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Piercing, wonderfully real and so very readable, this is another cracking novel from Doug Johnstone. Set in and around a funeral home in Edinburgh, three generations of Skelf women arrange funerals and handle a little private investigation on the side. I love Doug Johnstone’s writing, it feels so authentic, yet he has the ability to get under the skin and nudge new thoughts and feelings into being. Dorothy, Jenny, and Hannah are simply wonderful, and Edinburgh itself sits brooding in the background. It’s the small detail that really matters here, encouraging the most vivid and intense picture to form. As I came to the end I realised I wanted to hear more about these women, and later learned there is to be a series, so, so pleased! A Dark Matter, sitting as it does in death, crime, and wrong-doing, still felt like a breath of fresh air, it really is a fabulous read and I loved it!
A vividly disturbing, eloquent and enthralling tale set in a home for children who have been taken into care. Three girls, their childhoods irreparably altered and broken, live in a remote home. When the body of one is discovered in a nearby churchyard on the edge of a lake, the investigation begins to focus on their pasts. Sarah Stovell ushers us into a world that most know little to nothing about. The prologue and first chapter made me sit up, my thoughts snapped open, ready to receive what was coming. Three different and emotionally provocative tales move together in an inevitable collision course. The author doesn’t shy away from difficult subjects, and with the majority of the story coming from the girls themselves, the matter-of-fact telling lands with a hammer-blow intensity. The striking, thought-provoking, compulsive storytelling within The Home twisted my mind and broke my heart, and yet I feel that this is an incredibly worthwhile and meaningful read.
An intriguing and altogether thrilling tale that played games in my mind and twisted my thoughts. A man with no memory is found on a Norfolk beach, neuropsychiatrist Dr Emma Lewis is asked to assess him. Emma, however, has secrets… and Norfolk is the very last place that she wants to be. The prologue focussed my attention and stayed with me throughout. As chapter one and day one started, followed by chapter two and day six, I realised that an unsettled feeling would also be keeping me company. Time slides forwards from each of these two chapters, the jagged sequence leaving my emotions hanging as the following chapter sped away again. Catherine Steadman allowed me to see, feel, and experience, her descriptions vivid in their intensity. As suggestions whispered and cajoled, the story eventually overtook and whipped them into shape. If you like to be kept on your reading toes then Mr Nobody could just be the very book for you.
Set between 1917 and 1940, taking in the two World Wars and all the social and political upheaval between them, this intimate and thoughtfully told novel focuses on two women. A mother at 19, Alice is forced to give her up her baby, and that baby, adopted and living life miles away, grows up knowing she is different. As the two women live their lives, their two individual stories begin to intertwine. Rachel Hore shows immense compassion in her writing as this story about family, love, loss and hope travels through the decades. I found myself immersed in the story, hoping and willing for happiness to step into the end of the tale. Peppered with notes from history, the years between the wars were bright and alive in my mind. Simply, almost gently told, as bitingly fierce and emotional subjects are handled with sensitivity, The Love Child is a beautifully poignant and hopeful novel.
With a fascinating premise this tight, gripping crime novel is a seriously worthwhile read. Continuing the Tom Thorne series (now 16 books in), I would suggest if you haven’t yet joined you could step straight into this, but I think it’s best to start at the beginning. Always great to find a fabulous series isn’t it! Sarah wants more than normality, she wants thrills, meanwhile DI Tom Thorne has a niggle of doubt over a woman’s apparent suicide and starts to investigate the reasons behind it. My attention was snared from the get-go. The policing side feels authentic, I didn’t hesitate, didn’t doubt, just read and completely trusted the storyline. Mark Billingham allows us access to the opposite side of the policing tale, to thoughts and feelings that sent conflicting thoughts scudding through me. Compassion warred with flinching, biting emotions as the truth started to reveal itself. I savoured the feeling of being slightly ahead of the game, of having access to more information as I watched Tom and Nicola struggling to stitch everything together. Their Little Secret is a captivating and compelling read, prepare yourself for some eye-popping moments!
Just to let you know that I get excitement overload when I read a crime novel that allows me to simply exist in the pages without an ounce of doubt… and Gallowstree Lane, the third ‘Collins and Griffiths Detective Novel’ is a truly fabulous example (so yes I am wanting to shout about this from the rooftops). Author Kate London ended her Metropolitan Police Service career in 2014 working as a detective on a Major Investigation Team. Her knowledge and experience undoubtedly shines through, you are quite simply, in very safe hands. This story about shocking gang violence is not only extraordinarily relevant, it also entirely captivating, meaningful, and memorable. Sarah Collins and Lizzie Griffiths are beautifully written detectives, both completely fascinating, for me though, the real jewel in this particular crown is Ryan, a young gang member who is left reeling and demanding vengeance after the murder of his best friend. Kate London encourages reality, fact and fiction to blend together, and adds so much depth to the characters I felt as though I knew them. I was so in tune with Ryan that my heart truly ached for him. Gallowstree Lane has left a vividly brilliant bruise on my soul, it is wonderfully raw, exquisitely written.
These fierce and funny feminist stories shine with everyday heroines at work and at play. Ordinary lives are transformed as women try to be themselves while clowning around for others. Captured in familiar situations as well as in flights of fancy, the women in these stories are engaged in acts of self-preservation: they are exhilarated to discover the joy and surprise of other women’s company, they make bold sexual choices, they go on a night-time excursions; as grandmothers, they give their grandchildren unsuitable presents. In one story, a young woman and her mother harness their creativity to express their horror at the world around them. In another, a teenage mother struggles with her feelings for the father of her child. One of the tales follows a woman who experiences the freedom of the workplace while another shows how imprisoning it can be. Compassionate, unexpected, and full of small triumphs in the face of adversity, this collection establishes Hannah Vincent as one of the freshest voices in contemporary fiction.
A quietly powerful book containing an inner core of steely strength. Set in the heart of Hitler’s hideaway lair the Wolfsschanze, this story focuses on Rosa, one of ten women chosen to taste his food in case of poison. Inspired by the true story of one of Hitler’s food tasters, and translated from Italian, this penetrating story concentrates on the intimate to highlight the truth of human behaviour and war. Author Rosella Postorino has the beautiful skill of pointing out the hidden in normality to allow a greater understanding. The seemingly simple story connected to my thoughts, she made me think in a different way, to consider the small things that can turn into an avalanche of awareness. There is one point where the very structure of the Nazi salute is dissected and the shock of realisation that hit has stayed with me. The Women at Hitler’s Table is fascinating, haunting, and a worthy read indeed.
This is a series that keeps on delivering, here we are at the fourth book, and it is just as addictive and original as the first, Six Stories. I really love the premise for this one, a chilling mix of the occult and an internet craze join the fabulous six stories format with online journalist Scott King. Six podcasts are delivered to us, to digest and form our own opinion after 24 year old vlogger Elizabeth Barton is found dead in The Vampire Tower on the Northumberland coast. Three young men were convicted in what they called a prank gone wrong, are they responsible? With the Beast from the East weather system and vampires haunting the pages, questions started whirling in my mind. As I read I felt as though a number of truths were being set free. As always Matt Wesolowski keeps a fabulously tight rein on the different voices, which so easily could run wild. Each character is unmistakable and I was able to hear them with sharp clarity. Beast is another winner of a read for me, if you haven’t yet joined in, what are you waiting for?!
A pretty fabulous first book in what I truly hope is a continuing crime series. Bestselling authors Thomas Enger and Jorn Lier Horst have teamed up to create not only some really interesting lead characters, but they also breathe fresh air into the fabulous tradition of Nordic Noir. A famous athlete fails to show at her autobiography book launch, when news blogger Emma Ramm finds signs of a struggle, police officer Alexander Blix begins a missing person enquiry that quickly turns more serious. As is usual with translated Orenda books, I just stepped straight in and read without a thought for the fabulous translation by Anne Bruce. Horst and Enger have set this novel firmly in the here and now, apart from the prologue which sets the scene for Blix. Death Deserved is a fast-moving, punchy, serial killer investigative novel with a whammy of an ending. If this is the first in the Blix and Ramm series, then here’s to many more!
A scaldingly intimate, powerful, and actually rather beautiful autobiography where the author reflects on her relationships and love. Lucy Fry is a journalist and currently training to be a psychotherapist, here she tells her story which includes her mental health, polyamorous relationship, and parenthood. It is pointed out that the truth is always someone’s story, but this just feels so incredibly heartfelt and rawly honest. It is as though she has reached inside herself, split open and poured out her innermost feelings and thoughts; and yet the way she writes ensured that I didn’t ever, ever feel as though I was intruding. She examines the hidden, concealed, and mysterious side of love, and as I read, I thought… of course, I see, yes! Easier Ways to Say I Love You is unflinching and intense, yet incredibly thoughtful and warm, it touched my heart, and opened my mind, in fact, I rather fell in love with this book.
Into the Abyss sees eminent cognitive neuropsychiatrist Anthony David share his considerable professional expertise and experience with lively aplomb. Setting out an overarching aim to “bridge the gulf of understanding between those with disorders and those without,” and explaining that modern psychiatry is an interweaving of biology, psychology and sociology, David elucidates that “every time we meet a new patient, we must decide which of the three, if any, is most important.” This, he argues, is fundamental to understanding and treating mental health disorders, as remarkably demonstrated through the case studies shared here, with each patient requiring complex multi-faceted diagnoses and rehabilitation strategies. Throughout “the tension between the perspective of an individual and that of the broader social world” is laid bare. Disorders might be experienced on an internal personal level, but they also exist and play out in a social context. Indeed, they can be caused and exacerbated by these contexts, be the condition schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder or an eating disorder. This complex interplay between mind, brain, body and cultural context is acutely shown in the case of a forty-year-old woman with anorexia nervosa. “Hunger and the drive to eat is...made up of ritual, mores, commercialisation and ethics”; “the control of appetite is managed by a complex but beautifully balanced neural-humeral programme.” The tenacious untangling of the causes of this patient’s disorder is extraordinarily fascinating, with unexpected findings and outcomes. Unflinchingly honest, erudite and humble, this is illuminating reading for anyone interested in mental health and “how brain and mind interact and, in a sense, vie for control.”
From the No.1 bestselling author of The Ashes of London and The Fire Court comes the next book in the phenomenally successful series following James Marwood. A royal scandal... In the Court of Charles II, it's a dangerous time to be alive - a wrong move may lead to disgrace, exile or death. The discovery of a body at the home of one of the highest courtiers in the land could therefore have catastrophic consequences. A shocking murder... James Marwood, a traitor's son, is ordered to cover up the killing. But the dead man is known to Marwood - as is the most likely culprit, Cat Lovett. The stakes have never been higher... Marwood is sure Cat is innocent so determines to discover the true murderer. But time is running out. If he makes a mistake, it could threaten the King himself...
An intelligent, interesting, eloquent mystery which fairly bristles with whodunit verve! This is the third in the Katie Flanagan series, you could actually read this as a standalone, but I recommend starting at the beginning with Deep Water. Katie heads as an undercover technician to a lab researching deadly viruses jumping the species barrier. There is something suspicious happening at the laboratory, and events are set to take a lethal turn. The prologue thoroughly and completely sets the scene with a newspaper report highlighting the danger of a horrific virus that appears to have crossed from monkey to human. We then jump forward two years, and I quickly fell into step alongside Katie, just who if anyone, can she trust? The chapter headings set the timing in play, adding to the tense atmosphere. Christine Poulson’s eloquent pen brings the lab to life, makes the threat of the diseases feel so very real, and sets a fabulously chilling undertone. I suspected everyone, and could almost feel myself glaring at them as I read. An Air That Kills takes a deadly subject, ramps up the tension, and releases a wonderfully readable and thrilling mystery for your enjoyment.
A thoroughly interesting and engaging mystery that slowly but surely gathers pace until it fairly rockets along. When Graham spots an unexpected face at a hotel, he believes his past has come to pay a visit. His reporting skills come to the fore as he begins to investigate but events quickly turn from a friendly to deadly game. This was my first book by Paul Trembling, and as I read there were suggestions of a previous story, yet this felt like a complete and standalone tale. I later discovered that his previous novel Local Artist features Graham’s wife Sandra, ahhh, that explains those snippets of information! You can certainly start as I did, with Local Legend, though I do now want to find out what happened in Sandra’s tale. Paul Trembling is a former Crime Scene Investigator, and his knowledge ensures an authentic read. The family bond and relationship sits beautifully alongside the mystery elements. The quotes at the beginning of each chapter work really well and introduce the continuing story beautifully. With a cracking storyline and an ending that had me visiting the edge of my seat, Local Legend becomes a fast-paced, high octane ride.
A clever, cutting, addictive read that kicks impulsive to the ground, and stomps all over spontaneity. Two strangers meet on their travels in China, and impetuously decide to travel together on the Trans-Siberian Express, never have the words act in haste, repent at leisure been more appropriate. The synopsis grabbed me: “…as the journey continues, through Mongolia and into Russia, things start to unravel - because one of these women is not who she claims to be”. The prologue made me wince, the words thrust themselves into my mind and sharpened my focus. As the first few chapters uncoiled, whispers of uncertainty started. S. J. I. Holliday excels in almost quietly, yet throughly provoking feelings, allowing tension to build to an almost unbearable level. Out on the wild open plains I felt claustrophobic and uncomfortable, and yet the story called and clamoured to be finished. Violet is a fabulously unsettling ride, once you climb aboard it won’t let you off, so make sure your ‘do not disturb sign’ is on display.
An absolutely cracking, powerful, and oh so relevant novel focusing on domestic abuse, violence, and gaslighting. Ria Taylor is the manager of a refuge for women, she struggles to deal with threatening messages from an unknown source, but worse, much worse is to come. Author Jacqueline Ward is a Chartered Psychologist and Scientist and boy does it show. I entered the story and just felt the truth. The first paragraph is so descriptive, I experienced an immediate sense of place. I didn’t question, didn’t dwell, I was just sucked in whole and lived in each and every moment. The characters pop with authenticity, I could reach out and touch them, they became known to me. The ending had me sitting in contemplation. At the back of the book there are some pretty fabulous Book Club Questions, and most importantly a list of helplines for anyone experiencing domestic violence. How to Play Dead is not only a provocative and fabulous story, it also burrowed inside my head, it made me look, made me see. It shook me to the core to learn that two women a week in England are killed by a partner, or ex partner.
Expect the unexpected from the get-go as the prologue lights the touch paper to an intense, smirky, carnival ride of a fabulous read. You wont want it to stop! A valuable meteorite crash lands in a small Finnish town causing absolute mayhem. As Joel, the local pastor, guards the meteorite, he not only faces a crisis in his marriage but also a number of people who decide that the meteorite should be theirs, come what may! After the fiery prologue, chapter one slapped my attention to face a different direction. By the time chapter two arrived, I was sitting wide-eyed, this was setting itself up for a cracking read. I adore Antti Tuomainen’s books, he writes with a finely balanced pen, darker than dark humour hits with a provocative wallop, while feeling fresh and different. I was consumed by Little Siberia and all too soon, as the events around Joel unraveled, the ending hurtled towards me. Not only sharp, amusing, and provocative, this is also an incredibly thoughtful read, so Little Siberia receives an enthusiastic thumbs up from me.
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