Review of Lockdown by Peter May

Lockdown by Peter May

My rating: 3.5 Stars

Cover - Lockdown by Peter May
Cover – Lockdown by Peter May

📖 I loved the premise of this book but I especially loved the Foreword. May began researching and writing this book in 2005, but there was little interest in the book world for it and some editors thought the idea of London in lockdown too far-fetched. If only they’d known then what we do now.

✍️The book itself centres around detective Jack McNeil who is asked to investigate the mystery of a murdered child’s bones. Jack himself is on the last day of the job instead of taking things easy and wrapping up he finds himself on a chase across London to unravel the case. His own family are hit with heartbreak in relation to the virus.

🗣 I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

(Page 273)
‘I’ll scream!’ she said in a voice made so tiny by fear that it barely penetrated the dark.
MacNeil said breathlessly, ‘If you scream, then so will I.’
Something in his voice stopped her struggling. She lay on the ground below him, gasping for breath, a strange wiry creature in a tweed jacket and skirt with a white blouse and pearl necklace. ‘Who the hell are you?’ she gasped.
‘Detective Inspector Jack MacNeil. Who the hell are you?’

👓 I would just like to mention I love Peter May’s work. His Lewis trilogy is a personal favourite, and I would highly recommend that collection to anyone. I wish stars were out of 10 instead of 5 as this book is a solid 7 out of 10.

👫 Jack McNeil is a great character. Your usual flawed policeman, with a troubled family/home life and a girlfriend within the medical department. All quite cliché but you do warm to him and find yourself willing him to succeed.

Dr Sarah Castelli is another great character. A clever, fearless, sixty-year-old Canadian. She’s tough as old boots and will do anything to get the answers she needs. The only problem with Dr Sarah Castelli is that despite the pivotal part she plays in the book and particularly the finale, we are only just introduced to her on page 277 of a 399-page book. I feel like such a crucial character to the plot should have been introduced and established earlier, not just thrown in towards the end.

🗺 This book is set in London and whilst it is probably trying to be realistic (and perhaps to Londoners it is), for me, it felt a bit like we were being dragged from pillar to post with every great London eye mark thrown in for effect.

💭 Overall View: I did enjoy this book and Peter May’s writing style is brilliant. The characters were interesting and the plot was clearly very well researched. I wish the book had maybe been edited a bit to tie some of the strands together a bit neater. You would think everyone would avoid the mention of Lockdown never mind actively choosing to read about it, but I’m glad I did. Brilliant crime drama, very dark in places, fast-paced and full of action.

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Review of The Donor – 5 Stars

The Donor by Clare Mackintosh

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Premise: Fourteen-year-old Meg is in recovery, six months previously she had a heart transplant. She has been given a second lease of life and is desperate to live it to its fullest. Her mother Lizzie is somewhat nervous, after years of living with the worry of Meg’s illness, she can’t help be cautious. When the bereaved mother of the donor, Karen, makes contact and asks to meet Meg, Lizzie worries, but she feels obligated to her for giving her daughter this new lease of life, begrudgingly she agrees. Soon Karen’s motives come into question and Meg’s attitude begins to change. Has Lizzie made a huge mistake allowing Karen to get to know Meg, worse still, is her daughter in danger?

I really enjoyed this short story, part of the “quick reads” collection which I love to intersperse with longer reads. The idea of this collection is exactly as it says on the tin (or should that be cover), a shorter than a normal book by world-leading authors. One of the things I quite like about these books is that they force the authors to cut out a lot of the waffle that sometimes goes on in books. This keeps the stories quite fast-paced with a lot happening in less time. I’m proud of authors who take on the challenge of writing these books so that they can be enjoyed by all even those who aren’t keen readers.

I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

‘She’s taking a lot of pills already,’ I say. The bottles are in the bathroom, their labels filled with long names I can’t pronounce.
‘These are supplements. They’ll help Meg stay healthy.’
‘She is healthy. She’s doing really well. The consultant said so.’ I don’t mean to sound so abrupt, but Steve turns to look at me, a shocked expression on his face.

The story is told from Lizzie’s point of view. She has felt so much strain from her daughter’s illness over the years. Her guilt and stress are palpable through the page and it’s pretty easy to picture yourself in her position, what would you do? How would you react?

The story of course captures the concept of organ donation (for a real-life insight into this I highly recommend Dan Walker’s book Remarkable People, there is a chapter on organ donation that is both heart-breaking and inspirational). The author also dabbles with the theory of cell memory, a really interesting concept that really adds to the story.

Overall View: Fast-paced, well-written, character-driven short novel. A really good read. A fantastic novelist! Cannot wait to read many more of her works.

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Extract – The Donor

Review of The Tools: Transform Your Problems…

The Tools: Transform Your Problems into Courage, Confidence, and Creativity by Phil Stutz

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A self-help book aimed at overcoming everyday burdens that block you from progressing towards what you really want. With helpful exercises included. It shows scenarios with individual cases and how they applied the techniques, even some initial failures where repetition is needed.

I enjoyed this book, the size of it is brilliant and makes it so much less daunting than some of the larger textbooks on similar subjects. I have read a few of these books such as The Secret and Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffries. In reality, they all make sense in their own way and it depends upon your scenario’s and how you apply them. I found some of the tools from “The Tools” more effective than others, equally, I found some of the approaches to Feel the Fear and do it anyway more realistic than others.

However, having recently had a baby which is an emotional enough period, followed by a fall-out of a fifteen-year friendship and an incredibly difficult working situation, this book had enough motivational and straightforward content to give me what I needed from it at that point in time. So, I suspect if you yourself are going through a period of change or reflection, this book could be what you need.

I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

Its power has touched your own life as well. You started life as a helpless infant; yet in a remarkably short time, you moved from crawling to standing to walking. You did this despite countless painful setbacks. Watch a child learning to walk now. No matter how many times he falls, he soon picks himself back up to pursue his goal. His sense of purpose is amazing; he’s tapped into the Force of Forward Motion.

Any Negatives: Long-winded in places in comparison to other self-help books. It does also repeat itself regularly, but I guess that could be useful if you are dipping in and out.

Overall View: Easily digestible. Great comparisons/real-life stories associated with the ideas and tools. Useful to have on the shelf for future reference.

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Extract – The Tools.

Review of The Fool’s Girl – 4 Stars

The Fool’s Girl by Celia Rees

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This story is a nod to the twelfth night and its characters and of course William Shakespeare.
Violetta the Duchessa (the equivalent of a young princess), has fled her home country to come to London in search of a holy relic taken from her home in Illyria so that she can restore it to her people. She has the companionship of Feste, her clown from childhood. When they meet playwright William Shakespeare, their fortunes finally seem to turn around.

I adore Celia Rees’s writing. She captures the past magnificently. Her descriptions are always rich and details. Pirates and Witch Child are phenomenal books, I would highly recommend both. However…

The fool’s Girl, I really struggled with. It just took me a long time to settle into the story. The characters and timeline jump back and forth (which is quite normal for both the historical fiction genre and Celia Rees’s writing) but on this occasion, it left me struggling to keep up and pinpoint what was going on.

Once I got into the story, I did enjoy it. The action was great, the love story was enjoyable as was the characters introduced. The historical landscape of London was really visibly brought to life and I was of course left really intrigued by Illyria.

I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

…Until the year when I was ten years old and everything changed. At the end of each summer, the palace was closed up and we went back to the city. I saw less of Stephano during the winter, but that year he did not appear at the summer palace at all.
‘Sebastian has claimed him,’ Lady Olivia said. ‘Made him his page. He wants to make a man of him.’ She laughed but there were tears in her eyes as she said it.
I missed him sorely, but I hid my sorrow in the way that children do. I always had Feste to teach me new tricks and laugh me out of my misery. He’s no child, but he can enter into a child’s world.

Overall View: I begrudgingly gave this a four-star but in reality, for me, it was a bit less, 3 and a half would be more accurate. A mixed bag, great writing, loved the historical aspects but just a lot of effort upfront to get to the good bits.

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The Fool’s Girl – Extract

Review of A High Mortality of Doves – 3 Stars

A High Mortality of Doves by Kate Ellis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Premise: Flora Winsmore, the local doctor’s daughter, worked as a volunteer nurse during the war. Now working alongside her father as little more than a receptionist she wishes for more. Within quick succession, several women have been murdered and the ponderous local police force fail to identify the killer, the victims mount up, and the powers-that-be call in Scotland Yard’s Inspector Albert Lincoln.

I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

‘I thought you were going to the Cottage Hospital,’ I say as soon as he’s within earshot.
He looks annoyed, like a man whose plans have been thwarted. ‘Sergeant Teague has made a telephone call… to London.’ There is a note of awe in his voice as he pronounces the name of the capital.
‘If the same murderer’s responsible it means they’ll have to release Jack Blemthwaite,’ I say. ‘Surely they can’t think he’s guilty now.’
Father shakes his head. ‘I suspect that was the purpose of Teague’s call. He’s calling a detective from London. Scotland Yard. He will let me know when he receives a reply. I am told the detective might wish to attend the post mortem so it’s been postponed.

Viewpoint: This story is told from multiple viewpoints and the timeline contains many flashbacks to the time of the war.

Character(s): The main two characters Flora and Albert are both strong with their own personal complicated histories they are working through. There is a cast of other characters, many of whom are equally caught up in the aftershock of the war trauma, with their own secrets, lies and grief distorting the investigation.
Setting: The novel is set in 1919 in a Derbyshire village. Ellis captures the village life excellently with its gossips, loyalties to manor houses and landowners, and the life of a country doctor called upon for all jobs. She also captures that small-mindedness that is sometimes felt amongst a rural community. It also helps bring an air of both sophistication and isolation to Albert. He is an outsider so not trusted but also a Londoner, so he is granted a degree of respectability.

Any Negatives: I am a massive fan of Kate Ellis, I think she is one of my favourite authors but I found this book a rather challenging read at times. I can’t quite put my finger on why, it feels very heavy and repetitive in places, it’s quite slow and laboursome at times to get to the action (which is unusual considering the body count). I don’t know, it wasn’t the worst, it just wasn’t the best for me either. I’m really glad I didn’t let it put me off as the ending was great.

Overall View: Brilliant concept. I love some of the historical details woven into the story. The love affair and guilt associated was great. However, in other areas, the plot was a bit slow and cumbersome. A very strong ending.

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Extract – A High Mortality of Doves


Review of Do you know what? – 5 Stars

Do You Know What?: Life According to Freddie Flintoff by Andrew Flintoff

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Premise: Freddie Flintoff’s pearls of wisdom on an eclectic array of topics. Of course, the obligatory cricket is covered (I am not particularly a fan of the sport but I genuinely laughed out loud at his description of the locker room hijinks), there is a bit about his wrestling life, performing in a musical, and all kinds of other areas of his life.

I’ll be honest, I’m not often a fan of these celebrity, blow-their-own trumpet, did they even really write them, autobiographies, but for some reason, I was drawn to Freddie’s. I adore him in his new role at top gear, his camaraderie with the team is brilliant. I have found him quite hilarious in many of his other TV roles, so when I saw this pop up in the sale, I thought I’d give it a go and I was not disappointed.

Much of the book is very, very, funny, although it does cover some serious aspects including depression and some of the ups and downs of his life and career also. The writing style is great, and it does feel like he is actually talking, having a conversation in his own words, not what some journalist thinks he should be saying. It felt like a real insight into his personal and professional life.
I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

… I can’t handle rudeness, it makes my blood boil. Dishonesty really gets me as well. If somebody stitches me up, they’re done, it’s non-negotiable. Through the years, I’ve had plenty of people use me to climb the social ladder. People I thought were friends have used me and then dropped me. I won’t name them, but I hope they get found out.
I’ve also been betrayed by teammates, coaches and financial advisors. Sportspeople are easy prey, quite naïve in a lot of ways. When I retired from cricket at 31, I’d never paid any bills, that was all done for me. I was a sucker, used to lend money to friends willy-nilly and throw myself into things. My money was invested for me, a lot of it in….

Overall View: Honestly, highly recommended. Freddie comes across as open, honest, likeable and so much more human than the media persona everyone thinks they know. Funny with a tad of seriousness when needed. In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I have bought his new book – Right Said Fred. Hopefully, it will be more of the same.

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Review of Doggerel: Life with the Small Dog – 5 Stars

Doggerel: Life with the Small Dog by Sue Vincent

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a book of poetry about a small dog named Ani, her human (Sue) and how they spend their life together. I wouldn’t normally purchase a book about poetry but I loved this book. In fact, I devoured the whole thing in one evening. Each poem was more than that, it was a story, a capturing of time and a glimpse into the wonderful relationship with man’s (and woman’s) best friend. Ani is a smart, sassy pup who keeps her human on their toes.

Being owned by a small dog myself, I could relate to many of the tales (particularly regarding the dreaded bath-time). As my own little four-legged companion is 16 in human years, the scale of ball-throwing related activities is much less these days, instead she can normally be found snoring in her basket, or checking out the perimeters for the maverick squirrel who visits now and then. I imagine in her younger years, she and Ani would have made great friends.
I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

You’ve Stolen all my poems,
Put your name upon my book…
Do you think that I cannot read?
Or that I will not look?

Overall View: A fabulous book. Great writing, lovely images and a brilliant display of quick wit. A book so many will relate to (two-legses and four-legses alike). Ultimately capturing that marvellous unexplainable thing called love.

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Extract – Doggerel

International Women’s Day 2021 – female authors.

It’s all about the females today. I’ve got so many female writers whose works I love, I don’t really value writers by sex, more their ability to spin a good yarn and hook me in quickly.

But in the interest of International Women’s Day, here are a few books from my to read or recently read piles. All authors that I have read in the past and thoroughly enjoyed their works.

Who is your favourite female author?


Review of Skeleton Key by Robert Richardson – 4 Stars

Skeleton Key (Augustus Maltravers, #1)Skeleton Key by Robert Richardson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Brief Outline
Novelist Augustus and his girlfriend Tess have planned a week’s holiday staying with friends in Bellringer. This stay is immediately disrupted when a skeleton is stolen from Edenbridge House, the stately home of the Earl of Pembury. The mystery of the missing skeleton surges through the village with rumours abound. So when the heir to the estate, Simon (Lord Dunford) is found murdered, most people find themselves as suspects.
Maltravers and Tess find themselves caught up in the mystery of vengeance and murder. Could it be Simon’s own cousin Oliver Hawkhurst or the estate’s coldly efficient secretary, Mister York? Who had the strongest motive for murder? Maltravers and Tess increasingly want to know the truth and more importantly, want to stop the killer from killing again.
Writing Style
This book does start very slowly (particularly for a crime novel) and it does take a while to build up the suspense and the storyline. I think this is partly to do with a lot of characters in the book for the reader to get to know. However a few chapters in it gets going and the mystery starts to take shape. I would say this is more of an Agatha Christie or M.C. Beaton style of pace.
The storyline is quite interesting and the settings are very well described; a small village, cricket pitch, large estate house, etc. There are quite a lot of characters in this novel to get used to, each with their own agendas and interest in the murder, this was probably my slight criticism of the novel as it distracted me from the story a little trying to remind myself who was who and what they had said/done previously. However the main characters Maltravers, Tess and Simon were all very interesting and it was enjoyable to read their story unfold.
An enjoyable book, particularly for fans of MC Beaton, Agatha Christie style of the crime genre.
About the author
I came across this book as the author has won the John Creasey Annual Award given by the Crime Writers Association. This award is for the best crime novel by a first-time author of any nationality first published in the UK in English. I have adored the work of some of the previous winners including SJ Watson and it is always a helpful place to discover new talent.

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