The Survivors by Kate Furnivall #BookReview

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‘Directly I saw him, I knew he had to die.’

Germany, 1945. Klara Janowska and her daughter Alicja have walked for weeks to get to Graufeld Displaced Persons camp. In the cramped, dirty, dangerous conditions they, along with 3,200 others, are the lucky ones. They have survived and will do anything to find a way back home.

But when Klara recognises a man in the camp from her past, a deadly game of cat and mouse begins. He knows exactly what she did during the war to save her daughter. She knows his real identity. What will be the price of silence? And will either make it out of the camp alive?

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I have read some books about WWII but this is the first time I read one describing the post-war era. I had not even heard of the Displaced Persons camps in Germany. These were sort of a waiting room where the British tried to find family members in other countries so the survivors could go and live with them. Until then they had to sit and wait and weren’t even allowed to go out of the camp walls. I was astonished about that honestly, after what these survivors went through and while they were already imprisoned for so long.

The novel opened with a gripping scene in a forest where Klara and her daughter were being chased by robbers. It was a powerful scene where I immediately wanted to know how Klara had in fact been able to obtain the special valuables she was carrying.

I also wanted to know what had happened in the past between Klara and this person she recognized in this DP camp. Why didn’t she report this guy to administration, what did he know about her? I had to suspend some disbelief here because I think if she had told Colonel Whitmore about him in reality instead of plotting to kill him, he would have believed her over whatever this man would have told them about her.

There’s a lot of fear but Klara is also a fierce character, as well as her daughter Alicja and the other survivors so she doesn’t shy away from what needs to be done and I really liked Klara’s determination, her protectiveness over her daughter and kindness towards others.

While Klara is busy trying to protect her daughter Alicja from dangers inside and outside the camp and is slowly building a friendship – possibly more – with the camp administrator Davide there are also flashbacks to her past that gave me an idea what happened to her before she came there. I was drawn to these flashbacks that show a very different Klara. Unavertedly she caught the eye of one of the SS Officers playing chess. She didn’t spare him in the game and that’s what he liked so much about her. Soon she would become an every day presence in his life. It’s not that she had much choice in the matter but she played him well.

‘This Oberfüher Axel Fleisher. This Stumbahnfüherer Oskar Scholz. Hadn’t they learned? That when it came to war on a board of black and white squares, the king may be taller. But the queen was more dangerous’

The novel pulled me right in and didn’t let me go. It was certainly fascinating to read about life immediately after the war ended (unfortunately the Russians make a brutal appearance here too) and how hard life was on those in the camps but also outside in the towns. Lots of mystery kept me intrigued till the very end with a great twist where a character I didn’t realise the importance of becomes critical to Klara for finding what she wanted for so long in order to close this chapter of her life.

I bought a second-hand paperback of this novel. This is my honest opinion.

Daughters of Night by Laura Shepherd-Robinson #BookReview #capitalcrimebookclub

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London, 1782. Desperate for her politician husband to return home from France, Caroline ‘Caro’ Corsham is already in a state of anxiety when she finds a well-dressed woman mortally wounded in the bowers of the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. The Bow Street constables are swift to act, until they discover that the deceased woman was a highly paid prostitute, at which point they cease to care entirely. But Caro has motives of her own for wanting to see justice done, and so sets out to solve the crime herself. Enlisting the help of thieftaker Peregrine Child, their inquiry delves into the hidden corners of Georgian society, a world of artifice, deception and secret lives.

But with many gentlemen refusing to speak about their dealings with the dead woman, and Caro’s own reputation under threat, finding the killer will be harder, and more treacherous, than she can know . . .

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It took me a while to get into Daughters of Night but once I did I was all the way in. The novel is set in 1782 London and Laura Shepherd-Robinson paints such a vivid image of that era, it is all quite detailed. Daughters of Night must be one of the most researched novels I read so far, at least it felt that way. I struggled a little bit at first with some of the terms and language so I started to make a list of words that I needed to look up. Maybe you know these terms already because you are either native English or you read a lot of historical novels: tipstaffs, penny bunter, pugilist, peccadillous, buttered cardoon, ormolu workers, quim,.. but I certainly learned a few new words and meanings that I normally don’t come across in crime novels set in the present day. After a while though I did get the hang of the atmosphere and it became easier to read. I didn’t need to pause my reading so much anymore and that certainly helped to enjoy the story more.

The story was quite intriguing. Caro Corsham – a woman who has a secret of her own – is on a mission to find the killer of a prostitute who had impersonated an Italian contessa and befriended her in that persona. Caro employs thief taker Peregrine Child to help her and while he goes into ‘a bawdy house’ and talks to people on the street, she concentrates on a select group of men of her own standing who all seemed to cross ways with the great artist Agnetti who painted the girls as goddesses. He seemed pleasant enough though, it’s his wife who made me raise questions.

I very much enjoyed their investigation but I must say that I was always looking forward to the chapters from the perspective of a young girl named Pamela too. She went missing, along with another girl so her fate was still unclear and I held out a little bit of hope that she was still alive. These plotlines, the murder of one girl and the two missing girls are intermixed in so many brilliant ways making Daughters of Night quite a complex story. Nothing is as straightforward as you think and I would never have been able to imagine the different paths this novel takes.

Daughters of Night is a totally engrossing read, not the most easiest novel to read for me perhaps but challenging me in a good way and very satisfying in the end. Oh and if perhaps you want to find out what puzzle purses are, there’s no better way to find out than picking up this novel!

I received a paperback copy of this novel in my Capital Crime bookclub subscription box. This is my honest opinion.

The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton #BookReview

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Three impossible crimes

Two unlikely detectives

One deadly voyage

It’s 1634 and Samuel Pipps, the world’s greatest detective, is being transported from the Dutch East Indies to Amsterdam, where he is set to face trial for a crime that no one dares speak of.

But no sooner is the ship out to sea than devilry begins to blight the voyage. Strange symbols appear on the sails. A figure stalks the decks. Livestock are slaughtered. Passengers are plagued with ominous threats, promising them three unholy miracles. First: an impossible pursuit. Second: an impossible theft.

Then: an impossible murder.

With Pipps imprisoned in the depths of the ship, can his loyal bodyguard, Arent Hayes solve the mystery before the ship descends into anarchy?

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star three and a half / 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars_1457015877_81_246_96_2

Well I certainly ventured out of my comfort zone reading this. If you would have told me I would read a story set on a ship called the Saardam sailing under the Dutch East Indian Company and drawing on trading adventures in the 1630s, I would have laughed. But I loved Turton’s debut novel so much (my review here) that I was curious and I wanted to give it a chance, and by giving it a chance in I mean I even bought the hardback (and I never buy hardbacks) because I believed the 552 pages could only be fully appreciated between a hard cover.

Overall I can say that I enjoyed reading The Devil and the Dark Water but I didn’t love it as much as I loved this author’s debut novel. In all fairness I don’t think anybody can deliver such a mindblowing job twice though.

The author did try to make his second book intriguing by introducing quite a big cast in his new novel too. The names and professions of the key players were listed before the first chapter which was a good idea to start with (and I absolutely loved the map of the ship drawn inside the book flap) but while I was reading I noticed there wasn’t much other than their professions to distinguish the different characters (Guard Captain, Governer General, Chamberlain, boatswain, Chief Merchant, Captain) and I struggled a little to figure out what each of them did on that ship exactly and Drecht and Vos for example seemed interchangeable so after a while I tried not to think too deeply about the who’s who.

I did love Arent Hayes and Sara Wessel. The governer general’s wife was undaunted and brave and a perfect partner in crime for Hayes. There was a great balance between both of them while they worked on trying to figure out more about who the leper was who warned them that the ship would never reach its destination, what this mysterious folly was (I did feel frustrated at times that it was shrouded in so much mystery for sooo long) and where it was kept and if ‘Old Tom’ really was on the ship.

I enjoyed the mystery but the revelations came quite late so I liked the last part of the novel where all the answers were finally revealed most of all. The author is skilled at working a complex plot and it gave me little vibes of Agatha Christie in the end so that certainly made me appreciate it.

I survived this quite well I think so even though it’s not a favourite I will keep an eye out for his next novel.

I bought a hardback copy of this novel. This is my honest opinion.

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner #BookReview

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Hidden in the depths of eighteenth-century London, a secret apothecary shop caters to an unusual kind of clientele. Women across the city whisper of a mysterious figure named Nella who sells well-disguised poisons to use against the oppressive men in their lives. But the apothecary’s fate is jeopardized when her newest patron, a precocious twelve-year-old, makes a fatal mistake, sparking a string of consequences that echo through the centuries.

Meanwhile in present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, running from her own demons. When she stumbles upon a clue to the unsolved apothecary murders that haunted London two hundred years ago, her life collides with the apothecary’s in a stunning twist of fate―and not everyone will survive.

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It’s been a while since I gave a novel five stars but how can I not give five stars to this stunning debut? I’m so happy this novel crossed my path!

I can’t think of anything that I didn’t like about this novel, I loved the writing and the switches between present and past were perfectly aligned. I was one hundred percent invested in Nella en Eliza’s unfurling story but it was also great to take a step back from those scenes and have Caroline in the present day try to locate this apothecary and its intriguing history. It was exciting to see her stepping into the footsteps of Nella. I’ve read a few books about the Victorian era but this was a new subject to read about for me and it was a fascinating topic with a very likeable apothecary. There is a sideplot about Caroline’s marriage troubles and while I thought James was portrayed a little too much as a villain who should never receive forgiveness for his infidelity and who’s solely to blame for all of their decisions (it’s a good thing he cheated on her then or she wouldn’t have had this eye-opener, take a look at it that way Caroline), I liked Caroline’s personal development throughout the story and how she found her true self again, all because she went ‘mudlarking’ (person who scavenges in river mud for objects of value) on a whim.

The story had a good dose of mystery about the fate of the characters. Nella and young Eliza – wise beyond her 12 years – who came to see her in her shop for a poison, Caroline and her library friend Gaynor, there were definitely similarities in the plotlines, especially towards the end where their loyalties to each other are put in the spotlight, and I grew fond of all of them. It was hard to say goodbye, especially to Nella and Eliza who are now long gone but certainly not forgotten.

I didn’t expect The Lost Apothecary to be such a captivating novel, but it really was a great historical read and I can’t wait to read more by this author!

I bought an ecopy of this novel. This is my honest opinion.

The Assistant by Kjell Ola Dahl #BookReview

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A seemingly straightforward investigation into marital infidelity leads a PI and his ex-con assistant on a murderous trail, in a sophisticated, riveting historical Nordic Noir thriller set in interwar and prohibition-era Norway.

Oslo, 1938. War is in the air and Europe is in turmoil. Hitler’s Germany has occupied Austria and is threatening Czechoslovakia; there’s a civil war in Spain and Mussolini reigns in Italy.

When a woman turns up at the office of police-turned-private investigator Ludvig Paaske, he and his assistant – his one-time nemesis and former drug-smuggler Jack Rivers – begin a seemingly straightforward investigation into marital infidelity.

But all is not what it seems, and when Jack is accused of murder, the trail leads back to the 1920s, to prohibition-era Norway, to the smugglers, sex workers and hoodlums of his criminal past … and an extraordinary secret.

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star three and a half

Kjell Ola Dahl was a totally new author to me so I went in with an open mind, even though I was a little unsure about the type of novel it was. It turned out The Assistant is quite the varied type and it is everything you think – or hope – it might be. Nordic crime? Check! Spies and lots of action? Double check! An intriguing mystery delivered in a historical setting? Why yes that too!

The Assistant contains at first chapters shifting between 1924 and 1938, and ends in 1962, but it all starts in 1924 where Jack Rivers is a driver for a man called Arvid Bjerke. He not only transports passengers but is also a runman delivering illegal cans of liquor to village shops. In the very first pages Jack is actually trying to avoid being arrested as he tries to outwit ‘the cop from hell’ Ludvig Paaske in a breathtakingly dangerous scene. Twenty pages later though with a time jump to 1938 Paaske isn’t a cop anymore but a private investigator and Rivers is quite suddenly his sidekick. It is all quite matter of fact with no explanation what happened in between so that only intrigued me more to find out how they got from sworn enemies to allies.

Good teamwork is certainly necessary when a woman asks them to investigate her husband, only to bring danger on themselves as soon as they start trailing the husband. I was invested in this novel from the action-packed opening till the earth shattering ending. In between I followed a treacherous path of twists and red herrings. This is one of those novels that were it a movie you better not look away if you want to keep up with what’s happening. There’s robbery, betrayal, narrow escapes and plenty of action and two women as memorable characters, Julie – wife to Jack’s old employer Arvid – and Amalie who plays the part of Arvid’s mistress. Both women play a magnificent role in all of it but are also characters that will make you question their sincerity and motives. Is Amalie worth being Jack’s crush or is she playing games with him? What are Julie’s intentions towards Jack? Who to trust?  

I have to admit that this was a somewhat challenging novel for me. I didn’t find the story as easy to read as the novels I finished in the weeks before with the writing style being more show than tell. I was often wondering what was going on and felt a little lost at times. I was also taken by surprise in the end that the novel suddenly went a very different direction than the route I had figured we were going. Without saying too much hopefully, I anticipated a full blown political/spy novel in the end with everything that had happened but I was way off track and shortly before the ending I became painfully aware of my mistake. My mouth nearly dropped open when I finally saw what we were dealing with! I really did enjoy the ending though which showed the true colours of all the characters. Overall I can conclude this is a great novel but I’m left in doubt that the style of writing makes this the right author for me.

I received a free paperback copy from the publisher Orenda Books to read. This is my honest opinion.

Bone China by Laura Purcell #BookReview

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Consumption has ravaged Louise Pinecroft’s family, leaving her and her father alone and heartbroken. But Dr. Pinecroft has plans for a revolutionary experiment: convinced that sea air will prove to be the cure his wife and children needed, he arranges to house a group of prisoners suffering from the disease in the caves beneath his new Cornish home. While he devotes himself to his controversial medical trials, Louise finds herself increasingly discomfited by the strange tales her new maid tells of the fairies that hunt the land, searching for those they can steal away to their realm.

Forty years later, Hester arrives at Morvoren House to take up a position as nurse to the now partially paralyzed and mute Miss Pinecroft. Hester has fled to Cornwall to try to escape her past, but surrounded by superstitious staff enacting bizarre rituals, she soon discovers her new home may be just as dangerous as her last.

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star three and a half / 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars_1457015877_81_246_96_2

The first and only novel I read by Laura Purcell until now was an ecopy of The Corset in 2018, a novel I absolutely loved. I actually wanted to read The Shape of Darkness and was looking into buying that one but it’s still too expensive in paperback so I settled for Bone China which was released in 2019.

There’s so much that can be said about this novel but I don’t know where to even start or how to review this one. Let’s start at the beginning, with the opening chapters of Bone China introducing the character of Hester Why. That’s not her real name though so ‘why’ indeed! Why is she escaping from London and who from? I wasn’t even very far into this novel and the questions already started to pile up. I would find the answers in the second part of the story after she installs herself at Morvoren House in Cornwall where she’ll take care of an elderly lady Louise Pinecroft who is partially paralysed. The customs and standards at Morvoren House are quite different from the position she was in in posh London, and there’s an overall creepiness added by one of the staff firmly believing in fairies and changelings. Hester doesn’t believe in all that (thank goodness) but it was unsettling that spooky things did happen and that everyone in the household went along believing they had to trick changelings and cast away fairies with bible balls and salt. Who exactly is in danger here?

Ms. Pinecroft is not able to clearly communicate with Hester due to the condition she’s in so she can’t explain why she’s intent on staying in an unheated (read freezing) room where a whole collection of blue and white china is displayed, nor why she she has a tormented look of fear in her eyes when night falls and it’s time for bed. The next part of the novel couldn’t have been a bigger contrast, the shift towards the past shows Louise Pinecroft suddenly as a young and strong woman again, trying to assist her father in finding a cure for consumption (tuberculosis) which they both seem to be immune to. What happened in between the oast and Ms. Pinecroft’s current state and what her obsession is with the china collection when she wasn’t too pleased when her father gave her a tea set at the time explaining that every mistress of a house needed one surely kept me turning those pages.

I was very engaged from the start and the flashbacks to the past – both Hester’s as Louise’s  – were very compelling but the present plotline was a bit hit and miss, it raised too many questions and it all got a bit over the top fantastical with sightings and things appearing and disappearing, for me personally it didn’t have to cross the line and go that far. The superstitions – fairies are bad creatures who come to take you away – do serve a purpose in the novel though with the story building up to a shocking ending. An ending that will leave everyone pondering if there was something good to come from it after all.

Overall a very mysterious, atmospheric novel with an unsettling feeling carried over the different timelines.

I bought a paperback copy of this novel. This is my honest opinion.

Flying high: Circus of Wonders by Elizabeth Macneal #BookReview

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1866. In a coastal village in southern England, Nell picks violets for a living. Set apart by her community because of the birthmarks that speckle her skin, Nell’s world is her beloved brother and devotion to the sea.

But when Jasper Jupiter’s Circus of Wonders arrives in the village, Nell is kidnapped. Her father has sold her, promising Jasper Jupiter his very own leopard girl. It is the greatest betrayal of Nell’s life, but as her fame grows, and she finds friendship with the other performers and Jasper’s gentle brother Toby, she begins to wonder if joining the show is the best thing that has ever happened to her.

In London, newspapers describe Nell as the eighth wonder of the world. Figurines are cast in her image, and crowds rush to watch her soar through the air. But who gets to tell Nell’s story? What happens when her fame threatens to eclipse that of the showman who bought her? And as she falls in love with Toby, can he detach himself from his past and the terrible secret that binds him to his brother?

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Elizabeth Macneal is a wonderful storyteller, don’t you agree? Her debut novel, The Doll Factory, was incredibly good (here’s my review) so I was more than a little excited to read Circus of Wonders. I was very happy Macneal chose for the Victorian era as the new setting of another book although I wasn’t sure how interested I would be in the circus life. Turns out I really fell for it, feeling as enraptured and close to the magic and the wondrous as if I was literally walking between the wagons at the site.

The exhibition of freaks, monstrosities or the so-called marvels of nature were essential components of travelling exhibitions in Europe and America throughout the Victorian period and Circus of Wonders shows all sides of this phenomenon in a story that moves the voices between Nell (the attraction of the show), Toby (the man who sees her for who she is) and Jasper (the man who wants to make Nell the star of his show).

Nell was an outcast in her village, but when she is forced to join Jasper Jupiter’s Circus of Wonders she soon discovers a community there where she is not regarded as a freak. In the company of a bearded woman, a giantess, and other ‘revels’ she finds a a sense of family and belonging. As a reader I was happy the story progressed so positively for Nell, although I knew this probably couldn’t last.

Nell is fast on her way to become the star of the show. Unfortunately Jasper is not satisfied yet and he wants to eclipse the famous P.T. Barnum and his attraction Tom Thumb. So what he wants is to perform for the Queen, he wants fame and fortune and he will do anything to get what he wants. I was anxiously reading about Jasper’s growing obsession to become the greatest showman of all time. Everything comes at a price of course. He makes a pact with a devil and now the pressure is sky high. There is tension and danger lurking in the shadows, which I loved. Will he achieve his goal or does he want to fly so close to the sun that – like Icarus – the wings will burn and he will tumble to the ground? It didn’t bode well…

Even though Nell is the star of the show/novel I liked her but I never really loved her character so I came to enjoy reading other parts of the book more as the story progressed. I found the whole setting highly interesting, how everyone was looked upon, what life entailed in the circus. I loved that real references were woven into the story and Macneal writes scenes so vividly that the era certainly comes alive. The two brothers Toby and Jasper fascinated me most of all and I also loved the mysterious plotline between them. There’s a story – a secret that originated during their time at the Crimean war – that overshadows their sibling relationship and makes it toxic, there’s jealousy and fear and the author keeps up the tension and mystery until the very end by leaving small crumbs all through the story.

I’m afraid to say that by the end of the novel I was less of a fan of Nell. She chooses her path in life when given two choices and I didn’t follow her in her dream and desires so the ending wasn’t entirely how I had envisioned it. Apart from that this is really another excellent immersive read by a historical writer I respect very highly!

I received a free copy of this novel from publisher Picador Books. This is still my honest opinion.

 

The Child of Auschwitz by Lily Graham #AudiobookReview

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It is 1942 and Eva Adami has boarded a train to Auschwitz. Barely able to breathe due to the press of bodies and exhausted from standing up for two days, she can think only of her longed-for reunion with her husband Michal, who was sent there six months earlier.

But when Eva arrives at Auschwitz, there is no sign of Michal and the stark reality of the camp comes crashing down upon her. As she lies heartbroken and shivering on a thin mattress, her head shaved by rough hands, she hears a whisper. Her bunkmate, Sofie, is reaching out her hand….

As the days pass, the two women learn each other’s hopes and dreams – Eva’s is that she will find Michal alive in this terrible place, and Sofie’s is that she will be reunited with her son Tomas, over the border in an orphanage in Austria. Sofie sees the chance to engineer one last meeting between Eva and Michal and knows she must take it even if means befriending the enemy….

But when Eva realises she is pregnant, she fears she has endangered both their lives. The women promise to protect each other’s children, should the worst occur. For they are determined to hold on to the last flower of hope in the shadows and degradation: their precious children, who they pray will live to tell their story when they no longer can.

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I’m delighted to grant my first five stars to an audiobook. It’s not surprising really, I have a strong interest in what happened during the Holocaust so that was a good reason for picking this audiobook and the narrator in this instance, Katy Sobey, told the story in a softly spoken voice. Where this might put me off in another story, making the main character sound perhaps too fragile or weak for my liking, it fitted the story here perfectly. Eva and Sofie, the two main characters, weren’t weak though, they both show resilience and they tried to lift each other up but they were also subjected to the tempers of the guards. Sofie caught the eye of a guard who takes pleasure in taunting her and Eva has to do laborious work that completely wears her out. They struggle to survive, like so many others, but their friendship and loyalty to each other shine like a little ray of light in a dark world. All is not lost. 

The author is an excellent story-teller and it was easy to get and to hold my attention listening to The Child of Auschwitz. Sofie’s will to survive was driven by her hope to find her son Tomas and Eva knew her husband Michal was sent to the camps so she deliberately came to find him. Sadness but also joy were part of the rollercoaster of emotions from the moment she saw him but I was most moved when I reached the part that I had wondered about before I even read the first page. You’d think it is impossible that in a place this horrid there could be new life, or a chance at new life even but The Child of Auschwitz gave me hope from the start that something good could happen even in the darkest of times. I couldn’t imagine how a baby could survive though with a malnourished mother who didn’t even have enough food for herself and it broke my heart more than once reading about the trials she was faced.

The Child of Auschwitz was a very moving story and although it was tragic and sad, it is also a story of friendship and of love as Eva and Sofie love their children so much that they would do anything for them. Even if they don’t all survive, there’s enough to be found in the story to act as a balm to my heart.

This is a story of fiction but the book was inspired by the true story of Vera Bein who gave birth to her daughter in the top bunk of camp C at Auschwitz-Birkenau in December 1944. I highly recommend this novel – the camp life seems well researched and detailed – if you enjoy this type of historical fiction. Truly unforgettable.

The Day My Grandfather Was A Hero by Paulus Hochgatterer #BookReview

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In October 1944, a thirteen-year-old girl arrives in a tiny farming community in Lower Austria, at some distance from the main theatre of war. She remembers very little about how she got there, it seems she has suffered trauma from bombardment. One night a few months later, a young, emaciated Russian appears, a deserter from forced labour in the east. He has nothing with him but a canvas roll, which he guards like a hawk. Their burgeoning friendship is abruptly interrupted by the arrival of a group of Wehrmacht soldiers in retreat, who commandeer the farm.

Paulus Hochgatterer’s intensely atmospheric, resonant novel is like a painting in itself, a beautiful observation of small shifts from apathy in a community not directly affected by the war, but exhausted by it nonetheless; individual acts of moral bravery which to some extent have the power to change the course of history.

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When I heard about this novel, it didn’t take more than a second to know that I wanted to read the story of a young girl during WWII. The girl is the person guiding us through the story but it’s mainly about a painting that really went missing during the war and where this novella gives a version of what possibly happened.

This short novella covers in merely 112 pages in fact the way of life in Austria for a family of farmers. The characters here fold back on themselves and they very much live in their own microcosmos in the country side. While it might seem at first that the war is not close by for them – you won’t read about invasions, raids, hunger or camps – it is a false feeling, even they can’t escape from danger. Yes the war is almost at its end as the date reads March 14, 1945 in the first chapter but that doesn’t mean that the threat is gone or that they have come out of it unscathed.

Nelli is the anchor point throughout the story but the story’s orbit extends to the farmer and his wife and their 5 children. Nelli – only 13 years old – is the most interesting character for half of the novel though as she’s lost her memory yet the scarring is right under the surface and it shines through intermittently via an astuteness that is quite extraordinary for a 13-year old. She has a special fondness for stories of martyrs for example and has no problem regaling an audience with vivid descriptions of ways to murder somebody.

I was well aware that she had a vivid imagination so it was difficult to know what the truth was. She often tells two versions of events and sometimes I was hoping that the alternate version of events that she proposed right after the one that was first mentioned was actually the one to be true. Who knows though? Did someone walk away or was this person killed after all, we’ll never really know… and exactly that play with the reader’s emotions, kindling that hope that we still carry in ourselves for the most positive outcome, is what made this novel extraordinary.

It did take me a bit of time and some research to find out more about the political situation in Austria at the time and the characters positions. ‘It’s only the Wehrmacht’ introduced me to their new visitors but I would have enjoyed it if the author had described their situation in more detail as it left me confused at first. The author also put a lot of effort into describing the landscape, the sky and air etc. which I could really imagine but not all of his characters came alive as much as Nelli’s surroundings unfortunately.

It was a interesting short story and Nelli allowed me to read a ‘could have happened’ story about a painting that really went missing in 1945. Above all this she made me realise that heroes don’t always get their fame. There were good people who acted and were never named. There are still so many stories untold, people who were brave and never received the recognition they deserved. It’s time to take notice and this novella is a great tribute for any unnamed heroes.

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher MacLehose for review. This review is my honest opinion.

The Postcard Murder by Paul Worsley QC #BlogTour @midaspr #PaulWorsley #ThePostcardMurder

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Welcome to my stop for The Postcard Murder – A Judge’s Tale by Paul Worsley QC and thanks so much to MidasPR for the invitation to join this blog tour! I have an extract to share with you today but first check out how great this novel sounds.

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It may be of some satisfaction to you, Gentlemen of the Jury, to know that you have been engaged in one of the most remarkable trials that is to be found in the annals of the Criminal Courts of England. Mr Justice Grantham, Judge at the Old Bailey

This is a vintage whodunit set in Edwardian London at a crossroads in time, as social revolution and psychiatry posed new questions for the Law and for the first time the Media were co-opted to run a killer to ground.

The year is 1907: 22-year-old Emily Dimmock lies murdered in her Camden Town flat, her head all but severed from her body. With not a thread or stain or fingerprint to point to the perpetrator, a young artist is manouevred into the shadow of the scaffold.

The tale is told verbatim by witnesses presided over by the author, who draws on his own experience as a Judge at the Old Bailey to get inside the mind of the outspoken but irresolute Mr Justice Grantham. The result is as compelling today as it is definitive of the era in which the murder was committed.

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Author

Paul Worsley was for ten years a judge at the Old Bailey, where the Postcard Murder was tried. He now lives in rural North Yorkshire, where as a practising QC most of his murder cases took place. The Postcard Murder is the first in a series of books in which he gets into the mind of the trial judge in order to lay bare Justice as it was understood and dispensed in the manner of the day.

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