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#Bookreview THE MURDER THAT DEFEATED WHITECHAPEL’S SHERLOCK HOLMES: AT MRS RIDGLEY’S CORNER by Paul Stickler (@paul_stickler) (@penswordbooks) #Truecrime

Hi all:

I bring you another non-fiction book that brings to life what a real murder investigation was like in Britain in the early XX century.

The Murder that Defeated Whitechapel's Sherlock Holmes: At Mrs Ridgley’s Corner by Paul Stickler
The Murder that Defeated Whitechapel’s Sherlock Holmes: At Mrs Ridgley’s Corner by Paul Stickler

The Murder that Defeated Whitechapel’s Sherlock Holmes: At Mrs Ridgley’s Corner by Paul Stickler. A fascinating true police-procedural account from the early XXc

In 1919, when a shopkeeper and her dog were found dead in Hitchin, Hertfordshire with brutal head injuries, there followed an extraordinary catalogue of events and a local police investigation which concluded that both had died as a result of a tragic accident. A second investigation by Scotland Yard led to the arrest of an Irish war veteran, but the outcome was far from conclusive.

Written from the perspective of the main characters involved and drawing on original and newly-discovered material, this book exposes the frailties of county policing just after the First World War and how it led to fundamental changes in methods of murder investigations.

Offering a unique balance of story-telling and analysis, the book raises a number of unanswered questions. These are dealt with in the final chapter by the author’s commentary drawing upon his expertise.

https://www.amazon.com/Murder-Defeated-Whitechapels-Sherlock-Holmes/dp/1526733854/

https://www.amazon.com/Murder-Defeated-Whitechapels-Sherlock-Holmes-ebook/dp/B07FD46C55/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Murder-Defeated-Whitechapels-Sherlock-Holmes-ebook/dp/B07FD46C55/

Author Paul Stickler
Author Paul Stickler

About the author:

Paul Stickler joined Hampshire Constabulary in 1978 and spent the majority of his time in CID. He spent many years involved in murder investigations and was seconded to the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia to study international perspectives of crime investigation. Since his retirement in 2008 he has combined his professional knowledge with his passion for history, researching murders in the first half of the twentieth century. He spends his days delivering lectures to a wide range of audiences. More can be found out about him on his website: www.historicalmurders.com

Although the above is the official information included in the book, I could not resist but copy the profile from his website.

A retired detective, Paul Stickler has turned criminologist and crime historian and explores the detail behind some of the most fascinating cases in criminal history. His experience in murder investigations coupled with his passion for history make his presentations absorbing, challenging, entertaining and informative. He has recently published his first book about a bizarre murder investigation in Hertfordshire just after the First World War. He is a member of the Crime Writers’ Association.

Paul has featured in a number of television and radio programmes about his career and his research into early twentieth-century murders.

He studied history with the Open University obtaining a Bachelor’s degree (1997), graduated from the FBI academy in Quantico, Virginia with a post-graduate diploma in Law Enforcement (1997) and read criminology at Solent University for his Master’s degree (2013) specialising in the research of historical crime. He is a Visiting Fellow of Solent University and his hobbies include gliding, high altitude walking and playing guitar (badly) and piano (even worse).

http://www.historicalmurders.com/profile/

Oh, and the website is fascinating, to people interested in true crime and also those authors or scholars researching the topic. I recommend it.

My review:

Thanks to Alex, Rosie and the whole team at Pen & Sword for providing me a paperback copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

I was fascinated by this book and by the way it is told. The case itself cannot compare to some of the sophisticated cases we read about in mysteries and thrillers, complex and full of twist and turns. A shopkeeper, widowed, that lived with her dog, and sold a bit of everything, appeared murdered on a Monday morning, next to the body of her dog. There was blood everywhere, she’d evidently been hit on the head, possibly with a weight that was found close to the body, and there was money missing. People had been at her shop on Saturday evening and one of her neighbours had heard some strange noises in the early hours of Sunday, but that was it. This was 1919, and, of course, forensics were not as advanced as they are now, but there was an investigation of sorts, although, surprisingly, in the first instance the local police decided it had been an accident. When the new police chief revised the case, he was not so convinced, and called on Scotland Yard for assistance. They sent Detective Chief P. S. Wensley, who had been involved (although only marginally) in the investigation of the Jack the Ripper murders and would become pretty well-known for the Houndsditch murders and the siege of Sidney Street. Unfortunately, two weeks had passed since the original crime he was sent to investigate, the body had been buried, and the evidence had not been well-looked after, but still… He and his team investigated and put together a case against an Irish immigrant who’d fought the war. And, well, the rest is history (and you’ll have to read it yourselves).

Despite, or perhaps because, of the somewhat ‘simple’ murder, the book is a fascinating read. The author —evidently familiar with current crime investigation techniques— explains his reasons for choosing to tell this story, to recover the case of a fairly anonymous woman, and to do it in this particular way, pointing out that he did not intend to set off on a ‘cold-case’ type of investigation.  In his own words:

That is the beautiful thing about history; trying to show exactly what happened using original material and putting it in a contemporary social setting so that the reader can better understand and make sense of it all. I hope that the narrative has not only thrown light on policing in the early part of the century but portrayed it as a piece of history and not as retrospective critique. (Stickler,  2018, p. 145)

In my opinion, he succeeds. Stickler’s method, which consists in looking over the shoulder of the people who were investigating the murder and those who participated in the court case, showing us what they would have seen, and guessing at what they might have thought, while at the same time providing us historical background, so we are able to understand how the police force worked, and what the atmosphere was like in the country shortly after WWI, works very well. As we read the book we can’t help but think about what we would have done, worry about their mistakes, and wonder about the missing details and the conflicting witness statements and evidence. We learn about the social make-up of the town, the relationships between the different communities, the way the police force worked at the time, and we gain a good understanding of the legal issues as well, without having to read long and dry historical treatises. The writer has done a great deal of research and his skill as a writer is evidenced in the way he seamlessly creates an involving narrative that never calls undue attention to it. For the sake of completion, the author includes a commentary at the end, where he provides a postscript, as it were, with information about what happened to the protagonists, and also with his own speculations (that he had kept to himself until then) as to why things happened as they did.

I recommend this book to people who are interested in true crime, especially in Britain, Criminology and Criminal Justice System students, readers who enjoy historical police procedural novels, and also writers of the genre interested in researching the topic (the bibliography and the author notes will be of great help, and there are also pictures from the time provide a fuller understanding of the story). And, as I said, I also recommend checking the author’s blog to anybody interested in the topic.

A great book and a fabulous resource.

Stickler, P. (2018). The murder that defeated Whitechapel’s Sherlock Holmes: At Mrs Ridgley’s corner. Barnsley, UK: Pen & Sword.

Thanks to Alex and the author for the book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and always keep smiling.

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog WHEN THE STARS SANG by Caren J. Werlinger A delightful read, full of great characters, inspiring, and heart-warming. Also recommended to dog lovers! #LGTB #Bookreview

Hi all:

Today I bring you a book that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, although it is not in a genre I read very often. A great read.

When the Stars Sang by Caren R. Werlinger
When the Stars Sang by Caren R. Werlinger

When the Stars Sang by Caren J. Werlinger

Nearly twenty-five years ago, Kathleen Halloran’s brother drowned during the last summer they ever spent with their grandmother on a remote island off Maine’s coast. Like a siren’s call she can’t resist, Kathleen is pulled back to Little Sister Island. She leaves her job and her girlfriend packs up her few belongings and moves into her grandmother’s cottage.

Molly Cooper loves life on Little Sister, where the islanders take care of their own. Kathleen Halloran doesn’t belong here, and her arrival stirs up unwelcome memories for the islanders—including Molly’s brother. Molly is certain Kathleen will pack up at the first big blow. When she doesn’t, Molly begins to see maybe there’s more to Kathleen than she thought.

Sometimes, before you can move forward, you have to look back.

https://www.amazon.com/When-Stars-Sang-Caren-Werlinger-ebook/dp/B07B7CT41D/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/When-Stars-Sang-Caren-Werlinger-ebook/dp/B07B7CT41D/

Author Caren J. Werlinger
Author Caren J. Werlinger

About the author:

Caren was raised in Ohio, the oldest of four children. Much of her childhood was spent reading every book she could get her hands on, and crafting her own stories. She was influenced by a diverse array of authors, including Rumer Godden, J.R.R. Tolkien, Ursula Le Guin, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Willa Cather, and the Brontë sisters. She has lived in Virginia for over twenty years where she practices physical therapy, teaches anatomy and lives with her partner and their canine fur-children. She began writing creatively again several years ago. Her first novel, Looking Through Windows, won a Debut Author award from the Golden Crown Literary Society in 2009. Since then, she has published several more novels, winning three Goldies and multiple Rainbow Awards. She recently completed her first fantasy trilogy, The Dragonmage Saga.
Check out her blog: http://cjwerlinger.wordpress.com

https://www.amazon.com/Caren-J.-Werlinger/e/B002BOI2ZI/

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, check here if you want to get your book reviewed) and thank her and the author for the ARC copy of the book, which I freely chose to review.

I occasionally read romance novels although I am not their number one fan, but there was something about this book that called my attention from the very beginning. I am always attracted towards stories that are set in special locations (real or imagined) and the description of the island definitely fitted the bill for me. And, in this case, first impressions were right.  I loved the story and the place, and I wish it existed and I could be a part of the community in Little Sister.

The story is narrated in the third person from the point of view of two female characters, Kathleen, who returns to Little Island as an adult (after a traumatic breakup with her on-and-off girlfriend of 14 years), and goes to live to the house of her recently deceased grandmother (although she had not been back there since she was a child due to a very traumatic event), and Molly, the island’s sheriff, and also a handywoman, who loves restoring and repairing boats, but can set her hand at anything that needs repairing (even a broken heart). Although they are suspicious of each other at first, it is clear that they are meant for each other, but, as we all know, the path of true love never does run smooth, and there are a number of obstacles on their way, some of their own making, but others to do with childhood trauma, dysfunctional family relationships, and a past that refuses to be buried. If you are a big fan of romances, LGBT or otherwise, you do not need to worry. Although I won’t discuss the ending to avoid spoilers; I think you’ll be happy with it.

The author creates realistic characters we care for, and not only the protagonists. While Kathleen and Molly can be stubborn and blind at times (and even annoying, but ultimately likeable), there is a full catalogue of fabulous secondary characters, including Molly’s family (her wonderful parents, and her brothers, including Aidan, who is an integral part of the incident that made everything change for Kathleen), sisters Olivia and Louisa (who always carry the ashes of their father with them), Rebecca, the librarian and depository of the island’s traditions, and many more. Oh, and let’s not forget Blossom, a stray dog adopted by Kathleen (well, the adoption is mutual), that is both a totally realistic dog and a fantastic and heart-warming character.

There is lovely food, a variety of ceremonies and traditions, a strong sense of community [including matrilineal heritage that reminded me of the book The Kingdom of Women by Choo Wai Hong (you can read my review here)], secrets, deception, ecology and renewable energy, and plenty of love, not only between the two women, but between all the members of the community. The sense of belonging and the healing and growth of the characters is intrinsically linked to the way of life in this island that mixes Irish folklore and beliefs with Native-American (First Ones) ones. Werlinger creates a beautiful setting, both in its landscape and spirituality. Readers feel a part of this wonderful community, and I, for one, was sorry to come to the end of the book and would love to live in such a place.

The writing ebbs and flows, allowing readers to enjoy the descriptions of the island, its inhabitants, their actions and also their mental processes, although I did not find it slow and I was hooked to the story and the feeling of becoming one with the inhabitants of the place. As a writer, I easily empathised with Kathleen, who is an editor and also creates book covers, and I enjoyed the fact that female and male characters are diverse, are not restricted to standard gender roles, and the attitude of the islanders towards same-sex love is open and unquestioning. There are certain necessary characteristics that make a relationship truly compatible, but gender is not one of them.

As readers, we share the thoughts and experiences of the main characters although the third person narration also gives us enough distance to be able to make our own minds up. There are some surprises, some quasi-magical elements, some light and fun moments, but there are also nasty characters (although these are always outsiders), and intuition and family connections are very important. As for the love story, there are some sexual elements, but not a full-blown graphic description of events, and I found it rather delicate and in good taste (and I am not a fan of erotica).

I wanted to share a few things I highlighted:

Normally, those messages would have torn at Kathleen’s heart. But she wasn’t sure she had a hart any longer. She tapped her chest, half expecting it to sound hollow, like the Tin Man.

“It should be a mix. None of us is just one thing, complete in and of ourselves. We are the island, and the island is us.”

“That is not how it works. Love that has to be deserved or earned was never love to begin with.”

A joyful read, which I recommend to readers who enjoy books set in special locations, who appreciate a strong sense of community and belonging, and love solid characters. There are ups and downs, happy and sad events, although it is not a book for lovers of adventures and frantically paced novels. This is a contemplative and inspiring book, heart-warming and positive. If you need a pick-me-up, this is your book.

Thanks very much to Rosie for her fabulous group and for the opportunities to review and discover great books, thanks to the author (she has written many other books that I’ll have to check), and thanks to all of you for reading. Remember to like, share, comment, click, REVIEW and SMILE!

[amazon_link asins=’0996036865,0998217905,B00JW2M60O,B00BJ9FMV8,B01APWFEC6,0996036881,B00HMQ7MHY,B00EVSTP08′ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’wwwauthortran-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’9528a693-2de5-11e8-83f0-018384406b52′]

Categories
Book reviews

#Bookreview HOLDING by Graham Norton (@grahnort) Not a genre novel but an interesting story #TuesdayBookBlog

Hi all:

I keep trying to catch up on recent reviews, and here I bring you one that I must confess I was curious about because of the writer.

Holding by Graham Norton
Holding by Graham Norton

Holding by Graham Norton  (Author) 

It’s funny and wonderfully perceptive’ Wendy Holden

‘Poised and perceptive’ the Sunday Times

‘It is beautiful and yet devastatingly sad’ Daily Express

‘A considerable achievement … one of the more authentic debuts I’ve read in recent years … in such an understated manner, eschewing linguistic eccentricity … in favour of genuine characters and tender feeling…this is a fine novel.’ John Boyne, Irish Times

‘Deeply accomplished…brilliantly observed’ Good Housekeeping

‘An undercurrent of black comedy accompanies the ripples that ensue – but with a pathos that makes this deftly plotted story as moving as it is compelling.’ Sunday Mirror

‘Strenuously charming…surprisingly tender’ Metro 

‘Heartwarming and observant’ Stylist

Graham Norton’s masterful debut is an intelligently crafted story of love, secrets and loss.

The remote Irish village of Duneen has known little drama; and yet its inhabitants are troubled. Sergeant PJ Collins hasn’t always been this overweight; mother of­ two Brid Riordan hasn’t always been an alcoholic; and elegant Evelyn Ross hasn’t always felt that her life was a total waste.

So when human remains are discovered on an old farm, suspected to be that of Tommy Burke – a former­ love of both Brid and Evelyn – the village’s dark past begins to unravel. As the frustrated PJ struggles to solve a genuine case for the first time in his life, he unearths a community’s worth of anger and resentments, secrets and regret.
Darkly comic, touching and at times profoundly sad. Graham Norton employs his acerbic wit to breathe life into a host of loveable characters and explore – with searing honesty – the complexities and contradictions that make us human.

 

A Note From the Publisher

HOLDING is not the novel I planned to write, at least, not at first. But following the old adage to write about what you know, Ireland seemed a good place to start, especially rural Ireland. I did have in mind a cast of characters living in and around a small village where their lives would reflect the priorities and concerns – land, marriage, religion – that are so present in that area still.

I found as I wrote more about the characters of Duneen that each of them had in some way become suspended in time – due to grief, due to unhappiness, due to fear of failure – and that they were all holding on to their own secrets.

I am hugely excited that HOLDING is now heading out into the world, and would love to hear what you think. Please do let me know on Twitter@Grahnort using the hashtag #readholding. I will be watching!

 

See all 6 formats and editions

 

 

 

 

Not a genre novel but an interesting story

Thanks to Net Galley and to Hodder & Stoughton for offering me a free copy of this novel.

I have several confessions to make. Yes, I know who Graham Norton is, although I don’t watch his television programme often, and I don’t follow Eurovision (even when Sir Terry Wogan hosted the UK version of Eurovision, and I was a big fan of his, I didn’t watch it), although I sometimes catch bits of his radio programme on Radio 2. So, although I suppose I had expectations, they can’t compare to other people’s.

I haven’t read any of his autobiographical books, so I didn’t have anything to compare this novel to, other than the many books I read by other authors.

I must also confess that I had a look at other reviews before writing mine and I will mention them, although not in detail.

This novel is in many ways the Irish equivalent (if there is such a thing) of the small town thrillers that are very common in the US. We have mysteries, we have a dark underbelly (well, not quite so dark), we have secrets, and we have many people whose lives are not as they appear to be. The book is listed under General Fiction and Mystery (Crime, Thriller) but I’m not sure how well it fits in the second one, at least stylistically, not so much from the story point of view.

The story is told in the third person but from the point of view of quite a few of the characters in the novel. If one had to choose a protagonist, perhaps it would be P.J. Collins the large Sergeant who lives alone and always expects people to laugh at him because of his weight. When bones are unearthed at a local building site, suddenly some excitement comes into his life. Because the owner of the farm where the bones are found left to never return many years back, the suspicion is he might be the one buried there, and suddenly two women who had fought over him start thinking about him again. Of course, due to the nature of the crime, police officers from Cork come to take charge and there is general disruption. And of course, things get complicated.

I didn’t find it difficult to follow the different points of view as they tend to be clearly demarcated and the characters are very different, although I thought that in the last chapter before the epilogue the switches were a bit fast and not so well demarcated, and some people might not enjoy the head-hopping.

I’ve noticed that several of the reviews commented that the portrayal of small town Ireland seemed timeless, and it is true that other than mentions of DNA tests, mobile phones and i-Pads, there isn’t much that could not have fitted in any other era (although we assume it’s contemporary). Memories of the past by several of the characters appear more vivid at times than the present era and ring truer.

Although the characters do not appear to be very sophisticated or complex, there is enough background history to create a picture in the minds of the reader, although some might result very familiar to habitual readers (adulterous husband, unhappy married woman who drinks too much, three unmarried sisters still living together, the town’s busybody…). My main problem with the characters was that I never felt I truly connected with any of them and I’m not sure if that is perhaps because all of them seem to be observing themselves rather than living or feeling. They are all lonely, even the ones who are in relationships, and seem frozen (as the writer notes in his comments), unable to move on because of some loss long ago (be it real or imagined). It brought to my mind Carson McCullers’s The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, not because of the style or setting, but because of the feeling of the characters (although far less dark).

I read in some of the comments that there was humour. Perhaps it was my frame of mind when I read it (although I don’t think it was particularly dark) and some of the characterizations and the events could be funny in their own right, but combined with the characters and their circumstances I would not recommend it as a funny story.

There writing is fairly descriptive and the pace leisurely rather than the frantic pace of thrillers, and for me, there was more showing than telling at some points of the story that also gave it a more contemplative style than is usual in modern mysteries.

The plot was well built and the story and the details are interesting (with some minor surprises although the general gist is not that difficult to guess). It also ends on a more positive note than the rest of the novel anticipates but I won’t comment on it not to spoil the story.

Overall it is an interesting novel, easy to read although it perhaps doesn’t sit easy either as a thriller or a cozy mystery (none of the characters is weird or peculiar enough and the mystery itself is more realistic than in these kinds of stories) and that makes it a bit more challenging to recommend to genre readers.

Thanks to the publishers, the writer and to NetGalley for the novel, thanks to all of you for reading, and please, like, share, comment and CLICK!

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