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.
Catherine Chanter’s The Well was one of those books I picked up at the library based purely on the cover and ended up really enjoying. Years later, the story and the characters have stayed with me – something that isn’t easy given the number of books I read.
Seeing Chanter’s new book on Net Galley then, it was an obvious choice to request it. I have to say, I expected great things. Maybe my expectations were too high, maybe it’s my current reading mood, but unfortunately, The Half Sister hasn’t had the same impact on me.
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 DI Jackman’s sister-in-law commits suicide, his family finds it hard to believe. She was a loving wife and mother and didn’t seem to have any real cares in the world.
His partner, DI Marie Evans, finds it so hard to believe she becomes convinced not all is as it first appears. It’s a belief that becomes a reality as first one then two more suicide victims are found, neither of which are quite what they seem.
It looks like someone has come up with a very clever way of committing murder – by getting his or her victims to do it themselves. It’s also a very clever idea of a book, one I enjoyed as I watched the police scramble to figure out just who was behind some rather vicious attacks on seemingly innocent people.
Let Me Lie is another book by Clare Mackintosh that is hard to describe because one wrong word and you let out a plot twist – and possibly spoil the book for anyone who hasn’t read it.
It starts with Anna, home with her eight year old daughter Ella and mourning the loss of her mother a year earlier and her father seven months before that. Both committed suicide, jumping off the cliffs at Beachy Head.
Or, at least the police and coroner say they committed suicide; Anna isn’t so sure and, when a card telling her to think again turns up on her doorstep, she becomes convinced her parents were murdered. Now, to persuade the police.
Splinter in the Blood is one of those books that opens with a scene that can’t help but hook you. A police officer at the scene of a crime, the shooting of another officer, who – instead of calling it in – is destroying the evidence.
The victim is DCI Greg Carver. And the officer destroying the evidence his partner, Ruth Lake. Why, it’s not clear – just as it’s not clear if Ruth is a dirty cop or a good one making bad decisions.
She seems good, I have to say, dogged and determined to figure out who shot Carver – and finish the case they were both already working on, the Thorn Killer, a serial killer loose on the streets of Liverpool. But there is always, all the way through the book (well until the climax) that nagging doubt.
When Sophia gets a late-night call from her mom asking her to come home, she does what she always does – puts it down to her mom’s usual erratic behaviour. Putting her mom off, she tells her she’s had too much to drink and will drive over the next day, which she duly does only to find her mom (Nina) dead and her dad seriously injured, with knife wounds to the stomach.
While her dad lies in a coma, unable to tell them what happened, the police rule Nina’s death a suicide – something Sophia can’t get her head around and can’t bring herself to believe. Her mom may have been many things, but suicidal is not one of them.
Things become even more confusing – and interesting – when a letter arrives from a publisher, confirming they will be publishing Nina’s book and asking when they’ll be sent the final chapters. Nina, Sophia discovers, has been writing her memoir and it’s much more interesting than anyone could have imagined. The question Sophia needs to answer though is was it interesting enough to kill Nina for?
When Zohra, a postwoman with a past that has derailed her life, is asked to deliver a letter to two brothers who time seems to have forgotten, she can’t help but be intrigued – especially when she finds out they live in a railway carriage (also lost in time).
Zohra has an interest in trains, is helping to restore a local station and train line, and an interest – it seems – in people who, just like her, have secrets. And the Greenwoods, Johnny and Nick, have secrets, a whole lifetime of them.
Johnny and Nick bury everything in a shield of anger at each other, they always have, but it got worse when – forty odd years ago – their sister died and their mom fell apart. Still only young, they were left to their own devices and to pick up the pieces. They didn’t pick them up very well.