The third Cormoran Strike novel is satisfying and engaging

Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike #3) by Robert Galbraith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve always been a real supporter of J.K. Rowling’s foray into the world of crime writing through the Robert Galbraith series of books. After all, publishing of The Casual Vacancy wasn’t a huge success under her own name purely because people couldn’t separate the author from her most famous character, Harry Potter.

Book 3 in the series, Career of Evil was one that got out of the starting gate very quickly. Within a few pages, we’ve had our first introduction to the murderer and his plans and have had him deliver an amputated leg to Robin, the partner and Secretary of our hero Cormoran Strike.

From there we are led into a story where someone is trying to destroy Cormoran Strike by targeting his reputation and plotting to abduct and hurt his partner Robin. Strike and Robin are unaware of his precise plans but simply know he is attacking young women, stealing body parts from his victims and is following Robin. There are several suspects from Strike’s past, some from cases he investigated from his Special Branch of the army career and one who is connected to his mother’s suspicious death.

It was at this point I felt the story could have used a little clarity. Strike and Robin spend much of the book tracking down these 3 individuals, recounting their back stories with Strike and following up on where they were when certain crimes took place. Unfortunately, their backstories were at times quite similar and sometimes I had to stop and remind myself of which one linked to which tale we’d had recounted. Just as we seemed to be gaining clarity on one we would be off on another’s trail and you had to be alert to keep track of each story and possible Villain we were tailing now.

In this book we spend a lot more time with Robin, learning more about her life before she met Strike, her desires to become a detective and her relationship with her fiance Matthew. Rowling takes time to really round out the character giving us a real modern day Watson to Strikes at sometimes bumbling Holmes.

It is a book that goes through some high points, I found the interviews conducted to establish back stories and information about their suspects to be the high points of the book. The dialogue in these chapters is inspired, it was at these points I truly wanted to keep reading and perhaps contributes to my disappointment when we’d leave that behind and go chasing down another lead, leaving the suspense and real character based detective work behind. There are also some great characters in this story who added much to the story and who I’d love to see in future books, Shanker is a stand out for me. This shady thug from Strike’s early life comes bursting to life in this book and leaves you rooting for him, he is clearly a thug with a heart of gold and was a high point for me.

Low points were that the book kept building towards a storyline that didn’t actually materialise. Instead, we got a few pages of it potentially happening then nothing. All that tension as a reader was left a little unfulfilled. Also, our dynamic duo ended this case pretty fractured and with their own agendas. They didn’t catch their guy together but instead kind of caught him separately and didn’t share that success, which was a shame.

I enjoyed this book a lot more than book 2, The Silkworm. This was based on the chapters that were dedicated to Strike and Robin really outlining and defining who their potential suspects were and the lives they had already affected. For me, this was a real return to the brilliance of The Cuckoos Calling.

Strike remains one of my favourite series characters and I always look forward to reading the next instalment and this time is no different. I’ll be excited to see his next adventure and how his relationship with Robin continues to grow, very much in the way I wait patiently to see what modern-day Holmes and Watson will do next.

A new thriller author for me and a story of loss and starting over

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book seemed to be prominent on bookshelves over the last year, it’s presence always hovering and intriguing me as this author’s debut seemed to have gripped so many other readers I decided it was worth a try.

The opening of the book immediately takes us into the story as the opening chapter walks us through the hit and run that kills young 6-year-old Jacob whilst his mother walks him home from school. The driver fleeing the scene is shocking and the heart-wrenching grief of his mother means we are instantly engaged in the characters and the resolution of the crime which has left this innocent young boy dead.

From there we are led into alternating chapters between the police officers investigating the incident and trying to piece together what happened and that of Jenna, who,¬†having lost her son is fleeing her grief and running away to a small Welsh village to escape her past. It is clear the police are having no luck finding the perpetrator of the crime and we follow them over the course of a year as they seek to find new leads whilst the victim’s mother has fled her home seeking to forget the incident.

Many of the reviews I read of this book spoke of amazing twists in the tale approximately half way through and said it’s story ‘blew them away’, maybe I was reading a different book as from the outset I had pretty much gathered what this major ‘twist’ was going to be and also how this arc in the story was going to then be played out.

The character of Jenna is written really well and I can understand why people become so engaged in her story of grief and distress. As a character I really liked her and was invested in her seeing justice, I wanted her to be able to see the person who killed her child brought to justice. I liked the small Welsh village she escaped to and the people she met there and how they all closed ranks around her and helped her start again.

For me, I could only give this book 3 stars because whilst I enjoyed it there wasn’t the same sense of suspense I’d been led to believe the book would give me. It didn’t take me somewhere I wasn’t expecting to go. The clues were there in the chapters if you read closely enough you would guess where the story was headed and I wish the secrets had been guarded a little more closely so as to hit me more unexpectedly.

The other reason I only gave a 3-star review was the ending of the book and the revelation of the true story and reasons for the hit and run had one aspect that left me feeling the author had tried one twist too far. There was a link between victim and driver that didn’t need to be there, it didn’t make it feel real for me.

I’m trying very hard in this review not to give away anything more about the story of this book than is absolutely necessary because whilst there were aspects I didn’t enjoy there was much to like about the book and it is worth reading if you’ve enjoyed thrillers such as The Girl on The Train or Gone Girl.

Liane Moriarty’s book is a wonderful mystery about friendship

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

HBO are about to launch a brand new, star-studded miniseries later in February based on this book by Liane Moriarty. Starring such big Hollywood names as Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Shailene Woodley it is clear that the budget for its adaptation to the small screen hasn’t been insignificant. For a show to attract such a myriad of stars as it has there must be something significantly strong in the book for it to have found such attention.

The last book I read by Moriarty was some years ago now and was The Husband’s Secret, I remember it as being an okay read but it didn’t blow me away and so this book has been on my e-reader pretty much since it’s release and it was only my incessant need not to let the series begin without my having read the content upon which it is based that pushed it to the top of my list.

Based in a small, highly affluent seaside suburb in Melbourne, Australia it follows the lives of three women. Madeline is a mother of 3, happily married to her second husband she is preparing for her youngest daughter beginning to start Kindergarten. Making the whole transition worse is the fact her ex-husband’s child with his new wife is going to be in the same class and there’s just nothing Madeline hates more than the hippy-dippy lifestyle of the woman was replaced with. Also, we have wealthy and beautiful Celeste, mother of twins and wife of a successful businessman is also preparing to send her boys to school however it’s clear that behind the veneer of Celeste’s perfect life is a secret that she keeps from everyone around her.

Finally, we have Jane, a young single mother who has just moved to the area and has to transition her little boy into the school along with mothers and children she doesn’t know. On the first day of school, Ziggy is accused of bullying another child and she finds herself ostracised by the other mums and judgements made about her parenting. Jane though hides a secret also about the father she has never told Ziggy about and it scares her that perhaps the things her little boy is accused of could be true.

From the very outset of the book, we are aware that there has been a murder committed at a trivia night held to raise funds for the school. The book is written through the moths and weeks leading up to the crime and each chapter has interspersed snippets from police interviews with different members of the school community after the crime. From these, we are given tantalising glimpses of what happens but never the full picture as each person has their own perceptions of the evening’s events based on whom they have aligned themselves with in the bullying furore.

The book really pulls you on through the chapters, the mixture of chapters being told from each different lead characters perspectives means we get to share each of their stories and their friendship from each angle. The characters are well written and maybe because I know who is going to be playing each role in the series I could really see them clearly in my mind and you can see the actresses chosen really bringing their role to the screen perfectly. The police interview snippets are a really clever writing tool because it lets us see that no two people ever view the same situation in the same way and that what we observe from afar is not always the truth behind people’s actions. We also learn that bullying and cliques and name calling are something that we don’t leave behind in the school playground, even as adults people use these to give themselves power and status and the parallels between the adult’s worlds and those of their children is profound.

I did manage to guess one of the big reveals at the end of the book from around half way however it didn’t spoil the ending as I couldn’t have foreseen the murder itself and the way in which it took place. The book really did keep you guessing about that right up until the moment itself as there were various ways it could have played out. The fallout from the crime was handled very well and brought together characters that we hadn’t anticipated would find affinity with one another and taught us that absolutely everyone has secrets they don’t wish to share in life and sometimes it’s the things we don’t share that are the most powerful things about us.

I am now literally on the edge of my seat waiting for the television adaptation, I have a feeling it’s going to be a huge hit for HBO and for people who have not read the book they will fall in love with it as there is glamour and friendship and enough backstabbing to bring the screen to life. I know that now I will be watching with a clear indicator of what the ending will be but I still cannot wait to relive Madeline, Celeste and Jane’s journeys on screen.

 

Perhaps the best thriller ending I’ve ever read

Between You and Me by Lisa Hall
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lisa Hall is a new author who has released for her first novel, Between You and Me, a tale of domestic violence and the shattering impact it can have on relationships and the ripple effect of that to all family members. The thing about this book though is I would honestly advise you to steer clear of reading lots of review on it before you pick up the book because there is a really big plot twist at the end of the book and I honestly can say I didn’t see it coming and I’m glad I didn’t so I am going to write a very careful but hopefully helpful review without giving too much away.

Sal and Charlie seem from the outside to have a very happy marriage, they have a young daughter Maggie and Charlie is climbing the ladder at work as a lawyer aiming to make partner. Having met at university and married young the couple have fallen into the routine where Sal is happy to help Charlie climb the career ladder by staying home and caring for Maggie full time whilst putting the career they loved as a teacher on hold.

The thing about the marriage though is that Sal is terrified of Charlie, lives in fear of how Charlie will react to every little thing that happens in their marriage. There have been incidents since they met which have been escalating where Charlie controls everything Sal does and if Sal doesn’t do precisely as told will be rewarded with a slap, a punch, things being thrown or broken or things withheld. It is a volatile relationship and one in which Sal lives in fear. Charlie is living with the shadow of a traumatic childhood raised in a house where a violent stepfather ruled the house. This has led to a cycle that has now passed onto Charlie’s own marriage.

The book leads us through a period where Charlie is trying to close a major deal at work and stress is building, as a consequence events at home become magnified and Charlie becomes more difficult to live with than ever, taking it out on Sal and reacting in violence. Sal knows that it’s time to escape but doesn’t know where to start and is too scared to take help, even from friend and neighbour Laura who seems to know what’s going on.

The writing in this book was amazing. I honestly have to say that the way it was written was so very clever as to not give even the slightest indication of the twist that this book’s final few chapters. I normally am really sharp and can spot twists before they come but this time when it happened I was really stunned. I had to go back and read a few chapters before. I was flicking back thinking “How did I miss that?” and it really challenged me as a reader.

It is a book that will make you stop and question how the author was able to do what she does with the plot so effectively and what is it about us as readers that

readers that allows us to make that possible and for us to be so blindsided by it. I would honestly say it’s one of the books that has surprised me the most. I wish I’d read it a few days earlier when I answered a question about the most surprising plot twist in the 30 Day Reading Challenge as there are few books that have surprised me as much as this one did.

I would highly recommend this book, if you love a good thriller and you liked Into The Darkest Corner or Gone Girl then this would be great for you.

A missing person thriller from Emily Barr, did she keep her story on track or did it go off the rails?

The Sleeper by Emily Barr
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Emily Barr is an author I used to read very regularly several years ago but after finding a lull in her story lines I had taken a break for a while and it was only when I saw The Sleeper advertised that I felt I wanted to try one again. The cover and the story outline on the jacket grabbed my attention and drew me in.

This is the story of Lara and her husband Sam, they have relocated from London to Cornwall in a bid to slow life down and start a family but after IVF has failed and their savings have run out Lara finds that actually she isn’t fulfilled by her marriage and she craves escape from her quiet domestic life in Cornwall and agrees to take a job in London, to which she will travel each Monday by sleeper train and return each Friday by the same method. Her husband Sam doesn’t want her to go, preferring to have her close by but Lara persuades him and she begins a 6-month contract in the city.

Some months later she finds herself loving life away from her husband, she likes the challenges of her job, the big city life and most of all she has found herself a lover Guy, a fellow traveller on the weekly sleeper train. She is suddenly making plans to leave her husband and begin a new life with Guy, just as soon as they both tell their respective spouses. Before they have the chance, however, Guy’s body is found on board the sleeper train and Lara has vanished and everyone is left with no other conclusion than she must be responsible for his death. The only person who seems to think Lara isn’t responsible is her quiet, introverted neighbour Iris who has only met Lara a few times but has reason to suspect her friend was hiding secrets in her past that may explain her disappearance.

This book was a really difficult one to immerse myself in initially and that is because I didn’t particularly like Lara at the outset. She is portrayed, I found, as a selfish individual. She has a loving and attentive husband who is providing her with a wonderful lifestyle and yet she doesn’t seem happy, she is chasing escape from him and intends on doing so whether or not he wants her to. Once she begins her commute to London she almost finds him an inconvenience that she has to deal with each weekend, putting on a front and pretending to be happy. She has fractured relationships with almost everyone in her life and family and at times I found her personal skills to be somewhat lacking. She seems devoid of emotion and I didn’t enjoy the first section of the book because I just couldn’t gel with her at all. From the point where she if offered the job in London to the point she disappears the book is told firmly from her perspective and this meant there was no escaping her.

Moving into the second section of the book we move to Iris as the narrator as she takes on the mystery of who murdered Guy, the man Lara was sleeping with and the potential explanation for where Lara has gone. Iris is a more sympathetic character but again we immediately realise things aren’t quite right. She also has a partner with whom she lives and things are clearly not well in their relationship either, she has had a lottery windfall and yet she is hiding it from her boyfriend and making plans to leave, perhaps without telling him. Her fascination with Lara and her life is unusual if not only in the fact that they had only met a handful of times and yet so convinced is she that her friend is innocent she travels to London and starts digging up Lara’s past in order to prove it. Iris is much easier to have sympathy with as a character and in this section of the book we realise the reasons for her strange relationship and find ourselves understanding her lifestyle and the need to perhaps break away from the home in which she lives.

This book really was a bit of a mixed bag, there were great points where I’d be pulled in by the narrative and the mystery and I’d be right on board, desperate to find out what was going to happen and then there were those moments I’d be scratching my head and thinking why the author had possibly thought this plot twist was a good idea. There is so much going on by the end of the book that the eventual conclusion is a bit underwhelming. It’s all so sordid and strange and inappropriate. In fact, it leaves the whole book feeling like a bit of a muddle. We had all these stories early on in the book that seem to be cast aside in favour of a new direction that we never fully go back and address some of the plot created at the start. We never pay more than a backwards glance to Lara’s poor husband nor the wife of the man killed on the train. It seems a bit of an investment on the author’s behalf to create them at all if only to ignore them later.

I wanted to love it, I wanted to say that I had rediscovered a wonderful author but instead I found that what had stopped me reading her novels was still the same issue I had with them now. In pursuit of a twisted, word wide mystery Emily Barr is still taking her plot lines a few steps too far, in their complexity she is losing the readers empathy for her heroines who are often self centered and not particularly endearing. I think it may be another while before I read her books.

 

Will Lisa Hall’s second novel be as outstanding as the first

Tell Me No Lies by Lisa Hall
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lisa Hall blew me away last year with her debut novel ‘Between Me and You’, it was quite simply one of those books that never leaves you because it made you question your preconceived judgements and caused you to stop and ask yourself how you could have missed that twist the whole way through the book. I literally couldn’t wait to read Tell Me No Lies and I had huge expectations of it because of my enjoyment of Lisa’s first novel.

This book begins with Steph and her husband Mark moving into their new home in London with their little boy Henry. We are aware that there are issues with their marriage and that the move constitutes a new start for them all. Steph is pregnant with their second child and it quickly becomes apparent that she was unwell with severe post-natal depression after the birth of Henry and is worried that the same problems may occur this time around. Mark is a television producer who works away from home for much of the time and so Steph finds herself settling into their new home and neighbourhood almost entirely alone and she soon begins receiving strange gifts left on the porch of their new home which begin to remind her of incidents in her past. She’s scared and unsettled and with no one to turn to.

Steph begins to make friends with Laurence, the attractive and enigmatic man across the street and also with Lila her next door neighbour. Both become Steph’s people to lean on when Mark isn’t at home and their friendships grow quickly and soon she is relying on them more and more. The strange things are still happening and now as well as gifts left on her doorstep she finds things going missing and a sensation that someone has been in her home. She confides in Lila more and more and begins to accept more and more help from the neighbour next door whilst she withdraws from Laurence after she finds her attraction to him growing. Steph finds herself becoming more and more paranoid, confused and suspicious of people. Event from her past are resurfacing and suddenly the psychiatrist she’s been seeing is making her feel crazy as he dismises her fears.

This book was a little of a slow starter but when I got into it I found the chapters slipping away as I became more and more pulled into the strange things that were happening to Steph and as I tried to find out who was responsible. I was fairly sure that all the coincidences could be easily explained and to be honest I do not think that Lisa Hall was trying to create a mystery where we couldn’t guess from fairly early on who was responsible. Instead the focus was on the increasing instability that was created in the psyche of Steph as the incidents became more severe and as people began to question her sanity and truthfulness.

Steph is a really likeable lead character, she is open and friendly, she’s trying her best to settle in a new place and is trying to raise her child almost single handedly. You want to root for her, you want people to take her seriously because you are seeing things from her perspective and so you know she’s being geniune and this isn’t just something in her head.

Where I struggled more was the character of her husband Mark who from my perspective wasn’t the most supportive spouse. He is revealed at the start of the book as having recently been adulterous in the marriage and so explains the reason for why the family have moved home and despite promising his wife a new start he’s soon off for work again to the far reaches of the world leaving his pregnant and fragile wife behind. He is literally missing for much of the book, leaving Steph to pick up all the slack and when she does confide in him about what’s happening he is suspicious of her and intead of supporting her refers her back to her therapist. He literally refuses to believe his wife and whilst there is no conrete proof that doesn’t mean that he didn’t drive me crazy. He should have surely when things reached the extremes at the end of the book have been questioning whether perhap all the very extreme things could be linked to more than just his wife’s potential psychosis.

My only other real gripe with the book was I literally finished the last chapter and turned the page expecting more and there was literally nothing…….I mean it was so unlikely a place to end I just couldn’t imagine there wasn’t another chapter or two. It had pulled me in so much that I wanted a resolution, I wanted more. I wanted justice and instead it leaves us screaming at the utter emptiness. I was worried, I am still thinking about the way that everything is left in the air. I couldn’t fathom how we could have come to the end with 2 people knowing exactly what was happening and yet still the other side won. This shouldn’t happen surely?

There was never going to be any following ‘Between You and Me’ for sheer shock and awe endings, that book was one of the few I’ve ever read which made that happen and maybe people who were wishing the author would achieve the same again had set their expectations unrealistically. I found this to be a very well written novel, it’s characters were indelibly human and therefore open to flaws and acts of deception and extreme dishonesty and cruelty. I also find it a little bit of a compliment that I got to the end and was still craving more, sometimes with novels you get to the end and are counting chapters because sometimes it’s all being dragged out just a little too long whereas here I could have easily read several more.

I would recommend this novel, however if you have read Between You And Me just prepare yourself that the format and ending is not as earth shattering.

Does Truly Madly Guilty live up to the wonderful Big Little Lies legacy?

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have a mixed relationship with Liane Moriarty, I’ve read 4 of her books now (including this one) and I find that it’s a bit of a love/hate situation, to be honest. I had recently read Big Little Lies, in order to ensure that I’d read the book before I viewed the TV series, and I loved it. I had high hopes, therefore, going into Truly Madly Guilty and was keen for more of the same.

This book is centered around a family barbeque which is attended by 3 couples and their families and the event that takes place at that barbeque will change everyone’s lives forever. The book narrative is written from the perspective of events following the barbeque and also on the fateful day itself. We also are given perspectives from each of the different people who attended the barbeque that day and each of their recollections help to build up to the revelation of what went on that day.

Liane Moriarty books have become synonymous with this type of storytelling, they always have a mystery at their heart and focus on the relationships between the characters and how the events of the book have impacted their lives and Truly Madly Guilty falls into this format nicely. In the case of this book, we follow best friends Clementine and Erika and their husbands and the neighbours of Erika, who hosted the fateful barbeque that day.

This was where my main issue with this book arose and that is that none of the characters in this book had particularly redeeming qualities about them, aside from Erika’s husband Oliver who was a stand out good guy throughout and a thoroughly decent human being. Everyone else seemed to be thoroughly self-involved and harboured terrible communication issues. Erika, for example, is somewhat of a control freak. Having grown up the daughter of an extreme hoarder she has latched onto Clementine and her family as a safe haven from her manic home life. From childhood she has longed for stability and as a result, she is a somewhat inflexible and judgmental character.

Clementine, on the other hand, didn’t fare any better as a character from my perspective. A musician with 2 young children she is focused wholeheartedly upon an upcoming audition with a prestigious Sydney orchestra. She seems unhappy with her role as a mother and often hands over care for the children to her husband, Sam, whilst she focuses upon preparing for her big audition. Her parenting style is relaxed and she is instead driven by her art. She has been friends with Erika from childhood but we learn in the book that she has always felt Erika was forced upon her by her mother, who felt sorry for Erika, and therefore she feels resentful that she has missed out on other friendships she could have formed and instead had to spare the feelings of her poor friend with the crazy mother.

The mystery, or events at the barbeque, that form the central plot of this book are revealed approximately half way through the book although all of the clues and if, like me, you are good at second guessing it will probably not entirely shock you. I knew from probably 3 or 4 chapters before where it was going and therefore I felt a little let down that there wasn’t more to it. I also began to wonder that if we were only 50% of the way through then where on earth was the other 50% going to take us.

This meant that once I reached the big reveal I found the second half of the book a little slower. It became very much about the feeling and impact the events of the barbeque had upon each of the characters, the guilt that they all carried and how it began to eat up their lives and become something they couldn’t move past, hence the book’s title Truly Madly Guilty.

I liked this book but was disappointed after the amazing Big Little Lies, Moriarty had raised the bar with that novel and on this occasion, she failed to live up to that expectation. This wasn’t a bad book it just failed to evoke as much sympathy for its characters as it’s predecessor and nor did it make me want to spend any further time with them, such as was the case with Madeleine, Celeste and Jane from Big Little Lies.

A mystery focused on Family Liaison officer Maggie Neville is really fabulous

Gone Astray by Michelle Davies
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Michelle Davies is a new author for me and initially, it wasn’t this book that caught my attention but her latest release Wrong Place. When I did some research though I found that it was part of a series that began with Gone Astray and follows the cases of Family Liaison Officer and detective Maggie Neville. I decided, therefore, to begin with this book first before reading the newer novel.

The story for this book is an engaging one from the outset, the Kinnock family have recently won 15 million pounds on the Euro Millions lottery and are living a life many can only dream of. When their daughter Rosie is kidnapped and they receive a not demanding money for her return. Immediately from the opening chapter of the book when Lesley Kinnock realises her daughter is missing it’s a very fast-paced read. The chapters are short and snappy and therefore we are no sooner beginning the book than we are 5 chapters in and absolutely caught up in all the characters lives and have a host of suspects who could be involved in Rosie’s disappearance.

Maggie Neville is an engaging heroine, she’s instantly likeable and clearly a great people person, hence her role as Family Liaison Officer but she’s also highly intelligent and people aware and this made her a great character to spend this book with and to see many things through her perspective. We learn as much about Maggie and her background and life as we do about the family she is supporting and I am sure these stories and secrets we learn will form storylines in books that will follow in the series.

The other characters in the case are also really great for the story to be built upon. We all dream of what we would do if we won lots of money on the lottery, like life changing amounts but this book allows us to glimpse behind the curtain at the reality. We have Mack Kinnock, Rosie’s father, who has loved every moment. He’s happily given up work and spent money on an ostentatious new home in a gated community with every luxury life can offer. He loves living the high life, buying art, cars, clothes and flying off on golfing holidays with his friends every few weeks. He is sending his daughter to a private school with posh new friends and is happy with the ability to show his friends that he can splash the cash. On the other side, we have his wife Lesley, she is struggling with their new found wealth and sees their new home as cold and soulless. She misses her old home and friends and the quiet life they once lived. She doesn’t feel comfortable with the excessive spending and hates the letters they receive daily begging for money from strangers and the way the money has changed their relationship with family and friends.

This glimpse of life as a lottery winner is given an even more chilling turn when you realise it’s the reason Rosie has been taken, that due to their winnings someone is willing to hurt your child and it is this premise that really grips you from the outset. You sympathise with Lesley and the fact that she admits that her attitude to the money and inability to enjoy it has driven a wedge between the family and she feels like the odd one out between her, Mack and Rosie who both seem to love their new life. We also find out that Mack has secrets he hasn’t been open about and we wonder if this could be responsible for Rosie’s disappearance.

There are so many themes explored in this book from the teen perspective also, bullying, online presence and sexual harassment online, the peer pressure to be sexually active and the resulting impact this has on young people today. We look at jealousy and people entitled beliefs that they cannot bear to see other people being happy whilst they are struggling and the way they think they can manipulate people for money.

I loved this book and would definitely read another by the author and would look forward to learning more about Maggie Neville and her own circumstances along the way. It read a little like a James Patterson Women’s Murder Club novel and Maggie had similarities to Lindsay Boxer in the early novels in that series so if you enjoyed those then this may definitely be for you.

 

Will Paula Hawkins second novel be as successful as her first

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book has been one of the most highly anticipated spring/summer releases this year, written by Paula Hawkins of The Girl On The Train fame it is her second novel and it’s almost as though the literary world is waiting to see can she deliver another smash hit or will it be a case of ‘one trick pony’. I read Girl On The Train fairly quickly after it’s release and whilst I enjoyed it I must confess to being surprised that it attracted as much attention as I did and that it made it all the way to movie status. I was therefore intrigued to read Into The Water to give me a second opportunity to assess the writing abilities of this new but very successful author.

This story is set in a small town next to a river and opens when the body of single mother Nel is pulled from the river, with everyone making the assumption it was most likely a suicide. A few months earlier a teenage girl from the town met a similar fate in the same river and questions remain unanswered about her death also. In fact, the river holds many secrets about the different women who have died in it over the years and this book is about their stories and the secrets the town holds about how they met their fate.

We are generally fairly used to thrillers with multiple perspectives, it is a popular format in literary fiction today but Hawkins takes this one stage further. In the first 50 pages of this book, there are literally so many characters introduced that it makes your head spin. None of the stories they are telling link together smoothly it is absolutely a snapshot of their own points of view on Nel’s death and whether it was a suicide and about what a controversial character she was in her life and the very differing opinions of her. This multiple to an excess perspective meant that it took me some time to really relax into this book, the first quarter leaves you a little confused, having to check you are beginning to place just who each character is and their links to the others. I imagine that like other lower rated reviews of this book it could be that this writing approach has meant that, like me, you are left actually not really caring what happened to Nel.

As the book progresses past the first quarter you suddenly begin to realise you are becoming more familiar with everyone, you don’t need to keep thinking so hard about it and you begin to relax more into the story. You are able to focus more on the history of the town, the dark secrets that it holds and begin to understand that there is much more that needs to be answered about Nel’s death. However, one thing that is clear is that this town is particularly disturbed. The secrets that run through it touch everyone in it and there are a lot of stories we touch upon along the way, some which evoke more sympathy than others.

I liked this book, a bit like Girl On The Train I found that the author did pull me through with her short snappy chapters. You’d sit down and say you’d read one more and suddenly you were 5 chapters later and thinking how you got there. Naturally, as this is a mystery novel I don’t want to delve too much into the plot for fear of ruining the experience for other readers but I will say that I felt the ending didn’t leave me totally fulfilled. Whilst some of the characters stories concluded nicely and we were able to see them beginning to move on, other parts left us with frustrating unresolved issues that niggled.

I have to be honest and say that I think this book is going to be one you will either really love or be like myself a little ambivalent about it. I am not sure that in a few months time it will have stuck with me. I am fairly sure that it will sell many many copies but I would put it on my ‘good but not outstanding shelf’

A wonderful time spent with one of my longest term favourite authors

I Found You by Lisa Jewell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lisa Jewell is one of the 5 authors whom I’ve read for the most number of years now, along with Jane Green and Mike Gayle and a few select others. I’ve been reading her novels from those very early ones like Ralph’s Party and I love it when a new one is released and yet somehow I Found You, which was released in 2016, slipped through my To Be Read pile last year.

Jolted into realisation by the recent release of her 2017 novel ‘Then She Was Gone’ I immediately decided to rectify the situation and delved into I Found You immediately. Since the 2015 release of The Girls, Jewell’s books have taken a slightly different turn. They have become more steeped in mystery and the stories unravel themselves still with the same emotion and wonderful characters as she has always written but they are darker and more mysterious than her earlier novels which were more frothy and lighthearted. Perhaps this change in tone had made me miss this one on my kindle but either way, I knew that the quality of the author should be recommendation enough.

This is a story that begins with 40-something single mum, Alice, finding a man sitting on the beach across from her home, he is lost and has no memory of who he is or where he has come from, he cannot remember anything. Alice takes him into her home and takes care of him and helps him to feel safe whilst he waits for his memories to return. She is kind and warm and her children name the stranger Frank and slowly over the days he stays he becomes part of their home.

Elsewhere a young Ukranian woman waits for her husband to come home from work. Married just a few weeks they are still madly in love and deliriously happy. She is new to the country having moved after their honeymoon and she relies upon her husband Carl to do everything. When he fails to come home she finds it difficult to get the police to take his disappearance seriously and when eventually they do she is shocked to find that her husband’s passport is fake and her husband doesn’t exist.

All these people are tied up in a mystery that took place in Alice’s home town in 1993 and the story keeps flitting back to the story of the holiday town in the summer of that year, a mystery that was never solved and the people who left that town scarred for life. It’s how this story links to the mysterious man with no memory and the missing husband that forms the basis for this story.

This book grips you from the outset, it’s short snappy chapters mean you fly through it so quickly as it’s ever so easy when you think of stopping to say, “Just one more chapter, I can manage just one more”. Suddenly you’ve read another 5 and those dishes you swore you’d wash are still sitting by the sink. The characters are really well written and actually the mystery of who Frank is and where he has come from and is he the mysterious Carl who never came home keeps you hanging on through most of the book.

Your mind will spin through all the possibilities of how Frank has come to be in Alice’s home, some you will want to believe to be true, others you will pray are not. You will flit between feeling compassion for him and understanding Alice’s need to care for him and wanting to slap her for being so stupid and bringing someone she doesn’t know into a home with 3 children when really he could be anyone and has said himself he feels he has done bad things. The chapters move between different perspectives and from present day to the fateful year of 1993 and just when you think you’ve go it all figured out you realise you have it all wrong and need to keep going because this book has more secrets yet to reveal. There is that conflict as a reader because you like ‘Frank’ and he is clearly in distress and being wonderful to Alice but there is always that doubt that he could be something sinister and it’s a really difficult thing to not let yourself go and be on his side from the outset.

The setting for the book as also wonderfully atmospheric, the little seaside town which draws tourists in the summer and has beachside cafe’s and little pubs it seems the perfect place but as we learn it was home to a terrible tragedy and this book takes us slowly up to the point where we have it all unfold and it’s touching and devastating and is tackled beautifully by Lisa Jewell.

This was a book I completed in just a little over a day, I couldn’t put it down, I loved it. I really felt like I rediscovered an old friend in Lisa Jewell, one who you haven’t seen for years but whom the minute you see you feel like you’ve never been apart. A solid 4 star read.