Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (November 19)

Last Sunday we managed to have a family trip to watch Murder on the Orient Express and although we weren’t completely convinced by some of the attempt to inject some fast-moving action into the story-line, a good time was had by all. Kenneth Branagh’s moustache was especially impressive.

The week finished with my annual visit to the Guide Dogs for the Blind Book Sale with a dear friend. The consequence of helping her find some great books to read is that I have a nice pile of new (second-hand) books.

This Week on the Blog

My first review this week was of The Foster Child by Jenny Blackhurst, an exciting read which despite the supernatural bent I still enjoyed despite normally avoiding books that bend in that direction.

My excerpt post was for an upcoming read The Dress Thief by Natalie Meg Evans, historical fiction which I hope will make me feel more elegant by default.

My This Week in Books post featured authors Gillian McAllister and Nicci French and a whole heap of others (what is a collection of authors called?) in the CWA Short Story Anthology: Mystery Tour which is edited by Martin Edwards.

My second review of the week was for The Scandal by Fredrik Backman, a book that totally won me over despite my doubts at the beginning of the read. I’m was so impressed I know this needs to be in the top ten reads of 2017.

And then I reviewed Anything You Do Say by Gillian McAllister which has also contributed to the now total confusion of what my best reads of 2017 are going to be – I’ve never had quite so many late contenders!

This Time Last Year…

I was reading Out of Bounds by Val McDermid, a story where the past doesn’t merely collide but crashes into the present. With the present part of the story feeling right on the button with a strand that explores the needs of Syrian refugees which was sensitively explored without the need for the author to over state her views on the subject. With an equally enthralling past mystery, or two this was a welcome reminder of just how skilled this author is.

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

Blurb


‘There are lots of things that ran in families, but murder wasn’t one of them . . .’

When a teenage joyrider crashes a stolen car and ends up in a coma, a routine DNA test could be the key to unlocking the mystery of a twenty-year-old murder inquiry. Detective Chief Inspector Karen Pirie is an expert at solving the unsolvable. With each cold case closed, justice is served. So, finding the answer should be straightforward, but it’s as twisted as the DNA helix itself.

Meanwhile Karen finds herself irresistibly drawn to another case, one that she has no business investigating. And as she pieces together decades-old evidence, Karen discovers the most dangerous kinds of secrets. Secrets that someone is willing to kill for . . . Amazon

Stacking the Shelves

Well apart from the Eleven books I picked up at the books sale which include three Reginald Hills, two Agatha Christies, Anne Cleeves, Kate Atkinson & Beryl Bainbidge amongst others, I also have added The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton which will be published in February 2018.

 


Blurb

‘Somebody’s going to be murdered at the ball tonight. It won’t appear to be a murder and so the murderer won’t be caught. Rectify that injustice and I’ll show you the way out.’

It is meant to be a celebration but it ends in tragedy. As fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed.
But Evelyn will not die just once. Until Aiden – one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party – can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself, over and over again. Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot.
The only way to break this cycle is to identify the killer. But each time the day begins again, Aiden wakes in the body of a different guest. And someone is determined to prevent him ever escaping Blackheath… NetGalley

And Fiction Fan has started her annual awards and given that she awarded The Lodger by Marie Belloc Lowndes her winning entry for the Vintage Crime Fiction/Thriller 2017 award despite having Verdict of Twelve by Raymond Postgate on the list meant I have to try it for myself.

Blurb

The Buntings are an elderly London couple who have fallen on hard times. They take in a lodger with the strange name of Mr. Sleuth, who pays handsomely for their shabby rooms. He seems to be a perfect gentleman but none the less they begin to suspect that he may be the Jack-the-Ripper-like serial killer known in the press as ‘The Avenger’. As the number of murders in the city begins to mount, and Mr. Bunting’s teenage daughter from an earlier marriage comes to stay, the couple must decide what to do about the man in their upstairs rooms. An early example of a psychological suspense story and a brilliant evocation of the fog-bound and gaslit streets of late Victorian London, The Lodger is still a wonderfully compelling thriller. Amazon

Finally I have a copy of The Image of You by Adele Parks from Headline Review which will be published in paperback on 22 February 2018 although if you can’t wait it is available for the kindle now.



Blurb

When all you can see is what they want you to see… Can you ever trust someone you meet online?

Anna and Zoe are twins. Identical in appearance, utterly different in personality, they share a bond so close that nothing – or no one – can rip them apart.

Until Anna meets charismatic Nick.

Anna is trusting, romantic and hopeful; she thinks Nick is perfect.

Zoe is daring, dangerous and extreme; she thinks Nick is a liar.

Zoe has seen Anna betrayed by men before. She’ll stop at nothing to discover if Nick is as good as he seems. Amazon

tbr-watch

All of those books mean that despite reading 4 DNF 1, having gained just a few more than that, my TBR now has stands at a total of 180
Physical Books – 108
Kindle Books – 55
NetGalley Books – 17

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

Anything You Do Say – Gillian McAllister

Psychological Thriller
5*s

Around this time of year I start to consider my Top Ten Books Published in 2017 along with many other bloggers, this year the list has been thrown into disarray with so many late entrants, including this novel. Anything You Do Say encompasses so many of the aspects that I enjoy: a moral dilemma, ‘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.

Two friends meet for their regular Friday night out at a bar in London and meet a man who is slightly too pushy, deciding to leave they part ways and Joanna walks home taking the route by the canal when she hears someone following her. Now ladies, we’ve all been there – unable to tell whether the threat running through your head is real or imagined. What happens next will change Joanna’s life forever.

What do you do, I find myself thinking, when you think somebody is following you down a deserted strip of canal? When you could become a statistic, a news piece, a tragedy? Nothing. That’s the answer. You carry on. You hope.

Of course the title are known to all of us although I hope few of us have had them directed towards us:

The words are familiar, but it takes me a moment to place them. It’s not a hymn or a song lyric or a phrase. No. It’s a caution. The caution.

Joanna is a great character, you probably know someone like her. She works on the mobile library while she decides what she wants to do with her life. She avoids the nastier aspects of life by ignoring them; bills, decisions, babies are all put in a box to be dealt with later… or never. Her friend, Laura, has plans, big ones, she wants to be an artist and is far surer of herself by far than Joanna, not uncommon in a friendship pairing. In both scenarios that are presented following the late night encounter we see not only what the consequences of her decision has on Joanna but Laura and her partner Rueben and brother Wilf too but also Laura’s partner Jonty in a perfect example of the ripple effect.

With sparkling dialogue which is entertaining yet realistic I was drawn into the story before I’d finished the first page. I loved the friends, that pre-Christmas setting with Christmas trees sparkling inside the houses that Joanna passes as she walks home at the opening of the book is followed up with the changing seasons as we follow the two different outcomes of that night.

As much as I enjoy books with the ‘sliding doors’ aspect I won’t lie, it can sometimes be complicated keeping the two strands straight in your mind. Fear not, Gillian McAllister has a clear system for marking the two stories by using a heading and since the stories diverge from the start I didn’t have a moment’s confusion. What I did have, was compassion for Joanna, maybe that says something about my morals, but there was one particular moment when I had my heart in my mouth as things took a drastic turn for the worse and despite actually needing to be doing something else I wasn’t putting the book aside until my heart-rate settled.

I really enjoyed Gillian McAllister’s debut novel Everything But The Truth which I read earlier this year but this novel even surpasses that one. Usually when I read a book that I want my friends to read, I wait until I have posted my review – not this time – I have been urging many of my bookish friends to go get this book, now – especially as it is at an absolutely bargain price at the moment for the kindle. The paperback will be published on 25 January 2018. Whatever format you read, I urge you not to miss out but do beware, once started, you will not want to stop reading!

I am extremely grateful to the publishers Penguin UK who have provided me with a great selection of books this year, including Anything You Do Say, and Gillian McAllister who I sincerely hope is furiously writing another book for me to enjoy, this unbiased yet unashamedly gushing review is my thanks to them.

First Published UK: 19 October 2017
Publisher:  Penguin
No. of Pages:  400
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US (currently only Audible)

 

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

The Scandal – Fredrik Backman

Crime Fiction
5*s

Is a book more rewarding if you spent the first section wondering whether or not to put it aside for something that doesn’t revolve around a sport that you have no interest in, only to find yourself completely drawn into the both the story and writing style? Whatever the answer, this is definitely one of my favourite reads of the year despite the uncertain start.

At the beginning of the book we hear shots but soon the action switches to a game of ice hockey. Now I wasn’t a fan of the straightforward hockey on proper ground being much smaller than my peers, no good at running and it was freezing cold, doing the same on ice only has peril written all over it as far as I’m concerned. But through the game we get to meet all the inhabitants of Beartown a small town in Sweden whose whole identity seems to be wrapped up in the game. Man, woman or child, if you live in Beartown then the fortune of your dwelling place depends on the success of the various teams ordered by age, if a little muddied by aptitude.

Those shots I mentioned kept me wondering as the action switched from the ice to the town and back again as young boys were ready to make their mark against the opponents whilst others failed in their efforts. Beartown Ice Hockey team are about to play in the semi-finals, and they want to win.

This book is full of diverse characters albeit a set that are united by their love of the game, or what it can mean for Beartown, a town that has been a long time in the decline. We see the board members sponsors, the coach, the General Manager, the fathers, mothers and sisters of the players as well as the team themselves. We even know a great deal about the woman who cleans the ice rink, the changing rooms and the offices for the club. Everyone is involved in some way or another. But the focus of the book isn’t about the game, or not directly, it’s about something that happened after a game and the consequences on all involved.

As I mentioned at the start of this review, I really wasn’t sure that this was a book for me and yet the writing was at pared down yet eloquent, holding so many truths of life that I wished I had read it when I was younger and still had some of the important thoughts that were shared.

Hate is simple. So the first thing that happens in a conflict is that we choose a side, because that’s easier than trying to hold two thoughts in our heads at the same time. The second thing that happens is that we seek out facts that confirm what we want to believe – comforting facts, ones that permit life to go on as normal. The third is that we dehumanise our enemy…

The writing style alone had me convinced, with phrases and messages carried through from one scene to another – when the book got tough, and it does, the stylistic flair kept the momentum going forward while the reader comes to terms with what has been revealed. There are issues galore and normally when I write that in a review I’m not being complimentary because it can feel as if the author is leaping from bandwagon to bandwagon. That isn’t the case with The Scandal where the issues in the book are tightly linked to the players on a personal level. The author hasn’t offered up platitudes or worst case scenarios, instead the author has a nuanced take and provides what I felt was a balanced path, best of all leaving the reader to come to his or her own opinions.

This is a story of friendship between males and females, yes despite the kernel of the action being a boys ice hockey team, there are some females who are also central to the story. It is also the story of those other major relationships of being a parent, a sibling, or a partner, of being loved and loving others. Most of all this is a tale of how loyalties can be divided and sometimes sitting on the fence isn’t an option. It is in fact a remarkable book that had me in tears more than once.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers Penguin UK who allowed me to read a copy of The Scandal or Beartown if you are a US reader. This review is my unbiased thanks to them and to Fredrik Backman for a remarkable story which I’d love to tell you more about, but it really does have to be read and admired with little or no idea what you will find within its pages. I suspect readers will take away different messages. I feel that this is a book that we should see on school book lists and book clubs across the world.

First Published UK: 10 August 2017
Publisher:  Penguin
No. of Pages:  432
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (November 15)

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’m currently reading The CWA Short Story Anthology: Mystery Tour edited by Martin Edwards and full of stories from many of my favourite crime writers.

Blurb

Crime spreads across the globe in this new collection of short stories from the Crime Writer’s Association, as a conspiracy of prominent crime authors take you on a world mystery tour. Highlights of the trip include a treacherous cruise to French Polynesia, a horrifying trek in South Africa, a murderous train-ride across Ukraine and a vengeful killing in Mumbai. But back home in the UK, life isn’t so easy either. Dead bodies turn up on the backstreets of Glasgow, crime writers turn words into deeds at literary events, and Lady Luck seems to guide the fate of a Twickenham hood. Showcasing the range, breadth and vitality of the contemporary crime-fiction genre, these twenty-eight chilling and unputdownable stories will take you on a trip you’ll never forget. Amazon

Having just finished Anything You Do Say by Gillian McAllister, a remarkable and addictive ‘sliding doors’ psychological thriller.

Blurb

I could run, or I could stay and call him an ambulance. Now it is decision time . . . ‘
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. Coming fast.
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 you 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. Forever.
Which is it to be? Amazon

Next up is Sunday Morning Coming Down which number seven out of what is going to be eight books in the Frieda Klein series by Nicci French

Blurb

Psychotherapist Frieda Klein’s home is her refuge until she returns to find it has become a disturbingly bloody crime scene. Beneath the floorboards the police have found the body of a man she had hired to help protect her.
The killer’s message is all too clear: you’re mine.

When those closest to Frieda begin to be targeted, the picture becomes more skewed: the patterns unclear.
Unless Frieda can find and stop whoever is threatening her friends and family, her love and loyalty could come at a truly fatal cost . . . Amazon

What do you think? Any of these take your fancy? Please do leave your thoughts in the comments box below.

Posted in Weekly Posts

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph (November 14)

First Chapter
Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea 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.

This week my excerpts come from a book that has languished unread for far too long having been purchased way back in January 2014! The Dress Thief by Natalie Meg Evans is a historical tale which promises delightful gowns, so seems to fit with my recent visit to Bath’s fashion museum.

Blurb

Alix Gower has a dream: to join the ranks of Coco Chanel to become a designer in the high-stakes world of Parisian haute couture. But Alix also has a secret: she supports her family by stealing designs to create bootlegs for the foreign market. A hidden sketchbook and two minutes inside Hermès is all she needs to create a perfect replica, to be whisked off to production in New York.

Then Alix is given her big break – a chance to finally realize her dream in one of the most prominent Parisian fashion houses – but at the price of copying the breakthrough Spring Collection.

Knowing this could be her only opportunity, Alix accepts the arrangement. But when a mystery from her past resurfaces and a chance meeting has her falling into the arms of a handsome English war reporter, Alix learns that the slightest misstep – or misplaced trust – could be all it takes for her life to begin falling apart at the seams. Goodreads

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph ~ Intro

Prologue

Alsace, Eastern France, 1903

The double crash that echoed through the timber-framed house killed one man and damned another. The first blow was metal against skull The second was the crack of the victim’s head against the corner of the stove.

Chapter One

Paris, 1937

Mathilda’s daughter emerged from the Continental Telephone Exchange wearing an ivy-green suit, the severity of which contrasted with her youth.
A tilted trilby and shoes of black glacé leather suggested a young lady of means, as did silk stockings accentuating slim calves and ankles. She carried a black handbag and wore matching gloves. As she went down Rue du Louvre at a fast clip, admiring looks met her – and more than one smile of invitation.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I’m always torn when putting these posts together when they have a prologue about where to start but as this one has such an intriguing first sentence I decided to give you a taster before the delicious clothes descriptions – how fancy do black glacé leather shoes sound?

So what do you think? Would you keep reading or perhaps you’ve already read this one? Do share your thoughts in the comments box below.

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Foster Child – Jenny Blackhurst

Psychological Thriller
3*s

This is one very disturbing psychological thriller from a writer who has more than secured her place in my must-read authors with her first two books How I Lost You and Before I Let You In. It is a testament to the writer’s skill that despite the book more than gently touching on supernatural elements, which I normally avoid, that I was able to put this to one side and still enjoy the read, this review should therefore be read with my personal feelings on the subject matter taken into account.

Imogen Reid is moving from private practice as a child psychologist to one who works as part of a social work team who find the resources to support children. Her reasons for leaving aren’t voluntary and as a result the house move and new role do not instantly sit easily with her. One of her first cases is that of Ellie Atkinson, just twelve who lost both her parents and her brother in a fire and is now being fostered by a family with their own daughter and a son who is also fostered.

No sooner have we got some idea about Imogen as she travels to her new role than we meet Ellie in a somewhat bizarre incident full of furious adults. It doesn’t take much longer to realise that Ellie is distrusted by those around her. What I struggled with, as alluded to above is the nature of the distrust but as a story about the behaviour of groups, this is frighteningly accurate and all the more disturbing for that.

There is no let-up in the tension throughout this book, the scenes move at a fast pace with no break at all from incident to incident, scary child to really horrific scenes of bullying from irrational adults to the inadequacies of those who should be helping to actually being able to. As the story raced along my uneasiness about the true nature of the story becoming less entrenched as I began to at least begin to put the pieces of the puzzle the right way up if not managing to make a full picture before the reveal. As might be expected from this author though there were still a few surprises to pull the rug from under my feet.

The scenes in Imogen’s office, especially the lack of technology on the first day, will be familiar to practically anyone who has been in this position and for me it was these scenes that kept me rooted. There are simply so many real truths within the books that I could either relate to or fully believe that the supernatural element became less and less important as the book progressed. The bullying aspect was so well portrayed, some of it far more horrific to read but the endless bubbling of discord amongst Ellie’s peers was an all to accurate picture of how a child, who you would naturally assume is given some sympathy for all she’s been through, is singled out for being different.

I did enjoy the read despite my initial reservations and I’m sure that The Foster Child will be a huge hit with many lovers of psychological thrillers – it is creepy, it is full of tension and it is definitely thrilling.

I’d like to thank the publishers Headline for allowing me to read a copy of The Foster Child which was published for the kindle in September and will be out in paperback on 16 November 2017.

First Published UK: 21 September 2017
Publisher:  Headline 
No. of Pages:  400
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (November 12)

Last weekend I met up with my very best friend in Bath and we spent a long weekend talking, visiting the Roman Baths, drinking gin, some more talking, a bit of shopping and visiting the Fashion Museum in this beautiful city.

Fashion Museum Bath

As you can see I completely looked the part!

This Week on the Blog

My excerpt post this week was from Anything You Do Say by Gillian McAllister which promises to explore a moral dilemma.

I completed my third TBR Book Tag whereby I spill all the beans on my ability to keep the beast under some sort of control. Since 2015 the change has been a massive decline of three books!

I’ve had a fantastic run of books lately and the week is rounded off with three five star reads.

First up was my review for Verdict of Twelve by Raymond Postgate originally published in 1940 this was a story in three parts which felt far less dated than I expected.

Then came my review of Three Days and a Life by Pierre Lemaitre which drew me in tight and didn’t let me go, yes this is a tale that will be remembered for some time to come.

The hat trick was rounded off with my review for Flowers for the Dead by Barbara Copperthwaite which accompanied me on my journey to Bath and made the train carriage with no air conditioning far less bothersome than it might otherwise have been!

This Time Last Year…

I was reading the magnificent In Her Wake by Amanda Jennings, which was  one of those stories that has not let  me go! From the off it filled me with unease and reminded me what the original psychological thrillers felt like as I followed Bella in her quest to find out the truth following a bombshell revelation that indicated that her whole life might have been a lie. With brilliantly drawn characters this book in one amazing setting, it was a sheer delight to read.

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

Blurb

A tragic family event reveals devastating news that rips apart Bella’s comfortable existence.

Embarking on a personal journey to uncover the truth, she faces a series of traumatic discoveries that take her to the ruggedly beautiful Cornish coast, where hidden truths, past betrayals and a 25-year-old mystery threaten not just her identity, but her life.

Chilling, complex and profoundly moving, In Her Wake is a gripping psychological thriller that questions the nature of family – and reminds us that sometimes the most shocking crimes are committed closest to home.

Stacking the Shelves

Skoobs Book Stall – Bath Indoor Market

I went to Bath years ago and my abiding memory was of the fantastic second-hand book stall where I bought a number of Barbara Vine books in the indoor market. Well, surprise, surprise it is still there and purely as a mark of nostalgia I felt it was only polite to peruse it’s offerings all these years later – bearing in mind other shopping had used up the very limited space on my carry-on bag for the flight home. I would like to point out that I suggested a number of great books to other browsers to make up for my own lack of space, before I finally and reluctantly left the stall.

 

I found a copy of The A.B.C. Murders by Agatha Christie , it’s a private challenge of mine to only buy her books second-hand and in good condition – the one I found was in practically perfect condition which it would have been downright rude to leave on the stack.



Blurb

There’s a serial killer on the loose, bent on working his way through the alphabet. And as a macabre calling card he leaves beside each victim’s corpe the ABC Railway Guide open at the name of the town where the murder has taken place.
Having begun with Andover, Bexhill and then Churston, there seems little chance of the murderer being caught – until he makes the crucial and vain mistake of challenging Hercule Poirot to frustrate his plans… Amazon

I also picked up a copy of The Dry by Jane Harper as it became clear from all the wonderful reviews I have read that this is a book I need!

WHO REALLY KILLED THE HADLER FAMILY?

I just can’t understand how someone like him could do something like that.
Amid the worst drought to ravage Australia in a century, it hasn’t rained in small country town Kiewarra for two years. Tensions in the community become unbearable when three members of the Hadler family are brutally murdered. Everyone thinks Luke Hadler, who committed suicide after slaughtering his wife and six-year-old son, is guilty.
Policeman Aaron Falk returns to the town of his youth for the funeral of his childhood best friend, and is unwillingly drawn into the investigation. As questions mount and suspicion spreads through the town, Falk is forced to confront the community that rejected him twenty years earlier. Because Falk and Luke Hadler shared a secret, one which Luke’s death threatens to unearth. And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, secrets from his past and why he left home bubble to the surface as he questions the truth of his friend’s crime. Amazon

From NetGalley I have a copy of Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon which will be published on 11 January 2018. Although it should be noted that although I don’t have a copy yet, I also want to read The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by the same author.

Blurb

There are three things you should know about Elsie.

The first thing is that she’s my best friend.
The second is that she always knows what to say to make me feel better.
And the third thing… might take a little bit more explaining.

84-year-old Florence has fallen in her flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. As she waits to be rescued, Florence wonders if a terrible secret from her past is about to come to light; and, if the charming new resident is who he claims to be, why does he look exactly a man who died sixty years ago?

From the author of THE TROUBLE WITH GOATS AND SHEEP, this book will teach you many things, but here are three of them:

1) The fine threads of humanity will connect us all forever.
2) There is so very much more to anyone than the worst thing they have ever done.
3) Even the smallest life can leave the loudest echo. Amazon

I also have a copy of True Stories by Helen Garner, a non-fiction book that sounds perfect for dipping in and out of, her book The House of Grief being one of my favourite non-fiction reads of all time.

Blurb

Helen Garner visits the morgue, and goes cruising on a Russian ship. She sees women giving birth, and gets the sack for teaching her students about sex. She attends a school dance and a gun show. She writes about dreaming, about turning fifty, and the storm caused by The First Stone. Her story on the murder of the two-year-old Daniel Valerio wins her a Walkley Award.

Garner looks at the world with a shrewd and sympathetic eye. Her non-fiction is always passionate and compelling. True Stories is an extraordinary book, spanning fifty years of work, by one of Australia’s great writers. Amazon

tbr-watch

Since my last post I’ve read 7 books and gained just 4 so my TBR now has a total of 170
Physical Books – 97
Kindle Books – 55
NetGalley Books – 18

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads, Mount TBR 2017

Flowers for the Dead – Barbara Copperthwaite

Crime Fiction
5*s

The beauty of flowers and their language are intertwined with the twisted thoughts of Adam Bourne, serial killer who believes he is the saviour of those he kills. Rarely have a read a book where I felt so torn between sympathy for both the victims and the perpetrator.

This book definitely falls into the grittier end of crime fiction writing, the read is not one for the faint-hearted, even the most hardened reader will be tempted to check their doors after meeting Adam. Adam longs for love but I just want to put it out there – watching women and helping them with their household chores when they don’t know you is not really going to do it for any of the women I know, and sure enough to date it is fair to say Adam has been unlucky in love.

Adam despite not understanding what makes women tick on the most basic of levels, is not a stupid man. He is sharp and using all and any tools available to him to follow the latest woman, always someone who looks like they need love, and then is disappointed when his plan does not quite pan out the way he expected.

There are few scenes I’ve read over the years than Adam’s reasoning for standing outside Covent Garden tube station in London scouting for unhappy women – a station I’ve waited at enough times in my life to bring the scene to life.
Alongside Adam’s adult persona we learn about his early life, the mitigation if you like for the way he has turned out with touching scenes of Adam’s beloved Grandmother reading him stories from the big book of fairy tales. Their mutual love shines through as when he gets older she introduces him to the language of flowers – the idea that each flower has a message to send, something which was very popular in Victorian England, slightly less so in this day and age although of course any woman who receives a dozen red roses understands what the message means and through careful commercial reinforcement, so do most men. But did you know that Daffodils mean unrequited love? No nor did I.

Yes, I know I’ve not told you about the plot, it’s a good one but you really do need to find out for yourself and there is little more that I can tell you without spoiling it! Yes, the characters are also all well drawn from victim to Policeman all have realistic elements to their personalities, I especially loved the interplay between Mike and his young daughter Daisy as we see a more harmless form of persuasion in the young girl as she wages war on his smoking habit. And the structure is brilliant, each chapter headed up with the name of a flower and its meaning with a sub-heading of where we are in Adam’s backstory if this is one of his chapters. This starts twenty-six years ago with Wood Sorrell (maternal tenderness) which once you meet Sara, Adam’s mother you’ll realise is an attribute that was totally absent in his life – what an inspired thinking to create a character that is more hateful and far scarier than the serial killer – Barbara Copperthwaite is a genius.

In short, you should really read this one, perfect for the winter nights when the wind is howling and the rain is lashing down, and you are safe inside – or are you?

Flowers for the Dead was my twenty-eighth read in the Mount TBR challenge, having been purchased in December 2016.

mount-tbr-2017
 

 

First Published UK: 21 September 2015
Publisher:  CreateSpace Independent Publishing 
No. of Pages:  472
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

Three Days and a Life – Pierre Lemaitre

Crime Fiction
5*s

I was thrilled to see Pierre Lemaitre had written another standalone novel having vowed to read all of his back catalogue after being wowed by Blood Wedding, needless to say, that hasn’t come to fruition… yet, although all his books are on the wishlist after being even more wowed by Three Days and a Life.

The feel of this book is very different to Blood Wedding, for starters the main protagonist is a child, just twelve years old, and we go back to 1999 to discover the events that led up to the day Antoine accidentally kills his six-year-old neighbour, Rémi. A shocking event, in itself, made no less so by the brutal description of Rémi ’s pet dog which precedes the cold days just before Christmas. The scene is set beautifully in the small town of Beauval in France where Antoine lives with his mother. His father decamped to Germany and consequently he has a distant relationship with him. The crux of the story is that Antoine hides Rémi’s body and returns home to his loving mother and hides as much as possible from reality. He has a child’s view of the world, realistically depicted, and alternately buries his head in the sand and suffers the awful anxiety about his crime being discovered.

Pierre Lemaitre absolutely nails the small town view of the wider world. The people of Beauval collectively hope that Rémi was taken by someone out-of-town, it being far too awful to think that the act was one of their own. Although the pace is slower than some crime thrillers, the tension felt is built very quickly to fever-pitch with this reader see-sawing in hoping that poor Rémi’s mother would find out the truth about what happened and equally hoping that Antoine’s mother would be spared the self-same truth, this emotional push and pull is very hard to pull off, particularly when we have a child who is not displaying much in the way of guilt, although his the fear of discovery is acute.

After following the inhabitants of Beauval through the days following the death of Rémi we next meet Antoine twelve years later and see how the man views that day in hindsight. An interesting concept and one that again the author nailed. Where some of Antoine’s emotions and actions mirrored those he had aged just twelve, the author hadn’t just given the same voice and adult body we see something more of Antoine, not all of it particularly nice. In fact, I felt less sympathetic to him in this part than I had the younger version.

Three Days and a Life ends with a twist that has played on a loop inside my mind since I finished the book. I’m not one to usually draw on this aspect of a book in my review but I have this time because the twist doesn’t change anything read before but adds a whole other layer that made me want to pick the book straight up and start at the beginning again.

If you fancy some French Noir I offer up a fulsome recommendation for Three Days and a Life. Even more so because this book has been exceptionally well translated by Frank Wynne, so much so that I forgot at times that this wasn’t originally written in English allowing the nuance of the tale coming across as expertly as I’m sure it was in its native language.

I’d like to thank the publishers Quercus who allowed me to read Three Days and a Life which was published on 7 November 2017. This review is my unbiased thanks to them, Pierre Lemaitre for the fantastic storytelling and Frank Wynne who brilliantly translated this book into English.

First Published UK: 13 July 2017
Publisher: MacLehose Press 
No of Pages: 256
Genre: Crime Fiction
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Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

Verdict of Twelve – Raymond Postgate

Crime Fiction
5*s

I can’t believe that I hadn’t heard of this book before it was included as one of the wonderful British Library Crime Classics. This unusual tale follows the deliberation of a crime as recounted in court to a jury of the traditional twelve.

The book is split into three parts – we have the introduction to the jury in the first part some of whom have led colourful lives, especially one who committed a serious crime, but on the whole they are what we can assume are a fairly typical mix of society at the time the book was published, in 1940. We have a travelling salesman, a domestic servant, a publican and the university professor who imagines his superior intellect will be needed to help the other members reach the right decision. The question is will he and will they? Raymond Postgate uses this first section to not only give us the jurors social standing but also to comment, albeit lightly, on the politics of the time so we get to understand the havoc caused by WWI and the rise of anti-Semitism in the UK at the time he wrote the book, which I would hazard a guess at being prior to the start of WWII as this doesn’t get a mention. This opener can also be seen as a way of asking the readers to predict how the jurors will decide whether or not to convict the defendant, although at this stage we have no idea what crime has been committed let alone who the defendant is. This is because we get some details of their lives, those who have lived the life they expected to those who have felt thwarted, those who have known great love to those who have felt deep loss, the religious and the abused sit side by side, again providing us with a range of experiences that could be common to any random group of strangers.

In part two we learn about the charges levied against the defendant told in a fairly straightforward narrative format with little of the dramatics that we may associate with a courtroom drama. The story is a sad one and the evidence far from conclusive, more than that I won’t say because I don’t want to take anything away from the sheer delight I felt at trying to determine what the truth of the matter might be.

The final section is where we sit amongst the jurors and see what they decide, and why. Some are decisive, and those that are were not necessarily the ones that I predicted would be in the first part. Raymond Postgate seems to have a good handle on seemingly lightly skimming the surface and thereby making this book intensely readable but punctuating his words from truths that are as pertinent now as they obviously were then, that is why people tend to act the way they do.

I can’t leave this review by stating that the postscript is phenomenal, sheer genius and one that ensures that this is one of those books that I will remember for a long time to come.

I’d like to say a big thank you to the publishers of Verdict of Twelve, British Library Publishing, for allowing me to read a copy of this book. This review is my unbiased thank you to them for such a memorable read.

First Published UK: 1940
Publisher: British Library Publishing
No of Pages: 256
Genre: Crime Fiction
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