The Lost Future of Pepperharrow by Natasha Pulley

pepperharrowTitle: The Lost Future of Pepperharrow

Author: Natasha Pulley

Genre: Magical Realism, Historical Fiction, Gothic Fiction

Publisher: Bloomsbury Circus

Published: 17th March 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 512

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Step back into the enchanting world of The Watchmaker of Filigree Street. This extraordinary sequel takes readers to Japan, where time, destiny and love collide to electrifying effect

‘A Japan that never was, a future lost, ghosts that are not dead, random numbers, clairvoyant samurai … not even a partial list of ingredients can do justice to this wonderful cake of a book. A lovely blending of steam punk ether science, Japanese historical figures, and a time-defying thriller’ ROBIN HOBB

For Thaniel Steepleton, an unexpected posting to Tokyo can’t come at a better moment. The London fog has made him ill and doctor’s orders are to get out.

His brief is strange: the staff at the British Legation have been seeing ghosts, and his first task is to find out what’s going on. But staying with his closest friend Keita Mori in Yokohama, Thaniel starts to experience ghostly happenings himself. For reasons he won’t say, Mori is frightened. Then he vanishes.

Meanwhile, something strange is happening in a frozen labour camp in northern Japan. Takiko Pepperharrow, an old friend of Mori’s, must investigate.

As ghosts appear across Tokyo and the weather turns bizarrely electrical, Thaniel grows convinced that it all has something to do with Mori’s disappearance – and that Mori might be in far more trouble than any of them first thought.


In 2015, readers were introduced to Natasha Pulley, Mori and Thaniel Steepleton in The Watchmaker of Filigree Street. Five years later, they’re returning in the Lost Future of Pepperharrow which sees Thaniel and Mori headed to Japan with their daughter, Six, as they seek to improve Thaniel’s health during a new posting for the British Legation in Tokyo to investigate ghosts, and strange goings on at a labour camp that bring them into contact with someone from Mori’s past – Takiko Pepperharrow.

The story moves between the past – up to ten years – particularly when dealing with Takiko, and 1888/1889 – the present in the novel, and how Mori and Thaniel navigate the mysteries and ghosts of Tokyo. In doing so, Thaniel finds himself falling into an unknown world, and when Mori disappears, and nobody knows where he is nor if he is still alive. It is an intricate plot that moves back and forth over a decade in Tokyo and Japan, highlighting issues of religion, the place of foreigners in Japan and the role of ghosts and clockwork as a common thread across both books. Denser than the first book, The Lost Future of Pepperharrow continues the story in surprising and eloquent ways.

Some aspects are most definitely historical – the Japanese Education Minister, Arinori Mori’s assassination and at least one of the prisons, whilst the rest might be based on history but has become a fantastical thing of its own, and borrows from history in order to create the world these characters populate and live in. The story is complex, immense and exceptionally told with rich detail where needed, and is immersive for time and place – making each aspect feel as though you were really there in the book with Thaniel – both when he was with Mori and whilst he was searching for him through Japan.

Each setting evoked a sense of being there – from the foggy streets of London, to the ships that sail across oceans and all the sights, sounds and sensations of Tokyo – both confronting and intriguing as seen through the eyes of Thaniel and his uncertainty as he investigates the ghosts, come together to create a story filled with so many different elements, some seem so small, it can be hard to define them easily, and with hints of magical realism, this is not a straight-forward historical fiction. It is much more layered and multi-faceted than that. It has so many layers that there were times I re-read a section – just to see if I had picked everything up, only to discover that some things had merely been hinted at in a very clever way that made sense towards the end. It maintained the balance of revealing things in the right place, and dropping little hints, and also, maintained the balance of good description and storytelling – neither was overdone. For each of these aspects – all books are going to be different in what they do and why – and when these elements as well as character, plot and setting combine, they create a story like this one that is clever and unique.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and hope that fans of Natasha’s first two books will as well.

Silver by Chris Hammer

Silver.jpgTitle: Silver

Author: Chris Hammer

Genre: Crime

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 1st October 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 576

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: Martin Scarsden returns in the sequel to the bestselling Scrublands.

For half a lifetime, journalist Martin Scarsden has run from his past. But now there is no escaping.

He’d vowed never to return to his hometown, Port Silver, and its traumatic memories. But now his new partner, Mandy Blonde, has inherited an old house in the seaside town and Martin knows their chance of a new life together won’t come again.

Martin arrives to find his best friend from school days has been brutally murdered, and Mandy is the chief suspect. With the police curiously reluctant to pursue other suspects, Martin goes searching for the killer. And finds the past waiting for him.

He’s making little progress when a terrible new crime starts to reveal the truth. The media descend on Port Silver, attracted by a story that has it all: sex, drugs, celebrity and religion. Once again, Martin finds himself in the front line of reporting.

Yet the demands of deadlines and his desire to clear Mandy are not enough: the past is ever present.

An enthralling and propulsive thriller from the acclaimed and bestselling author of Scrublands.


I read Chris Hammer’s first book when it came out last year, and what was interesting about it was that it was more about why the crime happened, rather than the who or how. In the sequel, Silver, the focus is on clearing a single person – Mandalay Blonde – who is Martin’s girlfriend. When Martin arrives back in Port Silver, he is confronted with the murder of an old friend, Jasper Speight, and Mandalay’s supposed guilt. The set-up is promising, no doubt, because a death in Martin’s hometown has the potential to be intricate and, in some ways, it was There were many engaging sections, and at the same time, many that felt like they meandered too much.

I did enjoy it when the crimes were discussed and mixed into the recipe – for me, these were the most interesting parts. I wanted a resolution to the accusations against Mandalay – and we got one, of course – there always has to be, I just wish the baking journey had spent a little more time on the crime rather than just exploring the personal side – both of these can be done equally and I think, in far fewer pages than 580.

At the same time, Martin must confront his past and the people from it – which is done very heavily, and in a very meandering way – I felt this took away from the main murder, and also, from some of the more interesting aspects of the novel even though it seemed to have some baring on what happened, it felt abrupt when it appeared and it wasn’t always clear when we were flashing back into the past. Whilst intriguing and necessary, I had hoped some of these flashbacks were clearer, and it all led to something that I thought came quite out of the blue. Though it gave the characters and story something interesting to do, and explained some of the things earlier on, it came on all too quickly and maybe could have been dealt with earlier and without dropping vague hints – this was one of the aspects I didn’t enjoy as much as I thought I should have. The family tragedy and drama is very interesting – and would have been more interesting if some things didn’t feel as though they faded into the distance – without knowing something strange was simmering and cooking away, the Big Reveal felt a bit abrupt.

The one plotline I had hoped would have more meat and intrigue to it was about the cult storyline appears properly more than halfway through and bubbles away until the real crime that occurs there and is loosely linked to the original crime smashes into being in an abrupt way. Cult stories today are much of a muchness. But a cult were crimes might actually happen is an intriguing idea. This had the potential to be really well executed.  Something seems to have interfered somewhere in the process, however, because we ended up with something not as satisfying, and that felt rushed. Perhaps if the preparation had been slower and more detailed, this part of the plot may have had a better outcome. Whilst a lot of the book has worked, it appeared parts of it were rushed and the speed at which it was concluded left me feeling disappointed that this didn’t get as much attention. Then adding a new idea close to the end, without enough setting up left me a bit lost, because that also would have been interesting to tease out a bit more. New ideas should be teased out and added far earlier. In some ways, this did make sense, but in others, I feel like suggesting these things earlier could have made for a better story. Overall, there were many elements I liked, but these faded into the background.

There are elements that work here – many that do, and some that don’t. Whilst the ending was satisfying in some ways, in others it didn’t, but I hope this book works for the fans and others who enjoy this kind of thing. It did have promise, and I do think had some meandering parts been sacrificed to focus on crimes, or at least, some things that happened more than once been tightened a little, this would have worked much better for me. I do hope there are people out there who will like this novel, but in this instance, this just didn’t work for me the way I had hoped it would.

Blog Tour: The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion

house of second chances.jpgTitle: Blog Tour: The House of Second Chances

Author: Esther Campion

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 12th February 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 392

Price: $29.99

Synopsis:  Can a house heal heartache? From coastal Australia to the rugged beauty of Ireland, an enchanting novel of starting over, in the tradition of Maeve Binchy and Monica McInerney

Their grandmother’s stone cottage was always a welcome retreat in the childhood summers of Ellen and Aidan O’SheaAfter a trip home from Australia, Ellen is keen to bring the neglected property back to its former glory and enlists the help of her dear friend and one of Ireland’s top interior designers, Colette Barry.

Aidan is already begrudging the work on the house he has avoided for nearly twenty years. The last thing the builder needs is an interior designer who seems to do nothing but complicate his life. With their own personal heartaches to overcome, will Aidan and Colette find the courage to give the house and themselves a second chance?


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The House of Second Chances is the sequel to Leaving Ocean Road – which I didn’t realise at first, even though I have read the first one. It did all fall into place after the first few chapters, when familiar characters and settings appeared on the page, and links back to the first book were made. This story flicks back and forth between Ireland, and coastal South Australia with the characters, as they are reunited with each other, and as Aidan and Ellen work to restore the cottage with the help of Ellen’s friend, Collette Barry.

Intertwined are the lives of various family and friends in Australia and Ireland, such as Louise, Ellen and Gerry’s daughter, and the young daughter of a friend of Aidan’s. When something tragic happens, forces on both continents will work together to solve a mystery.

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There are a few families at the centre of this novel. Ellen and Aidan O’Shea, Ellen and Gerry, and Ellen and Louise. Fern and her husband, who work for Aidan, and their family, Jane, the mother of a young girl and Aidan’s friend and many others whose lives all intertwine in the small towns in Ireland and Australia, which makes this a story more about families than romance for me, though there are romances that do happen, the majority of couples in this book are already together in relationships or marriages at the start of the novel. For me, I think this straddles the in between area of a romance-only based novel and one that allows other characters and relationships to be explored on the page. Relationships between parents and children, between siblings, between friends and between married couples, but that also touches on the darker sides of life -loss and death, and why people are who they are, revealed in flashbacks and chats throughout the novel. It is these stories floating around the central story about the house, Aidan, and Collette, that enhance the story and offer something for all readers and allows each individual reader to find a character that they can connect with.

Whilst not one I will read again, I still enjoyed it for what it was, and know that there will be an audience for this book and these characters. I did enjoy the Irish and Australian landscapes and the vibrant characters who were complex and vibrant, and always had more sides to them than it might first appear. As a sequel, it is well-written and brings us back to familiar – and new – characters, and the lives they have been leading since the first book.

A nice, light-hearted novel for those who enjoy these kinds of stories.


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