THE FORTY FIVE PAGES SHORT OF THE YEAR IS ALL THAT’S MISSING FROM KAYS MULTI-LAYERED THRILLER.

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One Year Later CoverAs I was reading this months first book,  I was spending a long weekend in Kerry with my husband’s extended family. Nothing too sinister in the way of secrets involved, just a surprise 70th birthday celebration for his uncle. It had been planned over months and involved various relatives flying in or driving down to Kerry, caterers and, of course, a cake. All went off without a hitch, the birthday boy being left, for once, speechless. It was still interesting as a newcomer to the family to watch the interactions, the ancient but tolerated jokes and the acceptance of a few little irritations, which occur when a large group of people are forced together for several days.

The house we rented had access to its own private beach and there were some prior conversations regarding children and safety but as it turned out the beach was a good 15-minute walk from the house. Its easy to see how accidents may happen though.  In such a big group everyone assumes someone else is watching the children. Fortunately, the most dramatic event of this kind that occurred was myself being forgotten about at the serving of the party food, as I was keeping an eye on a three-year-old niece in a far-flung corner of the house at the time.

That is the premise of this month’s book, a family gathering following the tragic and untimely death of a young member. Its One Year Later by Sanjida Kay and published by Corvus Books (www.atlantic-books.co.uk) on the 1st of August .

One year after Ruby -May, Amy’s daughter dies in a tragic accident, the family go on a holiday to an idyllic Italian island to heal and repair family relationships. Once they arrive, they find nothing is as it seems and at least one of them hides a shocking secret. Things begin to spiral out of control and Amy wonders if all of them will make it back.

I can only imagine the horror and guilt that occur when a child drowns on a family property, as a result of a moments lapse of supervision. This is what has happened to Ruby- May, although for a while it isn’t clear what happened to cause her death. Guilt and recriminations have ravaged what was once a close family. Everyone is questioning their actions. Ruby-May’s grandfather has been blamed as he, we are told, was supposed to be looking after her. However, there is some suspicion that he has started to suffer from Alzheimer’s, so is he really to blame? The family go away for the anniversary of the death. Their father turns up as an unwanted quest and there are some other non family members along for the holiday too, such as their nanny and their sister’s personal trainer. Nick, Amy’s brother starts to question the events surrounding Ruby-May’s death . Also it seems someone is watching the family in their holiday home, creeping around. You begin to wonder if the family is safe.

I liked the way Sanjida Kay told the story from both Nick and Amy’s viewpoints. This gave you a different perspective to events. I enjoy books where the story is told by a different character each chapter and you slowly get the full picture. Here there weren’t too many characters to keep track of either. The plot was rather like an onion, with layer after layer slowly being unpeeled (and occasionally making your eyes water!) There was a slow build of tension to a clever twist or two and a satisfying conclusion.  In some ways this was Agatha Christie-esque with a limited number of suspects in an isolated location.  There were a number of red herrings to distract you too as almost everyone had a secret. It certainly had me turning stuff over between reads!

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Sanjida Kay (writingproject.co.uk)

Dante’s Divine Comedy is referenced at the beginning of the novel in an epigram and throughout by one of the characters reading it, and by his copy being seen in story locations. I have been thinking about its meaning in relation to this story. It has a link to the Italian location but I wondered if the author had referenced it in relation to the difficult path through grief or to the labyrinthine layers of secrets and pain to be worked through in this story in order for the family to reach a happier conclusion. I’m no scholar and it’s all a little too deep for me, but it piqued my interest. I wonder what others on the blog tour felt?

This is English writer and broadcaster, Sanjida Kay’s (www.sanjida.co.uk), fourth psychological thriller. The others are My Mothers Secret (2018), Stolen Child (2017) and Bone by Bone (2016). She’s also written a number of books of historical fiction including Sugar Island (2011) and The Naked Name Of Love (2009). As a result of her work on BBC televisions wildlife programmes she’s written books about nature and science as well as one looking at Mind Reading. She currently  lives in Somerset with her husband and daughter.

There are similar themed novels  to One Year Later out there, such as a particular favourite of mine, Liane Moriarty’s Truly, Madly, Guilty, which has been optioned for a movie by Reece Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman; but I see this giving that a run for its money. Its certainly a book I’d be recommending to friends, so don’t wait a year to get this gripping read.

Reviewed by : Georgina Murphy

 

This book is part of  a Random Things Blog Tour, to see what the other reviewers thought of the book, please take the time to visit their sites listed below. If you read this book, please come back and tell us what you thought, it would be very much appreciated.

 

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HOBBS’ DEBUT LEAVES THE READER SEEKING RETRIBUTION AND A LOT MORE

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Retribution CvrItaly is famous for many things, great wine, good food, fast cars, football, as the seat of Catholicism, for great fashion and more recently for being over run by African immigrants. We should also not forget its notoriety for crime, in particular mafia related crime. That brings us on to this months book, “Retribution” by Malcolm Hobbs – sent to us by the lovely people at Percy Publishing (www.percy-publishing.com).

Naples, Italy 1969. Two men are gunned down by the Camorra, the city’s organised crime gang.  One, a candidate for the Communist Party, is about to set up a newspaper to expose corrupt politicians who do the Camorra’s bidding. The second, a detective with the Naples Police Department, has just uncovered the identity of a mole who is passing vital police information to the Camorra. Both assassinated men have 14 year-old daughters – only children who adore their fathers and vow to avenge their murders.

The book opens with Rosetta, the daughter of the communist politician, at a meeting presided over by her mother’s father – a crime-boss, head of one of one of the city’s powerful Camorra families.  Steeped in the Camorra tradition, Rosetta is looking for blood – the revenge killing of those who murdered her father. When we first meet Teresa, the detective’s daughter, she is in the Palace of Justice. Her plan is to study law, become a Prosecuting Magistrate and bring her father’s murderers to justice. At this stage of the book – page 30 – I settled down for a good read. This was an interesting set-up.  A thriller that sets vigilantism versus the law, criminal recrimination versus justice. In the gritty underworld of Neapolitan crime and punishment, which would win out?

It proved to be a set-up, alright – but not the type I’d imagined.

My enthusiasm began to wane when, co-incidentally, both girls are sent to the same private school in the Lake District of England (where else do Neapolitan girls go to school?).  Over the next 150 pages they become best friends, Rosetta terrorizes the school bullies, one of their gang is raped by a teacher and Rosetta sets up the teacher’s murder in Hong Kong (as sixteen-year -old girls do!).

The plot (?) then abruptly shifts to a just-married Rosetta – married to the son of a millionaire, of course. To make a long (and tedious) story short: her husband is gunned down, Rosetta murders his killer, goes to prison, uses her Camorra connections to run the place and get released, establishes herself as a Madrina (god-mother), inherits her dead husband’s millions, sets up an internationally successful fashion-designer business and avenges her father’s murder. Meanwhile, Teresa is working in dusty, dingy law offices and has no life beyond her work.

Credibility score – zero. But the coherence factor was the most disconcerting.  Suffice it to say that the narrative was about as coherent as you would get from randomly changing TV channel at half-hour intervals.

What became obvious very early on was that this book wasn’t written for the ordinary thriller reader. No, this book was written for a unique type of reader – the reader who can produce a film or TV series contract from his/her back pocket. But what film could that be? St Trinians meets the Godfather? The Devil meets Prada in Prisoner Cell Block H?

St Trinians

Writing without regard for the general reader is one thing. But to treat the reader as a chump is another. The sucker-punch came at the very end. Having persevered out of a sense of bemused curiosity – how will all these half-developed plots come together? How does it all finish up? I was hit between the eyes with “To be continued”!!!

This book is a set-up – a set-up for the sequel.

My verdict? Dorothy Parker’s widely reputed quip “This is not a book to lightly thrown aside. It should be thrown with great force” immediately comes to mind. Ideally thrown at the author – with such accuracy that it causes significant pain.

“Retribution” is the debut novel of Malcolm Hobbs, the chap who

Malcolm Hobbs

Malcolm Hobbs

has generated my ire and, guess what? the Percy Publishing  site now indicates that  his next book “Don’t Make An Enemy Of Me” is COMING SOON!!

Malcolm’s brief biog indicates that he has experience as a welfare officer and magazine editor and candidly acknowledges that his “own employment was a very far cry from the corruption and malice that I write about”.  Well, sorry Malcolm. There is a reason why every source of advice to would-be authors emphasizes the “write about what you know” rule. It’s because that’s what works. The “what-I-imagine-will-make-me-loadsa-money” approach doesn’t.

I’M NOT SCARED OF GIVING THIS ITALIAN A RED CARD

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I'm Not ScaredWhat do Italy, The Lord Of The Flies, The Blair Witch Project and some dodgy translation have to do with this month’s book review? A lot as it happens, and I’m not just referring to the plot. Well not all of it anyway.

I’m Not Scared” is Niccolo Ammanati’s third book to be translated, published in 2001 it was made into an Italian film in 2003. His previous books include “Branchie” and “Fango”, which were also made into films.

“I’m Not Scared”, tells the story of Michele a 9-year-old boy growing up in a one-dog hamlet in southern Italy. On a hot summers day he and his friends stumble upon a dilapidated old house into which Michele is forced to enter as a forfeit for having come last in an earlier game. Inside he discovers a boy held captive in a hole. Unsure who he can tell, he keeps the secret to himself and strikes up a mono syllabic friendship; while returning to feed the captive and also discover the identity of the captors. At least one member of the village is involved, the local Yob. Are some of his own family involved too and what part does the stranger from the north who comes to stay in his house and sleep his room play in this?

The others in the book group thought it was great and likened it to Golding’s “ The Lord Of the Flies”. I had to protest, as I’d read that book in school and there was no comparison. The Lord of The Flies had thrilled me from beginning to end, especially the climax – The dramatic pursuit of Ralph across the island by Jack and his tribe, often left me breathless. While “I’m Not Scared” left me wondering why they bothered to translate it all.

“Sucks you in like the Blair Witch Project”, it screamed at me from the cover. That movie was scary the first time round, after discovering it was a work of fiction I haven’t watched it since. This book is a complete work of fiction from the start and no matter how many times I read it I could get more engrossed in an empty Chianti bottle.

So you get the feeling I didn’t like Ammaniti’s offering. Okay, so the niccolo-ammanitichildish narrative and speech, especially the dialogue between Michele and his sister, were quirky and spot on. But references to Scotch tape, and other very English and un-Italian like products. Helped the translation stick out as being obviously done by someone with more experience of Bangers and Mash then Cabonara.

The book did bring back memories of an idyllic week I spent in Tuscany a couple of years ago, but that’s about all.

(First published in http://www.murphysview.blogspot.com 2009)