Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Before I Let You Go – Kelly Rimmer

Contemporary Fiction
4*s

Now I do sometimes struggle with what’s known as ‘women’s fiction’ and more so when a book has a message, this falls into both categories but despite some reservations, there was lots to enjoy and think about.

Lexie and Annie are sisters, and in the middle of the night, after two years with no contact Annie rings Lexie asking for help. Annie is an addict and she’s pregnant. Annie is also very ill and needs to go to hospital but if she does she could be charged with child endangerment because of the drugs she’s taken.

Here lies the message with the author urging the reader to see that this isn’t the right approach for the law to take over addiction, which we are reminded frequently, is an illness and therefore if helped the women can turn their lives around and care for their children.  Personally I think this is a far from black and white issue but I will say no more on the subject, if you want to ponder on this further, this is the book to make you do so.

That off my chest the book takes us back to the girl’s childhood which includes loss and moving to a cult. This part is told through Annie’s eyes in a journal she writes to her therapist and it’s not only incredibly moving, expertly creating a whole world of confusion for the young girl which felt realistic. Through Annie’s journal which we read excerpts from throughout the novel we learn more about her descent into drugs, this too with no personal experience of the matter also felt highly authentic. Kelly Rimmer knows how to tell a story convincingly and I defy anyone not to have their heartstrings pulled by Before I Let You Go.

Lexi is a doctor, the older sister who had the same upbringing but her approach as a child was different and of course even siblings do not necessarily have the same reactions to each other. Lexi had always cared for Annie and the bond between the two is again created in full technicolour.

Before I Let You Go is an emotional read and I have to admit even though I despised the choices she made, in many ways I felt far more of a connection with Annie than Lexie. Lexie was just a little too perfect for me and I could see how being her younger sister would cause some ‘issues’ To make matters more complicated Lexie is planning to marry Sam, another doctor and someone else that had good person running thorough his core like a stick of rock. Lexie’s need to be independent causes issues between the couple, and if I were Sam I would probably have stated my case far earlier and more strongly than he did.

So a book about relationships in the main those between siblings and their parents viewed through the interesting angle of life in a cult. As much as I struggled with the message at times, I would have ripped your arm off if you’d tried to remove this book from my hands before I’d finished it. In the world of books it can be good to read a book that arouses strong emotions, even when they aren’t positive ones, and believe me, I was irritated by all the characters more than once!

I am very grateful to the publisher Headline Review who allowed me to read a copy of Before I Let You Go ahead of publication. This unbiased review is my thank you to them.

First Published UK: 27 February 2018
Publisher: Headline Review
No of Pages: 352
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

What Remains Behind – Dorothy Fowler #20booksofsummer

Historical Fiction
4*s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Game Changer – Louise Phillips

Psychological Thriller 5*s
Psychological Thriller
5*s

I am a huge fan of Louise Phillips and so I was delighted to be given a review copy of The Game Changer by her publishers, Hachette Ireland. This is the fourth in the series featuring criminal psychologist Kate Pearson.Kate Pearson really is the staring character of this novel, despite having decided to take a break from working with the police after her last case. Kate is now spending more time with her son Charlie and enjoying a domestic partnership, without the complications of work, with DI O’Connor, and as the book opens in Dublin we get the feeling that life is on the up for Kate.

Of course this isn’t going to last, and following an anonymous note Kate begins digging into her own past, to a time when she was abducted, a time that she is simply unable to recall. Meanwhile DI O’Connor working to confirm whether the recent death of a retired headmaster is a suicide, he is contacted by Detective Lee Fisher in New York about a gruesome murder there – it appears that there is a link with the dead man. Lee Fisher is an excellent addition to the characters we have come to know and love from the previous books, I’m hoping we are going to meet him again in the future.

I am fascinated by the way memory works so the element of the book that concentrates on the blanks in Kate’s past were always going to be a winner as far as I am concerned, and Louise Phillips deals with this subject in a realistic way; there is no magic key that suddenly brings the past back to life, but that’s not to say that the lack of memory means that the pieces of the puzzle can’t be put together again. To do this Kate needs to start retracing her childhood steps, to talk to her former neighbours and to start writing down what she is certain are facts. These facts lead Kate in many directions all while she is becoming increasingly paranoid that she is being watched. Is her mind playing more tricks on her?

There is such a lot packed into this book including the device where the reader is treated to words from the killer, a risky step for an author to take although I’m pleased to confirm that their identity remains a mystery. Our killer treats us to their chilling ‘20 Steps to Self-enlightenment Programme’ which even the most sheltered of readers will be able to identify with the behaviour of leaders of cults. We soon meet some of the ‘Game Changers’ recruits, chilling not only because of the experiences that have made the 20 steps appealing, but because we know that this decision isn’t likely to end well. To back up how realistic the manipulation of a group can be, we are treated to the tragedies caused by this type of leadership, with references to both the murders committed by Charles Manson and the Jonestown massacre.

So we have cross jurisdictional murder, missing memories and a cult all interweaved to create an exceptional in-depth psychological thriller and not only that but it is well-written and features a couple of likeable investigators. If that wasn’t enough it is published today, 3 September 2015 so why don’t you go and get yourself a copy?

If you haven’t already read them I highly recommend the previous books featuring Kate Pearson:

Red Ribbons
The Doll’s House
The Last Kiss