My Week in Books – 19th August ’18



New arrivals

The GroundsmenThe Groundsmen by Lynn Buckle (eARC, courtesy of Epoque Press)

The Groundsmen delves into the fractured lives of a family blemished by a darkly disturbing past. The secrets kept hidden over multiple generations taint them all and as events spiral out of control in a cycle of violence, none of them will escape. The narrative is told from the perspective of five individual family members:

Louis is trapped under the dark shadow of his past with Toby.
Cally retreats to a world of myth and seeks a salvation that eludes her.
Andi is caught in a degenerate relationship of dependency and control.
Cassie is turning into a dog and burying the wreckage of all their lives in the garden.

Over them all looms the dark presence of the Groundsman’s hut.

Pre-order from Amazon UK

The Missing GirlThe Missing Girl by Jenny Quintana (ebook)

When Anna Flores’ adored older sister goes missing as a teenager, Anna copes by disappearing too, just as soon as she can: running as far away from her family as possible, and eventually building a life for herself abroad.

Thirty years later, the death of her mother finally forces Anna to return home. Tasked with sorting through her mother’s possessions, she begins to confront not just her mother’s death, but also the huge hole Gabriella’s disappearance left in her life – and finds herself asking a question she’s not allowed herself to ask for years: what really happened to her sister?

With that question comes the revelation that her biggest fear isn’t discovering the worst; it’s never knowing the answer. But is it too late for Anna to uncover the truth about Gabriella’s disappearance?

The Labyrinth of the SpiritsThe Labyrinth of the Spirits (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books #4) by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (eARC, NetGalley)

Barcelona, 1957. Daniel Sempere runs the Sempere & Sons bookshop, is happily married and has a son. No longer the child who discovered the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, he is still haunted by the mysterious death of his mother when he was six years old. Meanwhile his best friend and accomplice, Fermin, is about to marry the love of his life. But something appears to be bothering him. One morning, when Daniel is alone in the shop, a mysterious figure enters and buys a precious copy of The Count of Monte Cristo. Then, to Daniel’s surprise, the man inscribes the book with the words ‘To Fermin Romero de Torres, who came back from the dead and who holds the key to the future’.

That night Fermin confesses that he was once in prison and that he had to fake his own death to escape. Now his former cellmate has reappeared with a possible key to hidden treasure. But is it a trap? And why is Daniel’s wife meeting someone in secret? And who was the sinister figure Daniel’s mother went to meet on the night of her death…

The Labyrinth is a stunning Russian doll of a novel, an addictive story that will lure you into a world of plots within plots, where even the shadows have a story to tell…

Pre-order from Amazon UK

Eagle & CraneEagle & Crane by Suzanne Rindell (hardcover, review copy courtesy of Allison & Busby)

Louis Thorn and Haruto “Harry” Yamada — Eagle and Crane — are the star attractions of Earl Shaw’s Flying Circus, a daredevil (and not exactly legal) flying act that traverses Depression-era California. The young men have a complicated relationship, thanks to the Thorn family’s belief that the Yamadas — Japanese immigrants — stole land that should have stayed in the Thorn family.

When Louis and Harry become aerial stuntmen, performing death-defying tricks high above audiences, they’re both drawn to Shaw’s smart and appealing stepdaughter, Ava Brooks. When the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor and one of Shaw’s planes mysteriously crashes and two charred bodies are discovered in it, authorities conclude that the victims were Harry and his father, Kenichi, who had escaped from a Japanese internment camp they had been sent to by the federal government. To the local sheriff, the situation is open and shut. But to the lone FBI agent assigned to the case, the details don’t add up.

Thus begins an investigation into what really happened to cause the plane crash, who was in the plane when it fell from the sky, and why no one involved seems willing to tell the truth. By turns an absorbing mystery and a fascinating exploration of race, family and loyalty, Eagle & Crane is that rare novel that tells a gripping story as it explores a terrible era of American history.

The Moving BladeThe Moving Blade (Detective Hiroshi #2) by Michael Pronko (eARC, courtesy of the author)

When the top American diplomat in Tokyo, Bernard Mattson, is killed, he leaves more than a lifetime of successful Japan-American negotiations. He leaves a missing manuscript, boxes of research, a lost keynote speech and a tangled web of relations.

When his alluring daughter, Jamie, returns from America wanting answers, finding only threats, Detective Hiroshi Shimizu is dragged from the safe confines of his office into the street-level realities of Pacific Rim politics.

With help from ex-sumo wrestler Sakaguchi, Hiroshi searches for the killer from back alley bars to government offices, through anti-nuke protests to military conspiracies. When two more bodies turn up, Hiroshi must choose between desire and duty, violence or procedure, before the killer silences his next victim.

The Moving Blade is the second in the Tokyo-based Detective Hiroshi series by award-winning author Michael Pronko.

Pre-order from Amazon UK

Conrad Monk and the Great Heathen ArmyConrad Monk and the Great Heathen Army by Edoardo Albert (ebook, review copy courtesy of Endeavour)

Conrad is a monk, but he has become a monk through trickery and against his will. So, it is fair to say that his heart isn’t really in it. Conrad is also clever, charming, entirely self-serving, self-absorbed and almost completely without scruple — but in Anglo-Saxon England, when the Danish invaders come calling, those are very helpful attributes to have.

And so it comes to pass that Conrad finds himself constantly dodging death by various means, some reasonable, some… less so. His tricks include selling his brother monks into slavery, witnessing the death of a king, juggling his loyalties between his own people and the Danes, robbing corpses and impersonating a bishop.

By his side throughout is the gentle and honourable Brother Odo, a man so naturally and completely good that even animals sense it. He is no match of wits for the cunning Conrad but can he, perhaps, at least encourage the wayward monk to behave a little better?

Conrad Monk and the Great Heathen Army takes the reader on a hugely entertaining and highly informative trip through the Anglo-Saxon world, in the company of a persuasive and likeable — if frequently despicable — tour guide. It is a story that combines painstakingly accurate depictions of history with a fast-moving and often hilarious plot, and as such is bound to appeal to lovers of history, historical fiction and character-driven fiction alike.

The Last ThreadThe Last Thread by Ray Britain (ebook, review copy courtesy of the author)

Accused of pushing a boy to his death in a failed suicide intervention, DCI Doug Stirling is suspended from duty. Attacked in the media and haunted by the boy’s smile as he let go of Stirling’s hand, he must look on helplessly as the incompetent Chief Inspector Ballard who is intent on destroying him investigates the boy’s death, supported by the vindictive Deputy Chief Constable, McDonald.

Weeks later, an anonymous call leads the police to a remote location and the discovery of a burnt-out car containing the body of an unidentified man who has been savagely murdered. Short of experienced senior investigators, ACC Steph Tanner has no choice but to take a professional risk. Throwing Stirling the lifeline he needs to restore his reputation, Tanner appoints him as SIO to lead the investigation.

But with no witnesses, no forensic evidence and more theories than investigators, Stirling’s investigation has far too many ‘loose threads’ as he uncovers a complex, interwoven history of deception, betrayal and sadistic relationships. Was the victim connected to the crime scene? Is the murder as complex as it appears? Or is there a simpler explanation? Still traumatised by the boy’s death and with time the enemy, does Stirling still have what it takes to bring the killer, or killers, to justice before McDonald intervenes?

Things are already difficult enough when DC Helen Williams joins the investigation, a determined woman who seems intent on rekindling their past relationship. And is Ayesha, the beautiful lawyer Stirling has grown fond of, connected to the murder somehow?

On What Cathy Read Next last week

Monday – I joined the blog tour for Island on Fire by Sophie Schiller sharing my review of this historical romance set on the island of Martinique.  I also took part in the cover reveal for Shari Low’s next book, Another Day in Winter.

Tuesday – This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic gave me a marvellous opportunity to share my ten favourite book blogs.  So many great ones I had to leave out though…

WednesdayWWW Wednesday is the opportunity to share what I’ve just finished reading, what I’m reading now and what I’ll be reading next.

Thursday – For Throwback Thursday I revisited my review of a fascinating memoir, A Countess in Limbo by Olga Hendrikoff and Sue Carscallen.

Friday – I closed out the blog tour for the quirky and heart-warming The Unlikely Heroics of Sam Holloway by Rhys Thomas.  I also published my review of A Quiet Genocide by Glenn Bryant, which, through the fictional story of one boy, sheds light on a little known atrocity that took place in Nazi Germany.

Saturday – I published my review of crime thriller In The Blood by Ruth Mancini.

On What Cathy Read Next this week

Currently reading

Planned posts

  • Blog Tour/Book Review: The Glass Diplomat by S. R. Wilsher
  • Book Review: The Secrets of Primrose Square by Claudia Carroll
  • Blog Tour/Book Review: The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas
  • Book Review: Heat and Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

Book Review: In The Blood by Ruth Mancini

In the BloodAbout the Book

In southeast London, a young mother has been accused of an unthinkable crime: poisoning her own child – and then leaving him to die.

The mother, Ellie, is secretive and challenging – she’s had a troubled upbringing – but does that mean she’s capable of murder?

Balancing the case with raising her disabled five-year-old son, criminal defence lawyer Sarah Kellerman sets out in desperate pursuit of the truth. But when her own child becomes unwell, Sarah realises she’s been drawn into a dangerous game.

Unsettling and compulsive, In the Blood is a chilling study of class, motherhood and power from a new star in crime fiction.

Format: Hardcover, ebook (400 pp.)                          Publisher: Head of Zeus
Published: 9th August 2018 (ebook, 1st May 2018)   Genre: Thriller, Crime

Purchase Links*  ǀ  ǀ (supporting UK bookshops)
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

Find In The Blood on Goodreads

My Review

I remember being a fan of the Granada TV series Crown Court that was broadcast in the afternoons in the 1970s and 1980s.  It was a treat for days off sick or during school holidays and, yes, I’m aware that dates me.  So I found the details of the court proceedings in In The Blood especially fascinating.  There was a real sense of authenticity, no doubt informed by the author’s own experience as a criminal defence lawyer in real life.

The same sense of authenticity was evident in the depiction of single mother, Sarah, as she struggles to hold down an important and stressful job whilst coping with a young child with special needs.   I found her an immediately sympathetic figure and, sadly, the pressure she encounters from her boss and some of her co-workers seemed only too believable.  Sarah’s made to feel she’s not ‘pulling her weight’ because her caring commitments and lack of any family support system means she can’t drop everything at short notice or work unsocial hours in the way her colleagues can.   On the other hand, when she takes on Ellie’s case, whose circumstances in a lot of ways mirror Sarah’s own, the reader is forced to wonder if it’s possible for Sarah to retain the correct degree of professional detachment.

If you’re anything like me, from the start, you’ll find Ellie an unsympathetic figure who seems deliberately designed to raise the reader’s suspicion about her involvement in the harming of her son, Finn.  She comes across as shifty, evasive and unwilling or unable to accept the seriousness of the position in which she finds herself.    You’ll probably also find yourself wondering if you’re being deliberately manipulated by the author into believing Ellie guilty.  But surely that’s the part of fun of a book like this, isn’t it?

And if someone seems too bad to be true perhaps it’s equally possible for someone to be too good to be true as well.  Unfortunately manipulators come in all guises and, as the author skilfully shows, seem able to home in instinctively on a person’s weakness.  And in Sarah’s case, her weakness is definitely her son.

The author kept me guessing throughout the book, peopled as it is with a host of characters whose motives and credibility seemed questionable.  My one reservation is that I wasn’t completely convinced by the motivation of the person finally revealed to be responsible for the poisoning of little Finn.  Their preoccupations and belief system did seem like something out of an earlier age.

In The Blood is a compelling, accomplished thriller sure to delight fans of courtroom dramas but is also a book which explores some contemporary social issues with insight and acute observation.  Oh, and it would have made some terrific episodes of Crown Court

I received a review copy courtesy of publishers, Head of Zeus, in return for an honest and unbiased review.

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In three words: Compelling, twisty, suspenseful

Try something similar…A Mother’s Sacrifice by Gemma Metcalfe (read my review here)

Ruth ManciniAbout the Author

Ruth Mancini is a criminal defence lawyer, author and freelance writer.  Ruth’s own son is severely disabled, so Sarah’s experiences are based on her own.  She lives in Oxfordshire with her husband and two children.

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