Lessons in Trust
by Charlie Cochrane
Published by Samhain Publishing Ltd
When Jonty Stewart and Orlando Coppersmith witness the suspicious death of a young man at the White City exhibition in London, they’re keen to investigate—especially after the cause of death proves to be murder. But police Inspector Redknapp refuses to let them help, even after they stumble onto clues to the dead man’s identity.
Orlando’s own identity becomes the subject for speculation when, while mourning the death of his beloved grandmother, he learns that she kept secrets about her past. Desperate to discover the truth about his family, Orlando departs suddenly on a solo quest to track down his roots, leaving Jonty distraught.
While Jonty frantically tries to locate his lover, Orlando wonders if he’ll be able to find his real family before he goes mad. After uncovering more leads to the White City case, they must decide whether to risk further involvement. Because if either of them dares try to solve the murder, Inspector Redknapp could expose their illicit—and illegal—love affair.
Definitely my favourite of the series so far. Lovely descriptions of the White City with its wide variety of exhibits and rides, and I had great joy at the varying reactions to Jonty's new motor car. Both mystery plots were suitably intriguing, and excellently resolved, and all the characters shone. Highly recommended.
by JL Merrow
Published by Samhain Publishing Ltd
Cambridge art professor Larry Morton takes one, alcohol-glazed look at the huge, tattooed man looming in a dark alley, and assumes he’s done for. Moments later he finds himself disarmed—literally and figuratively. And, the next morning, he can’t rest until he offers an apology to the man who turned out to be more gentle than giant.
Larry's intrigued to find there's more to Al Fletcher than meets the eye; he possesses a natural artistic talent that shines through untutored technique. Unfortunately, no one else seems to see the sensitive soul beneath Al’s imposing, scarred, undeniably sexy exterior. Least of all Larry's class-conscious family, who would like nothing better than to split up this mismatched pair.
Is it physical? Oh, yes, it’s deliciously physical, and so much more—which makes Larry’s next task so daunting. Not just convincing his colleagues, friends and family that their relationship is more than skin deep. It’s convincing Al.
Al makes an adorable narrator in this enchanting tale of class and educational differences and external snobbery. Several of the misunderstandings arise from the vast gap between Al's education and upbringing and those of his new family and friends. Although some of the truths are evident to readers long before Al works them out, the story never puts him down for his failings. I just wish the story had been longer and there's been space to revisit some of the minor subplots and characters.
A Monster Calls: Inspired by an Idea from Siobhan Dowd
by (author) Patrick Ness
Illustrated by Jim Kay
Published by Candlewick Press (MA)
This is an extraordinarily moving novel about coming to terms with loss. The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do. But it isn't the monster Conor's been expecting. He's been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he's had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming...The monster in his back garden, though, this monster is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth. Costa Award winner Patrick Ness spins a tale from the final idea of much-loved Carnegie Medal winner Siobhan Dowd, whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself.
This book was rather disappointing. I found Connor deeply unsympathetic, and the resolution a little unmemorable. The illustrations were effective, although not entirely to my taste.
Women at War 1939-1945
by Carol Harris
Published by Sutton Publishing Ltd
Long before the outbreak of the Second World War, official calculations showed Britain would be short of the manpower needed to fight the enemy and keep up production of weapons, food and other essentials. It was hoped that women volunteers would fill the gaps and so they volunteered as workers in Civil Defence, the Women's Land Army, munitions factories and non-combatant roles in the Forces. But by 1941, the Government had to face facts: any affective response would have to involve conscription of British women. All females between the ages of fourteen and sixty-four were registered and soon the vast majority had work to do. They collected tons of salvage, knitted and sewed, and raised money for warships and weapons. Women ran fire stations and drove makeshift ambulances while cities burned and enemy bombs exploded around them. They kept their families going, often as single parents while their husbands were away for years in the armed forces. By the end of the war, some of the most experienced rat-catchers in the country were female; others were accomplished engineers, carters, rail workers and bargees. When it was over, these wartime roles were not commemorated in films and books. There has been little official acknowledgment of the enormous and crucial contribution those British women made to the lives we live now. Many are getting on in years and their precious first-hand memories will go with them. Their stories are worth telling now for that alone. But they are also tales of love, death, sacrifice and romance, of humour and horror, and of an extraordinary time, when ordinary women did extraordinary things.
This was a reread, and it was just as fascinating on the second visit. I love hidden histories, and many of these tales have gone untold elsewhere. I would have loved more variety in the narratives, but putting together all my books on ordinary people at war, I can build up a picture of the whole.
Started Early, Took My Dog
by Kate Atkinson
Published by: Black Swan
A day like any other for security chief Tracy Waterhouse, until she makes a shocking impulse purchase. That one moment of madness is all it takes for Tracy's humdrum world to be turned upside down, the tedium of everyday life replaced by fear and danger at every turn. Witnesses to Tracy's outrageous exchange in the Merrion Centre in Leeds are Tilly, an elderly actress teetering on the brink of her own disaster, and Jackson Brodie who has returned to his home county in search of someone else's roots. All three characters learn that the past is never history and that no good deed goes unpunished. Kate Atkinson dovetails and counterpoints her plots with Dickensian brilliance in a tale peopled with unlikely heroes and villains .
I have mixed feelings about this one. I loved Tracy's story and the background to Jackson's case. On the other hand Jackson's investigation didn't seem to hang together as well as in previous books and some of his dog-related exploits seemed a little unlikely. Also I was a little disturbed by the apparent continuity error with regard to his sister's name, although I do wonder if the change happened between editions of the series rather than between volumes.