Book Reviews

My Book Reviews for July 2021 

My Book Reviews for July 2021 

My Book Reviews for July 2021 comprise an adventure thriller, a psychological mystery with a journalist sleuth, a lockdown thriller and a heart-warming read.

 

The Castaways by Lucy Clarke

An engaging adventure mystery with great pace. Sisters Erin and Lori are on the holiday of a lifetime to Fiji. They are due to take a short flight to one of the smaller islands but, after they argue, only Lori turns up for the flight. Her light plane disappears without trace.

Erin spends the subsequent two years lobbying the authorities to keep searching, and she scours every news story she can find, pinning articles to the wall of Lori’s bedroom in their London flat. As media interest wanes, Erin fights on, refusing to accept the worst, until one day the story is back on every news channel. The pilot has been found alive, seriously ill, living under an assumed name and suffering amnesia. Erin is sure of one thing: she will fly back to Fiji and force him to remember what happened to Lori.

The story is told from 2 points of view and across two timelines. Erin’s is in the present day as she follows leads in Fiji and thinks back to how she and Lori came to quarrel on that fateful day. The other timeline is from two years earlier and, in heart-pounding detail, shows Lori as she boards the doomed flight with five other passengers, the stewardess and the pilot.

The two lead characters are likeable and I was eager to turn the pages to find out what had happened. And it wasn’t what I expected…

I’m now keen to read other books by this author.

 

Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon

A freelance journalist is writing a story about a doctor who treats brain-injured patients. One of them is Amy who has been in a vegetative state for 15 years after being attacked when she was still a schoolgirl. The journalist decides the real story she should write is about this unsolved crime.

The novel mostly features three viewpoints:

Jacob – a volunteer who sits with all the patients in the ward and, for a reason he’s keeping to himself, spends most of his time at Amy’s bedside.

Amy – we hear from 15-year-old Amy in the run-up to her attack, when she’s holding a dangerous secret.

And Alex – the journalist. A woman in the full grip of alcoholism. This is not an old Fleet-Street-type heavy boozer; this is someone who has lost her career, her marriage and her health to her addiction. Every day she finishes work at noon so she can get home to self-medicate away her afternoons with carefully poured out measures of wine, glass after glass, that send her into nights of oblivion and incontinence. There is nothing glamorous or joyful about her drinking.

In her few sober hours, she investigates Amy’s story, often pumping her policeman ex-husband for information. The author leads the reader pretty close to the likely solution quite early on but keeps it dangling just out of reach to ensure we eagerly turn the page.

Excellent writing. Great characters. Fresh plotting.

 

56 Days by Catherine Ryan Howard

When I began this book, I thought it was a routine psychological thriller of the girl-meets-boy-and-boy-turns-out-to-be-a-psychopath variety, with a bit of hand sanitiser thrown in to make it topical. That all changed when the police characters, Lee and Karl, made one of the most squirmingly memorable entrances by a detective duo I’ve read. From this point on, I had a real page-turner on my hands, told via three timelines from the viewpoints of Lee, Ciara and Oliver.

In March 2020, 25-year-old Ciara is new to Dublin when she meets Oliver who’s even newer to the city, only resident there a week. Sadly, the spark between them looks set to be extinguished by the global pandemic and the Irish government’s ban on meeting anyone outside one’s own household. On the spur of the moment, Oliver invites Ciara to spend lockdown with him. Ciara suppresses her doubts about moving on the relationship so quickly. After all this lockdown thing is only going to last two weeks. If it doesn’t work out between them, no harm done.

Lee’s timeline is set 56 days later when lockdown is still in place and, given the stinking mess that she and her police colleague Karl discover, plenty of harm has been done in the meantime.

I guessed two of the twists but was caught out by a third one. My favourite part of the book was the depiction of the pandemic. The author recalled details we all lived through but I’d started to forget: the initial bemusement, nervous humour, denial and then slow acceptance as people fought over loo paper, queued two metres apart and donned masks. The emptying out of the city centre was reminiscent of many a dystopian novel, and so true to 2020. And the pandemic wasn’t just a well-described backdrop; it was integral to the story. The particular conditions of the global emergency provided a perfect storm for what happened between the characters.

With thanks to the author, publisher and Net Galley for the opportunity to read an early copy.

As well as being one of My Book Reviews for July 2021, this author was the subject of one of my reviews last month too. Read my review of Distress Signals here.

 

The Tearoom on the Bay by Rachel Burton

Occasionally I try to read a lighter book than my usual psycho fare. Despite my best intentions, these reads don’t always go to plan, but I’m happy to report I really enjoyed this book.

Eloise has been running the teashop she bought from her aunt and uncle for a year and has built a successful and popular business in a Yorkshire seaside village. However, by throwing herself into work, she’s not facing the grief of her broken relationship and of painful losses in her family.

But when a handsome stranger with sadness of his own walks into the café, Eloise finds herself taking stock of her past, present and future. Will she finally come to terms with her sorrow, or will the stranger’s secret bring her more heartache?

There was a good sense of suspense, likeable characters and lots of delicious speciality teas.  Next time I want a break from murder and mayhem, I will go straight to this lovely author.

By Rachel Sargeant

Rachel Sargeant is a British author. Her latest thriller, The Roommates, is a Closer Magazine "Must Read". Her other titles are The Good Teacher, The Perfect Neighbours and Gallipoli: Year of Love and Duty. Rachel won Writing Magazine’s Crime Short Story competition and has been shortlisted in various competitions including the Bristol Short Story Prize. She was born in Lincolnshire and is a graduate of Aberystwyth University. She now lives in Gloucestershire with her husband and children.

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