Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Not A Sound – Heather Gudenkauf

Contemporary Fiction
4*s

Heather Gudenkauf’s books fit into a mix of genres leading with a strong element of crime fiction, defiantly thrilling whilst ultimately being triumphantly character but let’s don’t forget they also include issues as well as the spark of romance, all of which provides something for everyone without becoming a jack of all trades and master of none.

Amelia Winn is profoundly deaf following a hit and run accident. Cut adrift from the nursing work she loved she hits the bottle much to the fury of her husband David who needs to be able to trust her with his young daughter Nora. We meet her two years after the accident when out on the river with her service dog, Stitch, she finds a body. What happens next is terrifying and mysterious in equal measures.

The atmosphere in this book is ramped up by Amelia’s isolation, not only through her hearing loss but the fact that she has decamped from the marital home to an isolated cabin where she is slowly trying to pick up the pieces of her shattered life. It is impossible not to feel some sympathy for the poor woman who has cut herself off from her former friends, with only policeman Jake, her brother’s best friend, as a constant in her life. Jake has encouraged her to stop drinking and now she is ready to try to start work again, sadly not as a nurse but she’s applied for an admin job for an oncologist. The two strands build up a real picture of Hannah’s life and I liked the fact that although she had lost the early battles for her true self, she is no victim, she accepts that she could have handled things differently and that the loss of David and Nora in her life is as a direct result of how she acted.

There’s quite a lot going on in this book and I spent the first half or so imagining that the book was going to veer off in a totally different direction than it did but that’s not to say the author cheated the reader, the case was that I thought I knew better! As well as the well-researched hearing loss storyline the author, inspired by her son’s cancer, the strand that takes us into the files that Hannah works on as she updates the surgeon’s records. And of course at the heart of the book is a solid mystery. Who is the murderer and what was their motive?

I raced through this book and enjoyed the variety as well as the strong characters and exceptionally visual descriptions that the author paints for the reader. Although I felt there were a few occasions when the author repeated Hannah’s thoughts to ensure her readers got the point this was nicely balanced by the brilliant action scenes where the author gently reminds us how Hannah’s hearing loss means she has extra obstacles to overcome. With an ending that deliberately doesn’t sew up all the loose ends this book had a real feel of realism to it, which is always a bonus.

I have enjoyed so many of Heather Gudenkauf’s books, each one telling a very different story but all having a solid plot, great pacing and best of all being utterly compelling.

I’d like to thank the publishers HQ for allowing me to read an advance copy of Not A Sound, this review is my unbiased thanks to them.

First Published UK: 30 May 2017
Publisher: HQ
No of Pages: 352
Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Amazon UK
Amazon US

Books by Heather Gudenkauf
The Weight of Silence (2009)
These Things Hidden (2011)
One Breath Away (2012)
Little Mercies (2014)
Missing Pieces (2016)

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Beast of Jersey – Joan Paisnel

True Crime 3*s
True Crime
3*s

This is an interesting book about the crimes of Edward Paisnel known as Ted, who was imprisoned for thirty years in 1971 for a string of sex offences on the island of Jersey. Those of you who visit my blog regularly will know that this is where I live and of course I’d heard of ‘The Beast’ over the years but I hadn’t read this book, written by his wife (although it was ghost written by two journalists Alan Shadrake and John Lisners)

The crimes committed by Ted Paisnel (pronounced Paynel) spanned eleven years and as his later modus operandi was to sneak into the bedrooms of children and take them outside to assault them the islanders were, as you can imagine terrified with some allegedly going to sleep with guns under their pillows. As the island is only 9 miles by 5 it seems incredible to believe that it took the police so long to apprehend their culprit and this book is in many ways an explanation why Joan didn’t know or suspect what Ted was up to. Of course these crimes were committed throughout the 60s and into the early 70s and life was very different then, crucially in the fact that there was no DNA testing available to the officers and at that time, the dual police system that still operates was run by the Honorary Police who are volunteers from each parish and they are the ones who have to charge a suspect with an offence. The idea is that these volunteers know all the comings and goings within their parish and are therefore able to provide background information but it appears none of these men suspected Ted of the crimes being committed.

In the end Ted was caught by jumping a red light while being followed by a police car – when finally apprehended in what sounds like a terrifying car chase, but as a local and knowing the roads mentioned clearly couldn’t have lasted that long, he was found to have items on his person that were odd, the main one being the mask that so fetchingly adorns this book cover!!

The book isn’t by any stretch of the imagination well-written, it is littered with typos and often repeats itself (maybe as a consequence of the two journalists writing separate parts in a rush to capitalise on the recent lurid headlines?) There is a focus on the ‘black arts’ which Ted was supposedly a member of and apparently there was a big contingent on the island at that time, although no-one else was arrested and Ted never gave any names of other members of this supposed coven. I believe this aspect came from some of the books he owned and a supposed ‘alter’ in a hidden cupboard – which was probably just a space saving device and a convenient place to keep the clothes he wore on his night-time outings, a presence of an ornamental toad was explained by his mistress as a present she’d bought him in a gift shop. Another interesting element is the insistence of Joan that Ted must have suffered from schizophrenia, something that we now know doesn’t only manifest itself in supposedly Jekyll and Hyde behaviour, but probably bought her some comfort and allowed her to live as part of a small community where Ted’s name had become synonymous with evil. There are other interesting snippets to try to explain why when he was so nice to the children at the children’s home that Joan ran with her mother why he committed these awful offences but again unfortunately it is now widely recognised that men that commit these types of crimes don’t usually come with ‘monster’ stamped on their forehead.

I’m not sure that this book would appeal to many people but I did find it incredibly interesting from a local standpoint – I lived in Jersey when Ted was released from prison in the early 90s and remember the controversy caused by his return (as a consequence he moved to the Isle of Wight where he died a couple of years later) It was also interesting to see how difficult policing was forty years ago, even on a small island, because of the limitations of policing at that time without the tools now available nowadays they simply had a variety of descriptions from his victims to go on. That said they gave it a good shot even having detectives seconded to the island from Scotland Yard, ironic really that it was a motoring offence that solved the crime!

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Bridesmaid – Jenny Scotti

Crime Fiction 3.5*
Crime Fiction
3.5*

Kelly a sixteen year old girl is found dead in the woods by her neighbour, Joyce Tennant, who was walking her dog Brandy. Kelly had been a beautiful young girl, and she knew it, but she was only sixteen. The whole of the village of Haddley, in Worcestershire, should have been falling over themselves to disclose all they knew to the police but that isn’t what happens.

The inhabitants of Haddley seem to be mainly made up of women of a certain age who like nothing better than to make snide remarks about each other and to each other! The men consist of the doctor, the vicar, the gardener along with an assortment of husbands. After her body is found, the book jumps back to the week before Kelly’s death where soon becomes clear that she had probably made a few enemies in her short life.

With the police investigations severely held up by a lack clues, due to the intransigence of the locals to give up their secrets, they have to resort to chipping away at the little they know about the villagers. Fortunately, but slowly, the jealousy between the villagers begin to give up some of the truth and the whole sorry tale comes out with quite lot of collateral damage.

I really enjoyed this English murder, there are mysterious links to a twenty year old murder of an elderly film star which gives the reader not one but two mysteries to solve. I did find the number of characters, particularly the coven of spiteful women, was difficult to follow at the start but all soon became clear as their roles in the village became more defined. The ending was inspired and I wasn’t even close to discovering who the murderer was.

This book has something to everyone including some ghostly goings on, a missing locket and adultery, but at its very heart, is a village beset by jealousy and distrust.

I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for this honest review.

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Stolen – Rebecca Muddiman

Crime Novel 4*'s
Crime Novel
4*’s

Abby Henshaw is forcibly removed from her car by two men following a deliberate collision. Her baby daughter Beth is left alone in the car. Before Abby is able to return she disappears. DI Michael Gardner is running the investigation into Beth’s disappearance and uncovers secrets and lies that cause Abby’s life to completely unravel.

This book details the long search for Beth both by DI Gardner who is battling negative publicity from the media as he becomes frustrated at the unresolved mystery. When Abby receives an anonymous tip off on where to find Beth she struggles to make anyone listen not least because DI Gardner now has another missing child to find.

Rebecca Muddiman has written a book moves along at a fair pace with enough twists and turns to keep the reader’s interest although the first few chapters were fairly predictable the tension soon ratcheted up as Abby’s obsession with finding her daughter seemed increasingly futile. A great holiday read.

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Hushabye (A Kate Redman Mystery) (The Kate Redman Mysteries) Celina Grace

Crime 4*
Crime
4*

Hushabye is a classic whodunit; Charlie, a young baby, is kidnapped in the early hours of the morning the nanny is dead but who has would want to take Nick Fulman’s baby – is it just because he is wealthy or does the mystery lie with his trophy wife Z list celebrity Casey?

Kate Redman has just changed jobs and is now Detective Sergeant, needing to become part of the team she has lots of baggage from her past; dealing with this case brings it all back to her and she has to struggle not to throw away her years of success by making emotional mistakes. Celina Grace has created a great character in Kate, her interaction with her colleagues is as well done as her problems with her mother.

This book moves at speed with a few minor continuity and spelling mistakes but is overall a satisfying short read. I would recommend this book as the perfect poolside read.

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Back Road – Rachel Abbott

Psychological Thriller 4*s
Psychological Thriller
4*s

Having really enjoyed Rachel Abbott’s first book Only the Innocent I was keen to see what she would serve up next. The Back Road didn’t disappoint. This is a book of many strands, one of which is the relationship between Ellie Saunders and her younger sister Leo. Leo has come to visit Ellie in her newly renovated house, the house where the girls were bought up with a missing father and cruel mother. Ellie wants to find out where their father is but his relationship with Leo has left her unable to trust men and she would rather leave the past behind.

The other strand centres on the village of Little Melham. This is a village with a number of secrets at its heart. When Abbie is found by the side of the road after a hit and run accident it appears that quite a large proportion of the inhabitants weren’t where they said they were.

There was plenty to keep the me entertained during this 313 page book, with affairs and secrets buried along with a spate of anonymous texts, I raced on to find out what would crawl out of the woodwork next! This book has a great plot and manages not to loose it’s way as the strands wind their way around each other and there were a good number of blind alleys to fool the reader. The ending was satisfying, although for once I had managed to work out who the perpetrator was this didn’t take any of the enjoyment away for me. A satisfying read.