In 2015 to celebrate reviewing for five years I started a series entitled Five of the Best where I chose my favourite five star reads which I’d read in that month. Later in 2018 I will be celebrating Five years of blogging and so I decided it was time to repeat the series.
You can read my original review of the book featured by clicking on the book cover.
My choice of review for March 2014 is That Dark Remembered Day by Tom Vowler which is a very cleverly presented book with the groundwork precisely laid before revealing what happened on That Dark Remembered Day. In 1983 Richard had returned from the Falklands, his final posting before discharge from the arm and at its heart, this book is a reflection on the damage that war inflicts on those who are sent to fight. Part the story of a reluctant soldier, part the story of growing up in a small town but absolutely unforgettable. That Dark Remembered Day was longlisted for the Guardian Not the Booker Prize in 2014.
One family, one town, devastated by one tragic event.
Can you ever know what those closest to you are really capable of?
When Stephen gets a phone call to say his mother isn’t well, he knows he must go to her straight away. But he dreads going back there. He has never been able to understand why his mother chose to stay in the town he grew up in, after everything that happened. One day’s tragic events years before had left no one living there untouched.
Stephen’s own dark memories are still poisoning his life, as well as his marriage. Perhaps now is the time to go back and confront the place and the people of his shattered childhood. But will he ever be able to understand the crime that punctured their lives so brutally? How can a community move on from such a terrible legacy? Amazon
I was spoilt for choice for five star books reviewed in March 2015 but have decided to chose a non-fiction book The Magnificent Spilsbury and the case of The Brides In The Bath by Jane Robins which recreates the story of Bernard Spilsbury’s rise to become, what today we know as expert witnesses. To do this she principally uses the trial of George Smith of three women who died after drowning in the bath to examine both forensic scientist and his methods. Spilsbury worked night and day testing his ideas, either in the mortuary or in the lab in his house and soon bodies were exhumed and theories espoused. In one chilling experiment to work out how the women could have been killed without a struggle female swimmers dressed in bathing costumes were recruited for experimentation. This book is a great mixture of a historic murder trial with some well-researched information about the scientist whose word could spell the end for the accused.
Bessie Mundy, Alice Burnham and Margaret Lofty are three women with one thing in common. They are spinsters and are desperate to marry. Each woman meets a smooth-talking stranger who promises her a better life. She falls under his spell, and becomes his wife. But marriage soon turns into a terrifying experience.
In the dark opening months of the First World War, Britain became engrossed by ‘The Brides in the Bath’ trial. The horror of the killing fields of the Western Front was the backdrop to a murder story whose elements were of a different sort. This was evil of an everyday, insidious kind, played out in lodging houses in seaside towns, in the confines of married life, and brought to a horrendous climax in that most intimate of settings – the bathroom.
The nation turned to a young forensic pathologist, Bernard Spilsbury, to explain how it was that young women were suddenly expiring in their baths. This was the age of science. In fiction, Sherlock Holmes applied a scientific mind to solving crimes. In real-life, would Spilsbury be as infallible as the ‘great detective’? Amazon
I love crime fiction and struggle to keep the number of series I follow to a minimum. In March 2016 I picked up In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward and fell in love with the Derbyshire setting and the police team which includes DI Francis Sadler and DC Connie Childs.
This is an intricate mystery which has its roots in 1978 when two girls went missing in Bampton, but only one returned. Even better The ending was perfect, the book whilst having plenty of surprises does not bring a motive and character out of left field, rather staying true to the more ‘old-fashioned’ crime novels where the perpetrator is justly identified from combing the evidence which all makes for an incredibly satisfying read.
Bampton, Derbyshire, January 1978. Two girls go missing: Rachel Jones returns, Sophie Jenkins is never found. Thirty years later: Sophie Jenkins’s mother commits suicide.
Rachel Jones has tried to put the past behind her and move on with her life. But news of the suicide re-opens old wounds and Rachel realises that the only way she can have a future is to finally discover what really happened all those years ago.
This is a story about loss and family secrets, and how often the very darkest secrets are those that are closest to you. Amazon
In March 2017 I posted my review of Everything But The Truth by Gillian McAllister and was delighted to find this is a psychological thriller with a moral dilemma at its heart.
Rachel and Jack are going to have a baby.
One night Jack’s iPad lights up and half-asleep Rachel reads the email sent which mentions an event that she knows nothing about. Rachel begins to wonder how well she knows Jack especially when the short reply he gives the next morning, isn’t wholly convincing.
With the reader gaining insight into Rachel’s life and her persistent digging into the lie she believes Jack has told her this is a taut and brilliant psychological thriller. There is no doubt that Gillian McAllister knows how to weave a tale that is complex and has space built into the narrative that allows the reader to put themselves into the character’s shoes, and yes to make judgements on that tricky morality scale.
It all started with the email.
Rachel didn’t even mean to look. She loves Jack and she’s pregnant with their child. She trusts him.
But now she’s seen it, she can’t undo that moment. Or the chain of events it has set in motion.
Why has Jack been lying about his past? Just what exactly is he hiding? And doesn’t Rachel have a right to know the truth at any cost? Amazon
My choice for March 2018 is a really tough one with two excellent non-fiction books as well as a number of fiction reads that gained the magic five stars I am going to pick The Killing House by Claire McGowan on the strength that this is the best wrap-up of a story arc I’ve read for a long time.
Claire McGowan created Paula Maguire, a forensic psychologist who finds missing people. The team she works for is on the border between North and South Ireland so inevitably there are links back to The Troubles. In fact Paula’s own mother went missing when she was just thirteen, and whilst each individual book has its own mystery, what happened to Margaret Maguire is a thread that runs through the series.
I love the style of storytelling, and in The Killing House, we are transported back in time to hear the voice of one person held by the punishment team who have them held captive to find out the information for their cause. There are some horrific characters in this book but all held together by the basic goodness of many others, even those who may have done wrong in the past. The author has a way of differentiating between those who got caught up in the times, and those who enjoyed being part of it, exceptionally well so that the reader is able to look at this point in history at a personal level.
When a puzzling missing persons’ case opens up in her hometown, forensic psychologist Paula Maguire can’t help but return once more.
Renovations at an abandoned farm have uncovered two bodies: a man known to be an IRA member missing since the nineties, and a young girl whose identity remains a mystery.
As Paula attempts to discover who the girl is and why no one is looking for her, an anonymous tip-off claims that her own long-lost mother is also buried on the farm.
When another girl is kidnapped, Paula must find the person responsible before more lives are destroyed. But there are explosive secrets still to surface. And even Paula can’t predict that the investigation will strike at the heart of all she holds dear.
If you want to see what the five books featured on Five of the Best for March 2011 to 2015 were you can do so here
How many of these have you read? Did you enjoy them as much as I did? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Five of the Best 2018