Posts Tagged With: mystery

Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

bitter-greensTitle: Bitter Greens
Author: Kate Forsyth
ISBN: 978-0749013622
Publisher: Allison & Busby
First Published: 25 February 2013 (hardback/Kindle) / 29 July 2013 (paperback)
No .of pages: 496

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (from Fantastic Fiction):
Charlotte-Rose de la Force, exiled from the court of King Louis XIV, has always been a great talker and teller of tales.

Selena Leonelli, once the exquisite muse of the great Venetian artist Tiziano, is terrified of time.

Margherita, trapped in a doorless tower and burdened by tangles of her red-gold hair, must find a way to escape.

You may think you know the story of Rapunzel . . .

Everyone loves a good fairytale, and one of the most beautiful, mysterious and compelling of all is that of Rapunzel. It has had many different names and versions, but the one that is perhaps best known was penned not by a man (or by the bothers Grimm, as most people assume – they only adapted it) , as most novels and writings of that time, but by a woman. And not just any woman, but one of the most notorious and scandalous women of her age, Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de la Force, who was exiled from the court of King Louis XIV, the Sun King, after a life that would make even the most hedonistic of courtiers blush!

Kate Forsyth has expertly woven together three stories that at once mirror each other whilst at the same time are completely different, deftly combining different time lines and locations to create an exquisitely intricate tale that will shock, amaze and bewitch. Readers will be drawn into the whirlwind of the 17th century French court, and the artistic beauty of Italy as the elements draw together the lives of Madamoiselle de la Force (the storyteller), Selena Leonelli (the sorceress), and Margherita (who has had so many incarnations as the beautiful heroine with the tangled hair).

The lines between fact and fiction are expertly blurred and blended till we find ourselves wrapped up in the fairytale ourselves, no longer able to untangle the strands of three very different lives that have culminated in one of the best-loved fairytales of all time.

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

You can see my exclusive interview with
Kate Foryth

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Remix by Lexi Revellian

Title: Remix
Author: Lexi Revellian
ISBN: 978-0956642202
Publisher: Hoxton Press
First Published: August 2010
No. of Pages: 278

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (Amazon):
Caz Tallis restores rocking horses in her London workshop. When shabby but charismatic Joe and his dog turn up on her roof terrace, she is reluctantly drawn into investigating a rock star’s murder from three years before – an unsolved case the police have closed. Somebody is prepared to kill to prevent it being reopened – and is Caz’s judgment clouding as she falls in love?

It’s not often that I get so firmly grabbed by a book right from the very beginning, but that’s exactly what happened when I picked up Remix. Of course, it helps that the lightness of style makes it absurdly easy to read and before you know it you’re half way through and refusing to put it down!

The characters are all great, especially Caz Tallis, who feels particularly real and I found myself believing in the ex-teacher who restores and makes rocking horses for a living. There’s a little bit of stereotyping with Ric, but it works because of the kind of person he is, what he goes through, and how he comes out the other side.

The use of real locations helps ground the whole plot in reality and the lines between their fact and the characters’ fiction is so successfully blurred that the reader is carried along with Caz on a fun and exciting adventure. The mystery also keeps you guessing right up to the tipping point, which is, in y experience, unusual for a lighthearted mystery of this kind which, on occasion, verges on the cosy before sharpening its edges.

This is Revellian’s third novel, but her first non-fantasy, and I’m pleased to see from her website that there’s a sequel coming (Rewind), and I will definitely want to get my hands on it!

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

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The Synchronicity Factor by Stephen T Hancock

Title: The Synchronicity Factor

Author: Stephen T Hancock

978 1848746 637

Publisher: Matador / Troubador Publishing

First Published: 2010

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis (from

Following his wife’s death and his dismissal from the Argento Corporation, micro engineer Dr Andrew King undergoes a mid-life crisis. Driven by unknown forces, he creates a remarkable timepiece of unimaginable beauty. His life begins to change in strange and subtle ways as he discovers that the timepiece, with its powerfully symbolic engravings encapsulates the mysterious principle of Synchronicity

All the online product descriptions I found of Stephen T Hancock’s debut thriller, The Synchronicity Factor, likened it to Dean Koontz and Ian Fleming, which had me worried at such an odd mix, as I love Koontz, but hate Fleming. Fortunately, Hancock seems to have a good handle on the blend and I found his novel rather enjoyable.

It’s a little slow to start, with lots of seemingly unconnected episodes that take some time to come together, but I found myself being drawn into proceedings on an almost unconscious level and I quickly cared for the lead character of Andrew King who is very personable.

With this kind of plot, there’s always a danger that the flow of the story will get bogged down in a lot of technical and/or mystical jargon, but the necessary information is relayed in a natural way so that the revelations are made to both the characters and the reader without it feeling like one is wading through a textbook and being tempted to skip pages to get back to the narrative.

The tension builds slowly and then almost explodes, which leaves the ending feeling just a tiny bit deflated, but not so much that it mars the enjoyment of the novel overall. The concepts are intriguing and the characters are written in such a way that one is never quite sure when someone completely likeable might turn out to have ulterior motives of a darker nature.

This is a very promising start to Hancock’s writing career and I will look forward to reading his future works.

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

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Sherlock Holmes and the Brighton Pavilion Mystery by Val Andrews

This novel sees Val Andrews writing a Sherlock Holmes mystery. In this book Holmes comes out of retirement and solves a murder in Brighton. A woman has gone missing and a man has mysterious turned up at the Royal Pavilion but there are no signs of forced entry. The police are clueless and as a bet Watson agrees Holmes could solve the investigation.

I think Andrews was very brave for writing a Sherlock Holmes novel. They are very famous and Conan Doyle was an excellent writer. Although this is not up to Doyle’s standard, it was not a bad book. It was a good storyline with twists and surprises and I liked how Andrews wrote the characters. It didn’t have the subtle humour I have found in the original books but as far as he could Andrews has been true to the characters.

I think I will probably stick to the original Sherlock Holmes novels this was not a bad read and not a bad attempt at another Holmes sequel.


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An Ice Cold Grave by Charlaine Harris

an ice cold grave

Synopsis from Amazon:

Harper Connelly was struck by lightning as a teenager, and now she can find the dead. In her third case, Harper and Tolliver, her stepbrother, are hired to find a missing grandson. But the truth is far worse than a single dead child, for numerous teenage boys, all unlikely runaways, have disappeared from Doraville, North Carolina. Harper soon finds the eight bodies, buried in the half-frozen ground, but then, still reeling from coming into contact with her first serial killer, she is attacked and injured. Now she and Tolliver have no choice but to stay in Doraville while she recovers, and as she reluctantly becomes part of the investigation, she learns more than she cares to about the dark mysteries and long-hidden secrets of the town: knowledge that makes her the most likely person to be next to end up in an ice-cold grave.

This is the third book in Harris’ Harper Connelly series, and of course, is as good as the other two – both of which I gave top-ratings too.

In this installment, Harper is in South Carolina. The grandmother of a missing teenage boy has contacted them to see if she can find his body. Not only does Harper find the body of one boy, she finds the bodies of eight. In this small town, a serial killer is at large. At once the place is swarming with police and the media. However, having had his dirty secret revealed by Harper, she is his next victim, and he lands her in hospital. Yet that is not the end of his man nor the investigation…

Well, this is by far the most creepy, what with it being a serial killer, who did horrific things to the boys before their deaths. Along with the suspense is an engaging and exciting book. Harris does not whip out of writing about the horrors of rape and torture – and although that is very sinister, it adds to the book. As ever, she continuesstory lines from the other two books – such as Tolliver’s and Harper’s changing relationship and their missing sister Cameron.

I love this series and am so looking forward to the next one, which is out later this year (2009). Harris is gripping and exciting. I love the way she writes and her characters. I enjoy reading about Harper, the realism in her physical pain and the way she becomes emotionally involved with the cases and the people. I highly recommend this book and the entire series.


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Grave Surprise by Charlaine Harris


Synopsis from Amazon:

A bolt of lightning struck Harper Connelly when she was 15, leaving her with a strange spider web of red on her torso and right leg, episodes of weakness, shakes and headaches – and an ability to find dead people. Harper is summoned to Memphis to demonstrate her unique talent, but there are still plenty of sceptics, even as Harper stands atop a grave and announces there are two bodies buried there. The police are convinced there’s something fishy going on when the grave is opened to reveal the centuries-dead remains of a man, which they’d expected (that being his grave, after all) and a dead girl, which no one expected – except Harper, of course. And suspicions are raised even further because Harper had failed to find eleven-year-old Tabitha Morgenstern when she was abducted two years before. Harper and Tolliver need to find the real killer to prove Harper’s innocence, especially after their nocturnal visit to the cemetery in hopes that Harper can sense something more is followed by the discovery, the following morning, of a third dead body in the grave . . .

This is the second book in Harris’ Harper Connelly series – and pretty much as good as the first. There is a reason why I have only heard good things about this series – her writing is exciting and engaging; her characters are realistic and herstorylines, and the suspense as they unfold are perfect.

In this book, we travel from Saines to Memphis with Harper and Tolliver – her step-brother. She is going to give a demonstration of her ability to a group of university students. The old grave yard has a surprise in store for her though – in the oldest, darkest grave, is a recent body. The body, an 11 year old girl called Tabitha, who Harper had been looking for 18 months ago. Coincidence? Harper sets out to find out. Yet the grave has one more surprise for her. When she goes back, another new body is in there. How are the two related? What is the key? Alongside this, Harper learns more about the supernatural and has to struggle with her feelings forTolliver.

There is a lot to this book, yet it reads quickly. It is exciting, thrilling even. I was starting to think there was something deeper between Tolliver and Harper, so I am glad that has started to be explored. There are links back to the previous book, to allow the story to continue, and keeps other storylines open, such as the disappearance of their sister Cameron. I think that is important and very well done.

I liked all the characters. All of them seemed believable. There are issues all of them face, and I like how Harris explores things such as grief and sexual orientation, as well as families and religion.

I read this book in two sittings. You will not want to put it down – it is fabulous, a must-read.


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The Black Tower by Louis Bayard


Restoration Paris, 1818. It has been over twenty years since the Revolution, Napoleon is in exile and the Bourbon kings are back on the throne of France. But the past still echoes…
Hector Carpentier is an ordinary medical student living at home with his mother, where she takes in boarders to help make ends meet. He is suddenly thrust into a murder investigation when detective Eugene Francois Vidocq turns up on his doorstep. It seems Hector’s name has been found on a piece of paper that was concealed on a dead body. Hector has never seen or heard of the victim before. He is at a loss to explain why the man might have had his name and been at pains to hide it.
Before he knows what’s happening, he is swept along with Vidocq and into a case that has the potential to shake France to its core. The evidence points to a conspiracy to kill a simple, quiet young man who lives in the country and who just might be the heir to the throne of France, Louis-Charles.
During the Revolution, Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI were both killed. Their two children, Marie-Therese-Charlotte and Louis-Charles were imprisoned in the Black Tower. Marie was eventually released but Louis-Charles died in prison. Or did he? The rumors have always circulated that he might have escaped and impostors have turned up before. But this young man has no memory of his early life and does not claim to be the lost prince. Someone believes he is, though, and they are intent on his death. It is up to Vidocq and Hector to unravel the mystery and protect the unassuming, fragile young man.
Louis Bayard paints a fascinating picture of the little-known real life detective, Vidocq. The world’s first real police detective, he had a background in crime and had been imprisoned in his youth. He knew the criminal mind from personal experience and was able to use his knowledge to become an extremely successful detective. To me he seemed to be a cross between Sherlock Holmes and Columbo because of his flair for disguise and his gruff demeanor. Restoration Paris is likewise brought to life brilliantly. This book is a wonderful historical adventure.
The Black Tower is published by William Morrow. ISBN 978-0-06-117350-9
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The A.B.C. Murders by Agatha Christie

Date of Publication: 1935

Number of Pages: 184

Synopsis (from back cover): A is for Mrs. Ascher – fatally attacked in Andover. B is for Betty Barnard – strangled on the beach in Bexhill. C is for Sir Carmichael Clarke – now a corpse in Churston. If nothing else, the murderer knew is ABCs. But the alphabetical assassin would need to know more that that to outwit the world’s cleverest detective…Hercule Poirot!

Review: This is the first Agatha Christie story I have read, although I am familiar with the Hercule Poirot series on television. This was also my first foray into this genre; most “mysteries” I have read are actually gory crime thrillers. It was refreshing to have a main character, the dapper Poirot, instead of some gritty detective with emotional problems. Poirot is brilliant, polished, and funny. He’s even well-adjusted. I also appreciated the fact that the story was told from the perspective of Poirot’s friend, Captain Hastings, meaning that I was left out of Poirot’s thought-processes, so every twist and turn was a surprise.

The story starts out with the arrival of a teasing letter at Poirot’s home. It warns of something happening in Andover on a specific day. When Alice Ascher is found dead, it’s obvious that the murderer is engaged in a lethal game with Poirot. The cast of characters keeps expanding as more murders occur, including family members and distraught boyfriends. Although everyone is a suspect, there are mysterious chapters interspersed throughout the book that feature a strange man named Alexander Bonaparte Cust…A.B.C. Who is this man? What is his connection to the murders?

As the police are scrambling to try to find A.B.C. and to prevent these murders from happening on their appointed days, Poirot is using all his mental powers to try and figure out why these murders are happening. Even when it seems that the case is all locked up, Poirot still tries to understand the underlying reasons behind the crimes. It is this reason that finally blows the case wide open and provides a stunning twist at the end.

This book is a classic of Christie’s and really demonstrates her skills as the premier mystery writer. It will obviously appeal to all mystery fiction fans, but also to anyone who is curious about this classic genre. I am looking forward to reading more of Christie’s books, and especially those featuring this comically brilliant detective.

Rating: 10/10

Reviewed by Sarah

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