Book Review: The Fatal Tree by Jake Arnott

Book - The Fatal Tree by Jake ArnottI heard Jake Arnott reading from his novel, The Fatal Tree, at the Hay Festival, and was intrigued by his use of slang words – a historical dialect of thieves and villains, taken directly from the “flash world” of Romeville in 18th century London. The book centres on the true story of infamous jail-breaker Jack Sheppard and his companion, the notorious Edgworth Bess (aka Elizabeth Lyon), but it is not a straightforward telling. Arnott’s narrator (William Archer) is a young hack writer, who gains his material directly from Edgworth Bess herself, as she awaits trial at Newgate Gaol.    Continue reading

Book Review: Falling Creatures by Katherine Stansfield

Falling creatures by Katherine StansfieldFalling Creatures combines the genres of historical fiction, detective story and gothic ghost story in a rather unsettling way, producing a novel that is both haunting and full of suspense, though it is actually based on historical fact. The author, Katherine Stansfield, grew up on Bodmin Moor, where the novel is set, and the tragic murder of Charlotte Diamond is a familiar story to local residents. At the book launch, Stansfield explained that she has always wanted to write about this case, but it was only recently that she discovered a way into the story.    Continue reading

Book Review: The Doll Funeral by Kate Hamer

book the doll funeralI loved the main character in this book. Ruby is different. She has a bright red birthmark around her left eye, and she can see things that other people can’t, like Shadow (the boy who mysteriously appears out of nowhere) and the Wasp Lady (who swoops at her as she walks up the stairs). At the age of 13 she is delighted to discover that she was adopted as a baby, and decides to track down her real parents, who will surely come to rescue her from Mick (who likes to use his fists) and Barbara (who lets him).    Continue reading

Book Review: The Unforgotten by Laura Powell

Book - The UnforgottenThe plot of The Unforgotten twists and turns, keeping the reader gripped until the very end. I read it in two days, and I would certainly recommend that if you’re going to start reading it, you clear your diary first. It begins in 1956 with a series of horrific murders in the small Cornish seaside village of St Steele. Betty Broadbent, aged fifteen, has left school and now helps her eccentric mother to run a boarding house. She is shocked and scared by the murders, but feels sorry for Mr Forbes, the local butcher, whom everyone suspects.    Continue reading

Book Review: The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair by Joël Dicker

Book -The Truth About The Harry Quebert AffairThe Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair is a very difficult book to put down. But the plot twists about so much that you need some breathing space every now and then to process all of its complexities. The narrative follows the story of Marcus Goldman, a young writer whose debut novel caused a sensation, and who is now suffering from writer’s block. Under pressure from his publisher, he eventually seeks the help of his old friend (and famous writer) Harry Quebert, staying with him for a while in the small seaside village of Somerset. Soon afterwards, the body of Nola Kellergan, a fifteen-year-old girl who disappeared over thirty years ago, is unearthed from Harry’s back garden.    Continue reading

Book Review – Masque by Bethany W Pope

MasqueWhy would someone take a well-known story, which has been re-invented many times over, and attempt to re-invent it again? Masque is based on The Phantom of The Opera, the French novel by Gaston Leroux, published in 1911. Since then it has been re-told in various films and novels, and on stage. I wouldn’t have considered reading this book, but I attended the regular ‘First Thursday’ event run by Seren Books, and heard Bethany Pope reading from it. I was entranced, hearing the story from the point of view of each character in turn, and wondering whether it would be the same as the original. These words are printed on the front of the book: ‘This is not the story you think you know…’    Continue reading

Book Review: The Unravelling by Thorne Moore

Book - The UnravellingThe cover of this book, and the words ‘Children can be very, very cruel’, immediately drew me in, hooked into finding out what horrendous thing could possibly have happened to the protagonist (Karen Rothwell) as a child – something so traumatic that she has forgotten it, until now. At first Karen seems strange, in the way she remembers, the way she interacts with her colleagues and other unusual behaviour, but gradually you realise that something which happened years ago has had a profound and devastating effect on every aspect of her life.    Continue reading

Book Review: I Saw A Man by Owen Sheers

Book: I Saw A Man by Owen SheersI Saw A Man begins with the moment when Michael Turner (writer and recently widowed) walks into his neighbours’ house (Josh and Samantha and their two daughters – a family he has grown close to, since moving back to London). Sheers cleverly takes us back in time to see how Michael began his career as a writer, how he met his late wife (Caroline), how he coped after her death (hit by an American drone bomb whilst working as a TV news reporter) and the back story of his neighbours, Josh and Samantha.    Continue reading

Book Review: The Girl In The Red Coat by Kate Hamer

Book - The Girl In The Red CoatThe Girl In The Red Coat follows the story of an eight year old girl (Carmel) who goes missing whilst attending a storytelling festival. It begins from her mother’s perspective, as she reflects back on the years of growing up, how Carmel was always different to other children, drifting, unattached. I began reading this book whilst attending the Hay Festival, and found myself more aware than ever of how easy it could be for a parent to lose their child in such a busy place.     Continue reading

Book Review: Snowdrops by A.D. Miller

Book 'Snowdrops' by A.D.Miller‘Snowdrops’ is a Moscow slang term for the dead bodies which end up buried under snow, revealing themselves as it eventually begins to melt in the spring. The book is written as a confession from Nick, an English lawyer who has spent some years living in Moscow, to his fiancée. It is also a justification, an explanation of what happened and an attempt to understand why. He is brutally honest and, from the beginning, you sense that something went badly wrong, but it isn’t until near the end that all is revealed.    Continue reading

Book Review: The Illusion of Innocence by Jacqueline Jacques

Book - The Illusion of Innocence by Jacqueline JacquesI know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but this cover (with its simple, elegant design, Victorian camera, steam train and the word ‘mystery’) drew me in straight away. The Illusion of Innocence follows Archie Price, police artist and painter, as he helps to solve a mysterious crime in which the robber (Freddy Porter) stole a box of illicit postcards and murdered his victim. He meets Polly, sister of the accused, desperate to get away from Freddy and his gang, and all three end up on the same train, travelling to Chelmsford for the trial. A sudden and terrifying derailment turns everything upside down and, while Polly and Archie are looked after by a local family, Freddy is nowhere to be found.    Continue reading

Book Review: Midnight Sun by Jo Nesbo

Book Midnight Sun by Jo NesboMidnight Sun is set in the strange, empty, sun-lit landscape of northern Norway. It follows the plight of Jon, a hapless young man on the run from Oslo’s biggest drug lord: The Fisherman. He has no doubt that he will soon be hunted down and shot. Stopping off in Kåsund, a small fishing community where everyone knows everyone, he meets the striking Lea and her son Knut, and attempts to delay the inevitable by hiding out in a hunting cabin.    Continue reading

Book Review: Florence and Giles by John Harding

Book Florence and Giles by John HardingFlorence and Giles is a gripping, re-imagined version of Henry James’ gothic ghost story, The Turn of the Screw. Set in a remote New England mansion in 1891, the novel is narrated by Florence, a twelve-year-old girl who has been left alone by her guardian uncle with nothing but forbidden books and her younger brother for company. It is gripping from the start, as you delve into Florence’s world of literature and loneliness.    Continue reading