THEY WON’T BE WHISPERING HIS NAME AFTER NORTH’S REINVENTION,BUT SHOUTING IT FROM ROOFTOPS

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whisperman cvrIf you leave a door half open, soon you’ll hear the whispers spoken

We all have those rhymes or tunes which stick in our head and can become annoying; ‘ear worms’, as they are known in modern parlance. Sometimes a few evocative words, somehow familiar but out of context, will send you back to a moment in time, elicit a strong, visceral reaction or a sense of déjà vu. We don’t really understand how the human brain works to protect us from dangers or how our senses and bodies can act in an extraordinary manner when faced with danger. Maybe those instances of heightened sensitivity, foreboding feelings and ghostly warnings are just the chemical reactions in our brains, trying to help us.

This month’s book review is The Whisper Man by Alex North and published by Penguin Michael Joseph (www.penguin.co.uk/company/publishers/michael-joseph.html ) on 13th June, has two of my favourite things combined: crime fiction and the supernatural. I’ve always been fascinated by murder mysteries, serial killers and evidence of the paranormal since childhood. Jake, the child in this story has an imaginary friend. Common in only children, I had one myself , Caroline,  who had to have a place set for meals and took tea with me in my Wendy house.  Jake’s however, appears a little more sinister. She makes him repeat the rhyme, “if you leave a door half open, soon you’ll hear the whispers spoken”.

Jake and his dad, Tom have just moved to strange looking house in Featherbank village,

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Purple Emperor Butterfly 

to make a fresh start after the sudden death of Jake’s mum. Jake is understandably traumatised, and Tom is struggling to deal with his own grief and to form a good relationship with his son. Jake is a sensitive child but appears to be regressing into his own world and talking to an invisible person, who he says he hears whispering to him at night. Unbeknownst to them, Featherbank was the scene of a series of child murders some fifteen years earlier, by a killer known as The Whisper Man. He was caught and jailed. When another boy goes missing under mysteriously similar circumstances, the police revisit their investigations and Jake appears to be being targeted as the next victim. What links Jake and Tom to the investigation? Who is Jake’s ghostly friend? Is the whisperer real or a nightmare?

This book moved between the police investigation and the story of Jake and Tom’s attempts at recovery from traumatic loss very smoothly. Overall, I felt this was a book which looked closely at the relationships between fathers and sons. We are often more like our parents than we’d like to admit. Some of that can be due to nature and some to nurture but this book showed that while some men fall into repeating the sins of the father as it were, some do manage to overcome genetics and poor childhoods and blossom. This may all sound a bit deep for a crime novel but the characters are in the main, beautifully drawn. We get inside the heads of the men here. The women are support acts but good ones.

 

This is the first book by British author Alex  North (@writer_North), although not his first foray into  crime fiction as he previously wrote crime novels under another name. He was born in Leeds, where he studied psychology at Leeds University and where in a previous life worked in its sociology department. The Whisper Man was inspired by his own son, who remarked one day that he was playing with the boy in the floor. North currently lives in Leeds with his wife and son.

There were lots of twists and turns and plenty of explanations at a satisfying conclusion. If I had any any complaints I’d maybe think there was too much in way of coincidence, in the way everything fitted together so neatly. But that’s the joys of fiction . You can contrive a set of events to suit. I do love an aligning of the fates and a “fancy that” moment in real life so I shouldn’t question their appearance in a story, I guess. Tom seemed a little vague at times. Can you be married to someone and really know nothing of their upbringing? Then again, I’m not a quizzer of people myself. Sometimes you just accept people and don’t query.

This had a few genuinely creepy moments as well as a slow build of tension to frantic search for a killer. It should appeal to those crime readers and the fans of whispers and things that go bang in the dark.

So take my advice and get a copy from your local bookshop or download a copy. But before diving in to what has been described as the “Best Crime Novel of the Year”, remember to close the door fully, so you won’t be disturbed.

 

Reviewed by: Georgina Murphy

 

This book review is part of a blog tour organised by the publisher. To see what the other reviewers thought about visit their websites listed below. Then, if and when you get a copy and have read it, come back and tell us what you think. We’d love your feedback.

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PETROU’S SISTERLY DEBUT BURNS BRIGHTLY AMONG THE OTHER SUMMER READS

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Sister Of Mine CoverI’m an only child, and the offspring of two other only children so the opportunity to observe at first hand the joys and tribulations of sibling relationships has been pretty non-existent.  My grandparents had many siblings however; and I recognised that in their families there was an emotional intensity to the reactions between siblings, both in terms of unconditional love and in some cases, long held feelings of jealousy and dislike. I always wondered what it would be like to have a brother or sister myself and enjoyed books such as Little Women and TV dramas such as the Walton’s so I was intrigued to read this month’s second offering and todays blog tour entry, Sister of Mine by Laurie Petrou, published by No Exit Press (www.noexitpress.co.uk) on the 20th June.

Hattie and Penny Grayson are sisters who have grown up in a small town. Everyone knows their troubled histories, but no one can know of the secret that binds them together. There is a fire, and someone dies, albeit a cruel and overbearing husband. Who is responsible and why? This shapes their future relationships with those they meet and each other.

This debut thriller was a very enjoyable read. Engrossing and thought provoking; I did, as the cover suggested, burn through it. There is a steady build-up of tension and a feeling of impending crisis throughout. The characters are very well described, and you feel you have great insight into their personalities and motivations because of this and the insights the slow drip of background history gives.

There was , I felt,  an interesting twist in perspective towards the end of the book , which I don’t want to spoil for other readers but I will say it changed my view of the main characters entirely and kept me mulling over the story and the effect a character being the narrator has on your perception of what is the ‘truth’. History is written by the victors as they say.

Despite sibling rivalry being a theme which has long been in our consciousness, with Cain and Abel , Romulus and Remus and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane to name a few disastrous relationships , this book to me felt fresh and not cliched. There were two strong female characters in lead roles, with the men playing minor, villainous or subservient parts.

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Laurie Petrou

There is a matriarchal  onus to the book with the memory of a deceased mother constantly shaping the sister’s behaviour. There were some moments of dark humour too.

This Canadian author Laurie Petrou’s (www.lauriepetrou.wordpress.com)  first book, her day job is an associate professor at Ryerson University in Toronto, at its Media School. She’s also the director of the Masters of Media Production program at the school too. In 2016 she won the Inaugural Half the World Global Literati Award, which honours unpublished works by female authors, featuring female protagonists, for Sister Of Mine. She Lives in a small town in Ontario’s wine country with her winemaker husband and their two sons.

Overall, I was surprised this was Petrou’s literary debut as it felt so assured. Also given its size coming in at two hundred and fifty pages, it won’t take up too much room in your luggage. I myself am looking forward to seeing what she produces next. Will it  top this Sister Act?

 

Reviewed by:     Georgina Murphy

 

This review is apart of a Random Things Blog Tour, to see what the other reviewers thought, visit their blogs listed below. Then if you pick up a copy and read it, comeback and tell us what you thought, we’d all love to hear your feedback.

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CROFTS FIFTH BOOK, LIKE MOST GHOSTS IS VAGUE IN PLOTTING AND PAGES.

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What Lies Around Us CoverThere are numerous types of ghosts, such as your everyday run of the mill apparitions or the noisy Poltergeists who go around unseen making loud banging noises as if they are blindfolded and keep bumping into the furniture. Then there are the famous ghosts such as Peter Lerangis, Andrew Neiderman, H.P. Lovecraft, Raymond Benson and Andrew Crofts. You’re probably wonder where they haunt and how come you’ve never heard of these so-called famous phantoms. That’s because they are ghost-writers and thus very few of their works are even credited to them. These are the unsung heroes who turn other aspiring writers and celebrities’ ramblings into tightly woven best sellers.

The last name I mentioned; Andrew Crofts, is an internationally acclaimed ghost-writer who was even referenced in Robert Harris’s 2007 book The Ghost. This month’s second book review is one of Andrew’s own books, it’s called What Lies Around Us and is published by Red Door Publishing (www.reddoorpublishing.co.uk) on the 13th June.

When ghost-writer Andrew Crofts is contacted by dot com billionaire Roger Rex to ghost write a book for Hollywood actress Jo-Jo Win, he is bowled over. Firstly, with the money on offer to complete the project and by the numerous legal hoops that Roger’s Lawyers have him jump through before he can start.  When he heads to California to meet the books subject and research her life, he is immersed in a world of cutting-edge social media, politics and Hollywood celebrities. But as he starts getting to know his subject, he finds himself at the centre of a much bigger power struggle where not even he, his family or friends, have any idea whose really in charge. Can he get the book completed and published without jeopardizing his marriage, family life and his own good name?

My first impressions are that this was like fifty shades without the sex, its full of beautiful people driving Tesla’s and top brand cars, whilst also swanning themselves, and their entourages, around in private jets and helicopters, bedecked from head to toe in leading branded clothing. Also, the similarity to the aforementioned Robert Harris book is very close. The only difference is that the ghost-writers subject isn’t an ex-Prime Minister but an actress.

Overall, I was rather disappointed by the book, there is a whiff of tension running through the whole two hundred pages of this novella, but in the end it falls off a cliff and you are left with a rather limp ending. The only  two real high points namely a high-school shooting in which Jo-Jo’s husband is killed and then Jo-Jo climbing into Andrews bed following the shooting .This then gets leaked to the world via Roger Rex’s social media and just when you think this might have repercussions for Andrew’s marriage, it doesn’t.

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Andrew Crofts

What Lies Around Us is really a guide to how Ghost-writers work and the effect social media and the new dot com millionaires will have on the publishing and political world. You never really get absorbed into the book and most of the time I felt like a casual passer-by.

Another reason for the books failing to hold my attention, could be down to its size, I’m surprised a world-renowned ghost-writer is limiting themselves to novellas and could not deliver a more absorbing and nail-biting thriller with the addition of another hundred to a hundred and fifty pages. This is akin to a someone like Bradley Wiggins or Chris Boardman building a bike then neglecting to put any air in the tyres. Yes, it will go but not very well.

This is English Author and Ghost-writer Andrew Crofts (www.andrewcrofts.com)  fifth work of fiction under his The Ghost cvrown name, the others include Secrets Of The Italian Gardner (2013), Pretty Little Packages (2015), The Fabulous Dreams Of Maggie De Beer (2011) and The Over Night Fame Of Steffi McBride (2008). He’s also written non-fiction under his own name, quite a few of them self-help books on self-publishing, freelancing, finding an agent for your book and ghost-writing. He’s written and ghosted over eighty books for other people most of which he can’t talk about due to confidentiality clauses and Non-Disclosure Agreements.

Overall the book reads easily, but if you want get a better understanding of the life of a ghost-writer, from the pen of one of the world’s leading literary guns for hire, then I would suggest you visit Andrews website or read his book Confessions of a Ghost-writer (2014). Otherwise for a more fulfilling thriller set around the world of ghost-writing I recommend you get Robert Harris’s book or go watch the Roman Polanski  film adaptation starring Pierce Brosnan and Ewan McGregor.

Reviewed By: Adrian Murphy

This book review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour, to see what the other reviewers though visit their pages listed below. Then, if you get a copy, comeback and tell us what you thought. We’d very much appreciate the feedback and also why not follow our pages to see what other books we’ve read and will review in the future.

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BARTRAM’S MURDER MYSTERY MISSES THE PUNCHLINE

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The Comedy Club Mystery CoverAlmost every part of the UK has a large seaside resort, which was the mainstay of the British population’s annual two week summer holiday for years. It’s in these places you found donkey rides and men in knotted hankies,sporting sandals with socks (before the fashion police got to grips with the scourge), along with entertainers selling out small theatres in the towns and end of the piers.

The most well-known were Skegness on the Lincolnshire coast, Blackpool on the west coast, Bournemouth and lastly Brighton on the south coast. Following the  the introduction of the package holiday and economy airlines these towns have missed out on the large numbers of tourists that used to flock to there each year. Nowadays for Brighton and Bournemouth, some of the biggest draws are travelling away fans from their fellow premiership clubs and retirement coach parties.

I missed a few things last week too. Luckily not my wedding anniversary. But my friend and Blog tour organiser Anne Cater, may take me off her Christmas Card list after I forgot the date for this month’s first book review and blog tour. The book which is a murder mystery, set in Brighton, is The Comedy Club Murder by Peter Bartram, published by Peter Bartram Partnership on the 24th May.

Colin Crampton is the Crime Reporter for Brighton Chronicle. He’s summoned to his editor’s office one morning to be asked to sort out a pending legal writ against the paper’s theatre critic, Sydney Pinker. But before he can find a way of getting out of this job, theatre agent Daniel Bernstein, is found murdered and Pinker is now enjoying the luxuries of the local nick after being discovered at the scene of the murder holding the sword impaling the victim’s body.  Pinker claims he’s innocent and that the murder may have something to do with the disappearance of  a blue book of gags belonging to the late well-known comedian Max Miller, who was one of Bernstein’s clients and now Crampton has a list of five suspects; all comedians. With the help of his feisty Australian girlfriend Shirley, can Colin find the killer, the blue books and clear his colleague Pinker’s good name?

Another thing I missed this week was the whole punchline of this book, if there was a punchline. Maybe it was the mood I was in, which should have been a great one. But I’m sorry to say despite being in great form all round, what with my own annual holidays, a week on the Amalfi coast only a week away, I was just not getting this book.

Yes, there was always the feeling that I was one tickle away from splitting my sides open at the hair-brained antics contained within the covers , but then on the other hand, I don’t like my murder mysteries to be treated with too much flippancy and this is where I think Peter Bartram’s book lost me. It felt at times more like a Carry-On Film, when really murder mysteries are supposed to be tense edge of the seat stuff.

Even the books characters are parodies and caricatures. From the gay theatre critic Pinker and the local coppers, to the henchmen who stalk the hero and his antipodean love interest. The straw that broke the camel’s back for me was an Irish character they meet in the sewers under Brighton during one escapade. For an Irish person reading it, this was painful.

This is English author and Journalist Peter Batrams (www.colincrampton.com) 11th book

Peter Bartram

Peter Bartram

in the Crampton of the Chronicle series. The others include Headline Murder (2015), Murder In The Night Final (2017), Front Page Murder (2017), Murder In The Afternoon Extra (2017) and The Tango School Mystery (2018). Peter has also written numerous articles for various magazines and newspapers and ghost written a number of books too on various people and topics.

Maybe you might find the humour in this madcap romp through late fifties, early sixties Brighton. Therefore, head down to your local bookshop and see if Crampton and his Sheila can tickle your funny bone.

 

Reviewed by: Adrian Murphy

BREAKERS STEALS YOUR EMOTIONS AND MORE IN JOHNSTONE’S STYLISH SCOTTISH THRILLER

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Breakers Final CoverThere’s a decidedly Scottish flavour to this month’s book reviews. What with  both the Way of The Flesh, by Ambrose Parry , being reviewed at the start of the month and this, our second book review, which is also set in Edinburgh. But for the fact that there’s a a decade or two in the intervening time period, both deal with the underworld of this great city.  Whereas Parry’s book is set in the world of unorthodox, sometimes unproven techniques and quackery in the development of anaesthesia and midwifery; this book is set around the seedy world of larceny. It’s Breakers by Doug Johnstone, published by Orenda books (www.orendabooks.co.uk ) on the 16th May.

The Wallaces are a dysfunctional Edinburgh family. Angela, the mum, is a drug and alcohol addict, who can barely take care of herself let alone her four kids. There’s Barry and Kelly the eldest two, then their half siblings 17-year-old Tyler and last of all the baby of the brood, Bethany or Bean. Barry thinks he’s a hard man who does drugs and is in an incestuous relationship with Kelly, but is also a professional house breaker alongside his sister and half-brother, who he bullies into assisting him.

Tyler is the square peg is this family, who tries his best to shelter Bean from the reality of her family life. One night while on a job, the three older siblings get disturbed by Monica Holt the wife of the home’s owner. In his drug induced high, Barry stabs her in the neck leaving her for dead on the sitting room floor. But as he’s leaving Tyler takes Monica’s phone out of her hand and calls an ambulance, without Barry or Kelly knowing. The whole family are in jeopardy now as Monica is the wife of Deke Holt, one of the leading gangsters in the city. To add to Tyler’s problems, a couple of days later while doing a bit of B&E on the side, he bumps into Flick,  a posh tearaway schoolgirl, with whom he starts up an unlikely relationship. Can Tyler keep Bean and Flick safe from Barry as well as himself out of the clutches of the Holt’s and the local police.

The book is quite a small read, although most of Doug Johnstone’s books are short, this one is only 230 pages. Most of his previous books rarely hit 300 pages, which makes them ideal book club reads, but also a one sitting read candidate too. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good thick book, but short well rounded books are always welcome. The problem is some of the longer tomes can lag a bit in the middle and this is something you won’t find with Johnstone’s books.

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(C) Donegal Democrat

The story is compelling and at times rather close to the bone. So much so that Johnstone even had me fearing for the safety of a stray bitch and her puppies, who are  being cared for by Tyler and Bean, unbeknownst to Barry, in a derelict house a short distance from their own lofty perch, which is at the top of one of the few remaining high rises in the city. Although at some point you get to thinking the dog’s home is a damn sight better than the squalid flat Tyler and Bean share with their mother. Who, owing to her addictions, leaves it both covered in and smelling of, bodily fluids.

The stark reality of  the Wallace’s lifestyle is brought into focus when compared to Flick’s pampered existence. She’s boarding at a fee paying all- girls school, with access to her parent’s house and zips around the city in a sporty hot hatch.

As for the other characters, Barry is the expertly depicted in his  role as the wannabee gangland kingpin, but like most of the real life pretenders to the gangland thrones, who unlike their older predecessors, such as Deke Holt, haven’t learned to respect the products they deal in and thus have no will power when they fancy indulging in some of it. Thus they end up “Riding Dirty”as is the correct term for driving under the influence of drugs and tooled up. Leaving them being totally out of control.

Kelly just drifts along in every one’s shadow, especially Barry’s as he regularly takes advantage of her and thus in the grand scheme of things she’s a plot device. Tyler is the  main hero and Bean is the real thief among the lot of them, taking the readers emotions and holding them over a literary cliff edge, while also being the motivation for Tyler’s ability to stand up to Barry when it comes to it.

Doug Johnstone

Doug Johnstone

 

This Is Scottish Author Doug Johnstones (www.dougjohnstone.com ) tenth book, his others include Tombstoning (2006), The Ossians (2008), Hit and Run (2012), Smokeheads (2011), Gone Again (2013), Dead Beat (2014), The Jump (2015), Crash Land (2016) and Faultlines (2018). He is a Journalist and Musician, with a Degree in Nuclear Physics and  has won numerous awards for his previous works. He has received acclaim from fellow crime writers including Ian Rankin, Val McDermaid and Irvine Welsh. While several of his books have been optioned for film and television. He lives in Edinburgh.

There’s something about this book, maybe its Johnstone’s simple but gritty Scottish narrative, which delivers a strong storyline outside of the usual crime ridden locations like London, New York or LA. Maybe it’s the Scottish accent it’s self, ever since the late Mark McManus uttered those immortal words “There’s been a Mudda”, people have yearned for an engrossing Scottish writer whose stories and characters are unflinchingly raw and real. So, download a copy or pop into your local bookshop and start reading this or any of Johnstone’s previous books.

Reviewed by : Adrian Murphy

This book is part of a Random Things Blog Tour, to see what the other reviewers thought, visit their blogs listed below. Then if you get a copy, comeback once you’ve read it and tell us what you think. We’d love the feed back.

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PARRY’S STORY OF MEDICINE, MURDER AND ANAESTHESIA WON’T PUT YOU TO SLEEP!

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The Way of All FleshIts odd how things work out sometimes. My husband receives a steady selection of books to review for this literary blog and I browse the titles and the back-cover blurb, then if the book takes my fancy I volunteer my services as reader and reviewer. Simples…

With the fairly recent addition of blog tours, we have found some scheduling pressures, usually to do with fitting in our own personal reads along with book club commitments and therefore occasionally I am handed a book to review to be sure of meeting a deadline. Such was the case with this month’s first review for the Way Of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry published by Canon Gate (www.canongate.co.uk) on the 2nd May.

I didn’t read the accompanying press release but went straight into the story. A historical murder mystery, just my thing! As you might know from my previous reviews. The added twist here is that the history in this novel is that of surgery, midwifery and the use of anaesthetics. Anaesthesia is a special interest of mine, as I work as senior nurse in the anaesthesia department of University College Dublin’s Veterinary Teaching and Referral Hospital.

When I first started working as a Veterinary Nurse in the UK in the mid-eighties, the practice I trained and qualified in was undergoing transition from a mixed practice, covering the care of all species from domestic pets to farm animals to purely companion animal work. This was as a result of the retirement of the two senior partners, who were in their seventies at this stage. Being of a similar ilk to James Alfred Wright, who wrote the James Herriot novels, the practice was a treasure trove of antique equipment, chemist’s drawers, labelled with Latin names, apothecary jars and no end of ancient instruments which looked like they’d come from a torturer’s chamber. All sadly thrown away during refurbishments! When I watch salvage shows on TV I wince! Amongst these items, was a bottle of Ether and a Boyles bottle. I can remember being fascinated in how these worked and was duly impressed by our ‘modern’ anaesthetic machine and vaporiser.

The Way of All Flesh introduces us to Will Raven, a medical student who is starting an apprenticeship to the renowned Dr James Simpson. Will has his own secrets and problems, having endured poverty and hardship in a humble background he is trying hard to hide, even before finding the body of his friend, a prostitute, who has died under mysterious circumstances in her room. She had asked him for a loan shortly before her death and Will is now in serious debt to a moneylender. Not a happy predicament now, let alone in that era. His new employer’s parlour maid, Sarah, is initially suspicious of him .Sarah works in the doctors in house clinic and has an interest in medicine but she is frustrated in her ambition to use her capable brain by the  restrictions to both her sex and her station imposed in the Victorian period. When more bodies are found, Will and Sarah work together to find out who is responsible for the gruesome deaths, putting their positions and their lives in jeopardy.

The really interesting aspect of this book for me, was use the use of real case studies and historical figures. The descriptions of births and surgical procedures are sometimes stomach churning, such is the attention to medical detail, but fascinating. The story of the research into anaesthetic agents would seem at times absurd in its methodology, sniffing chemicals as after dinner entertainment to assess their efficacy and safety! Also the objections, both religious and ‘scientific’ to their use to ease patients distress, aid procedures and improve patient mortality statistics had echoes of the ‘anti-vaxxer’ propaganda seen both in Edward Jenners small pox vaccine introduction and in the Measles resurgence we are facing now.

Another important theme in this book, I felt was the subjugation of women and the lower classes. Sarah was a strong and sympathetic female lead here. There were to me, reminders of the film Mary Reilly, where we see the story of Jekyll and Hyde through the eyes of their maid, or to Albert Nobbs, where Glenn close has to disguise herself as a man to work as a butler at the Morrison Hotel in 19th century Dublin.

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Ambrose Parry (Chris Brookmyre & Marisa Haetzman)

This novel combines the expertise of Scottish author, Chris Brookmyre, and his wife, consultant anaesthetist Marisa Haetzman under the pseudonym Ambrose Parry. Chris is a multi-award winning novelist, his previous books include Quite Ugly One Morning (1996), Black Widow (2016) and Want You Gone (2017). They are based around investigative journalist, Jack Parlabane and counter terrorism officer, Angelique de Xavia. His books have won plaudits for their comedy, social comment, politics and strong narrative and earned him the slightly dubious appellation of ‘Tartan Noir’. It was Marisa’s research for her Master’s Degree in the History of Medicine, which uncovered much of the material on which The Way Of All The Flesh is based.

The story has plenty of twists and turns and despite the detailed descriptive passages, keeps up a good pace to a breathless climax and reveal. The description of Victorian life in medical circles, fine houses and the gritty alleyways is well drawn. Will and Sarah are an interesting duo and I look forward to the follow up novel, The Art Of Dying, due to be released later this year. I’m dying to read it, you could say…

Reviewed by Georgina Murphy

 

This book is part of a Random Things blog Tour, to see what the other reviewers thought visit their blogs listed below. Then if you get a copy and read it, please come back and tell us what you thought, we’d love to hear your feedback.

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RUBIN’S DEBUT IS A LIBERATION FROM OTHER FAR FETCHED ALT. HISTORY BOOKS

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Liberation SquareThis week, the Crystal Palace and Welsh International goalkeeper Wayne Hennessy was accused by a Football Association hearing of “lamentable” ignorance towards Fascism and Adolf Hitler. This came after he used the excuse that he didn’t know what a Nazi salute was. This thirty-year-old highly paid premier league footballer’s appearance before the tribunal came after images of him emerged last year, at a Crystal Palace team dinner, making what was construed as a Nazi salute.

There have been enough movies and video games made, as well as books published in the past three decades,(Schindler’s List, The Boy in The Stripped Pyjamas, Inglorious Bastards and Call Of Duty) to leave only someone living in a cultural vacum or a hermitage, in this position. Following the decision of the Football association conduct hearing which cleared the player, he was sent informative material by The Auschwitz Memorial about Fascism.

Mr Hennessy, like quite a large number of people in the UK and across Europe, lives a good life owing to the sacrifices made by their grandparents and hopefully will never experience the constraints of Fascism or even Socialism, except in the realms of video games or as alternative history story lines in TV programmes and books. One of those books is this month’s second review, its Liberation Square by Gareth Rubin, published by Michael Joseph (www.penguin.co.uk/company/publishers/michael-joseph.html) on the 18th April .

Its 1952, in a divided European country following the end of the second world war. But instead of hearing German accents as you travel around this place they are English … Yes, the D-Day landings failed and England is divided following a German invasion. The Democratic United Kingdom controlled by the Allies lies beyond a border stretching from Bristol to the Norfolk coast. Beneath that line, is the Soviet controlled Republic of Great Britain and inside it is London a city divided in two by a large wall.

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The Berlin Wall (StMU History Media)

In the Soviet controlled sector of the city Jane Cawson, a school teacher, suspects her doctor husband Nick is having an affair with his first wife, Lorelei an actress and star of numerous propaganda films. Jane goes to Lorelei’s house in the hope of confronting the two of them, but finds the former Mrs Cawson murdered in her bath. Nick is arrested on suspicion of murder and held by the brutal Secret Police.

Jane then starts trying to prove her husband’s innocence to get him released, she starts probing Nicks relationship with his former wife, why are there coded messages hidden in a book in Lorelei’s house. All the while trying to protect her step-daughter, as well as not arousing suspicion from the authorities and nosy neighbours  who are all too eager to tow the party line and curry favours. With the help of Tibbot, a middle-aged East End bobby, Jane starts to piece together the identity of Lorelei’s murderer and hopefully prove Nick’s innocence. But is he innocent? Was Lorelei consorting with the Allies and what does it have to do with her recent miscarriage…?

As alternative history driven plot lines go, this in the current climate is not too far from the truth. With Brexit looming over the United Kingdom, the country is divided and becoming even more fractured by the day.

Rubin’s book is superbly crafted and drives the imagination from the first page to its conclusion, with its Sliding Doors – “What If” scenario. Along the way it asks the reader to imagine what might have happened if the course of history had changed.

The description of the remnants of war-torn London and the citizens trying get by under a brutal socialist regime are thought provoking and envelopes the reader into the story with every turn of the page. The historical nuances are superb, especially when you have Jane coming up against the likes of Burgess and Blunt and other members of the Cambridge five spy ring, who in this story have been exalted into running the country for their soviet bosses, as a reward for their cowardice and betrayal.

As for the characters, Jane is an excellent heroine, whose simplicity allows her to be believable and sets her apart from the all too often, highly skilled, super spy protagonist you expect to find in these types of books. She’s a school teacher, in well over her head, but allowed to follow the course of her investigations by the assistance of some other remarkably drawn characters, such as Tibbot the police officer working up to his retirement and the cagey and mysterious Charles, Nicks practice manager. Not forgetting the other host of run of the mill cockney characters and party hangers on and apparatchiks who help drive the story forward, as well as making it as wholly believable as it.

This is English Author Gareth Rubin’s (http://gr8502.wixsite.com) first

Gareth Rubin

Gareth Rubin

novel, he’s written one previous book, an anthology of mistakes which have changed the course of British history, called The Great Cat Massacre A History of Britain in One Hundred Mistakes (2014). He’s journalist also a covering social affair, travel and the arts for various newspapers. In 2013 he directed a documentary about therapeutic art at The Royal Bethlehem Hospital in London, otherwise known as ‘Bedlam’.

Liberation Square asks the unthinkable; what if for example Alan Turing and his secret team at Bletchley hadn’t broken the Enigma machine or Churchill’s government hadn’t found enough little boats to Sail twelve miles across the channel to rescue the Allies from Dunkirk? It makes the reader realize how much of what happened during that time in history is down to coincidences and a stroke of luck, as well as how easily things could have gone awry. If things had happened as in this book, where would the likes of Wayne Hennessy be now? Would they have been even born?

So if you are looking for deeply engrossing debut thriller, to read over the Easter break, which will make you think twice about how good your life is now, then get down to your local book shop or download a copy.

Reviewed by Adrian Murphy

 

This book part of a Penguin Books blog tour, to see what the other reviewers thought. Visit their blogs listed below and if you pick up a copy, comeback and tell us what you thought. We’d love the feedback.

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