I’m sharing another instalment of my Mini Review Mondays, the most recent of which was a few weeks ago. In case you haven’t seen any of my previous posts, I do ‘mini’ reviews of books that I’ve previously read and am now ready to share my full thoughts about.
First up, I’d like to talk about The Undertakers by Nicole Glover. Thank you so much to Del Rey UK for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Hetty and Benjy have another death on their hands: Raimond Duval, a victim of one of the many fires consuming Philadelphia. His death is officially declared an accident, but Hetty and Benjy smell something more than just ash in the air. Their investigations point to a powerful Fire Company, known to let homes in the Black community burn to the ground, but before they can investigate further, Raimond’s son, Valentine, is also found dead.
It quickly becomes clear that there is something more here, something that connects Raimond and Valentine to the recent fires plaguing the city, and Hetty and Benjy have never been the kind to step aside.
But this feels larger than the cases that have come before and now their lives hang in the balance.
After all, even the most powerful magic can’t hold back the ghosts of the past.
Publication Date: 11th November
TW: racism, slavery, violence, death, fire, grief, murder
Having read and loved The Conductors earlier this year, I was thrilled to discover that Glover was working on a sequel and even more delighted when a copy showed up at my door.
As with The Conductors, I am drawn to this series due to its wonderful cast of characters. I love Glover’s development of these characters and their overarching journeys. The way they’re fleshed out through glimpses, snatches and flashbacks weaves this complex tapestry that informs every action and decision they make. Hetty continues to be the shining star of the series for me with her boldness, passion and empathy driving her. She’s brave and brilliant, but that willingness to protect everyone comes at the cost of her impulsive and often dangerous behaviour for herself. Her realisation of this is so well done in the book, allowing for some introspective moments.
I enjoyed the mystery here as well and how it fed into the wider narrative of the worldbuilding and magic system. This is a fascinating system that only draws me in closer as the pages turn. I love the entire concept of it and Glover imaginatively plays with this, bringing us to even more creative spells and integration of magic into their everyday lives. Once again, the pace and tension is fantastic. I just sped through the pages, unable to leave this fast-paced story behind.
Beyond that, the level of detail and research Glover infuses into her books is nothing short of magnificent. I love how the writing includes all this fascinating knowledge but never feels clunky or lectury. It all just flows together so well. The same way she fleshes out her characters, she fleshes out the entire world and period, demonstrating scope and skill in copious amounts.
The Undertakers is another amazing read from Glover and I’m intrigued to see where she takes the series next.
Next up, I’d like to talk about The Twyford Code by Janice Hallett. Thank you so much to Viper Books for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
It’s time to solve the murder of the century…
Forty years ago, Steven Smith found a copy of a famous children’s book, its margins full of strange markings and annotations. He took it to his remedial English teacher, Miss Isles, who became convinced it was the key to solving a puzzle. That a message in secret code ran through all Edith Twyford’s novels. Then Miss Isles disappeared on a class field trip, and Steven’s memory won’t allow him to remember what happened.
Now, out of prison after a long stretch, Steven decides to investigate the mystery that has haunted him for decades. Was Miss Isles murdered? Was she deluded? Or was she right about the code? And is it still in use today? Desperate to recover his memories and find out what really happened to Miss Isles, Steven revisits the people and places of his childhood. But it soon becomes clear that Edith Twyford wasn’t just a writer of forgotten children’s stories. The Twyford Code has great power, and he isn’t the only one trying to solve it…
Publication Date: 13th January 2022
TW: abuse, death, murder, shooting, domestic violence, disappearance, violence, blood
The Twyford Code is such an imaginative, brilliant and tricksy mystery that will keep you on tenterhooks. Hallett is the writer to watch in the genre.
I adored The Appeal and yet again, Hallett has crafted such an exquisite mystery for you to unravel and puzzle over. Personally, I love the epistolary format of her mysteries, allowing time and space to become blurred. It allows you to investigate mystery for yourself and almost encourages you to take notes. The sheer amount of detail and layering here is wonderful to witness unfold and as per usual, you immediately want to delve back in to pick up all the tiny hints you missed.
Here, most of the story is told through audio transcriptions. Despite this gap, you get such a full sense of every single one of the characters. They become fully embodied people from just a few lines or a quick phone call. I loved how detailed they were, even from a quick sketch. Of course, you find out plenty more details and surprising backstories as the book progresses. I really loved the intersecting timelines and several mysteries that all wove together to create Hallett’s intoxicating spiderweb. This plot is complicated and discovering its true core is such a brilliant experience.
I don’t think I can fully articulate just how exquisitely done this mystery is. There are so many twists and turns, all of which are well-executed and genuinely surprising. Hallett keeps you on your toes, forcing you to keep questioning everything you’ve read. Every time you think you have this nailed, there’s another curveball to throw you off kilter. From the first page, Hallett really throws you into the thick of it. The pacing and tension are superb and unrelenting. Even in the supposedly quieter moments, there are plenty of subtle hints and tiny details that build up the bigger picture.
The Twyford Code is one of those books you’ll ruminate over time and time again. It’s an ingenious puzzle that rewards those with a keen eye and will leave armchair detectives reeling time and time again. Hallett truly is becoming my modern Christie.
Finally, I’d like to delve into The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont. Thank you so much to Mantle Books for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
In 1926, Agatha Christie disappeared for 11 days. Aside from the famous author herself, only I know the truth of her disappearance.
I’m no Hercule Poirot.
I’m her husband’s mistress.
Agatha Christie’s world is one of glamorous society parties, country house weekends, and growing literary fame.
Nan O’Dea’s world is something very different. Her attempts to escape a tough London upbringing during the Great War led to a life in Ireland marred by a hidden tragedy.
After fighting her way back to England, she’s set her sights on Agatha. Because Agatha Christie has something Nan wants. And it’s not just her husband.
Despite their differences, the two women will become the most unlikely of allies. And during the mysterious eleven days that Agatha goes missing, they will unravel a dark secret that only Nan holds the key to . . .
Publication Date: 20th January 2022
TW: sexual abuse, child death, animal death, adultery, cheating, disappearance, suicide, abuse
The entire concept of The Christie Affair is just catnip for any mystery loving reader. Bringing together scandal, history and touches of romance, de Gramont has cooked up a tantalising concoction you won’t be able to get out of your head.
Right from that dramatic, impactful and gripping opening, I was hooked. The narrative style was so fascinating, I loved how it offered a different perspective and light on an infamous mystery. For me, the way de Gramont wove in this excellent murder mystery into a poignant, touching and surprisingly beautiful story was pure brilliance. The pace just keeps ratcheting up as you discover more and more of this tangled web. I loved all the tiny touches and flourishes that she sprinkles into the story, adding this literary feel to it and an air of the period that is so heady and entrancing.
I loved how many different strands are threaded together to formulate this rich, complex story. There’s a tragic backstory that delves into incredibly dark territory and the history of Ireland. The history this is based on boils my blood and you can tell the respect and nuance de Gramont brings to it. There’s this sense of righteous anger and karmic justice that looms over the whole affair. I loved how layered and intricate the story was.
All of this culminates in a fascinating discussion of privilege, history and autonomy. At the same time, you have this excellent murder mystery running in parallel to Agatha’s own disappearance. Eventually all these threads come together in an explosive and genuinely shocking turn of events. There is no clear cut sense of right and wrong here, straying into that morally gray territory I love.
The Christie Affair brings together an infamous mystery with a wonderful, poignant and truly beautiful story. It speaks to the trauma buried in your past and the lengths to which someone will go in order to reclaim what is theirs.