Fractured by Catherine McKenzie

imageJulie Prentice and her family move across the country to the idyllic Mount Adams district of Cincinnati, hoping to evade the stalker who’s been terrorizing them ever since the publication of her bestselling novel, The Murder Game. Since Julie doesn’t know anyone in her new town, when she meets her neighbour John Dunbar, their instant connection brings measured hope for a new beginning. But she never imagines that a simple, benign conversation with him could set her life spinning so far off course.

After a series of misunderstandings, Julie and her family become the target of increasingly unsettling harassment. Has Julie’s stalker found her, or are her neighbours out to get her, too? As tension in the neighbourhood rises, new friends turn into enemies, and the results are deadly.

I am on a roll.  I have just read another book that is in the running for my book of the year and by someone who is fast becoming one of my favourite authors. Every book Catherine McKenzie writes is different from the last and keeps me turning the pages, desparate to know what happens next. This is the best yet I have to say.

Fractured is about a friendship that no one but the two people involved seem happy about.  That’s because they are a man (John) and a woman (Julie) and they are both married to other people.  No one seems to think their relationship can be innocent, including their spouses, nosey neighbours and children.  The pressure this suspicion creates leads to some unpleasant scenes and some unpleasant behaviour, cranking up the tensions in the street and amongst the neighbours and feeding on itself as every action becomes analysed and – in most cases – misunderstood.

Central amongst these misunderstandings is Julie herself and how she behaves.  She is a newly published and surprisingly successful debut author whose sudden fame led to her being stalked by a former college friend.  Her family’s move to Cincinnati was to escape and start again, something they very much needed but every step she takes, getting security cameras for example, is scrutinised and a negative connotation added – often by her nosey and judgemental neighbour Cindy.

As a reader, you have some of those suspicions yourself as you learn that Julie’s book may have been based on a true life murder – or suspected murder – of a friend and that she may know more about this than she is letting on.  This adds another dimension to the book as I started to question what I was reading and wondering if I was been led down a different path than I thought I was on.

Over the course of a year, with the story being told backwards from when Julie and her family first moved, you see things start to unravel.  Julie and John tell their versions in alternating chapters.  These are interspersed with chapters focusing on the present as John prepares to give evidence before a grand jury.  Things, it seems, have gone badly wrong.  You don’t know how badly or just what has happened and don’t until the final pages.

It’s a really great way of telling a story and one I like when it’s done well.  It lets things unfold slowly and means you don’t jump to as many conclusions as you might otherwise.  You get to know the characters and sympathise with them – which I did for each in this case (even Cindy).  They were well drawn and felt very real.  I could imagine Julie’s stress and anxiety but also how this must have come across to others.  Her past also made her selfish and self-centred in many ways – again, I understood why but I could also understand how this could rub others up the wrong way.  It also made me frustrated with her and sometimes I wish I could reach through the pages and grab her.

That I was so involved is a sign of a good book for me and this really was.  It was a clever story that was well written with great, complex, characters.  I don’t feel I can say enough about it or recommend it more highly.  A great read – loved it!

Emma

Note: I received this book in return for a fair and honest review.  All thoughts and feelings are my own.

Finally: You might also be interested in my other reviews of Catherine McKenzie’s books:

Smoke

Hidden

 

Tuesday Intro: 11th August, 2015

After a week off last week, I’m linking up again with Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea who hosts a post every Tuesday for people to share the first chapter / paragraph of the book they are reading, or thinking of reading soon. I really enjoy these tasters when I read them on other blogs so wanted to join in.

As I’m about to spend most of the next two days in the car and on motorways, I will be listening vs. reading this week. I’m going to try A Mother’s Story by Amanda Prowse.

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Jessica has just had the wedding of her dreams, and now she’s setting up a new home with her lawyer husband Matthew. Even better – they are expecting a child.

As they paint the nursery and shop for babygros, she plans for the joy that motherhood will bring. But Jessica’s experience is far from joyous. Why isn’t she transformed by maternal feelings? Where is the all-consuming love she’s supposed to feel for her child?

No-one told her that being a mum was so lonely and terrifying. No-one told her you don’t always love your baby. Perhaps it’s best if Jessica keeps that dark secret to herself for now…

I have read another of Amanda Prowse’s books and really enjoyed it but I have a bit of a hit and miss relationship with audio fiction so I hope the narrator is good because that’s the make or break for me. Here’s how it starts…

There was a small camera winking at the duo as they waited to be let in. A woman half stood, raising her hand in recognition of Dr Boyd. She pressed a buzzer out of view and the door whirred open, admitting them to a large square hallway. The woman sat at a pale wood reception desk that curved round in an arc, with a large row of pigeonholes on the wall behind it. The decor was simple: mainly white walls, with brightly coloured accessories on the desk – red files, green pen pots – and a large yellow clock on the wall that ticked loudly. The place had the false gaiety of a children’s hospital.

What do you think – would you keep reading?

Emma

Silent Scream by Angela Marsons

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Starting Silent Scream, I have to say I was probably somewhat pre-disposed to liking it (and I did) once I realised it was set in the Black Country, my adopted home. I love living here and the people and always enjoy seeing them in print – even if, as in this case, it was through a dark tale of the murder of three young girls.

The girls were all living in a children’s home and all thought to have runaway. Instead, they had never left. They had been murdered and left in the ground. Now, almost ten years after they went missing, their bodies have been found. D.I. Kim Stone is determined to find out what happened to them and why, a decade on, those who were in charge of the children’s home are turning up dead.

Kim’s passion to find them justice comes not just from her being a good detective but her own childhood – she can relate to the missing girls. It’s a childhood that makes her hard to like (though Marsons does a good job getting you to). It also makes her tough and dogged and more than a bit unpredictable.

This unpredictability was a good thing for the story because it meant I didn’t quite know what was coming next. There were some great twists and turns and a clever ending. It all kept me turning the pages. If I had any complaint it would be there were a lot of pages to turn – for me, the book was just a little too long. This is minor though and didn’t stop me enjoying the book. I liked it a lot and would recommend it.

Emma