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Friday 20 October 2023

October Books {2023}


9 books read by book blogger Is This Mutton in October 2023, a mix of crime thrillers with non-fiction

Dear friends. It's been a busy month on the books front: 5 blog tours plus the reviews below. I'm going to cut back on the number of NetGalley reviews and blog tours for a while. It's good to support authors, but I feel under pressure to get through the books and process the reviews. 

I've caught up with the Goodreads Challenge and am on track again to reach my target of 100 by the end of the year. 

So to today's selection. Some outstanding thrillers plus some non-fiction for your enjoyment. It's a mixed bag and I'm sure you'll find something of interest.  

The Perfect Patient by Luana Lewis, 5 out of 5 stars

A young woman is found dazed in a hotel room, next to the stabbed body of a man she has no recollection of meeting. Jade Jameson is referred to therapist Dr Tara Black, who comes up against a brick ball as Jade and her wealthy parents constantly dodge appointments and stonewall her. Later, as she starts to make progress through her own investigations, she becomes scared for her life as it seems Ray Jameson will do anything to silence her at Jade's trial. 

I love how her Luana Lewis's experience as a clinical psychologist imbues her words with authority and knowledge. She brings a new and different perspective to the psychological thriller. 

Lewis says she worked with families were children suffered abuse and neglect, and where society failed to protect the most vulnerable. This is where the idea for The Perfect Patient came from. I was fully engaged throughout, and the two major twists were so worth it. The ending made a shiver run up my spine. 

Geneva by Richard Armitage, 5 out of 5 stars

I take my hat off to debut author Richard Armitage (the name may be familiar, he is also an actor) for the ingenious plot and the ice and snow bound thrills of this Swiss adventure. 

It all starts very gently: Nobel prize winner Sarah Collier finally capitulates and agrees with her husband's pleas to endorse a controversial brain implant medical breakthrough, committing to a glitzy launch event in Geneva. The scenery and luxury in Geneva is beautifully drawn. 

The three main characters we meet at the Institute all seem a bit sinister, clearly with agendas of their own. Sarah is a very strong and likable character, accomplished and professional, even as her health starts to deteriorate at the wrong time. Armstrong rachets up the tension and excitement and the twists are fast and furious. What an ending. Be still my racing heart! 

The Man Who Didn't Burn by Ian Moore, 4 out of 5 

When English expat Graham Singleterry is brutally murdered, his charred corpse left on a Loire Valley hillside, the police turn to juge d’instruction Matthieu Lombard to find the perpetrator.

Lombard discovers a wealth of secrets, grudges and feuds in the idyllic town of Saint-Genèse-sur-Loire. 

He begins to suspect that members of the local business organisation  know more about Singleterry’s death than they are letting on.

But each clue he uncovers seems to point in another, unexpected direction: Joan of Arc. 

A great read for those who love a police procedural with a charismatic and enigmatic Juge, beautiful French scenery and complex historical clues to decipher. 

The Ideal Couple by Anna Willett, 4 out of 5 

I've never read anything by Anna Willett before but I knew right away I was in good hands. She has a very clean, pared back style, as does Detective Inspector Veronika Pope. Here is a female police officer to admire: strong, capable, no chip on her shoulder. 

Iron Creek, in the Australian outback, is one of those towns you see in films: hardly any women, red dust everywhere, and men who stare and leer at new comers. Pope is sent there to investigate a three year old cold case. A middle aged married couple passed through but were never seen again. 

Veronika finds Iron Creek a lawless community where the residents have developed ways of making money aside from the gold mining the region was famous for. With limited resources, some of her team operating remotely, Veronica peels back the many layers of an onion to find a motive for the couple's murder. 

Held my attention throughout with numerous twists and surprises. I loved how hands-on Pope is, hurling herself at a fleeing suspect and pinning him down, in spite of being unarmed and half his size. Happy to make the acquaintance of DI Pope.

The Perfect Date by Julia Crouch  (4 stars)

There's so much going on in The Perfect Date that I thought it might be a spoof or pastiche on the psychological crime thriller. If the main trope isn't juicy enough - woman on a dating app finds the bodies of 2 men she dated - Julia Crouch throws in all manner of sub plots and red herrings. 

All the male characters seem highly suspicious, including the investigating police officer. I was slightly puzzled by our heroine's popularity with men as she seemed so ordinary compared to her mum Ruth or frenemy Marcie. 

Towards the end of the book it all becomes a bit surreal with some unexpected reveals and discoveries. As far as I know the staring woman with turquoise hair didn't figure in the action. Sharp, amusing and fast paced.


Eve by Cat Bohannon

It's sobering to read that society's obsession with men means that women are more likely to die of a heart attack. Medics often diminish their symptoms: it's all in our mind, or we're hysterical.  But far from being the inferior sex, Bohannon tells us that women account for 80% of people over 100, have more sensitive noses, better hearing at high frequencies, extended colour vision, and longer life expectancy than men by half a decade. 

It's quite a scholarly read but accessible to the lay person, and sprinkled with humour. 

The Wisdom of Sheep & Other Animals: Observations from a Family Farm by Rosamund Young

Hooray for this rehabilitation of the reputation of the sheep.  Rosamund Young tell us that some are affectionate, others prone to head-butting. Some are determinedly self-sufficient, others seek our help when they need it. And some can be trusted to lead the flock home. They are as individual as we are.

She has been an organic farmer for over 40 years, working with her brother and partner. She shares stories about sheep, intelligent chickens and cows that will make your jaw drop. It's a beguiling book , full of beautiful writing about wildflower meadows and the passing of the seasons. 

This book is published on November 2. Thanks NetGalley and Faber and Faber for the advance copy in return for an honest review.

How to dress like a Tudor by Judith Arnopp

Although I'm a dedicated Tudorphile I've never yearned to dress like one of them. Those ruffs in late Tudor times look quite uncomfortable for starters. But author Judith Arnopp has dressed like a Tudor for various reasons, and explains how she has done so on a budget.  

She traces the transition of fashion from the relatively subtle styles popular at the court of Henry VII, through the carefully constructed royal grandeur of Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Mary I to the pinnacle of majesty and splendid iconography of Elizabeth I.

Ordinary people, meanwhile, were subject to laws forbidding them from wearing certain fabrics or colours. Six months wages for a labourer would buy barely a yard of a cloth of gold. Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester (1532-88) paid more for one suit than William Shakespeare paid for a house in Stratford-upon-Avon less than a decade later. 

Arnopp also addresses the common perception we have that those in Tudor times must have had terrible body odour because they didn't bathe very often.  The answer was their linen under clothes. Someone like Henry VIII would have changed his linens three times a day. 

A fascinating read for anyone who loves fashion, history and sociology.

The Goodbye Cat by Hiro Arikawa

This Japanese best seller is a heart warming read for anyone who loves cats. A touching collection of short stories about seven cats and their owners. The cats reveal their qualities of intuition and empathy. Utterly enchanting.

I hope you enjoyed this month's selections. Check out my dedicated blog tour posts below. 

Sharing my post with these wonderful sites including bloggers in the southern hemisphere for the monthly #WhatsBeenOnYourShelf link-up. 



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