Jodie Parker and her catering team – consisting of her 13-year-old daughter Daisy, her mother and her right hand Debbie – have taken over a job at short notice at Bodmin Moor, an old abbey about to be turned into a guest house. Millionaire Isaac is hosting a Christmas party for kids with a Santa and all it needs to have a great event. The food is great and they all have a wonderful day. Yet, when they want to leave in the evening, it turns out that due to heavy snow fall, all roads are blocked. Thus, Jodie and her team, Isaac with his assistant and his son as well as Santa Steve have to stay overnight. Two knocks on the door bring more stranded people: a group of four Japanese women and a mysterious couple. They make the best of the situation, but when a dead body is discovered the next morning, they realise that a murderer must be among them.
I hadn’t noticed that “A Cornish Christmas Murder” is the fourth in Fiona Leitch series about the nosey ex member of the Met Police Jodie Parker. Yet, the cosy crime novel offers enough about her backstory to simply enjoy the case at hand. It is a classic setting with a group of strangers gathering in an isolated place where no mysterious intruder could have entered secretly to commit the deed. Thus, you know soon that one of the lovely bunch must be the culprit, only the questions of how and why remain of which the search for an answer is entertaining to follow.
It was especially that Agatha Christie-esque setting that drew me to the novel and I wasn’t disappointed. Christmas time is a jolly period which makes people especially unaware of the dark sides of the world. Despite the unwanted stay at the mansion, the night guests explore the premises and make the best of it. And the house has to offer some secret passages which open room for speculation about past times – and present times, too. Some late-comers about whom we do not learn too much add suspense to the circle of suspects.
The protagonist is a very likable down-to-earth woman – with quite a clever daughter – whom I liked immediately. The case offers some mysteries which are not too obvious to untangle but find a convincing end. A charming and diverting read perfect for the Christmas season.
Maddie wants to flee from the ghosts that haunt her life after her parents‘ death. Together with seven others, she takes part in a TV experiment in which they have to stay isolated from the world on an island off the Scottish coast for a year. Equipped with cameras and just the most necessary items, the group has to survive in the unfriendly environment. It does not take too long for them until the first conflicts arise. Who does not contribute enough to the community, who is working harder, how can daytime be used in the most useful way? The issues for quarrelling are manifold and Maddie soon finds herself the main target of the male participants. She has always been an outsider, is she just unable of integrating into or group? She tries hard but with lowering food supplies, tension grows and annoyance ultimately turns into blind rage which sets free basic instincts of survival.
Even though Sarah Goodwin’s thriller “Stranded” follows quite a classic scheme, I was totally gripped by the story and hardly could put down the book. The reader follows the first person narrator Maddie thus sharing not only her insecurities and thoughts but also wondering if you can trust her assessment of the situation and feeling hesitant about the other characters’ behaviour and actions behind Maddie’s back. You know from the prologue that things will turn out nasty and that not everybody will survive, thus tension is set high from the start and does not lower at any point keeping you spellbound.
Even though I personally would never take part in such a challenge, I found the setting enthralling. It is well documented what atrocious surroundings in which a bunch of people are threatened by starvation and lose hope of rescue can make of human beings. They turn into animals, it is just a question of when and degree of how horrible the situation becomes. The author does not wait too long for the first small escalations; the characters are well chosen to quickly provide enough room for conflict.
Despite her isolated and overprotective upbringing, Maddie is fairly well equipped for survival. This she needs to be as all kinds of aggressions are addressed to her by her fellows. Her survival instinct kicks in and she is willing to fight back – not matter what it takes. Yet, the other characters are not drawn one-dimensionally either, especially Zoe shows that at times, you are in conflicting situations where you are forced to take sides even though you do not want to and you have to choose maybe the wrong one just because it is the one with the upper hand.
There is no human abyss left out and thus, you only wait for the next escalation level until you reach the ultimate one. Full of suspense, a thriller which definitely deserves this label.
What a wonderful idea, not to sleep anymore. Yet, if it happens too often or you spend too much time lying awake in bed, it becomes insomnia and can even be pretty frightening. Thus, Claire, Jacques, Michèle, Lena and Hervé become a therapeutical insomniac group lead by specialist Hélène to find sleep again. It is due to quite diverse reasons that the five of them spend their nights roaming. Hervé is stressed out by his job, Lena misses her father, a former baker who always got up very early in the morning, Michèle is haunted by the children she lost and Jacques by a fatal mistakes that happened months ago. Claire is just fed up with her whole life, her job, her relationship, her living in small village outside Paris. The five strangers quickly become a small but fond community not only united by their inability to sleep.
Even though all of the characters are at a critical point in their life where they are confronted with making tremendous and far-reaching decisions and where they have to confront inconvenient truths of themselves and their lives, Gabrielle Levy’s novel nevertheless has to offer some feel-good factor. I adored the five patients from the start, they are drawn with so much care and love that you simply cannot not like them. They are ordinary people, people you can meet anywhere, at work, in the stairwell, on the street, but they immediately develop a bond due the fact they form a brotherhood in suffering.
Beautifully written, I simply floated through the novel enjoying sharing some time with the small group who meet as strangers and whom you leave as friends. The author wonderfully captured those small moments, hazardous encounters that can make a difference in life.
What do good parents do before the baby arrives? They prepare. And what could be better than a prenatal baby group? This is how six very different couples meet. Monica and Ed are already a bit older, but obviously they have everything under control and quickly take over the lead. Kelly is by far the youngest, insecure while her boyfriend and the baby’s father, Ryan, is mainly absent. Anita and Jeremy cannot have a baby but have planned an adoption, whereas Hazel and Cathy opted for a donor. Aisha and Rahul keep mainly to themselves while Jax feels judged since she is more than ten years the senior of her partner Aaron. Nina is leading the group and preparing the future parents for the upcoming events. Yet, what they a not prepared for is a fatality at their baby welcoming barbecue.
I have been a huge fan of Claire McGowan’s novels for quite some time and also her latest mystery did not disappoint me. A very diverse set of characters who all have their secrets they try to hide from the others but who, ultimately, have to give up and face reality. Narrated alternatingly between the time of the prenatal course and the eventful barbecue, we get to know the characters at two different points of time which is especially interesting because so much happens in between and, as a reader, you have to put together the single bits and pieces. Plus, it takes some time just to figure out what exactly happened during the barbecue and who the victim actually is.
What I admired most was how the characters were created and how each becomes a lively and authentic individual. Even though the number is quite high, they all get some specific traits and secrets which make them not only interesting but add to the overall suspense. There is a murder case but much more interestingly is to figure out the characters‘ little white or big fat lies.
At the same time, the author shows all the fears and insecurities which come with becoming a parent for the first time. A constant feeling of not being good enough and not caring enough accompanies the future mothers. The group pressure in the supposedly help group also plays an important role, some just seem to always be at the head of the class while others always fail. Much more than supportive, the group becomes highly competitive.
I thoroughly enjoyed the read, a perfect page-turner for me which brilliantly combines suspense with sarcastic humour and also serious moments.