Tag Archives: book review

The House Uptown by Melissa Ginsburg – a review

I was sent a copy of this from Faber and Faber Ltd and despite not being my usual style of crime I thought it sounded intriguing.

Teenage Ava is sent to live with her grandmother after the death of her mother. Not only does Ava have to leave her home and everything she knows, she is going to live with a woman she has barely met. Grandmother Lane is an artist who is ill equipped to look after herself let alone a teenage girl. Lane already relies heavily on her assistant Oliver who seems to be the perfect help for them both but tensions soon start to simmer to the surface and Ava become suspicios that maybe Oliver isn’t the person he pretends to be.

This was an utterly compelling story that I really enjoyed. It was part character study and part crime story that weaved its way between past and present as we gradually uncover the story that was behind the estrangement between Lane and her daughter as well as learn more about Lane’s relationship with her partner.

I found all of the characters fascinating in their own way. Ava was a quiet unassuming child who had been put in a situation where she had to grow up quickly. Lane elicted both sympathy and frustration from me. Clearly she was struggling with her own health but won’t admit she’s suffering. Instead she chooses to self medicate and practically ignore her granddaughter and her grief. Oliver is a hard character to pin down, on the one hand it seems that he really cares for Lane, but equally there is a side of him that seems difficult to trust.

The novel is set in New Orleans and I loved the way the setting rumbled in the background giving a sense of history and providing a bit of colour in the otherwise sightly grey world of the book. The writing was impeccable and I felt it flowed seamlessly. The book flitted between present day and the late 90’s where we gradually uncovered more about Lane’s background and what led to the falling out with her daughter.

I very much enjoyed this story and the end was something I didnt see coming. I would highly recommend this intriguing and emotional novel.

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Faceless by Vanda Symon – a review BLOG TOUR

I have been a fan of Vanda Symon since I saw her a few years ago at the Harrogate Crime Festival and have very much enjoyed her Sam Shepherd series so was looking forward to reading her latest.

Faceless is a stand alone novel set in New Zealand, that was an absolute cracker. It tells the story of three very different characters who’s lives collide with devastating consequences. Billy is a homeless artist who has to make money to survive anyway she can. Bradley is an office worker with a dark side that even he didn’t realise existed until a fateful night. Max has become Billy’s friend and despite living an unseen life now he’s having to come out of the shadows and face his demons to save a life.

Faceless was a story that I’ll be honest I was not expecting. I agreed to the tour because of the author and started reading without checking the blurb so it was certainly something unexpected, and all the better for it. What starts as a story of three separate people all in their own way completely ‘faceless’ to society, soon becomes a terrifying tale of kidnap, violence, mental health crisis and more.

The story is told mainly from the perspective of the three main characters with the chapters flitting backwards and forwards. Gradually the back story of the characters is revealed and the reasons they are in the situations they are becomes apparent. This was very much a character led story yet the plot was impeccable. The story was interesting and the writing was flawless. The face that it was told from the different viewpoints meant that you almost felt that you were learning about the characters at the same time as they were learning about themselves and what they were capable of.

This is a really difficult story to review because it was harrowing but it was absolutely compelling and a fantastic change from her usual police procedural. I would highly recommend this as one of the best books I’ve read for a while.

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The Long Weekend by Gilly McMillan – a review BLOG TOUR

The Long Weekend is sadly not a description of a nice few days away, instead it’s the focus of the latest  blog tour that I was lucky enough to be invited on to.

The Long Weekend by Gilly McMillan starts with three friends arriving for a weekend away at an isolated farm house in the middle of the Moors. When they arrive they find a note that has been left telling them that one of their husbands is going to be murdered. As a storm hits they are stranded in the farm house with no phone signal and no way of contacting their families to find out what is happening. As the three friends become increasingly desperate to find out what is going on their friendship starts to fracture and the tension boils over.

The Long Weekend was a good story that I read over a weekend. What started off as a seemingly ‘run of the mill’ wild weekend story soon became something more intriguing as the stranded wives start to fear for their husbands and you start to find out about their backgrounds and their relationships.

The characters were not particularly likeable, in fact other than the daughter they are all pretty unpleasant. However I felt that this gave the story a different edge. You weren’t really rooting for any of the main characters, yet still I was compelled to see how it all played out. The story is told from multiple points of view not only the main characters but also a mysterious third voice who is clearly unhinged. There was also a third strand to the story which was that of the farmer and his wife trying to make a living against the odds which was quite moving.

I found this quite a clever twisty story. The numerous unreliable narrators did get a little confusing at the start, but it soon became clear. I have a read a few of the novels by Gilly Macmillan and have always found them to be very enjoyable and this was no exception.

To find out what others thought of The Long Weekend look out for the next stops on the blog tour.

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Bitter Flowers by Gunnar Staaleson – a review

I enjoy a good ‘ScandiNoir’ and have read and enjoyed a number of Gunnar Staaleson previous novels from his impressive back catalogue therefore I was lucky to get a place on the Orenda blog tour for his latest novel Bitter Flowers.

Bitter Flowers sees main character PI Varg Veum returning to work after a stint in rehab. His first job is offered to him by his physio Lisbeth. It should be a simple case of house sitting but on his arrival at the house he is met with a dead body in the swimming pool, and Lisbeth goes missing. As Varg starts to investigate he finds a tangled web of lies involving shocking environmental crimes, big business and protestors. It’s not long before there are links to the disappearance of a little girl eight years ago who was never found and Varg is thrown headlong into his most challenging case yet.

Bitter Flowers was another great novel from prolific Norwegian author Gunnar Staaleson that I really enjoyed. The story is just as twisty as you would expect from Gunnar with some great characters that you’ll both love and hate.

Although this is part of a series the books most definitely work as stand alone novels and I have not read them in any order (I believe this is the first time that Bitter Flowers has been translated into English) One of the things I like about these is that the life of Varg is not the central element of the book. The focus of the story is the mystery of the dead and missing, with just enough of Varg’s life to make him an interesting character but not take over.

This story was set in the early 80’s which I’ll admit to not really realising at first but as soon as I worked that out things started to click into place. I enjoy stories set in different cultures and the fact this was set over twenty years ago in Norway gave it an added dimension.

I found Bitter Flowers a good read that was a slow burner but one that will draw you in and keep you guessing until the end!

To find out what others thought of Bitter Flowers visit the other stops on the blog tour.

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