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

The Trespasser – Tana French

Crime Fiction 5*s
Crime Fiction
5*s

Oh my!! I really don’t know how this author does it but once again Tana French has come up with yet another book with an authentic feel, that bears no resemblance to those that came before it. The Dublin Murder Squad, of which this is the sixth, is not a traditional series rather one or more characters from a previous book appears in a later one, and the crimes they tackle are as varied as the characters that populate the pages.

In The Trespasser Antoinette Conway, one of the detectives who appeared in the previous novel, The Secret Place, is the lead detective on a slam-dunk domestic killing of a young woman. Antoinette’s partner on the force is another detective we met in the previous book, Steve Moran, who has now found his way onto the Murder Squad. The partnership isn’t the easiest, Antoinette still being brusque and feisty and by now thoroughly fed-up with not being accepted by the rest of the team. Both are pleased to have a case of their own to run and will even put up with the arrogant Detective Bresslin overseeing their work to get away from the relentless night-shift and the unrelenting stupid crimes that occur on it.

Having never been in a Murder Squad any more than I’ve attended a girl’s boarding school, the author has created what feels like an authentic recreation of the world that Conway and Moran inhabit. The atmosphere, the décor and the smells are all served up along with the language, by which I refer to the dialogue and the jargon that surely really exist? The book is set fairly and squarely in Dublin and as in the previous novels modern Ireland is gently explored without overpowering the main plot.

The centre of the plot is all about the murder of Aislinn Murray a young woman, identikit to the numerous other women with straight blonde hair and a pout to match, who has had her head bashed in. There is no forced entry to the house and the table is set for two so all the junior detectives need to do is find the dinner date – it’s so easy that Antoinette is frustrated, she really wants a big case, one where she can do some real detective work. When they meet Aislinn’s friend Lucy the pair get a hint that there could be more to the tale, but with Bresslin looking for a quick win with such an obvious suspect, is Antoinette’s reputation for being feisty going to work irreparably against her?

This is a long book, one packed full of details which you really don’t want to miss. As good as the plot is, and it’s fantastic, the most spellbinding part is the unveiling of the characters. The victim is not quite the thick, look-obsessed and no taste girl that the detectives had her pegged at. Nor is the boyfriend quite as boring as he first seemed and with Antoinette herself the biggest mystery of the entire plot there is plenty to absorb and wonder at as the layers of their characters are peeled back to show the reality behind the façade. But be warned this isn’t a straightforward ride with Tana French not adverse to some manipulation of her reader’s feelings; I found my sympathy and concern for a number of characters waxed and waned as different interpretations to the facts seemed certain, and then slid away to the ‘I’m just not sure pile’ all of which meant that I suspected everyone and trusted no-one until pretty much the very last page.

I really can’t express quite how amazing this series is; I’ve loved all the books and each time a new one comes out it becomes my latest ‘favourite’ I’m not going there this time, but if you want a different kind of crime fiction, this series is a definite place to visit.

I was lucky enough to receive a copy of this book for review purposes from the publishers Hodder & Stoughton ahead of UK publication on 22 September 2016. This is my unbiased opinion of the book.

The Dublin Murder Squad books:

In The Woods

The Likeness

Faithful Place

Broken Harbour

The Secret Place

First Published UK: 22 September 2016
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
No of Pages: 480
Genre: Crime Fiction Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

 

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Little Bones – Sam Blake

Crime Fiction 4*s
Crime Fiction
4*s

Kickboxing Detective Garda Cathy Connolly is called to a break-in at Zoe Grant’s house in Dublin which opens up a crime far bigger than the burglary that she was sent to investigate. Amongst the scattered clothing in Zoe’s bedroom is a beautiful wedding dress with added decoration which seems way out-of-place, some small bones have been sewn into its hem. And if that wasn’t enough for the Garda, the FBI believe a double murderer who needs urgent apprehension has entered Ireland, and they want him found.

The story that follows is complex, told from the viewpoints of three women; Cathy, Zoe and Emily Cox, a woman who works with the elderly in London. I always rejoice when fiction gives us women who are more than decoration and to get three such women who all display their strengths in very different ways really is exceeding expectations Ms Blake! Zoe is the most vulnerable of the three, understandable when her house has been ransacked which is shortly followed by the unexpected death of her grandmother but she forges on setting up an exhibition of her art despite it all. Emily demonstrates not only her caring nature when she befriends an elderly woman who is suffering with confusion, but also her steely side when she persuades her husband, a consultant psychiatrist to help out in practical ways. And then there is Cathy, a woman who despite turmoil in her personal life doesn’t resort to histrionics but makes plans and follows them through, although I’m quietly pleased to confirm she’ll break a few rules if required.

The underlying plot to this novel is complex, there is plenty of switching of viewpoints and a fair few mysteries that need unravelling. The author walks the line with grace between providing the reader with action, great characters and a credible plot with an equally believable solution and creating utter confusion with so much going on. This is a huge accomplishment for a debut novel, although this is a book that requires a certain amount of concentration as unusually the viewpoints switch within chapters. The headings to some of the chapters involve sewing terms bringing the reader’s attention back to those gruesome alterations that the unknown seamstress made to the wedding dress, and as when or why is also a mystery, they were quite clearly carried out for the purpose of concealment.

The author keeps the tension levels high by adhering far more to the actual time-lines of carrying out the necessary tests than many popular dramas we may watch. Despite the grimness of the wedding dress, this isn’t a depressing read, something achieved by some genuinely realistic yet appealing relationships between some of the characters. It is nice to see a police force not beset by one-upmanship and unrealistic expectations, Cathy and her partner Detective O’Rourke are mutually supportive and we understand why when we hear a little of their back story.

So in case you couldn’t tell, I was incredibly impressed by Little Bones, another great author to come out of the Bonnier Publishers imprint Twenty7 books. If you like your crime fiction to involve the more traditional police procedural, one that has a little more complexity to the generic, this may well be a book that you will really enjoy.  This book has also confirmed my suspicion that Twenty7 have a huge talent in spotting these debut novelists, four out of the four I have read have been seriously impressive – a pretty good bet by anyone’s standards. If you have a manuscript that you think might be suitable for them and live in the UK or ROI, you might want to enter their competition but don’t delay it has a closing date of 31 May 2016.

I’d like to say thank you to the publishers for allowing me to read this book ahead of the publication in eBook format on 17 May 2016. This review is my unbiased thanks to them.

If you’re still undecided, you can read the synopsis and the opening lines here

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

The Closet of Savage Mementos – Nuala Ní Chonchúir

Contemporary Fiction 5*s
Contemporary Fiction
5*s

The year is 1991 when Lillis leaves Dublin for Scotland and a new life, a new start away from the grief-stricken world she finds herself in. Working as a waitress she lives in staff accommodation, learns to deal with her colleagues, and falls in love. Life has come good, away from her mother and brother she forges her way into adulthood her own way.

In the second half of the book we meet Lillas twenty years later, back in Dublin and about to become a mother and wondering, as most women do, what type of mother she will make. Will she be like her own? Verity, her mother wasn’t terribly good at it. An artist she was often neglectful, sharp and impatient with her Lillis and her brother Robin… and she was an alcoholic. Sometimes a recovering alcoholic but even when sober Lillis prepares for the worst before each meeting. Going to Scotland gave Lillis some time away from the responsibility of caring too much, something that seems to have been her role ever since her father left some years before. Lillis has a relationship with her father, his new wife and their two young sons but he isn’t one who can cope with the emotions of a young girl who is looking for support, he loves her best when she is bright and sparkly. Robin is also keen to move out of his mother’s sphere, looking to escape the responsibility of caring for a mother who never put him first. The siblings have a bond born of unspoken hardship and up until Lillis departure have shared the responsibility of Verity.

It would be a mistake to say this is a quiet book, in some parts it is so raw I had to set it aside a while to gather myself in order to continue, but at the same time it is understated; I felt like a spectator to Lillis’s world and felt her joy at new-found love as authentic as the grief that undulates with varying degrees through the whole of the book. That isn’t to say this is a gloomy book though rather it is thoughtful, honest and powerful.

I read the second half of this book, heart in my mouth after the heart-rending close of the first and it was only on completing the entire novel that I found myself hopeful that the twenty years that we don’t hear about first-hand also included many moments of joy for this engaging young woman.

Nuala Ní Chonchúir has written a semi-autobiographical novel, one where bad things happen to good people as well as accurately reflecting the inevitable change in relationships over two decades. I liked Lillis from the beginning, she isn’t painted as a saint and if I were her mother I may well have had a few things to say about her relationships but she doesn’t have that guidance and so battles through the bad times with steely determination. In the early days she can seem much older than her mere twenty years and at others much younger as she worries about other’s opinions of her but this is realistic, we are all made up of different facets and often when an author strives to convince their readers that a person is authentic, this aspect is forgotten and we are presented with uniform characters – Nuala Ní Chonchúir created one that I certainly won’t forget in a hurry!

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

The Secret Place – Tana French

5*'s Crime Fiction
5*’s
Crime Fiction

I’ve been anticipating reading this book for an age, I have loved all Tana French’s previous books but this one truly surpasses them all. With most of the action taking place in an exclusive girls boarding school, St Kilda’s, this is Mallory Towers for grown-ups and I loved it!

The main mystery is clear from the beginning when a Chris Harper from the neighbouring boy’s school is found dead in St Kilda’s grounds, the police interview everyone in the days following but have no suspects for the murder and the case is put on the back burner. All is quiet for the best part of a year until Holly Mackey takes a card to Detective Steve Moran with a picture of Chris and the words ‘I know who killed him’ she had removed it from the secret place, a board at school where the girls could anonymously post their secrets. Steve Moran who was introduced in Faithful Place, has been working cold cases since then which he found interesting to begin with but his ambition is driving him onwards and as far as the detective is concerned, the pinnacle would be the murder squad.sees an opportunity to get in with the Murder Squad.  Seizing the opportunity Steve talks his way into joining feisty Antoinette Conway who works on The Murder Squad to find out who put the card up.  All too soon he finds himself immersed in the bewitching world of teenage girls, with a smattering of totes amazeballs, secret texts and alliances so strong that the girls  appear welded together but, there is also a dark side, with a flash of the supernatural and rivalries that run deep. You really have to feel sorry for the poor man!

This is one of those books which had me totally immersed in the time and place, it is a long time since I was a teenage girl and Tana French perfectly captures the mixture of excitement and dread at a life full of possibilities lying ahead, the intensity of every moment and the longing to stand out from the crowd while in no way wanting to be on the outside. Even though I am not a fan of the supernatural, the few elements present in this book just about worked in this setting pushing into sharp relief the detective’s careful work to find out what happened on that fateful night.

The book is split between times, we meet Chris when he is alive, with a countdown of how many months, weeks and days he is going to live, a simple statement that didn’t lose its power to hit me in the solar plexus each time it appeared. The girls from St Kilda’s also take their turn at telling the tale against the backdrop of the investigation.

The plot is brilliant with the twists and turns keeping me guessing, torn between wanting to race through the book but holding back in case I missed a scrap of information that would hold the key to the mystery. I am pleased to report that the ending works well, this author hasn’t cheated us, the clues were all there revealed slowly but surely in amongst a whole bucketful of red-herrings.

If the plot was good as always Tana French has provided us with a superb cast of characters from the teenage girls to the nuns and head teacher Eileen McKenna, from Steve Moran to Mr Mackey, Holly’s detective father who is walking the tightrope between policeman and father all felt so real that I would swear I knew them. A mark indeed of a fantastic writer.

The Secret Place, as with the rest in the Dublin Murder Squad series, could be read as a standalone since only one character is followed on from one book to the next there are no important story arcs or previous details required, although of course I would suggest anyone who loves a good crime novel reads each and every one.

I’d like to thank the publishers Hodder & Stoughton for allowing me to read a copy of this book in return for this review. The Secret Place was published on 28 August 2014.

The Dublin Murder Squad books:

In The Woods

The Likeness

Faithful Place

Broken Harbour

The Secret Place

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Broken Harbour – Tana French

Crime 4*'s
Crime
4*’s

Tana French has managed to serve up another delight in her fourth book Broken Harbour. Set in Brianstown, a new estate built by the sea when Ireland was on the way up, by the time the story starts the recession has hit and the estate is half-finished. Narrated by Mike `Scorcher’ Kennedy, the man in charge of an investigation into the slaying of a family on the estate it follows the twists and turns as the truth of what happened one Monday night to cause the deaths.

Kennedy is a man for whom life is black and white, partnered by a rookie Richie Curran he sets about showing him the ropes and teaching him the set of rules that have helped him as a murder detective over the years. I loved the straight-talking Kennedy, even though he has family issues of his own he isn’t overtly messed up, just doing a job. The mystery of what happened in the Spain household does have a number of twists and turns to keep the reader entertained; without spoiling the story I thought one aspect was dragged out for more pages than was really needed.

For me the fact that Kennedy’s character lifted the story from the run of the mill police procedural to another level. Great choice for a holiday read.

Tana French has set all her books so far in Ireland where the trained actress has lived since 1990. This is one author with a true flair for telling a good story.

Previous books by Tana French

In the Woods
The Likeness
Faithful Place

 

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

The Lost – Claire McGowan

Crime Fiction 5*'s
Crime Fiction
5*’s

Having enjoyed The Fall I was intrigued to see how Claire McGowan would move from a stand-alone novel to the building of a new series based around a forensic psychiatrist Paula Maguire; the answer is skilfully with aplomb

Paula returns to her childhood home in Northern Ireland in her professional capacity as an expert in missing persons when two teenage girls go missing in her small hometown of Ballyterrin. Joining the local police Paula’s expertise is needed although the team seem suspicious of her and her theories. The search quickly widens when it a possible link is made to another two girls who went missing from the same town some 25 years previously. Paula has her own demons to conquer, her own mother is still missing after disappearing years ago and Aiden her nemesis is now the editor of the local paper.

The strands of the story are skilfully spun weaving through theories and plenty dubious characters to find out what happened to the girls and why. Claire McGowan handles characterisation very well with believable yet flawed characters. The plot moves quickly to make this an enjoyable read, the only downside for me was the emphasis on the Irish problems which at times seemed to intrude on the story. I will certainly be interested the next book in this series.

I received this book from the Amazon Vine Programme

The FallThe Fall by Claire McGowan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Charlotte comes to on the floor of a toilet realising that she had lost everything, what had happened to cause her to reach rock bottom? Charlotte has been busy planning her very expensive wedding when her life is turned upside down. Keisha meanwhile is trying to persuade a Social Worker that she should have her daughter returned to her and her boyfriend Chris. One night Charlotte and Keisha’s lives collide.

This book is really fresh, it is a crime novel but from the viewpoint of those on the outside. Supporting characters have never been so important as the story is told from both Keisha’s and Charlotte’s viewpoints. Their characters develop and although they come from very different backgrounds, they both struggle to overcome their weaknesses. The relationship between them is intriguing, as is the relationship between Hegarty, the Policeman, and Charlotte. All the characters in this book are finely drawn, they are engaging, so much so I read this book full of concern for both Charlotte and Keisha rather than the police procedural mystery element.

Claire McGowan has written a book that drags you into the story from the first page and produced a great debut novel.

View all my reviews