This article was written for Annabel & Grace, which is now part of Rest Less.
Janet Gordon has given us four book reviews and what a diverse selection – detective series, comedy, historical novel and cookbook! She has the whole family helping her to review this month.
The Botanist by M W Craven (Constable)
I know I’ve mentioned the Washington Poe/Tilly Bradshaw series of detective stories by M W Craven previously, but there is a whole legion of fans who have been eagerly awaiting publication day for The Botanist, the fifth series of superb detective novels. And if you’ve never read any of them (where have you been?) I urge you to start at the beginning of the series and work from there. Yes – they’re stand-alone but you do need to understand how the characters think and grow.
So – onto The Botanist – Poe was on a stakeout for the case of Spring-Heeled Jack, when he receives a text from Estelle Doyle who, in Poe’s eyes (and according to most everyone else) is the best Forensic Pathologist in the world. “Tell Washington Poe” he reads, and on checking realises that Doyle has been charged with the murder of her father, who has been shot twice in the head and Doyle is left with gunshot residue on her hands.
And just like that Poe – and of course Tilly – are on the case.
The murder of Doyle’s Dad is a locked room mystery like no other and – coupled with an at large poisoner dubbed The Botanist after an admittedly disliked celebrity dies live on air whilst being interviewed – makes for an unforgettably compulsive read.
Mike Craven, who positively glories in turning up on social media and joining in conversations about his writing – to the delight of his fans – has written what is undoubtedly his best Washington Poe read yet.
I galloped through it because I simply couldn’t bear to stop reading – and then of course when I’d finished it, I wanted to read it again. Craven, the winner of the 2019 CWA Gold Dagger Award – deserves all the accolades he gets. And if I was asked who my perfect dinner guests would be, I’d be torn between Mike Craven the author and Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw his characters.
Can I give this 10 stars?
Just Got Real by Jane Fallon ( Penguin)
Jane Fallon is another of my very favourite authors and just in time for the summer holidays is her latest Just Got Real and it’s a cracker. Jane is billed as “The Queen of Revenge Comedy” and by golly does her heroine, happily divorced Joni, get revenge. Persuaded by her bestie to dip her toe into the waters of online dating, Joni is swayed by the attractive profile of Ant and arranges to meet him having spent considerable time in online chatting, but she can’t bring herself to explain that the profile pic she used was not of her. And so she doesn’t turn up or rather she does, but somehow can’t bring herself to speak to him.
But she then changes her mind and makes a concerted effort to pick him up by bumping into him at their favourite gym, trying very hard not to give away the fact that she knows so much about him. So far so good, and they seem to be getting along like the proverbial house on fire. Ant promises that he’s serious about her and that he’s cancelled his online dating profile. Unfortunately, Joni discovers the truth. That he hasn’t.
And so one day with all her spidey senses tingling, whilst he’s in the shower, she does something she’d vowed she’d never do – she went through his phone. And omg what she discovers, sets this novel up for a thrillingly emotional laughter-making and addictive read. Jane Fallon gets better with every novel.
The Lawless Land by Boyd & Beth Morrison (Head of Zeus)
And here I’ll hold my hands up and say I didn’t read this but passed it over to The Man who is an absolutely historical nut – but a very, very, slow reader.
It’s a love story that grips you right from the start set just after the Battle of Crecy (August 1346 for those – like me – who didn’t know) and not long after the Great Mortality aka the Great Plague.
Gerard Fox seems to be the medieval equivalent of Jack Reacher in that he’s a one-man band, highly skilled in both bow and sword (rather than using fists as Jack Reacher does) Out on the road, he comes across a damsel in distress, being attacked by several men at arms and of course he vanquishes them. However, said damsel is carrying a precious religious document she is determined to hide from the baddies – the baddies being an Arch Bishop and an unpleasant nobleman who is supposed to be marrying her. When Fox finds her, it’s the day before her wedding and she – along with her maid – has managed to escape.
For those readers who are also as steeped in medieval history as The Man, and for others who simply enjoy a good read, this is an authentic and also informative novel whilst also being an action-packed medieval romance. The Man found it absolutely fascinating and it really epitomises the violence, chivalry and of course the power of the elite of those times. The Man was totally taken with it.
Feel Good Food by Joe Wicks (HQ)
We all worked out along with Joe during the lockdown, didn’t we? And of course, the immensely likeable Joe Wicks has brought out cookery books to help us in his quest to help us eat well, And as he says “I’m so passionate about helping people eat well, live well and feel fantastic.”
I managed a browse through its pages before son Daniel – who is a real foodie – came along and snaffled it – saying as he exited the door with it – “I’ll try out the recipes Mum and let you know!”.
And so he has. The first recipe he cooked was Spinach, Pea & Sage Lasagne. The end result was “super” according to the grandchildren, but they felt it needed a little more seasoning than suggested.
Then they tried out the Baked Ricotta and Spinach Stuffed Shells which was equally as tasty but stuffing the shells was time-consuming they thought, and finally, they cooked the Smoked Cod, Tomato & Pepper Stew which they loved, but next time they’re going to add chickpeas.
The littlest grandchild has given it 8.5 out of 10 and said it’s all very clearly laid out (although they did use every pan in the kitchen) and suggested Baked Ricotta and Strawberry Cheesecake for their next session.
I’ve got no chance of getting this cookbook back, have I?