Search

Go Buy The Book

Month

August 2017

Did You See Melody? by Sophie Hannah

51sclfe1B-LWhen she finds out that her husband and children aren’t quite as excited about her pregnancy as she is, Cara Burrows packs her bags and flies to America to create some space between herself and her family. Breaking into the family savings to spend some time at a five-star resort, Cara is shocked when, arriving at her room, she finds it already occupied by a man and a teenage girl. Initially accepting it as an oversight, she soon becomes troubled when she recognises the girl as Melody Chapa whose parents are currently serving life sentences for her murder. Can the most famous murder victim in the USA actually still be alive and will Cara be able to find out the truth before her own fate is sealed?

I had seen some glowing reviews of this book and so couldn’t wait to to read it myself after being intrigued by the very novel premise – a murder victim who isn’t actually dead. Initially, Cara seemed a very impulsive character, not really caring about the consequences of her actions but we soon discover that this is all a front and that she is experiencing great inner turmoil and has placed herself in a very vulnerable situation. In contrast, Tarin Fry, a woman befriended by Cara at the resort is her complete antithesis – headstrong, impetuous and wise-cracking. I enjoyed the relationship between Tarin and her daughter and found their nicknames for the other resort patrons very funny.

Although I did find the interludes detailing the transcripts of various television programmes slightly lengthy in parts, it did demonstrate how, in recent years, the media has played a big part in the justice system and, in some cases, TV can help to sway the opinions of people before a trial has even taken place. One example is the OJ Simpson case – it is hard to think about this without visualising the high speed chase, broadcast on US television. In Did You see Melody? we see Melody’s parents being more or less convicted as a result of ongoing television coverage of the case.

It is essential to suspend reality when reading this book as quite a lot of it veers towards unbelievable. This did not spoil my enjoyment of the book, though, and it was an entertaining summer read.

With thanks to Hodder & Stoughton and Net Galley for the ARC.

Advertisements

The Girl From Ballymor by Kathleen McGurl

510u-LpbteLIn Ballymor, Ireland in 1847, Kitty McCarthy is struggling to keep her family alive due to the potato famine that has already killed all but two of her children. In the present day, Maria has arrived in Ballymor to research the life of her ancestor, the Victorian artist Michael McCarthy. Will she be able to discover the circumstances surrounding his early life and also what became of his beloved mother, Kitty?

I have loved all of Kathleen McGurl’s previous books and The Daughters of Red Hill Hall was one of my favourites of last year.  I had, therefore, been eagerly anticipating The Girl From Ballymor, and am pleased to say that it is just as good as the rest!

One of the things I like most about Kathleen McGurl’s books is how she seamlessly merges past with present and this is evident here. Speaking as somebody who has ancestors who left Ireland during the potato famine, I found Kitty’s plight highly emotive and could understand her desire to ensure that her son escaped to a better life. Despite living in horrendous conditions, Kitty was an incredibly strong woman and, like Maria, I too became engrossed in the mystery surrounding what became of her. Inevitably, her story was never going to end well, and when her fate was finally revealed it was tinged with more than a touch of sadness.

Sometimes in a dual-timeline story, I find myself liking one of the timelines more than the other but this is not the case in The Girl From Ballymor. Both parts of the story were equally as engaging and were interlinked in a way that moved the plot on. I felt that Maria was a very real character and could sense her trepidation as major changes were about to affect her life in a huge way.

With its cross-genre approach, The Girl From Ballymor will appeal to fans of historical and genealogical fiction and also anyone who enjoys a gentle mystery. This is another great book from Kathleen McGurl and I hope there isn’t too much of a wait before the next one!

With thanks to HQ and Net Galley for the ARC.

 

**BLOG TOUR** Dead Girls Can’t Lie by Carys Jones

51VnMg05LvL._SY346_I’m pleased to be the latest stop on the blog tour for the new book by Carys Jones – Dead Girls Can’t Lie.

North Stone is devastated when her best friend, Kelly Orton, is found hanging from a tree in an area which is a well-known route for joggers. Police are quick to close the case, declaring it a suicide but North is adamant that they have drawn the wrong conclusion – Kelly has been murdered. With the police refusing to take North seriously, she has no option but to investigate the death herself. Putting herself in the line of danger, she soon begins to question how much she actually knew her friend.

Dead Girls Can’t Lie explores the relationship between two life-long friends, their story being told in a series of flashbacks detailing their schooldays through to adulthood. I felt a lot of sympathy for North who, despite experiencing so much sadness and loss in her early life, had gone on to work in a profession she truly loved. Losing her best friend had, once again, stirred up memories of the tragic loss of her parents and we see her slowly unravelling, doubting her own sanity as she tried to convince everyone that Kelly would not have taken her own life. Kelly, on the other hand, I found it difficult to like, as she was incredibly domineering, using North’s grief for her own ends. Despite this, I could see how North was totally dependent on her friend and her quest for justice made perfect sense.

As North undertakes her investigation and finds herself in a different world than the one she is used to, there are several points where the events are slightly convenient but, like in most books, you have to suspend reality in order for the plot to move on. It was interesting to see how the normally reserved North started to undertake some of Kelly’s character traits in order to help her achieve her aim.

Although there aren’t too many characters in the book, the author has still managed to cast doubt on who the guilty party could be. I had an idea throughout the book as to who it would be and, at one point, thought I’d got it right. Thankfully, though, the plot wasn’t that obvious and I was pleased that I was wrong!

Dead Girls Can’t Lie is another great book from Carys Jones and one that is definitely worth a read!

With thanks to Head of Zeus and Net Galley for the ARC and to Yasemin Turan for organising the blog tour.

Take a look at the rest of the blog tour:

Dead Silent by Mark Roberts

51h+jCAxF8LProfessor of medieval art, Leonard Lawson, has been mutilated and murdered, the attack witnessed by his traumatized daughter, Louise. To add to the horror, DCI Eve Clay must try to discover the significance of his body being arranged into a parody of the art work he has spent his life studying. Despite the professor having no known enemies, Clay knows that this attack was personal and is desperate to find the culprit before they find another victim to exact revenge upon.

I was first introduced to the books of Mark Roberts earlier this year after looking for reads set in my home city and thoroughly enjoyed the first book in the Eve Clay series, Blood Mist. Having fully intended to read the series in order, I was given the opportunity to participate in the blog tour for the superb Day of the Dead, meaning that I have actually read the books out of sequence, Dead Silent being the second of the three. This was not a problem, however, as it not completely essential to have read them in order.

If you have read any of the Eve Clay books, you will already know that there is a touch of the macabre about them and this is indeed evident in Dead Silent. The descriptions of the crime scenes were particularly graphic and not for the faint-hearted. It is easy to imagine these novels on the small screen and some of the scenes in this book were reminiscent of the BBC series, Messiah, starring Ken Stott.

In Eve Clay, we have a very likeable, if troubled protagonist. In Dead Silent, we get to find out a bit more about her childhood in the children’s home, helping to explain why she is so dedicated to her job yet neurotic about the safety of her family. It is also good to see a police department where everyone seems to get on well and is just as devoted to solving the case as Clay.

What I enjoyed most about this book is that Mark Roberts drip-feeds you information throughout, allowing you time to try to fathom out what is taking place. Just when you think you have it all worked out, though, he throws a complete curve-ball and makes you reconsider everything you thought. This made Dead Silent a genuinely enjoyable read, and one which makes you think about how important and formative the early lives of children are.

A fantastic read and I can’t wait for the next installment!

 

***BLOG TOUR*** The Room by the Lake by Emma Dibdin

I am pleased to be today’s stop on the blog tour for Emma Dibdin’s debut, The Room by the Lake.

Tired with life in London after the death of her mother and dealing with an alcoholic father, Caitlin moves to New York where she hopes her problems will become something of the past. With her money quickly dwindling and feelings of loneliness appearing, her life seems to be looking up when she meets Jake, a handsome man who lives in a commune in the woods. With their emphasis on group therapy, healthy eating and exercise, this looks exactly like the sort of escape Caitlin needs. She soon realises, though, that there is more to this lifestyle than meets the eye and finding her way back out may not be as easy as she thinks.

From the start of the book, I had great sympathy for Caitlin and could understand why she felt the need to escape from her life. Underestimating how lonely it can be in a big city, however, was certainly her downfall and it was easy to see how she became smitten with Jake, the good-looking stranger who went out of his way to make her feel wanted. As the reader, alarm bells were immediately ringing when he suggested she go to meet his family in an isolated house in the woods and it was good to see how Caitlin had the same reservations, her feelings towards Jake suppressing these thoughts however.

Considering that the majority of the book takes place in a vast forest, Emma Dibdin has succeeded in creating a tense, claustrophobic setting with an air of foreboding. It is not really a spoiler to say that the commune Caitlin finds herself part of is not exactly what it seems but the author has done a fantastic job in skewing reality to the point that, even as the reader, you do not know what is real and what is in Caitlin’s head. There were several occasions when Caitlin was having doubts and I was willing her to trust her instincts and get out of there as fast as she could but such is the quality of the brainwashing that she never acted on her thoughts.

I admit that this is not the sort of book that would usually grab my attention, but I am so glad that I had the opportunity to read it as it was a fast-paced, easy read filled with tension. This is a great debut and I look forward to reading more of Emma Dibdin’s work.

With thanks to Head of Zeus, Net Galley and Clare Gordon for my copy of the book.

Take a look at the rest of the blogs on the tour:

Room by the Lake banner

Good Friday by Lynda La Plante

71sRUnuQnbLNow a detective, Jane Tennison is part of the ‘Dip Squad’, a group of police officers tasked with the surveillance and apprehension of gangs of organised pick-pockets on the streets of London. Her time with this department is short-lived, however, when on her way to court, she finds herself caught up in the middle of an IRA bombing at Covent Garden tube station that leaves several people dead. As an eyewitness who could possibly identify the bomber, Jane’s life is put at risk when a photo of her assisting the injured appears in the newspaper. With another attack planned and the annual CID dinner about to take place, can Jane and her colleagues thwart the atrocity before it takes place?

It is no secret that I am a huge fan of Lynda La Plante’s work, in particular the Anna Travis and original Prime Suspect books and so I am still beside myself with excitement that she decided to write prequels to the Tennison story. Good Friday is slightly different to the previous two books in the series, Tennison and Hidden Killers in that we see more of how different departments of CID operate. Also, despite it being set in the 1970s, the subject of indiscriminate terrorist attacks is just as relevant today as it was back then.

In Good Friday, Jane is, once again, suffering from discrimination because of her sex but we see the tide starting to turn as more people are beginning to realise just what she can offer as a detective. Although in previous books we have seen her tenacity, I feel that this is the first time where I truly saw traits of the Jane Tennison that would go on to arrest and convict George Marlow at Southampton Row. Jane’s personal life also comes under intense scrutiny, once again, as she is pursued by an array of suitors – not all of them with her best intentions at heart.

Although there were several attempts to misdirect, I did manage to work out who the ‘sleeper’ was, but this did not spoil my enjoyment of the book in any way. I enjoyed reading about police tactics and surveillance of the time and the ways in which they sought out criminals. I do feel, though, that there is more still to come from the sub-plot concerning the abuse and prostitution of the young women as this did not feel fully resolved.

Such was the brilliance of Helen Mirren in playing Tennison in the ITV series Prime Suspect, it is very difficult not to imagine her delivering the lines as you read Good Friday. This is not a bad thing, though, as this, along with Lynda La Plante’s writing style makes this a quick read that is just like spending time with an old friend. I’m already looking forward to the next one!

With thanks to Readers First and Zaffre for my ARC.

 

Death of a Cuckoo by Wendy Percival

4631636995_252x379When Gina Vincent’s mother dies, she is shocked to find a photograph that challenges everything she thought she knew about her life. Calling upon the services of genealogist Esme Quentin to help her make sense of it all, their search takes them to an abandoned property formerly used as a home for young pregnant women. Secrets run deep in this building and Gina soon finds herself facing danger as she tries to uncover the truth about her past.

It has been some time since we last read about Esme Quentin (Blood-Tied and The Indelible Stain) so this book was long overdue! Death of a Cuckoo is not a full-length novel, but Wendy Percival has still managed to write a superb page turner, linking mystery and genealogy effortlessly. For anyone who hasn’t read the previous books in the series, this could be read as a standalone and would provide a good introduction to the character of Esme.

In Death of a Cuckoo, Esme takes a back seat in the investigation, providing the main character, Gina, with advice and recommendations of where to go next. As in most books of this genre, this turns out to be more than just a straightforward case of family research as secrets from the past start to impact on the present, putting the lives of all those involved in danger. The mystery was an interesting and plausible one and I felt for Gina as she tried to find out who she really was in the most awful of circumstances.

This is a well-written short read and I hope that the wait for the next Esme Quentin story isn’t as long!

 

The Silk Weaver’s Wife by Debbie Rix

517jii+ZhdLIn the year 1704, Anastasia is planning to marry her sweetheart in secret in an attempt to escape her violent father. After her attempt is thwarted, however, she is forced to marry an older silk weaver and begin a new life, against her wishes, in Venice. Not content with swapping one abusive life for another, she plots her escape.  In 2017, another woman, Millie, is also experiencing relationship problems. When her affair with married boss Max is abruptly ended, she is happy to travel to Italy to write an article for work, where she meets, and falls in love, with Lorenzo. She soon becomes fascinated by the silk making process and is determined to identify the mysterious woman in a portrait she has seen.

I admit that I did not know what to expect when I started to read this book as romantic fiction is a genre out of my comfort zone. I do enjoy dual time-frame books, however, and I was intrigued by the mystery concerning the subject of the painting. When I began to read, I started to have reservations as Millie’s story did not really grab me. A soon as Anastasia’s story kicked in, though, I found myself reading at a much quicker pace, desperate to know how she would escape from her husband. As the book progressed, and there began to be cross-overs between the two time-frames, I started to enjoy Millie’s story much more and was keen to know how their respective stories would end.

Of the two main characters, Anastasia was, by far, my favourite: a strong woman who overcame her fears and tragedies to achieve a fulfilling and rewarding life. Millie, on the other hand, I wanted to shake at times for allowing Max to railroad her into decisions that she did not really want to make. I found it interesting that the more independent woman was the one from the eighteenth century, a time when women had fewer rights than their twenty-first century counterparts.

It is obvious that the author has done a tremendous amount of research to merge fact with fiction, providing a fantastic historical account of the silk trade in eighteenth century Italy. Debbie Rix has painted an evocative picture of the book’s locations, whether it be Venice, Amsterdam or Spitalfields and truly transports you back to the eighteenth century.

For any fans of historical fiction or, indeed, any Italophiles, The Silk Weaver’s Wife is a great read.

With thanks to Bookouture and Net Galley for my copy.

Girl A: My Story

51Ry-oprklLAfter watching the harrowing three-part BBC Drama, Three Girls, earlier this year, I felt compelled to read the book detailing the case, written by the girl who became known as ‘Girl A’. This is a true story of how a group of young girls were groomed by a gang of Asian men and systematically abused over a period of years. ‘Girl A’ became the key witness, helping to convict these men of their heinous crimes.

First of all, I must point out that this is not an easy read, but nor should it be. It is very graphic in parts but this is essential in order to understand what this fifteen-year-old girl was subjected to on a daily basis. It is, however, well-written and paints a clear picture of the girl we get to know as ‘Hannah’ (not her real name), and how scared and despair-filled she was as she desperately tried to escape the clutches of this notorious child sex ring.

It soon becomes apparent that the BBC series, as disturbing as it was, actually missed out an awful lot of the story. If that was distressing, then Girl A takes it to another level as we find out about the fear she had for ‘Emma’, another young girl who acted as a go-between, providing the girls for the older men. It is easy to wonder why ‘Hannah’ stayed when she had the opportunity to reveal the truth so many times, but her fear of ‘Emma’ and the Asian men, coupled with the reluctance of the authorities to act meant that she felt she had no choice.

What does come through the book is the intelligence and bravery shown by ‘Hannah’ in order to bring the culprits to justice. She speaks often of the qualifications she managed to achieve despite the traumatic times she was experiencing – I really hope that’s she has been able to put these to good use and is now living a happy life with her daughter.

 

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑