Posted in 20 Books of Summer 2015!, Book Review, Books I have read, Mount TBR 2018

The Lighthouse – P.D. James #20BooksofSummer

Crime Fiction
4*s

One of my favourite tropes in mystery novels one where there is a limited number of suspects. This is quite hard to make believable even in times gone by, but in more modern settings it has to be a challenge to have a cast iron setting. One of the only reasonable places for this set-up has to be an island which no-one can get to, and of course no-one can leave. P.D. James has therefore sensibly chosen the secluded island of Combe off the coast of Cornwall. Even better this island is used as a retreat for under-pressure men and women, only those of the better classes need apply of course.

At the time of the unexplained death on the island was preparing for some very important guests and so the murder needs the brightest and the best to investigate, so that would be Commander Adam Dalgliesh, DI Kate Miskin and Sergeant Francis Benton-Smith. They all drop there current work and hurry to the island.

In the best traditions of this kind of murder mystery is that the dead person wasn’t exactly a likeable person. I say the best tradition because it is far easier to read about murder when there is a part of you that can’t help feel that it isn’t any great loss to the world. This way you can concentrate on helping the police from the side-lines without any emotional involvement wasted.

I’ve always enjoyed reading P.D. James’s novels and this one was no exception, the plotting was brilliant with many of the limited number of suspects having a reason to what the victim bumped off, it wasn’t at all easy to detect who the perpetrator was with my thoughts changing as the story progressed.

The characters are predictably an unusual bunch and most of them quite frankly not the kind you would invite around for dinner, but they were distinct with some depth and of course their own motivation for wanting the victim dead, but being unlikable doesn’t mean they are killers.

So onto the setting, an island complete with all the features of island life. The reliance on being able to escape is dependent on the tides, the visibility through the continual threat of mist and fog and of course not forgetting the main feature the lighthouse which despite being on the coast, holds centre stage within the book itself.

This book was written in 2005 and features the SARS which was the health scare of this time, being a highly infectious respiratory disease and it is worth noting that the author was the grand age of 84 at the time it was written. It did become fashionable to say that the latter books lack the originality of those written earlier but having read this one and comparing it to modern crime writers I am moved to say, I like the certain old-fashioned feel, and find some of the author’s attempt to modernise the writing more jarring than when she followed her heart and wrote to a plot that is tried and tested with her own twists which are devious and clever. The Lighthouse is the 13th out of 14 in the Adam Dalgliesh series

The Lighthouse is my eleventh read in my 20 Books for Summer 2018 Challenge and one that took me back to an author who became a firm favourite at the start of my foray into crime fiction.

First Published UK: 2005
Publisher: Faber & Faber
No of Pages: 480
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

Letters from the Dead – Steve Robinson

Crime Fiction
5*s

For the seventh outing of Jefferson Tayte, a genealogist now based in the UK with his wife Jean, JT as he is more fondly known, is asked to discover the four-times-Great-Grandfather of his client, Damian Sinclair. His trail takes him from a crumbling, literally, pile in the Southern Highlands of Scotland, Drumarthen, to Rajputana (now known as Rajasthan) with strong links to the East India Company.

If you have followed JT’s previous adventures you will have learnt that genealogy can be a dangerous business, something JT himself seems to forget with a sense of abandon as soon as any juicy mystery comes along.

Damian Sinclair is unlike most of JT’s clients, he and the wider family have done a massive amount of research into their family. It’s soon revealed that this isn’t out of simple curiosity about their family heritage but because wrapped into the history is a missing ruby, one that would significantly change the owner’s life and there is no better motivation than a treasure hunt to help fill in those gaps on the family tree. Damian Sinclair assures JT he is not interested in the ruby and even though the reader can hear the audience hissing, JT puts his scepticism about the truth of this statement aside, and agrees to work on the case.

JT is introduced to the wider family and it is revealed that packet of letters were found that might hold the link to the jewel written in 1820s from a travelling companion in India back to the woman’s brother. These seem to be missing, all apart from one. Do these letters hold the key to the mystery?
The characters are brilliantly portrayed, Steve Robinson has ensured you will be able to tell them all apart by making them distinct, if in the main, individuals that you don’t need to waste a whole heap of sympathy on. After all you don’t want feelings of sorrow for these fictional characters to slow the trail to finding the truth, do you?

While JT is seeking the truth from the past, there are disturbing events in the present with an ‘Golden Age’ type mystery involving a syndicate formed to find the ruby. We therefore have Detective Inspector Alastair Ross being kept busy with the odd dead body too.

As with the previous books in the series, not only are the stories incredibly informative showing the impeccable research carried out by the author, they also have a sense of fun too. The story as it unfolds by letter from life in Colonial India completely transported me to a very particular way of life. The historical part alone was a fabulous story while with the danger in the present and a mystery which seems to hinge on greed provides a puzzle which seems to confound the finest of minds. Steve Robinson created a thoroughly interesting, informative and entertaining read in Letters from the Dead.

I’d like to thank  and the author Steve Robinson and the publishers Thomas & Mercer for allowing me to read an advance review copy of Letters from the Dead which was published on 14 August 2018. Perfect for lovers of genealogy as the author manages to weave some actual resources into the book without overshadowing either the historical angle or the mystery playing out in the present it also caters for a wide range of interests from history to those who crave a damn good mystery!

First Published UK: 14 August 2018
Publisher: Thomas Mercer
No of Pages: 348
Genre: Crime Fiction – Genealogical
Amazon UK
Amazon US

If you haven’t read the previous books in this series, not to worry, each of the books stands alone with only a very fleeting mention of anything in JT’s private life that has gone before.

Previous Books in the JT series

In The Blood

Two hundred years ago a loyalist family fled to England to escape the American War of Independence and seemingly vanished into thin air. American genealogist Jefferson Tayte is hired to find out what happened, but it soon becomes apparent that a calculated killer is out to stop him.
In the Blood combines a centuries-old mystery with a present-day thriller that brings two people from opposite sides of the Atlantic together to uncover a series of carefully hidden crimes. Tayte’s research centres around the tragic life of a young Cornish girl, a writing box, and the discovery of a dark secret that he believes will lead him to the family he is looking for. Trouble is, someone else is looking for the same answers and will stop at nothing to find them.

To The Grave

A curiously dated child’s suitcase arrives, unannounced and unexplained, in a modern-day Washington suburb. A week later, American genealogist Jefferson Tayte is sitting in an English hotel room, staring at the wrong end of a loaded gun.
In his latest journey into the past, Tayte lands in wartime Leicestershire, England. The genealogist had hoped simply to reunite his client with the birth mother she had never met, having no idea she had been adopted. Instead, he uncovers the tale of a young girl and an American serviceman from the US 82nd Airborne, and a stolen wartime love affair that went tragically wrong.

The Last Queen of England

While on a visit to London, American genealogist Jefferson Tayte’s old friend and colleague dies in his arms. Before long, Tayte and a truth-seeking historian, Professor Jean Summer, find themselves following a corpse-ridden trail that takes them to the Royal Society of London, circa 1708.
What to make of the story of five men of science, colleagues of Isaac Newton and Christopher Wren, who were mysteriously hanged for high treason?
As they edge closer to the truth, Tayte and the professor find that death is once again in season. A new killer, bent on restoring what he sees as the true, royal bloodline, is on the loose…as is a Machiavellian heir-hunter who senses that the latest round of murder, kidnapping, and scandal represents an unmissable business opportunity.

The Lost Empress

On a foggy night in 1914, the ocean liner Empress of Ireland sank en route between Canada and England. The disaster saw a loss of life comparable to the Titanic and the Lusitania, and yet her tragedy has been forgotten.
When genealogist Jefferson Tayte is shown a locket belonging to one of the Empress’s victims, a British admiral’s daughter named Alice Stilwell, he must travel to England to understand the course of events that led to her death.
Tayte is expert in tracking killers across centuries. In The Lost Empress, his unique talents draw him to one of the greatest tragedies in maritime history as he unravels the truth behind Alice’s death amidst a backdrop of pre-WWI espionage.

Kindred

Jefferson Tayte is good at finding people who don’t want to be found. For years he has followed faint genealogical trails to reunite families—and uncover long-hidden secrets. But Tayte is a loner, a man with no ties of his own; his true identity is the most elusive case of his career.

But that could all be about to change. Now Tayte has in his possession the beginnings of a new trail—clues his late mentor had started to gather—that might at last lead to his own family. With Professor Jean Summer, his partner in genealogical sleuthing, he travels to Munich to pick up the scent. But the hunt takes them deep into dangerous territory: the sinister secrets of World War II Germany, and those who must keep them buried at any cost.

Dying Games

Washington, DC: Twin brothers are found drowned in a Perspex box, one gagged and strapped to a chair. It’s the latest in a series of cruel and elaborate murders with two things in common: the killer has left a family history chart at each crime scene, and the victims all have a connection to genealogical sleuth Jefferson Tayte.

Hoping his insight and expertise will help solve the case, the FBI summon Tayte back to the capital. But as he struggles to crack the clues, the killer strikes again—and again. Tayte is known as the best in the business, but this time he’s up against a genealogical mastermind who always seems to be one step ahead.

With the clock ticking and the body count rising, Tayte finds himself racked with guilt, his reputation and career in tatters. The killer is running rings around him; is it only a matter of time before he comes for the ultimate target?

 

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (August 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

My current read is When the Lights Go Out by Mary Kubica which will be published on 23 August 2018.



Blurb

As far as the world’s concerned, she’s already dead

Jessie Sloane is getting her life back on track after caring for her sick mother. But she’s stopped short when she discovers, that according to official records, ‘Jessie Sloane’ died seventeen years ago.

So why does she still feel in danger?

Thrown into turmoil and questioning everything she’s ever known, Jessie’s confusion is exacerbated by a relentless lack of sleep. Stuck in a waking nightmare and convinced she’s in danger, she can no longer tell what’s real and what she’s imagined.

The truth lies in the past…

Twenty years ago, another woman’s split-second decision may hold the key to Jessie’s secret history. Has her whole life been a lie? The truth will shock her to the core…if she lives long enough to discover it. Amazon

The last book I finished was Flying Shoes by Lisa Howorth – my review for this book will follow soon!

Blurb

Thirty years ago, on Mother’s Day, Mary Byrd Thornton’s nine-year-old stepbrother was murdered. His killer was never found. At the time, Mary Byrd had been fifteen: in love and caught up in the excitement of the Sixties, but when Stevie died, her family and her life fell apart.

For years she has struggled with the knowledge that the murderer is still out there, as well as her own nagging guilt over Stevie’s death. Yet she has built a life for herself in Mississippi: she has married a Southern gentleman and has two children she adores. With her ramshackle house, her teeming garden and her menagerie of animals, she is immersed in a comfortable, if somewhat eccentric and occasionally restless day-to-day existence.

When a journalist chances upon the mystery of Stevie’s death and begins to dig into it, Mary Byrd suddenly finds herself on a reluctant journey back to her childhood home in Virginia. Along the way she encounters help from unexpected quarters and finds herself confronting not only her family’s story but the stories of many others – both the living and the dead. Amazon

Next up I intend to read Flight by Isabel Ashdown which is one of my 20 Books of Summer 2018 challenge reads.

Blurb

When Wren Irving’s numbers come up in the first ever national lottery draw, she doesn’t tell her husband, Rob. Instead she quietly packs her bags, kisses her six-month-old daughter Phoebe goodbye, and leaves.

Two decades later, Rob has moved on and found happiness with their oldest friend, Laura. Phoebe, now a young woman, has never known any other life. But when Rob receives a mysterious letter, the past comes back to haunt them all. With their cosy world thrown into turmoil, Laura sets out to track Wren down and discover the truth about why she left all those years ago. Amazon

So what do you think? Any of these beauties take your fancy?

Posted in Weekly Posts

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph (August 14)

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 my choice of opening comes from Murder Mile by Lynda La Plante which is the fourth in the series of books that takes us back to Jane Tennison’s life in the 1970s, that is before Prime Suspect.

Blurb

February, 1979, ‘The Winter of Discontent’. Economic chaos has led to widespread strikes across Britain.

Jane Tennison, now a Detective Sergeant, has been posted to Peckham CID, one of London’s toughest areas. As the rubbish on the streets begins to pile up, so does the murder count: two bodies in as many days.

There are no suspects and the manner of death is different in each case. The only link between the two victims is the location of the bodies, found within a short distance of each other near Rye Lane in Peckham. Three days later another murder occurs in the same area. Press headlines scream that a serial killer is loose on ‘Murder Mile’ and that police incompetence is hampering the investigation.

Jane is under immense pressure to catch the killer before they strike again.Working long hours with little sleep, what she uncovers leaves her doubting her own mind. Amazon

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph ~ Intro

CHAPTER ONE

Jane Tennison, recently promoted to sergeant, looked out of the passenger window of the CID car at the snow which was falling too lightly to settle. It was 4.30 on a freezing Saturday morning in mid-February 1979 and recently the overnight temperatures had been sub-zero. The weather reports were calling it one of the coldest winters of the century.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Now I’ll grant you that isn’t the most exciting of opening paragraphs but I think that there are some authors who can write about the most mundane of subjects, and us British are famed for our endless conversations about the weather after all, and yet somehow I feel I’m going to be put under the author’s spell. Although coming relatively (ok, really) late to her writing, I thoroughly enjoyed the writing style in Good Friday, the second in the series and I love the 1970s setting.

Well what do you think, would you keep reading?

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

Mrs Woolf and the Servants – Alison Light #20BooksofSummer

Non Fiction
4*s

I choose to read this book after being so impressed with Alison Light’s book exploring the working lives of her ancestors in Common People that I read earlier this year.

Now obviously as I’m a reader and I know the basic details about the life of Virginia Woolf, but as I was to discover, that is a world away from looking at her life in her home settings, in relation to the servants that lived with and worked for this very literary woman. This book is an intimate portrayal of a woman at home, as part of a family but most pertinently in her relations with her servants which let’s just say were more complex than the popular portrayal that we are used to.

The first servant to appear in Virginia’s life was Sophie Farrell who was a servant to Julia Stephen, Virginia’s mother. We learn about how Sophie, in common with so many girls of her background left her home to work away ‘in service’ From this starting point we chart the history of women who lived their lives serving others up to the time of WWII. Alison Light also points out the type of ‘live out’ servants that are now part of modern lives. But let’s go back to towards the end of the Victorian period where Sophie Farell is working as one of servants in South Kensington. Following the deaths of so many people who were important to her the siblings set up home in Bloomsbury to live a more bohemian lifestyle and it was here that the Bloomsbury Group was formed. However the siblings relied on servants at this time, and as the book tells us Virginia and her sister did for the rest of her lives.

So where did Alison Light get all this information on the servants from? Well the starting point is the letters between the two sisters and her own diaries where unfiltered views of the women who gave her the space to have a room of her own were indelibly marked upon page after page.

I’m going to be honest, I found the Virginia Woolf in her own words, quite a hypocritical and snobbish woman. I was constantly reminding myself that this was a different time where expectations of life were set in stone, but it didn’t stop my overwhelming sympathy for the women who served and my feeling of contempt for the author.

Although Alison Light freely admits that many of the servants could not be traced, in these instances, because they weren’t even afforded a name, she has done some exceptional work in tracing some of the others. We are given a surprising amount of detail about a few most memorably of Nellie Boxhall who was eventually dismissed from the Woolf household. And for me it is the time after they left the Woolf household that are so sad. There were no pensions; if the servants weren’t kept on as family retainers then they could end up with no security whatsoever, in some cases after devoting half a century in serving. This is just one shocking aspect, the other being the way the members of the Bloomsbury set, well into the war period seemed to pass their servants backwards and forwards between the households as if these people were no more than useful objects.

Pretty most of the women on my maternal side up until those born in the 20th Century worked in service. I’d always wondered how the young girls of 12, 13 & 14 ended up living and working so far from where they’d been born and the stories of the servants researched by Alison Light included the hiring fairs and the preference for rural maids that were thought to be more malleable than their town and city cousins.

There are simply so many fascinating facts that it is impossible to put within a short review but if you are interested in the author or the lives of servants during this time period, you could do far worse than to read Mrs Woolf and the Servants.

Mrs Woolf and the Servants is my tenth read in my 20 Books for Summer 2018 Challenge It has opened my eyes to the life I would have lived if I had been born 100 years earlier and of course a less welcome insight into one of the most celebrated women writers of her time.

First Published UK: 2007
Publisher: Fig Tree
No of Pages:400
Genre: Non-Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Uncategorized

Cleopatra Loves Books is Five!


Five whole years ago (yesterday) Cleopatra Loves Books was born. Initially set up in a vacuum as I had no idea about the community of book bloggers, it was a place to record my thoughts on the books I had read. Who’d have thought it would become such an important part of my life.

I’ve typed so much, and hopefully used far more words than the average five year old knows, 2,200, although I confess to frequently scratching my head to find a new way to say I really did enjoy this book! My old laptop’s keys had been pounded so fiercely, its files were full of book covers and reviews that by the start of 2018 you could only see half of the letters and it was time to upgrade to a newer lighter model.

One thing is certain I’m sure I wouldn’t have devoted so much time and energy to this hobby without the interaction with those of you who visit me. Whether you come to tell me you liked my review, that meme was interesting or sometimes if you disagree with my thoughts on a particular book I smile. For the first time in my longish life I have been free to discuss books with like-minded people i.e. the ones who don’t think I’m strange for reading every day or the fact that I’d often prefer to curl up with imaginary people than socialise, although I do this too from time to time!

The birthday tradition at Cleopatra Loves Books is to share some facts and figures with you so hang onto your hats…

This post will be the 1,627 published post on Cleopatra Loves Blogs – no wonder those keys had faded away!

The top reviews in respect of views on my blog of all time are:

Come A Little Closer by Rachel Abbott – Reviewed 25 February 2018
The Book of You y Claire Kendal – Reviewed 6 February 2014
The Girl in the Woods by Camilla Läckberg – Reviewed 19 February 2018
He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly – Reviewed 10 February 2018
Sleep Tight by Rachel Abbott – Reviewed 2 March 2014

It seems to me that books read and reviewed in February/March are the ones that catch the reader’s eye!

The top five reviews in the last year are:

Come A Little Closer by Rachel Abbott – Reviewed 25 February 2018
The Girl in the Woods by Camilla Läckberg – Reviewed 19 February 2018
Blackmail, Sex and Lies by Kathryn McMaster – Reviewed 13 January 2018
The Missing Girl by Jenny Quintana – Reviewed 18 December 2017
The Dark Angel by Elly Griffiths – reviewed 5 February 2018

Of course I don’t just write reviews I join in memes and this year I have joined The Classics Club so in theory I will be blogging until at least January 2023 when my 5 year challenge completes!

My favourite memes are those where I look back over time and select books that I have read, or want and my yearly delight in attempting the Reading Bingo shows no sign of abating.

At the 6 month stage I join in Jo’s Six in Six where I divide the first half of the years book into categories and the I Spy Book Challenge had me hunting through my bookshelves to complete each item on the list.

I can waste hours on these challenges but the one maxim I have learnt to follow is that reading comes first, without the wonderful books, there would be no blog so writers, please keep them coming!

So all that remains is for me to say a HUGE thank you to you all – I couldn’t do it without the encouragement and so I invite you to help yourself to a virtual drink of your choosing, and of course a slice of cake!

 

A Slice of Cake!
Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

A Long Goodbye – Anthony Le Moignan

Contemporary Fiction
4*s

A Long Goodbye is contemporary romance novel set in the somewhat unusual setting of a care home in Cambridge.

Simon is an accountant, a successful one. He’s sporty with a love of running, not just the taking part but watching other athletes and reading the magazines as well as challenging himself to beat his personal best. He’s funny, good-looking and he has been diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s disease. He is just forty years old and faces the challenges ahead with fortitude and a sense of humour.

Emma works at Orchard Care Home, a residential home that usually houses the elderly who need to have the love and support of their professional team. Emma is married to a man she met earlier in her caring career, she’s now managing the home but keeps her hand in with the patients. Her husband Michael has meanwhile risen through the ranks and now works away for much of the time which combined with the lack of a much-wanted baby has left their marriage much in need of some tender care.

Readers of my blog will know that romance, unless combined with history, is not my usual genre but underneath it all, I do have a soul. I chose to read this book after being contacted by the author who is a local man and alighted on the fact that sales of A Long Goodbye are raising funds for funds raised for both the Jersey Alzheimer’s Association and Alzheimer’s Society. So many of us will have experienced the hard realities of dementia, it is indeed often a long goodbye, one where both the sufferer and those that love them lose pieces of the very essence of the person bit by bit. And unless you’ve been on a tour of care homes as I had to do for my mother, you might have a preconceived idea of what they have to offer. I’m not going to lie, I did visit one or two that smelled of wee and had a bunch of women parked in chairs in front of a TV, but there were far more who had put a real effort into providing a homely atmosphere whilst providing the facilities required for those who are sadly beyond the outings and fun and I could recognise aspects of this in Orchard Care Home. It is a positive shout-out too for those who staff these homes and provide all manner of support to their patients and their families alike.

Anthony Le Moignan’s book is based on facts, his father suffered with Alzheimer’s, and so while he creates a story that pulls at those heart-strings, he doesn’t use his fiction to create either a totally unrealistic portrayal of this cruel disease but nor is it in any way sensationalist. The story is lovely, the characters a wide variety from the obviously kind and caring Emma to a real doozy of a money-grabbing woman who makes an unwelcome appearance during the story. I was worried that A Long Goodbye would be too saccharine sweet for my tastes, but it wasn’t, far from it, I actually found it to be a thoughtful novel, with many of those truths that I suspect we all look for within the books we read and no, these are not all specifically related to the Alzheimer angle. The story moves along at a pace with some tender moments that bought a tear to my eye so have the hankies at the ready!

A well-written novel that explores love from a variety of perspectives and yet balances this with some genuinely funny moments with a real feel for the characters. A great debut and I for one will be looking to see what the author comes up with next.

First Published UK: 7 May 2018
Publisher: Self Published
No of Pages: 302
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

American Heiress – Jeffrey Toobin #20BooksofSummer

Non-Fiction
4*s

Although I vaguely knew the story of Patsy Hearst it turns out I didn’t know very much at all, thanks to Jeffery Toobin I am now appraised not only about the facts of the case but of the political climate in the US at the time.

I’m not normally a fan of politics in my reading matter but without the political rhetoric, Patsy Hearst’s kidnapping would not have happened in the first place, we can’t begin to understand one without the other.

Patsy Hearst was a wealthy heiress to the Hearst’s family fortune. At the time of the kidnapping on 4 February 1974 she was living with her boyfriend, not exactly estranged from her family, but her mother in particular disapproved of her lifestyle. But Patsy was young, it was the 1970s and she was finding her feet. At the same time the self-styled revolutionaries calling itself the Symbionese Liberation Army were looking to make the headlines and to do so they needed a story so they set-up a fairly shambolic kidnap. Luckily for them Patsy’s boyfriend wasn’t really up for a fight of any description and ran in the opposite direction. So Patsy was taken hostage and if you follow one point of view, she was brainwashed into becoming part of the Symbionese Liberation Army herself. The other point of view is that she didn’t need brainwashing, she believed in their aims. The world was all agog when two months later she was taped telling her family that this was what she wanted and she now had the nom de guerre “Tania.”

From the little I know it appears to me that this is an author who not only knows his stuff but is able to put it across so that those of us who have no understanding can access the information and gain an insight into the place, the times and the psychology of those involved. Jeffery Toobin explains how the family made its fortune and the reality, as opposed to the headlines, of what funds he was really able to raise.

But for me the best part of the book was to explain the era in terms of American social and political history. I won’t lie, I knew next to nothing to begin with so it could be called an ‘easy sell’ but I found the context and background really interesting. My précis of Jeffrey Toobin’s measured analysis was that there was a new angry generation wanting more financial security with fewer wars which they didn’t believe in with the result that domestic terrorism was booming. Sound familiar anyone?

What I had never appreciated before reading this book was that although the SLA were led by a male ex-prisoner with a somewhat erratic personality, there were a number of radical feminists in the group and therefore it was quite conceivable at that time that the former wealthy young Patricia was drawn to their cause. It therefore isn’t such a huge leap to understand that after the group became separated that the fight for survival was all that mattered. There are lots of shocking facts in this part of the story which I was completely unaware of but I’m pleased to say the tone of the book remains factual.

Nor does the author spend a lot of time trying to convince us of Patricia’s culpability or otherwise, he presents the facts and sometimes gives us one view or another but he plays it fairly straight. It is really up to the reader to decide and play the psychoanalyst with the tools he has provided.

Overall the book is a comprehensive look at the kidnap, the intervening years that Patricia Hearst spent as a revolutionary plus short book-ends on her life as a child and what happened afterwards.

“In the end, notwithstanding a surreal detour in the 1970s, Patricia led the life she for which she was destined back in Hillsborough. The story of Patricia Hearst, as extraordinary as it once was, had a familiar, even predictable ending. She did not turn into a revolutionary. She turned into her mother.”

American Heiress is my ninth read in my 20 Books for Summer 2018 Challenge and one that I feel has broadened my understanding of an era as well as educating me about a story I thought I knew about, but it turns out I didn’t really know anything at all. Now I do!

First Published UK: 2 August 2016
Publisher: Doubleday
No of Pages:432
Genre: Non-Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Books I have read, Books I want to Read, Five Star Reads

The Liar’s Room – Simon Lelic

Psychological Thriller
5*s

This is one of those books where you have to hang onto your seat and follow the ride wherever it takes you, and oh my goodness what a ride it is!

Susanna is a counsellor and on the day we meet her she has two new clients to meet. When the first one, Adam Geraghty walks through the door he seems familiar but she can’t work out where she knows him from. And then he starts to talk…

Susanna is probably more on her guard than the average counsellor because she has a deep and dark secret. The type of secret that is worth saying goodbye to her old life, and starting somewhere else with a brand new identity, all evidence of the past covered over. So now she leads a narrow life which consists of her, and her daughter Emily who is now fourteen years old. Susanna loves Emily and sees her role in life, above all others to keep her safe.

So much of this novel is the conversation between counsellor and counselled which gives the book an incredibly claustrophobic feel. The dialogue between the two is captivating and made all the more so because we know Susanna has something she is trying to hide, but what it is and why she needs to keep it quiet is eked out in a way that had this reader conjuring up different scenarios, most widely off-beam. On one level it is fascinating to watch the game that is being played out in front of our eyes. The weighing up of options on the one hand with the absolute determination to keep the upper hand on the other gives us an immediate view of how liars operate which felt quite unlike anything else in the genre. Yes we often come across manipulative characters and we even see them in full flow but to have an entire book that is based upon a sustained conversation is very unusual indeed.

Although some of the themes have quite naturally been explored by other writers, this is an author so sure of his penmanship that the reader is left to draw their own conclusions to what these might be and he doesn’t go down the well-worn path of what is often trodden by writers in this genre; prepare to be surprised.

The Liar’s Room is clever, very clever. Yes, once I got quite a way into the book, I was able to discern some of what had either happened, was happening or would happen, but I was a long way off the entirety of the answers to all the myriad of questions. This is both spell-binding and compelling and terrifically well written and has firmly cemented Simon Lelic as an outstanding writer. I was already a fan having read and loved The Child Who and more recently The House, and The Liar’s Room has just added to my admiration of an author who can create some basically unlikeable characters but with enough credibility to keeping it real which meant that I couldn’t feel a bit of sympathy for them on at least on some level.

This would undoubtedly be a terrific book club read which I’m sure would provoke some lively discussion because of the strong reactions it is bound create.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers Penguin who allowed me to read a copy of The Liar’s Room ahead of publication in paperback on 9 August 2018. Thank you also to Simon Lelic for keeping me up way past my bedtime in order to find out what happened, and then later still as I pondered what I had just read.

First Published UK: 28 July 2018
Publisher: Penguin 
No of Pages: 352
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (August 8)

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

I am currently reading Letters from the Dead by Steve Robinson, a genealogical mystery set in Scotland and India. Letters from the Dead will be published on 14 August 2018.

Blurb

When genealogist Jefferson Tayte is hired to prove the identity of a black sheep in his client’s family tree, he unwillingly finds himself drawn into a murder investigation with nothing more to go on than a 150-year-old letter and a connection to a legendary ruby that has been missing for generations.

As more letters are mysteriously left for him, Tayte becomes immersed in a centuries-old tale of greed, murder and forbidden love that takes his research from the wilds of the Scottish Highlands to the colour and heat of colonial India.

A dark secret is buried in Jaipur, steeped in treachery and scandal. But why is it having such deadly repercussions in the present? Can Tayte find the ruby and prevent the past from repeating itself before it’s too late?

This is the seventh book in the Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Mystery series but it can be enjoyed as a stand-alone story. Amazon

The last book I finished was very different; A Long Goodbye by Anthony Le Moignan is set in the present day and is set in a care home in Cambridge. The main protagonist has been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. This might make it sound a bit of a gloomy read but I was pleasantly surprised. Anthony Le Moignan is a local Jersey man and I happen to know that this book is on NetGalley for request.

Blurb

Simon, a successful accountant, has a big problem. The biggest of them all. He checks himself into Orchard Care Home whilst still relatively healthy, the youngest resident by decades. He’s confident he cut all ties with the outside world and is untraceable.

Emma, married with no kids, lives, breathes and manages Orchard Care Home; a position her husband, Michael, used to hold in the good old days. But now he’s soared up the company hierarchy she sees so much less of him.

The attraction between carer and resident is instant, but ultimately destined for catastrophe. Alzheimer’s takes no prisoners and Early Onset, it’s most tragic form, is the cruellest of all.

How can Michael feel threatened by Simon? And what future could Emma have with him?

Simon understands less and less, but knows he has to try and run away from time – to somehow beat the ceaseless clock.

A powerful new novel by Anthony Le Moignan that will make you laugh and cry, for fans of Jojo Moyes, Emma Healey and Nicholas Sparks. Amazon

The next book I expect to read is Lady Bette and the Murder of Mr Thynn by Nigel Pickford as I desperately try to reach at least 15 books for my 20 Books of Summer challenge!

Blurb

Lady Bette, the 14-year-old heiress to the vast Northumberland estates, becomes the victim of a plot by her grandmother, the Countess Howard, to marry her to the dissolute fortune-hunter Thomas Thynn, a man three times her age with an evil reputation. Revolted by her new husband, Lady Bette flees to Holland. Within weeks, Thynn is gunned down in the street by three hired assassins.

Who is behind the contract killing? Is it the Swedish Count Coningsmark, young and glamorous with blond hair down to his waist? Or is it a political assassination as the anti-Catholic press maintains? Thynn was, after all, a key player in the Protestant faction to exclude the Catholic James, Duke of York, as his brother Charles II’s successor.

Nigel Pickford creates a world of tension and insecurity, of constant plotting and counter-plotting and of rabid anti-Catholicism, where massive street demonstrations and public Papal burnings are weekly events. The action moves from the great landed estates of Syon and Petworth to the cheap taverns and brothels of London, and finally to Newgate and the gallows – the sporting spectacle of the day. In the process, the book gives us a vivid and deeply researched portrait of Restoration society. Amazon

So what do you think? Any of these beauties take your fancy?