Time of Death By Mark Billingham Review!

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Time of Death (2015) by Mark Billingham is the 13th book in the Tom Thorne series of books.


In this outing, Tom is on holiday with his girlfriend and fellow police officer Helen Weeks when they find out that two schoolgirls have been kidnapped in Polesford in Warwickshire where Helen grew up. Steven Bates has been arrested and he is the husband of her old school friend Linda Bates. Helen insists on going out to comfort Linda and reluctantly Tom goes with her. There they find Linda and her two teenage children whose lives have been plunged into turmoil since Linda’s husband’s and her childrens’ stepfather’s arrest. Adding to their troubles is the fact that his arrest is all over the press and consequently all over the town and press have gathered in flocks outside their home. Linda is also convinced of Steven’s innocence and Helen is forced to comfort her while keeping an open mind about the case at the same time. And so the investigation begins …


The characters are fantastic in this book. Tom and Helen are a great couple and their chemistry together while investigating is great. My favourite character in the series Phil Hendricks is also back. He comes down to Polesford to help investigate and finds love along the way with lecturer Liam Southworth (or as Phil tells us “a senior lecturer”) at Warwick University. They are a sweet couple and Liam is from Dublin so I hope it lasts. Being Irish I’m ever so slightly biased but they are brilliant together. As always Phil’s lines are some of the best in the book and his banter with Tom is as always a delight to read. I love their friendship.


The mystery element of this book itself is fantastically done. Such a cleverly weaved plot with greatly disguised clues as to the culprit/s identity and yet at the end it all makes perfect sense. I didn’t realise who the culprit/s was. It’s brilliantly written with an array of suspects and many twists and turns that keep you reading more pages than you planned in one sitting.


Another great thing about this series is that you can read them in any order. Each book is a standalone in a way so there’s no pressure to read them in order.


An amazing read. Ticks all the boxes for storytelling and a must-read.


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Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? By Agatha Christie Review!

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Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? (1934) by Agatha Christie is another wonderful read by the queen of crime.


Bobby Jones is out playing golf with Dr Thomas when they both find a dying man who has fell or possibly was pushed over a cliff. While the doctor goes to get help, Bobby is left with the man. The man’s last words are “Why didn’t they ask Evans?” which doesn’t mean anything significant to Bobby at the time. Bobby also finds the photograph of a woman in the man’s pocket.


The man dies and the mystery into his death, identity and what his last words meant begins. Frances Derwent, mostly known as Frankie, joins Bobby in his detective endeavors. Bobby and Frankie remind me a bit of Tommy and Tuppence from other books of Christie’s. Bobby is reasonably reserved but still up for a good adventure and Frankie is much more adventurous and seems to relish making plans for how they will go about solving the mystery. They are a very likable twosome and watching their friendship evolve into romance is very sweet and enjoyable. The pair have known each other from when they were young and their relationship overcomes the barriers of class. Bobby is son to the Vicar of Marchbolt while Frankie (Lady Frances) is daughter to the Earl of Marchington but neither could care less and good for them.


This is a standalone book which is a shame because it would be nice to read more of Bobby’s and Frankie’s adventures. But I guess Dame Aggie couldn’t be expected to do an on-going series with all her characters as much as many of her readers like me would like her to have. Some moments in the book do seem slightly contrived to move the book and the case on and you do find yourself saying to just go with it for the sake of the story. But it is a brilliant light read and I could forgive these moments of contrivances because the story was so entertaining and interesting. There is also a wonderful array of suspects in true Christie style and two great detectives in Bobby and Frankie.


I did guess who the guilty party/parties were but there was still great mystery to the book. How Christie weaved together the plot was really as always quite genius even here in one of her earlier works. She also kept back the mystery of the man’s final words very well and without giving too much away played a trick on any readers who like to assume too much. I’m not too fond of assumptions being made so I quite liked her bit of trickery to be honest. Still not giving too much away it was quite modern writing in this aspect which was fabulous.


A really great read. Light, fun, intriguing and engrossing.


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How Many Miles To Babylon? By Jennifer Johnston Review!

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How Many Miles To Babylon? (1974) is an incredibly interesting short read set in 1914 just before the 1916 Rising and the beginning of WWI.


I first came across this book when it was on the curriculum in my secondary school. I liked what I got to read of it at the time but when you are studying a book it can be difficult to sit back and just enjoy the book. So I put it on the to-read list and recently I got the chance to read it through and unsurprisingly it was a great read.


Gorgeously told by Johnston, this book is rich in Irish history and also in the history of what life was like in the war in Flanders. The protagonist of this book is Alec and it is told from his point of view. Alec is an upper-class Protestant who becomes friends with Jerry who is a working-class Catholic. They both grow up together in Wicklow and eventually find themselves in the British Army. Their friendship is wonderful to read. There is such a strong connection and bond between them that bypasses class and another delicate boundary of religion in Ireland at that time.


Love is a major theme in the book. Although it’s never exactly said in the book that Alec and Jerry’s relationship is ever anything more than friendship, I did get the impression that there was stronger emotions between them. I certainly felt that they were in love but neither told each other how they felt. Still actions speak louder than words and there is so many moments in this book where you see the sacrifices they make for each other and the love they feel for each other.


Class is a major theme in this book. On many an occasion Alec’s and Jerry’s relationship is put to the test because of their different backgrounds. At one stage Alec’s mother wants him not to spend time anymore with Jerry and when they are in the army there is also pressure on Alec once again not to be seen with Jerry because Alec is an officer and Jerry is a soldier. It all is rather ridiculous but to the people saying it they seem to find it valid and right. It does seem to be all about power and appearances. Alec and Jerry are ahead of their time and rightly don’t see what difference it makes.


Another major theme of this book is family life and dynamics. Alec comes from quite a cold home mostly because his mother is domineering. She seems unhappy with her own life and not in love with his father like she used to be. To be honest I liked Alec and his father but I didn’t really take to his mother. However she is very well-written. So much so that you feel the tension from the home just through the pages. However much Alec tries to please her, nothing seems enough. On the other hand Jerry seems to get on well with his mother and sisters but hasn’t much of a relationship with his father. I think Johnston wrote these family dynamics very well and gave a very clear picture of both of their home lives.


War is also a major theme of this book. We get a great insight into what life was like in Flanders even many decades later and the struggles faced in vivid detail and accounts. We also get an insight into the varying reasons why people joined. Alec joined to please his Mum, Jerry to gain experience to fight for the Nationalist cause and Bennett, an English officer who Alec shares a room with, to be a hero. They are all young and are now in a situation which it seems clear none of them are ready for with a lot of older people who are putting a lot of pressure on their shoulders and should know better.


Johnston wrote a very authentic book about this period. Anyone from Ireland like me who knows the history of Ireland knows what people went through in those days seeking independence and been ruled by the Catholic religion which had more power than the state at that time. Johnston wrote here a very accurate portrayal which isn’t always done of both of these situations and showed the daily lives that people led at the time in a very true, human way.


The book is weaved together brilliantly and seamlessly. The ending of this book is sad and powerful without giving too much away. It seems at first to come out of nowhere and then you realise the whole plot has been working up to this conclusion. Stunningly written but have a few tissues ready …


This is a wonderful read. Very naturally written with great descriptions. A must-read.



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Friday Fictioneers: Halloween Is Coming





Halloween Is Coming


Kate began to build her display for the Halloween season. It was her favourite time of year. For weeks in advance she would plan her costume for whatever fancy dress event she was going to each year. This year she was adding garden display to her list of duties. The supermarket she worked at lent her a trolley and she added the eerie statue and fake crime scene tape she purchased from the nearby Euro shop.
Happily she looked at her creation. It was unique, she thought.
Maybe a bit of blood around the mouth but not bad at all.


My book Black Coat based on a previous Friday Fictioneers prompt is available at:



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What Pegman Saw – Miraculous Miray

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Miraculous Miray    



By day, Miray was a receptionist. But by night she was Miraculous Miray fighting crime and all round badness in various parts of Turkey. She donned a sparkling yellow cape but this cape was no fashion accessory or signature look (though it became that in the media particularly commented upon by that nerdy journo Zeynep from the Mid-Morning Post). It’s proper use was to help her blend in with the flashing streetlamps at night.


She flashed from place to place saving people from muggings, escorting people away from characters out to inflict pain in hate crimes, she saved people from the flinging of beer bottles outside night clubs and pubs and stopped murders and rapes from occurring.


Then she returned home to enjoy her husband’s shepherd’s pie with gravy and salad. And by 9am the next morning she was back at her desk saying,
“Hello, how can I help you?”



In response to the What Pegman Saw writing prompt:



What Pegman Saw – Catching Fish & Racing Sticks

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Catching Fish & Racing Sticks       


It was approaching midnight. I looked over at the still, calmness of the lake. The gentle light from the half moon reflected off it and gave it an almost fairytale image. I remembered how my late father used to bring me here fishing when I was a little girl. Each Saturday we would come and catch fish for supper which always delighted my Mum. How she misses him dreadfully. I remember how we would race sticks by throwing them into the water and watching which stick reached the edge of the lake first. If a stick went out to sea whichever of us threw it was disqualified from the race. My dad deliberately threw it so it would go out to sea often to let me win. He never knew that I realised that.


Often I come here. Just to think of him. It’s my special place to remember him.


In response to the What Pegman Saw writing prompt:


A Love Like Blood By Marcus Sedgwick Review!

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A Love Like Blood (2014) by Marcus Sedgwick is a gripping mystery starting in 1944 and spanning over two decades from 1944 to 1968. Known for being a YA writer, this was Sedgwick’s first novel for adults.


The main character Charles Jackson who is an English Army Corporal sees a man drinking a woman’s blood from her possibly lifeless body in 1944. From there the incident doesn’t leave his mind and seven years later when he comes back to Paris, where he seen the terrifying incident, he sees this man again. Intent on finding the truth he makes it his mission to stop this man and bring justice finally to the woman’s memory or to possibly find her alive. This book centres a lot on guilt and responsibility and Jackson, though he thinks she was dead, is unsure whether she was and whether he could have saved her if he had acted at the time. This pushes him further on to find out what happened to her and to do something about it now. It also shows the fear which comes from doubt.


Absolutely chilling, this book is part mystery, part horror and very psychological. It is told from the point of view of the protagonist and we see the whole story unfold through his eyes which is rather enthralling. A very dark and disturbing book but a great thriller.


I think this is an excellent book. The ending stayed with me long after. A fantastic, as well as creepy, ending. Very compelling, you end up reading more of it than you plan on doing so as each chapter sets you off on a new journey or a new clue with Jackson. Much history can be learned from this novel too and it is very well researched by the author.


A stunningly crafted story. A very compelling read.


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