Geneva, Norway, Liepzig, Greece: The Storm Sister – Lucinda Riley

STORM

Why a booktrail?

1875, 2007: The epic second tale about the second of the Seven Sisters taking you from the shores of Lake Geneva, via Greece, Bergen/Oslo and Liepzig

Story

Ally D’Aplièse is about to compete in one of the world’s most exhilarating but dangerous yacht races, when she learns that her adoptive father has died suddenly. When she returns home to Geneva, she finds that along with her sisters, Pa Salt as he was affectionately known has left each of them a clue as to their true heritage.

Deciding to follow the trail and find out who she really is and where she comes from, she leaves behind her sailing life and her new love affair to venture out into the most thrilling yet nerve-wracking journey of her life. A journey that will take her to the mountains of Norway and right to the heart of a famous composer Grieg and  a  little unknown singer who changed the world.

But there are some questions left unanswered….for now.

Place and setting

LUCINDA

The Aegean Sea

Greece (Naxos, Mykonos, Macheres, the Aegean sea) chora

In the middle of the idyllic and peaceful Aegean sea, sailing from Naxos to Mykonos and everywhere in between, Ally is about to compete in the most gruelling and famous Yacht race in the world. She has fought to get where she is, in what is largely a male dominated sport. Falling in love with the skipper wasn’t in her plans but soon there’s is a perfect romance and the frantic and exciting world of yacht racing, the waves slapping up against the boat, the crew banter and the sheer hard work involved in such a sport are evoked with vibrancy – the sweat and toil, danger of it all – “ All sailors are in a dangerous game and one just never knows” says Theo.

Before stormy waters change her life for ever.

Atlantis, Geneva

The magical and somewhat majestic ‘ posh orphanage’ as the sisters call their home. A place on the shores of Lake Geneva where Pa Salt, an enigmatic millionaire took six girls and adopted them. What happened to the seventh remains a mystery. Ally returns her to sadness, finds the clues her father has left and reunites breifly with the sisters before heading off on her search for her own destiny – with a book translated from the Norwegian which her father intended her to read.

Norway

Engerbret cafe http://engebret-cafe.no/ Jens and Anna meet here The Ibsen museum http://www.norskfolkemuseum.no/ibsenmuseet Essential to both Anna and Ally’s stories OSlo - St Olavs Gate Anna first lives here when she moves to Oslo to sing Sankt Olavs Gate 13A 0165 Oslo, Norway 59.918079, 10.740765 The National theatre, Johanne Dybwads plass 1 http://www.nationaltheatret.no/ Where Anna sings...
Engerbret cafe
engebret-cafe.no
Jens and Anna meet here
The Ibsen museum
norskfolkemuseum.no/ibsenmuseet
Essential to both Anna and Ally’s stories
Oslo – St Olavs Gate
Anna first lives here when she moves to Oslo to sing
The National theatre, Johanne Dybwads plass 1
nationaltheatret.no
Where Anna sings…

Somewhere in the Telemarkt area of Norway, on the banks of a mountain, a young girl Anna gets the chance to sing in a prestigious musical performance in Christiana, (Oslo) Her journey there is unusual for a country girl used to herding cows all day but soon she is singing on the world stage and her story of her life and career unfold. Her rural life becomes one of fame and fortune and events soon turn into something much more dramatic.

Life in Bergen

Life here with the music scene and on the search into Grieg and his musical legacy is a joy to discover. As Ally discovers more, she revisits the places where those of years earlier once lived and worked. From the Grieg museum where the famous man once lived to the wonderful Frokehuset with its frog symbology, this is where the musical world comes to life and the stories of past and present truly merge as a black and white photo is placed on top of layers of colour.

Troldhaugen – Grieg’s home

griegmuseum.no/en

Edvard Grieg House, Troldhaugvegen 65, Paradis, Norway

Liepzig 

The story ends up in Liepzig where to tell you how would give too much away. The musical trail takes us here to a world of opera, classical music and theatre. The story of a star with his own former glory and link to the Grieg legacy who may just have the last little thread to unravel Ally’s past and reveal the truth behind her legacy.

Both Anna and Ally’s stories are woven together bringing their journeys to the ultimate destination that unites them in one destiny – that which Pa Salt left in his legacy.

STORM

REVIEW

Susan:

There’s always one author I just know I’m going to enjoy and after having read the first in the Seven Sisters series which I loved, I was intrigued to find out what would happen to the second sister Ally.

A long book yes but not long enough really. It’s an epic read in every sense of the word from the locations around the world to the journey it takes you on musically and physically. The tales of a famous composer and one of the seven sisters is magically woven together and it’s  a breathtaking journey.

I loved the idea of Ally travelling back to a place her father had left her clues about and as she read the book he had left her, then travelled to the place we’re taken back in time to when those events happened and from Anna and Jens to Pip and Grieg, the journey was fascinating and I loved getting to know each and every one of these people and how their stories linked together and across time.

Lucinda paints and writes music with her words for there is a lot of musical content in the book  – the passion of the behind the scenes preparation, the hard work involved and that tingle you feel when a solo voice emanates from the stage – every emotion, chill on the back of your neck and musical note in your ear is vividly evoked and more.

What a read – take your time that’s my advice and savour this journey. The amount of detail, research and twists and turns makes for an exhilarating journey with many shocks along the way. The writing is like the music it describes – uplifting, flowing along with a dramatic crescendo leaving you applauding loudly and wanting more.

Advertisements

Italy, Maranello, France, Switzerland – From Italy with Love – Jules Wake

Italy with love

Why a booktrail?

A woman is left a Ferrari in her uncle’s will, but to earn it, she must take it on an journey across France, Switzerland and Italy and send postcards from various places. Sounds like fun to us!

Story in a nutshell

Laurie loves comfort and home life- she works in a library, has a reliable boyfriend and thinks she’s happy. But when she’s offered the chance of a Ferrari and has to undertake a road journey across Europe to get it, she is somewhat nervous.

Her uncle Miles was known as an eccentric but what he is proposing – this drive across Europe with the gorgeous but unreliable Cameron Matthews as her guide… seems to be the maddest idea of all.

Cam is there for the ride in more ways than one – he’s got his eye on the flashy car and is prepared to do al he can to get it. It should be easy – he’s the guide after all.

But Uncle Miles is really the one in the driving seat – for the route is a special one and they’re about to see just what twists, turns and bumps he has planned along the way

Place and setting

France - Honfleur -http://en.ot-honfleur.fr/discover-honfleur/heritage/the-old-dock/ The old port is one of the prettiest parts of the town. Laurie is fascinated as they arrive here. Loire Valley They visit Chateau de la Mioroir in the book which is fictional but this one is one of our favourites and one of the most impressive in the area - http://www.chenonceau.com/ Bormio Town close to the Stelvio Pass area. A small medieval town and surrounded by mountains Lake Garda - Riva del Garda There was no doubt about it. Riva del Garda had to be one of the prettiest spots in Europe Maranello Home of the Ferrair and destination of Laurie and Cam’s journeyhttp://museomaranello.ferrari.com/prices-and-tickets/
France – Honfleur http://en.ot-honfleur.fr/discover-honfleur/heritage/the-old-dock/
The old port is one of the prettiest parts of the town. Laurie is fascinated as they arrive here.
Loire Valley
They visit Chateau de la Miroir in the book which is fictional but this one is one of our favourites and one of the most impressive in the area – http://www.chenonceau.com/
Bormio
Town close to the Stelvio Pass area. A small medieval town and surrounded by mountains
Lake Garda – Riva del Garda
There was no doubt about it. Riva del Garda had to be one of the prettiest spots in Europe
Maranello
Home of the Ferrari and destination of Laurie and Cam’s journey  http://museomaranello.ferrari.com/prices-and-tickets/

A trail in a car leaving from the channel tunnel and then going all the way across France, Switzerland and finally to Italy seems like a great way to travel.

Having a preplanned journey with the task of sending a postcard from each one sounds like fun and they’re soon off travelling but at first the journey is not an easy one – with two such very different personalities in the car, the ride is bumpy from the start.

This is a journey with a difference and there are many surprises along the way – think road trip mixed with a treasure hunt of sorts and a few candid camera moments and your picture is almost complete. Laurie and Cam change quite a lot from the beginning and Laurie especially, as she gets further away from her home in Leighton Buzzard and her old life.

From the Channel tunnel, they head to Honfleur , Le Mans, Orleans and to the delights of the Loire Valley and the stunning castles there. Then off to Chaumont, Bresancon, Basle, Zurich, Monstein, Bormio and Maranello

But the real challenge is the Stelvio Pass – the journey from Switzerland to Italy and all the way to the home of Formula One – Maranello

For all car enthusiasts, this will cause extreme envy – visiting Bormio and Maranello. In a Ferrari!

No spoilers as to what happens to the car and those in it, but it’s been a rip roaring ride of surprises and romance set against a real life adventure trail and pilgrimage for Ferrari fans everywhere.

Bookish musings

Well that was an interesting journey! I could feel the wind in my hair, the roar of the engine and the scenery of various countries and places whizzing by. Such a fun ride and as many twists and turns both in the story and on the road. Never been in a Ferrari but I really want to go in a real one now!

The idea that your uncle had only left you a Ferrari if you drove it half way across Europe appealed to me. Knowing nothing about the world of Ferraris. I now know a little of that buzz world and the places people go on car pilgrimages. Quite an eye opener!

All in all a fun ride and a charming story. It’s a romantic comedy and there were more than one Bridget Jones moment with Laurie! She’d be great to travel with. Laughs all the way.

A fun read with an amazing backdrop across Europe!

The Lady from Zagreb – Germany, Switzerland and Yugoslavia -Philip Kerr

untitled

Why a booktrail?

The tenth Bernie Gunther mystery  and the search for a German actress hiding in Zurich. Under Goebbels orders…..

Story in a nutshell

In 1942, there are many worse places to be than Zurich, and detective Bernie Gunther has seen his fair share of them. So when a superior asks him to track down a glamorous German actress believed to be hiding in Zurich, he takes the job. Not that he has much choice: the superior is Goebbels himself.

Soon Bernie finds himself involved in something much more sinister for the actress turns out to be the daughter of a fanatical Croatian fascist, the sadistic commandant of a notorious concentration camp.

Now the Swiss police ask for Bernie’s help on a cold case they have. One with connections to some powerful people back in the Reich.

Place and setting

FRANCE - La Ciotat - http://www.edentheatre.org/ The Eden theatre which is the oldest cinema in Europe and was where the Lumiere brothers showed their first film according to the novel. Where the novel opens GERMANY - Berlin - Babelsberg studios - http://www.studiobabelsberg.com/en/ Where the actress Dalia in the novel works and where Goebels meets her CROATIA - Zagreb The Church of St Mark in Zagreb is one of the old roman catholic curchs tat Gunther says there are more of here than in the VAtican telephone directory. St Marls is the one with the fairystory roof which seems to be made from haribo sweets. CROATIA - Pula,  Istria - where Dalia was born SWITZERLAND - Zurich Gunther often walks near Lake Zurich to people watch and visits the town of Rapperswill which he describes as a charming cuckoo clock town on the north shore
FRANCE – La Ciotathttp://www.edentheatre.org/
The Eden theatre which is the oldest cinema in Europe and was where the Lumiere brothers showed their first film according to the novel. Where the novel opens
GERMANY – Berlin – Babelsberg studios – http://www.studiobabelsberg.com/en/
Where the actress Dalia in the novel works and where Goebels meets her
CROATIA – Zagreb
The Church of St Mark in Zagreb is one of the old roman catholic curchs that Gunther says there are more of here than in the Vatican telephone directory. St Marls is the one with the fairystory roof which seems to be made from haribo sweets.
CROATIA – Pula, Istria – where Dalia was born
SWITZERLAND – Zurich
Gunther often walks near Lake Zurich to people watch and visits the town of Rapperswill which he describes as a charming cuckoo clock town on the north shore

Locations – – 1943 and 1954

Berlin to Zurich to Zagreb

Bernhard  (Bernie) Gunther has a dark and troubled past. He has worked for some shady people and some shady organizations in previous books and now he now finds himself working for none other than Goebbels.

As Goebbels moved his head in an avian sort of way, I realized that with his black hair and beaky nose he reminded me most of a carrion crow

Goebbels orders Gunther to help him with his latest mistress/love interest. The lady in question  is an actress at the famous Babelsberg studios and he has had his eye on her for a long time. In those days, Goebbels eye on you meant that your future was decided by him instantly and so it’s a matter of time before this lady’s future is decided.

She needs help in tracing her father who is thought to be a monk somewhere in Croatia,  and so Gunther is sent to Yugoslavia to find him. Of course the setting and time period of the scenes in this part of the world is hard to read about

The state of Croatia was established as a Nazi state, ruled by the militia known as the Ustase.

And it’s probably no exaggeration to say that outside of Croatia, and away from the influence of the Axis powers, Yugoslavia is now in total chaos

The tapestry is richer when the author mixes both fictional and real characters together. As well as Goebbels, we meet General Walter Schellenberg, and ‘Joey the Crip’ – real characters from history where we gain an insight into their personalities.

The historical settings are both horrific and fascinating. We didn’t know anything about the Ustashe movement in Croatia during WW2, or the positions of the Swiss for that matter but the crimes against humanity are evoked in brutally raw detail to illustrate the reality of it all.

Russians will do to this country and to our people what they are doing now in Croatia

A moral maze of countries, cities and people all trying to get through the horrors of war. And at the centre – a man – Goebbels who wants a certain actress to star in the next picture he produces at the famous Babelsberg studios.

Austria, England, Switzerland – Jakob’s Colours – Lindsay Hawdon

Jakobs-colours

Why a booktrail?

Inspired by the real life but little known period of history – the story of Europe’s gypsies during WW2

Story in a nutshell

Austria, 1944. Jakob, a gypsy boy – half Roma, half Yenish – runs and runs as he has been told to do. With bloody feet, a stone in one hand and a box in the other, he runs towards hope for there is nowhere else to go.

Ever since he was born, his parents have taught him how to read the land and the sky and to see the colours of everything around him, the colour of the trees and the flowers but also the colour of good in the midst of so much evil.

“Run if you can, always if you can

For to run is to live”

From one world war to another, this is the story of those forgotten by history – the Romany gypsies and their stories at the hands of the Nazis

Place and setting

Locations – Austria, England and Switzerland (with places in Poland significant to the history)

 GERMANY - Buchenwald Memorial, 99427 Weimar, Germany The first genocide of the holocaust where Romani children were taken and killed AUSTRIA - Lackenbach an internment camp for gypsies AUSTRIA - Burgenland Officials in Burgenland in 1933 call for the withdrawal of all civil rights of Roma POLAND - Lodz Gypsy camp set up in the jewish ghetto of Lodz in Poland POLAND  - Auschwitz Where many Roma ended up. When the camp was liberated only one was found alive.

GERMANY – Buchenwald Memorial, 99427 Weimar, Germany
The first genocide of the holocaust where Romani children were taken and killed
AUSTRIA – Lackenbach
an internment camp for gypsies
AUSTRIA – Burgenland
Officials in Burgenland in 1933 call for the withdrawal of all civil rights of Roma
POLAND – Lodz
Gypsy camp set up in the jewish ghetto of Lodz in Poland
POLAND – Auschwitz
Where many Roma ended up. When the camp was liberated only one was found alive.

The novel spans a period from the 1920s to the 1940s and is based mostly in war torn Austria and Vienna in particular. But the story of one family is traced back to their roots back to Switzerland and England.

The horror of the situation slowly unfolds although the Background section at the back of the book puts the historical context into stark contrast –

“The Porrajmos is the Gypsy Holocaust. It means the Devouring”

Austria

The unfolding horrors of the Nazi genocide on the Romany population takes place here. The towns of Chelmo, Lackenbach and Lodz tell of their horrors of their place in history.

But Jakob’s story transcends this to explain how the real horrors were not revealed or known to the general population until it was too late. Jacob’s world is a vague one but a carefully crafted one to minimise the hurt for a young child and his parents’ wish to protect him.

At a days journey from the German border-

They move across a field, keeping to the shadows and a dip in the eastern hedges. They stumble down a slope to the broken-tiled roof of a small, low farmhouse, the land long since taken from it on a day when soldiers had arrived and claimed it as their own”

Switzerland

The origins of the word Yenish ( a word of Swiss origin meaning traveller) and the organisations set up to support children from these communities  – Pro Juventute – are also referred to in this story to show background and historical accuracy. In a Swiss hospital, Lor meets Yavy, the gypsy who becomes Jakob’s father.

England, Somerset Valley

Lor, Jacob’s mother is from here and we go back to England of 1929 in order to see how she and Yavy meet.

This is not a landscape that you can image colour to exist in but Jacob’s father, despite the horror and the brutality of their reality has always painted a picture of the world full of colour.

“Don’t be afraid Jacob, his father has told him. See the colours, my boy”

Jakob’s journey in search of survival is a long and difficult journey

Run if you can. Always if you can

For to run is to live

This is  a story of a group of people who were caught up in war and in a situation they had trouble in understanding. They had no means of escape and so to tell Jacob to run has an overriding sense of heartbreaking finality to it. for he is running for his life away from the Nazi genocide slaughtering his people.

Brutal yet poetic. A glimpse into a past not widely documented in literature.

Bookish musings

The author is a well known travel writer who herself has lived  and worked in several countries far and wide writing about them for her newspaper columns – An Englishwoman Abroad for the Independent or ‘Have Kids Will travel’ for the Sunday Times. I think this is how you can really appreciate the language she uses and the ways she paints a picture quite literally with her words. Apt in the circumstances.

A dream like quality pervades this book and the character of Jacob is one which was both poignant to read about and intriguing to learn of his world of colour.

A fascinating journey told in five parts in three voices – Jacobs story, his father and his mother and all coming together as one. The chapters ‘ Before’  Long Before’  and ‘This day’ helped to shape the novel and the experiences of what was to come.

A real think about read and one I’m pleased to have the honour to have read. And the shame I knew so little about the historical background. The stunning cover says so much with its vibrancy and poignant meaning.

Moving and poignant despite the sad and tragic background. Humbling.

Hausfrau – Zurich, Switzerland – Jill Alexander Essbaum

HF

Why a booktrail?

A Hausfrau is a German word for Housewife, homemaker and wife. None of these descriptions is one which Anna Benz feels suits her. Anna was a good wife, mostly….Now you may want to 

Story in a nutshell

“Anna was a good wife mostly, – well you just know that  the story is not going to be a happy one. Anna Benz is married and lives unhappily in Dietlikon in Zurich. We meet her sitting in the therapist’s chair, she spills out her secrets – of one affair after the other, of her life in Zurich, of her husband, their children and how she feels lost in the maze of it all.

A terrible chain of events is unfolding and one which will have the most terrible consequences. The Swiss obsession for order, time keeping and the quiet life which Anna has always rejected is about to be her ultimate downfall.

We thought this a mix of ‘Fifty Shades meets Gone Girl’ – it creates a depressing but reckless and absorbing read.

Place and setting

Rosenweg st, Bulach district, Zurich  Anna and her family live here Trittligasse Where the doctor has her surgery and where Anna gets her treatment Nierdorf The central tram stop is near Archi’s flat as is the Stadelhofen train staton Anna meets Archie from the German class who lives here and they have an affair. Kirchgemeindehaus The church near The son’s school Aldstadt where the churches areon and the Fraumunster with its chagall windows - Wasserkirche Griefensee where Mary lives Kanton Aargau Bruno’s sister daniela lives here Kloten An affair with Karl leads Anna here The Zurich Zoo A scene of distress and anguish and it all started so innocently as these things tend to do.
Rosenweg st, Bulach district, Zurich
Anna and her family live here
Trittligasse
Where the doctor has her surgery and where Anna gets her treatment
Nierdorf
The central tram stop is near Archi’s flat as is the Stadelhofen train staton
Anna meets Archie from the German class who lives here and they have an affair.
Kirchgemeindehaus
The church near Anna’s son’s school
Aldstadt
where the churches areon and the Fraumunster with its chagall windows – Wasserkirche
Grifiensee
where Mary lives
Kanton Aargau
Bruno’s sister Daniela lives here
Kloten
An affair with Karl leads Anna here
The Zurich Zoo
A scene of distress and anguish and it all started so innocently as these things tend to do.

For information on all these destinations please visit – http://www.myswitzerland.com/en-gb/destinations/holiday-destinations-in-switzerland/zurich-region1.html

Quiet, orderly and unassuming Zurich is the setting here for an explosive and reckless life which spirals into chaos and tragedy. The calmness and snow capped mountains evoke a paradise setting but this one is marred with tragedy and despair. The mountains might be cloaked in a shroud of beautiful snow but what lies beneath is ugly and dark.

As Anna stumbles from one event in his life to another, there is a gradual reveal of her vision of Zurich and Switzerland. The efficient trains bore her for they run like clockwork, the town despite its shops and ornate buildings is described as Menchlich, Offen, Modern – Personal, Open, Modern but Anna begs to differ. It is her husband’s home town and one which was guaranteed to provide a good place to bring their children up.

Dietlikon –

It was close enough to Zurich to be met by two city trains. It was near a large shopping centre. Its roads were safe and the houses were well kept and the town’s motto held great promise

Contrasting with this Anna and her rather different motto, then the scene is set for  chaos. As we follow her around the city, from one over’s home to another, from one secret meeting place to another we’re also reminded of the Swiss calmness and neat exterior contrasting with the chaos that is Anna herself – They live on Rosenweg street which Anna calls ‘Last Exit road’

Switzerland – 

She thought about Switzerland. Where a smile will give you away as an American. Where what isn’t taboo is de rigeuer. Cold , efficient Switzerland. Where the women are comely and the men are wel groomed and everyone wears a determined face. Switxerland. The roof of Europe. Glacier carved.

The landscape featured in the novel – from the Kirchgemeindehaus near to her son’s school, the zoo, the Griefensee castle and area where Mary and her family live, the picture of Swiss lifestyle is evoked and explored via a contrasting racy and raw plot

Swiss German efficiency

To evoke the landscape through the language of the country  – the accusative case in German – which ‘points a bony finger in her direction ‘ even that becomes something which she rejects. the language and its hard accusing tone. The declension of words is like their identity – their grammatical uniform. And as Anna learns German, she likens it to the rigidity of her life. an interesting mix of language and life merging in a novel.

Bookish musings

OMG

It took me a while to get over this book – I had a Hausfrau hangover from hell for days. It was like a slap in the face as even from the blurb I had no idea I was going to be dragged through Anna’s affairs in quite as  graphic a way as I was. Being on the therapist’s chair was a new experience for me as well and contrasting the inner demons of Anna with her picture perfect surroundings was just well very raw and thought provoking. It was a fantastic and utterly absorbing read!

As I closed the last page, I was stunned as I wasn’t sure how on earth this was going to play out. I read the book in one sitting as I knew I was headed down a slippery slope with Anna but like car crash TV, I just couldn’t take my eyes of her and what would happen. Of course the first line – ‘Anna was a good wife, mostly’ was the spark that lit the fuse for me.

I would never live like this in real life so to spend time with someone who would was at first shocking, incendiary and raw. With the graphic sex scenes and references, this is not the book for shy types. Even the German language gets in on the act – with ‘its accusative case’ pointing the finger. And even the speaking of  it ‘ jumps out from the back of your throat’

Switzerland with its four official languages and insular identity ‘closed at the edges’ proves to be the ideal setting for this raw, bitter tale of one woman and her descent into a spiral of unspeakable tragedy

Christmas in the Snow – Zermatt and London – Karen Swan

SNOW

Ski down the snowy slopes of Zermatt, taste the hot chocolate, wipe the cream from your nose and sit back in the most comfiest chair you can find beside a roaring log fire and read this book.

snowflake-clipart-transparent-background-bcyE66qcL

Story in a nutshell

Allegra and Isobel are sisters but they could not be  more different if they tried. Allegra is a hot shot businesswoman in the finance world and pitching the biggest deal of her career. Iz on the other hand is a happy stay at home mum.

But their worlds collide when they get a call from Swiss police who tell them that the 50 year remains of an old woman have been found buried in the snow and that they could belong to their grandmother. But hasn’t their grandmother just died? And how could she have been in Switzerland when the family have no connections to the country? Or do they?

What else will the slippery slopes and the melting snow reveal about their family that they would never dare ask?

snowflake-clipart-transparent-background-bcyE66qcL

Place and setting

London -  V and A museum - where they have their drinks event in the dome The gherkin - where they have their drinks party and dinner and they meet Mr Zhou Switzerland Zermatt - Ober Gabelhorn glacier - where the body is found Mount Cervin  - where Isobel and Allegra’s apparment is where they are staying Bahnhofstrasse and the old part of town where the swanky shops are and Hinterdorfstrasse   - where the buildings are more wooden and rickety and the Zermatt branch of the snow and avalanche research institute is.
London –
V and A museum – where they have their drinks event in the dome
The gherkin – where they have their drinks party and dinner and they meet Mr Zhou
Switzerland
Zermatt – Ober Gabelhorn glacier – where the body is found
Mount Cervin – where Isobel and Allegra’s apparment is where they are staying
Bahnhofstrasse and the old part of town where the swanky shops are and
Hinterdorfstrasse – where the buildings are more wooden and rickety and the Zermatt branch of the snow and avalanche research institute is.

The glitz and glamour of money

There are two worlds and settings evoked in this novel – the cut throat world of stocks and shares where the men are very much in control and the women have to fight for their place. Allegra is rich, successful and over ambitious and has all the trappings of that lifestyle. On a trip to Switzerland, she is told that the company there do not want to do business with a woman, but she is certain that some underhand dealing is taking place and that it might just involved the handsome guy who she met on the plane…

From London’s Gherkin  – to the swanky reception held at the V and A museum, this is a company that means business:

The company had gone to town this year, taking over the penthouse of the Gherkin, and she had been able to  see the pink lights through the latticed glass as far away as Whitechapel.

Zermatt - Allegra meets all kinds of danger here. Least of all a man named Sam....
Zermatt – Allegra meets all kinds of danger here. Least of all a man named Sam….

The glitz and glam of the snow covered mountains in Zermatt

Switzerland might look a picture postcard of snow and calmness but underneath the white exterior lies heartache, buried secrets and a family history that goes back years..

The mountains of Zermatt call to you as it does Allegra and Isobel in the book –

Zermatt was ready for them. All of them. Skiers and snowboarders disgorged from the cog-wheel train from Visp, spilling out into the square….

Zermatt looked even prettier in its night garb. The peaks of the Savoyard roofs were picked out with fairy lights, creating a miniature Alpine rendition of the Manhattan skyline, and the snow glowed golden beneath the street lamps.

What a cracking mix of a book – a woman working in a man’s world, business deals and finance, two sisters searching for their family’s secrets amidst the snowy landscapes of Zermatt. The two threads seem so far apart but they blend seamlessly in this Christmas read. Just when you think you know what is going on, what Sam is after, what the advent calendar means that they find in their grandmother’s posessions and then Wham! Karen Swan pulls your skis out from under you.

Zermatt with all its hot chocolates, apres-skis and twinkling lights was  a huge draw but the way in which Allegra and Iz joined forces to investigate their family’s past was thrilling. This ‘search for the truth’ was taking place at the same time as the double dealing in the finance world was coming to a head and it makes for fast and furious reading towards the end seeing how everything will tie up or at least be explained.

But it does. It does. And this mix of light hearted romance, family secrets and a woman fighting for her place in the world of finance was not a mix I had read before but I’ll be sure to be taking Karen Swan on my next literary trip.