Tag Archives: chelsea cain

If looks could kill

This weekend I watched the film the ‘Iron Lady’. Now regardless of your political standpoint I think you would be hard pushed to say this wasn’t a good film. A story of a woman who becomes the first female prime minister in the UK, her eventual downfall, and throughout it all her enduring relationship with her husband (Let’s forget the bit where she practically forgets about her children whilst she’s busy following her political ambitions, ignore the fact the film seems to gloss over much of the politics and the actual issues during her leadership, and not dwell on the fact she didn’t actually employ any other women in her cabinet, other than those who cleaned it) – the bit the film does include is pretty inspiring stuff!

This ‘story’ had a female lead character who women everywhere could be proud of. Right from the point that she gets engaged she is clear about what she wants. She isn’t interested in being someone who chooses to stay at home whilst expecting her husband to look after her. She’s going to look after herself and she wants to make a difference in the world not just in her own life. One of my favourite quotes was,

‘It used to be that people wanted to do something, now people want to be someone’

Completely true! The world is so self centred that very few of us do things purely for the sake of helping others or being proud of ourselves, its always about what you get out of it or how you look to other people. People spend more time worrying about what they look like, and what they can put on their status rather than taking any action about things. Another result of the facebook brainwash if you ask me!

If you picked up Margaret Thatcher and put her in a crime novel (again I hasten to add, go with me and ignore the politics!) she would be the kind of protagonist I would like. She wouldn’t wait around for a white knight on horseback to come and save her from the deranged serial killer, she’d have swung her handbag, glared at them and given them a lecture on how serial killers should pay the same poll tax as shop lifters.

That’s one of the things I like about Lisa Gardner books. In the one I am currently reading there are three main women involved, and all of them could to turn American ‘kick ass’. I’m always drawn to books by female writers in the hope they are going to have smart, clever, independent women, rather than poor defenceless victims. Give me a Chelsea Cain novel over a Mills and Boon anyday. To me a powerful female serial killer just seems much more exciting than a ‘lady of the house falls in love with the stable boy’ type of story.

However we all know that one women’s feminist icon can be another women’s serial murderer. It takes all sorts to make the world go round, and just as it would make life very dull if everyone had the same opinion over Margaret Thatcher and politics, it wouldn’t be much fun if we all read the same books!

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Filed under blogging, Feminist, Film

The Cuckoo by Julia Crouch – a review

Julia Crouch is in the session entitled Deadlier than the Male, which I have to say seems a strange session for her to be in. Having just read her book ‘The Cuckoo’ it wasn’t particularly gruesome, or violent especially when compared to someone like Chelsea Cain  or Jilliane Hoffman and so I wander if she would have been better in a different session or if she is there to give the opposing view and prove that crime doesn’t need to be violent to be engaging.

Whilst less graphic than the usual books I prefer I thought the story was great. It really was one I couldn’t put down. Rose has an apparently idyllic life in Bath with her husband Gareth and 2 children Anna and Flossie (yes that was the name that she decided to give the baby. My parents had a habit of calling me that when I was little but you can’t christen someone it. It’s a good job that child isn’t real or she really would have a bad time at school!)

Anyway Rose gets a call to say her best friend Polly’s husband has died at their home in Greece, so Rose invites Polly and the boys to stay with her. As the title of the story would suggest this is a bad move and things soon go wrong. Baby’s overdose, animals gets killed, champagne gets spiked. Its obvious that Polly is to blame.  Yet despite people trying to warn Rose, the hold that her friend has over her is just too much. Eventually things come to a head between Rose, Polly and husband Gareth.

 I really enjoyed this book. Its not dramatic, or a fast story. It reminded me a bit of One Moment One Morning by Sarah Rayner in that you really want to keep reading but look back and realise nothing really happened. This book is not perfect in anyway, the story is quite slow and I think some of the descriptions of the minutia of Rose’s life (plus all the brand name dropping) should have been stripped out a bit. However I can see that this was maybe done on purpose and the minutia helped build up a feeling of suspense and create an almost claustrophobic atmosphere.

Rose wasn’t the most likeable character, and had rather dubious morals however you still wanted to know what was going to happen next. Polly is one of those characters that you dislike straight away and really want to see punished, but somehow you know that won’t happen. I think its more a ‘chick lit’ book than a crime story, and certainly wouldn’t be described as a gruesome story. I would definitely be interested in reading more by this author though and look forward to seeing how she will fit into the Harrogate session.

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Filed under book review, crime fiction, Theakstons Festival

A bad day for pretty

Today is International Women’s Day, which apparently started as far back as 1908 when 15 000 women marched through New York City demanding voting rights and better pay, although it was first celebrated in Europe in 1911.  In this country women demonstrated in the streets, went on hunger strikes, threw themselves under horses all to fight for equality with men. A century later and Women now have the vote, can drive a car and finally I’m sure Emmeline Pankhurst would be incredibly pleased to know we also now have pink lego!

This was something that had passed me by until this weekend. As a teacher and a mother of two young girls my friend is a bit more au fait with current child trends than me. So for the past 50 years or so, girls have not played with lego because it wasn’t pink. Really? Are we really all so utterly brainwashed by stereotypes that we can only buy lego for a girl if it’s pink? It’s the demise of the last non-gender specific toy in the world. (According to my friend who was rightly very annoyed by this)

Apparently the world has come full circle, and we’ve skipped right past the equality that women were aiming for, and gone straight into everything for girls being pink and fluffy. Take dressing up outfits for example, girls get princesses or fairies, boys get superheroes and doctors. I would much rather be a superhero flying out to save the world, than a princess stuck in some castle bored stupid.  The same issues can be seen in the world of literature, as it seems people believe women will only read books if they are pink, fluffy and branded as ‘chicklit’, whereas boys read everything not just ‘cocklit’ (Short for Cockerel thank you).

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve read a lot of so called ‘chicklit’ over the years, some good some bad, mostly following the same premise – boy meets girl, girl falls in love with boy, boy is bad to girl, girl moans to gay best friend, quiet nerd next door befriends girl, girl realises she has been in love with nerd from the start. Some of these are funny, and very cleverly written, and I’ve enjoyed reading them, but just like I didn’t need my lego to be pink, I don’t need a book to have a nice fluffy cover in order for me to pick it up.  

Personally I would say modern day crime fiction has managed to bypass this pink stereotyping and is read by both males and females. Somehow I can’t imagine the likes of Patricia Cornwell writing ‘Last Cupcake of Death’ with a pink cover and glitter all over it (not to be confused with her Scarpetta Cookbook, the only Patricia Cornwell book I haven’t got a copy of, not sure its one for a vegetarian)

At last years Festival the sessions we went to seemed to have quite an even split between male and female attendees and looking at the programme for 2012 there isn’t a huge bias one way or the other when it comes to authors. Of course there are probably statistics that disprove me, however ignoring the ‘fireside crime novels’ of the likes of Agatha Christie, or M.C Beaton I don’t think people choose their crime fiction based on whether its got a male or female protagonist, or if its written by a man or a woman. Some excellent novels are written by both males and females together, such as Nikki French for example, and there are even serial killers who are females killing just for pleasure not for a man.

Mind you saying that, I picked up the Chelsea Cain novels purely because they had a female serial killer at the centre, plus one of her novels had a heart on the front (albeit one drawn in blood) so maybe us women really are swayed by pink and hearts…

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Filed under Crime writing, Theakstons Festival