This is now the third book I’ve read by this author and Crippen is a fictionalised version of the case of Dr Hawley Harvey Crippen and the murder of his wife of which he was convicted and hanged in 1910.
It could be said that when you know the ending to a story that it will remove all suspense from the reading (or in my case listening) but this book defies that notion. Yes, I knew that Hawley Crippen’s wife Cora was poisoned then dismembered and her torso found under the floor of the cellar of 39 Hilldrop Crescent, Camden and having a somewhat grisly nature I know quite a bit about the events that are considered to lead up to the discovery, but to say I wasn’t captivated by John Boyne’s interpretation and imagination, would be an outright lie.
The story takes us back to Crippen’s earliest days where it appears John Boyne has invented quite a bit to create the most sympathetic view of the child growing into a man who longs to be a doctor. However the story also flips forwards in time to the ship the SS Montrose where John Robinson and his seventeen year old son Edmund board in Antwerp to make the journey to Canada to start a new life. John Robinson is a Doctor and the pair travel first class.
The journey across the Atlantic was probably my favourite part of the whole book. The passengers included the most hideous Antonia Drake and her spoilt daughter Victoria as well as the far more balanced Frenchman Mathieu Zela travelling with his nephew and the unassuming Martha Hayes. There are moments of almost farcical nature as despite the plan to keep a low profile John Robinson is in high demand to socialise with his fellow passengers, as is young Edmund.
Things weren’t an awful lot better in the past as we follow Crippen through his apprenticeship in an abattoir to fund his medical diplomas, his first marriage and the beginning of his relationship with Cora, a music hall performer who he eventually moves to England with. I’ve condensed this to a few sentences but the author carefully lays the basis for the part that all the readers know is on the way, and his answer to the question what led the mild mannered Crippen to butcher Cora and then recklessly move his lover, Ethel Le Neve into Hilltop Crescent? Once again along this tour we meet some truly memorable characters, most of them pretty awful but, oh so entertaining for being so. What struck me most was how much the social rules of the time seem to have played a part in the actual discovery of the murder and the interaction between the friend who first reported her suspicions to the hapless constable at Scotland Yard was one of my favourite scenes.
So yes there is tension, as much about how having started the story with the underdog Crippen we were going to get to the finale of the hanging. I’m not going to dissect this part but I for one wasn’t wholly convinced by the explanation, but it was a clever route to take and therefore bearing in mind this is a fictionalised tale, albeit with some of the key players, including Inspector Dew, the plotting was in place so it didn’t come out of nowhere; In short if I didn’t have my own views it was plausible. But most of all the and the journey both on land and at sea was exceptionally entertaining. The characters from the ship’s crew to the minor players really do carry this story especially as we all know the ending!
This isn’t a book to read if you want the absolute facts of the case, but if you want to be entertained this is the perfect platform to either take a look at Crippen from a slightly different angle, or simply to read a gripping tale.
I listened to this book in audio format, it had been on my TBR since January 2016 but regular readers will know i repeatedly struggled with listening rather than reading. I’m glad to say this book proved I could do it and the day it ended when I was only halfway through my walk home, I felt utterly bereft after all Crippen had accompanied me on walks and whilst knitting over a total of 17 hours and 43 minutes and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it aided by the wonderful narration by James Daniel Wilson.
This is the second fictionalised story I’ve read about this case, Martin Edwards wrote his version called Dancing for the Hangman which I highly recommend.
First Published UK: 2004
No of Pages: 512
Genre: Historical Crime Fiction Amazon UK Amazon US
Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Vicky from I’d Rather Be At The Beach who 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 I’m sharing the opening paragraph of Crippen: A Novel by John Boyne which I’m listening to as an audio book. Regular readers of this blog will know I haven’t had a great deal of success with this format in the past, but I’m giving it another go in the hope that I can listen and knit at the same time. So far I’ve listened while walking and it’s going ok but I’m going to practice a little bit before adding anything more complex into the mix!
July 1910: The grisly remains of Cora Crippen, music hall singer and wife of Dr Hawley Crippen, are discovered in the cellar of 39 Hilldrop Crescent, Camden. But the Doctor and his mistress, Ethel Le Neve, have vanished, much to the frustration of Scotland Yard and the outrage of a horrified London.
Across the Channel in Antwerp, the SS Montrose sets sail on its two week voyage to Canada. Amongst its passengers are the overbearing Antonia Drake and her daughter Victoria, who is hell-bent on romance, the enigmatic Mathieu Zela and the modest Martha Hayes. Also on board are the unassuming Mr John Robinson and his seventeen-year-old son Edmund. But all is not as it seems… Amazon
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First Chapter ~ First Paragraph ~ Intro
Antwerp: Wednesday, 20 July 1910
SHE WAS OVER 575 feet in length, with a beam almost an eighth of that size. She weighed approximately 16,500 tons and had a capacity of over eighteen hundred passengers, although today she was only three-quarters full. Stately and impressive, her hull and paintwork gleaming in the July sun, she seemed almost impatient to depart, her chimneys piping steam cautiously as the Scheldt river crashed noisily against her side. She was the SS Montrose, part of the Canadian Pacific fleet of passenger ships, and she was preparing to set sail from the Port of Antwerp in Belgium for the city of Quebec in Canada, some three thousand miles away.
I think you will agree this is a striking description of the SS Montrose but of course we want to meet the infamous Dr Crippen.
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.
Well it’s that time for reflection on the old and setting new goals for the new year so I’m going to start in my traditional way with a few facts and figures.
I have read and reviewed 147 books in 2017, one less than this time last year and boy some of those books have been really worth shouting about!
This amounts to 48, 281 pages 657 pages more than last year so obviously I’ve chosen some longer books to delight me in 2017 – that is an average of 132 pages per day!! No wonder I keep saying I don’t have time to do anything – to be honest that figure shocks even me!
Good old Goodreads tells me that my longest read was The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne was the longest book I read at a whopping 592 pages which was my very last review of 2017
The shortest unsurprisingly was a short storyPromises to Keep by Elizabeth Haynes at a mere 41 pages.
of the oldest books on my TBR was Room by Emma Donoghue which I finally read earlier this month – this was the book most read by other readers on Goodreads – 926,679 other readers there have also read this popular book, although I suspect many of them did so a little before I did!
The book I shared with the fewest readers was a debut crime thriller The Last Threadby Ray Britain, written by a former Police Officer not only were we treated to a new Detective but the authenticity of the read shone through – this book deserves a wider audience for sure!
A whopping 92 books fell into the crime fiction/psychological thriller categories although the psychological thriller count was down by 8 from 2016 to a mere 35.
My non-fiction reads declined slightly from 15 to 13 book fitting into this category, including a must-read for book-lovers; The Book of Forgotten Authorsby Christopher Fowler although a large proportion of these are also crime related.
As always my goal for the year was to read more of my own books so not only did I participate in Cathy’s wonderful 20 Books of Summer 2017 challenge (which I completed on time – go me!) I chose a number of books that fitted with 2017’s obsession with the variety of ways true crime is presented and books inspired by true crime which was kicked off by the brilliantLittle Deaths by Emma Flint
I also participated in the Mount TBR Challenge on Goodreads for the first time where I completed 34 of my aimed 36 books purchased prior to 1 January 2017.
In all I read 56 of my own books or a relatively respectable 38% of my reads for 2017 which is a vast improvement on the 49 books completed in 2016 and very nearly the 40% I was aiming for. I was spurred on by realising how many superb books I already own with The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell being an early delight.
Of course though I’m a book lover and so this is exactly the time and place to say thank you to all the authors and publishers who have given me copies of your books to review – there are simply too many outstanding reads of the year (although tomorrow I will pick my top ten published in 2017) a whole 92 books read in 2017 were ARCs including Shelterby Sarah Franklin a historical novel set in the Forest of Dean where I lived from 1979 to 1987 – a setting that was also used in The Doll Funeral by Kate Hamer
As for you all, what you seemed to enjoy most in 2017 were the following Top Five Reviews of the year were:
Two of these are from my own bookshelves proving that it isn’t just the newest releases that captures reader’s attention!
Finally at the beginning of December I completed the annual filling in of the Reading Bingo squares with some choices of the year.
Beyond the Goodreads Reading Challenge, I don’t normally go in for bookish goals but I am going to break with the tradition and set myself some (gentle) targets for 2018.
In 2017 I discovered what a wonderful array I have already in my possession and so the target is to read 40% of my own books in 2018. To give me some motivation I have decided to allow myself to buy one book for every three of my own that I read – of course there are some get-out clauses – the annual book sales held on the island are exempt and I will be visiting the library for any must-reads that I don’t own.
The latter clause is important as I really want to up my reading or re-reading of classic novels, I shelved just one book in this category in 2017 although two others could have been put there but I felt they belonged better elsewhere. My target is to read at least 6 so one every other month and the library is the place to go for these. Despite being a library member all of my life, I haven’t visited anywhere near enough in more recent years which is something I feel guilty about.
I am taking part in the Mount TBR Challenge again with an aim of reading 36 books – let’s see if I make it in 2018.
On the blog
I am (very) slowly amalgamating the tabs with the aim of putting all the reviews for 2013-2015 onto one tab – this ongoing project must be completed by the end of March 2018.
My about me page is in dire need of an update especially as it is visited far more often than I expected with 660 views in the last year.
And of course I will shortly display an updated shelf as my header to welcome in the start of 2018.
I always used to write my book review before starting a new book and this habit is being resumed in 2018 – this has been a very busy year and as much as I love blogging it has been a real struggle to fit everything in and I’m hoping this will help me get a better balance, rather than frantically writing reviews at the weekend when I need to endlessly check names (I have a real blind-spot in this department) as well as other elusive details.
I’m going to start this review with a serious confession – I requested this book by accident, without even having read the blurb so when it appeared on my shelf I was let’s say ambivalent at best about reading – thank goodness I didn’t realise how long it was (592 pages) before I put it on the spreadsheet that must be obeyed! Well this was the best mistake (and there are a few to choose from) in 2017!
For all that it’s hard to explain just why I loved it so much without giving away any more than the synopsis, so please bear with me while I alternately gush and mush this review.
The Heart’s Invisible Furies is the story of Cyril Avery’s life, from before he was born in 1945 until old age creeps in 2008 and a bonus piece beyond. Yes, I know that sounds like a saga, and it is, but not like any saga I have ever read. What it does have in common with that now unfashionable style is the depth of character that is gained by the sheer length of time covered, but John Boyne has decided that we will only catch up with our protagonist every seven years which means that the first time we meet him, he is a school boy living with his parents Charles and Maude in Ireland. But do not think that a seven-year old boy has nothing worth hearing, the scene is being set with an event that Cyril will carry forward with him and this characterises the beauty of the book; it might be a long book but nothing said ever feels like a filler, each part has either a meaning or its importance will become apparent later on.
I was drawn into the story right from the start with one of the most memorable openings I’ve read in a long while and although I didn’t have any preconceptions (that’s what happens if you choose a book with no more knowledge than the most famous book for children which the author had written) the style was far funnier than those absent preconceptions had anticipated.
But for all they never fought. Maude’s way of dealing with Charles was to treat him like an ottoman, of no use to anyone but worth having around.
That’s not to say this book is one big hoot, it definitely isn’t, to read it is to ride the highs and the lows of Cyril’s life with him as this shy, solitary schoolboy grows into a teenager and then to a man where he becomes a civil servant and beyond where he ventures out of Ireland. The work itself was incredibly boring and my colleagues a little irritating, the engines of their days fuelled by personal and political gossip.
Sitting next to the vacuous and highly unfocused Miss Ambrosia
She generally had at least five men on the go, everyone from barmen to dancehall entrepreneurs, showjumpers to pretenders to the Russian throne, and had no shame in juggling them like some nymphomaniacal circus act.
The everyday scenes have imprinted themselves on my mind and I was soon willing things to work out for Cyril, because here we have a man who every time things seem to be working out, life has an uncanny knack of knocking him off his stride.
Of course just like in real life, some characters only appear for one of the seven year sections alongside Cyril, whilst some appear then fade into the background before reappearing, and some, sadly are with us for a few sections before disappearing completely. What never happens is that you are bored of any of the rich array of men and women who walk alongside Cyril.
And yet for all that this is a book which has something important to say, most obviously about Ireland and the position the church held, and the way they treated women and other sections of society, but along with the markers to show the passing of time, none of this is driven home in an unnecessarily heavy-handed way.
To bring this rambling and frankly unstructured review to a close, I will just say that I adored this book. I was deeply annoyed that I read it in the run up to Christmas, a time when it was necessary to put the book aside and engage with the three-dimensional people and do endless chores, all the time longing to get back to Cyril Avery and his tragedies and triumphs, the heart-breaking moments which are underpinned with its almost playful look at the absurdities of life.
I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers for providing me with a copy of The Heart’s Invisible Furies, allowing me to laugh and yes, sob, with Cyril Avery, this review is my thank you to them and of course the accomplished John Boyne. I just have to say if you read this book, and it is at a bargain price on kindle at this very moment, then do read the afterword by the author which is touching and heartfelt and explains where the inspiration for this book came from.
First Published UK: 17 February 2017
No of Pages: 592
Genre: Contemporary Fiction Amazon UK Amazon US
My last read was The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne which was a sumptuous and delightful read – so much so that there is in danger that I need to recalibrate that all important Top Ten list that will be posted at the end of the year.
Forced to flee the scandal brewing in her hometown, Catherine Goggin finds herself pregnant and alone, in search of a new life at just sixteen. She knows she has no choice but to believe that the nun she entrusts her child to will find him a better life.
Cyril Avery is not a real Avery, or so his parents are constantly reminding him. Adopted as a baby, he’s never quite felt at home with the family that treats him more as a curious pet than a son. But it is all he has ever known.
And so begins one man’s desperate search to find his place in the world. Unspooling and unseeing, Cyril is a misguided, heart-breaking, heartbroken fool. Buffeted by the harsh winds of circumstance towards the one thing that might save him from himself, but when opportunity knocks, will he have the courage, finally, take it? NetGalley
This was my last read for publication in 2017 and I have six books with a publication date of 11 January 2018 so I’m cracking on with them now.
At the moment I am reading Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan which I’ve been longing to read ever since I first got wind of this one back in the summer as I love a courtroom drama.
Part courtroom thriller; part portrait of a marriage; part exploration of how our memories still haunt us, Anatomy of a Scandal is a disarming and provocative psychological drama.
Sophie’s husband, James, is a loving father and a successful public figure. Yet he stands accused of a terrible crime. Sophie is convinced he is innocent and desperate to protect her precious family from the lies that threaten to engulf him. She’s kept his darkest secret ever since they were first lovers, at Oxford. And if she stood by him then, she can do it now.
Kate is the barrister prosecuting his case. She’s certain that James is guilty and determined he should pay. No stranger to suffering herself, she doesn’t flinch from posing the questions few want to hear. About what happens between a man a woman when they’re alone: alone in bed, alone in an embrace, alone in a lift . . .
Is James the victim of an unfortunate misunderstanding or the perpetrator of something sinister? Who is right: Sophie or Kate? This scandal – which forces Sophie to appraise her marriage and Kate her demons – will have far-reaching consequences for them all. NetGalley
Next up is Three Things About Elise by Joanna Cannon, a stunning sounding book which has garnered some stunning early reviews.
There are three things you should know about Elsie.
The first thing is that she’s my best friend.
The second is that she always knows what to say to make me feel better.
And the third thing… might take a little bit more explaining.
84-year-old Florence has fallen in her flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. As she waits to be rescued, Florence wonders if a terrible secret from her past is about to come to light; and, if the charming new resident is who he claims to be, why does he look exactly a man who died sixty years ago?
From the author of THE TROUBLE WITH GOATS AND SHEEP, this book will teach you many things, but here are three of them:
1) The fine threads of humanity will connect us all forever.
2) There is so very much more to anyone than the worst thing they have ever done.
3) Even the smallest life can leave the loudest echo. NetGalley
Now of course it’s that time of year when my house fills up and reading time is few and far between so I’m fully expecting this week’s read to take longer than a week but hey, I can be sociable once a year, can’t I?
What do you think of these choices, have you read any of them? Do you want to? Please let me know in the comments box below.
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!
This is one of those books I’ve wanted to read for what seems like an age but I’ve never got around to actually doing so, until now. My short review is that The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas should never have languished on the bookshelf for a day, let alone the age that it did.
Bruno wants to be an explorer, he’s practiced in his big house with plenty of nooks and crannies in Berlin. His main occupations are keeping out of his older sister, Gretel’s way, enjoying the company of his three friends and treating the maids with the disdain of one who is born to a privileged background. Bruno’s father is a different matter, brusque and busy and a visit from ‘The Fury’ sends the whole household, Bruno’s mother included, into a frenzy.
Not long after the visit Bruno returns home to find his belongings being packed into a crate by Maria, the maid. The family is moving to ‘Out With’ and the house is being packed up. Bruno is told that move is ‘The Fury’s’ idea and no amount of pleading or bargaining on Bruno’s part can stop it happening.
In ‘Out With’ the house is smaller, there is the presence of soldiers, one particularly brutal Lieutenant named Kotler and from Bruno’s window in the far smaller house he can see a big fence and people wearing ‘striped pyjamas’ in the distance.
It is no secret that Bruno, the son of a Nazi befriends a Jewish boy, Shmuel who is inside the barbed wire. When Bruno’s head is shaved due to lice he is pleased to see he looks like Shmuel, although a little fatter, and the two boys make a plan.
The whole premise to the story is that Bruno is an innocent, his misuse of the words that flag to the readers the true horror, is used to denote that. Bruno in his previous life didn’t associate with Jews and doesn’t understand the significance of the word. This is possibly the most unrealistic point made in the book but nine-year old boys can be terribly self-absorbed! I was fairly sure I knew what was going to happen all the way through this third person narrative by the rather lonely Bruno’s eyes, but I didn’t and the turn the book took caught me off-guard.
What is fascinating is that this book, aimed at young readers also encapsulates a number of themes that will only be spotted by the older reader, for instance the ‘friendship’ between Bruno’s mother and Lieutenant Kotler but there are some that are spot on for the age-group such as the change in the siblings relationship once other people of their own age are removed from the picture. Gretel is a curious character, one minute playing with dolls, the next making sure she was always wherever Lieutenant Kotler is, capturing a pre-teen at that most awkward of times.
At times this book made me smile, at others it made me weep but most of all it made me think. It isn’t a true story, of course nine-year old Shmuel wouldn’t have lived long enough at Auschwitz, he certainly wouldn’t have had time to make friends with a boy who happened to live on the other side of the fence but in my opinion it doesn’t make this a bad book, it could be the starting point for an interest in understanding what really happened to children in Nazi Germany, no matter which side of the divide they were born on.
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas gets the award for producing the most emotional reaction in my 20 Books of Summer 2017 and is my fifteenth read.
First Published UK: 2007
No of Pages: 288
Genre: Historical Fiction Amazon UK Amazon US
I really need to ramp up my reading (and reviewing) to try and complete the 20 Books of Summer 2017 before the deadline – it’s going to be tight!!
At the moment I a reading Did You See Melody? by Sophie Hannah a favourite author of mine and whose books never fail to surprise me. Did You See Melody? will be published on 24 August 2017.
Pushed to breaking point, Cara Burrows abandons her home and family and escapes to a five-star spa resort she can’t afford. Late at night, exhausted and desperate, she lets herself into her hotel room and is shocked to find it already occupied – by a man and a teenage girl.
A simple mistake on the part of the hotel receptionist – but Cara’s fear intensifies when she works out that the girl she saw alive and well in the hotel room is someone she can’t possibly have seen: the most famous murder victim in the country, Melody Chapa, whose parents are serving life sentences for her murder.
Cara doesn’t know what to trust: everything she’s read and heard about the case, or the evidence of her own eyes. Did she really see Melody? And is she prepared to ask herself that question and answer it honestly if it means risking her own life? Amazon
I’ve just finished The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne which was a brilliant read and one from my list of books that have been sat on the TBR for what seems like forever.
‘Some things are just sitting there, minding their own business, waiting to be discovered. Like America. And other things are probably better off left alone’
Nine-year-old Bruno has a lot of things on his mind. Who is the ‘Fury’? Why did he make them leave their nice home in Berlin to go to ‘Out-With’ ? And who are all the sad people in striped pyjamas on the other side of the fence? The grown-ups won’t explain so Bruno decides there is only one thing for it – he will have to explore this place alone. What he discovers is a new friend. A boy with the very same birthday. A boy in striped pyjamas. But why can’t they ever play together? Amazon
Next up I am going to read Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood which although I’m really looking forward to reading it, I am wondering why or how I managed to pick books with so many pages for the reading challenge – deep breath for what promises to be 560 pages of pure joy!
Sometimes I whisper it over to myself: Murderess. Murderess. It rustles, like a taffeta skirt along the floor.’
Grace Marks. Female fiend? Femme fatale? Or weak and unwilling victim?
Around the true story of one of the most enigmatic and notorious women of the 1840s, Margaret Atwood has created an extraordinarily potent tale of sexuality, cruelty and mystery. Amazon
So that’s my reading week – What are you reading? Do share in the comments box below!
Cathy at Cathy 746 has a yearly challenge to read twenty books over the summer months starting on 1 June 2017 and running until 3 September 2017, and once again I’ve decided to join her.
My aim this year was to read all twenty books in the allotted time span but the plan has been somewhat disrupted, however despite only posting reviews for books 1 – 5 of the challenge (you can see the original list the master page here) I have actually finished reading the first set of 10 with reviews to follow, and so it’s time to choose the next set in the hope I will magically get these read before the cut-off date!
The links below will take you to the Goodreads description