and a hugely important read.
An enthralling, rewarding, and ever so satisfying debut crime thriller. Covering ten hours, from beginning to end, a far-right extremist takes nine people from an immigrant support group hostage. Author John Sutherland is a retired Borough Commander with the Metropolitan Police, during his time in the job he was a hostage negotiator, in other words he knows his stuff. Not only that, he is also a gifted, passionate, and compassionate speaker and I’ve listened to his inspiring words on several occasions at Literary Festivals. This may be his debut novel, but he already has two non-fiction books to his name, Blue: A Memoir and Crossing the Line are both fascinating books about policing. When I knew he was venturing into fiction I grabbed a proof just as fast as I could with one question on my mind, could his knowledge and abilities translate into a novel? Yes, yes they can. If you’ve read his books, newspaper articles or his blog, heard him on the TV, at talks or worked with him then you will know he is principled, honourable, thoughtful, and that clearly comes across in his writing. Yet being from the policing family means he has seen it all, experienced the highs and lows that this job throws at you. So while the tone is unmistakably him, calm with no fuss or bluster, it feels real, right up in your face real. The three main characters have equal billing, concentrating in turn on their lives, who they are, what makes them tick. There is a straightforward clarity to the writing that ensures the words hit with intensity. As the story gained momentum, as the lives of these people began to really matter to me, I couldn’t put the book down. At one point I cried, and I know how good a book is by how it makes me react, how it makes me feel. So, this novel joins our LoveReading Star Book community, it also sits as a Liz Robinson Pick for its month of publication. For those of you who have been waiting, hand-on-heart, it’s worth it. The Siege is not only thrilling and entertaining, it’s also engaging and meaningful, and comes with the hugest of ticks in the must-read box from me.