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

Good Friday – Lynda La Plante

Crime Fiction
5*s

Reading Good Friday I realised how much great crime fiction I’ve missed out on by somehow eschewing Lynda La Plante’s previous books. Indeed it was only the pull of going back to the 1970s that persuaded me to watch the recent TV series Prime Suspect 1973 which I think covers the first book, Tennison: Prime Suspect 1973. Anyway I thoroughly enjoyed the TV series so when I was offered this book, I was delighted to accept and prepared myself for a trip back to 1975 when the IRA were active in the UK.

By the time this, the third in the prequels to the Jane Tennsion series, opens Jane is now a Detective working out of Bow Street in London. She’s feeling a little frustrated at being given the lowly jobs and seeking a way to find a route to a more exciting future. She’s still young, still very much trying to break free from her parent’s expectations but old enough to be tiring of life in the Section house. One morning after she’s climbed up the steps at Covent Garden Station (the lift was out of order otherwise unless you want to have the life sucked out of your lungs on the dizzy climb up the spiral staircase, you don’t attempt that climb, I’ve done it once and said never again!) she sees a woman shouting after a man who has left a rucksack. Sadly the rucksack contains a bomb that goes off and Jane immediately is caught up in the aftermath of tending to the injured.

                        Covent Garden Staircase

It is interesting to see that despite being set over forty years ago, the media play a key role in the story. Although Jane is clear that she didn’t get a proper view of the suspected bomber, she goes to a press conference where an e-fit picture is given to the press. Unsurprisingly this puts Jane not only in the firing line of the media attention, but also potentially compromises her own safety.

Through all the mayhem, trauma and fear that follows the bomb explosion, Jane’s new boss in CID is adamant that she should attend the annual CID dinner at St Ermin’s Hotel, so she has a posh dress to find. All of this lends a somewhat congruous edge to the hunt for the bomber as I’m used to reading books where no-one gets leave, certainly time to prepare for a dinner wouldn’t be top priority, and yet in some ways it felt realistic, Jane after all, despite being important as a witness is not part of the main investigation.

                    St Ermin’s Hotel

As well as the investigation into the bombing we see Jane move away from the Section House into a small flat of her own, complete with disasterous room-mate. We see the stringent rules imposed by the Police Service on its officers at that time, and we also get a glimpse of what life was like for a young woman in the capital during the 1970s. Jane hasn’t yet got the steely edge she will acquire later on, but she does show us some of the tenacity and brilliant thinking which will emerge into the light later in her life. Alongside this there is some ingenious plotting so which had me turning the pages faster than the speed of… well as fast as I could read them!

This was a brilliant read by an author whose work I will be belatedly seeking out during 2018 and I’d like to say a huge thank you to Bonnier Zaffre for sending me a copy of Good Friday, this review is my unbiased thanks to them and to Lynda La Plante for a wonderful read.

First Published UK: 24 August 2017
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre
No. of Pages: 400
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

One Bad Turn – Sinéad Crowley

Crime Fiction
4*s

I really do enjoy this series featuring DS Claire Boyle which is based in Dublin partly because her thrillers are bang up to date with elements that are familiar to us all.

In this, the third book in the series, DS Claire Boyle takes centre stage being right at the heart of an incident in a Doctor’s surgery. The story includes the back story, stretching back through the decades, of Dr Heather Gilmore and her childhood friend Eileen Delaney but Eileen has a grudge against the Doctor. So while a gun is being waved around in the surgery in the present the reader has the far happier memories of two girls who were once so close.

This is the fastest moving of the novels in this series but the author doesn’t neglect what I like so much about her books which is that they are realistic with people absolutely at their heart. Claire’s own personal life is ever-present as she juggles life with her husband and young daughter with her single-minded approach to solving cases within the force. Needless to say, as in many families, this can sometimes be a bumpy ride particularly as Mark’s own business is taking off and scheduling in time to look after their child isn’t always easy or possible when in the middle of a major investigation. There are times that Claire can come across as a bit unfeeling in this area but I do think it’s an incredibly realistic portrayal of the lives of so many couples who are building careers or businesses whilst also managing to bring up a child in a loving home.

We are not even over the sit on the edge of the seat read about the incident in the Doctor’s surgery when are then launched into the hunt for a kidnapper and the kidnapped girl, Leah, Heather Gilmore’s nineteen year old daughter. This needs the police to switch from diffusing a difficult situation to solid police-work, but fear not the pace doesn’t let up one iota Claire and her colleague Philip Flynn, along with the rest of the team set about searching for Leah. Phillip Flynn has been injured so can’t go racing about but that doesn’t stop him following up on hunches but there are no wild guesses that solve the crime, my pet hate, this crime will only ever be solved by following up on leads and finding the one with the perpetrator at the end.

I started this review by saying how much I love the very modern aspect of this series and one theme that runs through this book is the rise of the Celtic Tiger, and sadly its very rapid decline. Dublin has a whole host of people caught up in both the boom and bust and the catastrophes that followed are illustrated within this book with such a moving story which for me was by far the highlight of the book especially. This more reflective element was elegantly handled particularly as a back-drop to what is ultimately a fast-paced action paced read.

I received my copy of One Bad Turn from Amazon Vine and it is currently available for kindle readers, the paperback will be published in 2018.

First Published UK: 1 June 2017
Publisher: Quercus
No. of Pages: 352
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Previous Books in the Claire Boyle Series

Can Anyone Help Me? 
Are You Watching Me?

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

The Scandal – Fredrik Backman

Crime Fiction
5*s

Is a book more rewarding if you spent the first section wondering whether or not to put it aside for something that doesn’t revolve around a sport that you have no interest in, only to find yourself completely drawn into the both the story and writing style? Whatever the answer, this is definitely one of my favourite reads of the year despite the uncertain start.

At the beginning of the book we hear shots but soon the action switches to a game of ice hockey. Now I wasn’t a fan of the straightforward hockey on proper ground being much smaller than my peers, no good at running and it was freezing cold, doing the same on ice only has peril written all over it as far as I’m concerned. But through the game we get to meet all the inhabitants of Beartown a small town in Sweden whose whole identity seems to be wrapped up in the game. Man, woman or child, if you live in Beartown then the fortune of your dwelling place depends on the success of the various teams ordered by age, if a little muddied by aptitude.

Those shots I mentioned kept me wondering as the action switched from the ice to the town and back again as young boys were ready to make their mark against the opponents whilst others failed in their efforts. Beartown Ice Hockey team are about to play in the semi-finals, and they want to win.

This book is full of diverse characters albeit a set that are united by their love of the game, or what it can mean for Beartown, a town that has been a long time in the decline. We see the board members sponsors, the coach, the General Manager, the fathers, mothers and sisters of the players as well as the team themselves. We even know a great deal about the woman who cleans the ice rink, the changing rooms and the offices for the club. Everyone is involved in some way or another. But the focus of the book isn’t about the game, or not directly, it’s about something that happened after a game and the consequences on all involved.

As I mentioned at the start of this review, I really wasn’t sure that this was a book for me and yet the writing was at pared down yet eloquent, holding so many truths of life that I wished I had read it when I was younger and still had some of the important thoughts that were shared.

Hate is simple. So the first thing that happens in a conflict is that we choose a side, because that’s easier than trying to hold two thoughts in our heads at the same time. The second thing that happens is that we seek out facts that confirm what we want to believe – comforting facts, ones that permit life to go on as normal. The third is that we dehumanise our enemy…

The writing style alone had me convinced, with phrases and messages carried through from one scene to another – when the book got tough, and it does, the stylistic flair kept the momentum going forward while the reader comes to terms with what has been revealed. There are issues galore and normally when I write that in a review I’m not being complimentary because it can feel as if the author is leaping from bandwagon to bandwagon. That isn’t the case with The Scandal where the issues in the book are tightly linked to the players on a personal level. The author hasn’t offered up platitudes or worst case scenarios, instead the author has a nuanced take and provides what I felt was a balanced path, best of all leaving the reader to come to his or her own opinions.

This is a story of friendship between males and females, yes despite the kernel of the action being a boys ice hockey team, there are some females who are also central to the story. It is also the story of those other major relationships of being a parent, a sibling, or a partner, of being loved and loving others. Most of all this is a tale of how loyalties can be divided and sometimes sitting on the fence isn’t an option. It is in fact a remarkable book that had me in tears more than once.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers Penguin UK who allowed me to read a copy of The Scandal or Beartown if you are a US reader. This review is my unbiased thanks to them and to Fredrik Backman for a remarkable story which I’d love to tell you more about, but it really does have to be read and admired with little or no idea what you will find within its pages. I suspect readers will take away different messages. I feel that this is a book that we should see on school book lists and book clubs across the world.

First Published UK: 10 August 2017
Publisher:  Penguin
No. of Pages:  432
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

When a Killer Strikes – R.C. Bridgestock

Crime Fiction
4*s

This is the eighth in the Jack Dylan series written by a duo who were both involved in the police service jointly for forty-seven years, Carol being a member of the Civilian support staff and Bob retiring as a Detective Superintendent of West Yorkshire Police, so you can be sure what you read within these pages is based on knowledge. That doesn’t mean that we aren’t treated to a mystery, we are, but there are no leaps of faith to get to the answers.

The story starts with, where every good crime drama starts, with a body. This is the body of 14-year-old Patti Heinz a budding gymnast. She was found strangled, at home by her stepfather Elliot Black. Of course he becomes an obvious suspect but the police are also aware that Patti’s mother needs support and so he isn’t hauled off with no evidence but the parents are asked to stay elsewhere and assigned a Family Liaison Officer while the necessary post-mortem and forensic tests are carried out.

The murder investigation couldn’t have come at a worse time for Dylan’s wife Jen as having decided to move house she has viewings booked but no husband to view them with her. It doesn’t take long before she finds the one, an old stationmaster’s house, long abandoned and in need of lots of work.

The plot is tightly woven with the number of suspects soon mounting but without the evidence to link the to the murder the team is stuck so they return to the tried and tested methods of detection, getting to know their victim and retracing her steps through her last days. Will this turn up the clue that will crack the case?

With plenty of likeable characters, apart from the numerous sleazy suspects, of course, the team on the investigation are obviously mutually supportive. Although there is banter, it never crosses the line into cruelty and pleasingly the novel doesn’t go overboard on the underpaid and overworked officers jumping through hoops for those higher up the chain, which although I believe there is far more than a modicum of truth in the reality of policing, less if most definitely more for this reader in the politics of policing.

Unlike many police procedurals the focus isn’t as obviously on the victim’s family, perhaps because the death occurred in their house and they have to be considered suspects we don’t get to see the trauma the aftermath of their daughter’s death with the FLO relaying any pertinent details to the rest of the team, at times their loss is quite remote.

I haven’t all the books in this series, no surprises there, so I can confirm that this works well as a standalone although I may have understood more about the mystery of Dylan’s siblings who are introduced from what I can tell for the first time in this book.

On the whole a solid police procedural without the flights of fancy which lends an air of gravitas as it is clear that some of the side plots are examples of what this dedicated pair of authors met during the time they served in the police force.

I was lucky enough to receive an ARC for When a Killer Strikes from the publishers Caffeine Nights Publishing and this unbiased review is my thanks to them and the authors.

Carol provided a post sharing her favourite childhood books which you can read here.

First Published UK: 29 October 2017
Publisher: Caffeine Nights Publishing
No. of Pages:  256
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

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

Sweet Little Lies – Caz Frear

Crime Fiction
5*s

Cat Kinsella is a Detective Constable in the Met, in keeping with the fictional detectives we know and love she does a bit of a shady back-story and is being closely mentored by the SIO DCI Kate Steele after falling to pieces following a recent murder but as we are to find out there is something far darker in her background.

This is a police procedural with a dash of psychological thriller elements and has an overwhelming original feel to it that I was drawn in instantly into Cat’s tale. With the majority of the book set in the present day at the Met following the discovery of a woman’s body in park in Islington, London. What Cat doesn’t tell her fellow officers is that she knows the victim, Maryanne Doyle, or rather knew her, from a holiday to Mulderrin, on the west coast of Ireland back in 1998. Cat was just eight whilst Maryanne was a glamorous teenager who had no time for little kids, unless they had a Tinkerbell necklace that matched her belly button piercing. You’ll have to read the book to find out what that little mystery is about because as the readers find out first-hand through the younger Cat’s eyes as we travel back in time, most convincingly, to an age when Cat was keen on the Spice Girls, adores her father although the secrets they share sometimes make her feel uncomfortable. Why? Well she saw him flirting with Maryanne Doyle before she disappeared sparking a police search, and then he told the police he didn’t know her.

For all the frivolity of the Spice Girls and the like from the 1990s and the appealing character of Cat, at both ages, this book has a complex plot and the investigation throws up all sorts of problems not least when Maryanne’s husband realises that what he thought he knew about her life was false with a capital F. The officer’s biggest problem is to try to sift the truth from the lies. That brings me to the title, none of the lies are ‘sweet’ or even ‘little’ so perhaps Caz Frear should be held accountable for a misleading title? I forgive her though because this is definitely one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read this year. As Cat struggles with her feelings towards her father, her fears that he knows more than he’s letting on this is a portrait of a dysfunctional family that doesn’t go overboard. Instead we are treated  a family who to the untrained eye rubs along as well as most, even if Cat is keen to avoid them over the festive turkey!

The author has balanced the need for memorable characters in the police procedural without letting their lives overshadow the crime itself. Although I was rooting for Caz, I liked this young woman who was living what I imagine is a fairly typical contemporary life, in a room in a house in London, no fancy riverside apartments for our detective! She has split loyalty of the most fundamental kind and so it is easy to wonder not only what she is going to do, but what I would do in the same position.

With brilliant characterisation alongside inspired plotting this is a book that you will not want to put down until you turn that last page. I’m not at all surprised that it won the Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller Competition 2016, it is very hard to believe that a book that ticks all the boxes so decisively is a debut novel.

I’d like to say thank you to the publishers Bonnier Zaffre who sent me a copy of Sweet Little Lies  months ago, before it was first published in June! I’m sorry it took me so long to get around to reading it but belated thanks for allowing me to read such a fresh and inviting book. I can’t wait to see what Caz Frear comes up with next.

Crime fiction lovers, if you haven’t read this book yet it appears to be at an absolute bargain price for the kindle with the paperback version having been published just this week.

First Published UK: 29 June 2017
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre
No. of Pages:  470
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Are You Watching Me? – Sinéad Crowley

Crime Fiction
4*s

Tír na nÓg a drop in centre for men is right at the heart of this, the second book in the Sergeant Claire Boyle series. With the realistic Dublin setting as a backdrop the lonely men who visit the centre make for a refreshing change which more than justly follows up on the author’s debut novel Can Anybody Help Me?

The drop in centre is run by Tom who gave Liz Cafferky a job when she was down on her luck and so she is unable to refuse when he wants her to do a TV interview to raise the profile of the drop-in centre with the aim to garner donations. There’s a downside for Liz though, she has become a bit of a media star and now she’s getting unwanted attention.

Meanwhile Claire Boyle is back at work following her maternity leave and feeling that all too familiar feeling of guilt despite her husband Matt staying at home to mind the baby. That’s until one of the drop-in centre’s regulars is murdered then her mind is focussed on the investigation.

I love this author’s work, it should be classed as a police procedural, after all there is an investigation with a solid mystery with the obligatory red-herrings and devilish plotting but we are also treated to a far more in-depth view of those civilians caught up in the investigation. By that I don’t mean a cursory this is how a major crime investigation impacts my life but we are given full insight into Liz Cafferky’s life beforehand too. This gives the book a totally different feel to the more traditional police procedural, a welcome one that gives this book a feeling of weight. Of course this approach wouldn’t work if the other secondary characters weren’t also fully fleshed out and there is something appealing about the care and compassion shown towards the visitors to Tír na nÓg that had me feeling quite sentimental at times. These are real people, not cardboard cut-outs and the interactions between themselves is as equally heart-warming, on the whole, after all this isn’t a book populated by saints!

You could be forgiven for expecting that with so many character-led scenes that the tension dips as we join the men in a game of cards or a chat but it really doesn’t, the feeling of foreboding is lurking at the edges whilst Liz tries to put her dodgy letters to the back of her mind and wonder instead at her new media personality the reader is still pondering a murder and a stalker so there really is a lot going on! I am thoroughly impressed by the author’s skill at keeping the tension high whilst at times, particularly at the end allowing me the release of the odd tear as that is how much I cared about some of the people I met through this book.

If I had one minor criticism it’s that Claire seems a little bit harder and so a little less approachable than when she appeared in Can Anybody Help Me? but then she’s had a baby, and so her slightly more brusque style is understandable.

This was a brilliantly entertaining crime fiction read that I pulled off my bookshelf as I wanted to read something I fancied for a change, not a review copy and not a book to fit into a certain challenge and it proved to be the perfect ‘because I want to read it’ book.

First Published UK: 2 July 2015
Publisher: Quercus
No of Pages:  352
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

The Last Thread – Ray Britain

Crime Fiction
5*s

I couldn’t help but be intrigued when I was contacted by Ray Britain to see if I would be interested in reading his book with a view to writing a review, not least because this is a book written by someone who has been on the front-line of policing. You can read my interview with Ray Britain here. That’s not to say I didn’t approach the book with some degree of trepidation as the author was at pains to stress that his novel would reflect real-life policing and I wondered if the reality would quash the exciting storylines, after all most of us realise that what we see on TV and read in some (not all) novels can’t possibly reflect the more painstaking aspects of policing in modern Britain. I needn’t have worried at all, the author has the mix of reality and fictional plotting perfectly balanced and the knowledge that this could be ‘real’ made the resulting read more meaningful.

Our protagonist is DCI Doug Stirling and we first meet him on top of a bridge working in a voluntary role negotiating with a youngster who is about to commit suicide. Not the early damp start to the day that anyone would enjoy and yet the author had me in the moment from the first page willing Doug to be able to save a young life. It’s not to be and we see the stress the DCI is under especially when the Police Complaints Commission become involved in what seems like a never-ending investigation into what happened on the fateful day. Doug tries to put it behind him and due to a lack of professional officers he is working on the gruesome death of a man found murdered in a burnt out car but ordered to keep a low-profile while he’s under investigation. This is where the story really hots up and the mystery thickens by the minute, especially when a firm identification of the victim is made.

The Last Thread is an outstanding debut with an exceptional plot which is complex yet not so much so that I ever lost any of the threads, let alone the last one! The characters are well-rounded, perhaps a little too earnest at times but of course they are modelled on those who are dedicated to the job and not the detectives of old with a permanent pint in their hand and a life full of angst to forget. There are a couple of the rottener types of detectives to keep the book spiced up and the author also provides some of the office banter that keeps far less intellectually puzzling working lives turning up and down the country.

Best of all for me is this book is set in Worcestershire, something I was unaware of when I agreed to read it and as those of you who follow this blog know, I love reading books set in places I’m familiar with and my brother lives in Worcester so this book fully qualifies, and passes the test as I could easily recognise some of the settings described so well by the author.

The Last Thread was a great read, I’m delighted to note that the title implies that Doug Stirling will be returning, soon I hope as a book written from someone who has lived the life but can also tell a cracking good tale is just what this crime lover needs.

First Published UK: 17 September 2017
Publisher: Ray Britain
No of Pages: 536
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Death in the Stars – Frances Brody

Crime Fiction
4*s

Set at the time of the solar eclipse in 1927 with a cast of variety hall entertainers we are treated to a splendid mystery of the death of one of their number. Coming close on the tails of two other accidents Kate Shackleton has the job of unravelling the truth.

This is only the second of the Kate Shackleton series I’ve read, this episode being number nine in the series, but so well-drawn are the key characters that I feel I already ‘know’ them well. Kate is a business-like as usual ably supported by former policeman Jim Sykes and her housekeeper cum investigator, Mrs Sugden. Kate is ahead of her times in running her own PI business but not so far out of it that she comes across as unrealistic, there is no doubting that we are in the 1920s.

With show business being the backdrop to this novel we are treated to fabulous singers, ventriloquists, dancers, comics and acrobats all performing under the watchful eye of Trotter Brockett the man in charge of the whole shebang. Being of a cautious nature when Selina the star of the show is invited to watch the eclipse at Giggleswick School in Yorkshire he gives his permission on the proviso that she is back in time for a rest before the evening show. Selina invites her co-entertainer Billy Moffatt to accompany her and asks Kate to arrange transport, by helicopter no less. Selina is from an Italian family who are big in the ice-cream business and is a fantastic singer drawing crowds to the kind of show that is beginning to feel the threat of the moving picture especially as rumours about that soon the pictures will be accompanied by sound. Anyway the helicopter ride to Giggleswick is to follow a party at Selina’s house which is full of showbiz glamour and the trio joined by journalist who are attending to write a piece and to take pictures of the momentous occasion set off. Sadly tragedy strikes and Kate is employed to find out what happened, and of course why.

Although this is definitely at the cosy end of the crime fiction genre, it isn’t all lightness, jokes and fluff. The historical details set this apart with an appearance in this book of soldiers who fought in WWI and the injuries physical and mental that they returned with. But don’t fear not, there is a solid mystery, complete with the obligatory red-herrings to keep the reader entertained as Kate turns down blind-alleys in a bid to find out if the suspicious death that occurred on her watch was murder or not.

With more than a nod to the Golden Age writers the ending is spot-on in its execution with all the panache you’d expect from a showbiz tale which gave this reader no end of satisfaction even though, for once, I’d worked out (or luckily guessed) which of the many colourful characters should be in the hot seat for thorough questioning.

I was very grateful to receive a copy of Death in the Stars from the publishers Little Brown and this review is my unbiased thanks to them and to Frances Brody for thoroughly entertaining me with her latest Kate Shackleton story.

First Published UK: 5 October 2017
Publisher: Little Brown 
No of Pages: 400
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

The Kate Shackleton Series

Dying In The Wool: 2009
A Medal For Murder: 2009
Murder In The Afternoon: 2012
A Woman Unknown: 2013
Murder on a Summer’s Day 2013
Death of an Avid Reader 2014
A Death in the Dales 2015
Death at the Seaside 2016
Death in the Stars 2017

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

Silent Voices – Ann Cleeves

Crime Fiction
4*s

Having returned to the Vera series with Silent Voices after far too long a break I welcomed this unattractive, blunt and uncompromising woman into my life not in any small part due to her brilliant detection skills.

The victim in this book is a social worker, found dead in a sauna by our very own Vera, yes an unlikely habitat for our steely detective, but even Vera realises she is mortal and had taken the advice to get some exercise and swimming appealed the most.

Vera is very much hoping that Jenny Lister died of natural causes but it isn’t to be and I chuckled to watch her brazen it out to her colleagues who were called to the scene to investigate the murder, not that they’d let even the merest whisper of surprise escape their lips in front of the formidable Detective Inspector.

Ann Cleeves gives us a puzzle with plenty of suspects, nearly everyone who appears could be viewed with suspicion, whilst managing to be thoroughly entertaining at the same time. With characters to become involved with, not least Vera’s sidekick, Joe Ashworth who finds Vera’s demands are in direct conflict with those of his wife during the course of this book this really does fit the bill as a modern police procedural. The sub-genre is one where I firmly believe the key investigator, in this instance Vera, needs to move the investigation along, despite real-life, this isn’t really a team sport and certainly not easy when the clues seem to point in different directions. Vera is the power behind the investigation without relegating her colleagues to idiots, they are just don’t shine quite as brightly as she does! The other secret of a success in this genre is to ensure the reader is invested in the investigation and the asides to the rest of the team are inserted just often enough to make sure that everything is explained well without ever entering that dangerous whiff of being patronising.

I like my crime books to have some humour and Vera’s very dry variety fits the backdrop of murder incredibly well with the perspective changing from third person to first so that we ‘hear’ Vera’s opinions in the raw so to speak, as well as watch others jump to attention to do her bidding, she really is an imposing character. I’m also a fan of probing the stories behind the headlines and at the time of publication of Silent Voices, there were lots of stories in the UK papers about Social Workers and their perceived failings. The author is thereby allowing the readers to feel they had their finger on the pulse of the debate whilst also encouraging a look at the issues from a number of viewpoints, not distilled into a bald headline which can’t ever take in the complexities of the whole issue.

One of the biggest draws of this particular lead character is her undisguised love of the drama of a murder investigation which really pulls the story forwards and how refreshing to have a Detective inspector who isn’t so hung up on the politics of the force that she is afraid to take risky decisions. The plot is unbelievably tangled with the reader needing to concentrate almost as much as Vera on the minutiae of information to be even within a whisker of a chance of solving the crime, and it is brilliantly executed – no saggy middle for Vera Stanhope, well not in the book although I would imagine stumbling across a dead body in the sauna is probably gives her just the excuse she wants to hang up her swimsuit!

I was delighted to read Silent Voices as my twenty-fifth read in the Mount TBR challenge, especially as I realised that I originally purchased this book way back in May 2012! The bonus is that I am lagging behind having just read number four in the series so have four more to enjoy to catch up!

mount-tbr-2017

 

 

First Published UK: 4 February 2011
Publisher: Macmillan
No of Pages:  384
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Blackbird Season – Kate Moretti

Crime Fiction
4*s

This taut claustrophobic mystery is preceded by a hundreds of starlings falling from the sky during a baseball match giving the inhabitants of Mt. Oanoke in Pennsylvania something to talk about until a much bigger story comes along.

The bigger story is just as unwelcome as having the pitch covered with the corpses of birds. Nate Winters popular teacher is accused of something terrible. Nate isn’t just popular with his pupils, the parents love him, and he is one of their own. Alecia his wife doesn’t know what to believe and nor does his best friend Bridget but this is a story that isn’t going to fade away.

This is a slow-burner of a novel and although it isn’t confusing, there is an awful lot to get to grips with, including child neglect, grief, autism, self-harming, bullying and the list goes on while in the foreground the reader experiences through a man accused, wrongly in his assurances to anyone who will listen, and the way this has a ripple effect throughout the whole town.

This is a book that takes you into a modern school somewhere whose setting is familiar to many but the division of students happens on social media as well as in the classroom. The sympathetic teacher who persuades these near adults to write journals doesn’t have the context of those who follow their lives in this hidden world where alliances are made and rumours strengthened to reality.

I love small town settings and the author really does bring Mt Oanoke to life. This former thriving town where so many of the inhabitants were employed by the mill is now a shadow of its former glory and it’s hardly surprising that many of the teenagers are looking for an escape route. This is a place where eyes are everywhere, except of course when they are needed to see the importance of what is going on, a place where the accused stays with a local police officer as he has nowhere else to go and a place where what happens in the school has consequences for the whole community.

The storyline switches backwards and forwards, fortunately not over a huge time-scale but enough for each of our four main protagonists; Nate, Alecia, Bridget and Lucia to give some background to their reality as well as providing some context for the main storyline. This is a great technique for providing the reader with plenty of different opinions and scenarios to mull over, but possibly it caused it to become overly wordy in places although there is no doubting it helps to add layers of tension and an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness for all four characters which of course is echoed by the setting itself.

I was caught up in the plot, I wanted to know what had happened, and not just to those birds, and as the story wove itself backwards and forwards it was clear that very little of the storyline could be divided into black and white and certainly not the characters.

I’d like to say a big thank you to Titan Books who provided me with a copy to read for review purposes.

First Published UK: 26 September 2017
Publisher: Titan Books
No of Pages: 384
Genre: Crime Fiction
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