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Some notes about the first six fiction reads for #20BooksofSummer – the two non-fiction books I read as part of this challenge can be found over here.

 

Things We Didn’t See Coming by Steven Amsterdam

Opening on the eve of the millennium, when the world as we know it is still recognisable, we meet the nine-year old narrator as he flees the city with his parents, just ahead of a Y2K breakdown

The novel is made up of a number of connected stories that take us through the life of this boy as he grows up and makes his way in a world that has changed in unspecified ways. By that I mean that although at each stage we are clear what particular issue he is dealing with, we don’t actually know what happened to leave the world in this state, which is a shame for me because I love all that detailed disaster stuff, but to be fair isn’t an issue for the story which I found very readable. Apparently it’s now taught in Australian schools which I found fascinating.

It’s always interesting to see references to Y2K in works of fiction; I spent a lot of my time at work leading up to the end of 1999 coming up with contingency plans should everything go pear-shaped, and we sometimes forget how much we worried given that everything turned out Ok in the end.

Anyway, this is worth reading if like me you can’t resist the post-apocalyptic thing.

The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz

The online blurb for this is as shouty as you can get without being all caps:

the best-selling mystery from the author of the Magpie Murders, you’ve never read a crime novel quite like this

Oh wait, it does get the all caps treatment int he very next paragraph:

SHE PLANNED HER OWN FUNERAL. BUT DID SHE ARRANGE HER OWN MURDER?

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the wrong question. The right question is did she know she was going to die imminently. This is a very good whodunnit with the quirk that the author is himself is a character in his own novel because he is writing a book about the lead detective, who is of course a maverick. Your feeling about this will depend on whether you like Mr Horowitz or not; I do, so all was fine. Some nice red herrings and a murderer and motive that I just didn’t see co,ing, so all very satisfying. Hoping this will become a series.

The Summer Children by Dot Hutchinson

Book 3 in the Collector Trilogy (although I think there might be a fourth on the way next year)

When Agent Mercedes Ramirez finds an abused young boy on her porch, covered in blood and clutching a teddy bear, she has no idea that this is just the beginning.

I loved the first two novels in the Collector trilogy (which I read last year but didn’t review because I wasn’t really reviewing anything for a significant period), partly because it wasn’t a standard trilogy – although many of the participants are the same the cases covered were entirely different, though just as creepy as each other. I devoured them all 🙂

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

Book 1 in the Wayfarer series, and shortlisted for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction

When Rosemary Harper joins the crew of the Wayfarer, she isn’t expecting much. The ship, which has seen better days, offers her everything she could possibly want.

Are you waiting for the but?

..She gets more than she bargained for.

Ta dah!

Such a good story, wonderful characters, believable world building and so well written. I like the mix of races, and spent a lot of time trying to imagine what some of the alien species actually looked like (and failed because my imagination is rubbish). A book with real heart and I am looking forward to reading the next two (already loaded on my kindle). Sci-fi at its best.

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

A brilliant original high concept murder mystery from a fantastic new talent

and

Gosford Park meets Inception by way of Agatha Christie and Black Mirror

That’s ….. quite a pitch. I really liked this book, a mixture of sci-fi and crime novel with a clever concept and an intriguing mystery at the centre. Som of the characters are really horrible but they kind of have to be, and the protagonist has an agenda of his own which only becomes clear at the end and was somewhat of a surprise. One of those stories where it pays to just go along for the ride and not try to think about it too hard. Great fun.

I already know that I won’t read all of the books on my list, but I’m OK with that 🙂

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that I have only covered five books above. That’s because although I also read You Were Never Really Here, I want to watch the film version and do a combined review. (Spoiler alert – the novella is awesome).

So to make it up to you here are my thoughts on a book that I had completely forgotten about, which os surprising because I loved it.

Heartsick by Chelsea Cain

A femme fatale with an appetite for cruelty that will be difficult to surpass.

Our hero is in law enforcement and gets attacked as he faces down the serial killer, but she lets him live, though mutilated in body and messed up in mind. Our heroine is a young reporter brought in to cover a serial killer case. Our antagonist is a beautiful, intelligent and utterly cruel serial killer who manipulates everyone around her.

I liked her. Apart from the excessively gruesome violence of course.

So that’s my round-up. I hope to do individual reviews for the remaining books.

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I’m working my way through my 20 Books of Summer; currently I’m on book number 10 (way behind schedule), so thought I should start catching up on reviews, beginning with the two non-fiction reads I picked up.

All That Remains by Sue Black

Sue Black confronts death every day. As Professor of Anatomy and Forensic Anthropology, she focuses on mortal remains in her lab, at burial sites, at scenes of violence, murder and criminal dismemberment, and when investigating mass fatalities due to war, accident or natural disaster.

I really like Professor Dame Sue Black (to give her her full title), having watched her TV series a few years ago (History Cold Case if you are interested and can find it), and I was very keen to buy her book and read it immediately. Of course she is very matter of fact in describing her career and experiences and her general views on death but she is also immensely compassionate; some of the most moving parts of the book are where she talks about the cadaver that she and her lab partner worked on for a year when they were learning anatomy; an elderly man who had left his body to science for this very purpose.

I saw a little video of her talking about the book, and she refers to herself as a Martini Girl (any time, any place, anywhere – hands up all those from the 1970s!) as her expertise means she is often called in to help in times of disaster. She talks in great detail about her time in Kosovo, gruelling and not for the faint-hearted.

It’s a very positive book, encouraging us to accept death as an inevitable part of life. She is a treasure!

Black Dahlia, Red Rose by Piu Eatwell

In this ground-breaking book, Piu Eatwell reveals compelling forensic and eye-witness evidence for the first time, which finally points to the identity of the murderer.

Or does it? I’ve read (mostly fictional to be fair) accounts of the Black Dahlia case before so was intrigued to see to get my hands on this one. I am happy to admit my interest in true crime, and this is up there with Jack the Ripper as unsolved and open to many, many theories, some of them sensational and implausible.

At the time of the murder the relationship between the press and the police was almost incestuous, and corruption in the force was rife. The focus was very much on the gruesome and scandalous elements of the case and many of the pieces were very judgemental about the lifestyle of the victim, Elizabeth Short.

Più Eatwell has worked through the documents and has come up with a plausible solution to the crime which seems to fit the facts as she presents them, but as with all of these books there is always an element of doubt – unless you are an expert in the detail yourself (and I am definitely not) it’s hard to say if anything has been left out, but taken at face value this seems very convincing. Of course her conclusion has not gone unchallenged, especially by those with their own agendas, and it’s hard to see what, if anything, will happen next.

 

 

 

Bride of the Book God

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Scottish, in my fifties, love books but not always able to find the time to read them as much as I would like. I’m based in London and happily married to the Book God.

I also blog at Bride of the Screen God (all about movies and TV) and The Dowager Bride, if you are interested in ramblings about stuff of little consequence

If you would like to get in touch you can contact me at brideofthebookgod (at) btinternet (dot) com.

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