Gillian McAllister has already cemented herself as an author whose books I must read so it is fair to say I had very high expectations for The Evidence Against You. Once again the author almost poses her question from the first page of the book, in this case how would you feel if your father, a man who has been in prison for the last seventeen years for the murder of your mother, wants to convince you of his innocence. Yes I acknowledge it’s unlikely that that happens to many people but what Gillian McAllister is great at doing is that after she has posed her question she introduces you to characters that you can absolutely believe in.
Izzy’s mother Alex was murdered. Her body was found in woods some twenty years ago and her father was imprisoned for her murder. But that was then, now Izzy runs her mother’s restaurant even though she isn’t particularly fond of the industry or that interested in the food created there but she has the support of her cousin. Izzy is married to Nick, a police analyst who is her ‘rock.’ Nick would rather her father, Gabe, was left in the past and he’s undoubtedly worried when Gabe turns up seeking Izzy’s undivided attention, seeking to prove that he was innocent of any wrongdoing.
So we have a great premise, some well-drawn and convincing characters and into the mix the author places them all on the Isle of Wight. This being a small community which of course gives us endless secrets either kept close to chests by those islanders who either didn’t want to get involved or those who thought that they would benefit more from keeping quiet. Of course when Gabe makes his way back to the island the news is out – Gabe and Izzy can’t meet without being spotted by someone. A small town setting gives the reader a whole spectrum of levels of secrecy to deal with and it is one I am particularly fond of; living on an island myself I know how precarious secrecy can be depending who knows the secret!
The structure of the story is that of flitting backwards and forwards through town to the events before and immediately after Alex’s murder to those in the present day. The author has done a great job of making the character of Izzy consistent enough to recognise that it is the same person while providing some aspects to show both character growth and change due to the trauma that she has had to deal with since that day.
Once again I found this to be an incredibly addictive read. I did not want to put the book aside, I needed to know what conclusion Izzy would come to and how she would deal with whatever that might be. I was not disappointed and so I’m left hoping that this brilliant author has another incredible idea up her sleeve for me to consume soon.
I am extremely grateful to the publishers Penguin UK The Evidence Against You, and of course Gillian McAllister. This unbiased review is my thanks to them.
First Published UK: 18 April 2019
No. of Pages: 448
Genre: Psychological Thriller Amazon UK Amazon US
Well my first weekly wrap up post of 2019 is here already and I’m pleased to say I have actually read and reviewed some books this week.
In short I had a bit of a reading/blogging crisis towards the end of 2018 which in part I am blaming my desire to cut down on the TBR by restricting my purposes throughout 2018. I did really well but as the choices on my own TBR became less attractive the aim of the project actually put the brakes on my reading full stop.
But this is a new year and although I am hoping not to purchase numerous books with wild abandon, I will be carrying out regular clear outs on the TBR assigning those of my own books that I have no wish to read either to the virtual bin (eBooks) or handing them off to charity shops (physical books).
On the plus side my break from blogging does mean I have a few books to review in hand, this week I began by clearing off those read towards the end of November 2018.
This Week on the Blog
My week started with a review of a book that was published on Thursday, Jane Fallon’s Tell Me a Secret switched her usual revenge on men or friends to a work colleague. The story told with the author’s trademark eye for what makes people tick and despite it all the result is a light-hearted look at life.
My excerpt post was taken from a book I have already read; To Catch a Killer by Emma Kavanagh, which will be published by Orion on 24 January 2019.
This Week in Books featured the authors Robert Thorogood, Sofia Lundberg and Fiona Barton.
This was followed by my review of a true crime book that I selected from NetGalley way back in 2016 but didn’t read as I felt I probably needed to watch the connected Netflix series Making a Murderer first. That didn’t happen until the end of 2018. The Innocent Killer by Michael Griesbach was interesting in parts but I felt let down by the amount of bias in the account.
I then reviewed The Wych Elm by Tana French, the author of the Dublin Series, who has now penned this standalone book. This was crime fiction which concentrated on the chief protagonist and looked at society and the beliefs we tell ourselves and each other as well as a solid mystery of how there came to be a skull in a tree!
My last review of the week was for another true crime, this one a historical one set in 1931 which has stumped crime writers ever since. Move to Murder by Antony M Brown like the other two books currently in the series, is linked to a website which holds some of the ‘evidence’ used as well as giving the reader the opportunity to vote for the most likely scenario.
This Time Last Year…
I was reading Close to Home by Cara Hunter, later on in the year I read In The Dark, the second in the series which features Adam Fawley, and currently have an ARC of the third No Way Out which is due out later this year.
The book was an instant winner for me. Number one the characters well-formed although I have a feeling some will be universally disliked although Adam Fawley is a likeable detective, not an alcoholic although he does have a bit of baggage, but who doesn’t and it’s the kind of problem which is likely to produce a hefty amount of sympathy. He has a good team who are in the main supportive of each other, a fairly inoffensive bit of rivalry between a couple of officers but not the angst ridden teams with endless pressure piled on from above that is the normal crime fiction fare.
Secondly the plot was great – there are multiple strands and there was no doubt in my mind that some rigorous editing had taken place to ensure that they were all kept straight as the story progressed. If that weren’t enough the structure of the book whist not being wacky so it becomes bigger than the story itself was different enough to give a ‘fresh feel’ to this crime fiction novel.
You can read my review here or click on the book cover.
HOW CAN A CHILD GO MISSING WITHOUT A TRACE?
Last night, eight-year-old Daisy Mason disappeared from a family party. No one in the quiet suburban street saw anything – or at least that’s what they’re saying.
DI Adam Fawley is trying to keep an open mind. But he knows the nine times out of ten, it’s someone the victim knew.
That means someone is lying…
And that Daisy’s time is running out.
Introducing DI Fawley and his team of Oxford detectives, and a Richard and Judy Book Club pick for Spring 2018, CLOSE TO HOME is the new crime thriller series to get addicted to. Amazon
Stacking the Shelves
Unsurprisingly I’ve done a fair bit of stacking the old shelves since the clock struck midnight on 1 January 2019. To keep the list to a minimum I’m going to share one from each type of book this week.
From NetGalley I have a copy of The Evidence Against You by Gillian McAllister who is one of the new authors that have really wowed me over the last couple of years. This book isn’t due to be published until 18 April 2019 but I’m going to have to read it long before then!
It’s the day her father will be released from jail. Izzy English has every reason to feel conflicted – he’s the man who gave her a childhood filled with happy memories. But he has also just served seventeen years for the murder of her mother.
Now, Izzy’s father sends her a letter. He wants to talk, to defend himself against each piece of evidence from his trial. But should she give him the benefit of the doubt? Or is her father guilty as charged, and luring her into a trap? Amazon
For my kindle I have purchased a copy of Day of the Dead by Nicci French, the eighth and last book in the Freida Klein series which I’ve been longing to read for a while.
At long last, a final reckoning is coming for Frieda Klein…
On a north London high street, a runaway vehicle crashes to a halt, but the man in the driving seat was murdered a week earlier.
On Hampstead Heath, a bonfire blazes: in the flames lies the next victim.
As autumn leaves fall, a serial killer runs amok in the capital, playing games with the police. The death toll is rising fast, and the investigation is floundering.
But this is no ordinary killer, and every new victim is intended as a message to just one woman – psychologist Freida Klein.
And the message is very simple.
You’re next. . .
Frieda Klein’s duel with her dark nemesis is finally coming to a climax – and only one can make it out alive. Amazon
My audio selection is Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman as this seemed to be in a similar vein to other books I’ve chosen to listen to, rather than read, although I’m slightly concerned by the ‘heartbreaking tag’ as that may cause me some issues on my daily walk home from work.
Eleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live
Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.
Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.
One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.
Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine? Amazon
And in physical book format I have been purchasing some of the books I will need to crack on with my reads for The Classic Club, something I’m determined to do in 2019. One of the books I want to read is The Saplings by Noel Streatfeild, the author being one of my favourite in childhood.
Noel Streatfeild is best known as a writer for children, but had not thought of writing for them until persuaded to re-work her first novel as Ballet Shoes; this had sold ten million copies by the time of her death.
Saplings (1945), her tenth book for adults, is also about children: a family with four of them, to whom we are first introduced in all their secure Englishness in the summer of 1939. ‘Her purpose is to take a happy, successful, middle-class pre-war family – and then track in miserable detail the disintegration and devastation which war brought to tens of thousands of such families,’ writes the psychiatrist Dr Jeremy Holmes in his Afterword. Her ‘supreme gift was her ability to see the world from a child’s perspective’ and ‘she shows that children can remain serene in the midst of terrible events as long as they are handled with love and openness.’ She understood that ‘the psychological consequences of separating children from their parents was glossed over in the rush to ensure their physical survival… It is fascinating to watch Streatfeild casually and intuitively anticipate many of the findings of developmental psychology over the past fifty years.’
‘A study of the disintegration of a middle-class family during the turmoil of the Second World War, and quite shocking’ wrote Sarah Waters in the Guardian. Amazon
As mentioned at the start of this post the TBR is being culled and I no longer feel I ‘must’ read books I’ve bought but that no longer interest me, however to keep an eye on the running total I intend to continue to keep track of the various ups and downs.
This week it is standing a respectable and appealing 170
Well the fabulous Gillian McAllister is back with another book that will make you think. Whilst this isn’t quite such an obvious moral dilemma as in her first two books, it constantly begs the questions ‘What would I do?’ and just as importantly, ‘How would I feel?’
There’s a trial, oh how I love a fictional trial, all the drama and none of the boring bits. There are two sisters; Martha and Becky. Martha is married to Scott and they had a daughter Layla who died at just eight weeks old. When Layla died, Becky was in charge informally employed by her elder sister as a nanny while she was in Kos setting up a base for a charity schooling refugees.
The prosecution say that Becky is responsible for Layla’s death. Becky is pinning her hopes on the trial to answer the questions about what happened to her daughter that fateful night. And don’t let us forget the mother of the opposite sides. What a position to be in. How does a mother comfort both daughters in such a situation.
As in all of her previous books Gillian McAllister makes statements about society as a whole. Yes the trial is concentrated on the night in question but what the media want to know is why Martha wasn’t there. The same question isn’t directed to Scott because as this book demonstrates, men are seen as irrelevant in this type of scenario. To be fair, Scott also feels guilt at being away, but he’s not held accountable by the public in the same way.
We learn all this from the narration by the two sisters, alternated throughout this gripping book. We hear about their views of themselves, their relationship with each other, their memories, their fears and of course their view of the court case. The endless wishing and hoping makes this book an exhausting read at times, but oh so worth it, I simply wasn’t prepared to part with it for a moment.
The characterisation is spot on with neither sister presented as flawless individuals, both are complex, like you are I. But of course a court case has lots of other characters to explore, , the ex-husband of Becky, their son Xander, the nosy neighbour and the Defence and the Prosecution, both strong women who look at the evidence and present it to the jury in a different way. I particularly liked the Judge and his faithful dog Rumpole, even he is given a bit of a back story to bring him to life.
I can’t stress quite how powerful a read this is. Like Martha I didn’t want to believe Becky was guilty as charged, but sifting through the same evidence as the jury even given fonder memories of the pair augmented by those of their brother Ethan, how could it be anything but. The power comes from a family breaking apart, the loss of Layla to them all, their divided alliances and the feeling that nothing will ever be the same again makes it a sad read too.
I now have to say a huge thank you to Penguin for allowing me to read a copy of No Further Questions. This review is my unreserved, and unbiased, thanks to them and Gillian McAllister for another memorable read. Even better the eBook is at available at an absolute bargain price at the moment, so don’t miss out.
First Published UK: 2 July 2018
No of Pages: 400
Genre: Psychological Thriller Amazon UK Amazon US (Audible only)
I have just started No Further Questions by Gillian McAllister, one of my latest favourite authors. This book was published on Monday 2 July.
he police say she’s guilty.
She insists she’s innocent.
She’s your sister.
You loved her.
You trusted her.
But they say she killed your child.
Who do you believe?
Original, devilishly clever and impossible to forget, this is a thriller with a difference. You won’t be able to tear yourself away from the trial that will determine both sisters’ fates. NetGalley
The last book I read was In the Dark by Cara Hunter the second in the Adam Fawley series set in Oxford which will be published on 12 July 2018.
A woman and child are found locked in a basement room, barely alive. No one knows who they are – the woman can’t speak, and there are no missing persons reports that match their profile.
The elderly man who owns the house claims he has never seen them before. The inhabitants of the quiet Oxford street are in shock. How could this happen right under their noses?
But DI Adam Fawley knows that nothing is impossible. And that no one is as innocent as they seem . . NetGalley
Next on my list is The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola which will be published on 26 July 2018. I loved this author’s debut novel The Unseeing and so I’m hoping for great things from this one too.
Audrey Hart is on the Isle of Skye to collect the folk and fairy tales of the people and communities around her. It is 1857 and the Highland Clearances have left devastation and poverty, and a community riven by fear. The crofters are suspicious and hostile to a stranger, claiming they no longer know their fireside stories.
Then Audrey discovers the body of a young girl washed up on the beach and the crofters reveal that it is only a matter of weeks since another girl disappeared. They believe the girls are the victims of the restless dead: spirits who take the form of birds.
Initially, Audrey is sure the girls are being abducted, but as events accumulate she begins to wonder if something else is at work. Something which may be linked to the death of her own mother, many years before. NetGalley
What do you think? Do any of these take your fancy?
In 2015 to celebrate reviewing for five years I started a series entitled Five of the Best where I chose my favourite five star reads which I’d read in that month. Later in 2018 I will be celebrating Five years of blogging and so I decided it was time to repeat the series.
You can read my original review of the book featured by clicking on the book cover.
My choice of review for March 2014 is That Dark Remembered Day by Tom Vowler which is a very cleverly presented book with the groundwork precisely laid before revealing what happened on That Dark Remembered Day. In 1983 Richard had returned from the Falklands, his final posting before discharge from the arm and at its heart, this book is a reflection on the damage that war inflicts on those who are sent to fight. Part the story of a reluctant soldier, part the story of growing up in a small town but absolutely unforgettable. That Dark Remembered Day was longlisted for the Guardian Not the Booker Prize in 2014.
One family, one town, devastated by one tragic event.
Can you ever know what those closest to you are really capable of?
When Stephen gets a phone call to say his mother isn’t well, he knows he must go to her straight away. But he dreads going back there. He has never been able to understand why his mother chose to stay in the town he grew up in, after everything that happened. One day’s tragic events years before had left no one living there untouched.
Stephen’s own dark memories are still poisoning his life, as well as his marriage. Perhaps now is the time to go back and confront the place and the people of his shattered childhood. But will he ever be able to understand the crime that punctured their lives so brutally? How can a community move on from such a terrible legacy? Amazon
I was spoilt for choice for five star books reviewed in March 2015 but have decided to chose a non-fiction book The Magnificent Spilsbury and the case of The Brides In The Bath by Jane Robins which recreates the story of Bernard Spilsbury’s rise to become, what today we know as expert witnesses. To do this she principally uses the trial of George Smith of three women who died after drowning in the bath to examine both forensic scientist and his methods. Spilsbury worked night and day testing his ideas, either in the mortuary or in the lab in his house and soon bodies were exhumed and theories espoused. In one chilling experiment to work out how the women could have been killed without a struggle female swimmers dressed in bathing costumes were recruited for experimentation. This book is a great mixture of a historic murder trial with some well-researched information about the scientist whose word could spell the end for the accused.
Bessie Mundy, Alice Burnham and Margaret Lofty are three women with one thing in common. They are spinsters and are desperate to marry. Each woman meets a smooth-talking stranger who promises her a better life. She falls under his spell, and becomes his wife. But marriage soon turns into a terrifying experience.
In the dark opening months of the First World War, Britain became engrossed by ‘The Brides in the Bath’ trial. The horror of the killing fields of the Western Front was the backdrop to a murder story whose elements were of a different sort. This was evil of an everyday, insidious kind, played out in lodging houses in seaside towns, in the confines of married life, and brought to a horrendous climax in that most intimate of settings – the bathroom.
The nation turned to a young forensic pathologist, Bernard Spilsbury, to explain how it was that young women were suddenly expiring in their baths. This was the age of science. In fiction, Sherlock Holmes applied a scientific mind to solving crimes. In real-life, would Spilsbury be as infallible as the ‘great detective’? Amazon
I love crime fiction and struggle to keep the number of series I follow to a minimum. In March 2016 I picked up In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward and fell in love with the Derbyshire setting and the police team which includes DI Francis Sadler and DC Connie Childs.
This is an intricate mystery which has its roots in 1978 when two girls went missing in Bampton, but only one returned. Even better The ending was perfect, the book whilst having plenty of surprises does not bring a motive and character out of left field, rather staying true to the more ‘old-fashioned’ crime novels where the perpetrator is justly identified from combing the evidence which all makes for an incredibly satisfying read.
Bampton, Derbyshire, January 1978. Two girls go missing: Rachel Jones returns, Sophie Jenkins is never found. Thirty years later: Sophie Jenkins’s mother commits suicide.
Rachel Jones has tried to put the past behind her and move on with her life. But news of the suicide re-opens old wounds and Rachel realises that the only way she can have a future is to finally discover what really happened all those years ago.
This is a story about loss and family secrets, and how often the very darkest secrets are those that are closest to you. Amazon
In March 2017 I posted my review of Everything But The Truth by Gillian McAllister and was delighted to find this is a psychological thriller with a moral dilemma at its heart.
Rachel and Jack are going to have a baby.
One night Jack’s iPad lights up and half-asleep Rachel reads the email sent which mentions an event that she knows nothing about. Rachel begins to wonder how well she knows Jack especially when the short reply he gives the next morning, isn’t wholly convincing.
With the reader gaining insight into Rachel’s life and her persistent digging into the lie she believes Jack has told her this is a taut and brilliant psychological thriller. There is no doubt that Gillian McAllister knows how to weave a tale that is complex and has space built into the narrative that allows the reader to put themselves into the character’s shoes, and yes to make judgements on that tricky morality scale.
It all started with the email.
Rachel didn’t even mean to look. She loves Jack and she’s pregnant with their child. She trusts him.
But now she’s seen it, she can’t undo that moment. Or the chain of events it has set in motion.
Why has Jack been lying about his past? Just what exactly is he hiding? And doesn’t Rachel have a right to know the truth at any cost? Amazon
My choice for March 2018 is a really tough one with two excellent non-fiction books as well as a number of fiction reads that gained the magic five stars I am going to pick The Killing House by Claire McGowan on the strength that this is the best wrap-up of a story arc I’ve read for a long time.
Claire McGowan created Paula Maguire, a forensic psychologist who finds missing people. The team she works for is on the border between North and South Ireland so inevitably there are links back to The Troubles. In fact Paula’s own mother went missing when she was just thirteen, and whilst each individual book has its own mystery, what happened to Margaret Maguire is a thread that runs through the series.
I love the style of storytelling, and in The Killing House, we are transported back in time to hear the voice of one person held by the punishment team who have them held captive to find out the information for their cause. There are some horrific characters in this book but all held together by the basic goodness of many others, even those who may have done wrong in the past. The author has a way of differentiating between those who got caught up in the times, and those who enjoyed being part of it, exceptionally well so that the reader is able to look at this point in history at a personal level.
When a puzzling missing persons’ case opens up in her hometown, forensic psychologist Paula Maguire can’t help but return once more.
Renovations at an abandoned farm have uncovered two bodies: a man known to be an IRA member missing since the nineties, and a young girl whose identity remains a mystery.
As Paula attempts to discover who the girl is and why no one is looking for her, an anonymous tip-off claims that her own long-lost mother is also buried on the farm.
When another girl is kidnapped, Paula must find the person responsible before more lives are destroyed. But there are explosive secrets still to surface. And even Paula can’t predict that the investigation will strike at the heart of all she holds dear.
If you want to see what the five books featured on Five of the Best for March 2011 to 2015 were you can do so here
How many of these have you read? Did you enjoy them as much as I did? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Once again I have awarded a whole array of books the magic 5 stars which means whittling this down to a mere ten quite a task indeed, one that I have been pondering since the start of December in fact… so without further ado here are the ten books published in 2017 that I consider to have been truly outstanding and memorable reads.
For those who haven’t heard me endlessly wittering on about this book in 2017 this book sits on my historical novel shelf. Not only is it a brilliant piece of social history depicting life on a ship at the start of WWII, it has visits to far-flung places whilst encompassing a brilliant story with fabulous characters. The closed environment provides a somewhat combustible mix of characters, all bought brilliantly to life by the clothes they wear, their chatter over dinner along with how they chose to spend all their time while their new home, and life, inches closer – and there is a mystery – what more could you want?
And for those of you who haven’t heard, I have a cameo role in the novel following winning an auction run by Clic Sargent in 2016.
This book is one inspired by the true crimes perpetrated by Peter Manuel in 1950s Glasgow. It’s atmospheric tackling the weighty topics of innocence and guilt whilst brilliantly depicting a time and place in a way that shows off Denise Mina’s talents to the full. The storytelling is nuanced and assured with details oozing out of each sentence, not just about the crimes but about the characters, the essence of the lives they lived and the Glasgow of that age before the slums were cleared and Glasgow was cleaned up. While this isn’t a linear story telling, it is all the more captivating because we wait for the details; the half-eaten sandwich left abandoned at the murder scene, the empty bottle of whisky left on the sideboard for the police to find after the shock of the broken bodies left in the bedroom have been discovered.
Cyril Avery, the protagonist of this meaty book, has earned a place in my heart. The story which follows one man from shortly after conception until 2015. With its unusual structure, we sweep in seven-year intervals into his life and then onto the next meeting new and old characters along the way. A book that is funny and poignant which took me on a journey from delight to sorrow and back again in this sweeping saga set mainly in Dublin. A book of times and attitudes which is surprisingly uplifting.
You know you’re onto a good thing when you open a book and know before you’ve finished the first page that it’s a book to curl up with. In this story set in 1950s England we meet four sisters one summer, a year that will change their view of the world forever. This is a summer that will have repercussions for years to come as innocence is lost. The mystery at the heart of the book is the disappearance of Audrey, their cousin who vanished five years earlier but this is also a book with recurring themes from the bonds between sisters, the ghosts of the past who can cast shadows over lives, the difficulties in growing up with those relationships between friends and mothers all getting an airing. I closed this book with a tear rolling down my cheek.
I wasn’t sure what a mixture between true crime and a memoir would be like but this was a book that I picked up to feature in my excerpt post and simply couldn’t put it down again. When Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich joins a law firm in New Orleans as an intern, whose work is based on having death sentences overturned, she feels she is about to start the career she is supposed to have. The daughter of two lawyers, she is staunchly anti the death penalty. But all that turns when she watches a video of Rick Langley who has been convicted of killing a six-year-old boy, Jeremy Guillory. I’m not going to sugar coat it, the crime is awful but what shocks the author most is that she feels so strongly that Rick Langley should die for the crime he committed. She no longer believes what she thought she did and that has consequences on her life and the more she tries to understand why she draws parallels with her own life. This is a difficult subject but written with intelligence shot through it.
This ‘sliding doors’ scenario is a brilliant way to demonstrate a meaty moral dilemma.Two friends meet for their regular Friday night out at a bar in London and meet a man who is slightly too pushy, deciding to leave they part ways and Joanna walks home taking the route by the canal when she hears someone following her. Now ladies, we’ve all been there – unable to tell whether the threat running through your head is real or imagined. What happens next will change Joanna’s life forever. With sparkling dialogue which is entertaining yet realistic and faultless plotting this book had me captured right from the start and didn’t let me go until after I had turned the last page.
This series features my favourite genealogist Jefferson Tayte. Although the majority of the action happens in the present day the seeds of the action in Dying Games belong firmly in the past. In Washington, DC the FBI are interested in Jefferson Tayte, aka JT, so he breaks off his Scottish trip with his fiancée to return to answer their questions. A serial killer is leaving clues with a genealogical bent and it is now a race against time to stop any more people losing their lives. Steve Robinson has produced a real puzzle within this thriller! Or perhaps I should say lots of mini puzzles which require different aspects of genealogical research to solve. This will ensure that those readers who have hit a brick wall in their own family history research can put things into perspective; unless you are in the unlikely position of having to find a particular person’s details otherwise someone else may die!
In He Said/She Said the story moves backwards and forwards from 11 August 1999, the time of the solar eclipse, to fifteen years later when Kit is planning to travel to the Faroe Islands, chasing another eclipse and we learn what an impact that first meeting had on all four characters and the ripples haven’t decreased with the passing years. The story line is gritty, as may be expected from the title the heart of the matter is a trial for rape and the details of what happened are told from a number of perspectives. This is an involved and thoughtful tale, one that really did make me think and 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
Despite being no lover of sports and definitely not ice-hockey this book which centres round a small town in Sweden’s obsession with the sport had me captivated. Frederik Backman writes in a style that repeats phrases and themes from one section to another so when the book got tough, and it does, the stylistic flair kept the momentum going forward while the reader comes to terms with what has been revealed. There are issues galore and normally when I say that, I’m not being complimentary because it can feel as if the author is leaping from bandwagon to bandwagon. That isn’t the case with The Scandal where the issues in the book are tightly linked to the players on a personal level. The Scandal turned out to be thought-provoking, intelligent crime novel.
I’m not going to lie, I was drawn to this book by its striking cover but what I found within the pages exceeded my expectations by far. Olivia Sweetman is making her way to address all two hundred guests gathered at The Hunterian Museum, Royal College of Surgeons in London. All those people are amongst the jars of organs to celebrate the publication of historian Olivia Sweetman’s book, Annabel, a study of a Victorian woman who became one of the first surgeons, a woman who also had a sensational personal life too, captured within Annabel in her own words. But, all is not as it should be as we find out as this superior psychological novel unfolds and the intricate storyline full of fascinating detail will stay with me for a long time to come.
So what do you think? Have you read any of these titles or do you want to?
I’d like to take a moment to thank all of you who have visited me here on my little corner of the internet, as well of course as the authors and publishers who have provided me with so many great books to read throughout the year. I look forward to discovering new places, people and dark plots in 2018 and do hope you will all join me on my journey.
You can check out my list of reviews written in 2017 here
Or perhaps you want to check out my Reading Bingo 2017 Edition or you can check out my look back over the past year reading and reviewing along with my goals for 2018 here.
This is one of my favourite posts of the year so there was no question of me repeating this following my relative success in filling in the squares in both 2014, 2015 and 2016
I purposely don’t treat this like a challenge by finding books to fit the squares throughout the year, oh no! I prefer to see which of my (mostly) favourite books will fit from the set I’ve read. As you can imagine this becomes a bit like one of those moving puzzles where one book is suitable for a number of squares… and then I’m left with empty squares which I have to trawl through the 137 books I’ve read and reviewed to see if any book at all will fit! This keeps me amused for many, many hours so I do hope you all enjoy the result.
Click on the book covers to read my reviews
A Book With More Than 500 Pages
Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood clocks in at 560 pages beautifully and tantalising revealing a story of Grace Marks an Irish servant who in 1843 was accused of Thomas Kimner and Nancy Montgomery in Ontario, Canada. We meet her some years later when Dr Jordan becomes interested in studying her case and we hear what she has to tell him whilst she stiches quilts for the Governor’s household. This fictional story is one of a number of books I’ve read this year which are inspired by true-crime and Margaret Atwood’s skill with her pen did not disappoint at all. I have also watched the Netflix series which stays remarkably true to the book
A Forgotten Classic
I only have one title under classics this year so I present another Beryl Bainbridge novel this year. one of the author’s later novels published in 1981. The story is set in Moscow and I’m reliably informed is supposed to illustrate the Kafkaesque nature of the country at that time, but sadly I just ended up being mightily confused by this novel although I was very much taken with the description of air travel at this time, far less regimented than the flights we take these days.
A Book That Became a Movie
I haven’t watched the film of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas which was released in 2008 but I was very taken with the book written by John Boyne which tells the story of Bruno, a young German boy whose father is posted as a Commander to Auschwitz. Young Bruno begins talking to a boy of a similar age to him through the fence separating and segregating the Jews in the camp from the outside world. Through a child’s eyes we are exposed to the horror of the camp something that is made much worse because of the innocence of our narrator.
A Book Published This Year
As a book reviewer I have read lots of books published this year but decided to feature one from a debut author Ray Britain, this author having been a member of the Police Force in the midlands until his retirement when he decided to turn his hand to crime fiction. The Last Thread is the first in the DCI Stirling series and despite being a realistic glimpse into policing is still a mighty fine story too. The opening scenes bring home the realities of policing when despite an effort by our protagonist to intervene, a teenager plunges from a motorway bridge onto the road below.
A Book With A Number In The Title
The Verdict of Twelve by Raymond Postgate was originally published in 1940 and bought to a whole new generation of readers by the British Library Crime Classics series. As might be expected the twelve is in relation to the number of men and women that sit on the jury in this courtroom drama. With the book split into three distinct acts, the background to the jury, the charges and the deliberations all brilliantly and engagingly executed. This is backed up by brilliant postscript.
A Book Written by Someone Under Thirty
Always one of the hardest spaces to fill, I have no-one that falls into this category this year.
A Book With Non Human Characters
The Good People by Hannah Kent is set in south-west of Ireland in 1825 and 1826 and is full of fairies, not of the Disney variety though, these are the fairy folk, that Irish folklore had walking amongst them. These fairies were as wont to carry out evil acts as they ever were good. With Nóra Lehay having the misfortune to lose her husband at the same time it becomes clear that her child is mute opens her up to gossip and isolation amongst the locals. A beautifully written story which despite being moving is quite a bleak tale.
A Funny Book
I don’t read many funny books so this year’s entry comes from Caimh McDonnell who nabbed this spot on the reading bingo last year. Angels in the Moonlight combines laughs with Crime Fiction in the most perfect mix, especially in this book, the prequel set in 1999. The crimes are not minimalised or overshadowed by inappropriate humour but the strong element that runs through the book allows the reader to feel a wide range of emotions as we follow our intrepid hero Bunny.
A Book By A Female Author
The story of a Singer sewing machine might sound pretty dull, but The Sewing Machine by Natalie Fergie is anything but. We first meet our machine at the factory in Clydebank where in 1911 ten thousand workers went on strike, Jean being one of them although her loyalties are divided between her boyfriend and her family. We later meet the sewing machine in the hands of Connie who we learn about in part through the records she keeps of what she’s made on it. Lastly it is found by Fred in his recently deceased Grandfather’s flat. A story of all those big emotions across three separate lives. Brilliantly presented and executed with precision.
A Book With A Mystery
This box always makes me smile because pretty much all the books I read have a mystery of some description in them. Before the Poison is a standalone novel by Peter Robinson featuring a historical murder trial which examines the roles of a woman’s morals in the likelihood of her being accused of murder, this time in the 1950s. In the modern tale of this story a recently bereaved composer becomes wrapped up in the story of Grace Fox who was accused of murdering her husband one snowy winter’s day. Aided by a diary Chris examines the story closely which has a personal link to the school he attended as a child. Fascinating and disconcerting as I couldn’t quite believe this was pure fiction.
A Book With A One Word Title
This year I have just one book which is a one word title, perhaps they are falling out of fashion? Fortunately it is a book that I loved. Shelter by Sarah Franklin is set in 1944 in the Forest of Dean which is where I lived before leaving home to make my way in the big wide world. The author shapes her story around the Lumberjills posted to the Forest to aid the war along with the Italian Prisoners of War who worked alongside them. The story was realistic and heart-warming and despite a difficult relationship with the area as a teenager, Shelter, made me appreciate some of its better qualities.
A Book of Short Stories
CWA Anthology of Short Stories: Mystery Tour edited by Martin Edwards is a fabulous collection of short stories from a wide range of popular crime fiction writers. I loved exploring the different styles and places that are featured within this collection which well and truly bought home to me all the possibilities this form has to offer the reader. My copy now has a firm place on my bookshelf as it will be invaluable when seeking out some of the longer novels of those who appear in this brilliant book.
I’ve chosen The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell for my free square for the simple reason this would have easily been featured in my top ten post of the year, except it wasn’t published this year. I love an unpredictable story and Rose who works in the Police Precinct in 1920s Brooklyn is the protagonist for just such a tale. Through her eyes we see what happens when Odile enters the typing pool, elegant sophisticated Odile is the star of the show but does Rose know her secrets? The journey back to early scenes is all in this book, and what a wonderful journey the author took me on.
A Book Set On A Different Continent
Regular readers of this blog won’t be in the slightest bit surprised that this book has made it onto the Reading Bingo. A Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys was my First Book of the Year for a very special reason. Although the book opens as Lilian Shepard boards the Orentes from Tilbury Docks she is travelling to start a new life as a servant in Australia. Through her eyes we see the world as she makes the journey across the seas, meeting her fellow passengers including many that the social mores of England would have stopped her from socialising with, but life is different on an Ocean Liner. The brilliant period details of a world on the brink of war alongside fabulous characters and a mystery made this one of my favourite books of the year.
A Book of Non-Fiction
I’ve had a bumper year for excellent non-fiction reads but as many of them are crime related I’ve chosen The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler which is crying out to be on the bookshelf of booklovers up and down the land. The style of writing is often as irreverent as it is succinct with the author puts his own spin on why an author has been forgotten but interspersed between the 99 authors are longer chapters looking at subjects as diverse as The Forgotten Disney Connection and The Forgotten Booker Winners.
The First Book By A Favourite Author
In March I read the debut novel Everything But the Truth by Gillian McAllister and having really enjoyed being sucked into the moral dilemma she posed,I have also read her second novel Anything You Do Say later in the year – so yes, she is a favourite author. Starting with a glimpse of a text on her partner’s phone Rachel Anderson starts to dig, and once she’s started all manner of fall-out commences. This book packed a real emotional punch because not only was it cleverly presented but it also was jam-packed full of realistic characters who behave like ‘real people’
A Book I Heard About Online
Since blogging I find most of my new author finds on-line and to be honest, it is fairly easy to persuade me I must read all types of crime fiction but one blogger had a special reason for recommending this novel, Sewing the Shadows Together by Alison Baillie to me, because she lived in the place of the fictional scene of the murder Portobello, the seaside suburb of Edinburgh. Thirty years later the case is reopened and the wounds that never really healed split apart once more. With convincing characters and a solid sense of place this was one recommendation I’m glad I didn’t pass by on.
A Best Selling Book
Lisa Jewell is the master of drawing me into a story from the very first page and Then She Was Gone lived up to that early promise. This is the darkest of the author’s novels yet and on the one-hand seems to be a fantastical tale but it is so underlined by truths that this aspect only becomes apparent when you examine the story closely, yet move the prism to one side and all seems to be completely believable. Ellie Mack disappeared on her way to the library. She was just fifteen years old and her disappearance blew the remaining four Mack’s apart. Several years later her mother Laurel, meets a man in the local café and everything changes once more.
A Book Based Upon A True Story
Ah so you thought I’d come unstuck by using Alias Grace earlier on in my Reading Bingo but fortunately this year has been the year when I sought out books inspired by true crimes and Little Deaths by Emma Flint was the first one of the year. This book is based upon the life of Alice Crimmins who was tried for the murder of her two children in New York in 1965. The thrust of the story is that Alice was tried for her morals rather than being based on evidence. I became so immersed in Alice’s tale that I was simply unable to put this well-researched book aside.
A Book At the Bottom Of Your To Be Read Pile
2017 was the year I made a concerted effort to read some of my earlier purchases that have been languishing on my kindle. Silent Voices by Ann Cleeves was purchased way back in 2012 and is the fourth in the brilliant Vera series. In this outing a body is found in a sauna at a health club Vera visits in a short-lived attempt to tackle her lifestyle. What more can I say, fab characters, a proper mystery with clues to be solved and the best non clichéd detective to walk the beat.
A Book Your Friend Loves
I went on holiday to Crete in 2016 and visited the island of Spinalonga, a former leper colony. On my return I told my friend all about it and she urged me to read The Island by Victoria Hislop which she’d already read. Well eventually the book made it to the top of the TBR and I fell in love with the story, bought even more alive because I’d trod in the footsteps of the fictional characters that I read about. This is almost a saga story following one family from the nearby town of Plakka and the realities of life on a leper colony in the relatively recent past. A book that I won’t forget in a hurry and a delight to read.
A Book That Scares You
I rarely get scared by a book but the cover of Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century by Peter Graham was enough to give me the willies. This is another true crime read, the brutal murder of a mother by a daughter and her friend in New Zealand in 1954 and perhaps because of the senselessness of the crime this book got to me far more than many of my reads in this genre. The girls lived in a land of make-believe, and had an intense friendship which was about to be halted due to Anne Perry’s move to England. The author investigates the girl’s earlier lives and comes up with some theories but none quite explain why this rare act of matricide was perpetrated. The fact that one of the girls became a mystery writer just adds another level of intrigue.
A Book That Is More Than 10 Years Old
2017 has been a year where I have explored a selection of books written about true crime and so it would have been remiss of me not to include what is widely considered to be the first in this genre. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, published in 1966 tells the story of the murder of The Clutter family in Kansas. We learn about the victims in the lead up to the murders and afterwards the characters of the murderers are revealed. The amount of research that must have gone into this book is immense and this was carried out by the author and his close friend at the time, Harper Lee who wrote To Kill a Mockingbird.
The Second Book In A Series
I loved Mary-Jane Riley’s first book, The Bad Things which I read towards the end of 2016 so it was no surprise that After She Fell was purchased so I could find out more about Alex Devlin in this, the second book in the series. Alex Devlin returns to North Norfolk to investigate the death of a friend’s daughter. What she uncovers at the excusive boarding school that Elena Devonshire attended undermines the coroner’s original finding of suicide. There are multiple viewpoints, a whole heap of well-defined characters and a set of events that will have the readers longing for Alex to reveal the truth.
A Book With A Blue Cover
So last year I had a wealth of blue covers to choose from and even commented how they were becoming more popular; not so this year! Fortunately The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich is an excellent choice because not ofound was from a mixed genre form of Memoir combined with true crime. This was engaging and interesting in equal parts telling the story of a true-crime as well as showing the legal files alongside the memoir section that examines the consequences of crime on its victims. Fascinating although far from an easy read.
Well sadly I’m a square short, I really do need to start picking up some younger author’s works but on the whole a pretty impressive year, if I do say so myself.
How about you? How much of the card could you fill in? Please share!
Around this time of year I start to consider my Top Ten Books Published in 2017 along with many other bloggers, this year the list has been thrown into disarray with so many late entrants, including this novel. Anything You Do Say encompasses so many of the aspects that I enjoy: a moral dilemma, ‘sliding doors’ scenario, great characters who behave realistically and superb plotting all coming together to give a fresh feel despite the elements appearing in other novels.
Two friends meet for their regular Friday night out at a bar in London and meet a man who is slightly too pushy, deciding to leave they part ways and Joanna walks home taking the route by the canal when she hears someone following her. Now ladies, we’ve all been there – unable to tell whether the threat running through your head is real or imagined. What happens next will change Joanna’s life forever.
What do you do, I find myself thinking, when you think somebody is following you down a deserted strip of canal? When you could become a statistic, a news piece, a tragedy? Nothing. That’s the answer. You carry on. You hope.
Of course the title are known to all of us although I hope few of us have had them directed towards us:
The words are familiar, but it takes me a moment to place them. It’s not a hymn or a song lyric or a phrase. No. It’s a caution. The caution.
Joanna is a great character, you probably know someone like her. She works on the mobile library while she decides what she wants to do with her life. She avoids the nastier aspects of life by ignoring them; bills, decisions, babies are all put in a box to be dealt with later… or never. Her friend, Laura, has plans, big ones, she wants to be an artist and is far surer of herself by far than Joanna, not uncommon in a friendship pairing. In both scenarios that are presented following the late night encounter we see not only what the consequences of her decision has on Joanna but Laura and her partner Rueben and brother Wilf too but also Laura’s partner Jonty in a perfect example of the ripple effect.
With sparkling dialogue which is entertaining yet realistic I was drawn into the story before I’d finished the first page. I loved the friends, that pre-Christmas setting with Christmas trees sparkling inside the houses that Joanna passes as she walks home at the opening of the book is followed up with the changing seasons as we follow the two different outcomes of that night.
As much as I enjoy books with the ‘sliding doors’ aspect I won’t lie, it can sometimes be complicated keeping the two strands straight in your mind. Fear not, Gillian McAllister has a clear system for marking the two stories by using a heading and since the stories diverge from the start I didn’t have a moment’s confusion. What I did have, was compassion for Joanna, maybe that says something about my morals, but there was one particular moment when I had my heart in my mouth as things took a drastic turn for the worse and despite actually needing to be doing something else I wasn’t putting the book aside until my heart-rate settled.
I really enjoyed Gillian McAllister’s debut novel Everything But The Truth which I read earlier this year but this novel even surpasses that one. Usually when I read a book that I want my friends to read, I wait until I have posted my review – not this time – I have been urging many of my bookish friends to go get this book, now – especially as it is at an absolutely bargain price at the moment for the kindle. The paperback will be published on 25 January 2018. Whatever format you read, I urge you not to miss out but do beware, once started, you will not want to stop reading!
I am extremely grateful to the publishers Penguin UK who have provided me with a great selection of books this year, including Anything You Do Say, and Gillian McAllister who I sincerely hope is furiously writing another book for me to enjoy, this unbiased yet unashamedly gushing review is my thanks to them.
First Published UK: 19 October 2017
No. of Pages: 400
Genre: Psychological Thriller Amazon UK Amazon US (currently only Audible)
I’m currently reading The CWA Short Story Anthology: Mystery Tour edited by Martin Edwards and full of stories from many of my favourite crime writers.
Crime spreads across the globe in this new collection of short stories from the Crime Writer’s Association, as a conspiracy of prominent crime authors take you on a world mystery tour. Highlights of the trip include a treacherous cruise to French Polynesia, a horrifying trek in South Africa, a murderous train-ride across Ukraine and a vengeful killing in Mumbai. But back home in the UK, life isn’t so easy either. Dead bodies turn up on the backstreets of Glasgow, crime writers turn words into deeds at literary events, and Lady Luck seems to guide the fate of a Twickenham hood. Showcasing the range, breadth and vitality of the contemporary crime-fiction genre, these twenty-eight chilling and unputdownable stories will take you on a trip you’ll never forget. Amazon
Having just finished Anything You Do Say by Gillian McAllister, a remarkable and addictive ‘sliding doors’ psychological thriller.
I could run, or I could stay and call him an ambulance. Now it is decision time . . . ‘
It’s the end of the night. You’re walking home on your own.
Then you hear the sound every woman dreads. Footsteps. Behind you. Coming fast.
You’re sure it’s him – the man from the bar who wouldn’t leave you alone.
You make a snap decision. You turn. You push. Your pursuer tumbles down the steps. He lies motionless, face-down on the floor.
Now What? Call 999
Wait for the police to arrive. For judgement, for justice, whatever that may be. You just hope you husband, family and friends, everyone you love, will stand by you. OR:
Stay silent. You didn’t mean to do it. You were scared, you panicked. And no one saw. No one will ever know. If you leave now. If you keep quiet. Forever. Which is it to be? Amazon
Next up is Sunday Morning Coming Down which number seven out of what is going to be eight books in the Frieda Klein series by Nicci French
Psychotherapist Frieda Klein’s home is her refuge until she returns to find it has become a disturbingly bloody crime scene. Beneath the floorboards the police have found the body of a man she had hired to help protect her.
The killer’s message is all too clear: you’re mine.
When those closest to Frieda begin to be targeted, the picture becomes more skewed: the patterns unclear.
Unless Frieda can find and stop whoever is threatening her friends and family, her love and loyalty could come at a truly fatal cost . . . Amazon
What do you think? Any of these take your fancy? Please do leave your thoughts in the comments box below.
Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book she decided to read based on the opening. Feel free to grab the banner and play along.
This week my opener comes from Anything You Do Say by Gillian McAllister that I chose because earlier this year I enjoyed Everything But The Truth by the same author. I enjoyed it so much that this book has a place on my header. I am hoping to be confronted with another devilish moral dilemma to wrestle with in this, her second book.
‘I could run, or I could stay and call him an ambulance. Now it is decision time . . . ‘
It’s the end of the night. You’re walking home on your own.
Then you hear the sound every woman dreads. Footsteps. Behind you. Coming fast.
You’re sure it’s him – the man from the bar who wouldn’t leave you alone.
You make a snap decision. You turn. You push. Your pursuer tumbles down the steps. He lies motionless, face-down on the floor.
Now What? Call 999
Wait for the police to arrive. For judgement, for justice, whatever that may be. You just hope you husband, family and friends, everyone you love, will stand by you. OR:
Stay silent. You didn’t mean to do it. You were scared, you panicked. And no one saw. No one will ever know. If you leave now. If you keep quiet. Forever. Which is it to be?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
First Chapter ~ First Paragraph ~ Intro
It starts with a selfie. He is a random; we are not even sure of his name. We are always meeting them whenever we go out. Laura says it’s because I look friendly. I think it’s because I am always daydreaming, making up lies for people as I stare at them, and they think I’m inviting them over for a chat.
In the frame of his phone screen – camera facing forwards, to us – his teeth are white and slightly crooked, his nose hooked.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Contemporary books are always best when they reflect modern life, and what is more ubiquitous than the good old selfie?