Tag Archives: Mike Hollow

If You Liked The Sky Above Us …

30 Apr

My book club loved The Sky Above Us by Sarah Sundin. It has a unique perspective — the Army Air Force pilots who aided the Allied effort before and during D Day and the mission of the American Red Cross in England. So, for today’s If You Liked post I decided to recommend WWII novels also with a unique perspective. Two focus on incidents early in the war — Dunkirk and the Blitz. The other novel explores the end of the Reich from the perspective of an American caught in Nazi Germany. All three are great reads — enjoy!

Direct Hit by Mike Hollow

The jagged blast of high explosives rips through the evening air. In the sky over East London the searchlights criss-cross in search of the enemy.

On the first night of the Blitz, a corpse is discovered in a van in the back streets of West Ham. Detective Inspector John Jago recognizes the dead man as local Justice of the Peace Charles Villiers. But then a German bomb obliterates all evidence.

Villiers, not a popular man, was both powerful and feared. As the sirens wail, the detective must start matching motive to opportunity – and it doesn’t help when his boss foists an intrusive American journalist on him.

Jago soon discovers the dead man held many secrets, some reaching back to World War I. A lot of people wished Villiers dead – and an air raid is a good time to conceal a murder.

Maggie Bright by Tracy Groot

England, 1940. Clare Childs knew life would change when she unexpectedly inherited the Maggie Bright―a noble fifty-two-foot yacht. In fact, she’s counting on it. But the boat harbors secrets. When a stranger arrives, searching for documents hidden onboard, Clare is pulled into a Scotland Yard investigation that could shed light on Hitler’s darkest schemes and prompt America to action.

Across the Channel, Hitler’s Blitzkrieg has the entire British army in retreat with little hope for rescue at the shallow beaches of Dunkirk. With time running out, Churchill recruits civilian watercraft to help. Hitler is attacking from land, air, and sea, and any boat that goes might not return. Yet Clare knows Maggie Bright must answer the call―piloted by an American who has refused to join the war effort until now and a detective with a very personal motive for exposing the truth.

The fate of the war hinges on this rescue. While two men join the desperate fight, a nation prays for a miracle.

Daises Are Forever by Liz Tolsma

In the final days of Nazi Germany, the strength of one woman’s heart will determine the fate of a family.

Prussia, 1945

The fall of the Third Reich is imminent. As the merciless Red Army advances from the East, the German people of Prussia await the worst.
Among them is twenty-year-old Gisela Cramer, an American living in Heiligenbeil with her cousin Ella and their ailing grandfather. When word arrives that the Russians will invade overnight, Ella urges Gisela to escape to Berlin—and take Ella’s two small daughters with her.

The journey is miserable and relentless. But when Gisela hears the British accent of a phony SS officer, she poses as his wife to keep him safe among the indignant German refugees. In the blink of an eye, Mitch Edwards and Gisela are Herr and Frau Joseph Cramer.

Through their tragic and difficult journey, the fabricated couple strives to protect Ella’s daughters, hoping against hope for a reunion. But even as Gisela and Mitch develop feelings beyond the make–believe, the reality of war terrorizes their makeshift family.

 

 

Book Review: Firing Line

21 Jun

Flames leap skyward from a blitzed factory in West Ham as an air raid destroys all in its path. When the blaze threatens neighbouring houses a volunteer fireman breaks in to rescue a trapped resident – but instead finds only the body of a young woman, strangled in her bedroom. For Detective Inspector John Jago the scene brings back memories of the Soho Strangler. He suspects this woman had a secret – that she is not what she seems – and that this may be the root of her untimely end. Investigation reveals a drunken sailor may hold the key to what happened in Joan Watson’s flat. But his information points Jago towards family jealousies, violence, robbery, and the underworld of political terrorism. Was Joan as innocent as her friends claim, or was she mixed up in crime? Jago must unpick multifarious motives if he hopes to reach the truth.

 

Mike Hollow was born in West Ham, on the eastern edge of London, and grew up in Romford, Essex. He studied Russian and French at the University of Cambridge and then worked for the BBC and later Tearfund. In 2002 he went freelance as a copywriter, journalist and editor. He’s a published poet, and nowadays when not writing about the Blitz Detective he makes his living as a translator.

 

My Impressions:

Firing Line is the fourth novel in the excellent Blitz Detective series by Mike Hollow. Set during the days of the London Blitz, this historical mystery/police procedural proves that crime does not stop for war. Smart and well-researched, this novel is perfect for those who love the classic mystery genre. Recommended.

DI John Jago is called in for another murder discovered in the aftermath of the nightly bombings ravaging London. Along with his wonderfully-written assistant, DC Craddock, he doggedly investigates the twisting-turning case that involves greed, jealousy, and political intrigue. I loved the historical touches that Hollow uses to achieve an authentic feel. Nightly trekkers, air raid wardens, Anderson Huts, and the bombing debris around every corner give the reader a glimpse into what it must have been like to be a Londoner at this terrifying time. And while the Germans threatened from the skies, criminals don’t take a holiday. Robbery, blackmail, and murder don’t seem to be affected by the turmoil of war. Jago is a consummate professional and uses all the resources of the time plus his intuition and insight to uncover just whodunit.

Jago’s character develops over the course of this series as he reflects on his service in the Great War and his experiences since. The newest world war causes him to explore questions of justice, fairness, hope, and the need to know and be known. The book is not Christian fiction, per se, but does bring up questions that only God can answer. For those who may find it offensive, there is a bit of adult language.

Firing Line proved to be a great read. The mystery was not easily solved by Jago or this reader 😉 , but its conclusion was both credible and satisfying. While it is part of a series, it can easily be read as a standalone. But I recommend you begin with book 1, The Blitz Detective, to follow the interesting cases and the intriguing main character John Jago.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

(Thanks to Lion Hudson and NetGalley for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Top 10 Tuesday: Books for Lovers of British Mysteries (+ A Canadian Cousin)

15 Aug

Top 10 Tuesday is back! Yay! The folks at The Broke And The Bookish had some well-deserved time off, but now they are back with great topics for book lovers. This week I’m talking about book recommendations for lovers of British mysteries. I love a good mystery and have found the following books to meet all the requirements — puzzling cases set in the British Isles. They run the gamut from historical and contemporary, amateur detectives and police procedurals, to urban and bucolic settings. Ironically, a couple of the series, while definitely having a British vibe, are authored by Americans. All are excellent!

Top Book Recommendations for Lovers of British Mysteries

+ A Canadian Cousin

(please note there may be more books in these series than are pictured)

The Aiden Mysteries by Fay Sampson

 

The Blitz Detective by Mike Hollow

 

The Drew Farthering Mysteries by Julianna Deering

 

The Faith Morgan Mysteries by Martha Ockley

 

A Father Gilbert Mystery by Paul McCusker

 

The Monastery Murders by Donna Fletcher Crow

 

A Mystery for D. I. Costello by Elizabeth Flynn

 

Poppy Denby Investigates by Fiona Veitch Smith

 

A Canadian Cousin!

The Herringford And Watts Mysteries by Rachel McMillan

 

What are some of your favorite mysteries?

 

Top 10 Tuesday — Hidden Gems

17 Jan

The folks at The Broke And The Bookish have challenged us to list those books we term underrated/hidden gems. I really hate the term underrated. It has such a negative feel to it. So I am choosing to focus on books that I consider hidden gems — books that many people may not know about, but would love if they gave them a chance. The last time I tackled a list like this was back in July when the Top 10 Tuesday theme was books with less than 2000 ratings on Goodreads. Well, most of the books I read fit in this category! Why? Perhaps readers are just not motivated to rate books. But ratings mean a lot to authors — it helps with visibility and ultimately sales of their books. If you love a book I encourage you to rate it!

So here is a list of books I read in the last half of 2016 with not a lot of stars following their titles. Many of them made my Best of 2016 list too. To find out what other bloggers consider hidden gems, click HERE.

unknown

Top 10 Hidden Gems

(Books with under 200 ratings on Goodreads)

The Cantaloupe Thief by Deb Richardson-Moore

A Day And A Life by Penelope Wilcock

The Fifth Column by Mike Hollow

51-4n7vpu4l-_sx326_bo1204203200_514brqocxyl-_sx327_bo1204203200_51jmprwkljl-_sx325_bo1204203200_

Forest Child by Heather Day Gilbert

The Name I Call Myself by Beth Moran

Of Stillness And Storm by Michele Phoenix

The Raven by Mike Nappa

51-iama68rl-_sx331_bo1204203200_51sody6wfl-_sx325_bo1204203200_of-stillness-and-storm41jklpz8chl-_sx322_bo1204203200_

Since You’ve Been Gone by Christa Allan

When Death Draws Near by Carrie Stuart Parks

Within The Veil by Brandy Vallance

41kqgsaqu6l-_sx332_bo1204203200_unknown251qjzme3lcl-_sx322_bo1204203200_

Have you read any of these books?

If you haven’t already, head over to Goodreads and rate them!

Book Review: Fifth Column

19 Sep

51jmprwkljl-_sx325_bo1204203200_Detective Inspector Jago investigates, uncovering deception and betrayal.

At first glance, the young woman found in the early hours of the morning where bombs have landed is just another casualty of the previous night’s air raid. But when the post-mortem shows signs of strangulation, Detective Inspector Jago is called on to investigate.

The dead woman is smartly dressed but carries no identification. However, a local engineering company reports a staff member has failed to appear at work that morning and the body is quickly identified as that of Miss Mary Watkins.

DI Jago’s initial interviews yield little fruit; no one can think of a reason why Mary would be murdered. But as the investigation continues DI Jago begins to uncover a trail of deception and betrayal.

 

1___Mike Hollow studied languages at Cambridge, then worked for the BBC and then Tearfund. Now a freelance writer and editor, he lives in Basingstoke (England) with his wife Margaret. A popular poet, his work has been widely performed and has appeared in many collections.

 

My Impressions:

Fifth Column is the second book in Mike Hollow’s Blitz Detective series. Set during the years of the Nazi bombings of London, this mystery is perfect for those who want an authentic look at England during WWII. I loved the attention to detail that Hollow brings to his novel — from women’s fashion and popular culture to the more serious issues of the nightly attacks from the skies and the threat of sabotage from spies (fifth column refers to a group within a country sympathetic to the enemy). While Fifth Column is the sequel to Direct Hit, it can be read as a standalone. But I recommend you begin at the beginning; you don’t want to miss any part of this great series.

The nightly bombings are beginning to wear on Detective Inspector John Jago. A survivor of the Great War, he never thought that his world would be upended in such a way again. But he has a job to do. When a body of a young woman is discovered at the site of a bombing, it becomes obvious that a bomb was not the culprit and a murderer is on the loose.

Rescue squad volunteers search the wreckage of bombed houses in South Molton Road, Canning Town, September 1940. Corrugated-steel Anderson shelter to the left. (Newham Heritage and Archive collection.)

Rescue squad volunteers search the wreckage of bombed houses in South Molton Road, Canning Town, September 1940. Corrugated-steel Anderson shelter to the left. (Newham Heritage and Archive collection.)

Fifth Column has a number of strengths. It is a slowly unfolding mystery that will keep you guessing. There are quite a few suspects all with tenuous connections to the victim. DI Jago, DC Craddock and the reader have their hands full trying to discover just what is going on. Thrown into the mix are blackmarket dealings, pro-Nazi sentiment, thefts and an extortion plot. Sounds like a lot going on and there is, but Hollow allows his detective to methodically and intuitively work through each clue. DI Jago is an interesting and sympathetic character. All alone in the world and with his life revolving around his work, he, nevertheless, looks to the future that seems just out of reach. Other characters are great compliments to the story and to Jago’s character development. For historical accuracy, Fifth Column cannot be beat. It is obvious that Hollow spent a great deal of time on research. Every detail seems just right and adds a depth to the story not often found in mystery fiction. The author’s website is a treasure trove of information surrounding the story and the history of the era.

I loved Fifth Column, and if you are a fan of historically based mysteries, I am betting you will too. A plot line concerning Jago’s personal life is left dangling, ensuring that I’ll have another enjoyable return visit with The Blitz Detective.

 

Highly Recommended. Please note: this is a British novel and contains some language.

Audience: Adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(Thanks to Kregel and Lion Hudson for a review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Book Review: Direct Hit

30 Jul

51eyMvsk64L._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_The jagged blast of high explosives rips through the evening air. In the sky over East London the searchlights criss-cross in search of the enemy.

On the first night of the Blitz, a corpse is discovered in a van in the back streets of West Ham. Detective Inspector John Jago recognizes the dead man as local Justice of the Peace Charles Villiers. But then a German bomb obliterates all evidence.

Villiers, not a popular man, was both powerful and feared. As the sirens wail, the detective must start matching motive to opportunity – and it doesn’t help when his boss foists an intrusive American journalist on him.

Jago soon discovers the dead man held many secrets, some reaching back to World War I. A lot of people wished Villiers dead – and an air raid is a good time to conceal a murder.

 

1___Mike Hollow studied languages at Cambridge, then worked for the BBC and then Tearfund. Now a freelance writer and editor, he lives in Basingstoke (England) with his wife Margaret. A popular poet, his work has been widely performed and has appeared in many collections.

 

My Impressions:

I have just found another favorite mystery author! With Direct Hit, Mike Hollow has written an entertaining and educational (that really is a big plus for me!) novel set during the first days of the London Blitz. Fascinating historical detail and cultural insights, a well told story and a mystery that kept me guessing until the end added up to a book I highly recommend. I am looking forward to more from this talented author.

John Jago is a Detective Inspector (DI) with the London CID. The war hasn’t been going well for England with the retreat from Dunkirk a few months before. Now the Germans are dropping bombs on London, inciting fear and dread in its citizens. Add to the fact that his crime scene is now a bomb crater, Jago has his hands full uncovering the murderer while spending sleepless nights in his Anderson shelter. But Jago is a man dedicated to truth and justice and always finishes what he starts.

Direct Hit introduces us to main character DI Jago. He is definitely a man of his time, shaped by his childhood and the trenches of France during the Great War, Jago is a bit cynical, a bit shell-shocked. A bachelor, yet not a confirmed one, he is dedicated to his job. The list of suspects in this case is long, forcing Jago to criss-cross East London and beyond. I really enjoyed the variety of characters Hollow created — young working class men with communist leanings, upper-middle class businessmen, career civil servants, unsavory criminals, wives and mothers — all with motive and opportunity for murder. With an obvious eye to historical detail and rich description, Hollow creates a very vivid London during the Blitz. I had no trouble feeling a part of the story. Hollow adds an American journalist, Dorothy Appleton, to stretch and grow Jago, causing him to examine his beliefs. There is not an overt faith message in Direct Hit. In fact, both Jago and Dorothy are not believers at all. But both are dedicated to uncovering the truth and seeking justice — I expect them to search for more answers in coming books.

While Direct Hit is genre fiction at its best, it is also a great novel for a book club. There is so much to discuss — historical events, the effects of war on those on the front as well as at home, and just what is Truth. The mystery keeps you guessing to the end and there is definitely a twist that provides much to think about.

All in all a great mystery novel. I highly recommend Direct Hit. Be sure to visit the author’s website for interesting info about the novel’s setting and time period.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

Great for Book Clubs.

To purchase this book, click HERE

(Thanks to Lion Hudson and Kregel for a review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)