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.

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.

The Good Liars by Anita Frank

The Good Liars by Anita Frank

The Good Liars is the second book I have read by this author. The setting is Gloucestershire two years after the end of the First World War. Living at Darkacre, a manor house belonging to the Stilwell family, are Maurice, his wife Ida, his brother Leonard, and family friend Victor Monroe. This is not a happy home. Right from the start, there is a tense atmosphere hinting at secrets and unspoken resentments. A police officer calls at the house asking about a young man who disappeared in the summer of 1914, as new evidence has come to light. This sets everyone on edge, and into this atmosphere comes Sarah, a trained nurse, to fill the position of housekeeper, and to help care for Leonard who is in a wheelchair having lost both legs and one arm in the war.

None of the characters are particularly likeable, Ida and Victor the worst by far, but they are all entirely believable. As the title suggests, none of them can be trusted to tell the truth. So many times I thought I had worked out what was going on, only for the author to turn it all on its head. She paints a horrific picture of the war, and its effects on those who survived. Although I did not see it coming, the ending makes perfect sense. While the artwork on the cover is eye-catching, it does not quite match the mood of the story. The Good Liars is an atmospheric and thought-provoking novel that leaves a lasting impression. I definitely plan to read the next book by this author. I received a free copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.

The Tudor Deception by Scott Mariani

the Tudor Deception by Scott Mariani

Although this is the twenty-eighth book in the Ben Hope series, The Tudor Deception takes the reader back in time, to an earlier point in Ben’s career when he was living in Ireland and using his skills to find and rescue missing children. He is approached by a history professor who wants him to investigate the case of two boys who disappeared centuries ago, but he turns him down. Unfortunately, this decision will have far-reaching consequences and destroy the life of someone he cares about.

The author weaves Tudor history and recent research relating to Richard the Third and the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower into the narrative in a seamless way. Ben has to do quite a lot of detective work, and put the pieces of the puzzle together before he becomes the next victim. I have been a fan of this series since the very beginning, and what keeps me reading is the character of Ben Hope. I know the plots require suspension of disbelief at times, but I enjoy reading how he gets to the heart of the problem and saves the day. I always learn something new and travel vicariously all over the world. I really enjoyed The Tudor Deception and look forward to Ben Hope’s next adventure later in the year.

Monsters in the Mist by Tom Williams

Monsters in the Mist by Tom Williams

I chose Monsters in the Mist from a list submitted to Rosie’s Book Review Team, and thank Tom Williams for supplying a copy in exchange for a fair and honest review. The last time I had any interest in vampires, Buffy the Vampire Slayer was at its height, but I love crime fiction and was intrigued by the premise of Monsters in the Mist. A dismembered body is found on a remote Welsh hillside and, as it is feared it might be another werewolf attack, Chief Inspector Pole from the Metropolitan Police ‘Section S’ is brought in to investigate. Being a vampire, and the limitations that brings in terms of exposure to sunlight, he seconds his colleague Chief Inspector Galbraith (also from the Met) to help out, ably assisted by DC Jane Ellis from Section S. They make an unlikely pair, but she is very capable and keeps Galbraith on his toes. They pose as a couple of hillwalkers to try and gather some intelligence. What they find is infinitely worse than any werewolf could ever be.

It emerges that the victim worked at Porton Down, in the accounts department, and her suspicions led to her death. She discovered anomalies in a genetic engineering project that had gone way beyond its initial remit. The book is fairly short and can be read in a single sitting, the characters are believable, there is plenty of action and the whole thing is peppered with dark humour. Apparently,Tom Williams writes these as a light-hearted contrast to his more serious historical fiction which I have not read, yet. Despite being the third book in the series, I had no trouble following the plot, but have already downloaded the others and plan to read them very soon to find out how this unusual collaboration came about. Monsters in the Mist is an interesting and unusual take on the detective novel, and I hope Tom Williams plans to write many more in this entertaining series.