Essie, Fran and Ange are all residents of Pleasant Court. All are mothers, all have annoying (at least at times) partners, all are deeply immersed in the everyday battle that is trying to keep on top of family, household, and all of the things. Other relationships barely get a look in.
THE FAMILY NEXT DOOR reinforces the notion that despite being constantly surrounded by people, you can often feel alone. Deep suburbia provides such a huge source of material and is finally in drama fiction being recognized for that richness. There is a lot going on in this book, and it’s a little heartbreaking when you realize that the male characters are largely oblivious to the density in what is going in the lives of their spouses. Husbands and wives are almost living two different paths, one with the thought burden, and one living largely without it.
The mystery element in THE FAMILY NEXT DOOR is on a slow burn but when you grasp the enormity of it, it is enormous. You will be having too much fun following about the three women, recognizing in their struggles just how common these experiences are to all of us. You receive your plot twist in spades, we promise.
A small setting, only a few characters, and plenty of domestic intrigue, THE FAMILY NEXT DOOR is almost a one seating read as once in Pleasant Street, the reader will not want to leave. Domestic noir is definitely having its day and author Sally Hepworth is on top of that for sure.
Book review - The Accident, S.D. Monaghan
Tara and David are typical “Hollywooders” in that appearances are everything. What looks flashy and successful from the outside is all actually a bit of a façade. Having built a new home they can barely afford, the wheels of the couple’s happy little marriage cart are only one revolution away from falling off completely. Tara’s art isn’t selling the way it used to, David is insecure in his hold on his pretty young wife (his former student) and an unexpected pregnancy is adding emotional weight to a relationship that would never have been called rock solid, even at the romantic beginning
What is lacking in the reading of this book is the wish to barrack the characters on and see them through. The two leads in THE ACCIDENT have very little chemistry, which makes the lengths they are prepared to go to in order to coverup a death largely self serving – this couple were not a likeable pair to begin with. It is refreshing however to read a domestic thriller from the point of view of the husband (too), with the catalyst for drama stemming from his choices, and not by those of his wife.
THE ACCIDENT, as a relationship tale of choice and consequence, had a fair amount of scope straight from its fast moving beginning. All the ingredients were there for a psychological thriller, condensed to a fairly small stage and played out upon the complicated landscape of the modern marriage. This novel does not quite reach the mark in fulfilling its early promise, though the musings of the husband upon how he got himself into his predicament are quite insightful and add much to the novel’s melancholic and regretful air. There is more than a little bit of “reap what ye sow” in THE ACCIDENT so it may be intentional that we don’t hold much sympathy for David and Tara. We just might however be curious to see who is left standing at the end.
Book review - Did You see Melody? , Sophie Hannah
Tired and irritable from her cross continental flight from the UK, the last straw for Cara Burrows is being sent to the wrong room in the middle of the night by hotel reception. Disturbing a teenager and a man in the room, the over reaction is completely bizarre to Cara but in the light of day, it becomes just one of those things. The purpose of Cara’s trip was to regroup her thoughts and have a well-deserved break from her insufferable family so beyond that, she’d rather just enjoy what the Arizona resort has to offer. Cara has big mental fish to fry.
There’s both highs and dips with this novel. Some of the dialogue is quite fun and the main character Cara is comically harried with all that is going on in her life. We’ve all been there. Mother and teen daughter relationships based on sarcasm are very relatable, as is the faux cheeriness you often encounter from hotel staff when all you want to do is be left alone to enjoy your holiday. Author Sophie Hannah contrives to balance all of the mayhem of hotel goers joining forces for a holiday adventure with the darker depiction of a child’s murder.
As the abduction/murder plot is rather over worked, you will need to check your reality radar (and eyerolling) at the door in order to complete this read. As a beach towel novel, DID YOU SEE MELODY may have served a little better. As a crime novel, it’s a little oddball. It needs a little more darkness, or a little more lightness to slide home successfully in either category. Whether you are new to this author of an existing fan you will appreciate how Hannah has brought together a lot of diverse characters and made them interact in the unlikely environment of a high end desert resort.
Shades of “It’s a Mad, Mad World” for sure, but in the hands of Hannah DID YOU SEE MELODY has enough intrigue (satisfactorily largely in the hands of the women) to push (rather than sweep away) the reader through what is essentially a one location mystery. It’s a bit of frenetic trip in order to answer the burning question of the novel - did Cara really see Melody at the Swallowtail Resort?
Book review - Friend Request, Laura Marshall
Louise is on the treadmill of busyness that all single parents are forced to negotiate every day. Her son is great, her ex operates at the standard level of selfish and annoying, her fledgling business is going well and in the between-times Louise checks in and tries to keep up with everyone else’s frantic lives via Facebook. The bright shiny lives of Louise’s friends, ex colleagues and acquaintances are cyber surreal to her and the friends that were once vitally important in the school years have now become just posts on her phone screen.
FRIEND REQUEST is not a social media crime novel as expected; the platform is used instead here to spark off a chain of events. Thematically the story does not labour over the highlight reel that is social media but it is importantly touched upon, tying it neatly back into the past before Facebook etc when many of the same societal pressures existed for young people, albeit in a less technologically advanced age. Different generations facing the same age old concerns. Children being horrific to other children. The feeling of being completely alone as a teenager even though you are typically surrounded by many people on any given day of your school dictated life.
Louise’s slow disintegration is written with care, and it is the increasing of Louise second guessing herself that rachets up the tension. Is Louise actually being stalked, is she over thinking, is there real danger to Louise’s own life and that of her son now as a result of what she participated in as a child. As a reader we’re never entirely sure but there is never any doubt that Louise is fearful and keen to find out the answers to all the questions she should have asked long ago.
Laura Marshall’s debut novel reminds us why most of us move on and far beyond what we were in high school. Remove the rose-coloured glasses, and the “good old days” actually probably were anything but. The adults in this novel are being forced to remember what they were, and its uncomfortable for them to be reminded. This is a cleverly written ‘slow draw’ mystery of dread and old baggage. It will resonate with those who have had to pull back from toxic friends, online or otherwise, and with those who wish they could blank out the mistakes they have made in the past.
BOOK REVIEW - DR JEKYLL & MR SEEK, ANTHONY O'NEILL
Many years have passed since Dr Jekyll suddenly left London society. Lawyer Mr Utterson, seemingly steadfast in his continued assistance to the absent Dr Jekyll, has been busy making plans. Lasting plans, and they include a lady’s affection. Dr Jekyll’s vacant town house is soon to come into the possession of Mr Utterson himself, now that the required seven year period has passed. Nothing can stop Mr Utterson in his ascension now. And yet it does. The return of Dr Jekyll is a sensation.
There is something of a huge comfort in picking up a book that possesses that air of gentility which was common to works written in the latter part of the 19th century. The first pages of DR JEKYLL AND MR SEEK instantly catapult the reader into a murky world where deception and nefarious acts are committed by intelligent yet desperate men.
DR JEKYLL & MR SEEK is a delightfully immersive read that quickly draws us into a world we never knew we had been missing. A relatively short foray back to 1800’s England, this book wastes no pages in being overly descriptive and instead well spends in gloriously period dialogue and the suitably outraged inner splutterings of Mr Utterson as he investigates this most grievous of wrongs. We’re easily caught up and sympathetic towards Mr Utterson who has had the best of intentions all along and seems quite deserving to inherit from the considerable burden of his secret knowledge.
DR JEKYLL & MR SEEK is neatly crafted of course around the key events of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel THE STRANGE CASE OF DR JEKYLL AND MR HYDE. You don’t need to know much about the first book in order to respect the homage paid in this modern day follow up and this novel is successful without the need to include an onerous summary of the first. A small but respectful continuation of a very grand tale.
Review - Every Last Lie, Mary Kubica
Clara has hit rock bottom. Dealing with a newborn, a demanding pre-schooler, ageing parents and money struggles is hard enough and Clara is having to face all of it on her own. Clara’s husband Nick has been killed in a car accident and there doesn’t seem to be anyone other than Clara concerned about finding out exactly how it all happened. True, Nick could be impatient behind the wheel. Also that Nick had been going through some business troubles – he owned his own surgery and it had been a big financial risk for him to branch out into private practice. Clara is certain however that N
Your reviewer is new to this (incredibly popular) author so it was a reading requirement to find out (reasonably quickly) why it is that author Mary Kubica is in the ‘must read’ stable of so many crime and mystery readers. It didn’t take long.
EVERY LAST LIE is an immersive book of how far into discovery one determined mother is prepared to go in order to get to the truth and do the right thing by her family. Told by both Nick and Clara, it almost tells the story of two different couples, such is the variance in perspective from both husband and wife. Clara, as a new mother and now widow, is slogging through the worst time of her life in the present and Nick’s life is quickly unravelling in the days up to his death.
Kubica cleverly brings Clara to the brink of discovery then introduces doubt, never relenting in the sense that Clara is getting closer to real harm herself. It doesn’t take too long to be completely hooked and EVERY LAST LIE adds weight to each page as Clara struggles to come out from under what she realizes was her own ignorance – she simply did not know what had been happening in the life of her own husband.
Review - Blood Wedding, Pierre Lamaitre
The slippage is a gradual process for Sophie Duget. Small incidents like forgetting where she has parked her car, returning books to the library unread, mislaying her purchases. Not too much too worry about on their own but put together, and happening more often, these little incidents depict a life unravelling. Sophie once led an ordered life once but if she is honest, it was coming part well before her husband passed away. What propels her forward into a life on the run is the murder of a small child in her care.
There is much of the before in this novel, and there is also much of the after. Sophie can’t run from herself but as she struggles to make sense of her new present, it becomes a delirious ride where the reader needs to establish what events are the direct result of Sophie’s own actions or those of another. Sophie’s struggles to make sense of all that is happening to her are quite moving and the righteous anger does build up when you realize the depth of her predicament and the depth of resourcefulness she is going to need in order to survive.
Translated from French to English, some of the language in this ebook is a little mechanical but the economies of that narrative style serve well to punctuate how Sophie’s situation is growing more desperate. BLOOD WEDDING gives itself away fairly early in the piece as to the “who” but the “why is always pretty muddy. The motive, surprisingly, is not that important and the reader fascination lies with how on earth Sophie is going to safely extricate herself from the labyrinth of lies and imagined truths.
There is also a sense of familiar uneasiness with some of the earlier experiences of Sophie’s; those occasions where you question your own memory and wonder whether the odd lapses are all just part of normal behaviour. As they escalate in seriousness with Sophie, it becomes a tense and unstoppable read to a dramatic but fitting conclusion.
BLOOD WEDDING is a great novel to take with you on your next long journey or to indulge in over one or two sittings. The time will fly!
REVIEW - THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR by Shari Lapena
On the other side of a wall from where a modest dinner party is being held, a sleeping baby is taken from her bed.
What pulls the reader in hook, line and sinker into this “domestic noir” is that all the fraught scenarios we read of in THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR are only a couple of shaky steps off the normal path of married domesticity, walked by most of us every day. This makes the events in this fast moving book even more frightening to consider; it is only one mother’s group discussion away from our own possible realities.
The book does stumble occasionally with poor construction, notably in the scenes between married couple Anne and Marco. Lots of meaningful looks here with little engagement. Anne and Marco are a strangely disconnected couple. Throwing that old plot device of Post Natal Depression up against the wall doesn’t serve so well to explain the disinterest the two seem to have in each other. Neither of them seem to have a clue what the other is up to; odd, considering they are the two prime suspects as the parents of the abducted child. The reader needed to see more conflict between the couple; more pressure to confess or absolve.
It is very easy to see this novel being made into a Hollywood big screen thriller as all the right ingredients are there; no character is wasted, all are relevant. The author has done a sterling job of turning our suspicions this way and that, backtracking over connections we once discarded and allowing us see them differently in hindsight as the novel powers along. THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR is a blisteringly fast read with the ticking time clock of little Cora’s life always in the back ground. This clever thriller should be a huge hit and spark much discussion.