Tuesday, 27 September 2016

The Kill Fee - Fiona Vetch Smith

"Poppy Denby, Arts and Entertainment Editor at The Daily Globe, covers an exhibition of Russian Art, hosted by White Russian refugees, including members of the surviving exiled Romanov Royal family. There is an armed robbery, a guard is shot, and the largest Faberge Egg in the collection is stolen. The egg itself is valuable, but more so are the secrets it contains within - secrets that could threaten major political powers. Suspects are aplenty, including the former keeper of the Faberge Egg, a Russian Princess called Selena Romanova Yusopova. The interim Bolshevik Russian ambassador, Vasili Safin inserts himself into the investigation, as he believes the egg - and the other treasures - should all be restored to the Russian people. Poppy, her editor Rollo, press photographer Daniel, and the other staff of the Globe are delighted to be once again in the middle of a sensational story. But, soon the investigation takes a dark turn when another body is found and an employee of the newspaper becomes a suspect...The race is on to find both the key and the egg - can they be found before the killer strikes again?"

This is the second offering from Fiona Vetch Smith in her Poppy Denby Investigates series, and I enjoyed this as much as the first. With a twisting plot line and some very unsavoury characters I was unsure who to trust as events unfolded. 

I love the setting for these novels - London in the 20s - and Fiona's style of writing makes it easy to imagine the way things were in those days. Poppy is a brilliant characters, completely ahead of her time and her outlook on life is very refreshing! I'm looking forward to hearing more from Poppy...this is series that could easily run and run! 

The Kill Fee is out now and you can get it here:

**My thanks to the publisher for my ARC**

Sunday, 18 September 2016

The Girl from The Savoy - Hazel Gaynor **GUEST POST**

Today I'm hosting a guest post from the lovely Hazel Gaynor, author of The Girl from The Savoy. 

London Glamour
When I moved to London in the early ‘90s I was instantly charmed. There was something about the iconic buildings and the atmosphere that I just loved and felt very comfortable being around. I lived and worked in London for seven years, and was sad to leave when I moved to Ireland. Of course, when you live in a city you rarely do the ‘tourist’ things so it was only after I’d left, and returned for visits, that I did the Tower of London, St. Paul’s, the London Dungeons and so much more.
It was such a joy to write about London in THE GIRL FROM THE SAVOY. In many ways, the hotel and London itself became characters in the book. Writing about such a golden age as the 1920s made me very nostalgic for the more glamourous side of the city, so here is my perfect London day, inspired by my characters Dolly and Loretta, and by my experience of writing the book.
Where better to start the day than breakfast at The Wolseley, such a London institution that food critic A.A. Gill has written a book about it. (No prizes for guessing the title. Yep. Breakfast at the Wolseley). I would have to choose an omelette Arnold Bennett, created by chefs at the Savoy Grill especially for Mr. Bennett, a novelist, whose book Imperial Palace was written at The Savoy and formed part of my research.
After breakfast, a stroll through Green Park and Belgravia before visiting the V&A Museum. The permanent collections – fashion, ceramics, glass and many more – are always wonderful, as are the special exhibitions. The wedding dresses exhibition was amazing. At the moment, you can see Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear! The beautiful gardens at the back of the museum are also the perfect place to escape the bustle of London and relax over coffee. It was at the V&A Theatre Archives (housed separately in Blythe House near Olympia) that I did most of my research into the lives of actresses and theatrical producers of the 1920s.
On to Afternoon tea at Claridge’s which is where my characters, Loretta and Perry, meet every Wednesday. When I was writing the book I contacted the hotel to check what would have been on the menu in the 1920s. They explained that the selection would have been very similar to today – sandwiches, scones and cakes. Sandwich fillings would have been chicken and tarragon, roast beef, and egg mayonnaise. Today, afternoon tea is served today in The Foyer but up to 1926 this was known as The Winter Garden, which is what it is called in The Girl From The Savoy.
Of course no day out in London would be complete without taking in a West End show. The Gallery Girls of the 1920s - ordinary working girls who saved all their wages for theatre tickets - would queue for hours at the theatre doors and scream the house down from the cheap seats at the very top of the theatres. It was from up there that Dolly watches the spectacle on the stage and dreams of being there herself one day. The Novello Theatre was named after the composer Ivor Novello who lived in a flat there for many years. Novello inspired my character, Perry, who lives on the top floor of The Strand theatre (as it was known at the time).
After the show, it has to be dancing at The Savoy with a cocktail in the famous American Bar. The Savoy always had a resident band (the Savoy Orpheans in the 1920s, which has a small cameo in the book). Now the band is Alex Mendham and his Orchestra, who play authentic 1920s and 1930s jazz in the Savoy ballroom. I’d love to try a Corpse Reviver cocktail, invented to fight off the Spanish Flu epidemic that followed the end of WW1.
And to finish the day, a moonlit walk along The Embankment where Loretta looks for shooting stars and Dolly admires the work of the screevers – pavement artists. After all that, just time to curl up with a good book in one of the famous Savoir ‘Savoy’ beds, first made especially for The Savoy in 1905, and still made for them today.

The Girl From The Savoy is out now and you can get it here:

Saturday, 3 September 2016

First Monday - September Edition!

First Monday is a BRILLIANT new evening for crime fiction lovers everywhere - and at £5 a ticket it's a snip. September's evening will include Sophie Hannah, Tim Weaver, Rod Reynolds - author of the incredible Texarkana noir The Dark Inside and Black Night Falling, and Jane Corry, interviewed by Jake Kerridge. I was lucky enough to receive copies of Sophie and Tim's books for review - and they are both CRACKING reads, which makes me even more devastated to miss this month's crime-filled evening.

"Hercule Poirot returns in another brilliant murder mystery that can only be solved by the eponymous Belgian detective and his ‘little grey cells’.
‘What I intend to say to you will come as a shock . . .’
Lady Athelinda Playford has planned a house party at her mansion in Clonakilty, County Cork, but it is no ordinary gathering. As guests arrive, Lady Playford summons her lawyer to make an urgent change to her will – one she intends to announce at dinner that night. She has decided to cut off her two children without a penny and leave her fortune to someone who has only weeks to live . . .
Among Lady Playford’s guests are two men she has never met – the famous Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, and Inspector Edward Catchpool of Scotland Yard. Neither knows why he has been invited . . . until Poirot starts to wonder if Lady Playford expects a murderer to strike. But why does she seem so determined to provoke, in the presence of a possible killer?
When the crime is committed in spite of Poirot’s best efforts to stop it, and the victim is not who he expected it to be, will he be able to find the culprit and solve the mystery?"

I don't think I know of any crime fiction lover that doesn't love Agatha Christie - I am a HUGE fan and have to confess to feeling a little nervous at reading Sophie Hannah's recreation of Hercule Poirot. WHAT??! Why was I worried? She is an absolute MASTER - in this (the second Poirot book written by Sophie) she easily recreates the levels of suspense that Christie mastered so well. I loved the puzzling plot line and there were plenty of gasp-inducing moments as Poirot worked those little grey cells to give the reader a most satisfying conclusion.  
Closed Casket is out on 6th September and you can get it here:

My second read for First Monday was the utterly brilliant Broken Heart by Tim Weaver.
"Where did she go?
What did she know?
A woman drives to a secluded beauty spot on the Somerset coast.
CCTV watches her enter but doesn't see her leaving.
In fact, Lynda Korin is never seen again.
How can someone just disappear?
Her sister calls missing persons investigator David Raker.
For him, the mystery of where she went is only the start. The real question is why a woman with no reason to run would choose to leave her entire life behind?
Was it her decision? Or did someone make it for her?
Raker is an expert at following the echoes of decades-old lies. But only Lynda Korin knows the most shocking secret of all - and she's missing, presumed dead..."

Blimey. I knew the new Tim Weaver novel would be good, but this one was OFF THE SCALE good. As expected, a gripping plot line and some despicable villains make for a pacy, addictive read, and Weaver hides some brilliant subtle twists and turns. It'll be worth heading to First Monday just to quiz Tim on how he comes up with these cracking twists!

Broken Heart is out now and you can get it here:

First Monday crime tickets are available here: 

Don't miss it!