Monday 31 October 2016

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

review by Maryom

If you hadn't quite got the gist of this book from its title, the subtitle really settles it; the Classic Regency Romance - now with Ultrviolent Zombie Mayhem!
That basically says it all.

The English countryside is over-run by brains-chomping zombies, and London is virtually a fortress city; instead of the usual feminine attributes such as piano playing or sewing, the five Bennet sisters have all been well-trained in the martial arts, and help to keep the area around their home, Longbourn, and neighbouring village, Meryton, free from the undead. Other than that, the plot remains basically as Austen intended it - Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy initially take a dislike to each other; her sister Jane and Darcy's friend, Mr Bingley, fall in love, but Darcy comes between the two of them; everyone lives happily ever after.

I've had this book sitting on a shelf for a while, and the combination of Halloween and a film version made me think I should take the plunge.
Seth Grahame-Smith has left Jane Austen's original text largely untouched, just cleverly sliding zombies in here and there. It's a wickedly mocking, bizarre mash-up that some (me, included) will find funny, and some will find disturbing, even disrespectful, so, although I enjoyed it, I wouldn't recommend it to all. You need to bear in mind that it's not meant to be a serious work - it's fun!
I think in some ways I'd rather hoped for more substantial changes to the overall story arc. As it is, it's good for a laugh but I don't think this is a re-readable book.
I'm in two minds about how well the film will work. A lot of the humour for me was in the juxtaposition of Austen's words with zombie mayhem, and, although the period costumes will still be there, and hopefully a lot of Austen's dialogue, I'm not sure it will be the same.

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - Quirk Books

Genre - Adult fiction, zombie/regency romance 

Friday 28 October 2016

The Other World, It Whispers by Stephanie Victoire

review by Maryom

These nine short stories make a deliciously spine-tingling collection that treads that fine line between the real world and the ghostly, faery one. 

A boy lets a silent girl into his house from the snow, hoping she will rescue him from his domineering mother; another is uncomfortable in his body and longs to change it, with the help of a little magic; a life-sized wooden sculpture of a man comes to life to commit a crime; in an 'alternative' version of Red Riding Hood, a young girl armed with an axe takes revenge on the predator stalking young girls in the forest; beautiful flowers hide a deadly secret; spirits journey on a train in the resting period before they're sent back to be born again and life another human life. Deals are made with gods, the fey queen, a witch and an old man who may actually be the devil - but you can't use magic to further your ends and ambitions without some sort of pay-back, and when revealed, will the cost be too high?

When it comes to scary reads, I'm always a fan of the subtly disquieting rather than over-stated horror, and of stories that, although they involve magic, still speak of very human feelings and failures - of love, revenge, fear or desire. These stories do just that. Some are downright creepy, others more like fairy-tales with a twist, but they all echo real emotions and situations. I loved them. 

The writing too is wonderfully atmospheric, whether describing the gloom of forests, the lure of the sea or the sparkle and glitz of a masked ball the author makes the scene appear before the readers eyes.

Unfortunately, this collection isn't published till mid-November. Otherwise it would make an ideal read for Halloween when the veil between worlds is weak.

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Salt Publishing

Genre - Adult fiction,short stories, ghosts, fairy tales, fantasy

Wednesday 26 October 2016

A Ghost's Story by Lorna Gibb

review by Maryom

Katie King was a superstar 'spirit' of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Along with her male counterpart John, she appeared at seances and spiritualist meetings in America, Britain, Russia and Italy. Some people believed in her whole-heartedly; others believed her to be just trick being played on the unsuspecting. Sometimes she would move objects, sometimes glide across the room or speak through a medium, but as she feels her powers failing she decides to write her story and help people understand what lies 'on the other side'. 
The spirit comes to consciousness in the early 1800s, slipping into and changing a boy's life; thereafter whenever she can she seeks out that boy as he grows to adulthood and,inevitably, old age. But Katie can only go where she is called, so is often frustrated in her wishes, and begins to learn about human emotions - the longing for companionship and even love. 

Katie's story is told through a collection of spirit writings - some dictated through mediums, others written directly by her on a computer - gathered from various sources around the world by researcher Adam Marcus, working for The Magic Circle, and while Katie's evolution, from wispy spirit to one who could manipulate objects and people, forms the main story, alongside in the footnotes is the tale of Adam's original scepticism, his failing health, and his growing belief that Katie isn't a figment of imagination or a piece of theatrical fakery but a being as alive as himself.

First off I would say this isn't maybe the kind of spooky ghost story you would expect - Katie isn't a malevolent ghost out for revenge, haunting an ancestral home or the place she was killed while seeking retribution, or even an unsettled spirit yearning to be re-united with a loved one. She doesn't remember a corporeal life at all, just a series of rushed, blurred images, always associated with death, before she fully gains 'consciousness'. Nonetheless, I found it an extremely fascinating, compelling read. Her 'memoirs' take the reader behind the scenes at seances in places as diverse as log cabins on the American frontier and the splendour of the Russian Court, though mainly they take place in the respectable homes of Victorian era professional mediums - some of whom have a real connection to the spirit world (according to Katie), some are just plain charlatans, but all rely on a range of gimmicks to impress their audience. 
Katie herself is, at various times, amused, irritated, curious, bored, witty, vivacious, sad; in fact, she's completely human. 

Unlike the stories which set out to frighten the reader, this one made me wonder what exactly ghosts might be - not the dead, returned to pass on messages, but other unknown spirits maybe. For me, though, at heart, this is a very human story, one of the search for love, which surely all of us can relate to.

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Granta Books
Genre - Adult, ghost stories

Tuesday 25 October 2016

Dragonfish by Vu Tran

Review by The Mole

"Robert, an Oakland cop, still can't let go of Suzy, the enigmatic Vietnamese wife who left him two years ago. Now she's disappeared from her new husband, Sonny, a violent Vietnamese smuggler and gambler who is blackmailing Robert into finding her for him. As he pursues her through the sleek and seamy gambling dens of Las Vegas, shadowed by Sonny's sadistic son, 'Junior', and assisted by unexpected and reluctant allies, Robert learns more about his ex-wife than he ever did during their marriage. He finds himself chasing the ghosts of her past, one that reaches back to a refugee camp in Malaysia after the fall of Saigon, and his investigation uncovers the existence of an elusive packet of her secret letters to someone she left behind long ago. 

As Robert starts illuminating the dark corners of Suzy's life, the legacy of her sins threatens to immolate them all."

The story is delivered to the reader in two distinctly different styles and paces. The first is the fast, often violent but always menacing pace of the here and now as Robert tries to find out where Suzy has gone and why Sonny wants HIM to do the finding. The second is through the calm and reflective, although still often violent, pace of the letters.

I found the switch in pace and style, which is very significant, disruptive to my reading of the book. I did enjoy the story a lot but when the pace switches it very much feels like an invitation to put the book down and take a breather - this made it a longer read than it should have been.

The characters seem an eccentric mix but the ideas seem to be drawn from the author's own experiences so gain credibility through that. The conclusion is certainly not what I expected but complements the telling very well. Not one for the faint-hearted though.

Publisher - No Exit Press
Genre - Adult Crime thriller

Friday 21 October 2016

The Ice Lands by Steinar Bragi

review by Maryom

Four thirty-something friends have headed off into the wild interior of Iceland on a camping trip. The two guys, Egill and Hrafin, have been friends since childhood, and over the years have had their falling-outs and getting-back togethers but old resentments still linger; their partners, Anna and Vigdis, are comparative strangers who don't really get on. The trip is supposed to be a time to bond, as a group, and with nature, but Icelandic nature can be inhospitable, tempers are quick to flare, and an argument and the sudden dropping of heavy fog lead to their jeep crashing into a farmhouse. The four seek refuge inside, but the elderly couple who live there seem strange, insisting on barricading the only door at night for fear of something which lurks outside. As the group's attempts to get back to 'civilisation' fail time and again, the behaviour of the couple becomes even weirder, and the odd things found in the vicinity - dead animals, an abandoned village, piles of bones - lead them to wonder what exactly they've inadvertently discovered.

The Ice Lands is a mix of psycholgical thriller and horror tale following that well-tested plot in which city folk head off into the wilds and encounter more than they'd bargained for - think Blair Witch Project or House of Wax, depending on your preference in horror. So, I'd expected something straight forward along these lines (and if it's done well I do love a good horror) and there are a lot of very creepy moments as, splitting into various sub-groups, the friends explore the area, try to drive or walk to the nearest town, and end up circling back to the strange farmhouse that sits at the centre of this puzzle. Intermittently the story line is broken by flashbacks to the past histories of the four, and I somehow assumed these were irrelevant - just so much padding to lengthen what would have been a short story - but the ending made me realise I'd been wrong-footed; I changed my mind, decided they WERE an integral part of the overall plot, and wished I'd paid closer attention to them. For this is a story with a very odd ending - the sort that makes you reassess everything that's gone before and leave you wondering how much was 'real', and how much was taking place in someone's mind.
The other stand-out feature is the barren, sandy terrain of Iceland. The volcanic landscape is totally hostile to life; no trees or grass, just mile after mile of empty dessert where a breeze can easily whip up and impenetrable sand storm. Definitely not the place for your car to break down! 

Maryom's review - 3 stars 
Publisher - 
Genre - Adult Translated Fiction, horror, psychological thriller

Wednesday 19 October 2016

The Empress and the Cake by Linda Stift

translated by Jamie Bulloch

review by Maryom

Passing by a Viennese cake shop a young woman is enticed into sharing a Gugelhupf cake with an elderly lady dressed in a strange antiquated style, from head to toe in black. Normally this young woman is very conscious of what she eats, its calories and sugar levels, but somehow her usual objections fade when faced with the formidable Frau Hohenembs. The two new acquaintances head back to Frau Hohenembs' apartment, a space filled with strange curios and shared by parrots, an Irish wolfhound and a plump, equally black-clad, housekeeper, Ida.
There they share Frau Hohenembs' half of the cake, and the narrator finds herself being pulled into the life of this very strange and manipulative woman. They go for walks with the dog or visit museums - all very normal on the surface, but Frau Hohenembs is following a bizarre agenda, attacking and stealing items associated with the Empress Elisabeth, and the narrator feels compelled to go along with her plans.
Interleaved with this ongoing narrative, are reminiscences about the Empress Elisabeth by one of her loyal servants; a relationship which bears striking resemblances to that between Frau Hohenembs and Ida.

How would I describe The Empress and the Cake? Well, it's part subtle, tense psychological thriller but also an examination of addiction and loss of control. The Narrator (she's never named) has a history of eating disorders, of binge-eating and purging, which has been in abeyance for fifteen years, but which returns immediately after her first meeting with Frau Hohenembs. Throughout, she claims to be in charge of herself and the situation, believing she could walk away any time she chooses, but the reader can see that this is far from true; some part of her has come to rely on Frau Hohenembs, to need her dictating what to do and when.

The Empress and The Cake is part of Peirene's fairy tale series and Frau Hohenembs has at least a hint of the old crone, or even wicked witch, of folk tales about her; luring the innocent in with tempting food only to enslave them, or, as in the case of Hansel and Gretel, eat them!

Additional thoughts - when I read this I knew I was reminded of something else, a recent novel dealing with manipulation of one woman by another, but couldn't pinpoint it at the time. It's Alison Moore's Death and the Seaside which has threads of the power of naming, and suggestibility, rather than addiction but the two are interesting to read together

Maryom's review - 5 stars 
Publisher - Peirene Press
Genre - Adult Literary Translated Fiction

Monday 17 October 2016

The Boy Who Made God Smile - book launch

by Maryom

I have a vague sort of idea that the general public think that book launches are only for 'insiders' from the publishing world (like Bridget Jones and her colleagues) and close friends of the author, but, apart from a select high profile events, they're generally open to anyone interested. So, finding myself with a spare hour or so in Nottingham on Friday, I dropped into Waterstones for the launch for GJ (Garry) Martin's latest novel - The Boy Who Made God Smile.

Garry was in conversation with Henderson Mullin, chief executive of Writing East Midlands, discussing his route to publication. Although he always wanted to be a writer, for many years Garry felt he should pursue a more regular, reliable career, and for much of his life has been a teacher. this fortunately allowed him time for writing, including an extended 'working holiday' to India researching the 'god business' of superstar style gurus, which resulted in the original idea that grew into The Boy Who Made God Smile.

Moving between Birmingham and Bangalore, this is the story of three generations of an Indian/British family in crisis. Ari is taken to India to visit his terminally ill grandfather, and, while his father finds returning to his home baffling and strange, Ari finds it to be a fascinating place. I definitely got the impression that Ari was a youngster intent on poking his nose where the adults didn't want him to, and asking the kind of questions adults don't want to answer!

Garry also talked about being chosen to take part in the Writing East Midlands mentoring scheme. Under this, three aspiring writers are chosen and work alongside an established author, in his case crime writer Anne Zouroudi, who through feedback and advice helps them make good writing better. In Garry's case, this involved turning a single narrative into three threads which wove about each other, and cutting certain 'surplus' characters - he tried to reintroduce one of these at the proof stage but she, somewhat spookily, still ended up on a publishing version of the cutting room floor and never made it into print.

The Boy Who Made God Smile is published through Colley Books

Friday 14 October 2016

The Secret Life and Curious Death of Miss Jean Milne by Andrew Nicoll

review by Maryom

The small town of Broughty Ferry is a gentile, refined place - not like the city of Dundee "that sink of iniquity and depravity" just a few miles further along the coast - so its inhabitants and police force are especially shocked when Jean Milne, an elderly spinster, is found murdered in her own home, the victim of a frenzied attack. Alerted by the postman who notices Miss Milne's mail hasn't been moved for several days, if not weeks, Sergeant John Fraser is one of the first upon the scene and starts to gather evidence and witness statements, but, determined to resist the interference of the Dundee police, Broughty's Chief Constable Sempill calls in a renowned investigator from Glasgow, Detective Lieutenant Trench, a man who very quickly decides the frenzied attack must be the work of a foreigner or a maniac. The facts gathered quickly lead to a supposition that Jean Milne had a younger man, assumed to be her lover, staying with her at the time of her murder - and soon the hunt is on for him.

Based on a true unsolved case of 1912, this story gives an interesting glimpse into police methods in an almost 'modern' setting within the context of a compelling whodunnit read. The hunt for the murderer takes Sempill to London and Antwerp, following clues, conducting identity parades, and checking alibis - you might be tempted to think it unrealistic and far-fetched if the story weren't based on police records from the time! To a regular crime reader, it's obvious that the police haven't attempted to follow up on all of the clues but instead spent too much time trying to make evidence fit their sole suspect. Nicoll's interpretation of the 'ignored' evidence is interesting but even so I wasn't quite convinced with his version of events. That wasn't anything to disrupt my enjoyment of the novel though.
Nicoll does an excellent job of capturing the feel of a small early twentieth century town, the pride its police force has in being at the forefront of modern methods and techniques - the use of fingerprints, telephones and telegrams to aid their investigation - and its use of the press to inform, misinform and seek witnesses. In some ways, I wish it hadn't been a 'true crime', but that there could have been further investigations for Sergeant Fraser and Detective Trench. 

Maryom's review -  4 stars
Publisher -  Black and White Publishing
Genre - historical crime

Thursday 13 October 2016

Fell by Jenn Ashworth

review by Maryom

Annette Clifford is a bit of a drifter, never holding down a job or staying in the same place for long. Now middle-aged, alone and between jobs, she's returned to her childhood home in the northern seaside town of Grange-over-Sands, inherited by her on the death of her step-mother. It isn't a place she feels much, if any, affection for, and now the large house lies empty and neglected, inhabited only by starlings, and undermined by the roots of the sycamores it was named after; just somewhere Annette would like to spruce up and sell as quickly and profitably as possible. Once, though, the house had been the focus of her parents' hopes and dreams. Having inherited the house while still quite young, Jack and his new wife, Netty, had hoped to meet the running costs of such a huge place by taking in lodgers, and to perhaps one day live out their retirement there in comfort. Life of course rarely goes to plan ...
Now their spirits have been woken by Annette's return, and they watch over her anxiously, realising that over the years their daughter had been neglected - first in favour of the lodgers, then by their total absorption in Netty's illness and their desperate hope for a cure. This time, they're determined to not let her down.

It's difficult to talk about Fell without making it seem like a ghost story, with friendly spirits intervening to ease Annette's life and push it in a certain direction - but it isn't really. Rather it's a beguiling, atmospheric tale of family, regrets and reconciliation, rooted in reality but laced with something other worldly much like Sarah Winman's A Year of Marvellous Ways  or Lucy Wood's Weathering.

The story moves back and forth in time - between the present day, as Annette struggles to overcome her hostile attitude towards the house, taking out her anger on the enormous sycamores that overwhelm everything, and the summer of 1963 when Netty was ill, beyond hope of conventional medicine, and putting her faith in a young lodger, Timothy Richardson, who appeared to have a magical, miraculous healing touch. The spirits are employed as narrators who can look back to the past, remembering when they were 'young Jack and Netty', filled with such hopes for their home and life together, while also knowing how those hopes foundered when Netty became ill, and being full of regret for how their and Annette's lives turned out - it's a clever, tricky way of telling a tale but Ashworth manages it excellently.

It sounds like it might be a depressing read, but ultimately it feels full of hope.

To my mind, there's a theme throughout of the unpredictability of nature - whether represented in the shifting sands of Morecambe Bay, which once brought the river channel to Grange but have since diverted it to the middle of the bay, the erratic psychic 'gifts' that both Annette and Richardson appear to have or the cancer that spreads slowly, inexorably through Netty - and maybe there's a parallel to be found between the attempts to fell the sycamores and the efforts to combat Netty's illness. In this light, the almost ceremonial downing of the huge sycamores seems to represent a triumph of order over wildness, for a short time if not for ever.

Jenn Ashworth is an author I've been intending to read since I saw her three years ago at Edinburgh Book Festival talking about The Friday Gospels, but somehow, and despite having a copy of Cold Light waiting on a shelf, I've never quite got round to it. (Sorry!) Fortunately there's nothing like a Netgalley review copy for focusing my mind, and, having realised what I'm missing, I now fully intend to get properly acquainted with her writing - I'm glad I have a back catalogue to look forward to!

Maryom's review -  5 stars
Publisher -  Sceptre
Genre - literary adult fiction

Monday 10 October 2016

Unthology 2 edited by Ashley Stokes and Robin Jones

Review by The Mole

With reading Unthology 2 I can now say I have read the Unthology anthologies up to the latest one. And enjoyed every story (at some level) in every one.

In this collection we get a true flavour of what  is to come in the future books, unthologically speaking.

A failed stag night in Prague, a failed society and lifts, a failed help line call, a failed support meeting... We start to see a trend and while the trend between tales changes with each book in the Unthology series, it's as strong in book 2 as it is in the very latest.

What surprised me most was 'Siramina' by M Pinchuk - not so much as a story or outcome but it's style as being so reminiscent of the stories from the very much later short story collection from Unthank that is THE END: FIFTEEN ENDINGS TO FIFTEEN PAINTINGS in fact it could almost have been written for it!

Yes, I am biased when it comes to short stories (particularly the choices of the Unthank editors) because I love the variety of styles and the hanging endings that leave you wanting to know more. This is another for any collector of short stories - a definite must.

Publisher - Unthank Books
Genre - Adult short story anthology 

Friday 7 October 2016

Mind Writer by Steve Cole

illustrated by Nelson Evergreen

review by Maryom

Luke has always been able to guess what other people were thinking - to know the answers to the teacher's question, or the moves other football players were about to make - but now he can hear actual thoughts, and it's like having someone shouting at him all day. Then he meets Samira, the one person whose mind is closed to him - and not only that, she seems intent on taking over control of Luke's thoughts!

Mind Writer is another excellent book with masses of reader-appeal from publishers Barrington Stoke. The plot revolves around a boy who can read minds - which turns out to be less fun than you'd imagine, and that's before a demon tries to take over his mind! Events move quickly, grabbing and keeping the reader's attention, and the dark, atmospheric illustrations add extra appeal.

An excellent supernatural/fantasy read for the 8-12 age group; it's a little on the spooky side, but not too much so.

Publisher - Barrington Stoke
Genre - children's 8-12, supernatural, fantasy adventure

Thursday 6 October 2016

Thin Air by Michelle Paver

review by Maryom

In 1935, a five-man British expedition sets off to the Himalayas to climb Kangchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world and considered by many mountaineers to be more treacherous than even Everest. Previous attempts to reach the summit have been plagued by disaster and death, particularly a British expedition of nearly thirty years before during which five men died but the leader, Lyell returned home to glory for his efforts. 

Stephen Pearce has only been asked along at the last minute by his elder brother, Kits, to fill the place of team doctor, and he isn't as experienced a mountaineer as the other climbers. He's eager and willing though, especially in the hope of proving himself capable in Kits' eyes, and wanting to escape various personal complications back in London. A chance meeting with Charles Tennant, last surviving member of the ill-fated Lyell Expedition,, leads Stephen to believe that strange things occurred which were never revealed in the 'official' publications about the trip ...and the scene is set for a harrowing climb. He is almost immediately on edge, believing their party is being watched, and as they begin the real ascent, and altitude sickness starts to kick in, his fears grow ...

Thin Air is a combination of adventure and ghost story, full of period detail - from the attitude of the British team towards their 'inferior' sherpas to the unappetising pemmican suppers eaten on the mountain -  and after a slow start, setting up the background with dark hints of what occurred on previous expeditions, and the long-held rivalry between the two brothers, turns into something terrifying in so many ways;

 - the sheer height and mountaineering dangers for starters. The precipitous drops, crevasses in the glacier ice, the narrow camping places where I felt they could roll over in their sleep and fall hundreds if not thousands of feet, cornices where the snow builds up a 'shelf' ready to collapse under too much weight; the physical dangers are very real and well captured.

 -  Cedric the dog - why let a dog go along? Ok it turned out the dog was based on a real life canine companion who followed an expedition up to 24, 000 ft (!) but authors are so often happy to kill off an animal while saving humans that a lot of the time I was petrified for him.

 - Oh, and then there's a ghostly, malevolent presence on the mountain. Paver builds up to its appearance gradually, as first Stephen tries to dismiss it as his imagination running wild or altitude sickness disturbing his senses but gradually comes to believe that someone or something is stalking their group, and, even if the other men can't see it, Cedric the dog knows there's something out there - and he's terrified when it approaches.

If you've read Michelle Paver's previous ghost story Dark Matter, you'll know how well she can build a creepy, unsettling atmosphere - and she's done it again here, in a very different environment. I for one couldn't put the story down but needed to read on to the final resolution before trying to sleep!

Maryom's review - 4 stars 
Publisher - Orion Books

Genre - adult fiction ghosts mountaineering 

Monday 3 October 2016

Holding by Graham Norton

review by Maryom

The small Irish village of Duneen is a quiet spot where nothing exciting really happens, so the finding of human remains on a building site is huge news! While the experts brought in from Cork follow procedures and take DNA samples away for analysis, the locals have already decided the body must belong to Tommy Burke, who supposedly left the area in a hurry twenty years before. Behind him he left two broken-hearted young woman - Evelyn who believed he was in love with her, and Brid to whom he was engaged. Both of them have stayed in the village, but whereas Brid tried to move on - marrying and having children - Evelyn has moped away the intervening years, living in her family home with her two spinster sisters. 
Local Guardai officer, Sergeant PJ Collins, has on his hands the sort of case he's long dreamed of, but, now in his fifties, is he up to the challenge or will the higher-ups from Cork steal his glory? 

Although I'm generally sceptical when I hear of celebrities writing novels, I must admit I was intrigued when I heard Graham Norton (yes, that chap from the telly) had turned his hand to crime writing. I'd half expected something weird and wacky, but instead it's a cosy crime mystery, something that might have taken place if Miss Marple had visited Ballykissangel - and I loved it!

A story such as this, with no dramatic violence or high speed chases, hinges round well-drawn characters and the gradual unveiling of hidden secrets, and Norton pulls it off excellently. 
Sergeant Collins is a relative newcomer to the area - he's only lived there for fifteen years - so he doesn't remember the drama that accompanied Tommy Burke's departure and has to rely on the collective memories of the village. Everyone seems agreed though, that after a fight in the street between Evelyn and Brid, Tommy upped and left - no one has thought to query his disappearance till now. But, as the murder investigation pursues these leads, a twist (which I won't reveal) changes everything, pointing the accusing finger in a different direction. It's nicely done, and completely believable.

PJ Collins, with his weight problems and general dissatisfaction with life, might be a little on the stereotypical side, but Evelyn and Brid shine out as real people. Evelyn is middle-class, sheltered, elegant, a woman who belongs somewhere more 'exotic' than Duneen, but shocking things marked her while young, and her life doesn't seem to have moved on since Tommy left. Brid, on the other hand, has tried to make a life for herself but is coming to realise how fake it is - and has turned to alcohol to fill her emptiness. 

Events unfold against the backdrop of village life - a church fete, an amateur music recital, an evening at the (only) pub, the day to day school run or grocery shop - and it's easy to imagine living in this normally pleasant peaceful place. In fact, as the story ends and PJ heads out of Duneen in search of greater excitement in a city job, I was reluctant to leave Duneen behind. I half suspect PJ and his city boss Linus Dunne might be back in another story - if so I hope it's the same style of gentle murder mystery, not anything gritty and gruesome.

Maryom's review - 4.5 stars 
Publisher - Hodder and Stoughton
Genre - Adult crime murder mystery