In the first of the Burrowhead Mysteries, an atmospheric murder investigation unearths the brutal history of a village where no one is innocent. When psychotherapist Alexis Cosse is found murdered in the playground of the sleepy northern village of Burrowhead, the local police force of Georgie, Trish and Simon investigate. Leads take them from Alexiss recent clients to local bullies, exposing a maelstrom of racism, misogyny, abuse and homophobia that has been simmering beneath the surface of the village. Shaken by the revelations and beginning to doubt her relationship with her husband Fred, Georgie starts to realise something bad is lurking under the soil in Burrowhead, while someone (or something) equally threatening is hiding in the strange and haunted cave beneath the cliffs.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I hadn’t read the authors previous books so had no idea what to expect. Almost straight away I was impressed by the description of the local area. The old superstitions, the poverty, unemployment. A town that still had a police station because it had been forgotten about. This town almost had a character of its own, it is that well described. I spent a lot of time when reading it trying to work out where it could be. I failed at placing it, but I imagine there are many communities like Burrowhead in the UK.
The police team are the main characters. I feel that I will get to appreciate them more as I get to know them. I did discover quite a lot about Georgie, the senior officer, but the one I liked most was Trish. I liked her devotion to Uncle Walt and her willingness to help Andy. A tough childhood but she didn’t let it beat her.
For me, the investigation wasn’t the main focus in the novel. Instead it was the different characters, their lives and how they dealt with living in a community that wasn’t always welcoming and the legends and superstitions that became increasingly fascinating.
An intriguing read by an author who I will read again.
The time has come again to face an impossible task of narrowing the 117 books I have read into a top ten list. As always it was difficult to do but I have managed and I will list them in no particular order. Apart from my favourite book of the year which I will reveal at the end. You can see my review for each book by clicking on the title.
Nine people arrive one night on Chelsea Bridge. They’ve never met. But at the same time, they run, and leap to their deaths. Each of them received a letter in the post that morning, a pre-written suicide note, and a page containing only four words: Nothing important happened today.
That is how they knew they had been chosen to become a part of the People Of Choice: A mysterious suicide cult whose members have no knowledge of one another.
Thirty-two people on that train witness the event. Two of them will be next. By the morning, People Of Choice are appearing around the globe; it becomes a movement. A social media page that has lain dormant for four years suddenly has thousands of followers. The police are under pressure to find a link between the cult members, to locate a leader that does not seem to exist.
How do you stop a cult when nobody knows they are a member?
The trick to running a cult is to get other people involved. Not new members or followers. Not more subscribers or a greater mailing list. It doesn’t matter if there are six people who think someone is Jesus or there are a million admirers hoping for a seat on the spaceship that will fly them away as Earth implodes with greed and apathy.
It’s not the apostles that make the cult.
It’s everybody else.
What is needed are the other people. Because other people always fuck things up.
Take the small town of Antelope, Oregon. A smudge on a map. Fifty people looking for quiet. They need a post office, a general store, a school and a church to exist. Not to survive. They haven’t moved here for that. Everybody knows everybody and everybody wants to be alone. Because they’ve come here to see out their years in peace. Then die.
Drop in four thousand disciples adhering to the philosophies of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. Watch as they are welcomed as a peaceful people, renouncing a world of materialism in favour of a spiritual life. Embrace their desire to establish their own community.
Now get other people involved.
See how the word ‘community’ transforms into the word ‘commune’. Now wait as tensions rise and hostility grows. Wait a little longer. Because here come the other people. And it’s easy to take other people and make them fear something. Soon, a school teacher or postal worker or bar owner or dairy farmer has used the word ‘cult’.
Sit back and bask in your success as civilians are weaponised and cafes are poisoned and phone lines are tapped.
This is other people.
Take a student pastor at the Somerset Southside Methodist Church, Indiana. Tell him that he can’t integrate black people into his congregation. Piss him off. Give him a crusade.
Watch as he moves on and gives people hope. See his drive for racial equality. You don’t call the healings fake. Not yet. You call them Baptists. You say they are a church. He calls them the Wings of Deliverance.
Now let him open a soup kitchen for the poor, then watchas other people become involved. Because other people have an innate ability to take something good and turn it straight to shit.
Migrate that church to Guyana. Call it a compound. Call it Paradise. Call it Jonestown. Say that members did not travel there of their own free will. Get other people to interfere. Intervene. Get shot at. Wait a moment while everything is ruined. While nine hundred men and women take cyanide to kill themselves. Let them poison their children.
Now you can call it a cult.
And feel safe that you’re not one of them.
Take David Koresh. Take Waco. Tell the world he has several wives and fucks his kids. Set fire to buildings. Smoke him out. Kill twenty of those kids while you’re there.
Take the Manson Family. Take Scientology. Take any passage from any holy book out of context.
Take the unknown and drop in some fear and insecurity.
What have you done?
The other people club
You. At arm’s length. Outside looking in. With your judgement and your free choice and your safety. You don’t understand.
Not one of these people thought that they were part of a cult.
And you, you’re no different. You could be part of a cult right now and you don’t even realise. You think you have a choice.
Carrie’s best friend has an accident and can no longer make the round-the-world trip they’d planned together, so Carrie decides to go it alone.
Violet is also travelling alone, after splitting up with her boyfriend in Thailand. She is also desperate for a ticket on the Trans-Siberian Express, but there is nothing available.
When the two women meet in a Beijing Hotel, Carrie makes the impulsive decision to invite Violet to take her best friend’s place.
Thrown together in a strange country, and the cramped cabin of the train, the women soon form a bond. But as the journey continues, through Mongolia and into Russia, things start to unravel – because one of these women is not who she claims to be…
With thanks to the author for the copy received. I see many thrillers described as psychological and often I’m disappointed. I’m happy to say that I wasn’t with Violet, my new favourite novel by this author. It had it all. Violet was an unreliable, unsettling and at times creepy narrator, and Carrie her new friend and travel companion has just become her new obsession.
But Carrie also has issues, and not just the ones that involve heavy drinking and drug taking. Most of what you learn about her is through her emails home to family and the best friend who couldn’t be with her. It is these that also show what she really thinks about Violet and also what occurred back home.
Everything about this novel works. The setting in countries that are completely different to the UK. The descriptions of the customs, some of which were really eerie. And the increasingly bizarre behaviour of Violet that had me wondering what she would do next.
It is very clever with characters that scared me at times, but strangely ones I could also feel sympathy for. As the story progressed there was insight into why they behaved like they did, especially with Violet.
As I read this novel I also enjoyed seeing daily photographs on the author’s website of her trip that inspired the novel.
1921. The Great War is over and families are desperately trying to piece together the fragments of their broken lives. While many survivors have been reunited with their loved ones, Edie’s husband Francis has not come home. He was declared ‘missing, believed killed’ during the war, but when Edie receives a mysterious photograph in the post, taken by Francis, hope flares. And so she begins to search.
Francis’s brother, Harry, is also searching. Hired by grieving families to photograph gravesites, he has returned to the Western Front. As Harry travels through battle-scarred France, gathering news for British wives and mothers, he longs for Francis to be alive, so they can forgive each other for the last conversation they ever had.
And as Harry and Edie’s paths converge, they begin to get closer to a startling truth.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. The Photographer Of The Lost was a book that I couldn’t wait to read. I knew it would upset me, books like this always do, but I was upset for different reasons than I expected. The story about those who want to find missing service men is one I knew would affect me, families desperate for answers about husbands and sons who they knew deep down had lost their lives and wanted to see their resting place. For proof and some form of closure.
It is something, to my shame, that I had never given much though too. It is easier to think that it concerned just a handful of people, but the author shows how many thousands of families never had their answers. The other thing I never really thought about was the rebuilding of the communities after the war. You often see images of the trenches on the news, followed by images of the pristine cemeteries. I have never seen anything about the time when houses and churches were being rebuilt, the cemeteries being prepared. All with respect, dignity and pride by local men.
Many things will stay with me. The nightmares experienced by Harry, his siblings and friends lost. The pride of the workmen and ex service men who were trying their best. And the description of a recently abandoned home that still had a vase of fresh flowers.
Absolutely stunning, The Photographer Of The Lost is one of the best books I have read this year.