10 Books of Summer 2017: A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny

 

Winner of the Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Crime Novel 2016

 

 

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Description

When an intricate old map is found stuffed into the walls of the bistro in Three Pines, it at first seems no more than a curiosity. But the closer the villagers look, the stranger it becomes.

Given to Armand Gamache as a gift the first day of his new job, the map eventually leads him to shattering secrets. To an old friend and older adversary. It leads the former Chief of Homicide for the Sûreté du Québec to places even he is afraid to go. But must.

And there he finds four young cadets in the Sûreté academy, and a dead professor. And, with the body, a copy of the old, odd map.

Everywhere Gamache turns, he sees Amelia Choquet, one of the cadets. Tattooed and pierced. Guarded and angry. Amelia is more likely to be found on the other side of a police line-up. And yet she is in the academy. A protégée of the murdered professor.

The focus of the investigation soon turns to Gamache himself and his mysterious relationship with Amelia, and his possible involvement in the crime. The frantic search for answers takes the investigators back to Three Pines and a stained glass window with its own horrific secrets.

For both Amelia Choquet and Armand Gamache, the time has come for a great reckoning.

Review

Retired DCI Gamache takes a new job as head of the police training school. The book starts with him sifting through candidate files, who should become the next set of new recruits. One in particular stands out – Amelia Choquet. Gamache, along with Jean-Guy, as his second in command, starts cleaning up the school which had been over the past few years bent to the desires of evil elements. Gamache is taking risks.  Then he sets four recruits, including Amelia, a task involving a strange map found when the bistro in Three Pines was refurbished. And then there’s a murder. DCI Isobelle Lacoste is brought in along with an independent observer from the RMCP. Is the murderer a student, a professor or from elsewhere? Misdirection is everywhere and the investigation comes to a head as the RCMP officer pushes Gamache as chief suspect. Will he be proved right, will the truth emerge?

Well plotted and beautifully written by Louise Penny A Great Reckoning engages you  straight away. There are several threads to the book – a murder, a mysterious map, a quest, an investigation set both in the college and in Three Pines. What is it about Amelia? What is Gamache doing and why? And you are hooked.

Yes, we meet once again with Ruth, Clara, Myrna, Olivier and Gabby as well as Jean-Guy, Isobelle and Reine-Marie along with newer characters. All are wonderfully drawn and it is this characterisation that brings the wisdom, the humour that is such a big part of what this series, this book is all about.  Human frailty, endeavour and desire; of friendship, honesty, trust and the pursuit of truth.  It is this at the core of the books which keeps so many, myself included, coming back.

Louise Penny weaves another wonderful story which is so much more than a murder mystery. Yes, it is a murder mystery very well written, but it is also about second chances, those who take them, grasp for them and those who don’t, won’t, can’t.

Highly recommended.

Rating: 5*

Information

A Great Reckoning is #12 in the Gamache Series (#13 Glass Houses is out now in hardback)

Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group   https://www.littlebrown.co.uk/
ISBN: 9780751552690
Number of pages: 512

http://www.gamacheseries.com/a-great-reckoning

http://www.louisepenny.com

 

 

10 Books of Summer: Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

 

From Harper Lee comes a landmark new novel set two decades after her beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird

 

 

 

 

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Description

Maycomb, Alabama. Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch – ‘Scout’ – returns home from New York City to visit her ageing father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise’s homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town and the people dearest to her. Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt. Featuring many of the iconic characters from To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman perfectly captures a young woman, and a world, in painful yet necessary transition out of the illusions of the past – a journey that can be guided only by one’s own conscience.

Written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman imparts a fuller, richer understanding and appreciation of Harper Lee. Here is an unforgettable novel of wisdom, humanity, passion, humour and effortless precision – a profoundly affecting work of art that is both wonderfully evocative of another era and relevant to our own times. It not only confirms the enduring brilliance of To Kill a Mockingbird, but also serves as its essential companion, adding depth, context and new meaning to a classic.

Review

From the outset you know that Scout has grown up and become the feisty young women, now called by her given name Jean-Louise, you hoped she would when reading To Kill a Mockingbird and yet she is, despite now living in New York, a somewhat naive young women. So when she has returned home for her annual two week holiday to visit with her father Atticus, she is sent into turmoil over his apparent racist sympathies, added to which her ‘boyfriend’ Henry – Hank – appears to agree, when she sees them both at a town hall meeting being addressed by Grady O’Hanlon.

This book, written in 1950s, is of it’s time. The views seemingly held by Atticus and Hank would be quite accurate given the place and time. It is Jean-Louise’s reaction to this because it alters her thoughts, what she felt was true and feelings towards Atticus and, to some extent, Hank.  Feeing at a loss, unable to make sense of what appears to be the opposite of all she held to be true, of what Atticus had taught her and Jem. She turns to Uncle Jack, Atticus’ brother, to try and understand.

The movement towards making black people equal under the law and the response of the white population, especially in the southern states, who desperately wanted to hold onto the status quo is highlighted in the book. Jean-Louise, a character we loved in To Kill A Mockingbird, represents the need for indeed the acceptance of change. Atticus, those whites actually living in the South wanting to hold onto what they know, to their power – or at least worried about the shift towards black power. Today we see that this balance of power, the ability to accept our neighbours whatever their colour or creed equally has still not been resolved. There is a part of the human race, a part of human nature that needs to have power, to subjugate others is rife all over the world whether on a large or small scale whether whether because of race, creed, colour or other difference. It is this that makes Go Set a Watchman still relevant today.

Go Set a Watchman was written prior to To Kill a Mockingbird but is set after. It is not  as good, as accessible a story but it is interesting and Harper Lee does put you in time and place beautifully.  She draws the characters well, as you might expect, but they do not feel as endearing in this book. It may not be right to compare these books because, of course, they are different but it seems impossible not to. That said without Go Set a Watchman we would not have got To Kill a Mockingbird and that would have been a real loss to my reading history and, I’m sure, many others.

Rating: 3.5*

Information:

Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Arrow (16 Jun. 2016).
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1784752460
ISBN-13: 978-1784752460

William Heinemann: the original publisher of To Kill a Mockingbird in the UK (1960)
A new edition of To Kill A Mockingbird was published in paperback by Arrow on the 18th June 2015. An ebook edition was released in 2016.
To Kill a Mockingbird also published as a Vintage Classic and Vintage Children’s Classic.
Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins published Go Set a Watchman simultaneously in North America with William Heinemann on 14th July 2015.

Author:  https://www.penguinrandomhouse.co.uk/media/news/2016/february/harper-lee/

Harper Lee was born in 1926 in Monroeville, Alabama. She attended Huntingdon College and studied law at the University of Alabama. She is the author of the acclaimed To Kill a Mockingbird, and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and numerous other literary awards and honours. She died on 19 February 2016.

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10 Reads of Summer: The Wire in the Blood by Val McDermid

Val McDermid’s Number One bestselling crime series, featuring psychological profiler Dr Tony Hill and DCI Carol Jordan in the suspenseful and ferociously readable thriller that led to the much-loved TV show.

 

 

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Description
Young girls are disappearing around the country. Everyone assumes they are teenage runaways, headed for the big city and bright lights. They vanish without trace — society’s disposable children, There is nothing to connect them to each other, let alone the killer whose charming manner hides a warped and sick mind.

Nobody moves around inside the messy heads of serial killers like Dr Tony Hill. Now heading up the recently founded National Profiling Task Force, he sets his team an exercise: they are given the details of thirty missing teenagers and asked to use their new techniques to discover whether there is a sinister link between any of the cases. Only one officer comes up with a concrete theory, but it is ridiculed by the rest of her group … until a killer murders and mutilates one of their number.

Could the outrageous suspicion possibly be true? For Tony Hill, the murder of a member of his team becomes a matter for personal revenge. Aided by his previous colleague, Carol Jordan, he embarks upon a campaign of psychological terrorism – a game of cat and mouse where the roles of hunter and hunted are all too easily reversed.

Review

My favourite genre is crime fiction and Val McDermid is one of the best. I have enjoyed the Tony Hill / Carol Jordan series for several years. There are eight books in the series now that Insidious Intent has been published (UK, out 5 Dec in US). However, I hadn’t read this, the second in the series.

In The Wire in the Blood we find Tony heading up the newly formed National Profiling Task Force, working through scenarios in training. Whilst DCI Carol Jordan starts her new job in Seaford Police Force.

Val McDermid writes so well intertwining investigations, building tension and keeping you totally wrapped up in the story. There are some shocking events but it remains plausible and keeps the reader truly engaged. Another terrific, gripping story from Val McDermid.

Rating: 4.5*

I would not only recommend this book but the whole series – perhaps, unlike me, start with The Mermaids Singing the first. When you’ve got a free moment you could fill it with any one of Val McDermids other series: Kate Brannigan, Lindsay Gordan or Kate Pirie – you won’t be sorry. Then, of course, there are the stand alones, all well worth reading. Not to mention Northanger Abbey a really enjoyable modern retelling of Jane Austens Northanger Abbey or her children’s book or her non-fiction. Val McDermid has 30 years of writing to her name, she has been given many well earned and deserved awards including the CWA Gold Dagger.

Information

Paperback: 544 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins (4 Mar. 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0007344732
ISBN-13: 978-0007344734

https://www.harpercollins.co.uk/cr-100696/val-mcdermid

http://www.gregoryandcompany.co.uk/pages/authors/index.asp?AuthorID=28

http://www.valmcdermid.com

10 Books of Summer 2017: The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

 

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Description

You never know what’s happening on the other side of the wall. Your neighbour told you that she didn’t want your six-month-old daughter at the dinner party. Nothing personal, she just couldn’t stand her crying. Your husband said it would be fine. After all, you only live next door. You’ll have the baby monitor and you’ll take it in turns to go back every half hour. Your daughter was sleeping when you checked on her last. But now, as you race up the stairs in your deathly quiet house, your worst fears are realized. She’s gone. You’ve never had to call the police before. But now they’re in your home, and who knows what they’ll find there. What would you be capable of, when pushed past your limit?

Review

Marco and Anne have been invited next door for a dinner party (no children allowed) but, due to a family emergency, their childminder cancels at the last minute. Marco persuades Anne that they could still go taking the baby monitor with them and pop back home every half hour to check on baby Cora. And so they do. They return home together at 1.30 am the front door is a little open, they get to the babies room…. She is gone!
I was moving along well through this book until about half way or so. Even the premise of leaving your baby by two supposedly intelligent people to go out, which I find appalling, even if it is ‘just’ to go next door; but this is fiction so no judgement – yet!
As I say it started of well, it was a good story. The detective has the right idea, this is one of the few characters who I actually liked in the book, not because he was given a great deal of depth (none of the characters are) but that he was working it out. However, this book is not a detective novel or police procedural. It’s pretty easy to work out most of what has happened but the number of twists, turns and added layers of issues only lends this story to need the reader ultimately to suspend reality. That said I would have been OK with the book until the final few pages, sadly the ending really did spoil this book for me.

Rating: 3*

Information

Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Corgi (20 April 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0552173142
ISBN-13: 978-0552173148

Author: http://www.sharilapena.com

 

 

 

10 Books of Summer 2017: A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemmingway

Published posthumously in 1964, A Moveable Feast remains one of Ernest Hemingway’s most beloved works.

 

 

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A Moveable Feast is a memoir by American author Ernest Hemingway about his years as a struggling young expatriate journalist and writer in Paris in the 1920s. The book describes the author’s apprenticeship as a young writer while he was married to his first wife, Hadley Richardson.

My thoughts and review

Covering the years 1921 – 1926 Hemingway shares time spent with other ex pat writers, poets, artists whilst he is establishing himself as a (great) writer. Set in Paris we can savour a little of the life of the struggling author. How he lived and worked. Who he met, who he knew. From Gertrude Stein to James Joyce to F Scott Fitzgerald and others it is fascinating.
This however is a snippet and, as he writes in the preface, ‘sufficient for the writer, many places, people, observations have been left out of this book.’ Also, he says it may be considered fiction. ‘But there is always the chance that such a book of fiction may throw some light on what has been written as fact.’
It is a book which lovers of Hemingway will particularly enjoy and all will appreciate.  The way he writes about this period of his life, about Paris and beyond and about the people, the famous and not famous, puts you right there.  It is a fascinating look, a peek, at Post-war Paris and into the life of a would be writer. Whether it is written to set records straight, or not, it does evoke a longing in his writing which captivates.

Rating: 3*

Biography
Ernest Hemingway was born in 1899. His father was a doctor and he was the second of six children. Their home was at Oak Park, a Chicago suburb.

In 1917, Hemingway joined the Kansas City Star as a cub reporter. The following year, he volunteered as an ambulance driver on the Italian front, where he was badly wounded but decorated for his services. He returned to America in 1919, and married in 1921. In 1922, he reported on the Greco-Turkish war before resigning from journalism to devote himself to fiction. He settled in Paris where he renewed his earlier friendships with such fellow-American expatriates as Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein. Their encouragement and criticism were to play a valuable part in the formation of his style.

Hemingway’s first two published works were Three Stories and Ten Poems and In Our Time but it was the satirical novel, The Torrents of Spring, that established his name more widely. His international reputation was firmly secured by his next three books; Fiesta, Men Without Women and A Farewell to Arms.

He was passionately involved with bullfighting, big-game hunting and deep-sea fishing and his writing reflected this. He visited Spain during the Civil War and described his experiences in the bestseller, For Whom the Bell Tolls.

His direct and deceptively simple style of writing spawned generations of imitators but no equals. Recognition of his position in contemporary literature came in 1954 when he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, following the publication of The Old Man and the Sea. He died in 1961.

Information
Publisher: Arrow; 01 edition (2 Jun. 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0099557029
ISBN-13: 978-0099557029

10 Books of Summer: I See You by Clare MacIntosh

The twisty, gripping number one bestseller from Richard and Judy Book Club winner Clare Mackintosh, author of I Let You Go.

 

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Winner of the Richard and Judy Summer Book Club 2017

When Zoe Walker sees her photo in the classifieds section of a London newspaper, she is determined to find out why it’s there. There’s no explanation: just a grainy image, a website address and a phone number. She takes it home to her family, who are convinced it’s just someone who looks like Zoe. But the next day the advert shows a photo of a different woman, and another the day after that.

Is it a mistake? A coincidence? Or is someone keeping track of every move they make . . .

Review

A good follow up to I Let You Go, which I thought was excellent, I See You is the second book from Clare MacIntosh. This is an interesting story of a woman, Zoe Walker, who sees her photo in the ads of a newspaper but she had not placed it there. She then sees other photos that link up with women who have crimes committed against them. She contacts the police and gets the BTP Officer who investigated one of the crimes. Agreeing that there is a link the Officer pushes the DI investigating a murder to see this. Getting onto the MIT investigation the officer works hard to help solve the mystery which has led to crimes from pickpockets to rapists and murders. As the police get closer to the answer, so Zoe continues to look into the situation and puts herself, and her daughter, into harms way. Will the offender/s be found before it’s too late?

This is a little complex and a bit creepy. You do have to accept certain suppositions, which may or may not be easy for you, and the final twist in the book makes it creepier and is perhaps appalling, even shocking.

A good book, well written and worth a read.

Rating: 4*

Information

Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Sphere (20 April 2017)  https://www.littlebrown.co.uk

Language: English
ISBN-10: 0751554146
ISBN-13: 978-0751554144

Author: https://claremackintosh.com

10 Books of Summer 2017: The Breakdown by B A Paris

 

 

 

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THE NEW CHILLING, PROPULSIVE NOVEL FROM THE AUTHOR OF THE INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES AND USA TODAY BESTSELLING BEHIND CLOSED DOORS.

If you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust?

Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside—the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped.

But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby.

The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt.

Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…

Review

Cass feels unsafe after realising that she had passed the murdered persons car, had seen but not recognised the driver, could have made more of an effort to help but had not. She feels guilty, she feels like she is being watched, she feels like she is getting ill just like her mother had.

This starts out well building some tension, you begin to feel for Cass who who seems to be not just loosing her memory and more but is worried that she is never going to get better only worse. However, the book looses it’s way and I almost stopped reading but I carried on. I’m glad I did as it does pick itself up and gives a good ending.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Information

Publishers:

Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: HQ (9 Feb. 2017)   https://www.harpercollins.co.uk
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1848454996
ISBN-13: 978-1848454996

St Martins Press https://us.macmillan.com/smp

Author:

https://www.harpercollins.co.uk/cr-117329/b-a-paris

https://us.macmillan.com/author/baparis

https://www.amazon.co.uk/B-A-Paris/e/B0162W9E2O/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1