The Birthday Girl by Sue Fortin

imageThe Birthday Girl is one of those books that is hard to review because, once you get past the initial idea, there are too many secrets and too many twists and turns – making the risk of spoilers just too great.

So, what can I tell you about it? It starts with an invite, three friends (Carys, Zoe, and Andrea) being invited by a fourth (Joanne) to go away from the weekend to celebrate Joanne’s 40th birthday; as it’s Carys’ too, they can celebrate that as well.

What could sound better? Well, for Carys, pretty much anything as she and Joanne aren’t on the best of terms – though it isn’t clear why at first – and neither, it turns out are Joanne and Andrea. In fact, Zoe, is the only one who seems to be getting along with everyone and excited for the weekend. 

The Vanishing Box by Elly Griffiths

Stepping into the pages of The Vanishing Box is like stepping back in time.  Perhaps this doesn’t sound that surprising, given the book is set in Brighton in 1953 but I have read plenty of books set in other eras that don’t feel as close to what I imagine life was really like at the time as this.  The language, the behaviours, the people and the atmosphere – everything felt just right and I was completely drawn into the world they created.

This world involves a dogged Detective Inspector (Edgar) and his officers (Bob and Emma, a woman determined to make her way in a man’s world and – for the most part – succeeding) as well as Edgar’s best friend, magician Max Mephisto and his daughter (Edgar’s fiancé) Ruby.  They all know each other well, having worked together on other cases and the interaction between them helped make the book for me.    Given this is their fourth case, it’s probably worth saying here that this could be read as a standalone. 

Queens of Georgian Britain by Catherine Curzon

511nSyVLUYL._SX333_BO1,204,203,200_For a history buff, I know very little about Georgian Britain.  I have seen a few TV shows and films but that’s about it. So, in a effort to stretch my brain cells a bit, and increase my knowledge, I picked up a copy of Queens of Georgian Britain by Catherine Curzon, which had the added bonus of being about women embroiled in politics and fighting to gain meaningful power – another favourite subject of mine.

I find it fascinating to see how women were treated and how they were seen if they behaved in any way which saw them stepping outside the norm; it always makes me feel very lucky to be living when I am (though, given recent events, maybe attitudes to women haven’t changed as much as I had thought?). 

The Real Guy Fawkes by Nick Holland

This is officially my favourite time of year.  First, you have Halloween.  Then, it’s Bonfire Night.  As a child, living in a small village, we would have a real community bonfire, with potatoes baking in the embers and a small – but perfectly formed – fireworks display.  I don’t know how many of these type of events exist anymore.  Our local bonfire is a huge affair, run by the local council and so many fireworks it makes your head spin.  There is no more baking potatoes – or kids wandering the streets asking for a “penny for the guy” (and how much does a penny get you nowadays?).

For all of this love of Bonfire Night though, I know very little about the man himself – no more than the legend that has grown up around him and the plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament.  Which is why I wanted to read The Real Guy Fawkes by NIck Holland, especially as I was promised the truth about the man behind the myth.

Lie to Me by J. T. Ellison

Lie to MeWhen Ethan Montclair wakes up one morning to find a note from his wife Sutton saying that she is leaving and for him not to look for her, he swings from disbelief to anger to fear – for her (she has been suffering from depression) and for him (what will people think?).

He calls round her friends then a lawyer before finally calling the police, who immediately start to question Ethan’s version of his supposedly perfect life – especially when Sutton’s friends suggest that things were not quite as good as they might have seemed.

As the questions start to mount up the lies start to unravelling.  The friends were right and Ethan slowly begins to reveal the truth – or at least his version of it.  And that is what makes this book so good.  Nothing is as it seems – no one is who them seem.  For a woman (me) who likes an unreliable narrator, this book is a perfect fit.

The Pocket Wife by Susan H. Crawford

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Dana Catrell is horrified to learn she was the last person to see her neighbor Celia alive. Suffering from a devastating mania, a result of her bipolar disorder, Dana finds that there are troubling holes in her memory, including what happened on the afternoon of Celia’s death. As evidence starts to point in her direction, Dana struggles to clear her name before her own demons win out.

Is murder on her mind—or is it all in her head?

The closer she comes to piecing together shards of her broken memory, the more Dana falls apart. Is there a murderer lurking inside her… or is there one out there in the shadows of reality, waiting to strike again?

I remember seeing The Pocket Wife everywhere for a while a year or so ago and thinking it was a book I wouldn’t mind reading.  But, somehow, it never went further than that until I saw it at the library a few weeks ago – at which point I picked it up, without much thought or, if I’m honest much in the way of expectations.

In fact, if people hadn’t started saying how much they enjoyed it when I posted a picture of my library haul I may well have ended up taking it back unread as other books I had picked up that day were definitely higher up my to read list.  If I had, then I would have been missing out on something because people were right – this was a really good book and I really enjoyed it.

Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine

33128934Gina Royal is the definition of average—a shy Midwestern housewife with a happy marriage and two adorable children. But when a car accident reveals her husband’s secret life as a serial killer, she must remake herself as Gwen Proctor—the ultimate warrior mom.

With her ex now in prison, Gwen has finally found refuge in a new home on remote Stillhouse Lake. Though still the target of stalkers and Internet trolls who think she had something to do with her husband’s crimes, Gwen dares to think her kids can finally grow up in peace.

But just when she’s starting to feel at ease in her new identity, a body turns up in the lake—and threatening letters start arriving from an all-too-familiar address. Gwen Proctor must keep friends close and enemies at bay to avoid being exposed—or watch her kids fall victim to a killer who takes pleasure in tormenting her. One thing is certain: she’s learned how to fight evil. And she’ll never stop.

Stillhouse Lake was one of those books I picked up from Amazon because it sounded good but might not have read quite so quickly if it hadn’t been for me deciding to join in with Janel at Keeper of Pages Criminally Good Book Club (not that I’ve been that active as I then immediately dropped out of the online world for a week in order to read books!). Still, it was the kick I needed and I am so glad I did because I really enjoyed this, my first book by Rachel Caine.