Murder in Midwinter by Various Authors (Review)

Murder in Midwinter: Ten Classic Crime Stories for Christmas by Various. 

Blurb

Midwinter. As snow falls softly outside and frost sparkles on tree branches, it’s time to curl up before a roaring fire, wrap your hands around a steaming mug of mulled wine, and forget your worries for now.

But as the temperature drops outside, malice is sharpening its claws … and murder walks abroad. In these classic stories of mystery and mayhem, let ten of the great crime writers in history surprise and delight you with twists and turns as shocking as an icicle in the heart.

Featuring stories by Dorothy L. Sayers, Cyril Hare, Anthony Berkeley, Ruth Rendell, Margery Allingham, Ellis Peters … and more.

Review

I love the books from the Murderous Christmas Stories series and tend to read one every December to help put me in the festive spirit. Although I was surprised to find that this book only actually had 3 stories set at Christmas and the rest were set in the Autumn or Winter months, but I suppose it is called Murder in Midwinter rather than Murder at Christmas.

I enjoyed all but one of the stories but my favourites were The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet by Arthur Conan Doyle and Rumpole and the Health Farm Murder by John Mortimer. Rumpole was a brilliant character and made me laugh a great deal, he is set in his ways and no matter how much his wife tries he will not change. Sherlock was up to his usual fantastic deductions in The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet. 

There was only one story in the book that I was not keen on which was the first one in the book The Queen’s Square by Sayers. I really did not get into it and found the relentless costume descriptions rather boring. However, thankfully I did not let the story put me off the rest of the book because the rest of the stories were excellent. 

Overall, I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons because to be honest Rumpole and the Health Farm deserves 5 Dragons all to itself because I enjoyed it so much. 

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Over My Dead Body by Jeffrey Archer (Review)

Over My Dead Body by Jeffrey Archer

Blurb

THE CLOCK IS TICKING IN THIS ROLLERCOASTER RIDE OF A THRILLER…

In London, the Metropolitan Police set up a new Unsolved Murders Unit—a cold case squad—to catch the criminals nobody else can. 

In Geneva, millionaire art collector Miles Faulkner—convicted of forgery and theft—was pronounced dead two months ago. So why is his unscrupulous lawyer still representing a dead client? 

On a luxury liner en route to New York, the battle for power at the heart of a wealthy dynasty is about to turn to murder.

And at the heart of all three investigations are Detective Chief Inspector William Warwick, rising star of the department, and ex-undercover agent Ross Hogan, brought in from the cold. 

But can they catch the killers before it’s too late?

Review

I bought this book because I was heavily influenced by the power of radio adverts. I heard the advert for this book so many times that I gave in but I will be honest I do generally enjoy books by Jeffrey Archer so that also influenced me. I haven’t read the previous books in this series but that didn’t cause any problems. 

There are quite a few storylines going on within this book but the main one is centred around Chief Inspector William Warwick and Detective inspector Ross Hogan. William and Ross work really well together because William is very analytical and observes everything while Hogan’s experience as an undercover police officer and being ex army makes him think outside the box and on his feet. Hogan is also very happy to break the rules when he thinks it will get results. 

The book opens with William and his wife Beth on a cruise to New York and on the cruise William meets a teenager called James who just so happens to be the grandson of the owner and founder of the cruise company. As the cruise goes on a crime takes place and it is up to William to solve the crime along with the help of James who wants to be an FBI agent when he is older. 

Another storyline that takes place is when William works out that Miles Faulkner is actually still alive and so the hunt begins again to catch him and bring him to justice. Amongst all of this are also the cold case crimes that the Unsolved Murder Unit are working on. The Unsolved Murder Unit all split off to try and solve the  different crimes and meet up periodically to give updates. 

I will be honest I did find this all a bit disjointed and I felt the book could have been shorter because I did lose interest at times and got a little annoyed with how stupid some of the characters were. They made silly mistakes which just left the hunt for Miles Faulkner seem never-ending. I give this book 3 out of 5 Dragons. 

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About the author

Jeffrey Archer was born in England in 1940, he is a former politician and author. Archer was a member of parliament from 1969-1974 but did not seek re-election due to a financial scandal that almost bankrupt him. Facing bankruptcy Archer began to write and in so doing revived his fortunes. Archer’s political career has been filled with scandal and in 2001 he was sent to jail for perjury and perverting the course of justice, in 2003 he was released. All his life experiences influence his writing and make for interesting reading.

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Christmas for Beginners by Carole Matthews (Review)

Christmas for Beginners by Carole Matthews

Blurb

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

Christmas is fast approaching at the new Hope Farm. Owner Molly Baker has been convinced to organise an open day to raise some much-needed funds ahead of the New Year, but the nativity tableau is proving challenging. With anti-social sheep, awkward alpacas and a seriously sequinned Santa Claus to assemble, Molly is feeling overwhelmed, and in desperate need of some Christmas spirit…

Despite the chaos of the farm getting in the way of her event planning, Molly is looking forward to spending the holidays with boyfriend Shelby and his son, Lucas, hopeful that a happy family Christmas is exactly what they need to draw them all together. But while she is busy making plans on the farm, Shelby, it seems, has ideas of his own.

As the nativity draws near, the team are working hard to pull off a spectacular festive fete – and make sure the animals and humans remain on their best behaviour.

Will this Christmas be merry and bright… or is there more than one surprise in store for Molly and Hope Farm?

Review

I received this book as my last book from Willoughby Book Club and I was very excited when I realised it was a Christmas book. I will be honest and say that I had completely forgotten that I had read a Christmas book by Carole Matthews last year but once I realised, I knew I was in for a treat. I haven’t read the previous book in this series but I didn’t really need to as it didn’t affect my understanding of the story.

Molly runs and lives on Hope Farm with her unruly but loveable animals and Lucas who is the teenage son of her boyfriend Shelby. Shelby spends most of his time away filming as he is an actor. The farm is there for children who have problems and Molly with her business partner Bev will do anything to make these children’s a lives a little easier.

Bev has planned a big Christmas open day for the farm with a nativity and a grand light switch on by the mayor to help raise funds for the important work the farm does. Molly however is dreading it as she struggles with people and much prefers her own company and the company of her animals. Molly also panics about everything so she spend a lot of time worrying about the open day as well as what is happening in her private life.

As the open day is being planned we see how Molly and Shelby’s relationship develops and also how Molly looks after and negotiates looking after a moody teenager and helping him through his problems. I will be honest I really did not like Shelby and kept hoping that Molly would come to her senses.

My other favourite character apart from Molly was Mark the Hot Mayor as Bev likes to call him. He seemed quite different from the Mayors I have come across in the past but he was always there to help Molly with the farm no matter what the task and was an excellent role model for the children at the farm.

The real stars of the book are the dogs and the alpacas and I must be honest I felt sorry for the dogs. The dogs had very basic names like Big Dog and Little Dog, the alpacas had amazing names like Rod Stewart and Tina Turner. The antics the alpacas got up to were also hilarious.

I loved this book and read it very quickly and I really want to read the prequel in the new year. I must read more of Carole Matthews as she is such a good author and always makes me laugh. I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons.

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About the author

Carole Matthews born 1960 is a British author. Matthews has published 34 novels and currently lives in Milton Keynes with her husband.

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The Tenth Man by Graham Greene (Review)

The Tenth Man by Graham Greene

Blurb

In a prison in Occupied France one in every ten men is to be shot. The prisoners draw lots among themselves—and for rich lawyer Louis Chavel it seems that his whole life has been leading up to an agonising and crucial failure of nerve. Graham Greene wrote The Tenth Man in 1944, when he was under a two-year contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and the manuscript lay forgotten in MGM’s archives until 1983. It was published two years later. 

Review 

This book originated from a lost manuscript of Greene’s that turned up in an MGM sale. The person who purchased the manuscript returned it to Greene and he turned it into a novel which was published in 1985. 

This is a short book but one that really packs a punch. The book begins with a prison in occupied France and the news that every tenth man is to be shot. The prisoners are left to decide amongst themselves who will be shot, so they decide to draw lots. The rich lawyer Louis Chavel’s nerve leaves him and he gives up everything to the man who will take his place. 

Janvier is the man who takes Chavel’s place so he leaves all his new wealth to his sister and mother. When Chavel finally leaves the prison he has nothing to his name but he is still drawn to life he once had and so makes his way to his old home where he finds Janvier’s sister and mother. 

The book looks at the final years of the Second World War and how even the best of men can change in dire times. It is a story of cowardice, guilt, courage, romance and much more. Those who lie are trusted and those who tell the truth are not believed, everything is turned on its head in this book. 

I must admit the ending of the book was not what I expected and came as a big shock but it did show that miracles do happen. I will be honest as much as I love Greene’s books this book did not really enthral me that much as I just did not like the character of Chavel very much so I only give this book 3 out of 5 Dragons. 

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About the author

Henry Graham Greene (1904-1991) was an English writer and journalist regarded as one of the leading English novelists of the20th century.

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Christmas with the Teashop Girls by Elaine Everest (Review)

Christmas with the Teashop Girls by Elaine Everest

Blurb

It is late 1940 and the war feels closer to home than ever for Rose Neville and her staff at the Lyon’s Teashop in Margate. The worry of rationing hangs overhead as the Nippies do their best to provide a happy smile and a hot cup of tea for their customers. When a heavy bombing raid targets the Kent coastline, Lyon’s is badly hit, throwing the future of the cafe into jeopardy.

The light in Rose’s life is her dashing fiancé Capt. Ben Hargreaves and planning their Christmas Eve wedding. But she must also plan to take two new step-daughters into her life and get on the right side of her wealthy mother-in-law, Lady Diana. Is Rose ready to become a mother so soon?

When Rose’s half-sister Eileen makes contact, it seems that Rose’s dreams of having a sibling are coming true at long last. But her friends begin to suspect that something is not right between Eileen and her husband: just what are they hiding?

As the Christmas Eve wedding draws near, the bombings intensify in Kent and London, putting everything and everyone Rose loves in danger. Only one thing is for sure: it will be a Christmas she never forgets . . .

Review

I read a Christmas book by Elaine Everest last year and really enjoyed it so I thought I would read another one this year as well. 

The story centres around Rose Neville who is the manageress of the Margate Lyon’s Teashop. However, Rose is trying to manage the teashop in the middle of the Second World War, with the constant threat of bombs landing and rationing making it ever harder to keep the teashop well stocked. But she also has her wonderful mom Flora to help her keep her spirits up and all her wonderful family as well as the love and support of her fiancé Ben. 

The story opens with rather a dramatic scene that left me desperately wanting to know more and I must admit that meant I could not put the book down until I had all the answers. As the story progresses we get to meet Rose’s future mother in law and the new family she will be joining. But at the same time Eileen, Rose’s half sister makes an appearance and things start to look a bit suspicious to Rose’s friends.  

My favourite character of the book is Mildred. Mildred stands no messing whatsoever and spends her time at sea on her fishing boat. She helps Rose, Lily and Katie and treats them as if they were her own daughters. She will fight for justice and will stand up to any man. I just couldn’t help but like her. My second favourite character was Anya who is also stubborn, determined and has a fiery temper. She also comes out with some fantastic lines. 

I really enjoyed this book and definitely plan on reading more books by Everest in the New Year. I give this book 4 out of 5 Dragons. 

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Purchase Links

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(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Elaine Everest was born and brought up in northwest Kent and has written widely – both short stories and features – for women’s magazines. When she isn’t writing, Everest runs The Write Place creative writing school in Dartford Kent, and the blog for Romantic Novelists’ Association. 

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George Silverman’s Explanation by Charles Dickens (Review)

George Silverman’s Explanation by Charles Dickens

Blurb

After a traumatic early childhood spent living in poverty in a Preston cellar, the suddenly orphaned George Silverman grows up convinced that he is at fault for all the misfortunes in his life. Hoodwinked by hypocritical clergymen and exploited by his employer, he finds himself forsaking love and facing professional ruin.

One of Dickens’s very last writings, ‘George Silverman’s Explanation’ is a dark and psychologically insightful investigation of failure and guilt. This volume also includes two other lesser-known pieces of fiction: the novella for children ‘Holiday Romance’ and the detective story ‘Hunted Down’.

Review

I found this book by chance in a book shop in Hay on Wye and having never heard of this Dickens story I instantly decided I needed to buy it and read it. It has been a long time since I have read any Dickens but once I started reading this book I realised just how much I miss his writing. 

I know Dickens’ books can be on the dark side at times but I was not expecting this much darkness. George Silverman’s life has been plagued by misfortune, his earliest memories are of being hungry and living in a cellar with his parents who left him on his own most of the time whilst they tried to find work. However, after suddenly losing his parents he is rescued by a man who calls himself Brother Hawkyard who makes sure that George has an education and food to eat but at the same time makes sure that George is living on the charity of others. 

George is telling this tale of his life in the first person. Poor George has not had much happiness in his life and when the possibility of happiness appears he does not believe he is worthy and finds a way to avoid it. This feeling of unworthiness is down to George believing that all the unhappiness in his life was his fault. 

The story is very sad and it is quite clear that he was let down by the adults who were bringing him up. It shows just how difficult it was for a child who was born into poverty to change their future to a more successful future. 

The next short story in the book is ‘Holiday Romance’. This story is apparently for children and I must admit I found it rather dull and it did not appeal to me at all so I skimmed through it quite quickly. The next short story ‘Hunted Down’ was much better and one I really enjoyed it. Not only was it humorous but it was also very tense at times. The story is very much like a detective story but not quite. Mr Sampson deals in life insurance and when a certain Mr Slinkton keeps turning up in his office Sampson realises that certain things are becoming suspicious and that a crime is afoot but can he stop it in time?

Overall, I really enjoyed this little book and I give it 4 out of 5 Dragons. 

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Purchase Links

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(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Charles John Huffam Dickens (1812-1870) was a writer and social critic who created some of the world’s best-known fictional characters and is regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. His works enjoyed unprecedented popularity during his lifetime, and by the twentieth century critics and scholars had recognised him as a literary genius. His novels and short stories enjoy lasting popularity.

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Shropshire Ghost Stories by Richard Holland (Review)

Shropshire Ghost Stories by Richard Holland

Blurb

Shiver your way around the scariest places in Shropshire. But only look if you dare! Be frightened be very frightened. These stories collected from around Shropshire will have you on the edge of your seat and you’ll be way too scared to turn off the light at night.

Review

I bought this book on my recent trip to Hay on Wye because I was intrigued to see what ghost stories there were about where I live and near by. 

The book is only short but it gives a great description of the places that are supposedly haunted and what kind of hauntings have taken place. The book begins in Shrewsbury with the haunted pubs and then moves on to the other places in Shrewsbury that have ghost stories. The book then moves on to the other haunted towns in Shropshire.

The last two chapters focus on two legends ‘The Roaring Bull’ and ‘The Legend of Wild Edric” and they go into a greater depth than the previous chapters have. 

I enjoyed this book and really want to visit some of the places mentioned however I would have liked a bit more depth on each place but I understand that the book is just an introduction into the different hauntings. The book has definitely made me want to learn more about the hauntings and actually mentions some more books that go into greater detail that I think I will hunt down and read. I give this book 3 out of 5 Dragons. 

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About the author

Richard Holland is a freelance corporate copywriter and editor and is the author of eleven books.

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Chess by Stefan Zweig (Review)

Chess by Stefan Zweig

Blurb

On a cruise ship bound for Buenos Aires, a wealthy passenger challenges the world chess champion to a match. He accepts with a sneer. He will beat anyone, he says. But only if the stakes are high. Soon, the chess board is surrounded. At first, the challenger crumbles before the mind of the master. But then, a soft-spoken voice from the crowd begins to whisper nervous suggestions. Perfect moves, brilliant predictions. The speaker has not played a game for more than twenty years, he says. He is wholly unknown. But somehow, he is also entirely formidable

Review

Well this book was very much a wild card for me. I spotted this book hidden on a bookshelf of much bigger books whilst on holiday in Hay on Wye and although I had never heard of the author I felt drawn to the story. At only 76 pages this book was a quick read for me that I completed in one sitting and it was an interesting read. 

The narrator of the book is an Austrian who is on the cruise ship bound for Buenos Aires. The cruise ship also has on board a world famous chess player called Czentovic who will happily play a game of chess if the money is right. The narrator tells us of how Czentovic is challenged by a wealthy man and so the game of chess begins. However, just as it looks like Czentovic has won, a stranger lends some helpful advice to the wealthy man. After that the narrator finds out all about the stranger and why he is so good at chess.

This short story is beautifully written and is concise and just the right length. I sometimes find that a short story feels rushed and leaves you wanting a longer story but this one is paced perfectly and leaves you satisfied you have read a short story with no details missing. I really enjoyed this story and I plan on reading more books by Zweig. I give this book 4 out of 5 Dragons.

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(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Stefan Zweig was one of the world’s most famous writers during the 1920s and 1930s, especially in the U.S., South America, and Europe. He produced novels, plays, biographies, and journalist pieces. Among his most famous works are Beware of Pity, Letter from an Unknown Woman, and Mary, Queen of Scotland and the Isles. He and his second wife committed suicide in 1942.

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Borderlands by Brian McGilloway (Review)

Borderlands by Brian McGilloway

Blurb

The corpse of local teenager Angela Cashell is found on the Tyrone- Donegal border, between the North and South of Ireland, in an area known as the borderlands. Garda Inspector Benedict Devlin heads the investigation: the only clues are a gold ring placed on the girl’s finger and an old photograph, left where she died.

Then another teenager is murdered, and things become further complicated when Devlin unearths a link between the recent killings and the disappearance of a prostitute twenty-five years earlier – a case in which he believes one of his own colleagues is implicated.

As a thickening snow storm blurs the border between North and South, Devlin finds the distinction between right and wrong, vengeance and justice, and even police-officer and criminal becoming equally unclear.

Review

I received this book as one of my Willoughby Bookclub books and to be honest it just went on my never ending TBR pile but the other day I was looking for something different and I found this and decided to give it a go. I am so pleased I gave the book the chance because I loved it. 

It took me a little bit of time to get used to McGilloway’s writing style but once I had there was no going back. The opening scene immediately hooked me in and I wanted to know more. The corpse of a teenage girl has been found on the border between North and South of Ireland so first the decision must be made of who has jurisdiction of the crime but eventually it is decided it is the Garda and so Inspector Devlin is put in charge. 

Devlin is an average man, working in a police station that is very lacking in facilities, which leaves Devlin and his team working out of a store cupboard. Devlin is married with two children and a dog but he also has a past that interferes with his marriage at times and I must admit that when this happens in the book it does show that Devlin at times can be a rather weak character. 

As the story progresses another murder takes place with seemingly no link to the previous murder and this adds to Devlin’s workload. At the same time he must protect his family from attack and work out what the mysterious wild cat that is supposedly attacking local sheep actually is. 

As things start to develop Devlin has some difficult decisions ahead and he is unsure of who he can and can’t trust. I loved this book and have bought the following two books in the series which I hope are just as good. I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons. 

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Purchase Links

Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Brian McGilloway is an author hailing from Derry, Northern Ireland. He studied English at Queens University Belfast, where he was very active in student theatre, winning a prestigious national Irish Student Drama Association award for theatrical lighting design in 1996. He is currently Head of English at St. Columb’s College, Derry. McGilloway’s debut novel was a crime thriller called Borderlands. Borderlands was shortlisted for a Crime Writers’ Association Dagger award for a debut novel.

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The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie (Review)

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

Blurb

Roger Ackroyd knew too much. He knew that the woman he loved had poisoned her brutal first husband. He suspected also that someone had been blackmailing her. Then, tragically, came the news that she had taken her own life with an apparent drug overdose.

However, the evening post brought Roger one last fatal scrap of information, but before he could finish reading the letter, he was stabbed to death. Luckily one of Roger’s friends and the newest resident to retire to this normally quiet village takes over—none other than Monsieur Hercule Poirot . . .

Review

Is there anything better than reading a book where the great detective Hercule Poirot is first introduced on the scene by him hurling a marrow over his garden fence? In my humble opinion no and I burst out laughing when it happened. I just love how eccentric Poirot is in the books which they never capture in the TV series, he is far too serious on TV in my opinion. 

The book is narrated not by the usual Hastings but by Doctor Sheppard. The good doctor lives with his sister Caroline who is a spinster who lives to find out all the gossip of their tiny village. This leaves the poor doctor rather exasperated and you can tell his life with his sister is one that he would happily like to escape at times. This means that the doctor jumps at the chance to be the sidekick of Poirot as Poirot investigates the murder of Roger Ackroyd. 

Roger Ackroyd is a very wealthy man with a step son who always needs money and a sister in law and a niece who are now in his care and also want his money. But Roger Ackroyd is very tight with his money, he also knows too much. So when Roger Ackroyd is found murdered his friend Poirot is asked to investigate. 

Poirot has apparently retired from his detective work and is now growing marrows in the country. However, you can tell that he relishes the chance to investigate the crime and leave his marrows to themselves. Poirot is on fine form in this book and I just love how quite often the inspector and Dr Sheppard think that Poirot has lost the plot and is not what he used to be. But in true Poirot fashion that is exactly what he wants people to think. 

Christie throws so many red herrings at you in this book that I spent all my time thinking it’s him! it’s her! I have no clue anymore! I definitely did not see the ending and even now I’m still not sure that the ending is all as it seems. Is Christie still holding something back? I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons. 

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Purchase Links

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About the author

Agatha Christie (1890-1976) was an English writer known for her 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections. She also wrote the world’s longest running play, The Mousetrap. She also wrote 6 novels under the name Mary Westmacott.

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