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Dead Tired

Dead Tired

Kat Ailes

9th June 2024

It’s sequel time, and we return to the sleepy Cotswold village that Alice moved to before Jack was born, and which now even the characters refer to as being like Midsomer.

I really like the bunch of characters and the sense of humour that the narration brings to them all. It must be hard to work with a large cast of main characters, all in a similar situation (early motherhood) and yet make them all stand out distinctly. I’ve definitely read a cosy crime that couldn’t achieve that at all, but this does so with style.

I also love the way the characters lives develop, we get to revisit various other characters from the first book too, and a rich new cast are introduced as well to fill out the new plot. Creating characters is clearly something that Ailes has put a ton of effort and talent into.

And the plot is great too - there’s a bunch of stuff going on, loads to investigate, clues all over the place, and enough that you think you maybe have worked some stuff out but without being confident enough to not want to race to the end and find out.

This was a two-day read for me, aided by two long train journeys, but also demonstrating how much it motivated me to focus on it.

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Pliable Truths

Pliable Truths

Dayton Ward

9th June 2024

A Next Generation / Deep Space Nine crossover novel, this story covers the period shortly before the DS9 pilot episode, when the Cardassians are withdrawing from their occupation of Bajor, and the Enterprise is dispatched to provide humanitarian and diplomatic help.

It feels like Star Trek, which is I suppose one of the best compliments for it. There’s a ton going on, so bigger than one episode, with a lot of plot strands to pull on and none of them seeming to dominate. This might make the book feel unfocussed, and I did at first wonder what the main plot actually was, before realising that it didn’t need to have a main plot to successfully tell stories about these characters.

Obviously the characterisation is spot on, and I particularly enjoyed seeing Keiko O’Brien get some story time as a botanist, and seeing her and Miles think about their future plans.

The choice of Garak for the cover art feels like a misstep. I can understand that he’s a marketable DS9 character, but his appearance doesn’t feel like it adds up to enough to make him as prominent as Picard, or more prominent than other characters.

One of those novels where it takes me a while to get into the swing of it, but from about halfway I stormed through.

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The Secret of the Haunted Mirror

The Secret of the Haunted Mirror

M. V. Carey

1st June 2024

Looking for something short to read, I grabbed this mystery from my shelf to revisit. While I’ve read it before, I didn’t remember this one at all, so it was fun to see the adventure play out.

As is standard for the Three Investigators, something creepy is going on, and then something criminal.

The plot is a bit convoluted, and the creepiness over surprisingly early, but overall I enjoyed it as a little adventure.

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The Shooting in the Shop

The Shooting in the Shop

Simon Brett

1st June 2024

A quick return to Fethering was really relaxing, and I raced through this mystery in two days - it was just what I was looking for in a book.

It’s Christmas, and Carole is really trying to join in and make it more enjoyable than her usual lack of festivities, but really she’s motivated most by trying to solve yet another local murder.

I really enjoy these characters and their little world. We got a few reminders pop in of previous adventures and friends, but mostly this is a new story with new suspects and a new plot.

I’m not entirely sure I understood the conclusion, but I don’t think that mattered too much, as the journey was what was important to me.

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The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi

The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi

Shannon Chakraborty

1st June 2024

I have found myself reading several books about pirates lately and this one landed in my hands after the cover stood out in the bookshop.

It’s set in and around the Indian Ocean about 800 years ago, and follows the story of retired pirate captain Amina al-Sirafi as she is drawn back into action for one last fantastical adventure.

I really enjoyed the setting - it’s good to find a book with a different view on the world, clearly a lot of thought and research gone into it, and that educates as well as entertaining.

The fantasy elements, while there from the start, built up in an easy to follow way and felt like really solid world building. The characters were compelling and believable, flawed in interesting ways, and yet always fun to be with. And the narration was fun - relaxed, informative, and with a style that really made you want to read more.

But I did find myself wishing the book was about a third shorter. By the time I was a week in I had lost patience a bit, not because the story wasn’t moving, but just because I was mentally ready to be reading the next book in my pile instead.

I was surprised to learn after reading that this is planned to become a trilogy. I’m not sure how I feel about revisiting this world and characters - the book worked well as a standalone.

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Displeasure Island

Displeasure Island

Alice Bell

26th May 2024

Back for a second adventure, Claire and Sophie go on holiday to an Irish prison island turned wellness retreat. Naturally given this is cosy crime, murder ensues, and the pair and their friends need to work out who dunnit, alongside a host of other mysteries.

I found this more challenging to read than the first novel. In part I suspect that’s because my copy has been printed with enormous letters, which means fewer words per line and I had to hold the book further from my face than normal. This may be a sign of my own aging too. But the text was a bit extremely big and made me feel like the novel was being artificially lengthened to meet a page count.

The range of new characters were good. They were a distinctive bunch, each with solidly identifiable traits, complex interpersonal dynamics, and a bunch of motives which is always important. And they showed an impressive range of diversity (in some metrics at least) which I enjoy in a novel and feels more reflective of my experience of the real world.

For whatever reason though it didn't grip me as much as I wanted it to, and now I’m less confident about recommending this series to friends as I was before.

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Radical Moves

Radical Moves

Franklin W Dixon

26th May 2024

In their 113th novel, the Hardy Boys take up skateboarding (it is 1992 for them after all), meet up with some competitive skateboarders, and naturally get dragged into a skateboard-related mystery.

As they go, it’s a fairly standard Hardy Boys adventure, although none of the regular side characters make an appearance, meaning their traditional roles in the plots have just been added as extra skills and interests of the super/powered brothers.

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