Reviews

REVIEW!!! The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths

PS: thanks for the murders.

The death of a ninety-year-old woman with a heart condition should absolutely not be suspicious. DS Harbinder Kaur certainly sees nothing to concern her in carer Natalka’s account of Peggy Smith’s death.

But when Natalka reveals that Peggy lied about her heart condition and that she had been sure someone was following her…

And that Peggy Smith had been a ‘murder consultant’ who plotted deaths for authors, and knew more about murder than anyone has any right to…


And when clearing out Peggy’s flat ends in Natalka being held at gunpoint by a masked figure…

Well then DS Harbinder Kaur thinks that maybe there is no such thing as an unsuspicious death after all.

Having really enjoyed Elly Griffith’s previous standalone mystery The Stranger Diaries back in 2019, I was keen to read more of her work. Unfortunately however her more established Dr Ruth Galloway series didn’t quite gel with me, so I was delighted by the announcement of The Postscript Murders, Elly’s second standalone mystery.

I say ‘standalone’ but Goodreads has this listed as the second in the DS Harbinder Kaur ‘series’. This is possibly a tad misleading. Whilst DS Kaur did appear as one of the investigating officers in The Stranger Diaries, she wasn’t the protagonist and the two novels can be enjoyed entirely separately – the mystery in The Postscript Murders is entirely standalone and DS Kaur now takes centre stage as one of the viewpoint characters, alongside an eclectic cast of amateur sleuths. There are some nods back to The Stranger Diaries – references to Harbinder’s friend Clare, the protagonist of the previous books – but nothing that requires you to have read that novel in order to enjoy this one.

The Postscript Murders sees DS Kaur and her colleagues investigating the death of a 90 year old lady called Peggy Smith. Peggy had a heart condition so, at first glance, there seems to be nothing unusual about her demise. When her carer Natalka and ex-monk friend Benedict are held up at gunpoint in Peggy’s apartment – and when the gunman steals an obscure golden age crime novel – it does begin to look as if there may have been more to Peggy’s death than meets the eye. When it becomes apparent that Peggy acted as a ‘murder consultant’ for various well-known crime novelists – and when one of those novelists ends up with a bullet to the head – Harbinder realises she’s got a rapidly evolving and complex case on her hands. One that she could do really without Natalka, Benedict, and Peggy’s elderly neighbour Edwin getting wrapped up in.

Combining the ‘cosy’ amateur sleuthing of Richard Osman’s The Thursday Murder Club with the literary mystery of Anthony Horowitz’s Magpie Murders, The Postscript Murders is a wholly engaging read that alternates between Harbinder Kaur’s official investigation and the amateur sleuthing of Natalka, Benedict, and Edwin.

Harbinder really comes to life in this book and makes for an enjoyably cynical narrator and I really liked finding out more about her family and personal life in this book. Living at home with her elderly parents Bibi and Deepak (both of whom are an absolute delight to read about on the page), Harbinder finds it challenging to balance her job with her role as a daughter in a close-knit Sikh household – especially when Bibi falls over the family dog and requires additional care. Harbinder is also hiding the fact that she is gay from her family – and is doubting whether a thirty-something woman with a successful career should really still be living at home and spending her evenings playing Panda Pop. Watching her puzzle through both personal and professional dilemmas was one of the highpoints of the book for me – and I loved that, whilst Harbinder has both family and professional problems, Elly Griffiths didn’t turn her into the traditional ‘detective with issues’. Instead we get a portrait of a warm, loving family, and a respectful – if occasionally frustrating – professional environment – and of a woman working through where exactly she fits into it.

Natalka, Benedict, and Edwin, meanwhile, are a delightfully eclectic set of amateur sleuths. Carer Natalka is witty, confident, and captivating – but is running from painful memories and dangerous enemies back in her native Ukraine. Ex-monk turned barista Benedict, meanwhile, knows he’s fallen out of love with seminary life – but can’t quite find his place within the secular world. And former TV producer Edwin – stuck living at Seaview ‘Preview’ Court – faces a lonely existence without his friend Peggy. As this unlikely trio begin investigating Peggy’s death, they form friendships and bonds that are really lovely to read about. And again, whilst each of the trio have ‘baggage’, this is dealt with in a reasonable and realistic way.

I also really liked the way the plot centred around the literary world and, in particular, the world of crime fiction. There is a knowing and witty portrayal of the bookish community in The Postscript Murders that is sure to delight many readers – even us bloggers get a mention! And whilst there are several deaths in the course of the novel, there isn’t anything especially gory or violent – for the most part, the book stays firmly in the realm of ‘cosy’ crime in a similar way to the Golden Age mysteries to which it pays some homage. Which isn’t to say that there aren’t plenty of unexpected twists and turns along the way to finding out ‘whodunnit’!

Overall, The Postscript Murders is a charming and engaging mystery bought to life by a cast of vivid and endearing characters. Combining a well-plotted and page-turning mystery with plenty of warmth, wit, and humour, it is the perfect read for fans of The Thursday Murder Club or Magpie Murders, as well as anyone seeking a contemporary mystery that has all the hallmarks and charm of the Golden Age.

The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths is published by Quercus and is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Bookshop.org, Waterstones, and Wordery. My thanks go to the publisher and to Netgalley UK for providing an ecopy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

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Books of the Year

Best Books of 2019

Wow. 2019, huh? Certainly quite the year – and definitely one that I would rather celebrate through books.

Because, despite everything, 2019 has been a pretty good year for me reading-wise. Overall, I read 79 books in 2019 – beating my Goodreads Challenge goal of 52 by some way, although not quite making last year’s total of 84 books read.

There were definitely slumpy moments – I hit my traditional summer reading slump right on cue and the commencement of my PhD has definitely impacted on the amount of personal reading time I get to enjoy but, as I prepare to ring in 2020 and look back over my year in books, I got to read some fantastic titles this year.

As always, this round-up is of the books I read in 2019 – so there will be a mix of older and new titles in there. There’s no doubt 2019 has seen some fabulous new books released but you gotta give that backlist some love too, you know?

So, without further ado and in no particular order, I present to you my Best Books of 2019!

The FiveThe Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold

Strangely I never got around to writing a full review of this one. This is probably because Hallie Rubenhold’s exceptionally researched and devastatingly heart-breaking biography of Mary Anne Nichols, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, Annie Chapman, Mary Jane Kelly punched me in the gut when I read it back in April.

Hallie keeps her focus entirely on these women, moving the spotlight away from the violence that marked their ends and shining it instead on the tragedy, loss, perseverance, and determination that marked their lives. She gives these five women back their stories and, in doing so, presents a raw and insightful glimpse into the inequality and prejudice at the heart of the traditional Ripper narrative.

A masterful book, powerfully told, this one made me feel sorrow and anger in equal measure – and stayed with me long after I turned the final page.

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John CarreyrouBad Blood

Another non-fiction read (or rather listen, as I read this one on audio) that I didn’t get around to writing up a full review for! Which is somewhat unbelievable as this is definitely a contender for most gripping book of the year!

Carryrou’s investigation of Theranos, the multbillion-dollar Silicon Valley biotech startup founded by brilliant young entrepreneur Elizabeth Holmes is a compelling and comprehensive account of corporate fraud and accountability.

Combining the thorough research of investigative journalism with the twists of a crime thriller – and with shades of a dystopian novel thrown in at times – this one had me hooked from the moment I began listening. A re-read of the paperback is on my ‘To Do’ list for 2020.

The Lost Man CoverThe Lost Man by Jane Harper

I’ve enjoyed all of Jane Harper’s crime novels to date but, in my humble opinion, The Lost Man is her best yet.

A standalone story that centres of the secrets and lies within a family of remote outback ranchers, The Lost Man is a powerful tale of brotherhood, revenge, recrimination and redemption.

You can read my full review here but, needless to say, this is one crime novel that you should definitely make it a mission to pick up in 2020 if you haven’t already done so!

The Library Book by Susan Orlean43217645

I read a fair bit of non-fiction at the start of the year and The Library Book, Susan Orlean’s account of the 1985 fire that all but destroyed the Los Angeles Public Library, was definitely one of the highlights.

Ranging between providing an account of the fire and its aftermath, complete with some devastating interviews with library workers who were present on the day, Orlean also recounts the history of the library service in Los Angeles in a meditative and powerful reflection upon the power of literature.

In a time when library services continue to be under threat both here in the UK and elsewhere in the world, The Library Book is a reminder of the importance of these well-loved but underappreciated public spaces.

You can read my full review here.

Way of All Flesh CoverThe Way of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry

Anyone who has followed the blog for a while will probably know that I love both historical fiction and crime fiction. Combining the two together, therefore, is a surefire way to get my interest.

Ambrose Parry (the pen name for writer Christopher Brookmyre and his wife Marisa Haetzman) hasn’t necessarily done anything new in The Way of All Flesh, the first in a potential series set in Victorian Edinburgh and centring on medical student Will Raven, housemaid Sarah Fisher, and their employer, the brilliant and pioneering Dr Simpson. But everything that is done is done exceptionally well. The plot is intriguing and well-crafted, the historical setting lives and breathes, and the characters come complete with both flaws and foibles. It all makes for an incredibly deep and satisfying read, which has more than earned its place on this list.

You can read my full review here.

The Red Word by Sarah HenstraThe Red Word Cover

I had never heard of this book until I agreed to take part in the blog tour for it but my gosh was it a revelation when I read it!

An intelligent, open-eyed and disturbing look at rape culture and the extremes of ideology, The Red Word is a campus novel that takes no prisoners in its depiction of sorority and fraternity life, radical feminism, and the terrible price that comes from being made to choose between two competing ideologies.

This is definitely no a novel for the faint-hearted but, in the wake of the Me Too movement, it’s a timely and powerful reminder of the ongoing debates that surround consent in modern-day culture.

You can read my full review here.

TamburlaineTamburlaine Must Die by Louise Welsh

A masterful historical novella that recounts the fictional last days of the life of Elizabethan playwright and all-round bad boy Christopher Marlowe.

It’s the voice that really got me in this one. Louise Welsh brings Marlowe and his world vividly to life on the page, capturing the sights, sounds, and smells of Elizabethan London with brilliant precision. And, at the heart of it all, is Marlowe. Angry, dissolute, cunning, and brilliant, Marlowe lives within these pages.

You can read my full review here.

Fuck Yeah, Video Games: The Life and Extra Lives of a Professional Nerd by Daniel Fuck Yeah CoverHardcastle

So, this one is pretty niche. I freely admit that if you’re not a fan of video games, you’re unlikely to see the appeal of Daniel Hardman’s love letter to the medium.

But if, like me, you love to curl up and travel through Skyrim’s frozen wastes, relished the day you could beat your cousin’s Pokemon into dust, or spent hours attempting that bloody Water Temple in Ocarina of Time, then let me assure you that you’ll love this book.

Dan speaks the language of nerd with ease and his account of his favourite games and the way in which they have shaped his life are both hilariously funny and extremely relatable. Plus the book contains some brilliant illustrations by Rebecca Maughan – the one for the Animal Crossing entry has me chuckling just thinking about it.

You can read my full review here.

ErebusErebus: The Story of a Ship by Michael Palin

I must be really bad at reviewing non-fiction because this is yet another one that I read, loved, and failed to write up.

Michael Palin has that brilliant way of making anything seem interesting. So the fact that I already find historic polar exploration fascinating made this one an easy sell for me.

Erebus tells the story of the ship Erebus, from its construction to its fatal final voyage as part of the ill-fated Franklin Expedition. Along the way, Palin writes about the men and women whose lives were marked in some way by the ship, telling the tale of great voyages of discovery, scientific innovations, and crushed dreams. It’s a fascinating tale, engagingly told.

The Adventures of Maud West, Lady Detective: Secrets and Lies in the Golden Age of Maud West CoverCrime by Susannah Stapleton

If you want non-fiction that reads like a novel then look no further than Susannah Stapleton’s The Adventures of Maud West, Lady Detective.

Maud West, a real-life Lady Detective, ran her agency in London for more than thirty years, have begun her sleuthing in 1905. But the real mystery soon becomes Maud’s own life. Because who really was Maud West? And were any of the tall tales she told about her exploits even remotely true?

As always, the truth turns out to be stranger than fiction in this compelling account of a unique life.

You can read my full review here.

BeastBeast by Matt Wesolowski

This one is a late entry as I finished it yesterday – but its no less brilliant for being a recent read!

I’ve read and adored every single one of Matt’s Six Stories novels and the latest, Beast, is no exception. Combining a compulsive podcast-style narrative with a tale of poverty, social media, desperation and modern-day vampires, Beast has the page-turning, edge-of-your-seat quality that made the previous Six Stories books so gripping.

I’ll be writing up a full review of this one shortly but, in the meantime, if you’ve not read any of Matt’s other Six Stories books, you can find me raving about them here, here and here!

Looking back, I have definitely read some fabulous books in 2019. Reviewing the year to write this post, it’s actually been a better one that I remembered. Getting this list down to a reasonable length was really difficult and I definitely want to leave a bit of room for the following honourable mentions (with links to full reviews/features where available):

A Study in Emerald by Neil Gaiman (author), Rafael Albuquerque (author, illustrator), Rafael Scavone, and Dave Stewart (illustrator)

The Vanished Bride by Bella Ellis

Wakenhyrst by Michelle Paver

The Rapture by Claire McGlasson

The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

Unlawful Things by Anna Sayburn Lane

Many thanks to everyone who has read, liked, shared and supported the blog this year – every single retweet, share, like and comment has been much appreciated and I do love interacting with fellow bookish types on Twitter and here on WordPress.

Thanks also to all of the publicists and tour organisers who have invited me to take part in some fantastic blog tours this year – I really wouldn’t have discovered some of these reads if it weren’t for you.

And finally to the authors, thank you for writing such brilliant books. The pleasure of a good book never grows old but I’m sure that easy reading makes for hard writing. So thank you for your efforts.

Wishing you all a very happy and bookish New Year. I shall leave you with a toast from one of my favourite writers, Neil Gaiman:

OldGods

See you in 2020 and, until the next time, happy reading! x