The Good Teacher by Rachel Sargeant

Stunning Reads


Last month, the weather in some parts of the UK might have fooled us into thinking that spring was here, but I still enjoyed snuggling up with some stunning reads.

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

On winter solstice night, a badly injured stranger bursts into The Swan pub with an apparently drowned child in his arms. But despite appearances, the child isn’t dead and returns to life.

Over the next year, the mute child affects many characters who live in the villages along the Thames, the river from which she was rescued. We hear the stories of those who lay claim to her.

Set in the nineteenth century, the novel hints at magical realism but then pulls back when the more educated characters give rational explanations for various puzzling incidents. A theme of the novel is the gentle tussle between folklore and science.

The language seems authentic but not so old-fashioned that it’s incomprehensible. There is some wonderfully dry humour and the occasional saucy aside.

I didn’t think the book would be my cup of tea because I like a lot of white space on the pages of the books I read. This literary novel favours longer paragraphs and detailed description. But because I was going to a talk by the author I thought I’d better read the first chapter. I’m so glad I did. I was immediately drawn into the lives of the characters.

Because it was quite a rich diet for me, I read it in small helpings over a month. This worked well because each chapter is an episode in itself – rather like a Dickens novel – so I didn’t lose track of the plot and enjoyed the time to savour the exquisite writing.

Sublime storytelling. I predict this will remain one of my most stunning reads of the year.

All the Little Lies by Chris Curran

This is the third book I’ve read by Chris Curran and she continues with her knack of writing psychological thrillers that feature pleasant, likeable protagonists.

By chance, Eve discovers something about her birth mother. When she asks her loving, adoptive parents for answers, she senses their evasions might well be downright lies. (In fact, All the Little Lies turns out to be the perfect title for this story.)

The storyline is easy to follow even though there are two timelines, one from Eve’s viewpoint and an earlier one from the perspective of Stella, Eve’s birth mother. Despite being on the gentle end of the thriller genre, this book has pace and tension. There’s a wide cast of likely suspects who may have played their part in Stella’s downfall and now may present a threat to Eve and her own newborn baby.

I loved the backdrop of the art world, with some of the characters being artists and others working in galleries. This led to a stylish and dramatic climax at the end of the book.

Is this – Chris Curran’s fourth book – her best one yet? Well, I need to go back and read her first novel, Mindsight, to be absolutely sure. I’ve a feeling it’s going to be a pleasure finding out. Books two and three were stunning reads.

The Girl Next Door by Phoebe Morgan

Jane Goodwin’s life is perfect. She’s the doctor’s wife and queen of the school run. Perfect husband, perfect children, perfect home. But when the teenage girl next door is murdered and shockwaves reverberate through the middle-class community, Jane finds herself questioning just how perfect her life is.

I loved Phoebe Morgan’s first novel, The Doll House, and she’s followed it up with something equally good but completely different. She expertly blends the toxicity of a marriage and the claustrophobia of a small town into a murder investigation. Domestic noir and police procedural served up in one delicious helping.

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

A fast-paced teen mystery with a healthy dose romance. The author chooses four stereotypes for her suspects in the death of a fellow student: the ace sportsman, the brainy school council leader, the beauty princess and the bad boy. But through alternating chapters from their individual viewpoints we see their depth and unique personalities. Oh, and we learn their secrets too. So not stereotypes after all. And not too much of a spoiler to say that more than one of them is lying.

I recently reviewed this author’s second novel, Two Can Keep a Secret. Both books are stunning reads in the YA genre.

The Birthday Girl by Sue Fortin

When a supposed friend invites you to celebrate her birthday in a remote croft in Scotland and makes you hand in your phone, it’s never going to end well.

This thriller opened with a set-up similar to And Then There Were None, detoured In a Dark, Dark Wood, threw in some Force of Nature and ended somewhere entirely different. The author paraded an array of suspects to crank up the tension and to keep the reader turning the page.

Please follow me on BookBub to see my other short reviews of stunning reads.

Last month, the weather in some parts of the UK might have fooled us into thinking that spring was here, but I still enjoyed snuggling up with some stunning reads.

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