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

The Chalk Pit – Elly Griffiths – Blog Tour (#BookReview)

Crime Fiction 5*s
Crime Fiction
5*s

I am a huge fan of this series which features the down to earth Dr Ruth Galloway and the surprisingly complex DCI Harry Nelson so I was thrilled to be asked to be part of the Blog Tour to celebrate the publication of The Chalk Pit by Elly Griffiths, the ninth book in the series which was published on 23 February 2017.

the-chalk-pit-blog-tour

To kick off the tour I give you my humble opinion of this great book!

Book Review

Another outing for Ruth Galloway and this time the action is firmly set in Norwich when bones are found in an underground tunnel under Guildhall, which is something of an inconvenience for Quentin Swain the architect who is looking to use the space to build a swanky restaurant. Ruth overcomes her dislike of enclosed spaces to take a trip below the city to take a look; she’s fairly sure that they are old bones so sends them off to be tested.

Meanwhile the police are investigating the disappearance of a homeless woman, Babs in Norwich who has disappeared without trace. Eddie who has made the police station his bedroom, has reported her missing and it is clear when the police starts talking to the other members of the community, that they are worried about her too, but many are cautious of the police. And then a housewife goes missing in very suspicious circumstances and the police are forced to consider whether there can be a link to Babs.

I have to say that this book treats the subject of homelessness with far more nuance than any other that I’ve read. Elly Griffiths has given each of the many men, and they usually are men, a realistic story of how they came to be on the street, and why they are unwilling to accept the help offered to them but she has resisted the urge to make them all out to be saints which means that her attempts to make them realistic characters is so much more effective.
One of the many aspects of this series which I love is the link between Ruth and DI Nelson through their daughter Kate and the peek behind their working lives into what can only fairly be described as muddled. These insights leak around the side of the main investigation, never overwhelming it but often cleverly linking or echoing the themes.

In this book Kate is offered the part in a play. Ruth isn’t too sure whether this is a good idea but a few words from her mother and outright disapproval from Nelson means that Kate winds up playing the child Alice in a quirky adaption of that famous story called Alice Underground. The adult Alice being played by Cassandra wife of DS Clough.

The other aspect I really enjoy is that upon opening up the latest in the series I feel like I’m meeting old friends with the characters, distinct and engaging as ever, we had plenty of news to catch up on while underground tunnels were being searched and pits opening up in the road are causing chaos in Norwich. Ruth Galloway also links back to past books with little asides so this really is one of those series which is best read in order although there is a helpful who’s who guide at the back of the book for those of you reckless readers who are happy to dive in straight at book nine!

The familiarity of the characters alongside the first person narrative really make me feel that I am part of the book. So I know what’s going on and I can often predict the individual character’s response, but the plotting is so devious that I am no match for the detectives, I am merely on the side lines waiting for them to crack the case in indomitable style.

Although to be honest there isn’t one of these books that I haven’t enjoyed, the plotting in this one seemed tauter and the links more robust than some of the previous books. When you combine the excellent mystery with some intriguing personal lives and a look at a community which rarely has an accurate spotlight trained on it whilst seamlessly providing the history of the underground tunnels in Norwich, The Chalk Pit was a sure fire winner.

ellygriffiths-c-sara-reeve-3
Elly Griffiths – Sara Reeve

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

First Published UK: 23 February 2017
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, Mount TBR 2017

The Other Typist – Suzanne Rindell

Historical Fiction 5*s
Historical Fiction
5*s

The Other Typist is Rose’s tale we hear of her life working as a typist in a Police Precinct in Brooklyn, her shared room in a Boarding House with the room divided by a curtain, the other half containing a woman who Rose possibly dislikes, but definitely feels superior to. In 1920s Brooklyn the Prohibition period is in force and the Police Commander has decided that his force should be arresting those running the latest speakeasy which has popped up and then melt away around the city.

Enter Odile, a beautiful graceful creature, one with bags of sophistication, beautiful clothes and an easy manner. Odile is the ‘other typist’ the newest to join the typing pool. Rose is instantly both bewitched and disapproving of Odile, well that is until Odile decides to befriend her which leads to a chain of events that Rose could never have predicted.

The two girls become friends and moving from typing up the statements and sometimes confessions of the local gangsters and crooks, the girls attend the very speakeasy the police force they work for are supposed to be bringing to justice. There is a real sense of place and time in The Other Typist. I could quite have easily joined them on a night out in a beaded dress and sipping the champagne cocktails which were strictly prohibited. I think the secret locations with passwords required to gain entry would only make a night of partying with the select few who were in the know all the more alluring.

Rose narrates her story with a distinctive voice. We hear that Rose was an orphan, who was bought up by nuns but clearly a clever girl; she was one of the lucky ones who got an education. She is so obviously Odile’s inferior on the social scale but Rose has a sense of superiority that outweighs, well nearly, these facts. Indeed Rose’s narrative strongly reminded me of Barbara Covett in Zoe Heller’s novel What Was She Thinking? Notes on a Scandal, both require a different label to ‘unreliable narrator’ I suggest ‘nebulous narrator’ is a far more accurate description as even at the end of the book, it was hard to separate the facts from the fiction. Rose’s sense of superiority is an overriding feature of her narrative style, and yet there is a sense that she realises that this is unfounded at times, all of which should make her unlikeable to her reader, but it didn’t, I felt a certain amount of fondness for this spiky young woman. Of course there are a number of other characters who have their parts to play but it must be remembered that all of these characters are viewed through Rose’s eyes, and Rose is only really watching one person, Odile.

Fairly early on in the book we learn that Rose is recounting her story from a hospital and so we get some sense of where the ending might lie, but the fun is entirely in the journey. So we follow Rose to work where she admires the Sergeant but isn’t quite so sure about the Lieutenant. Where she types faster than anyone else, naturally without making any mistakes. A life where she is able to judge how a particular interview will play out and yet she melts into the background where the police, all men of course, go about getting their confessions. We watch as her certainties about right and wrong unravel under Odile’s influence as she whirls around the dance floor with the latest contraband cocktail in hand until life whirls a little bit too fast and the wheels come off.

This was a superb story, even more so when you consider that this is the author’s debut novel and it was one which had me completely entranced with an ending has had me pondering for a good few days now. If like me you had this lingering on some TBR list of one description or another, don’t delay pull it out and read it!

mount-tbr-2017
 
 

First Published UK: 2013
Publisher: Allison & Fig Tree
No of Pages:  369
Genre: Historical Fiction – Psychological
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

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

He Said/She Said – Erin Kelly

Psychological Thriller 5*s
Psychological Thriller
5*s

Erin Kelly has once again proved that she is an extremely talented writer, one who weaves a tale full of twists and turns, yet without resorting to cheap tricks. This is a book that stands proud in a now crowded genre, one that relies on superb plotting and brilliantly nuanced characters, the result being I was convinced by both.

In 1999 Laura and Kit were at Lizard’s Point in Cornwall to watch the total eclipse of the sun. For Laura this was her first experience but Kit and his twin brother Mac had, along with their father Lachlan, travelled far and wide as part of a group of eclipse chasers to see this rare phenomenon. In Cornwall Mac, his girlfriend Ling and Kit had decided to make some money to cover the trip by selling hot drinks at the festival but with the British weather being, well, British, the event isn’t as well attended as expected. Laura turns up having travelled down later and watches the eclipse with suitable awe and then stumbles across a young woman, her own age, being raped. Or that is what she believes.

With the story moving backwards and forwards from 11 August 1999 to fifteen years later when Kit is planning to travel to the Faroe Islands, chasing another eclipse, we learn what an impact that meeting had on all four characters and the ripples haven’t decreased with the passing years.

He Said/She Said
looks at the issue of rape from a number of perspectives with the court room reflecting the crux of the matter, as the title indicates. Jamie, the accused says that Laura got it wrong, he was having consensual sex with Beth when he was interrupted by the couple. Beth maintains it was non-consensual but she froze in the moment. Kit didn’t see anything, he was lagging behind but followed Jamie when he left the scene at Laura’s behest. There are other elements familiar from news reports of some recent big trials not least the fact that Jamie’s family are wealthy, he has a top lawyer and his family, including his fiancée, are in the courtroom supporting him. Who will the jury believe?

So we have a very modern tale told in the main by Laura and Kit which should have concluded the day the trial was over but Beth needing support from those who were there turns up at their London flat and is welcomed, at least by Laura. Kit is less sure, worried that if there is an appeal, that the girls have undermined any chance of a retrial by potentially being accused of colluding with each other. Three’s a crowd begins to be a very apt saying as tensions increase.

This is an involved and thoughtful tale, one that really did make me think but I’m delighted to report that Erin Kelly never forgets that she is writing to entertain her reader and she avoids bashing the reader over the head about rape, and the trials that all too rarely follow such an accusation. I believe it is a sign of a writer who has confidence, not only in herself, but of her readers to air the important issues this way.

I’m not going to say any more about the plot, which is excellent not only in the premise but also in its execution. The pace had me travelling through the chapters, headed up by images of the sun at various points of an eclipse, as I became more immersed in a story and characters that I truly believed in.

Trust me, you really don’t want to miss out on this book!

First Published UK: 20 April 2017
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
No of Pages:  416
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Previous Books by Erin Kelly

The Poison Tree – 2010
The Sick Rose – 2011
The Burning Air -2013
The Ties that Bind – 2014
Broadchurch: The Novel – 2014

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

Behind Her Eyes – Sarah Pinborough #WTFthatending

Psychological Thriller 5*s
Psychological Thriller
5*s

Louise is a single mother not looking for fun when she meets an attractive stranger in a bar on a rare night out. It all looks promising and she is left with the memory of a kiss from the handsome stranger. Sadly for Louise, she also finds out that he’s married, and will be starting work as the new psychologist starting at the private practice she works for. As a modern woman she grabs whatever she can from the encounter and uses it to entertain her friend over a bottle or two of wine and a big belly laugh at her expense.

The reality of course was different to the tale she spun her friend. Louise had been devastated to see David walk into the office where she works as a PA, not least because his stunning wife Adele was on his arm, she did the only thing she could think of, she hid in the toilets until his welcome tour was over.

David and Adele have just moved to the area and Louise’s luck just isn’t playing ball. Would you believe it? Just a few days later she literally bumps into Adele on the street near her son’s school and before she knows it she is having coffee with this slightly timid but lovely woman. What Adele tells, or in part leaves unsaid, her makes her view her new boss in a different light.

Now this is the most highly hyped psychological thriller of the year – it comes complete with the killer hashtag #WTFthatending so I was expecting something brilliant, and yes, I got it. I was determined not to be drawn in by the hashtag, but despite that, this really wasn’t what I was expecting at all, and if I’m honest, if I’d had an inkling beforehand, I might very well have dismissed this book. But, and here’s the thing, sometimes brilliant writing can and does overcome what I think I do or don’t like in books and while I was in the grip of the action, Sarah Pinborough’s writing had me completely convinced. She did a marvellous job of creating all three main protagonists, not a hint of a cardboard cutout filled in with clichés but people who appear to be a mixture of good, and the not so good, and that went a hell of a long way into making me care, in part about all three although in the best traditions of the genre, my sympathies altered depending on the latest piece of information – and believe me, there are lots of pieces to put together before you get to that ending! Despite the hashtag there is a lot of enjoyment to be had throughout the story, this isn’t a book that stands on its ending alone, in many ways trying to grapple with where the truth may possibly lie during the main part of the book was equally, if not more satisfying.

I can see this being a massive hit, perfect for diving into on winter’s nights and equally likely to be seen around the pool while on holiday. Yes, you may well finish the book like I did and on reflection wonder how the book had you quite so hooked, but the truth is, it did and I was! I can assure you that I won’t forget David, Louise or Adele in a hurry and I thoroughly enjoyed the ride.

First Published UK: 26 January 2017
Publisher: HarperCollins UK
No of Pages:  384
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

Her Husband’s Lover – Julia Crouch

Psychological Thriller 5*s
Psychological Thriller
5*s

This book sits firmly in the psychological thriller genre, not only is this completely mind-blowing it is a fast-paced read too. Not that I expect anything less from this excellent author who I think is one of the best writers in this genre.

The book opens with a woman, later we discover, Louisa Williams, being chased in her car by her husband Sam. Worse still she isn’t alone in her white Fiat, her two young children are in the back. Louisa wakes up from the resulting coma in hospital, alone and to add insult to injury is told that she is ‘lucky.’ That’s not quite how Louisa sees it! Sam may have lost his life in the crash but Louisa has to live her life without her precious children.

It doesn’t take long, not long enough for the reader to have absorbed the shocking facts of the car crash, that we discover that Louisa’s battle is far from over. Not anywhere near recovered Louisa is visited in hospital:

“If you survive,” the voice says, “if you survive, I’m not going to let you get away with it. If you survive, you’d better watch out, Louisa.”

As Louisa gets stronger and faces the inquest into Sam’s death her name is prefixed with ‘Tragic’ in the media but Louisa is strong, and with the help of her lawyer, Fiona, she moves away from the home she shared with Sam and starts a new life in a new home in a new city with a new job with a new name, no longer Tragic Louisa!

Sam had a lover, Sophie and she doesn’t believe the inquest verdict. As far as she’s concerned the Sam she knew wouldn’t have driven Louisa off the road on purpose but Sophie has lied before, she has form and no-one wants to hear from the devoted mistress.

For a while we hear the outline of the run up to the crash and slowly it becomes clear that this isn’t the straightforward domestic violence storyline you are expecting. Oh no, imagine the darkest books you’ve read in this genre, and then go blacker still. Some of the clues are given by Louisa herself while other parts of the story are revealed by Sophie and somewhere in the middle, perhaps is where the truth lies? You will need to find out for yourselves though…

And that is all I’m going to say about the plot because like all these types of books, the least you know before opening the first page, the more enjoyment you’ll get from the resulting ride which isn’t unlike the opening scenes. One moment you’re travelling along a fairly well-known road, with a bullish husband, a meek wife and a dodgy affair, the next everything is turned on its head before you roll down the slope not knowing which way is up… or down.
What Julia Crouch does to keep the story anchored in reality it to insert scenes that are so familiar that we all have reference points, this is reality. After all many of us may not have been to an inquest, but most of us have started a new job. Some of us may even have started a new job and realised that we have chosen the wrong clothes, as Louisa did. Those of us who are parents may well have attended a mother and toddler group and faced the embarrassment of having the child that is at the ‘grabby stage’ and had to face down the poor subject’s hostile mother. These scenes are so spot on, written in a style that makes them more than just a footnote to the storyline, a means of bonding the reader with the character, the common ground that says ‘I know you’

The plotting is sublime, the use of the information to flesh out the story while at the same time keeping that tension maintained through what is a fairly long book is no less than an art form. All of this contributed to the feeling that although on one level unlikely, this really did happen and Louisa and Sophie exist along with the other incredibly life-like people that inhabit Her Husband’s Lover. This is a stupendous read one that deserves the real world to fade away and let you enjoy the scary journey.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Julia Crouch who sent me a copy of this book complete with a written card some time ago. It has taken a huge amount of willpower to leave it until closer to the publication date of 26 January 2017 to read and review, but the wait and anticipation was worth every minute.

First Published UK: 26 January 2017
Publisher: Headline
No of Pages:  480
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Other Books by Julia Crouch

Cuckoo
Every Vow You Break
Tarnished
The Long Fall

 

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

A Mother’s Confession – Kelly Rimmer

Psychological Thriller 5*s
Psychological Thriller
5*s

I picked this book up purely on the recommendation of a couple of other book bloggers who (strongly) hinted at a heart-breaking book; it is but not in the sense that phrase is usually referring to, this is no romantic light fluffy story, it is something far darker. This was a book that in turn chilled me to the bone, whilst the brilliant device of a mother telling the tale of her little boy’s birth onwards whilst his wife looks back on the life she shared with him as a man, had me absolutely hooked.

We know straight off that there has been a tragedy. David is dead, his wife Olivia is struggling with her grief, her daughter Zoe the only daily contact she has with the world outside her front door. She is too paralysed to talk to her former colleague who delivers a daily monologue through the front door to her, although she keeps her appointments with her grief-counsellor, the contents of these are delivered to the reader with a force that at times took my breath away.

David and Olivia were one of life’s fortunate couples, they were well-off, professionals living in a beautiful house, close by to his mother which was handy for babysitting, but the tragedy of David’s death has blown apart the careful construction of the perfect couple, the secrets can no longer be contained.

Ivy is mourning the loss of her son by remembering key episodes of his life from his birth through to the present day. Ivy is a mother who pushed her child to the fore, a woman who lived her life through her son’s achievements and as a result is lost, and perhaps unable to face up to what has happened.

Set in Australia the small town setting is an inspired device to allow us to experience the different viewpoints of the locals, particularly as David’s father owns the local grocery store. Olivia, and perhaps Ivy, have their versions of David challenged by those who only know part of their tale. We the readers are the fortunate ones because through both women we get to see the truth.

The depth of characterisation and in particular the development of Olivia’s as she moves from the first numbing days of grief to one where she begins to contemplate returning to work was superb. There was not one single moment when I disbelieved her actions, her words or thoughts. I was willing her along her difficult journey to an ending which simply had me stunned.

Ivy is a different sort of mother, one who holds some outdated and therefore seemingly outlandish views, a difficult woman to like especially when her actions have caused Olivia so much pain, but, controversially she has her reasons and so I still had a smidgen of sympathy for this blinkered woman, not a lot, but I felt that as the author has given us a little of her background, it would almost be rude to dismiss her as a total witch.

This book had me completely riveted, I did not want to part with it as I needed to know what was going to happen. The author pulled me in from the off, and each bit of information added to the rising feeling of dread in this book where it was obvious something terrible was going to be revealed, but quite what wasn’t apparent until it was upon me.

If you like books that let you run the gamut of emotions, a book that is pitched at just the right pace so that you are not fighting against the feeling that the author is withholding information as a ploy to fill the book, don’t dismiss this book. The cover doesn’t do justice to the power of the words inside A Mother’s Confession.

I received my copy of A Mother’s Confession from the publishers Bookouture. This unbiased review is my thanks to them and the talented author Kelly Rimmer, another author whose back catalogue I will now be exploring.

First Published UK: 27 October 2016
Publisher: Bookouture
No of Pages: 352
Genre: Psychological Thriller – domestic
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

The Facts of Life and Death – Belinda Bauer

Crime Fiction 5*s
Crime Fiction
5*s

For some reason I didn’t get around to reading this book by Belinda Bauer despite being a big fan, and having bought a copy of Blacklands in 2010 I’ve read my way through her books pretty much as soon as they’ve been published. No matter, The Facts of Life and Death was well worth the wait, in fact, it is decidedly my favourite of Belinda Bauer’s entire work.

The book is told by the viewpoint of ten-year old Ruby Trick who lives in Limeburn, Devon where she lives with her Mummy who works at the posh hotel and her Daddy a lover of all things Cowboy. He no longer has a job since the industry he was trained for has dissolved. The summer that the killer came to the area was one of those wet, dank summers that we do so well in the UK. Occasionally the sun managed to make a half-hearted appearance but for the rest of the time, it was damp and dismal.

Limeburn is sandwiched between the forest on one side, Ruby is to go no further than the stile, and the sea on the other, the sea where Ruby’s father fishes for their dinner and occasionally to sell. The few children in the village stick together, they have to if they want any companions at all, because it is a way to the larger town and so Ruby spends time in the ‘haunted house’ with her friend Adam throwing sticks into the sea and the rest of her time living for her weekly copy of Pony & Rider and her Mars bar that take up the entirety of her pocket money which she takes back home to The Retreat.

It was owned by a family in London who had bought it and named it and then found ti was too distant, too dreary, too damp to retreat to – even just once a summer – and had rented it out until they could sell at a profit.

Meanwhile a twisted man is taking young women off the streets and getting them to strip and call their mothers to say goodbye. The mothers then get to watch and listen as the life is snuffed out of their daughters. Absolutely horrific, need I say more?

The absolute beauty of this book is that although much of what is happening is seen through Ruby’s eyes, with a childhood that is recognisable to many I should imagine, with petty jealousies, nasty boys, priggish girls and a fair smattering of boredom, Ruby is also worried about her Daddy leaving. Daddy is so much more fun than Mummy who is boring but there are rows which Ruby tries to remove herself from:

Whenever the row started, it always ended up at the job. It got there without her.

Then there is school where Ruby’s problems are magnified, not the most attractive of children with red hair and a fondness for sweets, which Daddy often indulges, she has a teacher Miss Sharpe who tells them all to write a diary daily. As any self-respecting child would, this meant that Ruby spent one day a week filling in her entries in her ‘Dairy’ Seriously I could have been Ruby and I adored Miss Sharpe’s character:

A couple of the other teachers tittered nervously. Not Miss Sharpe. If Miss Sharpe ever caught herself tittering, she’d give herself a good smack.

So it is a story of childhood, a world interpreted without the context to fully understand, it is also funny which makes it a real joy to read… and scary – I don’t want to think about the terror of those women, particularly those caught later on, who knew all about the murderer, or their poor mothers. The juxtaposition of childhood innocence with depravity makes for an incredibly powerful story and the outstanding plotting, the steady pace where there is not one scene too many, nor a single word seemingly without importance.

An outstanding read which was truly exceptional. If you haven’t read any of Belinda Bauer’s books, all of which I highly recommend, The Facts of Life and Death is up there with my favourite crime novels of all time, because it is about so much more than just crime; it is a reflection of a type of household, a type of community, a type of school and a type of man – all of which could be just around the corner from you or me.

First Published UK: 27 March 2014
Publisher: Bantam Press
No of Pages: 336
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Belinda Bauer’s Books – NB these are all standalone books, so no need to read them in order

Blacklands (2010)
Darkside (2011)
Finders Keepers (2012)
Rubbernecker (2013)
The Facts of Life and Death (2014)
The Shut Eye (2015)
The Beautiful Dead (2016)

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

Blood Wedding – Pierre Lemaitre

Psychological Thriller 5*s
Psychological Thriller
5*s

In what is becoming a theme, I was really unsure about this book for a good while, but another blogger warned me to hang in there, they hadn’t been convinced by the opening both… so I took their advice, and do you know what? By the end you couldn’t prise this book from my hands!

We first meet Sophie Duguet when she is working as a nanny. She has problems with her memory which include lack of concentration and a complete absence of memory at times combined with problems sleeping she has to write things down to remember them. She loses things constantly and spends her free time blankly watching the television. One night when Madame Gervais, the mother of her charge returns home late, Sophie sleeps over and in the morning on going to wake Léo, she, finds him dead. Not a natural death either. Sophie remembers nothing but an item belonging to her is there on the body and she flees.

Yes, I hear you. I’ve read other books that feature memory loss, and it seems like an easy device to create tension when really none exists. This was part of my issue with this part of the book, that and seemingly random violence and a young woman whose actions I didn’t understand at all, however much the author tried to make me sympathise with her, I struggled.

However we know a little about Sophie; although only young, she has been recently widowed, her ever-patient husband dying in a car accident. This combined with her memory problems and her guilt over the increasingly annoying incidents that this provoked has worn her down further. She is clearly a vulnerable young woman, but… she killed a child, whether she remembers it or not!

Sophie’s face is plastered across the papers – she is wanted for murder and she knows that the police will be seeing if she contacts her dear father or her best friend. Sophie is resourceful and decides to move far away, to a place where she has no connection. She assumes new identities, works cash in hand and after many low-paid jobs and moving neighbourhoods decides that she will start again by getting married. She has three months to do the deal, and so she goes on the internet to find a man.

Despite me being extremely wary of the underlying premise and being slightly sickened by some of the violent scenes and not overly fond of imagining life on the run, Pierre Lemaitre’s writing is stunning. I felt Sophie’s panic and could picture her at the train station with her newly dyed hair trying to buy a ticket, while desperate not to do anything that would mean she stood out from the crowd. The author had me there at Sophie’s side, witnessing her as the third person who narrates the novel, so convincing was his portrayal, I believed in Sophie, she was real.

In part two we meet Franz through his diary written before Sophie’s descent into hell. He also documents Sophie’s problems and it as it this point that Pierre Lemaitre’s incontrovertible skill as a creator of one of the best psychological thrillers I’ve ever read becomes clear. It was one of those books where I felt the author really had got one over on me. He constructed his central characters knowing that he was making even this fairly suspicious reader, look in every direction, except the right one, and he keeps it up right until the bitter end.

I am not going to say anymore except if you pick up this book, stay with it and enjoy the ride, I’m off to see what other books by this author are going on my Christmas list!

Blood Wedding was published on 7 July 2016 by Quercus who kindly gave me a copy. This review is my unbiased thanks to them. I can’t leave this review without stating what a fantastic job the translator, Frank Wynne, did. Although the book ‘felt’ French, the translation to English was flawless with none of the stiltedness that can occur during translation.

First Published UK: 7 July 2016
Publisher: Quercus
No of Pages: 320
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

The House of Birds – Morgan McCarthy

Historical Fiction 5*s
Historical Fiction
5*s

I’m a fan of dual time-line stories but suspect that these are far trickier to pull off than the big hits in the genre suggest, I have read my fill of poor imitations where the connections between past and present are weak or worse still, contrived. Books where all too often, one of the stories shores up the other to such an extent that you feel it was only invented to appeal to those of us who enjoy this form of storytelling. The House of Birds is not one of these poor imitations, better still the story in the present is about a man, Oliver who has walked out of his highly paid job and is ‘considering his options!’

Oliver met Kate when he was a twelve-year-old boy and together, one sunny day, finding themselves outside Kate’s Great-Aunt’s house decided as a bit of a dare to investigate. They made their way through the overgrown garden and Oliver climbed up to peer through one of the upstairs windows. What he saw in the room made a memory that he never quite shook off, coming as these vivid memories often do, just before his life changed, and he moved away from Oxford. Years later Oliver and Kate meet again and start to build a life together. Kate’s family has been split into two sides for years over an ongoing dispute of inheritance of the house in Oxford but now it has been passed to Kate. With the house in a poor state of repair and Oliver at a loose end, he decides to use his time organising the repairs and renovations. Once there he finds a story, written by a woman called Sophie.

Sophie’s story is set in the 1920s where she is trying to gain access to the Bodleian Library at Oxford University, but not having anyone to write a letter to allow her entry she is turned away. So starts the beginning of my enormous sympathy for this young woman, one whose husband returned from the war a different man to the one who left. This is a woman who has a love of books, of language and of learning and yet she is tied to the house where her staff have not enough to keep them busy but go some way into bringing life into a house where husband and wife have little conversation and who sleep in separate rooms.

The link between past and present is far from clear, even to Oliver as Kate had never mentioned a Sophia, so the first mystery is how the document ended up in the house at all. But like me, he could not fail to be captivated by Sophia’s story and when the pages come to an end, he wants to know more and without Kate’s knowledge tries to find out more which means talking to the side of the family who believe the house belongs to them.

Already enthralled by the story I was especially thrilled later on when mentions of Crete, in particular, Knossos, and the renovation of the site by Arthur Evans in the early twentieth century because I visited the site on my holiday this year. We had a very knowledgeable guide Maria, and so I know that Morgan McCarthy has done her research well from the titbits that correlate perfectly to all that I learnt about the site. With many pieces of information that are lightly sprinkled throughout the book, from myths and legends to the difference between a labyrinth and a maze, battles and kings and queens, meant that this was a book that taught me some new things too without it ever feeling anything apart from the fabric of the book itself.

This book has some outstanding characters who run the gamut of emotions of humans around the world, and some of these are mirrored between past and present. Sophia has a sister, and there is sibling rivalry, there is love, there is duty and there is guilt and greed… I could go on. This isn’t a fast moving book but the language is beautiful and the writing evocative. I had one of those sad moments when I reached the very satisfying ending, where I genuinely missed the characters I’d come to know and love.

I was delighted to receive a copy of The House of Birds from the publishers Headline. This unbiased review is my thank you to them

First Published UK: 3 November 2016
Publisher: Headline
No of Pages: 448
Genre: Historical Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

The Bad Things – Mary-Jane Riley

Crime Fiction 5*s
Crime Fiction
5*s

A story with two threads, both successfully executed is the stuff that makes this crime fiction lover’s heart sing. Mary-Jane Riley pulled off both complex story-lines so well that I was frequently incredibly reluctant to part with my kindle, I just had to know how things played out. And yet this was a book that snuck up on me, not that it started badly, far from it, but the more I turned the pages, the more immersed in the story I became, as the plot wound tighter and tighter, and would not let me go!

Alex Devlin is a reporter, she submits pieces to magazines, using whatever inspiration she can find. Fifteen years before Alex’s sister Sasha’s twins, Harry and Millie Clements went missing. Although Harry’s body was found a few days later, no trace of Millie was ever found. Two people were convicted for their murder; Martin Jessop who had committed suicide a little way into his sentence and Jackie Wood who provided him with an alibi. When the news breaks that Jackie Wood has just been released from prison due to the expert witness in the case being discredited Alex desperately wants to give her sister some closure because Sasha still faces a daily battle to keep going. Her marriage to the twin’s father disintegrated in the aftermath and she has a history of self-harming. Then Alex hits on the idea to interview Jackie Wood to see if she can find out the truth…

With a bit of detective work Alex finds Jackie living in a caravan in Sole Bay in Suffolk which isn’t too far from her home in Norfolk. With the scenes set out of season, the descriptions of the seaside were about as far from the picture postcard variety as you can imagine. This works perfectly as a background of a meeting filled with suspicion, recrimination and a dash of hope – but which emotion belongs to which woman?

In the second strand of this tale we meet Detective Inspector Kate Todd who was starting out in her career when she found Harry Clements’ body and no matter how successfully she’s built her career or her long-standing relationship with Chris, she has never forgotten that day. Watching the release of the woman who was involved, only serves to bring the memories back to the forefront of her mind as she ponders how the family of those two small children are faring.

A good crime fiction novel often doesn’t actually depend on the murder that is at its heart, it depends on the character’s reactions, the plotting and the outcome and Mary-Jane Riley delivers on all three and cleverly avoids dwelling on the death of Harry although of course both children are at the forefront of many of the exceptionally well-drawn character’s minds. What sets this above many other crime fiction books is that the book reveals the complex emotions that many of the characters experience, and we get all that by watching them in action. This author hasn’t fallen into the trap of soliloquies full of woe, instead we see how Alex reacts when she goes to check on her sister Sasha. We also see her switching roles, from sister, to mother to reporter and in another superb twist, the object of one crime reporter’s particular interest in the case. With the clues to what really happened all those years ago coming from different viewpoints, I honestly couldn’t put this book down, it is that well-plotted with enough red-herrings and mysterious incidents, to keep even the keenest of crime fiction readers on their toes.

This is quite an emotional read and not just because of the tender age of the victims. I found myself sympathising with both Alex and Kate and also surprisingly Jackie. The author has made it easy to put yourself in each of these very different character’s shoes, and eloquently builds a picture of their lives after the crime was committed.

After reading The Bad Things, I had to purchase the next in the series After She Fell which is currently available at the bargain price of 99p on Amazon.

First Published UK: 27 August 2015
Publisher: Killer Reads
No of Pages: 332
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US