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River of Souls by Kate Rhodes – a review

This is apparently Kate Rhodes’ 4th novel to feature psychologist Alice, however its the first one I’ve read. She is appearing at the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in a session on the Sunday called ‘Political corruption’

River of Souls is set in London along the banks of the river Thames. Jude Shelley is the daughter of a government minister. She was found in the river having been brutally attacked and missing half her face. She has survived in hospital for nearly a year when Alice is asked to reinvestigate the case. As she does other bodies start turning up and Alice soon realises that someone has a dangerous fascination with the river and with Jude.

This was a book that hooked me right from the beginning. It was a really good balance between the crimes and investigation, a bit of history of the Thames and also a bit of the background life of Alice. Often with crime novels I can be impatient to skip over details of family life and get on with the murders but in this case I thought the back story of Alice’s mother, brother and best friend was interesting. It gave a good insight into the pressures that Alice was under and why she made some of the decisions she did. The characters also provided a nice contrast to the darker side of the book.

The writing was good and I enjoyed the style of it. There were some chapters from the killer’s point of view which I always like. They also served to throw me off the real perpetrator – I spent the whole book convinced it was one person only to be completely wrong. The descriptions were vivid and the scenes between Alice and Jude in the hospital really stood out. If I was to have any slight negatives it is that the novel did seem a little dragged out at the end and there were a few elements where it seemed to be a little repetitive. However on the whole I thoroughly enjoyed River of Souls and will definitely be reading the series from the beginning. I’m looking forward to hearing her talk alongside Gillian Slovo and Mark Lawson among others.

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Ten Days by Gillian Slovo – a review

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.

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