Friday 29 April 2016

Si Page

Another new author to me but his earthy humour is a great antidote to dull April days.

Missing Gretyl

My review - 

Gretyl Trollop is a monstrous woman. She's self-obsessed, greedy, thoughtless and rude. Her husband is a salt-of-the-earth type, kind hearted and a good friend and you wonder how they stayed together for so long. Dave and Sharon Soddall are in on a scam with Dave's brother to sell some villas in Marbella which have no planning permission and are due for demolition. The two groups collide and thereby hangs this tale.

The humour here is classic British slapstick; Carry-on stuff. The situations are often ludicrous and you can’t help but laugh along. It's not subtle and Gretyl herself is at the centre of most of it. Just a very few characters wave the flag for goodness and righteousness – Albert, Gretyl’s husband, his best friend Stan and his wife, and Sajan, his young student friend. There's a satisfying amount of Karma at the end though I wonder if someone can really change so thoroughly. I suspect there’s more to come. It’s the kind of book which makes you keep reading, smirking and sniggering.

Wednesday 27 April 2016

Annabel Kantaria

I must be getting old! I didn't remember pre-ordering this but on checking, I did. It's a good read, so I did right!

My review - 

Right at the beginning of this book we realise that Audrey Templeton is missing from a cruise ship, presumed dead. Her two adult children accompanied her on the cruise at her expense - her last fling before looking at retirement homes. The narrative alternates between Audrey's earlier life in India and her marriage to the twins' father, and her daughter Alexandra's present-day story. Lexi's brother John is behind the move to get their mum to accept sheltered accommodation.

I enjoyed this story very much. The brother and sister are very different and Lexi harbours doubts and suspicions about her brother which make her wonder if they can ever feel the same about one another when the cruise is over. The characters are well fleshed-out and although I had guessed the ending, it was no less satisfying for that. A really good read. 

Saturday 23 April 2016

Rachel Joyce

This book, a follow-up the the wonderful 'Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry', is not a sequel so much as a parallel story. I think I enjoyed it even more.

My review -

This is the other side of the coin – the parallel story to that of Harold Fry. I think you could read either alone but the pair together explain things we might have missed. Queenie is in the last weeks of her life in a hospice in the far north of England. She sends him a letter to say she’s dying and Harold is walking to see her. A new hospice volunteer suggests she write to him and tell all the things weighing on her mind.

I loved the charming Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and didn’t expect to enjoy this quite as much. I think I actually enjoyed it more. Queenie reflects on her life – one which many would consider unfulfilled, perhaps even wasted. Yet what she has made of it is wonderful; her sea garden; her restored beach house home. Queenie is a strong woman, but cancer is beating her. Some of the other hospice patients are fantastic characters and you can’t help warning to them – I especially loved Finty. I also enjoyed the enigmatic Sister Mary Inconnue, the volunteer enabling the letter to Harold with Queenie’s explanations and confessions. I pondered on the name when I saw it. At the end, I got it. This is an absolutely charming, gripping and wonderful story and I read it in record time. Couldn’t wait!

Thursday 21 April 2016

Cody McFadyen

I picked up this book, by an author new to me, thanks to recommendations from two people whose reviews I trust. It's always worth checking out what your friends are reading and enjoying.

My review -

This story, featuring FBI agent Smoky Barrett, tells of her return to work after a six month absence. This was the result of an attack on her, her husband and young daughter, leaving her facially scarred and her loved ones dead. She needs frequent interviews with the FBI psychologist before she can be signed on again as fit to work. Her next case is a man who has all the makings of being a serial killer, and who says he’s descended from Jack the Ripper. He comes very close to home for Smoky and her team.

This is a harrowing story but a totally gripping one. It would be nice to say it’s unbelievable but sadly it’s not. There seems to be no end to the depravity possibly in the human soul. There is something here of the old nature/nurture debate but largely it’s a darned good crime story and it’s a delight to watch the harassed team unpick the slender evidence and find the villain behind it all. In some ways, it’s like looking at a mirror reflecting another mirror. They catch one man and there seem to be so many more behind him. An excellent, completely compelling story, right to the end.

Monday 18 April 2016

Andre Aciman

I had this given as a gift. It's a beautiful gift. 

My review -

This is a love story narrated by the seventeen year-old Elio. Oliver comes to spend the summer at Elio’s parents’ house on the Italian coast. His father, an American academic, takes people on summer placements and Oliver is here to finish a book. Elio is drawn to him. This is a man/man relationship but they both have female partners. It’s up to the reader to interpret this. The heat of the summer, the languid lolling by a pool or sitting on rocks on the shore, and the cycling into town set a tone which makes this a magical place and time.

Because Elio’s thoughts are our guide through this compelling tale, we follow his see-saw emotions as he’s drawn to the visitor, then convinced that Oliver can’t stand him. He alternately loves and is unmoved by Oliver. He occasionally hates himself. It’s a situation many of us will remember from early relationships. Will he, won’t he; does he, doesn’t he? It gives us a glimpse into two lives which made me think that any relationship has a potential which is rarely fulfilled. Which of those we met and left could have been our ‘true love’? This is so different from the action thrillers or crime books which I often reach for, but it’s very intense and introspective. A beautifully written book, it’s a very good read.

Thursday 14 April 2016

Ian Ayris

After a four year wait, the sequel to Abide With Me has been published. It's excellent!

April Skies

My review - 

We pick up the life of John Sissons after his release from a prison sentence. I can’t be the only reader of Abide With Me who wondered what the future held for him. He manages to get a job in a factory, though it’s bleak and soul destroying – repetitious and uninspiring. He needs the money, though. His ‘baby sister’ Becky, now seventeen, has a boyfriend and John’s not impressed. A few more characters from his past catch up with him and he finds himself in dire need of friends. He’s been set up for something and he fears for Becky’s life. Strands mesh together as the story reaches its climax.

Thoreau famously observed that ‘the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation’ and Ian Ayris illustrates this so well with John and some of his friends. Life’s kicked them in the guts in their childhood and he often wishes he could go back to that happy time, before any of the problems of his life beset him. On the surface, he’s a no-hoper, but scratch that exterior and there’s a bit of a philosopher underneath. He – and possibly many of the people we would dismiss as an underclass – has a depth of character which Ayris teases out and celebrates. I really found this a very satisfying read, but if you’re allergic to strong language, you won’t enjoy it. Be prepared.

Tuesday 12 April 2016

Steve Robinson

This is the 5th Jefferson Tayte novel in which he searches out his own history. The best yet! I also believe you could read it on its own.


My review - 

I’m a great fan of the genealogical super-sleuth, Jefferson Tayte and this fifth book in the series is going to have readers on the edge of their seats. JT has been able to solve many a difficult and even dangerous case but the mystery of his own origins has always eluded him. All he knew was that his mother gave him away for his own good. His late friend and mentor, Marcus Brown, left some clues which have led JT and his friend Jean to Germany. His digging around stirs up a hornets’ nest of Neo-Nazis who want their secrets to remain buried. It becomes obvious that there’s a distinct possibility that Tayte will not like the answers, even if he manages to find them.

We switch smoothly back and forth between present day and wartime Germany, and try, with JT and Jean, to piece together the jigsaw of clues they obtain from various sources, including an old man who suffers from a bad heart. It’s touch and go – and the outcome is not what I imagined! This is not going to let fans of Jefferson Tayte down and I think it could stand alone as a novel for those who haven’t read the earlier books. There’s a good outcome and I finished it with a smile. It’s great having ends tied up but knowing there’s more to come. Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

Monday 11 April 2016

David Haynes

This is the author's first venture into the modern Crime and Thriller genre and I really hope for more of this. It's wonderful stuff.

My review -

Do you find clowns more scary than funny? It's so common that there's a word for it. Coulrophobia (I had to look it up). This is a fantastic page-turner which exploits a common fear. It's also a psychological thriller and a crime and detective story. The first sentence is absolutely arresting. Sparkles the clown is the creation of Ben
Night, a washed-up author vainly trying to recreate his earlier fame. A children's entertainer has copied the Sparkles face as his own but someone is bent on a bizarre form of revenge. Detective Jane Brady is determined to find the killer when a colleague of hers is similarly targeted.

This is a new venture for a man known primarily for his horror stories, with an emphasis on Victorian tales of the macabre. His current novel is bang up to date and is influenced by the author's experience working as a police officer. We are able to watch the pieces falling into place for Jane Brady, and witness Ben Night's fear as his own creation apparently takes on a life of its own and goes on a murderous spree. David Haynes has a great future as a writer of psychological thrillers and crime novels if this book is any indication.

Thursday 7 April 2016

Caroline Mitchell

This is the first in the series which I started at number 3. It's the mark of a good series that you can pick one out and still get a good read from it. I thought I'd begin at the beginning - and it's a good beginning, too.

Don't Turn Around

My review -

In DS Jennifer Knight, author Caroline Mitchell has created one of those characters you know will stay with you. A police detective, she has additional powers; hunches, maybe? Knowledge others don't have. And she's had the 'crazy' tag trailing along behind her. Now, the crimes she has to solve come close to home.

The characters are believable. Jennifer herself, determined yet fearful, her colleague Will, the new boy Ethan; all are involved with a series of murders which seem to copy those her own mother investigated twenty years earlier. Whether you believe in the paranormal or not, this is a cracking good story. As it’s the first of a series, I'm pleased to see that I'll meet Jennifer again.