My Sister’s Bones by Nuala Ellwood – a review

As readers of this blog will know, one of my favourite things about the festival is the amount of new books you come away with. One of last year’s new discoveries was Nuala Ellwood’s novel My Sister’s Bones. I didn’t realise at the time that she was a York based writer, until I spotted that she was launching her novel at the local Waterstones. I was lucky enough to get a ticket to the event, which was a lovely evening. I always say the only thing better than books, is books with wine. I do think I came across as a bit of a stalker though. It wasn’t until I was in the queue to meet Nuala that I realised I had already had my proof copy signed in Harrogate. Well clearly once in a queue you can’t just leave if you change your mind, what would people think? Instead I got some very odd looks when I asked to get my already signed book signed again.

My Sister’s Bones focuses on two sisters Kate and Sally. Kate is a war reporter who lives in London and has just come back from reporting in Syria. She is clearly struggling to deal with all she has seen out there as well as grieving the death of her mother and dealing with a brother in law who is getting a little too close. Kate soon starts spiraling out of control and seeing ghosts around every corner.  Sally on the other hand, didn’t manage to physically escape the town where the sisters had been brought up by their dysfunctional parents. Instead she escaped through alcohol, an addiction that became even harder to control when her daughter left. Seemingly the opposite of her high-flying sister she barely leaves the house. Eventually the two stories collide with quite shocking results.

This was a really gripping story that covers a range of issues including alcoholism, domestic abuse, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The story is written in two halves, first from Kate and then secondly from Sally. This gives us two different perspectives on the same events which I felt gave a really interesting angle to the book. The two characters voices felt very different to me which goes to show the skill of the writer in telling the same story from different women.

What also stood out for me, was that both the main characters were quite unlikeable, yet you cared what happened to them. The horrific things that Kate has seen are told sympathetically rather than sensationally which can be disturbing in places. Yet whilst you are led to have empathy for the characters, a lot of their behaviour is rather frustrating, which gives a great portrayal of how deeply experiences can affect how people act.

My Sister’s Bones was a thoroughly engaging and thought provoking debut novel, plus it was an interesting evening hearing Nuala talk. Definitely worth the potential restraining order coming my way.

If you are interested in hearing more from Nuala Ellwood she will be appearing at Betty’s Tea Shop as part of the York Literature Festival

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The Breakdown by SA Paris – a review

The Breakdown is the second novel by B.A Paris and I was lucky enough to receive a copy from NetGalley.

Cass is a teacher wbreakdownho is looking forward to her six week holiday. On her way home from the school end of term party she takes a shortcut through the woods despite her husband telling her not too. It is here she sees a woman in a car on the side of the road. Assuming  she has broken down and called for help already or that it might be some kind of trap Cass doesn’t stop.  The next morning it is all over the news that the woman has been found murdered. The guilt she feels over not stopping is intensified, when it turns out that Cass actually knew the woman. This is the start of a downward spiral, as she is already concerned that she is suffering from early onset dementia. As the story continues her paranoia and memory loss take over.

This is another novel that divided my opinion. On the one hand it was a very entertaining read. I read it on a train ride and finished it in a day. However I did feel that the story was a little bit predictable and relied very heavily on coincidences. The whole plot hinges on a mobile phone that gets lost which I think would have been better looked after. I also felt that it was obvious from the start the role that a couple of the characters were going to play later in the novel. However there was still a twist at the end that I didn’t see coming.

The story is told from the viewpoint of Cass which is the part that really stood out to me. You almost feel as though you are in the head of Cass and can feel the fear she is living with. I did feel that some of her actions were a bit unbelievable. One example is that she is getting silent phone calls and despite having caller ID she still picks up the phone when it’s ringing displaying number withheld.  The motives for the crime were a bit thin too I thought.

However it was still an enjoyable read and the premise was good.  It’s one of those situations where we all like to think we would have acted differently and stopped for the car. However on a dark stormy night I imagine there are a lot of us whose first thought would have been that it was trap. If you like an unreliable narrator then the Breakdown is definitely worth a read.

 

 

 

 

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The Day That Never Comes by Caimh Mcdonnell – a review BLOG TOUR

As you may know I am a big fan of a crime book (if you are reading this and are not aware of that fact then clearly you have clicked on the wrong link and really should press the back button now) I am also a big fan of crime books that make me laugh. Crime thrillers can be a dark world at times, but some of the best authors – such as the fabulous Mark Billingham – do their best work with a bit of humour thrown in. There are of course other authors who don’t just throw a bit but throw a lot of humour into their novels, and if this is the kind of thing you like then look no further than A Man With One of Those Faces by Caimh Mcdonell.

If of course you have already read that one as previously recommended by acrimereadersblog then this is your lucky day, there is finally a second instalment available. Therefore when I had the chance to get a free copy of Caimh’s latest book I jumped at it, well clicked anyway this being the digital age and all, and I was certainly not disappointed.

The Day That Never Comes is the second novel to feature the slightly off the wall Irish trio of Paul Mulchrone, Nurse Brigit and now retired detective Bunny McGarry. The three had set up their own private detective agency. However Bunny has disappeared, Brigit is refusing to speak to Paul due to a rather inappropriate text and Paul is currently homeless with only an angry German shepherd for company. Meanwhile Dublin is suffering a heatwave, whilst the trial of three slightly unscrupulous businessmen has just collapsed. This has clearly upset someone as suddenly they are being murdered and unfortunately it looks like the missing Bunny might be the prime suspect.

The Day That Never Comes is a thoroughly entertaining story that flits between present day and 15 years previously. Although Paul still comes across as the lead character, this time we focus a lot more on Bunny and his past which gives a different element to the dynamic. There are quite a lot of characters in this book, but the writing style is such that they are easily kept straight.

The plot itself is interesting, and you wonder at times how everything is going to tie together. Yet somehow it all does and I like the fact that everything is neatly tied up at the end. Despite this being the second in a trilogy it could be read as a stand alone.

I wouldn’t suggest this as a bed time read. Not only is it hard to put down, it has some real laugh out loud moments that are not necessarily conducive to a good night’s sleep. However for anyone who is a crime fan and likes to include a real comic element in their thrillers then this is definitely worth picking up.

 

 

About The Author

Caimh McDonnell is an award-winning stand-up comedian, author and writer of televisual treats. Born in Limerick and raised in Dublin, he has taken the hop across the water and now calls Manchester his home.

His writing credits include The Sarah Millican Television Programme, A League of Their Own, Mock the Week and Have I Got News for You. He also works as a children’s TV writer and was BAFTA nominated for the animated series ‘Pet Squad’ which he created. He was also a winner in the BBC’s Northern Laffs sitcom writing competition.

During his time on the British stand-up circuit, Caimh has firmly established himself as the white-haired Irishman whose name nobody can pronounce. He has brought the funny worldwide, doing stand-up tours of the Far East, the Middle East and Near East (Norwich).

Follow Caimh’s witterings on @Caimh

Facebook:  @CaimhMcD

 

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Watch Her Disappear by Eva Dolan – a review BLOG TOUR

watchI was lucky enough to be invited to join the blog tour for one of my favourite authors, Eva Dolan. Her latest novel is called Watch Her Disappear. When I read the first of Dolan’s series I was drawn to it because of the setting around the area where I grew up but that soon became a secondary motive for my interest. The series is superb and her latest novel is no exception.

Watch Her Disappear begins with the murder of Corrinne who was attacked whilst out jogging.  When DI Zigic and his colleague DS Ferreira from the Peterborough Hate Crimes division are called out they are unsure why. There have been a series of rapes in the area and they assume this is the latest one.  It soon becomes clear why they are involved.  Corrinne is transitioning from Colin and the murder could be linked to other attacks that have been taking place against the transgender community.

Watch Her Disappear is a fascinating novel, dealing as Dolan’s stories do with social issues, prejudice and hatred. The quality of writing is, as always, excellent and deals well with sensitive issues such as transphobia. Eva manages to write about it perceptively without sensationalising the issues, despite focusing as it does on murder.

The characters are well rounded, and just like in real life there are sides to all of them, some good and some bad. Personally I think that one of the things that makes these novels stand out are the two main characters. Zigic is the sensible family man who in Watch her Disappear is leading the team through an investigation whilst struggling with the demands of a new baby. Whereas Ferreira is the wild one sleeping with a senior officer and running off with her own line of investigation. They make a great team despite their differences and both draw on each other to move the investigation forward.

Lots of the locations such as Ferry Meadows where the crimes take place are familiar as places I went to as a child, which does add another element to the story.  I was delighted to get the chance to ask Eva what makes the area stand out for her:

‘Back in 2012, when I started the first book in the series, Long Way Home, Peterborough felt like the natural choice. It’s a city with a history of 20th century immigration, with a large influx of workers coming from southern and eastern Europe after WW2, to take up jobs in food processing and at the local brickyards. Later they were joined by people from India and Pakistan. Then the 90s saw the arrival of many Portuguese and Polish migrant workers, drawn to the agricultural jobs available on the fenland surrounding Peterborough. It’s the perfect melting pot, small enough for each wave of immigration to feel distinct but large enough to contain all manner of criminality. Peterborough has also become something of a magnet for media coverage of issues of immigration, social cohesion, and the recent rise of ultra right political parties, a subject I explored in the second book, Tell No Tales, so even readers who haven’t been there will recognise it as a place where these issues are in play.’

I also wanted to find out where in Peterborough Eva goes when she is researching.

‘I try to keep it all about the work while I’m on a research trip but Peterborough has a really great shopping centre that I can’t resist and I was happy to stumble across Clarkes, an amazing restaurant on Cathedral Square; it has a lovely intimate atmosphere and a small but frequently changing menu focusing on local, seasonal produce. It’s the kind of place Zigic would probably book for Anna’s birthday. But I think Ferreira would take issue with their slim selection of rum.’

Watch Her Disappear is an excellent novel that I would definitely recommend. It works well as a standalone, and you won’t lose anything by not having read her others. However if you haven’t read the rest of the series I would highly suggest you do.

If you want to find out more about the Zigic and Ferreira series, and Eva’s thoughts on Peterborough and the fens, then pop over to Cleopatralovesbooks on the 1st April where I will be taking part in her  feature Put A Book On The Map and talking all things Peterborough.

In the meantime to find out more about Eva Dolan and her series head over to some other stops on the blog tour:

http://www.foyles.co.uk/Public/Biblio/Detail.aspx?blogId=1578

http://www.deadgoodbooks.co.uk/introducing-zigic-and-ferreira/

http://lizlovesbooks.com/lizlovesbooks/ones-to-watch-in-2017-watch-her-disappear-eva-dolan/

https://forwinternights.wordpress.com/2017/01/31/watch-her-disappear-by-eva-dolan/

You can also find out what novels Eva herself is looking forward to in 2017 at her column

http://wwwshotsmagcouk.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/eva-dolan-on-her-most-highly.html

Thanks to Eva for her time and to netgalley for my copy of the novel.

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Burned and Broken by Mark Hardie – a review BLOG TOUR

I was lucky enough to be asked by the publisher to take part in the blog tour for the debut novel by Mark Hardie called Burned and Broken.

Burned and Broken introduces us to Detectives Pearson and Russell. They are called to a car fire, as inside is a body suspected to be one of their colleagues. This same colleague is currently the focus of an internal investigation which Cat Russell seems to be getting caught up in. Alongside this we meet Donna. She is mourning the loss of her friend Alicia. Both girls were in a care home together until Alicia was found dead. Donna suspects that she was murdered.

Burned and Broken was an interesting read. Set by the sea in Southend the story was written from multiple viewpoints, and with overlapping time frames. This at first was a little confusing if, like me, you didn’t realise this was going to be the case. However once I worked that out, this novel absolutely flew for me. The two cases of potential murder that are mentioned in the blurb on the back are not the only issues within the book. There is pretty much every issue a police procedural can cover – seedy nightclubs, dodgy brother in laws, suicides, debt, corruption, paedophiles and bent coppers. All of this means that it is a novel that needs concentrating on but that isn’t always a bad thing.

There were a lot of characters in the book and it was only due to the novel’s blurb explicitly saying who the two main characters are that I really knew. Yet all of this simply adds to what I thought was a brilliantly layered novel. The switching between viewpoints was clearly done with ease as I found it easy to keep up. Equally although there were lots of characters but they are all clearly defined and each chapter was easy to follow. I enjoyed the storyline, and although I did suspect the main twists it was still a bit of a shock when it actually appeared.

I do have a slight gripe in that it was clearly a novel written with a second in mind from the offset. This meant that there were loose ends which I don’t like. However,  overall this was an excellent debut novel, and at least the loose ends mean that there is definitely a second novel coming.

 

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A game for all the family

On Wednesday it was national Winnie the Pooh day. Winnie the Pooh has always been one of my favourite children’s characters. However unfortunately my celebration of this national day didn’t include a nice cuddly bear, I had an encounter with a completely different type of poo.

I like the outdoors. Other than reading, most of my pastimes are based outside. I go horse riding, and jogging in the great outdoors, and I try and go for a walk every lunchtime. I’m lucky in that I work near a racecourse so there is always somewhere nice and green to have a wander round.

I was enjoying one of these lunchtime walks on Wednesday, until the nice quiet contemplation of nature was rudely interrupted – by a huge seagull poo landing on my head. Sadly this isn’t the first time this has happened to me, in fact it’s starting to become a bit of a habit. Most people go to Scarborough and their only concern is whether the seagulls are going to steal their chips. I spend the time looking upwards trying to avoid walking under any suspicious looking gulls flying overhead.

Why don’t more people get pooed on by birds? It doesn’t seem to happen to other people. You never read in a book about so and so finding a body covered in bird poo. DS Roy Grace is never casually walking along Brighton sea front catching criminals only to have to stop to wipe bird poo off his head. Even Tippi Hedron was bird poo free despite having hundreds of birds trying to kill her. You would think it would be a common occurrence really bearing in mind the numbers of bird around. Yet it seems to be only me that gets targeted. I think it is some kind of game the birds all play. There is probably some kind of national league that the birds join. They get given a score card when they sign up and it has a big picture of me on it. Extra points every time they get a strike.

Apparently it is meant to be good luck but that is a load of nonsense if you ask me. All it means in reality is you have to wash your hair and/or jacket depending on the site of the aforementioned strike. I think it may be wise to give up my delusions of being a country girl. Next year I am just going to stay inside and read Winnie the Pooh to celebrate rather than venture outside.

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The Dry by Jane Harper -a review

Whilst on my recent jaunts, I had a lot of time on planes to catch up with some of my recent netgalley acquisitions. The Dry by Jane Harper was one of those.

The Dry is set in a small town in Australia. The Hadler family are dead and it looks like a case of murder/suicide. Aaron Falk returns to his home town after an absence of 20 years in order to attend the funeral of his school friend Luke Hadler. Luke is thought to have killed his family before turning the gun on himself. Aaron is not convinced that the Luke he used to know would have killed his wife and child. Originally intending to just stay for the funeral he soon gets embroiled in the investigation into the deaths. Alongside this, Aaron is also having to deal with the fact that the town still hasn’t forgotten a terrible incident that they believe Aaron and his friend Luke were involved in. It was this incident that meant he had had to flee the town with his Dad 20 years earlier.

This is the debut novel by author Jane Harper, and according to the publisher this is meant to be ‘one of the most anticipated novels of 2017’ I can certainly see why.

The Dry was a novel that draws you in slowly, but soon hooks you in completely. It is not a fast paced novel, but it is incredibly atmospheric. The setting was the part that really made this novel stand out for me. You get the impression of a small town that gives it a really claustrophobic feeling . The slow build up of the story is mirrored by the ongoing threat of drought and fire. As the lack of rain causes tensions in the town to rise, the story builds towards the final reveal.

The characters were interesting, although I was a bit unsure whether I actually liked Aaron or not. Other than what we find out about his childhood there didn’t seem to be a lot to his character although this adds to the small town atmosphere. The story of what happened twenty years before is told in flashback. I felt that these were easy to keep track of even on a kindle when flicking back and forwards isn’t as easy as with a paper version. This was testament to how good the writing in this novel was.

This was a good, if very sad, story that kept me guessing throughout and the final reveal was a bit of a shock. I would recommend The Dry, and it is a story that will stay with you after its over.

(I also got home to realise I already had a hard copy of the novel acquired from the Festival which if I had known would have obviously been a sign of a good read to come!)

 

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