Friday, 24 July 2015

The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths

Forensics Expert Ruth Galloway is called in to investigate when builders, demolishing a large old house in Norwich, uncover the skeleton of a child - minus the skull - beneath a doorway. Is it some ritual sacrifice or just plain straightforward murder?

The house was once a children's home. DCI Harry Nelson meets the Catholic priest who used to run it. He tells him that two children did go missing forty years before - a girl and a boy. They were never found.

When carbon dating proves that the child's bones predate the children's home, Ruth is drawn more deeply into the case. But as spring turns to summer it becomes clear that someone is trying very hard to put her off the scent by frightening her half to death.

Having previously read the first in this series, The Crossing Places, which I enjoyed enormously, I was very keen to read The Janus Stone and continue with the story of Ruth Galloway. This was equally enjoyable and I loved that the book picks up pretty much straight after the first book and this provided a marvelous continuity to the story.

Ruth is a wonderful character. Her personal concerns are easy to identify with. She is a cat loving, overweight single woman and thinks about life in the same way that you or I might. The other characters are also realistically drawn - DCI Nelson is as down to earth a character as you could ever hope to read about and I loved the descriptions of Ruth's born-again Christian parents and her Druid friend, Cathbad. Every one of Elly Griffiths characters were well drawn and I felt like I understood each one of them.

I also loved the plot and read the whole book in a couple of sittings which is something I rarely do. It moves along at a good pace but I would not call it a page turner. Rather it was a book to be read and enjoyed without the frenzied pace that many crime thrillers have.

I have already ordered the next book in this series, The House at Sea's End, and am looking forward to reading it and getting to know the characters even better. I highly recommend this series to readers who enjoy crime fiction or archaeology.

ISBN: 978  1849162296

Publisher: Quercus Books

Price (based on today price for the paperback at £6.39

About the author:

Elly Griffiths' Ruth Galloway novels take for their inspiration Elly's husband, who gave up a city job to train as an archaeologist, and her aunt who lives on the Norfolk coast and who filled her niece's head with the myths and legends of that area.

She has two children and lives near Brighton.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Maycomb, Alabama. Twenty six year old Jean Louise Finch (Scout) returns home from New York City to visit her ageing father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were  transforming the South, Jean Louise's homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town and the people dearest to her. Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt.

Since this book was published earlier this week there have been thousands of reviews written. I have deliberately avoided reading any of them so as not to affect my own judgement of this book but short of locking myself in a darkened room without any form of communication from the outside world it has been impossible not to have got the gist of the fact that the vast majority of these reviews have been negative.

Perhaps it is my contrary personality but I really wanted to like this book. Like many others I am a huge fan of To Kill a Mockingbird which I first read aged about thirteen and have reread many times since.

Harper Lee is a great writer as evidenced in To Kill a Mockingbird so it was hard for me to even begin to equate this sequel with the skill she showed in her first and only other book. My biggest disappointment was in the way she portrayed Jean Louise (aka Scout). Gone is the fiery young Scout who we all know and love and in walks Jean Louise who I think the author intended to portray as an opinionated and angry young woman. However, rather than possess the associated attributes of this persona Jean Louise comes over more as a moaning Minnie and quite frankly, I found her character rather tedious.

What I did like in this book were the flashbacks to Jean Louise's childhood. Here I glimpsed the characters and writer who exerted so much influence over me when I was in my teens.

Written in the 1950's and not published until 2016 does this book alter the way I have felt about To Kill a Mockingbird? Not one bit. It is vastly superior to this sequel and I have been a little in love with Atticus Finch for too many decades for that to change now.

ISBN:  9781785150289

Publisher: William Heinemann

Price: £18.99

About the Author: 

Harper Lee ws born in 1926 in Monroeville, Alabama. She is the author of the acclaimed To Kill a Mockingbirdand has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and numerous other literary awards and honours.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

London, 1929. Having set herself up as a private investigator, Maisie Dobbs is relieved when her first client arrives. Christopher Davenham suspects that his wife is conducting an affair. But Maisie's investigations confound her expectations at every turn and she if forced by her findings to revisit her own turbulent experience of the Great War. For Maisie, the boundary between her private and professional life is suddenly blurred.

This is a world still reeling in the aftermath of war, a world in which many secrets lie buried. But Maisie is determined to hunt down the truth, however painful it might be.

Maisie is one of the most likable characters I have encountered in some time and I am very excited that this book is the first in a series. Sweet and heartwarming but feisty at the same time, it was impossible not to be rooting for her all through the book.

What I particularly liked was the way Ms Winspear initially drew me into the story through the plot. However, the narrative then shifts for about a third of the book and we are presented with Maisie's backstory and therefore, everything we may have assumed about her during the first part of the book is challenged.

Although simply written I did not guess the outcome of the story and there were still some surprises at the end. Wonderful writing and I can certainly envisage myself reading the twelve books in the series and I do not make a commitment like that very often. I already have the second book, Birds of a Feather, ordered from the library.

About the author:

Jacqueline Winspear was born and raised in Kent, England and now lives in California. The Maisie Dobbs mysteries have won great acclaim and have been nominated for several awards including the Edgar Award.

Friday, 3 July 2015


I don't know about you but at this time of year when the sun is shining and I can look forward to lazy weekends sitting with a book in the sunshine, I don't want anything too heavy going to read. This isn't the time of year that I want to get stuck into War and Peace. I can more envisage myself reading that snuggled up in an armchair on a cold winters day.

No, what I want are books to reflect my mood so here are a list of my ten favourite summer reads with links to my review if I have done one..

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Evening Class by Maeve Binchy
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver
Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann
The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I would love to hear what your favourite summer reads are. Do you think the seasons influence what we read? 

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

After Before by Jemma Wayne

During a cold, British winter, three women reach crises point. Emily, an immigrant survivor of the Rwandan genocide is existing but not living. Vera, a newly Christian Londoner is striving to live a moral life, her happiness constantly undermined by secrets from her past. Lynn, battling with untimely disease, is consumed by bitterness and resentment of what she hasn't achieved and what has been snatched from her. Each suffering their own demons, their lives have been torn open by betrayal, by other people, by themselves, by life itself.  But as their paths interweave, they begin to unravel their beleagured pasts, and inadvertently change each others futures.

I actually finished reading this book a couple of weeks ago and I have been haunted by it ever since. Usually I write a review almost immediately after reading a book but this is one that I wanted to allow to sit in my mind while I worked out how I felt about it and I really have not been able to stop thinking about the three women in this book.

Emily, Vera and Lynn are all women that I could identify with to one degree or another and I was captivated by the realism of their lives and the interconnections between them. Ms. Wayne has made them each fully rounded characters whom I really came to care about throughout my reading of this gripping novel.

I liked the way the narrative is told from the point of view of the different characters and which carries the plot along harmoniously. 

Although dealing with some difficult themes the author deals with them sensitively but without sentimentality. Intelligently written and powerful meant this is one book that kept me up reading well past my bedtime.  Simultaneously painful and uplifting this debut novel ensures that Jemma Wayne is one to watch as if her future writing is of this quality then she is on the cusp of a long and successful novel writing career.

ISBN:  978 1909878846

Publisher:  Legend Press

Price: £6.39

About the Author:  Jemma Wayne is a writer and journalist with a special interest in multi-cultural issues. Having graduated from Cambridge University in 2002 with an academic scholarship for her achievements in Social and Political Sciences, she went on to gain a Distinction in a Postgraduate Diploma in Broadcast Journalism at the University of Westminster, before working as a reporter for The Jewish Chronicle.

In 2004 she left the JC to pursue her own projects and six months later saw the publication of her first full-length work, Bare Necessities, published by Piatkus Books.

Jemma has since turned her attention to fiction. Her short stories have appeared in a variety of publications including Ether Books, 33 West by Limehouse Books, and Kerouac’s Dog Magazine. 
As a freelance journalist Jemma continues to contribute to various publications. In particular she has written for The Evening Standard and The Independent on Sunday, She writes a political column for the The Jewish News and is a featured blogger for The Huffington Post.

Jemma has also written for the screen, and more recently the stage. Her first play Negative Space ran at The New End Theatre, Hampstead, in September 2009 to critical acclaim. Jemma and her co-writer Rachel Sternberg are currently at work on a second stage drama.

Jemma lives in North London.

After Before, is her first novel.

You can learn more about Jemma on her website: