The Botanist by MW Craven, Just Got Real by Jane Fallon, The Lawless Land by Boyd and Beth Morrison, Feel Good Food by Joe Wicks
Janet Gordon, who lives in Takeley, reviews bestsellers and early fiction for India…
The Botanist by MW Craven (Constable £14.99)
There’s a whole legion of fans who have been eagerly anticipating the release day of The Botanist, the fifth in the Washington Poe/Tilly Bradshaw series of superb crime novels.
And if you’ve never read it, where have you been? – I urge you to start at the beginning of the series and go from there. Yes, they’re self-contained, but you have to understand how the characters think and grow.
So let’s move on to the botanist. Poe is on watch for Spring-Heeled Jack’s case when he receives a text from Estelle Doyle who, in Poe’s eyes – and according to almost everyone – is the best medical examiner in the world. “Tell Washington Poe,” he reads and, upon checking, realizes that Doyle has been framed for the murder of his father, who was shot twice in the head and Doyle is left with bullet residue on his hands.
And, just like that, Poe and, of course, Tilly are on the case.
The murder of Doyle’s father is a locked-room mystery like no other and, coupled with a general poisoner dubbed The Botantist after an admittedly hated celebrity died on air while being interviewed, in makes an unforgettable and compulsive read.
Mike Craven, who is positively looking forward to showing up on social media and participating in conversations about his writing – much to the delight of his fans – has penned what is arguably his best Washington Poe read to date. . I galloped through it because I just couldn’t bear to stop reading. And when I finished it, I wanted to read it again.
Craven, the 2019 CWA Gold Dagger Award winner, deserves every accolade he receives. And if I was asked who would be my perfect dinner guests, I’d be torn between Mike Craven the author and Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw his characters.
Can I give these 10 stars?
Just Got Real by Jane Fallon (Penguin £14.99)
Jane Fallon is another of my favorite authors and, just in time for summer vacation, Just Got Real is her latest – and it’s a cracker.
Jane is cast as the queen of revenge comedy and, damn it, happily divorced Joni gets revenge. Persuaded to dip her toe in the waters of online dating, Joni is swayed by Ant’s attractive profile and arranges to meet him after spending a lot of time chatting online, but she can’t bring herself to explain that the profile picture she used was not of her.
But, after lifting him up, she then changes her mind and makes a concerted effort to pick him up upon meeting him at their favorite gym, trying very hard not to reveal the fact that she knows so much about him.
So far, so good, and they seem to be getting along like the proverbial house on fire. Ant promises he’s serious about her and has canceled his online dating profile. Unfortunately, Joni discovers the truth – which he hasn’t.
And so, one day, while he’s in the shower, she does something she swore she would never do – she checks her phone. And, OMG, what she discovers sets this novel up for an exciting, moving, and addictive read. Jane Fallon improves with each novel.
The Lawless Land by Boyd and Beth Morrison (Head of Zeus £18.99)
I have to raise my hand and say that I haven’t read this, but passed it on to The Man, who is an absolute story nut – but a very, very slow reader.
It’s a love story that grabs you from the start, taking place right after the Battle of Crécy (August 1346 for those like me who didn’t know) and shortly after the Great Mortality, aka the Great Plague. .
Gerard Fox appears to be the medieval equivalent of Jack Reacher in that he is a one-man party, highly skilled in both bow and sword (rather than using fists, like Reacher does).
On the road, he comes across a damsel in distress attacked by several armed men and, of course, he defeats them.
However, said damsel carries a precious religious document which she is determined to hide from the villains – the villains being an archbishop and an obnoxious nobleman who is supposed to marry her. When Fox finds her, it is the day before her wedding and she, along with her maid, have managed to escape.
For readers who are as steeped in medieval history as The Man, and for those who simply enjoy a good read, this is an authentic and informative novel as well as being an action-packed medieval romance.
The Man found him absolutely fascinating and he truly embodies the violence, the chivalry and, of course, the power of the elite of the time. He was totally blown away.
Feel Good Food by Joe Wicks (HQ £20)
We all worked with Joe Wicks during lockdown, right? And, of course, the immensely likeable Joe Wicks has pulled out cookbooks to aid him in his quest to help us eat well. “I’m so passionate about helping people eat well, live well, and feel good,” he says.
I managed to flip through its pages before my son Daniel, who is a real foodie, came along and grabbed it, saying as he walked out with, “I’m going to try the recipes, mum, and I’ll let you know. “
And so he has. The first recipe he cooked was spinach, peas and sage lasagna. The end result was “great” according to the grandchildren, but they felt it needed a little more seasoning than suggested.
Then they tried the baked ricotta and spinach stuffed shells which were just as tasty, but stuffing the shells was time consuming, they thought.
And finally they cooked the stew of smoked cod, tomatoes and peppers which they loved, but next time they will add chickpeas.
The smallest of the grandchildren gave it 8½ out of 10 and said everything was very clearly laid out – despite having used all the pans in the kitchen – and suggested a strawberry ricotta cheesecake for their next session.
I have no chance of getting that cookbook back, do I?