#BookReview The Mathematical Bridge by Jim Kelly @AllisonandBusby

the mathematical bridgeAbout the Book

Cambridge, 1940. It is the first winter of the war and the snow is falling thick and fast. A college porter, crossing the ancient Mathematical Bridge on his nightly rounds, is startled to hear a child’s cries for help coming from the icy river below. Detective Inspector Eden Brooke is summoned by police whistle and commandeers a punt in a desperate attempt to save the child, but the flood carries the boy away into the night. By dawn there is no trace of the victim.

The boy was Sean Flynn, part of a group of Irish Catholic children evacuated from a poor London parish. When an explosion causes damage at a factory engaged in war work and the bombers leave an Irish Republican slogan at the scene, Brooke questions whether there could be a connection between the two events. As more riddles come to light, he begins to close in on a killer, but there is one last twist: it seems that Sean Flynn had his own startling secret.

Format: Hardcover (352 pp)                  Publisher: Allison & Busby
Publication date: 21st February 2019 Genre: Historical Fiction, Crime

Purchase Links*
Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com | Hive (supporting UK bookshops)
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

Find The Mathematical Bridge on Goodreads

My Review

In The Mathematical Bridge, the author once again creates a vivid sense of what it must have been like to live in wartime Cambridge with familiar views transformed by the addition of rooftop observation posts and searchlights to detect enemy bombers. Detective Inspector Eden Brooke’s home life reflects the daily experience of families during wartime. He and his wife, Claire, are awaiting news of their son serving with the British Expeditionary Force and his pregnant daughter, Joy, is anxiously awaiting news of her submariner husband. Alongside this uncertainty, there are long night shifts, blackouts, air raid warnings and rationing to contend with, not to mention the threat of attacks by the IRA. One of the many things I enjoyed about the book is this mixture of the personal and the political, the local and the global.

Another theme, as in the first book in the series, is that of darkness and light. Eden Brooke himself is the most obvious manifestation of this. The damage to his vision and the insomnia caused by his traumatic experiences in the desert during the First World War make the night time streets of Cambridge a sanctuary. It’s one he shares with fellow “nighthawks”, such as cafe owner Rose King, expert in circadian rhythms Aldiss, or night porter  Doric, ‘condemned to live life out of the light, at home in the shadowy world of the college after dark’. There are also some wonderfully atmospheric night time scenes such as the search of the drained River Cam.

However, although Brooke may welcome the darkness in a physical sense, his moral and professional impulse is to seek just the opposite. ‘Joining the Borough, on his return from the desert, had offered an opportunity to tilt the world towards light, and away from the darkness, even by small fractions of a degree.’

The Mathematical Bridge, Cambridge

As in The Great Darkness, the author makes the reader feel they are alongside Brooke as he travels the streets of Cambridge in the course of his investigations, crossing the various bridges over the River Cam, including the famous Mathematical Bridge of the book’s title. And I’m sure I’m not the only reader who reacted with joy when they opened the book and found there was a map in the front.

In the enthralling final chapters, there are dramatic events, surprising revelations, split second life and death decisions to be taken and some poignant moments. At one point, Brooke observes, ‘He didn’t like the sense that fate was contriving a circular narrative, a story that was being drawn back to the beginning’. As a reader, I can only disagree (sorry, Eden) because I loved the way the various storylines were skilfully brought together. Oh, and a word of advice for Eden – listen to your wife when it comes to making assumptions about the identity of a murderer in future.

I loved The Great Darkness and this follow-up certainly didn’t disappoint. The Mathematical Bridge would be perfect for those mourning the demise of TV’s Foyle’s War or for fans of James Runcie’s ‘Grantchester Mysteries’ series. Readers who enjoyed The Great Darkness and have read, or are looking forward to reading, The Mathematical Bridge will be pleased to learn (as I was) that a third book in the series is due to be published early next year. It already has a place on my wishlist.

I received a review copy courtesy of Allison & Busby.

In three words: Atmospheric, compelling, assured

Try something similar: Nucleus (Tom Wilde #2) by Rory Clements (read my review here)

Jim KellyAbout the Author

Jim Kelly was born in 1957 and is the son of a Scotland Yard detective. He went to university in Sheffield, later training and working as a journalist on publications including the Financial Times. His first book, The Water Clock, was shortlisted for the John Creasey Award and he has since won a CWA Dagger in the Library and the New Angle Prize for Literature. He lives in Ely.

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My Week in Books – 29th September ‘19


On What Cathy Read Next last week

Blog posts

Monday – I published my introduction to my Buchan of the Month, The Blanket of the Dark by John Buchan.

Tuesday –  The Top Ten Tuesday topic was Books On My Autumn 2019 TBR.

WednesdayWWW Wednesday is the opportunity to share what I’ve just read, what I’m currently reading and what I plan to read next…and have a good nose around to see what other bloggers are reading.

Thursday – I shared my review of crime novel, Dead Flowers by Nicola Monaghan as part of the blog tour.

Friday – Another blog tour and another review, this time for Eight Hours From England by Anthony Quayle, one of the books recently published as part of the Imperial War Museum’s ‘Wartime Classics’ series.

Saturday – I rounded off a productive week by sharing my review of The Familiars by Stacey Halls.

As always, thanks to everyone who has liked, commented on or shared my blog posts on social media this week.

New arrivals

The Second SleepThe Second Sleep by Robert Harris (audiobook)

All civilisations think they are invulnerable. History warns us none is.

1468 – A young priest, Christopher Fairfax, arrives in a remote Exmoor village to conduct the funeral of his predecessor. The land around is strewn with ancient artefacts – coins, fragments of glass, human bones – which the old parson used to collect. Did his obsession with the past lead to his death?

As Fairfax is drawn more deeply into the isolated community, everything he believes – about himself, his faith and the history of his world – is tested to destruction.

Heaven My HomeHeaven, My Home (Highway 59 #2) by Attica Locke (audiobook)

Nine-year-old Levi King knew he should have left for home sooner; now he’s alone in the darkness of vast Caddo Lake, in a boat whose motor just died. A sudden noise distracts him – and all goes dark.

Darren Matthews is trying to emerge from another kind of darkness; after the events of his previous investigation, his marriage is in a precarious state of re-building, and his career and reputation lie in the hands of his mother, who’s never exactly had his best interests at heart. Now she holds the key to his freedom, and she’s not above a little maternal blackmail to press her advantage.

An unlikely possibility of rescue arrives in the form of a case down Highway 59, in a small lakeside town where the local economy thrives on nostalgia for ante-bellum Texas – and some of the era’s racial attitudes still thrive as well. Levi’s disappearance has links to Darren’s last case, and to a wealthy businesswoman, the boy’s grandmother, who seems more concerned about the fate of her business than that of her grandson.

Darren has to battle centuries-old suspicions and prejudices, as well as threats that have been reignited in the current political climate, as he races to find the boy, and to save himself.

The Woman With WingsThe Woman With Wings by James MacManus (eARC, courtesy of Endeavour Quill)

Alison Spedding is a loner; no real friends, no boyfriend and a job in which she goes unnoticed. At thirty-two, her only passion is birdwatching.

One afternoon, high on a Scottish mountain, earnestly waiting for the rarest of sights – a white tailed eagle returning to its nest – she slips, falling silently. In shock, her fellow twitchers return to the hostel to raise the alarm, heavy with the realisation that she must be dead. What they find shocks them even more. Alison is already there, alive and unscathed…

Further similar episodes cause Alison’s grip on reality to slip, her mind spiralling towards breaking point. In her dreams she sees a huge shadow on the ground, as if there was a creature above her, a creature with huge wings…

Her infatuated colleague Jed is concerned. Can he intervene before Alison finally loses control?

This is an extraordinary novel, exploring one woman’s identity whilst posing universal questions: Who is she? Where does she belong? And must she accept her fate, or can she spread her wings and be free at last?

DreamlandDreamland by Nancy Bilyeau (eARC, courtesy of Endeavour Quill and NetGalley)

The year is 1911 when twenty-year-old heiress Peggy Batternberg is invited to spend the summer in America’s Playground.

The invitation to the luxurious Oriental Hotel a mile from Coney Island is unwelcome. Despite hailing from one of America’s richest families, Peggy would much rather spend the summer working at the Moonrise Bookstore than keeping up appearances with New York City socialites and her snobbish, controlling family.

But soon it transpires that the hedonism of nearby Coney Island affords Peggy the freedom she has been yearning for, and it’s not long before she finds herself in love with a troubled pier-side artist of humble means, whom the Batternberg patriarchs would surely disapprove of.

Disapprove they may, but hidden behind their pomposity lurks a web of deceit, betrayal and deadly secrets. And as bodies begin to mount up amidst the sweltering clamour of Coney Island, it seems the powerful Batternbergs can get away with anything…even murder.

The Photographer of the LostThe Photographer of the Lost by Caroline Scott (eARC, courtesy of Simon & Schuster)

1921 – Families are desperately trying to piece together the fragments of their broken lives. While many survivors of the Great War have been reunited with their loved ones, Edie’s husband Francis has not come home. He is considered ‘missing in action’, but when Edie receives a mysterious photograph taken by Francis in the post, hope flares. And so she begins to search.

Harry, Francis’s brother, fought alongside him. He too longs for Francis to be alive, so they can forgive each other for the last things they ever said. Both brothers shared a love of photography and it is that which brings Harry back to the Western Front. Hired by grieving families to photograph gravesites, as he travels through battle-scarred France gathering news for British wives and mothers, Harry also searches for evidence of his brother.

And as Harry and Edie’s paths converge, they get closer to a startling truth.

The Listening Walls by Margaret Millar (paperback, advance review copy courtesy of Pushkin Vertigo)

Amy Kellogg is not having a pleasant vacation in Mexico. She’s been arguing nonstop with her friend and traveling companion, Wilma, and she wants nothing more than to go home to California. But their holiday takes a nightmarish turn when Wilma is found dead on the street below their room-an apparent suicide.

Rupert Kellogg has just returned from seeing his wife Amy through the difficulties surrounding the apparent suicide of her friend in Mexico. But Rupert is returning alone-which worries Amy’s brother. Amy was traumatized by the suicide, Rupert explains, and has taken a holiday in New York City to settle her nerves. But as gone girl Amy’s absence drags on for weeks and then months, the sense of unease among her family changes to suspicion and eventual allegations.

A Stranger In My Grave by Margaret Millar (paperback, review copy courtesy of Pushkin Vertigo)

A nightmare is haunting Daisy Harker. Night after night she walks a strange cemetery in her dreams, until she comes to a grave that stops her in her tracks. It’s Daisy’s own, and according to the dates on the gravestone she’s been dead for four years.

What can this nightmare mean, and why is Daisy’s husband so insistent that she forget it? Driven to desperation, she hires a private investigator to reconstruct the day of her dream death. But as she pieces her past together, her present begins to fall apart…

20190925_172041-1Vanish in an Instant by Margaret Millar (paperback, review copy courtesy of Pushkin Vertigo)

Virginia Barkeley is a nice, well brought-up girl. So what is she doing wandering through a snow storm in the middle of the night, blind drunk and covered in someone else’s blood?

When Claude Margolis’ body is found a quarter of a mile away with half-a-dozen stab wounds to the neck, suddenly Virginia doesn’t seem such a nice girl after all. Her only hope is Meecham, the cynical small-town lawyer hired as her defence. But how can he believe in Virginia’s innocence when even she can’t be sure what happened that night? And when the answer seems to fall into his lap, why won’t he just walk away?


On What Cathy Read Next this week

Currently reading

Planned posts

  • Book Review: The Mathematical Bridge by Jim Kelly
  • Book Review: The Blanket of the Dark by John Buchan
  • Top Ten Tuesday: Numbers by the Book
  • Waiting on Wednesday
  • Blog Tour/Book Review: The Jeweller by Caryl Lewis
  • Book Review: Welcome to America by Linda Bostrom Knausgard
  • Book Review: Asylum Road by James L. Weaver
  • Six Degrees of Separation