The Companion by Sarah Dunnakey – Blog Tour Review.

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About the book

How do you solve a mystery when the clues are hidden in the past?

The Companion is a beautiful and powerfully-told story of buried secrets, set between the 1930s and the present day, on the wild Yorkshire moors.
Billy Shaw lives in a palace. Potter’s Pleasure Palace, the best entertainment venue in Yorkshire, complete with dancing and swing-boats and picnickers and a roller-skating rink.
Jasper Harper lives in the big house above the valley, with his eccentric mother Edie and Uncle Charles, brother and sister authors who have come from London to write in the seclusion of the moors.
When it is arranged for Billy to become Jasper’s companion, Billy arrives to find a wild, peculiar boy in a curiously haphazard household where nothing that’s meant is said and the air is thick with secrets. Later, when Charles and Edie are found dead, it is ruled a double suicide, but fictions have become tangled up in facts and it’s left to Anna Sallis, almost a century later, to unravel the knots and piece together the truth

My Review

The Companion was slightly different to what I was expecting but I enjoyed it a lot. It is a dual narrative novel with Anna in modern day and Billy in the 1930s. Anna has moved into the area to start again after suffering an emotional loss. She becomes friendly with Frank, a local man who encourages her to convince the board who have control of the old palace to open the top floor to the public.
Billy who lived in the village in the 1930s and whose family worked at the palace is told he is to become a companion to Jasper, who lives with his mother and uncle at their home High Hob which is up on the moors. At first, he misses his family and friends but settles in to his new life.
I found all three members of the family spoilt, snobbish and very unpleasant. Jasper, especially made my skin crawl. A lot of children would play games, where they would convince each other that there were wild animals in the area but he had a healthy obsession with death, cruelty and power.
I couldn’t work out what had happened. Most of what Anna learned was from passed down memories and not all of them were accurate. What you think you learned about Billy in modern day was proved to be false a few chapters later. I liked the way this was done, having worked on family history for years you always hear stories that are later proven to be inaccurate.
I liked his character a lot. He understood immediately what Jasper was capable of, had hopes for a successful future and dreamt of a life with Lizzie. His friendship with Lizzie was lovely to read but also upsetting at times.
I’ve always enjoyed a novel that covers different generations and found this novel to be remarkable. There was the 1930s where life was changing dramatically. Between the wars, and a changing approach to the way the working class enjoyed their leisure time. And then modern day, where people realized they should know more about what their predecessors did in work and leisure.
The whole area felt real. I could see the transformation of the old palace and feel the isolation of the moors and the people who lived in both. The superstitious shepherd, the cook who couldn’t cook and the maid who witnessed more than she realised.
A fascinating book about a Yorkshire community and its history. Recommended.

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received

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The Defence by Steve Cavanagh

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Its been over a year since Eddie vowed never to set foot in a courtroom again. But now he doesn’t have a choice. Olek Volchek, the infamous head of the Russian mafia in New York, has strapped a bomb to Eddie’s back and kidnapped his ten-year-old daughter, Amy. Eddie only has forty-eight hours to defend Volchek in an impossible murder trial – and win – if he wants to save his daughter.

Under the scrutiny of the media and the FBI, Eddie must use his razor-sharp wit and every con-artist trick in the book to defend his ‘client’ and ensure Amy’s safety. With the timer on his back ticking away, can Eddie convince the jury of the impossible?

My Review:

It’s a few years since I have read a legal thriller, the ones I have read were ok but nothing memorable. I decided to download The Defence after seeing a lot of reviews praising it, I have to say that I agree, it really is very good. I decided to read it just before the release of the follow up book The Plea then I wouldn’t have to wait months for it to be published.
The start is very intense, Eddie knows how much danger both he and his family are in from the opening few pages. He isn’t sure if and how he will succeed, just that he has no other option. He has to do what they say. The people who he has to deal with are ruthless but Eddie is tough. He isn’t squeaky clean and has a few tricks of his own. He also has people he can rely on when things get bad.
It’s everything I love to read in a book. Drama, fear, humour, and the feeling that I had to keep on reading the book. Just one more chapter was a phrase I used often. After reading this I’m really looking forward to reading the follow up and I’m glad I already have it on my kindle.

Shtum by Jem Lester

imageIf you only read one novel that is released during 2016, I would recommend that it be Shtum by Jem Lester.

Ben and Emma have a severely autistic son, Jonah. They are forced to take the local authorities to a tribunal to get him into a residential school that will be the best option for him rather than the day school that will be by far the worst for all concerned. To help with their appeal Emma convinces Ben that they need to look like they have separated, so even though he doesn’t agree Ben and Jonah move in with Ben’s father Georg. Ben and Georg have a strained relationship but Georg idolises Jonah and Ben can’t help but feel jealous when he overhears Georg tell Jonah about growing up in Hungary. Something that he has never done with Ben.

I will be the first to admit my lack of knowledge regarding autism and even after reading the novel I still know very little. However this had no negative impact on what I read. The story of three different generations of a family, two who had their differences trying to do the best for the third. Ben and Emma had their faults and both dealt with their situation without much regard for each other. But they dealt with it in the only way they could.
I went through the the whole range of emotions whilst reading. I laughed but I also cried. I felt anger, mainly towards the councils, schools and social workers but also at times towards Ben. And I had a huge amount of sympathy towards a family who were trying to do the best thing possible for their child, and were being let down by a system and a feeling of betrayal towards absent ‘friends’.
I have read two books this year when I have felt bereft when I have finished it. This was one of them. Totally different to my usual choice of fiction but I think it’s a book that will be enjoyed whatever your tastes are. I have no hesitation in recommending this novel to anybody who loves to read.

Thanks to the publisher for the copy received.

Shtum will be released in April 2016.