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. I will be celebrating Five years of blogging later this year and so I decided it was time to repeat the series.
So without further ado let’s see what books October has brought to me over the last five years!
You can read my original review of the book featured by clicking on the book cover.
In October 2014 I started a new crime fiction series – on reflection this is the root of the huge TBR as I want to keep up with all the series and sample all the wonderful standalone books on offer. Anyway Isabelle Grey wowed me with the first in the series featuring Detective Sergeant Grace Fisher in Good Girls Don’t Die. Why? Well, this is an intricately plotted story which has a number of threads that held my attention from beginning to the end. As in any good detective novel the red herrings are carefully placed and far from obvious, the motive believable and above all populated by a great range of characters. Grace is an appealing protagonist and one who despite her unfortunate start in Essex is more normal than many who populate this genre.
I’m pleased to confirm that four books on this series hasn’t gone off the boil and if you have a kindle, the eBook version is just 99p at the time of writing this post.
Sometimes the danger is too close to see. A dark and gripping crime thriller introducing DI Grace Fisher.
Accused of grassing up a fellow officer and driven brutally out of home and job, DI Grace Fisher is thankful to survive some dark times and find haven with the Major Investigation Team in Essex. Any hopes of a quiet start to her new life are dashed by the discovery of the body of a female student, last seen at a popular bar in Colchester. Grace has her first case.
When a second student, also out drinking, is murdered and left grotesquely posed, the case becomes headline news.
Someone is leaking disturbing details to a tabloid crime reporter. Is it the killer? Or a detective close to the case?
With another victim dead, and under siege by the media, the murder inquiry hits a dead end. The review team brought in to shake things up is headed by Grace’s old DCI. Who is going to listen to her now? Amazon
Life was tough in October 2015 I but I was taken away from it all thanks to The Shadow Year by Hannah Richell, a fabulous dual time-line novel featuring the relatively recent past of the 1980s for the actions which govern the consequences in the present.
With the crux of the story concentrating on five firm friends the interplay between them was an absorbing in itself. In short this is an incredibly evocative book which conjures up a place of hope for the idealistic graduates. Where better to try out a self-sufficient lifestyle, particularly when the summer seems to roll ahead forever and there is food to eat from the land, including fish from the lake. The present is equally compelling with the author accurately capturing the essence of the grief that Lila is suffering from, without it becoming so depressing I didn’t want to continue. That underpinned by great plotting what more can I say?
1980. On a hot summer’s day five friends stumble upon an abandoned cottage hidden deep in the English countryside. Isolated and run-down, it offers a retreat, somewhere they can escape from the world. But as the seasons change, tensions begin to rise…
Three decades later, Lila arrives at the remote cottage. Bruised from a tragic accident and with her marriage in crisis, she finds renovating the tumbledown house gives her a renewed sense of purpose. But why did the cottage’s previous inhabitants leave their belongings behind? And why can’t she shake the feeling that someone is watching her? Amazon
In October 2016 I did something I rarely do, I read a book shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize of that year; His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet recounts the story of the murders and the subsequent trial of his purported ancestor Roderick Macrae, a seventeen year old crofter.
The book is structured as if it were a work of non-fiction with the longest section given over to Roderick’s only statement, written at the behest of his advocate Mr Andrew Sinclair while he was awaiting trial at Inverness Castle, having been swiftly detained after the bodies had been found.
This is a book that had me captivated, and confused as I repeatedly reminded myself it was fiction, not fact. If you love historical crimes, this is a book not to be missed.
The year is 1869. A brutal triple murder in a remote community in the Scottish Highlands leads to the arrest of a young man by the name of Roderick Macrae. A memoir written by the accused makes it clear that he is guilty, but it falls to the country’s finest legal and psychiatric minds to uncover what drove him to commit such merciless acts of violence. Was he mad? Only the persuasive powers of his advocate stand between Macrae and the gallows.
Graeme Macrae Burnet tells an irresistible and original story about the provisional nature of truth, even when the facts seem clear. His Bloody Project is a mesmerising literary thriller set in an unforgiving landscape where the exercise of power is arbitrary. Amazon
Last year I was reading the non-fiction book The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler in which he has collated ninety-nine authors who for one reason or another are no longer seen on the bookshelves of bookshops or libraries but somehow glimmer on our collective consciousness, and their works fluttered at the edges of many when he kicked this project off.
Unlike so many such lists that are produced this collector of these forgotten authors has brought together a set of authors from the Victorian times up to the more recent, the entire range of genres taking in slapstick comedy through Sci-Fi, poetry, literary fiction and crime. Obviously with so many authors each one gets a brief mention detailing the often prodigious output, why they were popular and why they may well have fallen out of favour as the years rolled on.
This really is the perfect present for any bibliophile.
Absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder. It makes people think you’re dead.
So begins Christopher Fowler’s foray into the back catalogues and backstories of 99 authors who, once hugely popular, have all but disappeared from our shelves.
Whether male or female, domestic or international, flash-in-the-pan or prolific, mega-seller or prize-winner – no author, it seems, can ever be fully immune from the fate of being forgotten. And Fowler, as well as remembering their careers, lifts the lid on their lives, and why they often stopped writing or disappeared from the public eye.
These 99 journeys are punctuated by 12 short essays about faded once-favourites: including the now-vanished novels Walt Disney brought to the screen, the contemporary rivals of Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie who did not stand the test of time, and the women who introduced us to psychological suspense many decades before it conquered the world.
This is a book about books and their authors. It is for book lovers, and is written by one who could not be a more enthusiastic, enlightening and entertaining guide. Amazon
As 2018 has been a year when I have tried to read a larger percentage of the books I already own it is only fitting that my favourite book for October this year has been A Jarful of Angels by Babs Horton. This is a book about a missing child, but one unlike any other you are likely to have read, which is why it gets my vote.
It’s a hard book to to categorise so I’ll describe it as a tale of childhood with all the grim realities of adults misunderstanding you the poverty of life driven to the edges by the magical world that only children can create and yet realism seeps through as an adult watches the world filtered through the eyes of children. This is not a twee look at childhood and nor is it a book populated by faux adults, this book is grim in parts but I think the most truthful reflection of the childhood I’ve ever read. That’s not to say there isn’t so much for an adult to wonder at, and about!
The remote town in the Welsh valleys was a wonderful, magical- but sometimes dangerous place in which to grow up. It was there that Iffy, Bessie, Fatty and Billy experienced a plague of frogs one summer, stumbled upon a garden full of dancing statues, found a skull with its front teeth missing- and discovered just what it was that mad Carty Annie was collecting so secretly in those jars of hers. But at the end of that long, hot summer of 1963,one of the four children disappeared.
Over thirty years later, retired detective Will Sloane, never able to forget the unsolved case, returns to Wales to resume his search for the truth. His investigation will draw him into a number of interlocking mysteries,each one more puzzling than the last. Amazon
Five of the Best 2018