I had a really lovely May, despite the weather being a tad mixed (in the North East of England anyway).
It started really well with a weekend spent at Newcastle Noir at the City Library. This is the third time I’ve bought a weekend pass for the festival and it just keeps getting better and better. A whole host of crime writers descended on Newcastle for three days of books, books and more books. I was thrilled to attend panels with some of my favourite authors; Lilja, Simone, Mick Herron and to discover new writers and sub-genres that I hadn’t considered before. There is such amount of hard work that goes into organising a festival like this with a whole team of people behind the scenes who make it work. They’re headed up by Dr Jackie Collins (or Dr Noir) whose hard work and dedication really pays off with an event that makes me proud to be from the region.
I’ll be back next month with a brand new feature on my blog, Desert Island Books. If you were abandoned on a desert island which 5 books would you take with you? Check back on the 4th June to read all about it.
Books I Read
The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames
This is an epic and extraordinary read about the life of one Italian woman whose narrow escapes from death mark her life like road signs. A month on I still miss Stella and her family. Read it.
Breakers by Doug Johnstone
Breakers is a timely and quietly devasting read about modern day society and those who have slipped through the cracks. This is an important and powerful book set in modern day Edinburgh.
Never Be Broken by Sarah Hilary
The latest in the DCI Marnie Rome series of books sees DS Noah Jake take centre stage as he deals with grief and bereavement amidst investigating knife crime in London. An emotionally charged read, Never Be Broken shines a spotlight on a number of important issues.
Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss
Longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, Ghost Wall is a novella set in Northumberland and features a family living as if they were in the Iron Age. I am still undecided whether I enjoyed this or not.
Something In The Water by Catherine Steadman
This book opens with a woman digging a grave, but whose is it and why? Featuring an absorbing and twisty plot I was enthralled by this entertaining read. Richard & Judy seem to agree as they have included it in their Book Club picks.
Saltwater by Jessica Andrews
A conflicting read (for me). On the one hand, OMG the writing is exquisite, on the other hand, it was a bit too try hard for my liking. I know, I know. Everybody else loves it and I didn’t hate it, and thought it was an accomplished debut but it did leave me feeling a bit nonplussed.
Those Who Are Loved by Victoria Hislop
Victoria Hislop can always be relied upon to write a compelling and immersive historical novel and she doesn’t disappoint in her latest book. Set in the 20th Century this book examines World War 2, the Greek Civil War and conflict on both a personal and political scale in breathtaking prose.
Worst Case Scenario by Helen FitzGerald
A woman on the edge. A system at breaking point. And a criminal recently released from prison who is testing every one of Mary Shields nerves. Funny, shocking and a rolicking good read, Worst Case Scenario is something very special.
Crushed by Kate Hamer
Teenage girls are kind of terrifying, no more so when there is unrequited love, issues with gaslighting mothers and a ringleader who is troubled. This is a great read which I enjoyed tremendously.
No One Home by Tim Weaver
My first read by Tim Weaver but it certainly will not be my last. So clever and incredibly readable this was a strong 5 star read from me. I’ll have a full review soon.
A Modern Family by Helga Flatland
Beautiful. That is all. Full review tomorrow.
Books I Bought
The Closer I Get by Paul Burston
Tom is a successful author, but he’s struggling to finish his novel. His main distraction is an online admirer, Evie, who simply won’t leave him alone.
Evie is smart, well read and unstable; she lives with her father and her social-media friendships are not only her escape, but everything she has.
When she’s hit with a restraining order, her world is turned upside down, and Tom is free to live his life again, to concentrate on writing.
But things aren’t really adding up. For Tom is distracted but also addicted to his online relationships, and when they take a darker, more menacing turn, he feels powerless to change things. Because maybe he needs Evie more than he’s letting on.
A compulsive, disturbingly relevant, twisty and powerful psychological thriller, The Closer I Get is also a searing commentary on the fragility and insincerity of online relationships, and the danger that can lurk just one ‘like’ away…
The Defence by Steve Cavanagh
Eddie Flynn has 48 hours to save his daughter…
Eddie Flynn used to be a con artist. Then he became a lawyer. Turned out the two weren’t that different.
It’s been over a year since Eddie vowed never to set foot in a courtroom again. But now he doesn’t have a choice. Olek Volchek, the infamous head of the Russian mafia in New York, has strapped a bomb to Eddie’s back and kidnapped his ten-year-old daughter, Amy. Eddie only has forty-eight hours to defend Volchek in an impossible murder trial – and win – if he wants to save his daughter.
Under the scrutiny of the media and the FBI, Eddie must use his razor-sharp wit and every con-artist trick in the book to defend his ‘client’ and ensure Amy’s safety. With the timer on his back ticking away, can Eddie convince the jury of the impossible?
The Liberation by Kate Furnivall
The Liberation is set in Italy in 1945 as British and American troops attempt to bring order to the devastated country and Italy’s population fights to survive. Caterina Lombardi is desperate – her father is dead, her mother has disappeared and her brother is being drawn towards danger. One morning, among the ruins of the bombed Naples streets, Caterina is forced to go to extreme lengths to protect her own life and in doing so forges a future in which she must clear her father’s name. An Allied Army officer accuses him of treason and Caterina discovers a plot against her family. Who can she trust and who is the real enemy now? And will the secrets of the past be her downfall?
This epic novel is an unforgettably powerful story of love, loss and the long shadow of war.
Ordinary People by Diana Evans
Two couples find themselves at a moment of reckoning. Melissa has a new baby and doesn’t want to let it change her. Damian has lost his father and intends not to let it get to him. Michael is still in love with Melissa but can’t quite get close enough to her to stay faithful. Stephanie just wants to live a normal, happy life on the commuter belt with Damian and their three children but his bereavement is getting in the way.
Set in London to an exhilarating soundtrack, Ordinary People is an intimate study of identity and parenthood, sex and grief, friendship and ageing, and the fragile architecture of love.
The Overstory by Richard Powers
An artist inherits a hundred years of photographic portraits, all of the same doomed American chestnut. A hard-partying undergraduate in the late 1980s electrocutes herself, dies, and is sent back into life by creatures of air and light. A hearing- and speech-impaired scientist discovers that trees are communicating with one another. An Air Force crewmember in the Vietnam War is shot out of the sky, then saved by falling into a banyan.
This is the story of these and five other strangers, each summoned in different ways by the natural world, who are brought together in a last stand to save it from catastrophe.
Books I Received
The Time of Our Lives by Portia MacIntosh
Luca is used to being the ‘single one’ at weddings – it happens, when all your other friends are engaged, married or taken. But when she bumps into Tom, her friend from university who broke her heart into a million pieces, she finds herself wondering what could have been.
It’s ten years later, surely she should be over that Tom by now? So why is he looking even more gorgeous than ever – and why doesn’t he seem to be able to keep his eyes off her either?
And as the champagne flows and old secrets resurface, Luca realises that perhaps the time to take a chance on love and life is…now?
The Girl At The Door by Veronica Raimo
Published by 4th Estate on 11th June 2019
A tense, provocative and nuanced novel about a rape accusation in an idyllic commune.
I was in my sixth month when the girl came knocking.
The girl came empty handed. On the threshold, her hair down, her jeans tight.
‘Are you the professor’s wife?’ the girl asked me. ‘I have to speak to you,’ she said.
‘The professor raped me,’ the girl said.
Joe Country by Mick Herron
Published by John Murray on 20th June 2019
‘We’re spies,’ said Lamb. ‘All kinds of outlandish shit goes on.’
Like the ringing of a dead man’s phone, or an unwelcome guest at a funeral . . .
In Slough House memories are stirring, all of them bad. Catherine Standish is buying booze again, Louisa Guy is raking over the ashes of lost love, and new recruit Lech Wicinski, whose sins make him outcast even among the slow horses, is determined to discover who destroyed his career, even if he tears his life apart in the process.
And with winter taking its grip Jackson Lamb would sooner be left brooding in peace, but even he can’t ignore the dried blood on his carpets. So when the man responsible breaks cover at last, Lamb sends the slow horses out to even the score.
This time, they’re heading into joe country.
And they’re not all coming home.
The July Girls by Phoebe Locke
Published by Headline on 25th July 2019
Every year, on the same night in July, a woman is taken from the streets of London; snatched by a killer who moves through the city like a ghost.
Addie has a secret. On the morning of her tenth birthday, four bombs were detonated across the capital. That night her dad came home covered in blood. She thought he was hurt in the attacks – but then her sister Jessie found a missing woman’s purse hidden in his room.
Jessie says they mustn’t tell. She says there’s nothing to worry about. But when she takes a job looking after the woman’s baby daughter, Addie starts to realise that her big sister doesn’t always tell her the whole story. And that the secrets they’re keeping may start costing lives . . .
The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo
Published by Orion on 27th June 2019
At a family wedding, the four Sorenson sisters polka-dot the green lawn in their summer pastels, with varying shades of hair and varying degrees of unease. Their long-infatuated parents watch on with a combination of love and concern. Sixteen years later, the already messy lives of the sisters are thrown into turmoil by the unexpected reappearance of a teenage boy given up for adoption years earlier – and the rich and varied tapestry of the Sorensons’ past is revealed. Weaving between past and present, The Most Fun We Ever Had portrays the delights and difficulties of family life and the endlessly complex mixture of affection and abhorrence we feel for those closest to us. A dazzlingly accomplished debut and an utterly immersive portrait of one family’s becoming, it marks the arrival of a major new literary voice.
The Lies We Tell by Niki Mackay
Published by Orion on 27th June 2019
Miriam Jackson is a famous radio presenter. Married to a successful film director, she has created the perfect life for herself.
Then her daughter goes missing.
Miriam is desperate to find her before her husband finds out and her perfect life crumbles around her. So she calls the only person who can help: Private Investigator Madison Attallee, who has just solved the biggest case of her career.
Can Madison find Miriam’s daughter? And will Miriam share the truth about her past?
A Modern Family by Helga Flatland
Published by Orenda Books on 13th June 2019
When Liv, Ellen and Håkon, along with their partners and children, arrive in Rome to celebrate their father’s seventieth birthday, a quiet earthquake occurs: their parents have decided to divorce.
Shocked and disbelieving, the siblings try to come to terms with their parents’ decision as it echoes through the homes they have built for themselves, and forces them to reconstruct the shared narrative of their childhood and family history.
A bittersweet novel of regret, relationships and rare psychological insights, A Modern Family encourages us to look at the people closest to us a little more carefully, and ultimately reveals that it’s never too late for change…
Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson
Published by Raven on 8th August 2019
It starts as a game at a book group one night. Never Have I Ever… done something I shouldn’t.
But Amy Whey has done something she shouldn’t. And Roux, the glamorous newcomer to Amy’s suburban neighbourhood, knows exactly what that is.
Roux promises she will go away. She will take herself and her son, who is already growing dangerously close to Amy’s teenage stepdaughter, and she will go. If Amy plays by her rules.
But Amy isn’t prepared to lose everything she’s built. She’s going to fight back, and in this escalating game of cat and mouse, there can be only one winner.
The Chain by Adrian McKinty
Published by Orion on 9th July 2019
YOU WILL BECOME EACH ONE.
OUR PHONE RINGS.
A STRANGER HAS KIDNAPPED YOUR CHILD.
TO FREE THEM YOU MUST ABDUCT SOMEONE ELSE’S CHILD.
YOUR CHILD WILL BE RELEASED WHEN YOUR VICTIM’S PARENTS KIDNAP ANOTHER CHILD.
IF ANY OF THESE THINGS DON’T HAPPEN:
YOUR CHILD WILL BE KILLED.
YOU ARE NOW PART OF THE CHAIN
Swan Song by Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott
Published by Random House in paperback on 27th June 2019
To the outside world, they were the icons of high society ― the most glamorous and influential women of their age. To Truman Capote they were his Swans: the ideal heroines, as vulnerable as they were powerful. They trusted him with their most guarded, martini-soaked secrets, each believing she was more special and loved than the next…
Until he betrayed them.
The Escape Room by Megan Goldin
Published by Orion on 25th July 2019
Welcome to the escape room. Your goal is simple. Get out alive.
In the lucrative world of Wall Street finance, Vincent, Jules, Sylvie and Sam are the ultimate high-flyers. Ruthlessly ambitious, they make billion-dollar deals and live lives of outrageous luxury. Getting rich is all that matters, and they’ll do anything to get ahead.
When the four of them become trapped in an elevator escape room, things start to go horribly wrong. They have to put aside their fierce office rivalries and work together to solve the clues that will release them. But in the confines of the elevator the dark secrets of their team are laid bare. They are made to answer for profiting from a workplace where deception, intimidation and sexual harassment thrive.
Tempers fray and the escape room’s clues turn more and more ominous, leaving the four of them dangling on the precipice of disaster. If they want to survive, they’ll have to solve one more final puzzle: which one of them is a killer?
Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton
Published by Penguin Books on 9th January 2020
Three hours is 180 minutes or 10,800 seconds.
It is a morning’s lessons, a dress rehearsal of Macbeth, a snowy trek through the woods.
It is an eternity waiting for news. Or a countdown to something terrible.
It is 180 minutes to discover who you will die for and what men will kill for.
In rural Somerset in the middle of a blizzard, the unthinkable happens: a school is under siege. Told from the point of view of the people at the heart of it, from the wounded headmaster in the library, unable to help his trapped pupils and staff, to teenage Hannah in love for the first time, to the parents gathering desperate for news, to the 16 year old Syrian refugee trying to rescue his little brother, to the police psychologist who must identify the gunmen, to the students taking refuge in the school theatre, all experience the most intense hours of their lives, where evil and terror are met by courage, love and redemption.
The Horse Dancer by Jojo Moyes
Published by Hodder & Stoughton on 4th July 2019
In a hidden corner of London, Henri Lachapelle is teaching his granddaughter and her horse to defy gravity, just as he had done in France, fifty years previously. But when disaster strikes, fourteen-year-old Sarah is left to fend for herself.
Forced to share a house with her charismatic ex-husband, her professional judgement called into question, lawyer Natasha Macauley’s life seems to have gone awry. When her path crosses that of Sarah, she sees a chance to put things right.
The Reunion by Guillaume Musso
Published by Orion on 11th July 2019
Welcome to a school reunion you won’t forget
FRENCH RIVIERA, WINTER 1992
On a freezing night, as her high school campus is engulfed by a snowstorm, 19-year-old Vinca Rockwell runs away with Alexis, her philosophy teacher.
No one will ever see them again.
FRENCH RIVIERA, SPRING 2017
Formerly inseparable, Thomas, Maxime and Fanny – Vinca’s best friends – have not spoken in twenty-five years. But when they receive an invitation to their school reunion, they know they must go back one final time.
Because there is a body buried in that school…
…and they’re the ones who put it there.
The Body Lies by Jo Baker
Published by Doubleday on 13th June 2019
When a young writer accepts a job at a university in the remote countryside, it’s meant to be a fresh start, away from the big city and the scene of a violent assault she’s desperate to forget. But when one of her students starts sending in chapters from his novel that blur the lines between fiction and reality, the professor recognises herself as the main character in his book – and he has written her a horrific fate.
Will she be able to stop life imitating art before it’s too late?
Come A Little Closer by Karen Perry
Published in ebook on 25th June 2019 and in paperback on 28th November 2019 by Michael Joseph
Leah is in love. It should be the happiest summer of her life, but she can’t help feeling lonely with Jake’s attention divided between her, his ex-wife and his young son. As insomnia sets in, the walls of their new basement flat feel as if they’re closing in around her.
Until she meets her upstairs neighbour, Anton, who has recently moved back in after a long absence from the street. He’s a sympathetic ear when Jake can’t be, and even though others on the street seem strangely hostile towards him, Leah soon comes to rely on Anton and their secret conversations in the night.
Leah has no idea that nineteen years before, Anton was convicted of killing his wife. A wife who looked a little bit like Leah. He has always said he didn’t do it.
Is Leah his redemption? Or is she befriending a killer intent on luring her closer and closer?
Miracle Creek by Angie Kim
Published in ebook and hardcover on 25th July by Hodder & Stoughton
A thrilling debut novel for fans of Liane Moriarty and Celeste Ng about how far we’ll go to protect our families – and our deepest secrets.
In rural Virginia, Young and Pak Yoo run an experimental medical treatment device known as the Miracle Submarine – a pressurised oxygen chamber that patients enter for “dives”, used as an alternative therapy for conditions including autism and infertility. But when the Miracle Submarine mysteriously explodes, killing two people, a dramatic murder trial upends the Yoos’ small community.
Who or what caused the explosion? Was it the mother of one of the patients, who claimed to be sick that day but was smoking down by the creek? Or was it Young and Pak themselves, hoping to cash in on a big insurance payment and send their daughter to college? The ensuing trial uncovers unimaginable secrets from that night: trysts in the woods, mysterious notes, child-abuse charges, as well as tense rivalries and alliances among a group of people driven to extraordinary degrees of desperation and sacrifice.
Angie Kim’s Miracle Creek is a thoroughly contemporary take on the courtroom drama, drawing on the author’s own life as a Korean immigrant, former trial lawyer, and mother of a real-life “submarine” patient. Both a compelling page-turner and an excavation of identity and the desire for connection, Miracle Creek is a brilliant, empathetic debut from an exciting new voice.
Thanks for reading! Please do let me know in the comments beneath if you’ve read any of these books or if any have caught your eye!