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Book of the Month - Kate Riordan: Sanditon

Published by Trapeze 31st October 2019

A novelisation of ITV's lavish period drama, Sanditon, adapted for television by Emmy and BAFTA-Award winning writer Andrew Davies and based on Jane Austen's unfinished novel.

When a chance accident transports Charlotte Heywood to the seaside town of Sanditon, her life changes forever. And when she meets the charming and slightly wild Sidney Parker, she finds herself caught up in a whirlwind of romance, betrayal and changing alliances - nobody in Sanditon is quite as they seem.

Discover the world Jane Austen left behind and meet the characters brought to the page by Kate Riordan. Every coastal town has its secrets - but Sanditon has more than most!


There is no suggestion that Kate's novelisation of Andrew Davies's adaptation of Jane Austen's fragment: Sanditon is an attempt to finish the novel - this is based solely on what Andrew Davies and his team have come up with for their eight-part extravaganza that has dominated Sunday nights for the last two months. Leaving aside the furore at Davies's ending, which suggests, more than anything, that a series 2 is planned but not yet confirmed, Kate's novel owes more to Georgette Heyer's Regency romances than to anything Jane Austen ever wrote. It is indeed true that Sanditon was quite unlike any of Jane Austen's other novels, but not to the extent that Davies wrote. This is a standalone novel that celebrates the TV series to perfection - reading Kate's Sanditon is like watching the series all over again - nothing is left out. It's a Regency romp par excellence - Kate has caught the characters to perfection and the plot - well, those of us who watched the series will know it by heart anyway. I'm one of those who would welcome a series 2 with open arms - I truly believe that Sanditon was a worthy replacement for Downton Abbey, and the lead actors, Rose Williams, in particular, captured my heart. And yes, Kate's novel ends just as the TV series ended - no surprise happy ending for Charlotte and Sidney! I enjoyed reading Sanditon almost as much as I enjoyed watching the TV series. It's absolutely brilliant, and a worthy successor to those fabulous Regency romances by Georgette Heyer that so epitomise the period.

Jane Austen: Lady Susan, The Watsons, Sanditon

Published by Alma Books 25th January 2018

The epistolary novel Lady Susan is the darkly humorous tale of the amatory schemes and machinations of an ambitious and unprincipled coquette. The Watsons is the story of the refined and well-educated Emma Watson, forced by the second marriage of her aunt to return to the house of her impecunious father and face the marital plots and intrigues of her sisters. Begun by the author in the last few months of her life, Sanditon, set in a fast-growing former fi shing village, swiftly becoming a fashionable resort, pokes fun at the inhabitants of the new coastal town, with all their hypochondria, witlessness and self-obsession.

This volume is part of The Jane Austen Collection, a comprehensive collection of Austen's best and much-loved works.


There is no finer collection of classic English literature than the current editions published by Alma Books. That's my opinion and I'm sticking to it. It's a shame that I'm having to review this lovely book because of Andrew Davies's adaptation of the fragment that Jane Austen wrote and never completed in the last year of her life. It does provide a modicum of character information which splendidly informs Davies's adaptation, and provided Davies with enough material for one half of one of the eight hour-long episodes. But the fragment provides so much more, especially the warning that Jane Austen was about to break the mould, to embark on an altogether new path with her writing. There is, of course, no suggested incest (it wouldn't have been incest anyway), no nudity, and no such frivolous goings-on as we encountered in the TV series. But it is enjoyable, and it would have been so much more enjoyable had she finished it! This Alma Classics edition is the best available, in my opinion, and has so much more than just Lady Susan and the two unfinished snippets, including photos and notes about Austen and her world. Fantastic!

Jane Austen: Love and friendship

Published by Alma Books 26th January 2017

'Love and Friendship' and 'Lesley Castle' provide parodies of the gentry and the fashionable idea of sensibility of the time. 'A History of England' supplies us with a lively chronicle of English monarchic history. Also included in this collection are 'The Three Sisters', 'Catharine', the series of vignettes known as 'A Collection of Letters' and 'Lady Susan', an epistolary story which was recently adapted for the cinema. Taken together, these pieces display all the wry humour, shrewd observation and satirical insight of Emma or Pride and Prejudice.These inventive and entertaining pieces display the early sparkles of wit and imagination of Jane Austen's mature fiction. Written when she was only in her teens, they are by turns amusing, acerbic and occasionally downright silly.

This volume is part of The Jane Austen Collection, a comprehensive collection of Austen's best and much-loved works.

Alma Classics is committed to make available the widest range of literature from around the globe. All the titles are provided with an extensive critical apparatus, extra reading material including a section of photographs and notes. The texts are based on the most authoritative edition (or collated from the most authoritative editions or manuscripts) and edited using a fresh, intelligent editorial approach. With an emphasis on the production, editorial and typographical values of a book, Alma Classics aspires to revitalize the whole experience of reading the classics.


Alma Books publish a complete set of Jane Austen's works, and this one contains a number of (unknown to me) treasures, including another version of Lady Susan, which is also in thge Sanditon volume above, together with essays on the subject of love and friendship that perfectly display the fact that Jane Austen had a keen eye and an even keener sense of humour. Her piece on the monarchy alone is worth the cover price. Fans of Jane Austen will want this one for completeness; those of us who love her work but are not so obsessed, and maybe come to this great author only when prompted by a major TV series or film, as was the case for me with Sanditon, will value it for the extra, delicious morcels of prose that mark Jane as the greatest romantic female novelist that ever lived. Alma Books have done Jane proud.

Peter James: The Secret of Cold Hill

Published by Macmillan 3rd October 2019

From the number one bestselling author, Peter James, comes The Secret of Cold Hill. The spine-chilling follow-up to The House on Cold Hill. Now a smash-hit stage play.

Cold Hill House has been razed to the ground by fire, replaced with a development of ultra-modern homes. Gone with the flames are the violent memories of the house’s history, and a new era has begun.

Although much of Cold Hill Park is still a construction site, the first two families move into their new houses. For Jason and Emily Danes, this is their forever home, and for Maurice and Claudette Penze-Weedell, it’s the perfect place to live out retirement. Despite the ever present rumble of cement mixers and diggers, Cold Hill Park appears to be the ideal place to live. But looks are deceptive and it’s only a matter of days before both couples start to feel they are not alone in their new homes.

There is one thing that never appears in the estate agent brochures: nobody has ever survived beyond forty in Cold Hill House and no one has ever truly left . . .


This is the sequel to The House on Cold Hill, which I've often been tempted by at boot sales and in charity shops, but then discarded in favour of a Roy Grace or a book by someone completely different. Macmillan sent me a copy of this one at my request, for which thanks very much, and I can honestly say that it is one of the finest ghost stories I have ever read, with overtones of M R James, it really is that good. The characters are pure Jamesian, but the setting is more reminiscent of one of those stories from the Victorian era, when people simply believed everything, and writers like Conan Doyle and Dickens were engaged in frightening people as well as entertaining them. There is a sense of burgeoning menace even in the passages where, apparently, nothing untoward is happening; and all the way through, you're never quite sure what, if anything, is real, and what will be the eventual outcome of whatever is going on in the Danes's house. It's not horror, there's nothing Stephen King-ian about it in that sense, but it is the perfect ghost story, and it is supremely entertaining, more so, in fact, than James's day job - the continuing adventures of Roy Grace. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone.

Peter Robinson: Many Rivers to Cross

Published by Hodder & Stoughton 19th September 2019

A skinny young boy is found dead - his body carelessly stuffed into wheelie bin.

Detective Superintendent Alan Banks and his team are called to investigate. Who is the boy, and where did he come from? Was he discarded as rubbish, or left as a warning to someone? He looks Middle Eastern, but no one on the East Side Estate has seen him before.

As the local press seize upon an illegal immigrant angle, and the national media the story of another stabbing, the police are called to investigate a less newsworthy death: a middle-aged heroin addict found dead of an overdose in another estate, scheduled for redevelopment.

Banks finds the threads of each case seem to be connected to the other, and to the dark side of organised crime in Eastvale. Does another thread link to his friend Zelda, who is facing her own dark side?

The truth may be more complex - or much simpler - than it seems . . .


The 26th Inspector Banks novel seems like another day at the office - or does it? Annie Cabot is still very much alive and enjoying life as a Detective Inspector, of course, and I still find it something of a puzzle as to why ITV chose to kill her off when the creator, Peter Robinson, never had any plans to do that. There is something satisfying about Banksy - one can't help but visualise Stephen Tompkinson as you read about his extraordinary exploits; his enigmatic and mysterious friend Zelda is very much at the heart of what's going on in this excellent police procedural that is, as Stephen King suggests, the best series on the market. To be honest, it's perfection, the perfect read for a quiet time, at bedtime, or when all the chores and the DIY are done. Peter James and Peter Robinson are both at the top of their game right now, as are Stuart MacBride and Bernard Cornwell. I'm sad that Ann Cleeves has ditched the Shetland series and Jimmy Perez for something not quite as enjoyable (at least not yet) but at least we have Peter Robinson to supply top quality police drama, alongside Peter James and Stuart MacBride. These authors never let you down. The perfect Christmas gift...

Peter James: Dead at First Sight

Published by Macmillan 16th May 2019

You don’t know me, but I thought I knew you . . .

A man waits at a London airport for Ingrid Ostermann, the love of his life, to arrive. Across the Atlantic, a retired NYPD cop waits in a bar in Florida’s Key West for his first date with the lady who is, without question, his soulmate. The two men are about to discover they’ve been scammed out of almost every penny they have in the world – and that neither women exist.

Meanwhile, a wealthy divorcée plunges, in suspicious circumstances, from an apartment block in Munich. In the same week, Detective Superintendent Roy Grace is called to investigate the suicide of a woman in Brighton, that is clearly not what it seems. As his investigations continue, a handsome Brighton motivational speaker comes forward. He’s discovered his identity is being used to scam eleven different women, online. The first he knew of it was a phone call from one of them, out of the blue, saying, ‘You don’t know me, but I thought I knew you’.

That woman is now dead.

Roy Grace realizes he is looking at the tip of an iceberg. A global empire built on clever, cruel internet scams and the murder of anyone who threatens to expose them.


This is the latest in Peter James's brilliant series centering on Roy Grace, and it's one of the very best, dealing with identity theft and with financial scams against old and vulnerable people. It was published way back in the Spring but a copy has only just made it to me for some reason, probably my fault for not asking for one. I have to say I am terribly confused, because at the end of the last Roy Grace adventure, his right hand man, Glen, was hunting him down with a view to killing him - I don't think I dreamt this, but here he is, large as life, in Dead At First Sight, and still Grace's right hand man. Maybe I did dream it, but in any case, it's Peter James and Roy Grace at their very best!

Lucienne Boyce: Death Makes No Distinction

Published by Silverwood Books October 2019

Two women at opposite ends of the social scale, both brutally murdered.

Principal Officer Dan Foster of the Bow Street Runners is surprised when his old rival John Townsend requests his help to investigate the murder of Louise Parmeter, a beautiful writer who once shared the bed of the Prince of Wales. Her jewellery is missing, savagely torn from her body. Her memoirs, which threaten to expose the indiscretions of the great and the good, are also missing. 

Frustrated by the chief magistrate’s demand that he drop his investigation into the death of the unknown beggar woman, found savagely raped and beaten and left to die in the outhouse of a Holborn tavern, Dan is determined to get to the bottom of both murders. But as his enquiries take him into both the richest and the foulest places in London, and Townsend’s real reason for requesting his help gradually becomes clear, Dan is forced to face a shocking new reality when the people he loves are targeted by a shadowy and merciless adversary. 

The investigation has suddenly got personal.


ThisIt's always enjoyable to read about the early days of the police force in the UK, and Lucienne turns in a rattling good yarn full of great characters and a plot to die for - literally! Thoroughly enjoyable - you won't find this in high street booksellers, but you will get it from Amazon, and I heartily recommend that you do just that.

Sabrina Mahfouz: Poems from a Green and Blue Planet

Published by Hodder Children's Books 3rd October 2019

A stunning collection of new and classic poems from around the world celebrating the diversity of life on our green and blue planet, to be shared with all the family. With new poems from Raymond Antrobus, Mona Arshi, Kate Tempest, Hollie McNish, Dean Atta, Sabrina Mahfouz and more.

Dive into this book and be swept away on a journey around our green and blue planet, from the peak of the snowiest mountaintop to the bottom of the deepest, bluest ocean. Meet the birds circling its skies, the beasts prowling its plains, and the people toiling in its fields and forests and cities... Explore all the worlds that make up our world, and hear the voices, past and present, that sing out from it. From haikus to sonnets, from rap to the Romantics, this joyous collection celebrates life in all corners of our beautiful planet.


I'm not a huge fan of modern poetry, it's my honest belief that we've had a succession of poets laureate who haven't really earned their crusts, and if I was looking for a poem, I would turn to one of the classic, great poets, like Tennyson, Keats etc., and Shakespeare. That's not to say that this isn't a good selection of modern poetry, it's just that I'm unqualified to judge it. It's an attractive book, and will keep you in modern poetry for quite a while...

The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its 22nd year on the web, is published on or slightly before the first day of each month by Paul Norman. You can contact me here. If you wish to submit something for publication in the magazine, let me remind you there is no payment as I don't make any money from this publication. If you want to send me something to review, contact me via email and I'll let you know where to send it.