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

Dead Memories – Angela Marsons

Crime Fiction
5*s

Wow! Just for a change I’m going to start this review by saying how much I love this crime fiction series and its chief protagonist DI Kim Stone. I gave the very first book in the series, Silent Scream, the full five stars when I read it in 2015 – sadly despite the subsequent books being even better – five stars is the maximum. Angela Marsons has truly surpassed herself with Dead Memories, the tenth book in the series.

The scene opens on the notorious Hollytree housing estate, specifically the fourth floor of Chaucer House which just happens to be a few floors below where Kim Stone was found next to her dead twin, handcuffed to a radiator. Can it be a coincidence that today two youngsters have been found handcuffed to a radiator? Let’s face it, it’s going to be a no!

This series is firmly wedded to its setting in the Black Country and many of the books take in the Hollytree housing estate with Chaucer House being designated the block which is the roughest of them all, at some point. But this book gets to the heart of Kim Stone’s life. With Bryant, Stacey and Penn, at her side she is going to have to confront some of the many traumas that she has met in life being recreated for someone’s sick game. But that won’t be easy because spiky Kim doesn’t want to share those details with anyone, let alone her colleagues!  Because of the basis in the crimes being committed it was a more traumatic read than most and one that made me realise quite how fond of the detective I have become. Yes, I know its fiction, but when I was reading, it was as real as anything else!

I’ve mentioned in my many reviews of crime fiction series of how much I like meeting up with old friends, in this case the small team that Kim Stone is part of. Angela Marsons has managed her reader’s expectations and interest levels very well on this score with different team members playing larger roles in some of the books and in this episode we have a return of the Alison Lowe a profiler who has been brought on board to keep an eye on Kim herself. This gives a satisfying and fresh injection into the characters and their interactions.

As always the plotting is faultless and although I’d gauge the crimes committed at the top end of my personal gore rating, the black humour that runs through the books means that what could be an unrelenting book of horror doesn’t have that overall feel at all. This really is the mark of a writer who knows her craft and injects a small dollop of humour at the right moment, never inappropriately, to keep the reader engaged but not depressed.

With an enterprising killer at work we also get a full insight into those traumatic incidents in Kim’s life, from the first moment of being left to die next to her twin Mickey to the more recent tragic fatality of a close colleague. So with each murder we get a double whammy of concern for the victims and their families in the present and a second-hand one for Kim, which only served to make me enjoy her company even more.

If you haven’t read this series, start now – they are fantastic but to my mind, you need to read them in order. This the tenth is absolute the cherry on the crime fiction cake!

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Bookouture for allowing me to read a copy of Dead Memories before it is published on 22 February 2019. This unbiased review is my thanks to them and Angela Marsons for another brilliant episode in the Kim Stone series.

First Published UK: 22 February 2019
Publisher: Bookouture
No of Pages: 459
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Previous Books featuring Kim Stone
Silent Scream
Evil Games
Lost Girls
Play Dead
Blood Lines
Dead Souls
Broken Bones
Dying Truth
Fatal Promise

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

The Shape of Lies – Rachel Abbott #BlogTour


Crime Fiction
5*s

 

I’m going to start by saying I’m a huge fan of Rachel Abbott’s writing and of Tom Douglas in particular. This series of books set in Manchester is now up to number eight. Now there will be some book-lovers who will say, ‘the series is already too far through, I can’t start now!’ I disagree (although don’t tell the author) as although I have read these books, eagerly, in order, the stories are all unique and so although we have DCI Tom Douglas to lead the way through the mysteries, he doesn’t have a huge back story to keep track of and therefore I am certain that these books would all work really well as standalone reads. Of course once you’ve read one you may well need to catch up on the rest but that’s a book lover’s problem for another day, right?

As with all crime fiction you probably don’t want me to spend too much time rehashing the synopsis so instead I am going to talk about why I enjoy this series so much with a few hints along the way to let you know what The Shape of Lies has in store for you.

I like books where even though my life is (thankfully) far more boring than the chief protagonist, Anna Franklyn, I could put myself in her shoes with no problem at all. We’ve all listened to variations of the cheesy radio shows where people ring in with tales of lost loves… in this version called ‘The One That Got Away’ well how would you feel if one day it seemed to be your story? What’s worse the man Scott is threatening to tell all, and the thing is he’s dead! I tell you I read this part and could feel the hairs on the back of my neck raise, and at that point I had no idea quite what Anna had to fear.

Books that have a moral dilemma, something to make me think about what I would do in the same situation, or more prosaically at what point in a relationship do you come clean about some of those big things in the past, always get me thinking, and I like thinking whilst I read.

There is a lot made these days of crime fiction being full of twists and turns and while I’m not sure I set as much store on this aspect as the marketing bods seem to think I should, I can’t deny there is a certain amount of pleasure in being surprised. Rachel Abbott always surprises me. The entire premise of this book takes a look at an aspect of crime that hasn’t been covered in any of the previous books by this author, and it isn’t one of those that comes up frequently in crime fiction either.

In amongst the lies, deceit and quite frankly odd coincidences that are unsurprisingly preoccupying Anna as she tries so desperately hard to keep a lid on things at home in front of her stay at home husband and two small children, DCI Tom Douglas and DI Becky Robinson have two murders to solve… oh yes, this is crime fiction at its most complex.

But one of the key things after the basics of plot and pacing is the characterisation. Now I don’t need to like the character, after all they are created to be judged, aren’t they? I wasn’t a huge fan of Anna’s but I think she was pitched perfectly. Professionally she is extremely capable, a headteacher of an Academy, respected by staff and children alike but she has another side, one that doesn’t seem to have moved on all that far from the days when she was in a relationship with Scott and she lives caught between the stories she’s told so often that she almost believes them herself. As my mother would have quoted ‘What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive’

In short this is a book that had me gripped! It is a great author that leads you to the edge of the story and then immerses you in a world you never really knew existed.  My poor emotions  see-sawed as the revelations made me re-evaluate what I knew to that point. This is not a book to start if you don’t have time to finish it!

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Rachel and Maura for providing me with an advance review copy of The Shape of Lies and allowing me to marvel at Tom Douglas once more. This unbiased review is my thank you to them.

First Published UK: 12 February 2019
Publisher: Black Dot Publishing Ltd
No of Pages: 339
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

The Rachel Abbott DCI Tom Douglas Books in order:

Only The Innocent
The Back Road
Sleep Tight
Stranger Child
Nowhere Child (Novella)
Kill Me Again
The Sixth Window
Come a Little Closer

Psychological Thriller

And So it Begins

 

About Rachel Abbott

Author of one of 2018’s Times crime books of the year, Rachel Abbott, the UK’s no.1 bestselling independent author, proves once again why she is ‘the queen of psychological thrillers’ with an intense and compelling examination of the toxic impact of lies, deception and guilt.

Rachel Abbott, born and raised in Manchester, founded her own interactive media company in the 1980s, before selling it and retiring in 2005. She then moved to Italy where she worked on the renovation of a 15th century Italian monastery, and it was here that, one day, she found herself snowed in and decided to begin writing for pleasure. This became her debut novel, Only The Innocent, which she went on to publish via Kindle Direct Publishing, topping their chart for 4 weeks.

A true self-publishing pioneer, The Shape of Lies is Abbott’s ninth novel. She splits her time between Alderney in the Channel Islands and Italy.

Rachel Abbott is available for interview and to write articles.

http://www.rachel-abbott.com • @RachelAbbott • http://www.facebook.com/RachelAbbott1Writer

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

The Stone Circle – Elly Griffiths

Crime Fiction
5*s

Well we are up to a fabulous number eleven in the Ruth Galloway series and to my mind the split between investigation and catching up with some, by now, much-loved characters makes for the perfect read.

First to the mystery at the heart of The Stone Circle and I’m glad to say the brief foray to foreign lands of the last novel is over and we are back in Norfolk once again. Not that I have anything against other places but Ruth and Harry Nelson really do belong at home. That means that Dr Ruth Galloway is at the university and ready and waiting to oversee an archaeological dig at a henge, or stone circle. Within the henge, bones are found and more modern than the bronze age structure would account for. And then Suddenly it is as if the clock has turned right back to the first case that Ruth assisted DCI Nelson with, The Crossing Places.

To the personal side of the story, well it is all go with a great deal of suspense about how life will change once Nelson’s wife Michelle gives birth… And so as good as the plot of the mystery is, it is here that the flesh and blood are put upon our characters. This is where life is lived, not mourned but sometimes it isn’t easy and there are no answers, well definitely none that are underlined with certainty. Into this mix is Ruth herself, she’s contemplating her future, her career and debating whether staying put is really the best decision for her and Kate, and of course dear old Flint. I am biased I want her to stay put, if she moves away from the University of Norfolk I’m doubting whether we will see as much of Cathbad, whose flowing cloaks are being abandoned to spare his son’s blushes, or Shona who only makes a brief appearance in this novel, or the entire Norfolk police force who are like friends to me now. But she has her career to consider…

At the end of the book Elly Griffiths states that the idea was that there would be ten books in the Ruth Galloway series so perhaps it is fitting that there are many echoes in this book of the very first one – in fact so much so I was tempted to go back and re-read The Crossing Place. But I rarely go back and somehow I think I would be tempted to read my way back through and I simply don’t have enough spare time to re-read all ten books – well not until I am put on that desert island with my kindle! Anyway without the plot which mirrors that early case with a young girl’s body being found and a cold case being reviewed with all the resultant wounds that opens, and hopefully heals, we also have DCI Nelson receiving some disturbing letters. Now I don’t know about you but if I was choosing to send someone anonymous letters, I doubt that I’d choose a policeman, but hey there’s none so queer as folk!

This series as a whole, and this book in particular, also addresses the somewhat shocking aspects of what has come before. Elly Griffiths keeps a grip of her characters so it isn’t only the big events that she ensures continue as a thread but some of the more minor events also . I’m a bit of a nerd in this respect so give a little smile when I spot an event being played forward in a later book.

So as always for this series it is a resounding recommendation from me and a huge amount of gratitude to the publishers Quercus who allowed me to read an advance copy of The Stone Circle before the publication day of, today!

Dr Ruth Galloway Books in order

The Crossing Places
The Janus Stone
The House at Sea’s End
A Room Full of Bones
Dying Fall
The Outcast Dead
The Ghost Fields
The Woman in Blue
The Chalk Pit
The Dark Angel

First Published UK: 7 February 2019
Publisher: Quercus
No of Pages: 384
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

After You – Jojo Moyes

Contemporary Fiction
5*s

I read Me Before You way back in 2013 and loved it. You are right, this isn’t crime fiction and nor is it particularly gritty but even though Jojo Moyes was telling the story about a young woman who falls in love with her boss, a quadriplegic, I found it an irresistible read.

In 2015 Jojo Moyes bought out a sequel, called After You and I considered whether to read it and decided it would ruin the original for me (something that I always dread with sequels) and so I ignored it. And then… in 2018 a further episode to Louisa Clarke’s life was published called Still Me. At this point, a colleague read the entire trilogy after hearing about Me Before You and asked my advice on if it was worth a read. I said yes and then she raved about the other two books, and I cracked and decided to listen to After You as an audio book. My previous rambles on audio books will confirm that light-hearted contemporary fiction is my preferred listening fare.

So how was it? In short I loved it. The narrator Anna Acton is perfect for telling the next episode in Louisa’s story as she learns to live with the emotional fall-out from Me Before You. The narrator manages to get the humour to come across in her voice without it ever feeling forced and the sadder parts are also almost underplayed allowing the author’s words to work the magic and complementing them rather than overegging the pudding so to speak.

Louisa isn’t the same young woman she was. She’s more thoughtful and suffering but she also has something special to offer. What I love is although she’s undoubtable a ‘good person’ she isn’t so good it’s sickly. Jojo Moyes created a ‘real’ woman character and then has developed her, realistically to deal with the next chapter in her life.

What makes Jojo Moyes such a wonderful author – I am now a confirmed fan – is that she manages to take her readers (or listeners) through the entire gamut of emotions and I travelled unashamedly through Louisa’s despair, her hope for others and then bit by bit herself, her sympathy, her embarrassment and her joy. They are all held up for examination and our inspection. I may be considerably older than Louisa but in many ways the story she tells is a timeless and relevant to us all.  Yes, there is romance and love and all those nice things which are all made entirely palatable with a rich seam of humour to take the edge off the sweetness. I have walked and listened to Louisa laughed at her observations, winced at the embarrassment of wearing an awful Irish costume as part of her job in the airport bar, loved it when she got one over on the pompous boss and wept alongside her when life unfairly conspires against her.

I loved meeting Louisa again as well as catching up with the Traynor’s and some new characters too, all as rich and as powerful as the original book, perhaps more so because on the surface the ingredients appear to be less obvious. In fact I loved it so much that I hadn’t finished this one before I bagged the audible version of the next book in the series, I wasn’t going to miss out any longer.

First Published UK: 24 September 2015
Publisher: Penguin Books
No of Pages: 411
Listening Length: 11 hours 8 minutes
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

The Suspect – Fiona Barton

Psychological Thriller
5*s

There can’t be many parents alive who have sons and daughters of a certain age who don’t feel mixed emotions should that child in any way be considering some time ‘travelling.’ It happened to me although my darling daughter had been to uni and lived independently while working and saving to go on her own adventure. On the one hand I was thrilled that she wanted to see how others live and at the same time to expand her own horizons and gain some experiences that I never had. On the other is that unease that it is so far away, in a place where the culture and rules are different and with the knowledge that not everyone you meet in life wishes you well.

I was therefore very pleased that those worrying days are now in the past but I can’t deny that aspects of The Suspect bought back those unstated fears so perhaps if you have a child either contemplating or travelling at the moment, postpone reading this one.

Alex has always wanted to travel with her very best friend and during the last year at school they planned their trip including all the must-see places in Thailand within its detailed itinerary. Then her best friend had to pull out but Rosie who lived down the road was able to find the money which meant Alex had someone to go with and after all an adventure is an adventure, right? And then things go wrong. No one hears from either Alex or Rosie on the day of their A Level results, or afterwards.

The story, as in the previous two books is told in part from the viewpoint of the reporter Kate Waters although perhaps this is the one story that gets far too close to home for comfort as her son is also travelling in Thailand. Also present is the police officer Bob Sparkes and for once we have an author who doesn’t go in for the outright hostility between the two professions but illustrates a more pragmatic relationship between the pair. We also hear from the parents of the two girls. Multiple viewpoints have become far more common in crime fiction but this is an author who uses them to the best advantage. Not once did I feel we were swapping the point of view to deliberately raise the tension (although there is no doubt that there is plenty of that too) but as the stories become more and more entwined these multiple viewpoints alongside Alex’s secret emails paint an entirely different picture than the telephone calls and social media postings had of the truth about the girl’s trip.

This was totally gripping and I felt that the viewpoints of all the mothers that featured in this book were real women. There are times when I feel the primeval emotion we feel about our children are often overblown, here we had the mixture of emotions that I’m sure is far more realistic and the book was all the more powerful for it.

I really don’t think the books need to be read in order, each working exceptionally well as a standalone read but as they are all five-star reads as far as I’m concerned I’m not sure why you wouldn’t!

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Random House UK for giving me a copy of The Suspect ahead of publication on 24 January 2019. This unbiased  review is my thanks to them and the author for such an engaging read.

First Published UK: 24 January 2019
Publisher: Bantam Press
No of Pages: 384
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Previous Books by Fiona Barton

The Widow
The Child

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

To Catch a Killer – Emma Kavanagh

Crime Fiction
5*s

Emma Kavanagh manages to write crime fiction almost in the tone of someone who has experienced the very events herself. Perhaps this isn’t so surprising given her background as she spent many years working as a police and military psychologist, training firearms officers, command staff and military personnel throughout the UK and Europe. In other words she knows how people behave in moments of peril!

To Catch a Killer opens in the middle of just such a moment, the kind of moment that I suspect I am alone in being able to thankfully say, I have not experienced in real life. Just as well because the book scared the bejeebers out of me! The memory of a day, one just like any other until the day DS Alice Parr answered a call on the radio to assist a paramedic save the life of a woman who had her throat cut. Warning, do not read this book if you are squeamish or eating your dinner, that feeling of being in the moment results in those heart-thumping moments you get viewing hospital dramas – you know it is fiction but even so…

Once the victim has been taken to hospital of course the police have to work out who the perpetrator of such a crime is and given that the attack took place in a London park, in the morning, how could they commit such a bloody crime in broad daylight with no one spotting what was going on?

So the reader has plenty to ponder and be warned although initially you may feel the pace is reasonable, it soon becomes quite fast and furious and given that the plot is complex, you need your wits about you. In other words this is a book to set aside some time to really get the best out of it. Fortunately to offset the blood and gore we have two female police officers who work well together, Polly’s somewhat less serious nature while not detracting from the crime does give the reader some smiles to lighten the load along the way.

We also get to visit another location, unusual in British crime fiction which normally tends to stay fairly close to home with a big deal being made if officers cross into the next county. In this book they have to get on an airplane to carry out some of the investigating which adds a whole different feel to the storyline.

The result of all this is an immensely satisfying crime fiction novel that really held my interest throughout and although I did manage to work out a tiny bit of the puzzle, the rest worked their magic and left me reeling at the outcome. This is the first in a trilogy that will feature Alice Parr a fact I was unaware of until I read the cliff hanger at the end which I have to confess isn’t my favourite way for a book to end as I suspect I will have to recap before the second book is published, but I will definitely be making sure I read a copy.

I therefore must say a huge thank you to Orion Publishing Group for allowing me to read a copy of To Catch a Killer prior to publication on 24 January 2019. This unbiased review is my thanks to them.

First Published UK: 24 January 2019
Publisher: Orion
No of Pages: 416
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Other Great Reads by Emma Kavanagh

Falling
Hidden
The Missing Hours
Killer on the Wall

 

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

The Lost Man – Jane Harper


Crime Fiction  5*s

 

Having come late to the party with Jane Harper’s debut novel The Dry, I was determined not to be left behind by her latest novel, The Lost Man, a standalone read set in the outback of Australia.

The Lost Man had me swept along into an entirely different place, a different lifestyle and that daunting and dangerous landscape. This a book that will evoke a whole range of feelings in its readers and because of that it is not for the faint-hearted.

 We start with a description of a headstone, the marker for a legend that has been mutated during the years since it was placed there to mark the place where The Stockman died and on the day in question there is another body close to the headstone, another casualty to a lifestyle which is beyond ordinary comprehension.  Cameron Bright was the middle sibling of three brothers and his elder brother Nathan, and the younger, Bub, gather at the site where he perished through lack of shelter from the overbearing sun, or was the story of his death quite that simple?

Jane Harper is a master at showing (and definitely not telling) and she takes us on a tour, into the house where Cameron ran his  to the family he has left behind, two small girls whose daddy went out shortly before Christmas to fix something on his land and never returned. Cameron was man who knew the land, it was where he was born after all and now his wife Ilse is left to cope without him. Fortunately Uncle Harry is around as is the boy’s mother although as is only to be expected the house almost hums with confusion and grief.

What Jane Harper does that is even more explosive though is to start peeling back the layers of this family. Nathan pretty much takes centre stage as we journey with him back in time and slowly, oh so slowly but perfectly so, we learn the truth about an event many years ago that is still making its mark today.

I really couldn’t tell you what I enjoyed most about this book – was it the brilliant descriptions of a place? It really is testament to the author’s prowess that she managed to conjure up the heat and power of an open landscape of the outback in Queensland, when her reader was sat with the wind and rain howling across a small island on the other side of the world. I haven’t ever been to Australia and if I did the outback would probably not be my chosen destination, and yet for the duration of this book, I was very much there in the house with Isle and her girls Sophie and Lo. I watched Cameron’s mother Liz weep in the deepest of darkness when the generator was switched off by Harry at night-time.  Perhaps the legend of the Stockman had something to do with the appeal, or equally the unravelling of a mystery that is dark, don’t for one moment imagine that the grim scenes at the beginning of the book mean you’ve passed the worst, there are shocks still to be revealed.

In conclusion I loved this book because it covers a great deal of ground, there are deeply upsetting moments but perhaps in keeping with the characters that inhabit the real-life place, there is something very measured about the delivery. No over-hyped action scenes here, just the truth which is sometimes a whole lot worse.

I’d like to thank the publishers Little Brown for allowing me to read a copy of The Lost Man, and to Jane Harper for moving me with this incredible novel. This unbiased review is my thanks to them.

First Published UK: 22 November 2018
Publisher: Little Brown
No of Pages: 384
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

The Lies We Told – Camilla Way

Psychological Thriller
5*s

Having somewhat overdosed on psychological thrillers during the last few years I vowed to cut down during 2018 and it’s one of the few bookish resolutions that I’ve kept, but… and there is always a but; I started to miss the rollercoaster ride that this sub-genre produces so well and I so I treated myself to a copy of a book by an author who’d previously wowed me with her book Watching Edie.

If anything The Lies We Told was even better!

The opening scene is that of a young mother who finds the corpse of the family budgie – the killer is her young daughter Hannah. But that is all in the past and the dangerous daughter is left behind while we move to Clara’s story in the present.

Clara lives a ‘normal’ life. She’s happy, a working woman with a lovely boyfriend who she’s planning to move in with when he suddenly disappears. Clara does all the normal things: checks with his friends, drives down to see his family and looks in pockets & drawers to try to find clues, but there are none. What Clara does find, of course she does, that Luke wasn’t quite the man she thought he was.
Some things are excusable though, Luke’s sister Emily had disappeared without a trace some twenty years ago. From the little Clara knows this caused untold anguish certainly to Luke’s parents, Oliver and Rose Lawson, and to a lesser extent to Luke and his brother Tom who were all left to wonder what had happened to Emily.

This is a classic psychological thriller. We have a mixture of characters, all nicely distinct and most with a little bit of good, and a little bit of bad inside them – half the fun of this genre is to work out as you are reading how the stresses of the story, and this one has enough tension to make you feel like you are walking on a high wire, are influencing your view of their actions. After all if your boyfriend went missing and then you found out that he wasn’t quite the Mr Perfect you thought he was would you cut your losses there and then, or would you feel that you had to help in any way possible to help his family find out what has happened – even if that means keeping the biggest secret of all, that Emily has returned?

The story rattles along, the psychopathic child inserting herself into the story line at regular intervals even though there is no obvious place for her – has she completely transformed? Surely not, this is a psychological thriller after all and that means that scary bad personality traits only go in one direction, yes to even more dark and scary places!

Camilla Way is the absolute best at pulling all the seemingly disparate strands together and although I confess I had worked out some elements given some well-placed clues, I was still a mile from the whole truth. The ending was perfect, not quite the resolution the reader might expect but satisfying enough to allow this one to close the book with a smile.

First Published UK: 3 May 2018
Publisher: HarperCollins
No of Pages: 385
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

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

The Murder of Harriet Monckton – Elizabeth Haynes

Historical Crime Fiction
5*s

I like reading non-fiction books especially about true crime, even better if they are back in the past; I think this is because it feel less like I am trying to gain entertainment from someone’s tragedy, and if it is new to me too, well that is the icing on the cake. The problem with some non-fiction true crime is that you don’t get a real feel for some of the characters, often the victim who is often dead before we meet them and unless they’ve been murdered for their own dastardly acts they can appear as nameless victims. It is for this reason that my preference for true crime is that which is presented as fiction using the crime itself as inspiration. This is what the incredibly talented Elizabeth Haynes has done with the story of The Murder of Harriet Monckton.

Harriet was living in Bromley Kent, she was a single woman of 23 years old; a school teacher and observed to be a devout Christian attending the local Chapel regularly. It turns out that Harriet was also around six months pregnant when she died from ingesting Prussic acid on 7 November 1843 and her body was found in the privy behind the chapel the following day. A sad end and one that because the vessel containing the poison could not be found, the only conclusion was that this had to be a murder. But who would want Harriet dead?

Elizabeth Haynes tells us at the end of this magnificent book that she has used the two inquests held as well as newspapers from the time to recreate the key characters in the book. She has done magnificently well. Every single person we come across works as an individual, and as a collective taking up their positions in their small town, they are at times terrifying in what they are willing to see, to acknowledge and to challenge. I cried for Harriet who had so much to offer but was sadly one of those women who was taken advantage of, and lost her life because of it that comes through whether or not you take the history that the author has created to be credible or not.

Bringing the forgotten back to life is the real triumph when fictionalising a real crime. No one was ever tried for Harriet’s murder, in fact once the coroner had finally concluded the inquest some two years after her death any traces of her life seem to vanish alarmingly quickly. Elizabeth Haynes states at the end of the book that she couldn’t leave this young woman without telling her story – and I heard that story loud and clear. In the hands of this undoubtedly talented lady, we are presented back with a fully rounded woman, with hopes and fears, with errors of judgement made and plans for a better future made – the facts that are contained in the recording of her life are fed into a story that can be taken at face value and read as an example of a life lived, in 1843, in Bromley so minutely were the details recreated for our consumption.

If you haven’t already guessed, I adored this book for the premise, the skill in recreating a life, the rich story that has been served up to the reader and the characters that leap off the page, The Murder of Harriet Monckton will most definitely be a book that will appear in the top ten published this year.

First Published UK: 28 September 2018
Publisher: Myriad
No of Pages: 437
Genre: Historical Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Other Books by Elizabeth Haynes

Into the Darkest Corner (2011)
Revenge of the Tide (2012)
Human Remains (2013)
Under a Silent Moon (2013) – DCI Louisa Smith #1
Behind Closed Doors (2015) – DCI Louisa Smith #2
Never Alone (2016)

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

The Stranger Diaries – Elly Griffiths

Psychological Thriller
5*s

What an absolutely fantastic book, the perfect autumnal read in, this a creepy psychological thriller, a standalone book by the very talented Elly Griffiths.

I’m a typical book lover so an author who inserts a book inside a book is onto a good thing. Even better if you do as Elly Griffiths has, and insert a fictional Victorian gothic thriller into a modern crime thriller book.

Clare Cassidy is an English Literature teacher at Talgarth High, a modern building annexed onto Holland House the last residence of the famous author R.M. Holland. Even before Clare went to teach at the school she was a fan of R.M. Holland’s writing but having access to his untouched study has only increased her interest and she’s planning to write a biography about him. In her day job, which includes adult creative writing lessons, she uses his text The Stranger to lead and inspire her classes. Then a close friend, another teacher is found murdered and it seems that the murderer is also a fan of our Victorian writer as a quote from The Stranger is found by the body.

I really can’t stress how brilliantly Elly Griffiths has fused the old and the new in this novel because she doesn’t appear to use any novel techniques; the book open s with the start of the gothic thriller with other excerpts appearing throughout the book, but somehow even with references to ghosts and the strangeness of the supernatural, I was so completely immersed in the book that I pretty much unquestionably believed all that I was told for the duration of the read.

The modern investigation is told from multiple viewpoints which include Clare, the detective DS Harbinder Kaur who is an acerbic quirky character who soon became my favourite of all the characters in the book, Clare’s teenage daughter Georgie also gets a stay and decide whether we also disapprove of her older boyfriend or not. And this is the thing, throughout the book the Victorian melodrama of suspicious deaths and references to a missing daughter brush-up not only against the absolute brutality of murder, but the everyday modernity that is life; what do we think of an Indian gay detective? Does it matter that a grown woman lives with her parents? Should a fifteen year old be dating a twenty-one year old? What does that say about him? Her Parents? and on, and on – some aspects of the book appear deliberately inserted to make the reader question the viewpoint that they are prodding at. To add to the cast of interesting characters we have Henry Hamilton a Cambridge scholar who has some of his letters and we have Harbinder Kaur’s work partner Neil and the aspiring Jean Brodie, Bryony Hughes, believe me a more mixed yet fascinating bunch of people your unlikely to meet.

As for the mystery itself? Well I guess it isn’t the hardest to crack but nor is this a book where it’s obvious from the start – there are plenty of red-herrings to keep you on your toes and don’t forget there are also mysteries to be solved in the past too! There is entertainment to be had on every page from the literary references to bonkers behaviour and ghosts haunting the stairways!

When the wind is howling and the nights are dark you’ll have to go a long way to find such a perfect atmospheric read.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers Quercus for sending me an arc, and the author Elly Griffiths for a thoroughly entertaining read, this review is my unbiased thanks to you all.

First Published UK: 1 November 2018
Publisher: Quercus
No of Pages: 416
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US