Monday, 16 March 2015

Review Round-Up: The Daughter by Jane Shemilt, Things in Half Shadow by Alan Finn, The Reunion by Amy Silver & One Step Too Far by Tina Seskis.



A bestseller when it released last year in the UK, the recent US release of Jane Shemilt’s The Daughter is set to win this taut thriller a whole new legion of fans.

Every mother’s worst nightmare….

Jenny Malcom has a full and busy life, and then some. Married to a celebrated neurosurgeon, Jenny is herself a busy doctor and mum to three teenagers: seventeen year old twins Ed and Theo, and fifteen year old ‘golden child’ Naomi. Jenny’s life might be a constant juggling act, but she prides herself in knowing what is going on in her kids’ lives. As is the way with teenagers, Jenny reasons, her kids sometimes keep to themselves, they sometimes shut her out – but they know too that she’ll always be there for them if they ever need her.  Lately Jenny has noticed that Naomi has grown moody and distant, but she puts that down to both teenage behaviour and the pressures of the school production of West Side Story, in which Naomi is starring.

One night Naomi fails to return home after her play, seemingly disappearing without a trace, and as an investigation ensues, Jenny finds out things about her daughter she never thought possible – things that just might break her heart and tear her family apart.

The Daughter is slow moving at times, focusing a little too much on the minutiae of daily life, and, for me, the ending was lacking. Nonetheless, this is a well-written, sometimes heart-wrenching, multi-layered mystery that will keep you guessing right till the end.


One for fans of Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight.


Four Stars.

Published March 3rd 2015 by William Morrow Paperbacks.
Received for review.

*****




Spiritualists, séances and spooks abound in Things in Half Shadow, a well-plotted, good old-fashioned murder mystery from debut novelist Alan Finn. 

Truth is stranger than fiction on the streets of Philadelphia…

It’s 1869 and with post-Civil War America in mourning for its fallen sons, a spiritualist craze has taken hold: a craze that has spread like wildfire through American cities, a craze that sees mothers shrouded in mourning black flock to seek the guidance of those who can reach out to the ‘other side’ to contact their recently departed. Crime reporter Edward Clark sees this for what it is: an opportunistic money grabbing exercise that serves only to exploit. Clark sets out to expose the cities fake mediums, and all the tricks they employ, but he doesn’t count on meeting his match in the indomitable Ms. Lucy Collins.  He also doesn’t count on being implicated, along with Lucy, in the murder of one of the cities most revered mediums, one Leonora Grimes Pastor, who, unlike Lucy, is the real deal as far as spirit guides go. 

What stars slow, soon becomes an intriguing tale of secrets and lies, tricks of the trade, hidden pasts, and uncertain futures, as Clarke – who had his whole life with well-to-do but slightly bland fiancée Violet all planned out – finds his heart and his life plan thrown off-course by the charms of Lucy Collins as they team up to clear their names and uncover the truth behind the murder of Leonora Grimes Pastor. 

Things in half shadow is a fun but spooky, multi-layered  historical murder mystery with intriguing characters, sparky dialogue, and enough twists to keep you guessing right to the end. 

Perfect for fans of Velvet by Mary Hooper and In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters.


Four Stars.

Published December 30th 2014 by Gallery Books.
Received for review.

*****




She has hit all the bestseller lists with her psychological thriller The Girl on the Train, but before that Paula Hawkins wrote under the pen name of Amy Silver, producing, amongst several other works, this compulsively readable tale of friendship lost. 

Now, if you’re looking for another Girl on the Train, this isn’t it. The Reunion isn’t a psychological thriller. There may be skeletons in the closet, but they are not of the murderous or missing persons kind, let’s make that clear.   Rather, The Reunion is a thoughtful and absorbing study in long-term friendships, the tangled webs they weave and the forever-lasting impact that they leave on our lives. 
Jen, Andrew, Lilah, Natalie and Dan haven’t seen each other in almost twenty years; not since the carefree days of college when they shared secrets, laughter, and sometimes beds. Those days are gone; they came to an abrupt end when tragedy unexpectedly hit their circle of friends, tearing it apart in the process.  But, with major changes happening in her life, Jen needs her friends around her: she’s ready to let her friends back in - ready to talk about what happened on that fateful summer’s day so many years ago when her future was thrown off course forever.

Tensions bubble beneath the surface as the five reconvene in Jen’s French farmhouse, and as the winds howl and the snow settles, there is no escape as the friends face up to the secrets –and lies – of their shared pasts.

An absorbing –if sometimes predictable - read for a long, lazy afternoon. Fans of One Day, Swimming Pool Summer, and the TV show This Life (and its ten years later reunion!) will find lots to like in The Reunion by Amy Silver.


3.5 Stars.

Published September 12th 2013 by Arrow.

*****




Psychological thrillers in the vein of Gone Girl and recent breakout hit The Girl on the Train are the hottest books on the block right now, so when I happened upon One Step Too Far, a thriller about a woman who leaves everything behind to start a new, uncertain life in London, I knew I had to check it out.

I was intrigued by the premise of this one: Emily has the perfect suburban life – loving husband, good job, nice house, adorable son – so what makes her leave it all behind? The blurb promises that nobody has ever guessed Emily’s secret – casting an immediate challenge upon the reader. I have to say I didn’t figure this one out. The ultimate reveal had me flipping back through the pages to see if I’d missed something huge. I hadn’t. This book is written in such a way that very few (if any) will guess the twist.  Usually, such an unpredictable twist would mean high praise from me, but I have to say, with its disjointed narration and sometimes far-fetched plot twists, I didn’t love One Step Too Far

The book is written in such a way as to make for a somewhat uneven reading experience; flipping back and forth through time and characters. We get to know all about Emily’s childhood, her parents’ unhappy marriage, and her fractious relationship with wild child sister, Caroline. That’s OK. Emily is the main character in the book. We need to know this stuff. But then we get all this information about Angel, a character Emily meets in London, who soon becomes her flatmate. We learn all about Angel’s formative years, her life, loves and everything else.  The inclusion of the Angel chapters sends this book off course a little. Maybe that’s the point. Maybe Angel is there to distract us from the twist in the tale. Maybe. I just didn’t feel that this was ultimately relevant to Emily’s story –and it all seemed a little disorganised and even rambling at times.

One Step Too Far has an interesting premise, and it definitely shows promise; but there are better books out there in this genre.   I recommend the aforementioned Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train for some well-plotted thrills. 


3 Stars.

Published January 27th 2015 by William Morrow & Co.
Received for review.

*****


4 comments :

  1. ChristinaBookAddict16 March 2015 at 12:22

    Awesome mini-reviews! The one book that I am really interested in is Things in Half Shadow...I have an ARC of it and hopefully I can get around to reading it soon. I love the historical aspect of it and the fact that it takes place in Philadelphia! Hopefully I can find time. I also had no idea that Paula Hawkins wrote under another name. Wow- I will have to check that book out, but good to know it's very different than The Girl on the Train.

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  2. I think you'll like Things in Half Shadow - it's a little slow moving at times but apart from that it's a very enjoyable read!

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  3. The ending was my favourite part of The Daughter! I think I had similar thoughts On The Reunion, it was an enjoyable read. But the one I haven't heard of before is Things in Half Shadow, that sounds great! I love the setting.

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  4. Things in Half Shadow is definitely worth checking out! It's very well plotted! Re: The Daughter. I used to love an ambiguous ending, but lately I haven't been enjoying them as much. That said, I liked this ending more than the ending of Second Life (which I kinda hated!)

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