I bought this novel a while ago as Bella Mackie was due to appear at the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate. Unfortunately she was ill at the time, so it ended up at the bottom of my book pile until recently.
How to kill your family is the debut crime fiction novel from Bella. It introduces us to Grace. Grace is in prison for a murder she didn’t committee, however there is the matter of a few murders she did commit but just hasn’t been caught for. When Grace found out that her absentee father was rich and had refused to acknowledge her Mother she decided to make him pay by killing off members of his family.
How to kill your family was an at time hilarious, at times dark read, that I thoroughly enjoyed. The premise of the book was relatively simple – a wronged woman taking revenge, but there was much more to it than that. We find out about Grace’s real crimes through her diary which she starts in prison (lets skip the probably not sensible plan of admitting to things in writing whilst in prison!) and details all the whys and hows of her crimes.
The character of Grace was a bit of a mixed one for me, although there were bits of her I liked, there were also bits that just seemed a bit too needy for someone who had killed 6 people. Her observations on life and the people around her were exactly what so many of us think but don’t want to admit. It reminded me a little of American Psycho but with a more likeable protagonist. There was a lot of rambling about the state of the world and the varying groups that Grace didn’t like (think everyone but her!) but these observations were often funny and very sharp. They did occasionally make for some longish chapters but they added to the overall tone of the story.
I loved the way the story went backwards and forwards between the prison and the planning and execution of the killings. Each murder is planned to be a fitting end to the family members life so they are all different and take Grace from a frog conservation pond to Puerto Banus in order to realise her plan.
How to kill your family was a superb novel that I very much enjoyed and I look forward to reading more from Bella Mackie.
I am a big fan of Will Carver and so was delighted to be invited onto the blog tour for his latest novel Suicide Thursday.
In Suicide Thursday Eli has a job he wants to resign from, has a girlfriend he wants to break up with and has a novel he wants to write but can’t get past the first chapter. He also has a big problem in separating fact from fiction in his life. When his best friend kills himself, it motivates Eli to try and finally finish something himself, with the help of his therapist.
Suicide Thursday was another terrific read from an author that never ceases to amaze me. It’s difficult to describe the book as there is so much in it. There often feels to be a lot of elements that just don’t fit but that is part of the writing style that I really enjoy wondering where all the threads will end up, trying and failing to guess where everything is heading.
I love Will Carver’s novels but will admit that they are not always easy reads. It’s not only the fact they deal with big issues, but also the way of writing. The stories are character led and everything is told from the point of view of the characters meaning that every word is important. There are no long descriptions of places and cities, just the thoughts and feelings of the characters which gives a really unique feel to it.
Most of the story is told from the point of view of Eli. He has an inability to finish anything, hence his first chapter library where he stores over 700 first chapters of novels he has written, none of which he’s even written the words Chapter 2 on. Eli was an interesting if unlikeable character. He seems to spend a lot of his life blaming everyone else for his failure to finish anything. Yet there was still part of him that I felt sympathy for, as his life seems to spiral.
There are also interludes from other characters in the story, including girlfriend Jackie who was also friends with Eli’s best friend Mike, we meet the two Ted’s and also Eli’s work colleagues. The change of viewpoint is done rapidly backwards and forwards between Eli and the others which adds to the unnerving and disorientating atmosphere of the book.
Whilst the story is dark, there is an element of comedy running throughout that will in turn make you laugh out loud, and gasp in shock. I absolutely cannot recommend Suicide Thursday highly enough!
Find out what others thought of the book by visiting the other stops on the blog tour.
I am a big fan of Ian Rankin and was once lucky enough to join him for a whisky (ok so I was with all the other people who had bought tickets but I was in the same room as him!) so when I was asked to join the blog tour for his latest The Dark Remains of course I said yes.
The Dark Remains is actually a joint venture between Rankin and the late William McIlvanney. Rankin took the notes McIlvanney had written and turned them into a fully fledged story. This novel is a prequel to the original trilogy and introduces us to a young DC Laidlaw, who has a great policing sense but isn’t always very good at following orders. When Bobby Carter, a lawyer who works for some dubious but powerful families, is found dead, Laidlaw has to find out what happened before the gang rivalry becomes all out war.
I enjoyed this story alot. I’ve read the McIlvanney books and I’ve read Rankin so was interested to see how this mix would work. For me it takes the best of both and mixes it into an immensely enjoyable read. There is the humour of an Ian Rankin Rebus story overlaid with the grit of the Laidlaw background. The story is set in a Glasgow of the 70’s and I felt that this was portrayed well. The quality of the writing shows in that you are instantly transported to the city at that time and don’t need to be constantly reminded in words. It was enjoyable to read a detective story set in a time before mobile phones, and modern day forensics.
The story itself is what you would expect of a Rebus book, lots of gangsters and Glasgow slang but with characters that are also full of warmth and personality. It was interesting to find out about Laidlaw’s family and I enjoyed this glimpse into how the man became who he was.
The one thing I would say is read this with an open mind. It isn’t an Ian Rankin, and it isn’t a William McIlvanney, what it is, is a very good story!
Find out what others thought by visiting the other stops on the tour:
One of the few good things about flying (apart from getting to the destination of course) is the hours of uninterrupted reading it provides, so I always make sure I take a book I think I’m going to love with me. Therefore when The Daves Next Door landed on my doormat I knew it would be the perfect book for my weekend away.
The Daves Next Door tells the story of a hotpotch of characters. There is the uncaring nurse, the old man being cared for by angels, a sportsman with a life changing injury and two men called Dave with an identical brain tumour. All with separate lives potentially destined to collide, or so the narrator tells us, but can we believe a potential suicide bomber or is he in fact God?
There are some books that once you read them you continue to think about for days afterwards, and this was one of those books. It is hard to really describe the story as it doesn’t fit into any standard category. There is crime but there is so much more. Its a study of character as well as a comment on everyday life.
I really don’t want to give anything away with this, so it’s going to be tricky to review. However I want to say enough that you will go and buy a copy. I personally think that Will Carver is one of the most original and outstanding novelists currently going. In The Daves Next Door he provides us with a cast of characters where nothing is what it seems, yet everything is just as it seems.
The story is written with short sharp chapters that absolutely zip along. There is a narrator that is not just unreliable but is almost ghost like as he watches the others on the train, and gives us insight to the world. The chapters from him are the ones that really stick in your mind. A series of questions within the narrative almost slip by as you read them, then suddenly it makes you think ‘Has anybody ever drawn a perfect circle, freehand?’ ‘Would you eat less lamb if it was labelled ‘baby sheep’?’ Within the questions is a commentary from the narrator on the tube which is frankly chilling.
I’ll confess that it took me a little while to get into this, the short chapters mean you flit from one to another quickly and it takes a while to get all the ducks in a row in your head, but it’s absolutely worth it. I loved the sense of unknown that came through when you read it. The characters are all vividly written and how they come together at the end is fitting.
I’ve read alot of Will Carver’s previous books, Psychopaths Anonymous and Nothing Important Happened Today are two of the best novels I’ve ever read and The Daves Next Door is no exception. A highly original read that will stay with you long after you finish it.
Find out what others thought of The Daves Next Door by visiting the other stop on the blog tour: