Despite the fact in my head I’m still a young mid-twenties person there are occasions when you realise you are getting old (and not just when I look in the mirror before you say anything!) For example when you realise your tv taste is turning into that of your parents. Countryfile is no longer something you would bolt your tea in the hope of being let off having to sit through. It is now an important Sunday afternoon view otherwise how will you know what the long range weather forecast is?
The other big problem I have is that your tolerance level seems to shrink considerably as the years go by. For someone like me who is already starting from a pretty low threshold, this is quite a worry. Irrational things drive me bonkers. Net curtains for example, I hate them. I’ve always disliked them but figured what people choose to do was their own business. Now though an annoying placement of a net curtain drives me mad. The other day I was walking back to the train station along a lovely riverside path in Oxford, admiring all the wonderful houses with big windows looking across the water. One house however had huge net curtains completely blocking the view. This then started a ten minute internal conversation between myself and the unknown owner of offending curtain about why they would have it. Was their life really that interesting that they needed to hide what they are doing from preying eyes? Luckily by the end of it I had won the argument. The offending piece of cloth was going to be removed and I had wasted my entire walk thinking about something that was of absolutely no consequence to me.
A grown man on my train reading Harry Potter is another example. Now I’ve not read Harry Potter as I’m not a young child. I have nothing against Harry Potter itself; however grown adults should not be reading it in public. There’s loads of books out there specifically for us adults, let the children have the young boy wizard. It does of course worry me that my own book tastes will change as I get even older. Currently I thrive on a book diet of crime, murder, blood and guts and misery. Yet how long is it before I start reading Readers Digest, and enjoying a nice Catherine Cookson. Maybe it’ll be even worse than that. Maybe I won’t have time to read at all, I’ll be too busy watching Songs of Praise and then writing to points of view to complain about misplaced net curtains in the vestry. Something to look forward to then!
Last year I was lucky enough to attend the Hull Noir event (funnily enough in Hull) and in preparation for that I picked up a copy of Matt Wesolowski’s debut novel Six Stories. I didn’t actually get around to reading it until after the event but I loved it when I did. Therefore I jumped at the chance to be part of the blog tour for his latest book Hydra.
Hydra tells the story of Arla Macleod who bludgeoned her parent’s and younger sister to death. She is now in a secure mental institute. Scott King, creator of the Six Stories podcast has picked this case, not this time because he wants to uncover the murdered but because he wants to try and find out why she did it. Again the story is told in the form of six podcasts, each telling a different persons view. With each episode we find out a bit more background and build up a picture of the type of person Arla was and what might have led to the murders.
I absolutely loved this novel. When you read as much as I do it is not often that you find something really unique, to me this is just that. The way of telling the story as a series of podcasts rather than a normal narrative gives it a very different feel to other novels. Scott King is the lead character who takes us through the six different episodes presenting facts about the case alongside the thoughts of the different interviewees. The high quality of the writing means that each character has a very distinct voice which draws you into each individual episode.
Overall this is a relatively simple story and we know from the outset that Arla committed the crime. Yet the beauty of this story is the way it manages to weave other relevant topics into the narrative. Many elements come under scrutiny including social media and its effect on real relationships, twitter and trolls, mental health and even supernatural Japanese rituals.
Hydra manages to use modern day ideas but the outcome is almost an old fashioned ghost story. It’s the type of book that sets you on edge right from the beginning and has you looking over your shoulder until the end.
I would highly recommend Hydra and Six Stories, especially if you are fan of well written original novels.
A few years ago Peter May was appearing at the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival and in preparation I read The Blackhouse, the first in his Lewis series. I really enjoyed this and went on to read the others in the trilogy. So when I was invited to take part in the blog tour for his latest I jumped at the chance, and I was very glad I did. Read on for a chance to win your own copy of Peter May’s latest novel.
I’ll Keep You Safe is about husband and wife team Niamh and Ruairidh Macfarlane who co-own a tweed making company on the Isle of Lewis. On a trip to Paris she learns that her husband is having an affair, just before she witnesses the pair being killed by a car bomb. The police rule out terrorism, so Niamh is allowed to return to the island with her husband’s body. French Detective Sylvie Braque is then sent to the Island to try and uncover the killer.
This was a fantastic novel that I read over a few days. Although it starts off in Paris, the majority of the story is set in the Hebrides. It weaves (pun intended) through Niamh returning home and negotiating the funeral, Sylvie’s investigation into the murder, and through flashbacks we are told the story of Ranish tweed and Niamh’s and Ruairidh’s relationship.
I was absolutely fascinated by this book. It hooked me in right from the start. I have to admit that it wasn’t the story I was expecting. I had assumed the focus would be in Paris and would concentrate on the investigation but there was so much more to it. This was a superbly atmospheric book. The isolation and brutality of the islands shone through, yet behind this there was the warmth of a community place that was surrounded by incredible beauty.
The story itself was good and I enjoyed learning about life on the island, and about tweed making. Yet the real pleasure of this novel is in the place and the writing. I would recommend this to anyone who likes being immersed in a setting.
If you would like to own your own copy of Peter May’s I’ll Keep You Safe then either comment on the blog, or enter via twitter and Midas PR will send one lucky winner their very own copy!
Don’t forget to visit other stops on this fantastic tour:
I have previously read and reviewed Kate Hamer’s debut novel which I very much enjoyed therefore I was pleased when I was invited to take part in the blog tour for The Doll Funeral.
I must admit to not really being clear what the book was about before I started it (the perils of ARC copies) so wasn’t really sure what to expect therefore this came as a interesting surprise. The Doll Funeral tells the story of young Ruby who finds out that she is actually adopted. She has always fantasised about this so when she finds out it is true she is determined to find her real parents. She is accompanied by her imaginary friend Shadow, and along the way meets Tom and Elizabeth who live in the woods.
This certainly isn’t my usual type of story. There isn’t a murder or a detective for a start. It is the story of a young girl in the 1980’s with strange powers, and of a single mother in the 1970s stuck in an unhappy marriage. These two stories intertwine slowly as the characters actions and motivations become clearer.
Whilst the story is certainly interesting, the real strength of this novel is the writing style. The descriptions and prose really are beautiful. You feel for the plight of Ruby, a poor lost young girl who is old before her time. I particularly enjoyed the parts where she was living with her friends in the woods as they struggle to survive. For me the story was quite slow, but the characters are all intriguing, and the story builds up to a haunting ending.
If you enjoy an element of supernatural in your stories, and like good writing then this is definitely a book for you.
As regular readers of this blog will know one of my favourite things about the TOPCWF is the opportunity it gives to read authors that have books coming out the following year. Sometimes these books include brand new authors and often there are some real gems within my book haul. One such gem is The Woman in the Window by A J Finn.
The Woman in the Window tells the story of Anna Fox, a child psychologist who is suffering from severe agoraphobia. She hasn’t left her house in over ten months and spends her days either watching her neighbours through the windows, or watching old films in the company of red wine. When new neighbours the Russell’s move in she is drawn to their picture perfect family. Until the night she hears a scream and thinks she sees something that she wasn’t supposed to. Unfortunately no one believes Anna, thinking she has just let her drunken imagination run wild. Therefore it is left to Anna to prove that she isn’t mad.
This was an absolutely cracking novel. I have to say I read a similar story last year which helped me guess one of the major plot twists quite early on. Yet this in no way detracted from what was an superb read. It did literally keep me up all night. There is a scene with Anna in bed with her cat that really shouldn’t be read when in bed on your own with a cat.
I thought the story itself was interesting and really didn’t see the ending coming. I found the character of Anna incredibly likeable. Despite her excessive self-medication and the slight self-pitying feel to her, she is a character that you quickly feel sympathy for as she struggles with the reality she has created. The beauty of this story is that it is a slow burner, this draws you into Anna’s world and you actually feel like you are looking through the windows with her. Obviously the setting rarely changes, which means there are few descriptive paragraphs included which I felt gave it a really claustrophobic feel. I was drawn in from the beginning and you are gradually taken along with Anna as she slowly declines before the ending shatters into sight.
This was a superb story, with excellent writing that I would highly recommend. I look forward to reading more by AJ Finn and to what little gems will be in the TOPCWF 2018 goody bag this year.
I was lucky enough to pick up a copy of this at the Festival back in July. I had heard a lot about this novel and was looking forward to reading it, so Anatomy of a Scandal quickly went to the top of the reading pile. I certainly wasn’t disappointed.
James is a politician, best friends with Tom who is Prime Minister. They were both at Oxford University which is where James met his wife Sophie. She has kept his secrets from his student days throughout their married life so when he gets embroiled in another scandal and is accused of a crime, he assumes that she will stand by him again. Prosecuting James is barrister Kate. She is sure that he is guilty and is determined he will pay for everything.
This was a really intriguing story that I couldn’t put down. It is part political court room thriller, part domestic noir. The portrait of a marriage thrust into the limelight is fascinating. The story is told from the three points of view of James, Sophie, and Kate, and between them the past slowly unfolds.
Throughout the novel my opinions of the characters kept changing. Although I did feel sympathy for wife Sophie, equally I was left feeling frustrated with her. She seemed to be very naïve and let her husband essentially get away with whatever he wanted. Kate was another character that I had mixed feelings about. Clearly she still struggled with what had happened when she was a student, yet in her professional life she is so sorted you really want her to just put the past behind her.
This was an excellent novel that kept me up til late in the night reading. It’s focus is on a marriage, and around the issue of consent, yet it’s much more than that. The writing is superb and focuses on the subtleties of human nature in the aftermath of a scandal rather than just concentrating on sensationalism.
I would highly recommend Anatomy of a Scandal if you like political intrigue alongside domestic portrayals. Although prepare to be kept up late into the night!
Today I’m delighted to be the next and final stop on Leigh Russell’s top ten tour.
For those of you who don’t know, Leigh writes the fantastic Geraldine Steel series. The tenth novel Class Murder is out now. In it Geraldine moves to York and has been demoted to Detective. She finds herself investigating the murder of two people, both of whom went to the same school and were in the same class. It soon becomes a race against time to stop the killer before more bodies appear.
Obviously any novel using York as a setting instantly heads to the top of my tbr pile. It’s always nice to read stories set where you live and I’m very glad I did. This is a fantastic story that kept me gripped throughout. The chapters from the killer’s point of view were especially chilling.
Although this is the tenth it works perfectly well as a standalone. I suspect this is helped by the move to York as I got to know Geraldine along with her new colleagues. Having only read a couple of her early novels before I definitely want to go back and read the whole series now.
To celebrate the release of the tenth novel I’m pleased to share Leigh’s latest top ten and this time we are finding out her top ten TV shows :
The West Wing
Have I got News for You
Line of Duty
Death in Paradise
Some interesting choices there. I thought I was the only Death in Paradise fan!
If you want to find out more about Leigh’s top tens then visit the other stops on her tour.
Thanks to No Exit Press for my copy of Class Murder.