Throwback Thursday: The Likeness by Tana French

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Throwback Thursday is a meme created by Renee at It’s Book Talk to share old favourite books rather than just the new shiny ones. This is a great idea to bring back to life some much-loved books. Please feel free to join in.

My choice for this week is:

This is taken from my review in 2010.


Image result for the likeness tana frenchWhat I thought:

The story is narrated by Cassie Maddox, a Detective in Dublin’s Domestic Violence Unit. She is called out to the scene of a crime in a derelict cottage in the countryside early one morning where a young lady has been stabbed to death. It doesn’t take Cassie long to work out why she, personally, has been summoned – the dead girl is the spitting image of herself. Not only that, but the girl is ID’d as one Lexie Maddison which is the invented name that Cassie had been given several years ago on an undercover job. The girl, by the looks of all the evidence that is presented to the team, has been living as Lexie Maddison for the last 3 years in Dublin and nobody knows where she came from or who she really is.

Lexie had been living in an old manor house in the village where she was found for just 6 months with 4 of her student friends (one of whom had inherited the house from his deceased uncle). After considerable persuasion, Cassie agrees to become part of a plan to infiltrate the manor house and out the killer. By telling the 4 house-mates that Lexie didn’t die that night, Cassie then spends the next week preparing for her new role by watching videos of the 5 housemates together, learning all about Lexie’s life, mannerisms, and her friends and then she is ready to step into her new life…….

I was on the edge of my seat wondering if Cassie could pull it off and if one of the housemates had anything to do with her death or whether it is someone from Lexie’s unknown past come back to find her or even someone thinking that they had murdered the original Lexie (from Cassie’s undercover role). One thing is for sure though: the housemates are hiding something.

I just loved this book, I found that I couldn’t and put it down, nor did I want to. Despite the size of the book, I never once felt like it was too long; on the contrary, I could have gone on reading for several hundred more. I became like Cassie – so engrossed in Lexie’s life that I felt like I knew the housemates and was living there with them. I love a god thriller, but this felt like more than that to me – it is a psychological thriller and even had shades of The Secret History by Donna Tartt  (which is one of my all-time favourite books) or Red Leaves by Paulina Simons (another great college thriller).

The characters in this book are brilliantly drawn: Detective Frank Mackey (Cassie’s undercover boss) is perfect for his role (and I have heard that French’s next book Faithful Place will be narrated by him which I am excited about) as are the characters of the housemates (posh, lying around listening to classical music and reading 18th century poets for relaxation).

Verdict:

A genuine page turner!

 

Have you read this or any other books by Tana French? Which ones do you recommend?

Throwback Thursday: The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino

throwbackthursday

Throwback Thursday is a meme created by Renee at It’s Book Talk to share old favourite books rather than just the new shiny ones. This is a great idea to bring back to life some much-loved books. Please feel free to join in.

My choice for this week is: The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino and copied from my review in 2011.

 

suspect xWhat I thought:

What a strange yet strangely appealing book from this Japanese author, Keigo Higashino. I have read several novels by Japanese authors over the years and they have all had similar styles in that they have been sparsely written with barely a word wasted, yet they have all packed an almighty punch (without even trying it somehow seems). The Devotion of Suspect X is a clever crime book. There is a murder but no blood and guts, a crime but no evidence. The killing takes place in the first few pages of the book and we all know straight away who did it: what happens immediately afterwards is what keeps the reader on their toes.

The story is centred around Yasuko, a single mum who works in a lunch-box shop and whose unsavoury ex-husband tries to worm his way back into her life. Within pages, said ex-husband is dead and entering from stage left is strange next-door neighbour Ishigami, who is a genius mathematician with rather a large crush on Ysasuko. On the case of the body dumped in an oil drum by the river is Tokyo  Detective Kusangi who vents his frustrations about the case to friend Yukawa who happens to be a genius physician and who knew Ishigami at University. What follows is clash of the geniuses: not in an action-packed, race-against-time way, but more like a battle of brains over a quiet game of chess. While this was a great way to help the reader unravel what happened, I have to admit that about ¾ of the way through the book I started to become a little bored with the perpetual cat-and-mouse game between Yukawa and Ishigami: I remember sighing and uttering “get on with it” at one point. However, not long after I was rewarded with an almighty wallop at the end that I didn’t see coming. And then, just as I’d relaxed again, I was left staring at an ending that made my mouth go into this shape….. O

Verdict:

Quirky, surprising and rewarding.

 

Have you read this or any other fiction by Japanese authors? What did you think?

 

Review: The Girl Before by J P Delaney

girl beforeWhat I thought:

Despite my growing aversion to anything with “Girl” in the title (or sister, husband or missing, come to that), The Girl Before has proved that I was wrong to judge a book by its cover (or title in this case). It was a big hit!

Narrated in turn by Emma (Then) and Jane (Now), the story is centred around a unique home at 1, Folgate Street in London. Jane moves into what she thinks is her dream home (beautiful, uncluttered and a pittance for what it is) to help get over a tragedy she has just suffered. Desperate to start a clean slate, she isn’t put off sending in her application for the most beautiful house where everything is controlled by an app, despite a list of 200 psychometric questions that have to be answered. Most people, the Agent says, don’t get a look in. Only a select few ever make the cut. But once Jane is settled she finds out that Emma, the girl before, died in mysterious circumstances right there in the home.

I had many reservations about this book before reading, and having Girl in the title was only one of them. I had seen mixed reviews, with many stating that it was Fifty-Shades-of-Gray-esque which was enough to put me off all on its own. Now, I haven’t actually read Fifty Shades but I did sit through the most excruciatingly boring 2 hours of my life once when I was persuaded to watch it with a friend. I can see the parallels alright – the controlling, emotionally stunted, control freak who is the Landlord and women who apparently fall at his feet. These bits I didn’t particularly like, and in fact, I had a hard time warming to most of the characters, but yet I was gripped from the start and compelled to keep reading on.

Verdict:

I found this to be a real page-turner and  I thoroughly enjoyed it. The chapters are short, there are unreliable narrators so you’re never really clear on what’s real and what’s not. It was pacy and entertaining and I give it a big thumbs up.

Have you read this yet? What did you think?

Review: Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

FIERCE-KINGDOM-by-Gin-Phillips-smallWhat I thought:

Joan and her 4-year old son, Lincoln, are at the zoo when a teenage shooter turns their afternoon of fun into a heart-stopping race for survival. Hiding in an animal enclosure as it grows dark, the story unfolds mostly from Joan’s point of view and occasionally from a few others who are also hiding.

Imagine trying to keep a 4-year old quiet and still while all the time assessing the situation for a way out. Although I don’t have children of my own, I was once (a zillion years ago) and au pair to several young children and therefore I could understand the endless chatter and make-believe and innocence of a child while all hell is breaking loose around them, and it didn’t take much imagination to recognise how utterly and fiercely a mother would want to protect her child.

While there was much forward momentum, there were also parts that dragged somewhat for me. I did feel like a lot of it was centered around Lincoln and his make-believe world rather than the developing plot. There is only so much interest I can feign in plastic toys.

Verdict:

I liked the fact that this isn’t your normal type of thriller and, there were genuine edge-of-your-seat moments that ensure those pages kept turning. And I actually didn’t see the end coming…

 

NB/ I was provided a copy of this book for review from the publisher in return for my honest opinion.

Review: The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola

uneeingWhat I thought:

This book sounded right up my street. And it was. Based on an historical true crime, The Unseeing follows the incarceration of Sarah Gale in Newgate Gaol for the murder of Hannah Brown on the eve of Hannah’s wedding to James Greenacre (Sarah’s lover, who is also convicted and sentenced to hang).

The sense of time and place was brilliantly done; I could really feel the cold and squalid conditions of the gaol and picture the London chaos and fog and horseshit.

The murder of Hannah Brown was a particularly brutal one and came to be known as the Edgeware Road Murder on account of it being where her torso was found (her head was later found in the Thames and her legs were found sticking out of a sack by a labourer). It was alleged that James and Sarah murdered Hannah and then disposed of the various body parts but there were questions around Sarah Gale’s part in the proceedings due to her reluctance to say anything during the trial.

In The Unseeing, Anna Mazzola has tried to fill in the gaps of what could possibly have happened back on that fateful Christmas Day in 1836. Why did Sarah Gale not defend herself (especially when she had a 4-year-old son)? Was she afraid of Greenacre or was it something else? I sometimes have a problem with books based on true stories but take the artistic license too far or the plot meanders so far away from what is more likely to have happened. But although many of the characters in The Unseeing are fictional, they are necessary as a device with which to explore what could have really happened (Edmund Fleetwood in this case, who is a young lawyer trying to make his name on a big case like this and tries to get Sarah to tell him what really happened). Despite the fact, that much of this book is fiction, it felt perfectly plausible to me and also added a bit more drama to a grisly tale that relatively little is now known about. I was glad that I didn’t look up what ultimately happened to Sarah Gale, as although so little is known about her, I found that the book really pulled me along, chapter by chapter, in my quest to find out what might really have happened. We’ll never know, of course, but Mazzola certainly gives us a damn good yarn to mull over.

Verdict:

I really enjoyed this book. Not only was there the fabulously authentic Edwardian/Victorian society, but I also loved how Mazzola brought to the fore the plight of women in those times – their lack of rights, lack of a voice, lack of dignity, and Elizabeth Fry’s social and prison reforms to help them (I would actually like to read more about this now). An incredibly atmospheric book and one I highly recommend.

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Review: Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

behindWhat I thought:

You’ve probably heard the hype. Even if you haven’t read it yet, you must have heard of the brilliant #WTFthatending hashtag that’s been all over Twitter. What a fantastic piece of marketing, as if you’re anything like me and love your Psych Thrillers, I am in no doubt that that would have got your attention like it did mine. The minute I saw it, I HAD to have this book!

This is an incredibly hard book to review, without giving anything away and I really don’t want to do that as the surprise(s) are what finish this fabulous book perfectly. What I can say is that Behind Her Eyes is a book about a marriage that might not be all it seems on the outside. The book is narrated, in turn, by Adele (wife of David) and Louise (has a drunken snog with David and ends up befriending Adele). Who knows about whom? Who has a hidden agenda? Who do you believe?

Unsettling, mind-boggling and at times frustrating, this book had me scratching my head throughout. Just when you think you have it nailed, the rug is whipped from under you again and you are left wondering what the hell is going on. Who is good? Who is bad? Who is telling the truth?

And now to that ending: I read a recent interview with Sarah Pinborough where she explained that she didn’t want to cheat the reader, so although the ending sort of blows your mind, there are subtle clues dotted throughout. I still challenge you to guess though.

Verdict:

The blurb on the back of the book warns the reader not to trust this book. Sage advice. If you’re somewhat jaded by the sea of “you won’t see the ending coming” promises in this genre at the moment, I promise you that this time: YOU WILL NOT SEE THE ENDING COMING! I’m tellin’ ya!!!

Have you read this yet? What did you think? I’m dying to know.

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Review: The Dry by Jane Harper

41xyspemgllWhat I thought:

Although totally different to the last book I read, The Mountain in My Shoe, this book was equally a refreshing in that it felt like a departure from the current norm in crime fiction. The setting and the atmosphere were sublime: I could feel the oppressive heat and taste the tension; I was there in the thick of it.

Aaron Falk, a Police Officer from Melbourne, returns to the town of his birth to attend the funeral of his childhood best friend, Luke Hadler. Luke is being buried alongside his wife and six-year-old son who is assumed to have killed before turning the gun on himself. Falk hasn’t been back to Kiewarra for the last 20 years after he was run out of town after the death of his friend Ellie (was it suicide or was it murder?). There are plenty who don’t want Falk back anyway and when Luke’s father asks him to investigate the deaths, Falk finds himself up against some rather unsavoury characters from his past as it appears that some people have very long memories.

From the very first sentence on the very first page, I knew I was going to love this book. With an incredibly powerful prologue, I was gripped from the off and once I was swept up in the searing heat wave it didn’t let me out of its clutches until the very end. With two mysteries running simultaneously, the plot has a great pace and with great, fully-fleshed characters it was easy to keep invested and intrigued.

Verdict:

The Dry was an original and compelling read and one I didn’t want to put down. With a real sense of place and the palpable tension of a town in shock, this was a fantastic thriller were isolation, suspicion and mistrust were heightened by the relentless drought.

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