August 2022 Books Monthly Review of books and stories magazine - on the web 24 years...
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Carol Kirkwood: The Hotel on the Riviera

Published 21st July 2022

By the sapphire blue waters of the French Riviera, a decades-long secret is about to be revealed…

Wayward Greek heiress, Ariana Theodosis, inherits the Hotel du Soleil as part of a mysterious legacy. Captivated by its faded glamour, she hopes it offers her the chance to start again.

Hotelier Gabriel du Lac’s family have owned the hotel for decades – and he has no intention of giving it up for a beautiful stranger.

Madame du Lac has watched the rich and famous pass through the doors of the hotel for almost half a century, and she has kept its secrets too.

As the past finally catches up with them all, will this summer reveal a forgotten secret, and change their lives forever…?

Carol Kirkwood is my all-time favourite weather presenter - she's bright, she's bubbly, she's vivacious, she has a keen sense of humour and a brilliant personality - that doesn't mean she can write novels, does it? Well, actually, yes it does. Because The Hotel on the Riviera is a cracker! I'm an incurable romantic, and I spent many years in my early teens reading romantic fiction both in the form of novels and in the form of picture strip stories in my sister's weekly comics and the various superb teen magazines on the 1960s, when every issue contained articles and pictures of my favourite singers, jazz bands etc. The Hotel on the Riviera is set mainly in 2009, with occasional scene-setting flashbacks to the mid-1980s, and it presents a cornucopia of characters in various shades from outright bad to very good. It's not easy to fall for Ariana Theodosis, she is flawed, but for me the best character, and at the same time the nicest, is Elissa, who reminded me of Satine in Baz Luhrman's Moulin Rouge - although she doesn't actually go down Satine's route, and maybe she's more like Fantine in Les Miserables, as she's hell-bent on caring for her daughter? EIther way, although Ariana is the lead character, and Gabriel the lead male character, for me the underlying plot of Elissa and Stefan eclipses them and confirms the fact that the book is in reality a fairy tale, with good vs evil and plenty of tension and drama thrown in for good measure. This is complete escapism and will satisfy a need for a good strong romantic novel to read during the summer days. It will transport you from the tedium and fears caused by the cost of living crisis coming hot on the heels of the pandemic, because it's not our reality, it's the reality of the rich and the famous, many members of which are name-dropped into Carol's novel. This is her second novel, sorry, Carol, I missed the first one, and it reminds me of the brilliant skills of the late, great Georgette Heyer. I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Hotel on the Riviera - the book is attractive to look at, and ideal fayre for a hopeless old romantic like me. I loved it, and I'm already looking forward to Carol's third book.

S K Tremayne: The Drowning Hour

Published 23rd June 2022 

The unputdownable new psychological thriller from S K Tremayne, the No.1 Sunday Times bestselling author of The Ice Twins

A hotel brimming with wealthy guests

Surrounded by the Blackwater estuary, The Stanhope hotel sits on a beautiful remote island. Tonight is the grand reopening, and organiser Hannah watches the guests with pride.

Celebration leads to tragedy

But as drinking descends into debauchery, drunken revellers wade into the water, unaware of the treacherous tide at The Drowning Hour.
They are never seen again.

Fear becomes phobia

Tormented by a terror of water, Hannah is stuck on the island over winter. Whispers about That Night begin to circle.
Someone knows what really happened in The Drowning Hour – and Hannah isn’t safe…Gripping, atmospheric and twisty,The Drowning Hour is perfect for fans of C.J. Tudor and Ruth Ware. 

Reminiscent of The Shining, The Drowning Hour is crafted perfectly, with just the right amount of flashback and the suggestion that there is always more to Hannah's background and the various people involved in this terrific mystery than meets the eye. There's also a hint of Agatha Christie as the drama gets played out with fewer and fewer people left on the island. A terrific, riveting summer read!

Alan Johnson: One of Our MInisters Is Missing

Published 1st September 2022 

A government minister in the foreign office has vanished into thin air. On holiday in Crete, Lord Bellingham had been solo trekking in the White Mountains when he mysteriously disappeared. After a vast search and rescue operation, the local police have no leads, save for a mobile phone discarded on a cliff edge. Assistant Commissioner Louise Mangan of the Met Police is sent to assist in the investigation but soon discovers that there are more layers to this case than the local police realise. Lady Bellingham is less than forthcoming, the family nanny is hiding something, and a scandal is brewing back in London that could destroy the minister's reputation for good. Under pressure from the powers that be, can Louise find the missing minister, or will she discover something much more sinister at play? 

Having conquered the autobiography market a couple of years ago with the final instalment in his trilogy, Alan Johnson now turns his sights on the humble thriller, with a better than most, superbly written crime caper involving government officials and dirty family secrets cropping up all over the place. Absolutely superb!

Karin Slaughter: Girl, Forgotten

Published 23rd June 2022 

A girl with a secret…
Longbill Beach, 1982. Emily Vaughn gets ready for prom night, the highlight of any high school experience. But Emily has a secret. And by the end of the evening, she will be dead.

A murder that remains a mystery…
Forty years later, Emily’s murder remains unsolved. Her friends closed ranks, her family retreated inwards, the community moved on. But all that’s about to change.

One final chance to uncover a killer…
Andrea Oliver arrives in town with a simple assignment: to protect a judge receiving death threats. But her assignment is a cover. Because, in reality, Andrea is here to find justice for Emily – and to uncover the truth before the killer decides to silence her too…

C S Green: The Whisper House

Published 21st July 2022 

The incredible new novel from C.S. Green – featuring Detective Rose Gifford. Something terrible happened in that house… A house with a history. A boy with a grudge. And a detective who will stop at nothing to get to the truth. Gregory knows something is wrong with his house. His parents don’t believe him, but he can feel it – and he’s frightened. DC Rose Gifford is called out after neighbours report a series of disturbances at the property, and she can feel it too. She knows Gregory and his family are in danger, and she knows that it will be down to her specialist supernatural crimes team to uncover the truth.Something terrible happened at number 42 Wyndham Terrace. And it’s Rose’s job to find out what. A twisty, clever read for fans of Ben Aaranovitch and Jane Casey. 

I still find it hard to believe that such a dedicated squad, tasked with investigating supernatural crimes, exists, but it's jolly hokum, well written and with excellent characters going about their bizarre business. When I was around fourteen years old and well into Dennis Wheatley, this kind of thing would have been top of my reading list. If you're prepared to suspend disbelief for a few hours, which I was happy to do, then this will see you in good stead for an interesting summer read.

Patricia Cornwell: Autopsy

Published 7th July 2022 

Kay Scarpetta is back, and this time she’s right in the path of danger…

World-renowned forensic pathologist Kay Scarpetta and her husband Benton, a psychologist with the US Secret Service, have returned to Virginia. They are headquartered five miles from the Pentagon in a post-pandemic world that’s been torn by civil and political unrest.

Just weeks into the job, Scarpetta is called to a railway track where a woman’s body has been shockingly displayed, her throat cut down to the spine. But the trail of clues will lead Scarpetta back to her own neighbourhood.

At the same time, a catastrophe occurs in a top-secret lab in outer space, endangering the scientists aboard. Scarpetta is summoned to the White House to find out what happened. As she starts the new investigation, an apparent serial killer strikes again, this time dangerously close to home.

I do like the Kay Scarpetta novels, but I can't help but think that they're starting to be written to a  formula. I much prefer the British crime novelists, I have to say, although Patricia COrnwell is, for me, the best of the US crime novelists.

E V Adamson: Murder Grove

 Published 4th August 2022

A gripping new thriller with a killer twist!

Two bodies. Thirty years. And a secret that connects them both…
A woman’s body is found brutally murdered in the woods, and next to it, a shallow grave hiding a terrified young girl.
When Mia and Rich move to an eco-village in Spain, they’re looking for a new start. Val Verde is everything they wished for – at least to begin with. But when someone is murdered in an olive grove, Mia realises the village isn’t the safe haven she was hoping for…
There’s a killer in the village – and they’ll stop at nothing until they get revenge…

Shades of Death in Paradise, but the setting isn't quite as glamorous or appealing...


Hans Rosenfeldt: Cry Wolf

 Published 4th August 2022




Hannah Wester, a detective in the remote northern Swedish town of Haparanda, finds herself on the precipice of chaos.

When human remains are found in the stomach of a dead wolf, Hannah knows that this summer won’t be like any other. The remains are soon linked to a bloody drug deal that went down just across the border in Finland. But how did the victim end up in the woods outside Haparanda? And where have the drugs and money gone?

Hannah and her colleagues are soon caught up in an increasingly complex investigation. But time is scarce and they aren’t the only ones looking.

When the secretive and deadly Katja shows up, unexpected and brutal events start to pile up. In just a few days, life in the border town is turned upside down. Not least for Hannah, who is finally forced to confront her own past.

Scandi noir at its absolute, riveting best...

 Frances Mensah Williams: The Second Time We Met

Published 1st August 2022: 

With another chance at love, what could possibly go wrong?

Recovering from heartbreak, unlucky-in-love events manager Cara has vowed to avoid relationships. That is until fate throws her into the path of handsome and kind Henry, who is worlds apart from the men she’s dated before. Unfortunately, this encounter is short-lived when Cara misses her coach home―and with it, any chance of seeing him again.

But fate is not finished with the mismatched couple. When Cara quite literally bumps into Henry a second time at a work event, the run-in leaves them with feelings instead of bruises, and they can’t wait another day before seeing each other again. Yet it soon becomes clear how deeply different their worlds are: Cara’s drama-filled African and Caribbean family couldn’t be further from Henry’s family of wealthy lords and ladies.

With interfering relatives, problem friends, and an inconvenient ex-boyfriend attempting a comeback, everything seems stacked against the two new lovebirds. This is no straightforward love story―Cara and Henry will have to get creative with romance if they stand any chance of beating the odds to win their happy ever after.

The Second Time We Met is a hilarious and heartwarming romance, perfect for anyone who believes in second chances.

L J Ross: The Creek

Published 4th August 2022




Kate Irving arrives at her grandfather’s cottage at Frenchman’s Creek in the dead of night with her young son, a small suitcase and little else. Its scattered community of fishermen, farmers, artists and jetsetters barely bat an eyelid, because theirs is a rarefied world, tucked beneath the lush forest that lines the banks of the Helford Estuary, deep in the heart of Cornwall, where life is slow and people generally mind their own business. Unless, of course, your grandfather happens to be a pillar of the local community…

Kate’s left the past behind and guards her privacy and her son fiercely. She’s wary of accepting the friendship her new neighbours offer, but their kindness is too great to refuse and she begins to feel she has found her place in the world. That is, until tragedy strikes, and her new friends look to her for the answers…

Kate soon learns that the past always catches up with you, in the end―the question is, will she be able to face it, when it does?<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span>

Suspense and mystery are peppered with romance and humour in this fast-paced mystery, set amidst the spectacular Cornish landscape.

Sarah Goodman Confino: She's Up To No Good

Published 1st August 2022


For two women generations apart, going home will change their lives in this funny, poignant, and life-affirming novel about family, secrets, and broken hearts by the author of For the Love of Friends.

Four years into her marriage, Jenna is blindsided when her husband asks for a divorce. With time on her hands and her life in flux, she agrees to accompany her eccentric grandmother Evelyn on a road trip to the seaside Massachusetts town where much of their family history was shaped.

When they hit the road, Evelyn spins the tale of the star-crossed teenage romance that captured her heart more than seventy years ago and changed the course of her life. She insists the return to her hometown isn’t about that at all―no matter how much she talks about Tony, her unforgettable and forbidden first love.

Upon arrival, Jenna meets Tony’s attentive great-nephew Joe. The new friendship and fresh ocean air give her the confidence and distance she needs to begin putting the pain of a broken marriage behind her.

As the secrets and truths of Evelyn’s past unfold, Jenna discovers a new side of her grandmother, and of herself, that she never knew existed―and learns that the possibilities for healing can come at the most unexpected times in a woman’s life.

Elly Griffiths: The Locked Room

Published 4th August 2022


Ruth Galloway and DCI Nelson are on the hunt for a murderer when Covid rears its ugly head. But can they find the killer despite lockdown?



Ruth is in London clearing out her mother's belongings when she makes a surprising discovery: a photograph of her Norfolk cottage taken 
before Ruth lived there. Her mother always hated the cottage, so why does she have a picture of the place? The only clue is written on the back of the photo: Dawn, 1963.

Ruth returns to Norfolk determined to solve the mystery, but then Covid rears its ugly head. Ruth and her daughter are locked down in their cottage, attempting to continue with work and home-schooling. Happily, the house next door is rented by a nice woman called Zoe, who they become friendly with while standing on their doorsteps clapping for carers.

Nelson, meanwhile, is investigating a series of deaths of women that may or may not be suicide. When he links the deaths to an archaeological discovery, he breaks curfew to visit the cottage where he finds Ruth chatting to her neighbour whom he remembers as a carer who was once tried for murdering her employer.

Only then her name wasn't Zoe. It was Dawn.

Cara Hunter: Hope To Die

Published 18th August 2022

A call out to an isolated farm on the outskirts of Oxford.
A body shot at point-blank range in the kitchen.

'One of the finest crime writes we have'
 Mark Billingham
'Fawley is back and better than ever' Shari Lapena
'Emotionally riveting, taut, and suspenseful' Karin Slaughter

It looks like a burglary gone wrong, but DI Adam Fawley suspects there's something more to it.

When the police discover a connection to a high-profile case from years ago, involving a child's murder and an alleged miscarriage of justice, the press go wild.

Suddenly Fawley's team are under more scrutiny than ever before. And when you dig up the past, you're sure to find a few skeletons...

The sixth twisty, up-all-night thriller from the Sunday Times bestselling Cara Hunter. For fans of Shari Lapena, Claire Douglas and Lisa Jewell.

Matt Brolly: The Pier

Published 28th July 2022

DI Blackwell will do anything to keep her niece safe. And the bomber knows it.

When a local school is the target of a bomb threat, DI Louise Blackwell finds herself embroiled in her most personal case to date. Not only is her niece among the terrified pupils―there’s also a chilling note hidden under the device: Next time you won’t be so lucky, DI Blackwell…

The explosion of a nearby caravan offers a connection…and a suspect. But when he hangs himself after interrogation, leaving another note promising more carnage, Blackwell fears there’s an accomplice.

Could Tim Finch, a former DCI on remand for attempted murder, be pulling strings from prison? He certainly seems set on bringing Blackwell down, if only to derail the case against him. Or could the devious nephew of Max Walton, the serial killer Blackwell shot and killed, be seeking revenge on behalf of his uncle?

As the threats escalate and pressure to solve the case mounts, Blackwell is sucked into a series of horrific events that reach a chaotic and terrifying crescendo on Weston-super-Mare’s Grand Pier. Can she stand firm against a rival hell-bent on destroying her―or will she fall into the killer’s deadly trap?

Sarah Pearse: The Retreat

Published 21st July 2022  

Most are here to recharge and refresh.
But someone's here for revenge . . .

The new atmospheric locked-room thriller from the author of 
The Sanatorium, the bestselling crime thriller debut of 2021.

This is a warning for all our guests at the wellness retreat.

A woman's body has been found at the bottom of the cliff beneath the yoga pavilion.

We believe her death was a tragic accident, though DS Elin Warner has arrived on the island to investigate.

A storm has been forecast, but do not panic. Stick together and please ignore any rumours you might have heard about the island and its history.

As soon as the weather clears, we will arrange boats to take you back to the mainland.

In the meantime, we hope you enjoy your stay.

Ian Rankin: A Heart Full of Headstones

Published 13th October 2022

John Rebus stands accused: on trial for a crime that could put him behind bars for the rest of his life. Although it's not the first time the legendary detective has taken the law into his own hands, it might be the last.

What drove a good man to cross the line? Or have times changed, and the rules with them?

Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke faces Edinburgh's most explosive case in years, as a corrupt cop goes missing after claiming to harbour secrets that could sink the city's police force.

But in this investigation, it seems all roads lead to Rebus - and Clarke's twin loyalties to the public and the police will be tested to their limit.

A reckoning is coming - and John Rebus may be hearing the call for last orders...

The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its 24th 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 at and I'll let you know where to send it.