Throwback Thursday: The Suspicions of Mr Witcher by Kate Summerscale

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 pick for this week is The Suspicions of Mr. Witcher by Kate Summerscale which I remember really enjoying when I read it.

9780747596486What I thought:

What a fascinating book this was. I expected to read about the true story of one of the most shocking crimes in 19th century England but I hadn’t bargained for also getting a fantastically written and hugely interesting social commentary of Victorian times and attitudes and behaviours with regards to the emergence of Police Detectives in this country.

Mr. Whicher, the Detective called into this particular case, was one of the first ever Scotland Yard Detectives which came with its own share of suspicion and mistrust. The case in question was the murder of a 3-year-old boy, one of the several children of a well-to-do family in a country house in Wiltshire. In June 1860, the young boy was found to be missing from his cot in the morning and later that day his body was discovered (with his throat slit and a stab wound to his chest) down the servant’s toilet outside in the grounds. It soon became apparent that the perpetrator was one of the people inside the house on that night (which consisted of the boys family, the nursemaid, and housemaid). Whicher was called in to find out which one of the family murdered the three-year-old while the whole of England became obsessed with the drama, writing into the newspapers in their thousands offering their opinion on who committed the crime.

While I found the unravelling of this story fascinating in itself, I was also delighted to see so many references to some great Victorian authors including Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins and Mary Elizabeth Braddon. 1860 was also the year that the first victorian “sensational” novel was published and this appeared to feed the frenzy of the public. This particular case has also been reported to have been the basis for subsequent rather famous novels such as Dickens’ The Mystery of Edwin Drood , Collins’ The Moonstone and Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret all of which contain themes from this particular story. Dickens (who was also an aquaintance of Mr Whicher) even wrote letters to Collins offering his theory on what took place that night.

This book is completely non-ficiton to point that only recorded conversations and facts are included (which seems to be the reason there are alot of negative reviews about it – perhaps it seemed too dry for some). And while this is more of a why-dunnit than a who-dunnit , there are still a few surprises along the way that caught me off-guard.

Verdict:

I thoroughtly enjoyed this book; infact I could barely put it down. Summerscale stuck to the facts without trying to sensationalise the story any more than it already was by putting words in peoples mouths and the result was a hugely enjoyable novel about a shocking crime and its repercussions in Victorian society. Highly recommended.

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Have you read this? Do you like crime non-fiction and could you recommend any others?

Review: Exquisite by Sarah Stovell

exquisiteWhat I thought:

What an exceptionally beautifully written book Exquisite is. A psychological thriller of such deliciously sumptuous, yet so clean and crisp, prose and not a word wasted.

Narrated in turn by Bo Luxton – author, married mother to two young girls, living an idyllic life in a cottage in the Lakes –  and Alice Dark – young, lively aspiring author living in a bedsit in Brighton, who attends one of Bo’s creative writing courses, Exquisite starts out as a friendship based on their love of the written word, but soon spirals into something much darker. What the reader is then presented with is two increasingly differing accounts of the same thing by each woman, it becomes clear that one or both of them is twisting the truth. We know right from the first page that one of the women ends up in prison, but what we don’t know is which one and why. This cloaks the book in tension and suspicion as we know that things won’t end well and this, along with its undercurrent of intensity and unpredictability, provides the sense of teetering on the cusp of something and never quite knowing when we’re going to fall off the edge (or be pushed).

Verdict:

Exquisite is a perfectly suited title of a book of such lush lyrical prose with themes of obsession, manipulation, and all-consuming passion. With gorgeous descriptions of one of my favourite places in the world – The Lake District – and strong, believable narrative, Exquisite has proved itself more than worthy of being among the best psychological thrillers I have read in some time. Debut author, Sarah Stovell, is definitely one to watch.

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Have you read this yet? Are you going to?

With thanks to Karen at Orenda for providing me with a copy of this book (for which I have provided an honest review).

Review: The Night Visitor by Lucy Atkins

night visitorWhat I Thought:

I bloody loved this book. It put me somewhat in mind of Zoe Heller’s Notes on a Scandal (which I also bloody loved). Alternating between the voices of Olivia – successful author and TV-personality, attractive, nice houses, large family, and Vivian – bitter, jealous, lonely, plain, elderly housekeeper, The Night Visitor sucks the reader into a claustrophobic chokehold of deceit and secrets.

While Olivia Sweetman should be riding high on the massive success of her latest book, she is acting strangely fretful and on edge, and Vivian, her research assistant has mysteriously vanished at a crucial moment. With absolutely nothing in common, Olivia and Vivian’s lives have become interwoven through work, but increasingly uncomfortably and obsessively so. Set mainly in East Sussex and the south of France, the story of these two very different women is filled with symbolism, usually of the creepy-crawly variety, which was a very clever way to expose many character flaws in both parties.

There were several gasp-out-loud moments for me in this book. Not the gratuitous or macabre kind, but much more subtle and a feeling of being sucked into a vortex of manipulation and deceit. It was difficult to know who to trust at times and difficult to know who the characters themselves could trust also.

Shining a light on feminism (and cleverly done, might I add), this exceptionally well-plotted book exposes our culture and how we believe things to be. But as Vivian points out: just like the dung beetle, never underestimate someone you think is below you.

Verdict:

Absolutely brilliant! Creepy and compelling edge-of-your-seat reading at its best. Often disturbing and unsettling but always absorbing and engrossing. Massive thumbs up from me!

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Have you read this yet? It’s a belter!

Throwback Thursday: The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen

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.

This week’s choice is The Surgeon by  Tess Gerritsen. Taken from my earlier review:

surgeonWhat I Thought:

One of my favorite things about reading is when I discover a new author and realise that they have written a ton of books that I now have sprawling in front of me! Good times! Being a massive crime fiction fan I was delighted when I discoveredTess Gerritsen a few years ago. She is BRILLIANT!!! Rarely do I read a book and then have to move straight on to the next in the series (which is exactly what I did) because I just couldn’t get enough.

The Surgeon is the name that has been given to a serial killer on the loose in Boston one stiflingly hot summer. He is targeting young women and his calling card is surgery so precise that the investigating team can only assume that he is a trained professional. The thing that puzzles Detectives Jane Rizzoli and Thomas Moore the most though is that the attacks are identical to ones that took place in Georgia two years ago but ended when one of the intended victims, Dr. Catherine Cordell shot the perpetrator dead. Either he has come back to life or there is a copycat at work who knows details of the case that nobody else could know. And even worse, the new attacks are taking place in Boston which is exactly where Catherine Cordell moved to start a new life…

What I enjoyed about this book as well as the fact that it was so gripping was the fact that there is a lot of forensic science involved – I love being privvy to what the postmortem tells us about the victims last hours, or the fibres and hairs that can tell us more about a perpetrator that you would ever imagine. I found it really interesting as well as being a gripping read.

Verdict: 

Fast-paced, gritty, authentic, chilling. READ IT!!!

Have you read this or any of Tess Gerritsen’s other books? What do you think?

Dead Woman Walking by Sharon Bolton

dead womanWhat I thought:

I have long been a fan of Sharon Bolton. In fact, I’ve read every single book she’s written (which surely makes me a super-fan?). I know I’m in for a treat when I settle down with on of her books, and I’m pleased to confirm that I haven’t been let down yet.

Dead Woman Walking starts in a balloon ride early one morning. A group of 13 people (which includes a couple, several hikers, a family with teenage children and two sisters, Jess and Bella, who are two of the main characters in this book) are enjoying their ride when they witness a crime on the ground below which ultimately turns their tranquil flight into the trip of nightmares. When the balloon fails to arrive back and the police are eventually called, what they find is a scene of carnage and devastation and a flight that wasn’t simply a crash, but a deliberate attempt to bring the balloon down.

Once the victims are accounted for, the Police realise they are one body short. From here, what ensues is a cat and mouse game between victim, Police and someone else who is just as determined to find her, although for entirely different reasons. I really don’t want to say any more than this as it’s best to read it and find out for yourself as you go along.

There are several plot twists in Dead Woman Walking and I did actually guess them all. I think I must read too much crime fiction as I constantly find myself playing detective and pick up on every little thing (particularly something that seems slightly out of place or almost irrelevant to the developing plot, as I often find that it is there for a reason in the end). Despite this, it did not detract from my enjoyment of the book and it was still as satisfying to find out my theories had been right (although I confess, I love it when I don’t see something coming).

Verdict:

Another belter from Sharon Bolton. Fantastic plot, great characters (the nuns were fantastic! – it was like watching the end of The Sound of Music when they sabotage the Nazi’s car).  Short chapters, great forward momentum and a fabulous aray of characters = a page-turning romp of a read.

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Have you read this or any of Sharon Bolton’s other books? Which one is your favourite?

The Book Whisperer’s Month in Review: April 2017

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April has been a real mixed month for me. I have been spoiled with some utterly fantastic books and started some I couldn’t even finish. I completed 7 books and out of that seven, I adored 5 of them so much that I am going to struggle to put them in order.

So, I am starting with a joint first purely for the fact that I loved these 2 books so much but they were completely different from one antoher and I loved them for totally different reasons:

 

Joint 1st

 

Let Me Tell You About A Man I Knew by Susan Fletcher

This book was a joy to read from start to finish. Susan Fletcher can write. I mean, REALLY write. If you love beautiful storytelling and pitch-perfect prose, you need to read this book. I cannot recommend highly enough.

 

Tall Oaks by Chris Whitaker 

Such a great book – mystery, humour, humanity, the whole works. And included one of my favourite ever characters in a book – 17-year-old-wannabe-gangster Manny. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!!

 

Honestly, I do not know why either of these books is not being more widely read. They are both fantastic and highly, highly recommended.

 

3rd

sweetpea

 

Sweetpea by C J Skuse

This book is dark, it’s crude, it’s shameless, it’s but it’s utterly and absolutely freaking hilarious! Sweetpea is a serial killer but I guarantee you’ll fall in love with her. A riot of a read and highly recommended.

 

Joint 4th

In any other month, either of these books could have romped home in first place. I’ve just been so spoiled this month and it’s actually a travesty that two fantastic books look like they’re so far down my list.

 

The Last Piece of my Heart by Paige Toon

Set in Cornwall and Thailand, this feel-good, romantic book is pure escapism. Big thumbs up.

Dead Woman Walking by Sharon Bolton

Review to follow but utterly gripping as always. If you’re already a Bolton fan, this is up to her usual high standards, if you’ve never read any of her books, what are you waiting for?

 

6th 

bricks

The Bricks That Built The Houses by Kate Tempest

So here’s the thing: while I hated parts of it, and early on could quite happily have put it to one side for later (or never), I ended up racing through this book and really quite enjoying it. I was invested, I wanted to know what was coming next, and I started to look forward to picking it up. Whatever your view on the topics in the book, it’s certainly a good one to read in a book group!

 

7th

quicksand

 

Quicksand by Malin Persson Giolito

Quicksand, for me, lacked suspense or tension: there were no surprises, twists, red herrings and no reason to keep reading on. And yet I did. Because surely an award-winning book must redeem itself, right? Wrong. I read all the way to the end and wasn’t even rewarded for my slog. That said, it is getting lots of rave reviews so definitely one to make your own mind up about.

 

Verdict:

An outstanding month for books (which makes me slightly worried that I will have a run of duff ones now).

I could honestly recommend any of the books on my list for this month. The first 5 because they were all brilliant, and the latter two because I’m curious to hear what others think about them and despite them not necessarily being my cup of tea, I can certainly see why others would love them. Something for everyone.

Have you read any of these books? I’d love to know what you think.

 

Review: Sweetpea by C J Skuse

sweetpeaWhat I thought:

WARNING: THIS BOOK IS A RIOT! IT WILL HAVE YOU LAUGHING OUT LOUD, SHOCK YOU AND MAKE YOU UNABLE TO PUT THE DAMN THING DOWN.

As soon as reviews started appearing on my Twitter feed about this book, I knew I had to have it. It sounded hilarious and although I have learned to be a little dubious about books that are marketed as “a cross between x and x”, in this case, it is totally warranted. Bridget Jones really does meet Dexter, and what a joyous combination they are!

Rhiannon, aka Sweetpea, writes about her life in a diary. She moans about her boyfriend, her weight, her friends who do nothing but talk about weddings and babies, her dull job and the array of off characters she has to work with. That all sounds rather normal, right? Well yes, except that Rhiannon always starts her diary entries with a list of people she would like to kill:

“People who chat at the cashier in the supermarket, even though there’s a queue behind them – I’m all for being pleasant when you’re packing your bag, but when the card’s been pulled out or the change has been given, kindly fuck off. Don’t linger and talk about your kid’s Easter play or your operation. AND DON’T THANK ME FOR WAITING. I DIDN’T HAVE A CHOICE!”

The above quotation is one of the milder comments from this book. There is dark humour and then there is black-as-coal humour and this definitely falls into the latter. Even I, who can F and blind with the best of them and am not easily offended, let out a slow whistle on the odd occasion. This book is dark, it’s crude, it’s shameless, it’s but it’s utterly and absolutely freaking hilarious!

Rhiannon is a psychopath and a serial killer. She spends her life reminding herself of “The Act” – how she has learned to be normal around other people so as not to raise suspicion – when in fact most of the time she is reminiscing about one of her kills or plotting her next one. But yet, despite this, I loved Rhiannon. Loved her! She is a riot of sarcasm, profanity and grumbles about much of the same things that annoy the rest of us (or is that just me?).

“1. Cold callers – I swear a circle of Dante’s Inferno is missing some inhabitants.

2. Those self-righteous people who brag about not throwing anything away for an entire year – how do you recycle your fanny rags? Seriously?

3. Whoever sits in my office chair when I’m not there and adjusts the height.”

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“Bought an iced bun on the way to lunch but it turned out to be a depressingly bad iced bun. You would think there’s no such thing – it’s just a bun and icing, right?

WRONG.

For a start it was stale and there was a live fruit fly stuck to one end. And if that wasn’t enough, half of my icing was stuck on the bun next to it in the window and the bitch with the tongs never even scraped it off and put it back on mine. So rude.”

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And then there are gems like this:

“Believe it or not, this is not the most awkward I’ve ever been around Jim and Elaine. I had food poisoning once at their house one Christmas – I was up all night in their bathroom, Jackson Pollocking the ceramic and letting off excruciatingly loud farts. At one point Jim came in and asked me if I wanted a cup of tea. My mouth tried to answer but my arsehole beat him to it.”

I don’t normally do star ratings on my blog but as I am required to on sites like Amazon and Goodreads, I initially thought I would give this a 4-star rating, purely based on my opinion that Sweetpea ended with a whimper rather than a bang and left me wanting. However, having thought about it, I am still going to go with 5 stars, as apart from that I loved every minute of reading this book.

Verdict:

Sexually explicit, graphic, stabby, and not for the feint of heart. Utterly brilliant!!!

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I received a copy of this book via HQ and Netgalley in return for an honest review.

Have you met Sweetpea yet? Dare you????