Thursday, 27 October 2016

The Ambleside Alibi (Lake District Mystery Series) by Rebecca Tope


Paperback:  After an eventful previous year, Persimmon 'Simmy' Brown is adjusting to life in Windermere, running her florist shop and trying to put her tragic past behind her.

But just when Simmy thinks her life is quietly coming together at last, it begins to unravel at the seams.

With the delivery of a bouquet of flowers to an elderly lady - complete with mysterious message attached - old and sinister secrets come creeping into the light.

When another old woman is found dead in her own home, Simmy is drawn into the centre of a murder investigation.

With the prime suspect naming Simmy as his alibi, the unfortunate florist knows her peaceful existence in the Lake District is about to be shaken once again.

While trying to rebuild her own life, Simmy must untangle the murky lives of others and uncover the motive behind a mysterious killing.

The Ambleside Alibi (2013) is the second book in the well-written Lake District Mystery Series.

About the author:  Rebecca Tope, a British crime novelist and journalist, lives on a smallholding in Herefordshire, where she plants trees and watches wild birds, but manages to travel the world and enjoy civilisation from time to time as well.  Most of her varied experiences and activities find their way into her books, sooner or later.  In 1992, she founded Praxis books, a small British press.

She is the author of three murder mystery series, featuring the fictional characters of Den Cooper, a Devon police detective, Drew Slocombe, a former nurse, now an undertaker, Thea Osborne, a house sitter in the Cotswolds, and Persimmon Brown, a florist in the Lake District.  Her books are set in real English villages.  She uses a kind of "anti research", avoiding discussion with any of the villagers, but does walk along the footpaths and visits most of the village pubs.

She is currently working on a biography of Sabine Baring-Gould.  Tope is also ghost writer of the novels based on the ITV series Rosemary and Thyme.

Rating:  5/5

The Windermere Witness (The Lake District Mystery Series) by Rebecca Tope


Paperback:  Florist Persimmon 'Simmy' Brown has moved to the beautiful Lake District in search of peace but that is quickly disturbed when a wedding ends in tragedy. Caught up in the middle of the wedding party, Simmy is a prime witness and can't prevent herself becoming even more entangled with the unhappy family.

The peace she is searching for is quickly disturbed as a millionaire's daughter's wedding ends in tragedy; her brother is found brutally murdered.

As the florist of the wedding and one of the last people to talk to Mark Baxter alive, Simmy slowly becomes involved with the scandalous Baxter family, and is further entangled as she is the prime witness to the another shocking killing.

The chief suspects are the groom and his closely-knit band of loyal bachelor friends. They are all intimidating, volatile and secretive: but which one is responsible?

The Windermere Witness (2012) is the first book in the enjoyable Lake District Mystery series.

About the author:  Rebecca Tope, a British crime novelist and journalist, lives on a smallholding in Herefordshire, where she plants trees and watches wild birds, but manages to travel the world and enjoy civilisation from time to time as well.  Most of her varied experiences and activities find their way into her books, sooner or later.  In 1992, she founded Praxis books, a small British press.

She is the author of three murder mystery series, featuring the fictional characters of Den Cooper, a Devon police detective, Drew Slocombe, a former nurse, now an undertaker, Thea Osborne, a house sitter in the Cotswolds, and Persimmon Brown, a florist in the Lake District.  Her books are set in real English villages.  She uses a kind of "anti research", avoiding discussion with any of the villagers, but does walk along the footpaths and visits most of the village pubs.

She is currently working on a biography of Sabine Baring-Gould.  Tope is also ghost writer of the novels based on the ITV series Rosemary and Thyme.

Rating:  5/5

Sunday, 16 October 2016

The Shepherd's Life: A Tale of the Lake District by James Rebanks


Paperback:  To be a shepherd is to stand as tall as any man.

Until around 1750, no one from the outside world had paid this mountainous corner of north-west England much notice, or, when they had, they found it to be poor, unproductive, primitive, harsh, ugly and backward.

Yet, in a few decades, that had all changed.  Road, and later railways, were built, making it much easier to get here.

And the Romantic and picturesque movements changed the way many people thought about mountains, lakes and rugged landscapes like ours.

Our landscape suddenly became a major focus for writers and artists, particularly when the Napoleonic Wars stopped the early tourists from going to the Alps and forced them instead to discover the mountainous landscapes of Britain.

Today, 16 million people a year come here to an area with 43 000 residents.  They spend more than a billion pounds every year here.  More than half the employment in the area is reliant upon tourism - and many of the farms depend upon it for their income by running B&Bs or other businesses.  A layman's idea of the Lake District was created by an urbanized and increasingly industrialized society, over the past two hundred years.  It was a dream of a place for a wider society that was full of people disconnected from the land.

That dream was never for us, the people who work this land.  We were already here doing what we do.  William Wordsworth believed that the community of shepherds and small farmers of the Lake District formed a political and social ideal of much wider significance and value.  People here governed themselves, free of the aristocratic elites that dominated people's lives elsewhere, and in Wordsworth's eyes this provided a model for a good society.

Wordsworth thought we mattered as a counterpoint to the commercial, urban and increasingly industrial England emerging elsewhere.  We are all influenced, directly or indirectly, whether we are aware of it or not, by ideas and attitudes to the environment from cultural sources.  My idea of this landscape is not from books, but from another source:  it is an older idea, inherited from the people who came before me here.

The Shepherd's Life (2015) is partly an explanation of our work through the course of the year;  partly a memoir of growing up in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s and the people around me at that time, like my father and grandfather;  and partly a retelling of the history of the Lake District - from the perspective of the people who live there, and have done for hundreds of years.

It is not only the story of a family and a farm, but it also tells a wider story about the people who get forgotten in the modern world.  It is about how we need to open our eyes and see the forgotten people who live in our midst, whose lives are often deeply traditional and rooted in the distant past.

If we want to understand the people in the foothills of Afghanistan, we may need to try and understand the people in the foothills of England first.

The Shepherd's Life has been named Cumbria’s book of 2015, spent ten weeks in the Sunday Times top 10 bestsellers list and also won the Zeffirellis Prize for People and Business.

About the author:  James Rebanks is a farmer in the Lake District.  He wrote, "There is no beginning and there is no end.  The sun rises and falls, each day, and the seasons come and go.  The days, months and years alternate through sunshine, rain, hail, wind, snow and frost.  The leaves fall each autumn and burst forth again each spring.  The earth spins through the vastness of space.  The grass comes and goes with the warmth of the sun.  The farms and the flocks endure, bigger than the life of a single person.  We are born, live our working lives and die, passing like the oak leaves that blow across our land in the winter.  We are each a tiny part of something enduring, something that feels solid, real and true.  Our farming way of life has roots deeper than five thousand years into the soil of this landscape."

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Hard To Beat


Festival in Prior's Ford (Prior's Ford Series) by Evelyn Hood


Hardback:  Summer is approaching - and life is as eventful as ever at Prior's Ford.

When Tricia and Derek Borland bring home their baby daughter, their elderly neighbours are more than willing to help the new mother.  But their enthusiasm begins to wane when it becomes apparent that Tricia is more interested in going out with her friends than looking after her new baby - and is only too ready to take advantage of their kindness.

Meanwhile, Lewis Ralston-Kerr and his fiancĂ©e Ginny are horrified by Ginny's flamboyant mother's determination to sweep aside their desire for a small village wedding and organise a large society affair.

What's more, the Prior's Ford Progress Committee have decided that the traditional village summer festival needs pepping up this year.

Festival in Prior's Ford (2013) is the seventh and latest instalment in the heartwarming Prior's Ford series.

About the author:  A former journalist, Evelyn Hood is best known for family sagas mainly set in her home town of Paisley (Renfrewshire) and on the Clyde Coast, although she is also the author of 'Forward by Degrees', a history of the University of Paisley.  The history was commissioned to mark the University's centenary as a place of further education and was published in April 1997.

Evelyn has also published six one-act stage plays, a Scottish pantomime, a children's musical and a number of short stories and articles.  Unpublished but performed stage work includes a full length play, three pantomimes, six children's musicals, and a large number of monologues and sketches.

Her hobbies include reading and amateur drama, and she lives in West Kilbride, Ayrshire with her husband.  They have two grown sons.

Eve Houston is Evelyn's pseudonym.

Rating:  5/5

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Return To Prior's Ford (Prior's Ford Series) by Evelyn Hood


Hardback:  The course of true love never did run smooth, as the Prior's Ford residents are beginning to discover.  The once-failing Tarbethill Farm is facing a happier future thanks to the business plan drawn by up Alison Greenlees, who hopes one day to become the farmer's wife.   It is just a pity Ewan McNair, now running the farm, refuses to see himself as the sort of husband Alison deserves.

Meanwhile, at Linn Hall, the impoverished Ralston-Kerr family are thrown into confusion by the return of famous actress Meredith Whitelaw - whose arrival is bad news for her daughter Ginny, anxious to catch the eye of the son of the house.

And Thatcher's Cottage is now home to Dr Malcolm Finlay, a retired university academic with a secret ability to turn the hearts and heads of almost all the women in the village.

Return To Prior's Ford (2012) is the sixth instalment of Scottish village life in Evelyn Hood's enjoyable-snapshot-of-country-life Prior's Ford series.

About the author:  A former journalist, Evelyn Hood is best known for family sagas mainly set in her home town of Paisley (Renfrewshire) and on the Clyde Coast, although she is also the author of 'Forward by Degrees', a history of the University of Paisley.  The history was commissioned to mark the University's centenary as a place of further education and was published in April 1997.

Evelyn has also published six one-act stage plays, a Scottish pantomime, a children's musical and a number of short stories and articles.  Unpublished but performed stage work includes a full length play, three pantomimes, six children's musicals, and a large number of monologues and sketches.

Her hobbies include reading and amateur drama, and she lives in West Kilbride, Ayrshire with her husband.  They have two grown sons.

Eve Houston is Evelyn's pseudonym.

Rating:  5/5

Michael Wayne Rosen (b1946), English Poet and Children's Novelist


Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Mystery in Prior's Ford (Prior's Ford Series) by Evelyn Hood


Hardback:  Cookery writer Laura Tyler arrives in Prior's Ford determined to become immersed in village life - and the village drama group's forthcoming production of The Importance of Being Earnest offers her the perfect opportunity.  It is just a pity that her uptight husband lacks her enthusiasm.

But Laura has cause to regret her involvement when murder calls a halt to rehearsals of the play.  And for another newcomer to the village, Constable Neil White, the death means that now he must team up with his estranged wife, Sergeant Gloria Frost, to conduct the subsequent investigation.

Why would anyone want to murder an innocent villager?  Prior's Ford is thrown into chaos, with the locals wondering if the killer is a stranger or, worse still, a neighbour.  As he pursues his enquiries, Constable White receives help from an unexpected source.  American visitor Amy Rose, with her passion for crosswords and mystery-solving, cannot resists dabbling in a spot of amateur sleuthing.

Mystery in Prior's Ford (2011) is the fifth warmhearted instalment of Scottish village life in Evelyn Hood's much-loved Prior's Ford series.

About the author:  A former journalist, Evelyn Hood is best known for family sagas mainly set in her home town of Paisley (Renfrewshire) and on the Clyde Coast, although she is also the author of 'Forward by Degrees', a history of the University of Paisley.  The history was commissioned to mark the University's centenary as a place of further education and was published in April 1997.

Evelyn has also published six one-act stage plays, a Scottish pantomime, a children's musical and a number of short stories and articles.  Unpublished but performed stage work includes a full length play, three pantomimes, six children's musicals, and a large number of monologues and sketches.

Her hobbies include reading and amateur drama, and she lives in West Kilbride, Ayrshire with her husband.  They have two grown sons.

Eve Houston is Evelyn's pseudonym.

Rating:  5/5

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Killer Look (Alexandra Cooper Novel) by Linda Fairstein


Hardback:  Through tattered clothes great vices do appear;  Robes and furred gowns hide all. - King Lear, William Shakespeare

New York City is one of the fashion capitals of the world, well known for its glamour and style.  Yet high fashion means high stakes, as Alex Cooper discovers when designer Wolf Savage is found dead in an apparent suicide days before the biggest show of his career.

When Savage's daughter insists his death was murder, the case becomes a media sensation.

With her own job at the DA's office in jeopardy, and spiralling into a reliance on alcohol, Alex is not anyone's first choice for help.  But she is determined to uncover the grime - and the possible homicide - beneath the glitz.

Soon she and police detectives Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace are investigating the family secrets Savage kept so well hidden, even from those closest to him - just as things are about to get deadly on the catwalk.

Killer Look (2016) is the sixteenth book in the exciting Alexandra Cooper Novel series.

About the author:  Linda Fairstein is a former prosecutor and one of America's foremost legal experts on crimes of violence against women and children.  For three decades she served in the office of the New York County District Attorney, where she was Chief of the Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit.

In 2010, she was presented with the Silver Bullet Award from the International Thriller Writers Association.

Fairstein's Alexandra Cooper novels have been translated into more than a dozen languages and have debuted on the Sunday Times and the New York Times bestseller lists, among others.  She lives in Manhattan and Martha's Vineyard.

Rating:  5/5