The Missing and The Dead might only be novella length, but it doesn’t half pack a lot in to its 156 pages! Brilliant writing!
Having read and loved the first two books in this series I was very much looking forward to reading The Missing and The Dead. The whole series so far has been excellent.
When human remains are found on a demolition site, DI Tom Blake and the team are faced with a murder investigation dating back to the 1970s. It won’t be easy proving anything as forensic evidence is sparse given the amount of time the body has been there.
This isn’t the team’s only worry though. As the investigation progresses it throws up other secrets decades old and leads them to missing children cases. How can these 42-year-old cold cases be linked?
I love the police procedural aspect of these stories. I also love that we also get a bit of insight into the personal lives of Blake and his team.
I love that these books are set in Stoke-on-Trent as I can picture where the characters are when familiar places are mentioned.
I love JF Burgess’ writing style. He always draws me in from the very first page. This story is fast paced, full of suspense, shocking twists, and an ending which made my blood run cold.
‘There are a handful of authors who achieve that elusive trick of making you laugh out loud. For me it’s James Herriot, Bill Bryson and Susie Kelly.’
‘Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart.’ Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore Unlike her daredevil husband, Susie Kelly is afraid of water, elevators, heights, skiing and flying upside down and she hates being in the spotlight. No matter how hard she tries, things seem to go wrong more often than they go right. Fortunately she can see the funny side of most things, even her cancer diagnosis. However, snoring transforms her from a sweet little thing into a pitiless monster. These often funny and sometimes poignant tales of travels through Susie’s muddled life confirm that, as Simon Reeve writes in his autobiography Step by Step, ‘…it is always worth remembering that some of the most memorable times can happen when things go a bit wrong.’
We have been allocated a spacious apartment in a small private hotel. Not only are there two double beds, there are also easy chairs and a small sofa as well as an en suite bathroom with a bath. It’s warm and homely, and there is a delicious aroma of freshly ground coffee wafting from the kitchen.
Bormio is where we find skiing heaven. Everything is perfect. The apartment, the food, the weather, the atmosphere, and most of all the pistes.
We’re surprised that there are not that many people in Bormio because it’s the perfect place to be for Christmas, with carol singers and roasted chestnuts, sensational decorations and an outdoor ice skating rink. Heavy snow falls each night. The skies are so blue, the sun so warm, it really is perfection. Terry spends much of the day up on the high slopes while I glide around on the gentler pistes, and Julie divides her time between us. In the deep snow I can stop at will, and while I can’t parallel turn－every time I try I end up crossing my skis－I manage to somewhat clumsily change tack.
Terry and I only ski together on the lower, easy slopes where he soon gets bored, so we go to the tourist office and collect a detailed map showing all the pistes. There’s a blue one right from 3,000 metres at the top of the mountain down to the town. Blue runs are easy. I can do those.
Up we go in the gondola, emerging at the top into a wooden cabin which leads out onto an icy platform and slippery steps.
A strip of red and white plastic tape held up by a couple of flimsy spikes marks the very edge of the mountain, which is no more than two metres away down a slight incline which seems to magnetically draw me towards it. On the other side of the tape there is nothing but fresh air for thousands of feet.
Terry tugs me away to the narrow gulley of ice through which only one person at a time can pass to reach the piste. It is the iciest, slipperiest ice I’ve ever seen. I cannot get any grip with my ski boots, and flounder around trying not to fall flat on my back. I inch my way, prodding at the walls of the gulley with my ski poles and it takes so long to negotiate the ten metres that a new gondola full of skiers has arrived and they are caught in the bottle neck behind me, hissing and cursing until we break out onto a plateau.
Far below, the town looks like child’s toy speckled with tiny ant-like figures. The snow glistens with silver specks and it feels as if we are standing on top of the world. I’m eager to set off and ski all the way from the top to the bottom. We walk along the plateau searching for the start of the blue run and decide that it must be a little further down the slope. So we head downwards and suddenly it’s like skiing on a wall. The plateau drops away. Terry shouts ‘Sit down!’, which I do, with a thump, and dig my heels and hands as deep as I can into the snow to stop from going any further. A slinky Italian lady skis towards us and asks if we have a problem. I explain we are trying to find the blue run, but she laughs and says we are on the black run, it’s very easy, just follow her. She vanishes over the precipice.
The gondola cabin is uphill 100 metres behind us, and only accessible via the icy gulley. We have to move down, and we both know that if I stand up I won’t be able to stop until I hit the bottom.
Happily, a snow plough passes nearby, and we call out to him.
‘Is there a blue run here?’
‘Where is it?’
He waves his arm vaguely. ‘It isn’t open yet. It opens on New Year’s day.’
He goes on his way.
I’m getting cold sitting in the snow, and my bottom feels wet.
‘OK,’ says Terry, ‘this is what we’ll do. I will side slip a few metres, and you will let yourself slide forward into my skis. That is how we’ll get back down. BUT do not go off track, because if you start to slide past me I won’t be able to stop you. You’ll end up rolling down the mountain like a log.’
That’s what we do. With my skis on his shoulder he slips sideways, and then calls me to let go. I lift my heels out of the snow and slide down until I crash into his skis. We repeat this until we reach the chair lift station at Bormio 2,000.
The lift operator says I can catch one of the chairs going down, and he stops the lift. I don’t know if anybody has ever taken the lift back down, but the chair is far too high off the ground to be able to climb into, so he has to build a platform out of snow. It takes about ten minutes before it’s firm enough and high enough for me to get on. All this time the passengers coming up from the bottom have been dangling angrily up in the air.
Once I’m aboard the lift starts again, and I enjoy a stately ride to the bottom, while the upcoming passengers stare in astonishment to see anybody going downhill by lift.
c. Susie Kelly
All rights reserved
It’s A Mad World – Travels Through a Muddled Life (Blackbird 2021) is out now.
I have 3 ebook copies and 1 paperback copy of It’s A Mad World, courtesy of @Blackbird_Bks, to giveaway!
What a gorgeous read this is! I have absolutely LOVED it, from the very first page to the happy, smiley, last.
Grace is an instantly likable character and I really felt her unhappiness within her marriage to Harry. (Although Harry is oddly likeable in his own way.) I shared Grace’s optimism though that a relaxing holiday, with good friends, by the sea, might be all they need to recharge their batteries and find each other again. Considering they live, and work, in London the fresh air at least should do them the world of good. Little did they know….
I love the fact that this book is set in Pembrokeshire. We spent a glorious week there in July 2019. We were planning on going again in 2020, but Covid-19 well and truly put the kybosh on that! (Fingers crossed for summer/autumn 2021.) I loved reading about places we visited such as Barafundle Bay. It made me go back through my photo’s on Facebook. Happy days! It is such a gorgeous place. I am not at all surprised that Grace falls in love with the place or that Ella would love to stay there in her cosy little cottage, indefinitely.
Ella is another lovely character, who deserves far better than the bloke she’s ended up with!
I can’t say Flick was my favourite character, but I enjoyed the friendship the three women have shared since Uni. Friends are often as different as chalk and cheese, but as close as sisters. I imagine Flick might be okay in small doses. Noah (her latest conquest who she has brought along for the week) on the other hand is extremely likeable!!
What should be a relaxing week of quality time all together proves to be far more eventful than any of them could have ever imagined.
Full of fun, sunshine, friendship, romance, heartache and drama! I highly recommend!
This book has left me feeling more than a little unsettled. I had actual goosebumps at the end, and it made my blood run cold on more than one occasion.
Blythe didn’t have the easiest, most loving childhood. Her mother wasn’t really the maternal type, and that’s putting it mildly. Her mother’s mother wasn’t either. Blythe is determined to break that cycle though by being the best mother she can be when she has her own children.
When their baby girl, Violet, is born her worst fears are realised. She feels instantly that something is not quite right with her daughter and they struggle to bond. Her husband thinks she’s imagining things and that she should make more of an effort, but you can almost feel the hostility Violet has towards her mother as she grows. I can’t even begin to imagine. Violet is a proper Daddy’s girl too. In his eyes she can do no wrong. The way Violet seems to manipulate them from such a young age is quite terrifying.
Is she this manipulative little monster though, or is Blythe just paranoid and fixated on there having to be something wrong with her? I honestly changed my mind a hundred times throughout this story and I’m still not 100% convinced. I do know that my heart went out to Blythe, even more so as the story progresses.
When they have their baby boy, Sam, Blythe is determined to prove she can be loved by at least one of her children. They bond immediately and Blythe finally has what she has always dreamed of. Violet seems to share a loving relationship with him at first, but I admit I was feeling nervous from the moment he was born, so I could totally understand where Blythe was coming from. How awful to feel like that about a little girl though. I tried to convince myself that Blythe had it all wrong and that things would work out fine, but I knew there was more heartache to come.
I can’t really explain how much I physically felt the emotion, the despair, the panic, and the desperation Blythe felt throughout this story.
A powerful, dark, tense, heart-wrenching, and utterly compelling read which I think will stay with me forever. I highly recommend!
Many thanks to the author and publisher for my ebook review copy via Netgalley.
For those who don’t know already, could you tell us about yourself and your book please?
Others may find my answer strange, but becoming an author was never a career choice or life plan. Writing became a passion only after I tried a variety of other retirement hats – becoming an emergency medical technician, driving the fire trucks and ambulances, searching for treasure with my metal detector, guiding a historical preservation project, raising funds for our local hospice, trying to learn Spanish, trying to write apps for Androids, and taking calculus courses online.
I was drawn to writing because I wanted my grandchildren to know about my father. My first book, A Smile in One Eye: A Tear in the Other, told his story. He was a holocaust survivor – not a hero but simply an ordinary man who walked through life one step at a time, with grace and dignity, even in the most horrific and extraordinary circumstances. When readers selected the book as a 2016 Goodreads Choice Awards nominee for best memoir/autobiography, I couldn’t believe it. That’s when I became hooked on writing.
My new book, The Other Mrs. Samson, is my third. It tells the story of three people – Hilda, born in 1884 and raised in a wealthy San Francisco family; Katie, a German girl born twenty-five years later; and Dr. Josef Samson, a Berlin Jew, whom they both loved and married. While neither a romance novel nor a war story, the book is about privilege, struggle, survival, and escape. For me, it is a story about love. And the thing about love is it can be complicated and emotional.
Where did you get the idea from?
From the people I know, the stories I heard, and from a small black lacquered antique cabinet in the attic. It had been hidden in a corner for nearly fifteen years when I rediscovered it one day. I knew where it came from and why we had it but knew little about its journey or the secrets it would lead me to uncover. That’s when I found the missing clues to questions I have been trying to answer and the riddles I have wanted to unravel for years.
Tell me about your characters. How did you create them? What was your writing process?
The people – Hilda, Katie, and Josef are all real. So are the places and events. I did change a few names to preserve some privacy. To create the story, I had to connect many dots. While I knew Katie quite well, there was always a wall of privacy that surrounded her. For the others, I had to dig. And, of course, I was left to my own imagination to portray their personalities. I think the characters make the story and I hope that readers can relate to them in some way and can witness the events through their eyes.
As for the process, when I am working on a book, I write from early morning until late in the afternoon when it’s time for Scrabble and martinis. For me, writing a book (and finishing) is a very intense undertaking, filled with long days and restless nights, an all or nothing proposition. I try to avoid distractions because I know I can be easily tempted. The only sound I want to hear is the tapping of my fingers on the keyboard.
Do you have a favourite author?
One author who always comes to mind is Carlos Ruiz Zafόn. He paints amazing pictures with his words. I thought the Shadow of the Wind was an absolutely wonderful book and recommend it. I like authors who make the story authentic and write to entertain, inform, and excite the reader. I enjoy books with a good ending.
If you could meet any author, who would it be? And, what would you ask?
That is a much more difficult question. There are so many who impress me. I tend to enjoy serious books that have a well written story, books that genuinely develop the characters so you feel you intimately know the personalities. My interests are wide – biographies, historical, political, and stories with a good plot. What would I ask? I would ask how they could start with a blank canvas and create what they created. And, with all that would be rolling around in their heads how could they ever sleep?
Were you a big reader as a child? What about writing?
My mother loved to read and always encouraged me to learn about the world through books. I never saw my father read a book. So I suppose I was somewhere in the middle. As for writing? Most would tell you that I excelled at talking but never writing. In school, I was the kid sent to wood shop, never advanced English or literature class. My aptitude was numbers, never words.
Are you working on a new book at the moment?
At the moment I am taking a rest and focusing my attention on taking part in book club discussions. I love to interact with readers. I learn so much from the comments of others. And with Zoom and Skype it is so easy to do virtually – anywhere around the globe. Perhaps I will try to write again one day but right now book clubs are far more interesting.
How can readers keep in touch with you?
They can email me anytime at email@example.com or go to my website: ralphwebster-author.com. I always enjoy the conversation.
Surviving two wars, sharing one husband, searching for answers.
A hidden compartment in a black lacquer cabinet left in an attic reveals the secrets of two incredible women: Hilda, born and raised in one of the wealthiest Jewish families in turn-of-the-century San Francisco, and Katie, whose early life in Germany is marked by tragedy and death. Their lives are forever entwined by their love of the same man, the brilliant and compassionate Dr. Josef Samson.
From the earliest, rough-and-tumble days of San Francisco, through the devastation of the Great War in Berlin and the terrors of Vichy France, and then to a new yet uncertain life in New York City, their stories span the most tumultuous events of the twentieth century. In the end, one of these women will complete the life of the other and make a startling discovery about the husband they share.
About Ralph Webster
Award winning author Ralph Webster received worldwide acclaim for his first book, A Smile in One Eye: A Tear in the Other, which tells the story of his father’s flight from the Holocaust. Voted by readers as a Goodreads 2016 Choice Awards Nominee for Best Memoir/Autobiography, A Smile in One Eye: A Tear in the Other, his second book, One More Moon, and now his third book, The Other Mrs. Samson, are proven book club selections for thought-provoking and engaging discussions. Whether in person or online, Ralph welcomes and values his exchanges with readers and makes every effort to participate in conversations about his books.
A Place Called Winter is such a beautifully written novel. I wish I had read it sooner.
Harry Cane is the eldest son of a privileged family. He has never needed to work and leads a comfortable, relaxed life. He gets married and they have a baby girl, and all seems right with the world. Then there is an affair which at first seems not to impact on his marriage or their family. However, his secret is discovered, and he has no choice but to abandon his current life or face the consequences. Consequences which will shame his family, ruining their reputation, as well as see him facing arrest.
The new life Harry must embark on is about as far from the lifestyle he has been used to as it could get. We join Harry on this back breaking journey and share his every emotion along the way.
Harry is such a likeable character, and I was fascinated by his story. Such a tender love story. A love which faces many challenges though, not least because it is the early 1900s.
This story is full of emotion, love, hard work and heartache. It is also full of hope. I loved it!
This is my first experience of Patrick Gale’s writing, but it will not be my last.