Tag Archives: debut novel

The Wreckage by Robin Morgan-Bentley – a review

At this year’s festival I was lucky enough to meet debut author Robin Morgan-Bentley who was promoting his novel The Wreckage which I have recently read.

wreckageThe Wreckage begins with Ben, a teacher who is on his way to work as normal. However this day Adam, in a last despairing act, jumps in front of Ben’s car succeeding in killing himself. In the aftermath Ben struggles to come to terms with what has happened, and to try and assuage his guilt he starts to develop a friendship with Alice, Adam’s widow, and her young son Max. However is this what Alice wants, and how will either of them manage to move on?

This was a fabulous book that seemed very accomplished for a debut novelist. I wouldn’t personally class this as a thriller in the traditional sense of a ‘grab you by the seat of your pants and hang on’ type of story, however it was absolutely gripping. From the dramatic start to the story that absolutely hooks you in, things slow down a little as both Alice and Ben come to terms with what has happened. The tension then starts to build back up as the relationship begins to grow and we find out more about the characters.

The story is told from the veiwpoints of both Alice and Ben. This is a really clever trick that means you see the same moment but from a different interpretation which adds to the tension in the novel. I found both characters equally likeable and annoying at times. Whilst clearly you have sympathy for them both having been through a horrific experience. You also want them to take a look at their actions and think of the consequences.

It’s tricky to say too much about the plot without giving away the twists but the story takes a darker turn towards the end and there are things I did not see coming. When I met Robin Morgan-Bentley I got his autograph and he asked me who my favourite author. I definitely enjoyed this novel as much as a Patricia Cornwall one!

You can buy your own copy of The Wreckage at Amazon.

 

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The Mother’s by Sarah J Naughton – a review

I find Christmas an odd break. I had two weeks off work, so therefore you’d think I’d have loads of time, yet it always disappears in a flash of seeing people, drinking and the constant round of ‘how was Christmas, what are you doing for new year’. Therefore although I’ve managed to fit in a bit of reading my reviewing has really gone done the pan. Despite being someone who refuses to make New Year’s resolutions, if I was going to make one it would be to review more in 2020. So I am kicking off 2020 with a great novel, The Mother’s by Sarah J Naughton.

The MothersI have had this on my TBR pile for ages, however to be honest the idea of four mothers in a novel put me off picking it up. I assumed it would be a lot of women moaning on about children and motherhood and how tired they are etc. However I couldn’t have been more wrong. This was a story of four women who had met because they were pregnant at the same time, and became friends. Skip to four years later and the friendship is still growing strong, until one of the husbands goes missing. The police are stumped as to where he has gone, and talking to the friends throws up more questions than answers. Are they really such good friends? Would they keep each others secrets?

I read this quickly in a couple of sittings as I found it really drew me in. The characters were an odd bunch of people. You knew that on paper they didn’t work as friends, but then you also know in real life often the most unlikely people form strong bonds for a ariety of reasons. I enjoyed the style of writing that seamlessly switched between then and now as the secrets were gradually unfolded.

I enjoyed all the characters, although I wasn’t too keen on the detective Iona. She didn’t seem very well rounded to me, and spent more time worrying about her love life than actually focusing on the crime. However that is only a minor criticism and actually the police investigation is a very small part of this story. They mystery unravels through the viewpoints of the women, and I found myself frequently changing my mind as to what was happening.

This was a very accomplished debut novel that I would very much recommend. The Mother’s is available on amazon

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My Sister by Michelle Adams – a review

I was given a free copy of this at the festival last year, and it has only just reached the top of my rather teetering ‘to be read’ pile.

My Sister is the debut novel by Michelle Adams. It tells the story of Irini who was given away by her parents at the age of three. They chose to keep her sister Elle rather than her,  a decision which she has never understood. Over the years Irini has had sporadic contact with her sister, but every time it has ended badly with her sister seemingly always getting her trouble. Now a grown up living with her boyfriend, Irini hasn’t had any contact with her family for years. However when she finds out that her mother has died she heads back to the family home for the funeral. It becomes clear that there are secrets around every corner and Irini becomes determined to find out the truth about why she was given away.

This was a good read, and I enjoyed it. The story was interesting and the intrigue behind why parent’s would chose one sister over the other kept the pages turning. Yet there was just something that didn’t really work for me. I have read quite a few books around Sisters over the past, being one of a pair of sisters myself this premise always intrigues me. Yet these two just left me a bit cold. Don’t get me wrong, the story itself was a good drama. The writing had a nice easy flow about it, and it was a fast read. Yet for me, I just felt that there were a few too many incidents that were a little implausible. I also thought personally that the ending was rather abrupt and slightly out of left field. Although on the other hand it may have been that I missed some of the hints as I did get a little bored in the middle and maybe didn’t concentrate as I should.

What I did like was the sense that this was a novel that could have been set in any era. Ignoring the obvious mobile phone references, it had quite an eerie feel to the story which was quite unusual. Most of the action takes place in a big Gothic style old house with dusty unused rooms. The house is in a village full of local people who love a gossip but won’t interact with strangers. Overall the story itself was good, and I wanted to find out the truth as much as Irini but it unfortunately just didn’t blow me away. However it is a debut novel and I would certainly look out for Michelle Adams’ next one.

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Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land – a review

imagesI was given a copy of this via netgalley.

Good Me, Bad Me centres around a young girl called Milly. She has recently moved in with a foster family and has been given a new identity. This is because she is awaiting the trial of her Mother, a serial killer. Milly is looking forward to being able to put what has happened behind her, and start a new life. Only her foster parents and the head teacher at her school know who she really is. However her foster sister Phoebe isn’t quite so keen on having yet another foster child staying with them, and soon starts to cause trouble. Milly also begins to realise that it isn’t always that easy to stay hidden, especially if people don’t want you to.

The publishers blurb for this book states that Good Me, Bad Me is ‘set to be one of the most extraordinary, controversial and explosive debuts of 2017’. Normally I think you should take this kind of sellers advert with a pinch of salt. However this time I completely agree, this was a superb book that I read pretty much in one sitting on the train to Birmingham.

The story is completely gripping. Milly has had a truly horrific childhood, with a single mother who was clearly deranged. She then had the hardest decision to make that any child could, to give her mother up to the police, or let her continue her murderous ways. Her Mother may have been a serial killer but Milly still loved her.

This is a story that will keep you thinking about it for days afterwards. The writing in it is seamless and the pace keeps you turning the pages (or clicking the button in the case of a kindle) There are parts where you feel that you are actually inside Milly’s head which is not a particularly nice place to be. Despite the sympathy you feel for her and her life there is something about Milly that makes the reader a bit uneasy. As the story unfolds you get drawn deeper into the family and realise that secrets are clearly everywhere. One of the bits I enjoyed most was the way the novel Lord of the Flies was referenced. I remember reading this at school although unlike the children at Milly’s new school I didn’t take it as an instructional manual for how to behave. The mob mentality is clearly evident throughout the novel and you realise just how cruel children can be,

This was an excellent and very disturbing book that will stay with you long after you finish it. I would thoroughly recommend Good Me, Bad Me and think it is definitely going to be in the running for debut novel of the year before the year has even begun.

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Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard – a review

I was sent a copy of Distress Signals from the publisher. This is Catherine’s first novel, and a fantastic debut it is.

Adam’s girlfriend Sarah has supposedly been on a business trip to Barcelona, but doesn’t return to their home in Ireland. He starts to panic especially when the police are not particularly helpful. Days later he receives her passport in the post with a note on in saying ‘I’m sorry-S’. As he tries to find her he connects her to a cruise ship called the Celebrate. He then finds out that a woman named Estelle disappeared previously in similar circumstances, and she is not necessarily the first to go missing from the ship.

This was a great novel that I absolutely sped through. The disappearance of Sarah is intriguing, and throughout the story there are twists and turns that keep you guessing.

Within Distress Signal you get to hear from three different main characters all with their own stories. The character of Corinne who works on the cruise ship is clearly hiding something, and you wonder why someone of her age and health is still working. There is the young Romain who lives in Paris. Then there is Adam who is the main narrator. It’s not until the end of the novel that the stories all intertwine.

The characters are all well written. Adam is likeable and on the whole I felt sorry for him. However you can’t help but think he brings some of it on himself. He is a struggling writer, but is definitely more struggling than writing. His girlfriend has supported him for years seemingly without getting any support herself. It was interesting to follow him as it slowly dawns on him that his life wasn’t necessary as perfect as he thought it was. The writing was good and I can honestly say I now know more about maritime law than I ever realised I would do.

I would thoroughly recommend this novel, although if you are setting off on a cruise any time soon I would maybe leave Distress Signals until you come back. An excellent debut and I look forward to reading more from Catherine.

 

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The Ripper Gene by Michael Ransom – a review

I was lucky enough to be contacted by the publisher and offered a free copy of The Ripper Gene by Michael Ransom. It was not just an ebook freebie either, this was a proper hard backed freebie sent all the way from America. Obviously despite the huge excitement that a free hardback book brings, the proof is in the writing, and I’m pleased to say it didn’t disappoint. As people may know I’m a huge fan of Criminal Minds and have watched all nine series at least twice (series one I’ve probably seen three or four times) so a novel set within the world of criminal profiling was always going to be a winner with me.
The main protagonist is Dr Lucas Madden. The story starts with Madden as a child witnessing a traumatic family event and being powerless to stop it. Back to the present day and Madden is now a famous neuroscientist-turned-FBI-profiler who has discovered a gene that was common in the brains of psychopaths, nicknamed the Ripper Gene. He has gone one step further now and proposed the ‘damnation algorithm’ that could predict the way future serial killers may behave.  He is called into a case when a woman is found murdered with a letter on her forehead and an apple next to her. So begins the case the of the Snow White Killer.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and once I started it I struggled to stop reading (sadly work gets in the way of being a full time reader – if only full time reader was an actual paid job!) Clearly the book is written by a scientist and there is a good balance between technical science stuff and murder mystery thriller which really appealed to me. The novel opens with a scene that I really thought was chilling, and this continued through what was a fast paced book. I thought the main characters were both endearing, and there was a good mix of back story whilst still concentrating on the Snow White Killer.
There were some bits that didn’t really ring true, such as why Madden was estranged from his family. To me it just didn’t seem to have been much of a valid reason for Madden to be the one pushed out, however we all know families are funny things. There were also some bits that were very standard for a crime thriller, the rugged handsome detective (FBI Profiler) who is single and lonely, having a relationship with his pretty female companion. Yet these are really minor criticisms, as overall I thought it was a great story.
This is Michael Ransom’s debut novel and I hope there will be plenty more.

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Addicted to death by Matthew Redford – a review

I was sent a copy of Addicted to Death to review a while ago so it’s been sat on my kindle unread. On a train recently I’d just finished a book and this was at the top of the unread books list so I clicked on it without really remembering what it was about. I had a vague recollection it was about a food related crime.
The book starts as any good crime book does with a murder. The savage beating of two eggs – yes, you read that right. Two eggs. The story tells of a world where Homo-sapiens live side by side with Food-sapiens. These are food items created by GM processes that now walk and talk. Think the Garden Gang meets adult story time.
DI Wortel (a carrot) is in charge of investigating the murder, which he has to do alongside other food related crimes including death threats that have been received by celebrity chefs, and the murder of Professor Perry Partridge (a pear) He is assisted by new recruits Oranges and Lemons (who are obsessed with owing someone five farthings)
If I’m honest had I realised this book included talking fruit and vegetables I would probably have given it a miss. However I’m very glad I didn’t, this was bizarre but excellent. I can honestly say that some bits were hilarious. There was one paragraph involving a rabbit, a bunch of grapes and some origami that actually made me laugh out loud (thereby ensuring the empty train seat next to me remained that way for the rest of the journey)
The story itself was good and kept you interested. The ending was certainly a surprise that I didn’t see coming. Yet the real appeal of this book was the humour. Surely you have to love a story that includes references to TV duo Ant and Duck (one a man, one a duck who always stands on the right so people don’t get confused) and celebrity footballer Wayne Rooster who plays for Breadenham Hotspuds.
It was a testament to the writing of the fruit and veg characters (there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write on a crime blog!) that you almost forget they are not people. As much as it’s possible to care about a cookie you really start to worry about them. The different personalities of the chefs in the story worked well. Clearly based on real life TV celebrities their portrayal is very funny and give an additional element of humour to the whole novel.
I thoroughly enjoyed this story and haven’t laughed so much at a book for ages. I think this was Matthew Redford’s debut novel and I hope it leads to more. If you fancy a light hearted crime ‘caper’ and were a Garden Gang fan as a child then this is definitely for you.

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