Book Recommendations

dublin murder squad 1 in the woods tana french

Tana French Dublin Murder Squad books (in order)

Tana French is one of my favourite crime writers. Her Dublin Murder Squad books are a great read if you are looking for atmospheric police procedurals. They are set in Ireland (obviously!) and follow different detectives from the ‘squad’. Some of the characters do appear in more than one book but I think they can really be read in any order. 

I am listing them in order of publication, but want to add a quick note about the ending for In the Woods. Although the main crime is solved, there are still some unanswered questions remaining about another crime and this has put some people off. I really don’t know why there is a tendency to write these open endings in more ‘literary’ books and I find it irritating personally. Anyway,  my point is do read on as there are some good books later in the series!

Dublin Murder Squad (publication order)

inthewoodstanafrench

In the Woods

When he was twelve years old, Adam Ryan went playing in the woods with his two best friends. He never saw them again. Their bodies were never found, and Adam himself was discovered with his back pressed against an oak tree and his shoes filled with blood. He had no memory of what had happened.

Twenty years on, Rob Ryan – the child who came back – is a detective in the Dublin police force. He’s changed his name. No one knows about his past. Then a little girl’s body is found at the site of the old tragedy and Rob is drawn back into the mystery. Knowing that he would be thrown off the case if his past were revealed, Rob takes a fateful decision to keep quiet but hope that he might also solve the twenty-year-old mystery of the woods.

thelikenesstanafrench

The Likeness

Still traumatised by her brush with a psychopath, Detective Cassie Maddox transfers out of the Murder squad and starts a relationship with fellow detective Sam O’Neill. When he calls her to the scene of his new case, she is shocked to find that the murdered girl is her double. What’s more, her ID shows she is Lexie Madison – the identity Cassie used, years ago, as an undercover detective. With no leads, no suspects and no clues to Lexie’s real identity, Cassie’s old boss spots the opportunity of a lifetime: send Cassie undercover in her place, to tempt the killer out of hiding to finish the job.

Faithful Place

The course of Frank Mackey’s life was set by one defining moment when he was nineteen. The moment his girlfriend, Rosie Daly, failed to turn up for their rendezvous in Faithful Place, failed to run away with him to London as they had planned. Frank never heard from her again. Twenty years on, Frank is still in Dublin, working as an undercover cop. He’s cut all ties with his dysfunctional family. Until his sister calls to say that Rosie’s suitcase has been found. Frank embarks on a journey into his past that demands he reevaluate everything he believes to be true.

brokenharbortanafrench

Broken Harbour

In Broken Harbour, a ghost estate outside Dublin – half-built, half-inhabited, half-abandoned – two children and their father are dead. The mother is on her way to intensive care. Scorcher Kennedy is given the case because he is the Murder squad’s star detective. At first he and his rookie partner, Richie, think this is a simple one: Pat Spain was a casualty of the recession, so he killed his children, tried to kill his wife Jenny, and finished off with himself. But there are too many inexplicable details and the evidence is pointing in two directions at once.

Scorcher’s personal life is tugging for his attention. Seeing the case on the news has sent his sister Dina off the rails again, and she’s resurrecting something that Scorcher thought he had tightly under control: what happened to their family, one summer at Broken Harbour, back when they were children. The neat compartments of his life are breaking down, and the sudden tangle of work and family is putting both at risk . . .

the secret place tana french

The Secret Place

A year ago a boy was found murdered at a girlsʼ boarding school, and the case was never solved. Detective Stephen Moran has been waiting for his chance to join Dublin’s Murder Squad when sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey arrives in his office with a photo of the boy with the caption: “I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM.” Stephen joins with Detective Antoinette Conway to reopen the case—beneath the watchful eye of Holly’s father, fellow detective Frank Mackey. With the clues leading back to Holly’s close-knit group of friends, to their rival clique, and to the tangle of relationships that bound them all to the murdered boy, the private underworld of teenage girls turns out to be more mysterious and more dangerous than the detectives imagined.

the trespasser tana french

The Trespasser

You can beat one killer. Beating your own squad is a whole other thing.


Being on the Dublin Murder squad is nothing like Detective Antoinette Conway dreamed. Her working life is a stream of thankless cases and harassment. Antoinette is tough, but she’s getting close to the breaking point.

The new case looks like a regular lovers’ quarrel gone bad. Aislinn Murray is blond, pretty and lying dead next to a table set for a romantic dinner. There’s nothing unusual about her – except that Antoinette has seen her somewhere before.

And her death won’t stay neat. Other detectives want her to arrest Aislinn’s boyfriend, fast. There’s a shadowy figure at the end of Antoinette’s road. And everything they find out about Aislinn takes her further from the simple woman she seemed to be.

Antoinette knows the harassment has turned her paranoid, but she can’t tell just how far gone she is. Is this the case that will make her career – or break it?

Simone St. James - Silence for the Dead

Simone St. James Cornish Mysteries

Mystery? Creepy atmosphere? Cornwall? Count me in!

Simone St. James is an expert at creating creepy atmospheres, which I for some reason cannot get enough of. I think these two stories are great examples of what she can do.

I did recommend these on my old website. According to the Wayback Machine, I said this: “They are thoroughly drenched in atmosphere. I would describe them as suspenseful cozies. Worth checking out.” So there you go.

 

An Inquiry Into Love and Death – Simone St. James

Simone St. James - An Inquiry into Love and Death

 

In 1920’s England, a young woman searches for the truth behind her uncle’s mysterious death in a town haunted by a restless ghost…

Oxford student Jillian Leigh works day and night to keep up with her studies—so to leave at the beginning of the term is next to impossible. But after her uncle Toby, a renowned ghost hunter, is killed in a fall off a cliff, she must drive to the seaside village of Rothewell to pack up his belongings.

Almost immediately, unsettling incidents—a book left in a cold stove, a gate swinging open on its own—escalate into terrifying events that convince Jillian an angry spirit is trying to enter the house. Is it Walking John, the two-hundred-year-old ghost who haunts Blood Moon Bay? And who beside the ghost is roaming the local woods at night? If Toby uncovered something sinister, was his death no accident?

The arrival of handsome Scotland Yard inspector Drew Merriken, a former RAF pilot with mysteries of his own, leaves Jillian with more questions than answers—and with the added complication of a powerful, mutual attraction. Even as she suspects someone will do anything to hide the truth, she begins to discover spine-chilling secrets that lie deep within Rothewell…and at the very heart of who she is.

 

Silence for the Dead – Simone St. James

Simone St. James - Silence for the Dead

 

“Portis House emerged from the fog as we approached, showing itself slowly as a long, low shadow….”

 

In 1919, Kitty Weekes, pretty, resourceful, and on the run, falsifies her background to obtain a nursing position at Portis House, a remote hospital for soldiers left shell-shocked by the horrors of the Great War. Hiding the shame of their mental instability in what was once a magnificent private estate, the patients suffer from nervous attacks and tormenting dreams. But something more is going on at Portis House—its plaster is crumbling, its plumbing makes eerie noises, and strange breaths of cold waft through the empty rooms. It’s known that the former occupants left abruptly, but where did they go? And why do the patients all seem to share the same nightmare, one so horrific that they dare not speak of it?

Kitty finds a dangerous ally in Jack Yates, an inmate who may be a war hero, a madman… or maybe both. But even as Kitty and Jack create a secret, intimate alliance to uncover the truth, disturbing revelations suggest the presence of powerful spectral forces. And when a medical catastrophe leaves them even more isolated, they must battle the menace on their own, caught in the heart of a mystery that could destroy them both.

Superstition Karen Robards

Superstition – Karen Robards

Karen Robards’ Superstition is a romantic suspense: an oldie but a goodie set in South Carolina. The kind of book that is hard to find lately, but that I really enjoy reading.

A journalist covering a ‘haunted house’ story where someone was murdered finds herself the target of a serial killer. Of course she has a hunky new police chief to help her out-one who also just happens to be babysitting a pig called Cleo 🙂

I liked the mixture of authentic suspense and the ‘tinge’ of paranormal.

 

Fifteen years ago, the murder of teenager Tara Mitchell and the disappearance of her two friends changed their sleepy town forever. In the years since, all who have lived in the mansion where it happened have left in fear, claiming that the dead girls haunt the house.

TV reporter Nicky Sullivan knows good television, and she arranges a live television séance to take place in the house. But it all goes horribly wrong when, during the show, a young woman is murdered in exactly the same way as Tara was all those years ago.

When a sinister note is discovered warning that this isn’t the last body, the television producers insist they push on regardless.

Nicky doesn’t know what she has unearthed, but she does know that a killer has returned, and that her life is in danger.

Secrets of the Sea House - Elisabeth Gifford

Secrets of the Sea House – Elisabeth Gifford

I am so happy to have found another great book! Atmospheric, emotional, intellectually satisfying. It seems to have two titles for some reason: Secrets of the Sea House and The Sea House. 

The book is set on a remote Scottish island and switches between contemporary and historical points of view. A couple begins renovating a house and when they lift the floorboards they find the skeleton of a baby wrapped in a blanket and its legs are fused in the form of a mermaid tail.

The characters are intriguing and I liked the history of the islands and the house itself. There are a couple of romances in it, but they aren’t the focus so don’t expect anything steamy.

I was really fascinated by the seal and mermaid ‘lore’, particularly the ‘scientific’/historical explanation provided at the end. However, I am taking away one star simply because of the cruelty to the poor lizards. Yes, yes, I know it is metaphorical and this is a ‘literary’ novel and so on, but I still worry about that second lizard…

 

Secrets of the Sea House 

In 1860, Alexander Ferguson, a newly ordained vicar and amateur evolutionary scientist, takes up his new parish, a poor, isolated patch on the remote Scottish island of Harris. He hopes to uncover the truth behind the legend of the selkies—mermaids or seal people who have been sighted off the north of Scotland for centuries. He has a more personal motive, too; family legend states that Alexander is descended from seal men. 

As he struggles to be the good pastor he was called to be, his maid Moira faces the terrible eviction of her family by Lord Marstone, whose family owns the island. Their time on the island will irrevocably change the course of both their lives, but the white house on the edge of the dunes keeps its silence long after they are gone.

It will be more than a century before the Sea House reluctantly gives up its secrets. Ruth and Michael buy the grand but dilapidated building and begin to turn it into a home for the family they hope to have. Their dreams are marred by a shocking discovery. The tiny bones of a baby are buried beneath the house; the child’s fragile legs are fused together—a mermaid child. Who buried the bones? And why? To heal her own demons, Ruth feels she must discover the secrets of her new home—but the answers to her questions may lie in her own traumatic past

The Sea House by Elisabeth Gifford is a sweeping tale of hope and redemption and a study of how we heal ourselves by discovering our histories.

Verity - Colleen Hoover

Verity – Colleen Hoover

I’m reposting my book reviews from the old site as I get some spare time. Here is no. 1 – probably my favourite romantic suspense from the past couple of years.

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Review:

This book! I don’t even know where to begin. It is Rebecca, Jane Eyre, Medea, The Turn of the Screw and Single White Female in one book but also none of those things.

It contains everything I don’t like about a book – a too-gross, bloody first page or two (read on, the graphic violence is not repeated), writers as narrators, cheating (sort of), crimes that involve children (although these are not really detailed too graphically), sex scenes that are far too explicit for my liking, an ambiguous ending and yet … and yet I couldn’t put it down.

It also leaves you guessing till the very end, and leaves you feeling worried about the fate of a very unlikeable heroine and a ‘hero’ who I was not personally all that fond of. You are drawn into this net and you just drown in angst and it is AWESOME 🙂

To sum up: Verity takes the idea of dysfunctional families to a whole new level, and contains some very interesting insights about what it means to be a woman, a wife, a mother, and a writer. I say read it. But be warned that there are trigger warnings galore and it is definitely not a book for everyone. Also, do note that this is the first Colleen Hoover book I have read but apparently her others are very different.

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Verity – Colleen Hoover

Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish. Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity’s notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started.

What Lowen doesn’t expect to uncover in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read. Page after page of bone-chilling admissions, including Verity’s recollection of the night their family was forever altered. Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy, knowing its contents would devastate the already grieving father. But as Lowen’s feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify, she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife’s words. After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue to love her.