A selection of the ‘surprise’ books we received in our Select and Collect book bags.

We report on a selection of the ‘surprise’ books we received in our book bags from Oundle Library. Nine titles, each by a different author – listed alphabetically by author.

Lin Anderson – Time for the Dead
This may well be Book 14 in the Rhona MacLeod series but it was the first time Oxo had even heard of this series. And she’s really glad she now has! McLeod is a forensic scientist who is staying on the Isle of Skye. Behind an activities centre she discovers (quite by chance) what looks as if it might be a crime scene. But there’s no body or victim in sight. When an unidentifiable body is discovered at the bottom of a cliff a couple of days later MacLeod suspects murder. And there’s a group of army medics on leave from Afghanistan who can no longer be located on the island and who are known to have visited the centre. Oxo really enjoyed this and is now searching for more titles in the series. “The plots are believable and the characters and location were interesting. For me, the test of a good book is when I look forward to being able to get back to it. This one ticked all the boxes!” 4.5 Stars

Karen Cleveland – Keep You Close
Feebs reports that this novel reads like a female version of the Jack Reacher books. The protagonist, Stephanie, is a single parent of an 18-year old boy, working for the FBI. But there’s something in her past that makes her very security aware. One day she gets home and finds her burglar alarm is off. It’s a niggling worry but she doesn’t think too much about it until the next day when, tidying her son’s bedroom, she finds a gun. Then she’s told her son is on the terrorism watch list and suddenly she’s in a race to prove it’s all a set-up and she’s being framed. Feebs says this is a gripping and fast-paced story, but she couldn’t shake the feeling that it’s been written to become a movie. That’s not to say she didn’t enjoy it. Her verdict? 3-Stars if she was in a bad mood, but if she was in a good mood she’d add one more.

Louise Doughty – Platform Seven
A most unusual book, narrated by a ghost. It is mainly set on Peterborough train station, with forays out into other parts of Peterborough. The ghost is of Lisa Evans who has been killed at the station, and gradually her back story is revealed along with the stories of some of the staff. Norfolk Gal enjoyed this book in spite of the oddness of the story and awarded 3-Stars.

Kate Ellis – The Death Season (A Wesley Peterson mystery)
These novels all take the form of two stories running in parallel: a modern-day mystery, usually set in the fictional town of Tradmouth in Devon, alongside an archaeological mystery. In this one the strands don’t come together until the very end. The modern-day mystery involves the unsolved death of a child 30 years earlier, two recent killings and a near-fatal attack on a local chef. The archaeological strand revolves around two local digs, one at an old manor house nearby and, interwoven in this, is a story from 1913 about a ruthless and ambitious servant in the big house and how she inveigles herself into her mistress’s life and affection. If all this sounds complicated, it is! Freyja found the modern-day case a bit too convoluted and enjoyed the historical story much more. But she says the book hangs together in the end, although it takes some time to get there. She awarded three stars to the historical strand and two to the modern crime story. And overall? Probably 2.5 Stars.

Arnaldur Indridason – Outrage
Published in 2011 this is really a standalone novel in the Inspector Erlendur series. Standalone because Erlendur is entirely absent from the story and the protagonist is his female colleague, Elinborg. Married with four children her work, inevitably, is juggled with her domestic commitments. The story starts with a young man on the prowl for a victim he can drug with a date rape drug. Later he’s found dead in his flat with his throat cut and no sign of the girl except for some of her clothes. Putting two and two together the police decide the girl must be the killer, so when a young woman confesses everything looks as if it’s tied up neatly. But Elinborg is unconvinced and continues to pick away at the case until she discovers what really happened and why. Freyja found the story pedestrian and a bit dull, but the second half was better. Others in our group, who enjoy police procedurals, have read and enjoyed this more. Freyja rated it as 3-Stars.

Emma Kavanagh – The Devil You Know
Rosa Fisher, 25, studying for a PHD in the Psychology of Fraud, disturbed by a nighttime intruder, falls down the stairs while in pursuit and sustains a broken shoulder and various injuries. The injuries lead to her discovering that her blood group is different from any member of the family she has been raised in.

When her mother, brother and sister admit she was adopted as a foundling she determines to find her birth parents and discover why she’d been abandoned.  The only connection her family can provide is the now-retired fire officer who found her, who has kept in touch with yearly Christmas cards and whom she knows distantly as a family friend. Rosa’s enquiries lead her from her US hometown into Canada and back, posing as a police officer in order to get confidential information that leads to the deaths of her adoptive mother and another elderly innocent woman.

Oxo reports: “Emma Kavanagh is a Welsh writer with a degree in Psychology and she has a remarkable knowledge of the US and its idioms and expressions. This is a creepy tale that held my attention through all the twists and turns until the very end when the murderer is revealed. 3.5 Stars.”

Shari Lapena – The Couple Next Door
It all starts innocently, with a couple visiting their neighbours next door for dinner. They leave their 6-month old baby at home, but take the baby alarm with them and pop back to check on her every half hour. Then the baby disappears. This is an involved story about kidnap, deceit, and murder with so many twists and turns that at times it was a bit far-fetched. But nevertheless, Mo enjoyed it and awarded 3-Stars.

Jo Spain – Dirty Little Secrets
The cover notes sum up the plot of this novel neatly: “Six neighbours, six secrets, six reasons to want Olive Collins dead.” The story is set in a gated community. The residents are all well-go-do and appear to have it all. But then the body of Olive Collins is discovered in her home, where she has lain dead for the past four months, undiscovered. Her neighbours are shocked but as the police start to ask questions the respectable façades begin to crack and secrets are revealed. Feebs says this was a gripping read and beautifully written, with lots of humour. She loved it so much it earned 5-Stars.  

Max Wesolowski – Beast
During the 2018 storm known as ‘The Beast from the East’, the Vlogger Elizabeth Barton was killed while taking part in a ‘Dead in Six Days’ challenge. The killers were people she’d been to school with and they are now in jail.

Two years later, journalist Scott King’s interest in the case is awoken after graffiti appears on the wall of Elizabeth’s parents’ home saying “Why was Elizabeth killed?”. The story is told in six parts, each being an interview with one of the bystanders to the crime – a local fireman, her parents, a teacher, her brother, a friend who admired her, and another who did not. By these interviews you hear different views of the sort of person she was and the reasons for the killing seems aren’t so clear as first thought. It is also revealed that Elizabeth had hoped to meet the local vampire at the end of the challenge, and instead she had ended up dead.

“This wasn’t a book I would have chosen for myself,” says Norfolk Gal, “but it was an interesting story – if rather strange! I found it slow in parts but quite enjoyed it and give it 3-Stars.”