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

The Lost Man – Jane Harper


Crime Fiction  5*s

 

Having come late to the party with Jane Harper’s debut novel The Dry, I was determined not to be left behind by her latest novel, The Lost Man, a standalone read set in the outback of Australia.

The Lost Man had me swept along into an entirely different place, a different lifestyle and that daunting and dangerous landscape. This a book that will evoke a whole range of feelings in its readers and because of that it is not for the faint-hearted.

 We start with a description of a headstone, the marker for a legend that has been mutated during the years since it was placed there to mark the place where The Stockman died and on the day in question there is another body close to the headstone, another casualty to a lifestyle which is beyond ordinary comprehension.  Cameron Bright was the middle sibling of three brothers and his elder brother Nathan, and the younger, Bub, gather at the site where he perished through lack of shelter from the overbearing sun, or was the story of his death quite that simple?

Jane Harper is a master at showing (and definitely not telling) and she takes us on a tour, into the house where Cameron ran his  to the family he has left behind, two small girls whose daddy went out shortly before Christmas to fix something on his land and never returned. Cameron was man who knew the land, it was where he was born after all and now his wife Ilse is left to cope without him. Fortunately Uncle Harry is around as is the boy’s mother although as is only to be expected the house almost hums with confusion and grief.

What Jane Harper does that is even more explosive though is to start peeling back the layers of this family. Nathan pretty much takes centre stage as we journey with him back in time and slowly, oh so slowly but perfectly so, we learn the truth about an event many years ago that is still making its mark today.

I really couldn’t tell you what I enjoyed most about this book – was it the brilliant descriptions of a place? It really is testament to the author’s prowess that she managed to conjure up the heat and power of an open landscape of the outback in Queensland, when her reader was sat with the wind and rain howling across a small island on the other side of the world. I haven’t ever been to Australia and if I did the outback would probably not be my chosen destination, and yet for the duration of this book, I was very much there in the house with Isle and her girls Sophie and Lo. I watched Cameron’s mother Liz weep in the deepest of darkness when the generator was switched off by Harry at night-time.  Perhaps the legend of the Stockman had something to do with the appeal, or equally the unravelling of a mystery that is dark, don’t for one moment imagine that the grim scenes at the beginning of the book mean you’ve passed the worst, there are shocks still to be revealed.

In conclusion I loved this book because it covers a great deal of ground, there are deeply upsetting moments but perhaps in keeping with the characters that inhabit the real-life place, there is something very measured about the delivery. No over-hyped action scenes here, just the truth which is sometimes a whole lot worse.

I’d like to thank the publishers Little Brown for allowing me to read a copy of The Lost Man, and to Jane Harper for moving me with this incredible novel. This unbiased review is my thanks to them.

First Published UK: 22 November 2018
Publisher: Little Brown
No of Pages: 384
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Golden Child – Wendy James

Psychological Thriller
4*s

I was already a fan of Australian, Wendy James’s writing before this book, her ability to take such a wide variety of subjects from historical fiction at the turn of the twentieth century in Out of the Silence to a married woman’s downfall when past mistakes come to haunt her in The Mistake, amazed me. In The Golden Child there is no looking back, this is life in the twenty-first century a world where social media has transformed the life of those growing up with it.

Beth Mahonny is an Australian national living in the US because of her husband’s job, she hasn’t been back to live permanently since her daughters were born and unable to work under US rules, she blogs. She was quite a revolutionary when she started but by the time the book opens the world of blogging is now far more cut-throat than the light-hearted posts Liz writes on her ex-pat lifestyle but she has her followers who either gee her up or put her down.

One of my favourite parts of this book were the different commenters comments – their personalities shining through and could be taken as a random selection from any social media posts across the world and genres. It is so nice when the authors add the little touches into their books!

Beth is mother to Lucy and Charlotte, loving wife and now in charge of the project to move the family from the US back to Australia, and back to the bosom of the Mahonny family. Still Beth throws herself into the task with gusto and the reader an observe the gap between the reality of the move and the peek behind the curtain that she gives her followers. The girls get into a prestigious school and it is there that Beth meets Andi Pennington mother to a baby and older daughter, Sophie a brilliant musician who is in Charlotte’s class. But Charlotte at just twelve is positioning herself to be one of the shiny popular girls, and Sophie has no friends in school. Any relationship born out of the friendship of their mothers doesn’t change that and Charlotte isn’t moved to transfer any of the commonality they find out of school into the classroom. And then disturbing content is posted on social media and Sophie takes an overdose.

This is the type of story that will make any parent of adolescents run cold, a book that shows that in the bid to find their place in life can ruin a life forever. The shiny popular girls needing to hold their position in life, their victims trying to ignore the spitefulness all creates a powder keg that goes home with them at night in these days of the internet.

There are a lot of interesting debates around all sorts of aspects of mothering. These questions and their lack of solid answers I suspect will be eternal although it is interesting to view the different many ways even here that relative strangers can have their say which I guess just underlines the need for parents to somehow learn and teach their children how to cope with the pressure of social media.

This was a fascinating read and one where I felt empathy for most of the characters but the problem always with such ‘issue’ books is that I feel that in the need to create a story that perhaps the characters are somewhat side-lined and become a little stereotypical; it is no surprise that Sophie is fat for instance, but that aside I think this raises a lot of questions and would certainly make for a lively book club read.

First Published UK: 16 October 2018
Publisher: HarperCollins
No of Pages: 352
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Nine Perfect Strangers – Liane Moriarty

Contemporary Fiction
4*s

A secluded retreat for stressed-out people complete with the promise to change your life in just ten days, pricy and exclusive and just what the doctor ordered for our willing candidates?

I am a fan of Liane Moriarty, she is one of those authors that has a real eye for shining a light on everyday situations and letting her readers see how absurd they are. In Big Little Lies she took the school gates as her starting point, this time we move to the more exclusive setting of a retreat at health-and-wellness resort Tranquillum House which promises total transformation for those who sign up. This story is completely bonkers but very entertaining.

Tranquillum House is run by Masha, a women we met in the prologue having a heart-attack in her corporate office. Masha is a Russian who moved to Australia as a young woman and following her near-death experience she has become evangelical about saving others from themselves. All the bad things are banned, including any electronics and replaced with healthy smoothies, massages, mindful walking and light fasting.

The first guest we meet is romance author Frances who is not only menopausal but has just had her latest book rejected, readers are falling out of love with romance and she’s obsessing about a bad review. She herself had a thriller in her bag, one which over the days at Tranquillum House she finds less than thrilling… it seems that Liane Moriarty knows her audience!

She is joined by rich young things Ben and Jessica, who come complete with a Lamborghini for him and various surgical enhancements for him. They have signed up for couple counselling in a bid to save their marriage.

There is a family of three, parents Napoleon and Heather along with their twenty-one year old daughter Zoe who are all cloaked in sadness, the cause of which is revealed later in the book. An aging football star Tony, a health junkie Ben and a divorce lawyer Lars complete the guest list. They are all in, and then Masha reveals the start of her innovative treatment plan.

Believe me the thought of being on a retreat doesn’t really appeal to this reader under what I imagine are normal circumstances but this one takes an ominous tone right from the start when the guests are given their orders so perhaps a healthy wariness and lack of funds is a good thing!

This is really a character study, not only of the guests, but of the owner and her chief of staff, former paramedic, Yao. With the guests under the spotlight and in the prime location to reveal their hopes and fears there is so much room for the author’s trademark wry humour, the poking of fun of those earnest health-junkies is tempered by some life-stories that can’t help but tug at the heart-strings! This book should be approached with the aim of enjoying the ride. I said earlier, it’s bonkers, it is but a well-written bonkers book that yet had one foot in reality reflecting society as well as the differences between the generations and one that had me chuckling in delight at regular intervals. If you can’t afford a retreat to make changes in your life Nine Perfect Strangers will go some way to giving you the best medicine, laughter.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers Penguin UK for allowing me to read a copy of Nine Perfect Strangers prior to publication on 4 October 2018. This unbiased review is my thank you to them, and the author for such an entertaining read.

First Published UK: 4 October 2018
Publisher: Penguin UK
No of Pages: 451
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Other books by Liane Moriarty

Truly Madly Guilty (2016)
Little Lies (2014)
The Husband’s Secret (2013)
The Hypnotist’s Love Story (2011)
What Alice Forgot (2010)
The Last Anniversary (2006)
Three Wishes (2004)

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

Sisters of Mercy – Caroline Overington

Psychological Suspense
5*s

Agnes Moore disappears on the day that she is supposed to board a plane to return to England from Sydney. She had made the epic journey to meet up with her younger sister Snow. Agnes had supposed she was an orphan having been left in an orphanage but all these years later she’s learned that she is a beneficiary of her father’s will, and that she has a younger sister. Her family at home in England have no idea of what has happened to her.

Until the reading of the will Snow was also unaware of her sibling living a different kind of life on the other side of the world. Unlike Agnes who was full of excitement at the thought, Snow was not so keen.

The third main character in this story is a journalist New South Wales journalist Jack ‘Tap’ Fawcett who first reports the story Agnes’s disappearance after her daughter Ruby travels to Australia to make an appeal. Then he starts receiving letters from a prisoner.

Caroline Overington uses her settings judiciously. The disappearance of Agnes was the day of a red dust storm, an event that is used by the journalist to nudge at his reader’s memories to conjure up the day and time in their minds. It is also an event that gives the reader something unusual to picture somehow making the disappearance part of an eerie day.

I was really impressed with the way this tale unfolds but unusually for me I will caveat this review with the fact that there are some scenes of suffering that are upsetting. Snow’s letters to the journalist from prison form the backbone of the story. She starts writing to him because she believes that he is misreporting the facts behind the disappearance of her sister and wants to correct them.

People say that I don’t seem to care that my sister went missing after coming all the way out to Australia to visit me, but think about it from my point of view. I didn’t want her to come out in the first place.

As the reader is pretty much in the dark as to what her supposed crime might be at the start the clues come from these letters.

Although Sisters of Mercy might be judged from its premise to be a mystery story, it is really a character study of a woman. If you are a reader who has to like the main character it is possibly not a book for you but I was fascinated as Snow reveals herself, in her own words seemingly naïve about the reaction of the recipient.

I already had a huge respect for Caroline Overington having read a couple of her previous books and I’m glad she is one of the few authors whose work has travelled across the world from Australia. This is an author who steers well away from a formula, her books are all different but all I think, incredibly engaging. Sisters of Mercy is not a story that is wrapped up neatly at the end and because the author chose this method I find myself wondering about the events in it long after I turned the last page.

I’d like to thank the fabulous blogger, Margot Kinberg, for prompting me to buy a copy of this book following her feature of it in a spotlight post on her blog Confessions of a Mystery Novelist…

First Published UK: 2012
Publisher: Random House
No of Pages: 320
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Previous Books by Caroline Overington Reviewed by Cleopatra Loves Books

I Came to Say Goodbye
Last Woman Hanged

Posted in #20 Books of Summer 2018, Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads, Mount TBR 2018

The Dry – Jane Harper #20BooksofSummer

Crime Fiction
5*s

Ok I know I’m a little late to the party with my reading of this one, which is more or less unforgivable given all the accolades this crime fiction book was given at the time of publication, but I admit it, I was wrong and it should have been a prioritised read far earlier on.

After all despite my preference for a good police procedural set in the UK where I understand the rules and behaviours Now I have read The Dry I have to agree that there are far worse places to set your novel than Australia. This is particularly  true of course if like Jane Harper you live in Melbourne. It is a credit to the quality of her writing that this book got optioned in so many territories from the off.

So I started the book and quickly got immersed in an outback town in the middle of a drought (not a minor one with a few weeks of no rain, but a sustained amount of heat and no rain at all) was overtaken by the murder/suicide of a farmer and his family. All the anger and worry in Kiewarra previously without a physical outlet is focussed on this tragedy. So the story starts and we have a killer sentence:

“It wasn’t as though the farm hadn’t seen death before, and the blowflies didn’t discriminate. To them there was little difference between a carcass and a corpse.”

The local policeman, Roco is investigating while Aaron Falk, a friend of the suspected perpetrator, Luke Hadler, is using his leave to help Luke’s father, unofficially. The problem is that years before Aaron Falk and his father had to leave town over suspicions that he was involved in the death of his friend, Ellie. Luke and Aaron had an alibi but that didn’t stop people talking, and believe me, this was no low-level grumbling. So Aaron is back to investigate what happened at his old friend’s farm and he can’t quite believe that his friend would have committed such an atrocity but are events from the past clouding his judgement.

“And yes, he battled the daily commute to work and spent a lot of his days under fluorescent office lights, but at least his livelihood didn’t hang by a thread on the whim of a weather pattern. At least he wasn’t driven to such fear and despair by the blank skies that there was even a chance the wrong end of a gun might look like the right answer.”

Now once again the book absolutely checks my preference for crime fiction having elements from the past intersecting with those in the present. And the mystery of what happened to Ellie looms larger the longer Aaron stays in Kiewarra.

You could say two solid mysteries, well-plotted and convoluted enough to keep the keenest of minds working on their theories is enough for an author but Jane Harper’s real skill is bringing the characters to life. Now you may not like them all but you won’t forget many of them, I can assure you of that. The characters alongside the town (which is almost a character in its own right) give the story an oppressive feel which is underlined by episodes from the past being placed throughout the book, the distinction being marked by italics and tense. Much later we hear from Ellie herself which gives us a three-sided view of life, and death.

This is a superb novel and of course I know that there is a second in the series called Force of Nature. Since I can assure you this isn’t one of those frustrating books that leaves on a cliff-hanger, I’m not quite sure how that one can possibly play out (I’ve resisted looking at the synopsis) but I am very sure that the quality of Jane Harper’s writing means that I can’t afford to miss out.

“Death rarely changes how we feel about someone. Heightens it, more often than not.”

I’m so very pleased that I chose this book to be the eighth read in my 20 Books for Summer 2018 Challenge, I shouldn’t have left it quite so long!

First Published UK: 1 June 2017
Publisher: Abacus
No of Pages:432
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Family Next Door – Sally Hepworth

Contemporary Fiction
4*s

I’m a nosy person, one of my favourite occupations is imagine the lives of the people that live in the houses I pass on my way home. In a different age I suspect I would have been very much like my grandmother watching the comings and goings in the street. So it is unsurprising that I was drawn to this novel set in Melbourne following the lives of the people living on a cul-de-sac, Pleasant Court.

The neighbourhood includes a mother who left her daughter in a park, but three years on, Essie now has her mother Barbara close at hand as she has moved into a house on Pleasant Close too. The two women meet up regularly and Barbara is besotted with her grand-daughters. But Essie longs for a close friend, the neighbours wave and smile but they are not the type to pop in and out of each other’s houses. Then Isabelle rents the house which has been empty following a fire. Where she came from and what she does, and even her sexuality is a bit of a mystery.

In another house Angie’s real-estate business is going well, her two sons are enamoured with their X-Box and her husband is a photographer. He is gorgeous and handy in the home and yes, sometimes he is too interested in everyone else but Angie knows she is lucky. Fran is less obviously happy obsessively pounding the streets following the birth of her second daughter. What is she running from?

It is very hot, the neighbours are struggling to keep cool and Isabelle’s interest in the neighbours and their children is a bit intense.

Sally Hepworth has created a book that suits nosy people down to the ground. All of the characters are shockingly realistic with the dialogue pitch-perfect. There is a real knack to dovetailing interactions between the characters and their private thoughts and this author knows just how to make it work without resorting to the obvious sarcastic tone that many authors use to get around that gap between the public and private personas.

If the characterisation is spot-on the plot also swings gracefully over the bar. I thought I knew which direction the book was going in, I was resoundingly wrong and although the author did lead us down a path, the realisation wasn’t born from a left-field twist, the author went for a far subtler, and as a result, far more realistic swivel.

There are plenty of secrets to be uncovered which changes everything on Pleasant Close over the course of a summer and the resultant scenarios are on the whole things that you will have seen and no doubt had long intense conversations about. Despite the key storyline being unusual ultimately this book is about a variety of relationships which acknowledges that each one is different and often they can be complicated and of course that sometimes there are no easy answers. Whilst this book isn’t ‘heavy’ it does more than wrapping everything up in a pretty bow.

The overall result was a satisfying one. I felt for the characters when various secrets were revealed which meant that I had to seriously blink back those tears having stupidly decided that this would be a nice gentle book to read on a train. Sorry to the bemused man who sat opposite me!

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Hodder & Stoughton who allowed me to read The Family Next Door ahead of publication in the UK today. This unbiased review is my thanks to them, and the author Sally Hepworth for a thoroughly absorbing read.

First Published UK: 22 March 2018
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
No of Pages: 352
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

A Dangerous Crossing – Rachel Rhys

Historical Fiction 5*s
Historical Fiction
5*s

A Dangerous Crossing was my First Book of the Year 2017, a book that I was especially looking forward to due to the fact I’d won a charity auction run on behalf of CLIC Sargent to win my name in a book, and this was the one! Rachel Rhys has penned her first historical fiction novel, although you may have met her penmanship under the name Tammy Cohen where she’s written a mixture of contemporary and psychological fiction.

The book opens with a scene from the end of the journey from Tilbury docks to Australia with a dockside arrest, a scene that stuck in my head as the trip took us on a magnificent journey across high seas with the occasional stop in some far flung land. For Lilian Shepard has left her family following a disappointment in love to be a domestic servant in Australia, she is going to see the world and has grabbed the chance of an assisted passage to do so. Despite the confined nature, albeit on a fairly large liner, the Orontes, Lily learns more about life during the journey than she could ever have expected.

The year is 1939, the month is August and the rumours that the Germans are going to precipitate a war are getting harder to ignore. Lily’s father, who has been mute since the First World War is worried and now her adored brother may be in danger. Lily has decided to write a diary of her passage across the world, so that she doesn’t forget anything, but given the characters she is about to spend five weeks of her life with, that seems unlikely.

orontes

Rachel Rhys paints a brilliant picture of life on this ocean liner so that I felt that I was completely transported. Ask me;  I can describe the hot laundry where the guests wash and dry their clothes, the small cabin that Lily shares with Ida and Audrey, two fellow assisted travel passengers, the deck where they walk to work of the huge amount of food they are served to break up the boredom and the first class cocktail bar where Lily joins Max and Eliza Campbell for games of cards and gossip. Life on the ocean liner is nothing like anything Lily has experienced before. Max and Eliza are huge characters but despite muttered warnings Lily is drawn to them like a moth to a flame, the question is, will she get burnt? At the other end of the scale there are the Jews fleeing the life they have known, wearing the only clothes they own on board and unsurprisingly, given the point in history; a minority of passengers who have sympathy with the Nazi’s views on them. On a closed environment, a somewhat combustible mix of characters, all bought brilliantly to life by the clothes they wear, their chatter over dinner along with how they chose to spend all their time while their new home, and life, inches closer.

I loved every minute of the journey especially the observations Lily makes as she chats with her dining companions, the snippets of information that are revealed along the way of the main cast of characters means that it is apparent that no-one is quite what they first appeared to be. Everyone has secrets that they would prefer had been firmly left behind with their family and friends when they stepped up the gangplank to begin their journey for a new life.

This is truly one of those books to get immersed in, the glamour of the first class passengers, the uncertainty of the time, the snapshots of the countries they visit from Gibraltar to Egypt along the way provide a backdrop to the pitch-perfect atmospheric story, so expertly told.

This review may seem biased, I make no apology, it is, but I am sure that even if you haven’t been lucky enough to have a cameo role (look out for Cleopatra Bannister who appears in the last section) there is so very much to enjoy, as this story rolls along with the waves it rides on.

I am very grateful to have received a signed copy of A Dangerous Crossing from the author, ahead of publication on 23 March 2017 by Doubleday, a story not to be missed.

First Published UK: 23 March 2017
Publisher: Doubleday
No of Pages: 368
Genre: Historical Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

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

A Mother’s Confession – Kelly Rimmer

Psychological Thriller 5*s
Psychological Thriller
5*s

I picked this book up purely on the recommendation of a couple of other book bloggers who (strongly) hinted at a heart-breaking book; it is but not in the sense that phrase is usually referring to, this is no romantic light fluffy story, it is something far darker. This was a book that in turn chilled me to the bone, whilst the brilliant device of a mother telling the tale of her little boy’s birth onwards whilst his wife looks back on the life she shared with him as a man, had me absolutely hooked.

We know straight off that there has been a tragedy. David is dead, his wife Olivia is struggling with her grief, her daughter Zoe the only daily contact she has with the world outside her front door. She is too paralysed to talk to her former colleague who delivers a daily monologue through the front door to her, although she keeps her appointments with her grief-counsellor, the contents of these are delivered to the reader with a force that at times took my breath away.

David and Olivia were one of life’s fortunate couples, they were well-off, professionals living in a beautiful house, close by to his mother which was handy for babysitting, but the tragedy of David’s death has blown apart the careful construction of the perfect couple, the secrets can no longer be contained.

Ivy is mourning the loss of her son by remembering key episodes of his life from his birth through to the present day. Ivy is a mother who pushed her child to the fore, a woman who lived her life through her son’s achievements and as a result is lost, and perhaps unable to face up to what has happened.

Set in Australia the small town setting is an inspired device to allow us to experience the different viewpoints of the locals, particularly as David’s father owns the local grocery store. Olivia, and perhaps Ivy, have their versions of David challenged by those who only know part of their tale. We the readers are the fortunate ones because through both women we get to see the truth.

The depth of characterisation and in particular the development of Olivia’s as she moves from the first numbing days of grief to one where she begins to contemplate returning to work was superb. There was not one single moment when I disbelieved her actions, her words or thoughts. I was willing her along her difficult journey to an ending which simply had me stunned.

Ivy is a different sort of mother, one who holds some outdated and therefore seemingly outlandish views, a difficult woman to like especially when her actions have caused Olivia so much pain, but, controversially she has her reasons and so I still had a smidgen of sympathy for this blinkered woman, not a lot, but I felt that as the author has given us a little of her background, it would almost be rude to dismiss her as a total witch.

This book had me completely riveted, I did not want to part with it as I needed to know what was going to happen. The author pulled me in from the off, and each bit of information added to the rising feeling of dread in this book where it was obvious something terrible was going to be revealed, but quite what wasn’t apparent until it was upon me.

If you like books that let you run the gamut of emotions, a book that is pitched at just the right pace so that you are not fighting against the feeling that the author is withholding information as a ploy to fill the book, don’t dismiss this book. The cover doesn’t do justice to the power of the words inside A Mother’s Confession.

I received my copy of A Mother’s Confession from the publishers Bookouture. This unbiased review is my thanks to them and the talented author Kelly Rimmer, another author whose back catalogue I will now be exploring.

First Published UK: 27 October 2016
Publisher: Bookouture
No of Pages: 352
Genre: Psychological Thriller – domestic
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Truly Madly Guilty – Liane Moriarty

Contemporary Fiction 4*s
Contemporary Fiction
4*s

I have loved in varying degrees the five other books I’ve read by this author with last year’s offering, Little Lies being one of my favourite reads of the year, so I was a little surprised that I didn’t instantly warm to this book but happily I soon became engrossed about this tale of middle-class life in Sydney Australia.

Truly Madly Guilty charts the life of three couples; quiet Erika and Oliver are neighbours to the more flamboyant Vid and Tiffany so when Vid in a party spirit invites them to a barbeque on a day Erika’s best, and childhood friend, Clementine and her husband Sam are visiting they feel they should accept. Part of what makes the opening to this book so slow is the use of Liane Moriaty’s favoured device, we all know something huge happened at the barbeque but what the event was is shrouded in mystery, a very heavily signposted mystery at that.

Having got over the frustration of wanting to know what on earth happened in Vid and Tiffany’s back garden I concentrated on the smaller secrets that are revealed. Sam and Clementine have an enviable lifestyle, especially now that Sam has a new job. Their two daughters Holly and Ruby are beautiful and healthy although come with the associated niggles that children bring with them. Clementine is a cellist and about to audition for her dream job. Erika and Oliver are the besotted god-parents to the two girls and have both come from more troubled backgrounds than their friends. But all is not as it seems, Erika and Clementine don’t have a simply breezy friendship, rather these childhood playmates have a complex relationship. Of course Tiffany and Vid are oblivious to this fact and are enjoying the barbeque with gusto.

So once more we have a novel with a psychological bent concentrated at least in part on female friendship. The author, as always has a sharp eye (and pen) which details the everyday events that reveal something far deeper than is initially expected. Sadly, I didn’t find the humour, which is, for me, part of the pull of this author’s books but you really can’t fault her on her observations. The characters, their squabbles, their passions and their secret fears are all absolutely spot on. I felt I knew them all, I felt their guilt (yes this isn’t a title with no relation to the book!) as well as the more mundane emotions such as ambivalence, the author accurately writing about not only those things that are opposite ends of the spectrum of emotion but those middling ones which adds a real edge of realism which helps bring these people to life. And you should also be prepared for a whole heap of issues to keep you enthralled including IVF, hoarding, alcoholism, lap-dancing to name a few! Liane Moriarty’s dialogue was as sharp as ever, the exchanges between Erika and Clementine particularly really lift the book to another level.

The event when it is revealed is a good one, with all the characters behaving and displaying the whole range of emotions imaginable. So whilst this may not be my favourite book by this author I was left satisfied at the end of the book, with it making far more of an impression on me than I suspected it would.

I’d like to thank the publishers Michael Joseph for allowing me to read an advance copy of this book. This unbiased review is my thank you to them.

Published UK: 28 July 2016
Publisher: Michael Joseph
No of Pages 480
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

Other books by Liane Moriarty

Little Lies (2014)
The Husband’s Secret (2013)
The Hypnotist’s Love Story (2011)
What Alice Forgot (2010)
The Last Anniversary (2006)
Three Wishes (2004)

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Mistake – Wendy James

Psychological Thriller 4*s
Psychological Thriller
4*s

The wonderful Margot Kinberg from Confessions of a Mystery Novelist introduced me to this writer and after reading the exceptional tale of Maggie, at the turn of the twentieth century, in Out of the Silence, I was eager to read a contemporary tale by the same author. If you haven’t come across Margot’s blog before, you really should pay her a visit.

Jodie Garrow is the wife of a successful lawyer Angus and she looks and plays the part; she is immaculate and in control of life, which includes her sixteen year old daughter Hannah and her younger son Tom. The couples are well-regarded in the Australian town of Arding, so much so that she has appeared on his arm in pictures in the local paper, supporting some charity or attending some event. But Jodie has a secret, one that is twenty-four years old, and as we all know a secret kept that long, if unearthed, is likely to detonate in a huge eruption. And so it is. In a set of coincidences which reveals that perhaps Hannah isn’t quite the daughter Jodie has pictured, the pair end up in a small hospital and Jodie is recognised.

When Jodie breaks the news to Angus that she procured a private adoption all those years ago his focus is on the legalities followed by a public relations exercise to keep their reputation intact. There is one problem, although the media initially print an appeal for the missing Ella Mary Jodie’s composure along with her current lifestyle means that it doesn’t take long before accusations fly and not just in the media, on the internet and in her home town too.

The reader hears the story from three separate viewpoints; Hannah’s who is fearful of being ostracised by her peers, Angus who is somewhat confused about why Jodie hadn’t told him about the child before now, and Jodie’s tale which stretches back to the 1980s, and of course the newspaper extracts which could be applied to many tales of ‘missing children’ in newspaper’s around the world over the years. The book challenges the assumption of those who watch these types of appeal that if you are not a certain type of person, you don’t dress in a certain way and most importantly you don’t act as those who are watching you imagine they would, there is something dodgy about your story. Of course none of us knows how we may act if we were caught up in a similar drama, I suspect it often isn’t how we imagine it will be. Is this Jodie’s fault?

A fascinating book and one that really did make me think because there is plenty to absorb in the plot but The Mistake is populated by interesting, if not particularly likable, characters. Angus is particularly interesting as Jodie’s revelation causes him to act in a way that perfectly reveals what he thinks is important in his life. Meanwhile Jodie responds by firmly sticking her head into the sand and shutting herself away we are also invited to examine the different standards that males and females judge each other and what is a deal-breaker in a friendship.

Wendy James has presented us with a perplexing mystery but one that asks us to reflect on our own idea about those in caring professions such as the midwife, now dead, who arranged the private adoption, the role of a mother, even one whose pregnancy was unwanted and maybe even adoption itself. For those who are interested in the role media has to play in investigations, I highly recommend this book.