ITS A RED-EYE FOR HOLLIDAY’S FIRST CLASS THRILLER, RATHER THAN A SLEEPER

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Violet JacketI never had a gap year. Where I grew up, if you were lucky enough and smart enough you went from college to university, or like me, directly to a job with an apprenticeship and a professional  qualification at the end. The rest of my year went on the ‘dole’ or into youth employment schemes. I suppose it was the era before gap years really became trendy. I can certainly see the benefits of a little worldly experience before you settle down to work and study.

I now work with final year university students in my job. Its unsettling how childlike and unprepared for the world some of them are. Super smart but lacking in the most basic common sense and life skills in the worst cases. Whilst a gap year, travelling, working and visiting the more far flung areas of the world is an educational experience, recent widely publicised accidental deaths and murders of young people travelling alone, make me wonder how I would have fared. I like to recall myself as a fairly savvy and streetwise youngster. I know we get increasing more risk averse as we get older and see potential dangers more clearly but the places visited and activities undertaken, as reported by the media in those recent deaths have made me wonder what possessed them to think it was a good idea?

My sense of anxiety was in no way alleviated by reading this month’s third book review, its Violet by SJI Holliday and published by Orenda Books (www.orendabooks.co.uk) on the 14th November.

 

The titular character is a young woman travelling alone due to the fact that she has broken up with her boyfriend. She wants to travel on the Trans Siberian express to Moscow. In the process of trying to get a ticket for the train, she meets another single woman, Carrie. Carrie is on her own after her friend and planned travelling companion, broke her leg just before they were due to depart. She offers her friend’s ticket to Violet and the pair unite to make the journey Carrie has planned, stopping in Mongolia and again in Russia, before reaching Moscow.

We hear the story through the voice of Violet and from emails between Carrie and her missing friend Laura. The book starts with a traumatic event which involves one of the two women, but we don’t know who. Throughout the book we are given insights into Violet’s thoughts, feelings and motivations. There is a sense of impending doom and you are just waiting for something terrible to happen to one or both girls. Violet isn’t who she at first appears to be but there are a few moments which make you wonder about Carrie too. What is her true story? What is she hiding?

The sense of something bad coming your way as a reader was an unpleasant sensation. I had a few anxiety dreams during the days I as reading this, something I’d not experienced since reading Stephen King novels many years ago. I would have actually preferred not to have read the revealing prologue and had the events unfold without pre knowledge. The whole story was a series of ‘this is not going to end well’ moments. Hearing Violets thoughts and motivations expressed gave a steady trickle of bad feelings and allowed the tension to continually build. I thought the twists and turns at the end were a great way to round of the story.

Susi Holliday

Susi Holliday (Daily Record)

This is Scottish author S.J.I. (Susi) Holliday’s (www.susiholliday.com) 6th book, her previous five include the “Banktoun Trilogy” made up of Blackwood (2012), Willow Walk 2016) and The Damsenfly (2017), along with her festive thriller Deaths Of December (2017) and her gothic thriller The Lingering (2018). Inspiration for Violet comes from her love of travel and a journey along the infamous Trans-Siberian, she took ten years ago. S.J.I. currently divides her time between Edinburgh and London.

It’s a very modern thriller. I liked the email segments and the reference to social media. What can be learned about you from your devices and social media accounts is truly scary. The risks taken by both women in relation to alcohol, drugs, sex and personal safety seemed fantastic to me. Were they just symptoms of the personalities involved or the norm for young people in far flung places?

So take the train to your local book store or download a copy (both are green options), but be warned, this is not a book I’d recommend to anyone who’s daughter is about to jet off on their gap year, but a great read for anyone wanting to live dangerously, from the safety of their armchair of course! Just prepare for a few sleepless nights!

 

Reviewed by:  Georgina Murphy

 

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

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GRIFFITHS SECOND BOOK LIES EASILY WITH ME, IF ONLY THE ENDING WAS A BETTER FIT.

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A Place To Lie CoverI seem to be having a run of family secret and particularly sister relationship novels to read. Either via my  book club or The Library Door; they keep coming. A feminine spin on things would appear to be 2019’s trademark, with remakes for films using female lead characters instead of the original, male ones and a raft of strong female leads in film and TV.

A place to Lie, by Rebecca Griffiths published in paperback by Sphere (www.littlebrown.co.uk) on the 19th August, is this month’s third book review and tells the story of a summer in the childhood of two sisters.

Told in the present day and in flashback to 1990, we unravel a complex series of events, which result in two deaths and the destruction of many lives. The story begins with the death of Caroline, who believed she was being stalked. Having lost contact with her sister a decade earlier, Joanna is at first guilt-ridden. She starts to look into Caroline’s recent history and begins to think there might be a link between current events and what happened in the summer of 1990. Joanna and Caroline are sent to stay with their Aunt Dora for the summer, after the death of their father and an attempted suicide by their grieving mother. Left to their own devices by their aunt, they indulge in childhood games and adventures, with a local girl, Ellie. Going unsupervised and unnoticed, they observe the odd and furtive behavior of many of the local inhabitants. Caroline who has a crush on Ellie’s older brother and believes he reciprocates her feelings is horrified to find he has a girlfriend. When Ellie disappears, the sister’s question the motives of everyone around them and Caroline makes an accusation that affects the futures of all involved. Joanna’s present-day enquiries uncover some unpleasant truths and put her in the sights of a killer….

Another complicated sister relationship here. Whereas in Sister of Mine by Laurie Petrou, reviewed previously on this site, whose story was told through the eyes of one of the sister’s, giving I felt, a biased perspective to events, this story is told in the third person. There were lots of sinister characters here. The subject of child grooming and paedophilia loomed large. It was interesting to read how, despite Caroline’s discomfort around several of the male character’s over friendliness, their behavior was tolerated. I can certainly recall the odd over-familiar family friend, being a bit too cuddly, but as a youngster, being too young to realize the inappropriateness and too polite to make a fuss, you simply put up with it in a different era when lewd comments, bum pinching were accepted. Griffiths makes the most of several instances and suggestions of dodgy men, so that when Ellie is killed you have a raft of suspects. There is also more than a hint of Atonement by Ian McEwan here; with an accusation that is unable to be retracted. Is it entirely unfounded? Who is the perverted killer? Did they strike again?

Rebecca Griffiths Author Pic

Rebecca Griffiths

This is English author Rebecca Griffiths (@rebeccagriffit7) second book after her debut novel, The Primrose Path (2016). After a successful business career which saw her working in London, Dublin and Scotland, she returned to her roots in Mid-Wales with her artist husband , their three vampiric cats and over-sized pet sheep.

I enjoyed this book in the main. The ending and reveal, left me slightly dissatisfied. The ploy of the person you least expect was pushed to an extreme, I felt. The explanations for the other suspects behaviour seemed contrived. I felt a little short changed. Part of the fun of reading a crime thriller is to try and work out who done it before the reveal, and I felt a bit cheated. But at least it was a surprise!

A well written book, which gripped me throughout and which I could see being turned into a TV series or film easily. So, download a copy or nip down your local book shop soon, because I don’t think it will be lying about on the shelves for long.

Reviewed by : Georgina Murphy

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

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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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GOING OFF SCRIPT PROVES THE BIGGEST FLAW IN WESOLOWSKI’S STORIES

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Sixstry CvrThe British Isles and Ireland are pockmarked with moorland and bogs, from as far south as Dartmoor to the Yorkshire Dales, Rannoch Moor in Scotland and The Burren in the West of Ireland. All through history, as well as in literature, these vast tracts of desolate land have fascinated us. Whether it’s as the roaming area of the fabled Hound of the Baskervilles in Sherlock Holmes, the setting for a doomed love affair between Cathy and Heathcliff on the Yorkshire moors, the hunting grounds of the reputed beasts of Bodmin Moor or as burial grounds for the Saddleworth Moors victims,the moorlands of Britain and Ireland are notorious for their role in the darker side of life and literature. So they are a great setting for this month’s book. Its “Six Stories” by Matt Wesolowski, published by Orenda Books (www.orendabooks.com) at the end of March.

The book follows a collection of interviews between Scott King, a mysterious investigative journalist, who regularly posts examinations of complicated cases online via Podcasts. This series is called “Six Stories” – in it Scott is looking back over the events surrounding the discovery of a body on Scarclaw Fell in 1997. The body is that of Tom Jeffers, who disappeared from an outdoor adventure centre on the Fell while on a weekend away with an inner-city youth group. No one was ever found guilty of his murder in a court of law but the media had a good go at pinning the blame on various people. The interviews are with members of the youth group and locals who he’s managed to track down ten years later and, who are willing to talk. As the tagline on the cover states, one death six stories, which one is true…

From the front cover to the blurb on the back, everything about this book shouts, Read Me!!! Along with promising a great thriller inside but then you open the book and basically you realise you are reading the transcript of a radio documentary / podcast.

Being a confident public speaker and actor who has trodden the boards in amateur drama, I was able to get over this obstacle by reading aloud and putting my own accents and inflections into the characters, although – this limited me to places I could read the book, thus reading while I was commuting was a no-no.

Alistair Cooke speaks at taping of his 2000th program 'Letter From America' at the British Broadcasting Company's Manhattan studio

Alastair Cooke

I love radio documentaries, In Ireland there is the “Doc on One” which is broadcast weekly on RTE radio – Ireland’s national broadcaster – and has won numerous awards, both in Ireland and abroad. The idea for the Six Stories was inspired by the real-life podcast phenomena “Serial”.  But could I see myself reading the transcripts of either of these shows… No, why?!

Now I grew up listening to Alistair Cooke’s “Letter from America” which was broadcast on BBC Radio Four from 1946 up until his death in 2004. Cooke wasn’t just a radio journalist but also a print journalist and author of over twenty books. Eleven were his “Letter from America” ,which were the transcripts of said broadcast. The difference between Six Stories and Alistair Cooke’s The Americans’, was that they weren’t broadcast like a radio show, but like a letter or a newspaper column, hence the ease with which I took to Cooke’s books.

This doesn’t take away from Six Stories, despite the style of writing which may put some people off… The mystery at the heart of the story intrigues the reader and keeps you turning the pages until the very end when the killer punch surrounding the mystery is delivered.

This is Newcastle – Upon – Tyne native Matt Wesolowski’s first novel, but not his first

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Alex Wesolowski

book. His first novella The Black Land, a murder mystery set on the Northumberland coast was published in 2013 and his second novella set in Sweden will be published shortly. He started writing horror stories for various publications and anthologies, then in 2015 he won the Pitch Perfect Bloody Scotland competition. He is currently working on his second novel Ashes.

 

This book has been hailed in some quarters as a new departure in thriller writing, but it didn’t really work for me because it’s biggest flaw, was this new departure, which placed it in the wrong media. It will make a better Audio book than it has a printed one. Even then it may struggle to hold its audience.

If this was made into a radio drama it would be one of the best and darkest programmes out there and ripe for a TV adaptation.

So, if you are looking for a new thriller writer and can overcome the unusual writing style of this book, then download it or hike down to your local bookshop and pick up a copy.