Book reviews: The Skeleton Key by Erin Kelly Hodder & Stoughton, Memoir: Taste by Stanley Tucci, Black Lake Manor by Guy Morpuss and The Emerald Spy by Nicola Cassidy
Thriller: The Skeleton Key by Erin Kelly Hodder & Stoughton, 504 pages, hardcover €17.99; e-book €6.99
Nell Churcher is a successful glass sculptor trying to live off the grid on English canals in a narrowboat. But now she has reluctantly returned to her childhood home next to London’s Hampstead Heath because her famous father, Sir Frank Churcher, has planned a special celebration.
Fifty years ago, as a penniless hippie artist, Frank wrote the golden bones, a part-picture-book, part-treasure-hunt fairy tale about Elinore, a murdered woman whose bones have been strewn across England. Clues and puzzles throughout the pages of the lavishly illustrated book lead readers to seven sites where gold coins and jewelry from a woman’s skeleton were buried.
One by one the golden bones had been dug up, until only one, the dead woman’s pelvis, remained unclaimed. The book caused a stir and earned Frank and his collaborator a fortune.
A community of treasure hunters called the Bonehunters formed and over the years they grew more and more frantic. Some targeted and attacked Nell because they thought she possessed the Golden Pool. Now his father was going to reveal the location of the final piece.
Inspired by the editorial sensation of 1979 Masqueradea lavishly illustrated fable by artist Kit Williams who sent thousands of treasure hunters to unearth swathes of the English countryside, Erin Kelly’s take on the story is a delight, especially the descriptions of the eccentric family and totally dysfunctional Nell.
Memory: Taste of Stanley Tucci
Figuier, 320 pages, paperback €11.99; e-book €5.99
He may be best known as one of the finest actors of his generation, but Stanley Tucci is also a foodie. He’s already released a pair of popular cookbooks and now this memoir traces a true obsession with food.
There are tales of his childhood growing up in a food-obsessed Italian-American family, and anecdotes about the important role cooking played in his acting career, including in Julia and Juliathe film he made about the great American food writer Julia Child.
An irreverent and witty book, it offers a snapshot of the man himself, and he writes so well about food that it’s best not read on an empty stomach.
Video of the day
Thriller: Black Lake Manor by Guy Morpuss
Viper, 400 pages, hardcover €18.75; e-book €5.69
Marine biologist and part-time police officer Ella Manning attends a glitzy product launch on the island near Vancouver of billionaire tech genius Lincoln Shan, her former fiancé.
A violent storm cuts off all communication with the mainland, so when Lincoln is found murdered in his locked office, guests ask him to solve the crime. But when she’s sure she’s identified the killer, time runs out and she has to start all over again.
Partially set in the early 1800s, but mostly in a high-tech 2045, is it a historical thriller or science fiction? It doesn’t really matter, because at its heart is an intriguing take on an Agatha Christie-like locked room mystery.
Fiction: The Emerald Spy by Nicola Cassidy
Poolbeg, 450 pages, paperback €15.99; e-book €3.99
In the summer of 1939, just before the outbreak of World War II, a group of Jewish refugees were housed at Termonfeckin, Co Louth. This historical fact intrigued author Nicola Cassidy, and she told a slow and intriguing spy story around the experiences of classical musician Gisella Müller and streetcar conductor Hans Schmitt as they attempt to settle in the Newtown House farm near Drogheda, home to generous English-born Laila de Freyne and her dangerously flighty and rebellious 17-year-old daughter, Nola.
Both Gisella and Hans struggle to come to terms with the huge upheaval and loss of loved ones in their new lives, and when a German secret agent lands nearby, the local IRA squad threatens everyone’s safety. .