As readers of this blog will know, one of my favourite things about the festival is the amount of new books you come away with. One of last year’s new discoveries was Nuala Ellwood’s novel My Sister’s Bones. I didn’t realise at the time that she was a York based writer, until I spotted that she was launching her novel at the local Waterstones. I was lucky enough to get a ticket to the event, which was a lovely evening. I always say the only thing better than books, is books with wine. I do think I came across as a bit of a stalker though. It wasn’t until I was in the queue to meet Nuala that I realised I had already had my proof copy signed in Harrogate. Well clearly once in a queue you can’t just leave if you change your mind, what would people think? Instead I got some very odd looks when I asked to get my already signed book signed again.
My Sister’s Bones focuses on two sisters Kate and Sally. Kate is a war reporter who lives in London and has just come back from reporting in Syria. She is clearly struggling to deal with all she has seen out there as well as grieving the death of her mother and dealing with a brother in law who is getting a little too close. Kate soon starts spiraling out of control and seeing ghosts around every corner. Sally on the other hand, didn’t manage to physically escape the town where the sisters had been brought up by their dysfunctional parents. Instead she escaped through alcohol, an addiction that became even harder to control when her daughter left. Seemingly the opposite of her high-flying sister she barely leaves the house. Eventually the two stories collide with quite shocking results.
This was a really gripping story that covers a range of issues including alcoholism, domestic abuse, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The story is written in two halves, first from Kate and then secondly from Sally. This gives us two different perspectives on the same events which I felt gave a really interesting angle to the book. The two characters voices felt very different to me which goes to show the skill of the writer in telling the same story from different women.
What also stood out for me, was that both the main characters were quite unlikeable, yet you cared what happened to them. The horrific things that Kate has seen are told sympathetically rather than sensationally which can be disturbing in places. Yet whilst you are led to have empathy for the characters, a lot of their behaviour is rather frustrating, which gives a great portrayal of how deeply experiences can affect how people act.
My Sister’s Bones was a thoroughly engaging and thought provoking debut novel, plus it was an interesting evening hearing Nuala talk. Definitely worth the potential restraining order coming my way.
If you are interested in hearing more from Nuala Ellwood she will be appearing at Betty’s Tea Shop as part of the York Literature Festival
A lot of book bloggers create a list of their top ten or twenty (or more) books of the year. I’d love to do the same but I have two problems with that:
1) I can’t remember all the books I’ve read and have to admit that due to time constraints I probably only review about half of what I read.
2) I would really struggle to narrow down all the books I loved to only five or ten and would get myself very worked up about what I was missing.
Therefore I’m going to do a slightly cheating version and instead pick my top lists that other bloggers have created.
First on my list is the excellent blogger Cleopatra loves books. Her top ten included a couple of my favourite books of this year including Val McDermid’s Out of Bounds which I had as an audio book and as with all her books it completely drew me in. Cleo’s list also includes the Swimming Pool by Louise Candlish which I have heard nothing but good reviews of and is high on my list of books I want to read.
A blogger who always astounds me with how much reading and reviewing she manages to fit in is Linda’s book bag. Her top books of 2016 include the excellent Valentina by S.E Lynes which I thoroughly enjoyed and would recommend. Valentina also makes an appearance on DampPebbles book blog alongside Black Eyed Susans which was another cracking read this year
Of course it wouldn’t be a post of other people’s top books of 2016 without mention of one of my favourite and most prolific bloggers Raven Crime Reads. Whilst we disagree on Gone Girl, as I know she wasn’t keen and I really enjoyed it. We complete agree about Pierre Lemaitre’s Blood Wedding which was a fantastic novel. It was the first of his I read and I was lucky enough to meet him at last year’s festival.
Finally the blogger with the list that most closely resembles those I’ve read is Tracey’s book blog. Her top ten includes 6 that I have read and really enjoyed.
Obviously this is by no means an exhaustive list of bloggers I follow, there are way too many to mention but these are some of my favourites. One of the great things about being part of a book blogging community is the sheer volume of blogs out their relating to crime fiction (and any other type of hobby you might have) Of course the biggest problem I find with looking at all these blogs is that they mainly just end up adding to my own tbr pile. As always it is a case of too many books and never enough time. However it would be a very sad state of affairs if I ever ran out of books to read, luckily I’ve got lots of book bloggers top ten lists to keep me going for a while.
So with one week and two days left to go until the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival I thought I’d have a bit of a check where I am with the TOPCWFC 2016. I had high hopes this year. Looking through the list there were a lot of authors that I’ve seen before and therefore there was a high chance that I had read something of theirs already. However it does look like sadly I may have taken on more than I can chew yet again. This challenge is beginning to be my nemesis.
On the positive side, I’ve realised I’d counted wrong in my initial plan. I had counted two authors separately although they write as a team, and I’ve also excluded one author on the grounds he only writes true crime and this is a fiction challenge (my challenge my rules!) However with only nine days before the festival I still have 4 authors to go. Now admittedly as I write this I’m about to finish an audio book of one, and I’m halfway through another in hard copy, yet I still suspect it’s going to be a case of so near yet so far.
Out of interest though I’ve listed all those books I have read below. Obviously with some authors I’ve read most of their novels and so I’ve just listed the most recent one. It was actually quite an interesting exercise going through the authors and seeing what I’d read. Although it has made me realise how many new books there are out there that I really want to read. If only I could find a job that would pay me to read books all day, fingers crossed for next year.
The TOPCWFC 2016
- Linwood Barclay – Broken Promise
- Mark Billingham – Time of Death (audiobook)
- Peter James – A Twist of the Knife
- Sharon Bolton – Little Black Lies
- Mari Hannah – The Murder Wall
- Ysra Sigurdardottir – The Silence of the Sea
- Julia Crouch – The Long Fall
- Helen Fitzgerald – The Cry
- Paula Hawkins – Girl on a Train
- Clare Mackintosh – I let you go
- Alex Marwood – The Wicked Girls
- Simon Brett – The Hanging in the Hotel
- Frances Brody – A Death in the Dales
- Ann Granger – Dead In the Water (audio)
- Catriona McPherson – Quiet Neighbours
- Ruth Ware – In a Dark Dark Wood
- Elly Griffiths – The Crossing Places
- Brooke Magnanti – The Turning Tide
- Kate Medina – Fire Damage
- Val McDermid – Splinter the Silence
- Sophie Hannah – A Game for all the Family (audio)
- Simon Kernick – The Murder Exchange
- Laura Lippman – After I’m Gone
- Martyn Waites – The Dolls House (Yes technically its Tania Carver but its my rules!)
- Laura Wilson – The Wrong Girl
- Jeffrey Deaver – The Skin Collector
- Mark Lawson – The Deaths
- Gerald Seymour
- Martin Holmen – Clinch
- J S Law – Tenacity (audiobook)
- Beth Lewis
- Abir Mukherjee – A Rising Man
- NJ Cooper – Vengence in Mind
- Paul Mendleson – The serpentine road
- Deon Meyer – Devil’s Peak
- Margie Orford – Daddy’s Girl
- Michael Stanley –
- (Micheal Sears and Stanly Trollop one author above)
- Pierre Lemaitre – Blood Wedding
- Bernard Minier – The Frozen Dead
- SJ Parris –
- Martina Cole – The Life
- Tess Gerritsen – Last to Die
- Charles Cumming – A Divided Spy
- Frank Gardner (True Crime so not in the challenge)
- Kate Rhodes – River of Souls
- Gillian Slovo – Ten Days
- Neil Cross – Captured
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.