Under Your Skin
By Sabine Durrant
Gaby Mortimer is a television presenter married to a hedge fund manager, they have one daughter and a live-in nanny.
Gaby’s cosy world is turned upside down one morning when, whilst out running, she discovers the body of a young woman on the common. Before long the police make her their prime suspect and she is in a battle to prove her innocence.
The book’s premise is a good one and should be psychologically tense. Unfortunately, after discovering the body and finding herself interrogated by the police, Gaby’s world descends into streams of consciousness about whether her husband will leave her, about her relationship with her daughter and about whether the nanny likes her. The actual plot of the murder and whodunnit goes absolutely nowhere.
If there was one piece of advise I would give to potential readers it would be; skip the first half of the book.
Go straight to the second half, to where Jack Hayward (journalist) starts to play a part. He singlehandedly moves the plot forward. And once it’s underway the book becomes a fast-paced page turner.
I think the problem is Gaby’s first person narrative is too narrow. It was when she had interaction with Jack that things opened up and the plot could move.
I am struggling to know how many stars to give this book. I think I’ll go with 2.5 for half a good book
The Shock of the Fall
By Nathan Filer
This book is about mental illness, loss, and the unending grief that goes with that loss. Dark and difficult subjects. And yet this book never descends into a depressive story. It is sad and sometimes scary-how easy it is to slip over the edge. But it is also funny, touching and strangely uplifting.
Matthew Homes is the protagonist who narrates the book. The story begins just before his brother is killed (this is not a spoiler, it is in the blurb on the back of the book) and charts his descent into madness (schizophrenia).
Through Matthew we see how this also affects his family, especially his mother who has already lost one son and can barely stand the weight of her grief.
The author gives Matthew such a strong voice that he is in your head and you really feel you know him and, even better, you empathise with him. This book makes you a better person.
His relationship with his Nanny is brilliant, she has already had experience of mental health problems with another member of the family and she comes across so well having plenty of idiosyncrasies herself.
Nathan Filer does such a good job of bringing Matthew to life and the humour that runs through the book is wonderful. One of my favourite moments is when Denise, his care co-ordinator, visits and finds him drinking alcohol:
‘”Really Matt,” she says.
“You’re your own worst enemy.”
That’s a strange thing to say
To someone with a serious
mental disease. Ofcourse I’m
My own worst enemy. ‘
I would highly recommend this book, it has great characters, a good story and is thought- provoking.
The Bat by Jo Nesbo
The Bat is Nesbo’s first book but it was never translated into English until recently.
The plot concerns a young Norwegian girl on a gap year in Sydney who has been murdered, and Harry Hole, a Norwegian detective, who has been sent to Australia to assist the investigation. The team unearth a string of unsolved murders and disappearances, and the hunt for a serial killer is on.
I need to start this review by saying that Jo Nesbo is a particular favourite of mine and I always look forward to his new releases. However, this book is a major disappointment and you can see why it wasn’t released earlier.
The book is littered with facts about Australian Aboriginals. Aboriginal folklore is just plonked into the midst of the crime story. It is so strange and frankly unwanted. I am sure that the story of the Aboriginals is an interesting one but if I had wanted that book I would have bought it.
There is also a lot of Harry Hole’s history here that is not covered in the later books, so it is worth a read if you’re interested in filling in the gaps from the later books. But for me there is just too much of it and it is just another thing that gets in the way of the story. This book would have benefited from a good editor: or any editor for that matter.
I am sorry to say that I struggled to finish the book. At best I skimmed over pages; at worst I skipped large tracts. It is a shame because there is a good story here, but it’s buried so deep it is impossible for it to get out.
The reason I have written this review ( I don’t really like giving bad reviews) is to say don’t be put off Jo Nesbo; he is fantastic. Start somewhere else; The Snowman, The Redbreast, The Redeemer, any of his other books.
If you really feel you want to start at the beginning with The Bat, just bear in mind that it is his first book and he was just learning his trade.