Kate Vane

‘Brand New Friend’ by @k8vane #rbrt #fridayreads #bookreview

#RBRT Review Team

I read ‘Brand New Friend’ for Rosie’s Book Review Team

Brand New Friend by Kate Vane

Amazon.co.uk

Wherever Paolo went, Claire had got there first. The gigs, the parties, the enigmatic artist he was sure he was in love with. He would never have joined the group if it hadn’t been for Claire. And maybe, if he hadn’t, no one would have died.

Journalist Paolo Bennett learns that Mark, an animal rights activist he knew as a student in the 80s, has been exposed as a former undercover cop. A news blog claims Mark was the fabled spy who never went back, who liked his new life better than his own.

Paolo wants the truth. He wants the story. Despite everything, he wants to believe his friend. But Mark isn’t making it easy for him, disappearing just as everyone wants answers.

Was their group linked to a death on campus, one the police were strangely reluctant to investigate? Why is Mark’s police handler lying dead in his garden?

And why does Paolo suspect, even now, that Claire knows more than he does?

Successful journalist Paolo is feeling a little dissatisfied with life. Forced back to the UK from a happy life in Cairo, his wife is distant, his work frustrating. Then Mark, an activist from Paolo’s student past is revealed to be an undercover police officer who had eschewed life in the force to become a real activist. He contacts Paolo, and things get more interesting when a body is found in the community garden where Mark works. The story leads Paolo back to his university days and the reader is taken along with him as the author weaves together past and present.

I was a teenager in the eighties, and a student in the very early nineties and so I absolutely loved the references in this novel to the music I loved and the politics I was interested in – honestly, I could have been one of these intense students, going on anti-vivisection demos and listening to the Smiths and Echo and the Bunnymen, lecturing everyone about the gelatine in their wine gums – yes, that was me. And I can vouch for the authenticity of the writing here – it’s spot on and brings those years to life so well.

So not surprisingly the sections set in the eighties were the highlight for me, but that’s not to say that the rest of the book isn’t really good. There’s a very clever and a very pertinent story here, one that encompasses the issues of the past and current political and environmental issues, and that includes fracking, the Arab Spring, and the scandal around the undercover police officers who infiltrated pressure groups.

The mystery around the murder seems secondary to a large extent – to me, this novel felt that it was about its characters, the dynamics between them, their hopes and aspirations, and how those dreams and ambitions were either realised or thwarted. The murder and the mystery surrounding it feel like something to tie these stories together and I do think that if you’re a fan of crime fiction then you might be a little disappointed. But if you like a good story, with well-crafted and intelligent writing, and real authentic characters, then you’ll enjoy this novel.

4 stars

 

 

 

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‘The Former Chief Executive’ by Kate Vane #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview @k8vane

#RBRT Review Team

I read and reviewed ‘The Former Chief Executive’ for Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team.

chief exec

Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

Without your past, who are you?
Deborah was a respected hospital manager until a tragedy destroyed her reputation. She has lost her career, her husband and even her name.
Luca wants to stay in the moment. For the first time in his life he has hope and a home. But a fresh start is hard on a zero-hours contract, harder if old voices fill your mind.
When a garden share scheme brings them together, Deborah is beguiled by Luca’s youth and grace. He makes her husband’s garden live again. He helps her when she’s at her lowest. But can she trust him? And when the time comes to confront her past, can she find the strength?
This sharply drawn short novel explores the distance between the generations – between health and wealth, owners and workers, guilt and blame.

Deborah’s vision of her retirement – to spend her days finally relaxing with her husband Peter after a long career – has had to be reimagined. Peter has died, and she is alone, struggling to know what to do with her time and how to live without him, and without the career that defined her.

Luca is also struggling – struggling with life after prison, a new job, a pregnant girlfriend. He finds solace in working on Deborah’s garden and the two develop a friendship.

But the arrival of Deborah’s daughter complicates things as their problematic relationship is put under new pressure. And Deborah also has to contend with her past, and the fear that it will come back to ruin the present.

This is a thoughtful book, measured and considered. The pace is rather slow, but it works with writing that is skilful and assured. The characters are incredibly well-drawn and have so many layers – they have a real depth, and, while not all are exactly likeable, their stories are compelling, and you really care about what happens to them.

My only issue is that I feel this could have been longer. I wanted to know more about Deborah’s past, about what happened at the hospital. And I wanted more about her relationship with Eleanor. Luca is so interesting too, and I felt that there were things in his past that could be explored more thoroughly. The writing is so well-crafted, so good, that it seemed a shame that that wasn’t more of it!

This is a well-crafted and enjoyable read. The restrained tone is deceiving – there is a great deal going on here, a lot of it seething away under the surface. The author shows a great amount of skill in resisting the temptation to let everything bubble over.

An excellent novella.

4.5 out of 5