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This was an audiobook narrated by Lisa Coleman, and is the seventh book in the DCI Tom Douglas series. I have previously listened to another book which is later in the series than this one, and while there are personal aspects of Tom’s life included in the storyline, it is easy enough to follow as a standalone novel, or if you do the same as me and read/listen out of order.

Tom and his team are called in to investigate when a young woman is found dead at a frozen lonely scene. Who is she, and how did she get there? Did she commit suicide or was she murdered? None of these questions are easily answerable.

Meanwhile, a young woman named Callie is trapped in a miserable relationship with an abusive and parasitic boyfriend. When she decides to travel to Myanmar to honour a promise to her grandfather, she befriends an older couple who take her under her wing, and help her realise that she needs to end things with Ian. But when she tries to do so, things take a sinister turn.

And in a lonely kitchen, two women sit and eat their meals in almost complete silence, trapped as they are in a prison of their own making. What are their stories and how did they arrive at this low point?

Slowly all the threads of the stories come together…

I’ll start with the good parts of this audiobook, including the narration. Lisa Coleman did an excellent job, and managed to distinctly voice all of the characters.

I also really like the character of Tom and all of his colleagues. They are believable and likeable – and deserve a better storyline than the one they had here.

Unfortunately the twists and turns in this book were so well signposted that the characters – Callie mainly as large parts of the book are told from her point of view – just end up coming across as unutterably stupid and naive. Without giving anything away, I wanted to shake her for putting up with her awful boyfriend, and then for her subsequent actions, which I won’t reveal here. Many of the characters apart from the officers – and maybe this is because the police characters have had several books through which to develop their characters – were like cardboard cut outs, and never easy to invest in. And there was a huge dollop of coincidence, which never rang true. I did listen to the end, but found myself underwhelmed by the conclusion, which left some strands of storyline hanging.

Despite all of the above, I would consider listening to more in the series, because the investigators were great, and according to other reviewers who have read the whole series, this is a particularly weak book compared to others. So maybe at some point I will pay another visit to Tom Douglas and co.

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Having previously enjoyed Tartt’s ‘The Goldfinch’ and bearing in mind the myriad of excellent reviews for ‘The Secret History’, I was looking forward to reading this, and I’m pleased to say that it didn’t disappoint.

The book is narrated by Richard Papen, a young man who leaves his dead end town in California to become a Classic Greek student at Hampden College in Vermont. He quickly becomes drawn into the friendship group of the five other students in his class. However, on the very first page of the book, before the story proper even really begins, we learn that things have taken a very sinister turn and five of the group have murdered one of their own.

Richard tells the story of what happened and why, from an undetermined time in the future, and in doing so describes the intricacies of the group’s relationships, everybody’s character flaws, and how their actions affect them all differently. It’s a murder mystery of sorts, but instead of being a whodunnit, it’s a whydunnit.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book, especially the first half. At that point I thought that although it is only the first book I have read this year, it’s certain to be one of the best. I still feel that way, because even though things did slow down somewhat in the second half, I was still fascinated by it and looked forward to coming back to it each evening.

I’m somewhat surprised that this hasn’t been adapted into a film, as I could easily see it translating to the screen – if it ever is, I shall be in line to watch it. Meanwhile, if you haven’t read this yet, I highly recommend it.

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I do enjoy Hercule Poirot stories, and this Christmas themed one was perfect for this time of year. Simeon Lee, a cruel patriarch of his family, invites his four sons to spend the Christmas season with him. However, when he is found viciously murdered by having his throat cut, suspicion abounds as all four men have their own reasons for wanting him dead. The inimitable Poirot is called in to help with the investigation and he soon starts to uncover family secrets…

For me, this was one of the better Poirot stories – I enjoyed it a lot and crucially did not guess the ending which was very cleverly done. Poirot is as entertaining as ever, and it’s fascinating reading as all the clues come together. Also, it is set in one location with a small cast of characters, two things that I always enjoy.

If you are an Agatha Christie or Hercule Poirot fan, or if you like classic British crime stories, I am sure this book would appeal to you.

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I like to read and listen to Christmas themed books at this time of year, so I chose to listen to this one while out on my runs during the lead up to Christmas (finished it on Christmas Eve, which was ideal).

It’s one of a series of books about DCI Jack Ryan, but it was the first one I had listened to/read. There are obvious references to previous books, but nothing that made it difficult to understand this one, and you could pretty much enjoy this as a standalone novella.

Ryan and his historian wife Anna, with their friends Frank and Mackenzie, who are also married, are on their way back from a short break when they get stranded by the snow and have to spend the night at England’s apparently most haunted castle, in Northumberland, with a motley crue of staff and other guests.

When a grisly murder occurs, the Ryan and co have to interrupt their holiday to investigate the crime. With everybody being snowed in, and nobody able to enter the premises, it is clear that the murderer is somebody already there, meaning that time is of the essence before another murder occurs.

I definitely enjoyed listening to this book. I enjoy mysteries set in one location with a small cast of characters, as this was. I also liked the DCI Ryan character and his friend Frank. Mackenzie and Anna were good characters, but I suspect I would have liked them more in print, as unfortunately the narrator Jonathan Keeble, while generally good, was TERRIBLE at female voices. The mystery itself was entertaining enough, a touch Agatha Christie-is (no bad thing) and I didn’t guess the ending. All in all, a likeable enough story and I would happily listen to more in this series.

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This was an audiobook narrated by James Lailey. It tells the story of two women – Beth Lawlor and Cath Patterson. Beth is caught in a loveless marriage to Evan but a shocking event helps her make up her mind to leave him and start a new life with her lover. Cath is trapped in a relationship with a physically and mentally abusive junkie named Saul. She knows she has to leave him but fears that if she does he will find her and kill her. A chance meeting leads to a shocking turn of events, and detective Dan Riley is soon put on the case…

The book is told from three points of view – those of Cath and Beth, which are both told in the third person, and that of Dan, which is told in the first person. I preferred the narration for Dan’s parts but I think Beth and Cath’s parts were told with a lack of emotion, which didn’t greatly impact my enjoyment but was noticeable. I do think a female narrator might have been better for those chapters, as they are telling female points of view, but it didn’t stop me liking the book.

This is the third book in the Dan Riley series, which I didn’t realise until I started listening, but it makes no difference as it can easily be enjoyed as a stand alone novel.

Anyhow, I don’t want to give away anything else about the storyline, but I will say that I enjoyed this book a lot and would definitely consider reading or listening to more books by this author. If I had to nitpick, I would say that a couple of chapters – in both cases conversations between two characters – could have done with cutting down somewhat, and also the whole premise of this story relies on a huge coincidence which struck me as very unlikely. But if you can suspend your disbelief and just go with it, this is on the whole an enjoyable and interesting read (or listen). If you are a fan of mysteries I would probably recommend this one.

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In 1981, in Moscow’s Gorky Park, three bodies are uncovered as the winter snow thaws and Police Chief Investigator Arkady Renko reluctantly takes the case and attempts to solve the triple murder.

It rapidly becomes apparent that nothing is as it seems, and Arkady can never be sure of who to trust, either professionally or personally. The possibility of betrayal is ever present and Arkady realises that the investigation may end up costing him his life.

Well! I am not entirely sure what to make of this book. It’s a classic and I can see why. The plotting is intricate and the characterisation, especially of Arkady is very well done. Being set during the Cold War does date it, especially when it comes to relations between Russia and America, which is an important factor in this story, but that’s fine. It’s a novel set at a very defined point in the history between two countries and as it was also written in 1981, it feels authentic.

However, while the writing draws you in, it’s definitely a twisty tale which requires concentration. At one point I wished I had started taking notes, because I did have to sometimes go back a few pages and remind myself of what had taken place. So it’s not the easiest read in terms of plot, but the prose itself is a delight. If this genre is your kind of thing, I would recommend you check this out.

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In 2005, 18 year old Anthony Walker was murdered in a racist attack in Liverpool. He had been a promising student, a well mannered young man, and had hoped to pursue a career in law, concentrating on civil rights.

His mother Gee Walker, who subsequently set up a foundation in her son’s name, to tackle racism, discrimination and hate crime, approached screenwriter and producer Jimmy McGovern, to make a television movie about the life that Anthony might have had if he had not been murdered.

It’s a difficult concept to wrap your head around in some ways because of course nobody knows what the future holds. However, McGovern’s approach to this story is compassionate and heartbreaking.

It starts with Anthony at 25, happily married with a child, at an awards show where his friend wins and presents the award to Anthony who his friend said is the real deserved winner.

It then tracks backward year by year, showing how Anthony met his future wife, how he helped a friend who had reached rock bottom, and how he started to realise his dream of becoming a lawyer. When the film reaches Anthony at age 18, tension sets in because of course we know as viewers what is going to happen. His murder is depicted brutally and made me furious at the injustice. I also sobbed uncontrollably for the last half an hour of the film.

Toheeb Jimoh played Anthony and conveyed the inherent goodness of this young man, who cared deeply for his mother and for those around him. Rakie Ayola played his mother Gee, in a simply outstanding performance.

This was not an easy watch, it made me sad and angry. But it’s an important watch, and extremely respectfully done. I urge you to watch it if you get the opportunity.

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I listened to this as an audiobook, narrated extremely well by Michele Moran.

In the exclusive gated community of Withered Vale in Dublin, one of the occupants is found dead, having lain undiscovered in her home for three months. When it becomes obvious that her death was no accident, detectives Frank Brazil and Emma Child suspect that the culprit is one of her neighbours. As they interview the residents, it becomes clear that each of them had secrets which Olive had discovered, and all of them had reason to have killed her.

The narration alternates between all of the neighbours (seven houses in all) including Olive herself from beyond the grave, and the two detectives. This sounds like a lot of characters to keep straight, but Jo Spain did a super job of giving each character a distinctive voice. It’s true that Olive was clearly a deluded and often deeply unpleasant character, but I’m not sure that this is a community anyone would want to be part of! Some of the neighbours had more damaging and salacious secrets than others as you would expect, and each of them had had a falling out with Olive.

My favourite characters were the two detectives, who despite being of different eras and opinions, formed a respect and appreciation for each other.

I was kept guessing right until the end, and the ending itself did come as a surprise. Overall, a great listen and I would definitely read or listen to more by Jo Spain.

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I listened to this audiobook over the course of a week. It’s narrated by Lisa Coleman, who did an excellent job. This psychological crime thriller is apparently the eighth in a series featuring DCI Tom Douglas, and had I known that going in, I may well have skipped it; I have always felt that book series needed to be read in order from the beginning. However, it didn’t matter one iota – clearly there is a backstory to Tom’s personal life but it’s all explained clearly enough, and this book could actually serve as a standalone novel.

The story centres, and is largely narrated by, Anna Franklyn – mother, wife, headteacher, and a respected member of the community. As she is driving to work one day, Anna hears a voice from her past on a phone in radio show – that of her ex-boyfriend Scott, who says he is going to phone back in a weeks time and tell the story of himself and his lost love ‘Spike’ and their tragic relationship. The only problem is….Scott died 14 years earlier, taking Anna’s most guarded secrets with him…and now it seems he is here and ready to expose her past. Anna has a week to find out what happened to Scott, and to stop him ruining her life.

The narrative jumps forwards and backwards between Then (14 years earlier) and Now, and also includes chapters written in the third person which focus on the police investigation.

I actually really enjoyed this book. Yes, it is fairly implausible, and I did guess the twist about halfway through, but it was a well told story which did a good job of illustrating how a young naive woman found herself in such a predicament all those years ago. I HATED the character of Scott, but he was far from the worst character in the story. I felt sorry for Anna, but also wanted to shake her and tell her to get a grip! I’m not going to reveal any spoilers because the ending, although partly predictable, was still written well, and there was in fact one final twist which I didn’t expect.

My only niggle is that sometimes things were over explained. For example, there is a poker game that happens at one point where every play seems to be explained in detail. Unless you play / understand poker, this bit is all unnecessary filler – it would be enough to explain who won and who lost. But still – a minor niggle.

Overall, excellent narration and an enjoyable storyline (kept me listening for the most part anyway) made me give this a thumbs up, and I would definitely read / listen to moron this series.

 

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The Body in the Lake is the seventh episode/novella/installment – whichever you want to call it – in the Cherringham Cosy Crime Series. Laurent Bourdain, the mayor of a French village has been invited to Cherringham to pave the way for the twinning of the two small villages. A celebration party at Repton Hall (a large manor house owned by Lady Repton, who has appeared in a previous Cherringham mystery) turns to debauchery and ends with Monsieur Bourdain’s body being found floating in the lake at the manor.

Naturally there are plenty of suspects and an arrest is soon made, but our amateur detectives Sarah and Jack think that the wrong person is in custody and set out to solve the crime for themselves.

As with all the Cherringham series, Neil Dudgeon excellently narrates this episode and the story is enjoyable, although not the best so far but they can’t all be the best. Another fun slice of life in the sleepy Cotswold village with all sorts of secrets lurking below the surface…

 

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