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** My thanks to Thomas at Transworld Books for my copy of The Cornoner’s Daughter **

 

Description:

1816 was the year without a summer. A rare climatic event has brought frost to July, and a lingering fog casts a pall over a Dublin stirred by zealotry and civil unrest, torn between evangelical and rationalist dogma.

Amid the disquiet, a young nursemaid in a pious household conceals a pregnancy and then murders her newborn. Rumours swirl about the identity of the child’s father, but before an inquest can be held, the maid is found dead. When Abigail Lawless, the eighteen-year-old daughter of Dublin’s coroner, by chance discovers a message from the maid’s seducer, she is drawn into a world of hidden meanings and deceit.

An only child, Abigail has been raised amid the books and instruments of her father’s grim profession. Pushing against the restrictions society places on a girl her age, she pursues an increasingly dangerous investigation. As she leads us through dissection rooms and dead houses, Gothic churches and elegant ballrooms, a sinister figure watches from the shadows – an individual she believes has already killed twice, and is waiting to kill again…

Determined, resourceful and intuitive, Abigail Lawless emerges as a memorable young sleuth operating at the dawn of forensic science.

My Thoughts & Review:

When the opening line of a book reads: “For my eighteenth birthday, Father promised me the hand of a handsome young man, which he duly delivered mounted in a glass bell-jar“, you can’t help but fall somewhat in love with the way Andrew Hughes writes.  That one sentence sums up Abigail Lawless perfectly, inquisitive and headstrong, pushing back against the notions of what is deemed appropriate for her in the time.

Abigail Lawless is not what society would expect of an 18 year-old woman, her unique upbringing surrounded by medical texts and the wealth of knowledge from her father has given her an interest that some may describe as unsavoury, almost borderline macabre.  But that does not dampen her thirst for knowledge, and having an inquisitive mind is what leads her to ask questions that she really should leave well alone.

Set in Dublin in 1816, the reader is transported to the gloomy streets where trouble and rumour are rife.  Unease is prevalent with the upsurgence of the Brethren, a religious group who seem to have connections throughout society and are not afraid to share their righteous messages with others.
The discovery of a dead newborn at the home of a Brethren household prompts an investigation by the coroner, which in turn captures the interest of his daughter.  Abigail seems almost disturbed at the notion that the nursemaid murdered her own child and resolves to find out what really happened.  Her quest for answers leads her down some dark alleys and facing unknown dangers, but it would seem that our plucky protagonist will not be deterred.  Despite her plucky attitude, she must conform to some social constructs and asks her father’s assistant Ewan Weir to accompany her when venturing out.

The way that the plot is constructed is nicely done, the details that develop into the bigger picture are cleverly sewn into the narrative, small hints and clues scattered throughout for readers to enjoy.  Alice’s love of science makes for some interesting reading and indeed the lessons taught by her father give readers extra information that proves useful later in the plot – I certainly learned something new about a plant I’d never considered poisonous before.
The mystery element to the plot coupled with the increasing tension makes this a very enjoyable read and one that my mind kept coming back to when I reluctantly had to stop reading.  I loved the way that things linked up, and despite being told not to think any further about things, Abigail’s mind kept working on ideas and notions, questioning anything that didn’t sit right, the same way that my own mind would.

Wonderfully descriptive settings transport the reader whether it’s to the dissection rooms, the gloomy lecture theatre or lavish ball, there’s a great sense of realism there that leaves a reader feeling that they can conjure clear images to enable them to enjoy that story that little more.

An absolutely wonderful historical fiction novel full of mystery, intrigue and forensic science!

You can buy a copy of The Coroner’s Daughter via:

Amazon UK
Wordery
Book Depository

 

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Author: Jo Spain

Published 22 September 2016
Reviewed: 8 October 2016

4 out of 5 stars
Copy supplied by Quercus Books in return for an honest review

 

Description:

From top-ten Irish bestselling author Jo Spain comes the second novel in the Inspector Tom Reynolds series

Did I know it would come to this? That I was playing Russian Roulette? I would give anything to turn back time and to be with my girls. There is no shot at redemption. I am going to die. The gun is in my eye-line as the second bullet is fired. That’s the one that kills me.

Late at night, two powerful men meet in a secret location to discuss a long nurtured plan about to come to fruition. One is desperate to know there is nothing standing in their way – the other assures him everything is taken care of. Hours later, a high-ranking government official called Ryan Finnegan is brutally slain in the most secure building in Ireland – Leinster House, the seat of parliament. Inspector Tom Reynolds and his team are called in to uncover the truth behind the murder.

At first, all the evidence hints at a politically motivated crime, until a surprise discovery takes the investigation in a dramatically different direction. Suddenly the motive for murder has got a lot more personal. . . but who benefits the most from Ryan’s death?

My Thoughts & Review:

Beneath The Surface is the second book by Jo Spain to feature Inspector Tom Reynolds, the first being With Our Blessing and can be read as a standalone.

The horrific murder of a government official in the parliament building, the most secure building in Ireland leads to an investigation headed up by DI Reynolds and his team.  Discovering a compromising photograph under the body of the victim opens up the investigation to realms of political skulduggery, corruption and scandal.

The development of Tom Reynolds in this book is great, the reader gets to know more about this character and his team.  The dynamic of home life and work life made for interesting reading and gave the characters a more realistic feel. There seemed to be so much going on in this book, with so many characters involved it must have taken the author some serious homework to keep track of them all, which in turn means that the reader has to pay some attention to who’s who and what their story is in order to keep up, not a book you can drift in and out of.
The story itself is interesting enough, but for me the political angle just wasn’t for me.

Jo Spain’s knowledge of working within Leinster House shows through the detail written in to this book, it adds an authenticity to it all.  The writing is enjoyable, the story flows well and the tantalising epilogue opens up the possibility of a third instalment in the Tom Reynolds series.

You can buy a copy of Beneath the Surface here.

 

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Author: Caimh McDonnell

Published: 27 August 2016
Reviewed: 12 September 2016

5 out of 5 stars
Copy supplied by McFori Ink in return for an honest review

 

Description:

An Irish crime thriller with a difference

The first time somebody tried to kill him it was an accident.

The second time was deliberate.

Now Paul Mulchrone finds himself on the run with nobody to turn to except a nurse who has read one-too-many crime novels and a renegade copper with a penchant for violence. Together, they must solve one of the most notorious crimes in Irish history…

…or else they’ll be history.

 

My Thoughts & Review:

Caimh McDonnell is a new name to me, and certainly one I might not have discovered if I’d not stumbled upon a a guest post on another blog to publicise the release of this novel and his animosity towards the title of ‘Comedic Crime’.

Set in Dublin, the reader is immediately thrown into the madness of the story of Paul Mulchrone.  A man with one of those nondescript faces, he has a talent for being a chameleon – generally speaking with those in their geriatric years.  He’s a granny whisperer, a volunteer who visits the elderly folks of St. Kilda’s hospice and speaks to them as whomsoever they wish him to be in their final days – nephew, son, grandson etc.  When Paul does a favour for nurse Brigit Conroy he has no idea who he’s really going in to see, other than a man on his death bed, who the nursing staff think of as lonely.

What then follows is a hilarious madcap tale of one man being in the wrong place at the wrong time, with a nurse in tow.

The humour in this book is absolutely fantastic, the comedy in the descriptions of people is sheer brilliance, perhaps it comes from having Irish family but when I read the description of nurse Brigit I immediately got a clear image in my head of what she looked like, how she acted etc.
All of the characters are various shades of interesting, Paul is brought to life through his back story and his humour – a great character that really has the reader empathising at his plight whilst laughing their head off at the implausibility and fecklessness of it all.
Bunny, well now here’s an interesting character…..if you’ve read any of Stuart MacBride’s books, he’s like the male version of Roberta Steel…..the unkempt and slightly rough around the edges idea but he’s got a charm about him too (diamond in the rough perhaps…..the really REALLY rough sort of stuff).

Despite McDonnell’s dislike of ‘comedic crime’, it really does work for this book, but only if you are willing to accept that in this setting that genre is akin to mastery.  The criminal element to the plot is well created, it’s creeping reach flows well to individuals and their situations, the historical case involved in the story was interesting as well as providing a great starting point for Paul’s sarcasm and humour.

What I want to know is how McDonnell can write something that has the reader on the edge of their seat with the pace and apprehension but also the humour?  Surely he isn’t allowed to be that talented?  Seems a little unfair for other authors out there!

Happily, there’s a note at the back of the book to say that there will be more adventures from Paul and Brigit (and Bunny!), thank goodness, there’s no way you can introduce me to such sheer brilliance then cut me off!!

I definitely recommend buying a copy of this engaging crime thriller, it’s a break from the norm and an utterly fantastic read.

You can buy a copy of A Man With One of Those Faces here.

About the Author:

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Author image and information courtesy of http://whitehairedirishman.com

Caimh McDonnell is an award-winning stand-up comedian, author and writer of televisual treats.
His writing credits include The Sarah Millican Television Programme, A League of Their Own, Mock the Week and Have I Got News for You. He also works as a children’s TV writer and was BAFTA nominated for the animated series ‘Pet Squad’ which he created. He was a winner in the BBC’s Northern Laffs sitcom writing competition.

During his time on the British stand-up circuit, he has firmly established himself as the white-haired Irishman whose name nobody can pronounce. He regularly supports Sarah Millican and Gary Delaney on tour and has also brought the funny worldwide, doing stand-up tours of the Far East, the Middle East and Near East (Norwich).

To find out more about Caimh and his books go to his website http://whitehairedirishman.com and sign up to his newsletter or follow him on Twitter @Caimh

 

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