If She Wakes by Erik Therme

If She Wakes by Erik Therme

If She Wakes is the second book in the Harlow series and sequel to If She Dies which I reviewed last year. At the end of the first book there were a lot of loose ends and a feeling it was not all over yet – I can now see why. It is now two years since Tess and Josh’s daughter died, and her grief is compounded by the recent death of her brother. After a car accident leaves Torrie in a coma, Tess and Josh are caring for their nephew, Levi. When Torrie’s sisters turn up, Tess is suspicious because Torrie had previously claimed she had no family. Their appearance just adds to Tess’s problems because none of them is being entirely truthful.

Once again the story is told entirely from Tess’s point of view, we are inside her head and privy to all her obsessive thoughts. Tess is a wonderfully drawn and fascinating character whose grief has pushed her very close to the edge; she is hanging on with her fingernails. She may be paranoid but maybe someone really is out to get her. Despite appearances, Tess has not really changed all that much. Her marriage is in a slightly better place now, but starts to show cracks again with the strain of all that is happening.  To me, Josh is still as unsupportive and irritating as he was before – no wonder Tess doesn’t tell him everything.

I’m not sure putting the backstory in the prologue works too well; perhaps not giving so much information all at once would be better, and might encourage readers to seek out If She Dies first. The pace is erratic at times, but the writing is gripping and the surprising twist near the end comes out of nowhere – I was hooked and read it in two sittings. The ending seems to suggest that there will be a third book to look forward to. Thanks to Erik Therme for a digital copy that I review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team #RBRT

Should I Tell You? by Jill Mansell

should i tell you by Jill Mansell

Over the years I have read and enjoyed all of Jill Mansell’s books, look forward to a new one coming out every January, and Should I Tell You? is up there with the best. Set in the fictional Cornish seaside town of Lanrock, the world building is excellent, and the map at the beginning of the book really helps the reader to get their bearings.

Lachlan, Amber and Raffaele were all fostered by Teddy and May when they were teenagers and developed a strong bond. They all left to pursue their various careers, but  twenty years later are all now back in Lanrock – Lachlan is an award-winning chef, Amber a stained-glass artist with her own studio, and Raffaele is setting up a new hairdressing salon. One of the great strengths of Jill Mansell’s books is the characterisation – they are all fully rounded, flawed and believable, even the minor ones.

May has passed away, and Teddy has met someone new, though Lachlan, Amber and Raffaele are worried Olga is only after his money. The title is very apt as everyone has a secret and they don’t know whether to reveal the truth or not. The story deals with some serious subjects, but there is always humour as well as sadness. Should I Tell You? is a heartwarming and uplifting tale that you won’t be able to put down. Thanks to Headline and Friends of Bookends for an ARC to review.

Edge of the Grave by Robbie Morrison

Edge of the Grave by Robbie Morrison

In Edge of the Grave, the impressive first book in this new series, Robbie Morrison introduces us to DI Jimmy Dreghorn and DS Archie McDaid of the Special Crimes Unit, set up by the new Chief Constable, Percy Sillitoe, to help stamp out the gang violence which was such a serious problem in Glasgow in 1932.

When the body of Charles Geddes is fished out of the Clyde with his throat cut, his widow asks for Dreghorn to investigate. He has past connections to the wealthy Lockhart shipbuilding family, and this dredges up lots of memories he’d rather forget. The flashbacks help to give the reader a more rounded picture of his formative years. Like other fictional detectives – Liam McIlvanney’s Duncan McCormack for instance – Dreghorn is a Catholic in a predominantly Protestant police force, which makes him a bit of an outsider.

This is a graphically violent and brutal story that does not flinch from showing the reader the reality of life in Glasgow at this time. It could have been unremittingly bleak, but is offset by the humorous banter between Dreghorn and McDaid; their partnership is at the heart of the story. The investigation is complex and uncovers layers of vice and corruption with far-reaching consequences.

Edge of the Grave is more than just a crime novel; Robbie Morrison gives us the historical context. He weaves real people and situations into the narrative alongside the fictional ones. It could seem a bit like a history lesson at times, but in a good way. It’s worth reading the author’s note at the end of the book for more detail. I grew up in this part of the world and discovered quite a lot I didn’t previously know. I thoroughly enjoyed Edge of the Grave and am looking forward to reading the next book in the series.  

The Fair Botanists by Sara Sheridan

The Fair Botanists by Sara Sheridan

It is the summer of 1822 and Edinburgh is buzzing with rumours of a royal visit. The Botanic Gardens are being moved from Leith Walk to the new site near Inverleith House. The book opens with a marvellous  description of the trees being moved from one site to the other and I was astonished to find out that this had actually happened. In the greenhouse is a plant, Agave Americana, which is due to flower any day. As this only happens once in several decades, there is a lot of interest. Many people have their eye on the limited number of flowers and seeds that will be produced, and will go to great lengths to acquire them.

I liked that the two main characters were female at a time when women were severely restricted in what they could accomplish in their daily lives. Elizabeth Rocheid has come to live at Inverleith House with her late husband’s aunt, Clementina, and is a talented botanical artist who previously worked at Kew Gardens. Belle Brodie is the illegitimate daughter of the granddaughter of a Duke, the mistress of two rich men, and supplements her income creating  exotic perfumes.  They are unlikely allies, but have in common that they have made the best of their less than ideal situations.

Beautifully written and thoroughly researched, The Fair Botanists is a seamless blend of fictional characters with events (and people) from history and gives the reader a vivid portrait of Enlightenment Edinburgh. I had not read anything by Sara Sheridan before, but I really enjoyed The Fair Botanists so will look out for some of her earlier books. Thanks to Headline and Friends of Bookends for an ARC to review.

Nowhere to Run by James Oswald

Nowhere To Run by James Oswald

Nowhere to Run is the third book in the Constance Fairchild series by James Oswald. Recovering from her ordeal in the last book, Con is living in a remote cottage near Aberystwyth when covid forces her to stay put for a bit longer. In fact, she’s not entirely sure she wants to go back to her old life at all.

After she is attacked on the way back from the pub, and ends up in a cell for defending herself,  along with Lila, a young Ukrainian woman who is trying to escape from her manipulative violent boyfriend, Con finds herself up against some seriously nasty people. Far away from her usual backup, she has to rely on her own resources to get out of trouble. James Oswald really puts Con through the wringer, and you have to keep reminding yourself that this is fiction, not real life. I read this in two sessions as I literally could not put it down.

Told entirely from Con’s point of view, we are right in the thick of it as she tries to find out who is behind the people trafficking and drug smuggling. The Welsh coastal setting is atmospheric, and the sense of otherness, invoked by the traditional legends and folklore woven seamlessly into the narrative, is what we have come to expect from James Oswald, and he does it so well.

Nowhere to Run combines great storytelling with well-drawn characters and a tense, fast-moving plot. Trouble seems to follow Con wherever she goes, and she has a tendency to act first and think later, but she will not stop until the case is solved. There were appearances from some old friends from the two previous books, particularly her neighbour in London who brings her coffee and delicious food, but the star of the show, without a doubt, was the deerhound, Gelert. I am not normally a dog person, but I would definitely like one just like him.  

I have read and enjoyed all of James Oswald’s books and Nowhere to Run is a great addition to the series. Although you could read this as a standalone, you would get so much more out of it if you read the others first. Thanks to Wildfire and NetGalley for a digital copy to review.