book reviews , different studio guests each week. Join us every Thursday between 12 and 1pm on Radio Scilly 107.9fm or log on to radioscilly.com.

Missed any programmes? See below for list of guests, books and other details discussed.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

ALEX SCARROW – THE CANDLE MAN




A VICTORIAN , GRUESOME THRILLER.
IT STARTS ABOARD THE TITANIC, 1912, IT IS STARTING TO TAKE ON WATER AFTER HITTING THE ICEBERG.  A LADY IN A WHEELCHAIR IS PUSHED INTO THE DINING ROOM AS THE STEWARD WAITS FOR THE LIFEBOATS TO BECOME AVAILABLE.  IN THERE SHE FINDS AN ELDERLY GENTLEMAN.  HE HAS A STORY TO TELL, HE KNOWS HE WON’T GET ON A LIFEBOAT,  IT IS WOMEN & CHILDREN FIRST.

HIS TALE TAKES PLACE IN WHITECHAPEL IN 1888  A MAN IS PAID BY SOME POWERFUL PEOPLE TO MURDER A WOMAN AND HER CHILD.  UNABLE TO DO THE DEED ON THE CHILD HE THEN EMPLOYS TWO OF HIS WHORES.  HE FINDS A LOCKET ON THE WOMAN WITH A PICTURE OF HERSELF, HER CHILD AND A MAN WHICH HE TAKES, SENSING THAT THIS MAN IN THE PICTURE IS VERY IMPORTANT AND POSSIBLE BLACKMAIL MONEY IN THE OFFING.  THE PEOPLE WHO PAID THEM TO DO THE ‘JOB’ CANNOT LEAVE ANY LOOSE ENDS SO THEY ARRANGE FOR A HITMAN FROM AMERICA TO COME & TAKE CARE OF THEM AND SO STARTS THE RUMOUR OF JACK THE RIPPER.

  IN ANOTHER PART OF WHITECHAPEL PROSTITUTE MARY KELLY FINDS A NEARLY DEAD MAN LYING IN THE GUTTER.  HE HAS A SATCHEL WITH A VAST AMOUNT OF MONEY IN IT, SHE TAKES THIS AND FLEES.  THE MAN WAKES IN HOSPITAL WITH NO MEMORY OF WHO HE IS OR HOW HE GOT THERE.  MARY DISCOVERS HIS WHERE ABOUTS AND HIS CONDITION AND FINDS HERSELF INVENTING A LIFE FOR THEM, WITH THOUGHTS OF A POSSIBLY HAPPY FUTURE FOR THEMSELVES, AFTER ALL THIS RICH AMERICAN MAY HAVE MORE WEALTH BACK HOME SHE CAN TAP INTO. 



IT IS A TALE WHICH INVOLVES THE DISCRETION OF YOUNG PRINCE ALBERT, HIS MISTRESS AND CHILD, AND MURDERED PROSTITUTES.  CONSPIRACY THEORY AROUND JACK THE RIPPER MURDERS AND TITANIC (BEAR IN MIND THE TITANIC IS VIRTUALLY NON EXISTANT EXCEPT FOR THE BEGINNING COUPLE OF PAGES AND THE END).  BEWARE, SOME OF THE MURDERS ARE QUITE GRAPHIC AND BRUTAL
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Jasvinda Sanghera - Shame

review showhost July 2016.
I feel that everybody should read this book to enlighten us of the ritual and beliefs of some Asian families.  Also to understand the cruelty & violence that befalls young indain girls who are still forced into marriage with a stranger at 15.  This book is the story of one such girl who had the courage to break away.  This made her an outcast in the Asian community & brought shame on her family.  She was disowned, considered dead, for most/all of her life.  These girls are shown a picture of a man (often a lot older and living elsewhere in the world) and told they will go out for a few months to meet and marry him, then he will come into this country as her husband.  They are treated no more than dogs to serve & obey and be punished when they don’t.
She had gone from being a virtual prisoner in her own home to having to cope for herself in the wide hostile world.  Her crime was that she was a woman & had chosen to marry a man of her choice who she loved.  She escaped and ran off with the man, they lived in squalor, they had children, she fell out of love and met someone else. 
She went on to do adult education courses and set up a refuge for other women who were either being beaten or forced into marriage. But her family still would not talk to her or acknowledge her existence.  Honour is more important than happiness.
Although I admired her courage and tenacity I can’t say I warmed to her when she cheated on her husband.  The husband who had stuck by her, loved her and supported her in the beginning.
These reviews were written in 2007/8:

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Ann Cleeves - Black Raven

Review by showhost
This is by the author of Vera so I wasn't going to read it but it is actually about another inspector called Perez and is based in the Shetland islands.  This novel won the Crime Writers' Association Duncan Lawrie Dagger for 2006.  It has the same easy style that the Vera series has.  Nothing fast, furious or gory.  Yes a dead body but a slowly unfolding crime. 

Its New Years eve and 2 girls dare each other to stop by the Shetland home of elderly Magnus Tait to wish him ‘happy new year’.  When Fran Hunter, a single mum, is walking her dog she finds the body of one of these girls.  The girl has been strangled.  In this close community it draws suspicion from all and the finger points to old Magnus.  The crime reawakens the Islanders memory of eight years ago when schoolgirl, Catriona Bruce went missing as Magnus Tait was one of the last to see her.  He was never charged then. 
Local inspector Perez is called in to investigate first the disappearance then the murder.  At the annual festival, Helly Aa, in January, young Cassie goes missing from the crowd. The police are worried that she will soon be another murder victim.  Perez slowly untangles the hidden community secrets along with an inspector from the mainland.  We follow the red herrings and the mystery through the harsh winter of the shetlands.  We also feel the tension and division which start to split the community (and living myself in such a community I can see it happening).  Perez is descended from a Spaniard wrecked on the Fair Isles, hence the name.  He still isn’t quite accepted as an islander.
I thought I had guessed the ending & perp but I was wrong.  I would definitely not class this as a psychological thriller as it doesn't have that same 'grip' on the reader

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Luke Delaney - Toy Taker

About the author: (Luke Delaney joined the Metropolitan Police Service in the late 1980s and his first posting was to an inner city area of South East London notorious for high levels of crime and extreme violence. He later joined CID where he investigated murders ranging from those committed by fledgling serial killers to gangland assassinations). This shows in his knowledge of police procedure in the book.
review by showhost
DI Sean Corrigan talks himself into the mind of the perp/killers and feels their vibes (like tony Hill, Wire in the Blood).  DI Corrigan works out of a local cop shop with his team but when a child is abducted from their home he is asked to head up a special investigation unit and Sean and his team are moved to Scotland Yard.  Sean follows a false lead, a lead which was meant to bait him.  Addis & Sean were confident they had their abductor but when another child is taken while the accused is in a cell the media have a field day. 
Addis who wants Sean to use his special powers to crack the case quickly (which would help Addis boost his own career prospects) wants quick results.  But when two more children are abducted in the same way (from their bed while they slept and while their parents are at home with no sign of a break in or of a struggle) Addis starts to lose patience and confidence is Seans ability.  Sean is no closer to finding the abductors, he can’t seem to get inside his head, he fears he is losing his abilities and Addis wants to take him off the case.
Sean is a complex character with problems of his own.  He is married with children but they don’t see a lot of him and his wife wants him to retire from this kind of work. He also had an abusive upbringing.    The book is good and the characters real.  We get to know the rest of Seans team and feel part of the investigation.  His background shows in the detail to procedures & city police life in his book.  This is the second of this author I have read and enjoyed all with DI Sean Corrigan.  I will definitely read more.  Recommended crime read.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Renee Knight – Disclaimer

review by showhost
A good psychological thriller.  If you enjoyed ‘girl on the train’ by Paula Hawkins or ‘I let you go’ by Clare Mackintosh you will enjoy this.
Catherine is married to Robert and they have a grown up son, Nicholas.  Catherine works in the film documentary  industry.  They have just moved house and found their son a flat so he can be independent near them in London.
Catherine notices a book which she doesn’t remember buying.  The Perfect Stranger.  As she starts to read it she realises it is based on her, on an event which happened when Nicholas was five.  An event she had kept to herself.  The only other person who knew of this event is dead so how has this happened.  She is scared, confused and puzzled, where had the book come from her - husband and son don’t have knowledge of it.
It would seem it was sent to their old address and forwarded on to them by the new occupants.  The only thing they could tell them was that an elderly gentleman had dropped it around for Catherine.

Stephen Brigstocke, a retired teacher, who’s wife has just died finds an unfinished manuscript written by his wife.  Their life had fallen apart when their son had died 20 years ago in a tragic accident.  As well as the manuscript he finds some photos taken by their son before he died.  Photos of a young woman scantily clad in provocative pose.  The photos relate to the unfinished manuscript.  Stephen is determined to get the manuscript published and for the truth to come out about the woman it is based upon.  He wants retribution.  He wants the world to know just what the successful Catherine Ravenscroft is really like.
As more copies of the book are sent to Nicholas & Robert (her son & husband) and then the photos, their family life falls apart and events kept hidden for years are forced out.
It was a good tense, psychological thriller with twists and turns. It had a slow start but a page turning second half.  Although it kept going back and forwards 20 years and from Stephen to Catherine it was quite easy to keep up.  I can recommend this book.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Paula Hawkins - Girl on the Train



review by show host May 2016.
This book was the most talked about book but problem is when a book is really hyped up your expectations soar.  So while I enjoyed reading the book it wasn't what I thought and having just read – ‘I let you go’ by Clare MacIntosh, this one paled a little in comparison.

The changing of dates stopped the flow as I kept going back and forwards to see what the day and date of previous chapter was.  The latter part of the book was a lot more tense and taut than the rest which was a slow build up.

The title says it all. Girl on train commuting to Euston looks in the gardens of houses she passes. Blenheim Road in particular interests her as she used to live at number 23 with her ex.  Down the road at number 17 is a couple who moved in after she left.  She often sees them in their garden, she names them in her mind, Jess & Jason.  They seem to have the loving relationship she craved with her ex.
Rachel has a drink problem, she drinks so much that she sometimes has black outs & can’t remember things.  She is also stalking her ex and his new wife & baby who still live in her old house.  She can’t get over the fact that Tom left her for Anna and had a baby with her and still live in the same house!

One day she sees Jess in the garden with another man, kissing each other.  She is furious to think that Jess is cheating on Jason, that she has burst the bubble of their perfect relationship in her
imagination.

She decides she must confront her.  But later the body of ‘Jess’ (who we discover is called Megan) is found dead in nearby woods.  Rachel can’t remember anything but she goes back to her shared flat with injuries on her head and arms.  The husband is a prime suspect but Rachel is sure it must be the man whom Megan was cheating with.
And so the tension builds (but more towards the latter part of the book) as Rachel starts to bit by bit, recover some memory and the truth is revealed.



Sunday, 8 May 2016

Billie Letts - made in the USA

review by Ro Bennett

Lutie McFee's history has taught her to avoid attachments...to people, to places, and to almost everything. With her mother long dead and her father long gone to find his fortune in Las Vegas, 15-year-old Lutie lives in the god-forsaken town of Spearfish, South Dakota with her twelve-year-old brother, Fate, and Floy Satterfield, the 300-pound ex-girlfriend of her father.

While Lutie shoplifts for kicks, Fate spends most of his time reading, watching weird TV shows and worrying about global warming and the endangerment of pandas. As if their life is not dismal enough, one day, while shopping in their local Wal-Mart, Floy keels over and croaks and the two motherless kids are suddenly faced with the choice of becoming wards of the state or hightailing it out of town in Floy's old Pontiac. Choosing the latter, they head off to Las Vegas in search of a father who has no known address, no phone number and, clearly, no interest in the kids he left behind.

This is another page turner from Billie Letts, I got drawn into the story and became really involved in their lives as the situation unfolded. I felt worried for them - my heart sank as, living rough in the car, moving from place to place and desperate for money for food, Lutie was lured into potentially dangerous situations, vulnerable to the pimps, crooks and others ready to exploit young girls and boys. I was anxious for her young brother Fate who roamed the streets during the day, spending as much time as he could in the library or trying to earn money, as he was desperate to go to school. At times he was left alone in the car in dodgy neighbourhoods at night while Lutie worked in badly paid dead end jobs or went drinking. I couldn’t see how there could be a hopeful resolution to their problems as they searched for their father.

Lutie sometimes made unwise decisions and sometimes she behaved selfishly and thoughtlessly - she was only fifteen.  Consequently the children found themselves in some pretty horrific situations and sadly none of them are so far fetched as to be unbelievable. You could see how easily children like Lutie and Fate from dysfunctional or uncaring families could find themselves in these situations.  It was heartbreaking to watch their hope and optimism turn to despair and disillusionment, anxiety and fear each time they were faced with the reality of their situation.

However it wasn’t unremittingly grim - there are also lots of twists and turns and unexpected kindnesses from caring, sincere and helpful people, which balance it out and restore ones faith in humanity and gives hope to the reader that a better future for them both might just be possible.