Review of Deadlight Hall by Sarah Rayne (Nell West #5) – 5 Stars

Deadlight Hall (Nell West/Michael Flint #5)Deadlight Hall by Sarah Rayne

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This novel continues as entry #5 in the Nell West series and we catch up with Nell and Michael a little after the events of “The Whispering”. In this story, Michael takes the forefront of the strange circumstances with Nell becoming more of the second character and completing the secondary research investigation role. I really enjoyed the author’s ability to switch back and forth making two strong protagonists, that’s strengths differ and keep the series fresh and alive.

In this novel, Rayne also continues along the war theme, this time it is Nazi Germany that is the focus. To be honest the book blurb captures the essence of this story better than I could word it: Leo Rosendale’s childhood was blighted by a macabre tragedy in the grim Deadlight Hall – twin girls vanished, their fate never discovered. What took place there, one long-ago midnight? Michael and his fiancée Nell are unprepared for the shocking truth.

The historical sections of this novel really stand out, very well researched and enjoyable. The novel takes us through various histories of Deadlight hall from the 1870s, the 1940s war evacuation, and then into modern times. The story from Leo’s childhood being the most dramatic of the three storylines. I absolutely love the description of the old house and the wartime era, rules and superstitions captured in this novel really made the storyline vivid.

I think Rayne has done a great job of developing Michael and Nell’s personal relationship too. For returning readers it is handled very well and the progression can be seen, but it’s also not distracting and confusing for first-time readers. Although I would recommend reading the series in order, I think the users could read out of order without too much of a worry. For those that haven’t discovered the Nell West collection, I would suggest these novels are quite similarly written to Phil Rickman’s work; old story exposed, great characters and slightly eerie.

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Review of The Whispering by Sarah Rayne (Nell West #4) – 5 Stars

The Whispering: A haunted house mysteryThe Whispering: A haunted house mystery by Sarah Rayne

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This novel continues as entry #4 in the Nell West series and we catch up with Nell and Michael a little after the events of “The Silence”. In this story, Michael takes the forefront of the strange circumstances with Nell becoming more of the second character and completing the secondary research investigation role. I really enjoyed this shift of perspective and think it brought some freshness to the Nell West stories.

This story follows Michael visiting a reclusive old lady Luisa Gilmore at Fosse House in Norfolk. After viewing her collection of papers the ill-fated Palestrina choir, a storm hits and Michael is forced to take refuge and stay the night at Fosse House. Something Luisa is not overly keen on him doing. When he spots a young man lurking on the grounds of the house things begin to take an even stranger turn.

The secondary historical storyline for me is more intriguing than the ghostly presence of the modern storyline. There are various historical threads but it mostly follows a young man’s story of the first world war and his discovery of the beautiful Palestrina choir in a Belgium Convent. His desire to free them from the impending forces heading their way.

This young man’s story and all the connecting weaving threads that Rayne puts in are just phenomenal and actually quite beautiful.

The setting of Fosse House and the remote isolation provides all the dark brooding atmosphere required for any ghost story. Yet, Rayne’s description of the war imprisonment camp for me provided the more intriguing settings and all the goings on there made me really root for the characters involved.

This is just a great story. It’s not all dark and ghostly. It’s not all mysterious and menacing. It’s just a really great, enjoyable, intriguing storyline. With lots of odd-shaped puzzle pieces that fit together very well by the time you reach the end.

For those that haven’t discovered the Nell West collection, I would suggest these novels are quite similarly written to Phil Rickman’s work; old story exposed, great characters and slightly eerie. 

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Review of The Silence by Sarah Rayne (Nell West #3)– 4 Stars

The SilenceThe Silence by Sarah Rayne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nell West returns in another historical mystery. In this novel Nell is invited to Stilter House to catalogue its contents. Nell takes her daughter Beth along with her as it was Beth’s deceased fathers childhood summer home. Immediately Nell gets entangled in uncovering the past and the truth about the mysterious Isobel Acton.
This story is the third in the Nell West series and differs from the previous Nell West novels in that the historical plot is mostly revealed through the use of old documents, letters, diaries and the odd newspaper cutting. I think this format worked really well and was very intriguing as a reader to follow.
For me, Rayne’s writing really shines during the historical timeline. Edmund and his relationship with his father is brilliantly described and very believable. The characters Jack and Samuel were also really interesting and how each character’s story knitted together was brilliantly tantalising right the way through the story.
As with all Sarah Rayne’s books I have read, the settings and atmosphere are excellently written and the reader can’t help but be absorbed into the dark and mysterious environments.
The only minor downside in this novel was the modern storyline takes a very minimalist approach with Nell only really being there to discover the historic story. I do think Nell and Michael are both really great characters and would have liked a little more of them in this book (particularly Michael who was so interesting in the Sin Eater).
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. As a few others have mentioned it did take a little longer to get into that previous books by Sarah Rayne but I think that was mostly due to the historic storyline being revealed in a different manner. Once you get into it though, it is really intriguing and I must say I really enjoyed the outcome.
For those that haven’t discovered the Nell West collection, I would suggest these novels are quite similarly written to Phil Rickman’s work; old story exposed, great characters and slightly eerie. 
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Review of The Sin Eater by Sarah Rayne – 5 stars

The Sin EaterThe Sin Eater by Sarah Rayne

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the second of the Nell West series by Sarah Rayne (Property of a Lady being the first) and whilst they still have the historical fiction and modern day interlinked storylines that Rayne seems to do brilliantly, they aren’t quite as dark and unnerving as her standalone novels (such as House of the Lost). I did make the mistake of not reading the stories in the correct order and whilst this doesn’t detract too much from the story as it’s quite strong on its own, I do wish I had read them in the correct order as I think the character development of Nell and Michael is such a good minor storyline and would have been better to have read it in the correct order.

In the modern storyline we go with antiques dealer Nell to a Large London house. We meet troubled Benedict Doyle who has inherited the house from his great-grandfather. Benedict finds the house the house disturbing and soon finds himself having troubled dreams featuring the previous occupant, but the events he is dreaming about seem so real. When these dream events are revealed to Michael Flint (Oxford Don who featured in the first novel), his interest is piqued and he starts to research the historical facts behind Benedict’s dreams.

The second storyline for me, made this novel and is why I’ve given it five stars. The story follows Declan and Colm whom move from their Irish home to London city and get caught up in a situation and a world that they never expected to find themselves in.

Other reviewers have complained that Rayne’s writing style has changed with the Nell West series and whilst I agree she has reduced a lot of the darker elements of her writing, I think if anything she has increased the mystery elements of these novels. The storylines are very sharp, intricate and clever, this one surrounds a chess piece yet it is so well written you cannot help but get swept up in the storyline.

I also think Rayne’s characters are evolving, in this novel you really feel sorry for Benedict; his mental condition and how he is suffering as he tries to split what is real from what is imaginary. I actually finished this book a little while ago but the story and characters still feel very vivid and I think that is a sign of how well the story has been told.

For those that haven’t discovered the Nell West collection, I would suggest these novels are quite similarly written to Phil Rickman’s work; old story exposed, great characters and slightly eerie.

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Review of Loose Ends by Terri Reid – 4 stars

Loose Ends (Mary O’Reilly Paranormal Mystery #1)Loose Ends by Terri Reid

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This story follows Mary, a former police officer who has now moved to a new town and started her own private investigation practise – in the paranormal. She is thrown into the story very quickly when the town mayor’s wife approaches her to help with an old unresolved case of her husband’s assistant who had drowned. This case connects with another at around the same time involving five little girls who have disappeared. With a new police chief in town Mary has to convince him she is being haunted by the paranormal, stalked by a killer and that she isn’t insane – making for a fun combo.
The characters were well cast with a real mix of light-hearted paranormal activity. I did think the love story with the new police chief could have been a bit more interesting but as this is the first in the series, perhaps the author is leaving room for this to progress. I think some of the other side characters who help Mary in this novel could have some really interesting stories later to tell later in the series.
Overall, I found this novel an excellent read and would recommend it to fans of the mystery genre. The novel was interesting, unusual and very quick and easy to read. Start of a fun series.

A great debut novel for this self-published indie author.

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Review of The Dolls #1 by Kiki Sullivan

The Dolls (The Dolls, #1)The Dolls by Kiki Sullivan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an interesting paranormal/fantasy novel. The story takes the journey of Eveny a teenage girl that has had to return with her aunt to the town where Eveny was born, Carrefour. But from the moment she gets there strange things seem to happen and the town treats her differently. The story then progresses to initiate Eveny into the world of magic and something similar to voodoo.
This book started really strong with a lot of atmosphere and intrigue but I did feel it let itself down a little. The love storyline with Caleb didn’t really work. It seemed a one-sided infatuation from Eveny that didn’t progress well and I think for fans of the Bella-Edward relationship that is similar to this will be a disappointment.
A few of the characters were a bit flat that could have really had an impact in the story, for example Eveny’s aunt, I felt their relationship could have been presented as much stronger, after all she was the one that brought Eveny up and she is the only person Eveny knows in the town. I did think the main character Eveny was portrayed well and although her decision making process was questionable at times, she was very likeable. However I must say the author cleverly uses the Southern American setting very well in this teenage drama, bringing some of the flatter characters to life.
Overall, I did enjoy this read and Sullivan is a great new paranormal/fantasy author that I am sure will become a hit with fans as her writing develops. Great to see a new slant on the paranormal element too.

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Review of Cursed (A Yorkshire Ghost Story) by Karen Perkins

Cursed: A Yorkshire Ghost Short Story (Yorkshire Ghost Series, #2)Cursed: A Yorkshire Ghost Short Story by Karen Perkins

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I downloaded this book for free as part of a promotional deal. The book was okay and I can see it appealing to the avid Miss Marple type murder-mystery readership. However I myself found this book a little frustrating and a little slow.

Although the clue was in the title, I think the Yorkshire theme became a little frustrating and was over-accentuated which I imagine for readers unfamiliar with this accent; it would quickly become irritating trying to decipher what the characters were saying. If a book said it was set in London I wouldn’t expect it to have broad cockney throughout.

The plot-line was okay, suitable for this length novella, and the characters are likeable. The setting itself is also quite well portrayed and I know of a few Yorkshire villages that would fit the authors setting.

All in all this is a light-hearted little mystery book.

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