Tuesday, August 24, 2021


Title: The King's Market Killer (DI Jack Dawes #6) 

Author: Frances Lloyd

Pages: 220

Publisher: Joffe Books

My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐


Fenella Wilson, the president of the Richington Ladies Guild and an illustrator of children’s books, is miserable in her home life. Her mother-in-law Ida bullies her and treats her like an unpaid servant and husband David Wilson blindly supports his mother no matter how she behaves. He believes that it is his wife’s job to clean and cook for them all, even though the house they are living in is hers. It’s a tense situation. Something has to give. And it does.

Egged on by best friend Judith Kelly, Fenella decides to get rid of Ida. Judith thinks of an ingenious way to commit the crime and not be found out. But before they can go ahead with their plan, Judith decides a trial run is called for, so they can get an idea of just how much poison is to be administered. The experimental dose ends up killing a Rastafarian named Jericho.

When Fenella seeks to poison Ida, the attempt goes horribly wrong.

Meanwhile, Ludovic de Coleville runs the Coleville gallery, a profitable business rendered even more lucrative by the side business of forged art he conducts along with his friend, for the mob. Since the number of crimes is down, Detective Jack Dawes of the Metropolitan Murder Investigation Team is roped into investigating the forgeries.

When fate bursts in to entwine the Wilsons and the Colevilles together, and consequently the crimes too, will the police solve the varied crimes of arson, art fraud and murder? Or will Fenella get away?


The style is that of a cosy mystery combined with the grit of a police procedural. But the mystery quickly escalated. The author maintained the balance, but the book kept swaying from one genre to another, without losing reading interest. For instance, when Cynthia, Corrie and Carlene decide to investigate the fiasco of Cynthia’s dinner party, it’s back to cosy mystery again. The description of the food and the vibes of the restaurant gave the book a warm and homely feel.


Even though the identity of the killers is known to us from the beginning, the author does a great job of keeping the tension high, as we watch the police attempt to figure things out.


It was nice to see so many female characters being so enterprising. Fenella is a book illustrator, while Corrie and Carlene run their own food businesses. Judith is a car mechanic, successful in what is traditionally a male-dominated profession.

While they all ran their own enterprises, I wasn’t sure of my feelings for any of the characters. Fenella, in particular, wasn’t likeable at all; there were extenuating circumstances, but I still didn’t feel sympathetic towards her.

My feelings towards the characters were mixed. Ida was the stereotype of an Indian mother-in-law, blustering, over-dramatic and deceitful. While David was a soft sod who worshipped his mother and rode roughshod over his wife. These two were easy to dislike. I couldn’t approve of what Fenella did but I could understand her motivation.

The Prologue was entirely unnecessary, merely providing local colour and history to the King’s Market.

One error: In an altercation between Ludovic and his wife, Sasha, the narrative tells us that David’s backhander knocks Sasha down to the ground.

A cosy mystery doesn’t really leave scope for the delineation of character, and yet this book managed to do just that. Fenella and Judith were both remarkable examples of amoral characters. Neither of them felt any remorse or regret for their actions. Neither woman spared a moment to think about whether it was right to take away a life. How there was no going back after a definitive act like that. Even after their actions lead to the death of Jericho, they express no regret for the death of a man who had done them no harm at all.

As readers, we are left to contemplate the manner in which events play out. The inevitability of certain actions, the inexorability of fate, and how you cannot escape the consequences of your actions. 

(I read this book through NetGalley. Thank you to the author, the publisher and NetGalley) 

Monday, August 09, 2021

Book Review: HOLD MY PLACE

Title: Hold My Place
Author: Cassondra Windwalkerl
Pages: 256
Publisher: Black Spot Books
My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Hold My Place was a book that fell short of its creepy potential. I expected it to be twisty, and it was to an extent, but it still left me feeling dissatisfied.

Sigrun is a librarian who becomes totally besotted with a sophisticated chef, Edgar Leyward. She signs up for cooking classes at his restaurant. Edgar too, it appears, reciprocates her feelings, and treats her with greater attention, but does not initiate any physical intimacy. He makes it clear that he is a married man and that he is deeply in love with Octavia, his wife.

When Octavia dies of Covid, Sigrun is anxious to comfort Edgar and make sure that he doesn’t give in to his grief. She moves into his life and his home. They get married just six weeks later.

One day, Sigrun, looking through his study, discovers the shrine he has made to all his loves. She comes to know that Octavia was not his first wife, nor the first loved one he has lost. Before Octavia, he was married to Brigitte, who died of breast cancer, and before that, he was engaged to Devlin, who died of a fall while they were on a trek. All three women had untimely and early deaths.

Edgar shares the letters that all three women had written to him. Sigrun begins to read Octavia’s letters, then Brigitte’s and lastly, Devlin’s, hoping to better understand Edgar. While the handwriting naturally differs, Sigrun comes to know of some disturbing similarities between the letters.

While the similarity of thoughts and ideas evokes a mild sense of alarm, Sigrun finds her own personality strangely altering, drifting away into that of another woman. The tug is almost hypnotic. Until some words in Devlin’s letter wake her up to the harsh truth. And if one day our spell seems to have lost its power, I’ll find another door to the room where you are. Nothing, certainly not anything so common and crass as death, will ever divide us.


The book is written mostly in the first person past tense of Sigrun. While the first person PoV allows us to get to know a character intimately, the author spent too long acquainting Sigrun with the three women in Edgar’s life. Too much time was spent on the build-up of the letters.

The story had the potential to be really creepy but none of it came through. The promise of the blurb came about after far too long, and was left mostly unexplored.


The near-constant rain and the vague sense of menace created a sense of impending gloom. Just when it feels like something that might be better suited to a time in the past, the author roots the book in today’s times by telling us that The horror story of our age had already begun… A new sickness ravaging the east. But with our typical blithe American arrogance… we assumed it would never reach us. There is a lengthy bit about Covid that spells too-much-information about something we know all too well, and loosened the grip on the story somewhat. I suppose the author was trying to juxtapose the tumult in her own life against the tumult and confusion that the coronavirus brought in its wake.

While the commentary about Covid was written in beautiful prose, the author should have “killed” her darlings, since the horror of Covid detracted from the horror of the story.


It is clear that there is something forbidding about Edgar. His love for the women in his life is all-encompassing, yet it somehow seems unreal. The affair feels, to Sigrun, inexorable, darker than blood, swifter than thought, colder than a corpse.

Edgar is described as handsome and elegant, and Sigrun is totally enamoured, but the man was still uninteresting to me.

Did I like Sigrun? No. There just wasn’t enough to like. Heavily tattooed and goth in her choice of clothing and makeup, Sigrun is a mass of contradictions and far from the image of the stereotypical mousy librarian.

She tells us that she loves to read paranormal romances. We never actually see her reading them. She should have been fleshed out better. Nor did I like Edgar or the other women. None of them were real. The only person I liked, and not too much at that, was Evan. But he didn’t occupy too much space in the book.



I found it odd that other than Octavia, none of the characters were endowed with surnames. It made the characters feel unsubstantial. Edgar’s surname, Leyward, is actually Octavia’s. Of course, we couldn’t be sure about it. In Chapters 1, 3, 4 and 5, there were a total of six references to the name, Leyward. In Chapter 9, the name changed to Leyman.

The restaurant where Edgar is a chef, serving French-Asian cuisine, is called La Table in ten places, and then La Place in three places.

There were other errors. One character says, “We all metamorphosize, don’t we?” That word should have been metamorphose. One of Evan’s five texts to Sigrun sounds as if it were written by her.


The pace was too slow. We spend a lot of time reading the letters written by the three women, and I got the feeling that the author deliberately drowned us in those letters, while not letting us know enough about what was happening between Sigrun and Edgar.

As late as the 82 percent mark, things were still okay for Sigrun. The sense of alarm had not become clear, and she wasn’t in any physical danger yet. The only danger was that she was caught up in the myth of Edgar, and was willing to lose herself to be his love for ever.

The first sign of real fear shows up only at the 86 percent mark. At the 91 percent mark, we see the first traces of what the blurb had warned us about, but it’s neither scary nor impressive. The book takes far too long to deliver on its promise, and when it does, it’s wrapped up so swiftly that we don’t know what hit us. Sure, there’s a twist, a weird one, one that I didn’t expect after the Prologue, but there’s no time to process it at all. 

(I read this book through NetGalley. Thank you to the author, the publisher and NetGalley) 

Monday, August 02, 2021


Title: I See You So Close (The Last Ghost #2) 
Author: M Dressler
Pages: 264
Publisher: Arcade
My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

You may have read and heard plenty of ghost stories, but I see you so close, my first 5-star read of 2021, is one of a kind. As Su Kwon, one of the characters says, this one is real.

Irish-born Emma Rose Finnis died of drowning in 1915 and is now a ghost. Having haunted a mansion for over a hundred years, she has only recently figured out how to escape the mansion that she has been haunting. Now her spirit has donned the dead body of another girl, and she is anxious to get away, to stay one step ahead of the ghost hunters, namely, her arch enemy, Philip Pratt.

She finds herself in the secluded town of White Bar, welcomed by the kind townsfolk, especially Mayor Martha Hayley, John and Mary Berringer, Ruth Huellet etc. All the residents recognise the vulnerability in her, and invite her to stay on and build a life for herself in their town, emphasising repeatedly that White Bar is a place of peace and rest, a magical place of joy.

At first she intends to stay just for one night, and leave the next morning, but the sight of two hands in flowered sleeves in the oven in Martha’s kitchen haunts her with its cry for help, and she decides to stay on.

She comes to know of a fire in an old, locked schoolhouse, and becomes consumed by the idea of unravelling the mystery and setting the pain free. There she comes to know of gold-seeker turned schoolmaster Landon Albert Longhurst whose fists are stronger. 

And all along she faces a corporeal danger, in the shape of ghost hunter, Pratt, intent on blasting her to nothing.

The book is written in the first person present tense point of view of Emma and is divided into two parts, The Ghost and The Door.

The hardsell for White Bar made me uncomfortable from the very beginning, leading me to wonder what secrets this perfect place concealed.

I liked Emma. She is an old soul, literally and figuratively. There’s a message of kindness to counter pain through the short fuse of her temper. Pain that must be dealt with in order to strive for reparation and justice.

Emma tells us, Haunting is listening and Haunting is waiting and the world needs more of that to counter the many wrongs that continue to remain unaddressed centuries later.

At first, Emma is a real ghost of a character. The author is careful not to smother us with her back story, letting us get to know her in the present, letting out only an occasional nugget about the past.

I wasn’t familiar with the setting, but the descriptions and the sense of setting emerged beautifully. The description of the small frontier town in the High Sierras is evocative. I enjoyed reading about its gold panning history.

The language is gorgeous, poetic and beautiful.

There’s no simple map to a stranger’s soul. No arrow that will point out one heart’s way to another.

There are philosophical undertones to this book that remind us of what people, like souls, need. Not just rest, but as Emma tells us, Adventure… Love. Whatever you were denied in life. Justice. Freedom.

Every piece of earth is a grave… One way or another.

Death is Near. Always.

There’s nothing easier, or more useful, than giving a soul what it wants.

They are all lessons of living from a soul who’s been dead for far longer than she’s been alive.

Another character tells us, If you can’t get rid of the knives, then it’s who you hand them to that matters.

Another character says, The devil hands a broken heart the hammer that smashed it, then tells it to smash the next heart closest.

Some proofing errors mar the overall effect, but only slightly. As when Su Kwon says, “We really do watch for each another.”

Ultimately this ghost story with a heart was one beautiful and lush read with a befitting ending and then an Epilogue that was just perfect.


(I read this book through Edelweiss. Thank you to the author, the publisher and Edelweiss.) 


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