Book Reviews

My Book Reviews for August 2022

My Book Reviews for August 2022

My book reviews for August 2022 comprise a first-rate police procedural, a lively RomCom, a satirical horror story and some NetGalley titles I had the privilege to read.

The Last Party by Clare Mackintosh

As locals gather for the traditional New Year’s Day swim, a body is found in the lake. The dead man is Cwm Coed’s prodigal son made good. After a high-profile career as an opera singer, he has come back to his small Welsh home town with a scheme to bring luxury villas to the foreshore of the lake. But he promised a high-quality development in harmony with the Welsh countryside, not the breeze-block huts he has delivered. Even the authentic Welsh names that should have been assigned to each lodge have been dropped as they are deemed too difficult to pronounce for their intended English celebrity buyers.

The lake marks the border between England and Wales so police from both Cheshire and North Wales are sent to investigate. DC Leo Brady and DC Ffion Morgan think they are chalk and cheese, but the reader soon sees they are two blocks of the same very hard and crumbly cheese. Both are strong and sardonic, yet guilt-ridden and hurt, and they develop a distinctly chalky relationship that is a joy to read.

The main timeline moves forward from the murder and is told alternately by Leo and Ffion. The other timeline works back and forth from a New Year’s Eve party that the victim attended and is told from the viewpoints of several lodge owners and locals. Often the same scene is viewed from different perspectives. This type of structure is difficult to achieve without being repetitive, but Clare Mackintosh pulls it off with aplomb.

A writer at the height of her powers, she lays a trail of backstory breadcrumbs for the reader to hoover up. Most of my guesses proved to be right in the end but I loved the sense of anticipation while the story kept me dangling.

A great plot with a fully fleshed out supporting cast and dynamic culture-clash duo at the helm. There’s humour, pace and a vividly drawn setting. It’s good to see Wales looking so glamorous.

With thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to read an early copy in exchange for an independent review.

 

A Colourful Country Escape by Anita Faulkner

I’ve got a confession to make: I only read one romantic comedy a year. My cold heart only permits a brief deviation from dark thrillers at Christmas.

So why am I reviewing this delightful debut in August?

Because I met the author.

Last week Anita Faulkner was speaking at a local library so I went along out of curiosity to hear how the road to publication in Romance differs from my experience in Suspense. And the answer is: not very much at all. The same vital support from mentors; the advice from key textbooks; the search for agent and publisher; the structural edits; the publisher’s branding; the marketing.

At the end of her entertaining talk I bought a signed copy of her book and, as it was a glorious evening, sat in my garden to read a bit when I get home.

Then I read another bit, and another. It turned out to be an engaging story that I finished in a couple of days. Perfect sunshine reading.

Down on her luck, Lexie leaves her home with her worldly goods packed in her late aunt’s camper van and heads for Tewkesbury (like you do).

After getting ‘creative’ with her CV, she applies for the job of social media manager with a family-run paint company. She arrives at their grand home, Nutgrass Hall, but after being attacked by their marauding peacocks, she gives a disastrous interview. Laid-back younger brother Cory sees her potential and offers her the job. Great, except she will be working day-to-day with stuffy older brother Ben. It is more than just their taste in paint colours that is set to clash.

As well as Lexie, Ben and Cory, there is a glorious cast of characters including Ben and Cory’s terrifying mother and the series of unsuitable girlfriends she tries to foist on Ben; Mrs Moon, their warm-hearted housekeeper; Tom, their elderly gardener; and Skye, Lexie’s even wackier younger sister.

Really good escapist fun.

So what happens when it gets to Christmas – do I skip my usual RomCom or risk another? As Anita Faulkner’s second title The Gingerbread Café, a festive romance, is out in October, the decision is easily made.

 

The Three by Sarah Lotz

Four aeroplanes go down on the same day in 2012 – one in the sea off Portugal, one on a township in South Africa, one in a forest in Japan and one in the Florida Everglades. Despite clear evidence that the causes of the crashes are unconnected, wild speculation runs riot in the media and on social media. Even more fuel is added to the wild fire of conjecture when it is revealed that a child has been found alive at three of the crash sites. American boy Bobby goes to live with his grandmother who is already coping with her husband’s Alzheimer’s. Japanese boy Hiro is cared for by his aunt and cousin to compensate for the remoteness of his robotics expert father. British girl Jess, who survives the Portugal crash, goes to live with her actor uncle in London. The race is soon on to track down a possible fourth child who survived the crash in Africa. But given the strange effects the surviving children seem to be having on those looking after them, perhaps it would be better if the fourth child stayed unaccounted for…

The story is told through Elspeth, an investigative journalist, who is writing a book some time after the crashes. We see transcripts of interviews and email exchanges with crash investigators, eyewitnesses, the bereaved, families of the survivors, religious leaders, other journalists and more. It is a big cast of characters and Lotz gives each a unique voice with deft glimpses into their backstories and personalities. Rather than a straightforward horror story, this is much more of a satire on conspiracy theories, end-of-the-world-is-nigh religious fanaticism, political opportunism and dangerous collusions of religion and state. You could say the author leads the reader stealthily from paranormal horror to despairing dystopia. The book was published in 2014 and, given what’s happened in the world since then, you could almost think Sarah Lotz had a crystal ball on her desk while she was writing…

 

My Book Reviews for August 2022 also include the following new releases I had the privilege of reading this month. With thanks to authors, publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read copies in exchange for independent reviews.

The Blackhouse by Carole Johnstone

Well written and strong on its setting of the Western Isles of Scotland, this story is ideal for fans of atmospheric and philosophical thrillers.

The Night Ship by Jess Kidd

The Night Ship is the tale of two orphaned children separated by centuries but connected in many ways and based on the shocking true story of the Batavia, wrecked in 1629. Told in intricate detail to evoke the atmosphere on board ship, this is a well-written historical novel imbued with typical Jess Kidd magical realism.

Daisy Darker by Alice Feeney

And Then There Were None meets … I can’t say which recently televised book because it would give the twist away. Ideal for fans of slow-burn, atmospheric storytelling.

Run Time by Catherine Ryan Howard

Catherine Ryan Howard is one of the most inventive writers around. No two novels are the same. I have previously enjoyed Distress Signals, The Nothing Man and 56 Days. This time she’s gone for plenty of tongue-in-cheek humour in a story within a story about the dangerous goings-on during the making of a horror film. It is ideal for fans of slasher movies and those who like reading sections of screenplay within novels. It will make a good film.

After the Party by Georgina Lees

Perfect for fans of slow-build psychological thrillers and very much in the style of Georgina Lees’s first novel The Girl Upstairs, this story covers work-based as well as family relationships with a good cast of suspects. I was nicely wrong-footed by the denouement.

So those are my book reviews for August 2022. I’ve got more great books lined up to read in September.

 

My News: Her Deadly Friend is out on Tuesday!

About Her Deadly Friend

Her Deadly Friend – the closer she gets, the more people die

When you shake off a bully…

Picked on by Steph throughout her school days, Amy has always felt like the victim. Decades-old resentment is never far away.

But she comes back into your life…

Now Steph is a detective inspector on the trail of a serial killer and closer than ever.

It’s an absolute killer.

Murders rock the city. First one, then another. The body count reaches five and all Steph’s leads point to Amy. But are the women obsessed with a schoolgirl vendetta, or is Steph closing in on a deadly suspect?

Book 1 of Gleveham Killers Suspense series

The book is published on Tuesday 23 August in eBook and paperback by Hobeck Books.

Purchase link: Her Deadly Friend eBook : Sargeant, Rae: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store

 

By Rachel Sargeant

Rachel Sargeant is a British author. Under the name Rae Sargeant, she writes the Gleveham Killers Suspense series, published by Hobeck Books. The first title is Her Deadly Friend. Her titles as Rachel Sargeant, with HarperCollins, are: The Roommates, a psychological thriller set in a university during freshers' week; The Good Teacher, a detective mystery, featuring DC Pippa “Agatha” Adams, and The Perfect Neighbours, a psychological thriller set in Germany. Rachel grew up in Lincolnshire, studied at Aberystwyth University, spent several years living in Germany and now lives in Gloucestershire with her family. She holds a PhD from the University of Birmingham.

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