Crime

Book Review of The Girl Before

thegirlbefore.jpgThis is the kind of book you know is going to have legions of female fans – and no doubt will be made into a movie as well.  It’s very much in the style of The Girl on the Train – an entertaining mystery, cleverly told and deep in fiction’s mainstream.

In two different narratives separated by a handful of years, two women move into an architectural experiment, a home so minimalist that it actually trains the tenant to change and let go of unnecessary thoughts, feelings and possessions.  Each woman is running away from a tragedy, and the house seems like a safe haven – and the architect an irresistible bonus.

But nothing is quite as it seems and the reader becomes increasingly alarmed as the house takes on a slightly sinister role for both, and both engage in highly controlled relationships with its designer.  But then both women learn the woman who lived there before them died in mysterious circumstances….

This will keep you guessing and entertained right towards the end.  A good choice for holidays any teacher friends.

Book Review of Into the Water

into-the-water-672x1024Many authors stumble when it comes time to follow up a phenomenally successful first novel – but instead, Paula Hawkins has no doubt given her legions of fans more of what they are looking for in the intriguing, if lightweight, Into the Water.

Into the Water is set in the fictional town of Bickford in the gloomy north of England, famous only for it’s drowning pool and the dark history of troublesome women finding their end in it.  Years ago, it was accused witches but more recently, a young mother and in just the past few weeks, a young local girl and the mother of her friend.  It is the death of this final woman, Nel Abbott – a writer and photographer fascinated by the history of the drowning pool – that sparks this story. Although Nel’s death and the one that proceeded it, have all the earmarks of a suicide, the motives for such actions are a mystery to those closest to them.

The story eventually unravels through multiple narrators, and it has the same feminist bent of The Girl on the Train, where poor women are suffering for the choices of violent and disturbed men.

Behind all of this though, is the story of two sisters.  Estranged for years, as one uncovers the reasons for her sister’s death a tremendous family misunderstanding is revealed, leading to a period of renewal amongst the grief.

There’s a lot to like here and Into the Water won’t fail to engage Hawkins’ legion of fans. The same dark sense of mystery and foreboding accompanies this tale.  It might even pick her up a few more.

Book Review of Goodwood

goodwoodThere has been a lot of buzz about Holly Throsby’s Goodwood (especially as Throsby herself is better known for singing words than writing them).

And the buzz is well worthwhile – Goodwood is a finely crafted read that reflects real and engaging characters living that small-town life. You know the sort – where the local fish and chip shop is the centre of society, and fishing is one of the more popular pastimes.

But this quietness is disturbed when two residents go missing within a week of each other.  One, a young woman, has vanished without a trace, but with plenty of mystery and discussion.  The second, an older man who is well-respected within the town followed after just a week.

Are the two cases connected?  Or is life just not as simple as it appears in Goodwood?

This was a really solid read that made me happy to pick up the book each night.  Definitely worth a look.  Throsby’s move into the literary world is a good one – and I daresay more novels will follow this.

Book Review of Good Me, Bad Me

The premise of Ali Land’s Good Me, Bad Me is one that intrigues.good me bad me

Annie, now known as Milly in the foster system is the key witness in her mother’s trial.  She was a serial killer of small children and since Annie was a child, she has been groomed to be complicit in these crimes, taught how to manipulate and gain trust.  Taught to make those who oppose her pay.  Taught to please by following in her mother’s footsteps.

Then the boy taken to the ‘playroom’ was one that was known to her.  And Annie decided to go to the police.  Too late to save the ninth and final boy though.

Now as Milly, she must try to begin again.  Fostered by a counsellor, her home is a mixture of care and therapy.  And Milly must decide which version of herself she is going to nurture as her new life begins to take shape.  She must make new friends.  She must hide her identity even though a woman with the same face as hers is on every TV screen and the cover of every newspaper.  She must deal with the bullying of her stepsister.  But how is she to do this when her every instinct tells her to lie and manipulate and make those who oppose her pay?

But if she wants to stay in her new life, with her new family, she cannot show any of these traits.  So which version of herself will win?

A great holiday read – engaging and fast-paced.  The ending disappointed me a little, but this didn’t take away from an absorbing reading experience.

Book Review of His Bloody Project

his-bloody-projectI always try to read a couple of the Man Booker nominations each year – although I find I’m rarely sophisticated enough to agree with the winner. This year’s winner – The Sellout – drove me a little mad. I haven’t given up on it entirely, but certainly I’ve given up on it for now.

His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet was another matter. Subtitled Documents Relating to the Case of Roderick Macrae, the novel is styled like true crime, but in reality is totally fictional. It’s a vivid portrait of life in a small Scottish croft in the years proceeding 1869, and the bloody murders that occurred and subsequently gripped the imagination of the wider public. Part portrait, part social commentary His Bloody Project is both intelligent and readable. The characters are engaging and well-realised, particularly the murderer Roddy Macrae, who is an interesting blend of intelligence and naievety. This makes his trial all the more interesting – is he a cold-blooded killer or someone not capable of making a rational decision? Worth a look – more accessible no doubt than some of the other nominees.

Gushing Review of The Good People

1472712750201Like many, I was spellbound by the love of writing that was apparent in Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites – a detailed and meticulously researched portrayal of the last woman sentenced to death for murder in Iceland.   Burial Rites was a novel destined to take the international stage – one that blended physical and emotional realities masterfully and explored a complex character and the reactions of those around her with sophistication and deftness.

The Good People, Kent’s follow-up, holds all the same magic.

Set in a remote village near the Flesk River in Killarney, The Good People explores the superstitions of simple folk – and the many ways in which they can lead to tragedy. Kent came across the real event in her research for Burial Rites – the story of an aged woman whose defence for murder was based upon her belief that the murdered boy was but a changeling and thus she should not be held accountable. While it is easy to believe this is madness or an excuse for cold-blooded murder, once again Kent creates real human warmth and invites readers to feel sympathy or at least acknowledge the complexity of such cases.

Beautiful prose, complex but real characters and thought-provoking ideas about being a woman in a backwards time make The Good People another likely best-seller. I challenge anyone who loved Burial Rites to not see this as yet another demonstration of Kent as one of the greatest writers of our time.

Yes, I know I’m gushing. But this is worth getting excited about. Comes out in October.

Book Review of Stephen King’s End of Watch

end of watchThis is the final chapter of the Bill Hodges series, which began with Mr Mercedes and was followed up with Finders Keepers, both excellent thrillers away from King’s usual style.

We return to the Brady Hartsfield storyline which was the centre of the first novel in the series.  Hodges and his new partner Holly stopped Hartsfield – the perpetrator of a massacre at a job fair – from committing a second atrocity at the end of this first novel by critically injuring him, leaving him ostensibly a vegetable. But when a series of suicides begin to occur, and many of the victims are those who would have been killed in Hartsfield’s second attack, Hodges is forced to consider the impossible – what if Hartsfield is back somehow?  And what if his brain injury has actually unlocked parts of his psyche that allow him to control and manipulate others?

It’s a race against the clock as Hodges needs to check in for cancer treatment – but he can’t let Hartsfield take any more lives.

The hint of the extraordinary in this is more classic Stephen King than the others, but all of these novels have been hugely enjoyable.  Hodges is a memorable character and the supporting cast is just as well drawn. Another enjoyable read.