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

Daisy in Chains – Sharon Bolton

Crime Fiction 5*s
Crime Fiction
5*s

A deliciously dark read which was simply superb!

What you want to know a little bit more? Some book reviews really don’t have to say too much at all. If you’ve read any of Sharon Bolton’s previous books you’ll know she really does know her craft; not only can she come up with a great story her characters are always fully formed. None more so in this book when the trio of characters she has created will soon have you under their spell.

Hamish Wolfe is in HMP Isle of Wight prison, convicted of the murder of three young women, fat young women. Judged by his peers to be guilty of luring the women to caves in Cheddar Gorge in Somerset and killing them. The former doctor’s mother, Sandra has set up a group to campaign for his freedom.

Sandra Wolfe invites Maggie Rose, Lawyer and true-crime writer who has managed to free seven other convicted criminals to help her but Maggie just isn’t sure that this is a case she can win but she agrees to meet the group. And what a group they are; a writer that conjures up the group mentality while picking out distinctive characters for the reader to examine, avoiding obvious clichés yet leaving this reader in no doubt of how these meetings have played out in the past is one heck of a writer!

Pete Watson was the officer that had Hamish convicted and doesn’t want Maggie digging around in the background to the killings. A man with a lot on his plate as his boss is the man who now lives with his ex-wife and their daughter what or who is he really trying to protect?

I defy anyone to read this book and not to be drawn by these captivating characters who are dancing a dance of attraction, but what are they attracted to? Beauty or brains? Who exactly is manipulating who?

With the story told in a linear time-line we also have letters written to and from the prison, emails and chapters from the  draft of the book that Maggie is writing about Hamish, complete with the corny title The Big Bad Wolf! All of these items reveal that Maggie isn’t quite the cool calm collected women she presents to the outside world. On the other hand Pete doesn’t seem to quite sure whether he is still investigating the disappearance of a potential first victim to provide yet more proof of Hamish’s guilt or whether he is helping Maggie to clear his name. This is a tricky and unusual mind-set for any character in crime fiction. Normally everyone is sure which side of the fence they sit on and stick with it but I got the sense that Peter was trying to fulfil too many briefs and expectations. Perhaps his heart is ruling his head? And what about Hamish, the obvious question is of course around his guilt – did he murder those women? – but the book also goes further in asking is he capable of such an act? A question which is almost as compelling with a different burden of proof required.

The short chapters beg you to read just a little bit more and yet despite the great plot, the fabulous characters there is a questioning quality to this book. I have always dismissed the women who feature in true stories of women who are drawn to men in prison, but Sharon Bolton does go some way to examining the psyche of these relationships in an overt way and a more subtle one – I was drawn to Hamish, even without seeing him in the flesh.

Definitely one of the best crime fiction reads of the year so far I can’t recommend this stand-alone story highly enough.

I’d like to thank the publishers Random House UK for allowing me to read a copy of Daisy in Chains prior to publication on 2 June 2016. This unbiased, yet gushing review, is my thanks to them.

Other Books by Sharon Bolton (aka S.J. Bolton)

Lacey Flint Series

Now You See Me
Dead Scared
Like This For Ever
A Dark and Twisted Tide

Short Stories

If Snow Hadn’t Fallen
Here Be Dragons

Standalone Books

Little Black Lies

 

 

 

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

In a Dark Dark Wood – Ruth Ware

Psychological Thriller 5*s
Psychological Thriller
5*s

In a dark, dark wood there was a dark, dark house;
And in the dark, dark house there was a dark, dark, room;
And in the dark, dark room there was a dark, dark cupboard;
And in the dark, dark cupboard there was…a skeleton!
—-traditional Halloween tale

Well this book is perfectly suited to an autumnal evening such is the oppressiveness of the mystery that is held within the pages of this book.

This spooky story starts with Leonora, now known as Nora being invited to the hen party of her former friend, Clare. The invite comes from the unknown Flo but Nora isn’t sure she wants to join the rest of the hens in the woodland hideaway  particularly as she hasn’t spoken to Clare for ten years, ever since the day she left school one day never to return. So we already know something bad has happened in the past and you’d think that since Nora is a crime writer, she would have been alerted to something iffy, but… there wouldn’t be a story if she had done what most of us would do, and made an excuse and not gone, with good reason, after all she wasn’t invited to the wedding. Back to the story, Nora makes contact with another of the hens. Nina and they agree that they’ll both go as support to each other. After all it might be fun!

When the hens arrive at the house they are surprised that the Northumberland getaway isn’t an old creepy home but glass structured house which has views into the woods, but that means that it is easy to feel that anyone who chooses to, can see in. The atmosphere in the house is so realistically portrayed. Six people none of whom know all of the others, except the bride-to-be are forced to have fun together and you can feel the underlying tension which occurs in such unnatural circumstances. Of course part of the problem is that no-one is quite sure who knows their secrets.

The characters are great especially as the tension rises. We meet Clare the bride-to-be who is reserved in the extreme along with her chief bridesmaid Flo who is there to ensure that Clare’s hen do is everything she dreamed of and will do anything to make sure that happens, aka known as a complete control freak! Alongside them we have the token male, Tom who is Clare’s camp friend and Melanie, a new mum of the kind that believes she is the first mother to ever leave her child for the first time. With Nina far more outgoing than the more reserved Nora the first evening gets off to a lively start which isn’t without the threat of exposing long-held secrets and we all know how well drink and secrets mix!

The story is told in part in a series of flashbacks and from the start we know something went badly wrong, but what and to whom, is the mystery that kept me turning those pages. I’m not easily spooked but this author’s descriptive writing style really got me in the zone of an oppressive situation and as a consequence I was more than a little creeped out more than once.

I can’t reveal anything more without potentially spoiling the tale for others but suffice to say that although I loved this I did notice a couple of minor weak points in towards the end but the excellent writing and the fact that it raised a few hairs on my neck means that this book fully deserves all the accolades it has received; I add mine to the long list.

I am very grateful to Random House UK for my copy of this book which was published on 30 July 2015.

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

The Mistake I Made – Paula Daly

Psychological Thriller 5*s
Psychological Thriller
5*s

Having really enjoyed Paula Daly’s previous two books, Just What Kind of Mother are You? And Keep Your Friends Close I didn’t even read the synopsis of The Mistake I Made before requesting a copy so I have to admit I didn’t expect to find myself in a twisted version of ‘An Indecent Proposal’, but once there, despite a couple of early misgivings about how realistic this storyline was, I soon found myself hooked.

Briefly Roz Toovey has found herself in a financial mess, she works hard as a physiotherapist (which was Paula Daly’s career before she provided far more of us with a way to relax) but due to unforeseeable events and her ex-husband Winston’s poor money management, now finds herself with debts coming out of her earholes. The answer is then handed to her, a reasonably attractive wealthy man offers her a large enough sum of money to spend the night with him.  Roz weighs up the fact that he is married, and to someone she has met, but that needs to be balanced against the fact that the money could help her and her nine-year old son George get back on their feet

There are many reasons why I love Paula Daly’s writing which is laced with humour and despite the issues which unfold you are never far from a character you’ve met in real life – here is an example from Roz’s practice manager, Wayne when she is in the middle of a session with a patient:

‘Did you call that insurance guy?’ Wayne asked.
‘What? No sorry. Slipped my mind again.’
Wayne sighed dramatically, rolled his eyes and spoke in the way one would when reprimanding a small child. ‘Get it sorted, Roz. Everyone else has had their assessments.’ He lowered his voice. ‘Without that assessment, you’re not fully protected. The clinic is not fully protected, unless –‘
I’ll do it. Promise. As soon as I’ve got a free minute.

One of the other reasons is the setting; all three of Paula Daly’s books have been set in the Lake District, this time in Hawkshead where Roz boards the ferry to travel backwards and forwards across Lake Windemere, we get a real feel of the place, not only the standard picturesque part but a feeling of community that such a setting engenders and for Roz her lifeline is her neighbours the fantastic Celia and Dennis who help her in the little ways that mean so much, especially with George who is running into trouble at school as Roz’s precarious money situation become too difficult to keep under wraps.

So even though I heaved a sigh at Roz’s naiveté and felt exasperated for her not having taken the most basic steps to right a situation that had been brewing (like a good northern cup of mashed tea) for some time, I soon bought into the storyline and as close to the edge of my seat as possible without falling off, as the drama unfolded in the most spectacular way. This book really does have a bit of everything with the balance of good and bad perfect, the timing of the next revelation impeccable keeping the tension maintained whilst being thoroughly entertained by the mundane on the very page:

I pulled a daisy from the grass and passed it to George. He rolled his eyes. Too girly.
‘What did you do at school today?’
‘Science,’ he said.
‘Did you do an experiment?’
‘We put white blocks into different bottles to see what would happen.’
‘Different bottles of what?’
He shrugged. ‘Milk and Coke and stuff.’
I remembered the experiment. It was used to demonstrate the rates of decay o teeth, the idea being kids would make wise choices when deciding what to drink. The thrust of it appeared to be lost on George.

If you haven’t tried this author you really should!

I’m delighted to have received my copy of this book from the publishers Random House UK ahead of the publication date of 27 August 2015 in return for my honest review.

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

The Girls – Lisa Jewell

Contemporary Fiction 5*s
Contemporary Fiction
5*s

I have enjoyed all of Lisa Jewell’s books mainly for her characterisation and once again in The Girls the people that live in Virginia Terrace and Crescent were the kind that I felt I’d met, I knew these people, so authentically are they portrayed.

After the characters comes the story and this is a dark one, and to my mind one of her best. Clare has moved into one of the terraces with her two girls, just a year apart at eleven and twelve. Why they are there and who they are hiding from soon becomes clear and although Grace and Pip have been through a lot in the last few months it isn’t long before they get drawn to the gang of youngsters in communal gardens. Although this is a story that largely centres on tweens and teens, and is set in London, this is a gang in the old-fashioned sense, a group of youngsters who hang out together and don’t go home in time for tea.

These gardens sound amazing covering a large area with open areas and more secluded ones. A playground offers the youngsters somewhere to meet in the summer evenings while the Rose Garden is a place to think, complete with a bench in memory of Phoebe, a girl who lived thirty years previously and died in the gardens.

The residents are a great mix, there are the family who home-school complete with a diabetic grandfather, the elderly war refugee who has stories to tell, a social worker and her neglected daughter. When Grace and Pip get invited into Adele and Leo’s apartment by their three daughters Catkin, Fern and Willow it would seem that the gang in the garden will expand to absorb the two new-comers but Pip is unsure, she’s seen and heard things that make her feel uncomfortable.

The book contains Pip’s thoughts in touching letters to her father who is away, here she pours out her thoughts on the new house complete with little illustrations, I especially loved the one of Rhea’s rabbit which is taken for walks by Pip while the rest of the youngsters gather together. As Grace’s thirteenth birthday approaches the gap between the sisters noticeably widens particularly as Grace becomes enamoured with one of the boys and Pip is nowhere ready for love complications in her life. With their mother Clare learning to acclimatise to their new home and her past, Grace is allowed the freedom to roam in the safety of the gardens. But there is danger out there camouflaged amongst the beauty and the close community.

Lisa Jewell has structured the book in such a way that because she tells us at the beginning that something has happened to one of the sisters, and then presents the characters, it became impossible not to be suspicious of every single one. Because of this, some of the delightful scenes described have long shadows cast over them in a way that I’m sure they wouldn’t had the book been told in a strictly linear fashion. With the similarities between Phoebe’s death and this new incident, comparisons are made and whispers are spread like greenfly on the roses in the garden, not helped when old secrets spill out creating conflict.

Lisa Jewell is one of my favourite authors and her later books have turned much darker without losing their brightly coloured characters. You won’t find much in the way of stereotypes in these novels but they are realistic, parts of her characters are always instantly recognisable from the efficient and loving mother Adele, to the more nervous and diffident Clare, from Leo who exudes bonhomie to Rhea who is unable to shrug off the past. You really should meet them all too!

The Girls is published today, 2 July 2015 by Random House UK who I’d like to thank for allowing me to read this book in return for this review.

My favourite Lisa Jewell books:

click on the covers to read my reviews

Before I Met YouThe House We Grew Up InThe Making of UsThe Truth About Melody Browne

Lisa Jewell Novels
• The Girls (2015)
The Third Wife (2014)
• The House We Grew Up In (2013)
• Before I Met You (2012)
• The Making Of Us (2011
• After The Party (2010)
• The Truth About Melody Browne (2009)
• 31 Dream Street (2007)
• Vince and Joy (2005
• A Friend of the Family (2004)
• One Hit Wonder (2001)
• Thirtynothing (2000)
• Ralph’s Party (1999)

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

First One Missing – Tammy Cohen

Psychological Thriller 5*s
Psychological Thriller
5*s

Being a huge fan of Tammy Cohen’s I was thrilled to spot a copy of this on NetGalley and gave a little (well quite loud) squeal of excitement when the approval email came winging its way into my in-box. What I like about her writing is that each book I’ve read has felt very different, Tammy is certainly not a one-trick-pony, yet they all have in-depth characters and a sense of humour. However I was slightly nervous about this one with the subject matter of this one being about four murdered young (under-tens) girls, I did wonder what the pages were going to hold. I needn’t have worried, this is a great book, and the wry observational truths lighten the dark subject matter without ever venturing into a dismissive attitude to the crimes being described.

In North London we meet Poppy Glover’s mother who is wishing she could turn back time, two days before her daughter was safe, the day before she was only missing, there was still hope, but today she has been found dead on Hampstead Heath the scene of the previous three ‘Kenwood Killer’ murders, named after the nearby Kenwood House.

The same morning Emma Reid wakes up with her distant husband Guy, soon after the day has begun she will receive a phone call from the Family Liaison Officer assigned to them, Leanne Miller who will visit with the terrible news that another child has been murdered by the same perpetrator. Two other families, Fiona and Mark Botsford and the mother of the first victim Helen Purvis will receive similar calls. Meanwhile Sally Freeland, journalist for the Chronical is determined to get an exclusive. She’s well placed having persuaded Helen Purvis to let her write articles in the hope that they would find the killer of her daughter Megan and as Helen has set up a support group for the bereaved parents she has no doubt that Poppy’s parents will soon be welcomed into Megan’s Angels.

So Helen sprang into action gearing her family, teenage son Rory and husband Simon up for a meeting of Megan’s Angels along with the other FLOs and first three families, not something she is looking forward to as she describes in this perceptive and realistic paragraph:

People always expected the families to be a harmonious little group, bound together by tragedy, supporting each other through the nightmare they’d stumbled into. But they were just like everyone else. Some were prickly (Fiona Botsford), some overbearing (Simon Hewitt). They didn’t stop having personalities just because of what had happened to them – they could still get right up each other’s noses, despite the horrible thing that had brought them together.

The author has written this book from the character’s perspectives, we get an insight into their lives through their own perspective, as well as the police investigation from Leanne’s and a different viewpoint from the despicable Sally’s as she uses her own contacts to try and beat the police to finding the perpetrator. Although there is a mystery, and a very good one at that, this is a character driven book which gives the reader a great variety of sub-plots that cross the age spectrum. As always with Tammy Cohen, these are realistic people, all flawed which makes for an interesting read and helps when trying to keep straight which girl belonged to each family group.

I highly recommend this book for lovers of psychological novels with a strong domestic bent. The plot was superb with plenty of plausible suspects, and even though I worked this one out (by some fluke) I wasn’t certain enough not to get thoroughly caught up in the tension as the novel hurtled around some tight corners, dodging and swerving towards the finishing line.

First One Missing will be published by Random House UK on 2 July 2015, don’t miss out!

Previous books by Tammy Cohen (some written under her given name of Tamara Cohen)
The Mistress’s Revenge
The War of the Wives (note to self I NEED a copy of this one)
Someone Else’s Wedding
The Broken
Dying for Christmas

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

After the Fire – Jane Casey

Crime Fiction 5*s
Crime Fiction
5*s

Another superb outing for Maeve Kerrigan in this, the sixth in the series. Although it isn’t necessary to have read the previous five books, in my opinion, you are missing out if you don’t read this series in order.

So what happens? Well there is a fire, always good when the title links to the content, at Murchison House on the Maudling Estate, the scene of the action in book five, The Kill. The fire took hold of the tenth and eleventh floors of the tower block and one of the fatalities is MP Geoff Armstrong but no-one knows what he was doing there. On the eleventh floor two bodies are found but with no identification, the police need to find out who the victims are and why they were locked into the flat. Added to that there is a boy who has lost his mother, an elderly woman who may have the key to the mystery and a young girl who has suffered horrific burns. The more the police probe, the more secrets are uncovered, but the investigators struggle to decide who was the target and what the motive was for this terrifying act of arson.

Luckily for us, but perhaps not so fortunate for Maeve. the new boss DCI Una Burt decides contrary to her previous thoughts that she should partner Derwent specifically to investigate whether the controversial MP was the target of arson and unsurprisingly she would like the result before the last embers of the fire have burnt out. I have to admit at this point that I love Derwent…. He is annoying supercilious a womaniser and anything but a team player but there is something about him that appeals strongly and I am amazed that Maeve remains more or less impervious to his charms.

I’m a huge fan of Jane Casey’s books, and this one was, if anything, even better than those that have preceded it. The characters are an absolute delight, particularly Derwent who is arrogant and refuses to follow orders but who every now and again shows his softer side, something that is even more apparent in this outing. But the author doesn’t just confine her great characterisation to the police force, the victims and the bystanders are so realistic that I felt I knew them even if some of them are predictably repulsive.

There are multiple strands to the story, but at no time is there any hint of confusion as these are expertly handled, including the reappearance of Chris Swain the man who is stalking Maeve. This is a great story arc which despite being an extreme example accurately portrays the absolute single-minded nature of this kind of perpetrator.

Added to the great characters, a complex but not confusing plot, there are a few contemporary issues to explore and finally, there is no mistaking the setting, a North London council estate. I recommend this series to anyone who says they like crime novels, there isn’t another series quite like it!

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Random House UK who allowed me to read this book which will be published next week, 18 June 2015.

Maeve Kerrigan Series in order

The Burning

The Reckoning

The Last Girl

The Stranger You Know

The Kill

After The Fire

 

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

Disclaimer – Renée Knight

Psychological Thriller  5*'s
Psychological Thriller
5*’s

I’m going to start this review with a bold statement – this book will make my top ten reads of 2015. Yes it was so good that I can’t see me coming across ten other books that will beat this one.

So what’s it about? Well as with any book that depends on the reader not knowing very much before they start to appreciate the story, I can’t tell you very much! I can tell you that our chief protagonist, Catherine Ravenscroft has just moved house to a new apartment with her husband Robert when she comes across a novel. Idly picking it up the book entitled Perfect Stranger with the standard disclaimer; any resemblance to persons living or dead scored through with red pen. She starts to read and to her horror she realises it is about her, and more specifically about a secret that she has kept for the last twenty years. All the reader knows at this stage is the secret involves her son Nicholas, their less than successful son, who at Catherine’s instigation has moved into a shared house in a bid to foster some independence and responsibility into his life. Of course the questions raised by the book are what is the secret? And just as importantly who knows and cares enough to write a book about it?

Alternating with Catherine’s narrative we hear from another voice, that of a lonely old man, mourning the death of his wife, Nancy but at last determinedly clearing his house of her belongings, packing her clothes away and giving them to charity shops where he gets given cups of teas and a chance to talk about Nancy.

The reason I enjoyed this book so much was the way that Renee Knight skilfully played on my emotions, changing my opinion of all of the characters who populate this book with an ease that left me reeling. My once certain opinion swept away in a single sentence as another piece of information is casually dropped into the narrative. This is a book of suspense but not of the obvious kind, the tension is palpable and illustrated by Catherine’s actions rather than internal monologues about how scared she is, as she turns from a capable and decisive documentary maker into a scared shadow as she wonders what will follow, how far is the author prepared to go to completely destroy her life? Should she take the ending as a warning, all of these thoughts push real life to the periphery as she valiantly tries to keep the secret under wraps.

Readers that aren’t keen on protagonists they don’t like may well not enjoy this as much as I did but although many of the characters in this book behaved in a way I wouldn’t, at no point did their behaviour seem out of character, they were real people behaving in realistic ways albeit at the edge of their sanity at times and I was utterly convinced.

I’d like to say an enormous thank you to the publishers Random House UK firstly for publishing this book, and secondly for allowing me the great pleasure of reading it. Disclaimer will be published on 9 April 2015 and it is a must for lovers of psychological thrillers.

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

You Belong To Me – Samantha Hayes

Psychological Thriller 2*'s
Psychological Thriller
2*’s

This is the third book in the series featuring DI Lorraine Fisher, the first the excellent Until You’re Mine which was followed by Before You Die.

In this outing the DI is stressed out, self-medicating with codeine and not coping, so much so that her husband Andy is bought in to give direction on her latest case of a suspected serial killer after women who have recently complained of being stalked found dead. Lorraine Fisher’s sense of failing is compounded by the fact that she had advised the first victim that there was nothing she could do without more details.

In another strand of the story Isabel is in India when she receives word that her parents have been killed in a car crash, despite her obvious reluctance she is forced to return to England to deal with matters. We know Isobel is scared of something but we are not sure what…. But it’s all ok there is a friendly face in the form of Ben who helps her to arrange her flight home, and then offers her a place to stay. Some might say that if you were that scared that you’d disappeared to another continent that you might not be so willing to trust a stranger but not Isobel, she’s wary but feels she has no options open to her.

To be honest I found this book verging on the ridiculous in terms of plot, I couldn’t invest in either the DI or Isobel as both made crashingly stupid decisions time and time again which just served to aggravate me. I understand that this is fiction and some suspension of belief is required but this plot stretched my credulity to extremes not warranted, especially in view of the fact that this book had a great premise. However as the book progressed, the credulity snapped! There seems to be a trend to put massive twists into each and every psychological thriller and where I am full of praise for those who insert these seamlessly; badly done it leaves this reader feeling at best cheated and at worst intensely irritated by a total change of direction which doesn’t seem to connect to what has been written before, sadly any twists in this book fell into the latter category.

The realism aside there weren’t any characters I really believed in, DI Fisher was morose and had morphed from the competent officer we first met in Until You’re Mine to a scatty mess which was a shame, if she could have carried out the investigation she did within the team setting I think it would have balanced out some of the unrealistic elements, instead everyone in this book is full of angst of some description or another.

I’ve been a fan of Samantha Hayes for years however I was doubtful about the plot in Before You Die and even more so with this one. If you haven’t read some of her earlier works I’d suggest you start there where she let her writing stand up for itself without trying to add too many bells and whistles which in my opinion are out of tune.
I’d like to thank the publishers Random House UK for allowing me to read this book which will be published today, 12 March 2015.

Previous Books by Samantha Hayes

Blood Ties – January 1992. A baby girl is left alone for a moment. Long enough for a mother to dash into a shop. Long enough for a child to be taken.

Unspoken – Mary has a past Julia knows nothing about, and it’s come back to haunt her.

Someone Else’s Son – What would you do if your teenage son was stabbed to death in the school playground?

Tell-Tale – story of three women bound together by a shocking secret…

Until You’re Mine – You’re alone. You’re vulnerable. And you have something that someone else wants. At any cost …

Before You Die – It has taken nearly two years for the Warwickshire village of Radcote to put a spate of teenage suicides behind it.

Read a synopsis of the first five books here

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Shut Eye – Belinda Bauer

Crime Fiction 4*'s
Crime Fiction
3*s

Five footprints made before the concrete had set in the garage forecourt are all that is left of Daniel Buck. Daniel’s mother Anna has made it her mission to keep the footprints clean while simultaneously blaming her husband, Daniel’s father, James for leaving the door open on the morning of his disappearance.
The Shut Eye in the title refers to the psychic, Richard Latham that Anna visits hoping for a lead to find Daniel who holds his meetings in a church hall where is throws out random names to his audience sat on the edge of their plastic chairs.

As always Belinda Bauer’s writing is an absolute delight, even in such a tragic tale involving two missing children she manages to inject some wry humour, much needed when Anna’s grief is so raw and so perfectly depicted. With the shut eye busy trying to track down a missing dog he is unwilling to help Anna, something happened on a previous case which he is unwilling to revisit. Jack Marvel is the detective in charge in another missing child young Edie Evans. He is a recovering alcoholic who doesn’t believe in psychics and the detective who we first met in Dark Side, haunted by Edie Evans, a twelve-year-old girl who he has been trying to find for a year, the only clue being her bicycle. With Jack’s superior officer stalling the investigation into Richard Latham more difficult than need be, having engaged the psychic to find his wife’s lost dog it is only a matter of time before relations between the two come to a head.

The story is well-constructed with plenty of great observations but I found the psychic element off-putting because I simply didn’t believe the visions that drove much of the plot forward. Where Belinda Bauer’s excels is in depicting people and there were many varied characters populating this book, from the hysterical garage owner who ‘fired’ his hapless mechanic over and over again to appease his clients to the brilliantly self-effacing Emily Aguda the black policewoman who keeps her sexuality hidden to avoid any further reasons for her bosses to keep her on the desk rather than out catching criminals as she wants to.

If unlike me you aren’t put off by the psychic element you will find this to be another excellent novel by a talented writer whose plots are ingenious, the everyday details meticulously yet not clumsily inserted into the prose and a pace that kept even this disbeliever turning the pages at a rate to find out what really happened the day Daniel left his footprints in the cement. This isn’t an easy book to read, grief-stricken Anna is only too realistic which are cleverly depicted by her actions rather than her words and all the more distressing because of that.

I’d like to say a big thank you to the publishers Random House UK who allowed me to read a copy of this book ahead of its publication on 12 March 2015.

Previous Books by Belinda Bauer

Blacklands
Darkside
Finders Keepers
Rubbernecker
The Facts of Life and Death

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Lay Me Down – Nicci Cloke

Contemporary Fiction 2*'s
Contemporary Fiction
2*’s

One New Year’s Eve Jack meets Elsa and they get together. Life seems to be looking up when Jack gets a coveted job on the Golden Gate Bridge and they board the plane to San Francisco full of hope and happiness. Jack is prepared to bed in and get to know his colleagues while Elsa is on a tourist visa so she is free to explore the city, make friends and keep house. An optional extra to Jack’s new job is to be on call for the ‘jumpers’, those men and women who have decided that leaping from the bridge is their only option.

So there’s the premise and from here on in the book twists and turns, meandering from one episode to the next from both Jack and Elsa’s past and the reader gets a glimpse of why their romance fades in the shadow of one particular jumper.

I found this book quite confusing with the snapshots from one awful, depressing experience to the next with the absence of hope all-pervading from early on. The present offers no relief with Jack soon socialising with his new workmates while Elsa’s main source of company is the elderly woman next door who babysits her young grandchildren. With scant meaningful relationships to reflect the protagonist’s characters they are viewed in isolation presumably a device used to reflect both characters inner feelings.

The author does manage to paint a picture of San Francisco that felt authentic and I was easily able to imagine Elsa’s delight as in the first heady weeks after moving across the Atlantic from England as she explored her new home. The house that Jack had inherited was also easy to visualise thanks to a light but deft touch of the author’s writing.

On one level this story illustrates how you can’t escape from a past you haven’t confronted, Jack has moved around during his life escaping one disaster and soon replacing it with another and he is clearly haunted by his past but he never talks to Elsa, not willing to discuss previous relationships or any of the other important relationships in his life. Elsa meanwhile has used San Francisco to bury her past and is equally unwilling to share anything of any merit with Jack. On another level it is about the present, I can only vaguely imagine how hard it must be to confront the level of despair that would cause someone to jump from the bridge and it clearly causes lasting damage to Jack.

At least with Jack there are relationships with his colleagues that feel authentic if not particularly supportive but I wasn’t convinced by Elsa’s relationship albeit long-distance with her mother or her sister. I was also quite confused about what the relationship with the elderly neighbour was supposed to be illustrating as the interaction between the two seemed quite superficial even when Elsa started helping out with the children.

All in all I found this a depressing read, not that I expected a light read from the synopsis but this level of misery was hard to bear when stretched over more than 450 pages and from a reader who usually enjoys flashbacks in books, this just added to my frustration as with both characters pasts being told in this manner I just found it confusing as episodes were told without ever quite joining up leaving me with the constant feeling that I’d missed bits, and maybe I had as I finished this book unsatisfied.

I’d like to thank the publishers Random House UK for giving me the opportunity to read this book in return for my honest opinion. Lay Me Down is due to be published on 19 February 2015.