mystery

‘The Craftsman’ by Sharon Bolton #BookReview #Fridayreads

craftsman


 

Waterstones   Amazon.co.uk

Devoted father or merciless killer?

His secrets are buried with him.

Florence Lovelady’s career was made when she convicted coffin-maker Larry Glassbrook of a series of child murders 30 years ago. Like something from our worst nightmares the victims were buried…ALIVE.

Larry confessed to the crimes; it was an open and shut case. But now he’s dead, and events from the past start to repeat themselves.

Did she get it wrong all those years ago?
Or is there something much darker at play?

Strong, believable female protagonist? Tick. Witches? Tick. Page-turning drama? Tick. And lots of scares and surprises along the way too.

I love scary films and scary books but I’m not a fan of horror and cruelty for the sake of it. There needs to be a good story, compelling characters that I can really care about, and a hint of the supernatural never goes amiss either. ‘The Craftsman’ ticks all the boxes.

The story follows two timelines – Florence as a young, naïve, female police officer in the seventies, dealing with all the sexism and prejudice that goes with that. We meet her thirty years later too, at Larry Glassbrook’s funeral. Larry was a sadistic murderer, and Florence was the one who put him away. But not everything is at it seems – not then and not now.

Beautifully crafted, intelligent and exciting, ‘The Craftsman’ was an absolute pleasure to read. As someone who is a bit obsessed with the story of the Pendle witches, the references to them and their tragic story went down incredibly well, and it was all so well drawn together.

Dark, disturbing, fabulous!

5 stars

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‘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

 

 

 

‘The Lie of the Land’ by Amanda Craig ‘FridayReads #BookReview

lie-of-the-land-1480x2330

Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

Quentin and Lottie Bredin, like many modern couples, can’t afford to divorce. Having lost their jobs in the recession, they can’t afford to go on living in London; instead, they must downsize and move their three children to a house in a remote part of Devon. Arrogant and adulterous, Quentin can’t understand why Lottie is so angry; devastated and humiliated, Lottie feels herself to have been intolerably wounded.
Mud, mice and quarrels are one thing – but why is their rent so low? What is the mystery surrounding their unappealing new home? The beauty of the landscape is ravishing, yet it conceals a dark side involving poverty, revenge, abuse and violence which will rise up to threaten them.
Sally Verity, happily married but unhappily childless knows a different side to country life, as both a Health Visitor and a sheep farmer’s wife; and when Lottie’s innocent teenage son Xan gets a zero-hours contract at a local pie factory, he sees yet another. At the end of their year, the lives of all will be changed for ever.
A suspenseful black comedy, this is a rich, compassionate and enthralling novel in its depiction of the English countryside, and the potentially lethal interplay between money and marriage.

At the heart of this book is a really, really great story. The situation that Lottie and Quentin find themselves in is symbolic of the times we live in and the realities of the messed-up housing market – Lottie and Quentin are privileged, yes, and spoilt in some regards, but they are property rich and cash poor, and when their marriage breaks down and they find themselves out of work, they can’t afford to live in London anymore. They rent out their house and, with their twins and Lottie’s son Xan, they move to a rented cottage in Devon. But there is a reason the rent on their cottage is so cheap, and a mystery about the former occupant that leads them into danger.
Their life in Devon provides an opportunity to explode the myth of the false idyll of country life. It’s hard work, and it’s cold and damp and the shops are too far away. The local economy is based on zero hour contracts (as so much of the work in this country now is) and most of the time life seems fairly miserable. But Lottie slowly finds herself relaxing and enjoying her new life, away from the social hothouse of the capital.
Lottie has the potential to be a warm and sympathetic main character, but she is little too perfect to feel truly real. Quentin does behave badly, and he deserves her anger, but she surely must have some faults of her own? Xan is lovely, a real strength of the narrative, and twins Stella and Rosie are really well-written, as are Quentin’s parents. Quentin, who I should have hatted, I actually warmed to, although he does verge slightly on the stereotypical.
There is a strong cast of supporting characters, but again I did find some of them too perfect – health visitor Sally , for example. And I couldn’t quite believe in the denouement at the end.
I also found the use of present tense quite off-putting, especially as there were a few times when the tenses did seem all over the place.
That said, I really did enjoy reading this, which is, I suppose, all that really matters. It’s a great book to curl up with and sink into – and despite the fact that some of it seemed hard to believe, I can’t fault it for sheer enjoyment. I became involved in the characters’ lives despite myself and it was a book that I looked forward to picking up at the end of each day. So while it isn’t a perfect book, it is a very good one indeed, and I will definitely read more of the author’s work.

4 stars

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the review copy.

‘The House’ by Simon Lelic #FridayReads #BookReview

the house

Amazon.co.uk 

Whose story do YOU believe?

Londoners Jack and Syd moved into the house a year ago. It seemed like their dream home: tons of space, the perfect location, and a friendly owner who wanted a young couple to have it.

So when they made a grisly discovery in the attic, Jack and Syd chose to ignore it. That was a mistake.

Because someone has just been murdered outside their back door.

AND NOW THE POLICE ARE WATCHING THEM.

The blurb of this book makes it sound as if this is a creepy mystery, perhaps a crime involved, perhaps something more sinister and nasty. Well, there is a crime, there are sinister things going on, but it’s not what I was expecting at all. And that’s why I enjoyed it so much.

The novel takes us deep into the lives of Jack and Syd, and the dual narrative, switching from one to the other, really helps with this. I felt close to both characters, invested in both, and I cared about what happened to them. Both of them. This was conflicting at times, and confusing. But it kept me turning the pages.

Syd’s relationship with teenage neighbour Elise, who she identifies with so closely, is a strength of the book. There are some genuinely heart-stopping moments in this part of the narrative. And Syd’s back story was utterly heart-breaking; it was difficult to read at times, but that shows how strong the writing is in places.

The plot is a little confusing at times – you do have to work at this book, but that, I think, is part of its appeal. The protagonists are confused, and the reader is confused along with them. What lies behind the house, and their lives, is complex and twisted and surprising.

There were a few plot points that I found a little hard to believe in completely, and that’s why I can’t give this novel five stars. But it’s a really good read, gripping, complex, clever. Definitely recommended.

4.5 out of 5

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the free review copy.

‘Fire Damage’ by Kate Medina #BookReview #TuesdayBookBlog

fire damage

Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

To find a killer, she must unlock a child’s terror…

The first in an exciting new crime series featuring psychologist Dr Jessie Flynn – a brilliantly complex character who struggles with a dark past of her own. Perfect for fans of Nicci French and Val McDermid.

A traumatized little boy

Four years old, terrified, disturbed – Sami is a child in need of help. Now it’s up to psychologist Dr Jessie Flynn to find the cause of his suffering and unlock his darkest memories, before it’s too late.

A psychologist with a secret

Meanwhile Jessie is haunted by an awful truth of her own. She works alongside former patient, Captain Ben Callan, to investigate a violent death – but the ghosts of her past refuse to leave her.

A body washed up on the beach

When a burnt corpse is found on the Sussex coast, Jessie begins to uncover a link between her two cases – and a desperate killer will do anything to keep it buried…

Army psychologist Jessie Flynn is asked to treat the traumatised four-year-old son of an army major. His father has been badly burned in a petrol bomb attack in Afghanistan and it seems that he is the terrifying ‘shadowman’ at the heart of Sami’s terror. But the situation is far more complex than that, and Jessie’s investigations lead her to make some intriguing discoveries about Nooria, the boy’s mother.

Jessie is also asked to help a former patient, Captain Ben Callan, with his investigation into the apparent murder of a soldier in Afghanistan. And does a body washed up on a Chichester beach have links with either case?

There were some parts of this book that I found really gripping and thoroughly enjoyed. Jessie is an interesting main character and is certainly three-dimensional. Her history has a huge effect on her everyday life and this adds an extra depth to her character, and her relationship with Callan is also well-written. I didn’t guess the twist at the end either. And Sami is a hugely effective character, and very sensitively written

However, the story took a while to get going and I did find myself skipping through some of it. And there were aspects of the writer’s style that I didn’t like. There were quite a few incomplete sentences. Sometimes these worked, adding drama and tension, but quite often they just seemed awkward and unfinished.

And the ending felt very rushed. Everything was tied up very quickly in almost one scene, which was a little disappointing, particularly as things took a while to get going in the beginning.

3-stars-out-of-5

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for a review copy.