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Cleopatra’s Top 10 Books Published in 2016

top-ten-2016-v-2

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 2016 that I consider to have been truly outstanding and memorable reads.

The books have been listed in no particular order and you can read my full review by clicking on the book covers.

 

A Tapping at my DoorA Tapping At My Door by David Jackson
First up is a book which started with Edgar Allan Poe’s spooky poem The Raven to reveal not only a depth of characterisation but a real sense of the Liverpool setting. This is  a new series, featuring DS Nathan Cody, a detective with a troubled background and a Cop Killer on the loose.  I’m a fan of a good police procedural anyway but this was a deeper exploration than many in this genre. These characteristics may have been the icing on the cake of a fabulous plot which had me gripped throughout.

 

The Ballroom

The Ballroom by Anna Hope
Focusing on three characters who are residents of Sharston Asylum in 1911, The Ballroom was an exceptionally well researched look at life in an asylum as the treatment of those afflicted by mental illness was developing fast. What was far more shocking was the ‘crimes’ committed that may have had you detained at this time. I particularly love books that manage to inform at the same time as entertaining, the main story was never lost throughout the extraordinary amount of detail. In a personal twist Anna Hope dedicated this book to her Gt Gt Grandfather who was admitted to Menston Asylum (the inspiration for this book) in 1909.

 

The Apprentice of Split Crow LaneThe Apprentice of Split Crow Lane: The Story of the Carr’s Hill Murder by Jane Housham
This non-fiction examination of a Victorian crime is among the best I’ve read and also looks at life in an asylum at a slightly earlier time period of 1866. The crime examined is a shocking one, not least because it involves a child and the motive had me stunned. Jane Housham delivers her research in an engaging manner with care taken to look at the characters involved, both victim and accused and their families as well as recreating the setting to enable the reader to have a sometimes all too clear picture of what happened on Carr’s Hill in Gateshead one awful day.

 

house-of-birds The House of Birds by Morgan McCarthy
So I move onto my choice for historical fiction and it is a while since I’ve read such a well-constructed dual time-line novel. With both parts, the modern time featuring Oliver and Kate, and the past in 1920s Oxford featuring the downtrodden wife Sophia and her love of books, The House of Birds had me gripped in both halves. Whilst the narrative isn’t fast-moving, the language is beautiful and the tale told had me running the gamut of emotions because of the fantastically drawn characters. This was one of those books that I lost myself in for the duration, and beyond.

 

The Swimming Pool The Swimming Pool by Louise Candlish
A newly renovated swimming pool is the setting of this latest psychological thriller by Louise Candlish and one which examines female friendship. I really enjoy books that are set over a relatively short period of time, particularly when the characters lives are altered forever by some event, and here in the space of a single summer Natalie’s life is changed by meeting the glamorous Lara. My original review states the dénouement is brutal, it is but brilliantly so!

 

Out of Bounds Out of Bounds by Val McDermid
Val McDermid has used one of my favourite devices in this, the fourth in the DCI Karen Pirie series set in her native Scotland. When a cold case of twenty years is has a breakthrough due to the death of a teenage joyrider, Karen Pirie is determined to find the truth. A brilliant paring with a somewhat dim second in command served well both to provide lighter moments and inform the reader without a hint of patronisation. Reading Out of Bounds  I was reminded of the many shades that this brilliant author injects into her books, whilst delivering a fantastic story.

 

Daisy in Chains Daisy in Chains by Sharon Bolton
Moving swiftly from one reliably brilliant author to another… Sharon Bolton has truly excelled herself in this standalone novel. Told in a linear fashion, no needs for fancy bells and whistles for this book, we meet Hamish Wolfe imprisoned for the murder of three women at HMP in the Isle of Wight. His mother is campaigning for his freedom and enlists true crime writer Maggie Rose. This is a crime novel that goes beyond simple innocence or guilt and justifiably made for compulsive reading. There are characters in Daisy in Chains which I will never forget!

 

The Museum of You The Museum of You by Carys Bray
In a rapid shift away from the darkness, The Museum of You relays the summer Clover Quinn decides to turn her mother’s former bedroom into a display about her life. Clover has never known her mother and the project helps the awkward pre-teen fill her first unsupervised summer. This book had just the right mix of pathos and humour, one of the best depictions of this age group. I fell in love with Clover and the earnest way she builds her display, knowing that she is likely to find some difficult truths along the way. It is a very rare book indeed that makes me shed real tears – this book was one of them!

 

In Her WakeIn Her Wake by Amanda Jennings
I’ve seen In Her Wake featured on many of the top ten book lists doing the rounds this month, and having absolutely been blown away by this original tale, I had to add it to mine too. This wonderful book follows Bella who finds following the death of her parents that her entire life is founded on a lie and decides to discover the truth. Filled with wonderful characters, an enticing premise and beautiful language the story takes in myths and evocative settings resulting in a haunting tale which was delightful to read.

 

Lying in wait Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent
With so much to admire about Lying in Wait from the first killer line ‘My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it.’ to the clever structure whereby we learn all about Lydia and Andrew Fitzsimons through Lydia’s own words, those of her son Laurence and Annie Doyle’s older sister Karen who take it in turns to narrate this novel. Set in 1980s Ireland this book also gave me moments of nostalgia without ever dragging me away from the captivating story. This is a book that should be gone into knowing as little as possible, that way you will get the full benefit of this author’s skilful and surprising plotting.

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 2017 and do hope you will all join me on my journey.

Happy New Year to one and all!

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (September 4)

Weekly Wrap Up

Well that’s the last of our Bank Holiday’s gone until Christmas time and with the nights beginning to draw in I’m setting myself up to an autumn full of brilliant reads after such a hectic summer. It is a double-edged sword living in a beautiful but easily accessible place in that we have lots of visitors and as our last set departed Friday I have spent my Saturday tidying up my book lists, adding my reviews to Goodreads and Amazon and planning my upcoming reads – I’m really not able to do the ‘I’ll see what takes my fancy approach’ and so I now feel much happier!

This was also the week where my book reviews for the year passed the magic 100 mark – you can see them all here

This week I was delighted to appear on  The Book Review Cafe’s #TopFiveThursday post where you can find out more about my favourite reads of the year.

TopFiveThursday

Last Week on the Blog

With the last big push before the end of the 20 Books of Summer Challenge I reviewed The Narrow Bed by Sophie Hannah. This is the latest in the Culver Valley Series and a very bookish mystery which perfectly showcased Sophie Hannah’s unique approach to murder mystery writing.

My book choice for First Chapter ~ First Paragraph this week was from The Twins by Saskia Sarginson – my review for this book is here

My post for Wednesday also included my other reads for the week namely two debut novels of the crime fiction persuasion.

This was swiftly followed by a review of Jenny Blackhurst’s psychological thriller Before I Let You In which I awarded the full five stars. This author is now firmly on my ‘must-read’ list.

Yesterday I posted my review for my 15th  and final read for the 20 Books of Summer; Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain, which in turn was wonderful and an exasperating read but one that I am pleased I persevered with.

This Time Last Year…

I was reading The Game Changer by Louise Phillips, the fourth in the Dr Kate Pearson series. If you haven’t read any of this author’s Irish crime fiction, I’d urge you to try these books featuring Criminal psychologist Dr Kate Pearson. This book looks at the way memory works, or doesn’t and had an incredible amount packed into the story to keep even the most hyperactive reader entertained. Sadly I can’t see any sign of the fifth in this series, but if you know otherwise please let me know!

The Game Changer

Blurb

A suspected suicide in Dublin. A brutal murder in New York. The abduction of a child over two decades earlier. All linked … but how?

Criminal psychologist Dr Kate Pearson has the answer. Because she was the young girl abducted all those years ago.
And, when she begins to investigate the suspicious suicide in Dublin and confirms a connection to her own disappearance, she is forced to start asking questions. Why did her parents lie to her, telling her she was missing for only a few hours? And why doesn’t she have any memory of the time she was held?
When a sinister note arrives at her home, it becomes clear that Kate is being targeted. But by whom? And why now? Kate is consumed by her efforts to uncover the truth, knowing that her life is in very real danger.
The Game Changer wants someone to pay for the past – and Kate is being held accountable. Amazon

Stacking the Shelves

Well, my low submission last week was actually down to a lack of organisation and bad memory as I’d received two books in the hectic days before the wedding and not added them to the list!

First up the lovely people at Quercus books kindly answered my request for a copy of The Apprentice of Split Crow Lane: The Story of the Carr’s Hill Murder by Jane Housham with a proof copy ahead of publication on 3 November 2016. This book fits perfectly with my renewed interest in historical true crimes, especially in the context of the life and times of the Victorian era.

The Apprentice of Split Crow Lane

A Victorian Murder. A Victorian Madman. A Modern Judgement.

Gateshead, April 1866

The Apprentice of Split Crow Lane takes the forgotten case of a child murder in 1866 as a springboard to delve deeply into the pysche of the Victorians. What Jane Housham finds, in this exploration of guilt, sexual deviance and madness, is a diagnosis that is still ripe for the challenging and a sentence that provokes even our liberal modern judgement.

Set around Gateshead, it is a revelatory social history of the North – an area growing in industry and swelling with immigration, where factory workers are tinged blue and yellow by chemicals, the first tabloids are printed, children are left alone by working parents and haystack fires sweep the county in rebellion against the introduction of the police force. Into this landscape, a five-year-old Irish girl named Sarah Melvin sets out over the fell to look for her father, and a troubled young man makes a frightening leap of logic to save his own skin.

Told here for the first time, this is an extraordinary story of sexual deviance and murder. In lively, empathic prose, Jane Housham explores psychiatry, the justice system and the media in mid-Victorian England to reveal a surprisingly modern state of affairs. Amazon

I had also received a copy of Linda Huber’s forthcoming psychological suspense novel, Ward Zero ahead of publication on 1 October 2016.

Ward Zero

Blurb

Horror swept through her. Had she been buried alive?

On Sarah’s first visit to see her foster mother, Mim, in Brockburn General Hospital, she is sucked into a world that isn’t what it should be.

Someone is lying, someone is stealing. And someone is killing – but who? With a grieving child to take care of, as well as Mim, Sarah has to put family first. She doesn’t see where danger lies – until it’s too late.

If you think you’re safe in a hospital, think again

And delightfully I won my choice of the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best First Novel on Margot Kinberg’s blog, Confessions of a Mystery Novelist. Margot donated this prize after serving on the panel for this award and using the giveaway to support a wonderful charity Storytime which provides books to New Zealand’s most deprived children.  If you haven’t discovered this blog, I urge you to do so Margot has a wealth of knowledge and is exceptionally supportive of other bloggers. After careful consideration I plumped for Inside The Black Horse by Ray Berad as my choice, having noted that this was also was a finalist for ‘Best Crime Novel’ in the Ngaio Marsh Awards.

Inside the Black Horse

Blurb

A Desperate young man commits an armed robbery of a pub that interrupts a drug deal, upending many lives and lighting the fuse on a violent chain of events that exposes a grittier side of Aotearoa. The International Judging panel for the Ngaio Marsh called it “A lucid and potent portrait of good people and gangsters that is unmistakably Kiwi in flavour and tone… a fine crime story with considerable depth” Amazon

I’ve also added books from NetGalley this week starting with a historical fiction novel The Jeweller’s Wife by Judith Lennox This promises to be an epic tale of passion and betrayal which should provide a change from crime fiction.

The Jeweller's Wife

Blurb

1938. As England awaits the outbreak of war, Juliet Winterton journeys from the Mediterranean to the Essex countryside to begin her life as the beautiful young wife of a London jeweller.
But beneath her husband’s intelligence and ambition, lies a cruel and ruthless man. And when dashing politician Gillis Sinclair comes to stay at Marsh Court, Juliet is drawn to his irresistible charm.
So begins a passionate affair that will have consequences far beyond anything Juliet imagines. For Gillis Sinclair is hiding a dark secret and, as the next generation of Wintertons grows up, Juliet fears that they, too, will be tainted by the past… NetGalley

I was taken by my next book after reading an excerpt on Heather’s blog Worth Getting Into Bed For when she featured it on the First Chapter ~ First Paragraph meme; The Woman on the Orient Express by Lindsay Jayne Ashford caught my eye and seems to promise a bit more variety to my reading this month.

The Woman on the Orient Express

Blurb

Hoping to make a clean break from a fractured marriage, Agatha Christie boards the Orient Express in disguise. But unlike her famous detective Hercule Poirot, she can’t neatly unravel the mysteries she encounters on this fateful journey.

Agatha isn’t the only passenger on board with secrets. Her cabin mate Katharine Keeling’s first marriage ended in tragedy, propelling her toward a second relationship mired in deceit. Nancy Nelson—newly married but carrying another man’s child—is desperate to conceal the pregnancy and teeters on the brink of utter despair. Each woman hides her past from the others, ferociously guarding her secrets. But as the train bound for the Middle East speeds down the track, the parallel courses of their lives shift to intersect—with lasting repercussions.

Filled with evocative imagery, suspense, and emotional complexity, The Woman on the Orient Express explores the bonds of sisterhood forged by shared pain and the power of secrets. NetGalley

And lastly one of my must-read authors Belinda Bauer has a new book which will be published on 3 January 2017 titled, The Beautiful Dead.

The Beautiful Dead

Blurb

Belinda Bauer is an award-winning British crime writer of the highest caliber, whose smart, stylish novels have captivated readers and reviewers on both sides of the Atlantic and earned her a reputation as “the true heir to the great Ruth Rendell” (Mail on Sunday (UK)). Her latest, The Beautiful Dead, is a riveting narrative centered on a down-on-her-luck journalist and a serial killer desperate for the spotlight.

TV crime reporter Eve Singer’s career is flagging, but that starts to change when she covers a spate of bizarre murders—each one committed in public and advertised like an art exhibition. When the killer contacts Eve about her coverage of his crimes, she is suddenly on the inside of the biggest murder investigation of the decade. But as the killer becomes increasingly obsessed with her, Eve realizes there’s a thin line between inside information and becoming an accomplice to murder—possibly her own. NetGalley

PicMonkey Collage TBR

TBR WATCH

Since my last post I have read 3 books, had to DNF a NetGalley read purely because the formatting rendered it unreadable, and gained 6 so the total is now on the ascent again to 174 books!

83 physical books
69 e-books
22 books on NetGalley

What have you found to read this week?