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

Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Truman Capote

Classic
4*s

The Classic Club Spin number 18 picked Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote for me which was one of the few novellas on my list – not exactly the chunkster the organisers had urged us to choose for the extra long time period allowed – but I was pleased since my last classic seemed to go on for an age!

Once it was picked I then decided to investigate a little more – you can read my full post here.

This is an intriguing novella that I can imagine packed quite a punch when it was first published in 1958.

Holly Golightly (what a fab name) is the object of our narrator’s fascination. He lives in an apartment above hers in a brownstone apartment in Manhattan’s Upper East Side where he writes. Holly is a country girl although her past is a bit of a mystery. She has no job she lives off others good favour including Sally Tomato, who she visits in prison, every week. For this service she gets paid $100. In between times she is treated well by the wealthy men and she assumes that sooner or later she will marry one of them.

Of course to the reader, Holly Golightly is not just a good time party girl. It is far more likely that she is an expensive sort of call-girl but one that I think that appeals to the female readers of the book as the fictional men who clearly like her.

In many ways the novel is a snapshot of a place and time. We have the bar owner who knows both Holly and our narrator, being conveniently situated as a bartender of nearby bar. But it is Holly who has the spotlight shone on her at all times. In many ways her background is a complete mystery, the only ‘fact’ seems to be is that her brother is called Fred, the name she ascribes to our narrator out of some sort of affection for him although she claims “I’m going to call you Fred. After my brother. He’s very stupid, too.”

The story told seems on the surface to be quite a simple one. It certainly isn’t long and yet there is something very captivating about it, both in terms of the characters and the writing style. Truman Capote is one of those writers whose work does not seem to have dated in so many ways. The style used is of the enquiring nature of the narrator that blends perfectly with not an urgent need but a more gentle yearning to understand this young woman more.

For me the key seemed to be in the past, I had the feeling if we could unwind far enough we would see the foundation to the creation that ‘our’ Holly clearly is. This meant almost back-to-front as usually we want to know where a character is going, but perhaps I knew ultimately where that would be and so I felt if we could go back first, maybe a slightly different path could be walked. Who knows? What I do know was that I was as charmed by this young woman in a way I simply did not expect to be. I felt sorry but wholly unsurprised as she was thoughtless and careless with others and equally sorry for our narrator and the barman who had this bright young thing in their orbit, and then they lost her.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is number 14 on The Classics Club list and the nineth of my fifty choices that I’ve read and reviewed. Yup, I’m a little bit behind!

First Published UK: 1958
Publisher: Random House
No of Pages: 160
Genre: Classic Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Lie of You – Jane Lythell

Psychological Suspense
3*s

An intriguing story of psychological suspense rather than a thriller The Lie of You dives beneath the surface of the reason why Heja is obsessed with the minutia of Kathy’s life.

Kathy has recently returned to the workplace following the birth of her son and Heja is watching and waiting for her it would seem. Heja is efficient and a former darling of Finland’s TV it is a mystery as to why she has ended up in a junior role on a magazine. Heja’s own portrayal of the situation is done well. This is a fascinating book to read as a snapshot of how some women judge each other and the author has taken the everyday comments you hear and magnified them into the storyline which gives a feeling not only of a genuine working relationship, but also makes the reader think about the interactions we have with our colleagues.

Fortunately because the structure of the book is to have each woman’s narration, we get to see Kathy’s view of the relationship too. Here things don’t seem quite as simple and if Kathy is right then there are some clear malevolent acts carried out by Heja with small but spiteful ways designed to undermine her boss in the workplace. What could have caused all this angst?

We then meet Marcus Kathy’s husband and everything we’ve been told seems is now seen in a slightly different frame. In true psychological suspense style the reader is likely to feel that their feelings about the situation change as the book progresses which I have to admit I always admire.

So there is lots to admire and I really was keen to see how the story would progress and of course was itching to know what the resolution would be. I think the characterisation and the observational aspect of the interactions of both women was well done, however Marcus seemed to remain a somewhat sketchy character. His actions didn’t quite match up with how we were told, mainly by Kathy, that he behaved and this was a little disconcerting because I have no issue with unreliable narrators but this seemed a little bit more disconnected than a deliberate rose-tinted view of the world.

The story got off to a cracking start and it should be noted that this isn’t a roller-coaster ride of events, more a slow unveiling of the truth and in that regard it kept a steady pace with the revelations mostly evenly presented. I have to admit I’d expected more office scenes than we actually got with much of the drama being of a far more domestic nature and therefore domestic details and less of the high-powered working woman than I expected. That said it was easy to imagine the scenes in London of the hustle and bustle carrying on as a background to the relationship Kathy and Heja becoming more and more tense and claustrophobic.

An enjoyable read that did all the good things you expect of this genre which was of course less crowded in 2014 when this book was written.

First Published UK: 1 January 2014
Publisher: Head of Zeus
No of Pages: 320
Genre: Psychological Suspense
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Only a Mother – Elisabeth Carpenter

Psychological Thriller
4*s

It is rare that a book tackles what happens after a murderer has been convicted. I don’t mean so much what is life like in prison for the perpetrator but what happens to the relatives, both those of the victim and those connected by blood to the killer.

Only a Mother really examines the aftermath of a crime and the ripples that it causes years after the murder was committed. Craig Wright was convicted of the murder of an eighteen year old girl when he was twenty and has been in prison for seventeen years, his mother has been in her own prison for the same amount of time, convinced of her son’s innocence she is now ready to welcome him home. Home is Preston and the locals have long memories and are an unforgiving bunch. Erica, his mother, is shunned in her home town, she travels to the next town to go shopping to avoid the stares, the taunts and attracting unwanted attention.

Luke is a reporter on the local newspaper, he is mentoring a youngster and is updating the locals on Craig’s impending release. Luke is at that point in his life when he feels the best is behind him and he’s following some diet with ‘points’ that makes him hungry! He’s thrilled when his article attracts lots of angry and sad faces, he’s getting recognition he hasn’t had for years.

Which neatly leads onto one key winner as far as I’m concerned is that this book is clearly written in the here and now. Erica has been on a prisoner’s family forum for so many years she’s become a moderator. Luke neatly gives his views on the millennials from his lofty middle-age and cleverly mimics the change in language of headlines over the years (we move to someone being spared jail in the early noughties to the more recent screaming headline ‘criminal caged for assault!’)

This is a tense book as despite the crime being firmly in the past, it hasn’t stayed there. In part because there was another murder very close in time to the one Craig was convicted of but he wasn’t charged as he had a watertight alibi. It is this fact that has Erica clinging to his innocence and perhaps the same that means the locals feel he has got away with another murder. Either way from a reader’s perspective, it is hard to warm to Craig although I did find myself having more sympathy for Erica. The book raises that dilemma – what would you do? At what point do you turn your back on your own flesh and blood? That’s not to say Erica doesn’t have her doubts when the fully grown large man is back under her roof and then another girl goes missing!

I found myself drawn into the small group of characters, the intensity of everyone searching for the truth but unsure where to find it. Erica’s furtive posting on the forum seeking the reassurance from her friends there that she is doing the right thing and of course she reflects, as mothers are wont to do, on the past – right back to the birth and what she could have done differently.

This was an insightful book that shone a light on a relatively neglected aspect of crime, the hurt that doesn’t fade and the need of some people to believe that all is not quite as it seems.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Random House UK for giving me a copy of Only a Mother ahead of publication on 27 December 2018. This unbiased review is my thanks to them and the author for such a thought-provoking read.

First Published UK: 27 December 2018
Publisher: Orion
No of Pages: 352
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

The Suspect – Fiona Barton

Psychological Thriller
5*s

There can’t be many parents alive who have sons and daughters of a certain age who don’t feel mixed emotions should that child in any way be considering some time ‘travelling.’ It happened to me although my darling daughter had been to uni and lived independently while working and saving to go on her own adventure. On the one hand I was thrilled that she wanted to see how others live and at the same time to expand her own horizons and gain some experiences that I never had. On the other is that unease that it is so far away, in a place where the culture and rules are different and with the knowledge that not everyone you meet in life wishes you well.

I was therefore very pleased that those worrying days are now in the past but I can’t deny that aspects of The Suspect bought back those unstated fears so perhaps if you have a child either contemplating or travelling at the moment, postpone reading this one.

Alex has always wanted to travel with her very best friend and during the last year at school they planned their trip including all the must-see places in Thailand within its detailed itinerary. Then her best friend had to pull out but Rosie who lived down the road was able to find the money which meant Alex had someone to go with and after all an adventure is an adventure, right? And then things go wrong. No one hears from either Alex or Rosie on the day of their A Level results, or afterwards.

The story, as in the previous two books is told in part from the viewpoint of the reporter Kate Waters although perhaps this is the one story that gets far too close to home for comfort as her son is also travelling in Thailand. Also present is the police officer Bob Sparkes and for once we have an author who doesn’t go in for the outright hostility between the two professions but illustrates a more pragmatic relationship between the pair. We also hear from the parents of the two girls. Multiple viewpoints have become far more common in crime fiction but this is an author who uses them to the best advantage. Not once did I feel we were swapping the point of view to deliberately raise the tension (although there is no doubt that there is plenty of that too) but as the stories become more and more entwined these multiple viewpoints alongside Alex’s secret emails paint an entirely different picture than the telephone calls and social media postings had of the truth about the girl’s trip.

This was totally gripping and I felt that the viewpoints of all the mothers that featured in this book were real women. There are times when I feel the primeval emotion we feel about our children are often overblown, here we had the mixture of emotions that I’m sure is far more realistic and the book was all the more powerful for it.

I really don’t think the books need to be read in order, each working exceptionally well as a standalone read but as they are all five-star reads as far as I’m concerned I’m not sure why you wouldn’t!

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Random House UK for giving me a copy of The Suspect ahead of publication on 24 January 2019. This unbiased  review is my thanks to them and the author for such an engaging read.

First Published UK: 24 January 2019
Publisher: Bantam Press
No of Pages: 384
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Previous Books by Fiona Barton

The Widow
The Child

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

To Catch a Killer – Emma Kavanagh

Crime Fiction
5*s

Emma Kavanagh manages to write crime fiction almost in the tone of someone who has experienced the very events herself. Perhaps this isn’t so surprising given her background as she spent many years working as a police and military psychologist, training firearms officers, command staff and military personnel throughout the UK and Europe. In other words she knows how people behave in moments of peril!

To Catch a Killer opens in the middle of just such a moment, the kind of moment that I suspect I am alone in being able to thankfully say, I have not experienced in real life. Just as well because the book scared the bejeebers out of me! The memory of a day, one just like any other until the day DS Alice Parr answered a call on the radio to assist a paramedic save the life of a woman who had her throat cut. Warning, do not read this book if you are squeamish or eating your dinner, that feeling of being in the moment results in those heart-thumping moments you get viewing hospital dramas – you know it is fiction but even so…

Once the victim has been taken to hospital of course the police have to work out who the perpetrator of such a crime is and given that the attack took place in a London park, in the morning, how could they commit such a bloody crime in broad daylight with no one spotting what was going on?

So the reader has plenty to ponder and be warned although initially you may feel the pace is reasonable, it soon becomes quite fast and furious and given that the plot is complex, you need your wits about you. In other words this is a book to set aside some time to really get the best out of it. Fortunately to offset the blood and gore we have two female police officers who work well together, Polly’s somewhat less serious nature while not detracting from the crime does give the reader some smiles to lighten the load along the way.

We also get to visit another location, unusual in British crime fiction which normally tends to stay fairly close to home with a big deal being made if officers cross into the next county. In this book they have to get on an airplane to carry out some of the investigating which adds a whole different feel to the storyline.

The result of all this is an immensely satisfying crime fiction novel that really held my interest throughout and although I did manage to work out a tiny bit of the puzzle, the rest worked their magic and left me reeling at the outcome. This is the first in a trilogy that will feature Alice Parr a fact I was unaware of until I read the cliff hanger at the end which I have to confess isn’t my favourite way for a book to end as I suspect I will have to recap before the second book is published, but I will definitely be making sure I read a copy.

I therefore must say a huge thank you to Orion Publishing Group for allowing me to read a copy of To Catch a Killer prior to publication on 24 January 2019. This unbiased review is my thanks to them.

First Published UK: 24 January 2019
Publisher: Orion
No of Pages: 416
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Other Great Reads by Emma Kavanagh

Falling
Hidden
The Missing Hours
Killer on the Wall

 

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

A Place to Lie – Rebecca Griffiths

Psychological Thriller
3*s

I chose to read A Place to Lie by Rebecca Griffiths as it is set in The Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire where I spent my formative years. What I didn’t expect was quite such an eerie and dark tale that was frankly unsettling.

The story is set in two time periods, the past which is 1990 and the present day. In the present Jo is coming to terms with the death of her estranged sister, Caroline. It isn’t quite clear why the two were estranged but the loss Jo feels is combined with a measure of regret that the two who shared a close childhood no longer were part of each other’s lives.

In 1990 the two sisters are sent to stay with their Great Aunt Dora in Witchwood, a village in the Forest of Dean. I’m going to come right out and say it – the depiction of this area didn’t match the area as I know it with the style of houses being far more at home in the Cotswolds which although in Gloucestershire is a place of an entirely different nature altogether.! To be blunt a far more gentrified nature. Even the description of the forest itself didn’t quite reflect the sense of darkness from the many evergreen trees above and the thick bracken below. Rather this was a fairy-tale description of a forest with trees to climb and play happily beneath with the sun filtering through the leaves. The author has blended the names of the towns and villages in the area to come up with ‘fictional’ settings but again because my mind was trying to match with reality this is an example where a specific disconnect in a book can interrupt reading enjoyment for me. Of course I know full well would not bother those who don’t know the area intimately at all but perhaps explains to the readers of this review as to why I was unable to fully embrace this story.

The characters are all suitably grim as fits the fairy-tale setting Rebecca Griffiths has conjured up. The aunt, the neighbours and the shopkeeper are a toned down variety of the worst kinds of adults and the two girls, and the one other child they mix with in the area, are both simultaneously left to their own devices and watched over. The adults themselves have their own version of a witch hunt going on and the girls are for the most part an inconvenience.

In the present Jo returns to the cottage in the woods in Witchwood to search for clues to the mystery in the past and the clues to what happened to her sister. In a way this present section mirrors the trials of the past with Jo unsure who she can trust to really tell her the truth. Reading both sections alongside each other the consequences of the past are bought into relief but in doing so some of the mist slowly clears allowing us, the reader, and eventually Jo to see the truth.

There really was a lot to enjoy in this book with the mysteries, the darkness and the echoes of the scary stories that linger at the edge of our consciousness long after we have left childhood behind. Sadly the disconnect I personally felt meant it fell a little short of expectations for me.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publisher Little, Brown Book Group UK who allowed me to read the unsettling tale that is A Place to Lie. This unbiased review is my thanks to them.

First Published UK: 6 December 2018
Publisher: Sphere
No of Pages: 400
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Red Address Book – Sofia Lundberg

Contemporary Fiction
4*s

When she was a child her father bought her a beautiful red address book and Doris faithfully kept a note of the addresses of those who crossed her path throughout her life. At the grand old age of ninety-six it is sad but perhaps not wholly unsurprising that many of the names in the book are crossed out with the word ‘dead’ written against them.

The Red Address Book
tells the story of one woman’s rich life honing in on some of the names and addresses held within the address book.

Doris lives in Stockholm and her only living family is Jenny, her Grand-Niece and her family, who live in America. Doris is not doing so well and has devoted some of her waking hours to penning the story of her life to Jenny, to keep those names in the address book alive.

I loved this book, the tone spot on for an elderly woman who has lived, loved and made good choices, and bad, and learn to live with them. I know I sound old myself but it is simply so refreshing to read books about people of this generation before everyone had to be a victim of something or another. Here we have some of those old-fashioned qualities that if I were Prime Minister I would insist were some sort of rite to becoming a fully-fledged adult. Doris has lived. After the death of her father she was more or less pushed out of the home by her mother to go and earn some money as a maid. Did Doris dwell on this rejection for the rest of her life? Did she hell! She recognised the hurt it caused at the time, and moved on treating it as a passing incident in her life, her springboard to becoming a living mannequin in Paris, rather than a hurt to be nursed for her remaining eighty odd years. During the course of the book we see Doris face a multitude of situations as she criss-crosses between countries, lives through a war, heartbreak and more and each one is faced square on, no matter what.

In conjunction with these adventures, Doris is portrayed as a ‘real’ woman, she is unwilling to do exactly what she is told by her caregivers and hospital staff, if it doesn’t make sense to her. After all this is a woman who has mastered skype to keep in touch with her family, she does not need to be told when to go to sleep as if she was a child! But at the same time she is accepting that her end is coming near and so is portrayed as a mixture of toughness and vulnerability or in other words like a real woman who has lived a full life.

I did have a lump in my throat towards the closure of this book although I’m pleased to report that it didn’t have the feeling of overtly playing with the emotions and nor did we have the stereotypical cantankerous elderly woman instead we have a thoughtful piece that will invariably cause its reader to recall many of the paths that have crossed their own, briefly or otherwise, and for whom few will be recorded in our lives particularly with the demise of written records.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publisher HarperCollins UK and the Sofia Lundberg who allowed me to experience some of the highs and lows of Doris’s life by allowing providing me with a copy of The Red Address Book. This review is my unbiased thanks to them.

First Published UK: 8 January 2019
Publisher: The Borough Press
No of Pages: 305
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
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Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Don’t Believe It – Charlie Donlea

Crime Fiction
4*s

2018 was the year where I finally cracked how to listen to an audio book rather than read a book. Quite a simple skill for many but I found it enormously challenging to concentrate until another blogger suggested that I imagine the author had visited to tell me the story – somehow imagining that there was someone there worked for me. But not all stories are created equally in this audio world. On the whole I prefer my audio books to be lighter than my usual reads and contemporary fiction works far better than crime fiction (somehow hearing the crimes described is too much, ludicrous I know but there we are!)

I have made one exception that worked though and this was for Don’t Believe It a crime fiction novel based upon a TV series like Making a Murderer or The Staircase or even the podcasts that comprised West Cork, all of which I’ve either watched or listed to. The format of the book is quite unlike anything else I’ve read and lent itself so well to audio that I have a suspicion that this actually may not have worked for me if I’d read rather than listened to it.

The Girl of Sugar Beach is the name of the twelve part TV series that female producer Sydney Ryan has planned. It covers a crime committed some ten years previously on the Caribbean island of St Lucia. A young man, Julian was killed at a fancy hotel resort and his college-aged girlfriend, Grace Seabold, was put on trial for murder and imprisoned. She’s worked hard, alongside her loyal friend to get her case noticed so that someone will campaign seriously for her release. Inevitably as Sydney undertakes her research into the case she uncovers stuff that could put her own career in danger. Of course the main thing we all want to know not only did Grace do it or not?

This book felt different to the many crime novels out in the market and of course it is tapping into a relatively new phenomenon where TV researchers have the money and time to probe areas that may yield answers due to the advances in forensics or the loosening of relationships which prevented the truth being told. The format also allows the author to play a little with the information because let’s face it, often these documentaries take a view, consciously or not.

The book is segmented with the story Grace Seabold herself presents. This goes back to the past and right up to the present, her story of what happened the day Julian died and as time goes on how this intersects with the evidence presented in court. We also see behind the scenes information from the proposal of the TV show to when it goes on air, which is fascinating in its own right. We sit on meetings hearing the feedback from the last episode and the planning of the next. This is a great insight into the TV world, the jockeying for ratings and the money-men demanding value for their bucks. We follow Sydney Ryan as she jets backwards and forwards, interviewing not just Grace but her friends and family, seeking out experts and working against the clock to put an episode together for the public to view. We also meet a man in hospital who has lost his leg due to cancer. It takes a little while to work out why he is there but even before then I felt he added an important contrast to Sydney looking back and Grace worrying about the here and now with her frantic schedule, instead we have a man working out what his future will hold.

A great book which as we got towards the end, I thought I had it all figured out; the author disagreed and surprised me with a different finale altogether!

I can’t leave this review without praising the narrator, Nina Alvamar, for the engaging way she told the story.

First Published UK: 28 June 2018
Publisher: Avid Audiobooks
No of Pages: 304
Listening Length: 10 hours 31 minutes
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Move to Murder – Antony M Brown

Non-Fiction
4*s

I honestly can’t recall when I first came to hear about this historical true crime which seemed to have all the elements of a fiction, far removed from the more mundane murders where the motive, opportunity and means soon become relatively clear, but it was many years ago.  I hadn’t however read any books on the matter although there have been more than a few written and was keen to learn more.

Antony M Brown has devised an interesting concept with the publishers Mirror Books

Cold Case Jury is a unique collection of true crime mysteries. Each one tells the story of an unsolved, historic murder in an evocative and compelling way. It tells the story dramatically, like a historical novel, exposes the strengths and weaknesses of past theories and allows the readers to make their judgement on what most likely happened. Although each book is perfectly self-contained, the author providing his view at the end, readers are able to deliver their verdicts on this website, making these the first truly interactive crime tales. Beautifully presented with uniquely illustrated covers, they also contain historic documents, map and images – some unpublished before. For lovers of puzzles, mysteries and crime stories, this new collection of Cold Case Jury books will not only bring a murder story to life – it will make you part of it

And this is one of the mysteries and I for one couldn’t resist the opportunity to sit on the jury from the comfort of my own house although I have to confess voting for my chosen suspect did feel more than a little odd to say the least! I’m not sure whether choosing a murderer albeit one that is dead should be on a par with voting for your favourite contestant on a reality show.

For those who haven’t come across this true crime the facts that have puzzled many over the years are as follows:

On 20 January 1931 Mrs Julia Wallace was found murdered inside her home in Liverpool, she’d been bludgeoned to death.
Her husband William had found her body on his return from a fruitless client meeting as his job as an Insurance Agent for the Prudential Insurance, as he’d been unable to open the day at the first try his neighbours who he’d asked if they knew why were soon to the scene.
The real mystery seemed to be who was the Mr Qualtrough who’d left a message at the chess club he’d attended the evening before. This was the man William Wallace had set out to meet, but not only did Mr Qualtrough appear not to exist, nor did the address 25 Menlove Gardens East. This fact was unknown to William Wallace and everyone he asked for assistance directed him to similar addresses located in one area of Liverpool.
The unsolvable part of the mystery is if the crime was committed by the most obvious suspect, the husband, then who made the phone call to the chess club and left the message for William Wallace? And how could he kill her when he was tramping the streets looking for Mr Qualtrough? If someone had lured him away then what was there motive?

The author lays out the facts, those discovered by the police at the time, the contemporary records of the trial of William Wallace and the unusual decision to free him on appeal due to lack of evidence. He also includes information that has come to light after the death of some of the key players. This is all set out well, and at the end we are given various suspects and how likely our author believes them to be viable, he also lays his own hat down with his preferred scenario.

This was a book that I would classify as more factual ‘true crime’ which was enjoyable for the lack of drama and sensationalism alone. This was the third in this series of books which are also featured on the Cold Case Jury website.

I’d like to say a big thank you to Mirror Books who allowed me to read an copy of Move to Murder which was published on 1 November 2018.

First Published UK: 1 November 2018
Publisher: Mirror Books
No of Pages: 247
Genre: Non Fiction – True Crime
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Wych Elm – Tana French

Crime Fiction
4*s

Having been an ardent follower of this author’s crime fiction in the Dublin Series, I was very excited indeed to hear she was publishing a stand-alone novel. It would be so easy to say this is different to that series but since one of the things I’ve enjoyed most about this author’s books is the fact that each one had a unique feel which sets it apart from most crime fiction series.

This book does however focus perhaps more on the psychological aspects of crime than her previous novels with a house also playing the part of centre stage.

Happy go-lucky Toby has had an easy ride of life and when things have gone wrong he has used his charm or has been rescued by a hefty dose of luck. Life is good until he is attacked by burglars in his flat and is hospitalised. The result is that Toby is broken, both mentally and physically. With his elderly uncle Hugo being in failing health the family decide that as a temporary measure Toby should move in to keep him company. This works well returning Toby to his seemingly idyllic childhood in the Irish ancestral home and his very fond memories of time spent with his two cousins under the less than watchful eye of their batchelor uncle while their parents went off and made merry over the summers of their youth.

Anyway there is Toby coming to terms with a brutal attack, the loss of ‘himself’ and at the same time staring death in the face as the cancer that has taken up residence in his uncle’s body makes the loss of this important man inevitable. Then a skull is found by his young niece and nephew in the hollow of the wych elm in the garden bringing a whole different kind of horror to their door.

This is a long book and one that has an entirely different feel to many that the term psychological sums up. It is slow moving, our chief protagonist Toby is presented as something quite easy to grasp but equal to any mystery concerning bodies stashed in a tree Toby is left to unravel the mysteries of his own past. He is forced to examine his blindness to the injustice that seemingly ravaged around him without his registering it on any level. This is a modern tale in the sense that it concentrates on the social concerns that perhaps only the privileged in life can afford to focus on. I have to admit I did struggle a little because in many ways this book is an attack on the main protagonist with his easy privileged life, son to two professionals, never a worry in his life being knocked because his life wasn’t awful. It isn’t just that he is privileged in the way that he had enough food or warmth or clothes, but his privilege is further emphasised because he wasn’t a minority in terms of his gender or his sexuality. His crime it seems is that he didn’t recognise, as a child, that others got bullied for such things. I have to admit the strident tone adopted around this strand of the story did at times cause me to question the reasoning behind it, thereby pulling me out of what is a complex and interesting story.

This is a book that truly stands outside the norms of crime fiction because it is a book about people and society and the beliefs we tell ourselves and each other. The visible and the invisible both are uncovered by Toby our narrator through his own particular journey in search of the truth.

I’d like to say a belated thank you to the publishers Penguin Books UK who allowed me to read a copy of The Wych Elm ahead of publication of this edition of 21 February 2019, although it is possible to get a copy of the same book named The Witch Elm in the UK already. Confused? Yes, me too!

First Published UK: 21 February 2019
Publisher: Penguin Books UK
No of Pages: 528
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US