Thursday 30 June 2016

Hollie Overton

A debut novel tackling a much-used premise with a fresh eye. This lady's writing will bear watching.

My review -

This book begins when a young woman held captive for eight years, and her daughter, fathered by her captor and abuser, manage to escape. It is bound to invite comparison with Room. I much preferred this. Lily and her daughter, Sky, escape when their captor makes a mistake and doesn't bolt the door. Happily ever after? Not likely! Lily's twin, Abby and her mother, Eve, have been so deeply affected by her disappearance that their own lives have been changed almost as much as hers.

I enjoyed the fact that this story began where others leave off. We gain some insight from Lily about what happened to her in her captivity but that's not what this story is about. It's about all the other lives touched and tainted by the crime. Not only her family, but her abductor’s too. His wife who apparently didn't suspect his perverse behaviour. His mother, Lily's grandparents, her boyfriend at the time she was taken. We watch the subsequent struggle for a normal future by people who have had a big chunk of their past stolen. I found it totally gripping.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for a review copy of this book.

Tuesday 28 June 2016

A K Dawson

I've long enjoyed Andrew Dawson's work and this Young Adult story is no disappointment. It oozes humour and charm.

My review -

Dan looks like one of life’s losers. He lost his immediate family in a tragic road accident and now lives with his nana. He suffers from crippling migraines but the proximity of the strange girl he meets, delving in rubbish bins for food, clears them instantly. She’s got massive eyes, a small mouth and, under her beanie hat, not a wisp of hair. Is she an alien? Dan falls for her and learns that he’s no ordinary boy, but the subject of an alien experiment when he was in the womb.

This story is funny, clever, charming and SO readable. It’s intended for Young Adults, I think, but brings up so many questions of love, loss, loneliness and, yes, there’s a bit of kissing to lighten the load. We can empathise with Dan’s fear when his mention of an alien makes those around him think he’s delusional. Eventually he wonders (as do we) if she’s real. Right to the end… There’s got to be a sequel. Readers (at least one!) demand it!

Monday 27 June 2016

Heather Burnside

This is the third in a trilogy and the writing has become more assured as the story progresses.

My review -

This is the third part of the Riverhill Trilogy and I found the story very compelling. Rita returns with her husband, Yansis, and her son, her sister Jenny’s little boy, for a family wedding. Her brother John, formerly in the forces, has come home to join the police, and it’s his wedding she’s attending. Rita is determined not to have anything to do with the Riverhill Estate but events pull her back. Her brother, after a heavy night of drinking, makes an unfortunate statement to a member of the public which has terrible consequences. Once again, Rita and those she loves are in danger.

I read a lot of crime books and some of them, to be honest, feel a little far-fetched. This one feels like it really could happen, to ordinary people living straight-forward lives. Rita seems like a ball of hot anger, but after what happens to her family, you can understand it. A very good read – but you do need to know the background. If you haven’t already, go and read the other two first.

Wednesday 8 June 2016

Victoria Hislop

I've read two of her previous books and when I found that The Thread was on special offer for June, I grabbed it.

My review - 

This is a story steeped in the recent history of Thessaloniki. Katerina came there as a small girl, a six year old refugee, accidentally separated from her mother and younger sister. She's taken in by another family, a woman and her twin sisters, also fleeing to safety. Katerina dreams of finding her birth mother. She shows a great talent for needlework and the book weaves the thread of her life with the lives of other families in the same street. It covers the two world wars and the rreek civil way.

I found the story, as I always do with Victoria Hislop's books, an education and an eye-opener. I always feel they are superbly researched but the learning is worn lightly. The story and the characters carry the book over a foundation of historical accuracy. It astonished me to learn that so recently, the married women were powerless against the wishes of their husbands and women couldn't vote. Above all, this is a good story which I heartily recommend. 

Tuesday 7 June 2016

Lexie Conyngham

This is the ninth in a series which goes from strength to strength. You can read them as stand-alones but I've followed the series from the beginning.

Slow Death by Quicksilver

My review - 

Charles Murray, the Laird of Letho, is visiting an old university friend who's struggling to cope after his young wife's death in childbirth. The child was lost, too, and Murray is on a protracted visit to attempt to cheer his friend. While he's there, one of the villagers, a particularly unpleasant old chap, is discovered writhing in the throes of a very painful death. He's been found to have drunk whisky laced with a compound of mercury. Murray joins the local sheriff's officer in trying to discover how it happened. It appears that a lot of people had reason to want to be rid of him.

Lexie Conyngham has created a character in Murray who is at once a darned good man and also someone who thinks some of the slightly unworthy things we ourselves are thinking. He's not goody-goody, but human. His young servant-in-training, Walter, is another lovable character, though in some circumstances quite useless. He we find his strengths. Murray persistently picks apart the details of the death, as further bodies turn up. The author beautifully depicts the structure of a village at that time, with the local landowner and his ‘quality’ friends entertaining one another while most of the villagers carry on the work that keeps the place going. The very old, unable to work, spend their time sitting by the window minding other people’s business. It's a great historical whodunit and I enjoyed this latest Murray story just as much as I expected to.

Saturday 4 June 2016

Nigel Bird

Not a man in a rut, Nigel Bird once again produces something unusual!

Drawn In

My review - 

Eighteen year old Natalie is studying Art and spending some time in Florence. Her boyfriend Rory died in violent circumstances seven months previously and she is still grieving, to the extent that she hears his voice in her head, encouraging her to ‘join him’ in the after-life. While in Florence, she sees Arturo, handsome and talented, drawing a figure on the ground. Later, a man is killed on this spot, lying exactly as Arturo had portrayed him. Nat discovers that nobody else can see him or his drawing. She then sees the predicted death of a young girl and interferes, erasing the drawing. This pulls her in deeper to find out what’s going on. Meanwhile, the voice of her dead boyfriend calls to her like a siren-song.

I always enjoy Nigel Bird’s writing and he’s no one-genre author. I found this novella very gripping and intriguing. It proposes a means to the afterlife overseen by a few soul collectors the world over, in order to help souls who are lost through the violence of their passing. It’s a classic device in a supernatural story that an unquiet soul can’t rest and it’s a really unusual idea Nigel Bird has come up with here to postulate a way around this. Natalie interferes in the process by taking pity on the five year-old who is destined to die. I found myself thinking that it would be an impossible job for many of us. Who wouldn’t try to give a child a longer stay on earth? A quick read but, in places, a very exciting one.

Friday 3 June 2016

Sean and Daniel Campbell

You can read this series in any order. they are very well constructed and stand alone.

The Patient Killer

My review -

This is the fourth in the DCI Morton series. I’ve read the second and this and it’s a real case of the stories standing well on their own. In this book, the body of a woman turns up on her husband’s grave which she visited every day. She’d had a lung removed. Other bodies are found later, each with some part of their anatomy removed, though in some cases it’s blood. They have completely bled out. Morton begins by suspecting the first victim’s twin sons but the story gets complicated.

I enjoyed this book very much. Morton and his crew are becoming real, three-dimensional characters and there’s a great deal of humour and some antipathy which makes the characters feel genuine. This is that rare thing in fiction, a DCI who is married, who has a wife who tolerates him, annoys him, and he has a home life. Not the usual off-the-peg maverick loner with a bunch of dysfunctional relationships in his past. It’s rather refreshing! The plot gave us some red herrings and a lot to think about. I felt it was satisfying in all ways. A great read.

Thursday 2 June 2016

Robert Bryndza

This is the second in the Erika Foster series and though I enjoyed the first, I think this was even better!

My review - 

This is Robert Bryndza’s second crime/thriller book and I really think he is growing into the genre. DCI Erika Foster is looking at the murder of a GP which appears to be an auto-erotic asphyxiation experiment gone wrong. He has a plastic bag over his head and a quantity of rohypnol in his blood. He’s tied up, though. So someone else did it. Erika’s superiors want to assign the case to a group dealing with homophobic killings but she’s convinced there’s more to it. Another body turns up and the case stays with her. Her friends become involved in this killer’s spree and it starts to feel personal. Especially when the killer contacts her.

The tension in this book ramps up gradually and eventually it’s a heart-pounding story. I thought Mr Bryndza’s first detective story was good but this, I think, is better. I believe he gets to grips with the characters and their interaction very credibly and I enjoyed seeing into the hermit-like Erika’s personal life, particularly her sister and family. It’s not a one-dimensional book and the supporting cast make for a deeper story, too. This is one exciting, heart-racing read and I look forward to more like this.

Thanks to the publisher and to Netgalley for the opportunity to review this book.

Wednesday 1 June 2016

Mark L Fowler

I've worked my way through this author's work over my holidays and it's been a huge pleasure. I love his style and the fact that all his books are different. So many clones about!

The Man Upstairs

My review -

Frank Miller is a private investigator and hero of a successful series of crime novels set in the small town of Chapeltown. He's currently looking into the death of a girl working for Chapeltown Angels, apparently a  group of carers. The Angels are not what they seem, and the mayor of Chapeltown is up to his fat neck in monkey business. Part way through this successful series, Frank becomes aware that he and his whole world are the product of the imagination of The Man Upstairs, the author of the books. He realises that his creator is sick - and this could result in Frank's death.

This is a really unusual premise for a novel. The style is reminiscent of the wise-cracking detective of American literature of the last century. It's a spoof and it's fun but if you let yourself be drawn into the story you share with Frank the worry, at times panic, that the series may suddenly end with his death. He needs to persuade his author that he can change, that the stories aren't stale. To do that, he comes up against the thug of a mayor. This story really makes you think about the meaning of existence, personality, character development and what it means to create. Don’t let that make it sound very serious, though. It’s great fun and a hugely refreshing change from what you might call the standard detective story. I really enjoyed it.