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

Viral – Helen FitzGerald

Psychological Thriller 5*s
Psychological Thriller

Well this is one opener that can’t be ignored:

So far, twenty-three thousand and ninety-six people have seen me online. They include my mother, my father, my little sister, my grandmother, my other grandmother, my grandfather, my boss, my sixth year Biology teacher and my boyfriend James.

What they have seen is a video of Su Oliphant-Brotheridge on holiday in Magaluf with her sister Leah. Let’s be coy and just say that the uploaded video isn’t something that any of the people listed above would want to see which just goes to illustrate that Helen FitzGerald isn’t one to dodge difficult subjects. But really the video is a launch pad for an exploration of far more than intoxication and seedy holiday destinations!

Even, or especially because of that opener, this may not be the story that you expect although it does of course touch on the infamy on a world-wide stage that the internet has opened up, especially to the younger members of society who used to be able to hide (and forget about?) their youthful transgressions with relative ease. But this book isn’t just about the evils of the internet…

Su was adopted by Ruth and Bernie from South Korea where she lived with them in Scotland where by the time the story opens Ruth is a judge and Bernie is a music teacher, this book is also an exploration of the relationship between Su and her adoptive family. The anguish her family feel when she disappears following the upload of the video is palpable and the different way they react is so authentic, which underlines the prowess of this author to not only come up with a provocative and up-to-the-minute plot but also create characters that you don’t doubt for a minute. A textbook way to encourage the reader to become immersed in the storyline.

As well as the fascinating multiple threads in the storyline which concentrates as much on the interplay of relationships in a family, as it does on the rights and wrongs of the act and the people involved in sending it viral, the author also managed to sway my opinion, probably not so much on the wider aspects of the internet, but definitely on the ‘goodness’ or otherwise of many of the characters. Best of all this is served up with more than a sprinkle of humour, the book had me giving fairly regular wry smiles which far from breaking the tension, accurately mirrored the underlying fears of those concerned. It is a pleasure to read books about teenagers that accurately recognise that they are not a different species, the world may be a different place, the nature of inter-generational relationships has shifted but underneath all of that, they are just trying to work their way through the complexity that is growing up.

I want to say a big thank you to Helen FitzGerald for writing another fascinating and highly insightful book that should be enjoyed across the generations as well as to Faber and Faber for allowing me to read a review copy. Viral was published on 4 February 2016.

Helen FitzGerald is fast becoming one of my favourite writers with her excellent execution of varied and compelling storylines.

Other Brilliant Books by Helen FitzGerald

The Cry

When a baby goes missing on a lonely roadside in Australia, it sets off a police investigation that will become a media sensation and dinner-table talk across the world.

The Exit

82 year old Rose, is convinced that something sinister is going on in Room 7 and that her own life is under threat. But Rose has dementia – so what does she actually know, and who would believe her anyway? As Catherine starts investigating Rose’s allegations, terrible revelations surface about everyone involved. Can Catherine find out what’s really going on?

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

Can Anybody Help Me? – Sinéad Crowley

Psychological Thriller  5*s
Psychological Thriller

For a tale of our times you can’t do much better than this one. Yvonne, lonely and unsure after giving birth. Having recently moved to Ireland from London she is being urged by her husband and midwife to get out and meet more people, not really ready for that she does the next best thing and goes on-line and joins ‘NetMammy’ somewhere she can get advice and support. All too soon the on-line community has become something of a crutch as she logs on to check up on her new friend’s lives. One woman is of particular support so when her on-line presence disappears around the same time as a young single mother is reported missing, Yvonne rings the police to voice her concerns that the on-line moniker is in fact the single woman that is missing.

Some of the story contains the actual forum conversation most of these accurately reflect the types of exchange that are found on these sites but some contain clues – don’t be fooled, as well as a reflecting the modern world, this book is a thriller at heart! I enjoyed the exchanges, interaction between people that don’t really know each other is fascinating as you never quite know who is behaving just as they would anywhere, and who is hiding behind the anonymity of the screen. And Yvonne, how much of her life has she shared inadvertently while discussing her husband’s long working hours, nappies and formula milk? This is the part that made me pause for thought, after all I do have an on-line presence, it isn’t hard, should you be so minded, to find out my name, where I live etc and you would easily be able to find out where I work, who my friends are and what I do for relaxation – hopefully none of you want to hunt me down except in a friendly way!!

Along with Yvonne’s story we also see the story unfold from Sergeant Claire Boyle’s point of view. Claire is trying to carry on as normal but being pregnant and chasing criminals is taking its toll and her work colleagues as well as her friends and family telling her to take it easy is not helping her mood. She is investigating the death of the young woman found dead in a flat in Dublin leaving a young daughter, a woman who seemingly had few friends so the investigation hasn’t exactly got off to a flying start, the police aren’t even entirely sure who she had arranged to meet the night she died.

This is a fast-paced read and as the plot starts to unfold the tension mounted and had me turning the pages faster to find out exactly what had happened, and why. The subject matter is fascinating, after all social media is used by so many of us and it is part of everyday life, I am also fond of reading comments on news sites, predicting how many will come up with the more extreme views in any story is a hobby – and the NetMammy site is no different, some of the women’s comments were so predictable! I really liked Claire, her realistic persona made the book for me, a well-rounded and normal person who does her job with a healthy dose of instinct and to make the story work, a little disregarding of the rules when needed.

A book that firmly fits into the category of thriller but one with a fresh and modern feel to it this is one I will be recommending, but probably not to anyone who is a new mum!

I am enormously grateful to Quercus for my copy of Can Anybody Help Me? which was published on 29 January 2015, in return for my honest opinion.