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Friday, 17 June 2022

The Good Servant by Fern Britton

 

This is the second book I've read by Fern Britton. I was mightily impressed by my first encounter with her writing, which made me determined to read more, if not all, of her books. So I pounced on this when it landed in my lap!

In this book, Britton has taken the bones of a true event and put meat and fat on them to provide a moving, thoroughly enjoyable and just a little bit sad story.

It's a delightful blend of royal fact and Britton's fiction. This fusion results in a delightful, very readable account. It's one that makes you wonder about Marion Crawford, the main character: a dedicated governess to the princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, a loyal daughter to a dominant mother and an unwitting, devoted puppet to a devious, lying suitor, who tricked her into breaching the utmost confidence for the sake of money and which resulted in her eighteen years of dedication ending very badly.

Britton is a brilliant writer. She captures every aspect of a character and makes them real. She draws you in right at the beginning of her story and keeps you hooked till the very end.


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Saturday, 4 June 2022

Isaac and the Egg by Bobby Palmer

I love it when an author crashes onto the literary scene with a debut novel and just blows your mind.

The book is indeed about Isaac. And an egg. No, not a chicken egg, or  duck or goose egg, or even an ostrich egg. It's actually two-feet high and quite white and fluffy. And now everyone's going to think that this is either a children's story or something plucked from the sci-fi shelf.

Oh no, it isn't. Whilst this is a story of deep love, loss and the most intense grief, Palmer injects humour and wit and writes with perception and depth. He is without doubt an extremely talented author who manages to paint the most realistic picture with his words.

It is a most charming, poignant, tragic but heart-warming novel written with outstanding skill. I sincerely hope this exceptional writer is intending to write more, but in the meantime, someone has, just has to make a movie of this.

A phenomenal book. An excellent debut. A remarkable author.





Saturday, 28 May 2022

Now You See Her by Heidi Perks

 

Intriguing and unputdownable, this is a psychological suspense thriller. I haven't read anything by this author before and was certainly impressed. It's one of those 'I didn't see that coming' sort of thrillers.

A thriller where a child goes suddenly and inexplicably missing is always emotionally charged, but this tests a friendship, parental love and a mother's unbreakable devotion to her child.

Extremely well crafted and written, it had me matchsticking my eyes late at night and vowing to read more by this talented author.

Whilst fully deserving of five stars, I just can't bring myself to part with them all. I'm keeping one behind because the standard of the writing was completely let down by the shoddy editing.





Sunday, 15 May 2022

A Tidy Ending by Joanna Cannon

 

To be honest, the mystery of this is not 'who did it' because it's easy to guess fairly early on who is responsible for the murder of four young women, and I was feeling rather smug when I read the last line that confirmed my guess.

What keeps you glued to the pages are the characters, the twists and turns that foil the police and just about every other character who think they know who the culprit is, but are wrong. So, so wrong.

The main character is a compound of recognisable traits: everyone knows someone with one of them. She's quiet, has been moulded by a tragic event in her childhood, is (seemingly) submissive, patient, dutiful, thorough, slightly OCD, desperately eager for friendship, and….clever. We all know someone with at least one of those qualities. Though, perhaps not one with all of them.

The author presents a totally unforgettable and quite mesmerising character. Brilliantly done. In fact, all the characters are brilliantly observed and together they make for an engaging and riveting read. Absolutely terrific.



Friday, 6 May 2022

The Wedding Guest by Jonathan Kellerman

I haven't read any of Jonathan Kellerman's books before. I will read more. So, of course, neither have I read the thirty-three preceding Alex Delaware thrillers. I will read more.

It wasn't five-star perfect, however. One character seemed to have aged about fifteen years within two pages. Probably a typo, but one that should have been picked up, along with instances of the very irritating misuse of the apostrophe: I get very irritated when they are used to pluralise. Again, something that should have been spotted in proofreading.

Nevertheless, this is a good crime thriller that has you ping-ponging between all the characters wondering on whom to hang the guilty label, as Alex Delaware, a child psychologist and consultant to the L.A. police, and his detective ally, Detective Milo Sturgis, seek to find who killed a young girl at a wedding.

I enjoyed being kept on my toes, as well as the rapport and banter between Alex and Milo, testament to their comfortable, long-standing relationship. I was especially impressed by the fact that not once did I feel at sea for not having read any of the forerunners.

I'm now off to add thirty-three books to my Amazon wishlist.




Tuesday, 26 April 2022

Mum & Dad by Joanna Trollope

Joanna Trollope is ten years older than me, so she's been writing for about eighty percent of my reading life. This is the first of her books I've read, and I now I'm chastising myself for waiting this long.

Mum & Dad is a story of a fractured family, whose dysfunction is unravelled when Dad suffers a stroke in Spain, where he (and Mum) have lived for twenty-five years. Their three children, and their own children (ranging from toddlers to moody teenagers) have to disrupt their London lives to help.

Trollope writes thoughtfully, articulately, with emotion and compassion. Her characters are realistically imperfect: they're human and relatable. Their life stresses and pressures, their worries, their hopes are all recognisable.

Despite the slightly underwhelming ending, I found the story and the characters engaging and interesting, and as an introduction to this well-known author, it has propelled me into Trollope world! Many, many more to be read, very definitely!





Monday, 18 April 2022

The Museum of Ordinary People by Mike Gayle

 

Although I'd never heard of Mike Gayle, the title of this book caught my eye. A few pages in, and I was already wondering, what else has he written and why haven't I read anything by him till now!

I was hugely disappointed that it was written in the present-tense narrative, which is my literary pet hate, but notwithstanding, my enjoyment of the book was immense. Gayle is just brilliant. He's written a delightfully heart-warming story that hooks you from the start. And subtly topical: what happens to 'stuff' that has history, a meaning and emotion attached to it? Items, which appear ordinary and unspecial, that are found or can't be kept by their owners for whatever reason but that shouldn't be condemned to a hole in the ground to the detriment of our damaged environment? With luck, it'll find a home in the Museum of Ordinary People.

Beautifully composed with engaging characters, it's also quite thought-provoking. You find yourself wondering what, of all your possessions, would you like to have exhibited in such a wonderful place once you've popped your clogs!

Superb, and there's absolutely no question I'll be seeking out more by this author.





Tuesday, 5 April 2022

Something to Tell You by Lucy Diamond

 

This is a delightful story about family, its ups and downs, its secrets, its surprises and overall, its unbreakable bond.

I'm not familiar with Lucy Diamond's work, and this was my first encounter with her. Easy to read, you are drawn into the story and its characters from the start: the Mortimer family, comprising of 50-years-married Mum and Dad, their four children and grandchildren. It's a large family, and most of the adults have their own narrative POV. They weave adeptly through the story, and it's not hard to become emotionally involved with them all. The characters are multi-faceted and likeable.

The ending is a little rushed and just a teeny weeny bit predictable, but this in no way affected my enjoyment. I'm certainly going to be reading more of this author. There's a cosiness and feel-good aura about her writing, and you can't help getting to the last page with an 'awww'. And we all need a dose of feel-good from time to time.




Monday, 28 March 2022

The Phone Box at the Edge of the World by Laura Imai Messina

 

I feel a bit guilty that I didn't enjoy this as much as I feel I ought to have.

The pivot of the story is the 2011 tsunami in Japan and the grief from the appalling loss of life is what does a lot of the heavy lifting. The author writes articulately and with poignancy and compassion in that regard. No problem there.

It's very well written with depth and empathy and unusually, the translation is extremely competent. It's a shame, however, that neither the translator nor the editor know the difference between 'less' and 'few'. Ah well, it was the only blip.

It's sad but heart-warming and really quite charming in some ways. Alas, I got a bit…bored with the two main characters, Yui and Takeshi, both of whom are mourning the deaths of their loved ones, who meet at the site of the disused phone box. I just couldn't drum up interest in the pair's journey to recovery or in the development of their relationship.

It wasn't a book I was in a rush to pick up and finish, but I'm not a DNF person. I was rather miffed to find a glossary at the end: all those Japanese words and phrases explained. It would have been much more useful to either have them at the beginning, or at least refer to their location at the start.

A different read. Just a bit so-so.





Monday, 21 March 2022

The Patient by Tim Sullivan

 

A few pages in and I thought, well, gosh, how come I haven't come across this excellent author and DS George Cross until now? I absolutely loved this.

Think TV's The Good Doctor: it's that show's main character in a police setting. An unusual, pedantic, literal, meticulous-attention-to-detail man: a man who is positioned somewhere on the spectrum. Irritating and exasperating to his colleagues, but undeniably a detective who, with dogged determination, gets results.

The plot is intriguing and a little complex. Just like DS Cross himself, who takes up the case of the death of a young recovering drug addict, whose mother disagrees with the verdict of suicide.

Twists, turns, dead ends move this along at a decent pace. And what a treat that it's set in Bristol, where I live.

Superbly written…intelligently and articulately…and I've already downloaded the two previous DS Cross novels. Cleverly, Sullivan has crafted these novels so that they can be read in any sequence. I anticipate I won't be able to get enough of DS Cross.




Sunday, 13 March 2022

The Things I Know by Amanda Prowse


I read The Art of Hiding by this author five years ago. When I sought out my review of it, I was reminded not only of how much I enjoyed it but also how much the story and its characters stayed with me long after reaching 'The End'. So I dived into this with great enthusiasm. And Prowse did it again. She left me with another wonderful story and characters that haven't yet vacated my head!

It's a marvellous story about two people who are very slightly disparate for different reasons, with no grand expectations about life or people—until they meet each other. It's a story about acceptance, hope and courage and I devoured every single word.

Prowse gives you a story heavy with emotion, empathy and characters you just can't help falling in love with.

This is a deliciously uplifting book that gives you hygge.




Sunday, 27 February 2022

Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz

 

Six hundred and eight pages for a murder mystery. That's two (average) books, which is exactly what this is: A book within a book. I've never read anything like it. I haven't quite decided whether it appeals. I don't read two books at a time: it gets messy, I can't remember who's who in what. In this, each 'book' has quite a number of characters, and by the time I'd reached the end of the inner book, I'd almost forgotten who was in the shell story. Different, original, but I'm on the fence.

It's a complex murder mystery. Cecily MacNeil is missing and her parents believe her disappearance is connected to a murder that took place in the hotel they own some years previously. They believe that after reading a book, a detective novel loosely based on that event, Cecily realised that the wrong man has been imprisoned for the crime. As the author is deceased, her parents invite Susan Ryeland, the editor and publisher of the book, to investigate. As she can't remember the book, she reads it again. And so must we, the readers: and that's the second book.

Part of the thrill of a murder mystery is guessing whodunnit, and you either revel in getting it right or even getting it wrong because of a clever twist or two. Although brilliantly written…Horowitz is an amazing writer…it's all a tad too convoluted and complex and took all the pleasure out of making and inclination to hazard a guess.

Despite this being a bit too long (I did have a few 'oh, do get on with it' moments) and poor editing (why did Lisa become Linda and why don't editors know the difference between lay and lie?), Horowitz's authorial skill really is something to admire.

I discovered shortly after starting this that it's a sequel to Magpie Murders, a previous Susan Ryeland adventure. Moonflower Murders is more or less standalone, but the references to Magpie Murders were rather tantalising. A bit back to front, but I'm sorely tempted to read it!




Wednesday, 23 February 2022

The Newcomer by Fern Britton

 

This is so lovely! I really enjoyed it. My first Fern Britton read and very definitely not my last. What a writer. Her characters are colourful, mysterious, passionate, compassionate, entertaining, and portrayed to make you feel that not only would you love to meet them but actually live in the community of which they're a part. Every scene is set with meticulous attention to detail.

You'd be forgiven for thinking this has a feint aura of The Vicar of Dibley: a stand-in female vicar has to prove herself to a village community. In the charming Cornish village of Pendruggan, most of the inhabitants welcome the new broom with her sweep of fresh and contemporary ideas, but of course, there's always one who doesn't!

Britton writes with warmth and compassion and gives you a delightfully easy and entertaining read that leaves you with a cosy glow inside. I hadn't realised she has a number of novels up her sleeve, which was a very pleasing discovery…more to be read by this author, very definitely!




Wednesday, 16 February 2022

Pug Actually by Matt Dunn

 

This is deliciously cheesy and clichéd but great fun. A pug called Doug (well, the clue's in the title) becomes the matchmaker between Julie, who's in a not-going-anywhere relationship with a married man, Luke, ("it's complicated"), and the much-better-suited Tom the vet (or rather, Vee E Tee, so Doug doesn't freak out).

It's told from Doug's point of view (endorsing the fact that dogs are frightfully perceptive and intelligent!). It's funny, it's endearing and delightfully feel-good.

My only niggles are that, from what I can make out, Dunn is British…so why the very annoying Americanisms, spelling and punctuation...'gotten', 'color', 'honor', etc.? That and that the characters never seem to be able to finish a sentence and Julie, quite frankly, needed a damned good shake over her infatuation with the unctuous toad that is Luke. The present-tense narrative, never my favourite, was just unnecessary.

However, my enjoyment far, far outweighed those little bugs, and I'm delighted to find that the author has penned a dozen or so other books, which I shall certainly seek out when I need some humorous, witty and light-hearted entertainment.





Tuesday, 15 February 2022

To Die For by M. A. Comley

Strip this of the banal, childish, implausible dialogue, the endless 'sniggering' between police officers, cardboard emotionless characters (most of them sexist misogynists) and you might actually have the bare bones of a plot with legs. But it's a hurried book (along with the hurried, (non-existent) editing, both technical and developmental): too few pages and too few POVs, making it rather one-dimensional.

It's the first of a series featuring DI Sam Cobbs (who doesn't like men very much despite being married to one) investigating four deaths (five if you include the dog…was that really necessary?) in a rural community. Money is the root of it all, of course.

Alas, unexciting and void of exhilaration or thrills.





Monday, 14 February 2022

The Rift Between Us by Rebecca L. Marsh

 

I've read two other books by this author. She has quite the knack of totally immersing you into her characters and their stories.

This is a wonderful family drama about three sisters who have drifted apart, much to their widower father's distress. He's unable to persuade them to mend the rift whilst alive, but after his sudden death, his will reveals a carefully constructed plan, a stipulation and condition, that forces the girls to reluctantly make an effort. Marsh takes us on their journey to break down the barriers of grudges, resentments, misunderstandings, grief. Each has a life-changing secret the others know nothing about.

The three books I've read by Marsh has confirmed to me her talent as a writer, but her skill is especially evident in her character portrayal: her characters are real, believable and likeable. They pull you in to their lives and their surroundings and are almost tangible. You know them and you feel them.

A lovely, beautiful story.




Dead Ringer by V. P. Morris

 

My first taste of this author was Shadowcast, which put her firmly into my 'read more of' list.

This is quite different. It's another thriller, about a young woman, Taylor, who assumes the identity of teenager Jamie killed in a case of mistaken identity. Taylor hopes it's a chance to put her troubled past behind her and have a life she believes she should have had.

A different story, but the same high quality of writing. The steady pace keeps you engaged and alert: is anyone going to twig that Jamie is not Jamie, her parents in particular? Is Taylor going to find the life she wanted? Is Jamie's killer going to realise he killed the wrong person? Essential answers that keep you committed as you bump into surprises, dark twists and a sly ending.

The moral of this story is quite simple: the grass isn't always greener. And of course, that I shall look forward to another book by this author.

 
See also:



Sunday, 13 February 2022

This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay

 

I'm not sure whether this is humour cocooned in exasperation, despair and tragedy or the other way round. Either way, it's absolutely brilliant, and I was more than a bit gutted when I got to the end. I really wanted more.

Kay is as good a writer as he was a doctor. Whilst it must have been hard to turn his back on medicine (there's always a straw that breaks the camel's back), it's certainly to the advantage of us readers. His wit and his humour in his accounts of the motley crew of patients in his years in practice make for an exceptionally hilarious read. But never far from it is a dedicated, (largely unrewarded) and compassionate man and serves to remind us that all who work in the medical profession are, in fact, human beings just like the rest of us.

There's fun and laughs in this…but also an essential serious window into the world of the underfunded, overworked NHS and its simply wonderful staff.



Monday, 31 January 2022

Remember the Butterfly by Rebecca L. Marsh


Two families, two tragic histories. Infertility, abuse, grief, decisions. One baby. Oh gosh, it all sounds a bit sad, doesn't it?

But…it's a beautifully written story that handles the grief of one woman's loss of a sister and her own infertility, and the torment of another who's pregnancy is threatened by an abusive partner and has to make decisions about her future that no woman should ever have to make.

The situations of both women sound desperate, but the author handles each with sympathy and compassion. It's a book that's hard to put down because you can't see how either woman is going achieve any resolution to their respective problems. And that's what makes it compelling.

Marsh hits just the right level of poignancy. Wonderful.




 
 
See also:
 

Tuesday, 18 January 2022

Needlemouse by Jane O'Connor


A story about a single middle-aged woman with an unrequited love for her boss isn't particularly original, but this is a well-told, well-written (debut) novel. I wasn't particularly enamoured by the protagonist, Sylvia, at the start…her boss obsession makes her an unpleasant, scheming person, one for whom you feel absolutely no sympathy or compassion. But O'Connor rather skilfully has you rooting for her towards the end. Bad decisions, misunderstandings and disappointments have moulded Sylvia and become her undoing. But her niece, old Jonas, an old boyfriend and…hedgehogs (or needlemice...you'll find out at the end!) transform her into quite a different, less-blinkered, nicer person.

There are some wonderful and wide-ranging characters, such as Jonas (who runs the hedgehog sanctuary), and the flamboyant Millie (Sylvia's sister). It's a heart-warming and uplifting story, written articulately and sensitively.

I would have given this five stars, but I couldn't overlook the tautologising nodding of heads, the 'leaving Lola and I (for heaven's sake '…and me'!), the 'lay low' (it's 'lie low'), and O'Connor should be aware that the proof is not in the pudding, it's in the eating of the pudding! I'm slightly alarmed that a primary (ex)teacher would blunder like this. And equally alarmed that an editor didn't pick these up.

But for that…a charming, entertaining and enjoyable debut novel. I hope there's more to come from this promising author.






Saturday, 15 January 2022

The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré

 

Oh my goodness, what an achingly beautiful book. I absolutely loved it. And what a voice Adunni has…very louding indeed.

The story is written from Adunni's POV. She wants nothing more than an education, to go to school, to learn and ultimately to teach. To give girls a voice. But sold for marriage to an old man, then abused by a rich Big Madam in Lagos, an education seems beyond her reach.

You fall in love with Adunni from the minute you're introduced to her. She misses her dead mother deeply, and she has a wisdom beyond her years. But what grabs your heart and wrenches it is her determination and cemented resolve.

Adunni tells her story in broken English…which is so very poignant and charming at the same time.

What a kick-off to my reading year…but a hard act to follow.

Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris


I'd never heard of Sedaris, but this book came up as 'What book makes you laugh?' in a magazine Q&A with another well-known writer. I was reading a beautiful, but very sad book at the time and thought this would be an excellent book to dip into from time to time, if the sadness got a bit too much!

Hmm. 'Sedaris takes us on side-splitting adventures' says the blurb. I have to disagree. It's a book of essays, accounts of his travels around the world. He certainly has a very wry sense of humour, and I did smile from time to time, but I did find his writing a tad unsettling. He comes across as a rather angry, irritable, unforgiving, oh-so-anti-Obama and oh dear, a teensy bit racist (or is that like saying you're a bit pregnant?). And while, for the most part, his observations of customs and people in other countries are fairly amusing, they come over more as a bit of a poke rather than observations. Which I thought a bit rich from an American: Americans who (as I gather from Sedaris) have an unnatural propensity for therapists, colonoscopies and gun possession. I found it all a bit pot-kettle-black.

But…ultimately, I did enjoy dipping into it. Sedaris's aim was to entertain, and entertained I was. Not 'side-splittingly', but certainly enough to make the sides of my mouth twitch to a faint smile.

Am I tempted to explore his other books? Maybe.

Monday, 20 December 2021

Deep in the Forest by Lynda McDaniel

 

How lovely to catch up with Della and Abit in a fifth book. A little bit different to the first four in two ways: firstly, Della and Abit are each pursuing their own mysteries because, and this is second, they're separated by about 4000 miles! Abit takes a trip to his wife's home country, Ireland, and nips over to England to see his old British friend, Nigel. Inevitably, he gets caught up with Nigel's dodgy deeds.

Although the charming Appalachian backdrop is missing, it's fun to see Abit in my homeland and in a place I know.

Differences notwithstanding, the important things stay the same: Abit is just as engaging as ever with a very endearing view of people and life, and Della continues to worry about him in her role as surrogate mum; As with all McDaniel's books in this series, there's a sound and compelling plot and her characters are 'real' and credible.

I never tire of Abit…we've seen him grow from a teenager to a married man in his later thirties and he's now like a good friend. So I hope it's not long before we meet again.

AMAZON UK
AMAZON US

See also:

The Aviculturist by Ann Smythe

 

I enjoyed this debut novel very much. The blurb calls it atmospheric, compelling, gripping. All true but not in a hold-your-breath, edge-of-your-seat way. It's the characters that drive this: Smythe's talent certainly lies in character portrayal and the mellowness of her writing. There is a little predictability in the plot…I was way ahead on several occasions, but I was totally immersed in the unfurling.

The inheritance of a neglected country mansion rakes up some sad memories for Lily Sanders, along with a dilemma about what to do with it. A handsome, eligible farmer does help make a few decisions (yes, there's a little bit of romance in this). There's a parallel plot to this thread: a father seeking vengeance for the tragic death of his teenage daughter. Smythe very adeptly overlaps and links the two.

I was smitten by the skill in this first novel: the style of writing, a well-structured plot, characters that are credible and well developed. Actors' mantra, I'm sure everyone knows, is 'never work with children or animals'. Book characters beware: dogs like Flynn and Horace can really steal the show!

Well done, Ann Smythe. I glimpsed a hint of a sequel on the final pages…that pleased me as much as the very satisfying ending.




Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Birth of the Angel by Conal O'Brien

 

If a book, with no warning at all, ends with a 'to be continued', I get quite narked: it's an author's over-confidence that I'm going to want to read another book by him/her.

In this case, the author very respectfully tells you in the title that this is the first of a two-parter. And that's quite all right: I knew what I was getting into. Only, now, I'm really, really impatient to read the second part!

This is a brilliant and sophisticated thriller. All the usual suspects feature in it: theft, murder, tragedy, drugs, deception, manipulation.  There's also a  dark and seedy cult (for want of a better word:  the members are really just a bit deranged), and just to make it more prescient, the wretched Covid is thrown in!

It's perfectly crafted, with varied, excellent, well-developed characters, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I need Book 2 to be ready and available very quickly!





Thursday, 25 November 2021

The Unknown Man by Natalie Hanson

 

This is a gripping thriller, well told and written, that packs a punch right to the very end. And what a tantalising, smack-in-your-mouth ending it was!

Don't worry, I'm not going to give it away. But what I will say is that whilst many books end with the door just a smidge ajar, leaving a non-compulsory option for a sequel, this one leaves the door wide wide open luring you to walk through with abandon! It's not the to-be-continued ending where loose threads are tidied up in a sequel. Rest assured, this is neatly wrapped up in all the right places.

Kidnapping, murder, deceit, delusion, tragedy and a touch of the dark and macabre: all embroiled in a full-bodied thriller with well-developed strong characters.

Not only do you finish the book with a 'wow, how good was that', there's also the satisfaction of finding a new author you're definitely going follow and read more of.




Thursday, 18 November 2021

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

 

I'm a great fan of Richard Osman: he has a quiet, gentle, intelligent humour, and I always find him interesting, entertaining and a delight to listen to and watch. So I needed no encouragement whatsoever to read his novel.

On the whole, it's very enjoyable. It's a bit Midsomer-Murders-ish; there are a few murders, a good detective, his faithful sidekick, residents with secrets and some smiley moments. All jolly good fun.

Here we have four septuagenarians in a retirement village trying to outwit the police in solving a murder…or two…or more. There are lots of secrets…and it's not just the victims who have them.

It's well written, though the present tense narrative, of which I'm very definitely not a fan (in truth, I really hate it!), just doesn't work here. It was a little messy. It all got a bit confusing, too: many plot twists and turns, a plethora of characters made it a bit hard to keep up, and it was rather misty and woolly towards the end.

That said, it's a delightful, witty and entertaining read, and I can't wait to catch up with these very likable senior citizens again.

 
 
 

Tuesday, 2 November 2021

Blood on Their Hands by Bob Brink

 

This made for some difficult reading. Although set in 2008, it is shockingly prescient: the focus of the story is the unwarranted, severe beating of a US immigrant by two policemen. I'm sure that rings a very loud bell.

So we're talking racism; but then there's the lawyer, Hiram Garbuncle, (who also happened to be a witness to the event) defending the victim. He's an alcoholic, or a functioning alcoholic as he calls himself, which to me is an oxymoron. An alcoholic doesn't function, he's always drunk. He's also a bit of a slob, as tight as a cat's patootie and generally rather unlikeable. How or why his best friend, or anyone, in fact, sticks by him is beyond me. Even more incomprehensible is how he's still a lawyer: he's wasted most of the time. And, despite his resolve to get justice for the victim, there's a streak of racism running through him too:  it's uncomfortable.

A raw subject, a lot of unpleasant characters, some rather clumsy dialogue: nevertheless, you're compellingly nudged to read on. Garbuncle has to dodge death and bullets and suffer tragedy to get justice. Enough to make him sober up, you'd think.

I have to say, for all that (and despite the victim, Alec, morphing momentarily into an Eric (!!!)), I did enjoy this. It moves along apace and despite Garbuncle's unattractiveness, you do find yourself rooting for him. I think the author has been rather clever here. I might have to admit that I'd be tempted to read a Garbuncle sequel!




Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Shadowcast by V. P. Morris

 

This is an enjoyable psychological thriller. We, the readers, know from page one that Freddy did the deed. Dakota Kilroy, an out-of-work journalist investigating the unsolved disappearance of her best friend some twelve years earlier, doesn't know what we know. The story is told through two POVs: Dakota's and Freddy's. How Dakota unfolds the events leading up to Maddy's fate and how Freddy does his best to thwart her investigation is what keeps this story compelling and intriguing to the end.

Morris has compiled a full and varied list of characters from Dakota, the driven and persistent investigative journalist who couldn't be any more different to her mother and sisters, to the warped and twisted Freddy and his long-suffering mother, now having to relent to some of the less-pleasant gifts of aging.

I'll be honest: there are a couple of 'hmm, really?' moments, where the plot hits a few conveniences and improbabilities, but, hey, it's fiction, and my enjoyment of a story that never loses momentum makes them pale into insignificance.

This is a debut novel and one that has assured a place for Morris in my 'read more of' list. I'm pretty sure Dakota and her compulsion to dig deep has many more gripping adventures for us to savour.






Tuesday, 12 October 2021

The Hunted by Jo McCready

This is a well-written and well-thought-out thriller, and although it's fairly easy, at an early stage, to work out how the victim died, it's compelling right to the end.

It's an intriguing story about the mysterious death of a wealthy businessman on a hunting trip in the Scottish highlands. A tragic accident is the verdict that is completely unacceptable to his widow, whose brother employs a virtually untraceable agency specialising in just this sort of investigation. Agent RJ Rox is assigned the case. And it's a tricky one, not least because Scotland holds some bad memories for her, and she and her co-investigator have some rather awkward history.

Scotland is a beautiful backdrop to any story, but I didn't feel it: there isn't enough scenic description to transport you to the really magical countryside that Scotland has, and perhaps the Scottish locals' dialogue could have had some Scottish spelling and words to get a feel of the lilt. But that really is my only niggle. The pace is fast, the main characters are strong and interesting and oh, what was that on the last page…a teensy little lead-in for an RJ thriller #2?

I do hope so: McCready has created a character in RJ you want to get to know better and find out what makes her tick. I'm ready and waiting for #2.