I have met Myra Duffy on several occasions and always enjoyed her company but somehow had never read any of her novels, so when my friend Chris gave me The House at Ettrick Bay as a gift, I was delighted to be able to put that right.
As expected the story is set in and around Ettrick Bay on the Isle of Bute. Bute, is an island in the Firth of Clyde in Scotland, United Kingdom. It is divided into highland and lowland areas by the Highland Boundary Fault. Formerly a constituent island of the larger County of Bute, it is now part of the council area of Argyll and Bute. It is a beautiful part of the world and the vivid descriptions do it justice.
The story is a cosy crime about a teacher, Susie, who inherits a large house on the island of Bute but as she is working in the USA her close friends, Alison and Simon agree to look over the property for her.
However, after several unexplained ‘accidents’ Alison realises someone is not happy Susie is the new owner of Ettrick House. An archaeological dig near the house leads to an unexpected discovery and it appears Susie is not the only claimant to Ettrick House. When the next ‘accident’ turns out to be murder, Alison knows she and Susie are in danger. Other people on the island have an interest in Ettrick House -and one of them is prepared to kill.
The House at Ettrick Bay falls nicely into the cosy crime category, It is quite tense in places and the voices of the different characters are well distinguished. So much so that I took an active dislike to Simon whom I found belittled Alison regularly. This is an excellent read and would suit book groups well as there are many issues that could make for lively discussion.
Myra Duffy started writing at a very early age, both fiction and non-fiction. She now concentrates on fiction and although she still writes short stories and poetry, prefers to focus on novels, mainly cosy crime. ‘When Old Ghosts Meet’ was published in 2009, ‘The House at Ettrick Bay’ in 2010 and ‘Last Ferry to Bute’ in 2011.
The Lewis Man is the second book in Peter May’s acclaimed Lewis Trilogy. I found it for sale in a charity booksale and chose it because I enjoyed the first book in the series, The Blackhouse, so much.
The story finds Fin return to Lewis after the death of his son and the collapse of his marriage. He has left the police force and returns to the place with which he feels the strongest connection.
The local force investigate when a body is recovered from a peat bog on the Isle of Lewis. The male Caucasian corpse is initially believed by its finders to be over 2000 years old, until they spot the Elvis tattoo on his right arm. The body, it transpires, is not evidence of an ancient ritual killing, but of a murder committed during the latter half of the 20th century.
The reader follows the investigations and also the rambling thoughts of a local man, Tormod Macdonald, who is suffering from dementia. The juxtaposition of the two is brilliant and affords the author many occasions to misdirect the reader.
Peter May is a clever author who well commands his place in the proponants of tartan noir. He must never be unerestimated. This would be an excellent book group read. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and look forward to reading the third novel in the trilogy in due course.
The ghost story, The Greatcoat by Helen Dunmore was book of the month in my book group. We had not read a ghost story for a while so everybody was looking forward to this one.
The Greatcoat is set just after World War II, in the summer of 1954, newly wed Isabel Carey arrives in a Yorkshire town with her husband Philip. As a GP he spends much of his time working, while Isabel tries hard to adjust to the realities of married life. Life is not easy: she feels out-of-place and constantly judged by the people around her, so she spends much of her time alone.
One cold winter night, Isabel finds an old RAF greatcoat in the back of a cupboard that she uses to help keep warm. Once wrapped in the coat she is beset by dreams. And not long afterwards, while her husband is out, she is startled to hear a knock at her window, and to meet for the first time the intense gaze of a young Air Force pilot, handsome, blond and blue-eyed, staring in at her from outside.
His name is Alec, and his powerfully haunting presence both disturbs and excites Isabel. Her initial alarm soon fades, and they begin a delicious affair. But nothing could have prepared her for the truth about Alec’s life, nor the impact it will have on her own marriage.
Although it is a ghost story, The Greatcoat is not in the slightest bit scary and this was a disappointment. Also Dunmore writes so simplisticly, it was almost as if this were a crossover novel. I also felt a little disappointed with the ending it just felt a bit abrupt and sudden for me.
I was disappointed in The Greatcoat and would not look out for another book by this author, but neither would I avoid it.
Few Scottish authors have matched the quality and quantity of novels produced by Alex Gray over the years. I have read many of the books in her DCI Lorimer series, but rarely in order. This rarely matters because most of her novels work well as stand alones. Keep the Midnight Out is no exception.
Keep the Midnight Out is the twelfth novel in Gray’s long running DCI Lorimer series and it is, unsurprisingly, beautifully written. The book starts with an exciting and gruesome scene when poachers gather more than they expect when the body of a red-headed young man is caught in their nets.
Lorimer and his wife are on vacation on the Isle of Mull. Therefore the readers get a taste of a different part of Scotland. And since Lorimer is on vacation, someone else is in charge of the investigation. DI Stevie Crozier is a woman with a chip on her shoulder.
Gray has the ability to weave much about Lorimer and his wife, Maggie, into the ongoing police investigation. That results in a good balance of character development and plot progression. Gray also includes a good amount of description, characteristic of Scottish crime thrillers.
The mystery is a good one too, dealing with sexual preferences and how parents deal with something they don’t understand. There are several red herrings that make trying to figure out the villain a good challenge.
The only point I found difficulty with are flashbacks to a twenty year old case, an early one of Lorimer’s and how the author explains that this may have relevance to the current case. The flash backs are well done and includes how Lorimer and Rosie Fergusson came to know each other but some of the co-incidences, for me, were a bit of a stretch. However, on the plus side the reader gets to know Lorimer and his wife better in Keep the Midnight Out.
I recommend this book to thriller and mystery readers who enjoy a well crafted novel with a good balance of description, character development, and plot progression. It would make a good read for a book club. My reservations are far outweighed by the quality of Gray’s story telling.
Alex Gray is a Scottish crime writer who was born and educated in Glasgow. She worked as a folk singer, a visiting officer in the DSS and an English teacher. She has been awarded the Scottish Association of Writers Constable and Pitlochry trophies for her crime writing.
Angela Marsons was a new author to me, although I had heard a lot about her novels and they were highly commended. I’ll be honest, I chose Evil Games because it was on sale. It transpires this is the second book in her DI Kim Stone series, but it really doesn’t matter because this works perfectly well as a standalone novel.
In Evil Games a rapist is found mutilated in a brutal attack, Detective Kim Stone and her team are called in to bring a swift resolution. However, more vengeful killings come to light and it becomes clear that there is someone far more sinister at work.
The investigations are quickly gathering momentum, and the novel becomes increasingly tense and dark. There were parts that even I, as a crime novel officiando found too dark. The character of DI Kim Stone also reminded me a bit of MJ Arlidge’s Detective Helen Grace, so it all felt a bit derivative. Any way, Stone finds herself exposed to great danger and in the sights of a lethal individual undertaking their own wicked experiment. She is up against a sociopath who seems to know her every weakness, each move she makes could be deadly. As the body count starts to mount, Stone must dig deep to stop the killing spree.
The reader learns more about Stone’s childhood; she starts opening up, just slightly, to her friend Bryant – and she acquires a dog. There are some tight well-written climactic scenes. I would probably read another book in this series, but I wouldn’t shuffle my TBR pile to get it to the top.
Angela is the author of the Kim Stone Crime series. She discovered a love of writing at Primary School when a short piece on the rocks and the sea gained her the only merit point she ever got.
Angela wrote the stories that burned inside and then stored them safely in a desk drawer.
After much urging from her partner she began to enter short story competitions in Writer’s News resulting in a win and three short listed entries. The rest, is history!
In America is the third novel in Nina Romano’s award winning series, the Wayfarer Trilogy. I enjoyed the first two novels, The Secret Language of Women and Lemon Blossoms and was looking forward to reading the final book. In America did not disappoint.
In America tells the conclusion of the Scimenti family saga. It takes place in Brooklyn, N.Y. during the Great Depression. I enjoyed revisiting Giacomo and his experiences of life in America.
The strong willed Marcella, who has always wanted to be a singer in Hollywood. As she comes of age, true love comes into play. Marcella must learn to balance new friendships, promising suitors, and life as a modern working girl with the expectations of her tradition-bound family, all against the backdrop of a looming economic depression and a changing world. Along the way, she unearths a devastating family secret that shakes her to her core and tests the boundaries of her love, loyalty, and faith.
As in all Romano’s novels, the prose is wonderfully written and so very descriptive. The description of wonderful Italian dishes make your mouth water as you read. I highly recommend that you read this wonderful trilogy.
Nina Romano earned a B.S. from Ithaca College an M. A. from Adelphi University and a B. A. and M.F.A. in Creative Writing from FIU. She’s a world traveler and lover of history. She lived in Rome, Italy, for twenty years, and is fluent in Italian and Spanish. She authored a short story collection, The Other Side of the Gates, five poetry collections, and two poetry chapbooks. Her most recent collection, Westward: Guided by Starfalls and Moonbows, was published from LLC Red Dashboard. She co-authored, Writing in a Changing World from Bridle Path Press. Romano has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize.