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 given a copy of this via Lovereading and actually read it a few months ago.
The Other Twin starts with Poppy finding out her sister India has fallen to her death. Poppy then returns to Brighton for the first time in years in order to try and prove that her sister didn’t committee suicide. Whilst back in Brighton she meets up with her old boyfriend Matt, and his wealthy family who own half of the city. She also uncovers the mysterious Jenny who it seems had an online friendship with India. Yet what are they hiding?
The Other Twin was an interesting novel that kept me gripped through to the end. I liked the way the story was told, and the quality of writing meant that it was an easy fast read. I was certainly kept guessing right until the end. My only slight criticism, is that I did find the story a bit difficult to place in a time. It was clearly modern day as there were blogs and phones in use. Yet the characters seemed quite old fashioned to me, (there was a lot of legging wearing which is very 1980) and without wishing to give anything away this old-fashioned quality became even more obvious towards the end. The characters whilst interesting were hard to warm to, but this gives the story a certain edge of the seat quality.
The Other Twin was a nice summer read that I would recommend, despite my misgivings over their clothing choices.
This weekend I was very excited to write my first ever guest post which was featured on the wonderful cleopatra loves books site.
My post was part of a series she runs called put a book on the map. I was discussing Eva Dolan’s series of books which are set in my home town of Peterborough.
I really enjoyed writing the post, however it is very nerve wracking to see your own words on someone else’s blog. I knew when it was going to be published but I was almost too scared to look. When the comments started coming in I had to turn my tablet off and didn’t dare read them until I had a couple of wines in me. This was absurd as I don’t worry about posting on my own blog in the same way. I usually type them out and post after a quick spell check. For my guest post I wrote it and read it and rewrote it and read it and rewrote it again. I know Cleo has a much bigger following than my blog does, but honestly I spent more time on this than I ever did on any of my university essays’. Mind you this was much more interesting than anything I ever did at University.
This series is a great way of finding out about new books and brings to life the places where the novels are set. I think I even managed to make Peterborough sound like a place you should visit. Judge for yourself here. https://cleopatralovesbooks.wordpress.com/2017/04/01/put-a-book-on-the-map-bookonthemap-peterborough/
Whilst this was my first guest post I hope it’s not the last, and next time I might not be quite so worried about the response!
I was lucky enough to receive a copy of this from the publisher. This was the second novel by Francis Brody that I have read this year as Francis was appearing at the festival earlier in the year.
This is not my usual type of reading to be honest, as I usually prefer something with a bit more of a modern twist, however I thoroughly loved this novel.
Kate Shackleton is a private investigator. She usually has a nice quiet August so she decides to treat herself to a little holiday and heads off to visit an old friend in one of my favourite places, Whitby. Of course it would be quite a dull book if it was purely about Kate’s paddling in the sea and eating kippers, so it’s not long before she meets a dead body, and finds out her friends daughter Felicity has gone missing. Felicity has left only a note and a pawn ticket for her mother’s watch guard. The jeweller who took the watch guard also happens to be Felicity’s Mother’s new gentleman friend. Kate obviously gets drags into the investigation and brings along her faithful staff.
This is definitely a story that would be classed as a cosy crime. There is no blood and gore, just a nice gentle mystery albeit with a dead body and some fortune telling thrown in. The novel is a lovely read especially if you know Whitby at all. The descriptions of places Kate visits and walks summon up vivid images of Whitby as it would have been in the 1920’s when the novels are set.
I did feel that the story was a little bit slow in parts. However I suspect that is more down to the difference between this and my usual reading fare, rather than anything wrong with the story itself. This is the kind of novel that you leaves feeling quite cheered up when you finish (despite the dead body) and the ending made me smile.
If you enjoy a nice ‘cosy crime’ novel along the lines of a Miss Marple then you definitely need to pick up some of Francis Brody’s work.
So with one week and two days left to go until the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival I thought I’d have a bit of a check where I am with the TOPCWFC 2016. I had high hopes this year. Looking through the list there were a lot of authors that I’ve seen before and therefore there was a high chance that I had read something of theirs already. However it does look like sadly I may have taken on more than I can chew yet again. This challenge is beginning to be my nemesis.
On the positive side, I’ve realised I’d counted wrong in my initial plan. I had counted two authors separately although they write as a team, and I’ve also excluded one author on the grounds he only writes true crime and this is a fiction challenge (my challenge my rules!) However with only nine days before the festival I still have 4 authors to go. Now admittedly as I write this I’m about to finish an audio book of one, and I’m halfway through another in hard copy, yet I still suspect it’s going to be a case of so near yet so far.
Out of interest though I’ve listed all those books I have read below. Obviously with some authors I’ve read most of their novels and so I’ve just listed the most recent one. It was actually quite an interesting exercise going through the authors and seeing what I’d read. Although it has made me realise how many new books there are out there that I really want to read. If only I could find a job that would pay me to read books all day, fingers crossed for next year.
The TOPCWFC 2016
- Linwood Barclay – Broken Promise
- Mark Billingham – Time of Death (audiobook)
- Peter James – A Twist of the Knife
- Sharon Bolton – Little Black Lies
- Mari Hannah – The Murder Wall
- Ysra Sigurdardottir – The Silence of the Sea
- Julia Crouch – The Long Fall
- Helen Fitzgerald – The Cry
- Paula Hawkins – Girl on a Train
- Clare Mackintosh – I let you go
- Alex Marwood – The Wicked Girls
- Simon Brett – The Hanging in the Hotel
- Frances Brody – A Death in the Dales
- Ann Granger – Dead In the Water (audio)
- Catriona McPherson – Quiet Neighbours
- Ruth Ware – In a Dark Dark Wood
- Elly Griffiths – The Crossing Places
- Brooke Magnanti – The Turning Tide
- Kate Medina – Fire Damage
- Val McDermid – Splinter the Silence
- Sophie Hannah – A Game for all the Family (audio)
- Simon Kernick – The Murder Exchange
- Laura Lippman – After I’m Gone
- Martyn Waites – The Dolls House (Yes technically its Tania Carver but its my rules!)
- Laura Wilson – The Wrong Girl
- Jeffrey Deaver – The Skin Collector
- Mark Lawson – The Deaths
- Gerald Seymour
- Martin Holmen – Clinch
- J S Law – Tenacity (audiobook)
- Beth Lewis
- Abir Mukherjee – A Rising Man
- NJ Cooper – Vengence in Mind
- Paul Mendleson – The serpentine road
- Deon Meyer – Devil’s Peak
- Margie Orford – Daddy’s Girl
- Michael Stanley –
- (Micheal Sears and Stanly Trollop one author above)
- Pierre Lemaitre – Blood Wedding
- Bernard Minier – The Frozen Dead
- SJ Parris –
- Martina Cole – The Life
- Tess Gerritsen – Last to Die
- Charles Cumming – A Divided Spy
- Frank Gardner (True Crime so not in the challenge)
- Kate Rhodes – River of Souls
- Gillian Slovo – Ten Days
- Neil Cross – Captured
Flying off to Turin on my own for a few days, meant I was keen to stock up my kindle before I went. In my quest to fulfill my TOPCWFC this included Ten Days by Gillian Slovo. I must confess that reading the description I’d seen originally this book didn’t really fill me with excitement. I’m not a huge fan of political thrillers (quite possibly because I don’t understand them!) However she is an author at the festival so I have to give it a go.
Well I couldn’t have been more wrong. This was an absolutely fantastic book. I literally read it in one train/plane journey.
The story starts with Cathy being woken by the noise of a police helicopter flying over the Lovelace Estate where she lives with her daughter Lyndall. Her on/off boyfriend Banji is about to leave without telling her. We then meet the other main characters, Peter Whitely the Home secretary with his eye on the role of PM, forced on by his pushy wife Frances. Finally there is the new police commissioner and friend of the PM, Joshua Yates.
The Lovelace is a housing estate that is on the brink of being pulled down, in an deprived inner city area. Cathy witnesses an incident between the local police and estate resident Reuben. The repercussions of this end up causing riots that soon spread across the country. It is these riots that form the background of a story that spans ten days and covers political infighting, racism, police corruption and all manner of relationships in-between, all intensified by the heatwave that is covering the country.
I really enjoyed this book. I felt that the characters were all well written, Cathy is obviously the main one that the book hinges around, the others come in and out with the strands all being evenly woven.
The novel is clearly based on the riots that started in London in 2011. However this is not meant to be a historical account of those events. Neither is it supposed to be an analysis of the riots, the reasons they happened, or lessons that should be learnt. It is a fictional story set around fictional riots. The descriptions of some of the incidents that happened are extremely vivid, and I especially liked the fact that you got the sense of how normally respectable people could get drawn into this kind of mob mentality.
There were a couple of characters that didn’t really sit right with me, mainly Banji. Without giving away any spoilers I wasn’t really sure about his actions at the end or why he’d do what he did. However that is a very minor criticism of what was a very good novel. It certainly made the hour delay in Grantham on my way to Stanstead and subsequent early morning flight go past quickly.
I was given a free copy of this via netgalley. The Girl in the Ice is the debut crime novel from Robert Bryndza. The story starts with a young man discovering a body in a frozen river. It turns out to be missing wealthy socialite Amanda. Erika is called upon to investigate the murder although she is still recovering from her last case that went terribly wrong. She is given a new team, but is hampered at every turn by family, as well as her own demons.
Whilst overall I did enjoy the novel, I have to confess to finding it a little disappointing. I thought the writing was ok. The descriptions gave a real sense of doom and gloom and you felt the despair and misery of a city in the grip of winter with a murderer at large. However although the story had potential I may have fallen foul of believing the hype too much. It was billed as a gripping serial killer thriller, so sounded right up my street. In reality I would say it was more of a police procedural. I do wonder perhaps if I had read the novel before reading any reviews would I have been expecting less and therefore wouldn’t have been so disappointed?
The idea of the girls trapped in ice sounded very chilling (excuse the intended pun!) yet for some reason it just didn’t seem to take off as it should have done. I personally thought the characters were all a little clichéd. The main character of Erika didn’t really garner the sympathy that she should have done, neither from me nor seemingly from her colleagues at the start of the story. My irritation at the silly mistakes she made combined with the well used character ploy of a rogue detective going on their gut instinct just annoyed me. I also felt that I’d missed something in terms of the building of relationships. One minute she was the outsider that no one liked, the next they were friends with her. I’m always keen to read a good female character but I felt this was a very one dimensional character that didn’t act in a very convincing way.
However saying all that, the story itself was quite interesting and had many twists and turns. The ending was not a surprise as most of the way along it was obvious it was one of two people, yet the final few chapters did perk the story up. Whilst I can’t say this was one of my most favourite reads, I would read more of Robert’s novels but hopefully next time Erika can have moved on a bit and truly be a strong female lead.