Posted in #20 Books of Summer 2018, Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads, Mount TBR 2018

Life After Life – Kate Atkinson #20BooksofSummer

Contemporary Fiction
5*s

 

What a delightful book, well-written, engaging and most importantly one that made me think and is without doubt one of my favourite reads of this year.

Ursula Todd was born on a snowy night in 1910 in England, a country which is on the edge of the huge change we know will follow. In the first version of Ursula’s life, she doesn’t make it through and dies before she takes her very first breath. but this is not the end, we get another version where Ursula lives. This unusual structure gives us so many versions of Ursula’s life, or lives, and boy when she’s not dying in various different ways, she does know how to live!

“Yes, Mrs Todd, a bonny bouncing baby girl.” Sylvie thought Dr Fellows might be over-egging the pudding with his alliteration. He was not one for bonhomie at the best of times. The health of his patients, particularly their exits and entrances, seemed designed to annoy him.”

Ursula is just my type of character, down to earth, funny in a ‘quiet’ way.

He was born a politician.
No, Ursula thought, he was born a baby, like everyone else. And this is what he has chosen to become.”

Even at the worst of times Ursula is never a moaner despite having echoes in her life of those times she has fallen into the black hole of death. As the reader of her life we understand what those echoes are memories of even if Ursula just has a vague feeling of unease.

“Ursula craved solitude but she hated loneliness, a conundrum that she couldn’t even begin to solve.”

Despite the unusual structure and the many deaths this book is a reflection of life for a child born into what could be viewed as idyllic family. A house called Fox Corner, a mother and father who love and laugh, siblings and opportunities for a life ahead. Of course there is also war on the horizon, not once but twice, the loves and losses and relationships with parents, siblings and friends which will wax and wane. In short Ursula’s life is a full one.

The setting for Ursula’s childhood is Buckinghamshire and even here we see progression from a a house which was once Ursula’s world, in the countryside will not remain that way for the duration of the story, or of course in this case stories. This is a book about how life never stands still. There is one character in particular who I loved but became far less sympathetically drawn as life progresses, where another more flamboyant one becomes softened by the turns her life takes. This quality of growing the characters, especially when their scenes are not set in chronological order is just one element of how exceptional Kate Atkinson’s writing is.

Ursula’s life during World War II is portrayed in vivid scenes, no reader will be able to forget the technicolour images that these imprint on your mind. In one of her lives Ursula lives in Berlin, so we also get to see the challenges how her counterpart in Germany faced too. The period set during the war, both in London and Germany made the book a special read, but on reflection it is the contrast between the cosy life at Fox Corner and the horror that she witnesses at this time of her life which makes the book feel so real. These contrasting scenes, as we follow Ursula as she faces hardships as well as happiness is what makes this book such a rich read.

Kate Atkinson doesn’t make it easy for herself, we have a whole cast of characters that have to keep up with the many deaths that befall Ursula too… even down to the dog who is drawn in detailed perfection to delight the reader. I said in my opening paragraph that it made me think, it did. As we all profound reads we all take our own experiences into the book and this reflection on life gave me an opportunity to look at my own life in a slightly different way.

“Life wasn’t about becoming, was it? It was about being.”

I was alternately delighted and amazed by this book, so if like me, you somehow didn’t get around to reading this book when it was published, I recommend you do so now. I’m off to buy A God in Ruins which features Ursula’s younger brother Teddy, a would-be  poet.

Life After Life was my fifth read in my 20 Books for Summer 2018 Challenge; a sumptuous read that means that Ursula and those wonderfully drawn characters that accompany her through her lives are now part of my life too.

First Published UK: 2013
Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books
No of Pages: 544
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

 

Posted in #20 Books of Summer 2018

20 Books of Summer 2018! Part 2 #20booksofsummer


On 28 May 2018 I posted my first set of 10 books that I planned to read for this challenge, the idea being that I would post the second selection in mid-July, having read and reviewed the first 10. Dear reader, the plan has gone a little awry!

Anyway I’ve read 9 of my 10 books, reviewed just 4 and have very little reading time so I suspect I won’t finish the second set but here’s what I’m aiming to read.

The links below will take you to the Goodreads description

 

Victorian Murders by Jan Bondeson

Flying Shoes by Lisa Howorth

My Sister and Other Liars by Ruth Dugdall 

Flight by Isabel Ashdown

The Lighthouse by P.D. James

The Poisoner by Stephen Bates 

This Is Not a Novel by Jennifer Johnston 

The Big Picture by Douglas Kennedy 

Lady Bette and the Murder of Mr Thynn by Nigel Pickford

Famous Trials I by Harry Hodge

You can check out the master page which will have the full list of 20 books here

There are so many within this selection that I’m eager to read and since time is of the essence I have a feeling that I will start with P.D. James’s book The Lighthouse.

Do you agree? Where would you start?

Wish me luck…

 

Posted in #20 Books of Summer 2018, Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

Raven Black – Ann Cleeves #20BooksofSummer

Crime Fiction
5*s


This is the first in the Shetland series and a book that has sat patiently on my bookshelf for many years, so many in fact that I have watched the TV series and still not read any of the books but the 20 Books of Summer 2018 challenge changed all that.

Now I’ll be honest, I usually prefer to read the books before watching them featured as I tend towards noticing the differences between descriptions of characters and that’s before we get onto the adaptions made for the small screen. I did love Douglas Henshall in the role of DI Jimmy Perez but I have a fairly short memory so I was sure I would have forgotten the plot. I was wrong but that didn’t in any way spoil my enormous enjoyment of this nuanced crime novel.

Two girls pay a visit to the local weirdo Magnus Tait on New Year’s Eve, they are drunk and have done it for a dare. No big deal Magnus loved having the visitors, probably because he didn’t understand their motivation. All was well until a couple of days later when Catherine Ross is found dead in a field, not far from Magnus Tait’s home. Magnus is the sort of character that is a familiar character from mine, and I suspect many other reader’s childhoods. The man that the children steered clear of for reasons that no-one quite understood. Of course our fictional character has taken it up a level, he was arrested, but not charged, with the disappearance of a child years before and ever since the Islanders have given him a wide berth.

The atmosphere of a small community coupled with the fabulous landscape are bought to life by Ann Cleeves words. This isn’t a tale that could happen anywhere, the Shetland Isles are almost a character in their own right. Cut off from the rest of the world in inclement weather, island life reflects modern life with a twist. The Police investigation has to balance the need to be seen to be doing something with avoiding inflaming needless tensions around someone who has already suffered, and who quite frankly is clearly disadvantaged.

The book also gives us a peek behind the life led by the teenagers on the island as well as contrasting those who are ‘incomers’ and kept at arm’s length. Catherine Ross was an outsider having come to the island to live with her father following the death of her mother. The grief of the father and the impact on his daughter also plays a part in the storyline.

You might think from all my rambling about what aspects are included within this book, that the mystery wasn’t much to write home about. You’d be wrong. The plot is so cleverly executed, this is a writer who knows how to pace her writing for the maximum tension without using a single weak device to do so. Even though I found I did remember far more of the TV series than I thought I would, in many ways that meant that I could admire the other aspects that really lends a depth to this crime novel. I will definitely be seeking to read more of this series, and of course this author.

Raven Black was my fourth read in my 20 Books for Summer 2018 Challenge and I was transported from the hot sunshine to a very cold, windy place full of varied and three-dimensional characters.

First Published UK: 2006
Publisher: Pan
No of Pages: 400
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (July 18)

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 have just started Fatal Inheritance by Rachel Rhys (aka Tammy Cohen) which will be published next week on 26 July 2018.

Blurb

1948: an English housewife trapped in a dull marriage escapes to the South of France to claim a mystery inheritance. But rivals to her unexplained fortune begin to emerge, and now they want her out of the way …

She didn’t have an enemy in the world…
until she inherited a fortune
London 1948: Eve Forrester is trapped in a loveless marriage, in a gloomy house, in a grey suburb.
Out of the blue, she received a solicitor’s letter. A wealthy stranger has left her a mystery inheritance but in order to find out more, she must travel to the glittering French Riviera.

Eve discovers her legacy is an enchanting villa overlooking the Mediterranean sea and suddenly, life could not be more glamorous.
But while she rubs shoulders with film-stars and famous writers, under the heat of the golden sun, rivals to her unexplained fortune begin to emerge. Rivals who want her out of the way.
Alone in paradise, Eve must unlock the story behind her surprise bequest – before events turn deadly… Amazon

My last read was Open Your Eyes by Paula Daly, a very clever psychological thriller by this oh so dependable author.

Blurb

Haven’t we all wanted to pretend everything is fine?

Jane doesn’t like confrontation. Given the choice, she’d prefer to focus on what’s going well, the good things in life.

But when her husband, Leon, is brutally attacked in the driveway of their home, in front of their two young children, Jane has to face reality. As he lies in a coma, Jane must open her eyes to the problems in her life, and the secrets that have been kept from her, if she’s to find out who hurt her husband – and why.

Maybe it’s time to face up to it all. Who knows what you might find . . . Amazon

Next up I plan on reading Mrs Woolf and the Servants by Alison Light

Blurb

When Virginia Woolf wrote A Room of One’s Own in 1929, she established her reputation as a feminist, a woman who could imagine a more open and liberal reality, and an advocate for the female voice. Indeed the Bloomsbury set has often been identified with liberal, open-minded views; Woolf’s circle of artists and writers were considered Bohemians ahead of their time. But they were also of their time. Like thousands of other British households, Virginia Woolf’s relied on live-in domestics for the most intimate of daily tasks. That room of her own she so valued was cleaned, heated, and supplied with meals by a series of cooks and maids throughout her childhood and adult life. In Mrs. Woolf and the Servants, Alison Light gives depth and dignity to the long-overlooked servants who worked for the Bloomsbury intellectuals.

The result is twofold. For one, Light adds revealing nuances to our picture of Virginia Woolf, both as a woman and as writer. She also captures a fascinating period of British history, primarily between the wars, when modern oil stoves were creeping into kitchens to replace coal, and young women were starting to dream of working in hat shops rather than mansions.

Despite the liberal outlook of the Bloomsbury set, and their conscious efforts to leave their Victorian past behind, their homes were nevertheless divided into the worlds of “us” and “them.” Alison Light writes with insight and charm about this fraught side of Bloomsbury, and hers is a refreshingly balanced portrait of Virginia Woolf, flaws and all. Goodreads

What do you think? Do any of these take your fancy?

Posted in Weekly Posts

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph (July 17)

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.

This week I’m sharing the opening paragraph of Little Liar by Lisa Ballantyne which will be published in eBook format on 2 August 2018.

Blurb

The accused

While Nick Dean is enjoying an evening at home with his family, he is blissfully unaware that one of his pupils has just placed an allegation of abuse against him – and that Nick’s imminent arrest will see the start of everything he knows and loves disintegrating around him.
Because, mud sticks, right? No matter if you’re innocent or guilty.

The accuser

When Angela Furness decides that enough is enough – she hates her parents, hates her friends and, most of all, despises what has recently happened at school – she does the only thing she knows will get her attention: calls the police. But Angela is unaware that the shocking story she is about to tell will see her life begin to topple.
Because, once you’ve said what you’ve said, there’s no way back, right? No matter if you’re innocent or guilty.

In a gripping tale of two families torn apart by one catastrophic betrayal, Little Liar illustrates the fine line between guilt and innocence, and shows that everyone has their secrets, even those we ought to trust the most… Amazon

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph ~ Intro

1

Angela

Fight, fight, fight.

Angela looked down at her knuckles and saw they were red. It wasn’t her blood. The crowd had formed so fast, pupils from her year – twelve-and-thirteen-year-olds – being elbowed out of the way by lads of fifteen. The ring of people around her pulsated as one. The eye of the fight, where she stood, was only three or four feet wide. Kids pressed as close as they could to get a look, climbing on shoulders and pulling on school bags, but they also stayed back, gave room for the violence, so that the circle where Angela stood contracted and diluted like an iris. She didn’t know how many people surrounded her. Everyone wanted to watch a fight and a girl fight was even better, so long as it was a real one.
This was a real one. She hadn’t started it, but she was going to finish it. She was going to teach Jasmine a lesson.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Wow – I have obviously led a sheltered life having witnessed very few fights in my life although I do remember a couple in the school playground…

Anyway this seems to be the forerunner to Angela’s call to the police… I want to read more, do you?

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

Dying Truth – Angela Marsons

Crime Fiction
5*s

Angela Marsons burst onto the crime writing scene a mere three years ago and yet here I am reading the eighth book in the Kim Stone series already! This is a popular series because not only do the books have a modern feel, often the crime is based in an area that could be lifted from a news article, but the characters, particular those in Kim’s team are so realistically portrayed that it is easy to forget that this is a work of fiction.

In Dying Truth we have a thirteen year old girl who has apparently committed suicide from jumping from the roof of her expensive boarding school. The immediate narrative from those in the school is that Sadie was a ‘troubled girl’ but Kim wants to know more. Those words don’t explain to her quite how such a young girl can take such desperate measures and she’s determined to find out more.
Heathcrest Academy is an exclusive establishment and because of that there is the perception that the children, and more importantly their parents are somehow more elite than the everyday kid. Sadie Winters is a loner, the other kids with their overinflated egos pretty much ignore her but she doesn’t seem to mind. Although Sadie’s elder sister Saffie is also at the school, that hasn’t helped and when Kim meets their parents, she thinks she may understand why, but something doesn’t add up.

Then just as Kim begins to push for Sadie’s death to be investigated, there is another death and Kim is more determined than ever to winkle out the secrets that are hidden behind the fancy panelling, and opulent façade.

Angela Marsons has a great knack of writing stories that weave different strands together, never forgetting the psychology of crime but still presenting the story as a police procedural. Because of the nature of the deaths in this book our dear DI Kim Stone is forced to seek out her nemesis Alex Thorne for advice about kids who kill. This chapter is one of the most chilling exchanges that I’ve read, the truth underpinning this work of fiction is what makes the entire series so great.
There is another element to the storyline dealing with secret societies, something that has popped up from time to time in real-life tragic stories and yet each time this subject was broached in the book, I had to remind myself to close my mouth which dropped open in horror, not because I didn’t believe what I was reading could happen, but because I did!

If you haven’t started this fantastic series, do and not with this book because they are all amazing and each time I read a new one I say it was ‘the best yet’ and I’m going to again because it is true. The interaction between the characters is so natural and at times, like when Dawson tried to cheer up the ‘fat kid’ Geoffrey Piggott, it bought tears to my eyes with the careful yet supportive way he spoke, demonstrating the brilliance of the character himself, but then I love all of this small team and I can’t wait to see what life (or death) throws at them next.

First Published UK: 18 May 2018
Publisher: Bookouture
No of Pages: 386
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Previous Books featuring Kim Stone
Silent Scream
Evil Games
Lost Girls
Play Dead
Blood Lines
Dead Souls
Broken Bones

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (July 15)

Another long week at work broken up on Wednesday to watch the football as a neighbourhood in our front garden complete with a delicious lasagne and garlic bread. Shame we didn’t win but it was fun to get together.

This Week on the Blog

The first of four reviews this week was for the non-fiction book Wedlock by Wendy Moore which was one of my 20 Books of Summer 2018 Challenge.

My excerpt post was from an upcoming read, Open Your Eyes by Paula Daly which will be published later this month.

Next I reviewed the gripping court drama No Further Questions by Gillian McAllister.

Lisa Jewell’s latest novel Watching You was published on 12 July 2018 and my review for this dark outing  went up on the same day.

My final review of the week was for the second in the Adam Fawley series In the Dark by Cara Hunter.

Yesterday it was time for the annual Six in Six post which had me deciding six categories to sort my books into – great fun and a good way to remind myself of the excellent books I have read so far in 2018.

This Time Last Year…

I was reading The Spider and the Fly by Claudia Rowe. This exceptional book is a blend of crime fiction and memoir. Claudia Rowe who, with almost a sense of shame, initially sets out to write a journalistic piece on the serial killer, Kendall Francoise, who murdered eight women in Poughkeepsie, New York and kept their bodies in his parent’s loft.

Alongside the author’s correspondence with the killer and what that does, or doesn’t reveal is Claudia’s examination of her own life, although I found her quest far more nebulous. She seems to be persistently concerned about her obsession with Kendall whilst continuing the correspondence.

An interesting take on true crime and perhaps gives us some insight into the authors who choose to tell the tales from behind the prison walls.

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

Blurb

In this superb work of literary true crime–a spellbinding combination of memoir and psychological suspense–a female journalist chronicles her unusual connection with a convicted serial killer and her search to understand the darkness inside us.

“Well, well, Claudia. Can I call you Claudia? I’ll have to give it to you, when confronted at least you’re honest, as honest as any reporter. . . . You want to go into the depths of my mind and into my past. I want a peek into yours. It is only fair, isn’t it?”–Kendall Francois

In September 1998, young reporter Claudia Rowe was working as a stringer for the New York Times in Poughkeepsie, New York, when local police discovered the bodies of eight women stashed in the attic and basement of the small colonial home that Kendall Francois, a painfully polite twenty-seven-year-old community college student, shared with his parents and sister.

Growing up amid the safe, bourgeois affluence of New York City, Rowe had always been secretly fascinated by the darkness, and soon became obsessed with the story and with Francois. She was consumed with the desire to understand just how a man could abduct and strangle eight women–and how a family could live for two years, seemingly unaware, in a house with the victims’ rotting corpses. She also hoped to uncover what humanity, if any, a murderer could maintain in the wake of such monstrous evil.

Reaching out after Francois was arrested, Rowe and the serial killer began a dizzying four-year conversation about cruelty, compassion, and control; an unusual and provocative relationship that would eventually lead her to the abyss, forcing her to clearly see herself and her own past–and why she was drawn to danger. Amazon

Stacking the Shelves

I was thrilled to receive this wonderful prize from the very generous Nikki Moore to celebrate Picnics in Hyde Park being published by HarperCollins IT. This book is part of the Love London series.

The question posed was where is your favourite place in London? There was no hesitation in my mind and so I shared my memories of my dear Grandmother taking me to Cleopatra’s Needle on the embankment with the words ‘Lets go and visit your needle and have our sandwiches, shall we?’ There we’d sit eat the sandwiches wrapped in greaseproof paper and drink orange squash with me safe in the knowledge that none of the other grandchildren got to share that particular treat because they didn’t have needles! It went some way towards not being able to choose tat from gift shops with my name on too!

 


Blurb

Hot summer romance…or cold revenge?

Super nanny, Zoe Harper is mad! It was bad enough discovering her ex-fiancé Greg cheating on her just weeks before their wedding. But now she’s returned home to London to find her younger sister Melody has been left jobless, homeless, broke and dumped.

Zoe is determined to get revenge on the infamous Reilly brothers for her sister’s heartbreak. So when an unexpected opportunity gives Zoe a way in to uncaring—and dizzyingly gorgeous!—successful music producer Matt Reilly’s world, she jumps at the chance to make him pay.

But living with Matt as nanny to his two adorable, but complicated children, Zoe soon begins to suspect that not everything is as it seems… Matt insists on pushing everyone away including his children, but why? And if his delicious summer kisses are anything to go by, he can’t be that bad surely?

Can Zoe convince Matt to open up a little and help fix this family before she leaves…or worse, before Matt learns who she really is? Amazon

Although I have one ARC it’s a secret so as I’ll be sharing that one later, I thought I’d show you some of the books recently acquired that got missed in the avalanche…

I have a copy of The Golden Child by Wendy James courtesy of Amazon Vine.


Blurb

When teenage bullying spirals out of control who is to blame?

Blogger Lizzy’s life is shiny, happy, normal. Two gorgeous children, a handsome husband, destiny under control. For her real-life alter-ego Beth, things are unravelling. Tensions simmer with her husband, mother-in-law, her own mother. Her daughters, once the objects of her existence, have moved into teenage-hood, their lives -­ at school, home and online – increasingly mysterious to her.

Then a fellow student is callously bullied and the finger of blame pointed at one of Beth’s girls. As an innocent child lies suspended between life and death, two families are forced to question everything they believe about their children, and the answers are terrifying.

As unsettling as it is compelling, The Golden Child asks: how well can you know anyone in the digital age?

A potent story with shades of The Party and Mary Kubica.

Two families must grapple with the tragic fallout of cyberbullying. Amazon

I received a copy of Burning Secret by Stefan Zweig for my birthday.


Blurb

BURNING SECRET is set in an Austrian sanatorium in the 1920’s. A lonely twelve-year-old boy is befriended and becomes infatuated by a suave and mysterious baron who heartlessly brushes him aside to turn his seductive attentions to the boy’s mother. Stefan Zweig, the author of Beware of Pity and Confusion provides the reader, in this newly available translation, with a study of childhood on the brink of adolescence and a boy’s uncontrollable jealousy and feelings of betrayal. Amazon

What have you found to read this week? Do share!

tbr-watch

Once again I have only managed to read 2 books this week but fortunately I only added two so no change on the TBR 172!
Physical Books – 112
Kindle Books – 42
NetGalley Books –17
Audio Books –1

One of this week’s reviews was for a book I own book, so I’ve added another 1/3 of a token. I’m now 2 1/3 books in credit, having bought no new books.

Posted in Uncategorized

Six in Six – 2018 Edition

 


This meme originates from Jo at The Book Jotter and having thoroughly enjoyed participating over the last couple of years I wanted to see what my Six in Six looked like in 2018!
The aim is to sort your reads into six categories – you can choose from the ones Jo suggests or come up with your own. Although the same book can obviously feature in more than one category, I’ve chosen to select one book for each category from my favourite reads of the year so far.

Six new authors to me

I’ve met some great new authors in 2018 who write in a variety of genres.

Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce

The Dissent of Annie Lang by Ros Franey

And the Birds Kept on Singing by Simon Bourke

Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan

Three Things About Elsie by Joanne Cannon

Close to Home by Cara Hunter

 

 

Six classics I have read

As I joined The Classics Club in 2018 it seemed only right to feature some of the books I’ve read for this challenge…

The Lodger by Marie Belloc Lowndes

The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Cripsin

Our Spoons Came From Woolworths by Barbara Comyns

Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

The A.B.C. Murders by Agatha Christie

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton 

 

 

Six From the Non-Fiction Shelf

And another selection that aren’t all crime related; I’m doing well this year!

Conan Doyle for the Defence by Margalit Fox

Bookwork by Lucy Mangan

The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books by Martin Edwards

My Life in Houses by Margaret Forster

Wedlock by Wendy Moore

Common People by Alison Light

 

 

Six series of books read or started

Here’s where I remind myself that I read way too many crime fiction series!

Dead if you Don’t by Peter James

Don’t Make a Sound by David Jackson

Come A Little Closer by Rachel Abbott

The Killing House by Claire McGowan

The Girl in the Woods by Camilla Lackberg

Come and Find Me by Sarah Hilary

 

 

Six books from authors I know will never let me down

A mixture of crime fiction and delightful fiction.

Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase

Sanctum by Denise Mina

The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton

No Further Questions by Gillian McAllister

Dead Souls by Angela Marsons

The Cliff House by Amanda Jennings

 

Six books by authors I am looking forward to reading more of

This is a selection of authors who have made me think in various ways and so I can’t see what they deliver next, or in some instances have already written so I can explore their back catalogue.

The Death of Mrs Westaway by Ruth Ware

Us Against You by Fredrik Backman

Smash all the Windows by Jane Davis

Blackmail, Sex and Lies by Kathryn McMaster

A Patient Fury by Sarah Ward

Watching You by Lisa Jewell

 

 

 

 

So there are my choices from the first half of 2018 – What would you choose?

My Six in Six

2016

2017

 

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

In the Dark – Cara Hunter

Crime Fiction
5*s

This is the second in the series by Cara Hunter featuring DI Adam Fawley. It might be set in Oxford but we have quite a different type of detective, crimes and characters than those who featured in Inspector Morse.

DI Adam Fawley falls into the breed of likeable detective. As you’d expect, he has some baggage, but in his case his past is one that is only likely to illicit sympathy. We learn a little more about him following on from his first outing Close to Home but his story is very much in the background, the foreground is most definitely the crimes committed in the quiet Oxford street where a woman and a young child are found locked in a basement.

The woman Vicky and child are starved and thirsty and severely traumatised, Vicky not speaking at all at first and with the owner of the house, Dr William Harper, is denying all knowledge of them the police are up against it trying to work out who the prisoners are, and more importantly how long and why they’ve been locked up. In their search for clues they realise that the house backs onto the garden of the home of a missing woman called Hannah Gardiner.

There are lots of characters who all add rich detail to what becomes an investigation into the two women, and of course the child who is too young to be able to tell them anything. The police team of course consists of more than DI Fawley and the relationship between the officers is good with Detectives Quinn and Gislingham (Gis) providing a realistic view of how to survive working on such a harrowing investigation.

“Gis, who has always been exceptionally good at knowing when to stop digging, and Quinn who carries his own set of shovels“

The author has worked hard though to provide a reasonable complement of police, all with distinct personalities which is far more realistic that the older style police procedurals with just a couple of detectives involved in solving a case. Another example that gives this book an up-to-date feel is the full use of the female detectives and supporting police personnel throughout the story. As in real life they are no longer used just to pass hankies these women are involved from beginning to end.

With the use of news reports from BBC Midlands and the like, inserted into the story the author also moves away from the more traditional tale that is told just from one viewpoint, this element is built upon with transcribed interviews, including from those living in Frampton Road. These are brilliant, the author telling us so much about the area from both the content and the words used.

This, as was the first book, is a fast-paced police procedural with the author liberally sprinkling her story with red-herrings to keep her reader’s guessing and I for one lapped it all up and I’m eager for the next book by this author to see what dark mystery Oxford will serve up for us next.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Penguin Books UK who allowed me to read an advance copy of In the Dark. This unbiased review is my thanks to them and of course Cara Hunter for keeping so thoroughly entertained if a little traumatised by what was waiting for me on this visit to Oxford!

First Published UK: 12 July 2018
Publisher: Penguin Books UK
No of Pages: 448
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Lisa Jewell Novels

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

Watching You – Lisa Jewell

Psychological Thriller
5*s

Lisa Jewell just goes from strength to strength as she serves up different scenarios with a whole cast of different characters in this her sixteenth novel and I for one was hooked from page one, where there is out and out darkness in the form of a body on a kitchen floor. The police are in attendance and an investigation is opened.

First of all the author paints us a picture of perfection, a group of colourful houses perched on a hill, the type of house that Joey (Josephine) has always wanted to live in but that seemed unlikely after four years working in Ibiza, and now she’s home with her new husband Alfie in tow. Fortunately her older brother Jack and his pregnant wife Rebecca live in the cobalt coloured house in Melville Heights and her and Alfie had moved in while they sorted out where there life was going next.

Lisa Jewell’s latter books have all had some level of darkness about them but this one hurtles headlong into the undeniable thriller territory. After listening to Joey describing her life to her mum at her grave, we are launched into a transcript of a police interview held at Bristol police station nearly three months past this point. A word of warning, keep your eye on the changing dates, which are easily signposted, because this book does hop backwards and forwards until the past catches up with the present.

There are as in many of this author’s books a number of issues which are sensitively portrayed but with realism at its core rather than the reader getting the feeling that they’ve been used to bolster an otherwise flabby storyline.

At the centre of this book is Tom Fitzwilliam, the head of the local school who is married to Nicola. They also live at Melville heights with their teenage son, Freddie. Joey quickly becomes infatuated with Tom and is watching him. Tom’s son Freddie was documenting the neighbourhood using his digital binoculars but more recently has been using his spy equipment to watch the teenage girls in the vicinity while down in Lower Melville Frances Tripp is convinced that there is a mass of people watching her, so she is watching everyone else.

You might be able to tell from that very short synopsis, apart from a lot of watching, there are lots of characters in this book. And what characters they are, even the teenage girls are kept distinct by Lisa Jewell’s keen eye (and pen) for the little things that make each person unique.
In short I found this latest novel absolutely gripping. I wanted to know who had been murdered, who would want to murder but most of all I wanted to truly understand this eclectic bunch of people who became my neighbours for the duration of the book. Of course it wasn’t that simple with impeccable timing we are drip-fed pieces of information, some of which are red-herrings, so that my opinion on the characters altered the more I learned about them all.

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again here, if you haven’t read one of Lisa Jewell’s books you really should, she has a very easy to read style but that isn’t to say that they are superficial, in fact they are anything but!

I’d like to thank the publisher Random House UK for allowing me to read a copy of Watching You and thank you to Lisa Jewell for such a gripping read.

First Published UK: 12 July 2018
Publisher: Random House UK
No of Pages: 496
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Lisa Jewell Novels

Then She Was Gone (2017)
I Found You (2016)
The Girls (2015)
The Third Wife (2014)
The House We Grew Up In (2013)
Before I Met You (2012)
The Making Of Us (2011)
• After The Party (2010)
The Truth About Melody Browne (2009)
• 31 Dream Street (2007)
• Vince and Joy (2005)
• A Friend of the Family (2004)
• One Hit Wonder (2001)
• Thirtynothing (2000)
• Ralph’s Party (1999)