2 July 2022

Review: OFFSHORE, Ann Cleeves

  • this edition made available by my local library through Libby
  • Also listed as Shetland Island #6.1
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Macmillan (1 April 2015). Originally published in 2014.
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 72 pages

Synopsis (Amazon)

Offshore is a striking collection of short stories, all set on islands off the coast of the UK, and features cases for both DI Jimmy Perez on Shetland, and DI Willow Reeves on Uist in the Outer Hebrides.

In 'Stranded', set on Hilbre near Liverpool, a young man's first love vanishes. In 'Hector's Other Woman', on Holy Island, we meet a young Vera before she becomes DI Vera Stanhope, and discover how she decides to enter the police force. One of the stories, 'Postcard from Skokholm', is written by Lynne Chitty, winner of Pan Macmillan's Bello imprint's short story competition, who introduces Ann Cleeves' beloved characters George and Molly Palmer-Jones to new readers.

Ann Cleeves deftly captures the spirit of each island setting, and offers us a compelling new collection of mysteries.

The stories include

Stranded
The Pirate
    Published in the CWA Anthology, Deadly Pleasures (2014)
    Re-published in Offshore
The Spinster
    A story featuring Jimmy Perez, published in OxCrimes, (Profile Books, May 2014)
    Re-published in Offshore
Secrets of Soil
    written in collaboration with forensic soil scientist Lorna Dawson, and featuring Willow Reeves, read by Lesley Hart in front of an audience at the Bloody Scotland festival in Stirling, and broadcast on Radio 4 on Sunday 22nd September 2013.
    Published in Offshore (2014)
Hector's Other Woman
    A Vera Stanhope story published in Guilty Consciences, the CWA Anthology, edited by Martin Edwards (Severn House, 2011).
    Re-published in Offshore (2014)
The Soothmoothers
    (read by Marnie Baxter) was first broadcast on April 30th 2010 at 3.30pm, as part of Radio 4's Red Herrings series. You can now read this story (which features Jimmy Perez, of the Shetland murder mysteries) on this web site.
    Re-published in Offshore

My Take

I am a great fan of this author and have read most of the titles in each of her later series.

The stories presented here make quick reading and included a couple that I hadn't read before. I found the inclusion of the first chapter of THIN AIR ( Shetland #6) a little odd. It seems to be there as a promo for the novel which was published later in 2014.

My rating: 4.4 

I've also read

1 July 2022

Review: THE ISLAND, Adrian McKinty

  • This edition from Amazon on Kindle
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B09NBGXR6L
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Hachette Australia (24 May 2022)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 363 pages

Synopsis (Amazon)

a family story unlike any you've read yet.

You should not have come to the island.

You should not have been speeding.

You should not have tried to hide the body.

You should not have told your children that you could keep them safe.

No one can run forever . . .

My Take

Tom has come to Australia from Seattle for a medical conference, bringing with him his new wife Heather and his two children Olivia and Owen. Heather has had a hard time getting onside with the children. After a visit to Alice Springs, they have flown to Melbourne for the conference at which Tom is the keynote speaker. The family is keen to see Australian fauna and they end up on Dutch Island just off the Melbourne coast. Tom is driving a powerful car and ends up hitting and killing a cyclist. Fearful that they will not get off the island, Heather persuades Tom to hide the body. When they are safely off the island they will report the accident to the police. Just as they are about to board the ferry, the family catches up with them..

From that point on, the action is full of suspense, sort of hold-your-breath incredible. The family on Dutch Island are feral, bent on revenge for the death of the cyclist. The family is headed by Ma who is determined that the American tourists are to pay for what they have done, but also that they are not to destroy the lifestyle that she and her family have established.

Written in New York during the pandemic, this is McKinty's second stand-alone. There are aspects that I seriously question the credibility of, but part of me wants to accept the possibilities. An excellent read.

My Rating: 4.6

I've also read

FIFTY GRAND
4.6, THE COLD COLD GROUND
4.8, I HEAR THE SIRENS IN THE STREET
4.6, FALLING GLASS
4.9, IN THE MORNING I'LL BE GONE
4.2, BELFAST NOIR, Adrian McKinty (ed) and Stuart Neville (ed)
4.8, THE CHAIN

30 June 2022

Review: WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING, Delia Owens

  • This edition published by Little Brown 2019
  • ISBN 978-1-4721-5466-8
  • 368 pages  

Synopsis (Amazon)

For years, rumours of the "Marsh Girl" have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. She's barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1968, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark.But Kya is not what they say.

Abandoned at age ten, she has survived on her own in the marsh that she calls home. A born naturalist with just one day of school, she takes life lessons from the land, learning from the false signals of fireflies the real way of this world. But while she could have lived in solitude forever, the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. Drawn to two young men from town, who are each intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new and startling world--until the unthinkable happens.

In Where the Crawdads Sing, Owens juxtaposes an exquisite ode to the natural world against a heartbreaking coming of age story and a surprising murder investigation. Thought-provoking, wise, and deeply moving, Owens's debut novel reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

Wikipedia:
Where the Crawdads Sing is a 2018 novel by American author Delia Owens. The story follows two timelines that slowly intertwine. The first timeline describes the life and adventures of a young girl named Kya as she grows up isolated in the marsh of North Carolina between 1952 and 1969. The second timeline follows an investigation into the apparent murder of Chase Andrews, a local celebrity of Barkley Cove, a fictional coastal town of North Carolina.
By January 2022, the book had sold 12 million copies, making it one of the best-selling books of all time. 

My Take

A fascinating read on the edge of crime fiction. Kya Clark, the Marsh girl, is abandoned first by her mother, siblings, and eventually her father, and grows up alone in the North Carolina Marshes from the age of 8. She receives help from a local boy and a trader. Thrown back mainly on her own resources she becomes an acute observer of the wildlife around her and eventually becomes an author and a biologist of note, even though she spends only one day of her life at school.

Locals do not trust her and have little to do with her, but eventually one of the local boys who has befriended her is killed and she is brought to trial for his murder. A local lawyer defends her pro-bono.

So the first part of this book is about Kya growing up, and the second part is about the trial.

My rating: 4.6

About the author

Delia Owens (born ca. 1949) is an American author and zoologist. Her debut novel Where the Crawdads Sing topped The New York Times Fiction Best Sellers of 2019 and The New York Times Fiction Best Sellers of 2020 for 32 non-consecutive weeks and was on the list for 135 weeks in total. She has also written the memoirs Cry of the Kalahari, The Eye of the Elephant, and Secrets of the Savanna, with her then-husband, Mark, about their time studying animals in Africa 

26 June 2022

Review: HER PERFECT TWIN, Sarah Bonner

  • this edition from my local library
  • published 2022 by Hodder & Stoughton UK
  • ISBN 978-1-529-38271-6
  • 325 pages

Synopsis (Publisher)

THE MOST ADDICTIVE THRILLER YOU'LL READ IN 2022. HER PERFECT TWIN. YOUR NEW OBSESSION.

HER PERFECT TWIN. YOUR NEW OBSESSION.

When Megan discovers photographs of her estranged identical twin sister on her husband's phone, she wants answers.

Leah already has everything Megan has ever wanted. Fame, fortune, freedom to do what she wants. And when Megan confronts Leah, an argument turns to murder.

The only way Megan can get away with killing her twin is to become her.

But then lockdown hits. How can she continue living two lives? And what happens if someone else knows her secret too? 

My Take

Megan lives with her husband of three years, Chris. They spend a lot of time apart because of the nature of their individual jobs. Megan has never "strayed" although she suspects that Chris has. When Chris is home he likes things to go his way.

Megan's mother is in a nursing home with the early onset of dementia and Megan constantly looks for signs that her mother's memory loss is hereditary. Chris realises this, and plays on it.

The story begins with Megan's discovery on her husband's phone of a picture of herself in underwear that she has never seen. That's how she knows that he is seeing her identical twin Leah. She and Leah have a very fractured relationship and rarely see each other. 

Her knowledge that Chris is having an affair with Leah gives Megan "permission" to find someone new for herself. She also decides to confront Leah, with dreadful consequences.

From that point, you are hooked. The story becomes compulsive with sections narrated by Megan, Chris, and Leah, cleverly following on from each other. Until an incredible finale. Megan told you what was going to happen, but did you take her at her word?

The lockdown caused by the global pandemic adds another element to the whole scenario.

My rating: 4.9

About the author

Sarah Bonner grew up in Salisbury, dreaming of a career as a writer and performer. Instead, she became an accountant! After a fifteen-year career, she decided to answer her original calling and completed her first novel, Her Perfect Twin. She lives in West Sussex with her husband and very spoiled rescue dog.

24 June 2022

Review: TWELVE SECRETS, Robert Gold

Synopsis (publisher)

A SMALL TOWN. A SHOCKING CRIME.
YOU'LL SUSPECT EVERY CHARACTER. BUT YOU'LL NEVER GUESS THE ENDING.

Ben Harper's life changed for ever the day his older brother Nick was murdered by two classmates. It was a crime that shocked the nation and catapulted Ben's family and their idyllic hometown, Haddley, into the spotlight.

Twenty years on, Ben is one of the best investigative journalists in the country and settled back in Haddley, thanks to the support of its close-knit community. But then a fresh murder case shines new light on his brother's death and throws suspicion on those closest to him.

Ben is about to discover that in Haddley no one is as they seem. Everyone has something to hide.

And someone will do anything to keep the truth buried . . . 

My Take

Ten years ago Ben's mother died and now his chief editor wants to use the anniversary with an article that rakes over the details of of the murder of his brother and a friend just ten years before that. Madeleine wants Ben to write the story. She thinks the story will attract new readers to their paper but Ben says he does not want to re-live the past. He believes that nobody gains anything by looking back.

But then he changes his mind. A young woman is murdered, the same way his brother was murdered. An accidental coincidence or is it the murderer himself? Ben decides that his mother would want him to investigate, to follow the threads, to find out what is really happening.

The main narrator of the book is Ben, but we often hear the voices of others, and we gradually learn what happened twenty years ago, through a multi-layered, multi-stranded tale. The plot is clever, devious, and it is not until the last few pages that all is revealed.

My rating: 4.8

About the author

Originally from Harrogate in North Yorkshire, Robert Gold began his career as an intern at the American broadcaster CNN, based in Washington DC. He returned to Yorkshire to work for the retailer ASDA, becoming the chain's nationwide book buyer. He now works in sales for a UK publishing company. Robert now lives in Putney and his new hometown served as the inspiration for the fictional town of Haddley in Twelve Secrets. In 2016, he co-authored three titles in James Patterson's Bookshots series.

21 June 2022

Review: THE WAY FROM HERE, Jane Cockram

  • this edition made available as an e-book on Libby by my local library
  • ISBN: 9780062939326
  • ISBN 10: 0062939327
  • Imprint: Harper Collins
  • On Sale: March 1, 2022
  • Pages: 320 pages 

Synopsis (publisher)

Three generations of women. Three generations worth of secrets. Will a cache of letters from beyond the grave hold the key to unravelling them all? The answer to that question lies at the heart of this addictive and atmospheric novel from the author of THE HOUSE OF BRIDES

Growing up, the Anderson sisters could not have been more different. Susie, the wild one, had an adventurous life while Camilla —Mills— followed a safer path. When Susie suddenly dies, Mills falls apart. Until she receives a bundle of mysterious letters from her estranged sister to be read in the case of her death. Each letter instructs her to visit a place special to Susie, both to spread her ashes but also to uncover some truths Susie has long kept hidden from her family.

Their mother Margaret has secrets of her own. When living in Swinging Sixties London, she too made a decision about her life that not only haunts her, but will reverberate through the generations.

One family, three very different women. What choices and secrets connect them? In this novel of truth and lies, concealment and regret, Jane Cockram flips the looking glass to expose our true face, revealing the deep lines of deception that can run through families and how the people we love the most often have the most to hide.

My Take

This novel is a mystery rather than crime fiction. 

The story is told by 3 main characters but also in several time frames - Susie, Camilla and their mother Margaret over a period of 30 years. The story begins with letters that Susie has left for her sister Camilla, in the form of a request that Camilla will go overseas, deliver the letters, and scatter Susie's ashes in various places.

Susie originally went overseas twenty years earlier, in 1998, on a gap year after she had finished school. Her grandmother Nellie had given her various places to visit. She herself had come to Australia as "ten-pound" Pom nearly 40 years earlier. When Susie returned to Australia she had changed, but she seemed unable to talk about what had happened to her. Susie died falling off a ladder just before her 40th birthday, so the year is 2018.

The novel tells us the history of the 3 generations of women and the secrets they have kept between them for almost 60 years.

The weaving of the story is very cleverly done, with several interlinked and twisted strands of mystery. Highly recommended and memorable.

My rating: 4.6

About the author

Jane Cockram was born and educated in Australia, where she studied Journalism at RMIT, majoring in Literature. After earning a post-graduate diploma in Publishing and Communication at Melbourne University, she worked in sales for Pan Macmillan Publishers and then as fiction buyer at Borders, fulfilling a childhood dream of reading for a living. Cockram spent a year living in the West Country of England, where The House of Brides is set, and still daydreams about returning.  In the meantime, she resides in Melbourne with her husband and two children. The House of Brides is her debut novel.  

18 June 2022

Review: THE LIAR'S GIRL, Catherine Ryan Howard

  • this edition made available by my local library as an e-book on Libby
  • Published: 1st March 2018
  • ISBN: 9781782398974
  • Number Of Pages: 336

Synopsis (publisher)

Her first love confessed to five murders. But the truth was so much worse.

Dublin's notorious Canal Killer is ten years into his life sentence when the body of a young woman is fished out of the Grand Canal. Though detectives suspect a copy-cat is emulating the crimes Will Hurley confessed to as a teen, they must turn to Ireland's most prolific serial killer for help. Will admits he has the information the cops need, but will only give it to one person - the girl he was dating when he committed his horrific crimes.

Alison Smith has spent a decade building a new life. Having changed her name and moved abroad, she's confident that her shattered life in Ireland is finally behind her. But when she gets a request from Dublin imploring her to help prevent another senseless murder, she is pulled back to face the past, and the man, she's worked so hard to forget. 

My Take

Alison has had 10 years in Amsterdam trying to forget the man who was her first boyfriend, who confessed to five murders of first year college girls, including her best friend. Because Will confessed to the murders, there was never a trial. Alison has spent 10 years trying to forget him, and to forget her role in giving evidence.

But now there is someone murdering girls again: the same methods, a copycat or the real murderer? And Will has told the Gardai that he can help but he will only tell what he knows to Alison. So they turn up on her doorstep in Amsterdam, the same Gardai as 10 years ago, asking her to come back to Dublin to talk to Will. And that will mean talking to her parents too.

Despite her conviction that Will is the murderer Alison finds herself trying to find proof. And then she notices someone watching her, someone from the past. What will happen if she proves his innocence? How do you give back 10 years?

An excellent read.

My rating: 4.7

I've also read

4.4, DISTRESS SIGNALS

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