We enjoyed all 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


"What do law firms and men’s “hostess” clubs have in common? If your first thought is “alpha males,” you’re already on board with A Model Murder. Conrad draws disturbing, often painfully entertaining, parallels between these two worlds where Neanderthals still roam the Earth, and a resistant female might get a bop on the head or worse...Alicia Allen is a London-based Anglo-Italian lawyer on the verge of her 30th birthday whose experience of Death has been limited to sorting estate issues...until her beautiful Australian neighbor and wannabe model, Tammy, turns up raped and murdered before she can collect her first paycheck from the job she wants to quit in a sleazy men’s club. British author Conrad has painted a loving portrait of the multi-cultural melting pot that is London and her down-to-earth heroine who has no superpowers of intuition and deduction, but is quite simply a good neighbor who will stop at nothing until a wrong is made right...When Alicia coincidentally finds herself in a life-threatening work situation from a mad-dog senior partner, the link between sociopaths who legally run law firms and take unfair advantage of women “underlings” and the sociopaths who run illegal prostitution rackets solidifies."—DANCING IN THE EXPERIENCE LANE, Open Salon

"A Model Murder is 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 Celia Conrad is definitely on par with her. Keep up the good work!"—Venessa, Caterham, U.K.

"A Model Murder 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

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


"Alicia Allen in Australia may seem a cuddly, fluffy, Pringle-crunching koala, but when needed she can show both class and claws! Author 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. For much of the novel Alicia Allen is in Australia while many of the key plot developments take place in England...yet the pace never slackens."OPHIDEIDE, Amazon U.K.

"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, MN


Look to the past to see what the future holds. —Wilful Murder 
Who doesn't enjoy a ripping good tale of a Will, murdered relatives and love's labor rewarded? For Wilful Murder, the second book in the Alicia Allen Investigates trilogy, British author Celia Conrad has concocted a pastiche composed of the basic elements we expect in a murder mystery that spins on disgruntled relatives, and reinvented it as part-Travelogue, part-Greek Tragedy, part-Shakespeare and part-Love Story. If you love "cozy mysteries" with their gentle no-sex-or-graphic-violence paradigms, and strong, intuitive female amateur sleuths; and you love "cerebral mysteries" with their complicated Ah Ha! plots, then I highly recommend Wilful Murder for your next great readAnd if you know nothing about cozies or cerebrals, but just love a bittersweet romantic subplot where a dynamic duo slug it out until they (almost) fall into each other's arms รก la Hepburn and Tracy--then yes, this book's for you too. 
I do suggest reading Book 1, A Model Murder, first. Although  few of the first book's characters and almost none of its setting make their way into the second, there's little exposition to bring the newbie up to speed in terms of what has happened in the past to create the present circumstances that open the story. In the previous book, Alicia Allen--the Anglo-Italian woman lawyer with a passion for justice--makes friends with an Australian neighbor who works at the law firm where Alicia has just been newly hired.  The young, pretty Australian, Kim, has a crush on her boss, Alex, who in turn has a thing for the incomparable Alicia.
At the end of A Model Murder, Alicia and Alex appear to be merrily strolling off into the sunset. But alas, they are not a couple by the time we revisit Alicia in London. As Wilful Murder opens, Alicia is preparing to go to Kim's wedding in Australia. She is now estranged from Alex who once courted her, but took off to work in Singapore. They are still in touch, but Alicia carries resentment at Alex's decision to distance himself from her.

 "I don't think you can afford to trust anyone..."
Alicia Allen is nothing if not cautious. She is not a heroine who wears her heart on her sleeve, and in this, not unlike Patricia Cornwall's psychologically wounded medical examiner Kay Scarpetta. Like Scarpetta, Alicia plays her cards close to her chest. She's not one to swoon when Alex appears again--this time in Australia for Kim's wedding. For his part, Alex wants nothing more than to woo Alicia, and he nearly turns himself inside out trying. Alicia has other things on her mind by the time she crosses paths with the most-desirable-man-on-earth (aka "Alex"). Before leaving London, she took on a client with more troubles than her own: Isabelle Parker, an heiress who is about to come into a magnificent fortune, if she can stay alive long enough to inherit it. Relatives and relatives-to-be have been dropping like proverbial flies, and the body count grows as the plot proceeds...

Alicia visits lovely beachy spots, dines in charming cafes on exotic fare and visits museums--without her solicitious solicitor suitor in tow. Quite frankly, those of us who might be lying boyfriendless on some beachreading Wilful Murder may wish to slap some sense into this righteous heroine, but thereis still that voice inside our heads that shouts, "You go, Girl!" when she finally gets physical in a life-threatening clinch with the killer as the story approaches its denouement.  
Conrad arranges for Alex to be out of the picture for quite some time, and we are left to follow Alicia's head as she works out the puzzle to solve these crimes. This is true to the "cerebral" mystery style, and reminiscent of Agatha Christie's careful detailing and construction. The plot is chock full of minor characters: most of whom we barely get to know.
One of Conrad's great strengths is dialogue. I found that if I simply "saw" the story as a film and let the dialogue carry me through, A Wilful Murder came to vivid life in my mind's eye. 
"What are the two things most people kill for?" 

An ominous note received by imminent victims warns: Look to the past to see what the future holds and make recompense for what those before  you have done..." 

"Indecisive" is one of the last words in the book, and reflects this tale's Hamlet aspects. Yes, Alicia catches the bouquet, but it has no more active effect on her than Hamlet seeing his father's ghost. ..
When the story comes together at the end--revealing truths, tying up some loose ends and leaving others still hanging--it leaves the reader feeling winded and yet oddly trimphant having made it across the various locales and dangers that abide in Wilful Murder, and having found tourist pleasures in the Land Down Under and returned to Great Britain, while still trying to figure out whodunit. Wilful Murder is built around the fine art of looking at the past--where we came from, what made us who we are today, the skeletons in our closets that we may or may not know about, and it prompts questions about whether we can make positive changes such as opening our hearts again to someone in spite of all we've been through or whatever pain still resides in our DNA.
Looking forward to the last book in the trilogy, Murder in Hand and its take on Sicilian corruption. Brava, Celia! 

This is a book I can recommend for Italophiles, Anglophiles, fans of Traditional British Mysteries, and fans of Cozy-Murder-Mysteries....Savor the setting details, meanderings, the theories, and the relationships. All true to the genre, along with multiple murders, investigative trails galore, an exciting ending, and a romantic Epilogue. The Allicia Allen Investigates series gives Italophile cozy-fans a look into the world of a young English woman whose life is enriched by her Italian mother's culture, If you have read the first two books in the series, you will enjoy catching up with Alicia's friends and family. If you are new to the series, you will still be able to understand and enjoy Alicia's relationships, especially the interplay and affection with her boyfriend who is Alicia's sounding board.”
ITALOPHILE BOOK REVIEWS  - Candida Martinelli []

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