Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

goneHere we have another good mystery and family drama by English author Lisa Jewell.  Sixteen year old Ellie Mack heads off to the library one day and simply disappears.  This is resolved in the book but I don’t want to give any spoilers.

Ellie’s mother Laurel Mack is consumed with looking for her daughter and, as happens in real life scenarios, the other children and her husband take a back seat and are somewhat neglected.  This isn’t the plot of the entire book but it sets up the character development.  You see/read why the relationships fracture.

Moving ahead roughly ten years Laurel meets a man named Floyd in a chance encounter in a coffee shop.  They start seeing each other (Ellie’s ex-husband is now happily remarried) and eventually she is invited to his home to meet his daughter Poppy.  The little girl is very grown up for a 9 year old,  her physical attributes reminding Laurel of her lost daughter.

As the supporting characters move in and out of the story you feel you know them.  You can feel the tension between Laurel and her oldest daughter, the slim tether of a bond with her son and his girlfriend, the absolute support of her ex husband and the growing relationship with Floyd as Laurel tries at a second chance for a happy life.

All is not as it seems and the mystery about Ellie’s disappearance, good intentions that went awry and revelations come in a big ending in this psychological drama.

There was some food mentioned here and there but the one that stuck out was a Jambalaya Laurel prepared for a dinner with Floyd.

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This was my fourth novel by Lisa Jewell.   Obviously I am besotted by her writing.   Sharing with Joy for British Isles Friday

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Watching You by Lisa Jewell

watchingThe beginning
A murder has taken place. There is a clear suspect based on evidence at the scene.  One of the things I loved is the author didn’t use a pronoun so you don’t know if the victim is male or female.  Not until near the very end!  There are alternating perspectives from several characters; these cloud the waters when you are formulating  theories about the interwoven scenarios.

This touches on so many issues from a school girl crush on a handsome teacher, a newly married couple who are at odds about having a baby, bullying, a mentally ill neighbor which you really feel for and a brilliant teenage boy who is expert at watching people and keeping detailed journals on activities. 

As a mystery/ thriller fan and reader I was pleased this wasn’t a slam dunk for me. Was I surprised about the ending? You betcha.

This is the second novel I have read by Lisa Jewell and it’s most certainly not the last. I enjoyed her latest book, The Family Upstairs, and certainly enjoyed this one.  Up next for me is Jewell’s novel I Found You

Sharing with Joy for her British Isles Friday event.

 

 

 

 

The Nanny by Gilly MacMillan

nan Gilly MacMillan has earned a place on my must read list. After the last few lackluster mysteries it was a pleasure to tuck into a book that I couldn’t put down. I like a book with lots of twists and revelations.

The story takes place in an old English estate.  Seven year old Jocelyn Holt was a little girl when her beloved nanny Hannah Burgess up and disappeared.  The little girl was devastated as she seemed to love her more than her own mother, Lady Virginia Holt.

What happened to Hannah Burgess?

Thirty years pass and Jocelyn, now called Jo,  returns to the Holt estate due to financial difficulties after her husband dies.  She brings her young daughter Ruby along and while she struggled with a relationship with her estranged mother, she has no choice but to live there. She can’t understand the warm connection Ruby has to her mother Virginia.

One day Ruby and Jo take a kayak out on Lake Hall and drift toward an island.  Ruby discovers a skull near the shoreline and we are on our way to an interesting mystery.  Could it be Jo’s nanny Hannah who disappeared in the late 198o’s?  It all wraps up nicely but you’ll be in for quite a few surprises.  You will simultaneously dislike and feel very sorry for Virginia Holt as her character develops.

This is a dysfunctional family but it’s due to outside influences, in my opinion. Great read, lots of intrigue and I will certainly be looking for more of MacMillan’s novels.

Much thanks to LibraryThing for this advanced copy of the book.  Grab a copy when it comes out September 10, 2019.

Sharing with Joy for British Isles Friday

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One Little Secret by Cate Holahan

oneThis mystery is good summer beach read with enough edge to be interesting but not too graphic. Three wealthy couples and friends rent a beach house and go on vacation. All of these people have secrets – some about business, domestic abuse, infidelity and insecurities.

There are quite a few characters introduced quickly so I had a hard time keeping track of which were couples at first.  A side story is about an eighteen-year old au pair who may have been drugged at a party.  The same detective investigating this case ends up involved with the wealthy folks when one is found dead.  This turns into a murder investigation.

I see from some reviews that people who like this author thought this wasn’t her best book but this is my first experience with Cate Holahan.  I would read more books authored by Holahan based one this quick read.  She kept me guessing about the murderer and I would change my mind a few times before the end.  Nice plotting.

It’s not a foodie book but there was a nice dinner at the beach house with fruit salad, roasted halibut, baby potatoes and grilled corn. California Chardonnays and white burgundy wines.

Publication date was July 19, 2019 and I was kindly given an advanced copy by Netgalley.  Opinions are mine and I was not compensated for my review.

Sharing with Heather for her July Foodies Read event.

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The Moroccan Girl by Charles Cumming

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 The Moroccan Girl was my introduction to the work of Charles Cumming. This book is a page turner and I am delighted to have discovered this author. Definitely adding him to my favorite authors list and plan to acquire more of his work.

The main character is Christopher “Kit” Carradine. He’s a novelist writing about spies and espionage. One day he is approached on a London street by a man named Robert Mantis; he’s posing as a fan of Kit’s books. As Kit writes about the spy world in such detail, evidently convincingly, Mantis makes overtures to recruit Kit into the British Service.

It’s a thrilling prospect for Kit to get out of the day-to-day writing routine and do something exciting. He’s meant to hook up with a British Service contact when he’s in Morocco at a writers event. If he can also locate Lara Bartok and pass off a package, all the better. Lara is a young woman who may be on the run from her own government or she may be a terrorist. Lara was the girlfriend of Ivan Simokov, leader of the group Resurrection. This group seemed to start off with an ideal of exposing bad people, folks in positions of power who abused their positions at the expense of us regular citizens.  Eventfully Resurrection turned very violent.  Is Lara Bartok on the run because she was involved with Resurrection or is she fleeing Ivan and the people she once worked with? She is a very interesting character.

There are scenes in London but most of the flavors are in the Morocco. Casablanca, Tangiers and Marrakesh come to life in this book. You are immersed in the setting, the heat, sweat, suspicion, the colorful setting and the foods. As Kit makes his way through Morocco he is caught up with British, Russian and American agents but it’s hard to tell which side they are on. What’s the endgame?

Another interesting thing are the references to authors who were tapped by the British service to spy or act as a support agents. Frederick Forsyth and Somerset Maugham in particular were mentioned and now I want to know more about them so my reading list has grown thanks to this narrative. Hoping to read more about Kit Carradine in the future if he becomes a regular character in a series. In the meantime I will be tracking on Mr. Cumming’s other espionage novels.

Lots of food referenced but of course it’s not a foodie book. I always note the dishes or drinks when I read as I’m always up for recreating a dish that appeals. In this case I wanted to make Lamb Tagine but in the interest of getting my post done here, let’s have Lamb Kebabs.

Here’s a sampling of the meals and drinks I noted: Lamb Tagine, Chicken Dhansak,  Tarka Daal, Chablis and fish cakes, spaghetti Bolognese, fried fish and Merguez sandwiches, chicken couscous, cheese and pasta salad, baklava.
Black coffee, margaritas, gin and tonic, pints of ale, vodka martini, mint tea.

I’d like to thank NetGalley for an advance copy of this book. I was slow getting to it a “reading group” was supposed to get together for this one. Wish I had just started it earlier because I would be reading another of Cumming’s books now. If you like espionage and mystery then I highly recommend this book. Well done, Mr. Cumming.

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More about the author – Charles Cumming

Sharing with Joy’s Book Blog for her British Isles Friday event, Beth Fish Reads and Heather for the March Foodies Read.

BriFri  2019 Foodies Read

Agatha Raisin – The Dead Ringer (book 29)

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The Agatha Raisin series has been around for some time. The Dead Ringer is about the death/murder of a bell ringer and a few other characters (I don’t want to give a spoiler) in the quiet little town of Thirk Magnay England. This is book #29 in the series.

It’s been a while since I read an Agatha Raisin mystery and by getting this publication, I realized I missed a few things going on in her life. The first book in the series depicts her as a cranky, middle-aged publicist, supposedly 53 years of age. I’m guessing she doesn’t age in real time as years later, she’s still a middle-aged lady and described as attractive if not abrasive. My bookish friend Angry Grey Cat renewed my interest in the series.

Agatha has her own detective agency set up now, a change from books in the past where she was more like a Jessica Fletcher character in Murder, She Wrote. What I liked about this book was the familiarity of the little town in the Cotswolds. The picturesque setting and scenery are inviting. Thirk Magna has an ancient church called St. Ethelred and it’s the pride and joy of the community.

There are adult twin sisters who are part of the bell ringers group and very involved in the church. Apparently bell ringing is like no other type of music and isn’t written on a standard score. The six bell ringers change their order and each time they strike it’s done from memory. Quite an art of memory and dedication. It most certainly wouldn’t be for me.

The twins are swooning on about the visit of a bishop who is reputed to be very handsome and they are determined to take charge of the visit, arranging which “song” they will play on bells and generally being pains in the butt. This bishop has some scandal following him as his rich ex-fiancé has disappeared. That’s what interests Agatha very much. Now the bodies start piling up, as you would expect from one of her novels.

The mention of Detective Sargent Bill Wong was a familiar character as I remember him from all the previous books. I wondered why he hasn’t been promoted to a higher rank than D.S. in all the years (29 years!) of being on the police force. But I have to remind myself that this isn’t written in real time as DCI Alan Banks novels. Also, it has been well established that Bill is half Chinese and half British so when I read that again I thought – yeah, yeah…we all know Bill if half Chinese and Brit. That could have been left out.

Food:  There are mentions of Greek food, pub meals, gin and tonics, tea and cakes. I am on board with any of those things!

Overall, this isn’t the edgy sort of mystery I love but a milder mystery, not quite a cozy. Clear as mud? It’s fun to follow a character through a long series so if you are looking for a light mystery series, you may want to give Agatha Raisin a chance.

Much thanks to NetGalley for this advanced copy. Opinions are mine and I was not compensated for the review.    Linking up with  Joy’s Book Blog for British Isles Friday and Heather for the October Foodies Read.

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