#bookreview SAD CYPRESS by Agatha Christie @agathachristie #ReadChristie2023

I have again joined up to the #ReadChristie challenge this year and the theme for 2023 is Methods and Motives. Each month a book will be chosen to match that month’s theme. The first official choice is Sad Cypress with it’s theme of jealousy. ou don’t need to read the official choice but can match another AG novel to the theme. As I know it take’s me ages to chose an Agatha Christie novel to read, as there are so many good one’s, and I did already have a copy of Sad Cypress on my book shelves, I decided on the official choice this month.

SYNOPSIS

An elderly stroke victim dies without having arranged a will…

Beautiful young Elinor Carlisle stood serenely in the dock, accused of the murder of Mary Gerrard, her rival in love. The evidence was damning: only Elinor had the motive, the opportunity and the means to administer the fatal poison.

Yet, inside the hostile courtroom, only one man still presumed Elinor was innocent until proven guilty: Hercule Poirot was all that stood between Elinor and the gallows…

MY THOUGHTS

I’ve watched this one on TV before but had never picked up a copy to read. Slightly different to most novel’s by Agatha Christie, this is one of her books which starts with someone already arrested and charged with murder. With the prologue opening the book with main character Elinor Carlisle in court charged with the murder of Mary Gerrard, the book goes back in time to when Elinor receives a strange anonymous letter from a ‘well-wisher’, encouraging her to pay a visit to her very sick Aunt Laura. Apparently there is someone buttering up to her aunt in order to cut Elinor out of the will. Elinor and her fiancé Roddy, have always been under the assumption that they will be the main benefactors in Aunt Laura’s will and decide to go down and see what could be going on.

Without giving the story away, not too long after Elinor pays her visit the murder of Mary Gerrard occurs. The same person who Elinor and Roddy think is the person accused of making trouble in the anonymous letter. Is Mary after the money? Did Elinor kill her? Soon Poirot is called in and he is determined to find the killer, even if it really was the beautiful Elinor.

Full of mis direction and the obligatory secrets from the past this was a great who done it, with one of the best thought out, ‘who to’ in her collection. The way the murderer hides it from being them is wonderful, but Poirot finds out! Of course he does.

Sad Cypress was first published in 1933. The edition of the book pictured with the ReadChristie2023 cards is my own copy and is a Fontana Books edition which they first published in 1959. It doesn’t say which year my particular copy was printed but with a price of 2’6 clearly before 1971. The book is dedicated to Peter and Peggy McLeod.

Come away, come away, death,

And in sad cypress let me be laid;

Fly away, fly away, breath;

I am slain by a fair cruel maid.

My shroud of white, stuck all with yew

O prepare it;

My part of death no one so true;

Did share it.

SHAKESPEARE

#bookreview What Child Is This? by Bonnie Macbird @macbird published by Collins Crime Club @fictionpubteam with illustration by Frank Cho OUT NOW in EBook and Hardback

Hardback copy

What Child is This? A Sherlock Holmes Christmas Adventure is the latest novel by the award-winning Hollywood scriptwriter Bonnie ManBird and was published by Collins Crime Club, an imprint of Harper Collins on 13 October 2022. With pen and ink illustrations by Marvel Comics superstar Frank Cho, What Child is This? is the fifth in Bonnie’s acclaimed Sherlock Holmes series. Many thanks to the publisher and Jane Acton for my gorgeous hardback copy. The illustrations by Frank Cho are wonderful.

SYNOPSIS

It’s the season of peace and goodwill, but a Victorian Christmas is no holiday for the world’s most popular detective in this new book from Bonnie MacBird, author of the bestselling Sherlock Holmes novel Art in the Blood.

It’s Christmastime in London, and Sherlock Holmes takes on two cases. The angelic three-year-old child of a wealthy couple is the target of a vicious kidnapper, and a country aristocrat worries that his handsome, favourite son has mysteriously vanished from his London pied à terre. Holmes and Watson, aided by the colourful Heffie O’Malley, slip slide in the ice to ensure a merry Christmas is had by nearly everybody . . .

MY THOUGHTS

In Bonnie MacBird’s fifth novel featuring the great Sherlock Holmes & Dr. Watson, the pair are investigating two cases: the attempted kidnapping of a child & the disappearance of a Marquis’ twenty-one year old son.

This shorter novel which includes some wonderful pen and ink drawings by Marvel Comics illustrator Frank Cho, is a quick read but full of action, wonderful Victorian scenery and Holmes and Watson’s great partnership that the author writes so well.

With a decadent wintery feel this story also looks at the dark side of 1890’s London. and it’s class divide and poverty. The story of the child minders is really very sad and even touches Holmes’ cool heart.

A great shorter tale in this vivid and authentic re imagined series.

#bookreview MY FATHER’S HOUSE by Joseph O’Connor Published Today by @harvillsecker @gray_books #publicationday #newrelease

Many thanks to Graeme of Graeme Williams Marketing for my wonderful hardback proof copy of the book.

Out January 2023, My Father’s House is a literary thriller based on the true story of an Irish priest in the Vatican, who rescued victims of the Nazis in Rome, right out from under the nose of his SS officer nemesis. It’s a powerful, unforgettable novel from a master of historical fiction about love, faith and sacrifice, and what it means to be truly human in the most extreme circumstances.

SYNOPSIS

September 1943: German forces occupy Rome. SS officer Paul Hauptmann rules with terror. The war’s outcome is far from certain.


An Irish priest, Hugh O’Flaherty, dedicates himself to helping those escaping from the Nazis. His home is Vatican City, the world’s smallest state, a neutral, independent country within Rome where the occupiers hold no sway. Here Hugh brings together an unlikely band of friends to hide the vulnerable under the noses of the enemy.


But Hauptmann’s net begins closing in on the Escape Line and the need for a terrifyingly audacious mission grows critical. By Christmastime, it’s too late to turn back.

MY THOUGHTS

I only remembered after reading the book that this story is based on real events during the Nazi occupation of Rome. It is a fantastic story which underlines the risks seemingly ordinary people were prepared to take.

The story revolves around Irish priest Monsignor Hugh O’ Flaherty who is based in the Vatican during the war years. He is the glue that pulls together a city-wide operation to hide, feed and finally transport escapees. He manages the operation through a small choir who meet regularly in the safety of the Vatican. Only O’Flaherty knows everything, while everyone else has only specific knowledge.

The book covers the period up to Christmas 1943 when the transport of a large number of escapees is planned. At the same time the Nazi’s grip on Rome and The Vatican is tightening.

The structure of the book is very interesting, most of it is told as later interviews with members of the Choir, who each have their own perspective. Each is looking back over different periods of time and putting their versions on record in different ways. This is interspersed with contemporary commentary and O’Flaherty’s own thoughts. The style draws you in, as just as the fog is lifting the narrator and the time changes and we move on to learn another part of the puzzle. All the time the clock is ticking, the noose is tightening.

As the war nears Rome we see O’Flaherty turn from consoling priest to activist, confused by the Vatican’s attitude towards him and slowly gathering a likeminded group around him.  The character is well drawn, O’Flaherty is sociable and engaging, but also devout and sincere. People trust him, both the man and the priest. Wherever he goes he locks horns with his nemesis, Paul Hauptmann, who ends up chief of the army in Rome. The cat and mouse between the two is well written, with Hauptmann wondering why the priest is so difficult, waiting for him to make a mistake, and O’Flaherty believing Hauptmann can be redeemed.

As the night of the transfer approaches the tension rises, O’Flaherty has to take more risks, the net closes in and the lives of O’Flaherty, the choir and dozens of escapees are put in peril as O’Flaherty hurtles across Rome. As the days and then hours pass the narrative becomes more gripping, the desperation and anguish are vivid as the final hours and minutes are seemingly filled with hopelessness and doubt.

This is a cleverly written story that believably moves from one man’s war to a thrilling, headlong race against time.

My Father’s House is released TODAY!

#bookreview #newrelease WEYWARD by @EmiliaHartBooks Published Feb 2nd by @BoroughPress #Weyward #NetGalley

Many thanks to the author and publisher for my advanced digital copy of the book via NetGalley.

SYNOPSIS

KATE, 2019
Kate flees London – abandoning everything – for Cumbria and Weyward Cottage, inherited from her great-aunt. There, a secret lurks in the bones of the house, hidden ever since the witch-hunts of the 17th century.

VIOLET, 1942
Violet is more interested in collecting insects and climbing trees than in becoming a proper young lady. Until a chain of shocking events changes her life forever.

ALTHA, 1619
Altha is on trial for witchcraft, accused of killing a local man. Known for her uncanny connection with nature and animals, she is a threat that must be eliminated.

But Weyward women belong to the wild. And they cannot be tamed…

MY THOUGHTS

Three women, all suffering in different ways from the actions of men.

Telling it’s story by flipping from character to character and timeline to timeline, Weyward tells the story of three women all from the Weyward family but spanning centuries.

Kate is in an abusive relationship, but on finding out that her great aunt Violet has left her her cottage Weyward in Cumbria, she has found the means and along with it the strength to flee. As she begins to explores the interior of the cottage, trying to make it her own, she begins to find things that start to connect the dots between herself and two other strong women in her family. Altha and Violet.

Including a tale of a mother and daughter suspected of witchcraft in 1619 and male dominance and power in 1942, we learn of how the Weyward women touch the lives of those daughters that are born after them, giving them the power they need when they need it most.

An engrossing and well told story of the misogyny experienced by women, both past and present, the strength and healing powers of nature and the courage to survive. I enjoyed reading this and found it a compelling debut novel. Rich in setting and time and place, the use of the natural world, animals and nature, coupled with an interesting and well planned narrative made for an interesting read. I look forward to seeing what this author writes next.

#bookreview #publicationday AMAZING GRACE ADAMS by Fran Littlewood Published by @MichaelJBooks on Jan 19th @_franlittlewood #newrelease #AmazingGraceAdams #Nettgalley

Many thanks to the author and publisher for my digital copy of this novel via NetGalley.

SYNOPSIS

Grace Adams is one bad day away from saving her life.

One hot summer day, stuck in traffic on her way to pick up the cake for her daughter’s sixteenth birthday party, Grace Adams snaps.

She doesn’t scream or break something or cry. She simply abandons her car and walks away.

But not from her life – towards it. To the daughter who won’t live with her anymore and has banned her from the party. To the husband divorcing her. Towards the terrible thing that has blown their family apart . . .

Today she’ll show her daughter that no matter how far we fall we can always get back up again. Because Grace Adams was amazing. Her husband and daughter once thought so. They and the world might have forgotten.

But Grace is about to remind them . . .

MY THOUGHTS

Telling the story of one very pivotal day in the life of Grace Adams, this novel was a terrific read.

Far deeper than I originally thought it was going to be, this book touches on many emotions and some serious topics. It had me both laughing and crying.

With the use of flash backs, as the day progresses, we learn what has bought Grace to this moment. From meeting her husband years back to more recent happenings involving her teenage daughter, we learn of Grace’s adult life and the things that have kicked her down. Well now she is on one serious pick herself back up moment!

Topics and experiences included in the novel are death, divorce, abuse and mental health and they all make for some very moving scenes, which are handled with care and sensitivity. I particularly liked Grace’s character in present day, when it is portrayed as the peri-menopausal woman she now is.

A much deeper story than I first thought which made for a powerful read. At times this book had me in tears yet I found it an uplifting story.

#bookreview NEEDLESS ALLEY by @NatalieMarlow2 Published |Jan 19th 2023 by @BaskervilleJMP

Many thanks to the publishers Baskeville for an advance reading copy of this book via Netgalley.

SYNOPSIS

Birmingham, 1933.

Private enquiry agent William Garrett, a man damaged by a dark childhood spent on Birmingham’s canals, specialises in facilitating divorces for the city’s male elite. With the help of his best friend – charming, out-of-work actor Ronnie Edgerton – William sets up honey traps. But photographing unsuspecting women in flagrante plagues his conscience and William heaves up his guts with remorse after every job.

However, William’s life changes when he accidentally meets the beautiful Clara Morton and falls in love. Little does he know she is the wife of a client – a leading fascist with a dangerous obsession. And what should have been another straightforward job turns into something far more deadly.

MY THOUGHTS

I really enjoyed this immersive and gritty historical noir set in 1930’s Birmingham.

William Garrett, Private Enquiry Agent works and lives from his office and digs in Needless Street. A number of jobs come his way via a shady solicitor called Shifty Shirley, facilitating divorces for rich male clients by setting honey traps for their wives. Working with his old friend, a handsome but troubled actor Ronnie Edgerton. Ronnie provides the bate, while William hides ready with his camera to capture the act. William doesn’t like what he does but having known what it’s like to have no money, the financial rewards keep him coming back for more.

One day, however, he meets Clara, wife of his current client, and everything changes. William falls for her and the job he already despises becomes even more difficult. However, trouble brews as Clara’s husband is no other than Edward Morton, rich, ambitious with political aspiration connected to fascist Oswald Mosley. Life soon becomes dangerous for William, and as his plan of action merges with some unexpected disturbing and dark goings on William soon finds himself in trouble.

Gritty, dark and with some violence the story is wonderfully balanced out with wonderful attention to detail, evocative settings of time and place and with the addition of wonderful characters like old love Queenie on her narrowboat and surprisingly resourceful Phyll. All the characters are wonderfully ‘fleshed out’ with each one battling demons and a life lived or being lived. The book is also a well researched and wonderful piece of social commentary of Birmingham at this time.

With great pace and numerous twists and turns this made for an extremely engaging and enjoyable read.

Needless Alley is out on January 19th. Check it out!

#bookreview SEA DEFENCES BY HILARY TAYLOR @hilarytaylor00 Published by @EyeAndLightning on January 12th

So many thanks to Simon of Eye and Lightning Books for sending me a copy of this fantastic read back in November. Developed from her prize-winning short story, this is the author’s first novel and one that I really couldn’t put down. Read on for my review.

SYNOPSIS

Rachel, a trainee vicar struggling to bond with her flock in the coastal town of Holthorpe, learns the terrifying power of the North Sea when her six-year-old daughter goes missing on the beach.

Meanwhile Mary, a defiant and distrustful loner, is fighting her own battle against nature as the crumbling Norfolk shoreline brings her clifftop home ever closer to destruction.

Both scarred by life, the two women are drawn into an unlikely friendship, but Mary’s misfit son Adam is nursing a secret. For Rachel, it will subject her battered faith to its greatest test: will she be strong enough to forgive?

In her taut, lyrical debut novel, Hilary Taylor weaves the bleak power of the East Anglian winter into a searingly honest psychological drama, as gripping as any thriller.

MY THOUGHTS

I like to support local authors when I can and read fiction set in East Anglia, so I was delighted when a copy of this landed on my door mat. Not just because of these reasons, but also because it sounded like a really interesting read!

The book opens on a cold and blustery Friday afternoon with our main character Rachel attending a PCC meeting at her church on the Norfolk coast. A trainee vicar, the author does a wonderful job at explaining how Rachel decided on this path and her constant doubts in her own ability. It describes Rachel as a very normal woman, wife and mother but one who is also training to become a priest, and I loved how this was merged at the start of the book in amongst her everyday life.

We then meet Mary and her son Adam who’s garden backs right onto the cliffs edge and is in ever present danger of being stripped away in the next storm. I loved their chapters, not just because they are great characters, but also the wonderfully evocative descriptions of the area and setting as they both spend a great deal of time outside. The author does a marvellous job at portraying the atmosphere and power of living by the North Sea. The coastal erosion and the setting of the whole novel is wonderfully effective and the author uses it throughout to great effect.

With the main characters introduced the book moves on to the disappearance of Rachel’s young daughter whilst on the beach one day. I won’t go into details of this as it would ruin the book for those who haven’t yet read it but I found it an immensely powerful and emotional read, with raw emotions from a family dealing with such an experience but also woven through the story a tremendously dramatic drama, as the story moves forward and we learn of what happen on that fateful day.

I found this book a powerful and unputdownable read, for a debut novel I was blown away. I felt connected to the characters right from the start and the book has the most wonderful atmosphere. I would highly recommend this to anyone and suggest you check it out immediately.

#blogtour #bookreview for Christmas on the Riviera by Jennifer Bohnet published by Boldwood Books and out now! #boldwoodbloggers @BoldwoodBooks #ChristmasOnTheRiviera @jenniewriter @rararesources @bookandtonic

Many thanks to the publisher for my Ebook copy of Christmas on the Riviera and to Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources for my spot on the blog tour.

SYNOPSIS

As a toddler Elodie Jacques was abandoned by her mother and left in the care of her French grandmother, Gabriella in Dartmouth, Devon.

Now 24 years old, Elodie struggles to reconcile the deep anger for the mother she has never since seen.

When Gabriella unexpectedly announces she wants the two of them to spend Christmas and her 70th birthday in her home town of Juan-les-Pins in the South of France Elodie is thrilled.

Gabriella meanwhile has her own ulterior motives for wanting to return after 40 years, a daunting homecoming potentially filled with memories, secrets and recriminations.

With Juan-les-Pins pulsing with lights, decorations and the festive spirit, Christmas promises to be filled with fun. But when Elodie learns there is the possibility that her long absent mother may join them she hides her feelings behind a show of indifference and animosity.

Will there be the reconciliation that Gabriella longs for – or will the spirit of Christmas fail to work its wonder?

MY THOUGHTS

It’s always a nice moment to start a Jennifer Bohnet book, knowing that a trip to the South of France is in store, this time however it is set in the winter and the week around Christmas.

When Gabby first puts they idea of Christmas in Juan-les-Pins to her grand daughter Elodie, she is unsure of the reaction she will receive, will Elodie want to come? She is, however, meet with a definite yes and they are soon on their way. Gabby hasn’t been totally truthful about her reasons for spending Christmas in her old home town, and as Elodie starts to wonder, the reader learns of the daughter/mother who left them, some 20 years ago and a ‘secret’ that has been sitting in the magical French village for some time which has Gabby thinking and planning of what the future may look like for them all. The only question is will they agree.

This is a shorter read then normal from this author, at just over 200 pages, and therefore the reader has less time to get to know the main characters and their back story, but there is the delightful descriptions of the south coast of France and the usual warm and friendly side characters that become entwined into the story and give the novel it’s usual enchanting feel. We hear mainly from the point of view of Gabby and her grand daughter, on their differing views of the mother and daughter who left them behind, and the way they have both coped with the situation and there is also a little love in the air for both women. Will this mean a longer stay in France?

A warm and engaging quick read.

#blogtour #bookreview for THE COMING DARKNESS by GREG MOSSE @GregMosse published November 10th 2022 by @moonflowerbooks Blog Tour arranged by @midaspr #TheComingDarkness

Today is my stop on the blog tour for The Coming Darkness. The debut thriller by Greg Mosse. Huge thanks to Sofia at Midas PR for my proof copy and spot on the blog tour.

SYNOPSIS

Paris, 2037. Alexandre Lamarque of the French external security service is hunting for eco-terrorists. Experience has taught him there is no one he can trust – not his secretive lover Mariam, not even his old mentor, Professor Fayard, the man at the centre of the web. He is ready to give up. But he can’t.

In search of the truth, Alex must follow the trail through an ominous spiral of events, from a string of brutal child murders to a chaotic coup in North Africa. He rapidly finds himself in a heart-thumping race against chaos and destruction. He could be the world’s only hope of preventing THE COMING DARKNESS . . .

MY THOUGHTS

The Coming Darkness is a near-future espionage thriller written as a classic spy story. We’re introduced to Alex Lamarque, an operative in the French external security service. He clearly believes in right and wrong, but he is no longer sure if the ends justify the means. Alex also has a reputation for reliable intuition and he has a growing sense of foreboding that something big and bad is developing. He is a comfortable and human hero and feels familiar from the off; he is easy to spend time with. Those around him are also well drawn with a believable history reinforcing the idea that these characters have had a life together before this story.

As with all good spy thrillers there are multiple strands, initially seemingly disparate but becoming intertwined as Alex’s assignments and intuition draw them together. Those around him, from his mother to his childhood friend and lover, are pulled into the multi-layered plots increasing the sense of jeopardy and raising Alex’s anxiety.

The near-future setting allows some liberties with political geography to be taken that set up a key plot, and believable changes in communication and transport are showcased with ongoing pandemics and climate change providing the dystopian backdrop with the displaced and migrants having no identity, living in ghettos outside of society. The haves still have, the have-nots don’t even have an identity.

While the start of the book is complicated as the plots are drawn the pace is always fast as Alex moves from one assignment to the next and the pressure builds as the story and his sense of foreboding grows.

An enjoyable, fast-paced , well constructed thriller.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

About Greg Mosse 

A theatre director, playwright and actor Greg Mosse is the founder and director of the Criterion New Writing programme at the Criterion Theatre in London, running workshops in script development to a diverse community of writers, actors and directors. In addition, since 2015, Greg has written, produced and stage 25 plays and musicals.

Greg set up both the Southbank Centre Creative Writing School – an open access program of evening classes delivering MA level workshops – and the University of Sussex MA in Creative Writing at West Dean College which he taught for 4 years. 

The husband of the bestselling novelist Kate Mosse, Kate’s hit novel Labyrinth was inspired by a house that Greg and his mother bought together in the French medieval city of Carcassonne, where the couple and their children spent many happy summers. Following the success of Labyrinth, Greg created the innovative readers-and-writers website mosselabyrinth.co.uk MosseLabyrinth. The first of its kind MosseLabrynth was the world’s first online accessible 3D world.

A multilinguist, Greg has lived and worked in Paris, New York, Los Angeles and Madrid and has worked as both an interpreter at a variety of international institutions and a teacher in the UK.

Greg and Kate live in Chichester, where Kate’s parents founded the Chichester Festival Theatre, they have two grown up children.

The Coming Darkness was written during lockdown and is Greg’s debut novel. 

#bookreview #blogtour DISCIPLINE IS DESTINY by @RyanHoliday Published September 27th by @ProfileBooks @midaspr #DisciplineisDestiny

Many thanks to Bei Guo at Midas PR for my hardback copy of this book and my invite onto the blog tour.

hardback copy

SYNOPSIS

The inscription on the Oracle of Delphi says: ‘Nothing in excess.’ C.S. Lewis described temperance as going to the ‘right length but no further.’ Easy to say, hard to practice – and if it was tough in 300 BC, or in the 1940s, it feels all but impossible today. Yet it’s the most empowering and important virtue any of us can learn.

Without self-discipline, all our plans fall apart. Here, Ryan Holiday shows how to cultivate willpower, moderation and self-control in our lives. From Aristotle and Marcus Aurelius, to Toni Morrison and Queen Elizabeth II, he illuminates the great exemplars of its practice and what we can learn from them. Moderation is not about abstinence: it is about self-respect, focus and balance. Without it, even the most positive traits become vices. But with it, happiness and success are assured: the key is not more but finding the right amount.

MY THOUGHTS

The second book in the author’s Stoic Virtues Series, Discipline is Destiny looks at Temperance, which along with Courage, Justice and Wisdom formed the four virtues of Stoicism a school of philosophy that hails from ancient Greece and Rome in the early parts of the 3rd century, BC

Now this makes it all sound like a serious philosophical text book, but it really isn’t. Holiday a young man, who has sold over 5 million books and has a huge digital following with among other things, his daily Stoic podcast, has done a really good job in breaking it down, sharing his thoughts and findings in a very informative, engaging and readable way. He explains how we could all use this ancient philosophy in today’s times. Short punchy chapters and the use of famous people throughout history make dipping in and out of this book very easy but engaging and useful.

Essentially a self-help book the author writes as if he is having a conversation with you and in learning of the lives of the people he uses to explain his theory you also learn about their lives and success stories.

There are some great quotes which really simplify what he is trying to get across and many hit the mark and made me think.

I passed the book onto my son, who is currently studying Philosophy at University and he said he is finding it an engaging and enjoyable read and one that he would recommend. He has also started following the author on social media too.

Blog Tour