Review: The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer

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Now here’s a book that took me by surprise.  This is an unusual take on the whole ‘missing child’ mini-genre that is so popular these days.  It took a little while to get into, but once I was gripped I did not want to put this book down.

Kate Hamer uses the dual narrative with great success here – two contrasting voices both so well characterised.  The young girl comes as across as very true and realistic; a determined and unique young girl, full of innocent hope.  In stark contrast, her mother is desperately struggling to hold herself together, and keep the hope of finding her daughter alive.  At times the writing is so vividly descriptive, Hamer puts you right in the scene – the festival scene particularly resonates here.  And at times the writing is so poignantly touching and heartbreaking it will bring tears to your eyes.

Intelligently written, this is an unusual story about an unusual girl and although it was not quite the tensely gripping psychological thriller I was expecting, it was intriguing and captivating nonetheless.  4 stars.

4stars

 

 

Mini Reviews: The Crime Edition

As I am waaaayyyy behind on my idea to review every book I read this year (hahahahahhhaaaa) I’ve decided to catch up via a series of mini reviews.  Some of these books were read quite a while ago and I don’t have a clear enough memory of them to write a full review, so I figured summarising my thoughts and feelings in a few lines was a good way to go!  So this is the first in a series of three or four mini reviews.  I still plan to do full reviews of the books I read for my global reading challenge – there will be a new review each Saturday, so keep them peeled for that!

Crime is one of my favourite genres to read.  As I may have mentioned once or twice (!), I have a terrible weakness for a handsome detective.  My main squeeze is Mark Billingham’s Tom Thorne (although I have to mention that DS Matt Devlin (aka Jamie Bamber) from Law & Order UK really tops the list.  I was devastated when they killed him off!), but there’s always room for another!

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Fear the Dark by Chris Mooney is actually the 5th book in a series.  I didn’t know this when I read it, and I don’t think it hindered the story at all.  This was a fast paced, punchy thriller.  The writing was suspenseful and the plot had its’ fair share of twists turns.  It was a little bit too cliched for me and didn’t quite live up to it’s promise, but it was engaging enough to earn solid 3 stars.  I don’t think I’ll be reading further in this series.

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I listened to this one on audio and I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I’d read it rather than listened to it.  There are three narrators in this story, the detective, the girl’s mother and her captor.  The male ‘captor’ narrator put on this silly girl’s voice whenever the girl was speaking and it actually made me laugh out loud.  It was so ridiculous and in the end became extremely annoying.  The story was fairly predictable, the tension was built up in quite a heavy handed manner.  The different viewpoints were interesting, though.  I enjoyed hearing things from the detective’s viewpoint and likes his acerbic views on people.  The mother’s anguish and determination to support her daughter felt real.   I gave this one 3 stars on Goodreads, so I think I enjoyed it more than my memory is telling me! (I read/listened to this back in April).  This is one of the many books promoted as “the next Gone Girl” (please stop doing that, publishers!) and in my opinion this is better than Gone Girl and in fact has few similarities.  Mary Kubica’s  new book is out now, Pretty Baby, and I may well give it a go in physical form.

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Tony Parsons is well known for his contemporary fiction writing, and this was his first foray into the crime genre.   This one is set in London and I was looking forward to a gritty Thorne-esque read.  I read this in February so my memory is a little faded and I didn’t make any notes … The plot was an interesting one surrounding a group of old friends, which I do usually find engaging.  It was a little predictable and I think I guessed ‘who dun it’ which is pretty unusual for me (I don’t like to think too much when reading crime).  The detective, a single dad to a fabulously feisty little girl, is likable and I enjoyed the dynamic of their relationship.  It just didn’t quite pack the punch I was hoping for, and was another 3 star read.  The next book in the series, The Slaughter Man, is out and it sounds intriguing so I’ll no doubt give this series a second chance.

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Sarah Hilary’s second instalment in her DI Marnie Rome series had a lot to live up to.  The first in the series, Someone Else’s Skin, was one of my favourite reads of 2014 (read my review here) so I was very excited to read the sequel.  Usually when I have high expectations I end up being thoroughly disappointed, so I was a little wary … No Other Darkness proved to be a tragically dark, heart-wrenchingly sad and claustrophobic read with an underlying current of menace threading its’ way through the story.  Unusually for a crime novel, I became very emotionally involved with this intelligent and superbly written book.  The characters felt real and Hilary deals with mental illness in its many guises sensitively and touchingly.  Unlike many of her counterparts, Sarah Hilary does not take her storylines over the top, but makes you believe that this could really happen in your town, with your neighbours.  She feeds bits of information to the reader, slowly building up the tension and the plot.  The detectives are multi-layered with stories and histories of their own, and they are all the more likable and relatable for this.  An excellent read and I can’t wait for more!  4 stars.

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The Hypnotist is written by a Swedish husband and wife team.  This one had been on my shelf for a very long time, and I finally picked it up as part of my global reading challenge, but as it’s a crime novel I’ve included it here.  The synopsis promised a lot but unfortunately did not really deliver.  There are some pleasing blind alleys and wrong turns with an ending that I did not predict, but it feels a couple of hundred pages too long.  There is a whole flashback section in the middle that seems to drag on interminably and which, while offering some essential plot tidbits, is ultimately boring and feels poorly executed.  I can’t really say too much without spoiling, but I really wanted to know more about the character who is hypnotised; the hypnotist and his wife were a strange and infuriating couple who drove me insane – I really wanted to bang their heads together and make them sit down and talk and listen to to each other!  Overall, a disappointment read.  I gave this 3 stars on Goodreads, but on reflection I think I might downgrade this to 2 stars.  There is a sequel which I found in the Pound shop for, yes, £1, so I won’t feel too bad if I don’t read it …

Have you read any of these?  What’s your favourite crime novel? And who is your favourite fictional detective? Let me know in the comments!

Coming soon:  Psychological Thrillers

Review: Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey
Published by Penguin 2015
Source: Gift


Read more about the author:  Emma Healey

The Blurb
Maud is forgetful.  She makes a cup of tea and doesn’t remember to drink it.  She goes to the shops and forgets why she went.  Sometimes her home is unrecognisable – or her daughter Helen seems a total stranger.


But there’s one thing Maud is sure of: her friend Elizabeth is missing.  The note in her pocket tells her so.  And no matter who tells her to stop going on about it, to leave it alone, to shut up, Maud will get to the bottom of it.


Because somewhere in Maud’s damaged mind lies the answer to an unsolved seventy-year-old mystery.  One everyone has forgotten about. 


Everyone, except Maud …

I recently bought this book with some vouchers I received a few months back, and was drawn to it because the blurb reminded me of a wonderful book I read some time ago, Still Alice by Lisa Genova.  And while there are similarities between the two books (both main protagonists suffer from dementia, and both books deal with the chaos and heartbreak this disease brings with it) they are also very different.

In Elizabeth is Missing, Emma Healey weaves in a wonderful mystery/crime story that adds an extra element to the tragedy of dementia.  As we witness Maud’s gradual descent further into her illness, snippets of her memory are revealed and the mystery builds. I was a little worried there would be some loose ends, but thankfully everything was tied up in a very neat, if perhaps slightly unrealistic, way.

Maud’s daughter, Helen, is a very interesting character as she struggles with the frustration and heartache of slowly losing her mother to dementia.  At times I wanted to shake her, and at others I wanted to cry for her.   I would’ve liked to read more from her viewpoint, but the story is wonderfully told solely through Maud and her jumbled mind.

A sad and heartbreaking book.  That’s two in a row now!

Review: The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer


Publisher:  The Borough Press (Harper Collins) (2014)


First Published:  2013

From Goodreads:
‘I’ll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name’s Simon. I think you’re going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.’

There are books you can’t stop reading, which keep you up all night.

There are books which let us into the hidden parts of life and make them vividly real.

There are books which, because of the sheer skill with which every word is chosen, linger in your mind for days.

The Shock of the Fall is all of these books.

The Shock of the Fall is an extraordinary portrait of one man’s descent into mental illness. It is a brave and groundbreaking novel from one of the most exciting new voices in fiction.

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This book had been sitting on my shelf for quite a few months before I finally got round to reading it.  There was a lot of hype surrounding it when it won the Costa Book Award, and I was reluctant to read it for fear of being let down.  Thankfully, my fears were unfounded.

The story follows the life of Matthew, a man who suffers from schizophrenia following the death of his brother, which he may or may not have had a hand in.  I really enjoyed the use of  different fonts, letters and drawings throughout the book – I think this gave the book a disjointed and confusing feel which reflected the state of Matthew’s mind wonderfully.  Along with this, the book flips backwards and forwards between the past and the present as Matthew remembers what happened to his brother.  

Although this book deals with some serious issues – grief, death, guilt, mental ill health – it does so in such a sensitive and realistic way, and still manages to remain ultimately uplifting and wonderful.  This is a story that will stay in my mind for a long time to come.

Review: Under A Silent Moon by Elizabeth Haynes

Under a Silent Moon by Elizabeth Haynes


Publisher: Sphere (2014)


First Published: 2013

From Goodreads:
The start of a thrilling new crime series featuring Detective Inspector Louisa Smith from a sensational, authentic crime fiction voice. 

In the crisp, early morning hours, the police are called to a suspected murder at a farm outside a small English village. A beautiful young woman has been found dead, blood all over the cottage she lives in. At the same time, police respond to a reported female suicide, where a car has fallen into a local quarry. 

As DCI Louisa Smith and her team gather the evidence, they discover a link between these two women, a link which has sealed their dreadful fate one cold night, under a silent moon. 

An unsettling and compulsively readable novel that will keep you gripped until the very last page.



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Let me begin by saying that I have loved every book Elizabeth Haynes has written so far.  She is most definitely one of my favourite authors and she is a master of the psychological thriller.

Under a Silent Moon is not a psychological thriller.  This is police procedural novel following two deaths in a small English village with requisite quirky characters, but don’t be fooled into thinking this is a cosy mystery!  With her background as a police analyst, Ms Haynes has written a superb novel here.  She certainly knows her stuff and lays little bread crumbs of clues along the way, some which definitely led me up the garden path!  The plot is nicely woven in amongst the lives of the likeable characters, and keeps you guessing right to the end with everything neatly tidied up and no loose ends.  Just how I like it.

So although this is a departure from her (outstanding) psychological thrillers, I was not let down at all by this book and am looking forward to a fabulous new English detective series!

Just sneaking in …

I was just about to say I’d made it back here within a month, but then I realised that it’s almost two months since I set foot in blogland … oops!  I’ve fallen off the wagon with just about everything!  No proper ‘recipe book’ cooking, no arting whatsoever, very little reading, and not much ‘socialising’ online (or in real life!).  I have managed to keep posting a word every day for my lovely band of 365+1ers, but I haven’t posted many photos myself.  I’m not sure why I go through these cycles all the time.  It seems like I get all creative and inspired for a couple of months and then crash and do nothing for a couple of months.

So, since February what have I been doing?  Working (not that hard, I must admit.  Working part-time is such a pleasure and I’m so lucky to be able to do that!).  And holidaying! I guess that might have been a cause for my preoccupation – I went into super hyper planning mode for our Orlando holiday, and it was two weeks of bliss! Perfect weather, thrilling rollercoasters and gorgeous food.  The first week’s worth of photos are up on my flickr account if anyone’s interested in having a look … the second will be up at some point (no promises!).

And since we returned I’ve felt a tiny shift in mood, and am starting to feel the need to get inky and painty again.  I’ve been bloghopping and youtubing.  I’ve even, thanks to a little prodding from the utterly gorgeous Anne, posted a daily photo (just the one, but it was yesterday, and today is still young so there is still hope!)

And I’ve read a book!

Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes

This was a gripping read that I absolutely couldn’t put down!  It had been gathering dust on my Kindle for a long time, and I have no idea what took me so long to get round to it!  I would highly recommend this tense novel to anyone who enjoys a psychological thriller (and doesn’t mind the odd graphic scene or F word!).  It reminded me a bit of Before I Go To Sleep by SJ Watson, but I enjoyed Into the Darkest Corner more.  A definite 5 * read!

So there we have it.  The blog has been updated.  Usually when I come back to blogging after a short while away I tend to rejig the whole look of it, but actually I really love the way my blog is looking right now!

I hope I still have some followers!  Do any of you experience cycles within your hobbies or interests?  Please tell me I’m not alone!