24 January 2021

Review: SHELTER, Catherine Jinks

  • format: e-book for Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN : B08KTP6721
  • Publisher : Text Publishing (5 January 2021)
  • Language : English
  • File size : 2006 KB
  • Print length : 327 pages
  • Page numbers source ISBN : 1922330469

Synopsis (Amazon)

Meg lives alone: a little place in the bush outside town. A perfect place to hide. That’s one of the reasons she offers to shelter Nerine, who’s escaping a violent ex. The other is that Meg knows what it’s like to live with an abusive partner.

Nerine is jumpy and her two little girls are frightened. It tells Meg all she needs to know where they’ve come from, and she’s not all that surprised when Nerine asks her to get hold of a gun. But she knows it’s unnecessary. They’re safe now.

Then she starts to wonder about some little things. A disturbed flyscreen. A tune playing on her windchimes. Has Nerine’s ex tracked them down? Has Meg’s husband turned up to torment her some more?

By the time she finds out, it’ll be too late to do anything but run for her life.

My take

At first Meg focusses on keeping Nerine's presence in her house a secret from her neighbours and friends. The scenario is complicated by the impact of everything on Nerene's young daughters.

By the time Meg realises that Nerine is not only unhinged but dangerous, it is almost too late. And nothing prepared me for the impact of what has happened on Meg's own life.  

It is enough to persuade you to never help anyone ever again.

My rating: 4.5

About the author

Catherine Jinks’ books for adults, young adults and children have been published in a dozen countries and have won numerous awards, including a Victorian Premier’s Literary Award and the CBCA Book of the Year Award (four times). She lives in the Blue Mountains.

22 January 2021

Review: THE NIGHT SWIM, Megan Goldin

  • this edition available from my local library as an e-book through Libby
  • Published: 4 August 2020
  • ISBN: 9781760897208
  • Imprint: Michael Joseph
  • Pages: 352

Synopsis (Publisher)

Ever since her true-crime podcast became an overnight sensation and set an innocent man free, Rachel Krall has become a household name – and the last hope for people seeking justice. But she’s used to being recognised for her voice, not her face. Which makes it all the more unsettling when she finds a note on her car windshield, addressed to her, begging for help.

The new season of Rachel's podcast has brought her to a small town being torn apart by a devastating rape trial.
A local golden boy, a swimmer destined for Olympic greatness, has been accused of raping the beloved granddaughter of the police chief. Under pressure to make Season Three a success, Rachel throws herself into her investigation – but the mysterious letters keep coming.

Someone is following her, and she won’t stop until Rachel finds out what happened to her sister twenty-five years ago. Officially, Jenny Stills tragically drowned, but the letters insist she was murdered. When Rachel uncovers startling connections between the two cases, past and present collide. What she finds will change not just the course of the trial, but the lives of everyone involved. 

My take

As the blurb says, past and present collide in this story, and the two cases 25 years apart are strikingly similar except that the death of Jenny Stills was never investigated and never came to trial. Once again Megan Goldin has set her story in a small town in North Carolina. but you can imagine that it could be set anywhere. 

Rachel Krall's podcast takes her readers to the Scott Blair's trial and tries to put them in the role of the jury. She tries to get them to see that it really isn't Scott that is being tried, that the real substance of the trial is what is happening to K. the alleged rape victim. She has already been victimised by a large section of the town's population for her allegations, but as Rachel says, who would allege rape if it hadn't happened?

Simultaneously we are investigating the much older case of Hannah's sister Jenny who drowned twenty five years earlier. The case got very little footage in the local paper because of a car crash at about the same time in which two teenage boys were killed. Jenny's mother died of cancer a few weeks later and there was no-one to push for an investigation.

An interestingly constructed book with three main narrative voices.

One thing that has struck about the 3 books that I've read so far by Megan Goldin is that they are all very different, but all very believable.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read

17 January 2021

Review: THE POSTSCRIPT MURDERS, Elly Griffiths

  • this edition published 2020 by Quercus
  • #2 in the Harbinder Kaur series
  • ISBN 978-1-78747-764-3
  • 344 pages
  • source: my local library 

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Murder leaps off the page when crime novelists begin to turn up dead in this intricate new novel by internationally best-selling author Elly Griffiths, a literary mystery perfect for fans of Anthony Horowitz and Agatha Christie.

The death of a ninety-year-old woman with a heart condition should not be suspicious. Detective Sergeant Harbinder Kaur certainly sees nothing out of the ordinary when Peggy’s carer, Natalka, begins to recount Peggy Smith’s passing.

But Natalka had a reason to be at the police station: while clearing out Peggy’s flat, she noticed an unusual number of crime novels, all dedicated to Peggy. And each psychological thriller included a mysterious postscript: PS: for PS. When a gunman breaks into the flat to steal a book and its author is found dead shortly thereafter—Detective Kaur begins to think that perhaps there is no such thing as an unsuspicious death after all.

And then things escalate: from an Aberdeen literary festival to the streets of Edinburgh, writers are being targeted. DS Kaur embarks on a road trip across Europe and reckons with how exactly authors can think up such realistic crimes . .

My Take

Peggy Smith, murder consultant, is 90, living in sheltered accommodation, seemingly healthy and fit, but dies unexpectedly. At first there seems nothing suspicious about her death, but questions are raised when a gunman breaks into her flat just to steal a book. Her death is followed by the murder of a popular crime fiction author whom she assisted with unusual plots. Her carer decides to tell the police that her death was unexpected.

Eventually an investigative trio decides to track another author, who also used Peggy's services, to a crime fiction festival in Aberdeen where another author dies and it seems the suspicions about Peggy's death were well founded.

This novel felt a little too cosy at times, and perhaps a little slow, but the various threads are brought together with a sure hand.

My rating: 4.4

I've also read

4.6, THE CROSSING PLACES
4.6, THE JANUS STONE
4.6, THE HOUSE AT SEA'S END
4.5, A ROOM FULL OF BONES
4.8, DYING FALL- audio book
4.5, THE GHOST FIELDS, Elly Griffiths - audio book
4.7, THE OUTCAST DEAD, Elly Griffiths - audio book
4.7, THE WOMAN IN BLUE
4.7, THE CHALK PIT
4.4, THE VANISHING BOX
4.6, THE STRANGER DIARIES
4.5, SMOKE AND MIRRORS

15 January 2021

Review: LOCKDOWN, Peter May

  • Written 2005
  • Published 2020 by riverrun 
  • ISBN 978-1-52941-169-0
  • 398 pages
  • source: my local library

Synopsis (publisher)

Written over fifteen years ago, this prescient, suspenseful thriller is set against a backdrop of a capital city in quarantine, and explores human experience in the grip of a killer virus.

"They said that twenty-five percent of the population would catch the flu. Between seventy and eight percent of them would die. He had been directly exposed to it, and the odds weren't good."

A CITY IN QUARANTINE

London, the epicenter of a global pandemic, is a city in lockdown. Violence and civil disorder simmer. Martial law has been imposed. No-one is safe from the deadly virus that has already claimed thousands of victims. Health and emergency services are overwhelmed.

A MURDERED CHILD

At a building site for a temporary hospital, construction workers find a bag containing the rendered bones of a murdered child. A remorseless killer has been unleashed on the city; his mission is to take all measures necessary to prevent the bones from being identified.

A POWERFUL CONSPIRACY

D.I. Jack MacNeil, counting down the hours on his final day with the Met, is sent to investigate. His career is in ruins, his marriage over and his own family touched by the virus. Sinister forces are tracking his every move, prepared to kill again to conceal the truth. Which will stop him first - the virus or the killers?

My take

After what we have all been through in 2020, and are still undergoing, this novel set in a global pandemic of bird flu is one that most of us can approach with some understanding. Self-isolation, public panic, and permits restricting us to our homes and local areas all ring bells. But this pandemic, admittedly not Covid-19 in origin, didn't just happen. Someone, something, caused it. And the world is waiting for a vaccine.

Jack MacNeil has decided that there has to be life outside his work, and so he has resigned, and now has only about 24 hours left to his working career. The bones in the bag will very likely be his last case and he is determined to solve it. When coincidences indicate that someone is tracking his every move, even protecting him against attack and robbery, he has to ask why.

At times the scenarios strained credibility but the characters and plot threads felt real enough. And with what we know of the "China virus", we might even ask some cynical questions about what has been happening in our world.

My rating: 4.8

I've also read
THE RUNNER
VIRTUALLY DEAD
FREEZE FRAME
4.7, THE BLACKHOUSE
5.0, THE LEWIS MAN
4.5, EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE
5.0, ENTRY ISLAND
4.9, COFFIN ROAD

13 January 2021

Review: THE SAFE PLACE, Anna Downes

  • This edition published by Affirm Press Melbourne 2020
  • ISBN 978-1-925972-65-8
  • 371 pages
  • source: my local library 
  • author website

 Synopsis (author website)

Emily Proudman is a struggling actor in London, whose life is falling apart. When she is offered a job as live-in assistant for a family on a remote French estate, she jumps at the chance to start over. But her charismatic new employers are hiding dangerous secrets, and what at first appears to be a dream come true turns out to a be a prison from which none of them will ever escape – unless Emily can find a way to set them all free.

Superbly tense and mesmerising, The Safe Place is a deft examination of the lengths we’ll go to project and protect the fa├žade of a perfect life and was largely written when author Anna Downes was in the grips of post-natal depression following the birth of her second child. With all her existential fears bubbling to the surface, Anna began writing as a way to have some semblance of control. She wrote and wrote and, reliving her previous career as an actor, began playing all the parts of the characters she had created. The result is one of the most tense and compelling debut novels ever, and The Safe Place was subject to a frenetic auction between Australian and international publishers in 2019.

My Take

Emily Proudman isn't a very good receptionist. She is often late because she is juggling auditions and bit-piece work. So in a sense she is not surprised when she is sacked. What she doesn't know is that she has been noticed by the boss who has decided that she is just perfect for another job. He "accidentally" bumps into her after she has been sacked and offers her a job as general factotum on his estate in France assisting his wife and helping look after his young daughter.

He flies Emily to France in his private jet, she is collected from the airport by a chauffeur, who then rather unceremoniously dumps her at the estate which is well hidden away in the countryside. By that night Emily is ready to leave but decides to give the wife Nina another chance. Over the weeks Emily and Nina get on fairly well and then her boss visits for the weekend. After that Emily begins to realise that there are things that are seriously wrong.

What is actually behind all the seclusion and isolation was not what I expected, and so I was once again hooked into reading until the very end so that I could see how it all panned out.

The structure of the novel is interesting. Emily is the main narrator and we generally see things through her eyes. There is a second narrator whose chapters are in italics, and the tragic story, and the identity of the narrator are there for us deduce.

My rating: 4.4 

About the author
Anna Downes grew up in Sheffield, UK. She studied drama at Manchester before winning a place at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and moving to London to pursue an acting career. Her acting credits include EastEnders, Casualty, Holby City, and Dalziel and Pascoe, as well as a long-running stage production of The Dresser in London’s West End.

In 2009 she left to go travelling with her Australian partner, a trip that included a stint working as a live-in housekeeper on a remote French estate, where the seeds for The Safe Place were sown. Anna now lives on the Central Coast with her husband and two children. The Safe Place is being published simultaneously in the US and the UK, with several other countries to follow.

11 January 2021

Review: THE GIRL IN THE MIRROR, Rose Carlyle

  • this edition e-book (Libby) through my local library
  • Publisher : William Morrow & Company (20 October 2020)
  • Language: : English
  • Hardcover : 304 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 0063030144
  • ISBN-13 : 978-0063030145
  • author website

Synopsis (Amazon)

Twin sisters Iris and Summer are startlingly alike, but beyond what the eye can see lies a darkness that sets them apart. Cynical and insecure, Iris has long been envious of Summer's seemingly never-ending good fortune.

When Summer calls Iris to Thailand to help her sail the family yacht to the Seychelles, Iris has secret hopes for what might happen on the journey. But after a disturbing incident in the middle of the Indian Ocean, everything changes.

Now Iris has the chance to step into the golden life she's always envied-and get one step closer to the hundred-million-dollar inheritance left by her manipulative father. All Iris would need to do is ensure she's the first of his seven children to fulfill the strange conditions of his will.

But Iris soon discovers that her twin was keeping more than one secret, and Iris's life lurches between glamorous dream and paranoid nightmare. In a family in which the winner takes all, whom can she trust? And how far will she go to get the life she's always dreamed about?

My Take

The narrator at first is Iris, second-born of "mirror" twins. Summer, the older twin, is perfect. Iris has always been conscious of being the less beautiful, the less perfect, although most people, including their younger brother, find it difficult to tell which is which.

Both women are recently married, but Iris's marriage has recently collapsed. Summer and her husband are in Thailand with her infant stepson and call for Iris to come to them because of an emergency with the little boy. 

Much of the plot becomes predictable once Summer and Iris begin sailing the family yacht from Thailand to the Seychelles. In the long run there is only one of them on the boat when it arrives. 

From that point on there are several plot twists. The last, in the final few pages, sent me back re-reading the final few chapters to check if there were any indications about where the plot was heading.

This book just kept me reading, mainly because I wanted to know how the plot worked out.

My rating: 4.4

About the author

Rose Carlyle is a law professor who has written intermittently throughout her life and who began writing fiction in 2016. She was awarded first class honours in her creative writing Masters at the University of Auckland and was granted a prestigious mentorship under which she developed and completed this manuscript. She spends her spare time in far-flung places and currently lives in New Zealand. The Girl in the Mirror is her debut novel. 

10 January 2021

Review: THE MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR AT STYLES, Agatha Christie

  • Format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN : B07MX6QZSD
  • First published 1920
  • #1 Hercule Poirot
  • Print length : 313 pages 

Synopsis (Agatha Christie.com)

Agatha Christie’s first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, was the result of a dare from her sister Madge who challenged her to write a story. The story begins when Hastings is sent back to England from the First World War due to injury and is invited to spend his sick leave at the beautiful Styles Court by his old friend John Cavendish. Here, Hastings meets John’s step-mother, Mrs Inglethorp, and her new husband, Alfred. Despite the tranquil surroundings Hastings begins to realise that all is not right. When Mrs Inglethorp is found poisoned, suspicion falls on the family, and another old friend, Hercule Poirot, is invited to investigate.

My Take

I have read this novel many times, but starting in February I am leading a small group into reading the first 5 Poirot novels and the first 5 Marples during the coming months..

So I have read this novel with a focus on what I want the group to get out of their reading.

So here are some of the points I want them to see:

  • the novel introduces us to Hercule Poirot and we get our first descriptions of him
  • How old is Poirot? Clues? Does Christie age him realistically?
  • It also introduces Arthur Hastings and his role as the narrator of the Poirot stories, and the foil to Poirot's brilliance and
    intuition 
  • Why did Agatha Christie write this novel, and what role did her own knowledge of poisons play in the plot?
  • I want them to look at Agatha Christie as a commentator on her times, how she gives a background and setting to the action of the novel.
  • some of the features of this novel: the locked room mystery
  • The final denouement sets up a pattern that is repeated in subsequent Poirot novels
  • the fact that this novel introduces some characters that recur in later novels

My rating: 4.5

Some useful links

My previous review on this site

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