Posted in #20 Books of Summer 2017, Book Review, Books I have read

Winter Garden – Beryl Bainbridge #20booksofsummer

Classic Fiction
2*s

So far I have really appreciated the dark humour Beryl Bainbridge winds through the previous novels I’ve read; An Awfully Big Adventure, Sweet William and Harriet Said, but sadly any such flashes of brilliance in Winter Garden were overshadowed by either a weak plot or one that I simply didn’t ‘get’.

Douglas Ashburner is a lawyer, married or many years with two adult children when he is persuaded by Nina, who he is conducting a clandestine affair with, to join her on a trip to Moscow with the Soviet’s Artist Union. Douglas duly tells his wife he is off to the Highlands fishing, and arrives at Heathrow to meet his fellow travellers at the airport complete with his fishing rod.

The other members of the party are Bernard a minor celebrity in the world of art, and Enid a less well-known artist. Having to indulge in a certain amount of subterfuge regarding their true relationship Douglas finds himself sat apart from Nina during the flight, the book being set in the 1980s air travel was not the regimented affair it is today. Nina had asked Douglas to put her medication in her suitcase which doesn’t arrive in Moscow with the rest of the party. The failure to track down his case causes Douglas more than a bit of worry as he is going to have a devil of a job explaining why it got lost at an airport when it should be with him in Scotland.

If I’m honest after we reach this part of the book, I struggled to make much sense of anything further. Nina mysteriously disappears from the entourage with various excuses and explanations being given for where she is, mainly led by Olga, their translator for the trip. The weird occurrences keep happening with a particularly odd nocturnal encounter on a train trip to Leningrad, none of which are furnished with any real resolution that makes proper sense although I think I know what we are supposed to believe, the problem is I’m not sure!

What I did find interesting is the descriptions of Soviet Russia which come complete with the biting cold weather, not good news for Douglas as he misplaced his hat along the way although he does carry a pink scarf of Nina’s to keep the cold out of his ears. These descriptions of various engagements, viewing of graveyards and paintings include Beryl Bainbridge’s legendary wit, I was particularly fond of the visit to Stalin’s birthplace and the Russian characters we met. I’m really not so sure about Douglas who seemed incredibly naïve, and not just about his affair, particularly considering he’s supposed to be a lawyer. As Nina was off page she was fairly insubstantial although this aspect was nicely balanced by Enid who had some real depth. The trouble is interesting people only take you so far when these are pretty much disconnected from a plot.

Winter Garden was my second read of my 20 Books of Summer  Challenge 2017.

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

The Child – Fiona Barton

Psychological Thriller
5*s

Wow!! I was hoping for a good read after having enjoyed The Widow so much last year but this story totally blew me away.

A skeleton of a baby was found in a garden of what is now a demolition site in Woolwich ready for the gentrification of this area of London. Kate Waters (the journalist in The Widow) spots a couple of lines about the body in the paper and decides to see if she can build a ‘human life’ story out of the sparse information.

The story is told in short punchy paragraphs following the storylines of four women at the time of the find in 2012. Kate Waters is a great investigative journalist and her narrative leads the way in mirroring one of the aspects I enjoyed so much in the author’s debut novel by feeding us peripheral information, in one instance the change in the way her job has evolved now more news is read on-line.

In 1970 Angela Irving’s baby was snatched from the maternity ward where she was born. The search for baby Alice led to a dead-end taking a detour of suspecting the story of her disappearance wasn’t exactly as presented by Angela.

Emma Simmonds works from home as a writer polishing the words of others to produce books about celebrities. Could she have a better profession to fix this book in contemporary times? Emma like Angela suffers with anxiety so working from home is ideal. Emma is married to an academic, a lovely man twenty years her senior.

And finally there is Jude, mother to Emma and the two had lived in a shared house in the area of the find. Jude and Emma have a complex and fractured relationship. Jude never revealed who Emma’s father was and although Emma picked up some hints over the years, she hasn’t ever met him.

The story is pretty much led by Kate’s narrative as she works with the new boy in the news room and this is where Fiona Barton’s experience as a journalist lends authenticity to the smallest of interactions from her kindly instructions to Joe on her craft when you can tell she wants him to get his nose out of his phone and study the wide variety of characters they come into contact with as they follow the story of a long-buried baby.

The pace is fast and while each of the three other women may cast their minds back in their narratives the overall timeline is strictly linear with each chapter indicating the day and the narrator so that the story is kept straight in the reader’s mind.

All those big questions of why, who and how are there for the asking, with many others crowding in around the edges of this tale full of buried secrets. Best of all the reader gets a different perspective from the variety of narrators and can ponder on the information provided. I did guess what had happened but that didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the book one bit, after all I wanted to find out not only if I was right, but what would happen following the revelations.

This is a psychological thriller that obviously has its roots in reality, a story with the elements of life we prefer not to think about, or if we do, to file under a cliché headline. The Child takes a look behind the headlines and the result is a compulsive read.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Random House UK for giving me a copy of The Child ahead of publication on 29 June 2017. This unbiased  review is my thanks to them and the author for such an engaging read.

First Published UK: 29 June 2017
Publisher: Bantam Press
No of Pages: 368
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in #20 Books of Summer 2017, Book Review, Books I have read

What Remains Behind – Dorothy Fowler #20booksofsummer

Historical Fiction
4*s

A land sale in the family is the latest archaeological dig for Chloe Davis. As she returns to the site in the Kaipara, north of Auckland in New Zealand she is working to find the foundations of the place of worship for Kaipara Harbour community which had burnt in the 1880s.

Chloe has mixed emotions about the dig, she’s sad that the family land is being sold especially as her side of the family had fond memories of holidays spent in the house her sister Phaedra has inherited.

There are two distinct time lines to this novel both presented in the first person the current day narrative provided by Chloe on the dig with a mis-match of students and her old friend and colleague Bill. This time line follows not only the finds on the dig, but also the suspicion the small town inhabitants have towards the outsiders, some of whom have money tied up in the sale of the land. But rules are rules and the dig has been ordered and Chloe and Bill are determined to finish what they have started.

This present day timeline also takes in the mystery of a missing local farmer from some years before as well as the frankly odd relationship between the level-headed Chloe and her far more mercurial sister Phaedra.
For me far more fascinating were the pages of a diary written by Charity, a young girl, taken to the mission by her mother. There is something I find fascinating about cults; partly the amazement that a single charismatic man can make others believe what he says to the seeming exclusion of logic to the more mundane issues of adults living a communal lifestyle which for me, being fairly unsociable, has so far kept me inured to any charismatic man (or woman) bearing unlikely promises. However if I were a single mother forced to use her fading looks to make a living as a Housekeeper, back in the 1880s then maybe I would be as grateful as The problem faced by the cult, from the locals and more prosaically the lack of money as Brother Jack failed to gather a bigger flock to fund the mission.

This is a slow-paced mystery, quite unlike the crime fiction I normally read. The mysteries are there but the search for answers is nowhere near as frantic or all-consuming as these, the answers coming almost organically from the situation which is not only a novel approach, but also a deeply satisfying one. That’s not to say the book lacks action, it doesn’t there are a few hairy moments in both timelines. The mystery in the past was expected as we know from the beginning that the mission burnt down, what we don’t know is who did it, and why. The action in the present coming out of a fairly complex storyline which ensures that this book didn’t succumb to that perennial problem with dual timelines, the one story capturing my attention far more than the other.

What Remains Behind is the first read of my 20 Books of Summer Challenge 2017. I enjoyed this book featuring an archaeologist a real breath of fresh air away from the detectives that normally stalk the pages of my crime fiction. With the unusual, for me, setting in small town New Zealand easily imagined through the authors descriptions, both in the past and present, this one has got me off to a cracking start.

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

Love Like Blood – Mark Billingham

Crime Fiction
5*s

There is something doubly appealing about crime fiction with a strong contemporary feel and Mark Billingham has chosen this, his fourteenth book in the Tom Thorne series to highlight honour killings. The fact that he does this within a brilliantly constructed mystery certainly makes for compelling reading.

DI Nicola Tanner is on compassionate leave after the death of her partner who was murdered inside their shared home. Having worked with Thorne when he makes a brief appearance  in Die of Shame, she seeks him out convinced that those in charge of the investigation into Susan’s death are not interested in her belief that her murder was a case of mistaken identity, and it is actually her own life they meant to take.

The relationship between Tanner and Thorne is brilliantly handled as they work off the grid to find out the truth. When a couple of teenagers go missing Thorne and Tanner fear their own families know more than they are letting on but are they reading too much into the case?

I was delighted that Hendricks, the gay pierced and hugely sarcastic doctor who carries out the post mortems on any of the stray bodies that are sent in his direction, was back to lighten the plotline when it all becomes a bit too dark. Black humour is infinitely better than no humour at all and in all honesty, whilst she might have had ample reason to be so, Tanner is the most entertaining of detectives.

Thorne is in the form of the fictional detective is more than happy to bend the rules to suit himself although with the normally rule-abiding Tanner pushing him to do more, he has the occasional doubt about whether this is the right thing to do in this instance.

You might fear from the earlier paragraphs that this is a worthy piece of crime fiction that is tackling a sensitive subject with little knowledge of the issues. Not so. Mark Billingham has clearly researched his subject matter speaking to those who have been part of those families where the younger generation are resistant to following the rules their parents are keen to uphold for fear of becoming outcasts in their own community. The idea that murdering your own child to protect the family’s reputation is rightly abhorrent to many even within these communities, but sadly not to all. Whilst Mark Billingham more than nods his head at the former, this is not a book that preaches, he lets his characters display the emotions that echoed in my own mind but managing to steer clear of a commentary that didn’t fit the natural direction of the investigation being undertaken.

As has been the case with each of the Mark Billingham books I have read the pace is fairly furious, if you are anything like me, you will not want to put this book aside even though you are in much need of a breather from the latest piece of action. The plot is complex and involved with enough facts to underpin the occasional surprise the author springs on his reader. Just the way I like my crime fiction.

I’d like to thank the publisher Grove Atlantic for allowing me to read an advance copy of Love Like Blood ahead of publication on 20 June 2017. This honest review is my thanks to them and to Mark Billingham for an in-depth look at an issue brilliantly threaded through a captivating crime novel.

First Published UK: 20 June 2017
Publisher: Grove Atlantic
No of Pages: 400
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Mark Billingham Books

Sleepyhead [Aug 2001] Tom Thorne #1
Scaredy Cat [Jul 2002] Tom Thorne #2
Lazybones [Jul 2003] Tom Thorne #3
The Burning Girl [Jul 2004] Tom Thorne #4
Lifeless [May 2005] Tom Thorne #5
Buried [May 2006] Tom Thorne #6
Death Message [Aug 2007] Tom Thorne #7
In the Dark [Aug 2008] Standalone Novel
Bloodline [Aug 2009] Tom Thorne #8
From the Dead [Aug 2010] Tom Thorne #9
Good as Dead [Aug 2011] Tom Thorne #10
Rush of Blood [Aug 2012] Standalone Novel
The Dying Hours [May 2013] Tom Thorne #11
The Bones Beneath [May 2014] Tom Thorne #12
Time of Death [April 2015] Tom Thorne #13
Die of Shame [May 2016] Standalone Novel
Love Like Blood [June 2017] Tom Thorne #14

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

Greatest Hits – Laura Barnett

Contemporary Fiction
5*s

Every now and again a book comes along that wows you with its richness; Greatest Hits is one such novel. There can’t be many people who don’t have a soundtrack to their lives, those songs that were the background to early years, the songs we fell in love to and those that we obsessively listened to as we attempt to mend wounded hearts; for many of us there is a tune that can turn back the years to a distant time and place. Laura Barnett has taken this idea and turned it into a densely woven story.

Cass Wheeler is a singer songwriter and Greatest Hits is the story of her life, exploring through her own lyrics the key events in her life from the earliest days with her decidedly less than maternal mother Margaret and her father, the local vicar Francis, who would read to her from adult books to sooth her to the woman she is now, reflecting on her years of silence, having turned her back on music. For Cass there were no songs left to write and no music to fill her days.

Greatest Hits is supported by a wonderful cast of characters who in turn support Cass through her life, most notably Aunt Lily and her assistant Kim. With any book spanning decades the links to the past are most important and in true reflection of real life we also see that some people are in our lives for brief amounts of time, but nonetheless have a huge impact as was the case with her childhood friend, Irene, and perhaps more importantly Irene’s mother who provided the mothering that was bereft from her own life. All of these different yet vivid characters provide the supporting acts to Cass’s story.

Each of the sixteen long chapters are headed up with one of the titles of the songs that Cass is compiling of the music that reflects her life. Below the title we have some lyrics from the songs as well as the fictional release date and other recording details. We therefore dive back to the early days and those memories, whilst in the present we have some clues as to the tragedy that struck Cass and led to her disappearing from her successful music career at its height in the 1970s to the withdrawing from life as well as music in the early 2000s. This layering of a story is exceptionally well done and Laura Barnett weaves the past and the present convincingly with the brightness of the triumphs with the depths of despair not forgetting those more mundane or mixed emotions which all of us experience.

Despite not being a famous singer, and not having spent my life penning songs or living in the lap of luxury and only being born as Cass was releasing her early music, Cass’s life felt like one I could have been part of, so evocative were the descriptions and so rich in both characters and writing style. This is a book to wallow in with a story that transports its reader to a time and place far away. For those who really want to get the full experience a soundtrack is being produced with Kathryn Williams performing the songs contained within the book to be released in conjunction with this novel. But even without the added interactive element Greatest Hits is in my opinion a triumphant second book to follow up to  The Versions of Us which I also adored.

I’d like to thank the publisher Orion Publishing Group for allowing me to read an advance copy of Greatest Hits ahead of publication on 15 June 2017. This honest review is my thanks to them and the talented Laura Barnett for a fabulous read.

First Published UK: 15 June 2017
Publisher: Orion Publishing Group
No of Pages: 464
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

All the Good Things – Clare Fisher

Contemporary Fiction
4*s

Bethany Mitchell is in prison for doing a ‘bad thing’, what that is isn’t revealed until close to the end of the book. Erika, Beth’s counsellor in prison asks her to record the good things in an attempt to get her to ultimately confront what she has done.

I started All the Good Things with an open-mind; what I didn’t expect was how hard the experience hit me.
Bethany is just twenty-one but her life was already an exercise in surviving from her earliest memories. And this is exactly what we learn as her good things are lessons she’s learnt, or people she’s bonded with as she makes her uncertain way through the care system. This isn’t a straightforward account of misery though as Bethany has experiences that I’m sure many of us can relate to from her first job at the Odeon, and those that many of us have been lucky enough to avoid such as being removed from her first foster home where she formed a bond with her foster-father Paul over her love of stories, however outlandish.

One of the things that is so compelling is that this girl who obviously has difficulty, however justified, in personal relationships is utterly realistic. She loves stories, she likes excitement and she lives in the moment. Beth is intelligent and troubled and with each episode of her life I wanted to step in and do something, quite what I wasn’t sure, but to let such a life travel in such a wayward manner was very much like watching a slow motioned car crash, ‘the bad thing’ or some other ‘bad thing’ felt the inevitable outcome.

The construction of the novel which has us simultaneously reaching back pretty much chronologically, through the episodes in Bethany’s life, as a child at school, with her boyfriends, leaving care and moving into her first flat and onto a relationship where she felt like she’d reached adulthood. We also see her growing in confidence as she is helped by Erika to make sense of her past and to hopefully work towards making a better future.

The book is almost a textbook lesson on life on one level that doing a bad thing does not make someone a bad person, on another when life is full of unhappy events, even if you have some good moments that can go on the list then sometimes one event leads to another and then to another until they become overwhelming.

Some items on Bethany’s list:

Friends you can be weird with.

How cats find the sun to lie in even on a cloudy day.

Reading books which make me laugh and books which make me cry and books which make me feel a bit more OK about who and where and what I am.

Ultimately Clare Fisher has hit the holy grail in writing about such a sensitive subject, not only making us care about her mixed-up protagonist from a less than easy starting point but doing so without explicitly excusing any of her behaviour. Only the hardest of hearts could read this story without feeling sympathy for more than one of the characters inside the covers.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Penguin who kindly sent me a copy of All The Good Things ahead of publication on 1 June 2017.

First Published UK: 1 June 2017
Publisher: Penguin
No of Pages: 240
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

In Deep Water – Sam Blake

Crime Fiction
4*s

I do like it when despite being part of a series, the author takes an entirely different scenario for their subsequent book. Yes we have Cat Connolly, a boxer, feisty and willing to do what she thinks is right in her role in Garda Síochána, but rather than a crime that spanned generations which we had in Little Bones, In Deep Water focus is on a crime which is very much of the present when journalist, Cat’s best friend and training partner Sarah Jane Hansen goes missing.

The first inkling that all is not well is when Sarah Jane fails to make a training session with Cat and her coach and doesn’t answer her phone. When Cat takes a call from Sarah Jane’s mother saying that she’s worried and her husband Ted Hansen, a reporter for CNN currently on location had warned her off a story, it isn’t long before Cat formally reports her friend as a missing person.

One of the pleasures of reading series is that the successful ones develop the key characters by adding layers to what has already been gleaned; Sam Blake has fully achieved this brief as by the very nature of having Cat investigate the disappearance of her friend, we get to see more of her vulnerabilities. After the investigation in the first book we have more of an insight into her relationship with her boss, DI Dawson O’ Rourke, a man who has become more protective of her following the mental and physical scars that resulted from their previous investigation. This interplay is entirely convincing, a bonus as I do like to feel that what I read in crime fiction is realistic. Fortunately despite the horrifying end to the last book, it soon becomes clear that Cat, despite her struggle to regain her previous fitness levels, was her desire to be a profiler within Garda Síochána and so she is studying as well as training and working. I have to be honest Cat’s schedule exhausted me just reading about it.

Sam Blake doesn’t neglect the secondary characters either, each one was well-drawn and yet distinct and pleasingly quite diverse while avoiding the easy short-hand clichés. We meet the highly successful business men and women, the coach with his own battle scars, a young boy with autism and some young women who are living a life I simply didn’t want to imagine.

There is no doubt that this was a superbly well-researched novel, a proper police procedural with the aspects of the investigation qualified with plenty of explanations which only rarely impinged on the flow of the storyline.
In Deep Water steps into the darker areas of crime, giving the book a real edgy feel helped along by plenty of action. This is one scary ride as the team retrace Sarah Jane’s last known movements, a journey that takes in the seedier aspects of life, one that if dwelt upon could be very depressing. Fortunately with many strands of storyline to juggle there is no time to dwell as this accomplished author pulls the strands skilfully together.

I’d like to thank the publishers Bonnier Zaffre for allowing me to read a review copy of In Deep Water and for Sam Blake for writing such an enjoyable read. This review is my unbiased thanks to them.

First Published UK: 6 April 2017
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre
No of Pages: 416
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Stranger – Saskia Sarginson

Contemporary Fiction
4*s

A small town complete with a tea room is the setting of this nuanced tale by Saskia Sarginson. This is not the obvious psychological thriller with never-ending surprises that I was expecting, but unsurprisingly given the previous two books I’ve read by this author; The Other Me and The Twins, there is undeniable tension and that sense of needing to know what happens next.

Eleanor Rathmell is the owner of the aforementioned tea room, she also keeps an assortment of animals at her home which she shares with her husband William. All is good in her life, except the secret she has kept all her married life. With few cares in her world, Ellie’s life is turned upside down when she witnesses a horrific car crash, an accident that to her horror she discovers results in William’s death. Worse is to come as she finds evidence that she wasn’t the only one with a secret.

What starts as a fairly standard secrets and lies premise quickly morphs into a fairly issue-led novel about migrants. I was delighted to find although the author had clearly done her research, this not being a ‘shouty’ book from a soapbox, she hadn’t forgotten that we, her readers, want to be entertained. I can’t deny the social commentary on an issue that is far more complex than either side of the debate can sometimes appear to be willing to understand. The migrants featured in The Stranger work on a local farm working for David, a rich farmer with two grown-up children. The local’s mistrust of these migrants could seem at odds with the fundraiser they run for the refugees of the Syrian disaster. When a Romanian moves into Ellie’s garage to help out with jobs on the smallholding strange things begin to happen and there are no shortage of people willing to warn Ellie about the mistake she is making. Ellie has to decide whether the stranger she has welcomed is behind the acts or is someone trying to remove him from the scene.

From that short taster you can see that the plot lines of a widow struggling to comprehend the loss of her husband coupled with the secrets she has uncovered seem at total odds with the local issues of migrants but all of this is neatly tied in, often revolving around the tea room where everyday life continues and Ellie gets her life back onto some sort of track with the help of her assistant Kate. Inevitably there is some romance to sweeten the darker aspects of the storyline which emerge gradually and with great restraint as the book progresses.

The characters are distinct and the dialogue convincing which combined with the measured writing creates a subtle tension when life in the village begins to unravel and Ellie is left unsure who she can trust. The final outcome all the more shocking for the way the author plays the build-up straight down the line.

Although this wasn’t quite the book I was expecting to read I found it to be both an entertaining and thought-provoking read.

I’d like to thank Little Brown for providing me with a copy of The Stranger. This unbiased review is my thanks to them.

First Published UK: 8 September 2016
Publisher: Piatkus
No of Pages: 384
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Mount TBR 2017

Go To Sleep – Helen Walsh

Contemporary Fiction
3*s

Well… this is quite a difficult review to write because this read made for quite uncomfortable reading even though it is now over a quarter of a century since I had my first child but here goes!

Rachel is looking forward to giving birth to her first child. She’s probably not quite ok with being a single mother but she’s prepared, or so she thinks. She’s bonded with her bump and looking forward to welcoming her child into the world complete with a doting grandfather and his second wife. Ok, being the product of a one night stand isn’t ideal but having weighed up the odds, she’s decided not to inform the father who has a chance of a new life away from Liverpool.

In these early chapters we learn more about the baby’s father who she first met as a teenager. Reuben was black and Rachel believes that this was why her father didn’t like him, you see this is a book that is as much about Rachel’s life before a baby, as after and as the book roll on, this is something I appreciated more and more. This background gives the reader real context to her struggle with life after Joe is born.

Before Joe is born, Rachel works as a support worker for truanting children supporting them helpfully back to school or if not into alternative training so she’s no pushover, but has a life dealing with truculent teenagers prepared her for life with a helpless baby? This beginning showing a woman passionate about her work coupled with a splash of jealousy about the woman who is standing in for her during her maternity leave, gives us a great insight into Rachel’s character and what she feels is important in life. Rarely do we hear about the doubts a woman has stepping away from the workplace in such an honest way and better still the points made are done with subtlety.

Labour begins, in fits and starts and Rachel contacts the hospital, she’s turned away, she’s not far enough gone to be admitted. So we got to this bit and my long-buried memories surfaced…
I take out my mobile, ring the hospital. The voice that greets me tries to be reassuring but never gets beyond dismissive:

How far apart? You’ve had how many?

Suffice to say labour isn’t as Rachel imagined and then baby doesn’t sleep. The language fits perfectly with the frustration she feels with the gap between what she imagined life would be like, and the reality.

Evening. The lights turned down low, the ward calm and ordered, all the babies washed and fed and winded, all of them ready for sleep; all except Joe. Joe fights it, struggles, bleats. Unable, unwilling to settle, champing on my chafed and throbbing chest, he writhes and burns  and gets angrier and angrier. I am so tired now – desperately achingly tired.

This is an incredibly brave book to write, far from the sentimental picture usually portrayed of early motherhood. Life with a child that doesn’t sleep can be like hell on earth. I remember one awful night when I threatened to throw my daughter out of the window, words said in pure frustration and I hasten to add, not acted upon, but it is tough to be in charge of an infant in the dead of night who won’t be consoled. The author accurately portrays this and although I was horrified at some of Rachel’s actions as she was clearly suffering with postnatal depression as well as exhaustion, my judgement was tempered.

I’m glad I read this book long after the event, and perhaps this book should be given out to young women who believe that a baby will fit into their lives like a beautiful accessory but then, nothing can quite prepare you, so perhaps those of us can read with a wry smile, is the best audience after all.

Go to Sleep was my fifteenth read in my Mount TBR Challenge 2017, so I’m still on target to hit 36 books purchased before 1 January 2017, this one having been bought in April 2015 so fits the bill!

mount-tbr-2017

 

 

 

First Published UK: 2011
Publisher: Cannongate Books
No of Pages:  320
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Escape – C.L. Taylor

Psychological Thriller
4*s

Jo Blackmore has suffered from agoraphobia since the death of her unborn child but she’s got strategies for coping and manages to hold down a job by sticking to rigid rules. Those rules are breached when she is asked to give a lift to a woman on her way to picking up her young daughter Elise from nursery. Paula doesn’t give Jo much of an option to refuse, and once in the car she returns one of Elise’s mittens with the warning:

“Look after your daughter’s things. And your daughter…”

Well can you just imagine the panic especially when it becomes clear that she knows all about Jo, her husband Max, a crime reporter and of course Elise. Jo’s fight or flight mechanism goes into overdrive!

The Escape is full of tension from that bizarre car journey onwards we see Jo juggling her anxiety, her step-father’s illness and her husband’s increasing lack of patience with her. Jo suspects that Max, a crime reporter has led her into danger. Paula, the woman who accosted her, has made it clear he has something that belongs to her, and she wants it back! Max denies all knowledge and Jo is left with few places to turn for help.

The cliché rollercoaster is absolutely the right one to use for this book, but the plot itself has a number of pleasing variations on the theme. In one of the best we discover that Jo is also seeking answers to her early years. She remembers little of her life in Ireland before she moved to the UK with her mother, and her mother has remained tight-lipped about it becoming quite upset when Jo wanted to know more. So naturally when she needs somewhere to lay low, she takes a trip to get some answers. The scenes set in Ireland were fantastic, but the change in scenery isn’t used as an excuse to drop any of that tension, no it is transported across the water with Jo. Now we have the pounding February waves and the bitter winds to accompany the swirling secrets and lies… and danger!

Cally Taylor is the mistress of lifting the stones in a domestic situation and allowing all the creepy crawlies out to unsettle her readers by bringing to the fore the most instinctive of reactions. In The Escape the nightmares of parents the world over are given clarity and it is impossible to resist the ‘What would I do?’ questions run through your mind. It is interesting how the author has chosen not to provide us with an easy to like character and then made me root for her nonetheless and made me admire the writing all the more for the fact. It wasn’t that I disliked the character more that I wished she would have a little more spunk – but then, just maybe, she wouldn’t have needed to escape!

I’ve enjoyed all the authors previous books, she provides us with true-to-life characters thereby instantly stamping realism into the storyline and not just with the main protagonists. I was particularly fond of the B&B owner who having been shouted at by Jo then huffily sets her breakfast down without a word – this is how real people behave, it is rare to have rolling confrontations, and the reader is left in no doubt what her real opinion of Jo was.

The Escape was a thrilling read; it is definitely one of those books to open and then hold on tight and enjoy each and every page.

I’d like to thank the publishers Avon Books for my copy of The Escape which was published on 23 March 2017. This unbiased review is my thanks to them.

First Published UK: 23 March 2017
Publisher: Avon Books
No of Pages:  433
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Books by C.L. Taylor

The Accident
The Lie
The Missing