Friday, 27 October 2017

The Last Deception by DV Berkom

I’ve read a number of good books since my last encounter with ex assassin Leine Basso, and with each (most of them by new-to-me authors), I had to hope they’d all be worth my time investment. I never have to 'hope' with a Basso adventure. You all know the sort of book: one that comes with an unwritten guarantee of excellence.

Berkom alternates books between two strong and bolshy female protagonists: Kate Jones and Leine Basso, whose turn it is in this, the sixth of her adventures. No less strong, no less bolshy, no less kick-arse, no less no-nonsense. Determined, sassy, independent and cunning. This time, she’s wading through the dark and murky waters of espionage and deception that casts a very heavy shadow over the relationship between two super-powers.

What do I say that I haven’t said before? I could dive into Mr Roget’s best seller to try and find some alternative words for 'captivating, page-turner, thrilling', but I’ll keep it simple: it’s another bloody good book by a bloody good author.

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Monday, 9 October 2017

After The Fire by Henning Mankell

I’m not a fan of translated novels…more often than not the text is a little stilted, as the translator is usually a native of the language from which the novel is being translated, English, therefore being the second language. This, from Swedish, wasn’t too bad, although the translator got into a pickle with the past tenses. However, the most annoying thing about this book was that every pronoun ‘I’ was in lower case, every word at the start of the sentence and many proper names didn't start with capital. Is this a Swedish thing? And why wasn’t it picked up by an editor? Five per cent in and I was seriously irked by this, but, as they say on Mastermind, I started so I finished.

I found this book rather dreary and lifeless…like most of the characters. Fredrik Welin is a disgraced retired doctor living alone on an island in the Swedish archipelago. His very mundane and routine life is dramatically overturned when his house is completely burnt down and he loses everything. When the police can find no cause, he is suspected of arson, not really considering that he’s lost his home (one that had been in his family for a number of generations) and just about all his possessions. With only the clothes he was standing in, he then has to deal with his terrible loss, the tragedy heightening his loneliness and purpose in life. Ultimately, of course, he wants to find out who set fire to his house and why. 

Fredrik is neither likable nor unlikable. He is bland, a bit feeble and devoid of any personality, so I found it very hard to feel sympathy...or anything...for him. Many of his neighbourhood islanders were the same. As for his daughter (who he’d only recently come to know), she was really rather obnoxious.

Mankell…I realised halfway through the book…was the author of the Wallander novels. I guess if you’re a fan of those, you might like this, the author’s final work before his death in 2015.

But this wasn’t for me…I found myself wanting to shake the characters to get some passion, a spark of life out of them.

Alas, this left me as cold as the icy sea Fredrik Welin swam in every morning.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

I Know Where She Is by S B Caves

The fact that the book I read before this one was centred around the same crimepaedophilia/sexual abuse/torture(not intentional, incidentally…I had no idea before I started either book!)may suggest that it’s a slightly overdone story line...perhaps.

However, that said, for a debut novel, this is quite an explosive burst onto the literary scene for this author. 

Ten years after Francine’s daughter's (Autumn) abduction, she receives a note saying quite simply: I know where she is. The note’s author, Lena, makes herself known to Francine shortly after and tells her she does indeed know where Autumn is. Clinging on to that last vestige of hope that her daughter is still alive, Francine, armed with vague snippets of information from Lena, does things she’d probably only ever seen in movies to try and find her daughter. But a mother will do anything, anything for her child.

It's all a bit ‘convenient’, there are no real intricacies in the plot, there are some plausibility issues, and the story lacks a bit of padding. It isn’t a long book, but I think its conciseness is at the expense of some finer details. The ending is a little hurried and abrupt. But, but, but...for all that, this was a very well-written, grippingalbeit darkunsettling, disturbingand compelling story and certainly had me glued to the pages from start to finish. 

An excellent start for this author, and I’ll certainly be looking out for his future novels.

Monday, 11 September 2017

The Woman in the Wood by Lesley Pearse

I really can’t understand the 4/5 stars reviews for this book. For starters, this author must have bunked the lecture on show and tell, because there was no showing at all. This made for a one-dimensional plot and flat cardboard characters. There was a good deal of head-hopping and some glaring grammatical errors. The writing came over as a tad immature and had the subject matter not been quite so disturbing, it could easily have been written for a pre-adult audience.

The story is set in the early 1960s, but you’d never have guessed. The attitudes and dialogue were more Victorian than mid-twentieth century.

Fifteen-year-old twins, Duncan and Maisy, are sent to their cold and unfeeling grandmother after their equally cold and unfeeling father commits their unwell mother to an asylum. With no help from Grandmother, they have to settle into their new surroundings and find new friends. One of these is Grace Deville, a woman who lives alone in the woods and about whom some unkind things are said.

One day, Duncan goes missing…the prospect of his return is diminished when boys of his age are found dead in the area. With the police not being exactly proactive, it falls on Maisy to stay strong and believe her brother will be found. 

I was extremely irritated by Pearse’s constant reference to Duncan and Maisy as ‘the twins’. ‘The twins’ are not an entity, they are two people…they are Duncan and Maisy. Pearse wouldn’t have referred to two different aged siblings as ‘brother and sister’ all the time. Twins aren’t a unit (I have twins and twin grandchildren), they are two separate people and like to be known as such. Pearse obviously has no experience of twins or she wouldn’t have made this dreadfully annoying faux pas. 

The plot concept is sound enough, but Pearse doesn’t handle it very well and it all became a bit silly. 

My first read by this author and I’m afraid to say, my last.


Saturday, 2 September 2017

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

Although all the plot threads were satisfactorily tied up by the end, for me, the book threw up a number of unanswered questions.

Lane returns to the wealthy Roanoke family home after her mother, Camilla, dies. It's where she spends a summer and where she discovers that beneath the have-it-all façade there lies a seriously dysfunctional family…one she has no desire to be part of. But when her closest ally, her cousin Allegra, goes missing eleven years later, Lane is forced to return.

The book is disturbing and aims to shock…the topic (sexual abuse and incest) is extremely unpleasant…but I became more irritated than shocked by the fact that not one of abusees…and let’s face it, charismatic Grandad ‘has’ just about every female member of the family whatever their ages or generation…reports it or tells anyone else…because Grandad loves them all, they’re all so special. That just didn’t wash with me.

However, despite the chilling and uneasy subject, it is without doubt compelling, riveting and extremely well written. I’ve never read any books by Engel, but her writing is powerful and emotional, and I really enjoyed her style.

Dark, unsettling, a little haunting, sad, twisted, but despite my few niggles, an intense page turner.

Friday, 25 August 2017

The Art of Hiding by Amanda Prowse

The problem with this book was that it stayed with me as I started the next one! I just couldn’t seem to get the characters….and not just the main one…out of my head. 

Stay-at-home wife and mum Nina’s life is shattered to smithereens when her husband, Finn, is tragically killed in a car accident. However, the gaping wounds of her loss have salt cruelly rubbed into them when she discovers Finn left her with millions of pounds of debt. Gone are her rich lifestyle and all its trappings, gone is the posh private school for her children, gone is her mansion of a house. With few, if not no, options left to her, she is forced to return to the council estate in Southampton, where she grew up and where her sister still lives, not only to try and make sense of what has happened but to work out how she is going to feed, clothe and house her family.

This is an excellent story with a plot and characters that ooze credibility on every page. It’s a story of tragedy and loss, enlightenment and achievement. It was my first date with this author, and I’m already lining up a few more. I’ve read many a good book, but few imprint themselves in my mind enough to distract me in my subsequent read, so, Ms Prowse, I can confidently say: job jolly well done.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Dream Walk by Melissa Bowersock

I had mixed feelings when I started this…pleased and eager to rejoin Sam and Lacey, PI partners with a difference, but a little sad too, because this is the final book in the quartet. Whilst I had no doubt that their last case would be enthralling, I was, of course, curious to find out how their relationship would progress. Or not. My lips are sealed on that one.

Our duo’s swansong is a bit of toughie…Sam’s ex-wife’s brother makes an appearance in one of Sam’s dreams…but not in a peaceful way. He was an addict, whose end was probably inevitable, so Sam and Lacey head to his last known address to uncover the reasons for his torment.

This book is half the length of most of the books I read, but there’s no short-change here. Bowersock’s prose is neat, tidy, tight…all the right words in the right quantity for a well-rounded and  extremely satisfying story.

It may well be farewell to Sam and Lacey, but it’s very definitely au revoir to Bowersock, who will undoubtedly delight with her next work, whatever it may be.

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