Tag Archives: book reviews

#BookReview ‘Death and the Brewery Queen’ by @FrancesBrody #crime

Death and the Brewery Queen, twelfth in the Kate Shackleton 1930s detective series by Frances Brody, is a story of two halves and two murders. As always, sensible Kate is on hand to bring calm and control to a messy situation. Frances BrodyKate and her sidekick Jim Sykes are employed by a brewery owner to sort out some business irregularities at Barleycorn Brewery in Masham, North Yorkshire. Is it a matter of employee pilfering, aggressive competitors, inefficiency or fraud? This is a low-key beginning, a gentle start which allows Brody to establish a wide cast of characters. The portrayal of the brewery and the town is the foundation for the series of linked crimes that follow. Threaded throughout the book is the story of Barleycorn’s wages clerk, Ruth Parnaby, and her quest to be crowned Northern Breweries’ beauty queen. The story is told in multiple viewpoints – Kate’s voice is first person, but in the voices of Mr Sykes, Harriet and Ruth we gather information that Kate doesn’t know. It does seem rather a long wait for the first death, after which the story speeds up and the false clues and connections begin to make sense.
Kate is a memorable, admirable heroine. She is firm and managerial when she needs to be, determined and unafraid of confronting male officialdom but also well-connected which helps break down barriers and find information possibly quite difficult to confirm quickly at that time. And she’s not afraid to take risks. She also proves empathetic to the struggles of the grindingly poor people involved in the outer circles of the story. Kate, a widow, has her own close family – niece Harriet, employee Mr Sykes, housekeeper Mrs Sugden, and of course her bloodhound Sergeant Dog – who each bring different but essential skills when on the hunt for a murderer.
This is a stop-start read, in contrast to the previous Kate Shackleton books I’ve read, but enjoyable nonetheless. Brody excels at drawing her 1920s and 1930s settings, so realistic and believable. A special mention for the scenes in Scarborough’s Grand Hotel, which I visited as an awestruck child.

Read my reviews of these other Kate Shackleton novels:-

If you like this, try:-
Murder at Catmmando Mountain’ by Anna Celeste Burke
The Art of the Imperfect’ by Kate Evans
Due Diligence’ by DJ Harrison

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
DEATH AND THE BREWERY QUEEN by @FrancesBrody #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-58h via @SandraDanby

#BookReview ‘A Death in the Dales’ by @FrancesBrody #crime

This was a book picked at random purely because of the beautiful cover design and the title. Frances Brody is a new author for me, I had never heard of her Kate Shackleton series. Inadvertently, I chose her latest, A Death in the Dales, the seventh Shackleton book. Now I plan to go back to the beginning. I didn’t struggle for lack of backstory, so I don’t think this is a series which must be read in order. Frances BrodyIt is 1926, Leeds, and Kate Shackleton’s niece is recovering from diptheria. Aunt and niece arrive in the Yorkshire Dales village of Langcliffe in the middle of the May Day celebrations, both in need of a holiday. There they are greeted by two men – the local doctor who has offered the loan of his recently deceased Aunt Freda’s house to Kate, and an elderly local man who presses into Kate’s hands a mysterious box. And so starts the unravelling of a murder, 10 years previously, of which Freda was a witness. Freda believed the wrong man was convicted and sentenced to death.
There is a lot going on in this story: the wrongly convicted murderer, the disappearance of a young farm boy, the courting of Kate by Freda’s nephew, the doctor, Lucian, another suspicious death, love entanglements and local secrets. Brody efficiently weaves together the various threads, setting murder against the beautiful but harsh backdrop of the Yorkshire Dales. There are lovely snippets of 1920s life, the cars, the fashion, the food, the Yorkshire dialect, and the aftermath of the Great War.
More than just a detective story, a period drama with strong female characters, a thoughtful reflection of the impact of the war on the lives of everyone, in city and country.

If you like this, try:-
‘Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death’ by MC Beaton
‘Cover Her Face’ by PD James
‘An Uncertain Place’ by Fred Vargas

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
A DEATH IN THE DALES by @FrancesBrody #bookreview http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1TM via @SandraDanby

Book review: Forever Fredless

Suzy TurnerThis is a sunny ‘what if…’ story by Suzy Turner about a girl who longs for a dream not recognising that her life is offering her something better than that unattainable dream. It is a reminder to appreciate what you have, rather than covet something you can’t have.

Kate Robinson falls instantly in love when she is 12. She doesn’t know the boy’s name, they exchange a glance but not a single word, before being whisked away by their parents, destined never to meet again. As Kate grows older, no man matches up to ‘Fred’, as she thinks of him, until a surprise inheritance changes her life and shows her that there are other possible loves in her life than the unknown ‘Fred’.

Forever Fredless is a fast-moving chicklit novel which I read quickly on a flight going on holiday. Exactly the book to pack in your suitcase. It’ll teach you about the perils of celebrity, that money isn’t always a blessing, and that teenage dreams are made of clouds… but are still worth believing in.

For more information about other books by Suzy Turner, click here for her website.

If you like ‘Forever Fredless’, read these other romances:-
‘Stormy Summer’ by Suzy Turner
‘Butterfly Barn’ by Karen Power
‘The Art of Baking Blind’ by Sarah Vaughan

‘Forever Fredless’ by Suzy Turner [UK: Suzanne Turner Publishing] Buy now

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#BookReview ‘The Bear’ by @clairecameron #mystery #suspense

Claire Cameron knows the forest where The Bear is set, and it shows. I could not put this book down. From page one I was hooked. Claire CameronIt is important to say that although the point-of-view of The Bear is a five-year old girl, Anna, the voice is not like Emma Donoghue’s Jack in Room. The two books are completely different in tone, the children are very different. The tension in The Bear comes from the dual vision of the story – Anna’s perspective, seeing but not understanding; and the reader’s imagination filling in the reality of the scene as Anna describes it, worrying about the consequences.
Anna is almost six, her brother Stick is almost three. Anna is pre-occupied with trying to behave as her mother and father have schooled her; despite the horror of the situation, she worries about doing what her mother tells her to do, being polite, remembering that Stick is too young to understand. The threat is always there: when the two children are trapped in Coleman, the family’s metal anti-bear food store, and Anna is wishing her mother would let her have a Barbie, I was worrying about what was outside Coleman.
It is a harrowing tale, and the writing made me catch my breath at times. Anna tries to be the grown-up sister, a babysitter for Stick, to have fun, to make him laugh, to distract him from the horror. “And Stick laughs and laughs like when it’s really funny and he starts to walk around and his head rolls because it is so funny and his eyes are tearing but not tears like he is sad. They look like the same tears but they aren’t when you laugh and they come from a different place, like they drip out from your throat and through your eyes. Tears when you are sad drip up from your heart.”
I learned to see the world through Anna’s eyes. The dirty water they drink from a pool is ‘chocolate milk’. The story is interlaced with Anna’s memories of ‘being four’, of trying to do as her mother has taught her. “Manners!”
She waits for her parents to come, as they always have. “Mummy said to me, ‘Daddy and I will be there.’ I am a good girl and our family is four. I don’t want to wait here because I don’t like it but I am supposed to watch Stick when Mummy is not here. I am not old enough to be a babysitter because that is a girl who has long hair and her jeans go loose around her shoe and nail polish that is pink like a pink popsicle except dark. I want nail polish but Mummy says no and I can’t babysit yet so I just have to watch Stick. I don’t know how long until Mummy and Daddy come.” But the reader knows they can’t come.
I read this in one sitting on holiday.

If you like this, try:-
‘Barkskins’ by Annie Proulx
A Sudden Light’ by Garth Stein
At the Edge of the Orchard’ by Tracy Chevalier

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE BEAR by @clairecameron #bookreview via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-P5

#BookReview ‘The Cheesemaker’s House’ by @JaneCable #contemporary #romance

The Cheesemaker’s House, the debut novel by Jane Cable, starts with a mystery and turns into a ghost story. After her divorce, Alice moves with her dog William to a village in North Yorkshire. Newly-arrived, she walks the dog beside the River Swale and sees a naked swimmer. She watches, feeling like a voyeur but unable to leave. Then suddenly he disappears. Jane CableFeeling guilty that she didn’t search, or call for help, she drives into town where she goes into a coffee shop down a side street. And is served by the mysterious swimmer. Disturbed by his presence and at the same time attracted to him, she cannot work out how he left the river without her seeing or how he got to town before her.
This first mystery is followed by others, competently handled by this first-time author who draws a fond picture of life in rural North Yorkshire. My only minor quibble would be that for three-quarters of the book, the meaning of the book’s title was lost on me.

Read my reviews of these other novels by Jane Cable:-

If you like this, try:-
‘The House at the Edge of the World’ by Julia Rochester
‘Butterfly Barn’ by Karen Power
‘Somewhere Inside of Happy’ by Anna McPartlin

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE CHEESEMAKER’S HOUSE by @JaneCable #bookreview via @SandraDanby https://wp.me/p2ZHJe-4bw