#Promo Notes of Change by Susan Grossey

Book StackIt’s frustrating when an author gets in touch about a book that really appeals to you but you just can’t fit it into your reading schedule, especially when the author is self-published and can do with all the support they can get. Such is the case when Susan Grossey contacted me about Notes of Change, the latest – and final – book in her Sam Plank historical crime series. Regular followers of this blog will know how much I love finding new historical crime series so I’m gutted I can’t find time to read Notes of Change at the moment. However, I have a feeling this might just be a series I read from the beginning. Watch this space!

The books are set in consecutive years in the 1820s – just before Queen Victoria came to the throne and in the policing period after the Bow Street Runners and before the Metropolitan Police – and feature magistrates’ constable, Sam Plank.  Here’s how the author sums up each book:

  • Fatal Forgery takes place in 1824 and looks at a banker stealing money from his clients
  • The Man in the Canary Waistcoat is set in 1825 and deals with investment fraud involving the thrilling new technology of the day – gas lighting
  • Worm in the Blossom takes place in 1826 and concerns rather unsavoury bribery and extortion
  • Portraits of Pretence is set in 1827 and examines the world of art fraud
  • Faith, Hope and Trickery is set in 1828 and explores religious fraud
  • Heir Apparent is set in 1829 and concerns inheritance fraud.

Sam Plank Series

Notes of ChangeAbout the Book

In the autumn of 1829, the body of a wealthy young man is found dumped in a dust-pit behind one of London’s most exciting new venues. Constable Sam Plank’s enquiries lead him from horse auctions to houses of correction, and from the rarefied atmosphere of the Bank of England to the German-speaking streets of Whitechapel. And when he comes face to face with an old foe, he finds himself considering shocking compromises…

The new and highly organised Metropolitan Police are taking to the streets, calling into question the future of the magistrates’ constables. Sam’s junior constable, William Wilson, is keen, but what is an old campaigner like Sam to do when faced with the new force and its little black book of instructions?

Format: ebook (290 pages)            Publisher:
Publication date: 20th April 2022  Genre: Historical Fiction, Crime, Mystery

Find Notes of Change on Goodreads

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Susan GrosseyAbout the Author

Susan writes: ‘I graduated from Cambridge University in 1987 with a degree in English, and then taught secondary English for two years before realising that the National Curriculum was designed primarily to extinguish every spark of creativity in its teachers.  I then became a technical author, and reached the pinnacle of this profession when I was asked to document the workings of a choc-ice wrapping machine in Cardiff, while wearing a fetching blue hairnet (which I forgot to remove until it was pointed out by a cashier in a petrol station on the M4).

From this unbeatable high point I moved into technical training, and one day was asked to help with a staff manual on fraud prevention.  As I wrote the chapter on money laundering, I realised that here was a topic that could keep my interest for years – and so it has proved.  Since 1998, I have been self-employed as an anti-money laundering consultant, providing training and strategic advice and writing policies and procedures for clients in many countries.  As part of my job, I have written several non-fiction books with exciting titles like Money Laundering: A Training Strategy, The Money Laundering Officer’s Practical Handbook and Anti-Money Laundering: A Guide for the Non-Executive Director.

However, even this is not enough financial crime for me, and in my spare evenings and weekends I write fiction – but always with financial crime at the heart of it.’ (Bio: Author website/Photo: Goodreads author page)

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#BookReview In Place of Fear by Catriona McPherson

In Place of FearAbout the Book

Helen leaned close enough to fog the mirror with her breath and whispered, ‘You, my girl, are a qualified medical almoner and at eight o’clock tomorrow morning you will be on the front line of the National Health Service of Scotland.’ Her eyes looked huge and scared. ‘So take a shake to yourself!”

Edinburgh, 1948. Helen Crowther leaves a crowded tenement home for her very own office in a doctor’s surgery. Upstart, ungrateful, out of your depth – the words of disapproval come at her from everywhere but she’s determined to take her chance and play her part.

She’s barely begun when she stumbles over a murder and learns that, in this most respectable of cities, no one will fight for justice at the risk of scandal. As Helen resolves to find a killer, she’s propelled into a darker world than she knew existed, hardscrabble as her own can be. Disapproval is the least of her worries now.

Format: Hardback (336 pages) Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publication date: 14th April     Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Crime

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My Review

The book has some really fascinating information about the birth of the NHS and the difficulty of  overcoming people’s disbelief that health services are now free. I had not come across the role of a medical almoner before and it took me a little while to work out exactly what it comprised. The author certainly succeeds in depicting what life was like for the poorer inhabitants of Edinburgh: living in crowded and often insanitary housing, existing on poor diets and lacking knowledge of how to prevent common diseases. The theme of women’s health, infertility and motherhood run throughout the book.

In the opening chapters, we learn a lot about Helen’s family and their domestic background. Helen’s determination to forge a career meets with opposition from her mother who can’t see why she would want to do anything other than start a family with her husband, Sandy. Unfortunately, there’s a big stumbling block to this, the nature of which Helen won’t fully understand until later in the book. In the meantime, she’s just patiently trying to help Sandy recover from his experiences as a prisoner-of-war. He is reluctant to talk about what he went through in any detail but it has left him with a fear of enclosed spaces.

The use of Scottish dialect, although giving authenticity, did impair my reading experience. (I appreciate this would not be the case for Scottish readers.) Sentences like, ‘She couldn’t stop the weans from palling around the back greens and the front streets, although she told Helen not to give killycodes if she could help it’ left me mystified and had me searching online for clarification. There were phrases I didn’t know the meaning of – drookit (soaking wet, drenched) or hackit (ugly) – and others that had a different meaning to the one I was used to – bunker (a table top or kitchen counter) or press (cupboard).

For me, the book never really lived up to the publisher’s description of ‘gripping’. The mystery element unfolds really slowly although it takes some interesting twists and turns towards the end of the book revealing a distinctly unpleasant side of Edinburgh life. The author slips in some neat deflections and one or two surprises.  However, the skip ahead in time at the end of the book and the late introduction of a new character made the conclusion feel a bit rushed.

I received an advance review copy courtesy of Hodder & Stoughton via NetGalley.

In three words: Detailed, authentic, absorbing

Try something similarThe Unquiet Heart by Kaite Welsh

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Catriona McPhersonAbout the Author

Catriona McPherson was born in South Queensferry. After finishing school, she worked in a bank for a short time, before going to university. She studied for an MA in English Language and Linguistics at Edinburgh University, and then gained a job in the local studies department at Edinburgh City Libraries. She left this post after a couple of years, and went back to university to study for a PhD in semantics. During her final year she applied for an academic job, but left to begin a writing career.

These days, McPherson lives with her husband on a farm in the Galloway countryside, where she spends her time writing, gardening, swimming and running. (Bio: Goodreads/Photo: Twitter profile)

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