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

The Night Visitor – Lucy Atkins

Psychological Thriller
5*s

A book that captured me from the first page where we meet Olivia Sweetman 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.

After the celebrations the book switches to the run up to the publication of the book, eventually as far back as when Olivia first saw Annabel’s diary in Ileford Manor in Sussex in the hands of Vivian, the housekeeper cum research assistant that Olivia would come to depend on as she juggled her television appearances as a celebratory historian, her marriage to David, busy writing and researching his own book, and her three children Dom, Paul and Jess.

I adored every word of this book, there is always something absolutely irresistible in a book about a book after all, but The Night Visitor has taken this kernel and added the most memorable characters, a plot that is underpinned by meticulous timing so that I became bound up in Olivia’s fight for her reputation long before I understood why she was needing to fight in the first place.

Adding to the history we also hear about beetles, more specifically the dung-beetles that Olivia Sweetman’s father studied, hence that eye-catching cover.

‘Your eye for detail, your doggedness, you’re just remarkable,’ she said, looking into my eyes. Hers really are a striking colour. At that moment they reminded me of a beetle called, Necrophilia formosa, whose iridescent carapace is somewhere between violet and royal blue and which feeds on beautiful flowers that reek powerfully of rotting fish.

So we have Olivia the modern woman juggling life and making her mark studying a woman who was forging ahead in a man’s world in the Victorian times, and we have Vivian, who outshines them both with her strangeness, her adherence to strict routines, her sharp mind which is at odds with her position as a housekeeper but most of all a character who is oh so very believable. When reading the chapters narrated by Vivian, we hear from the two women in turn throughout the book, I was strongly reminded of some of the wonderful creations of Ruth Rendell who created equally dislikeable but fascinating characters.

Olivia has Vivian in her life as a necessary evil, she looks down on the woman who she depends on to give her access to Annabel’s diary, to do the tiring leg-work during the research into this woman’s life and while she is grateful for all her hard-work, her doggedness and attention to detail, once the book is edited, she finds her relentless appeals to write another book difficult to shut down. This struggle between the needy and the needed while trying to maintain the smooth politeness that society demands that makes the entire story so believable.

Whilst the plotting is superb it is definitely the characters that lead this novel and even the bit parts are wonderfully drawn giving you a real sense of the describer and described in broad brush strokes

I do remember how grim I felt as I sat behind Maureen’s desk, unreasonably infuriated by her ‘Smile! It’s gin o’clock!’ sticker on the till and her ‘Keep Calm, It’s Only a Royal Baby’ coaster. I was fighting the urge to rip both objects up and put them in the bin. I have known Maureen since childhood, we were in the same class at primary school and she has always irritated me. She is intrusive, bossy and rather dim.

The Night Visitor will hopefully not haunt me in the way that she haunted Vivian, but these characters, the intricate storyline full of fascinating detail will stay with me for a long time to come. I can safely predict this will be one of my books of 2017.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Quercus who provided me with a copy of The Night Visitor. This review is my unbiased thanks to them.

First Published UK: 4 May 2017
Publisher: Quercus
No of Pages:  368
Genre: Psychological Suspense
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Weekly Posts

WWW Wednesday (January 29)

WWW Wednesday green

Hosted by Miz B at Should be Reading
To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…
• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

I am currently reading The Book of You by Claire Kendal, if this book continues the way it has started it may well be my favourite fiction read of 2014 (so far)  I’m enjoying the two stories in one approach which Claire Kendal has employed for this book.

The Book of You


Blurb

His name is Rafe, and he is everywhere Clarissa turns. At the university where she works. Her favorite sewing shop. The train station. Outside her apartment. His messages choke her voice mail; his gifts litter her mailbox. Since that one regrettable night, his obsession with her has grown, becoming more terrifying with each passing day. And as Rafe has made clear, he will never let her go.
Clarissa’s only escape from this harrowing nightmare is inside a courtroom–where she is a juror on a trial involving a victim whose experiences eerily parallel her own. There she finds some peace and even makes new friends, including an attractive widower named Robert, whose caring attentions make her feel desired and safe. But as a disturbingly violent crime unfolds in the courtroom, Clarissa realizes that to survive she must expose Rafe herself. Conceiving a plan, she begins collecting the evidence of Rafe’s madness to use against him–a record of terror that will force her to relive every excruciating moment she desperately wants to forget. Proof that will reveal the twisted, macabre fairy tale that Rafe has spun around them . . . with an ending more horrifying than her darkest fears. Goodreads

I have just finished The Never List by Koethi Zan

theneverlist koethizan

This is one of those books that could scare you stupid if you aren’t careful. Two friends find themselves trapped in a cellar despite having a list of things to keep them safe, The Never List. My review will follow later this week.

My next read is going to be The Child’s Child by Barbara Vine

The Child's Child


Blurb

What sort of betrayal would drive a brother and sister apart?
When Grace and her brother Andrew inherit their grandmother’s house, they surprise few people by deciding to move in together. But they’ve always got on well and the London house is large enough to split down the middle.
There’s just one thing they’ve not taken into account though. What if one of them wants to bring a lover to the house? When Andrew’s partner James moves in, and immediately picks a fight about the treatment of gay men, the balance is altered – with almost fatal consequences. Amazon

I’m approaching this one with a degree of trepidation as I have a feeling it will disappoint, but I can’t not read this one as I have such affection for Barbara Vine, the author who first introduced me to psychological thrillers; Asta’s Book, The Brimstone Wedding and the Dark Adapted Eye, comfort reads that have served me well over the years!

Posted in Books I have read

The Sacrificial Man – Ruth Dugdall

Psychological Thriller  4*'s
Psychological Thriller
4*’s

Ruth Dugdall has created a second book featuring Cate Austin, a Probation Officer. As in The Woman Before Me the reader enters the story after the crime and after the trial but Alice has not been imprisoned, instead the judge is waiting for Cate Austin to recommend a sentence. Alice answered an online advert ‘Man seeks beautiful woman for the journey of a lifetime. I will lift mine eyes to the hills, from whence cometh my help. Will you help me to die?’ Smith is dead but should Alice be punished?

Once again as a Probation Officer Cate is writing a report on a woman carrying out a crime which we don’t associate with women. Cate Austin teases out information from Alice and carries out her own investigations and the facts presented at the start of the book are not as clear as they first seem. A great second book and once again I can’t wait to see what Ruth Dugdall will serve up next.