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.

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.

John Mortimer - Summer’s Lease by

review written by Ro bennett

It's high summer when Molly Pargeter drags her amiably bickering family to a rented Tuscan villa for the holidays.

This is the advertisement which drew her to La Felicita: "Villa to let near small Tuscan town. Suit couple, early forties, with three children. The villa will appeal in particular to devotees of Italian painting...enthusiasts can take the trail to Sansepolcro and on, across the Mountains of the Moon, to see the sublime 'Flagellation' in the Ducal Palace at Urbino. Those making this journey should ensure that the stopcock is closed and all electrical appliances are switched off before departure. The pleasures of art tend to be diminished by returning to a complete absence of hot bath water."

Molly is sure that the house is the perfect setting for their three-week getaway, but soon she becomes fascinated by the lives of the absent owners - and things start to go horribly wrong …

Furthermore, Molly is saddled with her randy old tease of a father called Haverford Downs, who is absolutely outrageous, manipulating and embarrassing. He writes a controversial column in a New Statesman type of magazine. Meanwhile, after finding a flirtatious post card written to a client who is a divorcee, Molly suspects her dull lawyer husband of having an affair, so the atmosphere is somewhat tense. They have three daughters, Henrietta and Samantha the normal moaning and grumbling hard done by teenagers and Jaqueling the sweeter younger daughter who for some reason adores her grandfather.

This is a mixture of a comedy, adventure and suspenseful murder mystery which kept me guessing - I didn’t have a clue what was actually going on until the end of the book. The various threads of the story are skilfully woven together eventually.

I bought the book because my niece is married to a lovely man called John Mortimer and thought they would enjoy it. I didn’t realise that the author wrote the Rumpole books as well, or that Summer’s Lease was made into a popular BBC TV mini series in the 1980’s, starring Sir John Gielgud.

I loved the book because I love his tongue in cheek writing style which is reminiscent of PG Wodehouse in some ways. I enjoy clever, witty somewhat cynical humour which makes me laugh.  The wide cast of characters are well depicted and they made me chuckle - the author was a very astute observer of human behaviour and personality traits and that is entertaining. The typical teenagers, the wide boy, the snobsI kept thinking, ‘I know someone just like that!’ A very enjoyable read.

Sir John Mortimer was a barrister, playwright and novelist


Lindsey Davis - Dying Light in Corduba (Falco 8)

review written and read live on the bookshow by Ro Bennett may 2016
 

This is the eighth novel in the murder mystery series featuring Marcus Didius Falco, an informer and sleuth in Rome at the time of the Emperor Vespasian, circa AD 70, and Falco is back with a vengeance.

'Nobody was poisoned at the dinner for the Society of Olive Oil Producers of Baetica, though in retrospect this was quite a surprise.'

Because, after the dinner, one man is killed and Anacrites, The Emperor of Rome’s Chief Spy is seriously wounded and left for dead. This leaves no one except Falco to conduct the investigation. 

Falco, and Helena his partner, who is heavily pregnant, travel overseas to Baetica, which approximately corresponds to modern Andalusia in Spain. Its capital was Corduba - hence the title of the book. They were using the excuse of inspecting the villa and olive crops of Helena Justina's father, Camillus Verus. 

It soon becomes apparent to Falco that the killing was no simple murder.
He is rapidly plunged into the fiercely competitive world of olive oil production. Political intrigue, an exotic Spanish dancer and his impending fatherhood all add to Falco’s troubles. How the plot unfolds will  keep you guessing right until the end. 

Although I have the book, I listened to this on the free library One Click Audible Book service. The narration was excellent. The only thing missing in the audible version is that the book has a list of characters with a tongue in cheek description of them and their role in the story. It also has a handy map of the area. 

All of Lindsey Davis novels are extremely well researched, and to me, reading about Falco and Helena Justina almost seems like catching up with gossip at a family reunion. Her consistently skilfully crafted books all have very interesting plots with well drawn characters and fine, detailed description of the ways of the ancient Roman Empire and its citizens. The places she describes come alive and you can feel that you are there, experiencing the smells and tastes and noises and atmosphere. The books are full of action, intrigue and humour - and this one has a particularly good twist at the end.

Lindsey Davis has written nearly thirty novels. Her books are translated into many languages and serialised on BBC Radio 4. She lives in the Midlands where she grew up and is currently President of the Birmingham and Midlands Institute.