#BookReview Kezia and Rosie by Rebecca Burns

Kezia and RosieAbout the Book

When sisters Kezia and Rosie arrive at their grandparents’ house in the summer of 1986 they aren’t sure when they’ll see their Mum and Dad again.

While her younger sister Rosie is content playing on the allotment gate and having picnics in the garden, Kezia begins to realise that things aren’t quite what they seem. While embraced in Granddad and Grandma’s loving care, it’s not long before seven-year old Kezia begins to notice strange looks between them, hushed whispers, and secret phone calls. She realises she must step into the frightening adult world if she is to make sense of her parent’s troubled marriage.

Format: Paperback (128 pages)       Publisher: Dahlia Publishing
Publication date: 26th March 2022 Genre: Historical Fiction

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Amazon UK
Link provided for convenience only, not as part of an affiliate programme

My Review

Although described as a linked short story collection, I would characterise Kezia and Rosie as more like a novella.  There is a narrative thread that runs through the book which means that, in my opinion, the ‘stories’ are best read in sequence rather than dipping in and out in the way you might do with a short story collection.

Narrated from the point of view of seven-year old Kezia, the author really captures the experience of being at an age where you start to understand things you hear whilst not understanding others. In just one of the imaginative metaphors in the book, ‘Words give answers and are windows but sometimes the glass is glazed’. Her mind is full of questions: just why has their mother gone away, and to another country, why do her grandparents need to talk to Roy’s son, and why is their grandmother so antagonistic towards their father? There are also memories of an incident that she tries to push away.

As someone with a younger sister, whom of course I love, I could appreciate Kezia’s occasional frustration with her sister’s maddening antics and the way she is indulged by their grandparents. Sometimes a two year age gap can seem much more and the role of elder sibling can feel like an unwelcome burden especially when her grandfather reminds her ‘there are things that can’t be said around Rosie’. No wonder Kezia comes to think of the adult world as a ‘maze… a lattice of things that can and cannot be said’. Her frustration occasionally comes out in little acts of vandalism, such as the tearing to pieces of a flower.

The girls’ grandfather and grandmother are beautifully drawn characters. Although they find themselves in the unexpected position of looking after the two girls with their established domestic routine disrupted, their love and care for Kezia and Rosie is quite wonderful to witness. And, as we learn, they too have experienced sadness in their lives.

Whilst many scenes in the book are touching and funny, there’s a persistent sense of unease. Something not quite right has occurred in the family but for a long time we don’t know what. Kezia feels she has been thrust into an adult world she can’t understand. ‘The summer has been a mosaic of hints and overheard remarks. They gather around Kezia like stepping stones.’  However, whatever happens, Kezia and Rosie can rest assured they have the love and support of their grandparents. ‘For now, it’s enough to slip underneath Grandma’s arm and wedge into the warm space of her armpit, and elbow Rosie gently to tell her she loves her. And for Grandad to giggle to himself and head over to the allotment to fetch raspberries for tea.’

I really liked how the time period of the 1980s was evoked. Anyone old enough to remember that period will recognise the references to shopping in Fine Fare, or watching television programmes together such as The Generation Game, The Dukes of Hazzard or (Kezia and Rosie’s grandmother’s favourite) Wogan. Those of a certain age will experience a real sense of nostalgia and perhaps give a wry smile at the girls’ excitement at watching the wedding of Prince Andrew and Fergie.

I really enjoyed Kezia and Rosie. It’s a delightful, beautifully written book. My thanks to the author for my digital review copy.

In three words: Tender, insightful, heartwarming

Try something similarOnly May by Carol Lovekin

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Rebecca BurnsAbout the Author

Rebecca Burns is an award-winning writer of short stories. Her story collections, Catching the Barramundi (2012) and The Settling Earth (2014) were both longlisted for the Edge Hill Short Story Award. Her debut novel, The Bishop’s Girl, was published by Odyssey Books in September 2016, followed by a third short story collection, Artefacts and Other Stories (2017). Beyond the Bay, a sequel to The Settling Earth, was published in 2018. Her first novella, Quilaq, was published by Next Chapter in 2020. (Photo: Author website)

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#BlogTour #BookReview Music of the Night edited by Martin Edwards @RandomTTours @FlameTreePress

Music Night (2) BT PosterWelcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Music of the Night, the latest anthology of original short stories by members of the Crime Writers’ Association, edited by Martin Edwards. My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to Flame Tree Press for my digital review copy. Do check out the post by my tour buddy for today, Amanda at The Butler Did It.

Final Music of the Night CoverAbout the Book

Music of the Night is a new anthology of original short stories contributed by Crime Writer’s Association (CWA) members and edited by Martin Edwards, with music as the connecting theme. The aim, as always, is to produce a book which is representative both of the genre and the membership of the world’s premier crime writing association.

The CWA has published anthologies of members’ stories in most years since 1956 with Martin Edwards as editor for over 25 years during which time the anthologies have yielded many award-winning and nominated stories by writers such as Ian Rankin, Reginald Hill, Lawrence Block and Edward D. Hoch.

Stories by long-standing authors and stellar names sit alongside contributions from relative newcomers, authors from overseas, and members whose work haven’t appeared in a CWA anthology before. Among the gifted stars of today whose fiction featured in a CWA anthology at an early stage of their crime writing careers are Mick Herron, Frank Tallis and Sarah Hilary. It isn’t a closed shop, and never has been.

The CWA (Crime Writers’ Association) was founded in 1953 by John Creasey and organises the prestigious CWA Dagger Awards which celebrate the best in crime writing. The CWA is a pro-active, thriving and ever-expanding community of writers based in the UK but with a reach that extends worldwide.

Format: Hardcover (288 pages)            Publisher: Flame Tree Press
Publication date: 22nd February 2022 Genre: Crime, Short Stories

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Hive | Amazon UK
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My Review

The contributors to this anthology are a positive Who’s Who of contemporary crime fiction and much of the fun is seeing how each author responds to the theme of music.  In some of the stories the musical element is in the background, for example as a setting for a crime.  In others it is the key (pardon the pun) to the whole structure of the story.  A particularly good example of the latter is the story by Ragnar Jónasson who instructs that it should be read while listening to 4’33” by John Cage. I also really enjoyed ‘The Melody of Murder’ by Antony M Brown in which the killer’s trademark is creating crime scenes which resemble famous album covers.  Perhaps my favourite story was ‘Love Me Or Leave Me: A Fugue in G Minor’ by Art Taylor, a strange and rather unsettling story based around a fragment of melody that apparently no-one else can hear.

I always admire authors who can create really taut short stories and some great examples in the collection are ‘Mix Tape’ by Cath Staincliffe, ‘Taxi!’ by Chris Simms, ‘Violin – CE’ by David Stuart Davies and ‘A Vulture Sang in Berkeley Square’. I also enjoyed being introduced in short story form to some crime series I’ve heard of but haven’t read such as Vaseem Khan’s Malabar House series.

There is something for everyone in the collection whether you’re a fan of historical crime, police procedural or noir – or perhaps I should say whether your playlist contains classical music, pop, rock, jazz… or even silence. Whichever is the case, I can safely say that Music of the Night contains no bum notes.

In three words: Inventive, engaging, witty

Try something similar: Mystery Tour edited by Martin Edwards

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Martin EdwardsAbout the Editor

Martin Edwards is the author of eighteen novels, including the Lake District Mysteries, and the Harry Devlin series. His ground-breaking genre study The Golden Age of Murder has won the Edgar, Agatha and H.R.F. Keating awards. He has edited twenty eight crime anthologies, has won the CWA Short Story Dagger and the CWA Margery Allingham Prize, and is series consultant for the British Library’s Crime Classics. In 2015, he was elected eighth President of the Detection Club, an office previously held by G.K. Chesterton, Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers.

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Music Night (1) BT Poster