Category Archives: Books

#Adoption #Mystery ‘The Pearl Sister’ by Lucinda Riley @lucindariley

I really enjoyed The Pearl Sister, the fourth in Lucinda Riley’s Seven Sisters adoption mysteries. While Maia, Ally and Star have already investigated their birth stories, Celaeno, CeCe, has shown no interest in her own. She is feeling sorry for herself, alone now that Star has become independent. Until her curiosity is piqued. Pa Salt’s lawyer tells her about a bequest, a large sum of money, and a photograph of two unidentified men. He advises CeCe to investigate Kitty Mercer from Broome in Australia. Lucinda Riley

On her journey to Australia, CeCe stops off in Thailand, staying at Railey Beach where she has holidayed in the past with Star. As she wonders why she is there alone, feeling envious of Star’s new home and new love in England, she meets a mysterious man on the beautiful beach. They bond over the morning sunrise, both are hurting – CeCe is missing Star and feeling betrayed by her sister’s newfound life, while Ace is hiding a big secret he cannot, or will not, explain. Riley hints that behind the beauty of Railey Beach there is a dark, sordid side. Could Ace be involved in drugs? Then when CeCe steps off the plane in Australia, she discovers Ace has been arrested and believes CeCe betrayed him to the press. As the journalists identify CeCe’s name and location, she runs away to Broome.

As with all the earlier novels in the series, the story of The Pearl Sister is told in two strands. CeCe is in 2008, Kitty Mercer’s story starts in 1906. The eldest daughter of a Edinburgh preacher, Kitty goes on a nine month trip to Australia as companion to the wealthy Mrs McCrombie. It changes Kitty’s life. She drinks alcohol for the first time, kisses a man, and acts immodestly in ways that would shock her clergyman father. Two men, twin brothers, pay attention to her. Drummond is the dangerous brother, the one who kisses her. But Kitty reverts to type by marrying the steady, safe, Andrew Mercer, and moves to Broome where he runs the family’s pearl fishing company for his father.

I found Kitty’s story enthralling, she is a true rebel at a time when women were finding their feet and their voices. She has a way of identifying people needing help. Along her life’s journey she collects waifs and strays, rescuing them from hunger, mistreatment, poverty and racism, giving them opportunities, security and winning their loyalty. Each of them comes to play a critical role in Kitty’s life; from Camira, the pregnant Aboriginal servant girl thrown from the house by her master, to Sarah, the fifteen year old orphan met on a boat from England who has a gift with the sewing needle.

Australia the country and the lives and customs of its Aboriginal people are a dominant presence throughout this novel. Be warned, it will make you want to visit. Throughout it all runs the enticing descriptions of Aboriginal art, by real artists such as Albert Namatjira who lived and worked at the Hermannsburg Lutheran Mission outside Alice Springs, which CeCe visits.

The loose ends come together in the end though Riley did keep me guessing on a couple of the links. The significance of Ace and CeCe’s time in Thailand was one such puzzle. These are all hefty books, but I read this one quickly. It’s my favourite of the series so far which seems to get better with every book.
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Next in the series is The Moon Sister, the story of Tiggy.

Read my reviews of the first three novels in the series:-
The Seven Sisters
The Storm Sister
The Shadow Sister

If you like this, try:-
Pale as the Dead’ by Fiona Mountain
Blood Atonement’ by Dan Waddell
‘Blue-Eyed Son’ by Nicky Campbell 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE PEARL SISTER by @lucindariley #adoption #mystery https://wp.me/paZ3MX-aP via @SandraDanby

#FamilyHistory #Mystery ‘Blood Atonement’ by Dan Waddell @danwaddell

A fascinating mixture of modern crime novel and family history research, Blood Atonement takes Nigel Barnes from London to the USA as he races against time to find answers for Detective Chief Inspector Grant Foster.Dan Waddell

Foster’s first case after returning to work following injuries sustained in The Blood Detective [first in this genealogical crime series] is a dead actress and her missing daughter. Links to the actress’s past, mystery about her family and unanswered questions, lead Foster to call in the help of genealogist Nigel Barnes. Both men are strong characters who walk off the page, both loners of a kind, both lonely in love.

This is a fast-moving mystery revolving around what happened to Horton and Sarah Rowley, who we know from flashbacks were teenage sweethearts planning to run away, but who only appear in records in the UK from 1891. Before that, they cease to exist. Where did they come from, and why were they running? Simply because their parents disapproved of the marriage, or something more sinister? And what has this to do with the dead actress found lying face down on her lawn in London? As he searches for the missing 14-year old, Foster finds chilling parallels with Leonie, another 14-year old who disappeared three years earlier and has never been found. As links to a cult are uncovered, attention focuses back on Sarah and Horton.

A satisfying well-written plot which manages to slip in a little history too.
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Read my review of the first in the series, The Blood Detective.

If you like this genealogy mystery, try:-
Deadly Descent’ by Charlotte Hinger
The Shadow Sister’ by Lucinda Riley
The Indelible Stain’ by Wendy Percival 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
#FamilyHistory #Mystery BLOOD ATONEMENT by @danwaddell https://wp.me/paZ3MX-4E via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

#Adoption #Autobiography ‘Blue-Eyed Son’ by @NickyAACampbell

Blue-Eyed Son by journalist and broadcaster Nicky Campbell is a personal story but everyone will be able to identify with his themes of family love, the need for belonging and a clear sense of identity.  Campbell knows how to tell a story well. He charts the ups and downs of his search for his birth mother and father, the agonies of deciding to search, the worries about whether he was betraying his adoptive family. Nicky Campbell

He shares the pain, the anticipation of making that first contact: “She [his wife Linda] stood in the hall and dialled the number. I was sitting on the stairs, rigid with fear, my head buried in my hands, my body folding into a foetal position. I really didn’t think I could go through with it. I was petrified and exhausted. What the hell would I say? What the hell do you say? This woman gave birth to me. I needed an epidural.

“I had held this fantasy in my head for years. I had a mental picture of a beautiful but driven career woman – a free spirit who found herself in this impossible situation and made an extraordinary sacrifice. She gave her baby away. Her baby was about to catch up with her. we were about to speak to her. I was about to clothe this idealised wraith in humanity. At 29 I was about to make the first connection with my own flesh and blood, someone to whom I was genetically connected. That word – genetic – it had an almost sacred meaning for me. [It still does.] A genetic link; a magical bond. An inexpressible essence of belonging and being.

“From my seat on the stairs I could hear the ring at the other end. It stopped. A woman’s voice. Soft, Irish, hesitant and wary. ‘Hello.’

Campbell finds so much more than his birth mother and father, he finds his family. It doesn’t matter that he is a face familiar on the television, his story will affect everyone.
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If you like this, try:-
Relative Strangers’ by Hunter Davies
The Blood Detective’ by Dan Waddell
Pale as the Dead’ by Fiona Mountain

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
#Adoption #Autobiography BLUE-EYED SON by @NickyAACampbell https://wp.me/paZ3MX-4r via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

A #genealogy #mystery ‘Deadly Descent’ by Charlotte Hinger @lottiejosie

It all begins when West Kansas historian Lottie Albright receives a submission for her oral history project. Written by Zelda St John, aunt of political hopeful Brian Hadley, the piece examines torrid racist attitudes in the family’s history. This is the sort of book you settle into and read with relish. Deadly Descent by Charlotte Hinger is a mystery thriller which moves with steady detailed steps as the tension twists and twists like a screw being slowly turned.Charlotte Hinger

A first murder is followed rapidly by a second, Lottie is sworn in as a deputy and balances her twin jobs of detecting and collating historical records. The two jobs fit neatly together until anonymous letters start to arrive. Lottie is ably supported by her quiet long-suffering husband Keith, and her clinical psychologist twin sister Josie. Remember the twin thing, it is important later. Sam Abbott, sheriff of the woefully-underfunded Carlton County police, welcomes the resources of the Kansas Bureau of Investigations and so distracts Lottie with research into an old dead case: the old Swenson murders. This feels like a massive diversion, but go with the flow of this book and you will be rewarded.

Hinger plots intricately and draws a totally believable picture of the historical society in a small town where everyone knows everyone else’s secrets. Lottie’s project involves everyone writing the story of their family: for some people, the shame is too much.

This is the first of the Lottie Albright series of family history mysteries.
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If you like this genealogy mystery, try:-
The Indelible Stain’ by Wendy Percival
Pale as the Dead’ by Fiona Mountain 
The Storm Sister’ by Lucinda Riley 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
DEADLY DESCENT by @lottiejosie #genealogy #mystery https://wp.me/paZ3MX-4g via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

A #genealogy #mystery ‘The Indelible Stain’ by Wendy Percival @wendy_percival

When the key character of a novel goes on holiday or visits a picturesque place, you know something is going to happen. Genealogist Esme Quentin in The Indelible Stain by Wendy Percival goes to Devon to help a friend archive the records of a local charity for underprivileged children. Second in the Esme Quentin genealogical mysteries, this is an enjoyable story of convict history set in a beautiful Devon location. But beneath that beauty lurk fraud, lies and revenge. Hatred and bitterness reach from the past to the current day. genealogy

Up early on her first morning, Esme takes a walk on the wild beach and finds a body. The woman, just alive, seems to have fallen from the cliffs. Her last words, spoken to Esme, are key to the mystery which follows. “I lied,” she says. Beside her body is an old sepia photograph. The police don’t take seriously Esme’s concerns that the woman’s last words combined with the mystery photograph indicate foul play, so Esme decides to identify the family in the photograph.

Meanwhile, Neave Shaw is worrying about her mother who has disappeared after sending a confused, possibly drunken, email. Worried and not understanding her grandmother’s dismissive attitude to Bella’s disappearance, Neave presses for answers but is interrupted by a knock on the door. It is the police. Neave arrives in Warren Quay and asks Esme for help in understanding why her mother died. Esme quickly puts a name to one of the people in the sepia photograph: Sarah Baker, a thief who was transported as a convict in 1837. Sarah’s story adds a fascinating layer of history to this whodunnit and whydunnit mystery. But what is Sarah’s link to Neave’s dead mother? And did Bella fall or was she pushed? Esme’s research into Sarah’s convict history is helped by the presence of the Mary Ann, a restored nineteenth-century sailing ship with an on-board museum about the history of convict transportation.

The last few pages move at top speed as Esme discovers hidden identities and double-crossings and races to find Neave to warn her of danger. She knows that whoever killed Bella to protect the secret will not hesitate to kill again. I would have liked to read more about Sarah Baker’s journey on a convict ship to Australia and her life there, showing some of the facts rather than having Esme discover them in a dry record search. So much tantalising history lies beneath the surface of this story. I found some elements confusing at times as the story moves so fast and also because of the number of aliases and marriages; this might have been eased by merging or dropping some minor characters, for example Ruth/Maddy, Dan/Felix. But Percival’s characterisation of some minor characters was spot on; I particularly liked retired schoolteacher Miss Hodge and Neave’s irascible grandmother Gwen.

This is a well-paced genealogical thriller enriched by its Australian and Irish links and demonstrating how the resentment of wrongdoing can persevere across the generations.
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Read my review of Blood-Tied, the first Esme Quentin book.

If you like this genealogy mystery, try:-
The Ghost of Lily Painter’ by Caitlin Davies
The Blood Detective’ by Dan Waddell
Pale as the Dead’ by Fiona Mountain

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
#Genealogy #mystery THE INDELIBLE STAIN by @wendy_percival https://wp.me/paZ3MX-44 via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

#Bookreview ‘The Ghost of Lily Painter’ by Caitlin Davies @CaitlinDavies2 #unmarried

Caitlin Davies blends fact and fiction in The Ghost of Lily Painter, an unusual story sparked from the author’s interest in her own house in Holloway, North London. In 2008, Annie Sweet moves into 43 Stanley Road with her husband and daughter. The house is chilly, the dog won’t stop barking, and her husband leaves her. Is there a bad spirit in the house which is bringing bad luck? Annie begins to explore the house’s history and discovers a music hall performer, Lily Painter, lived there briefly at the beginning of the twentieth century. What happened to her? Why does she disappear?

adoption search

This is a well-researched historical story about turn-of-the-century music hall, the dilemma facing unmarried pregnant women, baby farms and modern-day family history research. It’s a fascinating tangle of three viewpoints across a century: Annie Sweet and her actress daughter Molly, Inspector William George who lived at 43 Stanley Road in 1901; and one of his lodgers, Miss Lily Painter. The baby farms narrative is based on the real lives of Amelia Sach and Annie Walters, the first women to be hanged at Holloway Prison in 1902. They were baby farmers, women offering a lying-in service where women could deliver their babies then pay for their children to be adopted by ‘ladies’. Many of the babies never made it to their new homes. A terrible true story.

My only disappointment is that the ends are tied together too neatly, with a coincidence easily-spotted rather early in the story.
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If you like this genealogy mystery, try:-
The Seven Sisters’ by Lucinda Riley
The Blood Detective’ by Dan Waddell
Blood-Tied’ by Wendy Percival

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE GHOST OF LILY PAINTER by @CaitlinDavies2 #adoption https://wp.me/paZ3MX-3U via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

#Bookreview ‘The Shadow Sister’ by Lucinda Riley @lucindariley #romance

Star d’Aplièse, the third of the six adopted sisters in Lucinda Riley’s dual-timeline adoption mystery series is the subject of The Shadow Sister. Riley excels at combining a contemporary mystery with a related historical story and so far in the series Star has been something of an enigma. Almost twinned to CeCe, her nearest sister in age, she is the quiet unassuming one in this flamboyant family. In The Shadow Sister,she steps out of the shadows and discovers a past involving Beatrix Potter, Mrs Keppel and the King of England.

adoption reunion

When their adopted father Pa Salt dies, he leaves each girl a letter and clue about their birth. Star’s journey takes her first to Kensington, London, to an eccentric rare bookseller where Star, grieving and feeling adrift in life, takes a job as bookshop assistant. She soon proves herself irreplaceable to shop owner Orlando who invites her to his family home in Kent. There she meets his surly brother Mouse – who Star thinks of as ‘The Sewer Rat’ – and delightful nephew Rory. As Star becomes caught up in the turmoil of the Vaughan family, distance grows between herself and CeCe. Slowly Star recognises that in order to work out who she is, she must be separate from her sister.

This novel is not just the contemporary story of Star ‘finding herself’ it is also the story of her ancestry. The historical strand takes us back to 1909 to Flora MaNichol who lives at Esthwaite Hall in the Lake District, and is a neighbour to Beatrix Potter. Flora’s family life is enigmatic, although she is the older sister it is the younger Aurelia who is given a London season and engagement to Archie, destined to be Lord Vaughan, encouraged. Flora would rather run wild on the fells, drawing animals and plants, avoiding her censorious father. Her life takes a turn when she too must live in London, at the house of Mrs Keppel, notorious mistress to the King. Star’s clue hints at a wealthy inheritance, a small onyx animal figurine named ‘Panther’. How can this be connected to Flora; why is she feted as a guest by Mrs Keppel, and what are the connections to Star a century later?

One issue I have with the series is that rather than actually being about the sisters’ mysterious parentage and how Pa Salt came to adopt them, they tell a historical story set two or three generations earlier. So far I have enjoyed all three of the historical stories; I am reading the series in order. The historical strands are linked to each relevant sister, but I am left feeling slightly short-changed about the truth of their birth. I want to know more about the birth parents and how Pa Salt came to adopt them. However in this book, more than the first two, his shadow is more evident so perhaps his story will be unveiled in the seventh book of the series.
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Next in the series is The Pearl Sister, the story of CeCe.
Read my reviews of the first two novels in the series:-
The Seven Sisters
The Storm Sister

If you like this genealogy mystery, try:-
Pale as the Dead’ by Fiona Mountain
‘Blood-Tied’ by Wendy Percival
The Blood Detective’ by Dan Waddell 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE SHADOW SISTER by @lucindariley #adoption https://wp.me/paZ3MX-3K via #AdoptionStoriesBlog