The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein

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Title: The Pearl Thief

Author: Elizabeth Wein

Genre: Children’s/YA Historical Fiction

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Published: 1st July, 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 408

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: From the internationally acclaimed bestselling author of Code Name Verity comes a stunning new story of pearls, love and murder – a mystery with all the suspense of an Agatha Christie and the intrigue of Downton Abbey.

Sixteen-year-old Julie Beaufort-Stuart is returning to her family’s ancestral home in Perthshire for one last summer. It is not an idyllic return to childhood. Her grandfather’s death has forced the sale of the house and estate and this will be a summer of goodbyes. Not least to the McEwen family – Highland travellers who have been part of the landscape for as long as anyone can remember – loved by the family, loathed by the authorities. Tensions are already high when a respected London archivist goes missing, presumed murdered. Suspicion quickly falls on the McEwens but Julie knows not one of them would do such a thing and is determined to prove everyone wrong. And then she notices the family’s treasure trove of pearls is missing.

This beautiful and evocative novel is the story of the irrepressible and unforgettable Julie, set in the year before the Second World War and the events of Code Name Verity. It is also a powerful portrayal of a community under pressure and one girl’s determination for justice.

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The Pearl Thief is set in England in 1938, in the year that preceded the incoming storm of World War Two, preceding Hitler’s march across Europe, and it’s characters show no indication that they are aware of the impending threat to their lives. Julie is on her way home from boarding school – a final summer at her family’s ancestral home before it becomes a school On her way hoe, Julie is attacked, and a well known archivist from London goes missing, presumed dead. And it is the McEwen family, a family of Travellers, who become caught up in the mystery after taking care of Julie and getting her to hospital. When Julie notices the family pearls have gone missing, she tries to piece together the night she was attacked, and slowly, a mystery unfolds. Whilst the investigation surges on, even with a lack of evidence, the suspicious eye is cast over the McEwens, despite Julie’s protestations that they could not have done it, questioning the reasoning everyone has. Amidst all this, the treasure trove of Murray pearls has gone missing, and Julie is determined to find it, and together with her brother, Jamie, and the McEwens, she strives to solve the theft – and a murder, with results that are as surprising as the rest of the novel.

For Julie, it is a final childhood summer, where she can relive the good memories and make some new ones, but at the same time, new discoveries about her mother and the McEwens, and her interactions with Ellen and her brother, have Julie questioning what she knows about herself and her feelings, but the world that she has known in comparison to Ellen’s world, and what they learn from each other through their new-found friendship. Like any friends, they had their disagreements on things and it took them a while to see that what something meant to Ellen, meant something different to Julie and vice versa, encapsulating the formation of an unexpected friendship between the two girls.

There are moments when the novel does not dwell on the mystery of the missing pearls and murder of the archivist, but rather, on the formation of the relationships between Julie and the Travellers, and how this begins to affect her and how she sees herself and the world. This character development ensures a solid grounding for the story, and even though the mystery was intriguing, it was nice to see the realistic approach that didn’t involve the obsessive nature and drive to solve the mystery, but rather, a nice balance between getting the characters and plot right to get from beginning to end, and allowing the characters to overcome hurdles and distractions, but ultimately, solving a mystery that had a very unexpected outcome, and an enjoyable journey to get there as a reader.

The Pearl Thief is marketed towards the children’s and Young Adult market, but I still enjoyed it and the setting that seemed to sing from every page – the Scottish landscape, and the speech of the characters cemented the time and place effectively. A great novel for anyone who likes mysteries, adventure and intriguing characters.

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The Last McAdam by Holly Ford

Title: The Last McAdam

the last mcadam.jpgAuthor: Holly Ford

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 22nd February, 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 300

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: This romantic, irresistibly entertaining novel tells the story of Tess Drummond, who’s been sent to turn around the fortunes of a remote sheep and cattle station her employer has taken over. What Tess hasn’t counted on is coming up against the station’s handsome and charismatic head stockman, Nate McAdam, whose family owned the property for generations…

Passed down through the same family for over a century, the remote sheep and cattle station of Broken Creek has recently been taken over by global agribusiness company Carnarvon Holdings. Now Carnarvon has sent its best troubleshooting manager, Tess Drummond, to turn the property’s failing fortunes around – fast.

When Tess arrives to take the reins of Broken Creek she’s faced with a couple of nasty surprises. For starters, her head stockman, Nate McAdam, happens to be the same gorgeous stranger she hooked up with – and ran out on – a few weeks before.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Nate was supposed to inherit Broken Creek until his stepfather ran it into the ground. Now the last McAdam on the station leads a team of men whose bonds have been forged through hell and high water and whose mission is to see off Carnarvon and Tess so he can take his rightful place.

A genius with farm work – and women – but a disaster in the office, Nate is everything Tess believes a farmer shouldn’t be. Determined not to give in to her growing attraction to him, Tess sets out to do her job, but she soon finds herself caught up in the battle of her career.

This irresistibly entertaining novel combines romance, suspense and an unforgettable cast of characters.

 

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A rural romance isn’t my first choice when looking for new reading material – it’s never really been a genre I enjoy. So when I started this novel, I didn’t think it would be what it turned out to be. I may never read it again, but it will have an audience out there.

Tess Drummond works for a company – Carnarvon – that takes over farms that are in trouble and replaces the staff where necessary. It is a job where she has to move around a lot in New Zealand, and at the beginning, has no real ties to a place or that many people, something that preoccupies the thoughts of her mother and friends. Tess brushes these off – it is a side affect of moving around all the time for work, and is merely one aspect to her character – albeit one revealed quite early on as to what she feels others expect of her. The story opens with Tess at a wedding for friends, where she hooks up with someone, and then never sees him again. Until she arrives at his farm – Broken Creek. Nate McAdam is struggling with the impending loss of the farm, and his friends, and at first, Tess and her cold, business-like nature alienate Nate, Mitch and Harry at first, until she proves to them that she is trying to help – and a relationship with Nate slowly develops – starting with mutual respect.

Tess must balance the needs of the farm with the demands of her company, and what they are expecting from her. This conflict results in a few arguments that add to the tension they are all feeling. However, the action is a little slow to pick up, and it’s only towards the end of the novel that two accidents start to bring them closer together as a team, and for Tess to reconsider her role and place at Broken Creek.

I felt that the resulting romance wasn’t necessarily needed, because I quite liked Nate and Tess as friends who would end up working the farm together. However, it was a nice, fluffy conclusion. The characters had flaws, and at least the idea of who should be liked and not liked wasn’t forced – as there were times when I wasn’t sure what a character’s true motives were.

I’m still not a convert to romance or rural romance novels, but this one showed me that it can be done well and everything can be given the attention it deserves to give the story a well-rounded and complex plot. A good book for people who enjoy romance, friendship, and farming, it’s not too detail heavy, and a nice light read.

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