Jennie Ensor, The Bad Neighbour
Thriller with Elements of Greek Comedy and Tragedy
Bird Woman lives alone. She prefers birds to humans and with good reason.
Ashley lives with her family. They recently moved to Brampton, and she feels insecure about her welcome, especially because of her Muslim husband.
Tara lives next door to Ashley. She moved here some years ago and has established herself as the local do-gooder. She craves attention.
Elsbeth is Tara’s other neighbour. She was a dancer and still has an exercise program. She appears to have some money, but appearances can mislead.
When Covid strikes the inhabitants of this small town face many upheavals. Everybody suffers from isolation claustrophobia. Elsbeth must isolate as she’s over seventy. Ashley has trouble with her family, as they are unused to being together twenty-four hours a day, but there is deeper trouble brewing.
Tara sees an opportunity to become admired and needed.
This heady mix brings some people together, but it also stirs up hatred and envy.
What strikes me about The Bad Neighbour is that we have the satire of early Greek comedy and the ordinary people of the later plays. Also, the unity of action and space that constitutes Greek Tragedy plays a role, although the timeline stretches over more than twenty-four hours. Add to that the catharsis the main characters go through each in their way.
As always, Jennie Ensor wields her pen with wit and decisiveness.
Tonya Penrose, Venetian Rhapsody
Romantic Exploration of Venezia, Spain, and Fate
Sophia Martin has spent a year in Venice, working on her dissertation. Her life is planned in detail, and she will soon return to Boston. Then she meets a stranger that awakens strange questions and visions.
Eduardo Diaz comes from a large olive grove in Spain, which he must take over from his father, who is about to retire. Eduardo has been standing in for Milo Greco at the business academy. Seeing Sophia at an outdoor café awakens unwanted feelings.
Ginny is Sophia’s professor and friend. She is married to Milo, Eduardo’s friend.
Venice provides the backdrop for a meet-cute romance that could change Sophia’s and Eduardo’s lives.
Dina, the baker Lucia, and the ‘Angel’ Work hard to nudge them in the right direction.
Tonya Penrose knows how to write a romance. She also brings interest to her stories through mysterious elements that point to a deeper significance, a human longing for fulfilment, and our innate vulnerability. Needless to say, her characters are likeable, although, maybe unfounded, fears make them prevaricate and jeopardise their opportunities. Will Sophia and Eduardo come together? I won’t answer that question. To find out – you know what to do.
Robert Fear, Summer of ‘77
Beaches, Bars, and Boogie-Nights in Ibiza
With ‘Summer of ‘77’ Robert Fear recalls a period when charter flights and package holidays were still a novelty. Greenpeace was active, and he gives the reader a small insight into the impact tourism had on the environment.
Also, this was a period when people believed in free sex and had little compunction about booze and drugs. Hippies and beatniks had a field day, and many followed their lead.
Fred (Robert Fear’s nickname) has left a steady job to travel and explore the world. His experiences in different seasonal jobs are varied, but he finds new ways to enjoy life. Charming and good-looking, he has no trouble scoring with the women, and he takes the reader through his experiences with lightness and humour.
The narrative includes letters from friends and family. Reading those made me ponder the fact that letter writers don’t always show great talent for writing. Still, their letters bring variation and depth to the patchwork of stories and memories.
‘Summer of ‘77’ was an entertaining read, but it also touched on the political situation in Spain after Franco. That rounded off the memoir. All in all, Robert Fear made you think about the choices people make.
Jeanette Taylor Ford, Cold Murder
Best Served Cold, A Chilling Revenge Mystery
Somebody has taken the biblical words to heart: Life for life, Eye for eye, tooth for tooth. Most importantly, life for life.
The people living at Gladiola Close enjoy a close-knit society.
On the coldest night of the year, one man from their midst gets murdered.
DS Della Downs and DC Ben Curran have their work cut out for them to solve this case.
Ms Ford writes ominously about how long it might take to get retribution, even if it means breaking the law. Her characters jump off the page, and the plot is intricate. Cold Murder makes a huge impression, and I’m certain I’ll return to this author.
Diane M Dickson, Twist of Truth
Is Seeking Revenge a Solution?
Simon has been away for years when he returns to his Yorkshire roots. He doesn’t expect to be welcome.
Gloria, a widow, has inherited the bed and breakfast, she created with her late husband. She feels secure and happy in her small world.
On the surface, everything is straightforward, but it won’t stay that way.
Ms Dickson has other ideas, and, in Twist of Truth, develops them into a nightmare for everybody linked to the twisted past.
Nobody is safe from the past, and this is the theme of the first instalment of the Yorkshire crime mystery series.
Raw and sometimes violent, Twist of Truth provides stark insights into human nature. The characters act as if fate, combined with determination, forces their hands and brings on a psychological nightmare.
Jan Romes, Meg
Romance and Cake Walks Hand in Hand
Meg has little confidence in men after some dating experiences from hell. Lately, she also fears she might lose her job.
Riley has a coffee shop that serves coffee, sweets, and dating – if you’re so inclined. He lost his wife five years ago and thinks his dating life is over.
Can he help Meg to find love? Can she help him to keep his business and expand it?
Jan Romes writes mouth-watering sweets and complicated human encounters with wit and panache.
“If taste buds could talk, they’d be shouting yes.” (Page 58)
“You’re better than a Long Island Iced Tea.” “At least I won’t give ya headache.” Kristina laughed and realized the error of yukking it up. “Oww!” “Careful. I’m not cleaning up brain matter if your head does decide to detonate.” “Funny.” Kristina massaged her scalp. “I’m never drinking again.” (page 99)
I couldn’t help giving a small sample of the delightful banter Meg and her friends engage in. By the way, while quoting, I spotted one sentence fragment that didn’t make sense. It can be found on page 17. I’m certain that the typo imps have been messing about.
“A long wooden bar with tall pub chairs took up one side of the long room, while small round tables with two chairs each took up the rest of the space. The only thing odd or”
I’m still wondering what that one odd thing might be. At the same time, it is vital to aver that it doesn’t take away from the droll experience of reading Meg’s experiences. The cast of weird and wonderful characters round off Coffee and Desert in Key West.
Richard Schwindt, Men Lying Dead in a Field
Abuse Can Never Be Condoned
In Magnolia Bluff, anything can happen. An unknown man turns up dead in a field and it emerges he is a psychologist.
Reese Sovern needs to consult Dr Michael Kurelek who lectures at the university and analyses his patients on campus.
He is reluctant to help, as his father secretly has returned from sniper duty in the Ukraine.
The gallery of characters is fascinating and Schwindt gives deep insights into their flaws as well as their empathy.
Schwindt writes about abuse. Abuse of power in the widest possible manner. The military, the government, man against man, man against woman, psychologist against client. A poignant but also mischievous dive into aspects of humanity, Men Lying Dead in a Field is an immersive and thought-provoking book.
Rebecca Bryn, The Chain Mistress
Aspects of WWII and Aspects of Love
Emma learns the hard way about her family’s past. She also finds a new cousin, who lives in Frankfurt. On top of that, she must become the new chain mistress.
Hanne is young and in love. Ready to marry and not a single worry about the future.
Life will change dramatically for both young women. Depression and war will bring challenges and pain neither could imagine.
In The Chain Mistress, the last part of The Chainmakers Trilogy, Rebecca Bryn takes a deep look into the Jewish situation during that devastating time. Her writing is as always crisp and detailed. Her impeccable research gives insight into the dangers that even visiting Jews faced in Nazi Germany.
Add to this a tortuous love story that will leave you touched and perhaps surprised.
I only have one issue: Mad Dogs and Englishmen, which was first performed in 1931, wasn’t written by the “outrageous” Oscar Wilde (1854-1900). Discreet but also flamboyant actor, singer, composer, and playwright Noel Coward penned this, among many other songs.
“She turned on the radio to distract herself. ‘Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun…’ Oscar Wilde wasn’t wrong there” (p.129)