24 March 2019

Review: SHARP OBJECTS, Gillian Flynn

  • this edition published by W&N 2018
  • originally published in 2006
  • ISBN 978-1-4746-0161-0
  • 328 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Amazon)

Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, reporter Camille Preaker faces a troubling assignment: she must return to her tiny hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. For years, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town.

Now, installed in her old bedroom in her family's Victorian mansion, Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Dogged by her own demons, she must unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past if she wants to get the story—and survive this homecoming.

My Take

I remember the stir in crime fiction circles when this novel was first published, but somehow never got around to reading it.

And what a page turner it is!

Camille Preaker's editor of the Chicago paper she works for thinks she will benefit from returning to her home town of Wind Gap, 11 hours south of Chicago, to cover the story of the murder of two young girls. After all he can save money in accommodation as she can stay with her mother whom she hasn't talked to for 8 years. He thinks also that because she comes from the town that it will be easier for her to pick up rumours and insider information, A real recipe for disaster.

Camille feels neither safe nor welcome in her mother's house. She knows for example that her mother does not like her and there lies between them the memory of her younger sister Marian, who died a decade before. She is also haunted by her own memories of being a rebellious and hard to control teenager.

A good read.

My rating: 4.7

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21 March 2019

Review: THE BOOK CLUB, Mary Alice Monroe

  • this edition published in 2012 by Harlequin Australia
  • ISBN 978-1921-79579-4
  • 350 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Publisher)

On the surface, it's a monthly book club. But for five women, it is so much more. For Eve, whose husband's sudden death cheats her of every security she had planned on, the club is a place of sanctuary. For Annie, a brilliant attorney intent on starting a family late in life, it is the chance to finally let down her guard and dream of other possibilities. For Doris, it is her support group as she acknowledges her dying marriage and finds the ultimate freedom in her husband's betrayal. For Gabriella, the 'perfect' wife, mother and friend who offers support to everyone but is afraid to ask for it herself, it is a sense of community. And for Midge, an artist who has always lived her life against the grain, it is a haven of acceptance.

They are five women from different walks of life, embracing the challenge of change. As they share their hopes and fears and triumphs, they will hold fast to the true magic of the book club – friendship.

My take

Another departure from my usual crime fiction fare.

Five women have belonged to this book club for years and the events of this story show how it is about much more than just reading books. Each of the women go through life changing events and the monthly book club provides a point of stability when all around is rocky.

The primary voice is Eve whose husband dies suddenly while he is away on a regular trip. Her life is shattered and all her security is destroyed. For some months she feels unable to meet with the Book Club but eventually finds her way back to them as a group.

The action takes place over nearly 18 months and each of the women goes through a crisis where the support of the others becomes pivotal.

A good read.

My rating: 4.4

About the author

Mary Alice Monroe is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of thirteen novels. Her books received numerous awards, including the Award for Writing from the South Carolina Center for the Book and the International Fiction Award for Green Fiction. An active conservationist, she lives in the lowcountry of South Carolina where she is at work on her next novel. Visit her at www.maryalicemonroe.com and on Facebook.

17 March 2019

Review: MURDER UNDER A GREEN SEA, Phillip Hunter

  • this edition published by Mirror Books 2019
  • provided as a review book by the publisher
  • ISBN 9-781912-624164
  • 329 pages
Synopsis (Mirror Books)

There's a murder on the streets of London, a plot that threatens the country and a dinner party to arrange. Only one man can help. Unfortunately, he's got a terrible hangover...

Set in 1936, Murder Under a Green Sea is the story of Max and Martha Dalton, a young couple who seem to live a carefree life of luxury and dinner parties, far removed from the increasingly brutal world.

When an old army friend is murdered, Max finds himself drawn into the crime and back to his own past.

As the police suspect Max guilty of the murder, he believes there must be a connection with a tragic crime committed in the muddy hell of the Western Front.

Police suspicions grow along with a body count featuring one too many of Max's former comrades.

With Martha, he sets out to unravel a knotted series of events, motivations and lies, while being pursued by a police force convinced that he's the murderer, and with unknown assassins hot on his trail.

With the slightly dubious help of Martha, their maid, Flora, Flora's sweetheart, Eric, and a very confused solicitor, Max manages to uncover a plot that threatens the safety of the whole country.

This is an action-packed caper, cleverly plotted with engaging characters.

My Take

Max is a freelance London journalist but his stories don't always make publication. He is particularly concerned about Hitler's rearmament of the Rhineland, and that a second World War is imminent. He meets up with a friend from the First War, Burton, but became too drunk to remember what Burton and he talked about. And now Burton has been found dead, and the police think Max has something to do with it.

Max manages to find out that Burton came up to London with another from their platoon and now both are dead.

The author has tried to recreate a Tommy and Tuppence feel to his characters Max and Martha, and even draws Winston Churchill into his plot.

My rating: 4.1

About the author
Phillip Hunter has a degree in English Literature from Middlesex University and an MA in Screenwriting from the London Institute. He was part of the team that sequenced the human genome. He lives in Saffron Walden, Essex.

Review: THE QUARTET MURDERS, J. R. Ellis - audio book

  •  Narrated by: Michael Page
  • Series: Yorkshire Murder Mystery Series, Book 2
  • Length: 9 hrs and 30 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 08-09-18
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio
  • available from Audible.com
Synopsis (Audible.com)

A priceless violin. And a dark secret someone is prepared to kill for.

DCI Oldroyd has seen his fair share of victims, but he has never witnessed a murder - until now. When world-famous violinist Hans Muller is shot and killed during a concert, the detective is faced with a case beyond logic. The culprit is nowhere to be found - and the victim’s priceless violin has disappeared too.

As Oldroyd investigates the mystery of the murderer’s identity and the motive for the killing, he enters the ruthless world of wealthy instrument collectors and stumbles upon a dark path where shocking secrets have been buried in the past. But the secrets will soon take centre stage.

Oldroyd must use all his cunning to recover the priceless instrument. But can he also solve the mystery of a murderer who vanished in front of his own eyes?

My Take

Oldroyd's offsider is again DS Carter, the new man from London, But I think his character was better drawn than in the first novel in the series.

I liked the further fleshing out of Oldroyd's character and I thought the mystery was better plotted.
Narrator Michael Page again does a good job of his voice presentation.
This series is engaging enough for me to look for another audio book.

My rating: 4.4

I've also listened to

12 March 2019

Review: THE LISTENERS, Anthony J. Quinn

  • this edition published by Head of Zeus 2018
  • ISBN 9-781786-696069
  • 309 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Amazon UK)

A new crime series set in the brooding landscape of the Scottish borders from the author of the Celcius Daly series.

Not long out of the fast-track training course at Edinburgh's police college, Detective Sergeant Carla Herron is about to be tested to breaking point.

She's been called to Deepwell psychiatric hospital in the Scottish borders to interview a patient who has confessed to the murder of one of the hospital's psychotherapists. The confession is vividly detailed, but for a man locked in a secure ward and under 24-hour surveillance, it is also utterly impossible.

So why can't the supposedly murdered psychotherapist be contacted? Why are the hospital staff so secretive, so difficult to work with? Why have other Deepwell patients made disturbingly similar confessions over the past year? Against the advice of her superiors, Carla delves deeper into the hospital's past and is plunged into a labyrinth of jealousies, lies and hallucinations.

Struggling to separate fact from fantasy, Carla embarks on a chilling trail through the bleak uplands and dark forests of the Scottish borders, every step taking her closer to a final – deadly – reckoning.

My Take

An interesting read on a number of levels. Carla Herron is not only new to the job, she is a young mother with 2 young children and a husband working from home, and he is not coping.

Her colleague D. I. Morton is a strange fish, silent most of the time, consequently difficult to work with, and with secrets of his own. Carla feels she is not being told the whole story, and then Morton tells her she is doing a good job.

Carla interviews a man at Deepwell Psychiatric Hospital who claims he has murdered several people, and the last psychotherapist he talked to has gone missing. Carla can see that McCrea is convinced he has committed several murders. But how could he? He hasn't left the hospital.

This novel has a very Gothic feel to it and there are many very dark passages, Deepwell is engaged in some peculiar perhaps innovative practices to do with memory, and Carla has difficulty in determining exactly what those practices involve, and indeed who is using them. Staff at the hospital keep telling her to consult others, that they are not at liberty to fully answer her questions.

My rating: 4.3

About the author
Anthony J Quinn was born in 1971 in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, and after completing an English degree at Queen's University followed various callings - social worker, organic market gardener, yoga teacher - before finding work as a journalist and author.
Disappeared, his first novel, was picked by the Times and the Daily Mail as one of their books of the year, and was nominated for the Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. On its US publication it was shortlisted for a Strand Critics Award, as selected by book critics from the Washington Post, the LA Times, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Guardian.
Quinn works as a reporter in the wilds of County Tyrone. His short stories have been short-listed twice for a Hennessy/New Irish Writing Award. In 2014, he was given an ACES award for literature from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, and in 2016 was selected as Northern Ireland Libraries Writer in Residence.
He is represented by Paul Feldstein of the Feldstein Agency. For more information log onto www.anthonyjquinnwriter.com

10 March 2019

review: SOMETHING IN THE WATER, Catherine Steadman

Synopsis (publisher)

If you could make one simple choice that would change your life forever, would you?

Erin is a documentary filmmaker on the brink of a professional breakthrough, Mark a handsome investment banker with big plans. Passionately in love, they embark on a dream honeymoon to the tropical island of Bora Bora, where they enjoy the sun, the sand, and each other. Then, while scuba diving in the crystal blue sea, they find something in the water. . . .

Could the life of your dreams be the stuff of nightmares?

Suddenly the newlyweds must make a dangerous choice: to speak out or to protect their secret. After all, if no one else knows, who would be hurt? Their decision will trigger a devastating chain of events. . . .

Have you ever wondered how long it takes to dig a grave?

Wonder no longer. Catherine Steadman’s enthralling voice shines throughout this spellbinding debut novel. With piercing insight and fascinating twists, Something in the Water challenges the reader to confront the hopes we desperately cling to, the ideals we’re tempted to abandon, and the perfect lies we tell ourselves.

My Take

In opening pages of the novel we meet Erin digging a grave. By the end of Chapter 1 we know who the grave is for, and then in the rest of the novel we find out what led up to this.

Erin is a documentary film maker tracking the lives of 3 very different people as they finish their jail sentences and leave jail. The first one, Holli, she finds "creepy", but she gets close to the other two Alexa and Eddie for very different reasons.

Just before Erin and Mark get married Mark loses his job as an investment banker. They make changes to their wedding plans, cutting costs where they can, and cut their honeymoon on Bora Bora to 2 weeks. But both have become used to an expensive life style and this determines how they will react to what they find in the water when they are scuba diving.

Neither is entirely truthful to the other and each keeps things back, so there are some surprises towards the end of the novel. I felt both characters changed as the novel developed, and I thought there was an element of "what else can I throw at them?" in the final plot.

My rating: 4.2

About the author
Catherine Steadman (b. 1987) is an actress and writer based in North London. She is known for her roles in Downton Abbey and Tutankhamun, starring alongside Sam Neill, as well as shows including Breathless, The Inbetweeners, The Tudors, and Fresh Meat. She also has appeared on stage in the West End including Oppenheimer for the RSC, for which she was nominated for a 2016 Laurence Olivier Award.

8 March 2019

Review: A STRANGER IN THE FAMILY, Robert Barnard

  • this edition published in 2010 by Allison & Busby
  • ISBN 978-0-7490-0822-2
  • 255 pages
Synopsis (Amazon)

Kit Philipson has always felt like something of a stranger in his family. Growing up as the only child of professional parents in Glasgow, Scotland, he had every advantage. His mother was a teacher; his father, a journalist, escaped from Nazi Germany at the age of three on one of the 1939 Kindertransports. But on her deathbed, Kit’s mother tells him he was adopted and that his birth name was Novello. Soon, vague memories of his early life begin to surface: his nursery, pictures on the wall, the smell of his birth mother when she’d been cooking. And, sometimes, there are more disturbing memories—of strangers taking him by the hand and leading him away from the only family he had ever known.

A search of old newspaper files reveals that a three-year-old boy named Peter Novello was abducted from his parents’ holiday hotel in Sicily in 1989. Now the young man who has known himself only as Kit sets out to rediscover his past, the story of two three-year-old boys torn from their mothers in very different circumstances. Kit’'s probing inquiries are sure to bring surprises. They may also unearth dangerous secrets that dare never be revealed.

With sharp wit and deep insight, Robert Barnard sweeps away all preconceptions in this powerful study of maternal love and the danger of obsession.

My Take

After the death of his adoptive mother Kit Philipson decides to contact his birth mother to see what she can tell him about how he came to be adopted. By the time he meets her Kit knows that he was abducted while on holiday with his family at the age of 3. His welcome by his birth mother is effusive but that by her children is very guarded.

Kit comes to suspect that he was abducted to order, and that his adoptive father possibly knew more than he ever told. His search for the truth takes him to Leeds, to Vienna, and to Sicily.

An interesting if not particularly believable plot, with some quite nasty characters.

An author I should read more by.

My rating: 4.4

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About the author 1936-2013
He was a prolific writer, creating more than 30 published works during his life. These also included several non-fiction works which studied other authors, including books on the Bronte sisters. His writing style was very varied, and over the course of his books he changed his style from light and humour-filled, to exploring the darker side of human psychology. In wider society he was noted for his cheerfulness, and he had a sharp wit. He was a member of the Crime Writers’ Association, and spoke at many conventions and conferences for writers and their fans. Read more


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