Best books of 2010 to 2019

In compiling this list, I had to go back to all my reading log lists – which I began in about 2006, and to date have over 1300 on my combined list. But in doing this, I discovered it was quite difficult to narrow things down to just a handful of ten or fifteen like Theresa did. In fact, there was one series that had one book a year from 2010 to 2019 that could have made up my entire list – but instead, it has comprised one entry as a series.

So, in no particular order:

The Matilda Saga (2010 – 2019)

The Matilda Saga began with A Waltz for Matilda in 2010 and ended this year with the ninth and final book, Clancy of the Overflow. It tells history from a different side – the voices often silenced based on race, gender, class or a combination of these, and other factors such as disability, and other experiences that are not always recorded in the history books. From 1894 to the 1980s, the series spans nearly one hundred years of changes in Australian society – from cars to Federation, to war and the social movements of the sixties and seventies. This is a series well-deserving of a place on this list.

Miss Lily series (2017-2019)

Miss Lily begins just before the outbreak of World War One and has taken us so far to the Wall Street crash of 1929, and the beginning of the Great Depression that would lead into Nazi Germany and another war that would see millions killed in concentration camps, and on the battlefield. With book four due out in 2020, this is a series I am watching keenly to see where it takes us and our beloved Sophie. The Miss Lily series also has three e-books set at Christmas, one of which I am yet to read.

Medoran Chronicles (2014-2019)

This has a place as a whole series because this is the series that got my blogging journey started seriously – when the publisher was looking for reviewers for the first book, Akarnae. I said I would, and from there, the blog grew, as did my love for the series, reviewing each subsequent book for Pantera Press over the years until the final one earlier this year, Vardaesia. From wonder to heartbreak, and everything in between, this series has it all, and the way certain aspects are executed are exceptional and done in a way that is heart-warming, heartbreaking, and very, very fitting for the characters.

Rowland Sinclair Mysteries (2010 – 2019)

Ahh, Rowly. I was introduced to Rowland Sinclair by the NSW Writer’s Centre when they were seeking reviewers with book two, and since then, have read the entire series and sent the reviews to Pantera Press. I am looking forward to reading more of these books as they come out. Poor Rowly has been through many beatings and been caught up in investigating many murders, attacks and with politics that are quite the opposite to his brother, Wilfred. Accompanied by sculptress, Edna, fellow artist, Clyde, and communist Jewish poet, Milton, Rowly travels the world and Australia during the turbulent 1930s as Europe hurtles towards yet another war, twenty years after the end of the war to end all wars.

Kensy and Max (2018-2019)

I have read all four available Kensy and Max books, and love them all. They’re fun, and engaging, and filled with danger, wonder, intrigue and friends. As spy kids, Kensy and Max – twins – are training with fellow students at Pharos, whilst trying to keep the kids who aren’t spies at school from discovering what they are up to, and travelling across the world on various missions. Form London to Sydney, Rome and Paris, it seems trouble will always find Kensy and Max – but they will always manage to find a way out of it and get back to their family.

2010

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Now by Morris Gleitzman

2011

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One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde

2012

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Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

2013

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The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth

2014

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The Sequin Star by Belinda Murrell

2015

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The Beast’s Garden by Kate Forsyth

2016

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms by Anita Heiss

2017

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Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth

2018

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Pippa’s Island: Cub Reporters by Belinda Murrell

2019

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488 Rules for Life by Kitty Flanagan

Again, many of these are Australian authors, some with multiple entries but their books just stayed with me and wouldn’t let me rest, for a variety of reasons. Of course, some appeared on my list for this year – as the books for the year, but these are the ones that made deep impacts on me, and the ones I can actually remember being published in these years – some I wanted to include I wasn’t sure but I loved them anyway and may need to write something about other books I have enjoyed at some point when things calm down. As for the ones with entries in both – these were ones that had such impact, it was difficult to choose which book from the series to include.

So rather than one per year, I probably now have closer to up to five for each year, and many are fairly heavy in what they deal with, but some are lighter, and filled with humour. It was very hard to decide – I wanted to include everything possible! Okay, 2016 has two entries – but for very different reasons. Upon reading the reviews you will see why. So there you have it. The books that made the biggest impressions on me for many, many reasons over the past ten years. Some authors get multiple mentions – because they wrote books that had many impacts on me and they created worlds I never want to leave, and worlds I will have to revisit.

 

Best Books of….2019

Readings and Musings on all things books, Aussie authors and everything in between

As the year comes to a close, many in the book blogging and reviewing community, and the book community in general – radio shows, podcasts, authors – have been posting and recording about this. And let me tell you, it is hard, and often, so many good ones are left off, and to me, ranking them is just mean because how can you rank books? Especially all those ones that stayed with you.

I had hoped 2019 might be easier to start with – not only do I have the list with me now, but for 2010-2019 I need to go back into other lists and hope I have those records. Or at least be able to work out what books I read that were published between those dates. 2019 seems to be the easiest place to start – as I have that list easily at hand for now. Out of 196 read so far, I found fourteen I loved – and the majority are by Australian women. Of course, these are in no particular order of favouritism, simply the order I read them throughout the year as that was easier to copy across.

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Vardaesia by Lynette Noni

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The French Photographer by Natasha Lester

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Kensy and Max: Undercover by Jacqueline Harvey

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 Women to the Front: The Extraordinary Australian Women Doctors of the Great War by Heather Sheard and Ruth Lee

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The Blue Rose by Kate Forsyth

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While You Were Reading by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus

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Kensy and Max: Out of Sight by Jacqueline Harvey

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There Was Still Love by Favel Parrett

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Rebel Women who Changed Australia by Susanna de Vries

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The Glimme by Emily Rodda

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Weapon by Lynette Noni

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Pages and Co #2: Tilly and the Lost Fairy Tales by Anna James

The Lily in the Snow

The Lily in the Snow by Jackie French

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Clancy of the Overflow by Jackie French

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All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill

Even though we still have two weeks left in December, I’m trying to get as many of these posts ready as possible – with my full wrap up posts appearing at the very end of the month or early in the new year, as well as the start of all my reading challenges in 2020 as well.

Choosing best of lists is always hard – there are often so many good books, but this year I went with the ones that stood out for me. Some that did were published earlier than 2019 and will possibly make it onto the 2010-2019 list – which of course, is bound to be longer and have entire series on there as I simply cannot choose only one from each year. It feels like a betrayal to a whole series to do that!

So there you are – for once I was able to choose fourteen favourites!

 

Venus and Aphrodite: History of a Goddess by Bettany Hughes

venus and aphroditeTitle: Venus and Aphrodite: History of a Goddess

Author: Bettany Hughes

Genre: Biography, History, Non-Fiction

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 12th November 2019

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 242

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: A vivid history of the ancient goddess Venus by the bestselling historian and broadcaster Bettany Hughes

Through ancient art, evocative myth, exciting archaeological revelations and philosophical explorations Bettany Hughes shows why this immortal goddess endures through to the twenty-first century, and what her journey through time reveals about what matters to us as humans.

Charting Venus’s origins in powerful ancient deities, Bettany demonstrates that Venus is far more complex than first meets the eye. Beginning in Cyprus, the goddess’s mythical birthplace, Bettany decodes Venus’s relationship to the Greek goddess Aphrodite, and, in turn, Aphrodite’s mixed-up origins both as a Cypriot spirit of fertility and procreation – but also, as a descendant of the prehistoric war goddesses of the Near and Middle East, Ishtar, Inanna and Astarte. On a voyage of discovery to reveal the truth behind Venus, Hughes reveals how this mythological figure is so much more than nudity, romance and sex. It is the both the remarkable story of one of antiquity’s most potent forces, and the story of human desire – how it transforms who we are and how we behave.

~*~

Many gods and goddesses from various religions and myth cycles from all over the ancient world have not only fascinated people throughout the decades and centuries, but often have many counterparts. Aphrodite and Venus are two such goddesses – the same goddess from two different societies, who have gone from Greek  to Roman origins, and have been found in other incarnations in other Near East or Middle Eastern ancient cultures where they have evolved and changed as the society has needed them in their pantheon of gods and goddesses in polytheistic religions that either pre-date or run concurrently with the monotheistic religions we associate with the modern equivalents of those places.

Bettany Hughes explores the Grecian and Roman sides of the same goddess – Aphrodite and Venus, and her role in art and the pantheon, and how she came to be in each tradition, and how this influenced arts, stories and other narratives and characters throughout history.

Venus-Aphrodite is a figure that is more than nudity, romance and sex. Like many gods and goddesses, she has many more roles and layers to her, and what she brings to mythology and the understanding of humanity and human emotion. This history adds to our understanding of a goddess who is often reduced to what she is known to represent and stand for in mythology, rather than the complexities behind what she does.

Rather than justify her actions throughout the various myth cycles, Bettany Hughes explores these as part of the history of Venus-Aphrodite and how she has been represented, and what this has meant in how she is viewed and builds on this with layers and complexities.

This is an intriguing book for anyone interested in antiquity, and especially women and their role in antiquity, which is only going to build on our understanding of women and their role in the ancient world. It will help bring to life these myths in a new and exciting way.

Book Bingo Twenty-Four – A Prize Winner and BINGO – A book by an author with the same initials

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Hello, and welcome to my third last book bingo for the year with Amanda and Theresa. After this one, I have to check off a book over 500 pages, and a book by an author with the same initials – the latter of which I think I have chosen. This week, I am marking off the prize winner square with two books and getting a BINGO for Row Five Down. Specific details of the awards can be found in the reviews and in associated links in the reviews.

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Somewhere around the cornerMy first prize winner book won the Children’s Book Council of Australia Honour Book, and this is Somewhere Around the Corner by Jackie French. Set during 1932 and the Great Depression in Sydney, it centres around a young girl called Barbara, who slips around a corner from 1994 to 1932 – and finds herself in the middle of a demonstration during the 1930s. Taken back to Poverty Gully by Young Jim, Barbara finds out what being part of a family is like, and what it means to stick together through good and bad times, such as the Depression. It is based on people Jackie knows and stories she has heard

My second prize winner won a Notable Book award from the Children’s Book Council of Australia. Alexander Altmann A10567 by Suzy Zail is another historical fiction story seen through the eyes of a child and based on true stories. Like Somewhere Around the Corner, Suzy’s novel explores a time of horror and darkness, and the unknown, though the eyes of a child, and the hope that that child has to survive and things to get better.

 

 

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Both of these books were inspired by real people, stories and events, and are deserving of their awards because they are told so simply, yet are so powerful, that the emotions in them will affect readers of all ages. A great two finds to tick off this category.

 

Rows Across:

Row One:

A book with a red cover: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim – #AWW2019
Beloved Classic: Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner – AWW2018
A novel that has more than 500 pages:
A novella no more than 150 pages: Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019
Prize winning book: Somewhere Around the Corner by Jackie French – #AWW2019, Alexander Altmann A10567 by Suzy Zail – #AWW2019

 

BINGO!

Row Five: BINGO

Prize winning book: Somewhere Around the Corner by Jackie French – #AWW2019, Alexander Altmann A10567 by Suzy Zail – #AWW2019
Book written by an Australian woman more than ten years ago: Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019 (2001)
Themes of fantasy: Vardaesia by Lynette Noni – AWW2019
Book set in an exotic location: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte – #AWW2019
Written by an author you’ve never read: The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble – #AWW2019
Comedy: Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills

 

In this post, I am also including a Book with the same initials as my name. This one was tricky, but I settled on The Book Ninja by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus. This fits, as their first names make up my initials, and this was one that I was able to twist to suit my needs, as it wasn’t easy to find a book that I hadn’t read before or could easily access to fit here. What I loved about this book was its celebration of books and bookstores, and the love of literature that so many people enjoy, but that is often shown as a nerdy exploit rather than something to be treasured.

Row Two: BINGO

 

A book by an author with the same initials as you: The Book Ninja by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus – #AWW2019

Non-Fiction book about an event: The Suicide Bride by Tanya Bretherton – #AWW2019

Fictional biography about a woman from history: Fled by Meg Keneally – #AWW2019

Memoir about a non-famous person: Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams

Book written by an Australian woman more than 10 years ago: Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019 (2001)

 

Rows Down:

 

Row One:  – BINGO

 

A book with a red cover: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim – #AWW2019

Book by an author with the same initials as you: The Book Ninja by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus – #AWW2019,

Themes of science fiction: Daughter of Bad Times by Rohan Wilson

Book with a place in the title: The French Photographer by Natasha Lester -AWW2019

Written by an Australian man: The Honeyman and the Hunter by Neil Grant

Literary: Zebra and Other Stories by Debra Adelaide – AWW2019

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A Game of Birds and Wolves: The Secret Game that Won the War by Simon Parkin

birds and wolves.jpgTitle: A Game of Birds and Wolves: The Secret Game that Won the War

Author: Simon Parkin

Genre: Non-fiction, Biography

Publisher: Hachette Australia/Sceptre

Published: 12th November 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 310

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: Find out what is happening in the Atlantic, find ways of getting the convoys through, and sink the U-boats!’ Prime Minster, Winston Churchill

  1. The Battle of the Atlantic is a disaster. Thousands of supply ships ferrying vital food and fuel from North America to Britain are being torpedoed by German U-boats.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill is lying to the country about the number of British ships sunk. He is lying about the number of British men killed. And worst of all, unless something changes, he knows that Britain is weeks away from being starved into surrender to the Nazis.

This is the story of the game of battleships that won the Second World War. In the first week of 1942 a group of unlikely heroes – a retired naval captain and a clutch of brilliant young women, the youngest only seventeen-years-old – gather to form a secret strategy unit. On the top floor of a bomb-bruised HQ in Liverpool, the Western Approaches Tactical Unit spends days and nights designing and playing wargames in an effort to crack the U-boat tactics.

A GAME OF BIRDS AND WOLVES takes us from the sweltering fug of a U-boat as the German aces coordinate their wolfpack, to the tense atmosphere of the operation room as the British team plot battles at sea on the map.

The story of Operation Raspberry and its unsung heroines has never been told before. Investigative journalist Simon Parkin brings these hidden figures into the light and shows the ingenuity, perseverance and love needed to defeat the Nazis in this gripping tale of war at sea.

~*~

In 1941, the Battle of the Atlantic is raging between Britain and Germany, months before Pearl Harbour is bombed and the Americans finally enter the war. Following the sinking of a ship taking evacuees to America for safety, where only thirty-three of all the children aboard survived, Churchill decides it is time to take more action. With each sunken ship, Britain is receiving fewer supplies to keep the country going. In 1942, a retired naval captain and a group of Wrens begin to plot a strategy to defeat the U-Boats, using maps and small ships to build a game to plan warfare – a game that would come to be known as Battleship. Parkin weaves between this and what was happening with Germany, and peppers it with personal stories of what happened, and in the events leading up to the creation of the game, showing just how close things came to ending up a different way, and how a simple game of secrecy became one of the biggest and most significant strategies in the war that would end in 1945 with the defeat of Germany.

Had Operation Raspberry not gone ahead and had these people whose stories have never been told not risked their lives to plot the naval battles of the Atlantic, World War Two might have had a very different outcome for many people in Europe and indeed, the rest of the world. This is another story from the war that has previously been untold and was shrouded in secrecy until Simon Parkin discovered it. It is an important story, because it adds to the historical record of how the trajectory of World War Two was changed, and ultimately, changed the outcome of the war.

Knowing these stories adds to our understanding of the war – some facts may have been known – the general facts, the basics, but not the intricacies of how the game came about, who was involved and what they spent their days doing, as well as the dangers they faced even just planning and executing the game, which led to safety measures being put in place after a few incidents.

Like other aspects and figures in history who have long been hidden, silenced or ignored for one reason or another, including issues around secrecy like this war game, these stories coming to light expands on what we already know, and gives us a new understanding for what happened and how it happened, and what it took to get there. With carefully researched books like this, these stories are told in engaging and intriguing ways, and should perhaps become recommended reading for students of history, especially when studying this area of history, so they can gain a better understanding beyond what we already know.

An intriguing read for anyone studying or interested in history.

Clancy of the Overflow by Jackie French (Matilda Saga #9)

clancy of the overflow.jpgTitle: Clancy of the Overflow (Matilda Saga #9)

Author: Jackie French

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: HarperCollins Australia

Published: 21st October 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 448

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: From Australia’s best-loved storyteller comes the final book in the bestselling Matilda Saga

This is a love song to our nation, told in a single sweeping story

Jed Kelly has finally persuaded her great aunt Nancy to tell the story of her grandparents. The tale that unfolds is one of Australia’s greatest romances – that of Clancy of the Overflow, who gave up everything for Rose, the woman he adored, and yet still gained all he’d lost and more.

But Nancy’s story is not the history that Jed expects. More tales lurk behind the folklore that surrounds Clancy – the stories of the women hidden in Australia’s long history, who forged a nation and whose voices need to be heard.

It is also a story of many kinds of love. Clancy’s growing passion for the bush, immortalised in Paterson’s poem, which speaks to him in the ripple of the river and the song of the stars, and Nancy’s need to pass on her deep understanding of her country.

But perhaps the most moving love story of all is the one that never happened, between Matilda O’Halloran and Clancy of the Overflow. And as Jed brings all of these stories to life in her book, Matilda and Clancy will once again waltz beside the river and the forgotten will be given a new voice.

~*~

After nine books, The Matilda Saga is coming to a close – after almost one hundred years of retelling history, of telling the stories of women and their role throughout Australian history. These are the stories that are untold – from pre-Federation to the late twentieth century, and women from all walks of life  – whether it be race, disability, age or economic situation, and everything in between. From Matilda to Flinty, Blue and Nancy, Jed, Fish, Scarlett, and all the people of Gibber’s Creek – the family comes together – blood and chosen – as Nancy tells Jed the story of her grandparents – Clancy and Rose.

But Clancy and Rose’s story is not simple, and they face many obstacles. The tales Nancy has to offer are horrific and complex, filled with conflicting ideas and feelings as love – for family, for country, for the bush and friends . These stories have come to life through Jackie’s words and characters, and have, through fictional characters based on poems, real events and indeed, real people at times, reinvigorated Australian history and brought through new voices that were once silenced, and now, have the chance to speak.

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I have been following The Matilda Saga since the beginning – from the early days of Matilda O’Halloren living in a city slum in 1894, seven years before Federation, through to World War One, the interwar period, World War Two, Vietnam, the moon landing and in between, crises amidst the families – injuries, internments, and working towards goals that a character may have been told are insurmountable for them.

More than anything, this encapsulates a lot of what is missing from the official historical record, whilst at the same time, drawing on it, and marrying it with the untold stories we all need to know. And drawing on Jackie’s own experience of the sixties and seventies, and family stories, makes it all the richer.

Throughout each book, the words simply dance off the page, and sing their love song, based on the words of poets like Banjo Paterson, and Dorothea Mackellar, and many other poets, as well as the oral traditions and stories. It brings together a century of stories, of women and what they experienced, expressed through nine books, and unites Clancy of the Overflow and Matilda in a waltz by their billabong, as life goes on around them and their families are happy.

I have loved this series for ten years, since I first picked up A Waltz for Matilda, and coming to the end is bittersweet. It had to end somewhere, and it was given the ending it needed and deserved. Yet I am going to miss these characters, but can revisit them anytime, simply by re-reading the books, which I plan to do, in order, one after the other, to get the full story in a new way, and with a new understanding of all of the events and characters. A wonderful series.

The Case of the Wandering Scholar (Laetitia Rodd #2) by Kate Saunders

wandering scholar.jpgTitle: The Case of the Wandering Scholar

Author: Kate Saunders

Genre: Historical Fiction, Crime/Mystery

Publisher: Bloomsbury Australia

Published: 1st October 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 384

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: It is 1851 and Mrs Rodd has received an unusual commission: wealthy businessman Jacob Welland is dying of consumption and implores our redoubtable detective to find his beloved brother, whom he has not seen for fifteen years.

Joshua Welland was an Oxford scholar; brilliant, eccentric and desperately poor. Nobody can say exactly when he disappeared from his college, but he had taken to wandering the countryside and one day simply failed to return. Since then, there have been several sightings of his lonely, ragged figure. Ten years ago a friend spotted him in a gypsy camp, where it was rumoured he was learning great secrets that would one day astound the world.

Mrs Rodd uses her search as an opportunity to reconnect with a couple from her past, but then a violent murder is committed and Scotland Yard are called to investigate. Mrs Rodd’s old friend Inspector Blackbeard doesn’t want to hear any nonsense about gypsies or secrets. Mrs Rodd, however, is convinced that something very sinister is lurking in this peaceful landscape.

~*~

Following a current trend in crime fiction, where the setting shifts to the nineteenth century, or a situation where the investigator or investigators don’t have access to the technology our favourite crime fighters in many television shows like Criminal Minds and NCIS have. And this is where the Laetitia Rodd series is interesting. Set in the 1850s, Mrs Rodd is a private investigator – with a friend in the police force – Mr Blackbeard – who seems torn between wonder at what she can achieve, and between maintaining the societal norms and gender norms of the day.

In her second outing, Mrs Rodd is called upon to help find a missing scholar, Joshua Welland, who has been spotted after ten years, hiding in a gypsy camp. During her search, Mrs Rodd reconnects with a couple from her past – Arthur and Rachel Somers until an horrific death tears the couple apart – and Mrs Rodd’s mystery deepens.

Because this is set in 1851, it takes much longer to uncover evidence, to gather information and determine who the right killer is. Without the convenience of instant contact, phones, and tracking systems, Mrs Rodd and her friends must rely on slower communication, and other ways of gathering information to uncover the truth behind Welland’s disappearance, and the murders.

In a way, this is quite delightful, as it allows the characters to develop along with the crime, and the secrets are easier in a way to keep and hide, and this makes the outcome satisfying. All investigators work hard for their cases and have their challenges. Private investigators face the challenge of not having access to resources that the police do, so they have to get creative.

Mrs Rodd is a very creative and clever private detective, using the skills and tools she has at hand as a woman in the 1850s to solve not only the murder case, but find out about Joshua Welland – his secrets and where he has been. Much like the first book, which came out three years ago, I very much enjoyed this one. She sits comfortably amongst all the other private detectives – Rowland Sinclair, Phryne Fisher, Sherlock Holmes and many others – to breathe new life into the crime genre and give it a new set of characters and a new way of looking at private investigators. Some are reluctant, some are keen, and some grow into it. This was a delightful addition to the series, and I hope there are many more to come.