Posted in Book Offers, Book Review, Five Star Reads

Degrees of Guilt – HS Chandler

When I spied an excellent review for this book on Chocolate’n’Waffles blog, I knew I had to get a copy to read for myself. Now I have to confess I haven’t read any of the author’s books written under the name Helen Fields although I do have the first book in Human Remains, the first in the DI Callanach series on my kindle. But like any dedicated bookworm, I know what I like and right near the top of the list is books set in a courtroom and not far behind are ones that pose a moral dilemma.

Maria is in the dock. No shades of grey are instantly apparent, her husband the eminent ecologist Edward Bloxham is dead. She called the police and greeted them on the front drive holding the weapon, a broken chair leg.
Lottie Hiraj is on the jury she’s a young mother and deep down the chance to do something other than keep house for a while is a little bit appealing. But can casting judgement on another person’s life be something that you can do without it changing you?

The majority of the book is set in Bristol Crown Court either in the court itself or in the jury room where the twelve selected members of the public are sequestered while they wait for the next act and ultimately go to make their judgement. What happens in between is both insightful with hefty dashes of surprise as the author.

I loved the entire premise as much as I hoped I would. This courtroom drama was spot on even though the author took the more difficult route by giving us an opening where we see the immediate aftermath of Edward’s murder. The peek into the life of Maria and Edward is fascinating and disturbing in equal measures. This book was written after some recent changes to the law and therefore hopefully a shift in society’s awareness of the issues. The characters are well drawn, mainly multi-layered and fairly diverse in their backgrounds– just what the jury system is supposed to deliver? Of course the perpetrator and the jury aren’t the only main players we also have the barristers, a psychologist and the police making their point, bringing their own thoughts into the courtroom to be held up for inspection. Interestingly the author borrows from the court system to tell her story but doesn’t get too hung up on all the legalities to make the story work, those who are sticklers for true representation may find this hard to take.

What I didn’t expect was that the book was far less straightforward than I expected, parallels are subtlety drawn between Maria’s life with Edward and Lottie’s with her husband Zain which made me feel quite uncomfortable at times but fear not this isn’t a book which depends upon something quite so obvious, there is far more to this story than you might think! In fact this is the first book in an absolute age that I didn’t want to be parted from, and while that may be partly down to timing, I can’t deny that biggest reason is because it is a gripping tale.

I was lucky enough to receive an ARC for Degrees of Guilt from the publishers Trapeze, this unbiased review is my thanks to them, and the author – be assured I will be reading Perfect Remains before too long!

 

First Published UK: 16 May 2019
Publisher: Trapeze
No of Pages: 368
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Blood Orange – Harriet Tyce

Psychological Thriller
3*s

We have a lawyer and an affair both of which led me to believe that perhaps we would also have a story in the vein of Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty but apart from both featuring a piece of fruit in the title there wasn’t an awful lot that the two had in common.

Anyway in Blood Orange we have Alison a woman who has the high-powered job, a husband, Carl, a young daughter, Mathilde, and a lover, Patrick … and to top it all off she has finally got her very first murder case to take to trial.

And I suppose this is the crux of the problem I had with the book. Harriet Tyce practiced as a criminal barrister for over a decade, she therefore has the knowledge to bring realism into the fictional scenes surrounding her defence of a Madeline Smith who is accused of killing her husband. Sadly most of this aspect of the book is overtaken by Alison’s car-crash of a personal life.

Alison is what is termed a ‘flawed’ character and I partly blame myself for ignoring this flag when choosing a new book to buy because while I can enjoy a novel even if I don’t like a character, I’m not nearly as keen on those who act against their own perceived best interests. I am fairly confident that in real life you have to be smart and strong to become a barrister, Alison appeared to be neither – the fact that the scenes with her lover took submission to a whole new level could be potentially be excused as part of a type of relationship but she was a pathetic mother, a whiny wife and yet did nothing to improve any facet of her home life. Instead the only thing Alison seemed good at was drinking and sadly I don’t find that fun to witness, or even read about.

So that’s what I found less than convincing but I did read the entire book in part to find how the trial went for Madeline, and to see whether Alison could stop her self-destructive behaviour long enough to see how toxic most of the people in her life were. So while the psychological angle wasn’t quite what I expected this was a study of deeply troubled people and could be a text book study of all the varied abusive relationships to be encountered.

This is one dark book and perhaps if I’d been fully prepared for just how dark it was going to be, I would have approached it with a different mind-set and possibly enjoyed it more as a result.

 

First Published UK: 21 February 2019
Publisher: Wildfire
No of Pages: 336
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

The Ex – Alafair Burke

Crime Fiction 5*s
Crime Fiction
5*s

Those of you who read my blog regularly have probably realised that my preferred location for crime fiction is the UK and although I’m not adverse to fiction from other lands per se, when it comes to how crimes are investigated and tried, I tend towards the UK. I have however recently got (belatedly) hooked on the TV series, The Good Wife, which has given me my sole grounding on the roles of the US defence and prosecution attorneys. So when I opened The Ex and was immediately introduced to the defence attorney, Olivia Randall I felt at home. Olivia is rung by the teenage Buckley Harris to ask her to help her father who is talking to the New York Police Department following a shooting in a nearby park.

Olivia had been in a serious relationship with said Jack Harris and has harboured guilt about the end of their relationship ever since. It is quickly established that Jack was at the park, he’s been caught on CCTV and the police soon come up with what seems like an excellent motive, one of the victims was the father of the boy who shot his beloved wife Molly in a mass shooting three years earlier. Jack with other families caught up in this earlier shooting were suing the father, but this had just been dismissed as no case to answer. Jack is confident all will be ok, after all he has an alibi of sorts, a good if totally bizarre reason to be at the park. Surely this misunderstanding will soon be cleared up?

This novel had me longing to know more with enough dilemmas to keep me questioning, not only whether Jack was guilty or not but also how wise Olivia was to take on the case given their shared background, albeit one that had ended on a sour note some twenty years before. The pace is good with the revelations if not coming thick and fast, in a steady drip so that if you are like me your opinion will change about the main protagonists a number of times before the finale. But best of all for me, was the courtroom drama which was a mirror image of an episode of The Good Wife with Olivia coming up with alternative scenarios to ensure that, despite the seemingly iron-clad evidence the prosecution have unveiled, that Jack will go home to care for his teenage daughter Buckley. All of this isn’t helped that her own investigations make Olivia herself wonder how well she really knows Jack now, and maybe how well she ever knew him.

I’m not going to pretend that I particularly liked many of the characters, they all, including Olivia had something ‘off’ about them, but I don’t read books to become friends with those who inhabit the pages, I read to be entertained, and this book gave me bucket loads of entertainment as well as a mystery to be solved. And yes, for once I had it worked out, not too early on, but satisfyingly not just before it was finally revealed so as well as a cracking good read, I get a pat on the back!

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Faber and Faber who granted my wish on NetGalley which allowed me to read this complex drama that certainly kept my brain working at trying to solve the mystery while giving me a great courtroom drama.

The Ex was published on 2 February 2016 so if this sounds like one you’d enjoy, I suggest you get a copy.