In the absence of a full TOPCWF this year, I thought I’d have a go at reading the full long list of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year as my challenge. Unfortunately I haven’t managed to complete it ahead of the announcement of the shortlist tomorrow but it’s my challenge and my rules therefore my aim is to read them all before the announcement of the winner later in the year.
The 18 authors listed are:
- My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite (Read – see review here)
- Fallen Angel by Chris Brookmyre
- Nothing Important Happened Today by Will Carver (Read)
- Cruel Acts by Jane Casey (Read)
- Blue Moon by Lee Child
- The Long Call by Ann Cleeves
- Red Snow by Will Dean
- Platform Seven by Louise Doughty (Read – it’s set in Peterborough so I had to read a book from my home town)
- Worst Case Scenario by Helen Fitzgerald (Read)
- The Lost Man by Jane Harper (Read)
- Joe Country by Mick Herron
- How the Dead Speak by Val McDermid
- The Chain by Adrian McKinty (Read – see review here)
- Conviction by Denise Mina
- Smoke and Ashes by Abir Mukherjee (Read)
- The Whisper Man by Alex North (Read)
- Blood & Sugar by Laura Shepherd-Robinson
- Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce (Read)
Ok, well firstly that list confirms that I am very behind with writing reviews. Secondly assuming the winner is announced on the dates that the festival should have been held, voting for the winner will probably close a bit before then. That gives me around 6 weeks to read 9 books. I suppose there are some bonuses about the lock down, with the pubs closed the evenings can be given over to book reading!
Well that’s now eight, or is it nine, weeks of lockdown, and frankly I have done absolutely nothing useful with my spare time. I am sure there are lots of people who have spent this time productively. Learning a language, taking up macramé, waking up bright and early every morning to do Joe Wicks (seriously does anyone really do that?) Well I get up, go to work, otherwise known as walk to the kitchen, work then go home, otherwise known as put my laptop back in a box. It really is not that different to my usual workday to be honest. I do find after a day sat at the kitchen table staring at a laptop though the last thing I want to do on an evening is stare at a computer again so I am way behind on reviewing all the books I’ve been reading recently.
One good thing about this whole situation is that the neighbours seem to have started talking to each other. Interaction between neighbours on this street is quite low, one side of the road is pretty much just old women, our side is a bunch of young couples with kids who for some reason avoid us like the plague. That of course could have something to do with the fact that the only sun we get is on the bench I put in the front garden, and it’s just wrong to sit in the sun without a glass of wine. We’ve always assumed that we are therefore seen as the pissheads on the street.
However that illusion was completely shattered the other day. One of the mad old women over the road invited us to join her for a drink in the garden. Of course neither of us wanted to go. If it were up to me I’d have happily hidden in our own garden and ignored her. However Mr F had made the stupid mistake of giving her our home phone number (that now makes the total number of people who have that number 2, the other being my 94 year old gran) so of course she kept ringing and the only way to make the noise stop was either unplug the phone or go over. As she could see us through the window option one wasn’t much use, so we had to go over.
There were 4 women in their 70s, all sat on deck chairs 2 metres apart, absolutely hammered. From what we could gather (as well as sitting 2 meters apart, and being drunk they were all rather deaf) they’d started on wine, moved onto gin and that had run out so they were on the rum. It was only 5pm but like they said what else were they going to do with their afternoon. I do suspect however that this is nothing to do with the current COVID-19 situation, I have a sneaky suspicion that this is how they spend most afternoons. Well I say afternoon, one of them admitted that the night before she hadn’t finished a glass of wine and had found it in the morning… yep you’ve guessed it she had it with her Weetabix.
Well clearly we are mere lightweights compared to the women over the road. Maybe that’s how I can use my time whilst we are stuck at home, I could practice my drinking. Or I could maybe learn how to write my book reviews in crochet so I don’t have to continue to stare at the computer on an evening. That would at least be something useful to have to show for my time in lockdown!
I am a big fan of C.L.Taylor’s books so I was very pleased to be invited onto the blog tour for her latest novel, Strangers.
Ursula, Gareth and Alice are the strangers in question. Ursula is a delivery driver who has lost the love of her life and blames herself, Gareth works as a security guard and spends his evenings looking after his mother, Alice is recently divorced and believes that she is being stalked by an unknown person. They are all strangers to start with but their path’s eventually cross in a dramatic ending.
Strangers was a superb novel. Set in Bristol, the story is told from the viewpoints of the three main characters. Each of them have their own lives and worries and carry on oblivious of each other. Strangers, for the most part, is three separate stories. They only come together towards the very end. However, once they do collide you can look back and realise that there were clues all the way through, as characters appeared and disappeared throughout the chapters. Often when reading books like this told from multiple points with differing stories I find myself skipping over one to get back to whichever I find more interesting. However that wasn’t the case here at all, all three of the characters kept me gripped by their lives.
The story is very much character driven. We all know that actions have consequences and that those consequences will change how a person acts. This is apparent as the stories unfold. The ways that people act become more understandable when you know the why. Ursula for example is a shoplifter, to start with you think she doesn’t deserve sympathy, yet the more you learn about her the more sympathy you start to feel.
I felt this was a cleverly written book, that managed to take three pretty mundane lives and throw them into a situation where they become utterly compelling. They all had secrets that are gradually revealed and I found that every time a new piece of information appeared it changed my thoughts as to what was going to happen.
Strangers by C.L. Taylor was a fantastic, superbly plotted read and absolutely the best way to spend a weekend during lockdown.
Strangers is available here
Perfect Kill is actually the 6th in the Callanach series. Normally I try not to review books that are so far into a series if I haven’t read the majority of the previous ones. However this novel sounded like it would be too good to miss, so I broke my self imposed rule and signed up for the blog tour.
Perfect Kill is set across both Edinburgh and Calais. Bart Campbell has been kidnapped and finds himself miles away from his hometown of Edinburgh. DCI Ava Turner and DI Luc Callanach are working on separate cases, however it soon becomes clear that there is a link between the two and they must work together before more lives are lost.
This novel was a great read that I found enjoyable yet utterly disturbing at the same time. This is a story with numerous strands it seems. It covers human trafficking, organ donation, kidnapping, cancer, broken relationships and all manner of the most hideous aspects of human life. Yet it isn’t all doom and gloom, without wanting to give anything away there are lighter moments amongst all the misery.
I liked the main characters. Yes it would have been better to know more of the back story of them and their relationships, however the book still worked as a standalone. Clearly the main two have been playing games with each other for a long time, and that doesn’t change within this story. It’s obvious they are meant to be together and fingers crossed they work out next time.
When you read as many crime novels as I do it is hard to find something truly terrifying but this managed to do just that. There were parts of this story that were really quite scary, all the more so because you can imagine it happening.
I would highly recommend this novel and would definitely like to start at the beginning of the series (if only there were more hours in the day!) Thanks to Harper Collins and Helen Fields for my copy of this. Don’t forget to visit the other stops on the tour to find out what other bloggers thought of the book:
Get your copy here