‘We enjoyed the books greatly and they are fantastic. I am a great fan of the crime genre and the books were among the best I have read. I enjoyed all the references to Australia in book 2, but I also loved the story. When I finished the second one I thought OK how is Celia going to top that one and blow me the 3rd book was even better.... We hope Celia will write more great crime novels soon.’
Doreen & Rod, Queensland, Australia, commenting on the whole trilogy
‘A wonderful book. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Mind you I hadn’t got a clue who did it! I read a lot of Patricia Cornwell and you are definitely on par with her. Keep up the good work!’
Venessa, Caterham, UK, commenting on A Model Murder
‘I enjoyed reading it. Loved the Italian connection. A thoroughly good read. Looking forward to reading the next part.’
Jacqueline, Warlingham, UK, commenting on A Model Murder
‘I really enjoyed them. I thought they were rather good indeed!.’
John, London N1, UK, commenting on A Model Murder and Wilful Murder
This book is a most accomplished debut as both a novel of character and as a pure thriller. What is particularly impressive for a first novel is the way in which Celia Conrad strikes the balance between character-development and scene-setting on the one hand and stepping on the pace on the other: like an aircraft on take-off she judges perfectly when to move from the establishing the framework of her fiction to the dialogue-driven and incident-full plotting that swirls us through a series of rapidly developing incidents in a well evoked contemporary London. The heroine and lead investigator, private client solicitor Alicia Allen, is a finely detailed achievement, who possesses an incisive forensic ability, an old-fashioned courage without self-righteousness, a gentle humour, traditional romantic aspirations, and sufficient foibles (and humility about them!) to make a truly rounded creation. We will be happy to be in her company for the length of three volumes. Her ironic observations on other characters and on life in general provide consistent pleasure alongside the main business of the novel. There is a full cast of well observed minor characters and a richly grotesque and sinister main villain who could well have escaped from the pages of Martin Amis. In less deft hands the detailed satire of the legal profession that pervades this book could have gone awry, but Celia Conrad succeeds in making it integral to the development of the novel without dumbing down the intricacies of the subject matter. The world of modelling agencies and pole-dancing clubs also comes to life with equal if sleazier vividness. The author is really making a more profound moral point here that professional corruption comes in many and varied forms, but with no fundamental differences in transgressive culpability and human exploitation. This is driven by the plot though, and not by preachiness. From a purely technical angle the author's complete command of dialogue-form is what impresses most, managing to convey atmosphere and tone alongside naturalness and character with great economy. It is therefore easy to imagine an adaptation into other media because Ms Conrad has already done most of the work. The production values of the book are high and fully deserve to catch the eye of the airport or train-station traveller seeking the pleasures of a traditional read as opposed to Kindle-consolation. I look forward with real anticipation to the later volumes as they appear in the next few months - a fruity, spicy, ingredient-freighted fictional Stollen in three sections - a true Winter treat!
Tim, London SE26 UK (comments on A Model Murder)
The pattern of this novel is beguiling, gradually enveloping the reader with a sense of menace, destabilising certainties. It is also perfectly paced, and the concluding revelation, an odd twist on a Greek model, is wholly unexpected, resonating. Travelling with the heroine, observing her intelligence as it starts to isolate the various parts of the mystery, is exhilarating. But the writing goes beyond this portrait, realising full, credible characters, each separately shaped, often throwing up unexpected aspects-with ramifications - which engage the reader further. This novel also includes satirical parts, notably an acerbic study of the legal profession- it would seem the results, fittingly, of an insider's scrutiny (something Dickens would have enjoyed). And I liked some of the quieter details, such as the choice of a favourite painter at one stage- it's all a question of perspective. What strikes finally is indeed how filmable the novel is: perfectly suited to dramatisation, particularly given the author's sensitive ear for natural but dramatically purposeful dialogue and the refined structure of the plot. The central character is likely to appeal to a wide audience. I hope that such an adaptation happens: a young actress' career could swell from such an interpretation.
Edward, Debenham UK (comments on A Model Murder)
In this second volume in her ambitious trilogy Celia Conrad successfully balances continuity of character with formal innovation. While the book can be read on its own without reference to its predecessor, there are rich layers of new characterisation available to those who have already followed Alicia Allen through 'A Model Murder'. However, with characters now firmly established the author can afford to focus more on plot, and in this respect Ms Conrad turns in a bravura performance setting any number of teasing possible outcomes in motion, and reserving some daring bait-and-switch manoeuvres for the final chapters. To add to these challenges for much of the novel Alicia Allen is in Australia while many of the key plot developments take place in England; yet so skilfully realistic is the dialogue (texts, email and telephone calls as much as direct conversation) that the pace never slackens. This reader would have welcomed a few more of the delightful touches of humour and generalisations on human nature that ornamented the first book, but that would have delayed the action in this whirlwind scherzo and I suspect the tone and pace may well change once more in the final volume, which I look forward to reading in the new year. Compliments are also due to the designer whose witty, elegant cover features complement the discreet, cool yet crafty accomplishment expressed within the volume as a whole. Alicia Allen in Australia may seem a cuddly, fluffy, pringle-crunching koala, but when needed she can show both class and claws!
Tim, London SE26 UK comments on Wilful Murder)
Celia Conrad has woven a wonderful tapestry of complex and interesting characters, not a few of whom are potential suspects in a horrific murder. The protagonist, Alicia Allen, a young solicitor with a wise head, tells a first-person tale both of her own day-to-day activities in contemporary London and of what goes on in the more sordid side of life. When the police are not forthcoming on the details of their investigation of the gruesome murder of her friend, Australian model Tamsin Brown, Alicia embarks on her own, sometimes dangerous probe into London's dark side. The reader is gripped with suspense on just how seedy nightclubs, high-end law firms, a maybe lover, money laundering, and a mysterious Australian professor play a part in the "model murder."
Robert, Minneapolis, USA (comments on A Model Murder)
Finally we have Celia Conrad's second "Alicia Allen Investigates" thriller and it was well worth the wait. Once again London solicitor Alicia Allen finds herself drawn into a web of legal, familial, and murderous intrigue. A long-lost friend appears and introduces Alicia to a new client, Isabelle Parker, a young woman with a simple need: prepare her a new will. But wait, this is no simple will and Isabelle has no simple family background, in fact she has no family left, or so she thinks. Suspected murders and then actual murders soon follow and Alicia's on-again-off-again sort-of-boyfriend Alex warns her to stay well clear of the whole situation. As the story shifts from London to Australia--and an Australian murder--the reader is sent off on new and unexpected directions and is introduced to still more interesting and possibly homicidal characters. "Wilful murder"? Only too true as Alicia herself nearly meets her maker.
Robert, Minneapolis, USA (comments on Wilful Murder)