White Fire by Adam Hamdy

White Fire by Adam Hamdy

I chose to read White Fire, the third in a series by Adam Hamdy featuring Scott Pearce, thinking I had read the previous two books (when you read a lot it’s easy to get confused). I soon found out I was mistaken as there are numerous references to Black 13 and Red Wolves which made no sense at all to me. I would not recommend starting with White Fire as there are narrative threads that seem to run through all three books.

Scott is part of a team, funded by a wealthy benefactor with seemingly unlimited resources, who are up against a shadowy organisation with members everywhere – this is not a new or unique scenario. In order to avenge a colleague, Scott goes undercover with a radical environmental group with links to the man they are trying to locate. His fellow team members, Leila and Kyle, are pursuing a different lead. Somehow, the opposition always seem to be one step ahead.

The characters are well drawn and believable, though some of the bad guys are a bit formulaic, and action scenes keep the plot moving along at a fair pace. I enjoyed reading White Fire on one level, but not enough to bother going back to read the first two books. This is a very crowded market and the author did not bring anything that had not been done before. Thanks to Pan Macmillan and NetGalley for a digital copy to review.

The Hidden Years by Rachel Hore

The Hidden Years by Rachel Hore

The Hidden Years is a dual timeline story centred around a large country house called Silverwood, which is situated on the north bank of the river Helford, near Falmouth in Cornwall. In 1939, Imogen escorts two young boys back to their boarding school at Silverwood, which has relocated from Kent for the duration of the war, and ends up staying a while to cover for the Matron who had been taken to hospital and needed time to recuperate. This leads to her decision to train as a nurse in nearby Truro, and do her bit for the war effort. In 1966, disillusioned with her English Literature studies, Belle takes a gamble and goes to Cornwall for the summer with Gray, a musician she has only known for a week. He had visited the artists’ community at Silverwood the previous year, and wanted to return to focus on his songwriting.

The connection between Imogen and Belle is at the heart of the novel, but finding out why is a very slow process. Gray is familiar with the inhabitants of the house, and doesn’t join in much anyway, but Belle is well out of her comfort zone to begin with. They are an eccentric and not particularly likeable bunch, and the author captures really well the way Belle feels when she first arrives – disoriented, adrift and unsure, although she feels a tenuous connection to Silverwood that she can’t explain.

Initially, I found the wartime narrative more interesting, and the characters more sympathetic. I had not previously known how this area was affected by the war. Over the course of the summer, secrets from the past, that have been deliberately kept hidden, gradually come to light. The final reveal involves a lot of explaining that slows the narrative down. The historical detail has obviously been well researched, and the setting is almost a character in its own right. I particularly enjoyed the  musical element of the narrative and wished I could have listened as well. I have read and enjoyed several of this author’s books in the past, and will definitely be on the lookout for her next one. Thanks to Simon & Schuster UK and NetGalley for a digital copy to review.

The Silent House of Sleep by Allan Gaw

The Silent House of Sleep by Allan Gaw

The Silent House of Sleep is the first book in a gripping new series featuring pathologist Dr Jack Cuthbert. In 1929, two bodies are discovered in the same grave in a London park, but as the investigation proceeds it becomes clear that they did not die at the same time. What follows is an unusual and gruesome murder plot that takes all of the pathologist’s skill to unravel. DI Franklin of Scotland Yard is not normally a fan of pathologists, but slowly comes to respect Dr Cuthbert’s expertise.

Jack Cuthbert is a flawed and nuanced character. In flashbacks to Edinburgh when he was a medical student before the war, and during WW1 when he volunteered after his friend was killed early in the conflict, we learn what made him decide to become a pathologist, and this gives us greater understanding of what drives him. It is obvious that a lot of research has gone into this novel, the characters are well developed and completely convincing, and the period detail is spot on. I am looking forward to reading the next book in this fascinating series.

For Our Sins by James Oswald

For Our Sins by James Oswald

After a bit of a gap, it was great to finally get to read the thirteenth book in this excellent crime fiction series set in Edinburgh and featuring DI Tony McLean. As he had resigned at the end of the last book, to look after his partner Emma who is recovering from a stroke, Tony McLean does not at first feature quite so prominently as he usually does. DS Janey Harrison takes the lead in the investigation as a suitable replacement for DI McLean has not yet been found. She is well up to the task, though the responsibility weighs heavy.

When a body is found in the ruins of an old church building, unidentifiable due to the falling masonry, it is not immediately thought to be suspicious. This changes when two more bodies are found in similar circumstances, all linked to the criminal underworld. Unexplained flashbacks to something that happened back in the 1980s are scattered through the narrative, but do they have any relevance to this investigation?

For Our Sins has all the features we have come to expect from this series – strong and capable female officers (most of the senior officers here are female), a troublesome senior officer who is acting inappropriately, a hint of the supernatural, some familiar characters from previous books (always a pleasure to encounter Madame Rose), and most important, Mrs McCutcheon’s cat and the other one are always there to welcome Tony when he comes home.  

As readers of this series will already know, trouble and strange occurrences  follow Tony McLean and this case is no exception.  It was well worth the long wait, and we can only hope that he plans to come back for good in the next book. Only time will tell.

Christmas at the Cat Cafe by Jessica Redland

Christmas at the Cat Cafe by Jessica Redland

I am not a fan of Christmas-themed books, but as there were cats involved I thought I would make an exception. Having said that, it’s not really a Christmas book either. Tabby has always dreamed of working with cats, so when a legacy gives her the opportunity to set up the Castle Street Cat Café, she jumps at the chance. The plan was for her to run the café jointly with her boyfriend Leon. It turns out that he was not quite so invested, and abandons her to work as a chef on a cruise ship. Recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia, Tabby is not sure how she will cope on her own. She has deliberately downplayed the seriousness of her illness, but now has to open up and ask her family and friends for help, or give up on her dream.

This is the only book I have read by this author, and one of the things I particularly liked was the sense of community among all the small businesses in Castle Street, something I believe she has written about before. I love cats, but even I could not envisage living with as many as Tabby does here. I gave up trying to remember all their names, though one or two did stand out. The main problem I had was the amount of information the book contained about living with fibromyalgia. I appreciate it is a seriously debilitating condition, and I have every sympathy for anyone who suffers from it, or any other chronic illness, but in places it read more like a medical guide than fiction.

The story is told entirely from Tabby’s perspective, so we don’t know what Tom is thinking and can only judge by his actions. It is obvious from the start that he has feelings for Tabby, but it is not clear what she thinks. As they have known each other since childhood, they already have a strong bond, so it is not much of a leap for them to become romantically involved. The characters all seemed a bit flat and lacking in depth. The vandalism strand did not add much to the story – in fact, it was highly unlikely, as cat cafes exist partly to foster and rehome stray and unwanted cats, so what is there to object to. I enjoyed Christmas at the Cat Café, but not as much as I was expecting to. Thanks to Boldwood Books and NetGalley for a digital copy to review.