Tag Archives: elizabeth haynes

Burnt Paper Sky by Gilly MacMillan – a review

I was given a copy of this book via netgalley.

Burnt Paper Sky is Gilly MacMillan’s debut novel. Rachel’s son goes missing during a walk through a wood. Recently divorced Rachel soon starts to blame herself for focusing more on her ex-husband than on her Son. DI Jim Clamo is called into investigate and the finger soon starts to point at Rachel.

I’m in two minds about this book. There is no doubt it is an excellent story and it kept me hooked throughout. The first half was really good. You can feel the anguish that Rachel is going through, yet still you are not 100 percent certain that she hasn’t been involved somehow.

I enjoyed the way the book was written. The focus is as much on the characters as it is on the mystery of the missing child, with the two main characters telling the story from their differing viewpoints. Rachel is telling her story one year on from her son disappearing, to an unseen audience. Jim is writing a report for the counsellor he was forced to see after the case ended. The story is then interspersed with a mix of police reports, emails, and website pages. This was reminiscent of the most recent Elizabeth Haynes book I’ve read and personally I like the style. You get to feel like you are actually taking part in the investigation. Each chapter started with quotes from missing person reports or text books which helped put everything into context.

I felt the writing of the main characters was very good and their reactions were believable. The way that Rachel acts during the press briefing which leads the public to turn on her makes you want to be both sympathetic to her and angry with her stupidity in equal measure.

My only slight criticism with the story was that there seemed to be almost too many threads thrown in. It’s difficult to explain without giving away any more of the story, but there was a lot of dead bodies thrown into peoples pasts. This seemed to give the impression that the ending was a bit abrupt with a rather tentative motive, but don’t let that put you off as I thoroughly enjoyed the majority of this.

This was a very good debut novel and I look forward to reading more from Gilly MacMillan

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Under a silent moon by Elizabeth Haynes – a review

As readers of this blog will know I’m a huge fan of Elizabeth Haynes having originally met her in the toilets at the festival a few years ago. At that stage she was in the New Blood panel. This is now her fourth novel, and according to the internet is the start of a new detective series.
In Under a Silent Moon the story starts with two women being found dead the same night in the same village. Barbara has apparently killed herself by driving her car over a cliff. Polly has been murdered whilst home alone. Detective Lou Smith is charged with finding out who killed her and she soon starts to uncover the secret side not only of Polly but those around her including her best friend Flora. As the investigation continues it becomes clear that the two victims might be linked.
I really enjoyed this book. The story is set over a week with each chapter spanning a day. The novel is interspersed with police reports and emails which gave a really good impression of the actual investigation. It also meant that you felt like you were given all the information to solve the crime. I guessed quite early on who the murderer would likely be but that didn’t ruin my enjoyment at all as I still wanted to know the how and why. I liked the fact that the investigation was laid out clearly and it was easy to follow. It almost reminded me of some books I remember having as a child where you basically got to make decisions which changed the ending of the book. You actually felt that you were investigating the crime.
Whilst I thought the story and writing were excellent, I wasn’t overly enamoured with either the main Detective Lou Smith or any of the other police team except analyst Jason. Lou just seemed a bit weak to me, she’d had an affair with Andy until she found out he was married with children. Surely you’d know that one of your colleagues had children? She then jumped straight into a relationship with Jason, which seemed a little unprofessional. Although in my head he was a bit of a Brad Pitt lookalike so maybe that was understandable. I think reading a new detective is always difficult as you don’t have any background of them, so I hope that like many other fictional detectives Lou Smith will grow on me.
I think Under a Silent Moon is the start of what will become a very popular new series with an interesting take on the police procedural. It just goes to show that the New Blood panel is never wrong and I look forward to reading more.


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Human Remains by Elizabeth Haynes – a review

This was the first book I read on my recent trip to hospital and the third book I’ve read by the author who I met a couple of years ago at the crime festival.

Human Remains is a story told from the perspectives of two main characters. Firstly there is Annabel. She lives alone and has few friends, even her work colleagues see her as a bit of joke despite being good at her job as a police analyst. The other main character in the story is Colin. He works for the council and again is a very solitary person although this is more through choice than circumstance. He is highly intelligent and preys on the lonely and vulnerable. The story begins with Annabel going to look for her cat and finding the decomposing remains of her next door neighbour. This being so close to home makes her realise during the course of her work that there are alot of bodies found of people who seem to have simply starved to death. She starts to investigate further until her mother dies and she meets journalist Joe.

The story flicks between the view point of the two main characters and enables us to get a good understanding of their backgrounds. In addition interspersed throughout the novel are newspaper articles. These relate to dead bodies that have been found alongside chapters written in the dead people’s voices telling us what led them to do what they did.

I really enjoyed Human Remains (when not being distracted by nurses fussing around, or my neighbours watching day time tv) Whilst the story could not be described as fast paced I felt the relatively slow boil nature of it was perfect for giving the sense of loneliness and desperation that makes the characters within vulnerable to manipulation. The switching between the viewpoints works really well I think. It can often be a bit confusing when books are written like this but Annabel and Colin were portrayed clearly and gave a real insight into how their minds worked, this was especially true of Colin.

This is not a classic who-dunnit as it is obvious from the outset who is the perpetrator. However none of this made it any less of a page turner. The way the story unfolds makes you want to understand why the characters do what they do, and gives you a great feeling of the sadness lurking beneath their actions. I suspect that any single person in their mid thirties with knowledge of Bridget Jones and her alsatian fear will have some empathy with people in this novel.

Overall I would definitely recommend this book as a bit of winter reading, although half way through you may feel the need to stop and go and check on your neighbours if you haven’t seen them for a while!

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