The Book Whisperer

jottings, musings and recommendations of an incurable bookaholic

Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain by Barney Norris December 5, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — The Book Whisperer @ 6:11 pm
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five rivers.jpgWhat I thought:

Five people’s worlds collide in an instant. A car crash binds worlds together in ways none of them could have imagined. The premise of this book drew me in: coincidence, serendipity, luck (good or bad) and what happens after to those involved in the aftermath.

The book is set in the city of Salisbury, somewhere I have never actually been but would like to go – the author apparently grew up there and I have to say that parts of the book did read like a love letter to the city, piquing my curiosity. The five rivers of the title really do meet on a wooded plain in Salisbury and the story (or stories) is constructed around the lives of five different characters whose lives also meet in one spot without warning one day.

While this book, for me, was a bit of a slow burner, by a third of the way through I was captivated, mesmerised and enchanted. It’s rare for an author (particularly one who is only in his mid-twenties) to be able to so keenly observe and understand characters in a way that you feel what they feel and you can find parts of yourself if every character (if you’re brave enough to admit it), crossing age, class and social boundaries.

A drug-dealing flower-seller, a school boy in the throes of his first love, a widower who is questioning the point of life alone, a lonely army wife and a security guard who is trying to find himself again in the familiarity of his old town. These are the characters that fate throws together that night. I am tempted to say that the book actually reads like several short stories but that would be doing it an injustice in this case as there are threads (both strong and tenuous) that bind them together in ways they do (and don’t) realise.

If you’ve ever lost anyone to death or the end of a relationship, if you’ve ever felt regret for the life you didn’t have, if you’ve ever felt lonely even in a crowd or if you’ve never figured out what your purpose is, you will find something that resonates in this book. The characters – Rita, Sam, Geroge, Alison, and Liam – independently tell us about their stories and it makes us realise how we never really know what’s going on behind closed doors. We all wear masks, and wear them well, and few people ever see past the face we present to the world or even to ourselves, but when all said and done it’s love, hope, fear and regret that connect us.

 

  Verdict:

I said earlier that this book felt like a love letter to Salisbury, but I would also go as far as to say that it is a love letter to humanity. I absolutely loved it. I was astounded by Norris’s perception of people, and his empathy and gentleness with them. There were moments I had to stop to draw breath or even write something down, and it is so rare that I do this when reading a book. I came to Five Rivers with little expectation and left it with a sense of awe. Highly, highly recommended and I cannot wait to see what Norris comes up with next. He has a fan.

 

 

 

 

Snow White Must Die by Nele Nuehaus

Filed under: Uncategorized — The Book Whisperer @ 5:54 pm

snow whiteWhat I thought:

I must admit that I was intrigued by the title of this book; it sounded sort of sinister fairy-story. Fairy-story is isn’t but there are sinister goings-on a plenty alright.

Tobias Sartorius has just been released from prison where he has served 10 years for the murder of 2 teenage girls (one his girlfriend – the “Snow White” of the title – and the other his close friend) after a drunken night back when he was also a teenager. Despite the fact that the girls bodies were never found, Tobias was found guilty of their murder and his reappearance back in the small German village where he grew up is more than unwelcome. The Police are called in when things heat up in the village, especially when another 17 year old girl, Amelie, who not only seems to be particulalry interested in the case but also bears a remarkable resemblance to Snow White goes missing…

I liked the way that this book drew me right in from the first page. It’s pacey and moves along at a speed that satisfied the currently unsatisfied reader in me and didn’t waste time on too many descriptions and unecessary detail when I just wanted it to get on with the plot. I needed twists and sub-plots and that’s what I got. I liked the Police duo Pia and Oliver; I found them to be human which made them endearing, and I understand that this is the 4th book the author has written with them in (although the first to be translated from German).

What I didn’t like so much was the translation. Occasionally I would find whole sentences to be clumsy or clichéd (even lazy) but realised that this probably had more to do with the translation than the author. The book was clearly translated by an American which really seemed to strip away the “Europeaness” of the book. When I’m reading about tiny German villages I don’t want “guys” and “the joint” and “streetcars”. It felt wrong, and could easily have ruined the book for me if I had been in a pernickity mood.

 

Verdict:

I needed a page-turning whodunnit and that’s what I got. I will definitely be looking out for more of this authors books and look forward to getting to know this Police duo more.

 

 

The Killing Game by JS Carol November 21, 2016

Filed under: Authors,Crime/Mystery/Thriller — The Book Whisperer @ 1:29 pm
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kliing-2What  I Thought:

This book should come with a warning sign on the cover: Do not start if you have other plans for the day. The term un-putdownable is banded around fairly frequently in book reviews (yep, guilty) but this one really is!

Set over just 4 hours in an exclusive Hollywood restaurant frequented by the A-list elite, their Agents and top PR, a lone gunman with a bomb strapped to him walks in one lunch hour and takes the 25 patrons and staff hostage. After making them strip to their underwear to heighten the sense of fear and humiliation, he then begins his games by killing unexpectedly and at random, his opening line upon entering having been “From this moment on I am God.”

The book is very clever at painting the picture of the Hollywood set in all its ugly glory (behind many a successful star is someone who has plotted, manipulated and orchestrated with them and behind every news story is a team of people who will go to any lengths to get exclusives, not caring who lives or dies along the way). Yet inside the restaurant, these sometimes shallow and narcissistic people are just the same as anyone else – they have their own worries, grief, hopes and dreams.

The book is set in half hour timeframes over the course of 4 hours and the narrative is fast and furious with each short chapter ending on a cliffhanger that makes it impossible to put down. Not only that but as you are left dangling off the edge of that particular cliff, the next chapter flits to another part of the story so there becomes a point where you are dangling off about 3 cliffs simultaneously ensuring you can never put the damn thing down! Crafty.

 

  Verdict:

Seriously good! Thrilling, exciting, shocking and so absorbing that when you finally come up for air it’s a bit of a surprise to find you are sat on your own sofa in your own home. Lock the doors, turn your phone off, put the fire on and your feet up (snacks recommended as you are unlikely to want to move for the next few hours) and get ready for the ride!

 

 

 

Blood Lines by Angela Marsons November 7, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — The Book Whisperer @ 5:49 pm

angela-1The blurb:

“A victim killed with a single, precise stab to the heart appears at first glance to be a robbery gone wrong. A caring, upstanding social worker lost to a senseless act of violence. But for Detective Kim Stone, something doesn’t add up.

When a local drug addict is found murdered with an identical wound, Kim knows instinctively that she is dealing with the same killer. But with nothing to link the two victims except the cold, calculated nature of their death, this could be her most difficult case yet.

Desperate to catch the twisted individual, Kim’s focus on the case is threatened when she receives a chilling letter from Dr Alex Thorne, the sociopath who Kim put behind bars. And this time, Alex is determined to hit where it hurts most, bringing Kim face-to-face with the woman responsible for the death of Kim’s little brother – her own mother.

As the body count increases, Kim and her team unravel a web of dark secrets, bringing them closer to the killer. But one of their own could be in mortal danger. Only this time, Kim might not be strong enough to save them…

A totally gripping thriller that will have you hooked from the very first page to the final, dramatic twist.”

 

  What I thought:

I have a new author crush! Less than 2 weeks ago, I started my first Angela Marsons book. Last night (well, early hours of this morning, truth be told) I finished my fifth. Oh, Ms Marsons is clever alright with her short, cliff-hanger chapters that mean you can never put the damn things down. But what a series. I am utterly bereft now I’m done.

Not only is Marsons my new author crush but Kim Stone is my new Detective crush. I just love her. Deadpan and sarcastic and makes me chuckle out loud on a regular basis. Her interactions with other key characters are just brilliant, especially Bryant, her partner and only real friend and Keats, the ME. Stone is forthright and doesn’t do small talk, yet she has a heart of gold under that prickly exterior and an unrelenting drive for justice.

I read Lost Girls first (number 3 in the series but although I have since read the rest in order, I didn’t feel I had missed out) and I enjoyed every single one of them, but found Blood Lines a particular treat as we see the return of sociopath Psychiatrist, Dr. Alex Thorne. Alex Thorne first appeared in Evil Games (book 2) and what ensued was a game of cat and mouse between Detective and Doctor as they tried to outwit each other at every turn. In Blood Lines, Alex manages to create pandemonium even from behind bars and her evil plotting knows no bounds. The dynamics between Stone and Thorne are so well written and I found gaining insights into Thorne’s twisted mind with regards to how she uses manipulation to get what she wants fascinating.

 

  Verdict:

Tight plotting and breakneck speed chapters meant putting these books down have been near on impossible. I particularly love the device that Marsons uses by leaving us dangling off a cliff at the end of a chapter and then the next chapter flits to another character/plot, ensuring you keep reading to find out what happens. Clever!

If you have never read any of the Kim Stone series, do yourself a massive favour and dive right in. Bloody brilliant!

 

angela-2 angela-3 angela-4 angela-5

 

 

Fractured by Catherine McKenzie October 31, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — The Book Whisperer @ 12:40 pm

The Blurb:

fractured-2Julie Prentice and her family move across the country to the idyllic Mount Adams district of Cincinnati, hoping to evade the stalker who’s been terrorizing them ever since the publication of her bestselling novel, The Murder Game. Since Julie doesn’t know anyone in her new town, when she meets her neighbor John Dunbar, their instant connection brings measured hope for a new beginning. But she never imagines that a simple, benign conversation with him could set her life spinning so far off course.

We know where you live…

After a series of misunderstandings, Julie and her family become the target of increasingly unsettling harassment. Has Julie’s stalker found her, or are her neighbors out to get her, too? As tension in the neighborhood rises, new friends turn into enemies, and the results are deadly.

What I thought:

I am always intrigued to read books about people who quickly up-sticks and leave, often without leaving a forwarding address. The motivations and secrets of those who disappear and the detail that is deliberately left out and drip fed to the reader throughout the book, teasing us with snippets of information that we have to try to piece together ourselves.

Julie is an author with a best-selling crime fiction book called The Murder Game but it appears that there are some who don’t believe that it is entirely fiction. After a stalker becomes increasingly volatile, Julie uproots her whole family to Cincinnati to get away. She begins to make some new friends in the neighbourhood, and one in particular is John, the married man across the street, who she starts running with every morning. 

The book alternates between Julie and John, each telling their story in present day and the past. It is clear right from the start that there has been a major incident that lands some of the cast in court for murder but we don’t know who, why or what happened. The tension is always just enough to keep us reading one more chapter.

Some of the characters were brilliantly drawn, in particular Cindy the interfering neighbour, but although I didn’t necessarily dislike Julie, I didn’t particulalry warm to her or her children either so although I felt I should be rooting for her I didn’t quite get there despite her becoming (unfairly) a pariah in her own neighbourhood.

Verdict:

I have seen this book categorised as both psychological thriller and women’s fiction and to be honest I found it to be the perfect hybrid of the two – an intelligent, well-paced page-turner. I would give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

 

Daisy in Chains by Sharon Bolton May 21, 2016

Filed under: Crime/Mystery/Thriller,S J Bolton,Uncategorized — The Book Whisperer @ 2:16 pm

Daisy in chainsWhat I thought:

There is little more comforting that settling down to read a book by one of your favourite authors and knowing you’ll be in for a treat. And little more satisfying than reaching the end and congratulating yourself on being right.

I first discovered Sharon Bolton’s books about 5 years ago (then known as S J Bolton) when I was recommended Sacrifice by a friend. I devoured it. And all her others since.

Daisy in Chains centres on prison inmate Hamish Wolfe, incarcerated for the murders of 4 young women. Despite the court case being lost and Wolfe being found guilty, he wages a campaign to get lawyer Maggie Rose on his side to help him prove his innocence. Maggie Rose has a reputation – that of an illusive, limelight-shunning lawyer who finds loopholes and inconsistencies in evidence that has overturned the convictions of even the guiltiest of murderers. That’s why Wolfe wants Maggie on his side, only she is playing very hard to get.

What ensues is a game of cat and mouse between Wolfe and Rose and we’re never really sure of either Wolfe’s guilt or innocence or Maggie’s belief in him. What I like about Bolton’s books is her way of dropping in bits of information throughout the book, some almost seeming irrelevant at the time. It is held back and then weaved cleverly in to the plot, constantly making your question your assumptions.

 

  Verdict:

In this age of the psychological thriller (and it is – just check out the supermarket shelves!) I have either read far too many of them that I can guess way too early what will happen, or publishers are jumping on a bandwagon and pushing any old rubbish out it sometimes seems, it restores my faith in good writing and plotting when I am left with some surprises at the end.

Great book, highly recommended. And if you haven’t read any of Bolton’s other books please make sure you do, they really are fantastic.

 

 

 

The Doll’s House by M J Arlidge April 10, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — The Book Whisperer @ 1:21 pm

dolls house What I thought

As with the first two books in this series, Eeny Meeny and Pop Goes the Weasel, this latest race round Southampton for a serial killer is just as worthy of the lashings of praise I heaped on its predecessors.

The story begins with a body found buried on a beach by a young family on a day out, the body of a young girl with dark hair, bright blue eyes and a bluebird tattoo on her shoulder. And it soon becomes clear that the girl was the victim of a serial killer, one who starves his victims to death, all with a similar appearance – and missing girl Ruby Sprackling also fits that profile. The story itself is darkly chilling, all the more so because we view some of it through Ruby’s eyes as she tries to stay alive.

D I Helen Grace leads the hunt once again, and with her own flawed character and obstacles put in her way by those who should be working with her, this only makes us route for her more. But what I particularly liked about this book was, as we got to understand more about the killer and understand his background, he becomes real to the reader rather than just some faceless ghoul who’s motivation is not only believable but actually sympathetically drawn.

Arlidge really knows how to create tension, fear and excitement and knows how to do it well.

  Verdict

I suspected this may be the case after having read just the first book in the series, but having now read all three I can confirm that not only am I a huge fan, but Arlidge joins the ranks with Tess Geritssen and Val McDermid et al to be classed as one of my favourite crime authors. Praise indeed.