Tag Archives: mark lawson

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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Deal breaker

This weekend I spent a lovely Saturday afternoon catching up with two very good friends over a couple of bottles of wine. It was, as always, lovely to see them and we had a nice afternoon looking at their wedding pictures and catching up on all the gossip (well two of us did, one half of our friendly foursome were mainly interested in the football for the first couple of hours)

Over dinner as is often the case the subject of books was discussed. The M’s have always been a big supporter of my blog and it’s always nice to hear that someone other than the Mother actually reads it. One thing that came up was a request for book recommendations before Mrs and Mrs M set off on their honeymoon.  Apparently Mrs M had picked up a copy of Girl on a Train based on my enjoying it, and so she fancied some similar reading matter.

You’d think that this would be a simple thing for me to do. I love books, I love reading books, I love reviewing books and I love talking about books. However offering recommendations absolutely terrifies me. It’s a challenge utterly fraught with problems that can be a real deal breaker. What if I recommend a book and they don’t like it? It could ruin their honeymoon. What if I recommend a favourite of mine and they think it’s terrible? It could ruin a friendship. What if I recommend a book and they are really bored by it? It could ruin my blogging reputation (ok that’s a bit of a long stretch)

However I’ve decided to bite the bullet and offer my holiday reading recommendations based on the caveats put on them by Mrs M. Namely they should be as gripping as Girl on a Train and good enough to keep her interest despite the very easy distractions of beaches, sunshine and cocktails. So here goes. My top 5 reads good enough to take on honeymoon:

Disclaimer by Renee Knight – a review

Great story, interesting angles and perfect holiday reading matter.

The Liar’s Chair by Rebecca Whitney – a review

Slightly more disturbing than Disclaimer but a gripping tale with unreliable narrators giving it a claustrophobic feel perfect for open air beach reading.

The Deaths by Mark Lawson – a review

A tale of suburban family life that’s a great antidote to the excesses of an all inclusive buffet restaurant.

Rush of Blood by Mark Billingham – a review

Not only one of my favourite authors but also a great standalone novel with a holiday front cover.

The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer – a review

A great story and she’ll also hopefully be appearing here in December to answer some questions, (so clearly a bit of self-promotion but it’s still a great book honestly!)

So that’s the end of it, my top 5 holiday reads. Fingers crossed they go down well, and there are more afternoons of wine and chat in the new year!

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The Deaths by Mark Lawson – a review

I have to confess that although Mark Lawson has made regular appearances at the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Festival over the past few years, I wasn’t aware that he was a novelist in his own right until I saw the advert for The Deaths.

The Deaths opens with the discovery of a dead family. We then flit back in time and are introduced to four families living in a small village. The Eight as they are known, are firm friends and outwardly they seem to have perfect rich lives. The families are all busy trying to be the top dog of the group, the women shop in waitrose (although obviously the supermarket is not named) and the husbands all travel to their jobs via first class trains into the ‘big city’. Conversations are usually about the latest car they’ve bought or how much they earn or what the latest posh coffee delivery has been. However behind the scenes things are not what they seem.

I thought this book was excellent. The story itself is the lead up to the murder of the unidentified family, and I spent the whole read thinking it could be any of them. The characters are all equally irritating and fascinating in equal measure. They spend their time trying to keep up appearances yet behind the scenes the money is running out and credit card bills are getting bigger. The main characters in this book are all pretty stereotypical and based on the assumption that all wealthy people are unpleasant. Yet that shouldn’t put you off as predominately this is a hugely clever observation on life. There are lots of references to culture within the 1990’s and the yuppy attitude that was prevalent.

The crime is almost a minor player in this novel, the focus is on the social situation that the families are in. I enjoyed the story but also the writing. It is almost an observational comedy with an edge that appeals to me and reminded me of authors such as early Ben Elton and a recently discovered Christopher Buckley. This was an excellent novel that I’d definitely recommend to anyone who likes a sarcastic edge to a novel.

 

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Crime Writers: A decade of crime

Well it’s all over for another year. The weekend before last the sun was shining, the deck chairs were out and the pimms was ready on ice as Harrogate got taken over by 100s of people all with one thing in common, an obsession with crime fiction.

The Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Festival really is the highlight of the year for anyone with an interest in crime fiction. This year to celebrate the festivals tenth anniversary they had gone full out for the festival theme, there was a bookshop in a tent (or yurt if you listened to Mark Lawson) lots of outdoor chairs and of course plenty of drink. The weekend began with the award of the Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year which for the second year running went to Denise Mina. I think we may be her lucky charm.

The days go in a blur of talks and queuing (beware there is a lot of queuing for sessions and signings, all worth it though) and chatting about crime fiction.

To me and the sister one of the highlights of the conference is always the New Blood Panel and this year was no exception. Anya Lipska shared the stage with Malcolm Mackay, Collette McBeth and Derek Miller and it was interesting to hear them discuss with Val their new books and of course get a sneak preview of what to expect next.

One of the things I like about this festival is the wide range of topics (within crime of course) and one of the most fascinating was Val McDermid in conversation with Prof Sue Black. There were certainly some memorable moments, and were I not already a vegetarian I doubt I’d ever eat tuna fish again.

Despite the heat and the sunshine outside, the sessions were all packed, and none more so than ‘Vera’ where alongside Ann Cleeves we were treated to a reading of her latest novel by Vera herself the lovely Brenda Blethyn.

The evenings in the bar are just as much fun as the sessions during the day, and being able to just mingle with the authors to us is like getting to go back stage at a Bon Jovi concert (insert most favourite band here) Where else would you sit down with a glass of wine and be next to Baroness Ruth Rendall, Jeanette Winterson and Val McDermid?

The dinner was a last minute addition to our booking as neither of us are James Bond fans. Yet this turned out to be a great decision as we got to join a table with Julia Crouch who was an excellent host. Despite not guessing the murderer we were with a lovely group of people and to top it off we got a copy of Julia Crouch’s new book.

After a quick listen to Lee Child talking to Sarah Millican (and of course being asked about Tom Cruise) it was straight into the quiz. This is always a great way to spend an evening, and is a perfect example of how friendly everyone is. Someone will always come and join you to make up a team. Sadly we didn’t do as well as last year although were by no means last which I always say is all you can ask for.

Charlaine Harris was the final talk of the event and the queue for her book signing broke all records. Luckily she obviously didn’t finish too late and we spotted her heading upstairs in Betty’s for afternoon tea before we left.

The whole weekend was once again a fantastic experience and coming home and making Mr F look at every single book, signature, photo and freebie I got is just part of the fun (for me not him)

Roll on TOPCWF2014.

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