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

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

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
5*

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

Anne Bonny #BlogTour #BookReview Turn A Blind Eye by @VickyNewham 5* #CrimeFiction #NewRelease @HQstories @fictionpubteam #DIMayaRahman #Series #London A Dead Girl. A Wall Of Silence. . .

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Turn A Blind Eye by Vicky Newham
Review copy
Synopsis:

A dead girl.
A wall of silence.
DI Maya Rahman is running out of time.

A headmistress is found strangled in her East London school, her death the result of a brutal and ritualistic act of violence. Found at the scene is a single piece of card, written upon which is an ancient Buddhist precept:

I shall abstain from taking the ungiven.

At first, DI Maya Rahman can’t help but hope this is a tragic but isolated murder. Then, the second body is found.

Faced with a community steeped in secrets and prejudice, Maya must untangle the cryptic messages left at the crime scenes to solve the deadly riddle behind the murders – before the killer takes another victim.

Turn a Blind Eye is the first book in a brand-new series set in East London and starring DI Maya Rahman.

My Review:

DI Maya Rahman is a breath of fresh air, she brings a diverse edge to crime fiction and paints the picture of a truly modern London. I think the author has done an outstanding job, of covering various aspects of a diverse society. At times it is hard to believe this is a debut novel, as it is so incredibly well put together.

The first novel in the Maya series, centres around a case involving a strangled headmistress, in East London. The novel has added depth, by the bizarre and ritualistic elements attached to the case. Cryptic messages, prejudice and community secrets all play their part in making Maya’s case, a tough one to crack.

The novel opens at kala Uddin mosque in Bangladesh, December 2017. Maya is attending the funeral of her brother Sabbir.
We become aware he was burned alive in his flat. But are unsure why/how.
His death is an emotionally charged mystery, right from the opening pages.

‘Sabbir has endured a lifetime of anguish and was gone forever’

After returning to the UK, Maya quickly becomes aware of the case of the murdered head teacher. Fearing press intrusion and the investigation being turned into a sham. She agrees to return to work a day early from her leave.
Maya makes her way to the crime scene.

At the scene Suzie James, press nosey parker from the Stepney Gazette, is quick to fire off questions. Giving Maya little time to be brought up to speed. It would appear Maya was correct in her earlier predictions; the press is out for blood.

Maya is met by DS Maguire a new detective with the MET and a fast-tracked officer. His lack of experience shows, and it falls to Maya to show him the ropes. At the scene Dr Clark talks them through the victim’s presentation. The head teacher appears to have been strangled, it is a disorganised crime scene and she shows signs of defensive wounds. There are no signs of sexual assault and the motive for the attack is unknown. The head teacher has had her wrists bound, post death. The detectives are baffled as to why? It is at that point, they notice the ancient Buddhist precept left by the body.

‘Adinnadanna veramani sikkhapadam samadyani’
‘I shall abstain from taking the ungiven’

The cops interpret the note to mean that the victim may have taken something without any desire for thanks or for no benefit. But what/how/why? Remains a mystery.
Was the head teacher involved in some form of coercion, manipulation or exploitation? If so where is the evidence?

The head teacher presents as living the perfect life, prior to death. She had been a fundamental part of turning the failing Mile end high school around. She is well liked and respected in the community and worked well to unite the various cultures. Her husband is left so devastated at the news of her death, he has to be sedated.
Who wanted this woman dead and why?

‘People can be extremely good at keeping secrets when they need to be’

The novel has flashback scenes to Maya’s own school days. Coincidentally at Mile End high school. They give an insight into what it would have felt like to be part of a very small minority and referred to as ‘the Bangladeshi girl’. I think this added depth to Maya’s character and added to the whole theme of multiculturalism within the novel.

From further research into the Buddhist precepts, the police team learn that the one left by the victim, is the second precept! How do the precepts relate to the case and what do they mean?

1) I shall abstain from causing harm
2) I shall abstain from taking the ungiven
3) I shall abstain from sexual misconduct
4) I shall abstain from false speech
5) I shall abstain from all that clouds the mind

When the team learn that recently copious amounts of data had been being erased and they also learn the heads ex-husband is a Buddhist, the case really heats up! Everyone’s past will out in this investigation.

The novel is layered with the secrets of the past, I was hooked at reading them and found myself trying to read the book as quick as possible.
A diverse cast, a clever plot and set in the multicultural location of Tower Hamlets, London.
I look forward to the next in the series and wish the author all the best with the release of her debut novel. 5*

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Vicky Newham
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***Don’t miss the other fabulous bloggers on the blog tour***
Especially my blogger buddy for the day over at Live And Deadly
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Anne Bonny #BookReview Ike And Kay by James MacManus @jamesmac1x #HistoricalFiction #NewRelease #WW2Fiction @Duckbooks #Review

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Ike And Kay by James MacManus
Synopsis:

Highly acclaimed author and managing director of The Times Literary Supplement, James MacManus, creates a compelling historical novel that brings to life an unbelievable but true love story set during the Second World War.

In 1942, Cork-born Kay Summersby’s life is changed forever when she is tasked with driving General Eisenhower on his fact-finding visit to wartime London. Despite Eisenhower’s marriage to Mamie, the pair takes an immediate liking to one another and he gifts Kay a rare wartime luxury: a box of chocolates.

So begins a tumultuous relationship that against all military regulation sees Kay travelling with Eisenhower on missions to far flung places before the final assault on Nazi Germany. She becomes known as “Ike’s shadow” and in letters Mamie bemoans his new obsession with ‘Ireland’. That does not stop him from using his influence to grant Kay US citizenship and rank in the US army, drawing her closer when he returns to America. When the US authorities discover Eisenhower’s plans to divorce from his wife they threaten the fragile but passionate affair and Kay is forced to take desperate measures to hold onto the man she loves…

My review:

Ike And Kay is a fictionalised account of the love affair between General Eisenhower and his driver Kay Summersby. The novel is historically accurate and heavily based upon the authors in-depth research. I think the novel is fascinating on many levels. Eisenhower was a key figure in the allied victory over the Nazi’s. His personal life and that of his love life, is rarely discussed in modern fiction or historical articles, with the focus being solely on his military career. Who was Dwight Eisenhower? What drew him to Kay? What did a love affair within the ww2 era mean, once the war was over?

Rest assured the author has covered the timeline perfectly! Opening in May 1942, we are with Kay as she awaits her new General on the platform of Euston station. The scene is set with the smoke/fog of a wartime train station and right away, I knew this was going to be a fantastic read.

Kay Summersby is originally from Ireland. She is part of the (MTC) Motor Transport Corps and becomes Eisenhower’s driver just five months after Pearl Harbour, after he arrives in Britain. Kay has had a colourful love life in the years before she meets Eisenhower. Divorced at just 33yrs old, she has more or less given up on the idea of a ‘happy ever after’. Prior to working for the MTC, she was an ambulance driver around the docklands of London. Kay is a strong woman both physically and emotionally. She is lonely in London, with only one close friend Charlotte. But through the class divide of Britain they are not as close as two friends should be.

Then into her life walks Major General Eisenhower. . .

Eisenhower has the weight of the world literally, upon his shoulders. He must devise military strategy under the fear of the Nazi’s. In Britain with the task of pulling together the allied forces by order of the US president. Eisenhower has no time for love affairs. . . Or so you’d think. . .

‘If Moscow fell before the winter snows it would be Britain next’

The novel expands on Kay’s background, her divorce and previous love affairs. The novel also goes into detail about Eisenhower’s marriage to Mamie who remains in the USA. You really get the feel of the ww2 era and that this was an entirely unique era. Given the war and the constant threat of death that was upon all citizens. You can easily see how it fuelled many a love affair.

Eisenhower is promoted to Commander of European theatre of operations. He forms a military family which has its own internal hierarchy, which Kay is firmly part of. Aside from his military manoeuvres and love life the novel does also show his feelings and opinions towards the British and life in Britain.

‘Trouble with you Brits is everything is about class. Even the working class seem happy to be just that – lower than everyone else. They lack ambition. It’s pathetic’ – Eisenhower

Eisenhower takes up a weekend retreat called Telegram cottage, where he entertains many military leaders including Churchill. Suddenly Kay find herself mixing with the powerful and elite of British intelligence society. Her proximity to Eisenhower fails to go unnoticed. Even as far away as America. . .

‘Jealousy feeds on rumour and the rumours had certainly taken wings across the Atlantic’

With Mamie Eisenhower becoming aware of Kay and her closeness to her husband. Mamie begins to fear for her own future after the war, that and the future of her two young sons.
She expected to lose her husband to the army, but not to another woman.

Kay and Eisenhower travel to various locations on military pursuits, even as far as North Africa. They become closer and closer with each passing day. Kay even purchases a puppy for Eisenhower’s birthday, it isn’t long until influential figures in the military and intelligence are aware of the love affair taking place right under their noses.
They fall under the spell of peace and contentment at the cottage. With Kay finding comfort in the words of denial ‘This man would never love or need anyone more than the wife who waited for him jealously in Washington’ I felt this maybe a lie, Kay would come to regret.

In Washington, Mamie begins drinking far too much, struggling with the rumour mill of the fellow military wives and she fears her husband’s mistress is getting too close. Mamie is a woman on the edge. When she is approached to be part of an article titled ‘life with Ike’. This is a husband Mamie has hardly seen in two years. But keeping up appearances is important in the war.

Kay and Ike’s love affair continues, with regular breeches of regulations and Ike even buying her a fancy gun. Kay meets President Roosevelt and is elevated to positions she could never imagine. She is even offered the chance to be part of an American unit, the Woman’s Army Coprs. Kay Summersby has arrived!!

As the war progresses, even Rommel becomes aware of who Kay is and her close relationship with Eisenhower. After a series of loss of lives in war, Ike is advised to drop Kay and this is when the politics seep over into Ike’s personal life. What was once tolerated, is now becoming an embarrassment to the military.

As the war comes to a close, and the liberation of Paris is underway. Ike and Kay are both planning for a life after the war, but will it include one another? Kay witnesses the brutality of victory, seeing the death of defeat on the streets.
Her feelings towards the affair begin to change.

‘So many young men, lying their like broken dolls – and what for? Nothing’

Faced with the harsh reality of war, Kay begins to feel foolish in her pursuit of Ike. Whilst, Ike is faced with the tough choice of Kay or country?
This novel is a fascinating glance into the lives of historical figures. It offers so much in the form of debate and would be ideal for book groups that have a focus on historical fiction. As stated above the accuracy and research is second to none.
Ike And Kay is a powerful story of love in war.

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James MacManus
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Author Bio:

James MacManus has worked in the newspaper business for 50 years and is currently the managing director of The Times Literary Supplement. James was a WW2 baby, educated at Westminster School, and graduated from St Andrews University in 1966 when he began his career at the Daily Express in Manchester. James joined The Guardian in 1972, first as a reporter in London and then as a foreign correspondent in France, Africa and the Middle East. In 1985, James joined the Diplomatic staff of the Daily Telegraph in London before a move to The Times in November 1992, first as Assistant Editor (Home) and then Managing Editor in September 1996.

James was appointed Managing Director of The Times Supplements in April 1997. Following heart surgery in 2009, James relinquished many of his duties to concentrate on speech writing and managing The Times Literary Supplement.

In 2006, James’ first screenplay about the life of George Hogg, The Children of the Silk Road, was made into a film starring Jonathan Rhys Meyer titled The Children of Huang Shi. James went on to write a book of the film, Ocean Devil (2008), followed by his debut novel, On the Broken Shore (Harper Collins, 2010) and historical fiction novels Black Venus (Duckworth, 2014), Sleep in Peace Tonight (Duckworth, 2015) and Midnight in Berlin (Duckworth, 2016). You can read more here about his new historical fiction novel Ike and Kay available from 8 March 2018 (Duckworth), a vivid reimagining of General Eisenhower and Kay Summersby’s infamous love affair in London after the second World War.

 

Anne Bonny #Review Girl On Fire by @TonyParsonsUK DC Max Wolfe #CrimeFiction #NewRelease @PenguinRHUK

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Girl On Fire by Tony Parsons
Synopsis:

When terrorists use a drone to bring down a plane on one of London’s busiest shopping centres, it ignites a chain of events that will draw in the innocent and guilty alike.

DC Max Wolfe finds himself caught in the crossfire in a city that seems increasingly dangerous and hostile.

But does the danger come from the murderous criminals that Max is tracking down? Or the people he’s trying to protect?

Or does the real threat to Max lie closer to home?

My review:

Girl On Fire is the fifth novel in the DC Max Wolfe series. The novels always surround a contemporary moral issue that is currently faced in today’s society. The theme for this particular novel is the rise of extremism, terrorism and the social/political response to such events. The novels have a real sense of authenticity with regards to the Met police locations and accuracy of terms used. The author has done amazing in-depth research and that adds to the realism of the novel.

‘I woke up and the world was gone’

The novel opens with Wolfe at Lake Meadow shopping centre, in West London. As a helicopter is struck by a drone and the body of the aircraft falls upon the centre, causing mass confusion, panic and ultimately death. Wolfe is amongst the flames and fear and sees first-hand the destruction and carnage left behind by a random act of terrorism.

The novel then flashes forward seven days, as armed police officers get ready to raid the suspected terrorist’s premises. Operation Tolstoy aims to apprehend the criminals and gather the evidence needed to ensure that justice is done.

The suspects Asad and Adnan Khan, live with their parents Ahmed (known as Arnold), mother Azza and 16yr old niece Layla. The raid does not go as planned and the Met police have a dead officer and two dead suspects on their hands. Not to mention the media backlash and extra attention to the high profile case. Did the parents know? How do you raise criminals with such deep beliefs and remain unaware? The Focus of the investigation, now shifts to the parents of the dead suspects.

The parents are taken to (CTC) Counter terrorism command at Paddington Green station, where they’ll be questioned thoroughly. The police officers debate their approach and it seems that Wolfe is convinced of the father’s innocence, for now!

Ahmed Khan is devastated, he continues to claim he didn’t know. He tells Wolfe of his other son who died fighting. His struggle through racism and path to acceptance in 1970s Britain. He also informs the police of the recent moral outrage of his sons, against the country that is their home.

‘We destroy their buildings, but they destroy our countries’

The case is extremely complex, with the individual’s personal beliefs called into question. The topic of radicalisation is often the cause of many heated media debates. It is a controversial point via all media outlets, with no one in-particular having any clear concise answers. The situation has been deeply affected by cuts to financial reserves and manpower as referenced in the novel’s case.

Over the course of the novel, the author does break down various viewpoints. It is all set surrounding the case and I didn’t feel that there was any personal agenda. I thought the author had done a fantastic job of ensuring that various opinions were played out within the narrative. The voices of the various police officer’s guide you through the subject, legal constraints and case at hand.

Wolfe is assisted by trainee DC Joy Adams and childhood friend & fellow copper Jackson Rose. As they try to piece the case together. Wolfe was present at the shooting of Adnan by armed police officer Ray Vann and there is some confusion at what took place and how. Is Wolfe willing to inform on Vann? What will this mean for Vann’s future? Rose and Vann both have military backgrounds, and this perhaps gives them a broader understanding of the issue of radicalisation.

‘You know what we fought for in Afghanistan? It wasn’t freedom. It wasn’t democracy. It wasn’t queen and country. It was each other. And it’s the same here. We fight for each other’

Whilst the death toll continues to rise from the initial assessment of 44 dead. The public become more and more outraged at the heartbreak and loss of lives. The police officers find the (IPCC) independent police complaints commission, breathing down their necks about the possible illegal shooting of a suspect. The case becomes more and more layered, as the plot unfolds. Wolfe has to decide between telling the truth and loyalty to a fellow professional.

‘I’m not going to rat him out, but I’m not going to lie for him’ – Wolfe

The mindset of a serving soldier or veteran of the military, is one that is often difficult to get across on the page. The loyalty and brotherhood amongst soldiers is second to none. I personally, have never found soldiers to be ignorant, uneducated or overly macho. I have however, known many soldiers shaped and moulded by their experiences in overseas deployments. My husband was in the military for 14yrs and has served in Afghan. I think what the author has conveyed, is the point that civilians and on this occasion, Wolfe are often detached from the military experience. The characters of Rose and Vann offer up an alternative narrative, one too often forgotten in modern society.

Aside from the aftermath of the terrorist incident and professional fallout. Wolfe has problems close to home. Trying to raise his young daughter Scout, as a single father is a huge part of Wolfe’s psychology and what drives him as a person and a copper. But with his ex-wife Anne attempting to insinuate herself in Scout’s life and threats of going for custody. Wolfe is feeling the pressure. The theme of divorce and its impact upon the children it affects, is quite refreshing to read. Maybe I am biased as I was raised by my father. But I found the storyline very interesting and thought-provoking.

‘Only divorced adults get new lives, I thought. Divorced children are stuck with their old lives – and with their dumb-ass divorced parents forever’

Outside the Khan’s residence, a preacher holds court. A preacher with a knowledge of history and opinions he believes need to be heard. George Halfpenny is the addition of a character not afraid to speak his mind. Offering up a narrative of the honest, tolerant patriot. It may not be an opinion you agree with, but it is an honest reflection of a voice that surrounds every real-life terror situation.

‘Every murder is a hate crime’ Max Wolfe

Between the various voices within the novel, whether it be 16yr old Layla trying to understand a society that now appears to despise her. The voice of the police officers trying to solve the case and understand the logic behind the Khan brother’s radicalisation. The emotional response of Ahmed Khan at facing up to the shame his sons have brought to the family. The families left behind by the murdered police officers, just young little kids that may never remember their own mother.

This novel fully explores the social and cultural cost to society in the face of the rise in terrorism. An intelligent, well planned and hugely relevant novel.

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Tony Parsons
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