A Very Murderous Christmas: Ten Classic Crime Stories for the Festive Season by Various Authors (Review)

A Very Murderous Christmas: Ten Classic Crime Stories for the Festive Season by Various Authors and edited by Cecily Gayford

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Blurb

The Christmas season is one of comfort and joy, sparkling lights and steam rising from cups of mulled wine at frosty carol services. A season of goodwill to all men, as families and friends come together to forget their differences and celebrate the year together.

Unless, of course, you happen to be harbouring a grudge. Or hiding a guilty secret. Or you want something so much you just have to have it – whatever the cost. In A Very Murderous Christmas, ten of the best classic crime writers come together to unleash festive havoc, with murder, mayhem and twists aplenty.

Following Murder on Christmas Eve and Murder under the Christmas Tree, this is the perfect accompaniment to a mince pie and a roaring fire. Just make sure you’re really, truly alone …

Review

I bought this book last year just after Christmas so I never read it and thought I would save if for Christmas 2019. I’ve been desperate to start my Christmas reading and so kicked it off by reading this book. I read a short story a night and loved it.

The book has a range of short stories but sadly they are not all murder mysteries and some are just merely mysteries. My favourite story was Camberwell Crackers by Anthony Horowitz, it really made me giggle.

The first story in the book The Man with the Sack by Margery Allingham set the scene of a wonderful Christmas in the old days where the village children would come and visit the big house and someone would dress as Father Christmas and give out presents. I really enjoyed the beginning of this story but must admit I found the ending rather a disappointment and it was all a bit too predictable for me.

The Adventure of the Red Widow by Adrian Conan Doyle and John Dickson Carr was very amusing and it was a nice Sherlock Holmes mystery and I enjoyed the murder mystery immensely but I must admit I found the ending rather sad, not something I wanted from a Christmas book, even a murder mystery Christmas book.

Camberwell Crackers by Anthony Horowitz my absolute favourite of the book and made me giggle. A proper little Christmas story.

The Flying Stars by G. K. Chesterton I must admit I found this story rather annoying in places and rather predictable. Just could not get on with characters in this story and rather pleased it was only short.

A Problem in White by Nicholas Blake this story I did enjoy and loved how it unfurled, a real mystery and set on a train with snow. A perfect Christmas tale with more than one crime to solve.

Loopy by Ruth Rendell now this story I found disturbing and rather worrying. The main character had clearly been over protected by his mother his entire life and also did not live in the real world or cope well when made to deal with it.

Morse’s Greatest Mystery by Colin Dexter. Oh I love a Morse story and this one was excellent. Morse is so eccentric in this story and his usual grumpy self, it did make me laugh.

The Jar of Ginger by Gladys Mitchell. An odd Christmas story and I’m not entirely sure I would have included it in a Christmas book if I had been choosing the stories but the plot was good and overall an interesting concept.

Rumpole and the Old Familiar Faces by John Mortimer. This is another wonderful story that I thoroughly enjoyed. It had all the Christmas requirements: a pantomime, snow, a cold vicarage, Christmas parties and festive spirit. A perfect little Christmas story.

The Problem of Santa’s Lighthouse by Edward Hook. The last story of the book was a great mystery and rather Johnathan Creek in style and not just because of the windmill!

Overall I loved this book and would highly recommend it, especially as you can just dip into it over the festive season. The only reason it didn’t get the full 5/5 Dragons and only 4 was because it did not have a full set of murder mystery stories and because The Flying Stars just annoyed me.

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The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths (Review)

The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths

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About the author

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Elly Griffiths was born in London and began her career in publishing, she then turned to writing full time. In 2016 she won the CWA Dagger in the Library for her work. Griffiths lives in Brighton with her family and the cat Gus.

Blurb

Forensic archaeologist Dr Ruth Galloway is called in to advise when builders, demolishing a Victorian house in Norwich, uncover the skeleton of a child – minus the skull. Is it some ritual sacrifice or just plain murder?

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

But someone is trying hard to put both Ruth and Nelson off the scent – and a seemingly forgotten crime becomes terrifyingly real, with deadly consequences.

Review

Firstly, Elly Griffiths is fast becoming an absolute favourite of mine, every book of hers I read I can not put down and look forward to reading the next one.

I loved this story and loved the connections with Roman history and the God Janus. When I was younger I absolutely loved the history of the Roman Gods and Janus was a personal favourite, I became obsessed with closing gates so I didn’t anger him.

It was really nice to be reading about Dr Ruth Galloway again, she is such a wonderful character, she is down to earth, intelligent and not glamorous or hung up on her appearance. DCI Nelson is rough around the edges and does not pull his punches and quite funny.

The character that I really enjoyed in this book is Cathbad, he is so free and funny and really does not care what people think of him. I wish he would feature more in the stories to be honest.

The book was fast paced and kept me hooked from the beginning. I must admit I did work out the culprit but it did not ruin the story for me and it was a nice surprise that the story did not go down the predictable line I thought it was looking like.

The other element I loved was the personal dramas of the characters unfolding and I enjoyed that as much as the actual crime investigation unfolding. Overall I loved this book and have given it 5 out 5 Dragons. I highly recommend it to everyone but especially people who love a good crime drama.

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The House with a Clock in its Walls by John Bellairs (Review)

The House with a Clock in its Walls by John Bellairs

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About the author

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John Belliars (1938-1991) was an award-winning American author of many gothic mystery novels for children and young adults.

Blurb

When orphaned Lewis Barnavelt comes to live with his Uncle Jonathan, he is amazed to find out there is a wizard in his family.

Lewis experiments with Uncle Jonathan’s spells and uncovers the mystery behind the ticking that he can hear throughout the house, sometimes loud, sometimes quiet, sometimes fast, sometimes slow. It’s an evil clock and it could destroy humankind.

It is up to the Barnavelt’s to find where the clock is hidden in the walls – and stop it.

Review

I bought this book ages ago and it has just been sat in a pile gathering dust but I spotted it the other day and thought that looks like a fun quick read and thankfully I was correct. As I have mentioned previously I do enjoy reading children’s books and especially enjoy reading them when I’m very busy or stressed. I can truthfully say I loved this book and could not put it down.

The three main characters Lewis, Uncle Jonathan and Mrs Zimmermann were fantastic. I especially loved the character of Mrs Zimmermann who isn’t afraid of anything and speaks her mind and has an unhealthy obsession with the colour purple. She just seems to be the ultimate cool aunt figure.

Uncle Jonathan is the ultimate cool uncle, teaching Lewis to play poker and letting him stay up late and basically doing what he likes within reason. Lewis is the typical child who doesn’t quite fit in at school but has found his happy place living with his Uncle because as the story develops you can see that Uncle and nephew are rather alike.

Overall I loved the storyline and it kept me hooked from the start, the idea of magic being in a house and its walls was fantastic and in places it was rather spooky although that part was rather rushed through but that was probably because it is a children’s book. The only issue I had with the story was the lack of story about the actual clock, considering the book is about the clock in the walls it hardly features and it just feels like a very rushed ending.

I give this book 4 out of 5 dragons because of the lack of clock in the story. I highly recommend it to children and adults alike. A really good read that keeps you hooked from beginning to end.

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Girl in Trouble by Stacy Claflin (Review)

Girl in Trouble by Stacy Claflin

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About the author

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Stacy Claflin is a USA Today bestselling author who writes about complex women overcoming incredible odds. Whether it’s her Gone saga of psychological thrillers, her various paranormal romance tales, or her sweet romance series, Stacy’s three-dimensional characters shine through.

Decades after she wrote her first stories on construction paper and years after typing on an inherited green screen computer that weighed half a ton, Stacy realized her dream of becoming a full-time bestselling author.

When she’s not busy writing or educating her kids from home, Stacy enjoys watching TV shows like Supernatural, Pretty Little Liars, and Once Upon a Time.

Blurb

He gave up his daughter years ago, but now he’ll risk his life to save hers.

Alex Mercer is no stranger to kidnappings. The emotional scars still run deep from his sister’s disappearance years earlier. His daughter Ariana remains safe long after her adoption, and he cherishes the few times a year he gets to see her. The joy is palpable when he takes her on their first one-on-one outing. At least until he pauses to answer a text and Ariana disappears…

Wracked with guilt and determined to find answers, Alex teams up with an unlikely ally at the police department. As the clues reveal a pattern of missing girls, the kidnapping case becomes a race against time to save Ariana. What cost is Alex willing to pay to keep his daughter alive?

Review

I got this book as a freebie on Apple Books and I must admit it did not take me long to read and was nice to pick up and read when I had a few minutes spare. This was an easy read and I enjoyed the story but for me it lacked the wow factor and the ending was rather predictable.

I really liked the characters in this book especially Alex and Nick the police captain. I also liked how the character of Alex developed from a dead beat man who had little to do with his daughter but as the story went along Alex turned into a dad determined to get his little girl back and become a better dad and person in general.

The character that I did not like very much was Zoey, Alex’s ex and Ariana’s mother. She drove me slightly mad and I would be happy to not have her feature greatly in the following books in the series if I decide to continue reading the series. I’m not sure what it was that caused me to dislike the character but for some reason she grated against my nerves.

I will be honest it took me a while to get used to Claflin’s writing style and the sheer number of chapters was a bit mind numbing at times but I did enjoy the story. I personally think this book would make a great holiday read or read on a long flight and I will happily read the rest of the series. I have only given this book 3 out of 5 Dragons because it just did not have the wow factor for me.

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The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (Review)

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

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About the author

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Henry James, born 15th April 1843, was an American-British author. He is best known for his novels dealing with social and marital interplay, in his later years his novels became more experimental. He passed away in February 1916.

Blurb

A very young woman’s first job: governess for two weirdly beautiful, strangely distant, oddly silent children, Miles and Flora, at a forlorn estate…An estate haunted by a beckoning evil.

Half-seen figures who glare from dark towers and dusty windows- silent, foul phantoms who, day by day, night by night, come closer, ever closer. With growing horror, the helpless governess realizes the fiendish creatures want the children, seeking to corrupt their bodies, possess their minds, own their souls…

But worse-much worse- the governess discovers that Miles and Flora have no terror of the lurking evil.

For they want the walking dead as badly as the dead want them.

Review

This was the last book I completed on holiday and to be honest it was a massive disappointment. I just could not get on with James’ writing style and found the whole story to be extremely boring.

The story centres around a young woman who is hired to be the governess of two young orphans. The uncle of these children does not want to know anything of their upbringing or of any problems, he wants to live his life to the full unhindered by these children. The governess goes off to a large country estate to look after these children and she immediately starts to hear and see strange things.

Now my first reaction was that this governess is very young for such responsibility and inexperienced. Her imagination could easily be running wild, and turning the sounds of an old house into something more. The housekeeper does not help instead of giving the girl a good shake she just blindly accepts what the governess is saying.

Then the two ghosts start to appear that only the governess has seen but she is convinced the children have seen them too but the children are not afraid of the ghosts.

At times I did wonder and still do whether all of this was in the governess’ head because it just was not a very convincing gothic horror story. It just felt forced and sloppily written, and there were certain things that got on my nerves, for instance why did she just ignore that the boy was expelled from boarding school, why did she not found out why he was expelled or find him another school? The only good point was the description and setting the scene of the gothic style manor house.

The final straw was the ending which just annoyed me no end and just confirmed to me that the book had been a massive waste of my time, I was just thankful it was rather short. I gave this book 1 out 5 Dragons.

Purchase Links

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Details of book I read

Page count: 124

Format: Kindle

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The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell (ARC Review)

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

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About the author

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Lisa was born in London in 1968. Her mother was a secretary and her father was a textile agent and she was brought up in the northernmost reaches of London with her two younger sisters. She was educated at a Catholic girls’ Grammar school in Finchley. After leaving school at sixteen she spent two years at Barnet College doing an arts foundation course and then two years at Epsom School of Art & Design studying Fashion Illustration and Communication.

She worked for the fashion chain Warehouse for three years as a PR assistant and then for Thomas Pink, the Jermyn Street shirt company for four years as a receptionist and PA. She started her first novel, Ralph’s Party, for a bet in 1996. She finished it in 1997 and it was published by Penguin books in May 1998. It went on to become the best-selling debut novel of that year.

Blurb

You thought they were just staying for the weekend. They looked harmless enough – with only two suitcases and a cat in a wicker box.

But soon things turn very, very dark. It happens slowly, yet so extraordinarily quickly.

Now you and your sister must find a way to survive…

Review

Firstly, a massive thank you to NetGalley and Random House UK, Cornerstone for letting me read this book for an honest review.

From the very first few pages of this book I was gripped, it was truly amazing and kept me guessing right till the end. I could not put this book down and if it wasn’t for sleep and work I probably wouldn’t have.

This book switches from the past to the present and slowly the reader works out the connections and how it all fits together, but there are always certain elements left out so it is not all completely clear till the very end.

Libby is the character in the present who on her twenty-fifth birthday inherits a massive house in Chelsea that will change her life forever. However, Libby is adopted and knows nothing of her childhood – can this house tell her more about her past and where she came from?

The other main characters are the people from the past Henry and Lucy Lamb who were children in the Chelsea house all those years ago. The story is told between Libby, Lucy and Henry.

This story is incredibly well written and an amazing thriller, Jewell has a real gift for keeping you on your toes. At the beginning of the story I was not entirely sure what was going on and I did find it a little confusing but I stuck with it and it all made sense and I soon adjusted and got used to how the story flitted from one character to another. However, I imagine it is a book that once you have read it and know the outcome you do not need to read it again because knowing the ending spoils the reading experience.

I found this story really creepy and because I could not work out the ending my imagination ran wild with other possibilities which seemed to make it even creepier! I thoroughly enjoyed all the elements of this book and plan on reading more by Lisa Jewell. I was so happy that by chance I saw this book on NetGalley and my request was granted.

I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons and highly recommend it to everyone who enjoys a good thriller.

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The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins (Review)

The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins

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About the Author

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Sara Collins studied Law at the London School of Economics and worked as a lawyer for seventeen years. In 2014 she embarked upon the Creative Writing Masters at Cambridge University, where she won the 2015 Michael Holroyd Prize for Recreative Writing and was shortlisted for the 2016 Lucy Cavendish Prize for a book inspired by her love of Gothic Fiction. This turned into her first novel, The Confessions of Frannie Langton.

Blurb

1826, and all of London is in a frenzy. Crowds gather at the gates of the Old Bailey to watch as Frannie Langton, maid to Mr and Mrs Benham, goes on trial for their murder. The testimonies against her are damning – slave, whore, seductress. And they may be the truth. But they are not the whole truth.

For the first time Frannie must tell her story. It begins with a girl learning to read on a plantation in Jamaica, and it ends in a grand house in London, where a beautiful woman waits to be freed.

But through her fevered confessions, one burning question haunts Frannie Langton: could she have murdered the only person she ever loved?

Review

I must admit I was really excited to get this book and read it after seeing it on Facebook with rave reviews. I was also really pleased to get a signed copy from Waterstones. So it was moved to the top of my TBR pile. Sadly, I was very disappointed.

I found this book really annoying, when I first started it I was happily reading away, however it then began to get on my nerves and I was reluctant to keep going. I even stopped reading it for about a week but did return because I wanted to know what happened at the end.

I’m not entirely sure what it was that got on my nerves so much but I think it was the writing style. It just made me reluctant to pick the book up and read it. I also did not like the fact that the blurb pointed that there would be more of a trial being featured and sadly there was hardly any of the trial in the story, it just felt like an afterthought added at the end.

This book includes many themes, slavery, drug abuse, abuse, depression and much more and I think overall there are too many themes covered and it makes the story murky. I also found that certain elements of the story were highly predictable and that made it rather dull to read at times.

Overall, I felt no sympathy for the characters especially Frannie and some of them really got on my nerves, mainly Madame. I felt no real love for the story and will not be reading it again. Most people I am sure will enjoy this book but sadly it was just not my cup of tea. I have given this book 2 out of 5 Dragons.

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