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Harriet ‘Hal’ Westaway is down on her luck, completely alone in the world and in debt to some very dangerous people. So when she gets a solicitor’s letter telling her that her grandmother has died, and she is due an inheritance, it seems as though she might have found the answers to her problems. There’s just one hitch – Hal’s grandparents all died years ago, so who on earth is this lady who has named Hal in her Will?

Hal knows she shouldn’t take the money – but the Westaway family are rich and can afford it. And with her job as a tarot card reader, she is used to making people think what she wants them to think, so if anybody can pull off the deception required to get the inheritance, it’s Hal.

She travels to Trepassen House, the home of Mrs Westaway and meets the family, who are shocked to meet a ‘niece’ they never knew they had but largely welcome her into the fold – all except for the housekeeper Mrs Warren, who is intent on driving Hal out. But as she gets to know the family, it is clear that there are dangerous secrets lurking below the surface, and Hal may be in danger…

I listened to his audiobook, which is narrated by Imogen Church. Unfortunately some of the narrative style irritated me. The weird emphasis on certain words was off-putting, although I did grow more used to it after a while. Her attempt at posh male voices though was really annoying, and unfortunately the three brothers in the family all ended up sounded too similar.

I do think the premise of the book is really interesting and while I guessed part of the ending fairly early on, there was one twist which really threw me and I didn’t get even the slightest hint of it.

That said though, this book could really have done with some tight editing. It just seemed to take so long and so many unnecessary words to describe every situation. And metaphors – metaphors everywhere. “She looked into his eyes and it was like falling into a dark, leaf strewn pond.” I mean, come on!! The story could have been told in half the time if all the unnecessary sentences had been cut and the author had just got to the point!

So, yeah not a hit for me. It wasn’t awful and it did hold my attention enough to keep me listening to the end, but I can’t say I wasn’t glad when it was finished.

 

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I’ve found audiobooks a bit hit and miss lately, and as this one was a Daily Deal from Audible (I probably would have passed it over if I had had to pay full price for it, but for £1.99 it’s worth a punt), I wasn’t sure what to expect. But I’m happy to say I was pleasantly surprised and really enjoyed it – this book kept me company on some long runs, and I actually found myself looking forward to hearing the next ‘installment’.

A quick note on the narrators – we hear from four narrators in the book (one is a character in a book-within-the-book) – and they are voiced by Anjana Vasan, Esther Wane, Sarah Feathers and Andrew Wincott. They were all excellent and I personally think it was a great move to give each narrator their own voice.

The story revolved around Clare Cassidy – one of the narrators – an English teacher at Talgarth High School, which is famous for being the former home of gothic horror writer R M Holland (note – Holland is a fictional character created for this book, more’s the pity, as his short story The Stranger, laced throughout this book, kept me interested!). Clare is in fact writing a book about Holland, and is fascinated by his former quarters at the school which are kept more or less intact. She is horrified when her friend and colleague Ella is murdered, and even more horrified when she realises that the murder is connected somehow to the murders in Holland’s most famous story – and possibly to Clare herself.

DS Harbinder Kaur is the detective leading the investigation into the murder(s) and also narrates parts of the book. She is obviously wry and cynical, but clearly clever and brave, and without doubt was my favourite character. Her narrated chapters were my favourite parts of the story.

The third narrator was Clare’s teenage daughter Georgia, who provides important elements to the story, having inherited her mother’s passion for writing and fascination for gothic horror.

The fourth ‘narrator’ was the main character of R M Holland’s story The Stranger. As mentioned earlier, this story is told in excerpts through the book, and – brilliantly – is told in its entirety at the end.

Each character was distinct and believable, and I loved hearing about the same events from different viewpoints. I don’t want to give too much away because this book deserves to be read/listened to unspoiled, but I would highly recommend it. I actually did  guess the culprit, but it was fairly near the end of the book, and only because if you suspect enough people, you will probably end up hitting on the right one eventually!

I’ve never read anything by Elly Griffiths before but based on this book, I would definitely read more by her in future.

 

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Nick and Audrey (Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston) are headed to Europe for a cheap anniversary holiday when they are invited to spend their holiday aboard a luxury yacht, courtesy of Viscount Charles Cavendish (Luke Evans).. While on the yacht, Charle’s rich uncle is murdered and Nick and Audrey find themselves in the middle of a murder mystery. There were limited guests on the yacht, and one of them is a killer. And when others start turning up dead, it’s clear that all of their lives are in danger! It sounds like an Agatha Christie novel, and this movie definitely plays homage to Christie, but it’s played strictly for laughs. I personally find Adam Sandler very hit and miss (more miss than hit) but I really enjoyed this film.

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Year of release: 2019

Director: Kyle Newacheck

Writers: James Vanderbilt

Main cast: Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Luke Evans, Gemma Arterton, David Walliams, Dany Boon, John Kani, Adeel Akhtar, Olafur Darri Olafsson, Luis Gerardo Mendez, Shioli Kutsana, Terence Stamp

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Genre: Comedy, mystery

Highlights: Jennifer Aniston, a great ensemble cast

Lowlights: None

Overall: If you like wacky comedies and mystery stories, give this a whirl. It’s never really tense, but always entertaining

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Dave (Gene Wilder) is deaf and Wally (Richard Pryor) is blind. So when they witness a crime, Dave sees the guilty party, and Wally hears her. Somehow between them they have to convince the police of who did it, and escape the clutches of the criminal gang who want to get rid of them.

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Year of release: 1989

Director: Arthur Hiller

Writers: Earl Barret, Arne Sultan, Marvin Worth, Eliot Wald, Andrew Kurtzman, Gene Wilder

Main cast: Gene Wilder, Richard Pryor, Eve Severance, Kevin Spacey, Kirsten Childs

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Genre: Comedy

Highlights: All of it! Wilder and Pryor are comedy gold

Lowlights: None really

Overall: Classic comedy, well worth a visit (or a revisit)

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The Blurb

You wake. Confused. Disorientated.
A noose is round your neck.
You are bound, standing on a chair.
All you can focus on is the man in the mask tightening the rope.
You are about to die.

John Wallace has no idea why he has been targeted. No idea who his attacker is. No idea how he will prevent the inevitable. Then the pendulum of fate swings in his favour.
He has one chance to escape, find the truth and halt his destruction. The momentum is in his favour for now. But with a killer on his tail, everything can change with one swing of this deadly pendulum…

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My Thoughts

I listened to this as an audiobook, narrated by Luke Thompson who did a great job. The narrative hits the ground running – rather than any introductory back story, it starts slap bang in the middle of an attempted murder. When photographer John Wallace is attacked in his apartment, he feels sure that he is about to die, but manages to escape by the skin of his teeth. However, his attacker is relentless and seemingly able to track John, no matter where he hides. John has to find out who is trying to kill him, and more importantly why – but his journey will take him across an ocean and down some very dark paths.

I really liked the first part of the book – the action was fast moving and the characters were well fleshed out. However, when the story moved to New York, it faltered somewhat for me, as it began to include elements of cyber terrorism (don’t worry – no spoilers here) and it became unbelievable as Wallace seemed to be able to somehow defy numerous attempts on his life, while around him the body count continued to rise.

Hamdy definitely knows how to write an action sequence, and Luke Thompson’s narration matched the pace of the storyline. However, the second half of the story was something of a slog for me. This book is the first in a series, and although it’s easy to see where the set up for the next book comes in, there was enough closure here for anyone who didn’t want to read any more. I fall into that category – this wasn’t awful, but didn’t interest me enough to want to read any more about the Pendulum case.

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Year of first publication: 2016

Genre: Thriller, action, mystery

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Murder on the Orient Express, is one of Agatha Christie’s best known and most loved novels. Hercule Poirot is travelling on the train when one of the passengers, a Mr Ratchett, is murdered. Now Poirot must sift through the evidence and work out which of the other passengers wanted Ratchett dead – and why.

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Although I am classing this as an audiobook, it’s actually more of a dramatisation of the novel, rather than a straightforward narration. Art Malik is the narrator but he in fact he serves mainly to provide links from scene to scene. As lovely and delicious as his voice is, the real star of the production is of course the character of Poirot, performed here by Tom Conti, who imbues his Poirot with just the right amount of eccentricity with a dash of arrogance.

The mystery at the heart of the story is an excellent one, and if I didn’t already know something of the ending, it certainly would have kept me guessing. My favourite performers apart from Conti were Paterson Jospeh and Sophie Okonedo as Colonel Arbuthnot and Mary Debenham respectively, but the whole cast were excellent and really brought the story alive.

I really hope that Audible gives the dramatisation treatment to more of Agatha Christie’s works, as I found this a splendid and enjoyable listen. Highly recommended.

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Year of first publication: 1934 (novel) 2017 (this dramatisation)

Genre: Murder mystery

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A disparate group of five students are given detention and only four of them walk out alive. Somebody killed Simon Kelleher while he was in the room and as the investigation gets underway, it turns out that each of the other students had something to hide…and Simon not only knew all of their secrets, but was planning to reveal them on his on his gossip app.

Although this book is marketed as Young Adult, I am certainly WAY past that category and I really enjoyed it. People like me who remember classic 80s movies may well remember The Breakfast Club, and it is difficult not to draw comparisons between the premise of that movie and the initial backdrop to this book. However, the story here is a lot darker – as all four students are investigated for the murder, it turns out that each of them had reason to want Simon dead.

I really enjoyed the story, and while I have no intention of revealing the ending, I will say that it came as a complete surprise and I certainly wouldn’t have guessed it.

If you like mysteries and dramas (this is more of a drama than a thriller), then I would recommend this book, no matter what your age.

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