Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Girl in the Woods – Camilla Läckberg

Crime Fiction
4*s

Camilla Läckberg has provided this reader with another meaty read in this the tenth in the Patrik Hedström and Erica Falck. This story is lengthy and involved. Readers won’t be able to stop themselves remembering some real-life crimes, especially those involving child-killers with the most obvious inspiration being drawn from Anne Perry and her friend Pauline Rieper, not a comfortable subject at all.

The main story is that set in the present day of the disappearance of four-year old Nea Berg from the same farm that another four-year old child went missing from thirty years before. Then Marie and her best friend Helen were accused of murder at the tender age of just thirteen. This is therefore in true Camilla Läckberg style a crime in the past with parallels in the present.

What makes the disappearance of Nea Berg all the more chilling is that Marie Wall had returned to Fjällbacka in her role as Ingrid Bergman in a new film. Marie had used the crime she was accused of thirty years ago to help propel her into Hollywood stardom, and it had worked but she had not set foot back in the small Swedish town since she left all those years before. Helen meanwhile had married a local man aged eighteen and lived a quiet life now mother to a teenage son she is fearful that Marie’s return will encourage the story to come to life again.

The chapters each cover many viewpoints each including scenes at the police station as our old favourites interview witnesses, pour over forensic reports and the ever dependable station chief Bertil Mellberg gives television interviews and interferes in Patrik Hedström’s handling of the case. As always it was great to catch up with everyone in Fjällbacka’s Police force and it does provide some much needed light relief in this dark and disturbing tale.

Erica already had a book in the pipeline about Stella Strand and her two accused killers and so when parallels are drawn between the crimes she is on hand with her notes so far, and the interviews she continues to hold with key people from the time.

Interspersed with the current investigations and happenings are chapters on The Stella Case giving the reader insights that haven’t necessarily been discovered, including those thoughts of the lead investigator. Intriguingly there is also a far older tale to be told that of Elin Jonsdotter in Bohuslän in 1671, what relevance this strand has remains a mystery for much of the book. If all that wasn’t enough the author includes another strand about Syrian refugees.

I enjoyed this greatly although I was reminded why I normally save these novels as holiday reads; The Girl in the Woods is a whopping 592 pages long and packed full of information which doesn’t necessarily lend itself to short bursts of reading. For the first time in this series I did have moments where I wondered if the author had been slightly over-ambitious in the amount of different strands that run through the book, not that it was confusing, far from it, but the read felt far darker overall than the previous books in the series, and they were hardly laugh a minute reads. However, if you are a fan, as I am, there is much to feast on not only while you are reading this book but there are bigger themes and philosophical questions to ponder long after you finish the last page.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to HarperCollins UK who allowed me to read advance copy of The Girl in the Woods before publication on 22 February 2018. This unbiased review is my thanks to them.

First Published UK: 22 February 2018
Publisher: HarperCollins
No of Pages: 592
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Books in Patrik Hedstrom and Erica Falck series

The Ice Princess (2002)
The Preacher (2004)
The Stonecutter (2005)
The Gallows Bird (2006)
The Hidden Child (2007)
The Drowning (2008)
The Lost Boy (2013)
Buried Angels (2014)
The Ice Child (2016)

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

The Last Day – Claire Dyer #BookTour #GuestPost #BookReview

I was delighted to be invited to take part in this blog tour especially as the author generously offered to write an exclusive post.

Read what Claire Dyer has to say about polyamorous relationships!

The love triangle bug

Like many authors, I’ve caught the love triangle bug.

It all started when I took part in one of those ‘sum up your book in three words’ things on Twitter. I’d just begun the novel that was to become The Last Day and replied, ‘Crazy Love Triangle’ but I didn’t really know at that stage how this particular love triangle would play out.

I’d also been aware of features in the press about polyamorous relationships which seem, on the face of it, supremely glamorous but, being a monogamous type, I do struggle to understand how these might actually work out.

But, in the spirit of tapping into the zeitgeist, I wanted to blend the two and so in the novel I have my three main characters living in the same house as one another and all loving each other in slightly different ways, the result of which is that decisions get made and choices are taken that change their lives forever.

And, what I also decided to do in The Last Day was to alter the standard dynamics of the love triangle and make my two heroines like each other. As Vita says about her husband’s new lover, ‘… it would have been easier if I’d hated her’ but she doesn’t. What I wanted to do in this book was to talk above love in its many colours and so in my love triangle, there are no clear lines. In fact, it’s less of a triangle and more of a Venn diagram with a number of interlocking sections.

However, let’s just think about some other love triangles. There’s Scarlett, Ashley and Rhett in Gone With the Wind; Ilsa, Rick and Victor in Casablanca; Bella, Edward and Jacob in The Twilight Saga; Bridget, Mark and Daniel in Bridget Jones’s Diary and the huge array of triangles in Jane Austen’s novels, including: Elizabeth, Darcy & Wickham; Marianne, Brandon and Willoughby; Elinor, Edward and Lucy, and let’s not even get started on Shakespeare! The list, it seems, is quite endless.

What is it that makes love triangles so beguiling? Personally, I love writing them because they’re a challenge: can I write from three different points of view and make each one so that the reader believes in them and wants what they want, so that if there is a ‘happy ever after’, even if someone has to lose out in the end, the reader is on the side of all three?

The plot possibilities of love triangles are infinite and that’s what makes writing them such a wonderful thing to do.

 

My Review

Contemporary Fiction
5*s

The Last Day is a poignant and beautifully written novel and although it is quite different to my normal choice of reading matter, I loved it.

The synopsis had me wondering what I’d let myself in for. We have Boyd in his forties moving in with his wife along with his twenty-seven year old new girlfriend. The cynic in me doubted whether this was really a likely scenario but what Claire Dyer excels at is characterisation, and boy did these characters get under my skin.

Boyd and Vita have been separated for six years and the reader has to wait quite a while to find out what their last day consisted of before the decision was made to go their separate ways. Honey the young girlfriend works with Boyd at his Estate agency along with the steadfast Trixie. Honey is far more likeable than I’d imagined she would be but like all of the protagonists in the book has secrets. As the book progresses I wondered which one of these was going to blow the roof off the set-up. Boyd, Vita and Honey are people with faults and pasts, but they are also incredibly real and ultimately ‘nice’ people. If you are looking for a tale of discord, this isn’t the book for you.

The story is told from different viewpoints with each chapter devoted to one or other of the characters. This is done so very well as we slowly get to know all the different aspects to each one. I’ll admit I was drawn in by the excellent writing; this was one of those books that I started and knew that I would enjoy whichever direction the book followed. This isn’t a typical tale of dysfunction, it is actually a sympathetic portrayal of marriage, love the way life changes and grief. Now I usually steer well clear of books concerning grief because this is a topic I don’t like to dwell on but perhaps because the grief in this novel is not raw and the characters concerned have an understanding of the journey they’ve been through, I found it in accordance with my own experiences in some of the smaller details. I certainly think it helped that the author somehow manages to acknowledge that everyone grieves differently.

This is a reflective book which if I were reading those words in another person’s review I’d take to mean slow, but this book isn’t. Instead it is one of those rare novels book that allows you to think about what you’ve read, sometimes by reading between the words, a difficult skill to pull off but so very effective when it is done as well as it is in The Last Day. I doubt whether there will be many readers that don’t happen upon a situation or characteristic that they recognise either in themselves or someone close to them.

As I said earlier the characters make this book, there is a certain amount of looking back which I think is common once we get to a certain age, but plenty to keep the reader entertained with the emotions that lie behind the characters actions. There is a mystery, a secret – or two or three – and a bit of danger to spice things up so there is no time to get bored. I was very sad to say goodbye to all the characters but particularly Vita and her pet portraits as she entertained me with her no-nonsense attitude, one that hides a multitude of complexities.

I’d like to say a big thank you to The Dome Press who provided me with an advance copy of The Last Day. This unbiased review is my thank you to them. Even better I realised that I have one of this author’s previous books The Perfect Affair on my kindle and it now won’t be long before I read that one too.

First Published UK: 15 February 2018
Publisher:The Dome Press
No of Pages: 256
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads, Mount TBR 2018

The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books – Martin Edwards

Non-Fiction
5*s

There are many of us that are lovers of crime fiction and I’m sure quite a few of us cut our teeth on Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie but did the genre of crime fiction suddenly jump from these writers to the modern proliferation of serial killers and psychological novels which will ensure none of us trust any type of girl, EVER.

This comprehensive look through the first half of the twentieth century of crime fiction gives us insight into the authors who gave our ancestors what my grandmother would call the ‘willies’ which I can absolutely assure you she didn’t mean what those of you sniggering at the back are thinking.

Not only has Martin Edwards ably and coherently filled in the gaps, he has arranged the book under a number of headings making it the ideal book for using as a reference guide. We have the obvious chapters covering the birth of crime fiction, with A New Era Dawns followed by The Birth of the Golden Age followed by some that deal with humour in crime fiction; Making Fun of Murder, those that deal with Justice, The Justice Game and my favourite; Fiction from Fact. This means that although the book runs in rough chronological order the books that appear under one heading may have a cross-over date wise with previous chapters. Be warned there are 102 books listed as actual titles with a synopsis and where they fit into the headings but many more books are referred to in passing so it really is like going down the rabbit hole and filling up your reading lists for years to come!

The books that are described more fully are those that Martin Edwards feels are the ones that on the whole have been forgotten gems. Many of the titles I’d never heard of as was the case with author’s names. Some of the authors included have large lists of titles but there is a special slot for those who only published one book too. Martin Edwards is the master of whetting the reader’s appetite without spoiling the story, if you are looking for a book that tells you what the solution to a puzzle is, you are in the wrong place.

Fortunately, many, although not all, of the books can be bought from the British Library Crime Classic Series which is a bonus as these attractively packaged books will make one very smart collection on any crime fiction lover’s bookshelf and of course these books also include a foreword by Martin Edwards too. But as much as I am almost as big a fan of book lists as I am books, this isn’t just a book list. This is a book that informs us of the history of the genre, it is a book that talks about the authors who contributed and one that reveals the changes in taste as the country went through the turbulence of both World Wars and the needs of the population at that time to escape into a puzzle, one that had an answer to provide certainty when everything around seemed very uncertain indeed.

This is an absolute gem of a book that I can easily see will be referred to time and again, not only when I read a piece of classic crime fiction but to remind myself of the roots of the genre. It has already informed me of some books that I included on The Classic Club listing under this sub-genre and when they are done, I know where to look for some more!

I bought my copy of The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books in June 2017 making it eligible for one of my TBR 2018 reads. It also gains me another third of a book token!

First Published UK: 28 June 2017
Publisher: British Library Publishing
No of Pages: 288
Genre: Non-Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, The Classic Club

Our Spoons Came From Woolworths – Barbara Comyns

Classic
4*s

What a brilliant way to kick off my first read for The Classics Club with the voice of a young woman who tells her story as a young mother in 1930’s London. The poverty is almost overshadowed by this young woman’s grit and her conversational tone when underplaying with a light touch some equally delightful and heart-wrenching events. I couldn’t help feeling that she would be appalled by the social media age where every day occurrences seem to be blown into a major drama.

Here the part which is used for the title perfectly sums up the style used throughout the novel:

I had hoped they would give us a set of real silver teaspoons when we bought the wedding-ring, but the jeweller we went to wouldn’t, so our spoons came from Woolworths, too.

We start with the young, and she was very young only twenty-one, woman embarking on married life, against the wishes of practically everyone, to Charles who is an artist. Sophia is a commercial artist but of course Charles needs to concentrate on his art rather than actually find a job and bring some money into the household. That’s Sophie’s job which she does with good humour. In the early days their love gets them through but at a time when contraception is not discussed Sophia soon discovers she’s having a baby.

I had a kind of idea if you controlled your mind and said ‘I won’t have any babies’ very hard they most likely wouldn’t come. I thought this was what was meant by birth-control, but by this time I knew that idea was quite wrong.

The problem was that Charles did not want babies as they would disrupt his life and so Sophia is apologetic and fearful of how he will react.

As readers we know that this is a fictionalised autobiography of the author’s first marriage and that the events in chapters ten, eleven and twelve really happened. This covers the birth of Sophia’s son Sandro in a charity hospital in 1930’s London. It is horrific! Sophia is pulled from room to room having to lug her suitcase with her. Alone with the rude nurses she is as ever stoical about the experience which simply serves to make the revelations all the more horrifying from the perspective of eighty years later.

As the book goes on, the poverty bites and Sophia is in a constant battle between trying to keep Charles happy, to give Sandro what he needs and to keep the family’s head above water. Sometimes she is more successful than others. Inevitably the book takes a darker turn although the book’s tone never does as our protagonist continues to talk about events in an almost unnerving even voice.

There was no point being good or bad; everything was so dreadful in any case.

What a heart-breaking sentence! No major drama but those few words conjure up a whole level of misery that my longing was for someone to give this young woman some hope to keep her going. Of course all I could do was to keep reading and see where Sophia’s life led her…

I loved the book and I’m glad to say Sophia’s life does improve and we are reading about something she relayed to her friend Helen after the events.

I told Helen my story and she went home and cried. In the morning her husband came to see me and bought some strawberries, he mended my bicycle, too, and was kind, but he needn’t have been because it all happened eight years ago, and I’m not unhappy now.

Our Spoons Came from Woolworths is number 10 on The Classics Club list and the first one of my fifty reads that I’ve read and reviewed. A cracking start which had me riveted to this semi-biographical novel and one that makes me truly grateful that I was born when I was.

 

First Published UK: 1950
Publisher:Virago 
No of Pages: 209
Genre: Classic Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

My Life in Houses – Margaret Forster

Non-Fiction – Memoir
4*s

In hindsight so many of Margaret Forster’s books contain autobiographical detail but it was Hidden Lives which first really opened my eyes to the link between this talented story teller and her own background, although cleverly only ever apparent by reading between the lines. In My Life in Houses we learn more details about Margaret’s first house, the one on the Raffles estate which she was so ashamed of, preferring those on the better side of town. And though the book’s pages, we learn that from the tender age of seven this author began her own game of choosing another house to live in.

Of course, as an adult with a number of ‘important’ houses in her life, she realises that what she started with could have been so much worse, and so she explains how it defined her. How a house with only room for Margaret and her younger sister to sleep together in an alcove in their parent’s bedroom left her yearning for her own space. Even when the girls got older they had to share a bed even if they did have their own room because their older brother was off doing his national service at the time.

Having read Hidden Lives I was already aware that Margaret’s mother had aspirations and so eventually, through her hard work, although the money to fund the move and the increased rent was down to her husband working overtime, the family moved to the better side of town.

From here we follow Margaret to her student digs, her first house as a young married woman on the edge of Hampstead Heath, and beyond, including holiday homes both abroad and nearer her native Carlisle.

This is a fairly slim novel and the houses described are littered with personal details about the way she felt about neighbours, builders, her writing and sadly her illness. Sadly the cancer had already spread by the time she wrote this, her last piece of non-fiction, and more than likely is the explanation for the brevity and the matter of fact way she touches on her options is probably even harder to read in retrospect. Margaret Forster died on 8 February 2016 aged 77 having left a wealth of books behind to entertain and enlighten new generations of readers.

The most fascinating part of this book of however has nothing to do with the author and everything to do with how life changed so considerably between 1938 when she was born and 2014 when the book was published. Her early memories include the black-leading of the fireplace and not without a certain amount of wryness does she delight in this once hated job being integral in her second home in Carlisle. Of course Margaret Forster was more affluent than most but as she references sitting-tenants and shared bathrooms in the past she is describing the lives that certainly were the options open for my ancestors if they wanted to leave home. Life is very different with so many household gadgets nowadays but here is a woman describing the novelty of a home telephone.

For a different type of memoir this method is incredibly effective although I’m not sure I would have loved it quite so much had I not already had an insight not only into the author’s life but those important beliefs around feminism and socialism which seem to have featured long before they might have been expected to surface.

This copy of My Life in Houses was from the local library in my bid to support this wonderful community lifeline which has previously been such a huge part of my life. I would not be the reader I am now if it hadn’t been for libraries to keep me stocked up with books.

First Published UK: 6 November 2014
Publisher: Chatto & Windus
No of Pages: 272
Genre: Non-Fiction – Memoir
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads, Mount TBR 2018

Black Rabbit Hall – Eve Chase

Contemporary Fiction
5*s

Eve Chase has penned a brilliant story which flips between events at the somewhat dilapidated house Black Rabbit Hall in Cornwall between 1968 and the present day; one where long buried secrets are eventually uncovered.

In 1968 the house is the holiday retreat for the Alton family. Amber and Toby are fifteen year old twins with two younger siblings Barney and Kitty are four and five, full of the wonder of young children. Their parents Hugo and Nancy are a solid couple, still in love but Easter 1968 changes everything for the entire family.

Many decades later Lorna is looking for a wedding venue. Happy holidays in Cornwall draw her far away from the home she shares with Jon in Bethnal Green to find the perfect location. The place where she used to explore country houses with her recently deceased mother. The draw of Black Rabbit Hall in all its shabbiness confuses and worries Jon.

It is no secret that I am a huge fan of dual timeline stories and unlike many both storylines in this novel are equally appealing. In the past we hear about events mainly from Amber’s viewpoint at the tail-end of what has been an uncomplicated life living in a family where love abounds. In the present, although Lorna has finally found a man to depend on, it is clear that her life hasn’t been quite so uncomplicated, her relationship with her mother certainly on far less solid ground.

The author brings the house to life vividly and completely. Items left in draws, or of importance to the Alton children turn up later on in the story giving the reader sharp points of recognition that resonate.

There are so many children’s things, seemingly left where they were thrown. In the corner of the room, partially covered by a blanket, is a dappled grey rocking horse the size of a small pony. Beneath its front hoofs, a dolly’s cradle. Closer to the door, a mildewed pile of books: The Secret Garden, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Milly Molly Mandy, Rupert Annual 1969… A shiver tingles up her spine – she’d read and loved many of these books as a child: an instant bond with the departed children, one that transcends both time and class.

The style of writing is that the book moves backwards to the Alton’s story and forward to Lorna’s often leaving the reader on the brink of a key revelation, a trap to keep her reader’s turning those pages the frustration only momentary as you are instantly plunged into another heart-rending moment at another point in time. Eve Chase is almost like a magician, she points you in one direction having firmly shut off the obvious avenue of where the story will lead, only for this misdirection to be revealed for the trickery that it is much further down the line.

Be warned Black Rabbit Hall will wring every drop of emotion from you. I was left full-on sobbing at the end which was pitch-perfect for all that had gone before. A beautiful tale, wonderfully descriptive with all the elements of a traditional fairy tale wrapped up in a believable family saga. This was the author’s debut novel a book I bought having chosen her second book, The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde as one of my Top Ten Books published in 2017. Which one is better? They are both are simply wonderful – firm favourites with this reader and hopefully Eve Chase will conjure up another wonderful story for me to read sooner rather than later.

Black Rabbit Hall was my fifth book of the year for my Mount TBR Challenge 2018, having been bought in August 2017 it is worth another third of a book token.

 

First Published UK: 2 July 2015
Publisher: Michael Joseph
No of Pages: 400
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle – Stuart Turton

Crime Fiction
4*s

I finished this book having realised fairly early on that I had approached what I was about to read from totally the wrong angle. This is one fiendish puzzle with complexities that are beyond devilish.

The premise of the book is seemingly one of a Golden Age mystery where our chief protagonist has to solve the puzzle of who killed Evelyn Hardcastle. He has eight days to do so. So far so simple the clock is ticking and the clues are presented and you put them together and try to get there before he does. Oh, you are sadly mistaken if you think that is all there is to it!

The problem is far more complex in that our man inhabits different characters for each of these eight days and the same day keeps repeating. So he starts of as a doctor and he sees some stuff going on from that character’s perspective but when he wakes up again he is someone totally different and finds some new clues but also sees different aspects to the stuff he learnt the day before. All the while he is trying to keep hold of his true self whilst inhabiting what are mostly a disagreeable bunch of people.

Thrown into the mix is a nineteen year old mystery, linked to the return of Evelyn Hardcastle from her stay in Paris. There are also plenty of other dastardly goings on from blackmail to murder all to be kept on top of. Allies are formed but whether they are wise ones or not remain to be seen.

So it’s complex and ideally, to have any hope of keeping track of what’s going on, I would have needed an entire wall of notes to keep track of various characters and their actions because sometimes the chief protagonist jumps back in time. This means that character is for example unhappily at midday on day four or rather in his fourth host, anticipating where they need to go next to find a missing piece of the puzzle and then it’s back to the second host to pick up where he last left off. To be fair the author gives the reader pointers and reminders but it is a book to throw yourself into and hope that you can keep manage to hold enough information in your head to keep pace.

Now I’ve reached the end I’d ideally go back and savour just how clever the whole book is, but if I’m honest my brain hurts from the effort. Which has left me with a problem on how to rate the book. I really admired both the premise and the execution (of the book not Evelyn Hardcastle) and I did nearly work out one strand of the mystery proving that I wasn’t completely confused by it all, but I’m not used to a book being such hard work. Ideally this would have been better as a holiday read, it’s not a book to escape a hard day’s work with, it is a fiendish puzzle that won’t let you go! If all that isn’t enough this tale told in the first person present tense, which is entirely fitting, also poses philosophical questions which soon become apparent. Now I have the answer to the mystery I can ponder those at my leisure.

I take my hat off to Stuart Turton for the most original read I have read for a long time.

I’d like to thank Bloomsbury Publishing plc for the chance to read The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle prior to publication on 8 February 2018. This review is my unbiased thanks to them.

First Published UK: 8 February 2018
Publisher: Raven
No of Pages: 528
Genre: Crime Fiction 
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

The Dark Angel – Elly Griffiths

Crime Fiction
5*s

Well I just love this series with the balance between the look at old bones, and often new ones too, with the ongoing drama in Ruth Galloway’s own life along with that of DCI Harry Nelson and the rest of his team.

In The Dark Angel rather than Ruth’s boss Phil taking to the television we have an Italian archaeologist who is about to reveal some Roman bones to the audience when something interrupts filming. Desperate to provide some authenticity to his dig and tempt the TV crew back, Dr Angelo Morelli invites Ruth to Italy to lend a helping hand. Ruth is in a bit of a rut, her mother died recently and there has been some other unwelcome news in her personal life and anyway Kate could do with a holiday so she decides that Italy is the perfect answer. Inviting her friend Shona and her son Louis the party board the plane for Italy and Angelo’s apartment in a hilltop village.

Meanwhile in Norfolk Nelson is warned that a man jailed for a heinous crime ten years previously has been released. Mickey Webb made some wild threats at the time he was jailed aimed at Nelson but it seems that he has come out of prison a reformed character and one who has found religion, and a good woman to boot.

Italy has plenty of history and of course although Ruth is there to look at some Roman bones the party have hardly made themselves at home before they are informed that they are staying in the home of a former hero of the Second World War when Italy was occupied. And this is exactly why I love this series, no matter the crime, and there are I’m pleased to report, there is one, there is so much detail to enjoy on the periphery to the storyline all told in such a ‘chatty’ manner it is listening to a friend. That combined with catching up with the latest escapades which entertain me enormously while bones are tested, theories are expounded and suspects questioned.

With events happening in two different countries, both personal and criminal, the action moves quite swiftly despite the somewhat more relaxed holiday feeling to brighten the darker moments in Italy.

Elly Griffiths has compiled a great character in Ruth. She is intelligent without being condescending, worried about her appearance but also not overly envious of those with looks. She has turned into a pragmatic single mother to Kate and yet she is no angel – the asides when Louis breaks glass after glass in the apartment provides a wry smile from anyone who has ever had to spend an extended amount of time with a child that doesn’t behave like your own. She has moments of fierce introspection and yet she is obviously a capable and inspirational forensic archaeologist – someone I’m sure would fascinate me if she was a real live breathing person.

This is a series where you should start at the beginning as the story arc becomes more and more integral to the enjoyment of the books as the series goes on and to be honest the ‘non-crime’ sections are a bigger proportion in this episode than the previous books but if you are already a fan, you are in for a real treat.

Dr Ruth Galloway Books in order

The Crossing Places
The Janus Stone
The House at Sea’s End
A Room Full of Bones
Dying Fall
The Outcast Dead
The Ghost Fields
The Woman in Blue
The Chalk Pit

 

First Published UK: 8 February 2018
Publisher: Quercus
No of Pages: 368
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Story of Our Lives – Helen Warner

Contemporary Fiction
4*s

How would we survive without friends for support? The Story of Our Lives follows four women; Sophie, Melissa, Emily and Amy over twenty years in short bursts an unusual structure that gives an insight into the momentous occasions that we all encounter during our lives.

The first time we meet the friends is on their weekend break in Southwold in August 1997 following the death of Princess Diana. Sophie is in a long-term relationship with someone she met at university, wondering perhaps if she settled down too soon. Melissa is searching for something, Emily is still slightly defensive about being a single mother to Jack and Amy revels in cooking up sumptuous dishes for them all. In other words although the four met at university their lives, even at this point are very different as are their hopes and dreams for the future, We know that there is a big secret to be revealed but what will it be? Will the friendship survive?

By the time we catch up with the four in Whitstable in 1998, the year Bill Clinton admitted to having relations with Monica Lewinsky, secrets being shared that will remain within the tight circle that will have repercussions down the line.

And so it goes on we meet the women, not every year, as they meet up in different destinations, always prefaced with a news story from the time, and we watch them change and grow as the obstacles of life are flung down in their paths. In the wrong hands this format could leave the reader feeling that there are gaps in the tale, but I’m pleased that Helen Warner has it nailed. Where necessary characters take a reflective look back over the past and the dialogue provides us with the women’s thoughts and views on any particular issue.

Inevitably, as in real-life, the friendship will be tested at times providing the reader with moments of tension as the women struggle to come to terms with the consequences. Although the book is a definite celebration of friendship there is some depth and some thorny issues tackled within the storyline avoiding the mushy and false view that life can be solved by the shoulder of a good friend. At different points the women have to take responsibilities and face the consequence of their decisions, and we all know that isn’t easy no matter who has your back!

I really enjoyed the preface to each section with the news story, although it made me feel old as I kept saying ‘surely that wasn’t that long ago!’ and the author marks the progress of technology in a subtle way so that as we move time periods the timeline is firmly fixed.

An emotional read that will see each of the women face difficulties as well as moments of joy and their friends reaction to each of these significant moments.

A delightful and uplifting read which is likely to have its readers reflecting on their own friendships.

I was grateful to receive a copy of The Story of Our Lives from Lovereading UK and this unbiased view is my thanks to them and the publisher HQ for allowing me to read about Sophie, Melissa, Emily and Amy’s stories ahead of publication on 8 February 2018.

First Published UK: 8 February 2018
Publisher: HQ
No of Pages: 400
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads, Mount TBR 2018

A Patient Fury – Sarah Ward

Crime Fiction
5*s

I knew from Sarah Ward’s first book featuring Connie Childs that this was going to be a series that had me hooked and I can now safely declare that the third book, A Patient Fury, confirms my prediction. In this episode Connie Childs is more driven, contrary and tenacious than ever before and so for all her faults it is impossible not to admire her.

Connie has been off work for quite some time but she’s now re-joined the team having recovered from her injury during a recent case, so what if at her most introspective she wonders if it is too soon? Then while she’s just finding her feet she is called out by DI Francis Sadler to a fire in Bampton. A house has gone up in flames and the occupants are all feared to be dead. No officer likes a fire, and Connie is no different but when she can’t accept the sequence of events provided by the Chief Fire Officer it looks like sparks are also going to fly between her and her boss. DI Sadler really isn’t up for Connie’s side investigations and nor are the victim’s family.

On one level this series is a solid police procedural set in the fictional town of Bampton in the Peak District. I was lucky enough to read my copy whilst on a weekend break near the non-fictional town of Leek which confirmed that the author has provided the reader with a setting which is in keeping with the reality of the area. But above that Sarah Ward gives us a plot that is both credible and yet audacious. The lines of enquiry are followed but there is more beneath the surface than trying to find the answer to the three main questions: means, motive and opportunity, the lid is also lifted on family life, the parts that we often don’t want to acknowledge.

Connie Childs narrates a good proportion of A Patient Fury but as in the previous books, we also hear from someone on the edge of the investigation, Julia, who is connected to the family who lived in the burnt house. Julia is an interesting woman, a giver of tours underground for school children and the like by day and the tour guide for ghost walk’s around the area by night. She has also lost a parent in mysterious circumstances in the past so whilst most of the book is linear, we also have flashbacks to the early eighties. Regular readers of my reviews will know that I find the collision between past and present irresistible.

This is a book full of red herrings and that of course the puzzle is one of my favourite aspects of the crime fiction genre. There is no cheating and although I had my suspicions on whodunit I wasn’t entirely sure why and although I don’t usually mention the ending – this one has the justness that early proponents of the genre would have delighted in just as much as I did.

Despite there being lots going on in this book both in terms of diverse investigations (mainly the diversity is Connie going her own route) and the number of characters, the writing is both clear and compelling. The author has allowed one of her detectives to move to another Police Authority which works well and allows a new character to step into the team mixing up the dynamics most satisfactorily and will hopefully allow the series to continue to grow and delight for many more books yet. If you haven’t read this series and you love well-written crime fiction, I suggest you add them all to your bookshelf.

A Patient Fury is the fourth book I’ve read for my Mount TBR Challenge 2018 having been purchased in September 2017 so I gain another third of a book token!

Previous Books in the DC Childs Series

In Bitter Chill 
A Deadly Thaw

First Published UK: 5 September 2017
Publisher: Faber & Faber
No of Pages: 400
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US