Reputation by Sarah Vaughan – Review – First Monday Crime.

About The Book

Emma Webster is a respectable MP.
Emma Webster is a devoted mother.
Emma Webster is innocent of the murder of a tabloid journalist.
Emma Webster is a liar.
#Reputation: The story you tell about yourself. And the lies others choose to believe…

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I rarely read political fiction and I have never read a novel by Sarah Vaughan, but I did recently watch the dramatised version of Anatomy of a Scandal which I enjoyed a lot. I’m glad I made the decision to read this book because it is a cracker and I’m certain that this will also be filmed at some point.

Many of us will see politicians being passionate about something they agree with and who want to make changes to make victims suffer less. But not everybody will see the impact that this passion could have on their private lives. Especially when their child commits an act they are trying to prevent and which consequently damages a relationship and leads to them being tried for murder. The character who has to deal with all of this is Emma, ex school teacher, divorcee and dedicated to her career as an MP despite it leading to so much time away from her daughter Flora.

Whilst the main storyline concerns the death of the journalist and subsequent trial there is also a lot of focus on the amount of abuse that MPs and other public figures face daily. I was horrified at what Emma and others, had to cope with. A lot of which wasn’t dealt with quickly enough. You also got to see the impact on loved ones, especially Flora who had to deal with her own trauma at school. Flora was a character who I liked a lot and had a lot of sympathy for. All I could see when she featured was loneliness.

Emma isn’t the only narrator, you also get to read Flora’s and her stepmother Caroline’s point of view and towards the end a handful of others. All of these showed a completely different side to the novel and Emma’s storyline and one in particular I read with a sense of relief.

A crime novel concerning politics will never be anything I read about a lot but I feel that this novel is an important one. Especially when you hear about the threat faced far too often by those who try and do some good. 

Sarah Vaughan will be appearing at First Monday Crime alongside Will Carver, Sinead Crowley and Victoria Selman. You can catch the event on the Facebook page at 7.30pm on Monday 6th June.

Out Of Her Depth by Lizzy Barber – Review – First Monday Crime.

About The Book

There are summers that could change your life.
There are summers that could end it.

Meet Rachel.
An unassuming young woman from a quiet London suburb.

Picture the scene:
A summer job at the beautiful Villa Medici in the Tuscan hills.
A group of glamorous teenagers, used to a life of privilege.
Lavish parties, heady sun-soaked days, backstabbing and bedhopping.

Until someone goes too far.
And nothing will ever be the same.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. It should have been the perfect working holiday for Rachel. Working in a hotel for the holiday season in Florence so she could perfect her Italian in preparation for university. However the ‘friends’ she made, Diana and Sebastian ruined it, still causing suffering over twenty years later. Admittedly Sebastian suffered more but it was difficult to have any sympathy for him. He was a character I detested immediately, I thought I’d misread him at one point, and then realised he was much worse than I initially thought. 

It was evident from the beginning that Rachel didn’t stand a chance against the other two. Privileged, selfish bullies doesn’t even begin to describe them. The only one who could see the real ‘friendship’ was Elio, only a minor character, and apart from poor Valentina, the only one I had any liking for. 

I really tried to have sympathy for Rachel but in a lot of ways she was too much like the others. She was just as manipulative, especially in the modern day parts of the novel. A certain scene made me cringe as I read it, and was the one which really made me see what she could be capable of.

A slightly different crime novel for me. No detectives or investigation. Just the victim and those responsible. 

Lizzy Barber will be appearing at First Monday Crime alongside Gytha Lodge, Anna Mazzola and Simone Buchholz. You can follow on Facebook at 7.30pm on May 9th.

The House of Ashes by Stuart Neville – Review – First Monday Crime .

About The Book

For Sara Keane, it was supposed to be a second chance. A new country. A new house. A new beginning with her husband Damien.

Then came the knock on the door.

Elderly Mary Jackson can’t understand why Sara and her husband are living in her home. She remembers the fire, and the house burning down. But she also remembers the children. The children who need her, whom she must protect.

‘The children will find you,’ she tells Sara, because Mary knows she needs help too. Sara soon becomes obsessed with what happened in that house nearly sixty years ago – the tragic, bloody night her husband never intended for her to discover. And Mary – silent for six decades – is finally ready to tell her story . .

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. The House of Ashes is probably the book that I have been gripped by most this year. I felt dread, sadness and admiration throughout most of it. It is a dual time frame novel with a handful of narrators whose only real obvious connection was that they were all female and who were all facing abuse from people they lived with. By a long way, it was Mary’s narrative I found easiest to read. Only a child, she was the only one who could see innocence in what she experienced. I loved reading about her dreams of being able to see across the sea to other countries. But when she started to understand what danger her and her mummies faced I could also see how loyal and determined she was despite her age.

The author does an incredible job of making all his narrators convincing. Switching from a young girl who has never experienced freedom in one chapter to a terrified but determined to escape new arrival and then decades later to a controlled and damaged young woman. 

It is one of those books that could cover more than one genre. Obviously crime but also historical with the brief description the conflicts in the ‘North of Ireland’ as it is described in the book and also gothic with the children who were in the shadows and who a handful of the characters could see. 

I read this novel very quickly, finding it impossible to put down.

Stuart Neville will be appearing at First Monday Crime alongside Janice Hallett, Catherine Ryan Howard and Robert Gold. You can watch via the Facebook page on Monday 7th March at 7.30pm.

The Dark by Emma Haughton – Review – First Monday Crime

Dead dying dafodil flower in moonlit graveyard.

About The Book

In the most inhospitable environment – cut off from the rest of the world – there’s a killer on the loose. 

A&E doctor Kate North has been knocked out of her orbit by a personal tragedy. So when she’s offered the opportunity to be an emergency replacement at the UN research station in Antarctica, she jumps at the chance. The previous doctor, Jean-Luc, died in a tragic accident while out on the ice.

The move seems an ideal solution for Kate: no one knows about her past; no one is checking up on her. But as total darkness descends for the winter, she begins to suspect that Jean-Luc’s death wasn’t accidental at all. 

And the more questions she asks, the more dangerous it becomes . . .

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I see a lot of fiction now that suggests a ‘locked room’ murder or a novel that is similar to those written by Agatha Christie. By this, I mean the murder could only have been committed by a member of a small group of people. In this novel that group consists of 12 people and it would have been impossible for that murder to have been committed by somebody else because of where it takes place. Antarctica.

I have to admit, Antarctica is a place I have never given much thought to. I wasn’t aware that it was dark most of the time and I had no idea there was a Southern Lights ( Aurora Australis). Whilst reading I quickly decided that it wasn’t  somewhere I would like to go and I was happy enough looking at the lights on google images. 

The novel is very much a slow burner. The first half of the book shows the mood and friendship in the group disintegrate as the darkness hours lengthen  and the realisation that they have no chance of leaving until the weather improves. Kate’s dependancy on drugs increased and she alienated many in the group  with her questions about her predecessor.

After the murder occurred I felt that the group dynamic improved slightly initially but it didn’t take long to deteriorate again when other events were revealed. I had some inkling who the murderer was before the end but what was more unique about this novel was trying to guess who the victim would be.

The Dark was an intense and claustrophobic read which I enjoyed immensely. 

Emma Haughton will be appearing at First Monday Crime alongside Sarah Hilary, Alexandra Benedict and Martin Walker. The moderator will be Jake Kerridge and you can see the event on Monday 6th December on First Monday’s Facebook page.

The Dare by Lesley Kara – Review – First Monday Crime.

About The Book

As a child, it was just a game. As an adult, it was a living nightmare.

‘This time it’s different. She’s gone too far now. 
She really has.’

When teenage friends Lizzie and Alice decide to head off for a walk in the countryside, they are blissfully unaware that this will be their final day together – and that only Lizzie will come back alive.

Lizzie has no memory of what happened in the moments before Alice died, she only knows that it must have been a tragic accident. But as she tries to cope with her grief, she is shocked to find herself alienated from Alice’s friends and relatives. They are convinced she somehow had a part to play in her friend’s death. 

Twelve years later, unpacking boxes in the new home she shares with her fiancé, Lizzie is horrified to find long-buried memories suddenly surfacing. Is the trauma of the accident finally catching up with her, or could someone be trying to threaten her new-found happiness?

Twelve years is a long time to wait, when you’re planning the perfect revenge . . .

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. The Dare is a dual time frame novel that is full of intrigue and twists. I have read a few reviews where the reader guessed at what was occurring but I can honestly say I never had a clue!

In her teens Lizzie suffered the trauma of her friend being killed whilst on their walk. As well with coping with her loss she has to deal with accusations from her Alice’s sister and school ‘friends’ that she hadn’t had a seizure as she claimed and was really responsible for Alice’s death.

Years later and in a steady relationship she has come to terms with Alice’s death and is making plans for the future. But she is dismayed when an unwelcome face from her past brings a lot of doubts and concern and she understandably feels ill at ease. Is this unwelcome friend genuine or are they a threat?

Most of this novel takes place in the present time and it was this part of the novel that I preferred. Older Lizzie has learned to live with her illness and is making plans for her future, younger Lizzie was very unhappy and struggling. Even before Alice’s death she never seemed to have the confidence to relax and make friends. 

I enjoyed this novel for its intrigue but also for its insights into how it feels to have epilepsy. Alice’s daily struggle felt like a real one, adapting to the changes in her life and feeling strong enough to make career and family plans. And of course how she felt stable enough to cope with the past coming back to haunt her. 

The Dare is a great novel that I read very quickly. 

Lesley Kara will be one of the panelists on First Monday Crime, she will be appearing alongside Inga Vesper, Mara Timon and Tariq Ashkanani. The moderator will be Jonathan Whitelaw. You can watch it via the FM Facebook page at 7.30pm on Monday 4th October.