Book Review: Hide and Seek, by M J Arlidge

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_hide_and_seek.jpgArlidge’s style has me determined to get my hands on each novel in the D. I. Helen Grace series of crime stories. His characters – both the police team members, and each title’s new cast members – are well and truly alive on the page – real, and human with their foibles and fancies.

In Hide And Seek, our favourite police officer-no-more is in her worst possible place: the world behind the bars of Holloway. Both the guards and the inmates (some of whom are there because of Helen) have already adjudged her as a rotten copper – before her trial – and as just another crim.

When the inmate of the cell beside Helen’s is found dead in her bed, left by her killer in a bizarre and ghastly state, it is Helen who has to remind the inmates that none of them are safe. Helen is driven to watch both guards and inmates alike in her effort to identify the killer.

She faces suspicion and hostility from both sides. The second and third kill creates a frenzy among the inmates. An understandable error of thinking delays her eventual discovery of the murderer, which she learns the hard way. Seriously, the hard way.
The unwarranted (as in, not official) actions of loyal D. C. Charlie Brookes are what decides the sequel*.

Reviewed by Lynne McAnulty-Street

Hide and Seek
by M J Arlidge
Published 2016, by Michael Joseph, for
Penguin/Random House
Hardbound:  9780718183837
Paperback:  9781405925624

The Series:
Eeny Meeny
Pop Goes the Weasel
The Doll’s House
Liar Liar
Little Boy Blue
Hide And Seek
* Follow My Leader, later in 2017

Book Review: The Chocolate Tin, by Fiona McIntosh

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_chocolate_tinAlexandra Frobisher is a modern thinking woman hoping for a career in England’s famous chocolate making town of York. But it is 1915, and Alex’s father states, “Association with the factory floor will not do – not for a Frobisher girl”.

Alex has turned down a number of ‘suitable’ marriage proposals much to her parents displeasure but she agrees to marry Matthew Britten-Jones, who promises to allow her the freedom she craves and even encourages her in her dream to establish a chocolate-making business.  With his family connections in the railway which transports chocolate from Rowntrees chocolate factory, Matthew enables her to be introduced to the management and taken on a factory tour.

They agree to take Alex on as a factory tour leader but before that, she get as a day working in the Chocolate Tin Room, where special tins of chocolate are being packed for sending to the troops in France. At the end of the morning packing tins Alex picked up a pencil and a scrap of paper and “scrawled a quick message. Come home safely. With love, Kitty” and placed the note in a tin. The author takes the reader to France where the note is found, and so begins and intriguing search for the writer of the note.

I loved this book, it is a real page-turner and anyone who enjoys a family saga with a strong female character will find the book a great read. It has a good balance of history and romance blended with some controversial secrets and mystery, all ingredients for a stimulating read.

Fiona McIntosh has written a number of books and her meticulous research into the story background has seen her become one of Australia’s most popular modern writers. In her acknowledgments at the rear of the book McIntosh thanks the historians who worked with her in York and also the battlefields in France helping her to “get the sense of place right for this book”.

Reviewed by Lesley McIntosh

The Chocolate Tin
by Fiona McIntosh
Published by Michael Joseph
ISBN 9780143797067

Book Review: Trinity, by Conn Iggulden

Available in bookstores nationwide.cv_trinity

Conn Iggulden is a best-selling author of historical fiction, with previous works covering Ancient Rome and Mongolia, as well as the Dangerous Books for Boys series.

Trinity is the second of a trilogy of books covering the Wars of the Roses, when the English noble families were at war with each other: from the ascension of Henry VI in 1422 to the more-or-less resolution with the crowning of Henry VII in 1485. It is a fascinating and complex period of English history, with strong characters and twists and turns of fortune. The Wars of the Roses has been fertile ground for historical fiction writers, with a list of authors as long as your arm; the period might be most familiar to some New Zealanders after the broadcast of the TV series The White Queen last year, which was based on three novels by Philippa Gregory, although events in Trinity predate those in The White Queen.

Starting in 1454, the novel picks up with Henry VI ill with some sort of catatonic sickness, his French queen Margaret of Anjou trying to protect her husband and her son, and the Duke of York and his cousins the Earls of Salisbury and Warwick (the Trinity of the title) ruling the country. These are the main players, along with a fictional character, spymaster Derry Brewer.

A good historical novel needs to be thoroughly researched, and Trinity (and the first book in the trilogy, Stormbird, which I recommend you read first) most certainly are. Because the major events are generally a matter of public record, the author needs to come up with some sort of hook to keep the reader interested. Iggulden does a great job of keeping the pace moving, not getting bogged down in minutiae, and presenting multiple viewpoints. Many authors and historians present Margaret of Anjou as unsympathetic, and it is refreshing to read Iggulden’s Margaret as a woman who is motivated by protecting her husband’s birthright, rather than a power-crazed harpy. Iggulden interestingly presents Richard, Duke of York, as a loyal supporter of the King, who is pushed by his relatives and circumstance into fateful rebellion.

The only criticism that I have, is that the trade paperback review copy is lacking in family trees and also a couple of maps (these are less crucial than the family trees) which are present in my local library’s hardcopy. The family trees are essential for anyone trying to follow the tangled web of who is related to who, and how, and what the various competing claims to the throne are (these are legion). Given that the paperback has 14 blank pages at the end of the book, I cannot see why the publishers chose to leave these out –perhaps this has been rectified in future editions.

Don’t let that stop you reading the book though – the relevant family trees are easy to find online if you want them for reference, even if the hard copy versions are specifically presented to fit the characters and conflicts within the book. Trinity is a well-written, absorbing page turner, making a murky and convoluted period of British history much more accessible. Enjoyable, and highly recommended (but do read Stormbird first).

Reviewed by Rachel Moore

War of the Roses: Trinity
by Conn Iggulden
Published by Michael Joseph Ltd
ISBN 9780718159863

Book review: Tuesday’s Gone by Nicci French

This book is in bookstores now.

I have one isssue with Nikki French*’s Tuesday’s Gone – it is the second of a planned FRIEDA KLEIN series, and I have not yet read the first!
Of course I thoroughly enjoyed the complexity of this mystery ‘slash’ thriller. Every thriller needs a ‘good’ villain – and Nikki French has created many within the pages of this gripping novel.

Psychotherapist Frieda becomes involved in assisting – sometimes at her own insistence – a police investigation involving a harmles but seemingly dangerous woman with a predilection for regarding inanimate belongings she has collected (including a corpse) as friends, which includes serving the corpse tea and sticky buns. Frieda, in talking to the deranged Michelle, realises she has nothing to do with the corpse’s demise, but police working under constraints from “upstairs” close the case, with Michelle regarded as guilty but insane and unchargable.

A police ‘management consultant’ raises the spectre of budget cuts. Young police officers resent her presence as a consultant on the team. Frieda is judged by her professional psychiatric seniors for meddling in a diagnosis and in police work. She becomes an ongoing feature for a newspaper, drawing unwelcome attention both to herself and to the police handling of the case.

The investigation is a chase to find the corpse’s identity, the motive for his killling and mutilation and the people who he interacted with before his death. During the hunt for leads, an old case of Frieda’s raises its head. The investigation is permitted to continue, with limits on Frieda’s access to information.

We encounter a strange young girl living alone, deserted, on a barge, fearfully following the instructions of the crazed captor who has left her alone. Somewhere out there is a superbly clever and evil conman. The conman’s success is the result of grooming his victims, by sharing their interests, or assisting with work. More people – and their money – go missing and turn up dead. The link is the mouldering corpse Michelle was looking after, whose identity is revealed as fraudulent. Just when they have a name, it is revealed to belong to someone else, also missing assumed dead.

Frieda realises her evidence links old crimes and this new gruesome crime. Now she too feels the pressure of nightmares and the burden of the case. Her friends see her becoming too involved, but accept her resolve to continue on behalf of Michelle and other victims.

Frieda’s knowledge of the human psyche helps her ‘spot’ clues missed by police crime scene investigators obsessed with courtrooom usable sampling, photography and collected samples. Frieda sees patterns in the lives of the victims, and therefore notices where a pattern has been disrupted. By seeking reasons for these changes, she learns more useful information than fingerprints or blood stains alone.

Thus she contributes to the solving of the case – and the indictment of the villains – which, by the way, are ‘good’ villains: – i.e. as Nikki French has defined them they are utterly believable, not unreasonably able to blend into general society, and therefore really spooky!

*Pseudonym of partnership Nikki GERRARD and Sean FRENCH.

Reviewed by Lynne McAnulty-Street

Tuesday’s Gone
 by Nicci French
Published by Penguin, Michael Joseph imprint
ISBN: 9780718156961