14 July 2019

Review: A KEEPER, Graham Norton

Synopsis (publisher)

From the bestselling author of HOLDING comes a masterly tale of secrets and ill-fated loves set on the coast of Ireland.

Dear Lonely Leinster Lady,
I'm not really sure how to begin . . .


The truth drifts out to sea, riding the waves out of sight. And then the tide turns.

Elizabeth Keane returns to Ireland after her mother's death, intent only on wrapping up that dismal part of her life. There is nothing here for her; she wonders if there ever was. The house of her childhood is stuffed full of useless things, her mother's presence already fading. And perhaps, had she not found the small stash of letters, the truth would never have come to light.

40 years earlier, a young woman stumbles from a remote stone house, the night quiet but for the tireless wind that circles her as she hurries further into the darkness away from the cliffs and the sea. She has no sense of where she is going, only that she must keep on.

This compelling new novel confirms Graham Norton's status as a fresh, literary voice, bringing his clear-eyed understanding of human nature and its darkest flaws.

My Take

When Elizabeth Keane returned to Ireland to close up her mother's house she thought she knew who she was, although her mother had been a single parent, and Elizabeth had never seen her father. Her mother had said he was dead.

But then a bundle of letters reveals a strange courtship between her mother and father and Elizabeth feels the need to visit the place where she was born.

The story is told in two main time frames, the present day and four decades earlier when her mother Patricia apparently put an advertisement in the Lonely Hearts column of a farming journal. The narration easily slips between current time and the time when the letters were written.

A very enjoyable read, on the outer edges of crime fiction.

My rating: 4.6

About the author
Graham Norton is one of the UK's best loved broadcasters. He presents The Graham Norton Show on BBC1 and has a weekly show on BBC Radio 2. He is the winner of nine BAFTA awards. Born in Dublin and raised in West Cork, Norton now lives in London.
His debut novel Holding was a commercial and critical success, winning Norton the Irish Independent Popular Fiction award at the Bord Gais Irish Book Awards in 2016.

 

Review: THE SUSPECT, Fiona Barton

  • this edition published by Penguin UK 2019
  • ISBN 978-1-787-63023-9
  • 377 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (publisher)

The New York Times bestselling author of The Widow returns with a brand new novel of twisting psychological suspense about every parent’s worst nightmare…

When two eighteen-year-old girls go missing in Thailand, their families are thrust into the international spotlight: desperate, bereft, and frantic with worry. What were the girls up to before they disappeared?

Journalist Kate Waters always does everything she can to be first to the story, first with the exclusive, first to discover the truth—and this time is no exception. But she can’t help but think of her own son, whom she hasn’t seen in two years, since he left home to go travelling.

As the case of the missing girls unfolds, they will all find that even this far away, danger can lie closer to home than you might think…

My take

It has always been Alex O'Connor's dream to travel to Thailand in a gap year after her A-levels. When her best friend Mags pulls out, her trip is in jeopardy but Rosie, a girl she walks to school with, begs to be Mags' replacement. Alex feels she doesn't know Rosie very well, but when Rosie comes through with the fare, it looks like everything will work out.

Alex's parents haven't heard from the girls for a week nearly 3 weeks after they left for Bangkok. They had been receiving regular updates from Alex and then nothing, So they decide to report it to the British police. Alex had been updating their FaceBook page every day and sending photos from her phone, and everything was great. But, unknown to them, the story that she is telling Mags by email is very different..

Kate Waters is a journalist with The Post. Her son Jake dropped out of uni and went to Phuket to "find himself" two years ago. Since then she and her husband Malcolm have hardly heard from Jake. When the story of the two missing girls lands on her desk, she understand what the parents are going through. When the opportunity comes to go to Thailand to follow the story she jumps at the chance, hoping she will also find Jake.

It never occurs to Alex's parents that what they are hearing from Alex isn't true. Every parent thinks they know their child and believes they would know what to do if things went wrong. But what if, half a world away, they see reporting problems as failure? What if the responsibility is too much?

A very good read. A parent's worst nightmare.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read: 4.8, THE WIDOW

About the author

Fiona Barton, the New York Times bestselling author of The Widow and The Child, trains and works with journalists all over the world. Previously, she was a senior writer at the Daily Mail, news editor at the Daily Telegraph, and chief reporter at the Mail on Sunday, where she won Reporter of the Year at the British Press Awards.

10 July 2019

Review: COMING HOME TO ISLAND HOUSE, Erica James

  • this edition published by Orion 2018
  • ISBN 978-1-4091-5960-5
  • 428 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Summer 1939: After touring an unsettled Europe to promote her latest book, Romily Temple returns home to Island House and the love of her life, Jack Devereux. But when Jack falls ill, his estranged family are called to his bedside.

With war now declared, each member of the family is reluctantly forced to accept their new stepmother and confront their own shortcomings. But can Romily cope with the life that has been so unexpectedly thrust upon her?

My take

Another title that is not crime fiction.

Romily Temple, best selling crime fiction author, has recently secretly married Jack Devereaux, but while she is overseas, Jack has a stroke, and now Romily has to summon the 4 family members to his deathbed. So they arrive home at Island House to find not only that they have a stepmother they did not know existed, but eventually to discover that their father has put a very strange clause in his will.

Jack Devereaux has been estranged from his two daughters, son and female cousin for some time. Their childhoods were not happy as their mother died when they were very young and Jack did not cope, installing a series of nannies, and keeping the children at arm's length.

This was a very readable story. The terms of the will require the family to spend a week together with their stepmother in order to qualify for their inheritance. The interaction between the characters is fascinating. On the day of Jack's funeral England declares war on Germany and this gives the novel an interesting historical background. One of the daughters arrives home with a refugee child in her arms, the men of the village enlist for war, and the social climate is changed forever.

I'm sure I will read another by Erica James. There are over 20 novels to choose from, and most of the plots look interesting.

My rating: 4.6

About the author
Erica James is the author of several bestselling novels. Born Erica Sullivan, she grew up on Hayling Island in Hampshire, England and lives now with her two sons in Cheshire. She began writing after attending a creative writing course at the Arvon Foundation.

For her novel Gardens of Delight she won the Romantic Novel of the Year Award from the Romantic Novelists' Association in 2006.
Genres: General Fiction, Romance
Over 20 novels written since 1996.

9 July 2019

Review: RIVER OF SALT, Dave Warner

  • this book published by Fremantle Press 2019
  • ISBN 9-781925-591569
  • 246 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Publisher)

1961, Philadelphia. After having to give up his brother to save his own life, hitman Blake Saunders flees the Mob and seeks refuge on the other side of the world. Two years later he has been reborn in a tiny coastal Australian town. The ghosts of the past still haunt him, but otherwise Coral Shoals is paradise. Blake surfs, and plays guitar in his own bar, the Surf Shack.

But then the body of a young woman is found at a local motel, and evidence links her to the Surf Shack. When Blake’s friend is arrested, and the local sergeant doesn’t want to know, it becomes clear to Blake – who knows a thing or two about murder – that the only way to protect his paradise is to find the killer.

My Take

Blake Saunders fled to Australia, deserting his older brother Jimmy, a fact that is still raw in his mind.
He is forever alert to the fact that the Mob he escaped might still track him down and so he watches strangers with suspicion.

The novel is set in 1963, in coastal New South Wales where Blake has set up a bar which feeds off the surf culture of the remote town it is set in. He is on good terms with the local police sergeant, and they look after each other.

The quiet is disrupted when a murder takes place and city police move in to put everyone under a microscope. Blake is none too keen to have his own background investigated. At the same time two men appear, operating a "protection" racket, providing insurance against injury and arson attacks. Blake knows exactly what they are offering. The local police sergeant is not able to help much, but Blake knows he can handle this problem himself.

This was a good read, an engaging plot.

This is the first novel I have read by Dave Warner, but I'm sure it won't be the last.

My rating: 4.7

About the author
Dave Warner is an author, musician and screenwriter. His first novel City of Light won the Western Australian Premier’s Book Award for Fiction, and Before it Breaks (2015) the Ned Kelly Award for best Australian crime fiction. His latest novel Clear to the Horizon features the lead characters from both these books. Dave Warner originally came to national prominence with his gold album Mug’s Game, and his band Dave Warner's from the Suburbs. In 2017 he released his tenth album When. He has been named a Western Australian State Living Treasure and has been inducted into the WAMi Rock’n’Roll of Renown.
Awards
Ned Kelly Award for Best Crime Fiction (Longlisted 2018)
International DUBLIN Literary Award 2019 (Longlisted 2018)
Ned Kelly Award for Best Fiction (Winner 2016)
Western Australian Premier’s Book Award (Co-winner 1996)

7 July 2019

Review: THE ONLY WOMAN IN THE ROOM, Marie Benedict

  • this book published by Gale 2019
  • 400 pages
  • ISBN 978-1-4328-5790-5
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

She possessed a stunning beauty. She also possessed a stunning mind. Could the world handle both?

Her beauty almost certainly saved her from the rising Nazi party and led to marriage with an Austrian arms dealer. Underestimated in everything else, she overheard the Third Reich's plans while at her husband's side, understanding more than anyone would guess. She devised a plan to flee in disguise from their castle, and the whirlwind escape landed her in Hollywood. She became Hedy Lamarr, screen star.

But she kept a secret more shocking than her heritage or her marriage: she was a scientist. And she knew a few secrets about the enemy. She had an idea that might help the country fight the Nazis...if anyone would listen to her.

A powerful novel based on the incredible true story of the glamour icon and scientist whose groundbreaking invention revolutionized modern communication, The Only Woman in the Room is a masterpiece.

My Take

For the regular viewers of my blog - this is not crime fiction. It is fictionalised biography.

There are really two stories here: the story of Hedy Keisler, a beautiful young actress who at 19 became the wife of Austrian munitions magnate Freidrich Mandl, followed by her escape to the USA and her rebirth as Hedy Lamarr.

Freidrich Mandl was playing a dangerous game, trying to retain control of his munitions factories and contracts as Hitler moved slowly to merge Austria with Germany. Freidrich was much older than Hedy and became obsessed with controlling her as she hosted lavish parties designed to bind people to him.

When she finally escaped she emigrated to America, becoming a star of the film industry, more for her beauty than her acting ability, although she certainly had that.

But there was another side of Hedy: an acute scientific mind that had been forced to take a back seat by the roles that she played. In the long run the US miltary turned down her invention because she was a woman, but later it became part of modern electronics.

I felt that the first half of the story gave the author more to play with, while she really wanted to bring our modern debt to the "scientific mind" to our attention.

My rating: 4.1

About the author
Marie Benedict is a lawyer with more than ten years' experience as a litigator at two of the country's premier law firms. She is a magna cum laude graduate of Boston College with a focus in History and Art History, and a cum laude graduate of the Boston University School of Law. While practicing as a lawyer, Marie dreamed of a fantastical job unearthing the hidden historical stories of women -- and finally found it when she tried her hand at writing. She embarked on a new, narratively connected series of historical novels with THE OTHER EINSTEIN, which tells the tale of Albert Einstein's first wife, a physicist herself, and the role she might have played in his theories. Writing as Heather Terrell, Marie also published the historical novels The Chrysalis, The Map Thief, and Brigid of Kildare.

4 July 2019

review: RUN AWAY, Harlan Coben

  • this edition (large print) published by Grand Central Publishing 2019
  • ISBN 978-1-5387-3273-1
  • 530 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (author website)

A perfect family is shattered in RUN AWAY, the new thriller from the master of domestic suspense, Harlan Coben.

You’ve lost your daughter.

She’s addicted to drugs and to an abusive boyfriend. And she’s made it clear that she doesn’t want to be found.

Then, by chance, you see her playing guitar in Central Park. But she’s not the girl you remember. This woman is living on the edge, frightened, and clearly in trouble.

You don’t stop to think. You approach her, beg her to come home.

She runs.

And you do the only thing a parent can do: you follow her into a dark and dangerous world you never knew existed. Before you know it, both your family and your life are on the line. And in order to protect your daughter from the evils of that world, you must face them head on.

My Take

I was pleasantly surprised with the direction the plot of this novel took.

Simon Greene's search for his daughter in the drug dens of Manhattan leads to his wife Ingrid being shot and one of those they met in drug den being shot too.
As Ingrid lies in a coma in a Manhattan hospital Simon continues to search for his daughter Paige.  He is joined by ex FBI investigator Elena Ramirez who is searching for a missing man.
Between them they uncover a trail of dead men who seem to have some connection with each other, but neither can explain how Paige is linked to the trail.

Simon thought he and his wife Ingrid had no secrets from each other, but he was wrong. The reason Paige runs away stems from Ingrid's past, before Paige was born.

Very readable story.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read
4.4, CAUGHT
4.3, DON'T LET GO
4.3, NO SECOND CHANCE 

New to me authors April - June 2019

About one third of the books I read are by new-to-me authors
Here are the titles for the last 3 months
  1. 3.5, THE GIRL WHO WOULDN'T DIE, Marnie Riches
  2. 4.3, LAST WORDS, Michael Koryta
  3. 4.5, THE AFTERMATH, Rhidian Brook 
  4. 4.5, CITY OF THE SUN, David Levien
  5. 4.7, THE SINGLE LADIES OF THE JACARANDA RETIREMENT VILLAGE, Joanna Nell
  6. 4.5, ALL OUR SECRETS, Jennifer Lane
  7. 4.6, THE ONE, John Marrs 
  8. 4.1, THE GASLIGHT STALKER, David Field
  9. 4.3, BRIDGE OF CLAY, Markus Zusak     

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