Anne Bonny #BookReview The House On Half Moon Street by @storyjoy Alex Reeve 5* #HistoricalFiction #CrimeFiction #NewRelease @BloomsburyRaven #LeoStanhope #Series Everyone has a secret… Only some lead to murder

The House On Half Moon Street by Alex Reeve
Review copy – netgalley

Everyone has a secret… Only some lead to murder. Introducing Leo Stanhope: a Victorian transgender coroner’s assistant who must uncover a killer without risking his own future

Leo Stanhope. Avid chess player; assistant to a London coroner; in love with Maria; and hiding a very big secret.

For Leo was born Charlotte, the daughter of a respectable reverend. But knowing he was meant to be a man – despite the evidence of his body – and unable to cope with living a lie any longer, he fled his family home at just fifteen and has been living as Leo: his secret known to only a few trusted people. But then Maria is found dead and Leo is accused of her murder. Desperate to find her killer and under suspicion from all those around him, he stands to lose not just the woman he loves, but his freedom and, ultimately, his life.

A wonderfully atmospheric debut, rich in character and setting, in The House on Half Moon Street Alex Reeve has created a world that crime readers will want to return to again and again

My Review:

The House On Half Moon Street is a debut novel and #1 in the Leo Stanhope series. This series is set in Victorian London 1880. What makes this historical crime fiction novel so unique, is that Leo was born female. Now, this is not to be confused with Leo masquerading as a male in-order to pursue a career. As did occur within the historical era, due to the opportunities and privileges not afforded to women. Leo truly is transgender, he fully believes he was born in the wrong body. He made the decision to live as a man in his teens and fled his religious upbringing to pursue life, living as he truly believes he is. A man.

‘I’d rather be dead than be Lottie Pritchard’ – Leo

The novel opens at the coroner’s officer of Mr Hurst, an ironic surname, I’ll give you that much! But Leo is assisting with the autopsy of a young man, named Jack flowers. His death is ruled an accident, likely alcohol induced.
This opening gives you an insight into the way Leo’s mind works and how he has an instinct similar to a detective. He is inquisitive and asks questions.

Leo lives above a pharmacy in Soho, with a widowed landlord Alfie and his young daughter Constance. Their lives are plagued by poverty and living on the fringes of the workhouse. I felt this additional information about background characters really added to the historical feel of the novel.
You can’t escape the Victorian London smog, poverty and whole feel to the novel.

It isn’t long until we are through the doors of Elizabeth Brafton’s Brothel, on Half Moon Street. Where Leo meets with Maria every week for a 2hr appointment. Only on this occasion he asks Maria on a date, to the opera, the coming Saturday at 2pm.

“I love you, my Leo” – Maria
‘It was me she loved’ – Leo

On Thursday Leo attends his usual chess club meeting with friend and confidant Jacob. Jacob is distrustful of Maria and warns Leo of the dangers of trusting or falling for a woman like her. Due to his inebriated state, his warnings fall upon deaf ears.
For Leo is a man in love.

On Saturday Leo arrives at the opera and Maria is a no-show. Leaving a very sad and deflated Leo to watch the opera alone. When he arrives the next morning at work, it is to the discovery of a burglary. But what is there to steal in a mortuary? When the body for autopsy is wheeled in, Leo passes out! For the body on the slab, is non other than his beloved Maria. . . .

Leo can’t face work and takes several days off sick. He is roused from his grief when two police officers arrive to take him to the station. Leo begins to fear his secret will be uncovered. Detective Sgt Ripley tries to prise some facts from Leo, but it becomes evident Leo actually knows very little about Maria. After an eventful night in the cells, with Leo on the verge of confessing his sexuality.
He is finally released. But that doesn’t solve the mystery of who killed Maria?

Leo attends Maria’s funeral where he has to face some harsh truths. It is revealed that Maria told many lies to Leo, even her real-name. Maria’s fellow working girl Audrey attempts to offer some words of condolence and faith in Leo. But it is the mysterious Madame Louisa Moreau that grabs his interest. She offers Leo her card and gives the impression she may have more information.

‘Takes a man to do something like that, and you’re a woman underneath’ – Audrey

Due to missing so many days at work, Leo is demoted. He cares very little about this, as Maria’s murder torments his mind over and over again. He decides it is time to meet the elusive Madame Moreau. Louisa is a back-street abortionist. she openly challenges Leo on his decision to live as a man, which makes for intriguing conversation. Up until now, no one has challenged Leo on how he chooses to live his life. Mostly due to him living in near complete secrecy. I found Louisa fascinating, but the only information she holds is Maria may/may not have had a soldier as a lover, possibly an officer.

‘Why should I seem other than what I am?’ – Leo Stanhope

With little to go and no real authority to investigate. Leo must think on his feet, using his access to hospital records and ability to impersonate a police officer.
Leo pursues his own case, he is determined to reveal Maria’s killer.

There are various themes within this novel. The theme of gender roles in Victorian society, being transgender and being forced to live in secrecy. Also, the role of sex work in Victorian London, which many women did as a means to survive. There is a great twist at the end, that completely fooled me!
I am thoroughly impressed with the authors skills to weave a clever tale and look forward to the next instalment in the Leo Stanhope series.

Leo Stanhope is a brilliant protagonist and I personally think the series will thrive

Alex Reeve
The House On Half Moon Street was released yesterday!
Happy publication day Alex Reeve!

Anne Bonny #BlogTour #Author Q&A with Matthew Sullivan – Midnight At The Bright Ideas Bookstore #Literary #Mystery #NewRelease @arrowpublishing #BrightIdeasBookstore

Midnight At The Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan

What do you do when the life you’ve carefully built for yourself comes apart?

Lydia Smith lives a quiet life, spent in the company of her colleagues and customers at the bookstore where she works. But when Joey Molina, a young and mysterious regular, hangs himself in the bookstore and leaves Lydia secret messages hidden in the pages of his books, her world starts to unravel.

Why did Joey do it?

What did he know?

And what does it have to do with Lydia?

Q&A with Matthew Sullivan:

Q) For the readers, can you talk us through your background and the synopsis of your new novel?

A) I grew up in Denver in a pretty wild house with seven brothers and sisters. After moving to San Francisco for college, I spent a number of years bouncing around different states and countries (including living in England for a year), and was always a voracious reader and committed writer. Beginning in my twenties, after college, I spent a number of years working in independent bookstores, and those settings had such a strong impact on me that I eventually decided to try to capture them with fiction.

Enter Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore, a crime novel about a 30-year-old bookseller named Lydia who, as a little girl, was the only survivor of a horrifying attack. Those murders traumatize her and define her life for many years, until eventually she finds sanctuary in an urban bookstore. As the novel opens, whatever semblance of peace she has found is disrupted when her favorite “BookFrog,” a young bibliophile named Joey, hangs himself in the store. Lydia soon discovers that Joey has bequeathed her his collection of books—as well as the messages he has cryptically carved into their pages. As Lydia follows his messages, of course she is led right back to that awful childhood night.

Q) Can you talk us through the journey from idea to writing to publication?

A) In the early stages of this book, I knew I wanted to write a dark mystery that focused more on character development than anything else, and I knew I wanted to pay homage to independent bookstores. Lydia would see books and the bookstore as an escape from her past, as she had her whole life, but early on I wasn’t sure what specifically she’d be escaping from. And then, during the writing process, I found myself returning to a horrible crime that happened not far from my home in the suburbs of Denver when I was 13 years old: one snowy night, a man with a hammer broke into a house and attacked a family as they slept, killing three of them and leaving a toddler badly injured. This was in a new, quiet neighborhood, and even now, three decades later, the killer—The Hammerman—has never been caught. We were all terrified. It was a disturbing entrance into adulthood. These things have a way of sticking with us, working their way out, and for me that was through fiction.

I spent many years writing the novel, mainly because I was also raising kids and being a teacher and trying to find time to write whenever I could. Once I had a draft done and was lucky enough to be noticed by my current agent and editor, I still ended up rewriting this beast for several more years. It helped to have some great editorial guidance along the way.

Q) What are your favourite authors and recommended reads?

A) Where to even begin? Some recent favourite reads are Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere, Jane Harper’s The Dry, Ian McGuire’s The North Water, George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo, Colum McCann’s 13 Ways of Looking, Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, and Denis Johnson’s posthumous collection, The Largesse of the Sea Maiden.

In the literary-mystery genre, I’ve always been drawn to crime writing that pushes against expectations, such as Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy, Tana French’s Dublin Squad series, Jorge Luis Borges’ Labyrinths, Kate Atkinson’s Case Histories, and Jess Walter’s Over Tumbled Graves (and everything else he writes).

Q) What were your childhood/teenage favourite reads?

A) I loved the Encyclopedia Brown series and Judy Blume’s books, especially the Fudge books (Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Superfudge). A bit later it was S.E. Hinton’s books, such as The Outsiders and That Was Then, This Is Now, and I eventually made my way to Tom Robbins and Kurt Vonnegut and Flannery O’Connor, all of whom blew my mind.

Q) What has been your favourite moment of being a published author?

A) I’ve been very touched by the support people have given. You expect that from friends and family and the obligatory neighbor, but many, many other people—booksellers and students and childhood classmates—have really come out of the woodwork to support me and this story. They’ve been wonderful.

Q) Who has been your source of support/encouragement, throughout the writing process?

A) My vision for this book fell somewhere between an edgy contemporary mystery and a character-driven literary novel, so it has always run the risk of slipping between the two genres and disappearing. Despite that, from the start, my agent, Kirby Kim, was steadfast in his support, and steadfast in helping me stay true to my own vision of the book, even if in some ways it was different from a conventional mystery.

My most important ally, of course, has been my wife, Libby. We met over two decades ago while we were booksellers working together in the Children’s section of the Tattered Cover in Denver, and we’ve been together since. We still work together, too, at a community college in the rural Pacific Northwest. She’s a librarian there and I teach writing and literature. We try to keep our marriage on the lowdown at work, but plenty of students have seen the two of us around campus together. Their jaws sometimes drop when they realize that we’re a thing.

Matthew Sullivan *Credit Lucid Concepts

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