I loved this, the whole feel was so eerie and menacing and Cornwall so bleak and harshly beautiful. I didn't see the ending coming at all and it reallI loved this, the whole feel was so eerie and menacing and Cornwall so bleak and harshly beautiful. I didn't see the ending coming at all and it really shocked me. I loved the writing, what an artist Du Maurer was, weaving such atmosphere with her words, wonderful. I was impressed at how she got into the male lead's mind and described such powerful emotions, whereas Rachel really was quite a blank page. Very clever. ...more
This one's been on the shelf for a while. I only pulled it down because I wanted a "B" title book for my A-Z challenge. Tense is right, I can't remembThis one's been on the shelf for a while. I only pulled it down because I wanted a "B" title book for my A-Z challenge. Tense is right, I can't remember when I last turned pages so quickly. It's a cracking multilayered plot with an interesting cast, not just one "lead" but two or three - a retired cop, a psychiatrist and his daughter - who enter into each other's stories through this series. It's very twisty and it's one of probably only a handful of books that have truly surprised me.
The opening premise seemed very ambitious - a violent killing witnessed only by the man's heartbreakingly damaged fourteen year-old daughter, a high-profile racially motivated murder case with attendant media frenzy, blackmail, stolen laptops, a missing ex-wife, arson, poisoning and a protagonist who is not only dragged into increasingly bizarre and dangerous situations but is also fighting a spirited battle with Parkinson's disease.
But it works beautifully - the threads come together, the clues scattered throughout the story are resolved, it's deftly done. And we meet The Crying Man, one of the most terrifying bad guys I've ever come across.
I don't think I've ever used that old cliche "a rollercoaster ride" to describe any book but this one sure is. It's a stay-up-late, can't put it down, genre-defying thriller and I loved every second of it. This is number four in a series and the others are already winging their way to Essex. ...more
Written in 1932, this story feels remarkably modern. It is gently amusing, with some real laugh out loud moments. I warmed to Flora, who at first seemWritten in 1932, this story feels remarkably modern. It is gently amusing, with some real laugh out loud moments. I warmed to Flora, who at first seems quite self-centred and lazy but she comes into her own when dealing with the barking mad Starkadder family. This large motley collection of nutters, misfits and trapped souls bounce off each other in various unhealthy ways: Judith has 200 pictures of her son Seth on her bedroom walls; Seth himself keeps getting the hired help pregnant until, in a very amusing scene, Flora advises the girl on the use of condoms ("it's unnatural! Against God and Nature!"). Elfine is in love with the neighbouring landowners' eligible young son but his family refuse to take her seriously. They see her as a 1930s version of a chav.
How the farm manages to make any money I have no idea; one son busies himself all day counting the chickens' feathers, nobody is allowed to leave except one son who goes into town once a week to the bank. The bull (Big Business by name) is not allowed out of his shed, we never find out why.
Holed up her gloomy room over the kitchen is Aunt Ada Starkadder, nee Doom, the malignant matriarch. She once saw something nasty in the woodshed and has never been the same since. Any hint of change or of one of the family daring to even think about leaving brings on one of her 'attacks' and the whole family are terrified of upsetting her.
At 232 pages it's an easy read and very entertaining. It had me giggling on the tube. I look forward to reading the sequel Conference at Cold Comfort Farm, which brings back some old characters and introduces some new, equally crazy, ones.
And just what nasty thing did Aunt Ada seen in the woodshed all those years ago? Well, that would be telling. ...more
My second foray into the world of historical fiction. The lead character being a female doctor and pathologist, practically unheard of in medieval EngMy second foray into the world of historical fiction. The lead character being a female doctor and pathologist, practically unheard of in medieval England, I wondered if I would be given a modern "silent witness" type story with a few hey nonny nonnies thrown in for atmosphere.
I needn't have worried. This is an incredibly well researched book, the period detail is rich and authentic. The Plantagenet world felt real and alive, in fact I cheered when the King made his entrance into the story!
Adelia, although an amazing, brave, gutsy character, is a product of her time. Franklin has not simply created a modern female doctor and plonked her down in the 12th century. All of the characters are well-drawn and their individuality and differences are vital to the plot. It matters that this man is a Jew, it matters that this woman never married yet had children. In the best tradition of murder mysteries, the clues are there to be picked up on, but they're seamlessly woven into the narrative, nothing jars or sticks out, it's effortlessly done.
Mistress Of The Art Of Death is a clever and exciting whodunnit set against a richly detailed medieval background. And it's the first of a series of four, which is wonderful because Adelia's own story had only just started at the end of the book. I look forward to the rest of her adventures. ...more
Those who know me know that I have very little tolerance for sentiment in literature. I don't "do" romance and even the slightest bit of saccharine swThose who know me know that I have very little tolerance for sentiment in literature. I don't "do" romance and even the slightest bit of saccharine sweetness leaves a very nasty taste in my mouth. So goodness only knows how I came to have this on my shelf. All the warning signs were there, the pretty cover illustration, the "love story against the odds" blurb, the glowing reviews from women's magazines. But, having just read 4 serial killer books on the trot and in the mood for something completely different, I took a chance and read the first couple of pages.
That was it; I was hooked. Two days of solid reading later, having read though meals and even in the bath which I rarely do, I laid it down with a satisfied sigh.
This book is absolutely charming. The writing is fluid, it's well-paced and the characters are beautifully drawn. It's so much more than 'just' a love story, it's about growing old, feeling left out and left behind. It's about responsibility (real and imagined), the potential dangers of material possessions. It's about taking a risk and going on faith.
I doubt I'll ever become a fan of romantic fiction but Major Pettigrew's Last Stand moved me and I'm ever so glad I read it. It was gorgeous. ...more
I love intelligent crime and thrillers. It is possible (although not easy I'm sure) to write both cleverly and entertainingly - Peter Akroyd and A S BI love intelligent crime and thrillers. It is possible (although not easy I'm sure) to write both cleverly and entertainingly - Peter Akroyd and A S Byatt manage it time after time. Indeed, Kellerman did just this very well in The Brutal Art. But with this book I think he's pushed his luck by inserting so much philosophy and cerebral meanderings that he runs the risk of alienating some of his readers. A look on the Amazon comments page confirms this. Probably 20% of the book could have been culled without making any difference to the outcome or the feel of the book, at times it read more like a thesis than a novel.
I was disappointed with this book, iy turned out to be a rather ordinary story padded out with lots of unnecessary philosophical rambling. It felt very self-indulgent and that never pleases me. ...more
What a great little book! I read it in an evening. Mr Phillips (we only find out his first name towards the end of the book, we never find out his wifWhat a great little book! I read it in an evening. Mr Phillips (we only find out his first name towards the end of the book, we never find out his wife's name at all, she remains Mrs Phillips throughout) hasn't been to work for a week, since he got made redundant. He's been wandering around London, hopping on and off buses, visiting museums and generally killing time till he can go home again. The action takes place over the course of one day and describes increasingly extraordinary events happening to a very ordinary man.
There's something rather Pooterish about Mr Phillips. His thoughts are the very real, mundane thoughts we all have 90% of the time, which take a talented writer to express in an entertaining and moving way. It gives the impression of being written in 'real time', you feel the hours dragging out in front of him, the tedium of a bus journey through rush hour traffic.
It's the story of a very ordinary man but told with such fondness and subtle humour that you root for him. An easy to read, very "English" book, I loved it. ...more
I love stories told from a child's perspective. When done well, they are emotional, imaginative and thoroughly satisfying. Having seen that Carry Me DI love stories told from a child's perspective. When done well, they are emotional, imaginative and thoroughly satisfying. Having seen that Carry Me Down was shortlisted for the 2006 Man Booker, I settled down eagerly to enjoy it. I was very disappointed. The story was very undertold - by which I mean the fact that John knew so little of what was going on in his parents' lives, and so had so little of their story to tell us. An author writing from a child's viewpoint must either keep us entirely in the child's world, or give us other "clues" (overheard conversations for example) so we can get more of an overview of the whole situation.
We seemed to travel through a good two-thirds of the book at a very slow pace, and then get all the action in the last couple of chapters. However there was no great build up of tension during the book, so it was hard to care much about anything that happened towards the end.
All in all it was very unsatisfying. It felt as if the author was writing to a deadline and rushed through the last third of the book. I didn't hate it and I'd give it 5/10, which for a harsh marker like me is a pretty good score. And I will definitely try and read some more of M J Hyland's work. But there are much better books of this kind out there. ...more
This is the second Morag Joss novel I've read, the first being The Night Following which I adored. This is every bit as good, although quite differentThis is the second Morag Joss novel I've read, the first being The Night Following which I adored. This is every bit as good, although quite different. The writing is a little more laid back and the pace is quite gentle. At the outset Jean is a housesitter, living all on her own in other people's houses, putting down no roots and with virtually no human contact. She prefers it that way. Fate brings her to Walden Manor, a beautiful, perfect family home. It also brings Michael and Steph into her life and we see the wonderful blossoming of Jean in the presence of their love. It's quite heartwarming and although each of them have their faults, I loved seeing three unhappy people find happiness and a sense of belonging.
At the same I had the awful knowledge at the back of my mind that it was all built on sand. This was not, after all, their house; it belonged to someone else. That idyllic summer could not last forever. When real life beings to intrude, they must find ways of protecting their fragile family.
Morag Joss has once again created fractured, flawed characters that I rooted for and forgave anything. My rational mind understood that the things they did were wrong, but my heart bled for them and hoped against hope that they could have their happily ever after. In the end I was torn between disgust and empathy, which I'm sure was what Joss wanted. I think she got it exactly right and I continue to be a huge fan. ...more