Echoes of Home

Echoes of Home by Matt Rayner
I bought this book for a number of reasons. I do love a good ghost story, I live near to and know Stoke-on-Trent, my daughter loves camping in the wilds of Scotland and finally, Matt had bought one of my books so I thought I’d return the compliment. I’m glad I did.
 
Life was in the doldrums for Leslie Wills a young man from Stoke-on-Trent so when a generous offer comes along through his brother he accepts. He eagerly begins his long-distance journey to the Scottish Highlands of Elphin, a settled village that sits huddled amongst the dominating mountains. Its people are welcoming, and the beauty of the land is great. However all is not what it seems, and Leslie begins to discover another reality, one from the troubled past full of secrets and suspicions until a harrowing experience uncovers the truth from that time. I have always appreciated that the Scottish people had reason to hate the behaviour of the English throughout history and this is highlighted in this novel in the overbearing and cruel nature of the landowner and his friends during the famine in the eighteenth century.

This is a complex narrative giving a different slant to the modern ghost story. I thoroughly enjoyed it and was as stunned by the final revelations as was Leslie. 

After thought; I’m not sure I relish the thought of wild camping in Scotland after reading it! Scary.

Stains of Suspicion


Stains of Suspicion (DCI Christopher Timothy Book 4) by Alison Lingwood.

DCI Christopher Timothy is back at work part-time after an attack left him unconscious for months. Unfortunately this brings him into conflict with his partner as he tries to make sense of his new place within the team. On top of this murder doesn’t stop to allow him to sort himself out and a body is found in a car park covered in a tarpaulin. While cause of death appear to be natural, the circumstances of its resting place muddies the waters quite a lot. To add to the mystery the man who thought he was identifying his sister found that she wasn’t!

The family involved has many diverse characters that made me angry, irritated, sad, concerned, sorry – all the emotions good characters should do as you read their stories. I seriously could have smacked one or two of them! Brilliant.

If you like a character led intriguing story then this is for you.

A Wild Kind of Justice

A Wild Kind of Justice (Book 3 in the Christopher Timothy series) by Alison Lingwood

A survey conducted on a building site over a defunct coal mine in north Staffordshire reveals part of a human body.
Christopher Timothy, now a Detective Chief Inspector, is put in charge of the investigation, but things take a tragic turn for him, his family and an old acquaintance.
Not everyone is who they seem to be in this twisty tale of rape, murder and attempted murder. While even Pippa is regarded with suspicion at first the culprit is much closer than anyone realises putting the whole Timothy family in danger.
Different story threads are woven together to form a complex whole with a frightening twist. This book is an absolute page turner and I’m afraid I put the light out rather late in the night – or should I say early in the morning!

The Bridport Dagger

The Bridport Dagger by Alison Lingwood
The Bridport Dagger (DI Christopher Timothy Book 2) by [Alison Lingwood]I couldn’t wait to start reading the second novel to feature DI Christopher Timothy so picked it up as soon as I’d finished the first book.
It is now 2 years on and DI Timothy is now married Pippa who he met in A Portal to Murder.

Chris and his wife Pippa arrive in Dorset for a well-earned holiday, but find it interrupted by two deaths which occur in separate parts of the country. DI Timothy is drawn into the investigation and works alongside an unknown team to investigate the local death. However he soon finds he has to delve back over forty years, and expose a further tragedy, in order to make sense of the mysterious events that link all 3.

This is another character-led page-turner fuelled by twists and turns in the investigation. It ends in a neat twist which I didn’t see coming.

I like the thread involving the Timothy family interspersed with the action. It gives the characters depth and shows their human qualities amid the sordid technicalities of the crimes they seek to untangle.

If you like a human crime story this is for you. I’m definitely giving it 5.

Portal to Murder

Portal to Murder (DI Christopher Timothy Book 1) by [Alison Lingwood]Angela is a bored, middle-aged spinster, unattractive, friendless and in a mundane job. She is approached on the internet by someone who tells her he is an ex school friend called Kevin and is doing well in Canada. Concerned that her boring existence will not hold his interest, she weaves a fabric of lies, becoming more and more obsessed with her fantasy life.

Unfortunately Kevin is not who he says he is. He is using Angela for his own nefarious ends and the relationship between the two of them has dire consequences for those around them.

Portal to Murder is an intricately woven story linking a series of crimes in one particular neighbourhood. I became wholly wrapped up in Angela’s lust for a better life. Unfortunately she goes about this in an entirely inappropriate way and the fact that she becomes linked, albeit unknowingly, with local criminals means that all does not end well.

This is the first of a series of books involving DI Christopher Timothy and subsequently his family. I read this after reading a book by a well-known crime writer and have to say I preferred Alison’s story telling. I felt it moved at a faster pace and drew you into the story creating an empathy with the characters and a need to keep turning the pages long after lights-out. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am looking forward to reading the next.

If you enjoy character-led crime fiction then I would wholly recommend this book.

Regrets?

It’s Lent and I was given a small card when I went to church on Sunday asking me ‘What regrets do you need to lay down?’
 
Well, I am in the fortunate position of not having any life-changing regrets. That’s not to say I have no regrets just too few to mention. (Sorry! I couldn’t resist.)

There is one though that I must share.

In 1970 I had £100. I had that and a little bit more.

It must be remembered that back in 1970 if you were a teenager with £100 you felt like you were a millionaire. The money had been saved to pay my way through Teacher Training college.
Since I was 4 years old I had wanted to be a teacher. I never waivered. My parents encouraged me to save as I would need money to see me through.
I was given half-a-crown pocket money (2/6d or 12.5p) a week. I spent 6d (2.5p) and saved 2 shillings (10p). I did errands, had a paper round and when old enough I worked Saturdays and holidays in a bakery.

So in the summer of 1970 I had the grand total of £126 and some odd pennies in my Post Office savings account.

I was all ready to go to college in the September when my local garage acquired a fire engine for sale.
It was an old Dennis, and I was besotted. It cost £100 and I had £100.

I couldn’t drive then, I had no where to keep it but I lusted after that fire engine every time I walked past.
  
College won but 50+ years on I still think about that fire engine. How much would it be worth today if I could have kept it in the manner it deserved? Not that I would have sold it on but I could have stroked it’s glossy red paint whenever I wanted.

A Ripping Yarn

Field of Lies by John Pye
Field of Lies: A crime thriller with a deeper secret (Detective Inspector Doug Taylor)Field of Lies is the second book involving DI Doug Taylor. Having enjoyed the first I was looking forward to reading this. I was not disappointed. This book has everything a crime novel needs to keep the pages turning. Some pretty nasty personalities sneak from the woodwork as the story unfolds and get to play their part in a twisted tale of greed, ego, violence, sex and murder as well as puzzling links to an age-old secret and to a missing girl. DC Deakin, who has an instinct about the case is taken out of the game before he uncovers a fraction of the grisly facts. Deakin’s friend and former boss, DI Doug Taylor, in his usual impetuous form, bulldozes straight in, eager to unravel a growing mystery and an awful tragedy. His hot-headed actions soon land him in dangerous trouble but together with girlfriend WDC Kim Harding he turns a planned winter break into an illegal search for answers. The truth is far more sickening than anyone would have thought. Humorous episodes break up the tension when power crazed senior officers put their ego in front of common sense and good police work. We are introduced to rookie police constable, Sid Beddows who just wants to be a copper, but his efforts to solve a minor crime upset the apple cart of the top brass completely. When his secret skills are discovered he gets to become a major player in crimes of international importance.
If you enjoy a fast-paced crime novel then I would highly recommend this book.

A Good Ghost Story

I read a short story, Curious, If Anything, by CC Adams which was included in an anthology of horror stories and was so very impressed that I’ve looked out other work by him and found this little gem. It is a novella and as with all the best ghost/horror stories the length means that the action is tight, the drama being developed slowly but not overly drawn out.

Denny and Olivia are looking forward to life together after their lavish wedding in Olivia’s dream setting followed by a belated but beautiful honeymoon. Like all relationships, theirs is one that needs working at along with love and trust but these qualities are slowly and surely tested, when insidious forces get to work, forces that have a devastating effect on the pair.

CC has a wonderful knack of building tension. You hear every creak, follow every step and expect to see something pretty nasty around every corner. The uneasiness builds around the reader understanding what is likely to occur given a situation but not the when as well as the unexpected as the shocks come when you least expect them.

This this a beautifully crafted book designed to keep you on edge as to what will happen next. If you like a good fright and are partial to a ghost story then I would recommend you try this.  

Cathedral Of Lies

Cathedral of Lies by John Pye

Cathedral of Lies: The art of deception is a dangerous game (Detective Inspector Doug Taylor Book 1)The action starts in Exeter Crown Court in 1986 during a multimillion pound drugs trial. The blast from a powerful handgun brings a halt to proceedings as the defendant makes his escape taking his barrister with him as hostage.
Three days and two hundred miles away a mutilated and burnt corpse is found in a Staffordshire beauty spot – there seems to be no connection between the two but diligent and lengthy police work alongside pathology establish a link. Detective inspector Doug Taylor is a determined man – the body found in Staffordshire belonged to an Exeter man and didn’t the defendant in the drugs trail originate from Staffordshire? And then the barrister from Exeter is found dead in a burnt-out jaguar on Cannock Chase.

The two police forces work together and uncover rape, murder and corruption at a high level.
Matters become all the more curious when a bizarre secret held by a cathedral and a church appear central to the affair – it is a secret surrounded by lies, a secret which stretches back decades and one which the main players will go to any lengths to obtain and regardless of who they are prepared to hurt or kill in the process.

If you like a well-written, fast-paced crime thriller that has more twists and turns than the Corkscrew at Alton Towers then you’ll love this book.

I can’t wait to start the second book in the Doug Taylor series.

The Persolus Race Vol One

Ed. Alex O’Neill with Rachel Shipp & M.M. Dixon

The Persolus Race is an interesting concept in that it is an anthology of collected science fiction stories written by different people from different countries but all embracing the same theme which is “Are we alone?”

The stories explore the concept of “Rare Earth” and why complex life is likely to be rare in the universe.

The stories have a common setting in that the human race has been around for a very long time; time enough to realise that intelligent life is so rare that it is confined to humankind.

So, no aliens? Not quite. Humankind has evolved in different ways; science has made sure of that. Cybernetics have enhanced human existence and not always to our advantage. (The Snake in Eden.) Meddling in genetics has had severe consequences for those caught up in it. (Oisettio.)

The concepts explored are thought provoking. Teleportation always works in the films but have you ever considered the science? Not so much fun in this story. (The Man in the Mountain.)

The science may have moved on in this fictional future and other planets explored but humankind still has to battle with wear and tear, worn out machinery and the need to survive.

As a collection the book reminds me of The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, and I applaud everyone involved for getting together so diverse a group in the midst of the pandemic and publishing such a well thought out anthology.

I have deliberately not included spoilers. If you want to know more then buy the book. If you, like me, enjoy old-school science fiction you won’t regret it.