The Craftsman

the craftsman

 

The Craftsman

by Sharon Bolton

Florence Lovelady’s career was made when she convicted coffin-maker Larry Glassbrook of a series of child murders 30 years ago. Like something from our worst nightmares the victims were buried…ALIVE.

 

Larry confessed to the crimes; it was an open and shut case. But now he’s dead, and events from the past start to repeat themselves.

 

Did she get it wrong all those years ago? 
Or is there something much darker at play?

 

In 1999, police officer Florence Lovelady attends the funeral of Larry Glassbrook, a convicted murderer that she arrested 30 years earlier. He kidnapped his victims, burying them alive along with an effigy of themselves. On her return to the house Florence fnds something that suggests all was not as it seemed in 1969. Now Florence needs to know if she got it wrong all those years ago.

Rewind 30 years to a young WPC Lovelady. An educated young lady from the south, working as part of a Lancashire police force steeped in sexism. Cheap taunts plague her daily, eating into her confidence. But as children go missing she realises that her ideas and detective work are a lot better than the men who look down on her.

When there is another abduction, Florence feels there is a greater evil at work. Interviewing the townsfolk, Florence hears tales of withcraft and unexplained mysteries and sees that she is up against something that she may not be able to understand.

If there is one thing you are guaranteed reading a Sharon Bolton novel, it is a strong sense of place and The Craftsman is no exception: Lancashire is given its own character and moodily plays it so well.

As a Lancashire lass growing up hearing the stories of the Pendle witches, I was totally immersed in this dark, creepy tale of crime mixed with the supernatural, of characters hewn from the Lancashire hills and mired in Lancashire legends: perfect for this book.

I think this is Sharon Bolton’s best book so far: dark, oppressive and totally believable. Suspenseful storytelling from an author at the top of her game. I am looking forward to the next episode already.

Cannot recommend highly enough.

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Meet Me At The Museum

meet me

 

Meet Me At The Museum

by Anne Youngson

 

Please be aware I am writing to you to make sense of myself …

When the curator of a Danish museum responds to a query about ancient exhibits, he doesn’t expect a reply.
When Tina Hopgood first wrote it, nor did she …

 

Tina Hopgood is dissatisfied with her life.

As a school child her class had corresponded with Professor Glob at the Silkeborg museum in Denmark about the discovery of the Tollund Man, an Iron Age man found perfectly preserved in a Danish bog. She is now the wrong side of 60 years old and writes once again to Professor Glob. Unfortunately he has passed away, but Tina receives a reply from the present curator of the museum, Anders Larson. What starts out as a quite formal exchange of letters about the Tollund Man and his effect on modern life, soon turns into a more personal correspondence.

Two very different characters; Tina, a disillusioned hard-working farmer’s wife from East Anglia and Anders, a widower and the curator of the Silkeborg museum in Denmark. They both find they have common ground in feeling somewhat surplus to their own lives.  Tina is a cog in the efficinet working of the farm, but feels her family wouldn’t notice her otherwise. Anders, a widower, lives alone. Always looking back to the life he lived with his wife and wondering if he had done enough to help her.

This book is gentle, thoughtful and tender. The relationship grows slowly, like the opening of a fern frond. As they discuss their lives they develop a closeness with each other that neither seems able to find with their own families.

When there is upheaval in Tina’s life she has to re-evaluate their relationship. Whether that means ending it or setting it on a new pathway only she can decide.

A beautiful debut with gorgeous prose. I totally loved both characters and the slow, thoughtful response to each other’s letters. I was quite ridiculously peeved at the thought of them using email rather than real letters, I loved the idea of their handwritten letters dropping through the letter box and the feel and touch of the paper and envelopes.

I did guess quite early on what was going to happen, but it in no way impaired my enjoyment of the book. I felt the author played out the events perfectly…or her characters did.

A book about lost lives, missed opportunities and the fact that it’s never too late to change your life.  A wonderful read and highly recommended.

 

 

 

The Smiling Man

 

the smiling man

 

The Smiling Man

by Joseph Knox

 

‘I usually experienced the presence of a dead body as an absence, but in this case, it felt like a black hole opening up in front of me’
Disconnected from his history and careless of his future, Detective Aidan Waits has resigned himself to the night shift. An endless cycle of meaningless emergency calls and lonely dead ends. Until he and his partner, Detective Inspector Peter ‘Sutty’ Sutcliffe, are summoned to The Palace, a vast disused hotel in the centre of a restless, simmering city. There they find the body of a man. He is dead. And he is smiling.

 

I adored Sirens, Joseph Knox first novel which introduced us to Detective Aidan Waits. It was my top crime novel for many a year. The concern was, could he keep up to that level of writing with his next book, The Smiling Man.  Well he hasn’t kept up. What he has done, is surpass it, by a long way.

It is simply brilliant.

We are back in the dark heart of Manchester and Detective Aidan Waits whose prestige has sunk so low, he is consigned to the nightshift. He is investigating random bin fires with his colleague, the morose (but hygenic), Peter ‘Sutty’ Sutcliffe.

When they are called to the Palace, a large recently closed hotel in the city centre they find a dead man in one of the rooms: a smiling dead man. With no means of identifying the man they set off on an investigation that leads to more death, two estranged owners of the hotel and lots of trouble for Aidan waits.

Alongside this investigation another harrowing tale is unfolding. And with a deft brush, Joseph Knox paints the two stories perfectly, allowing them to come together seamlessly.

There is so much to laud about this book. One of the great things is the characterisation. Aidan is a much more rounded character as we find out a lot of his backstory and his motivations.  The rest of the characters are just as good, and a special mention should go to Manchester, a character in itself. Joseph Knox brings to life the tense, seething underbelly of the city masterfully.

The book is driven along at a great pace with scintillating prose,crackling dialogue and a tense plot. my only disappointment was finishing the book: I now have a long wait until the next one.

If you haven’t met Aidan Waits yet, don’t leave it any longer: start at Sirens, you won’t be sorry.

Highly recommended, an incredible read.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wolves in the Dark *Blog Tour*

wolves in the dark

Wolves in the Dark

by Gunnar Staalesen

 

PI Varg Veum fights for his reputation, his freedom and his life, when child pornography is found on his computer and he is arrested and jailed. Worse still, his memory is a blank…

Reeling from the death of his great love, Karin, Varg Veum’s life has descended into a self-destructive spiral of alcohol, lust, grief and blackouts.

When traces of child pornography are found on his computer, he’s accused of being part of a paedophile ring and thrown into a prison cell. There, he struggles to sift through his past to work out who is responsible for planting the material… and who is seeking the ultimate revenge.

When a chance to escape presents itself, Varg finds himself on the run in his hometown of Bergen. With the clock ticking and the police on his tail, Varg takes on his hardest – and most personal – case yet.

Chilling, shocking and exceptionally gripping, Wolves in the Dark reaffirms Gunnar Staalesen as one of the world’s foremost thriller writers.

 

Gunnar Staalesen is a Norwegian crime writer who has written over 20 books. Ian Rankin writes of him as being the Norwegian Jo nesbo. His most popular are the ones about the private investigator Varg Veum. Wolves in the Dark is the latest Varg Veum novel.

The book starts off with Veum being arrested because indecent images have been found on his computer. Whilst being held in prison, Veum tries to remember who from his past would have such a grudge against him to give them enough reason to plant the images and see him convicted.

Unfortunately his memories are hazy to say the least, as he has spent the last four years in a drunken stupor, grieving the death of his girlfriend.

This is the first book I have read by Gunnar Staalesen and I enjoyed the tightly plotted style that kept the tension high and the pages turning.

The character of Varg Veum is really interesting. He is a complex man with a difficult backstory whose life has hit rock bottom. I really enjoyed his character; a good man but flawed. I will definitely go back to read the other books in the series to find out how he got to where he is.

This is a hard-hitting, dark thriller with difficult subject matter that is very well handled. It is a well-paced thriller with excellent dialogue and the short chapters keep the pages turning long into the night.

If you like your thrillers dark and intense with a hard-boiled protagonist, Wolves in the Dark will definitely appeal.

Granite Noir Fest 2017
Gunnar Staalesen was born in Bergen, Norway in 1947. He made his debut at the age of 22 with Seasons of Innocence and in 1977 he published the first book in the Varg Veum series. He is the author of over 20 titles, which have been published in 24 countries and sold over four million copies. Twelve film adaptations of his Varg Veum crime novels have appeared since 2007, starring the popular Norwegian actor Trond Epsen Seim. Staalesen, who has won three Golden Pistols (including the Prize of Honour), lives in Bergen with his wife. When Prince Charles visited Bergen, Staalesen was appointed his official tour guide. There is a life-sized statue of Varg Veum in the centre of Bergen, and a host of Varg Veum memorabilia for sale. We Shall Inherit the Wind and Where Roses Never Die were both international bestsellers.

Don’t forget to follow the rest of the blog tour!

wolves blog tour poster (1)

Many thanks to Orenda Books and Anne Cater for asking me to be part of the blog tour and for sending me a copy of the book.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

ELEANOR OLIPHANT

 

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

by Gail honeyman

 

Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.

Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.

One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.

Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine?

 

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine…but not really. her life consists of work – Monday to Friday, with very little in the way of human interaction. Then weekends spent at home, alone, not speaking to a soul from leaving work on the Friday to getting on the bus on Monday morning.

On Friday after leaving work she buys a pizza from Tesco and two bottles of vodka that she drinks throughout the weekend, never getting drunk but in a suitable haze to see her through.

Eleanor’s social skills are extremely limited; she has no filter for her thoughts and her only point of reference is ‘mummy’ who is cruel and vindictive and no longer in her life except for a weekly phone call.

Then three men come into Eleanor’s life…

The first she decides is the man for her: the one she will walk off into the sunset with. So she sets about updating her appearance for the meeting that will change her life, with hilarious consequences.

The second man is Raymond, the IT man at work. They meet when Eleanor’s computer breaks down. Raymond is one of the few people who is not put off by Eleanor’s blunt manner.

The third man is Sammy. When Sammy is taken ill, Eleanor and Raymond help him and the three become friends, resulting in Eleanor’s life opening up and a huge learning curve.

Eleanor is one of the most fabulous creations. Her thoughts on other people and the world around her are totally hilarious.

“I purchased it in a charity shop some years ago, and it has a photograph of a moon-faced man. He is wearing a brown leather blouson. Along the top, in strange yellow font, it says ‘Top Gear’. I don’t profess to understand this mug. It holds the perfect amount of vodka, however, thereby obviating the need for frequent refills.”

But at the same time she is vulnerable and holds dark secrets from the past. We follow her as she tries to come to terms with who she is and how she interacts with the world, with the help of the lovely Raymond. Their relationship is a joy to behold. His small kindnesses making all the difference to a woman who has never been shown any and known only loneliness.

This is such a powerful book, having strong themes of loneliness and heartbreaking sadness but with a huge warmth and tenderness. You’ll laugh out loud on one page and cry buckets on the next. I didn’t want this book to end and was bereft when I had to say goodbye.

Do not miss it. The best book of the year so far.

 

Many thanks to Harper Collins for sending me a copy.

Ultra Marathon Man

ultra marathon man

 

Ultra Marathon Man

by Dean Karnazes

 

Ultrarunning legend, Dean Karnazes, has run 262 miles – the equivalent of ten marathons – without rest. He has run over mountains, across death valley, to the South Pole, and is probably the first person to eat an entire pizza while running. With an insught, candour and humour rarely seen in sports memoirs, Ultramarathon Man has motivated hundreds of thousands of people – runners and non-runners alike – to push themselves beyond their comfort zones and simply get out there and run.

 

I picked up this book out of interest, having done the odd 10k run myself.  I started reading the first chapter and I was hooked, I barely let the book out of my hands until I was finished.

From the first chapter when Dean is craving food while running in the early hours and ordering himself a pizza literally on the run, we follow his treks over The Western States Trail, through Death Valley and down to the South Pole.  These are incredible journeys that leave you gasping at what the human body is capable of enduring.

Dean’s first attempt at the 100 miles Great Western Trail is described in great detail and it is a totally engrossing read: the high points – not so many; and the low points – that get harder and harder to bear, as body parts start failing and some even fall off! Still he keeps going. The only complaint I have here is that no mention was made of the after effects and I really wanted to know how much damage he had done and how long the recovery was.

For his next challenge, Dean attempts to run through Death Valley in the height of summer with temperatures reaching 130 degrees fahrenheit, the asphalt underfoot exceeding 200 degrees; the run a mere 135 miles long.

After this, needing some cooling down the obvious place to go is the South Pole where Dean and a  select band of runners try to become the first runners ever to run a marathon to the south Pole.

I loved this book. I was totally immersed in Dean Karnazes’ adventures, metaphorically running alongside him in frank amazement but also huge admiration. The writing style makes it a very easy read and Dean comes across as a charismatic character. You don’t need to be an expert runner, or a sports person of any kind really, to read this, apart from some diet and training tips at the end, it’s not technical at all.

This is such an inspirational book, Dean karnazes’ attitude is so positive, his motto is:

      Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up.

whether you want to run an ultra marathon or your goals are a little more modest and maybe just getting out of bed in the morning is an achievement, this can be applied to anything at all in life.

Highly recommended

See What I Have Done

see what i have done

 

See What I Have Done

by Sarah Schmidt

 

In this riveting debut novel, See What I Have Done, Sarah Schmidt recasts one of the most fascinating murder cases of all time into an intimate story of a volatile household and a family devoid of love.

On the morning of August 4, 1892, Lizzie Borden calls out to her maid: Someone’s killed Father. The brutal ax-murder of Andrew and Abby Borden in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, leaves little evidence and many unanswered questions. While neighbors struggle to understand why anyone would want to harm the respected Bordens, those close to the family have a different tale to tell—of a father with an explosive temper; a spiteful stepmother; and two spinster sisters, with a bond even stronger than blood, desperate for their independence.

As the police search for clues, Emma comforts an increasingly distraught Lizzie whose memories of that morning flash in scattered fragments. Had she been in the barn or the pear arbor to escape the stifling heat of the house? When did she last speak to her stepmother? Were they really gone and would everything be better now? Shifting among the perspectives of the unreliable Lizzie, her older sister Emma, the housemaid Bridget, and the enigmatic stranger Benjamin, the events of that fateful day are slowly revealed through a high-wire feat of storytelling. 

 

I do love books that take actual events and weave a story around them. Bring characters to life that you only know the very best or very worst about.  In this case Sarah Schmidt takes the infamous Lizzie Borden: accused of axing her father and step-mother to death, she was then acquitted, but still remained the prime suspect.

Most people are familiar with the old, rather gruesome, schoolyard rhyme:

 “Lizzie Borden took an axe, 

and gave her mother forty whacks, 

when she saw what she had done,

she gave her father forty one.”

This book is told from four viewpoints; Lizzie, her sister Emma, the maid Bridget and Benjamin, who gives an outsider’s perspective.

Lizzie’s voice is childlike, coming across as whiny and selfish and sounding much younger than her 30+ years. The relationship with her sister Emma is completely unhealthy; Lizzie is needy and dependent and Emma is staying at relatives to give herself much needed distance.

The whole family exists in a state of disfunctionality and Sarah Schmidt’s writing is engrossing, bringing out the mistrust and perceived slights between the family members. The whole atmosphere of the Borden household is claustrophobic and brooding in the extreme. This is not helped by being inside Lizzie’s head, a disturbing and unsettling place to be and we are soon glad of the differing viewpoints.

The book is awash with sensory overload; the descriptions of taste and smell leave a disgusting taste in your mouth: the rancid mutton stew, the sickness, Lizzie’s need to wallow in the blood and gore as she tries to come to terms with the fact that her father is dead.

Lizzie was put on trial for the murders but was acquitted for no better reason than the jury did not believe that a woman was capable of committing such a crime. Sarah Schmidt tells Lizzie’s side of the story and you can make your own mind up, there are other possibilities and the different viewpoints are fascinating.

This is a completely compelling read and if you enjoy true-life historical drama you are probably going to enjoy this.

High;y recommended

Many thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy.