Review: The Long Call by Ann Cleeves

Hardcover, 384 pages Published September 3rd 2019 by Minotaur Books

ISBN 13: 9781250204448             Series :  Two Rivers #1    Setting: Devon, England 

In North Devon, England, Detective Matthew Venn stands outside the church as his father’s funeral takes place. Once loved and cherished by the Brethren, the day Matthew left the strict evangelical community he grew up in, he lost his family too. 

Now, as he turns and walks away again, he receives a call from one of his detectives. A body has been found on the beach nearby: a man with a tattoo of an albatross on his neck, stabbed to death.  The case calls Matthew back into the community he’d thought to leave behind, as deadly secrets hidden at its heart are revealed, and his past and present collide.

Matthew Venn is just a regular guy – a cop turned detective after putting in his time but also a very good person.  He was brought up in a strict religious community but had come to the conclusion early on that he just didn’t agree with all their rules and tenets.  Unfortunately, you either agreed or you were out and as much as it hurt he followed his heart.    Now with the new case and leads beginning to point him back to the Brethren he has to discover what if anything the murder and the mysterious kidnappings of young women had to do with one another.  

The pace of this was to my mind a bit on the slow side in the beginning but it sped up. I did find it quite interesting to follow all the loose ends and tiny bits of clues as Matthew and his team dug into the murder and then missing young women to discover how the connections started to knit together.  

The characterizations of the lead characters were beautifully molded together with compassion and love.  I particularly loved that Matthew and his husband were treated  as not an oddity, but as two people who genuinely cared for one another, even though the Brethren had to get a couple of snipes in along the way.  However, the writing and the story itself were both done exceptionally well and I love a great mystery so yes, I highly recommend this book. Good solid writing. 

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding by Rhys Bowen

4Funerals&Wedding

NET Galley August 7, 2018       Series:  Her Royal Spyness #12

ASIN  B077CNY4P9                   Rating:   5*

Have to say I really enjoyed FOUR FUNERALS AND A WEDDING from a series and an author I had never read before.  There were plenty of chuckles that slipped past my lips as I got further and further into this story and mystery.   Judging that this is the 12th volume in the series I can just about imagine some of the scrapes our heroine Georgie had to have gotten into based on the innuendoes mentioned of some of her past  klutziness.  Somehow if Georgie were a real person I’d definitely have to make her a BFF.

Getting back to the story, it seemed that things seem to be really going Georgies way – not only is she making plans for her long awaited wedding to the love of her life, but she has just learned that she is the heir of one of her mothers ex-husbands – Sir Hubert Anstruther .  Plus he has invited her to make her new home in his house in the country.  And so begins the main offensive of Georgie versus the household staff at Eynsley Hall who clearly do not want any interference of a Royal whose expectations are for them to serve her.   

Georgie, along with a lively plethora  of other family and friends was a delight and all the secondary characters only added to the enjoyment of the entire mystery.  Questioned  – who were these odd band of misfit servants? Why have a cook who didn’t even know how to brew a decent cup of tea?  Alas, you will have to read this marvelous tome to discover the latest foibles of Lady Georgiana! 

A total delight from start to finish!

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: Dreams of Falling by Karen White

Dreams of Falling

Karen White is an enormous talent and as such I tend to form an opinion before I even start a book by her.  I know it will be good – just not to what degree.  

Nine years ago Larkin fled Georgetown, South Carolina, vowing never to go back. But when she finds out that her mother has disappeared, she knows she has no choice but to return to the place that she both loves and dreads–and to the family and friends who never stopped wishing for her to come home.  Larkin’s relationship with her mother Ivy has never been easy but soon Ivy is discovered in the burned-out wreckage of her family’s ancestral rice plantation, badly injured and unconscious. 

No one knows why Ivy was there, but as Larkin digs for answers, she uncovers secrets which were kept for nearly 50 years. Secrets that lead back to the past, to the friendship between three girls on the brink of womanhood who swore that they would be friends forever, but who found that vow tested in heartbreaking ways.

*** Well as to the degree of how good the story was – It was awesome!  Heartbreakingly, lovingly, soul-searching fabulous!   The three friends were inseparable, all with dreams of the future and how wonderful life was, but unfortunately life was not always wonderful, wars interrupted dreams and casualties interrupted and changed lives.   But hadn’t they all promised “friends forever”?  Were the tests to come things they could overcome?  

Over the 50 years, who would survive the deaths, the births, the challenges and keep the friendships strong.  Read on and find out!   You’ll be amazed!

Marilyn Rondeau

All We Ever Wanted by Emily Griffin

All we ever wanted

June 26, 2018                           Rating:  4-1/2*

After marrying into the “Nashville elite” Nina browning was living the good life after her husband made a fortune selling his tech business.  High society and a busy social life, a son she adored doing well in his private school who has just been accepted into Princeton, and life never looked so good… – So good, in fact, that when a photo showed up with a racist comment on it Nina was devastated when she learned that her precious child was identified as the person who took it!  

On the other hand, Tom Volpe is a struggling single dad doing his best to be a good dad and positive influence on his headstrong intelligent daughter who had won a scholarship to the ultra private and very expensive private school of Windsor Academy.   For Lyla it was a miracle that some of the wealthiest students had befriended her and she might have taken it over the line to be accepted.  

***. I guess this really was a story of values and how some folks let the change in their financial position change them from what they were into someone they no longer recognized as themselves, or to be perfectly blunt – a wake up call to discover they really didn’t like the person they’d become.  In the case of Nina, she saw that the values she wanted to teach her son were not what he was practicing.   Rather she took a good look at her life and didn’t like what was happening to her husband and what he in turn was beginning to teach their son.  

It was also a story of a rebellious young girl who was caught up short in first love and discovered that the rules her dad imposed on her life were definitely not laid out to hurt her but were set down in order to protect her.   

Bottom line:   This was a short but inspired story of coming of age, and reflections of a life that needed some adjustments made to get a person back on track to what was right for them!   Very, very good. 

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: Tormented by Susan Clayton-Goldner

Tormented

Published May 2nd 2018                                   Tirgearr Publishing

ASIn:  B07BWMKLCH

RATING:  5*

When I first started to read TORMENTED, I initially felt that this was going to be something along the lines of The Thornbirds.   Boy was I totally blindsided!   First of all this was nothing of what I expected.    

It was love at first sight from the moment Father Anthony spied the very glamorous beauty, Rita Wittier.  From that moment on Anthony’s devotion to God and His Church took a back seat to the thoughts he had of Rita.   He was a man obsessed and for the priest who had attained national recognition in a 60 Minute Interview of all the things he had done in establishing a home and school for disadvantaged and orphaned children he needed to talk to his childhood priest to confess his feelings and try to come to terms with his desire to quit the priesthood.  

After traveling home to Delaware Anthony felt if  redemption could be found, it would come in the form of the soothing Irish brogue of his former mentor.  However, Anthony was just as confused after and decided to approach Rita and tell her of his feelings.  Unfortunately, six hours after he told Rita she was found dead in her car, an apparent suicide…. or was it murder?

Wow and wow, as a Catholic I was really thrown by this storyline.   I could imagine the torment Anthony was going through especially as everyone was in awe of him as the “Good Shephard” since the 60 Minute Interview.    How on earth could he accept Rita’s alleged suicide?  Was she so shocked at his declaration that she took her own life?

As the story evolves there are numerous suspects as to why Rita might have committed suicide and they all sense.  However, her nine year old daughter knew without a doubt that her mommy would never leave her alone and she and the detective investigating the case began to believe her as well.

Bottom line:  HUGE twist ending I never saw coming!  Ms. Clayton-Gardner is a marvel!!! 

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: Where Wild Cherries Grow by Laura Madeleine

WildCherriesGrow

Paperback, 368 pages

Published June 15th 2017 by Black Swan                            ISBN13: 9781784160739

Where the Wild Cherries Grow: A Novel of the South of France

Published February 13th 2018 by Thomas Dunne Books        RATING:  4*

I wasn’t terribly keen on this book from the beginning, but as I stuck with it I became more and more pleased with the writing.   At first the split between the time 1919 and fifty years later to 1969 was a bit aggravating but as I became more immersed in the story I found I had trouble putting this book down.

It wasn’t until I was finished did this line make sense to me “I closed my eyes as I tried to pick apart every flavour, because nothing had ever tasted so good before. It was like tasting for the first time. Like discovering colour . . .”

Emeline Vane came from wealth, from Norfolk, England – she had lost her mother, her brothers and now it was only her, her young brother Timothy and her uncle.  She is haunted by memories of those she lost and suffers bouts of melancholy, so much so that her uncle is taking her to a convalescent home  to recover.   However, during their stop in France, Emeline, having been given drugs to keep her calm regained enough of her mindset that she decided to run away – recklessly boarding a train to run from her uncle and the nurse who was her jailer.

Her journey led her to a tiny seaside village in the South of France. A kindly cafe owner, Maman, takes her in and Emeline discovers a world completely new to her: of oranges, olives and wild herbs, the raw, rich tastes of the land and using your own hands to care for yourself.

Soon a love affair develops with Maman’s son as passionate as the flavours of the village. Fifty years later, a young solicitor on his first case finds Emeline’s diary, and begins to trace a story of betrayal, love and bittersweet secrets that will send him on a journey to discover the truth before greedy relatives steal her inheritance away.

I really liked this story.  The writing was superb and the descriptions of the food and flavors made my mouth water.  So very sweet with a surprise ending I didn’t expect.

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: Lullaby for My Sister by Nancy Barone

LullabyForMySisterbyNancyBarone200

Talk about dysfunctional family and mystery melding into one thrilling page-turner then you really must pick up LULLABY FOR MY SISTER.  One hears about atrocities like this but in our society, one assumes the bad step-mother would be more like the one  found in Cinderella.

Since the death of their mother Valentina Mancino, age 9,  had been her little sister Lucy’s protector and guardian since her father had taken to drink and left all responsibility on Valentina’s small shoulders.  Fifteen years later Valentina has achieved her goals of a rising career.   Valentina still watches over Lucy, who has issues and no goals in life.

In an attempt to help Lucy become a bit more self-sufficient Valentina hires a carpenter to remodel their childhood home into a profitable multi-family whereby Lucy could live off of the income, or at best sell the property and get a great price due to it’s location.

When the remodeling began, Valentina comes across an old suitcase containing a blood- stained childs dress leading to a trail of secrets that will have the reader pretty much shocked with the twists that come up once the secrets are exposed.

Written in flashback mode one can follow the story and get some idea of the horrors Valentina lived through during her childhood all the while doing her best to protect her little sister.   All in all this was a deeply moving story, with a final twist that I never saw coming.

Marilyn Rondeau