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

In the Dark – Cara Hunter

Crime Fiction
5*s

This is the second in the series by Cara Hunter featuring DI Adam Fawley. It might be set in Oxford but we have quite a different type of detective, crimes and characters than those who featured in Inspector Morse.

DI Adam Fawley falls into the breed of likeable detective. As you’d expect, he has some baggage, but in his case his past is one that is only likely to illicit sympathy. We learn a little more about him following on from his first outing Close to Home but his story is very much in the background, the foreground is most definitely the crimes committed in the quiet Oxford street where a woman and a young child are found locked in a basement.

The woman Vicky and child are starved and thirsty and severely traumatised, Vicky not speaking at all at first and with the owner of the house, Dr William Harper, is denying all knowledge of them the police are up against it trying to work out who the prisoners are, and more importantly how long and why they’ve been locked up. In their search for clues they realise that the house backs onto the garden of the home of a missing woman called Hannah Gardiner.

There are lots of characters who all add rich detail to what becomes an investigation into the two women, and of course the child who is too young to be able to tell them anything. The police team of course consists of more than DI Fawley and the relationship between the officers is good with Detectives Quinn and Gislingham (Gis) providing a realistic view of how to survive working on such a harrowing investigation.

“Gis, who has always been exceptionally good at knowing when to stop digging, and Quinn who carries his own set of shovels“

The author has worked hard though to provide a reasonable complement of police, all with distinct personalities which is far more realistic that the older style police procedurals with just a couple of detectives involved in solving a case. Another example that gives this book an up-to-date feel is the full use of the female detectives and supporting police personnel throughout the story. As in real life they are no longer used just to pass hankies these women are involved from beginning to end.

With the use of news reports from BBC Midlands and the like, inserted into the story the author also moves away from the more traditional tale that is told just from one viewpoint, this element is built upon with transcribed interviews, including from those living in Frampton Road. These are brilliant, the author telling us so much about the area from both the content and the words used.

This, as was the first book, is a fast-paced police procedural with the author liberally sprinkling her story with red-herrings to keep her reader’s guessing and I for one lapped it all up and I’m eager for the next book by this author to see what dark mystery Oxford will serve up for us next.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Penguin Books UK who allowed me to read an advance copy of In the Dark. This unbiased review is my thanks to them and of course Cara Hunter for keeping so thoroughly entertained if a little traumatised by what was waiting for me on this visit to Oxford!

First Published UK: 12 July 2018
Publisher: Penguin Books UK
No of Pages: 448
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Lisa Jewell Novels

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

No Further Questions – Gillian McAllister

Psychological Thriller
5*s

Well the fabulous Gillian McAllister is back with another book that will make you think. Whilst this isn’t quite such an obvious moral dilemma as in her first two books, it constantly begs the questions ‘What would I do?’ and just as importantly, ‘How would I feel?’

There’s a trial, oh how I love a fictional trial, all the drama and none of the boring bits. There are two sisters; Martha and Becky. Martha is married to Scott and they had a daughter Layla who died at just eight weeks old. When Layla died, Becky was in charge informally employed by her elder sister as a nanny while she was in Kos setting up a base for a charity schooling refugees.

The prosecution say that Becky is responsible for Layla’s death. Becky is pinning her hopes on the trial to answer the questions about what happened to her daughter that fateful night. And don’t let us forget the mother of the opposite sides. What a position to be in. How does a mother comfort both daughters in such a situation.

As in all of her previous books Gillian McAllister makes statements about society as a whole. Yes the trial is concentrated on the night in question but what the media want to know is why Martha wasn’t there. The same question isn’t directed to Scott because as this book demonstrates, men are seen as irrelevant in this type of scenario. To be fair, Scott also feels guilt at being away, but he’s not held accountable by the public in the same way.

We learn all this from the narration by the two sisters, alternated throughout this gripping book. We hear about their views of themselves, their relationship with each other, their memories, their fears and of course their view of the court case. The endless wishing and hoping makes this book an exhausting read at times, but oh so worth it, I simply wasn’t prepared to part with it for a moment.
The characterisation is spot on with neither sister presented as flawless individuals, both are complex, like you are I. But of course a court case has lots of other characters to explore, , the ex-husband of Becky, their son Xander, the nosy neighbour and the Defence and the Prosecution, both strong women who look at the evidence and present it to the jury in a different way. I particularly liked the Judge and his faithful dog Rumpole, even he is given a bit of a back story to bring him to life.

I can’t stress quite how powerful a read this is. Like Martha I didn’t want to believe Becky was guilty as charged, but sifting through the same evidence as the jury even given fonder memories of the pair augmented by those of their brother Ethan, how could it be anything but. The power comes from a family breaking apart, the loss of Layla to them all, their divided alliances and the feeling that nothing will ever be the same again makes it a sad read too.

I now have to say a huge thank you to Penguin for allowing me to read a copy of No Further Questions. This review is my unreserved, and unbiased, thanks to them and Gillian McAllister for another memorable read. Even better the eBook is at available at an absolute bargain price at the moment, so don’t miss out.

First Published UK: 2 July 2018
Publisher: Penguin
No of Pages: 400
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US (Audible only)

Previous (brilliant) Books by Gillian McAllister

Everything But The Truth
Anything You Do Say

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

Take Me In – Sabine Durrant

Psychological Thriller
5*s

Oh my this is a great summer read which starts with a holiday in Greece!

Marcus and Tess are on holiday, their marriage is a little bit rocky and the place they are staying in isn’t quite what they’d imagined but they do the British thing and dig deep and put on the best face for the sake of their three-year old son, Toby.

Picture the scene, they are on the beach, anyone who’s holidayed with a young child knows that sentence covers lots of preparation with lots to carry before you can even begin to relax. Tess pops off the beach to get changed and by the time she returns back Toby is in the water, face down. Sabine Durrant captures the scene all too well. The panic, horror and worst case scenarios were racing through my mind just as they did his parents from the stuttering view we get as the scene is viewed through their eyes. Sabine Durrant does so much by allowing the reader to fill in the gaps and by giving us the prompts and the space to absorb them this really was one of those scenes that became uncomfortably vivid.

With each chapter told from alternate points of view between Marcus and Tess we learn a lot about them both in the best way because we can’t help but see how they view themselves and what they really think of their other halves.

But back to Toby and the scary moment. Fortunately for them all there is a rescuer in the shape of Dave Jepson. A man holidaying with his own family he swam out to Toby and brought him back to shore. What this story does is eloquently expresses how a traumatic event can have lasting repercussions. In the normal narrative, the scary moment is over, everyone is relieved and life carries on but really it doesn’t. Even more so in this book because after the rescue, and a thank you meal, Marcus and Tessa can’t dislodge Dave from their lives. He keeps popping up and if that wasn’t bad enough for the remainder of the holiday, it becomes a whole lot worse on their return to the UK.

Of course even with the trauma Dave would not have made so many ripples if Marcus wasn’t taking risks in his business life and Tessa didn’t have secrets she most certainly didn’t want to be exposed. All of which makes for a reading experience that is very much like watching a slow motion car crash and then just as you think things can’t get any worse, or our couple can’t make a more stupid decision, it does and they do. When I say the tension rises, it does so almost imperceptibly at first until you turn the page and realise that your heart is pounding!

The characterisation is great, particularly Marcus and Tessa and the book wouldn’t have been so enjoyable if the author hadn’t pitched them as she has. Neither are outright unpleasant but they both do have traits of selfishness, smugness and a sense of entitlement but that’s not so unusual so in short, they are normal people living lives much like you or I or those you know and yet everything changed for them with one visit to the beach.

I love it when a book starts with a killer sentence to pull you in but what will stay with me with this book is the statement at the end… which is actually the underlying story condensed into something I haven’t been able to stop pondering since I finished reading Take Me In.

I’d like to thank the publisher Mulholland Books for allowing me to read a copy of Take Me In, something I was keen to do after having thoroughly enjoyed Sabine Durrant’s previous books. If by some chance you haven’t discovered her yet, you’re missing out.

First Published UK: 28 June 2018
Publisher: Mulholland Books
No of Pages: 352
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Psychological thrillers by Sabine Durrant
Under Your Skin
Remember Me This Way
Lie With Me

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Mount TBR 2018, The Classic Club

Off With His Head – Ngaio Marsh

Classic
2*s

Well before I picked this book as one of my Classics Club Reads, I noted that I did so because although she’s widely acclaimed, she is not an author I’ve actually read which is shocking considering that I consider myself quite widely read in this genre having been a fan since discovering Maigret and Agatha Christie in my childhood. I have to confess on the whole I found this a difficult read which I will attempt to explain.

The setting of the early scene was really well done when we met Mrs Bunz a German woman with an academic interest in folklore visiting the village of South Mardian in order to witness the “Dance of the Five Sons,” a mixture between a mummers play and a sword dance which has been performed in the village for generations at the time of the winter solstice. Fortunately for the time when we met the performers there were five sons all alive to accompany their father, even older, to give the villagers a show. Sadly the snow has kept the audience to a minimum, but no matter, Mrs Bunz is determined to document a rare example of an ancient tradition.

After lots, and lots, and lots, of build-up, through rehearsals and arguments, the dance is performed only for the father to be found with his head cut off at the finale. Shocking stuff indeed!

The villagers on the whole are a strange bunch, characterised by low education and an odd dialect. In short the five sons are portrayed as buffoons, particularly the youngest who has epilepsy causing the other four to endlessly chorus soothing noises whenever he gets agitated. Their father is the blacksmith, William Anderson, known to all as the “Guiser,” an unpleasant fellow who is prone to shouting and who cut off his daughter when she chose to marry someone from a different class to them. I know that this was written in a different time when attitudes were very different, but I found it distasteful because the family were at the heart of the action and even by the end we knew little more about them.

So I already had a problem with the ordinary folk but when you combine that with the way the wealthy of the village both acted and were deferred to by everyone, including our esteemed detective Inspector Roderick Alleyn who was bought in when the local bobbies were unable to decide who, out of the entire village (as they all had a motive for murder) had committed the act. With everyone loudly telling each other to keep quiet or disappearing because they don’t like visitors my main source of tension was created by the very real sense that Inspector Alleyn would don his wellington boots and leave without solving the crime because he seemed a little reluctant to ask the questions that seemed blindingly obvious. Consequently by the time we had the reveal, and the solution to a few more of the little mysteries that had occurred, I’d either worked it out for myself, or I was pretty much past caring.

For all that, I did like the parallels with King Lear, the murder itself was well plotted and the isolation of such a village in winter is one I could easily imagine. Sadly I wasn’t anywhere near as fond of the class obsession the writer enforced on her readers.

Off With His Head is number 30 on The Classics Club challenge list and the sixth of my fifty choices that I’ve read and reviewed.

 

First Published UK: 1957
Publisher: HarperCollins
No of Pages: 288
Genre: Classic Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

Seven Days in May – Kim Izzo #20BooksofSummer

Historical Fiction
3*s

 

The title Seven Days in May refers to the time that Brooke, Sydney and Edward spent on their fated journey from New York to Liverpool aboard the Lusitania, before it was torpedoed by a German submarine in 1915.

Even before we step aboard the luxury line we have a high society wedding in the offing. Edward Thorpe-Tracey, an impoverished owner of a fine estate is to marry Brooke Sinclair who has inherited a fortune from her father. Edward is hoping that the marriage will save the estate and provide a solid future for his disabled sister when he takes on the title Lord Northbrook. Brooke and her younger sister Sydney are dissimilar in many ways and Sydney is in disgrace having been arrested for her suffragette activities. Of course this has to be kept firmly under wraps so not to frighten the groom-to-be.

In a separate storyline we are in England, in Room 40 where codes are cracked and German dispatches are passed up the chain of control. Isabel Nelson has recently joined Room 40 on the helpful reference from her previous employer. She’s worked hard at evening classes to learn secretarial skills and is thrilled to be in the company of the other men and women undertaking such secret work; this young woman with a past feels like she’s making a difference to the war effort.

This is a book that promises a great deal and it certainly made for an interesting read, particularly as the author was moved to write the story having heard the stories of her Great Grandfather’s survival against the odds, of the sinking of the Lusitania as a boy. The story of the ship, the clothes and the taciturn captain all had an authenticity about them but the romantic tales that moved so many other readers fell a bit flat for me. Perhaps, despite all appearances, I am too romantic in that I never quite fully bought in that Brooke’s freedom and money in exchange for a title was the sum of this young woman’s ambition. Nor could I quite buy the fact that young Isabel Nelson was taken under the collective wings of the code-breakers and taught in such a short space of time how to not only transcribe them, but have time on the side to plot ship’s passages and run messages up to the head of the Admiralty himself, Winston Churchill.

For me the most moving scenes were of the tragedy itself. Here the writing really came alive with the scenes on the ship, and in the water having a feeling of authenticity that I had doubted earlier in the book. It was at this point the key characters fully came to life and behaved in a much more realistic fashion too. On balance, despite my reservations about the likelihood of Isabel’s talents being given an outlet so early on, and at that time in history, I preferred the storyline set in Room 40. I find the work carried out here fascinating and of course its origins gave rise to the work carried out at Bletchley Park during the next war, something which has become much better known over recent years. This area of interest was more to my taste than the one between the sisters and the impoverished Lord although I did enjoy meeting some of the hapless travellers on board as well as getting a sense of the safety measures taken given that even before they set sail there was some indication of the intention of the Germans.

Seven Days in May made for an interesting start to my 20 Books of Summer 2018 reading challenge and one that definitely gave me a deeper knowledge of this act which motivated the US to join forces against the Germans in WWI.

First Published UK: 25 April 2017
Publisher: HarperCollins
No of Pages: 362
Genre: Historical Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Conan Doyle for the Defence – Margalit Fox

Non-Fiction
4*s

Conan Doyle for the Defence was a real treat for someone who loves historical true crime and into the bargain I got to know a little more about the creator of Sherlock Holmes.

The true crime is the brutal murder of Marion Gilchrist. A wealthy elderly spinster who lived in a secure apartment, almost paranoid about her precious jewels being stolen. She was pretty much estranged from most of her family and lived with her maid Helen Lambie in a tightly organised fashion as you’d expect from a woman of her class. On 21 December 1908 Helen Lambie left the house to buy the paper and by the time she returned a little more than ten minutes later, her employer was dead. Fortunately Helen, along with the downstairs neighbour had caught a passing glimpse of the murderer and she was also able to identify a missing diamond crescent-shaped brooch.

The police were involved and from the passing of time it is clear to see that the man they pursued, a Jewish man called Oscar Slater, was done for all the wrong reasons. Margalit Fox takes us through the anti-Semitic sentiment of the times and the fear of those immoral trades which Oscar also seemed to be caught up in.

The author also treats us to an explanation of how easy it is to identify the wrong man, especially if the police kindly give some clues as to who they think is the perpetrator of a crime.

To cut a long, but interesting story short, Oscar Slater is convicted of murder and Conan Doyle became interested in the case, but equally interestingly, he didn’t rate the man himself. The author then draws parallels between Conan Doyle’s work as a doctor and the skills needed to solve a crime. Working back from what is known, the symptoms or the body through the absolute facts. Something that didn’t happen with the police work carried out in Glasgow when Marion Gilchrist’s body was found! There are also parallels between Conon Doyle’s deductive skills (I’m not going to mention the lengthy explanation on how he actually practiced abduction) and those of his fictional detective which the author ascribes to his mentor at medical school who used his own keen observations to work out a person’s profession, address and other details from the mud on his shoe or the amount of lint on his hat.

I was absolutely fascinated by this read, there was a lot of information and one couldn’t help but wonder how Oscar coped with nearly two decades of being in Petershead prison with his family far away in Germany. When you consider he had no correspondence with them for the entirety of the WWI his fortitude is even more astounding.

Of course any book of this nature can if care is not taken to take an incredulous tone, it is after all easy to be wise at this distance of time, but the author did keep any such observations relevant to the time of the crime, relaying the disquiet of the wider public once the initial hysteria had died down. All in all this was a sad episode in criminal justice and it is thanks to Conan Doyle that the case was re-examined. Interestingly Oscar Slater was one of the reasons that the appeals court was set up. One of many, many interesting facts I learnt from Margalit Fox!

I’d like to thank the publishers Profile Books for allowing me to read an advance copy of Conan Doyle for the Defence which was published on 21 June 2018.

First Published UK: 21 June 2018
Publisher: Profile Books
No of Pages: 344
Genre: Non-Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Death of Mrs Westaway – Ruth Ware

Psychological Thriller
4*s

Well that was a creepy read! It is odd but somehow I always associate the creepy aspect with historical novels, after all we are too aware of the present in modern times to get spooked by an old crumbling house complete with scary housekeeper, aren’t we?

Ruth Ware is one of those writers who really knows how to create an atmosphere and so even though the greater part of this book is set in the present and that in the past only dates back to 1995, I was drawn into a world of the improbable with barely a question.

Hal (Harriet) Westaway is broke. Not the sort of broke that afflicts most twenty-somethings on a regular basis but the sort that means she is in danger of losing the only home she’s ever known, and perhaps not without damage since she’s in hock to a loan shark. She returns home one night to find a letter, one from said loan shark (or one of his mates) and one from a solicitor in Penzance who claims to have a bequest from her Grandmother who has recently died. Only problem is that Hal’s grandmother wasn’t Hester Westaway and she certainly didn’t live at Trepassen House before she died.

Of course we take a trip to Trepassen House for ourselves and find a property that is almost a character in its own right. It’s the full gothic experience complete with barred windows and secret messages and of course the very creepy housekeeper. Not quite what Hal is used to. Ok she may be in dire straits money wise but she plies her trade in reading Tarot cards on Brighton pier and her home is the only one she’s ever known. That’s not to say Ruth Ware doesn’t impress on her readers the difference of this seaside pier in the winter time, having its very own atmosphere. Safe to say she’s slightly out of her depth in this situation. Hal’s mother died and it’s her business Hal has inherited but her mother wasn’t one to mince her words, always reminding Hal:

Don’t fall into the trap of believing your own lies.

This story despite obviously being set in the present, something the author embraces rather than tries to disguise, has an old-fashioned quality to it. The sense of danger is only all too imaginable when you put yourself in the shoes of a young woman with no money even if she is someone who is not an out-and-out innocent. Normally I find myself getting highly irritated by characters who do stupid things – I’m sat tutting and shaking my head saying ‘well what did you think was going to happen?’ but somehow this author had me bought into the storyline so that, under the circumstances, the decisions seemed plausible. There are shades of Daphne Du Maurier and Patricia Highsmith but fear not this story is an original.

I can’t leave this review without stating quite how brilliantly Hal is portrayed. This definitely isn’t a one-dimensional character, she is made of shades of grey with all the complexities that real people have, something she is never more aware of than when she is reading the tarot cards for her eager audiences.

I highly recommend this book which is perhaps more suited to an autumnal evening with the rain lashing down, but fear not, I was chilled despite lying in the sunshine devouring every last word of this masterpiece.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers Random House UK who allowed me to read an advance copy of The Death of Mrs Westaway which is published today. This unbiased review is my thanks to them and of course Ruth Ware for the thoroughly entertaining read.

First Published UK: 28 June 2018
Publisher: Random House UK
No of Pages: 400
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Peacock Summer – Hannah Richell

Contemporary Fiction
4*s

An old lady, an older house and peacocks! That alone was tantalising enough for me want to know more, and just look at that stunning cover! So I’m delighted to say this story didn’t disappoint at all, in fact it took me off to a mysterious manor with secrets at its heart.

Maggie is summoned back to her sojourn in Australia to the news that her Grandmother Lillian Oberon has been admitted to hospital. Seeing her beloved Grandmother, the woman who has raised her since she was tiny, begging to be allowed to spend the rest of her days at Cloudesley, her home in the Chiltern Hills, Maggie resolves to be on hand. No matter that what happened before her flight to Australia has made her something of a person non grata in the village of Cloud Green. She’s shocked to find a house has deteriorated further in her absence and is now in dire need of some monetary input, money it appears that simply isn’t available. But a promise is a promise…

As Lillian recovers back at home her mind continually returns to memories of the year 1955 when as a young bride she was dealing with the night terrors, and worse, that her husband Charles suffered with. The entrance of a young artist Jack Fincher brings colour into her life as he spends the summer turning the old nursery into a jewellery box of a room with his Trompe-l’œil designed to show off the treasures of Cloudesley to their best advantage.

For some reason the start to my summer reading has involved quite a few books detailing domestic violence of various degrees and in various time periods and this belongs firmly in that bracket. Lillian is a second wife who believes, or is made to believe that she is inferior to the first. Charles has rages bought on perhaps by the war but Lillian, as is commonly the case, is trapped. Even though by this time divorce was possible Lillian feels compelled to look after Albie, Charles’s son and to ensure that the private care given to her sister is continued. It isn’t always fear that keep those binds so tight. This aspect gives what could otherwise be considered a light read, a darker edge and pleasingly a different angle to this dual time-line read (something that I think makes for the perfect escape to the past whilst keeping the present in focus.)

Maggie’s story whilst more recognisable in many aspects also touches on the darker side. Albie her father has been inconsistent and there is that shadowy event that hasn’t been forgotten, least of all by her.

Not only is this an original tale, full of splendour and visual effects, it is also peopled by those characters that you wish you could meet in real-life. I admired Lillian, wanted to see Jack’s creations and had a certain amount of respect of Maggie’s determination. This is a book where you feel the plotting has been meticulously carried out with none of false tension created by devices clearly planted to spin the mystery out. Yes, I know these are often necessary but it is lovely not to be jolted away from the story with them planted conveniently at the end of each chapter.

I can’t leave this review without admiring the ending, more than that I can’t say without spoiling the book for other readers…

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers Orion who allowed me to read an advance copy of The Peacock Summer. This unbiased review is my thanks to them and the hugely talented Hannah Richell.

First Published UK: 28 June 2018
Publisher: Orion
No of Pages: 400
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

 

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

Us Against You – Fredrik Backman

Contemporary Fiction
5*s

Last year I read a book about hockey. I made the point that I don’t like hockey but I did love the book called at that time The Scandal but now better known as Beartown. I will leave you booklovers to imagine my excitement when I heard there was to be a follow-up book and even greater pleasure when I was able to turn the pages of Us Against You.

We are back in Beartown primarily to see how a town that lives for its hockey is getting on after the shocking events in the first book. Do not read this book if you haven’t read the first one because you will be missing out on a very special experience indeed.

“The greater the mistake and the worse the consequences, the more pride we stand to lose if we back down. So no one does.”

I’ll be honest, there isn’t one big event in Us Against You and because of that it confirmed to me that Fredrik Backman’s strength is in his characters. Beartown might be small but it is full of characters of all descriptions and yet this author has loving created many of them so well that you will be drawn to those that maybe in real life you simply wouldn’t take the time to get to know. Of course the delight for me was meeting up with some old favourites.

Top of the list is Peter Anderssen the General Manager of Beartown Hockey team who has held onto his position until now but there are moves afoot to only have one hockey team in the region and that honour looks like being conferred on Hed – so it is the Bulls against he Bears. In the way that life often goes, the instant drawing up of direct competition means that hatred spreads in its wake as passions are roused to even higher levels.

“The worst thing we know about other people is that we’re dependent upon them. That their actions affect our lives. Not just the people we like, but all the rest of them: the idiots.”

We therefore have Peter’s wife Kira still struggling for her time to shine in her career, his daughter Maya and his son Leo. We see the old hockey coach and the boys who played hockey who mainly switched teams to Hed. Interesting to see how that plays out over a summer when hockey isn’t played, it’s planned. Switch scenes to the five uncles sat in the Bearskin pub where Ramona is still a steady presence in a changing world.

“At some point almost everyone makes a choice. Some of us don’t even notice it happening, most don’t get to plan it in advance, but there’s always a moment when we take one path instead of another, which has consequences for the rest of our lives. It determines the people we will become, in other people’s eyes as well as our own.”

Enter the snakelike politician Richard Theo who decides to use hockey although he seems to like the sport just as much as I do to win. Winning is more important to Richard than anything else it seems and his snaky dealings could make him a pantomime villain but again, the author has given him just enough depth that I was able to resist hissing every time he appeared.

“Lies are simple; truth is difficult.”

I loved this book, perhaps not quite as much as The Scandal but a great deal. I think these books are among the most quotable of modern books, there are truisms that are expertly woven into a story that will have you experiencing tragedy one moment and wondering at the strength of character of another the next. Everyone in Beartown has a story to tell and Fredrick Backman tells it to us with the love of his creation illuminating the world even when its facing destruction.

I’d like to thank the publishers Penguin UK for allowing me to read a copy of Us Against You ahead of publication on 14 June 2018. A beautiful read of ordinary lives which had me cycling through the entire range of emotions. This unbiased review is my thanks to them.

First Published UK: 14 June 2018
Publisher: Penguin UK
No of Pages: 448
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

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

Cry for Help – Steve Mosby

Crime Fiction
4*s

A woman’s body is found. She hasn’t been stabbed or shot, instead she has been tied up and left to die of dehydration. Somehow seems far more brutal, and what on earth is the motive?

Dave Lewis is a man with plenty of baggage, his brother died as a child and his parents were consumed with grief. He works a magician and denounces those mediums who he feels preys on those like his parents, desperate to have some contact with their loved ones. Dave narrates his part of this story in the first person and we soon learn that tragically one of victims is known to him. He’s consumed with guilt that he didn’t try to find out how she was. How in this day and age where we are connected electronically to each other can people in your life fade so quickly into the background?

The detective is Sam Currie who has his own baggage to deal with. He has to put all of that to one side though and try and work out who the killer is and what they are trying to achieve. When a woman gets in contact pointing the finger at a suspect, he follows the lead, but is it the right one?

With the bulk of the book told from the third person covering the investigation and the other aspects to the case, it is fair to say this is a complex, and dark story. This multi-threaded story has a reoccurring theme of responsibility. Obviously our detective has responsibility for finding the killer, particularly one as twisted as this individual seems to be. But was Dave responsible for the death of his brother? Is it really up to him to stop the charlatans profiting from the grief-stricken, or should he allow those who want to believe so desperately to find solace where they can? On the much broader note, are we as a society less connected to each other than we were before the massive advancement of technology. Perhaps actually seeing your friends with your own eyes is more reliable than receiving a text message and assuming all is well. What happens though if that message isn’t sent by your friend and actually they are far from well? How do we know? This theme is meticulously carried through the book, and I do like books that make me reflect in this type of way.

That’s not to say Cry for Help isn’t a satisfying crime fiction novel in its own right, it is with plenty of action, twists and turns and red-herrings and expert plotting to hold this reader’s attention. I have to admit it did take me a while to settle into the style and work out what on earth is happening. I’m not particularly squeamish normally but I did find the descriptions of the girl’s deaths disturbing to say the least. I’m not always entirely sure where the line is between being inventive and going too far but I’d say this was on that very line!

This is the second book I’ve read by this author, the first being Black Flowers, another disturbing and memorable read and I bought Cry for Help after reading that one back in 2011. So you’ve guessed it, this is also a read for my Mount TBR Challenge 2018 being the 20th book I’ve read since 1 January 2018 from my own bookshelves purchased before 31 December 2017.

First Published UK: 2008
Publisher: Orion
No of Pages: 288
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US