Messy, Wonderful Us by Catherine Isaac

Messy Wonderful Us

Allie Culpepper sets off on a road trip through Italy, to unravel a mystery from her past, accompanied by her best friend, Ed, who needs time to make a decision about his future.

This emotional story is told mostly from Allie’s perspective, but is given added depth by occasional input from Ed and Grandma Peggy.

The past is gradually revealed through a series of flashbacks and the story that emerges is heartbreaking.

The main characters are believable and likeable, with the exception of Ed’s wife, Julia – no spoilers, you’ll have to read it for yourself!

The descriptions of the Italian scenery are breathtaking; definitely one for the bucket list. I really loved Messy, Wonderful Us and want to read more by Catherine Isaac.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.    

In Honour Bound by Elizabeth Bailey

In Honour Bound

Isolde returns to England following the death of her father, to throw herself on the mercy of her father’s friend, Lord Alderton. In the intervening years he has passed away and his son Richard now bears the title.

He agrees to help her, but she is very unsettled. Isolde has always lived in the army camp with her father, and is quite unsuited to the life of a young English lady. She has been educated, she can fight with a sword and a pistol, and her feisty nature makes her a force to be reckoned with. In some ways she seems older than her seventeen years.

The story is well written and the characters believable, but some elements of the story don’t work for me. It is unclear why Richard’s sister, Alicia, reacts in the way she does; it makes her look mentally unhinged. The romance between Isolde and Richard is not well enough developed; it seems to be a bit of an afterthought.

I really enjoyed the adventure element of the story and that it did not all take place in the drawing room like a lot of novels set in this period. I had not read any of Elizabeth Bailey’s books before but will definitely try another.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Fallen Angel by Chris Brookmyre

Fallen Angel

In Fallen Angel we are introduced to the Temple family through Ivy – a young woman so traumatised by her past that she has changed her identity.

She is pretty hard to like at the beginning of the story – what could possibly have made her like this?

As we get to know the rest of the family, and the layers are peeled back and the secrets are revealed, it becomes clear that Ivy had good reason to do what she did.

Told from multiple viewpoints, and with a dual timeline, the truth slowly comes to light in this expertly plotted, chilling and compelling drama; you won’t be able to put it down.

I’m a big fan of Chris Brookmyre’s witty series of novels featuring Jack Parlabane (look out for a cameo), but this character-driven thriller takes his writing to a whole new level.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a copy to review.   

Game Players by Anita Waller

game players

This is the first book by Anita Waller that I have read and, at first, I thought I had strayed into Enid Blyton territory with the gang of children in their den in the woods. 

However, this echo of a more innocent time does not last; very soon the children will come to the attention of ruthless criminals, and they will have to grow up fast.

Well written with convincing characters and a tense plot, Game Players will keep you reading late into the night.

Thanks to Bloodhound Books and NetGalley for an advanced review copy of Game Players by Anita Waller.

Cold As the Grave by James Oswald

Cold as the Grave

This is the ninth book in the Tony McLean series and they just keep getting better and better.

Not entirely happy in his new role as DCI, Tony escapes from the growing pile of paperwork to help out at a far-right demonstration. He stumbles across the body of a child that looks almost mummified but, far from being a cold case, this is the beginning of a harrowing investigation into the treatment of refugees and illegal immigrants.

There is also the added element of the supernatural that makes this series so different, but in the hands of James Oswald is made to seem perfectly plausible.

The cast of characters are so well drawn and familiar that you sometimes forget they are fictional – Grumpy Bob, Madame Rose and, my favourite, Mrs McCutcheon’s cat. McLean’s old nemesis (Mrs Saifre) is back too, and he still does not trust her one little bit.

This is a dark and disturbing tale, told with great sensitivity and I look forward to reading the next one.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an advanced copy of the book in exchange for an honest review  

SfEP badge Intermediate Member Social