book reviews , different studio guests each week. Join us every Thursday between 12 and 1pm on Radio Scilly 107.9fm or log on to

Missed any programmes? See below for list of guests, books and other details discussed.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Dan Smith - the Child Thief

Book review by showhost august 2015
This book really immersed me, a powerful thriller but it leaves me with a problem - what do I read now!
Back to Ukraine in 1930, back to the harsh times. Luka was a war veteran but now lives a quiet life with his family, in a very small village, eeking an existence from farming.  So far they have not been ransacked by Russian soldiers, but this potential is a daily fear they live with. 
Their lives are changed for ever when a stranger arrives pulling a sledge. The stranger is near death with cold, hunger and exhaustion. But what lies under the tarp on the sledge sickens them.   The villagers turn into an angry mob demanding justice. But in their fervour they don't notice the disappearance of a little girl.  Luka joins the hunt for the little girl, along with his sons and the girls father his brother in law.  They track him across frozen lands, filled with danger whilst trying to avoid the added threat of Russian soldiers. But this man, this child thief, is a very skilled hunter and marksman and uses his captive as bait. Luka can't give up as he has promised his own 8yr old daughter he will not come back without her cousin, her best friend.
 It isn't like early James Patterson or Simon Kernick, rip roaringly fast tension & action but more atmospherically tense, with the scene of the Ukraine tundra described so well you could see the snow and feel the cold.  I found myself skimming one paragraph just to make sure he wasn't shot (oh no don't get shot, don't go in that room!) then I went back and read it slowly savouring the moment.  This is an exciting, cat and mouse thriller, one I definitely recommend as a very good read.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Billie Letts - Shoot The Moon

Review written by Ro Bennett & read live on the bookshow august 2015
I love Billie Letts books. This is the third one I have read and I previously reviewed The Honk and Holler Opening Soon and Where the Heart is. I have enjoyed them all tremendously. They are full of suspense but they are also heart-warming, feel good books which I like. 

This is the synopsis:
In 1972 DeClare, Oklahoma, eighteen-year-old Gaylene Harjo was stabbed to death in her trailer and her month old son Nicky Jack disappeared. The only trace of him were the pajama bottoms near the creek. The sheriff O Boy Daniels arrested someone for the murder of Gaylene and her son but many people thought he went after the wrong man, who died in prison. 

Almost thirty years later wealthy Hollywood veterinarian Dr. Mark Albright checks into the motel in DeClare. Three weeks earlier he had discovered that he was adopted and his birth mother was Gaylene. He did not know that she was killed and that he was presumed dead. He seeks information about his mother, his biological father and who transported him to California to be adopted. Instead he is shot at and jailed while a person is murdered, another commits suicide, and a third arrested, convicted and is sentenced to death row - but is this a miscarriage of justice - is he innocent? 

Shoot The Moon is more than a murder mystery; it is the story of one man's need for answers surrounding the circumstances of his birth and adoption. Readers get to know Gaylene through the pages of her diary.  The murder of Nicky Jack's mother affected the whole community in different ways and three decades later, many of them are still living with the consequences. 

This is an excellent book - the characters are well portrayed - I loved the goodies and disliked the baddies. As I read,  I simmered and seethed at injustices and corruption and felt relief and dismay and dread. I really got caught up in the plot and its outcome. I thoroughly recommend the book. 

Paul Sussman - The Lost Army of Cambyses

Review written by Ro Bennett & read live on the bookshow august 2015

I listened to this audio book on the free library service, One Click Digital Audio. The narrator is excellent. 

I have enjoyed both the Paul Sussman books I have read or listened to. The Lost Army of Cambyses is the first in the series, but I started with The Labyrinth of Osiris. He wrote another four books before he died in 2012 aged 46 of a ruptured aneurism, leaving a wife and two sons. His novels have been translated into 33 languages and are set mainly in Egypt where he worked for many years as a field archaeologist in the Valley of the Kings.
Among other finds, he unearthed the only items of pharaonic jewellery to have been excavated in the Valley since the discovery of Tutankhamun. 

In his ‘About the Author” biography page he wrote:  For as long as I can remember, the two great loves of my life have been writing and archaeology (three if you include travelling in out of the way places, especially deserts). For many years I worked as a field archaeologist in Egypt, notably in Luxor and the Valley of the Kings, and all my novels to a greater or lesser extent draw on my experiences excavating and living in Egypt and the Middle East. My main protagonist, Inspector Yusuf Khalifa of the Luxor Police, is a composite of a number of people I know, and while his colourful adventures are products purely of my imagination, the world he inhabits is very much a real one. Through Khalifa I try to explore issues such as terrorism, contemporary Middle East politics, religion and government corruption, all against a backdrop of the extraordinary history and archaeological heritage of that part of the world. 

This book was written in 2006 but is still very relevant today. It’s informative as well as entertaining and would make a great block buster movie. 
Paul Sussman’s love of the region and archaeology come across vividly. 

This is the synopsis: 
In 523 BC, the Persian emperor Cambyses dispatched an army across Egypt's western desert to destroy the oracle of Amun at Siwa. Legend has it that somewhere in the middle of the Great Sand Sea his army was overwhelmed by a sandstorm and destroyed. Fifty thousand men were lost.

Two and a half thousand years later a mutilated corpse is washed up on the banks of the Nile at Luxor, an antiques dealer is savagely murdered in Cairo, and an eminent British archaeologist is found dead at the ancient necropolis of Saqqara.

At first the incidents appear unconnected. Inspector Yusuf Khalifa of the Luxor police is suspicious, however. And so too is the archaeologist's daughter, Tara Mullray. As each seeks to uncover the truth, they find themselves thrown together in a desperate race for survival - one that forces them to confront not only present-day adversaries but also ghosts from their own pasts.

From a mysterious fragment of ancient hieroglyphic text to rumours of a fabulous lost tomb in the Theban Hills, from the shimmering waters of the Nile to the dusty backstreets of Cairo, Khalifa and Mullray are drawn ever deeper into a labyrinth of violence, intrigue and betrayal. It is a path that will eventually lead them into the forbidding, barren heart of the western desert, and the answer to one of the greatest mysteries of the ancient world . . .

This was an excellent début novel - full of suspense and twists and turns and the unexpected. It’s been described as “an adrenaline-packed thriller and a wonderfully evocative archaeological adventure.” It was sometimes a bit gory for my taste, but I would heartily recommend it.

Stef Penney - The Tenderness of Wolves

reviewed written by Sue Major & read live on bookshow august 2015
“Set in Canada in 1867 on the edge of a vast landscape of ice and snow where a woman steels herself for a journey. “
This is a debut novel, a complicated book that takes a while to get into. Its main character is Mrs Ross, a Scottish pioneer who discovers the body of a murdered French trapper. Over the next few days we learn that this is not the first death or accident in this settlement....nor, after the disappearance of Mrs Ross' son, is it the first disappearance.  She is desperate to find him and enlists Parker, a tracker , to help her. Though they are joined by others it is the developing relationship between Mrs Ross and Parker which is most central to the story, and between them several mysteries are solved.

I really liked this story, and I like the way Stef Penney writes. It's a Costa winner , which I think is well deserved.

Henry Marsh - Do No Harm

reviewed written by Sue Major & read live on bookshow august 2015

Do No Harm offers an unforgettable insight into the highs and lows of a life dedicated to operating on the brain. With astonishing candour and compassion , Henry Marsh reveals the drama of surgery , the chaos of a busy modern hospital and the need for hope when faced with life's difficult decisions.

Henry Marsh is a senior neurosurgeon at St.George's Hospital in London and this memoir offers glimpses into his stressful career. Each chapter begins with a real-life case study, and he carefully explains the background, diagnosis and procedures carried out in order to treat each condition. Though this is fascinating, the magic of the book lies in the insight one has into the character of Henry Marsh. He is a humble man, who is super-skilled at manipulating the tools of micro-surgery, but he likens each day to a battle....and though he does his best to be the winner, he accepts that he is fallible. He is disarmingly honest regarding his own failings when faced with the complexities of brain surgery, and he shows the importance of dispassionate observation combined with compassion. Overall, his belief is that surgeons should always do the right thing for the patient, even if that means doing very little surgery.

I found this memoir to be compelling reading. It isn't easy reading at all, but I'm so glad I persevered beyond the surgical detail to find Henry Marsh, the man.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Jaimie Ford - Book Review Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

review written by Maggie Perkovic and read live on the bookshow 20th Aug 2015.
This is the story of
Henry Lee, son of two Chinese refugees who now live in Seattle. He himself is American
Winning a Scholarship to a prestigious school in Seattle has made his parents proud, but his
days are unhappy there and he is bullied for being Chinese and has to help serve the dinners and
clear up after school. One day a young girl comes to join him, she is Japanese and after Pearl
Harbour all Asians are counted as "the enemy" but Henry and Keiko become firm friends.
His father also hates the Japanese as he was orphaned when the Japs invaded his country,
but despite this Henry and Keiko and her family get on very well together. Sadly all Japanese
families are interned and Henry loses touch with his friend and wonders if he will ever see
her again. The years during the war and then long after, show how his life has continued,his
only son and he are not very close, his wife dies of cancer but as the story starts, The Panama
Hotel is to be re opened and there in its lower apartments are all the belongings of the Internees.
Henry wonders if he can find some memories of his friend and a clue as to where the family
finally went. A time in history which not many people think of but very well written and quite
a page turner I found. The author is of Chinese descent so the history is very authentic and
well documented. Highly recomended. Maggie Perkovic.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Antonia Hodgson – The Devil in the Marshalsea.

review written and read by showhost august 2015
This was a really interesting kind of who dunnit book set in the debtors prison in London in 1727.  It is indeed  historical fiction with intrigue, suspense and mystery.
Tom Hawkins is a young gentleman rogue who loves to gamble, drink and womanise In London much to his fathers intense anger.  His father is a pastor in the countryside and hoped that Tom would follow him and take his place in the church.
The Marshalsea was a prison for debtors, hell on earth.  there was a small town inside the prison, where money could make your stay more comfortable and buy you food, drink and women plus a better room to stay in.  So those with benefactors were better off than those who were penniless.  There was the Masters side or the common side, where bodies were left to rot, prisoners left to starve to death.  Money could buy you life.  Everyone was corrupt from the warden to the turnkeys.
Gambling gets Tom thrown into the prison but on the masters side thanks to his friend who paid for creature comforts for him.  Tom was put in a room with the notorious and disliked ‘Fleet’ who, it was said, murdered his previous cell mate Cpt.Roberts.  Tom is asked to discover who really did murder Cpt Roberts, and finds himself beaten and tortured and thrown into the common side & chained to the body of a corpse.   Corpses were left to rot until the families could pay for

their release.  No-one can be trusted in Marshalsea as everybody is fighting for their lives.
A lot of the characters in this book were inspired by real characters and the story from real events.  Some of the characters were mentioned but not quite drawn out (like Mack for instance his name was mentioned but I couldn’t remember who or what he was.  Was he relevant or did the author just want to slip the name in because he was a real character?)‘Many of the details of the prison come from John Grano’s diary’.  I can recommend this book to people who like a well written, good historical mystery.  The only thing that could have made it even better would have been an illustration of what they were wearing in that era.  I found myself looking it up on google just to help set the scene.  There is a sequel to this book ‘The Last Confessions of Thomas Hawkins’ , I will def read.