What our book group read in September.

Only one of the books we discussed at our September meeting was rated less than 4-Stars, which is a pretty good return. We hope it means you can find something you’d like to try!

Anne Cleeves – The Darkest Evening
For her holiday reading, Norfolk Gal treated herself to the latest Vera Stanhope book by Ann Cleeves. “While driving home from work in a blizzard, Vera comes across an abandoned car with the door open and a baby inside. With no one around she takes the baby to the nearest house, her ancestral family home. While there a body is found. This book explores the relationship between her and her family as well as solving a murder, and this gives it added depth. The interplay between the characters was very well portrayed and the problems of maintaining the big house and estate, and the village and rented farms is also explored. I really enjoyed this book and give it 5-Stars.”

Linda Fairstein – Blood Oath
This is Book 20 in the Alexandra Cooper series. Cooper is an Assistant District Attorney in New York City and has just returned to work after nearly being killed in Book 19. She takes on the case of a young woman who, years before, had testified at a landmark trial and who is now alleging that she was sexually assaulted by a law enforcement official at that time. As Alex and two NYPD detectives investigate the case becomes embroiled in city and national politics, Manhattan’s Rockefeller University and even international terrorism. Oxo says: “I’ve enjoyed previous Alex Cooper stories but this plot is overly complex. It felt as if every topical subject under the sun had been crammed in, with little attention paid to whether it made sense in the story. I was disappointed, so It only earns 3-Stars from me.”  

Clare Gradidge – The Unexpected Return of Josephine Fox
Set in Romsey, Hampshire, in 1941 this was billed as a mix of Agatha Christie and Midsomer Murders. A pub has been destroyed by a German bomb. Seven people were known to have been in there when it was hit but when the lifting team starts to dig, eight bodies are discovered. The ‘extra’ body is that of a 15-year old girl, dressed in her finest red dress, dead from a blow to the head but with no blast injuries. To the disgust of the town’s establishment the local coroner and solicitor, Bram Nash, refuses to sign her off as a bomb casualty. A friend of Bram’s, Josephine Cox, has recently returned to the town and she starts to investigate to discover who the dead girl might be. In doing so she discovers the girl had recently had a child, and with her questions she manages to stir up a hornet’s nest of depravity and malice. The case is eventually solved and although the perpetrator of the crime was fairly obvious from the start it is the unpicking of the clues which makes this book so readable. The story is well told and the social strands of the town are well described. This is Clare Gradidge’s debut novel and Freyja gives it 4 Stars.

Andrew James GreigWhirligig
This is a gripping read. Murders, long in the planning, are happening in Scotland. It leads to the uncovering of hidden murders in a local children’s home many years previously. Inventive deaths, a lot of gore, plenty of suspects and a bit of romance. And there’s a great ending with a big surprise. Bunny found this book in the BorrowBox e-library and awards it 5-Stars.

Delia Owens – Where the Crawdads Sing
Mo absolutely loved this book! The protagonist is a young girl called Kya Clark, who has survived for years alone living in the marsh outside the small town of Barkley Cove. Known locally as the Marsh Girl, she immediately becomes the chief suspect when a young man is found dead. But there’s more to Kya’s life than anyone knows or understands and this is actually a coming-of-age story as well as a murder mystery. Delia Owens has written several non-fiction wildlife books and this is her debut novel which became an instant bestseller. Mo describes it as “Atmospheric and powerful. The descriptions of the small town, its residents and the surrounding landscape and wildlife are wonderful. It is beautifully written and I couldn’t put it down. 5-Stars.”

Martin Walker – Death Undercover
Published in 2014 under the title of Children at War, this is Book 7 in the Martin Walker’s ‘Bruno, Chief of Police’ series. Set in the small town of St. Denis in the Dordogne, this story starts with the discovery of the body of an undercover French Muslim cop in a wood. Soon the killing is linked to Muslim extremists based at a Paris mosque. At the same time, Bruno is told of a Muslim youth who has been found at a French military base in Afghanistan and is desperate to get home to St. Denis. Needless to say, these two threads are connected. Cornish Eskimo was quickly pulled in by the story. “Although the setting is so picture-perfect this plot was gritty enough to hook me. Bruno is a great character and I will definitely be reading more of these. 4.5 Stars.”
P.S. You can find out more about the ‘Bruno, Chief of Police’ series in an article by Eve, here.