The Home Front Detective: Dance of Death by Edward Marston Review

Edward Marston’s fifth book in his The Home Front Detective Series is set against the backdrop of World War One. Murder, sex and scandal are all involved, so Smile Sessions should love it, but do we?

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Autumn 1916; a German Zeppelin moves silently across the night sky before being shot down by an English fighter plane. Those brave enough to watch are cheering with ardent delight, but one man – Simon Wilder – cannot join in the celebrations, instead he takes his last breath drenched in his own blood.

The fifth in Edward Marston’s The Home Front Detective Series promises a lot. The Daily Mail emphatically explains Marston: “has tapped into a rich vein of inspiration,” and as newbie to his work I was hoping they would be right. I haven’t read the previous four of the series, so I was little concerned I would get lost amongst characters that should, after four books, be well established. We’ve all been there, you get a book only to find out it’s the second, third, or fourth, (place any number) in a series and, as you try to get into it you realise you can’t. It’s not because the writing or the story is no good, but instead it’s because you feel as if you are diving into a life that really you know nothing about, but it’s clear that you should. So the book gets put aside, waiting to the day you finally purchase the previous ones, which if you are anything like me you’ll forget to do.

My advice for this book, if you’ve not read the others, is don’t be ‘scared’ of it. Yes, there is some backstory you feel that you’re missing out on, but overall Marston has a way of pulling you in, not only into the story of murder, but also of the personal lives of the characters without ‘penalising’ you for not having read his other books.

Now, with that out of the way, onto the actual review.

Simon Wilder, a champion ballroom dancer is butchered in an alleyway – with no apparent witnesses around but a seemingly endless list of potential suspects, Detective Inspector Harvey Marmion and Sergeant Joe Keedy are on the hunt for the murderer. Under the beady, patronising eye of their superior Claude Chatfield, they find themselves thrown into the shady entertainment industry where lies, hatred, sex and scandal run rife amongst their ever-growing list of potential killers. With the added strain of their own intwined personal lives strained, the two find themselves in hot water both at home and on the job as they struggle to identify the killer.

Marston seems to be an expert at making you doubt yourself. That is the first thing. He really has got this inexplainable way of taking something you feel you believe in and turning it 180 degrees, until it couldn’t possibly be right. You find out you are indeed wrong, but in a completely different way to what you originally thought had made you wrong. It’s a confusing, and entertaining way of keeping you, the audience, enamoured with a story that quite frankly, once I got to the end, I felt had already been written time-and-time again. That doesn’t however mean it was a bad read, Marston’s ability to confuse and mislead means you won’t realise just how predictable the story is until you finish it, and you should finish it.

Having said you should finish it, there are perhaps a few things I should say before you start. Firstly, it’s an incredibly easy read – the dialogue feels extraordinary simply, which sometimes feels as though this book’s target reader is teen rather than adult. Secondly, it’s not complex – yes it’s confusing, but that doesn’t necessarily mean complex. If you are into deep and meaningful reads, although there is an element of the travesty of what World War One did to returning soldiers (in the form of Marmion’s son), this doesn’t really hit the spot. If you are also into books where you really have no idea whodunnit than this perhaps also isn’t for you. Yes it’s confusing, and Marston makes you doubt yourself – but if you are a crime novel extraordinaire,and you also tend to stick to your guns, then you might work this out at about the halfway point.

Having said that, I will be purchasing the first book in the series, as although the murder plot wasn’t my favourite I have become quite attached to the personal lives of some of the characters. I find I want to know more about them, which is where I think Marston’s talent truly lies. In a matter of a few hundred pages he has made you invest in the characters – brought them to life, and even if you didn’t think you would originally, he makes you want to know what happens. This book is certainly more than just a murder mystery, it brings to light real feelings and real common issues that people face daily. The backdrop of World War One certainly allows the story a more interesting set-up, and the use of bringing people back from war who are suffering is a large part of what makes this book compelling.

It might not be the best book I’ve ever read, but it certainly has a little something-something that is making me go back for more. This book is definitely a grower, stick with it and you’ll find it does get better.

Promise.

Buy this book here.

 

 

New Year, New Me?

How does this happen? How does a year move by so fast? I’m not sure if I can actually bring myself to believe we’re entering 2017. In the lead up to the New Year, I’ve been getting that feeling that hits your insides. A dull ache I’ve come to associate with fear. Not pain, and not necessarily sadness – more a muted fear, that I’ve not done enough. That this next year will bring much of the same. That I’ll feel like I failed in someway.

I haven’t achieved what I wanted, I didn’t share my feelings with that guy I sort of kind of but not really liked, or that in some paradoxically universe my life would feel more complete. I wouldn’t be that twenty-four-year-old living with her parents, going through a degree purely because I couldn’t get a job. The excitement of finishing in May tainted with the unknown. Do I leave the country I’m studying in, do I go home? And to what? To do what?

My friends all seem so successful – they have a plan. Or at least I think they do. And for some reason they all seem to be getting engaged, or having babies(!?) It’s amazing, I feel like I’m getting left behind.

I think we can all relate to those feelings. The feelings of shame, fear, disappointment. You’re not good enough for this, you regret not doing that, you hate yourself for making someone upset. If you’d only tried harder…

I guess I’m kind of sick of that now.

I’m sick of hating me, and in that process faking a different me who I hate even more but seems to be accepted by those around me. An ever-so-trying, always caring if slightly unhinged version of the person I should be.

I’m sick of it, and if a fake persona is what you put up too, my vote is now to stop it. I don’t want to be a half person for fear of upsetting someone, not saying something I believe because they might not believe it too. Generally I think I’m okay, but funnily enough it’s the people closest to me who probably don’t know me really, at all. I always just nod, say yes and smile.

Reality is something different.

I just want to scream at them.

So, I’m not making any resolutions, not the usual anyway, you know – be nicer, healthier, fitter.

Nope, none of them.

I guess the only resolution I’m going to make, if I have to call it a resolution, is to be me.

Unapologetically me,
because at the end of the day my happiness is all that counts and I’m a full on believer (even if I haven’t lived my own advice so far) that you have a choice to be happy.

At the end of the day, if friends and if family can’t accept you for you – do you need them anyway?

“People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be,” -Abraham Lincoln

Happy New Year,

-H

About time for an update…

It’s been over a year, but I think I’m back. Here’s what I’ve been up to.

Well hello. It has literally been ages. I think my last post was way back in October of 2015, about Kanpai in Dubai (aha, that rhymes, yes I sat here giggling away). You’ll have to bear with me, I feel like I’ve literally forgotten how to form entertaining and half-decent sentences since I last wrote a post. I wholeheartedly apologise for the mess of words that no doubt is to come.

If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you’ll know generally speaking I can be quite a chaotic writer, you would think being a postgraduate student at present that writing would be a fundamental necessity. Somehow I think I’ve got worse. I know, I know that’s probably not the case but have you ever felt more stupid even though you’re being educated. That is me – right now.

But this post isn’t about my questionable writing skills, it’s about an update.

I’m not sure if you’re aware, but I relocated to Dubai from the UK to finish my studies in the September of 2015. Fingers crossed, in May of this year I’ll be finishing and I’ll be well on my way to finding myself a real adult job. Honestly, I’m super excited to finish, and to return full-time to England, my home.

Dubai has been a struggle for me, to say the least.

I think a lot of that has to do with the limited amount of time I spend with people. I’m constantly studying, and where as the people I do know out there prefer to head to the beach (understandably, for a beautiful sunny country) or head out for a night clubbing – I’m not a beach goer (self-confidence crisis always likes to strike) and dancing the night away in shoes I can’t walk in make me uncomfortable. It’s definitely my fault that I’ve made limited connections, but it is something I’d like to work on for the rest of my time in Dubai.

I was lucky enough during 2016, to visit a whole load of places during the Summer months whilst I was back home with my dad, I’ll be writing a post or two on my blog about them with some of the photographs I’ve took whilst I was there.

  • Vienna
  • Milan
  • France
  • Czech

I spent Christmas at home in the UK with my dad, and at the moment I’m still in England, spending the last couple of weeks before I head back to university to finish my degree program.

In some ways I’m looking forward to going back, but in others I dread leaving. It’s a bit up and down. I want to finish as soon as possible so I can finally really settle down and find myself a nice little job to start saving for a little place of my own, or at least a flat share.

Honestly guys, I’ve missed you and I’ve missed this. Blogging and just letting go of feelings, it’s such a relief. I hope I can keep this up.

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Kanpai, Downtown Dubai – Food/Restaurant Review

Since I moved to Dubai, I’ve been really busy starting my postgraduate and settling into life. I haven’t done any blog posts since moving here and I know that really needs to change. So I decided to kick things off with a review about a Japanese/Asian Fusion Restaurant and Bar in Downtown Dubai, Kanpai.

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Located in Souk Al Bahar just beside the Burj Khalifa, this gem of an Asian restaurant can be found hiding on the second floor. I say hiding, but in reality as you walk towards it you get greeted by this handsome gentleman along the walls.

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It might seem a little strange to feel slightly intimidated as you enter Kanpai, but with those wonderful Samauri-esque greeting you, you might understand my fear. However in reality my family and I were met but some really warm and friendly front of house staff, who took us to our table, asked how the music was for us and really made us feel special about having booked our table with them.

Interestingly enough, whilst we were there Kanpai was having a photoshoot to help further their brand in Dubai. Even though there was this photoshoot going on in the background with the occasional flash of a flash gun or the fake laughter of models told to: “enjoy themselves,” in the next few pictures I didn’t feel like it hindered our visit at all. Perhaps, occasionally they was a longer wait time then we perhaps would’ve liked, particularly when it came to getting the bill, as there were more people dining then, but honestly I felt they dealt with the situation very professionally.

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We had a wonderful server, whose name I’m sure was Mignonne or something similar but in reality she looked just like my favourite Abbi Sciuto from NCIS. I literally couldn’t handle the similarities, she was gorgeous and was there when a glass needed refilling or to guide us through the menu, namely the cocktail menu helping us chose from the different varieties of alcoholic/non-alcoholic drinks which we could then make alcoholic. I have to say I was totally impressed with her as a waitress, as the restaurant seemed to fill she did seem to be serving everybody and she handled that pressure wonderfully. She looked as if she was enjoying herself, she was friendly, calm and helped sort out any issues we had at any given time alongside everybody else.

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You’ll probably want to hear about the food at some point. But very quickly, the setting.

Honestly I don’t know what everybody’s problem is in Dubai, but for some reason and maybe it’s just me but the last few places I’ve been to the lights have been turned so low they might as well have been off, Nobu I’m literally pointing all fingers at you. Whilst Kanpai was a little dark for my liking actually being able to read the menu without asking for a nightlight, and being able to see the food in from of me as well as the people opposite me was an absolute bonus. The lighting was low enough to set an atmosphere but not low enough to destroy any chance of mood. in the same way the music, which when we entered was pretty loud (probably due to the photoshoot), was turned down to make sure we could all hear any person on our table. Honestly touches like that really make the evening so much more enjoyable. Whilst it was pretty classy inside I loved that I wouldn’t necessarily have felt out of place wearing some smart casual trousers and flat shoes, it just felt like there were no pretensions. For me that is amazing, there is nothing worse then going to an eatery, a club or whatever and feeling like you don’t deserve to be there.

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As for the food, well if telling you we had two lots of starters before our main course doesn’t speak volumes for the quality of the food I don’t know what does. There was plenty to go around, and everything from the Spicy Chilli Edamame Bean to the Vegetable Spring Rolls was a wonderful experience for your tastebuds.

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The chefs and management at Kanpai seriously outdid themselves with their starters, and achieved a succinct and beautiful matching Asian delight. I was impressed with the speed that the starters came out, and there was no problems with us ordering in our very awkward fashion: Starter, Starter, Main without given any time to prepare anything else. Really well done for the starters:

  • Spicy Edamame Beans
  • Crab Cakes
  • Vegetable Spring Rolls
  • Some interesting, not to sure if I liked them/didn’t like them mango and vegetable parcels

Honestly, I can’t qualify if I like the last food item or not, I had one thought: “Not my thing,” and then went back for more because I’m sure it was.

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Main course, for me went a lot like the first course. I ordered:

  • Roast chicken in a spicy cream sauce with mushrooms and baby potatoes

It was delicious. But, and yes really this shouldn’t be a but, BUT: a) I wish the potatoes has been cooked a little longer and b) I felt like I could have had a much bigger portion. But then I’m a pig. Even after two loads of sharing platter starters I wanted more food, which does go to show how well prepared the food was.  We only had a slight problem with one dish, that thankfully wasn’t mine (evil laugh), that was slightly too cold but they rectified the situation immediately, and honestly it’s not even worth complaining about.

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As it was a birthday, they very kindly let me choose a desert for the birthday girl – my beautiful mum, and wrote: “Happy Birthday Veda” (surprisingly her name) on the plate. I chose the desert called Ka, or Fire which was some kind of cheesecake which was set on fire at the table. The photograph I have of it is not wonderful but you get the generally idea. I like they came out with a sparkler as well, and thankfully enough when I asked them not to sing happy birthday because my mum would have sunk under the table stayed true to their word and just brought it all out. Enough for her to be embarrassed, not enough for her to disappear – a good balance I think.

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If you want to book a table at Kanpai – which I strongly suggest visit their website or call them on 04-441-9262. Their opening times are 12pm – 2am.

A fabulous restaurant, with some amazing staff, food and just pure quality entertainment.

A French Adventure – Honfleur

So the last French adventure I’m having is in Honfleur. Now on my third visit in so many years this is a great place to stop on the way back to Calais to get the train. From Honfleur you can see the Normandy bridge which takes you closer to home, England.

A port town this is one of my favourite places in the world.

It’s peaceful, it’s fun and the food. Well the food is simply gorgeous. And if that’s not enough to win you over. They have a massive butterfly house!

Honfleur15_08One of the main things that always strikes me first about Honfleur is how beautiful a port town can be. It doesn’t seem to have any pretentious about it, and the people are so ridiculously friendly. The first year we went I got a parking fine (hangs head in shame) and everyone was so helpful in telling me how I went about sorting the whole thing out.

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I know that I promised I wouldn’t make my dad get on any other small trains but I discovered Honfleur had one, and I’m sorry to report I made him get on it. We managed to grab the front seats which made the journey so much more fun, although didn’t give me enough time to get my camera ready for upcoming shots. It’s amazing how fast those little trains can travel. Having walked around Honfleur before I was so grateful that the train took us up the hill to this beautiful church called Notre Dame de Grace. Sitting on top of a hill, which let me tell you know is a bloody hard walk, it has such a quaint feel to it. Nothing too extravagant, except for the bells. Which of course, in my awe-struckedness I didn’t take a picture of, so thank you google for this:

They are located outside of the Notre Dame de Grace and sound beautifully on the hour. In sync and with an absolutely amazing rhythm, I guess part of the appeal is that I’ve never been close to bells ringing before and weirdly enough it’s wonderful.

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The train takes you on a tour around Honfleur and shows you the beach on the outskirts which is lovely. We’d never been before so it was fantastic to see some other areas of Honfleur that really were that bit too far to walk to. Apart from Notre Dame de Grace though, you don’t get a chance to get off the train so really it’s more of a quick look and drive past and if you want to visit you need to set your mind to walking.

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Of course no trip to Honfleur would be complete without getting a ticket to the Naturospace (click the link to go to the website). It’s a wonderful site where you can spend time with butterflies, parrots, giant moths, little ground dwelling birds and fish. I love a good koi pond. It really is beautiful.

Note: It is really humid, so you know take a glasses cloth if you wear glasses and avoid keeping your hats on if you don’t want a sweaty head. (Yes, experience)

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This year is a special year for me though, because for the last two I have been trying to photograph the elusive blue butterfly, of course no exact names given as I don’t know them, but if you ever go you will know which one I mean. It’s fast, it’s electric blue on the inside of it’s wings and it almost never settles on tress or plants. But this year, and yes it’s an awful photograph, but I got a picture of it!

So Freaking Proud of this blurry photograph
So proud of this blurry photograph

I was so happy, especially as I thought all my snapping of them flying around had been in vain.

Check out some of my other photos of my day in Honfleur.

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Well that’s the French Adventure over, I wonder where to next?

A French Adventure – Reims

Reims, should probably be a longer post then this but we were literally there no time at all. So, as usual I forced my poor and unsuspecting father into one of those mini trains. Literally, if you could hear the evil laughter that the memory brings back for me you will think I’m an awful person. But anyway, I made him get in that one – last one I promise, poor man. And we went, perhaps unsurprisingly around the city of Reims.

The home of Champagne. Drool face.

What I love most about Reims is that the cathedral, bear in mind I’ve now been three or four times, is still partially covered in scaffolding. This year I think I’ve completed the circuit of the cathedral but unfortunately the cover is directly in the middle of the front of this beautiful building. Apparently it’s a long haul cleaning trip around, and by the time they’ve finished they’ll probably have to restart.

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Full of Gothic architecture, Reims is a place of imagination (at least in my eyes it is). The place, specifically the cathedral has gone through a lot. During WWI and then WWII it was heavily bombarded with shells and ended up being fully restored, thankfully, after both wars. It’s hard to describe Reims, with it’s old style buildings but totally modern feel to it as you continue to walk around I always feel slightly confused as to where I’m actually headed.

The cathedral is home to the smiling angel, see if you can spot her/him in this photo. Key hint: The Angel is smiling!

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As I write this I literally just googled the Gold Angel, and my last blog post on Reims popped up. I think that finishes this blog post (face palm slap). But I will add the link to the previous post which is basically what we did this year, but will add some photos below.

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A French Adventure – Lyon – Part Three – A River Cruise

There’s not really much to write about this river cruise. I think the photographs speak for themselves. But, as we all realise I quite like listening or reading my own words, #sorrynotsorry I’ll be brief.

This was one of the my favourite parts of the whole French holiday. Even through the mass red sunburn, and yes I was wearing suncream, and the constant fear of dropping my camera in either the River Rhône or River Saône or the bit where they come together, it was amazing.

The two women who captained the boat and gave us the tour; in both English and French I might add, were literally perfection. A smooth ride, and a witty line or too which translated well in both languages they really made the trip stand out.  When you go and get your tickets from the teeny weeny office, remember there are other trips that go in a different direction on offer too!

So without further ado, here’s what you can look forward to on the trip we took.

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So Excited. Happy Faces and Happy Hats!

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To Catch up on my French Adventure join me at the beginning in Dijon here. Or read about the other two aspects of my Lyon trip: The Basilique or The Museums.