Book Reviews

My Reviews for February 2022

Here are my reviews for February 2022 – a cracking thriller, some Kindness short stories, a bumper crop of new releases and a French TV thriller.

Safe by S.K. Barnett

Every family’s worst nightmare. Jenny has been missing since she was spirited off the street near her home when she was six. One day, twelve years later, Jenny returns – traumatised by the ordeal she’s endured and no longer their innocent little girl – but that doesn’t matter, does it? She’s back, safe and sound.

Safe? Maybe that nightmare isn’t quite over after all.

Written from the distinctive and engaging viewpoint of Jenny – damaged, deceitful and determined – this story twists along at a cracking pace. I will look out for other books by this author.

Everyday Kindness Anthology

The Everyday Kindness collection of short stories came out on audio this month and is read by top actors and voiceover artists. It was an absolute honour to hear Raj Ghatak narrate my story ‘One Morning in the Life of Hasan D’. Profits from all formats go to the housing and homelessness charity Shelter.

I’ve listened to these stories so far:

Six Steps by Louise Mumford, read by Eva Pope – a superb character study of an elderly widower who grudgingly learns to live again.

The Liar by L.J. Ross – a warm-hearted tale of learning to overcome loneliness, beautifully read by Kathryn Drysdale

Nothing Much To Look At by J.D. Kirk – A great act of kindness develops out of the sale and purchase of a second-hand car. Beautifully read by Katie Low.

A Packet of Kindness by Hannah Lynn, read by Sara Powell – Typical teen Oliver doles out his own brand of kindness.

A Festive Tale by Holly Martin, read by Jilly Bond – Cora feels lonely in her new flat in London. It takes a winter’s night and a stray dog to melt the ice with her neighbours – in more ways than one.

Love is Love by Leah Mercer, read by Kathryn Drysdale – a powerful tale of love, bereavement and the kindness of strangers.

Someone To Talk To, Somewhere To Go by Kim Nash, read by Eva Pope – a growing friendship between two strong but very different women.

Next Door by Graham Brack, read by Richard Armitage – Young Sylvie develops an enduring friendship with her elderly next-door neighbour.

Goodbye, Wendy by Heather Martin, read by Jonathan Keeble – Joe is a café owner with time for everyone.

An Unquiet Ghost by Ian Sainsbury, read by Nicolette Chin – A story within a story. As a long-standing book club meet, Rachel recounts her recurring dream.

Counting the Cost by Imogen Clark, read by Rachel Atkins – A small boy shows his mum the difference between appearing to be kind and actually being it.

Click here to see what other stories in the collection I have read.

 

As a bit of a change, my reviews for February 2022 include a TV show:

The Promise BBC4/iPlayer, staring Olivier Marchal and Sofia Essaïdi.

I’m learning French at the moment so I thought I’d give this French language thriller series a go. I’m able to report that my intensive linguistic studies meant I was able to understand approximately one word in ten – and that one word was mostly the French swear word that starts with P. Nevertheless, with close attention to the subtitles, I was able to follow and get hooked on the story.

Twenty years ago a child goes missing in a storm and is never found. A detective has a gut feeling who killed her but despite his dogged pursuit of the suspect he can’t prove anything. He becomes obsessed with his failure and the case costs him everything. Twenty years later, his daughter is a detective investigating the disappearance of a different child. She finds a link to the case her father was investigating. Convinced he was right after all, she pursues the same suspect. But will the case leave her as broken as her father? The tortured detective is well depicted and I wonder if the scriptwriter read Durrenmatt’s Das Versprechen or watched The Pledge, the film version of the book staring Jack Nicholson.

Full marks go to casting and make-up. Several characters appear on the two timelines twenty years apart. They are either played by teenage lookalikes on the first timeline or appear suitably aged on the second.

Viewers might want to suspend disbelief that no one questioned a certain ‘petit’ witness on the first day, or that the daughter detective didn’t have a chat with a certain someone close to her sooner, but it is nonetheless a gripping story, full of twists and turns. Recommended.

New Releases

Meanwhile back to the book reviews for February 2022. I had the privilege of reading some new releases ahead of their publication this month. With thanks to the authors, publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read early copies in exchange for independent reviews:

The Wedding Murders by Sarah Linley

Yes there are murders and yes they happen at a wedding, but the real story here is in the 1990s timeline about a pop band. Perfect for fans of mysteries that feature sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.

Love in a Time of War by Adrienne Chinn This is the first of a series about three sisters. This book is set in the years 1913 to 1919 against the backdrop of the major issues of the time, namely the First World War and Women’s Rights. It is told from the point of view of each sister and their mother, who has a significant story of her own to tell, and there are occasional chapters from the viewpoints of the men in their lives. The author has researched the period well, especially the Gallipoli Campaign. This book reaches a satisfactory conclusion but leaves the door open for the sequels.

The House of Ashes by Stuart Neville The story follows two grim storylines of domestic violence set in two timelines in an old cottage in Northern Ireland. The viewpoint of Mary, the elderly lady who is recalling her brutal childhood, is very well written with just the right amount of idiom to be authentic but not off-putting.

The Herd by Emily Edwards This is ideal for those who love a heated book club debate, especially those who like reading about middle-class mums at the school gate. The pro/anti vax discussion was more prominent than the suspense around the lie one of the characters told. The court case at the end was interesting.

And here is a snapshot of some of the NetGalley books I had the privilege to review last year.

Girl in the Walls by A.J. Gnuse – Perfect for fans of very slow-burn literary fiction, who enjoy savouring the quality of the writing.

Animal by Lisa Taddeo – Fans of Three Women will find much here to enjoy as the writing style and themes have a similar vibe.

The Heights by Louise Candlish – A great premise and a huge bestseller.

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila HarrisI would recommend this to anyone interested in reading a caustic satire on the American publishing industry and the lip service paid to diversity.

The Beach Reads Book Club by Kathryn Freeman – A lively summer read. Perfect for fans of light romance in a bookish setting.

Whisper Island by Carissa Ann Lynch – A good mystery with a YA feel.

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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