Saturday, 5 January 2013

House of the Hanged

A story set just after the First World War and then sixteen years later just before the beginning of the second. It is about a ‘retired’ spy who is in his late 30s and how he deals with assassins trying to murder him for activities that occurred in 1919. At the same time there are various 'love' interests for the protagonist and a relationship with his goddaughter that may develop that way. The action for most of the book happens in the South of France whilst he is hosting lavish luncheons, laborious dinners, bathing parties and scavenger hunts for an extended group of ‘friends’. But who are his enemies and is someone close to him a betrayer? It should have been gripping but unfortunately, for me, the writing was ‘disjointed’ and the characters not engaging enough. It was just about interesting enough to finish but then the ending was odd and very unsatisfying. 

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Divided in Death

I have spent a fair amount of time reading this series of books (this is number 18) but very little time reflecting on them - hence no previous blog entries. They're not books for reflecting on really but they are very good crime genre 'quick reads' with enough depth to satisfy. Nora Robb has a good understanding of the human condition. This one was not the best of this series so far but very readable as always. I enjoyed the back story more than the murder tale this time, and the tensions between Eve and Roarke were well drawn and realistic. It was overlong but with a denouement that was clever and satisfying.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

A Judgement in Stone

A Judgement in Stone by Ruth Rendell is, I think, one of her best books even though we know right at the start who has been murdered and by whom. That doesn’t matter – what does matter is why - and in the telling of this story Rendell generates almost unbearable tension and creates a gripping ‘page turner’. The gradual unfolding of the chain of events that led to the tragedy in the opening pages is masterful with its insights into human nature and the consequences of every character’s actions.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Sharp Objects

An exceptional debut novel. Dark, compelling, macabre, sad, and very well written. The story revolves around Camille, a ‘cub’ reporter who returns to her family home to cover the story of the murder of two children in the town. As she talks to various members of the local population she is also reliving her own childhood and finally begins to analyse and face its horrors. This is a story of mother and daughter relationships at there most destructive and the consequences through the generations.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Beneath the Skin

This ‘author’ is apparently a husband and wife team writing together. I’m not sure how they organize this, but for me, this book is not as successful as their other novels. The story is told in the first person by three women who are hunted down by a serial killer – how then is it possible for them to relate their stories?  This is meant to be a psychological thriller – I remained decidedly ‘unthrilled’ and was irritated by the plot and the way it was constructed. There was no opportunity to warm to any of the characters and the ending was, to my mind, unsatisfying. 

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Testament of Youth

This is a long book that repays every effort that is put into reading it. Vera Brittain’s true story is bold, touching, tragic and extraordinary. The story pivots around her experiences in the First World War, contrasting the time before with what came after as she recounts lives that were lost and those, including her own, that were changed so profoundly forever. It is a love story, a political story, a passionate story, a story of loss and a story that needs to be retold to as many people as possible about the futility of conflict.

Back Again

This blog needs resurrecting and reviews should follow shortly!

Sunday, 20 March 2011

You're Next

A very good thriller. If you enjoy a fast paced plot and convincing characterization give this a go – I have already ordered another title by this author.

Mike was abandoned by his father when he was 4 years old and spends his childhood in foster care. He beats the odds and builds a good life for himself and his wife and child, but is never able to trace his birth family. Life is good, and then suddenly he is the target of some extremely ruthless people out to destroy him and his family. These people have killed and the police appear to be in on ‘it’ too. Why? We find out in the end and for me the conclusion was pretty satisfying.

Friday, 18 March 2011


A short but powerful and well written novel with a surprising amount of depth for just over 200 pages. Susan’s relationship with her father has damaged her life and she only begins to come to terms with his treatment of her and her sisters after his suicide. This ‘tragedy’ happens while she is pregnant with her first child and as she is ‘sleepwalking’ through life. Susan’s relationships with her birth family, her husband, with her unborn child and with her lover (she embarks on a love affair while she is pregnant) are explored. Other pivotal characters include Queenie, her father’s abusive mother and a ghostly child, a little boy who is haunting her. 

Thursday, 17 March 2011


What a very good book this is. There are many reviews out there and most are full of praise for this novel. It is an extraordinary story that is told in the voice of Jack, a precocious but also unworldly five year old whose development has been shaped from being locked in a small room with his mother for the first five years of his life. She was kidnapped before Jack's birth and kept as a prisoner by a man with motives of the worst kind. The book is, of course, quite horrifying, but also ultimately uplifting as Jack and his mother discover how to live with their situation and their pasts.  It’s a story I will remember for a long time.