Book Review: “Hidden in Plain Sight” by Jeffrey Archer

This is the second book of the Detective William Warwick series I have read, though I do wonder why, as I am not really a fan of this author. I do however, find his stories somewhat entertaining, and an easy read, when there is nothing better to hand.

“Hidden in Plain Sight” as expected was an enjoyable story, even though in my opinion, there were far too many obvious clues which, more or less, made the outcome predictable despite the author’s attempt in clouding the reader’s perception of the story by throwing in two, seemingly unrelated, separate investigations running in parallel.

The first being of a fraudster, who in the middle of a messy divorce, becomes entangled in drug related charges, landing him behind bars. Yet despite this apparent occupational hazard, he still manages to outdo his unsuspecting wife of the agreed settlement by every dishonest and cunning means at his disposal; and just when you think he won’t get away with it – surprise, surprise… he manages to outwit the police and escapes justice. No doubt, this villain will resurface in a later novel.

In the second investigation, the police are able to dismantle a drug baron’s empire through some meticulous, if not incredible, planning and an ingenious raid on a residential tower block in the heart of London’s inner city; which though may sound convincing on paper, makes me wonder whether such a raid could actually be feasible in reality?

Remaining on the subject of ‘reality’ are police officers so quickly promoted through the ranks as Jeffrey Archer has favoured his main character ‘William Warwick’? Where in book one, “Nothing Ventured” (which I read sometime last year) he had just joined the police force as a rookie, but by the end of it was a detective constable. In this current book, he has passed his sergeant’s exams and is promoted to that rank, and on reading the blurb of Jeffrey’s next novel “Turn a Blind Eye”, William Warwick has been promoted yet again, this time to detective inspector!

There are a lot of authors who have written crime novels, but only a few are true masters of their craft, and in my opinion, Jeffrey Archer isn’t amongst them.

I shall most certainly not read this book again, though out of curiosity, or to quell any spells of boredom, I may consider reading the next one. As such, I can only award this story 2-stars.

RLB – Tomewriter

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Book Review: “Dissolution” by C. J. Sansom

If it hadn’t been for the author Bernard Cornwall, whom I follow on Facebook, I would never have discovered “Dissolution” by C. J. Sansom. His recommendation was the only encouragement needed to purchase a copy of the book and read it.

Set in southern England in winter of 1537, during a time of political and religious unrest; where the king, Henry VIII, has set himself up as the supreme head of the church in England, thus snubbing the pope who was against the divorce of Catherine of Aragon to enable Henry to marry Anne Boleyn. Yet it is not long before the king tires of her and she is executed on trumped up charges of High Treason by Thomas Cromwell, his chief minister and vicar-general.

Henry’s third wife, Jane Seymour, is also now dead due to complications immediately following the birth of their son, Edward. That aside, the king is set to rid the country of all papist regimes, and throughout the realm monasteries are being forced to close. Their financial wealth being absorbed into the treasury, whilst the vast land holdings are being distributed amongst the king’s most favoured supporters.

In Sussex, at the monastery of Scarnsea, Cromwell’s commissioner, Robin Singleton is brutally decapitated.

Matthew Shardlake, a lawyer, and staunch supporter of the Reformation, is sent by Cromwell to Scarnsea to investigate the murder, and to continue his predecessor’s task of securing the surrender of the monastery.

He travels from London accompanied by his assistant, Mark Poer. Making their mission harder, the weather has turned against them, as heavy snows descend during their entire séjours at the remote coastal location which is bordered by treacherous marshlands.

Trying to unravel the original murder is made worse by additional deaths hence compounding an already mysterious crime. All the senior monks have motive of one sort or another, and one feels sorry for Matthew’s seemingly impossible task, particularly as he is further hampered by a cruel physical and sometimes painful deformity: he is hunch-back.

As if to further aggravate his efforts, Mark falls in love with the infirmarian’s assistant, a young woman named Alice Fewterer. Despite Matthew’s efforts to discourage their relationship by warning Mark such a union would end his career and successful future, Mark takes no heed.

Towards the end, just when pieces start to fall together, Matthew is as good as heart-broken when Mark and Alice abscond across the dangerous marshlands to be taken away to France by smugglers. When Matthew goes out in search there is no sign of them, and it is assumed they were sucked down in the thick mud and drowned. . ..

Despite my continuous guesses at who the murder(s) might be, once again, as with other recent mysteries I have read, my powers of deduction fell short, and failed me completely. The truth, when it came, was indeed unexpected.

I will not divulge anything further, except to say, like Bernard Cornwall, obtain a copy of the book and read it.

I shall look forward to immersing myself into the pages of the sequel “Dark Fire” as well as the other books of the Shardlake Series.

Finally, I would like to thank C. J. Sansom for his wonderful story, and the encouraging remarks from the members of the C J Sansom Appreciation Society.

5-Stars goes without saying.

RLB – Tomewriter

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Book Review: “The Lake House” by Kate Morton

When I first read a story by Kate Morton (“The Forgotten Garden” reviewed 31/05/21), it took me a while to adjust at the way it had been structured, which, although encompassed several generations, wasn’t in any specific chronological order, but rather jumped back and forth through time, whilst slowly unravelling the mystery of the tale.

It was therefore no surprise to find “The Lake House” had been similarly written, but at least this time, I was not frustrated by it, and instead, I was completely at ease as the mystery, or to be precise: mysteries – as there are two unsolved cases, are gradually revealed.

“The Lake House” covers a period from the early 1900s to 2004. It is set in Cornwall and London, and among the multitude of characters, there are only three of real importance. They are: Eleanor Edevane, her middle daughter, Alice, who in later life becomes a notable fiction crime writer, and Sadie Sparrow, a police detective.

From the very first chapter, set in Cornwall in August 1933, though only two pages in length, you are captivated into what promises to be more than just another ‘who-done-it’ mystery, but in something more meaningful and deeper. I, once again, found myself subconsciously guessing at the secrets behind the mystery of a small child’s disappearance and, just like in “The Forgotten Garden”, just when I thought I had found the answer, I was disappointed to discover my powers of deduction fell utterly short. :o(

Moving forward to the present, or namely 2003, Detective Sadie Sparrow has been forced to take extended leave by her immediate superior, Donald, who threatens her with suspension from the police force, if she does not go on holiday. For Sadie, like a dog with a bone, is unable to accept the closure of their last case, and continues, unofficially, to pursue it much to the displeasure of Donald. The case being of a toddler found home alone in a small apartment, apparently abandoned by the mother who leaves a note suggesting it pre-planned. Against all protocol, Sadie being sympathetic to the child’s grandmother’s plight, befriends her. She, Nancy Bailey, is convinced her daughter would not, and did not, abandon the child, but more that foul play was the reason for the uncharacteristic disappearance. As the grandmother’s suspicions break in a media story, the police launch an inquiry of a possible internal leak.

Sadie, reluctantly travels to stay with her grandfather, Bertie, who, though had grown up and lived most of his life in the East End of London, following the death of his wife, retired to Cornwall. During her time with Bertie, Sadie makes a point of going out early every morning for a run in the nearby countryside in the company of her grandfather’s two dogs: Ash and Ramsay. One particular day, Ramsay vanishes, and Sadie, frantic with worry, searches for him with Ash. They find him trapped by his hind legs in the rotting timber of an old jetty by a lake. Nearby, she notices a seemingly abandoned house hidden amidst overgrown, and unkept gardens. Sadie’s natural inquisitiveness is too strong a feeling not to take a closer look. She is amazed to see, through dirty windows, a house still well furnished, with a letter, partially written, on a small table, as though whoever lived there had just popped out and would return soon…

Returning back to 1933, the Edevane family are readying themselves for a Midsummer party, with numerous guests, food and champagne aplenty, and a fireworks display planned for midnight. . ., but all is not what it seems. For come the following morning it is discovered that Eleanor’s youngest child, Theo, has vanished. Whether he has been kidnapped or killed, by accident or design, no one would ever know. The tragedy of it is further marred by the unexplained death of a dear friend, Daffyd Llewellyn, who the police make out as a suicide on learning the man was severely depressed.

For, sixteen-year-old Alice, the day is further saddened on learning that a gardener, Ben Munro, who was more than a friend to her, and whom she loved deeply, has left the estate, and hence breaking her heart.

Although the Edevane family are portrayed as a seemingly happy and loving family, Eleanor has been harbouring several meaningful secrets; the most notable of all being the deteriorating mental health of her husband, Anthony. Since his return from France in 1918 he was never the same. Other than the usual horrors of the war, namely the disgusting conditions of the trenches, the rats, dead unburied bodies, the mud, Anthony has an even worse secret which he will not share. However, the trauma of it manifests itself into violent and extremely dangerous mood swings. So much so, Eleanor is terrified for the safety of those she loves the most: her children. Despite it all, she adores her husband and never gives up in trying to find a cure for the shell shock he is suffering from, by visiting countless doctors.

For Sadie, with too much time on her hands, she decides to follow up on the abandoned dwelling. Following conversations with some of the locals and a very helpful library assistant, she learns the house belonged to the Edevane family and is keen to uncover the truth behind the case of the ‘missing’ child. Enlisting the help of a police officer, now well and truly retired, who had been present at the time of the initial interviews and enquiries into Theo’s disappearance, Sadie is emboldened to contact Alice in the hope of obtaining permission to enter the house to further her own investigation.

There is so much, and too much, to tell about this story, so I can only suggest that you find the time to read it; place it on your “to read” list if you must, but I can assure you, you won’t be disappointed.

When the truth of both unresolved cases is finally revealed, you are given a sense of satisfaction for one, and immense happiness for the other, so much so, that I shall admit to having shed a tear or two from shear joy. . ., I most certainly did not see that coming!

Finally, I would like to say: Thank you, Kate, for such a wonderful story.

In my opinion, 5-stars is most deserving.

RLB – Tomewriter

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Mum’s poems

Since my mum wrote her recent poem, which had come to her in the middle of the night, it reminded her that she had written some other poems several years ago, although in the French language. She did have many more in English, but they were included with some of my poems in an anthology we named “Poetic Whispers” that I self-published on Smashwords about ten years ago (now no longer available).

Having found her French poetry, mum was toying with the idea of throwing them out, that is until I liberated them from her. I suggested I publish them on this blog site on a separate page. My reasoning is that they can never be lost; and whether anyone reads them or not is neither here or there, but at least they’ll remain ‘alive’ for eternity.

The page name is “Souvenirs d’Alexandrie” which relates to a nostalgic journey seen through the passionate eyes of a wonderful woman. . .my mother, Viviane Elisabeth Borg (née Fleri).

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Vision

VISION

By

Viviane Elisabeth Borg (née Fleri)

Copyright © Viviane Elisabeth Borg 27 October 2021

¨¨

There was a time when I could see;

I came and went at leisure.

There was light and I felt free,

they say life is a treasure.

¨¨

There was a time when I could see;

I could read books and write at leisure.

I had friends and activities, and

living was a real pleasure.

¨¨

Now that I can hardly see,

I can no longer act at leisure;

but my children care for me

and fill my life with love and favours.

¨¨

Now that I can hardly see,

with old age creeping rapidly;

I still love life, songs and poetry

and till the end, I’m being me!

****

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Book Review: “Little White Lies” by Lesley Lokko

If I were to describe this 604-page novel in the shortest possible fashion it would be: a story that encompasses three families of different backgrounds, covering three generations, of various religions and values. A story that propels its three principal characters from rags to riches, riches to rags, infidelity, dishonesty, and, of course, secrets, none of which can be labelled as the title of this work implies!

However, as any of my followers/readers know, I’m not a man of few words relating to a book I have completed reading, and this book certainly deserves more than a few inconsequential lines.

So, to get on with it . . .. The three principal characters are: Rebecca Harburg, Annick Betancourt, and Tash Bryce-Brudenell.

Including the prologue (taken from a part of the epilogue) and epilogue, the book is divided into ten parts, commencing in 1993 when the girls are teenagers still at school. In the second part, the story jumps back in time to 1935 to give the reader a historical reference of where the families originated, as well as their backgrounds.

From part three onwards, the author takes the reader through a chronological journey from 1997 to 2013.

*

Rebecca comes from an exceedingly wealthy Jewish family, who having escaped Nazi Germany at the commencement of hostilities, have set up home in England to continue the growth of their banking empire.

She is a beautiful young woman who has no need, and is not expected, to find a career, only to secure a husband to continue the family’s traditions, values, and expectations.

*

Annick, in much the same way as Rebecca, comes from a wealthy, but politically powerful family. Her grandfather was president of a third world African nation until his death, and was subsequently replaced by her own father.

Unlike Rebecca however, at her father’s insistence, Annick is obliged to pursue a course of study within the legal profession; and, although she does so dutifully, continues with her carefree life style of indulgence where money is plentiful and always to hand.

*

Tash, despite her grand surname, has none of the privileges or wealth of her two best friends. In her case, both her name and education are paid for by the man who had seduced her mother before she was born. She was a penniless Russian teenage athlete who had escaped Moscow during an inter-school tournament, ending up in England using only her beauty and wit to do so.

Tash, by contrast to her mother, is no beauty. At 6ft in height, with a bad complexion, crooked teeth, and speaking without thought of hurtful comments, doesn’t care what people think of her.

Of all three however, it is Tash, who in adulthood, metamorphoses into a successful, rich and powerful business woman, using only her intelligence and self-confidence to get what she wants.

Rebecca is the first of the three to find a husband. With the approval of her family, she and Julian Lovell, as successful investment dealer/stock broker, are wed.

On the surface, it seems a match made in heaven, but Julian leads a double life/romance with a business associate. Despite having two wonderful children, Rebecca finds her marriage lacking due to his many overseas absences, to the point, that she too indulges in extra-marital relationships; one of which leads to a pregnancy, which she passes off as being Julian’s.

Annick, by contrast, finds herself penniless and in mortal danger, when her parents are assassinated in a military coup and the family’s assets and monies are frozen by the new government. In desperation, Annick finds refuge in the slum quarters of Paris working as a receptionist of a hotel, whose clientele rents rooms by the hour.

Her life only turns around years later when rescued by Tash, who now a millionaire in her own right, wastes no time in seeing her friend restored. She leaves Paris with Tash without a word to anyone, not even her lover, Yves. With Tash’s help she manages to secure a position with a prestigious firm of solicitors.

Yves, is a man of few words and a murky past; but despite his original intentions for Annick, he finds himself drawn to, and protective of her. He tracks her down to London, where they rekindle their relationship, and eventually get married.

Tash too, miraculously, finds love with one of Rebecca’s many cousins, Adam. It is not long before they are married.

*

There is far too much to cram into this review, so I shan’t even try. I will only say, that matters change for all of them quite quickly and not for the better, even though the author tries to suggest there is a happy ending of sorts. In truth, and in my opinion, the title “Big Black Lies” may have suited the story better.

It took me a while to read the story as I struggled with it. Unlike some books of the same size that are so gripping I can’t put down and finish in a few days, this one has taken about three weeks, and only so because I had to force myself to read on.

I have always liked a story that ties up all loose ends, and has a satisfactory and realistic ending. Unfortunately, “Little White Lies” doesn’t fall into that category. In all honesty, I was disappointed with the overall story; and although, it had some potential for betterment, in my opinion, this was not achieved. For this reason, I can only grant this story a 2-star rating.

RLB – Tomewriter

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A Tangled Web – being re-released

On Friday, 15th October, Luminosity Publishing will be re-releasing “A Tangled Web” by Viviane Elisabeth Borg.

This fiction novel, a female sleuth with romantic elements and paranormal themes, is currently available on pre-order at:

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Book Review: “The Edge of the Fall” by Kate Williams

After having read “The Storms of War” (reviewed 13/04/21) by Kate Williams, I was truly looking forward in delving into the sequel to see how my favourite character, Celia would cope with post-war life. I was disappointed to witness how her adventurous spirit and bravery was somewhat crushed, as she inexplicably seemed to have transformed into more of a wimp than the forceful figure, I had hoped she would have developed into.

In “The Edge of the Fall”, Celia becomes more gullible, insecure, naïve and, at times, extremely foolish, especially when, at one time, has sex with someone she hardly knew – an act that was totally out of character with the woman I had grown accustomed to in the first book.

Although Celia is at the forefront throughout the story, the book is divided up into six parts to also focus on two other prominent characters. The first, is Arthur, Celia’s eldest brother who throughout “The Storms of War” was only mentioned in passing, as during the entire time had remained in Paris, conveniently escaping doing his bit during the war and, more importantly, not being able to offer support to his family. In “The Edge of the Fall” Arthur was, in my opinion, a hateful, selfish character, who saw his parents as only a means to an end: namely to provide him with financial support to live his indulgent life style. From the very beginning (book 1 to be precise), he was a person one could very easily dislike and distrust without too much encouragement.

The second character, is Louisa Deerhurst. She is Arthur and Celia’s teenage cousin who, having recently lost her mother to illness, (her father having died much sooner) travels to Stoneythorpe to live with her mother’s sister, aunt Verena and her husband, uncle Rudolf. But as much as Louisa had been looking forward to living with them, and Celia in particular, the novelty wears away almost immediately, as Celia, very selfishly, ignores her younger cousin.

Feeling very alone and unloved, Louisa turns to Arthur, who having finally returned to England, charms her so much, that when he, despite the huge difference in their ages, suggests that he take her to London, she doesn’t hesitate. It is so obvious to the reader of Arthur’s true agenda, especially as Louisa is due to inherit a vast sum of money.

However, as I previously mentioned, the bulk of the story is centred around Celia, and in all honesty, as the story progressed, I once again, as I did in “The Storms of War”, became protective of her. I must admit, there were times I wanted to “shake” her into being more sensible; such as at the time she travels to Germany to visit relatives believing nothing had changed and she’d be made welcome; only to find the locals so hostile toward her that her family felt obliged to take her away on “holiday” – something they could ill afford – just to keep her safe from harm.

Regardless of how I felt at the start of the book, I found that by halfway through, there was so much going on, it was making my head spin; but at the same time, it was driving me forward, so much so, that I didn’t want to put the book down for too long. I shan’t give anything more away because I don’t want to ruin it for you; although I hope you’ll agree with my analysis of Arthur. My thoughts of him are unprintable!

In all, I did thoroughly enjoy the story despite the frustration I felt in the way Celia kept demeaning herself. For someone who had lied about her age to drive ambulances on the Western Front, of witnessing first-hand the horrors and carnage of battle, and not acknowledging the sacrifice she made to herself and others in later years, was hard to accept. Perhaps her reluctance to be proud of what she had done or to speak openly of those achievements was a direct result of post-traumatic stress – a symptom which was known at the time as “shell shock”, but only when relating to soldiers. I would just say this is speculation on my part as the author never really made any direct reference to it. Though her uncharacteristic behaviour could very easily have been attributed to such severe mental health issues associated with not only the violence of the war, but also to a series of revelations – that she kept bottled up inside herself to ‘protect’ others, but in truth, were tearing her apart.

I had hoped to obtain the third story in the trilogy, “Into the Darkness”, but I have been told at the English bookshop, Antibes (Côtes d’Azur, France) that it is no longer available. Hopefully, I’ll be able to obtain a second hand copy sometime in the future.

“The Edge of the Fall” was without a doubt an enjoyable read, and I would gladly give it a 4 Star rating.

RLB – Tomewriter

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Book Review: “The Burning Chambers” by Kate Mosse

It is always preferable to read stories in their correct sequence, but until I had purchased and began reading “The City of Tears” (reviewed 28/07/21) I hadn’t known “The Burning Chambers” existed.

That said, I read the story with the sequel in mind so I knew that despite the perilous situations the characters, principal or otherwise, found themselves in, they would survive. This knowledge didn’t spoil the story at all, as it was enjoyable to learn how Minou Joubert and Piet Reydon cross paths, how their life journeys progressed and merged.

The story is set ten years before the sequel, but still during turbulent times where different religious doctrines clash; where man’s primary concerns dwell on violence rather than harmony with one’s neighbour. We only have to look at modern history to see the same situations repeating themselves – it seems the human race is never content in living in peace!

In “The Burning Chambers” it is the city of Toulouse that bears the brunt of senseless atrocities between Christians of different beliefs; and although the killings are made in the name of religion, the true reason is more basic: greed… be it for a selective few in their rush for power and wealth.

Although there are several subplots in the framework of this tale, they all lead towards two main goals, and even these become intertwined towards the end. The first relates to a precious religious relic, the Shroud of Antioch – the cloth which allegedly wrapped the body of Jesus Christ after his death. In this story, a fragment of the shroud is stolen and hidden away for safe keeping by Piet Reydon, who subsequently commissions for a fraudulent copy to be created, and for it to be sold in order to help the Huguenot cause. The second relates to the mystery surrounding Minou Joubert’s birth, and a Will which would guarantee her control of the Château de Puivert. Unknown to her, however, the present owner’s widow having learned of the threat to her status is hell-bent in having Minou killed to secure her own power.

As with “The City of Tears”, “The Burning Chambers” has been meticulously researched and brilliantly portrayed. I found it difficult to put down as I enjoyed it tremendously, probably more than the sequel.

Again however, the prologue was as ambiguous as the one in “The City of Tears”. Though it did fill in some gaps, it still left too much unexplained or unanswered, and for me, I cannot fathom why the author saw it necessary to include it in either of the two stories, unless they are teasers for a story still to be written? Should I be wrong, and a third book in this series is not in the making, then all I can say it is an opportunity missed, and that two brilliant stories were spoilt by unnecessary prologues. Perhaps I am being too critical, but I can’t help feeling cheated by them; yet by ignoring the prologue’s presence (with difficulty), “The Burning Chambers” most definitely deserves a 4-star rating.

RLB – Tomewriter

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Book Review: “18th Abduction” by James Patterson & Maxine Paetro

I can’t really call myself a James Patterson fan, as I’m not; but to be fair, it’s not as though I have never read any of his books before, as I have. However, that was a long time ago when he didn’t collaborate with other authors. The books I did read were from his Alex Cross series, and of course, also enjoyed the subsequent movies created from them.

I must admit though, I found 18th Abduction (Women’s Murder Club Series) an easy read, and had enough suspense to keep me turning the pages.

In this story, San Francisco police detectives Lindsay Boxer and her partner are investigating the disappearance of three female school teachers.

Meanwhile, Lindsay’s husband, Joe Molinari, an FBI agent, inadvertently comes across a woman cyclist seemingly in distress having been run off the road. She is Anna Sotovina who explains to him she was in pursuit of a man whom she believed was Slobodan Petrovic, a man who allegedly was responsible for indiscriminate atrocities, including murder of hundreds of men, women, and children in her home town of Djoba, amongst them members of her own family, during the Bosnian War of the early 1990s. Despite Slobodan Petrovic having stood trial at the International Criminal Court at the Hague, and subsequently, supposedly found dead, Anna is convinced the man she saw in San Francisco was he.

During Joe’s preliminary investigations he learns the man Anna was accusing is known as Antonije “Tony” Branko, a respectable owner of a steakhouse restaurant.  

As the story deepens, the reader discovers there is nothing squeaky clean about Tony, and it is gradually revealed he is responsible for the abduction of the school teachers, and eventually the brutal murder of two of them.

I shan’t say more on this, so as not to give too much away; only in so-far-to-say justice always prevails in one way or another at the end.

As stories go, 18th Abduction was okay, but in my opinion doesn’t warrant more than 3 stars.

RLB – Tomewriter

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