Curses, Nurses, and a Ticket to Bedlam…

16055875
Title: The Prisoner of Brenda
Series: Mystery Man #4
Author: Bateman
Edition: Paperback, 416 pages
Published: October 25th 2012 by Headline
Genre(s): Crime; Mystery
Disclosure? Nope, it was a gift from a friend.

Goodreads
Purchase

When notorious gangster ‘Fat Sam’ Mahood is murdered, the chief suspect is arrested nearby. But he seems to have suffered a breakdown. Incarcerated in a mental institution, he’s known only as the Man in the White Suit. The suspect remains an enigma until Nurse Brenda calls on Mystery Man, former patient and owner of No Alibis, Belfast’s finest mystery bookshop, to bring his powers of investigation to bear… However, before our hero can even begin, the Man in the White Suit is arrested for the murder of a fellow patient. But is he a double murderer or a helpless scapegoat? Intrigue, conspiracy, and ancient Latin curses all combine to give the Small Bookseller with No Name his most difficult case to date.

I’m a huge fan of Colin Bateman and have been slowly working my way through his extensive back catalogue since I read the first book in this series, Mystery Man, in 2009.

The books are centered around The Man With No Name, owner of mystery bookshop, No Alibi’s in Belfast. He is an unhinged, hypochondriac addicted to twix’s and Starbucks, and one of those characters that is absolutely hilarious to read, but if you knew him, he would be insufferable.

I’ve said it many times before, but the best way I can describe the man with no name is Bernard Black from Black Books, who inadvertently ends up trying to solve crimes, both big and small.

 

The Prisoner of Brenda started off with gusto and I was literally LOL-ing at every page.

Nurse Brenda asks Mystery Man for his help in finding out who killed Fat Sam Masood, in the hopes that he will clear her dumb-struck patient who just happens to be the chief suspect in the murder.

I must say, I loved the first half of this book, and as I said, it made me laugh so much, but I didn’t enjoy the mystery as much as the other books in the series, and so the second half was a bit of a disappointment.

Quite a chunk of this book sees Mystery Man incarcerated in the same mental institution as The Man in White Suit, and while, we can only imagine that he got himself sectioned on purpose, we’re never quite sure – afterall he is pretty insane on any normal day as it is.

I enjoyed that element of it, but it lost its magic for me when he begins to become more ‘normal’, due to lack of coffee and the dubious cocktail of drugs he buys on the internet. Much to my dismay, my interest started to wain.

However, there were some great moments. I loved the relationship between Alison and Mystery Man as much as I have in earlier books, and his mother provides a lot of black humour as always, especially when she almost kills poor Jeff (the hired help) with a lamp.

I finished The Prisoner of Brenda on a bit of a meh, but I’m still looking forward to more. It definitely remains one of my favourite series, and one that I urge people to pick up. This one just wasn’t my favourite of the bunch.

You can’t be brilliant all the time, right? Not that Mystery Man himself would ever agree with that!

unicorn rating 3

All books in Bateman’s Mystery Man series are available now in paperback from Waterstones.

Keep Your Enemies Close…

The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh

weight The Dane family’s roots tangle deep in the Ozark Mountain town of Henbane, but that doesn’t keep sixteen-year-old Lucy Dane from being treated like an outsider. Folks still whisper about her mother, a bewitching young stranger who inspired local myths when she vanished years ago. When one of Lucy’s few friends, slow-minded Cheri, is found murdered, Lucy feels haunted by the two lost girls-the mother she never knew and the friend she couldn’t protect. Everything changes when Lucy stumbles across Cheri’s necklace in an abandoned trailer and finds herself drawn into a search for answers. What Lucy discovers makes it impossible to ignore the suspicion cast on her own kin. More alarming, she suspects Cheri’s death could be linked to her mother’s disappearance, and the connection between the two puts Lucy at risk of losing everything. In a place where the bonds of blood weigh heavy, Lucy must decide where her allegiances lie.

Reading The Weight of Blood felt like sitting on a swing-chair on a porch in the sticky night-time heat with Dragonfiles bashing against your lantern; kind of peaceful and beautiful but there’s this uncomfortable feeling rising to the surface, and you know where it’s coming from but if you just ignore it, it might go away. Obviously, it never goes away…

The Weight of blood is set in a small town with big secrets and a growing number of disappearing teenage girls. Each chapter is told from the perspective of a different character and from two different periods of time. In the present Lucy is hell-bent on finding out what happened to her friend Cheri, a girl with learning-difficulties who was found dismembered in a tree, and also trying to discover what happened to her mum, Lila who vanished a year after she was born.

We also follow Lila as she first arrives in Henbane with the promise of a job and board from local business man, Crete Dane. It’s not long before Lila realises that all is not quite as it seems in this town.

McHugh really did a great job here in intertwining these two stories to create a compelling read. I wasn’t ferociously trying to find out who was behind it all, or on the edge of my seat as I was fed more pieces of the puzzle like I sometimes am when reading thrillers, but that’s not to say it wasn’t compelling.

The story unfolds at a gentle pace (and the plot continues to thicken all the way to the end) but I was never bored. There is something enchanting about her writing that makes it a joy to just float along for the ride. The style really reminded me of Alice Hoffman in that way.

I was a little disappointed that there were no major unexpected turns or twists, but as it was the writing and the characters were enough to keep me happy. The characterisation was great, with more than enough seedy, sinister ones to keep you guessing, and Lila and Lucy were both so likeable that it was hard to not get invested in their well-being.

I look forward to reading more by Laura McHugh.

unicorn rating 4

Disclosure?: I received an advanced copy from the publisher in exchange for an HONEST review,
Title: The Weight of Blood
Author: Laura McHugh
Details: Hardcover, ebook, 320 pages
Published: March 11th 2014 by Spiegel & Grau (Random House)
My Rating: 4/5
You’ll like it if you liked: Blackbird House by Alice Hoffman

February Finds!

This is a monthly post where I share some of the books that I’ve found through fellow bloggers that I HAD to add to my wishlist immediately. I’m hoping I’ll look back on these posts and remember to buy/request the books (wishful thinking!).

My TBR Pile is out of control so I was a very good girl in February; I only made a note of two books that I want to buy:

Click on the links to go to the original posts.

FF

Found on: Just a Normal Girl in London
Why: Fairy Tales; The Cover!

ff2

Found on: Cleopatra Loves Books
Why: I say all the time that I should read more Thrillers or Crime novels because I enjoy them so much when I do, but I get side-tracked by other genres. I really love the look of this one!

December & January finds

This is a monthly post where I share some of the books that I’ve found through fellow bloggers that I just HAD to add to my wishlist immediately. I’m hoping I’ll look back on these posts and remember to buy/request the books (wishful thinking!). I totally forgot to do a December post so I’ve just chosen my top three from Dec & Jan.

Click on the links to go to the original posts.

snow

Found on: Chrissi Reads
Why: Crime + Snow White = Winner. Plus the cover, obvs!

such-sweet-sorrow-cover

Found on: Wingedcreature Reads
Why: Err Romeo & Juliet, The Prince of Denmark, Immortality and Norse Mythology. Woah. Yes.

dark

Found on: A Case of Books
Why: I love Marcus Sedgwick…and well just look how badass it is!

[Out Tomorrow!] A coffin and pleasant pheasant sandwiches: The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches (Flavia de Luce #6) by Alan Bradley

cover35827-mediumBishop’s Lacey is never short of two things: mysteries to solve and pre-adolescent detectives to solve them. In this New York Times bestselling series of cozy mysteries, young chemist and aspiring detective Flavia de Luce once again brings her knowledge of poisons and her indefatigable spirit to solve the most dastardly crimes the English countryside has to offer, and in the process, she comes closer than ever to solving her life’s greatest mystery–her mother’s disappearance. . .

How have I never come across Alan Bradley or the Flavia de Luce books before now? Seriously, I have been missing out.

I’ll be honest, I knew nothing about this book when I requested it. I fell in love with the cover and was intrigued by the synopsis. I didn’t realise it was book 6 in a series, but it turns out that it really didn’t matter. (WIN!)

***Slight Spoiler Ahead***

Flavia de Luce is an 11 year old with an insatiable desire to solve mysteries and the strange going-ons in her picturesque English village of Bishop’s Lacey. I fell in love with her instantly. She’s witty, tenacious and doggedly independent with a fiery, yet caring spirit.

At the beginning of this installment, Flavia and her father are at the train station for the long-awaited return of her mother. Her mother has been missing for over 10 years, which was a mystery in itself. Unfortunately, it’s also a mystery that will remain unsolved for the time being as Harriett de Luce arrives home in a coffin. At the same time, a man is pushed onto the tracks and killed but no one seems to have witnessed anything, and Winston Churchill is whispering about liking pheasant sandwiches! Somehow these things are connected.

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches was such a fun read. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book with such great imagery and humour. She may be 11 years old, but Flavia can see the world ‘as a mixture of paints, or fluids, in a spinning centrifuge’, she can describe someone’s expression as ‘a photographic negative of his soul’ and when the shit hits the fan she just wants ‘to curl up like a salted slug and die.’ 😦 I get the feeling that Flavia feels isolated by her own age (or lack there of), and the stiff upper-lip of the middle-class life she was born into.

Despite not finding the actual mystery of the book all that thrilling, I couldn’t help getting swept away with the characters. I loved that Flavia has a chicken called Esmerelda and a bicycle called Gladys but could whip up a fatal poison in a matter of minutes.

Think Young Sherlock Holmes meets Veronica Mars and you’re there. I’m off to find the first 5 books now. Tally ho, jolly good show!

unicorn rating 4

Disclosure: I received an advanced copy from the Publisher/Author in exchange for an HONEST review. Many Thanks!
Title: The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches (Flavia de Luce #6)
Author: Alan Bradley
Details: Hardback, 336 pages
Publication Date: January 14th 2014 by Delacorte Press
My Rating: 4/5
If you liked this try: Look into my Eyes by Lauren Child

A Crime of Tennis Passion: Game, Set and Murder by Elizabeth Flynn

cover32711-mediumIt’s the first day of the tennis tournament at Wimbledon. And a dead body is lying on court nineteen. Newly-promoted detective inspector Angela Costello recognizes the dead man as the Croatian champion-turned-coach, Petar Belic. Double grand-slam winner, Petar was one of the best-known and best loved players of the modern era. Petar had a complicated life: an ex-wife who wanted him back; a girlfriend who didn’t want to let him go; a business partner with secrets. Then there was leading Brit Stewart Bickerstaff, not universally popular with his fellow players, whom Petar had been coaching. Little by little DI Costello, despite awkward and prickly colleagues, discerns a trail through the mass of information. Unfortunately she has no way of proving her suspicions. But a prime suspect has overlooked a vital detail …

If you haven’t noticed, I’m a massive tennis fan. ‘Oh but it’s so boring’ I hear you cry…err no, you are wrong! And strangely enough this debut crime novel by Elizabeth Flynn evoked in me that same thrill and anxiousness I get when watching an epic tennis match which makes me able to say just that..you are wrong. :p

Game, Set and Murder, as you’d imagine starts with a murder. We are instantly thrust into the mystery surrounding the body of tennis coach Petar Belic found dead on court 19 on the very first day of The Wimbledon Championships. Our protagonist, Angela ‘DI’ Costello is an intelligent, caring Detective in charge of running her very first murder case.

Costello is also a big tennis fan, which gives her an extra advantage in that she already has knowledge of the players and close affiliates, and she’s able to use the tennis-loving angle to get them all to open up and spill the locker-room gossip. However, she also has a hell of a lot to prove.

I absolutely loved this book. It’s a quick, easy read that has all the elements of a good traditional ‘cozy’ Detective Story. Despite not reading much of the genre lately, I’m a big fan of Crime Fiction, especially the simple structure of a closed circle mystery.

Game, Set and Murder is a classic closed circle mystery in some ways, although the circle of suspects is perhaps a little larger than usual and instead of a rambling mansion, the location is of course the Wimbledon Tennis club. One murder, one location, a bunch of suspects and one piece of the puzzle fed to us at a time until the big reveal.

It wasn’t the most exciting crime story I’ve read, but the pace was fast and the characters were interesting and suspicious in equal measure, making it an enjoyable read.

I particularly enjoyed the relationship between Costello and her husband, the Coroner. They were perfectly written, portraying a realistic, loving couple that gave the story a good grounding away from the investigation. And, being a tennis fan, I’ve been to Wimbledon numerous times and those details were pretty faultless.

Despite the fact that a murder had just taken place, this book made me want to head straight to Wimbledon. Elizabeth Flynn totally nailed the excitement and beauty of the place during those two weeks in midsummer, but I’m not sure if non-tennis fans would enjoy this as much. It’d still be enjoyable as a crime novel i’m sure, but perhaps not as captivating.

unicorn rating 4

Disclosure: I received an advanced copy from the Publisher/Author in exchange for an HONEST review. Many Thanks!
Title: Game, Set and Murder
Author: Elizabeth Flynn
Details: Paperback, 272 pages
Publication Date: Published October 18th 2013 by Lion Fiction
My Rating: 4/5
If you liked this try: A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton

Coming Up: Winter Vs Summer

I have two very different books coming up. Watch this space.

18633458Title: A Breath of Frost (The Lovegrove Legacy #1)
Author: Alyxandra Harvey
Details: E-book, Hardback, Paperback, 496 pages
Expected Publication: January 2nd 2014 by Bloomsbury Childrens

Emma Day and her two cousins, Gretchen and Penelope, are uninterested in their debutante lives. All the boring balls, tiresome curtsying and polite conversation leave much to be desired. Then a girl is found dead, frost clinging to her lifeless body, and the murder is traced to Emma. As their world is turned upside down, Emma discovers more about herself and her cousins, from her connection to the murders to the secrets of her family legacy. Now the girls must embrace their true Lovegrove inheritance in order to stop the chaos, even if that means risking their lives. Dangerously handsome Cormac Fairfax wants to help Emma – but, with secrets of his own to hide, can she trust him?

The first book in a deliciously dark new trilogy. Perfect for fans of Cassandra Clare and Ruth Warburton.

cover32711-medium Title: Game, Set and Murder
Author: Elizabeth Flynn
Details: Paperback, 272 pages
Expected Publication: October 18th 2013 by Lion Fiction

It’s the first day of the tennis tournament at Wimbledon. And a dead body is lying on court nineteen. Newly-promoted detective inspector Angela Costello recognizes the dead man as the Croatian champion-turned-coach, Petar Belic. Double grand-slam winner, Petar was one of the best-known and best loved players of the modern era. Petar had a complicated life: an ex-wife who wanted him back; a girlfriend who didn’t want to let him go; a business partner with secrets. Then there was leading Brit Stewart Bickerstaff, not universally popular with his fellow players, whom Petar had been coaching. Little by little DI Costello, despite awkward and prickly colleagues, discerns a trail through the mass of information. Unfortunately she has no way of proving her suspicions. But a prime suspect has overlooked a vital detail …

I’m excited about both of these, even if Game, Set and Murder sounds like more of a summer read, murder at Wimbledon…I couldn’t resist!