Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Bloody Women – Helen Fitzgerald

Psychological Thriller 4*s
Psychological Thriller
4*s

Helen Fitzgerald’s novel Bloody Women is told in three parts, and for anyone who has read any of her other books will already know that they should expect the unexpected and that the tale being told is a commentary on a world far wider than the characters that inhabit the small one inside its pages.

In a tiny prison cell sits a young woman who didn’t get married because she was arrested for murder on the morning of her wedding. Not just one murder, three. And these were murders with a particularly spiteful twist, each of the men were missing a vital appendage! The three men were exes of Catriona’s, men she met in the week before her wedding whilst coming to terms with the fact that her home would soon be Italy with Joe and not Scotland where she has been a TV celebratory on an interior design show. So now Catriona sits at the mercy of the prison guard she names ‘The Freak’ awaiting trial and hoping her fiancé Joe will come to visit.

We learn all about this crime through Catriona Marsden own view of events as well as one of those hastily written, sensation seeking biographies that spring up around certain true crimes. Catriona, her mother and her best friend Anna were all interviewed for the book but Cat can’t see any of her words amongst the pages.

This novel shows Helen Fitzgerald’s ability to write black comedy that doesn’t let up but nor does it become in any way predictable. At the time the book was published, 2009, British TV was just coming out of the surfeit of design shows like the one that Cat presented – her comments about the rooms she made-over and her ‘clients’ were absolutely spot-on. She also taps into the culture of the Scots and the Italians, throws a few mental illnesses into the mix and stirs it all up with a few dashes of heartbreak. In other words this isn’t a straightforward mystery, although that element is there too but more a look at life for someone who doesn’t fit into what’s expected.

As the book moves from part to part the change of time and circumstance allows the reader to fill in the gaps with the new knowledge revealed. This is a refreshing type of device, although it took me a couple of pages to find my bearings at each swap point, it served to up the feeling of unease which pervades throughout the book. What happens is there are more people to worry about, because although I didn’t ‘take’ to Cat, or any of the other characters if I’m honest, I did sympathise with her. It takes a stone-hearted soul that doesn’t feel something for a young woman who has lost her way, as so many of Helen Fitzgerald’s female characters have.

I really enjoy the writing style characterisation and pace and this has only confirmed to me that this is an author with a huge amount of talent!

This book has been on my kindle since February 2014 and is the fourth of this author’s books I’ve read. Bloody Women was published by Polygon in 2009.

Other Brilliant Books by Helen FitzGerald

The Cry

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

The Exit

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

Viral

A steamy video taken in Magaluf of young Sue Oliphant-Brotheridge while she was holidaying with her sister Leah, it’s upload to the internet causes Sue to hide away. This is a book about far more than a seedy holiday and the internet, a book that explores far more issues than the title would lead you to believe.

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Wildflower Hill – Kimberley Freeman

Historical Fiction 4*'s
Historical Fiction
4*’s

I chose this book as I like dual time-line stories and this one has the twenties for the past and I am fascinated by the period sandwiched between the two wars. The stories shared are those of Emma, a ballerina who travels the world and Beattie, her Grandmother, a young woman, living in Glasgow in straightened circumstances.

Emma has it all, a nice apartment in London, a long-term relationship with Josh and her career as a famous ballerina when she is forced to take stock following an accident. She returns to her mother in Australia and is given the news that she has inherited Wildflower Hill from her Grandmother. As she starts to clear out the house still packed with Beattie’s belongings she finds a photo that leads her to discover more about her Grandmother’s life.

When the story opens in 1929, Beattie is living in Glasgow with her idealistic father and her downtrodden mother when she is introduced to a man who will alter her life forever.

Not only is this story set between different time-periods but their stories criss-cross between Scotland, England and Australia as we follow their trials and tribulations. For me Beattie’s story was the more compelling of the two as she battles many of life’s injustices, heeding her friend Cora’s words:
“There are two types of women in this world, those who do things and those who have things done to them.”
As the story switches from sleazy clubs to sheep-farming in Australia; from domestic servitude to success and we see Beattie ostracised for being a woman who didn’t follow the social dictates of the time.

Beattie’s story is far more interesting as she battles against the odds as the reader is constantly reminded that Emma’s life as a ballerina was a cossetted existence, because of this she was selfish until she goes to Wildflower Hill and learns more about her Grandmother’s life and appreciates those around her and takes the time to reassess her life and her values.

There were a couple of places in the book where the timing of events were muddled which should have been captured prior to going to print but these were minor and didn’t spoil the flow of this tale that touches on a number of issues that a woman such of Beattie would have encountered. There were some lovely touches where the narrative linked the two women’s lives however, I didn’t feel Wildflower Hill compared directly to Kate Morton’s books, as the publicity suggests. because although this is a dual time zone tale it didn’t have the same element of mystery. As book with two linked stories this made for an enjoyable foray into not only a different time period but also cross continents.

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Now That You’re Gone – Julie Corbin

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

This is a mystery set very firmly in Scotland with realistic characterisation and rather more unexpectedly, an examination of how family relationships evolve over time.

Isla McTeer is devastated when she is called to identify the body of her twin brother, Dougie who has pulled from the Tyne River in Glasgow. Dougie, a former marine had returned to Edinburgh following Isla’s separation from her husband and in turn became an even larger part of her life, even working for a different branch of the same company; Isla works in insurance and Dougie was a Private Investigator. After the initial shock subsides Isla starts to question why Dougie had gone to Glasgow and this is the question no one can answer.

Isla’s father comes to stay with Isla for the funeral while her younger sister Marie makes a flying visit from Norway, unable to leave her young children for long. When Marie starts pushing to sell Dougie’s house his ex-wife Tania gives Isla a piece of information about his trip to Glasgow that she can’t forget. Isla raises concerns about Dougie’s death but the police are adamant that it was an accident, he simply fell into the river while drunk.

I liked the format of this book with the current action, and there is plenty of this, is interspersed with episodes from Dougie’s life as remembered by his twin in the form of a conversation with him. These are effective in building a picture of the family as well as being a realistic tool in illustrating Isla’s grief as she lives with the loss of her brother. She had depended on him so much during her life and now she wants to return the favour by finding out exactly what happened on the night he drowned.

There is quite a lot crammed into this book and not all the stories are followed through to a neat conclusion so if you are a reader that likes everything tied up in a big bow, this isn’t the book for you, although neither is this a completely open ending, there are answers, just not to everything.

For me the psychological look at families as a whole, and not as you’d imagine specifically twins, was an interesting twist. Our interaction with our siblings and parents changes over the years but frequently these references are simplified into the children taking on the role of parents as the later age, but in Now That You’re Gone the context is much wider providing a really satisfying read on many levels.

I am very grateful to the publishers, Hodder & Stoughton, who provided me with a copy of this book in return for my honest opinion. Now That You’re Gone was published on 5 June 2014

Previous Books by Julie Corbin

Tell Me No Secrets

You can bury the past but it never dies …Her name was Rose and she was nine years old when she died. I’m not going to make excuses for what I did. I’m going to tell my story as it is and as it was. This isn’t the beginning but it’s a good place to start …Grace has lived in the same village on the east coast of Scotland for almost her entire life. Safe and secure, it is the perfect place for her and her husband Paul to bring up their twin girls. And so, despite having to contend with the trials and tribulations of her adolescent daughters and the increasing onset of Alzheimer’s in her beloved father-in-law, Grace feels that, finally, life is good. Until, that is, a phone call from her old best friend, a woman she hasn’t seen in years – and for good reason – threatens to take away everything she holds dear. Grace is about to discover that some secrets can’t remain buried forever … Amazon

This was one of the first books I bought on kindle and awarded it five stars and instantly purchased her next book,

Where the Truth Lies

Claire’s husband has been keeping secrets. About the whereabouts of the witness to the murder trial he’s prosecuting . And about the letters he’s been getting, threatening to kill their three-year old, unless he tells the blackmailer where the witness is hiding. With their daughter’s life at stake, it is left to Claire to untangle the web of lies and half-truths and find out just who might be responsible. And to stop them. Before it’s too late. Amazon

This was followed up by an equally accomplished book in

Every Vow You Break

When her teenage son Robbie’s drink is spiked, Olivia Somers is devastated. She has spent her adult life trying to protect people and keep them safe – not only as a mother, but also in her chosen profession as a doctor. So she tries to put it down to a horrible accident, in spite of the evidence suggesting malicious intent, and simply hopes no-one tries to endanger those she loves again. But someone from the past is after revenge. Someone closer to her family than she could possibly realise. Someone who will stop at nothing until they get the vengeance they crave. And, as she and her family come under increasing threat, the oath that Olivia took when she first became a doctor – to do no harm to others – will be tested to its very limits. Amazon