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The Murder Box By Olivia Kiernan

The Murder Box‘The Murder Box’ is by Olivia Kiernan and is the latest book in the ‘Frankie Sheehan’ series.

At first, Detective Chief Superintendent Frankie Sheehan believes the murder mystery game sent to her office is a birthday gift from one of her colleagues. But when Frankie studies the game’s contents, she notices a striking resemblance between the ‘murder victim’ and missing twenty-two-year-old Lydia Callin. As Frankie and her team investigate, a series of grisly crimes connected to the game are discovered across Dublin city and Lydia’s involvement with a shadowy network of murder mystery players becomes clear. On the hunt for Lydia’s murderer, Frankie is drawn more deeply into the game. Every successful move brings her closer to the killer. But the real question is not what happens should she lose — but what happens if she wins.

I’m so late posting this review as I’ve spent my evening reading this book and couldn’t put my thoughts down until I reached the final page.

It’s been a while since I’ve read a good crime procedural book so I was eager to sink into the ‘The Murder Box’. And although this book is actually the fourth book in the Frankie Sheehan series, it could easily be read as a standalone.

The story is set in Dublin and seen through the narrative of Detective Frankie Sheehan, a straight talking detective who receives an unlikely birthday present inviting her to take part in a murder mystery case which is actually true as well as finding a well known Irish celebrity called Teddy Dolan. The clock is counting down with clues and drama as Frankie and her team try to be one step ahead of the murderer.

I genuinely loved this story, it’s gritty, it’s bleak and really gives a fascinating insight into the procedures of the police force in Ireland. It’s quite graphic in parts and can occasionally make for disturbing reading but I really thought this added to the drama and tension of the story.

I really enjoyed Frankie and the dynamics with her team and how they pull together to help solve the case. The main story is the murder box but there’s also the inclusion of smaller stories that Olivia brings neatly together at the end.

With ‘Line of Duty’ no longer on our screens, I’ve found the perfect replacement series! A fast paced and intense story that made for gripping late night reading, ‘The Murder Box’ is a brilliantly written tense and chilling book.

You can buy ‘The Murder Box’ from Amazon.

My Best Friend’s Secret By Emily Freud

My Best Friend's Secret‘My Best Friend’s Secret’ is the debut book by Emily Freud.

Kate Sullivan has a beautiful home, a job she loves and a handsome fiancé: all she’d ever dreamed of since getting sober and painstakingly piecing her life back together. But a chance encounter with her old best friend Becky threatens Kate’s newfound and fragile happiness. Kate remembers nothing of their last drunken night out, the night Becky broke off their friendship without warning or explanation. With Becky back in her life, Kate is desperate to make amends for the past. For the closure she craves, Kate needs to know what she did that ruined everything. But what if the truth is worse than Kate could have imagined?

If you’re looking for an exhilarating thriller, then look no further as this book is everything a good thriller should be. Tense, intriguing and packed with dislikable characters that keeps the reader on their toes.

The story is seen solely through the narrative of Kate, a recovering alcoholic who’s celebrating 6 years sober, looking forward to marrying her fiancée Ben and enjoying her rewarding job as an English teacher. Her life is great until her former best friend Becky comes back into her life and with that brings back uncertainty, insecurity and memories of a life that she’d like to leave behind.

Right from the first page, this book gripped my attention. Kate is a fascinating protagonist who’s flawed from her previous life and battles not to return to her old ways. Her sponsor Clare is always there to help her as well as is Ben who’s been her rock and helped her recover her confidence in herself. When Becky returns, Kate finds herself questioning her old life and Becky’s sudden return as they had parted on bad terms. But she takes Becky in as a housemate, she notices a shift in the dynamics of relationship including Ben’s.

From the first page, there’s an underlying sense of tension to the story that made me read the book faster. I’m surprised I didn’t give myself paper-cuts with the speed that I raced through the pages! The characters are fascinating mix of personalities, all damaged and flawed in their own ways, battling addictions and insecurity. Kate is a kind character who as a teacher finds herself connecting with Lily, a young girl who’s on a similar path as Kate was and Kate is determined for her life to be better and not to waste it like she did.

A cleverly crafted story that made for suspenseful and dark reading, ‘My Best Friend’s Secret’ is a twisted and sordid story about secrets and lies with a fascinating protagonist that leaves you hooked at every turn.

You can buy ‘My Best Friend’s Secret’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Love At Cafe Lompar By Anna and Jacqui Burns

Love At Cafe Lompar‘Love At Cafe Lompar’ is by mother and daughter writing duo Anna and Jacqui Burns.

Grace believed she had the ideal marriage, but after Dan dies, she finds proof he had another family. Kat can’t admit that her father was less than perfect. Mother and daughter go to Montenegro to find out the truth. But when they track down Rosa and her son, while Grace is heart-broken, Kat can’t help being thrilled to have a brother. Kat starts helping out ‘just for a few days’ at Rosa’s restaurant, the Café Lompar. Soon both women are torn between their old and new lives, facing impossible choices.

If you’re looking for a summer read then look no further as this sunny and heartwarming story is the perfect poolside story.

It’s written through the narrative of mother and daughter Grace and Kat who after grieving the loss of Dan, leaving the trio now a duo. One day Grace stumbles upon a photograph and she discovers that Dan had another family in Montenegro. Heartbroken, her and Kat decide to meet Dan’s other partner Rosa and son Luka.

This is a beautifully written story and it’s vivid, warm and filled with delicious food that made for mouth watering reading. The story is written through alternating chapters between Grace and Kat and it’s interesting to read how the news effects them both in different ways.

They are both angry at Dan’s deceit but they are also curious about Rosa and Luka and as the four of them meet, they become friends who are there for each other during the difficult times.

Kat is a crossroad in her life, unhappy in her relationship and unsatisfied with her job, she seizes the opportunity to work in Rosa’s cafe and learns the local cuisine as well as inject some of her own style into it. It’s lovely to see her blossoming in confidence and also see her relationship with Luka grow. Although Luka is 19 and Kat is 24, they form an instant bond becoming firm friends.

As Grace ventures out on dates, we see her question herself after being so badly let down by Dan, but on reflection she learns that he wasn’t quite the man she thought he was and never made her completely happy with his selfish and stubborn ways.

I loved the dual narrative to the story as well as the mother/daughter team writing the book and I did wonder how the book was written and who was each character.

A glorious story filled with rustic charm, delicious food and new beginnings that made ‘Love At Cafe Lompar’ the perfect book to curl up with.

You can buy ‘Love At Cafe Lompar’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

The Distant Shores By Santa Montefiore

The Distant Shores‘The Distant Shores’ is the latest book by Santa Montefiore.

Margot Hart travels to Ireland to write a biography of the famous Deverill family. She knows she must speak to the current Lord Deverill – JP – if she is to uncover the secrets of the past. A notorious recluse, JP won’t be an easy man to crack. But Margot is determined – and she is not a woman who is easily put off. What she never expected was to form a close bond with JP and be drawn into his family disputes. Shouldering the blame for running up debts that forced him to sell the family castle, JP is isolated and vulnerable. With help from his handsome son Colm, it seems as though Margot might be the only one who can restore JP’s fortunes.

Although Santa has written quite a few books, this is actually the first book that I’ve read by the author and I was completely swept away by this historical, Irish drama.

The story is primarily seen through the narrative of Margot Hart who travels to rural Ireland to write a historical book based on the charismatic and fascinating Deverill’s, a family riddled by secrets and bad luck. The Deverill’s family castle is now a hotel and many people believe it to be haunted with the strange goings ons. It’s whilst researching the family history that secrets are unveiled and the estranged family are torn even further apart under the watchful eye of the ghost Kitty, a troubled character in the Deverill’s family history.

This book is actually part of a series but can easily be read as a standalone as Santa has given enough detail and background so that the reader doesn’t feel lost in the story. Her characters are fascinating mix of personalities from the determined Margot, who’s the talk of the Ballinkelly with her warmth and inquisitive nature and Lord JP Deverill who’s using Margot’s book as a distraction from his unhappy life and helping him put old ghosts to rest.

Throughout the story, there’s the underlying tension that Margot is going to reveal more secrets from the already troubled family and it’s evident that the family members are on tenterhooks.

Santa is beautifully descriptive in her writing, from the exquisite descriptions of the haunting castle to the reflective moments seen from the narrative of Kitty, who makes her presence known in some spine tingling ways disturbing the residents.

Although the book is quite long at 416 pages, I immediately sank into it and was able to read it in a few sittings. With a gloriously addictive plot line, a picturesque landscape and a determined protagonist, ‘The Distant Shores’ is the perfect summer read about family history, mending old wounds and reconnecting with some Irish charm weaves throughout.

You can buy ‘The Distant Shores’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Ghosts By Dolly Alderton

Ghosts‘Ghosts’ is the debut novel by Dolly Alderton.

Nina Dean has arrived at her early thirties as a successful food writer with loving friends and family, plus a new home and neighbourhood. When she meets Max, a beguiling romantic hero who tells her on date one that he’s going to marry her, it feels like all is going to plan. A new relationship couldn’t have come at a better time – her thirties have not been the liberating, uncomplicated experience she was sold. Everywhere she turns, she is reminded of time passing and opportunities dwindling. Friendships are fading, ex-boyfriends are moving on and, worse, everyone’s moving to the suburbs. There’s no solace to be found in her family, with a mum who’s caught in a baffling mid-life makeover and a beloved dad who is vanishing in slow-motion into dementia.

‘Ghosts’ is Dolly’s debut novel even though she’s already published a book called ‘Everything I Know About Love’ and has a regular newspaper column.

‘Ghosts’ is seen through the narrative of Nina, who like many other females in the world is adapting to life as a singleton as everyone is pairing up around her. Her career as a food writer is going from strength from strength and just as her relationship with Max starts to develop, he disappears, ghosting her. Her father is battling dementia and disappears into his own world but already remembers Nina as his ‘Bean’.

This book is a powerful story and one that many will wholeheartedly relate to. The surprise and disappointment of online dating, finding the one only for them to let you know and to be judged on your status in life, married, children and if not, why not?

I loved Nina, I loved her independence and passion and how she was always there for others, no matter how they treated or disregarded her. I adored her best friend Lola, who was looking for happy ever after and was determined to find it, no matter how long she stayed on WhatsApp.

I loved the dynamics of the female relationships, how women behaved differently towards single women as if they were preying on their husbands and genuinely found this to be true of real life. I found the scene with Nina’s parents to be hard hitting as her mother dealt with her husband’s dementia by engaging now with friends to escape the pain, whilst Nina struggled with seeing her father become a different person. These scenes are hard hitting and emotional in parts and did make for quite tender reading.

Beautifully written and sadly relatable, ‘Ghosts’ is a poignant and bittersweet story about getting old, looking for love and finding your place in life. Filled with humour, cynicism and nostalgia for what has been, this book brought back all kinds of feelings and was truly a masterpiece of a read.

You can buy ‘Ghosts’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.