Audiobook Review: An Inquiry into Love and Death

First off, thank you very much to Simone St. James for granting me the win of the paperback of An Inquiry into Love and Death. Once again, the cover knocks it out of the park and makes it so intriguing to want to read. I read St. James’ first novel The Haunting of Maddy Clare, and believe I spent as much time devouring the book as I did flipping back to look at the cover. However, An Inquiry into Love and Death came available in audio and thank you to Audiobook JukeBox and Blackstone Audio (Downpour) for allowing us the opportunity to listen.

The two covers below are for the paperback and the audio for An Inquiry… Both absolutely lovely. The third book cover is the one for The Haunting of Maddy Clare. I’m a sucker for great book covers and whomever is responsible for the design of Ms. St. James’ books deserves heaps of praise and awards.  And doesn’t the girl on the cover of the audio version look like Lady Mary Crawley? Love it!

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My first discovery of St. James’ novels was when The Haunting of Maddy Clare was first out. Initially I was taken by the cover, and then I read that the book was something along the lines of “Maisie Dobbs – Ghost Hunter”. Really? Sign me up! And I did truly enjoy The Haunting of Maddy Clare. Great ghost story! Therefore, when the news came that another one was on its way, I was delighted. Then to win a copy? Giddy with glee.

There is one difference between the Maisie Dobbs or the Maggie Hope novels, (as they take place in between the WW eras), and it is that St. James’ adds romance to the storyline. Indeed, in The Haunting, there was a tad more of the bodice-ripping type romance writing than in the Maisie or Maggie stories.

However, in An Inquiry into Love and Death, the heavier parts seems to have been toned down considerably. At any rate, it is another top notch ghost story and mystery! I absolutely enjoyed every character, they were all wonderfully realized and distinct. The habitants of the village of Rothewell were interesting people to spend time with. Jillian herself, is a great heroine and I enjoyed every moment with her. Jillian does indeed find herself in some harrowing moments and adventures!

The story opens with Jillian being called to meet with the family’s lawyer while she’s in school at Oxford. This in itself is not the norm for young women of Jillian’s age in this time. And educated woman is frowned upon.  Now, it seems her Uncle Toby has met his demise in Rothewell and as her parents are far to busy and wrapped up in their own lives to settle his affairs, it is up to Jillian, to a.) identify the body and b.) pack all of his belongings and clear him out of the place he was renting.

It is the break from her studies, of which Jillian is quite serious about, that is most concerning to her, that being left with the settling of Uncle Toby’s belongings. Her Uncle has long held the frowned upon, not-taken-seriously-occupation of ghost hunting. He obviously must have been in this village to track a ghost. Jillian is set to do this for her Uncle however, as she has always been quite fond of him but has not been in touch with him in the past 5 years or so.

Jillian sets off to Rothwell and quickly discovers the ghost her uncle has been researching. “Walking John” has long haunted the house Toby has been living in and the woods around Blood Moon Bay. She also quickly learns that Toby’s death may not have been so accidental. Something more sinister than the local ghost is causing a great disturbance in Rothewell.

Enter, the tall, dark, extremely handsome (and young) Inspector Drew Merriken from Scotland Yard.

Jillian and Drew are powerfully and immediately attracted to one another and together they set out to solve the many secrets hidden deep in Rothewell. Jillian also makes important and life changing discoveries about herself, her identity and her family history.

Now, about the audiobook: Rosalyn Landor provides the narration. There is truly no denying that Landor has the most pleasant narrative voice. Her lilt and narration is top notch. However….I firmly stand by my belief that she was just not the right fit for this narration. Jillian is a young woman and immediately upon first listening to Jillian’s voice spoken by Landor I felt she sounded far too old and mature beyond her 22 years. And then…oh lord…then there were the male voices. Horrible. I’m sorry, they were. Drew Merriken is a young man that makes you weak in the knees when in his presence and his voice was that of an old, old stodgy man. Grit your teeth and speak in a lofty and Old stodgy voice and there you have the most frustrating voice of Inspector Merriken. It was so terrible that so many many times I considered ending the audio and picking up the book instead.  But, as the story progressed and the intensity of the situations increased, Landor improved giving more emotion to the narration. I stuck with it. I pushed through my annoyance (and deep frustration) at the male voices and just lost myself in Jillian’s adventures and discoveries. Overall, it is worth the listen, it was just a matter of bracing myself and becoming accustomed to the (terrible) male voices.

An Inquiry into Love and Death is another fantastic ghost story taking place in a favoured era to read about, with another fantastic heroine. This Literary Hoarder enjoyed this Simone St. James novel once again! I’m now looking forward to the third!

Review: The Haunting of Maddy Clare

Maddy Clare has been haunting the barn at Falmouth House for the past seven years. Maddy doesn’t like men, and becomes very angry and destructive when one ventures near. Mrs. Clare, owner of Falmouth House, is now frail and old. Along her housekeeper, Mrs. McCready, both just want to see her gone for good. But Maddy isn’t ready to go, she wants revenge.

Alistair Gellis and his assistant, Matthew Ryder are seasoned ghost hunters, but are also shell-shocked war veterans fighting inner demons/ghosts of their own. Maddy doesn’t take kindly to men entering her barn, which means Alistair must find a girl to help them document and rid Falthom House of its destructive ghost. Sarah Piper, living a lonely existence in London, is called by her temp agency asking if she would take an unlikely assignment.  Does she dare set aside her fears and apprehension and take it?

Falmouth House is located in the small town of Waringstoke. Everyone knows one another, and there seems to be much they wish to keep hidden. Especially the mystery surrounding the servant girl, Maddy Clare. Many believe in the ghost of Maddy, but they are also most unwilling to part with any real information to help solve the mystery surrounding Maddy Clare, her suicide and her haunting.

It so turns out that Sarah Piper is quite receptive to ghosts. Maddy immediately claims Sarah and with every presence of Maddy, Sarah is overcome with vivid images and revelations. Maddy begins to control Sarah and gives her an assignment as well.

Find them. There are 3 of them. Find where I am buried.

Therefore, with the help and knowledge coming through Sarah, her, Alistair and Matthew set out on solving a mystery Waringstoke is reluctant to reveal, and to help calm Maddy and give her peace to move on.

I was very, very intrigued by this book, first because of the beautiful cover, and as I had read a quick synopsis someone had posted that said it was like “Maisie Dobbs, Ghostwhisperer”. And whomever posted that was bang on! Throw in a touch of Hitchcock for good measure (think Birds) (lots of birds!), and you have a darn good mystery with the lead female sleuth indeed very much like Maisie Dobbs. It takes place in the same time period, post-WWI, and Sarah finds herself all in as ghost hunter/ ghost whisperer.

This was a very quick read, I read it in under 3 days, it had my full attention for much of it, as it was spooky at times, not too scary, but with just the right amount of edge & intrigue – Maddy is a very angry ghost filled with hatred and intent on destroying all for what these men did to her. But I’m taking a half star off for some of the gratutitous sex scenes thrown in that I thought were unnecessary. There were only very few really, but I felt some of the detail was too much and detracted from the characters and the time (perhaps I’m too wistful about the era?).  I’m definitely hoping we see more of Sarah Piper in the future though!

Simone St. James’ website can be found here.

Alternative reviews of The Haunting of Maddy Clare can be read from Agnes Mack’s Books, The Historical Novel Society and from The Book of Secrets.

Review: The Boy in the Suitcase

Well this one certainly built up steam and came to a pulse-pounding finale!

I have to admit however, up until this point, with little more than 50 pages left, I felt like it was just an okay read. Not bad, but nothing to run right out and grab a hold of a copy NOW type read.


Nina Borg, a Red Cross nurse, wife, and mother of two, is a compulsive do-gooder who can’t say no when someone asks for help—even when she knows better. When her estranged friend Karin leaves her a key to a public locker in the Copenhagen train station, Nina gets suckered into her most dangerous project yet. Inside the locker is a suitcase, and inside the suitcase is a three-year-old boy: naked and drugged, but alive.
Is the boy a victim of child trafficking? Can he be turned over to authorities, or will they only return him to whoever sold him? When Karin is discovered brutally murdered, Nina realizes that her life and the boy’s are in jeopardy, too. In an increasingly desperate trek across Denmark, Nina tries to figure out who the boy is, where he belongs, and who exactly is trying to hunt him down.

What I thought: Firstly, this description I don’t think really captures the story well enough or does it justice. It’s so much more than being about Nina. Secondly, I note that this states it’s “Nina Borg #1” obviously meaning this is a series. I can’t say that Nina Borg was the character that brought me back to the pages in this one. I felt her to be a hapless, silly heroine that mmmm, kind of came across as a tad whiny to me, or unfocused and her “need to help” was really more of a selfish side of her that doesn’t cope well with family obligation…The one character that I really thought was the shining star was the boy in the suitcases mother, Sigita. Now there was someone you could easily identify with and get behind in her hunt to find her son.

We also waited until the story was about 80% complete before we found out the reason for Mika being stashed in to a suitcase and that was a great twist. It’s definitely not what you’re thinking, but you had to sit and wait a bit for it.

Overall, not bad, but I think I have to go back to my earlier impression before the pulse-pounding, highly dramatic, tense ending which was that I was slightly confused at times, and not really clicking with Nina as the one to save the day. 3 stars for me.

Review: Believing the Lie

If you’re looking for a harsh review of Elizabeth George, you won’t find it from me! My love for Elizabeth George is no secret (or lie!) so I’m not certain I’ll ever give her a poor review! However, Believing the Lie gives no reason for poor review. It’s another Elizabeth George masterpiece.

I anxiously await every 2 years for another instalment of Inspector Lynley and Barbara Havers. This time, thanks to Netgally and  Penguin Group (USA)  I was able to read more than 2 months in advance of the release date and I am so thankful for that!

Believing the Lie is quite simply more wonderful Elizabeth George. She has once again created a complex mystery with all the twists and turns to keep you guessing, while keeping keeping us informed of the latest with Lynley, Havers and the St. James’. Believing the Lie is a multi-character whodunit to question if the death of Ian Cresswell truly was an accident or was it murder? It’s a multi-layered mystery in which any one of the group of suspects had reason for killing him. Every suspected person has a “lie” hidden that they each wish to remain hidden. These lies come to a racing, unraveling and tumbling end, with heart pounding and all that! Is it an accident or is it murder? And what do all the lies have to do with Ian Cresswell? I won’t give anything away.  

“There was something behind those words that was unexpected, that sounded like anger, but more than anger. Tim thought in that instant that danger was anger with a d in front of it and maybe that’s where danger came from, born out of anger, and what people did when anger came upon them…”

“And people would believe him, of course. First, because people always believed what they wanted and needed to believe.”

“…secrets and silence caused this. Lies caused this…”

I was going through a bit of a Lynley overload though, as I discovered the Inspector Lynley series on DVD and was watching them nightly. I had to put that away while reading this because I think it was getting in the way and well, honestly, it was kind of too much Lynley. (and I was critiquing Havers for looking too sophisticated and wondering where Simon and Deborah St. James were?)

The book also gives us more on the lives of Lynley and Havers, and features the St. James quite a bit…and it’s all just oh so good.

At any rate, another solid, fast paced and great read by Ms. George. Of course it’s a 4 star for me.