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 Heron’s Cry by Ann Cleeves – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

North Devon is enjoying a rare hot summer with tourists flocking to its coastline. Detective Matthew Venn is called out to a rural crime scene at the home of a group of artists. What he finds is an elaborately staged murder – Dr Nigel Yeo has been fatally stabbed with a shard of one of his glassblower daughter’s broken vases.

Dr Yeo seems an unlikely murder victim. He’s a good man, a public servant, beloved by his daughter. Matthew is unnerved though to find that she is a close friend of Jonathan, his husband.

Then another body is found – killed in a similar way. Matthew finds himself treading carefully through the lies that fester at the heart of his community and a case that is dangerously close to home…

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I have never read a novel by Ann Cleeves before but I have watched her books dramatised for TV. It didn’t take me to long to understand why both are so successful, her writing and character building are wonderful.

With all the characters being new it didn’t take me long to get to know them nor did I feel that I had missed any major developments in their personal lives by not reading the first book. Instead I felt intrigued, Matthew Venn is unlike any character I have met before. His childhood  sounded extremely interesting and is one I want to know more about. Jen, I adored. Liverpudlian, strong and coping with life as a single parent despite her job. I was less keen on Russ, he sometimes came across as bitter and I didn’t care for his attitude towards his colleagues or his wife. 

The case was an interesting one, the small group of friends whose lives were changed by the murders of people they knew. I could visualise their lives clearly. The bereaved artistic young woman, the hippy charmer  and the hardworking couple who wanted more independence but also were reliant on family. And just on the edge were the family whose lives had changed through possible health service failure. I had a lot of appreciation for the way they had to appear in their jobs, masking their real grief, and they were all expert at hiding what they were going through. Their lives and the deeply unsettling events that contributed to their son’s death was the strongest part of the story for me. Possibly because I feel what affected them does happen.

This is only the second book in the series but I can see it being as successful as Vera and Shetland. I hope there will be more.

Fragile by Sarah Hilary – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

Everything she touches breaks . . .

Nell Ballard is a runaway. A former foster child with a dark secret she is desperately trying to keep, all Nell wants is to find a place she can belong.

So when a job comes up at Starling Villas, home to the enigmatic Robin Wilder, she seizes the opportunity with both hands.

But her new lodgings may not be the safe haven that she was hoping for. Her employer lives by a set of rigid rules and she soon sees he is hiding secrets of his own.

But is Nell’s arrival at the Villas really the coincidence it seems? After all, she knows more than most how fragile people can be – and how easily they can be to break . . .

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. Sarah Hilary’s Marnie Rome series is one of the few that I am up to date with and I am a huge fan of her writing and her characters so was looking forward to reading Fragile which is a standalone novel. A few days after finishing it I am still trying to understand my feelings regarding the characters. All of them have given me something to think about. The title of the novel is the best way I have of describing all of them.

There aren’t many characters in the novel but all of them had an impact, especially the women. Nell featured more than Meaghan and Carolyn but I found that every time each of them appeared I found myself analysing them and trying to work out what damage they had caused but also how they had suffered due to others. I tried not to judge but with at least one of the characters it was difficult.

There was an often overwhelming sense of pain and loneliness evident from all of them. This doesn’t make it a depressing novel, but it did make me think about how many in our ‘care’ system are damaged by the ones who have the power to make a difference. Unfortunately much of the storyline is sadly believable and I dread to think what some children in care go through and the reasons why they are there. 

Fragile isn’t a quick read but it is a mesmerising one and the author has proven that she is just as good as writing standalone fiction as well as her series. This reader is certainly looking forward to what will be next.

When I Was Ten by Fiona Cummins – Review – First Monday Crime.

About The Book

Twenty-one years ago, Dr Richard Carter and his wife Pamela were killed in what has become the most infamous double murder of the modern age.

Their ten year-old daughter – nicknamed the Angel of Death – spent eight years in a children’s secure unit and is living quietly under an assumed name with a family of her own.

Now, on the anniversary of the trial, a documentary team has tracked down her older sister, compelling her to break two decades of silence.

Her explosive interview sparks national headlines and journalist Brinley Booth, a childhood friend of the Carter sisters, is tasked with covering the news story.

For the first time, the three women are forced to confront what really happened that night – with devastating consequences for them all.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. Despite having all of Fiona Cummins novels When I Was Ten is the first that I have read. I found it to be a book that instantly started my recovery from a slight reading slump. I didn’t want to put it down.

There are two narrators, Catherine Allen who is trying to keep her family together and a journalist Brinley Booth. Both have a connection that is revealed throughout the novel. The level of tension started almost immediately, the lightening strike and the fear of what had been seen by such a young child. And I have to admit the death of Catherine Allen wasn’t what I expected it to be until I read further but it did make a lot of sense once I understood what had happened.

It was Part Two of this novel which had the biggest impact on me. For most of it I felt extremely uneasy, a few times I had goosebumps and I could swear that the hairs went up on the back of my neck. The cruelty that the two sisters experienced was horrific, more so because no outsiders were aware of the perpetrators true character. 

Another of the parts of the novel that stood out for me was the way journalists were portrayed. Most of the time, in fiction and real life, they are shown as people who have no morals and will do anything to get a story. Whilst that is shown, as you would expect, there was also evidence of editors and journalists attempting to approach with caution and respect. 

Fiona Cummins will be appearing on the First Monday Crime event on Monday 24th May alongside Laura Shepherd Robinson, B. A. Paris and Mel McGrath. Moderator will be Jake Kerridge. This is an extra event this month and can be seen via their Facebook page at 7.30pm.

The Secrets Of The Lake by Liz Trenow – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

The war may be over, but for Molly life is still in turmoil. Uprooted from London after the death of her mother, Molly, her father and younger brother Jimmy are starting again in a quiet village in the countryside of Colchester. As summer sets in, the heat is almost as oppressive as the village gossip. Molly dreams of becoming a journalist, finding a voice in the world, but most of the time must act as Jimmy’s carer. At just ten years old he is Molly’s shadow, following her around the village as she falls under the spell of local boy Kit. Kit is clever, funny and a natural-born rebel. Rowing on the waters of the lake with him becomes Molly’s escape from domestic duty. But there is something Kit is not telling Molly.

As the village gossip starts building up with whispers against Molly’s father over missing church funds, everything Molly thought she knew is turned upside down. And on one stormy night, when she sneaks out of the house to try to put things right, Jimmy vanishes. Never to be seen again.

Decades later, Molly is an elderly woman in sheltered housing, still haunted by the disappearance of her brother. When two police officers arrive to say that the remains of a body have been found at the bottom of the lake, it seems like Molly will at long last have her answer . . .

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I have never read a book by Liz Trenow before so was unprepared for how captivating her writing was. I do enjoy historical fiction and found when reading this that I was experiencing real life in 1940s rural England. It felt very authentic. A very small part of it took place in modern day and whilst interesting it was younger Molly’s story I enjoyed the most.

Molly has moved with her father and younger brother to the country, her father is the new vicar, her mother dead and she has to spend much of her time looking after her younger brother who had disabilities. As you would expect she often resented being his carer but was devoted to him and wanted him to settle in and be happy in his new life. I loved everything about Molly, her devotion to her family, her friendship towards Eli, her crush on Kit, her first book, which the reader could read within the novel, and her refusal to feel intimidated by Blackmore. It was a shame that there wasn’t more who were willing to stand up to the man, I found him despicable.

Alongside the main storyline, which is difficult to say much about because of spoilers there was also one which showed Molly’s increasing passion for wildlife and nature. Something which she never had the opportunity to experience when living in London. Sadly, many areas like this have been lost to property development, just like in the novel.

I loved this novel, it portrayed a wonderful example of a family struggling with grief caused by family loss and also what life must have been like for many after their experiences during the war.