Month: October 2020

The Other Side of the Door by Nicci French

I was intrigued by the premise of this book – why would a girlfriend who presumably did not kill her boyfriend but did find his body risk being accused of his murder by cleaning up after the unknown killer?

The first chapter was beautifully delivered and I was loving the disembodied 1st person POV, the careful, almost guilty behaviour she preforms as if another version of herself has committed the crime – but then the Before and After sections did throw me off a little. I was in too many places at once and never in one long enough to find my feet. Several pages in and I know more about the woman who wedding they’re playing than the protagonist or the victim.

However, as the book finds its pace and the distance between the timeframes closes, and the personalities and dynamics come out, everything becomes much more fluid. There’s a lot of tension and the old Prisoner’s Dilemma feeling of who will rat out who and questions of loyalties.

I think this is a re-release or at least a change of title. I’m assuming this because the book feels a tiny bit dated. In the first chapter the protagonist is removing evidence from the scene of the crime – a CD of Garth Brooks! But still, it’s a great read – know the first few jumpy chapters will past and enjoy the main body of the book and a cracking ending.

Thank you to Netgalley, Nicci French and William Morrow for the review copy.

P.S I’m really looking forward to Nicci French’s newest thriller House of Correction! Look at this lovely cover.

First Date by Sue Watson

Let me start of by saying, this book does exactly what you’d expect it to do from the title and the cover – it’s a psychological thriller played out in the dating world. As a concept it’s solid and I thought the author handled the premise really well. The building up is steady and thorough and by the last thirty percent I was just reading, reading, reading, looking for information, unable to stop, really. And that’s the funny thing about this book – so many books these days concentrate on the first ten percent that you get as a sample and then go downhill after that but I felt this was the opposite.

I actually had my doubts in the first couple of pages – I got hung up on a couple of silly points which instantly made me think Hannah was a fantasist or not quite all there. The first thing which threw me off was the mention of a ‘white picket fence’ I thought I was reading something set in the US and then they started talking about Devon, is that Devon, Pennsylvania? No, they’re definitely in the UK. So is Hannah an Americophile, a girl who dreams in Gilmore Girl accents? Then as they’re realizing how their aspirations are the same it felt very naïve, not just that she put so much stock in wanting the same dog, but because at 35 and first meeting the guy, she was still planning a three child family. I know you can, but having recently passed that milestone myself, I know how you feel, at 35, working all hours, still single wondering if you’ll even manage one kid!

I read on, honestly not sure, but the storytelling soon overcame the flaws of the protagonist. Yes she is ridiculously naive but some people are. In the end, I cared for her enough to want her to survive and at some point the plot thickened and flipped and turned into a better story than just one about a terrible first date with a weirdo which takes over your life. Also kudos to the author for not leaving any strands of the story flapping in the wind! I put the book down feeling satisfied and knowing I’d read an author who understood she’d made a promise to me, the reader, and she’d kept it! I will definitely look out for her next book and despite the niggles at the beginning would recommend this one too to anyone who enjoys dating world based psychological thrillers.

Thank you to Negalley and Bookouture for my advanced reading copy.

First Date by Sue Watson

Published by Bookouture 16 Oct 2020  

Blood Business (Ikmen Mystery 22) Barbara Nadel

I’m a completely new reader when it comes to Barbara Nadel or the Ikmen Mystery series so I opened this book with no preconceptions or expectationswhich is sometimes the best way to go.

The story, which opens in an Istanbul graveyard during an exhumation, is immediately atmospheric, dripping with family tension, the threat of a grisly discovery and the suggestion of a mystery to be solved. The style, writing and pace of the first chapter also told me straight away I was reading something well crafted from a writer who knows her craft. Nadel writes fluidly and confidently and it was only afterwards I realised this is book 22! So no wonder really.

The point of view changes quite quickly and then again – as a new reader I was wrong footed here and started to panic a bit about the list of Turkish names at the front of the book, worried I’d have to memorize them all – an their nicknames but after a few switches I realised Nadel writes every character distinctly so even without their names in my head, I recognise who’s on stage.

That said, I did need to exercise patience, once the mystery has been introduced, the missing body of a rich woman replaced with that of a organ theft victim, retired inspector Çetin Ikmen doesn’t rush to uncover the mystery. Like Morse, he’s a thinker and a tinkerer, who takes time to drink tea and meet friends as he winds his way through the city. And this is where the book’s charm lies. One question leads to another in a surprisingly realistic way. I sometimes find story lines incredulous – jammed together to meet the plot points – but this ‘twist’ and the the eventual dark resolution make sense.

In short, this is a well written, interesting and satisfying read but isn’t a novel for a reader with a short attention span. It’s not the kind of book you could easily read while being jostled about on the Tube, but would be better enjoyed on a Turkish beach holiday (next year perhaps) failing that on the couch or as a bedside table book.

Thanks to Babara Nadel and Headline for a complimentary copy of Blood Business.

UNDER VIOLENT SKIES Judi Daykin

SET UNDER THE BROODING SKIES OF NORTH NORFOLK. MEET SARA HIRST AS SHE SEARCHES FOR HER LOST FATHER AND FINDS THAT GREAT BEAUTY CAN CONCEAL GREAT VIOLENCE.

So where to begin? First of all, this is a good, well-crafted debut novel with a lot going on – and I mean a lot!
As you can see from the blurb above, the main protagonist is a detective with a family mystery to solve, but this storyline is well wrapped in at least three other protagonists’ (maybe sub-protagonists) experiences.
We start with a man up to something dangerous in a ditch, then jump to an older woman defending her property (and perhaps her life), before we get to Sara Hirst and her first day on a new job. But then a new character comes to life, a young woman in a dangerous and liminal position who finds herself forced to maltreat someone else.
By the time Sara shows up in chapter 3, I’m impatient to check in on the other characters again and make sure they’re okay and the next character is such a strong one I wondered for a second if Sara was the main character at all. All these strands will be woven together but I have to admit, if I didn’t know the writer, I would have wondered if this was going to happen.
This novel is very thematic and there’s a lot to unpick regarding equality, human rights, racism etc. At times the themes feel more important than the plot but you could say that makes it more realistic. I certainly think it shows how promising this writer is, that she’s not a one-trick pony and she has plenty more ideas and more material. A lot of debut books are very low on substance, but this is not one of them.
I’d definitely recommend getting a copy and settling into a comfy chair with this one.

Yorkshire born, Judi has lived, worked and made theatre in Norfolk for the last forty years. She completed her MA in Creative Writing (Crime Fiction) at the University of East Anglia (UEA), and her debut novel was shortlisted for the Little, Brown UEA writer’s prize in 2019.

Under Violent Skies is published by JOFFE Publishers and available in paperback and on Kindle.