The Rising Tide by Ann Cleeves – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

Vera Stanhope, star of ITV’s Vera, returns in the tenth novel in number one bestseller Ann Cleeves’ acclaimed series.

Fifty years ago, a group of teenagers spent a weekend on Holy Island, forging a bond that has lasted a lifetime. Now, they still return every five years to celebrate their friendship, and remember the friend they lost to the rising waters of the causeway at the first reunion.

Now, when one of them is found hanged, Vera is called in. Learning that the dead man had recently been fired after misconduct allegations, Vera knows she must discover what the friends are hiding, and whether the events of many years before could have led to murder then, and now . . .

But with the tide rising, secrets long-hidden are finding their way to the surface, and Vera and the team may find themselves in more danger than they could have believed possible . . .

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. Despite watching most of the televised productions of Vera this is the first book from that series I have read. And despite having a lot of appreciation for the series, in particular Brenda Blethyn, this is the first time that I really felt that I got to know the real Vera. I could see her insecurities, her regrets and her devotion to her team that she wasn’t always capable of showing. I could also see how that affected her team, in particular Holly who often felt unappreciated or ignored. 

You got to meet the small group of friends immediately, school friends who were still in contact 50 years after leaving school and who met every five years on Holy Island. They didn’t  appear to have much in common or, at times, even that much liking for one another. There was resentment about each other’s lives even though they wouldn’t admit it to it.  I felt that their only connection was the guilt over the death of one of their group years ago. Annie featured the most out of all of them and she was the only one who I really had any liking for. She had suffered the biggest loss but had managed to move on and accept the way her life had turned out. 

But it was Vera who captivated me. With this case, she had to dig through fifty years of friendship and rivalry to try and work out if the deaths were connected. These  weren’t people who had only known each other for a brief period of time and  they were now at the time in their lives when they were thinking about retirement or illness. There was little that they could fear from her, apart from awkward questions about the past.

In her personal life, I liked her memories of Hector, her loneliness, her pretence at showing an interest in her colleague’s private lives and her fearful but wry acceptance that she was approaching the end of her career. I have read books previously where the leading detective’s private life was revealed but this portrayal stood out for its honesty. Especially in the closing pages of the novel where is was very easy to see her feelings.

I read this book easily as a standalone novel, I want to know what happens next but I also want to catch up on the earlier books in the series. 

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.