Back in the dim and distant time that was 2012 when I was but a much younger thing I set myself my first ever Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival Challenge (TOPCWFC). In case you don’t know this was for me to read a book by every author at the festival that year.
Well it quickly became apparent that that was rather an impossible feat, and I narrowed it down to reading something from at least one author from each session was much more manageable. Well its now 2016, I’ve just turned 40, and so it is fifth time lucky for the TOPCWFC.
This time I’m feeling pretty hopeful. As you’ll know I wrote a list of 40 things I’m going to do this year, it could be called 40 steps to making this year ‘The Year of Me’ (Spot The Middle reference there) Completing the TOPCWFC is one of those. The programme has been released and as always it looks like a fantastic weekend. There are some of my favourite authors returning including the excellent Peter James, Tess Gerritsen and Martina Cole. Val McDermid is doing a double hitter this year being in conversation on Friday night and of course doing my favourite New Blood panel. There is also what is sure to be one of my top ranked panel discussions ‘Domestic suspense – the killer behind the front door’ featuring five of my favourite female authors including Julia Crouch and Paula Hawkins.
As well as those who I’ve seen before there are some new faces to the festival although not new to crime fiction such as Jeffery Deaver the writer of the Lincoln Rhyme thrillers most of which I’ve already read. Then there are others such as Gerald Seymour who is a new name to me although he has actually just written his 32nd book.
This year if my maths is correct there are 48 authors appearing alongside comedians, playwrights, forensic podiatrists, and radio producers. Of these I’ve read 26 already, so only 22 to go. That shouldn’t be too hard to do surely? Thanks to netgalley I’ve already made a start on A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee and I recently purchased a novel by Ysra Sigurdardottir so fingers crossed I’m well on the way to completion for the first time ever! (There is nothing wrong with a bit of optimism)
I downloaded this book ready for the holiday and as a big fan of Martina Cole I decided it would be a good way to pass the 13 hour return flight.
As with most of her books, the story is based around a women in the East End. It starts with her as a young girl, before we follow her through her adult years. The main character is Sue Dalston, abused by her father as a child she then marries a man who turns out to be just as much of a bully as her father was. Circumstances lead to Sue ending up in prison. It is here she meets Matty who is probably the second women of the title, although I think the description of their lives being ‘inextricably linked’ is slightly misleading as they were only together for a small part of the book.
With Martina Cole books you know what to expect. They are graphic and violent. They depict an East End in the 70s and 80s that is flooded with wannabe gangsters, drugs, violence and desperation. Its not a cheery place, and the people in it are not particularly happy. These are certainly not books for the kind of people who like to pretend that life is all fluffy and pink. However her books still manage to have a sense of humour and to have the odd light moment amongst the horror.
Unfortunately with this book I began to get a bit bored half way through, I guessed the twist at the end and felt it must just be because it was the same as all the others. I finished it because I enjoyed it and wanted to know what would happen at the end, but I did feel a little disappointed as it felt very much that I’d read it before.
However, as I’ve mentioned before in my blog I have a shocking memory. Indeed this blog was a spin off from my starting to keep a notebook of all the books I’d read so I remembered what they were. Well as a reader not a writer, I suspect I’m not conjuring up an unexpected twist here am I? No, you guessed it. Whilst perusing my bookshelfs when doing the ironing I realised that a papercopy of this same book was actually in front of me!
That did cheer me up no end though, as at least it wasn’t that Martina Cole was losing her touch, just me and my memory. I think it was Billy Connolly (in the book his wife wrote) that said the great thing about having such a bad memory is that you only actually need one book, which you can keep rereading. Luckily I have a notebook and a pen to stop me doing this too often!