Anne Bonny mini #BookReview The Deserter’s Daughter by @SusannaBavin #NewRelease #Historical #Saga #ww1 @AllisonandBusby Can she escape the burden of her past?

The Deserter’s Daughter by Susanna Bevin
Review copy

1920, Chorlton, Manchester. As her wedding day draws near, Carrie Jenkins is trying on her dress and eagerly anticipating becoming Mrs Billy Shipton. But all too soon she is reeling from the news that her beloved father was shot for desertion during the Great War. When Carrie is jilted and the close-knit community turns its back on her as well as her mother and her half-sister, Evadne, the plans Carrie nurtured are in disarray.

Desperate to overcome private shock and public humiliation, and with her mother also gravely ill, Carrie accepts the unsettling advances of well-to-do furniture dealer Ralph Armstrong. Through Ralph, Evadne meets the aristocratic Alex Larter, who seems to be the answer to her matrimonial ambitions as well. But both sisters put their faith in men who are not to be trusted, and they will face danger and heartache before they can find the happiness they deserve.

My Mini Review:

The novel is set in 1920 Manchester, with our protagonist Carrie Jenkins a soon-to-be bride. She lives with her jealous sister Evadne and grieving mother. In the opening scenes Father Kelly; the local Catholic priest visits and reveals a devastating secret to the girls. One that will leave them in a cloud of shame.

‘You defied God himself rather than face the shame of your husband being shot at dawn for desertion’ – Father Kelly

The mother’s long-held secret is then exposed to not only her daughters but the entire local community. Their father was court marshalled and executed on the battlefields of ww1.

Carrie thinks that she may find some solace in the arms of her love Billy Shipton. But Ma Shipton, upon hearing the shocking news soon puts an end to any planning nuptials. The Shipton’s don’t wish to be associated with the scandal of marrying into the family of a deserter. Carrie is now alone more than ever, and she harbours a secret of her own.

The women are tested beyond belief, when they lose their employment. They are ostracised from their community, a community that longs to see them in ruin.

In the background there is a spin-off theme of the doctors working to understand ‘mind-horror’. I felt this was a fascinating thread as we still know so little about PTSD and battle fatigue.

This novel has much more of a historical fiction feel to it than a saga. It lacks the warmth of the characters in a saga novel and the local northern dialect. But with that being said, the family is one in turmoil.

A personal story of a ww1 deserter and the family he left behind. 4*

Susanne Bavin

Anne Bonny #BlogTour #GuestPost – Class Structure. Tapestry Of War by @JaneFMackenzie #HistoricalFiction #ww2Fiction #NewRelease @AllisonandBusby

tapestry of war
Tapestry Of War by Jane MacKenzie

From the deserts of North Africa, to the waters of Scotland, the Second World War touches the lives of two women from two very different worlds. In Alexandria, Fran finds her world turned upside down as Rommel’s forces advance on the idyllic shores of Egypt. The life of luxury and stability that she is used to is taken away as she finds herself having to deal with loss, heartache and political uncertainty. Meanwhile, in the Firth of Clyde, Catriona struggles between her quiet rural life and her dreams of nursing injured servicemen on the front lines. As the war rages on, the two women’s lives become intertwined – bringing love and friendship to both.

Guest Post:

I have dedicated this book to the myriad people whose lives and endeavours threaded together, weaving victory into the tapestry of war. The second world war threw people from different nations, cultures and classes together in a way no previous war had done. They worked together, challenged each other, and prised open long established social structures and beliefs. It was no accident that the general election directly after the end of the second world war swept the war hero Winston Churchill out of office and gave a landslide victory to the Labour party. The people who emerged from World War Two wanted a different world.

Setting Tapestry of War in two such contrasting locations as Alexandria in Egypt and rural Scotland allowed me to insert a spyglass into that social upheaval. My characters in Alexandria are wealthy colonials with servants and grand homes, living a life of tennis parties and cocktails. But into their world come fighting men with completely different values, Australian troops who despise the British class system and invade bars supposedly reserved for officers, Indian troops who make it clear that they are not fighting this war to preserve the Empire, people from all over the globe who want to defeat Hitler, but not to preserve the old British order.

My sober naval officer Jim MacNeill comes from simple, quiet-living, industrious Highland stock. He doesn’t want to get drawn into what he sees as the frivolous social whirl of Alexandria, but he does. And in spite of himself he becomes entangled with a woman from that social circle. Jim and Fran’s relationship challenges them both, but Fran is a journalist. She too can see that the old order is on its way out, and she can see the damage being done by the narrow-minded arrogance of the old British colonial mentality.

Back at home in Scotland Jim’s sister Catriona is living a very different war, nursing injured servicemen and looking after her father. But for people at home too the world is turned upside down by the war. Women like Catriona are entering into new fields of work, mixing with American, French, Polish servicemen, left-wing conscientious objectors who build ships for the war instead, a whole melting-pot of people of every social background whose experiences will forever change them after the war. Their parents had lived grimly through the Great Depression, had known and never changed their social order, had done as they were told. But now, as World War Two reaches its end, those who have given their all want a better future.

Tapestry of War isn’t a deliberately ‘social’ novel. Indeed, I hope it is a very human one. But you can’t write about World War Two without witnessing the fascinating changes it helped bring about. It was a melting-pot. And when you melt things they never take quite the same shape again.

Jane MacKenzie

***Don’t miss the other bloggers on the blog tour***
Especially my blogger buddy for the day, Love Books Group.
Tour Stops


Anne Bonny #BookReview The Magpie Tree by @K_Stansfield 5* #HistoricalFiction #Cornwall #Witches #MissingChild #NewRelease @AllisonandBusby 1844 Jamaica Inn, Witches, gossip and a missing child!

The Magpie Tree by Katherine Stansfield
Cornish Mysteries #2

Review copy

Jamaica Inn, 1844: the talk is of witches. A boy has vanished in the woods of Trethevy on the North Cornish coast, and a reward is offered for his return. Shilly has had enough of such dark doings, but her new companion, the woman who calls herself Anna Drake, insists they investigate. Anna wants to open a detective agency, and the reward would fund it. They soon learn of a mysterious pair of strangers who have likely taken the boy, and of Saint Nectan who, legend has it, kept safe the people of the woods. As Shilly and Anna seek the missing child, the case takes another turn – murder. Something is stirring in the woods and old sins have come home to roost.

My Review:

1844 Jamaica Inn, Witches, gossip and a missing child!

‘The day I went to the Jamaica Inn was the day I saw a man hanged’

Right from the opening line, the author sets the scene and the era perfectly. Rumours of local witches and their involvement in a missing child case are rife. A community in fear and two sleuths are on the case. . . .

Shilly and Anna Drake have a desire to set up their own detective agency. But with a lack of funds to do so, their plans haven’t come to fruition. That is until they hear Sir Vivian Orton has offered a reward in the case of the missing child. The women set of on a journey to Trethevy, unaware of what awaits.

Along the journey the women debate the subject of witches, the danger it poses in the persecution of women. They know this case will be far from easy. Small town gossip spreads and has the whole community quickly gripped in fear.

Sir Vivian Orton’s wife (Lady phoebe) is heavily pregnant and this impedes their investigation, they are unable to question her. The missing boy, Paul Hakell also has a twin named Peter. The ladies begin their efforts by organising a search of the local tunnels and mineshafts. Then they are made aware of the local legend of Saint Nectan, protector of children!

Shilly and Anna are an unusual pairing, they are eccentric yet sensible. They each have very different personalities, but they complement each other very well. As the plot unravels their relationship progresses and you have a greater understanding of who they are and the lives that shaped them.

Local man, Simon Proctor claims to have seen the missing boy, near the location of a cottage. A cottage that has two sisters in residence. The locals remark that they often conversate in the ‘devils language’. Which the women quickly recognise as German. It is clear to see, how a miscommunication, in a small-minded community. Can grow into a fear mongering rumour that spreads.
The women have their work cut out in the small village of Trethevy.

Shillly and Anna agree to approach the sisters (with caution) and learn more about who they are and where they come from.
What they learn, will slowly help them unravel the case.

I really enjoyed the prose of this novel, it reminded me of the novel, Himself by Jess Kidd. With its odd characters and similar writing style. Every new development in the case adds more mystery and intrigue. The women quickly learn they can’t trust anyone around them and this makes for a great suspenseful read!

The novel has a very clever ending that reads right up to the very last page.
I look forward to future novels in the series. 5*

Katherine Stansfield

#1 in the Cornish Mysteries series:
Falling Creatures by Katherine Stansfield

1844. A brutal murder rocks Victorian Cornwall. In a place where the dead lie uneasy in their graves, to find a murderer a young woman must first learn who she can trust.

I had loved her, though she was cruel, though she was sly. She and I were just as the rest of the world – creatures falling, creatures failing.

Cornwall, 1844. On a lonely moorland farm not far from Jamaica Inn, farmhand Shilly finds love in the arms of Charlotte Dymond. But Charlotte has many secrets, possessing powers that cause both good and ill. When she’s found on the moor with her throat cut, Shilly is determined to find out who is responsible, and so is the stranger calling himself Mr Williams who asks for Shilly’s help. Mr Williams has secrets too, and Shilly is thrown into the bewildering new world of modern detection.

#CharacterProfile Serjeant Catchpoll Marked To Die by Sarah Hawkswood @bradecote @AllisonandBusby #HistoricalFiction #Mystery

Marked To Die by Sarah Hawkswood 
A Bradecote and Catchpoll mystery
October 1143. His task dispatched, a mysterious archer melts back into the forest leaving a pile of corpses in his wake. The lord Sheriff of Worcester cannot ignore such a brazen attack on the salt road from Wich, nor the death of a nobleman in the wrong place at the wrong time. And so Hugh Bradecote and Serjeant Catchpoll are dispatched to hunt an elusive killer and his gang, and put a stop to the mounting attacks.

But it is not easy to get the culprits in their sights with a reeve keen to keep his position at all costs, a lord with his own ends to serve and a distrusting and vengeful widow to whom Bradecote is increasingly attracted.

Character profile:

I never wanted my detectives to be flawless, or Holmesian in their ability to solve the crimes placed before them. What is important is that they are human, and also men of their time. In fact Catchpoll is very much a ‘proto-copper’ in the mould of Terry Pratchett’s Sam Vimes. I always think ‘Vimesy’ and Catchpoll would understand each other perfectly, and have an equal disregard for the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. They both fight dirty, have a deep sense of justice, and side with justice over the Law, which are not always totally in agreement. Both also know the power of creating their own myth, though neither would phrase it in that way.

Catchpoll, in terms of looks, has always been one man to me, taken from an image in a newspaper way back when the idea of the series formed in my head, and I saw a black and white portrait in a newspaper of the actor about to play a leading role at the RSC. I knew instantly ‘he’ was Catchpoll, from the gash of a mouth as a grim line in the grizzled stubble to the hard eyes with the deep crow’s feet at their corners, and the straggling, untrimmed hair. When I write him I see him as that every moment, and since Matt Addis has brought his voice to life in the audiobooks of the first two novels, I can hear the Worcestershire accent in every word. When it comes to the actual character of the man, he is in part someone I have known all my life. I am the product of three generations of Royal Marines senior NCOs, and, as some reviewers have noted, Catchpoll is your classic senior NCO. I drew heavily on my father’s pragmatism, practicality, and humanity. Catchpoll fulfils what he knows the people of Worcester expect the Sheriff’s Sergeant to be, unflappable, sometimes omniscient, tough and intolerant of fools. His view is that the criminals have to know that however mean and clever bastards they think themselves, Serjeant Catchpoll is for certain a meaner and cleverer one. He actively encourages this belief as a deterrence to crime in ‘his’ Worcester.

Thus Catchpoll seems as hard as nails, and prefers to be seen that way, but some things get through to his inner softness, which he then rushes to conceal. He is inclined to be tetchy, is always cynical, frequently insubordinate, and he has an inordinate and apparently illogical dislike of the Welsh, though that is explained in the sixth book in the series. He also talks to corpses, not in a ghoulish way, but because he is in essence ‘interviewing’ them as he would someone who could speak, and by asking the questions that their physical condition can answer, he finds it easier to see and store the information gleaned.

His relationship with Hugh Bradecote, the new Undersheriff, is one that develops gradually, from antipathy to grudging acceptance and then respect and trust. It had to be an arc, and a natural one at that, not some ‘buddy cop’ scenario. It has to be remembered also that outside of the important crimes, or crimes involving important people, he works alone, though he has now got Walkelin as his ‘serjeanting apprentice’, and imparting his knowledge to his protégé is something he quietly enjoys, though he would not tell Walkelin that. It also saves his creaky knees, of which he often complains.

Solving murder would not be an easy task in the twelfth century, and in reality the ‘cases’ where killers were caught were those where a community hue and cry brought in the perpetrator, not the Sheriff’s men hunting for clues. Having ‘detectives’ is an invention, but then the mediaeval murder mystery as a genre has to have them in some form. It would be a world where every piece of information and evidence has to be stored in memory, rather than annotated in a notebook, and the detective’s almost sole asset would be his ability to observe with all the senses and ‘read’ his fellow man. Both attributes are as useful to the modern detective too, of course, but now there are written statements, evidence bags, SOCOs etc. Sometimes Bradecote and Catchpoll make errors in their mental filing, forget something, give it too much value or not enough. I think it important that they can do that, and if the reader works out who did it before they do I do not think it matters. What is important is enjoying taking their journey to the solving of the crime. I certainly enjoy working with them.

Sarah Hawkswood

My #Review of, The Last Time We Spoke by @FionaSussman 5* Genius @AllisonandBusby #LiteraryFiction by @annebonnybook

I received a copy of this novel via the publisher, in return for an honest review

The Last Time We Spoke by Fiona Sussman

Winner of the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel
‘A gripping story about grief and redemption’ Sunday Mirror

Carla and Kevin Reid are celebrating their wedding anniversary with their son Jack. The family together, some good food, a perfect night.

On a murderous collision course with this joyous yet fragile gathering, is Ben Toroa, an unexpected and unwanted visitor.

As Carla struggles to come to terms with the aftermath of the appalling events of the night, and Ben faces the consequences in prison, their stories will be for ever entwined.

My review:
The novel opens right in the very ‘Beginnings’, as it’s titled. In 1989 when a young Carla Reid learns of her pregnancy. She is elated at the news and the introduction ends with the simplistic but heartfelt news of, “I’m going to be a mother!”.

Two years later in the same town, another woman learns that she is pregnant. Miriama gives birth to a son, Benjamin Joel. But baby Benjamin, is destined to a life of exposure to drugs, parties and domestic violence. A childhood no one would ask for……..

Carla (16 years later) is celebrating her 27th wedding anniversary to husband Kevin. The live on an isolated diary farm and live a wholesome life. With Carla referencing the Sunday sermon ‘Their son has been lent to then; a daughter was for keeps’. This momentarily brings tears to her eyes, as she recalls the daughter Gabby, that she lost. Watching her son grow from a boy to a young man, has become the start of a new beginning for the family.
That is until an intruder comes knocking on their door……

Carla awakens the morning after, the night of the attack. She has been sexually assaulted, physically beaten and dreads the discovery of what has happened to her husband and son. When farm hand dairy hands Rangi and Rebecca arrive at the house. They are unaware, they are walking into a crime scene, of a brutal murder.

Ben and ZZ aka Tate, make off from the intrusion with little money, guilt or remorse. They think they are hardened members of the DOA’s. They casually talk of drugs and the violence they so easily meted out.
But when Ben returns home to his siblings Anika, Lily, Brooke and Cody. We see a different side of Ben. A young man forced to grow up way before his time and exposed to the regular beatings/violence of his mother’s on/off lovers. He takes care of his toddler sister Lily, bathing her after she soiled herself. His brother Cody has learning difficulties due to being born with foetal alcohol syndrome. Ben becomes their shield against the violent and chaotic household; meaning he faces the greatest wrath of his mother’s various ‘lovers’.

Carla attends the funeral of her son. Her husband still lying in a medically induced coma, due to the severity of his injuries. She is faced with loneliness, isolation and the psychological impact of the night’s attack.
When Kevin is finally discharged, it becomes clear he is no longer the man he once was. He now remains severely disabled from the attack and relies upon Carla to maintain his care needs. Leaving an emotional and distant Carla, to face up to the aftermath of the attack alone. When two suspects are arrested, and DNA confirms their involvement. Carla hopes she may get the closure she so desperately longs for.

Ben pleads guilty to the attack. He is transferred to a transit prison and then after sentencing to one of the toughest maximum-security jails.
But for Ben the journey of this novel, does not end there. Before the novel ends, Ben will face up to not only the horrors he has inflicted upon the Reid family. But also, the repercussions of his absence, on his mother and siblings.

Local journalist Mike Adams, wants to write a feature on Ben’s crimes. But after meeting with Ben’s mother and witnessing the abject poverty and chaos of the household; staring into his mother’s apathetic eyes. He decides such a story would serve no purpose to the local community.

“Poverty swallows everything. God, culture, community, hope”

When Ben’s first parole hearing comes up. This offers both Carla and Ben the chance at ‘restorative justice’. A chance for them both to find a way to come to terms with the aftermath of that fateful night’s attack. What follows, is for the individual reader to explore.
It is an incredible story of redemption, understanding and healing! Carla is written so well, she reads like a real person. A survivor’s story, in autobiography format. Carla is an amazing woman of boundless strength and for whom, I have great admiration.

This is simply an outstanding novel and I look forward to reading more by the author.
5* Genius!

Fiona Sussman
Twitter: @FionaSussman