Month: April 2021

‘Long Bright River’ by Liz Moore #BookReview

Once inseparable, sisters Mickey and Kacey are on different paths, but they walk the same streets. Mickey on her police beat and Kacey in the shadows of the city’s darkest corners where the drug addicts and sex workers preside. When a string of murders coincides with Kacey’s disappearance, Mickey is terrified her sister could be next. 

But in a community where death and murder is rife, will Mickey be able to save her sister before it’s too late? 

This is very much more than a police procedural – it’s full of complex, authentic characters, and at the heart there’s a story about family, loss, poverty and hardship.

Mickey is a well-drawn and likeable main character and this is very much her story. Her love and concern for her sister feels authentic and you really want to keep reading, to find out what has happened to her and for both to have a happy ever after, however far-fetched that might feel against the back drop of drug-riddled, crime-ridden, inner city Philadelphia.

I was concerned that there might be judgement here, but drug issues and addiction are treated compassionately and realistically, with sympathy for those caught up in a system that puts the most vulnerable in society at risk.

Heartfelt and well-written, a recommended read.

‘Starve Acre’ by Andrew Michael Hurley #BookReview #TuesdayBookBlog

The worst thing possible has happened. Richard and Juliette Willoughby’s son, Ewan, has died suddenly at the age of five. Starve Acre, their house by the moors, was to be full of life, but is now a haunted place.

Juliette, convinced Ewan still lives there in some form, seeks the help of the Beacons, a seemingly benevolent group of occultists. Richard, to try and keep the boy out of his mind, has turned his attention to the field opposite the house, where he patiently digs the barren dirt in search of a legendary oak tree.

Starve Acre is a devastating new novel by the author of the prize-winning bestseller The Loney. It is a novel about the way in which grief splits the world in two and how, in searching for hope, we can so easily unearth horror.

This is such an accomplished novel. It’s so atmospheric and creepy, immersing the reader in a disturbing, dark world, exploring isolation, loneliness and grief in a place where the folklore and myths of the past threaten the present. 

The writing is wonderful – this is a slow moving novel but it keeps you gripped throughout, slowly and surely unveiling the darkness that lies beneath a very real tragedy. You can feel Richard and Juliette’s devastation at their loss, their confusion about what happened to their boy, and at what is happening now.

Fascinating, disturbing, weirdly beautiful, this is the first novel I’ve read by Andrew Michael Hurley, and I’m very much looking forward to reading his other novels.

‘The Vanished Bride’ by Bella Ellis #BookReview

Yorkshire, 1845, and dark rumours are spreading across the moors. Everything indicates that Mrs Elizabeth Chester of Chester Grange has been brutally murdered in her home – but nobody can find her body.

As the dark murmurs reach Emily, Anne and Charlotte Brontë, the sisters are horrified, yet intrigued. Before they know it, the siblings become embroiled in the quest to find the vanished bride, sparking their imaginations but placing their lives at great peril . . .

Charlotte, Anne and Emily Brontë were intelligent, passionate, imaginative, talented, ahead of their time, and authors of so many important and brilliant novels. Bringing that intellect to the solving of a fictional mystery, that seems to involve a murder, is an intriguing idea. 

This was always going to be a divisive novel – it’s actually quite brave to try and portray such well-loved authors in a fictional tale. I adore the Brontës and so really, really wanted to adore this novel, because the author obviously loves them too. But, unfortunately, it fell short for me.

There’s a very thoughtful and poignant beginning. I have visited Haworth, the Brontë’s home, and the author has the details and the atmosphere absolutely spot on. And, although of course no one can be entirely sure, the way the sisters behaved, at least at first, felt ‘real’. 

But unfortunately, as the story continued, I felt less and less involved and convinced. There were so many opportunities here to explore the barriers the sisters faced, but they became lost in melodrama with outcomes that didn’t feel authentic. 

Lots and lots of potential here, that, for me, didn’t feel fully realised.

‘The Guilty Party’ by Mel McGrath #FridayReads #BookReview

Hive

On a night out, four friends witness a stranger in trouble. They decide to do nothing to help.

Later, a body washes up on the banks of the Thames – and the group realises that ignoring the woman has left blood on their hands.

But why did each of them refuse to step in? Why did none of them want to be noticed that night? Who is really responsible?

And is it possible that the victim was not really a stranger at all?

Cassie, Anna, Dex and Bo have been friends for years, and despite two of them being in long term relationships with partners outside ‘The Group’, they are closer to each other than to anyone else.

But they’re getting older, in their thirties, and the cracks in ‘The Group’ are beginning to show – at least for Cassie, who seems to have always been just a bit on the outside.

It’s Cassie’s 32nd birthday that brings everything to a head. The four friends witness something horrible – and their reactions, both as individuals and as ‘The Group’ begin an unravelling in the friendship that will lead Cassie on the path of some really sinister discoveries.

It’s not easy to write characters that readers will despise while still making sure they are engaged and invested in the story. The author manages do that here. I didn’t care what happened to any of them, but I did care about what they witnessed and what was going to happen about that. 

I wasn’t sure about the whole ‘fossil’ theme, and I did wonder at Cassie’s very quick friendships with Julie and Will but this is a very clever and complex novel, and definitely worth a read.