Unnatural Causes by Richard Shepherd [review]

Unnatural Causes

Title: Unnatural Causes
Author: Richard Shepherd
Publisher: Michael Joseph UK


The dead do not hide the truth and they never lie. Through me the dead can speak … 

As the country’s top forensic pathologist, Dr Richard Shepherd has spent a lifetime uncovering the secrets of the dead.

When death is sudden or unexplained, it falls to Shepherd to establish the cause. Each post-mortem is a detective story in its own right – and Shepherd has performed over 23,000 of them. Through his skill, dedication and insight, Dr Shepherd solves the puzzle to answer our most pressing question: how did this person die?

From serial killer to natural disaster, ‘perfect murder’ to freak accident, Shepherd takes nothing for granted in pursuit of truth. And while he’s been involved in some of the most high-profile cases of recent times, it’s often the less well known encounters that prove the most perplexing, intriguing and even bizarre. In or out of the public eye, his evidence has put killers behind bars, freed the innocent and turned open-and-shut cases on their heads.

But a life in death, bearing witness to some of humanity’s darkest corners, exacts a price and Shepherd doesn’t flinch from counting the cost to him and his family.

Unnatural Causes is an unputdownable record of an extraordinary life, a unique insight into a remarkable profession, and above all a powerful and reassuring testament to lives cut short.

Add to Goodreads button

[My Review]

This is such an interesting book; it’s right up my street as it sort of combines elements of ‘true crime’ with medicine and gives me, as the reader, an insight into how forensic pathology works – these combined together makes a truly intriguing read!

Richard Shepherd writes in quite a factual way, so if you’re a fan of dramatic retellings then you’re probably better looking elsewhere. I am glad of this; it lends the proper respect and care to the work – after all, most of the content is about people who have died, and this book highlights the stress and pressures of being a forensic pathologist. It also opened my eyes to the political implications of some cases, without being too dry or complicated. At times I felt a bit queasy reading about the autopsies but that’s no surprise as I’m not great with gory details!

I absolutely loved that the book covers so many key historical moments, some of which I remembered and some I’d heard about – these included: Princess Diana’s death in 1997 and the absolute furore over the incident; 9/11; the murder of Stephen Lawrence, and many more. It was so interesting to read about well-known cases from a different point of view – namely from that of the pathologist working the case. The many things they have to consider, and the wide-range of medical knowledge which is required to do their job, is something I found very interesting to read about.

I think I’d prefer less information about the author’s personal and family life – although this does of course feed into elements of his career and the pressure of trying to juggle family life with big cases – but the interesting case details more than made up for this in my opinion!

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this book on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

[About the Author]

Richard Shepherd was born in West London but grew up in Watford. At the local grammar school he was introduced to a medical textbook smuggled into the classroom by a friend which opened his eyes to the world of crime and murder, setting him on a lifelong quest to understand death in its many forms. He trained as a doctor at St George’s Hospital medical school at Hyde Park Corner, qualifying in 1977 and then completed his postgraduate training as a forensic pathologist in 1987. He immediately joined what was then the elite forensic department at Guy’s Hospital. He has been involved nationally and internationally in the forensic investigation of thousands of deaths from unnatural causes, from headline-making murders to mass natural disasters, and many sudden and unexplained deaths that his investigations showed were from natural causes or due to accidents. His skills and expertise still remain in demand around the world.


Autumn #TBR pile

Here are some of the books I’m looking forward to reading this Autumn! I haven’t had as much time as I’d like to read recently, so I’m a bit (quite a lot) behind on my Goodreads challenge (5 books behind!) so I need to get reading – and fast!

Here are my top picks (the list is always growing though…):

The Ash Doll James Hazel:

The past had been buried. But now someone has remembered . . .

Prolific lawyer Charlie Priest has bet his career on one case, but when his star witness turns up brutally murdered on the first morning of the trial, things start to fall apart.

Priest knows there’s a vicious killer out there, but as the bodies begin to pile up, he soon realises that he’s caught in a web of corruption that protects a deadly secret: one that threatens to tear him and those he cares about apart. And Priest has demons of his own to battle, suffering from dissociative disorder, a condition so destructive that it leaves him questioning the truth of his own existence.

Can Priest uncover the truth before it’s too late?

The Cactus – Sarah Haywood:


People aren’t sure what to make of Susan Green—a prickly independent woman, who has everything just the way she wants it and who certainly has no need for messy emotional relationships.

Family and colleagues find her standoffish and hard to understand, but Susan makes perfect sense to herself, and that’s all she needs.

At forty-five, she thinks her life is perfect, as long as she avoids her feckless brother, Edward—a safe distance away in Birmingham. She has a London flat which is ideal for one; a job that suits her passion for logic; and a personal arrangement providing cultural and other, more intimate, benefits.

Yet suddenly faced with the loss of her mother and, implausibly, with the possibility of becoming a mother herself, Susan’s greatest fear is being realised: she is losing control.

When she discovers that her mother’s will inexplicably favours her brother, Susan sets out to prove that Edward and his equally feckless friend Rob somehow coerced this dubious outcome. But when problems closer to home become increasingly hard to ignore, she finds help in the most unlikely of places.

This sparkling debut is a breath of fresh air with real heart and a powerful emotional punch. In Susan we find a character as exasperating and delightful as The Rosie Project‘s Don Tillman. An uncompromising feminist and a fierce fighter, it’s a joy to watch her bloom.

Absolute Proof – Peter James:

Investigative reporter Ross Hunter nearly didn’t answer the phone call that would change his life – and possibly the world – for ever.

“I’d just like to assure you I’m not a nutcase, Mr Hunter. My name is Dr Harry F. Cook. I know this is going to sound strange, but I’ve recently been given absolute proof of God’s existence – and I’ve been advised there is a writer, a respected journalist called Ross Hunter, who could help me to get taken seriously.”

What would it take to prove the existence of God? And what would be the consequences?

The false faith of a billionaire evangelist, the life’s work of a famous atheist, and the credibility of each of the world’s major religions are all under threat. If Ross Hunter can survive long enough to present the evidence…

In a House of Lies – Ian Rankin:

Everyone has something to hide. A missing private investigator is found, locked in a car hidden deep in the woods. Worse still – both for his family and the police – is that his body was in an area that had already been searched.
Everyone has secrets. Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke is part of a new inquiry, combing through the mistakes of the original case. There were always suspicions over how the investigation was handled and now – after a decade without answers – it’s time for the truth.
Nobody is innocent. Every officer involved must be questioned, and it seems everyone on the case has something to hide, and everything to lose. But there is one man who knows where the trail may lead – and that it could be the end of him: John Rebus.

Lies Between Us – Ronnie Turner

The past is always watching . . .

Three people, leading very different lives, are about to be brought together – with devastating consequences . . .

John has a perfect life, until the day his daughter goes missing.

Maisie cares for her patients, but hides her own traumatic past.

Miller should be an innocent child, but is obsessed with something he can’t have.

They all have something in common, though none of them know it – and the truth won’t stay hidden for long…

The Stranger Diaries – Elly Griffiths

Clare Cassidy is no stranger to murder. As a literature teacher specialising in the Gothic writer RM Holland, she teaches a short course on it every year. Then Clare’s life and work collide tragically when one of her colleagues is found dead, a line from an RM Holland story by her body. The investigating police detective is convinced the writer’s works somehow hold the key to the case.

Not knowing who to trust, and afraid that the killer is someone she knows, Clare confides her darkest suspicions and fears about the case to her journal. Then one day she notices some other writing in the diary. Writing that isn’t hers…

Have you got any of these on your ‘to read’ lists? As always, reviews for everything I’ve read will be posted here!


The Rise and Fall of Becky Sharp [review]

The Rise and Fall of Becky Sharp

Title: The Rise and Fall of Becky Sharp
Author: Sarra Manning
Publisher: HarperCollins


 Beautiful, brilliant, ruthless – nothing can stop Becky Sharp.

Determined to leave her poverty-stricken roots behind her, Becky Sharp is going to take every opportunity offered to her to climb to the top. Whether it’s using her new BFF Amelia Sedley to step up into the rarified world of London’s upper classes, or seducing society’s most eligible bachelors, Becky Sharp is destined for great things – at any cost..

From London to Paris and beyond, the world is there for Becky’s taking – even though some people are determined to stop her along the way…

Add to Goodreads button

[My Review]

This is such a fun, humorous novel which is extremely relevant to today’s social-media, celebrity-obsessed world, but with an extra layer of bite – Becky is no silly airhead. She’s mean, conniving and completely harsh in her treatment of other people to get to where to wants to be… and I both hated and sort-of-loved-her for it!

This is one of those novels that are perfect for when you want something that’s easy to read but not too light and fluffy. The story joins Becky in her early adult life (she’s only early twenties though at times feels a lot older) as she’s just come out of the Big Brother House, of all places, and her sunsequent highs and lows…

I really enjoyed this modern twist on Vanity Fair (I didn’t realise this was based on that story until after I’d finished it) and thought that the author, Sarra Manning, did an excellent job of crafting Becky as a mostly-likeable bitch! I really liked her long-suffering friend Amelia, despite her timid personality and meekness, and thought the characters were really amusing to read about.

It’s a lot of fun and certainly kept me entertained as I raced through it!

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to HarperCollinsfor providing a copy of this book on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.


Lethal White

Lethal White by Robert Galbraith [review]

Lethal White

Title: Lethal White
Author: Robert Galbraith
Series: Cormoran Strike
Publisher: Sphere


“I seen a kid killed…He strangled it, up by the horse.”

When Billy, a troubled young man, comes to private eye Cormoran Strike’s office to ask for his help investigating a crime he thinks he witnessed as a child, Strike is left deeply unsettled. While Billy is obviously mentally distressed, and cannot remember many concrete details, there is something sincere about him and his story. But before Strike can question him further, Billy bolts from his office in a panic.

Trying to get to the bottom of Billy’s story, Strike and Robin Ellacott—once his assistant, now a partner in the agency—set off on a twisting trail that leads them through the backstreets of London, into a secretive inner sanctum within Parliament, and to a beautiful but sinister manor house deep in the countryside.

And during this labyrinthine investigation, Strike’s own life is far from straightforward: his newfound fame as a private eye means he can no longer operate behind the scenes as he once did. Plus, his relationship with his former assistant is more fraught than it ever has been—Robin is now invaluable to Strike in the business, but their personal relationship is much, much trickier than that.

Add to Goodreads button

[My Review]

I think this is my favourite Strike novel yet!

Yes, it’s reallly long but that’s no bad thing, and one of many reasons why I love it; I felt like I could get completely lost in the story knowing there were so many pages of the author’s writing to enjoy, laid out before me! The legnth also means, I feel, that the author could be far more descriptive (but not in that annoying  way that some authors write, where every sentence could have been cut in half), and also include lots more information about Strike and Robin’s relationship dyamics – this just made me feel like I got to know them both even better as the novel went on! As with Galbraith/ Rowling’s other series, the characters are the absolute best part of this novel; I love reading about them and would happily read many, many more novels in this series.

The mystery itself is once again gripping and intriguing, though much more complicated than previous books in my opinion. I have to admit I found myself losing track of what exactly was going on part way through, but it didn’t hamper my enjoyment at all. I felt that the story was quite believable and not too dramatic/ crazy in the vein of other books in this genre that I’ve read recently.

Lethal White is another excellent addition to this fantastic series – I hugely enjoyed reading it, having relished every page, and already can’t wait for book 5!

[Rating: 5/5]



Transcription by Kate Atkinson [review]


Title: Transcription
Author: Kate Atkinson
Publisher: Transworld


Transcription is a bravura novel of extraordinary power and substance.

Juliet Armstrong is recruited as a young woman by an obscure wartime department of the Secret Service. In the aftermath of war she joins the BBC, where her life begins to unravel, and she finally has to come to terms with the consequences.

Add to Goodreads button

[My Review]

Transcription manages to effortlessly evoke 1940s/ 1950s London, and a London full of secret missions and spies at that, without being too confusing (something I sometimes find with spy thrillers). It’s very much not a thriller in my opinion, but instead a slow burner that pulls you in until you’re completely absorbed in Juliet’s world.

The characters are interesting and likable, and Juliet in particular seems like a smart woman despite being very preoccupied with finding a husband – a sign of the times perhaps? It offers an interesting perspective on WW2 intelligence and I loved reading about Juliet’s activity and efforts to transcript the monitored conversations. I sometimes lost track of who was who, as there’s a lot of character names, but it was by no means confusing – definitely what I’d class as an ‘enjoyable read’.

This is certainly not an ‘action-packed’ novel, but it is an interesting, sharp story set during an era I’m always really interested in reading about. As expected, Kate Atkinson’s writing is fantastic and a joy to read.

[Rating: 4.5/5]


The Adults by @CarolineHulse1 [review]

The Adults

Title: The Adults
Author: Caroline Hulse
Publisher: Orion


Meet The Adults

Claire and Matt are divorced but decide what’s best for their daughter Scarlett is to have a ‘normal’ family Christmas. They can’t agree on whose idea it was, or who said they should bring their new partners. But someone did – and it’s too late to pull the plug.

Claire brings her new boyfriend Patrick, a seemingly eligible Iron-Man-in-Waiting. Matt brings the new love of his life Alex, funny, smart, and extremely patient. Scarlett, their daughter, brings her imaginary friend Posey. He’s a rabbit. Together the five (or six?) of them grit their teeth over Organized Fun activities, drinking a little too much after bed-time, oversharing classified secrets about their pasts and, before you know it, their holiday is a powder keg that ends – where this story starts – with a tearful, frightened, call to the police…

But what happened? They said they’d all be adults about this…

Add to Goodreads button

[My Review]

I absolutely loved how The Adults makes you feel like you’re right there on holiday with this dysfunctional family, as they try to muddle their way through an awkward, too-close-for-comfort family holiday in somewhere that I imagine to be like Centerparcs, but SO Christmas-themed-it-hurts! Think a LOT of forced ‘magical festive fun’ for the whole family to ‘enjoy’… except things are falling apart fast!

From reading the very first page I assumed this would be moresort of a mystery story, where the reader can piece together what happened to the ‘male’ who needs an ambulance in the first scene. However, it’s much more about the family drama and relationships between the characters – though the ’emergency incident’ does play a big part, of course – and I was compeltely fine with that. I didn’t at all mind the lack of focus on the mystery (for once) because the story is so entertaining and fun to read.

Caroline Hulse has a way of making you feel like you could be reading about so many ‘normal’ families who are doing their best to spend Christmas (an often-fraught time  of year, in terms of family, at the best of times) together for the sake of little Scarlett (who I have to say, I kind of disliked, despite her only being a child!).

I’d really recommend this funny read; it’s got some mystery in there to keep you hooked and I loved the funny (and fraught) dynamics between the characters – so entertaining!

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to Orion for providing a copy of this book on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.


One Thousand Stars and You by Isabelle Broom [review]

One Thousand Stars And You

Title: One Thousand Stars and You
Author: Isabelle Broom
Publisher: Penguin UK


One spark will light up both their lives.

Alice is settling down. It might not be the adventurous life she once imagined, but more than anything she wants to make everyone happy – her steady boyfriend, her over-protective mother – even if it means a little part of her will always feel stifled.

Max is shaking things up. After a devastating injury, he is determined to prove himself. To find the man beyond the disability, to escape his smothering family and go on an adventure.

A trip to Sri Lanka is Alice’s last hurrah – her chance to throw herself into the heat, chaos and colour of a place thousands of miles from home.

It’s also the moment she meets Max.

Alice doesn’t know it yet, but her whole life is about to change.

Max doesn’t know it yet, but he’s the one who’s going to change it.

Add to Goodreads button

[My Review]

One Thousand Stars and You is the first novel by Isabelle Broom that I’ve read and I really enjoyed it – I’m not one for really cheesy, over-the-top romance/ chick-lit (hate that word, sorry) but this managed to have a good dose of relationships, fun friendship and humour without being any of those offputting things…

The characters are great, and they’re a big part of what makes this book so enjoyable. Alice is likeable and sweet, and though at times she can perhaps come across a little naive, she makes a great protagonist. Her friends Maureen and Steph are vibrant, entertaining characters (though Maureen got on my nerves sometimes!) and Max seems like a great guy – kind, fair and brave considering everything he’s been through. It may be obvious from near the start that Max and Alice are going to hit it off, and there are various parts that are fairly predictable, but the story is lovely to read about anyway, so to me that doesn’t matter!

The setting for this book completely sucked me in – I’ve always wanted to go to Sri Lanka and I felt like I could really picture their trip, from the bustling streets and vibrant colours – Isabelle Broom manages to bring this amazing place to life for the reader. Definitely gave me travel envy (yes, this is fiction but still…!)

I really enjoyed One Thousand Stars and You, and would recommend it to anyone who fancies a light, entertaining but also quite emotional read. It’s touching, heartfelt and definitely has its funny moments!

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to Penguin for providing a copy of this book on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.


The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton

The Truths and Triumps of Grace Atherton [review]

The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton

Title: The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton
Author: Anstey Harris
Publisher: Simon & Schuster


Between the simple melody of running her violin shop and the full-blown orchestra of her romantic interludes in Paris with David, her devoted partner of eight years, Grace Atherton has always set her life to music.

Her world revolves entirely around David, for Grace’s own secrets have kept everyone else at bay. Until, suddenly and shockingly, one act tips Grace’s life upside down, and the music seems to stop.

It takes a vivacious old man and a straight-talking teenager to kickstart a new chapter for Grace. In the process, she learns that she is not as alone in the world as she had once thought, that no mistake is insurmountable, and that the quiet moments in life can be something to shout about …

Add to Goodreads button

[My Review]

I enjoyed The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton; it’s a fairly slow burner but it kept me turning the pages because I wanted to find out how things would end for the main characters… even though the main character Grace could be a bit irritating at times. I definitely assumed she was way younger than forty(ish) until her age was explicitly stated; she reads as quite naive, particularly in the way she’s constantly anticipating her and David’s future life together (I don’t want to give too much away but there are various reasons this annoyed me) which just wound me up, to be honest! I didn’t like their relationship and I wanted her to realize that.

I have to say, though, that it’s interesting to read about how Grace changes over time. I liked the interactions between some characters (Nadia was particularly intriguing) and I felt that it was written beautifully – the sentences seemed to flow really well, making this enjoyable read.

A lot of the story centered around Grace’s love for cellos and other instruments, something that I don’t have a lot of knowledge in but which allowed me to find out more about this, which I liked. I wanted to know more about Grace’s relationship with various characters and found this to be really interesting.

Overall, I think this is a beautifully written story which feels a bit different – recommended.

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to Simon & Schuster for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.


The Fifth to Die

The Fifth to Die [review]

The Fifth to Die

Title: The Fifth to Die
Author: J.D. Barker
Series: 4MK
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin


In the thrilling sequel to The Fourth Monkey, a new serial killer stalks the streets of Chicago, while Detective Porter delves deeper into the dark past of the Four Monkey Killer.

Detective Porter and the team have been pulled from the hunt for Anson Bishop, the Four Monkey Killer, by the feds. When the body of a young girl is found beneath the frozen waters of Jackson Park Lagoon, she is quickly identified as Ella Reynolds, missing three weeks. But how did she get there? The lagoon froze months earlier. More baffling? She’s found wearing the clothes of another girl, missing less than two days. While the detectives of Chicago Metro try to make sense of the quickly developing case, Porter secretly continues his pursuit of 4MK, knowing the best way to find Bishop is to track down his mother. When the captain finds out about Porter’s activities, he’s suspended, leaving his partners Clair and Nash to continue the search for the new killer alone.

Obsessed with catching Bishop, Porter follows a single grainy photograph from Chicago to the streets of New Orleans and stumbles into a world darker than he could have possibly imagined, where he quickly realizes that the only place more frightening than the mind of a serial killer is the mind of the mother from which he came.

Add to Goodreads button

[My Review]

I loved J D Barker’s first novel, The Fourth Monkey, so couldn’t waitto read the follow-up, titled The Fifth to Die. I’m pleased to report that it steps up to the mark as being deliciously twisted, dark and entertaining!

We meet the characters from book 1, and various aspects of book 1 continue in this novel – I won’t go into detail so as not to spoil anything. If you haven’t read The Fourth Monkey then I’ll just say – stop right here and go back and read it now, you’ll be a bit (okay, a lot) confused if you don’t. At first it took me a while to remind myself how book 1 had left things, but from that point on I stormed through this novel.

In The Fifth To Die we’re met with multiple murders needing to be solved, with the ever-present threat of Anson Bishop, who is still on the run from police, lurking in the background and keeping Sam Porter occupied. I think Sam’s a great character, and the rest of his team are brilliantly entertaining in the way they work with him and eachother. Anson Bishop is also verey entertaining – in a different way! There are plenty of humorous moments peppered among the fast-paced action and odd events, which keeps the book’s crimes from being too horrifying. For me, the balance is just right and there are of course some surprises along the way too, all of which makes for an addictive thriller which is just as brilliant as the first in the 4MK series. The ending is bound to divide people, but I loved it, and it made me even more excited to read book three – I hope the series has many more to come!

[Rating: 5/5]

A copy of this novel was provided on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.



The Day of the Accident

The Day of the Accident [review]

The Day of the Accident

Title: The Day of the Accident
Author: Nuala Ellwood
Publisher: Penguin


They say you killed…BUT WHAT IF THEY’RE WRONG?

Sixty seconds after she wakes from a coma, Maggie’s world is torn apart

The police tell her that her daughter Elspeth is dead. That she drowned when the car Maggie had been driving plunged into the river. Maggie remembers nothing.

When Maggie begs to see her husband Sean, the police tell her that he has disappeared. He was last seen on the day of her daughter’s funeral.

What really happened that day at the river?
Where is Maggie’s husband?
And why can’t she shake the suspicion that somewhere, somehow, her daughter is still alive?

Add to Goodreads button

[My Review]

I have conflicting feelings about this novel. On the one hand, it does intrigue and mystery well; I spent the first 2/3 of the book really intrigued as to what had actually happened on the day Maggie’s daughter dies. However, I felt that the story was just a bit too unbelievable and unlikely. I didn’t believe that a lot of it would actually happen, and although that doesn’t necessarily mean I won’t enjoy a book (I don’t mind books that make me have to suspend by disbelief), this just didn’t wow me.

The plot is entertaining, and I enjoyed the slow reveal as Maggie begins to realise what happened in the lead up to ‘that day’. There were parts that surprised me, and I like Nualla Elwood’s writing (I loved My Sister’s Bones so was really excited to read this). I warmed a lot to Maggie as time went on, and was willing her to discover what had happened. I also really liked one part of the ending where the character I assumed would come out of it all as squeaky clean, didn’t quite – which kept that side of things believable (keeping it vague as I don’t want to give too much away). I didn’t guess the ending but it felt a little too stretched for me.

The Day of the Accident just didn’t quite live up to expectations compared to My Sister’s Bones – but perhaps I’m at fault for comparing the two books, I’m sure authors hate it when readers always do that…! So I feel that it’s still worth a read as it’s entertaining and kept me guessing, plus many other reviews have raved about it so I seem to be in the minority here by thinking it was just ‘OK’.

[Rating: 3/5]

Many thanks to Penguin for providing a copy of this book on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.