Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (November 18)

Another busy week where winter has tried to make its mark with it feeling markedly colder, at least at times.

This Week on the Blog

My week started with a review for The Golden Child by Wendy James, a chilling psychological thriller.

My excerpt post was selected from a book from my own bookshelf, The Lie of You by Jane Lythell a psychological thriller based in an office.

This Week in Books had me featuring the authors Jane Harper, Eliza Graham and Tana French.

My review of the fabulous The Murder of Harriet Monckton by Elizabeth Haynes followed on Thursday.

My final review of the week was for The Lies We Told by Camilla Way, making this a bumper week for reading my own books.

This Time Last Year…

I was reading Anything You Do Say by Gillian McAllister a fabulous novel which gives the reader a moral dilemma with a ‘sliding doors’ scenario, great characters who behave realistically and superb plotting all coming together to give a fresh feel despite the elements appearing in other novels.

The scenario that sets the scene is a woman is going home after a night out and she feels she is being followed. Down some dark steps the man falls to his death – in one scenario the woman carries on and pretend it didn’t happen; in the other she calls for help.

You can read my original review here or click on the book cover

Blurb

It’s the end of the night. You’re walking home on your own.
Then you hear the sound every woman dreads. Footsteps. Behind you. Getting faster.
You’re sure it’s him – the man from the bar who wouldn’t leave you alone.
You make a snap decision. You turn. You push. Your pursuer tumbles down the steps. He lies motionless, face-down on the floor.
Now what?

Call 999

Wait for the police to arrive. For judgement, for justice, whatever that may be. You just hope your husband, family and friends, everyone you love, will stand by you.

OR:

Run

Stay silent. You didn’t mean to do it. You were scared, you panicked. And no one saw. No one will ever know. If you leave now. If you keep quiet. For ever.
Which will it be? Amazon

Stacking the Shelves

At the end of last month we had our annual book sale on the island that raises funds for Guide Dogs for the Blind and I’m pleased to say I managed to pick up some excellent books including two by Reginald Hill to add to my collection;

Number 7 in the Dalziel & Pascoe series by Reginald Hill is Deadheads which was published back in 1983.

Patrick Aldermann, an accountant with a company that makes toilets, is passionate about his roses, which he prunes ruthlessly, ‘deadheading’ any blossoms a minute past their prime so as to make space for the younger blooms. Not much of a gardener, Dalziel views Patrick as a strong contender for the title of Most Boring Man in Yorkshire. Pascoe, though, has noticed that senior executives at the toilet company ‘gentlemen, you might say, just a minute past their prime’ have an unlucky habit of dying. And when they do, it’s all but inevitably Patrick who, like a lucky young bloom, is poised to take their place.

My second find On Beulah Heights by Reginald Hill published in 1998 is the 17th book in the Dalziel & Pascoe series.

Blurb

Fifteen years ago they moved everyone out of Dendale. They needed a new reservoir and an old community seemed a cheap price to pay. But four inhabitants of the valley could not be moved, for nobody knew where they were: three little girls who had gone missing, and the prime suspect in their disappearance, Benny Lightfoot.

This was Andy Dalziel’s worst case and now he looks set to relive it. Another child goes missing in the next valley, and old fears arise as someone sprays the deadly message on Danby bridge: BENNY’S BACK! Amazon

Another favourite author who I have a selection of their novels on the TBR is Kate Atkinson but I didn’t have a copy of When Will There be Good News so I was delighted to find a copy for my bookshelf although I did read this at the time it was published in 2008.



Blurb

Three lives come together in unexpected and thrilling ways in Kate Atkinson’s When Will There Be Good News?

On a hot summer day, Joanna Mason’s family slowly wanders home along a country lane. A moment later, Joanna’s life is changed forever…

On a dark night thirty years later, ex-detective Jackson Brodie finds himself on a train that is both crowded and late. Lost in his thoughts, he suddenly hears a shocking sound…

At the end of a long day, 16-year-old Reggie is looking forward to watching a little TV. Then a terrifying noise shatters her peaceful evening. Luckily, Reggie makes it a point to be prepared for an emergency…

These three lives come together in unexpected and deeply thrilling ways in the latest novel from Kate Atkinson. Blurb

I also purchased a brand new book, Jane Doe by Victoria Helen Stone having been intrigued by the premise and the reviews I’ve read.



Blurb

A double life with a single purpose: revenge.

Jane’s days at a Midwest insurance company are perfectly ordinary. She blends in well, unremarkably pretty in her floral-print dresses and extra efficient at her low-level job. She’s just the kind of woman middle manager Steven Hepsworth likes—meek, insecure, and willing to defer to a man. No one has any idea who Jane really is. Least of all Steven.

But plain Jane is hiding something. And Steven’s bringing out the worst in her.

Nothing can distract Jane from going straight for his heart: allowing herself to be seduced into Steven’s bed, to insinuate herself into his career and his family, and to expose all his dirty secrets. It’s time for Jane to dig out everything that matters to Steven. So she can take it all away.
Just as he did to her. Amazon

What have you found to read?

tbr-watch

I’m delighted to record that the TBR is simply melting away with only 165!!!
Physical Books – 112
Kindle Books – 36
NetGalley Books –16
Audio Books –1

I have added three reviews of my own books since my last count and so even with one new book bought since my last TBR I still have 2 2/3 worth of book tokens!


Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

The Lies We Told – Camilla Way

Psychological Thriller
5*s

Having somewhat overdosed on psychological thrillers during the last few years I vowed to cut down during 2018 and it’s one of the few bookish resolutions that I’ve kept, but… and there is always a but; I started to miss the rollercoaster ride that this sub-genre produces so well and I so I treated myself to a copy of a book by an author who’d previously wowed me with her book Watching Edie.

If anything The Lies We Told was even better!

The opening scene is that of a young mother who finds the corpse of the family budgie – the killer is her young daughter Hannah. But that is all in the past and the dangerous daughter is left behind while we move to Clara’s story in the present.

Clara lives a ‘normal’ life. She’s happy, a working woman with a lovely boyfriend who she’s planning to move in with when he suddenly disappears. Clara does all the normal things: checks with his friends, drives down to see his family and looks in pockets & drawers to try to find clues, but there are none. What Clara does find, of course she does, that Luke wasn’t quite the man she thought he was.
Some things are excusable though, Luke’s sister Emily had disappeared without a trace some twenty years ago. From the little Clara knows this caused untold anguish certainly to Luke’s parents, Oliver and Rose Lawson, and to a lesser extent to Luke and his brother Tom who were all left to wonder what had happened to Emily.

This is a classic psychological thriller. We have a mixture of characters, all nicely distinct and most with a little bit of good, and a little bit of bad inside them – half the fun of this genre is to work out as you are reading how the stresses of the story, and this one has enough tension to make you feel like you are walking on a high wire, are influencing your view of their actions. After all if your boyfriend went missing and then you found out that he wasn’t quite the Mr Perfect you thought he was would you cut your losses there and then, or would you feel that you had to help in any way possible to help his family find out what has happened – even if that means keeping the biggest secret of all, that Emily has returned?

The story rattles along, the psychopathic child inserting herself into the story line at regular intervals even though there is no obvious place for her – has she completely transformed? Surely not, this is a psychological thriller after all and that means that scary bad personality traits only go in one direction, yes to even more dark and scary places!

Camilla Way is the absolute best at pulling all the seemingly disparate strands together and although I confess I had worked out some elements given some well-placed clues, I was still a mile from the whole truth. The ending was perfect, not quite the resolution the reader might expect but satisfying enough to allow this one to close the book with a smile.

First Published UK: 3 May 2018
Publisher: HarperCollins
No of Pages: 385
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

The Murder of Harriet Monckton – Elizabeth Haynes

Historical Crime Fiction
5*s

I like reading non-fiction books especially about true crime, even better if they are back in the past; I think this is because it feel less like I am trying to gain entertainment from someone’s tragedy, and if it is new to me too, well that is the icing on the cake. The problem with some non-fiction true crime is that you don’t get a real feel for some of the characters, often the victim who is often dead before we meet them and unless they’ve been murdered for their own dastardly acts they can appear as nameless victims. It is for this reason that my preference for true crime is that which is presented as fiction using the crime itself as inspiration. This is what the incredibly talented Elizabeth Haynes has done with the story of The Murder of Harriet Monckton.

Harriet was living in Bromley Kent, she was a single woman of 23 years old; a school teacher and observed to be a devout Christian attending the local Chapel regularly. It turns out that Harriet was also around six months pregnant when she died from ingesting Prussic acid on 7 November 1843 and her body was found in the privy behind the chapel the following day. A sad end and one that because the vessel containing the poison could not be found, the only conclusion was that this had to be a murder. But who would want Harriet dead?

Elizabeth Haynes tells us at the end of this magnificent book that she has used the two inquests held as well as newspapers from the time to recreate the key characters in the book. She has done magnificently well. Every single person we come across works as an individual, and as a collective taking up their positions in their small town, they are at times terrifying in what they are willing to see, to acknowledge and to challenge. I cried for Harriet who had so much to offer but was sadly one of those women who was taken advantage of, and lost her life because of it that comes through whether or not you take the history that the author has created to be credible or not.

Bringing the forgotten back to life is the real triumph when fictionalising a real crime. No one was ever tried for Harriet’s murder, in fact once the coroner had finally concluded the inquest some two years after her death any traces of her life seem to vanish alarmingly quickly. Elizabeth Haynes states at the end of the book that she couldn’t leave this young woman without telling her story – and I heard that story loud and clear. In the hands of this undoubtedly talented lady, we are presented back with a fully rounded woman, with hopes and fears, with errors of judgement made and plans for a better future made – the facts that are contained in the recording of her life are fed into a story that can be taken at face value and read as an example of a life lived, in 1843, in Bromley so minutely were the details recreated for our consumption.

If you haven’t already guessed, I adored this book for the premise, the skill in recreating a life, the rich story that has been served up to the reader and the characters that leap off the page, The Murder of Harriet Monckton will most definitely be a book that will appear in the top ten published this year.

First Published UK: 28 September 2018
Publisher: Myriad
No of Pages: 437
Genre: Historical Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Other Books by Elizabeth Haynes

Into the Darkest Corner (2011)
Revenge of the Tide (2012)
Human Remains (2013)
Under a Silent Moon (2013) – DCI Louisa Smith #1
Behind Closed Doors (2015) – DCI Louisa Smith #2
Never Alone (2016)

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (November 14)

This Week In Books

Hosted by Lipsy Lost & Found my Wednesday post gives you a taste of what I am reading this week. A similar meme is run by Taking on a World of Words

The book that I have just started reading is The Lost Man by Jane Harper which has received some rave reviews.

Blurb

He had started to remove his clothes as logic had deserted him, and his skin was cracked. Whatever had been going through Cameron’s mind when he was alive, he didn’t look peaceful in death.

Two brothers meet at the remote border of their vast cattle properties under the unrelenting sun of the outback. In an isolated part of Australia, they are each other’s nearest neighbour, their homes hours apart.

They are at the stockman’s grave, a landmark so old that no one can remember who is buried there. But today, the scant shadow it casts was the last hope for their middle brother, Cameron. The Bright family’s quiet existence is thrown into grief and anguish.

Something had been troubling Cameron. Did he choose to walk to his death? Because if he didn’t, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects… Amazon

The last book I finished was a historical novel from my own bookshelf: The One I Was by Eliza Graham stretches back to the Second World War in this poignant story.

Blurb

Restless, troubled Rosamond Hunter has spent most of her life running away from the past, filled with guilt about her involuntary role in her mother’s death. When her nursing job brings her back to Fairfleet, her childhood home, to care for an elderly refugee, she is forced to confront the ghosts that have haunted her for so long.

Her patient, Benny Gault, first came to Fairfleet, England, in 1939, having fled Nazi Germany on a Kindertransport train.

As his health fails, he and Rosamond begin to confide in each other. At first their tentative friendship revolves around the love they both shared for Rosamond’s glamorous grandmother, Harriet, but as their trust in each other grows, guilty secrets are exposed and history is turned on its head.
Amazon

Next I plan on reading a long-awaited novel from one of my favourite authors Tana French with her intriguing sounding book The Wych Elm.

Blurb

One night changes everything for Toby. He’s always led a charmed life – until a brutal attack leaves him damaged and traumatised, unsure even of the person he used to be. He seeks refuge at his family’s ancestral home, the Ivy House, filled with memories of wild-strawberry summers and teenage parties with his cousins.

But not long after Toby’s arrival, a discovery is made: a skull, tucked neatly inside the old wych elm in the garden.

As detectives begin to close in, Toby is forced to examine everything he thought he knew about his family, his past, and himself. Amazon

So that’s my weeks reading sorted – what does yours look like?

Posted in Weekly Posts

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph (November 13)

Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Vicky from I’d Rather Be At The Beach who posts the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book she decided to read based on the opening. Feel free to grab the banner and play along.

As regular readers to Cleopatra Loves Books are aware I have been making a huge effort in 2018 to clear some of those books that have been forgotten about on the TBR – and so as the year draws to a close I am having one final push to read some of the older entries – Today I’m sharing a book that I bought back in 2014 and The Lie of You by Jane Lythall has sat forgotten on my kindle pretty much ever since!



Blurb

One woman’s fear is a another woman’s weapon…

”When I look back on my relationship with Kathy I marvel at how naive she was, how little she knew.
But then, she always thought she had everything: the job; the baby; the friends; and him. She thought she was safe. She thought that nothing could touch her perfect world.
She should never have trusted me.”

A woman sets out to destroy a female colleague in this chilling psychological thriller. Amazon

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph ~ Intro

Heja

April

Kathy thinks she has everything: the job; the baby; the friends and him. But she does not have my will. It is all surface with her. She has no hidden places. She does not know about her dark side, or about others’. She always believes the best of people

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Now that doesn’t give too much away does it? But, combined with the synopsis I’m hoping that this will make me love my job, and colleagues, even more than I already do 😉

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Golden Child – Wendy James

Psychological Thriller
4*s

I was already a fan of Australian, Wendy James’s writing before this book, her ability to take such a wide variety of subjects from historical fiction at the turn of the twentieth century in Out of the Silence to a married woman’s downfall when past mistakes come to haunt her in The Mistake, amazed me. In The Golden Child there is no looking back, this is life in the twenty-first century a world where social media has transformed the life of those growing up with it.

Beth Mahonny is an Australian national living in the US because of her husband’s job, she hasn’t been back to live permanently since her daughters were born and unable to work under US rules, she blogs. She was quite a revolutionary when she started but by the time the book opens the world of blogging is now far more cut-throat than the light-hearted posts Liz writes on her ex-pat lifestyle but she has her followers who either gee her up or put her down.

One of my favourite parts of this book were the different commenters comments – their personalities shining through and could be taken as a random selection from any social media posts across the world and genres. It is so nice when the authors add the little touches into their books!

Beth is mother to Lucy and Charlotte, loving wife and now in charge of the project to move the family from the US back to Australia, and back to the bosom of the Mahonny family. Still Beth throws herself into the task with gusto and the reader an observe the gap between the reality of the move and the peek behind the curtain that she gives her followers. The girls get into a prestigious school and it is there that Beth meets Andi Pennington mother to a baby and older daughter, Sophie a brilliant musician who is in Charlotte’s class. But Charlotte at just twelve is positioning herself to be one of the shiny popular girls, and Sophie has no friends in school. Any relationship born out of the friendship of their mothers doesn’t change that and Charlotte isn’t moved to transfer any of the commonality they find out of school into the classroom. And then disturbing content is posted on social media and Sophie takes an overdose.

This is the type of story that will make any parent of adolescents run cold, a book that shows that in the bid to find their place in life can ruin a life forever. The shiny popular girls needing to hold their position in life, their victims trying to ignore the spitefulness all creates a powder keg that goes home with them at night in these days of the internet.

There are a lot of interesting debates around all sorts of aspects of mothering. These questions and their lack of solid answers I suspect will be eternal although it is interesting to view the different many ways even here that relative strangers can have their say which I guess just underlines the need for parents to somehow learn and teach their children how to cope with the pressure of social media.

This was a fascinating read and one where I felt empathy for most of the characters but the problem always with such ‘issue’ books is that I feel that in the need to create a story that perhaps the characters are somewhat side-lined and become a little stereotypical; it is no surprise that Sophie is fat for instance, but that aside I think this raises a lot of questions and would certainly make for a lively book club read.

First Published UK: 16 October 2018
Publisher: HarperCollins
No of Pages: 352
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Uncategorized

Remembrance Day 11 November 2018

This week on the memorable occasion of the Centenary of the end of World War I. We hear a lot about how this war has now passed out of living memory and the fantastic efforts to pass on the lessons learned to the next generations and so I’ve shamelessly re-posted my thoughts from 2013 about how books help embed those lessons bringing the stories down to human experience.

Armistice Day (which overlaps with Remembrance Day and Veterans Day) is celebrated every year on 11 November to commemorate the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne, France, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of World War I, which took effect at eleven o’clock in the morning—the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918.

If I’m completely honest I despite being taught about both World Wars at school I think that reading books has helped me put what I had learnt into context. I find books that tell the stories of what it was like during wartime captivating and this interest started early on in life.

My knowledge of the First World War pretty much began with the set texts of war poetry we learnt as part of our O’ Level English Literature course and the haunting words that were sent down the decades from young men, many not significantly older than I was at the time, have stayed with me over the years.

Anthem for Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
— Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,—
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

Without the endless dissection of those poems by my excellent teacher I don’t think I would have had anything like the understanding that I gained during those months. Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen and Rupert Brooke all bought to life exactly how great every soldier’s sacrifice was.

The Soldier by Rupert Brooke
If I should die, think only this of me;
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England.
There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

But before that the effects of war had been through fiction, heavily based upon fact, to give a feeling what war meant for the wider population. Children like books that have links to their own lives but given the right texts that doesn’t mean that they have to be modern stories, there are some great books about children in war-time, here are a few of my favourites.

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by the wonderful Judith Kerr was an early favourite. My father is Jewish and I was fascinated by this heritage even as quite a small child, although it was only on the death of my Grandfather that I realised that our surname had been anglicised on the birth of my Uncle in 1938.

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit

Partly autobiographical, this is first of the internationally acclaimed trilogy by Judith Kerr telling the unforgettable story of a Jewish family fleeing from Germany at the start of the Second World War
Suppose your country began to change. Suppose that without your noticing, it became dangerous for some people to live in Germany any longer. Suppose you found, to your complete surprise, that your own father was one of those people.
That is what happened to Anna in 1933. She was nine years old when it began, too busy with her schoolwork and toboganning to take much notice of political posters, but out of them glared the face of Adolf Hitler, the man who would soon change the whole of Europe – starting with her own small life.
Anna suddenly found things moving too fast for her to understand. One day, her father was unaccountably missing. Then she herself and her brother Max were being rushed by their mother, in alarming secrecy, away from everything they knew – home and schoolmates and well-loved toys – right out of Germany… Amazon

Link to Amazon UK

Another childhood favourite was Carrie’s War by Nina Bawden, another of my favourite authors for children.Carrie's War

‘I did a dreadful thing…or I feel that I did, and nothing can change it…’
It is the Second World War and Carrie and Nick are evacuated from London to a small town in Wales, where they are placed with strict Mr Evans and his timid mouse of a sister.
Their friend Albert is luckier, living in Druid’s Bottom with Hepzibah Green who tells wonderful stories, and the strange Mister Johnny, who speaks a language all of his own. Carrie and Nick are happy to visit Albert there, until one day when Carrie does a terrible thing – the worst thing she ever did in her life…
Based on her own childhood, Nina Bawden’s enchanting story Carrie’s War has delighted readers for almost 40 years. Amazon

Link to Amazon UK

When I read this as a child I used to wonder how all those children coped being sent away from their parents. Now as a mother, I wonder how on earth those poor women managed to carry on with their children far away being looked after by people they didn’t know.

Although the lives for those fighting the war doesn’t even bear imagining the effect it had on everyone’s view of life changed forever. Those that were around for both World Wars must have seen more pain and hardship than any other generation.

At around ten I came across The Diary of A Young Girl by Anne Frank, written while Anne and her family were in hiding in Amsterdam.Diary of a young girl

Anne Frank and her family fled the horrors of Nazi occupation by hiding in the back of a warehouse in Amsterdam for two years with another family and a German dentist. Aged thirteen when she went into the secret annexe, Anne kept a diary. She movingly revealed how the eight people living under these extraordinary conditions coped with hunger, the daily threat of discovery and death and being cut off from the outside world, as well as petty misunderstandings and the unbearable strain of living like prisoners. Amazon

Link to Amazon UK

I was moved by the everyday writing depicting the horror of a life lived in secret. Years later I visited Anne Franks house, by now aware that my family were Dutch Jews and saw both my paternal parents surnames repeated over and over in the book of names of those who died in concentration camps. I will never forget that moment when I realised that it was due to a decision made years before, that I was even alive.

Anne Franks House

Anne Frank’s House Amsterdam

Books about the wars are still a staple of my adult reading and I’ve picked just a couple of those that I think stand out as exceptional examples of books that make you think and really appreciate the sacrifice that was made by all those young men.

My preference tends towards those books which look at society as a whole and . Andrew Cowen’s book Worthless Men published in 2013, is a particularly strong example. This book depicts life in an anonymous English market town in 1916, where many of the men were missing, fighting for King and Country.

Click on the book cover to read my review

worthless-men

Link to Amazon UK

Wake by Anna Hope also looks at the period just following Armistice day in an exceptional novel that uses the progress of the journey for the internment of The Unknown Warrior at the Cenotaph. Each chapter is a day and each of those days follows the journey of the coffin from France to Britain for the ceremony. So moving and a brilliant illustration of a war and what it meant for those who fought and those who were left behind.

Remembrance Day 1920: A wartime secret connects three women’s lives: Hettie whose wounded brother won’t speak; Evelyn who still grieves for her lost lover; and Ada, who has never received an official letter about her son’s death, and is still waiting for him to come home. As the mystery that binds them begins to unravel, far away, in the fields of France, the Unknown Soldier embarks on his journey home. The mood of the nation is turning towards the future – but can these three women ever let go of the past?

Link – Amazon UK

To the Grave by Steve Robinson has a different way of looking at the lives left behind during World War II


To the Grave

Our American Genealogist Jefferson Tayte aka JT has been employed by Eliza Gray who has received a suitcase with some effects telling her that she was in fact adopted. JT travels to Leicestershire to discover who the mysterious Mena Lasseter was. The story of Mena is based towards the end of the war in 1944/45 but the current day story has just as much, if not more to offer.
The characters are well drawn and Mena’s story is an emotional one but at the same time there is a lot of intrigue in the present day. JT finds himself in danger but who wants to cover up what happened all those years ago.

Link to Amazon UK

I just want to finish by saying that we shouldn’t forget the effects the two World Wars had not just on the soldiers who fought in them but a whole generation.

Lest we forget

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Dying Light – Alison Joseph

Crime Fiction
4*s

As regular visitors to my blog are aware I do like my crime fiction to be served up from an unusual perspective every now and again and so when, I came across a fantast spotlight post written about this book on Confessions of a Mystery Novelist which not only indicated it was UK crime but that the setting was in part at least within a woman’s prison, oh and the chief protagonist is a nun, I had to investigate more closely. If you haven’t come across Margot’s blog before now and you enjoy crime fiction, you really do owe it to yourself to pay a visit.

The Dying Light is actually the fifth in Alison Joseph’s Sister Agnes series and although it was clear while reading the book there was possibly some background to Agnes herself that is pertinent to who she is, it didn’t in any way distract from the main story.

The story is on the surface at least, a simple one. One of the women in the prison is told her father has been murdered, not only that but the suspect is the young woman’s boyfriend, the man she was hoping to return to on her imminent release and turn over her new leaf. Everyone assumes the crime is drugs related but Cally is convinced that her boyfriend Mal is innocence, and asks Sister Agnes for help.

The mystery takes us to the dark world of crime but one with a very human face. I am usually a reader who is turned off by reading about in-fighting amongst villains or gangs but because of the way the way this is presented I was as keen as Agnes to understand why Mal would have turned on Cliff.

It helps that Agnes is quite unlike the nun personae that I expected. She’s a young woman, very devoted I’d say not so much to her faith but to doing the right thing. She has her own struggles of course, during this book, her mother is very ill and there are calls from her native France for her to return to see her matched by a reluctance from Agnes to do so. Is she, as her friends suspect, using the struggles of the women in the prison where she works a front for avoiding her own problems?

It is hard for a writer to truly transport anyone to an unfamiliar setting but I thought that Alison Joseph chose key points of prison life that her readers could easily imagine to draw us through into a building which is full of despair, and violence along with some hope for a better future. The power struggles between the women, and those in charge of them, was realistically but not overdramatised skilfully recreating the atmosphere.

I’d say that The Dying Light is a book that had me thinking about some of the issues it raised almost as much as the mystery itself. That isn’t to say this is a book you can only enjoy if you are religious, far from it, what it does is bridge the gap between the religious and the philosophical whilst never forgetting that its prime purposes is to entertain the reader.

First Published UK: 1999
Publisher: Headline
No of Pages: 248
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

The Stranger Diaries – Elly Griffiths

Psychological Thriller
5*s

What an absolutely fantastic book, the perfect autumnal read in, this a creepy psychological thriller, a standalone book by the very talented Elly Griffiths.

I’m a typical book lover so an author who inserts a book inside a book is onto a good thing. Even better if you do as Elly Griffiths has, and insert a fictional Victorian gothic thriller into a modern crime thriller book.

Clare Cassidy is an English Literature teacher at Talgarth High, a modern building annexed onto Holland House the last residence of the famous author R.M. Holland. Even before Clare went to teach at the school she was a fan of R.M. Holland’s writing but having access to his untouched study has only increased her interest and she’s planning to write a biography about him. In her day job, which includes adult creative writing lessons, she uses his text The Stranger to lead and inspire her classes. Then a close friend, another teacher is found murdered and it seems that the murderer is also a fan of our Victorian writer as a quote from The Stranger is found by the body.

I really can’t stress how brilliantly Elly Griffiths has fused the old and the new in this novel because she doesn’t appear to use any novel techniques; the book open s with the start of the gothic thriller with other excerpts appearing throughout the book, but somehow even with references to ghosts and the strangeness of the supernatural, I was so completely immersed in the book that I pretty much unquestionably believed all that I was told for the duration of the read.

The modern investigation is told from multiple viewpoints which include Clare, the detective DS Harbinder Kaur who is an acerbic quirky character who soon became my favourite of all the characters in the book, Clare’s teenage daughter Georgie also gets a stay and decide whether we also disapprove of her older boyfriend or not. And this is the thing, throughout the book the Victorian melodrama of suspicious deaths and references to a missing daughter brush-up not only against the absolute brutality of murder, but the everyday modernity that is life; what do we think of an Indian gay detective? Does it matter that a grown woman lives with her parents? Should a fifteen year old be dating a twenty-one year old? What does that say about him? Her Parents? and on, and on – some aspects of the book appear deliberately inserted to make the reader question the viewpoint that they are prodding at. To add to the cast of interesting characters we have Henry Hamilton a Cambridge scholar who has some of his letters and we have Harbinder Kaur’s work partner Neil and the aspiring Jean Brodie, Bryony Hughes, believe me a more mixed yet fascinating bunch of people your unlikely to meet.

As for the mystery itself? Well I guess it isn’t the hardest to crack but nor is this a book where it’s obvious from the start – there are plenty of red-herrings to keep you on your toes and don’t forget there are also mysteries to be solved in the past too! There is entertainment to be had on every page from the literary references to bonkers behaviour and ghosts haunting the stairways!

When the wind is howling and the nights are dark you’ll have to go a long way to find such a perfect atmospheric read.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers Quercus for sending me an arc, and the author Elly Griffiths for a thoroughly entertaining read, this review is my unbiased thanks to you all.

First Published UK: 1 November 2018
Publisher: Quercus
No of Pages: 416
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (November 7)

This Week In Books
Hosted by Lipsy Lost & Found my Wednesday post gives you a taste of what I am reading this week. A similar meme is run by Taking on a World of Words

I am currently reading The Liar’s Wife by Samantha Hayes which is due to be published on 22 November 2018. This psychological story has drawn me in so far although needless to say I’m still waiting for some pertinent questions to be answered.

Blurb

When Ella wakes up in hospital following a hit and run incident, she is scared and confused. Close to tears, her eyes fall on a get-well-soon card on the window sill and the nurse reassures her that her loving husband will be back soon.

But Ella has never been married… Amazon

The last book I finished was also a psychological thriller which just goes to show after months of cutting down on this sub-genre it still holds plenty of appeal. Camilla Way had wowed me with her previous novel Watching Edie so I was keen to read her latest novel The Lies We Told.

Blurb

DO YOU PROMISE NOT TO TELL?

A DAUGHTER
Beth has always known there was something strange about her daughter, Hannah. The lack of emotion, the disturbing behaviour, the apparent delight in hurting others… sometimes Beth is scared of her, and what she could be capable of.

A SON
Luke comes from the perfect family, with the perfect parents. But one day, he disappears without trace, and his girlfriend Clara is left desperate to discover what has happened to him.

A LIFE BUILT ON LIES
As Clara digs into the past, she realizes that no family is truly perfect, and uncovers a link between Luke’s long-lost sister and a strange girl named Hannah. Now Luke’s life is in danger because of the lies once told and the secrets once kept. Can she find him before it’s too late? Amazon

Next I am planning to read another of my own books A Fractured Winter by Alison Baillie after so enjoying her previous novel Sewing the Shadows Together.




Blurb

A missing girl.
Threatening notes.
Sinister strangers.

Olivia’s idyllic family life in a Swiss mountain village is falling apart. She thought she’d managed to escape the past, but it’s coming back to haunt her. Has somebody discovered her secret – why she had to leave Scotland more than ten years ago? What is her connection to Marie, a lonely schoolgirl in a Yorkshire seaside town, and Lucy, a student at a Scottish university?

A story of the shadows of the past, the uncertainties of the present and how you can never really know anybody. Amazon

What do you think? Any of these books take your fancy this week?