From the outside, Eleanor and Edward Hamilton have the perfect life, but they’re harbouring a secret that threatens to fracture their entire world.
Eleanor Hamilton is a dutiful mother, a caring sister and an adoring wife to a celebrated war hero. Her husband, Edward, is a pioneer in the eugenics movement. The Hamiltons are on the social rise, and it looks as though their future is bright.
When Mabel, their young daughter, begins to develop debilitating seizures, they have to face an uncomfortable truth: Mabel has epilepsy – one of the ‘undesirable’ conditions that Edward campaigns against.
Forced to hide their daughter away so as to not jeopardise Edward’s life’s work, the couple must confront the truth of their past – and the secrets that have been buried.
Will Eleanor and Edward be able to fight for their family? Or will the truth destroy them?
Eleanor’s first encounter with Edward is seared so deep into her mind; the clarity of the memory takes her breath away, just as he did when she first set eyes on him eight years ago, in 1920. The broad shoulders beneath the sharp cut of his uniform; the medals lining his chest. A quick glance and she had recognised the Military Cross, awarded for exemplary gallantry. From behind her typewriter she had wondered, as he folded his tall frame into a chair outside the brigadier general’s room in the War Office, just what acts of bravery he had undertaken. Those haunting eyes which fixed on hers, just a little longer than strictly appropriate for a captain waiting for his decommissioning appointment. She remembers the effect he had on her, the hot fluttering in her chest and how the words she was typing melted and swam on the page in front of her. She could still feel the soft spring breeze from the open window touch her skin; the grind of traffic rumbling along Horse Guards Avenue below, the press of his eyes on her flushed cheeks as she tried, fruitlessly, to concentrate on her work. From the corner of her eye, she’d watched him take a pen and notebook from his top pocket and, forehead wrinkled in thought, begin to write. She’d wondered if he was a poet or perhaps planning his words for the brigadier.
When Edward had disappeared behind the brigadier general’s closed door, Eleanor became aware of the strong thrum of her heart, the prickle of sweat on her skin, the rasp of her breath in her throat. The knowledge he would walk back out at some point had her patting her hair, smoothing her blouse, pinching her cheeks. It had felt like hours before he reappeared. It was ridiculous, she knew. She, just a young, ordinary girl – a secretary; he a military man, a much older man. He must be, what, thirty, thirty-five, even. She only nineteen! And pretty much destitute, now that she and Rose were alone together in the world. Someone so smart and self-assured, so brave and handsome, would never be interested in her.
He reappeared, turned, and the brigadier general shook him by the hand, saying, ‘Best of luck with it all,’ pumping Edward’s hand so vigorously his moustache had wobbled. A Temporary Gentleman, Eleanor surmised. A man given a temporary commission to serve as an officer in the war, now released to return to his former profession. Back to what? she had wondered, unable to resist staring at him as he prepared to leave the room. Before replacing his cap, he turned and smiled. A warm, wonderful smile which lit up his face. Passing her desk, as he’d left, he slipped a folded note next to her typewriter, unnoticed by the brigadier general whose mind was undoubtedly on the hundreds more he had to decommission in the coming days.
I’ll be at the Café Bru, corner of Whitehall Place, at six this evening if you would care to join me for a cup of tea? Be reassured that my invitation is purely professional. Yours, Edward Hamilton, the note had read, which set Eleanor’s heart racing all over again.
A reality TV star becomes a suspect in an Essex murder case in the sharp, funny and moving new thriller from M.K. Hill
Three years ago, Danny ‘Abs’ Cruikshank, star of reality show Laid in Essex!, was living the dream. But on the night of the party, everything changed.
It was supposed to be an intimate weekend gathering, just a few close friends in a remote cottage in Wales. But after a night of heavy drinking in the village pub, a local girl was reported missing – and never seen again. Abs and his friends had been the last to see her alive.
No-one was ever charged, but the controversy destroyed Abs’s career. And now one of his mates has been murdered…
DI Sasha Dawson and her team must race against the clock to find the killer before they strike again – but first she must discover what happened to Rhiannon Jenkins on the night she vanished. Will the truth set Abs free? Or bury him?
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I don’t watch reality TV, so have never understood the fame and adoration that seems to be handed on a plate to its stars. But I did have a soft spot for Abs, one of the main characters in this very entertaining novel. After becoming a suspect in the disappearance of a young woman he was dropped from a very successful reality TV show. He aches to be back in the limelight. Skint, no other skills apart from his charm and totally deluded about his relationship with his onscreen co-star Kelsey. But he soon discovers that his dream of success and a future with Kelsey fades into insignificance when faced with danger.
Sasha is the police officer who is investigating the death of Abs friend. Unlike her colleagues,in particular Lolly, she is unaware of who Abs is and doesn’t let his fame affect her investigation. I liked her a lot and appreciated the insight into her personal life. There are hints of a tragedy in her past that I wanted to know more about and I liked that there was nothing revealed that made the later reading of book one in the series unnecessary.
I found this novel to be very original. There is a lot of focus on the investigation which you would expect, but I liked Abs having such a prominent role. His way of coping with what was happening around him was quite refreshing. He felt fear, guilt and disappointment but he was still capable of turning on the charm.
Another two original aspects of this novel were the impact of not knowing what happened to a family member had on a relative’s judgement forcing them do something they wouldn’t do under normal circumstances and the way that the pressure on an overworked police department meant that often other cases suffered.
I did work out who was responsible for the crimes in this novel but I didn’t see everything. I will definitely be reading more by this author.
It was meant to be your daughter’s first sleepover. Now it’s an abduction.
Lucia Blix went home from school for a playdate with her new friend Josie. Later that evening, her mother Elisa dropped her overnight things round and shared a glass of wine with Josie’s mother. Then she kissed her little girl goodnight and drove home.
That was the last time she saw her daughter.
The next morning, when Lucia’s dad arrived to pick her up, the house was empty. No furniture, no family, no Lucia.
In Playdate, Alex Dahl puts a microscope on a seemingly average, seemingly happy family plunged into a life-altering situation.
Who has taken their daughter, and why?
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. Elisa is a bit reluctant to let her young daughter go to a friend’s house after school for a ‘play date’ but because she can see how excited Lucia is, how well she gets on with her friend and the friendliness of her mother she agrees. But her world falls apart when there is no sign of the house being lived in the day after when her husband goes to collect his daughter.
What makes this novel so original is the lack of storyline involving the police investigation. Instead the novel concerns Elisa trying to come to terms with Lucia’s disappearance, Lucia, confused, frightened and not knowing what to believe, Jacqueline, abductor, understandably damaged, Marcus, a man who is in an open prison for reasons unknown and Selma, a journalist who is determined to find out what what happened.
The narrative switched between them all constantly throughout but it was very easy to follow. And with the chapters being so short I found it difficult to put aside. Waiting to see what would happen next to the character concerned.
It is one of those novels where the reader is aware of what happened fairly early on but not why. The reason is revealed in the latter half of the novel, but I had decided a lot earlier that I wasn’t that keen on Elisa. I struggled to know why until the very end but I was glad that my gut instinct was a correct one.
Whilst my favourite character by a long was Selma, simply for her determination and her care of Medusa her cat I had a lot of empathy for Jacqueline. I know her actions were wrong but I could understand why she did what she did.
Playdate is one of the more original crime novels that I have read this year. A fascinating storyline and I also enjoyed the descriptions of the countries in which the novel takes place.
While war rages in Europe, Japan has established itself as the supreme power in Asia. The beautiful province of Hangzhou has become a stronghold of the Japanese puppet government. One day, five officers from the code-breaking department are escorted to an isolated mansion outside the city. One of them has been sharing secrets with the communists. No-one is leaving until the traitor is uncovered. It should be a straightforward case of sifting truth from lies. But as each code-breaker spins a story that proves their innocence, events are re-framed, and what really happened is called into question again and again. Part revisionist history, part playful meta-fiction, The Message is at once an absorbing and cerebral spy thriller and a commentary on storytelling itself.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. The Message is the first Chinese fiction book that I have read and despite knowing nothing at all about either Chinese or Japanese history I found it fascinating. If at times a little confusing.
In three parts, the first concerns the interrogation of the five people. You don’t really get to know much about any of them, most of the focus is on the ways of getting information, the tricks that Hihara and the others tried to get the information they required. And the mercifully brief descriptions of the torture methods used when this failed. It was this part of the book that I found the most confusing, partly due to my lack of knowledge concerning the history and partly due to the number of people involved. I had no idea who Ghost was or if the right person had been found guilty.
The second part was my favourite, it was here that I realised what meta -fiction was and I stopped looking for information about the characters online. More importantly I felt I got to know at least two of the characters more. Not necessarily liking them but I understood them more and had more sympathy. It was also here, when I started to appreciate how clever this book was.
The third part goes into detail of the history of the conflict between China and Japan, the identities of some of the characters involved and the beauty of the area where all the crimes took place. And the believable account of how it was protected.
I have never read a book like this before, not easy to read but I’m glad I took a chance.
From the author of the acclaimed novel The Borrowed, a very timely and propulsively plotted tale of cyberbullying and revenge, about a woman on the hunt for the truth about her sister’s death.
Chan Ho-Kei’s The Borrowed was one of the most acclaimed international crime novels of recent years, a vivid and compelling tale of power, corruption, and the law spanning five decades of the history of Hong Kong. Now he delivers Second Sister, an up-to-the-minute tale of a Darwinian digital city where everyone from tech entrepreneurs to teenagers is struggling for the top.
A schoolgirl – Siu-Man – has committed suicide, leaping from her twenty-second floor window to the pavement below. Siu-Man is an orphan and the librarian older sister who’s been raising her refuses to believe there was no foul play – nothing seemed amiss. She contacts a man known only as N. – a hacker, and an expert in cybersecurity and manipulating human behavior. But can Nga-Yee interest him sufficiently to take her case, and can she afford it if he says yes?
What follows is a cat and mouse game through the city of Hong Kong and its digital underground, especially an online gossip platform, where someone has been slandering Siu-Man. The novel is also populated by a man harassing girls on mass transit; high school kids, with their competing agendas and social dramas; a Hong Kong digital company courting an American venture capitalist; and the Triads, market women and noodle shop proprietors who frequent N.’s neighborhood of Sai Wan. In the end it all comes together to tell us who caused Siu-Man’s death and why, and to ask, in a world where online and offline dialogue has increasingly forgotten about the real people on the other end, what the proper punishment is.
When Nga-Yee left her flat at eight that morning, she had no idea her whole life would change that day.
After the nightmare of the last year, she was sure better times were ahead if they just gritted their teeth and clung on. She firmly believed that destiny was fair, and if something bad happened, something good must naturally follow. Unfortunately, the powers that be love playing cruel jokes on us.
A little after six that evening, Nga-Yee dragged her exhausted body homeward. As she walked from the shuttle bus stop, her mind busily calculated whether there was enough food in the fridge to make dinner for two. In just seven or eight years,prices had risen alarmingly while wages stayed the same. Nga-Yee could remember a pound of pork costing twenty-odd dollars, but now that barely got you half a pound.
There was probably a few ounces of pork and some spinach in the fridge, enough for a stir-fry with ginger. A dish of steamed eggs on the side would complete a simple, nutritious dinner. Her sister Siu-Man, who was eight years younger, loved steamed eggs, and Nga-Yee often served this soft, silky dish when the cupboard was almost bare—a fine meal with chopped scallions and a dash of soy sauce. Most important, it was cheap. Back when their finances were even tighter, eggs got them through many a difficult moment.
Although there was enough for that night, Nga-Yee wondered if she should try her luck at the market anyway. She didn’t like leaving the fridge completely bare, her upbringing had left her wanting a backup plan at all times. Besides, quite a few vendors dropped their prices just before closing, and she might pick up some bargains for the next day.
A police car sped past, the siren piercing Nga-Yee’s thoughts of discounted groceries. Only now did she notice the crowd at the foot of her building, Wun Wah House.
What on earth could have happened? Nga-Yee continued walking at the same pace. She wasn’t the sort of person who liked joining in the excitement, which was why many of her secondary school classmates had labeled her a loner, an introvert, a nerd. Not that this bothered her. Everyone has the right to choose how to live their lives. Trying to fit in with other people’s ideas is pure foolishness.
“Nga-Yee! Nga-Yee!” A plump, curly-haired, fiftyish woman waved frantically from among the dozen or so onlookers: Auntie Chan, their neighbor on the twenty-second floor. They knew each other to say hello, but that was about it.
Auntie Chan sprinted the short distance toward Nga-Yee, grabbed her by the arm, and dragged her toward the building. Nga-Yee couldn’t make out a word she was saying, apart from her own name, sheer terror made her voice sound like a foreign language. Nga-Yee finally began to understand when she picked out the word “sister.”
In the light of the setting sun, Nga-Yee walked through the crowd and was finally able to make out the horrifying sight.
People were huddled around a patch of concrete about a dozen yards from the main entrance. A teenage girl in a white school uniform lay there, tangled hair obscuring her face, dark red liquid puddling around her head.
Nga-Yee’s first thought was, Isn’t that someone from Siu- Man’s school?
Two seconds later she realized the still figure on the ground was Siu-Man.
Her little sister was sprawled on the cold concrete. All the family she had in the world. Instantly, everything around her turned upside down. Was this a nightmare? If only she were dreaming. Nga-Yee looked at the faces around her. She recognized them as her neighbors, but they felt like strangers.
“Nga-Yee! Nga-Yee!” Auntie Chan clutched at her arm, shaking her violently.
“ Siu-Man?” Even saying her name out loud, Nga-Yee couldn’t connect the object on the ground with her little sister.
Siu-Man ought to be at home right now, waiting for me to cook dinner.
“Move back, please.” A police officer in a neatly pressed uniform pushed through while two paramedics knelt by Siu-Man with a stretcher.
The older paramedic held his hand beneath her nose, pressed a couple of fingers to her left wrist, then lifted an eyelid and shone a penlight at her pupil. This took just a few seconds, but Nga-Yee experienced every one of these actions as a series of freeze frames.
She could no longer feel the passing of time.
Her subconscious was trying to save her from what would happen next.
The paramedic straightened and shook his head.
“Please step back, clear the way please,” said the policeman. The paramedics walked away from Siu-Man, looking somber. “Siu-Man? Siu-Man! Siu-Man!” Nga-Yee pushed Auntie Chan aside and dashed over.
“Miss!” A tall police officer moved quickly to grab her by the waist.
“Siu-Man!” Nga-Yee struggled futilely, then turned to beseech the officer, “That’s my sister. You have to save her!”
“Miss, please calm down,” said the policeman in a tone that suggested he knew his words would have no effect.
“Please save her! Medics!” Nga-Yee, all color drained from her face, turned to implore the departing ambulance crew. “Why isn’t she on your stretcher? Quick! You have to save her!”
“Miss, are you her sister? Please calm down,” said the police- man, his arm around her waist, trying to sound as sympathetic as possible.
“Siu-Man—” Nga-Yee turned back to look at the broken figure on the ground, but now two other officers were covering her with a dark green tarp. “What are you doing? Stop that! Stop that now!”
“Don’t cover her, she needs to breathe! Her heart is still beat- ing!” Nga-Yee leaned forward, her energy suddenly gone. The policeman was no longer holding her back, but propping her up. “Save her! You have to save her! I’m begging you . . . She’s my sister, my only sister . . .”
And so, on this ordinary Tuesday evening, on the empty ground in front of Wun Wah House, Lok Wah Estate, Kwun Tong District, the normally voluble neighbors fell silent. The only sound among these cold apartment buildings was the heartbro- ken weeping of an older sister, her sobs rushing like the wind into each person’s ears, filling them with a sorrow that could never be wiped away.