When I occasionally daydream about writing a book, The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell is the type of book I dream about writing. A book that creates incredibly memorable characters, that paints a picture of a life lived and a person I would like to get to know.
I probably will never get round to writing such a book but, thankfully, Robert Dugoni – better known to me for his Detective Tracy Crosswhite series – has so I don’t have to worry.
I apologies if I’m waxing a little lyrical here but I just really enjoyed this book. There wasn’t a thing about it I didn’t (meaning you can probably guess the rating if you don’t have time to read the rest of my review).
Skin Deep is one of those books with a killer opening, literally. Cordelia wakes up hungover, wondering what to do with the dead body in her flat. To try and give herself time to think, she heads out, looking for food, company and alcohol. As her evening spirals, she starts to realise she has nowhere to turn, nowhere to go and she is out of options.
Where Liz Nugent goes from here is back to the beginning, to the small island off the coast of Ireland that Cordelia (not that she was Cordelia then) grew up on, to a family tragedy that changed her life, and then on through mistake after mistake and bad decision after bad decision till she ends up in a room on the French Riviera and a dead body.
Where to start with this review. It’s been over a week since I finished The Good Liar and I am still thinking about it and still feeling in awe of Catherine McKenzie and her ability to take me outside of myself when I’m reading her books.
This is now the fifth book of hers I’ve read and the fifth one I’ve fallen in love with. Why? Her characters mainly. They are so well written – so messily real – that I can’t help getting completely caught up in their lives.
Here, there is Cecily, a grieving widow the world has fallen in love with; Kate, a wife and a mother who is trying to outrun her past; and Franny, Kate’s given-up-for-adoption daughter, who has found her mother only to lose her again.
When Lou’s father dies, and after a bad break-up with her boyfriend, she decides to up sticks, leaving London and returning to her childhood home, one she hasn’t been back to for 18 years.
Given what happened when she was last there, it’s possibly not the smartest idea, but she feels she needs to to confront her demons and start living her life again.
The what happened is she ran away with her teacher, a much older man. Or at least that’s the cliff notes version. As The Fear unfolds, so does Lou’s story, which is much more frightening than it first appears and explains a lot about why she is who she is.
DI Marnie Rome is back and, for me, it couldn’t come a moment too soon as I was in need of a book in my favourite genre that left me feeling completely satisfied and a lot less grumpy that I been with recent reads.
I love Marnie because, whilst she’s go baggage, she’s also normal. Her past bothers her, colours her present, but isn’t all consuming. She still manages to have normal relationships with her partner and her team and she doesn’t go running off on her own every two seconds to prove something to herself.
When an early morning Amber Alert disrupts Detective D. D. Warren’s plans for the day, she knows it’s bad. Turning up at the scene of a horrible crime, she thinks it couldn’t be worse. Four members of a family of five are dead, the last member – a sixteen year old girl named Roxy – is missing.
The first question any officer would ask – is Roxy in danger or is she on the run, having killed her family. Now it’s one D. D. must answer. Helping her, as well as her team, is Flora Dane, a young woman we first met in Find Her and who was kidnapped and held hostage for 472 days.
Now, she spends her time helping other survivors, though not always in a way D. D. would like, at the same time as tracking down potential predators and inflicting her own type of justice (which D. D. definitely doesn’t like). Roxy is one of the survivors she has been trying to help out and, with the girl having seemingly disappeared into thin air, D. D. and Flora agree to work together to track her down.
It’s hard to believe that it was less than a year ago that I came across Helen Fields’ first book, Perfect Remains, at the library AND that I only picked it up because of the cover.
I am so pleased that I did because I thought it was a great book, and now – three books in – I can’t imagine my reading life without detectives Luc Callanach and Ava Turner, the two central characters in this crime series.
Luc is half-Scottish, half-French and trying to rebuild his life after it fell apart a few years previously. It’s why he moved to Scotland, where he is slowly starting to fit in with his team and get over the events of the past. Ava is a woman who was born with a silver spoon in her mouth but hasn’t let that stop her climb the ranks of the police and put herself in the line of fire more than once.
Zoe Walker is an “everyone”, as in the same as everyone else. She gets up, goes to a job that isn’t particularly fulfilling but pays the bills, takes care of her kids (now teens / young adults) and tries to find time to cook tea after long days commuting back and forth on the tube to work.
It’s whilst she’s commuting that she picks up a copy of the Gazette and, flicking to the classifieds, sees a photo of herself with nothing more than a phone number and a web address. To say it unnerves her is an understatement.
When I finished the previous book in the DI Helen Grace series, Little Boy Blue, I was left so blown away that the only word I could use to describe it was “wow!”. I really wasn’t sure if it could be topped because the ending was so unforeseen and so big a twist for this genre.
I’m not sure Little Boy Blue has been topped by Hide and Seek but M. J. Arlidge does a good job trying with what is still an amazing book. You’ll have to excuse all the hyperbole but this really is a brilliant book in a brilliant series, one I can’t wait to catch up.
For those reading the series and who haven’t gotten to the end of Little Boy Blue yet, there are spoilers here for the series so you might not want to read on. They can’t be helped though if I am going to try at all to describe the story. So apologies in advance.
The full title for Healthyish is “A Cookbook with Seriously Satisfying, Truly Simple, Good-For-You (but not too Good-For-You) Recipes for Real Life”. It’s a mouthful but it does sum up quite nicely what this recipe book is about. It’s full of food that looks delicious, tastes delicious (from the recipes I’ve tried) and sounds delicious (from those that I haven’t).
The idea behind Healthyish is that you can eat a good, healthy, balanced diet without living on lettuce leaves and by making some simple changes. So you swap whole grains for refined, add ingredients like olives for natural flavour, and swap processed foods for homemade alternatives (think salad dressing).