Bound by Vanda Symon – Sam Shephard tackles crime in New Zealand with her usual headstrong instincts

Bound by Vanda Symon

Sam Shephard is a detective in the beautiful city of Dunedin in New Zealand. Beautiful, that is, unless you count the nasty endeavours of certain criminals who want to exploit the city and area with dubious substances and women who have few choices. Sam works in a police department where there are long memories for all of past crimes and present suspicions, so when a vicious home invasion takes place and a man lies dead, Sam must follow her instincts to unravel the truth, however unpalatable that may be. Already up against an imminent family tragedy, she must tackle (sometimes literally) those she encounters who are intent on hiding all sorts of truth. The fourth in a lively series of incredible and well written adventures, this book can easily be enjoyed as a standalone tale of a young woman police officer with an impressive instinct for people and many abilities, not least in terms of self defence. Written with a lively sense of humour as Sam describes everything in her own words, this is a “police procedural” that is compelling and human, a real page turner in all senses. The characters, even seemingly minor in the great scheme of things, leap from the page, while the settings stretch from the beautiful houses of the wealthy to the less salubrious areas of an intriguing city. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to reacquaint myself with the fiercely independent Sam and her friends and family, and to review this amazing book.

The Prologue to this book reveals a nightmare. A woman sits bound to a chair, staring at the body of her husband John, messily dead at her feet. Determined to stay alive for her son, fear and pain overwhelms her. When Sam arrives on the scene later, being the female officer present she is the one to interview Jill Henderson in a long night, featuring the presence of her traumatized son Declan. Contact with her colleagues, apart from her lover Paul, is dominated by the angry and opinionated DI Johns her boss, of whom she says “For whatever reason, he had it in for me, and nothing was going to change that”. The other person of significance, Detective Malcolm Smith, nurses the physical and mental scars of an encounter with a couple of the leading criminals in the area, in which another officer died. As the investigation proceeds, Sam is typically given the least likable jobs, such as searching for the source of cheap masks used in the raid. While the suspects seem to be obvious, Sam’s questioning of many of those involved in the secretive John’s life begins to make her wonder if the answers are a little more complex. Meanwhile, her father is seriously ill, her family are gathering around, and her mother seems to despair of her. As her relationship with Paul continues, her friend Maggie makes an observation that could change everything.

The characters in this novel are so well drawn as to be immediately multi dimensional, as their appearance, actions and gestures are brilliantly described. Sam herself leaps from the page, fully realized as a woman with determination and drive, as well as a touching concern for even those who seem to dislike her. The pace of this novel is well constructed, with human punctuation of eating unhealthy food at odd times and realistic conversations with people of all kinds. There is sufficient action to maintain the excitement throughout this novel, and I found the writing clever without the weight of extra description. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I recommend it to anyone who appreciates a lively detective novel with an excellent lead character.  

Haunted Magpie by Anna Nicholas – a mystery set on an idyllic island with a lively detective

Haunted Magpie by Anna Nicholas

Isabel is a well known character on the beautiful island of Mallorca, being a former detective with the police, and now helping her mother run a lettings agency. This is the second book in the Isabel Flores Mallorcan Mystery series, but definitely works as a standalone book which is how I read it. She is in her thirties, and very attached to her pet ferret, Furo. Her close friend, Tolo Cabot, was her old boss, and persuades her to help solve crimes where her local knowledge and immersion in the community of Sant Marti gives her extra leads. As part of her investigations, she drives her memorable little car around the island, recognising the spots made special by family and friends. She enjoys food, and this book is a guide to the local food made lovingly by her mother, cafe chefs and others. Helpfully there is a Glossary of Mallorcan and Spanish words in the front of the novel to help the reader distinguish between a Botifarro (a local pork sausage) and Potaje (soup).  Isabel’s progress is marked by the foodstuffs she consumes, though her active lifestyle stops it being a problem as she tries to discover what really happened to some missing people. Another mystery surrounds the disappearance of various pets on the island, which seem to have been abducted by someone who knows the owners’ habits. Humour and a fluid writing style means that this novel  is easy to read and enjoyable, and I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this charming novel. 

The book opens with the disappearance of Paloma Crespi, a young florist with a troubled past. Angry with her boyfriend, she chooses to walk back home, and meets with a determined attack. Meanwhile, Isabel is volunteering with local school children in the village centre, until the local mayor asks her to investigate the apparent abduction of several pets, including the local police officer’s Alsatian. As it is winter the holiday letting business is less busy, so she agrees to investigate, especially as many in the village are anxious about their own pets. Meanwhile Paloma’s disappearance is causing concern, and Isabel is drafted in to question her uncle and aunt, boyfriend and others. She visits a lot of Paloma’s clients for whom she worked as a freelance florist. The characters of the village and the surrounding area appear and are well described, coming to life in the author’s hands. The descriptions of the settings are well handled, making the island sound very attractive.

This is a very well written book with gentle humour, a lot of food tastefully described, and a strong plot with many entertaining subplots. There is tension and excitement in this extremely well constructed novel. It is a good read constructed around a community in which the main character, Isabel, is obviously well liked. The research is so well done that everything is well blended and impressive. I really enjoyed this book, finding it an easy, flowing read. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a well plotted mystery in a well described setting with hints of comedy, animals and plenty of food!  

All Your Little Lies by Marianne Holmes – a contemporary thriller of one person coping with layers of feeling

All Your Little Lies by Marianne Holmes 

Annie is a quiet, self contained person with secrets that even she doesn’t understand. She lives alone in a little house, has a particular attachment to her boss, Paul, and has one friend, Lauren. She has an evening when she makes a few misjudgements and everything changes for the worse. It is the evening when Chloe Hills disappears, and the search for the girl intrigues and entices, leading Annie into an excited involvement. This is a book of missing elements, of an interwoven story, of a woman who struggles with people. Other novels recently have depicted those who have a strict routine, a lonely life, but this book adds the hint of an old secret. I found it an intense read, the character of Annie which shifts and moves, full of the details of her observations of other people which continually run through the narrative. This is an absorbing book which engages the reader into the point of view of Annie, as she is continually trying to second guess what other people are thinking of her, suspecting her of, and what will happen as a result. Her sense of what she may be guilty of during the evening that Chloe disappears fills the book, and her loneliness and desperation makes this a disturbing read. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to read and review this memorable novel. 

The novel begins with Annie using Paul’s keys to effect and entry to his flat. Not that she knows why she is doing it; she does not want to take anything, wreck his home or take revenge, despite his treatment of her earlier which emerges over the next few pages of the novel. She meets her friend Lauren who she is desperate to see, especially as she has few other friends . Typically Lauren can spare only a few minutes, and it is with a renewed sense of loneliness that Annie travels home. It is then that she sees a picture which immediately triggers a reaction. A twelve year old girl is missing, and Annie has the feeling that she is somehow involved. Almost inadvertently Annie turns up for a search party for the girl, meeting other people on a new basis. She struggles to say things which are appropriate, and fears she has upset  a few people, those who she desperately wants to become friendly with as an antidote to her extreme loneliness.  

This intense and significant book is a stunning read; full of the small details that build up to an in depth picture of a woman in a challenging situation. Annie is a memorable and somewhat disturbing character who has many layers to a character beyond shyness. This is a book which piles up the pressure and the tension as a thriller with real human insight. The understanding of the character is immense and powerful as it shapes the novel that we appreciate from her point of view. It is not written in her voice, but describes her so closely that it almost feels like it is telling the story. The slight distance allows another story to be inserted, completely different from what is going on in the main narrative. This is a powerful book which I recommend to anyone who is interested in how a personality can find deep trouble in a situation through many strands of confusion and more.  

Jigsaw Island by Lynne McVernon – Can Annie find solutions for herself and so many others?

 

Annie seems to live in a beautiful part of Scotland, but there is trouble in paradise, a fact which is even more evident when she takes her son Jude to visit her brother on a Greek island. This is a novel about the difficulties of life that a woman can meet in a contemporary world, when determination to find a different way of life can lead to trouble. It is also a very powerful look at the way the arrival of refugees on Greek islands means that those who seek to help are always meeting enormous challenges. There is so much in this novel that it is quite breathtaking, as the author also manages to put in a mystery that reverberates across several years. Identity, family loyalty and the imperfections that affect realistic characters, this is a novel which is memorable for all the right reasons. It creates a strong impression of how the islands cope with an influx of people who have risked everything to travel on the sea, and gives glimpses into their fates. I found this an engaging book with high ambitions, and I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review it. 

 

The book opens with Annie, a young woman, struggling with her thirteen year old son Jude. He is a mixed – race boy in a small Scottish coastal town as the author describes him, with quite a temper. Her desperation to cope with him leads her to bring forward a trip to see her brother Fraser on Symi, one of the Dodecanese Islands of Greece. He has connections there; to Clair who runs painting groups and spends the rest of her time helping some of the refugees who crowd onto the islands for much of the year, her daughter Jess who manages to get her own way most of the time, and owners of bars, hotels and others who make his life possible as he gets by as a bookkeeper. He also goes out as a volunteer on a boat which tries to help those who turn up in the local waters in makeshift craft. Annie and Fraser come from an unusual family, and the early part of the book goes back to the story of how Annie ran away to London as a teenager. The novel then goes on to the present day, as the desperate Annie turns up on the island with the truculent  Jude, hoping that the effects of the community will settle and give him a new focus. It soon seems as if they will both meet significant people, and will find new challenges, especially when the past seems to be catching up with everyone. 

 

The book cleverly combines some shocking tales within the main narrative, and reveals the vulnerability of people in many settings. There is attention to detail, especially in terms of clothing and setting, which really lefts the rest of the story off the page. The author also has a good ear for dialogue, as the various age groups and people are brought to life by their speech and small actions. This is particularly important as a mystery must be solved as a real threat emerges. I found it a good read, with a lot of depth and meaning. I recommend it to those interested in contemporary fiction which reveals real life in this country, as well as some of the reality of the reception of refugees on the islands of a country on the edge.  

 

I found this a fascinating book, partly because I have met some refugees locally, and attempted to teach them English. This book tells some of the stories of people who have risked so much to flee from certain countries, and includes an actual story of one man who had a complex and challenging route to Devon. Please do not be put off by some of the  themes of this book; there is some real humour and insight shown in the writing throughout the novel.

The Love Detective – Next Level by Angela Dyson – Clarry P and positive female characters

 

This is the second novel to feature Clarry Pennhaligan working as a private detective; as it was the first book I had read from Angela Dyson I had read so  I can definitely say it works as a standalone novel. A contemporary view of London life and in particular the varied experiences of some women, with some dangerous moments, perilous situations and a dash of romance, Clarry gets to grips with her case as she investigates a young woman’s secrets. It also has large doses of humour and realism as Clarry realises and relates to the reader that she is hardly a glamorous detective, and her clothes choices are sometimes a little haphazard. I really enjoyed this fast paced, exciting and genuinely funny book, and was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review it.

 

Clarry is capable of getting herself into some complicated situations as she accepts the seemingly straightforward job of checking on the friendships of a difficult daughter, as the narrative switches from situation comedy moments to gentle thriller with pursuit across the more interesting parts of London. To add to the challenge her worthy assistant is a seventy year old friend whose lovelife is far more exciting than Clarry’s own, which is fortunate as Fran can call on the expertise of a variety of gentlemen who offer computer skills and driving a memorable vehicle on a search for the truth of some interesting people. 

 

The pace rarely lets up as Clarry tries to navigate the etiquette of escaping an anniversary party, deals with drunken rugby players, climbs ever higher in a mysterious building and investigates a group of unusual women. Some comic set pieces includes an outing in a hearse and a visit to a new age shop for notelets and information. As financial irregularities come to light, Clarry looks further into a group with interesting motivations, and finds out more family secrets. The tone turns a little darker as a midnight meeting exposes a threat which will become very real. Lots of interesting characters flit across the story as Clarry tries to follow the convoluted mystery that surrounds Vanessa. 

 

This is a well written and well paced novel which maintains interest throughout and includes so much. Clarry as the main character is an essentially interesting person as she navigates part time work and being an amateur detective, without any great trauma in her past life and a positive collection of friends. This essentially a light hearted read with genuinely funny dialogue, which handles the dark side of the investigation well. I liked the range of characters as older women are seen as capable, funny and attractive, while the main character is seen as having insecurities and doubts as she pursues the truth. An elderly couple who help with the detecting are realistically depicted, as is the landscape of a small bit of London which the author obviously knows well. For me this book achieves a good balance of humour, mild peril, gracious living and positive female characters who take the lead in a very readable novel. I shall definitely look out for more books by this author, and I recommend it as an unusual contemporary detective novel. 

Geraldine by John Mead – a contemporary police procedural with personal elements

 

One day a body is found drowned in the Thames. Spotted by Sergeant Hunter, It is quickly retrieved, and it is then that the questions begin. Fortunately Inspector Matthew Merry is on route and he soon has many questions about this body. Sergeant Julie Lukula, his partner, will work in parallel to discover some of the truth behind what transpires to be a complex web of relationships and identity. In the process they and other well described people will discover much about themselves and others. Expectations are confounded as Geradine is far from what she seems to be, even when identification is made and the family contacted. 

 

The world of theatrical agents and complex criminality is explored in a novel that cleverly combines the personal and procedural in the world of London policing. Matthew is seen in the context not only as an instinctive detective, following up on the less technical but more dramatic side of the investigation, but also as a man with a family facing its own terrible challenges. He follows up on a contact who in turn is receiving information that proves to be significant; he also remembers his childhood friends and manages to subtly exploit their mutual history. Julie, meanwhile, uses the data and technical information discovered on what proves to have been a shockingly brutal murder to try to ascertain if there is indeed a link with a series of hate crimes which have affected the small bars and theatres of London’s secret world. Her own relationship has reached a significant moment, and she is seeking a promotion which will change her responses to those she has worked with, especially Matthew. This well written novel with its clearly delineated characters works well on so many levels, raising questions of suspicion, prejudice and fear in a network of people who have all been shaped by difficult pasts. I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this excellent book in all its vivid and well placed action.

 

The book opens with the discovery that Geraldine is a unique character, who has been influential in unexpected ways. The questions about whether Driver has  created hatred and passion personally or whether the motive for murder is part of a pattern of hatred which comes to puzzle not only Matthew and Julie but also the higher ranks of police officers who are forced to test the limits of their power and position. As Julie and Matthew, together with their team which includes the young and enthusiastic Harry, investigate the world of security guards and small theatres, they have to look at the small pieces of information which may link crimes. While Julie involves herself with the minute pieces of information which may obtain results in line with her ambitions, Matthew suspects that bigger forces are at work. His memories of a small group of friends at school means that he secures contact with an infamous character whose lifestyle has attracted attention from other police departments. While he gets information which may prove relevant to more than one case, he pushes the rules to the edge. It is only when he falls foul of those with positions to protect that he has time to consider his wife Kathy, and discovers that she has a vital problem that has severe implications for her life.

 

This book, which brilliant revisits characters introduced in “The Fourth Victim”, is of itself a complex and clever read which deals realistically with many who are marginalised and meet with prejudice. It is well paced with moments of well handled tension. In this book there is little doubt of which character is speaking fresh dialogue and taking meaningful action. The research is careful and the plot well constructed; it hangs together well as a framework for exploring fascinating and consistently written characters. I recommend this as a good read for fans of contemporary crime and policing.        

The Fourth Victim by John Mead – A gripping mystery with fascinating characters

Fallible police, unlikely suspects, multiple murders; this is a book that has it all. A contemporary murder mystery with some innovative narrative strands, but with much good solid police procedure. Without ostentation, Mead manages to give a sense of place and time which linger in the mind. His characters are desperately human, with all the humour, betrayal and loyalty of real people. This is a reasonably fast paced, surprisingly complex read, which combines the traditional methods of hunting for information with the inspiration of people. There is real insight in the writing as to what motivates people, and is an interesting picture of mystery and life. I am very glad that I was asked to read and review this novel.

Detective Sergeant Julie Lukula is quickly on the scene as a young jogger is found dead in a park by a nervous elderly woman. She quickly sums up the situation as more than a random attack, but there are disappointingly few leads as to who killed this apparently harmless young woman. She realises that the investigation will be lead by a man who is already on his way out of the department, the interestingly named Inspector Matthew Merry. She describes him to another police officer as “You’ll recognise him easily enough, he’s big and looks like he works in an undertakers.” As they break the worst news to families, the different reactions are fascinating. The police officers each emerge as having their own agendas, which sometimes conflict with each other and the needs of the investigation. I found Inspector Merry somewhat inconsistent in his behaviour, but Mead generally handles each character very well and deals well with even the most minor characters. I found myself carried along with the story as it twists and turns, incidentally presenting an interesting picture of twenty first century life. While there are parts of the environments described which are shabby and downbeat, a visit to Fort William in Scotland represents a refreshingly real break, even if somewhat confused by Merry’s moral behaviour. The painful details of families torn by grief and the lack of contact which is the lifestyle of others are snapshots of very human emotions well handled by Mead. He peoples the scenery of London with interesting individuals, before he explores the fragility of the mental states of certain people.

This is undoubtedly a confidently written book in which Mead gives the impression of an experienced eye trained on police procedure, criminal motives and, most impressively, all the people involved. While not gratuitously violent, this book does not hold back on being a real thriller and depiction of murder as well as not sugar coating people and their motives. The book is not filled with the simply good and bad; there are many possibilities in virtually every person. A small point is the interchangeable use of surnames and first names without any obvious consistency; the sergeant is often “Julie” as well as “Lukula”, whereas the Inspector also appears as both “Matthew” and “Merry” without apparent reason. This is a small criticism of a genuinely enthralling book which kept me involved and interested from the first to last page. I recommend it as a good read for many, even those not usually fans of crime novels, and Mead is an author to watch in the future.

 

 

Yes, this is a post that I put up before of the first book that I read and reviewed by John Mead, and I am delighted to say that he has another coming out next month that I will be reviewing! Judging by this book it will be a intense read which I’m looking forward to, so watch this space!

Meanwhile, plenty of reviews to come in the meantime – something for different tastes, perhaps.

The Hidden Wife by Amanda Reynolds – a young reporter tries to get the story of a mysterious marriage

A mysterious disappearance of a young woman. A secluded designer house. A conflicted husband. A vulnerable young journalist. It all makes for a tense read, with characters and settings jumping from the page as fully realised reality. This is an atmospheric novel which maintains a relentless pace, as a young woman  tries to work out why she has been chosen to be the exclusive reporter on a story which has been in and out of the public consciousness for months. As we get snippets of the police investigation, there is no real whisper of what has happened to the beautiful Julia Blake following a wedding anniversary party dominated by an argument.  With reminders of Du Maurier’s “Rebecca” in my mind at least, Max Blake has requested the presence of Seren, a junior reporter at his impressive house recently remodelled by his absent wife. A wealthy and successful author of thrillers, it is a mystery why Max wants to reveal his story to a young woman who has previously written a short piece about the pain of missing people. Only Theo, editor of a struggling local newspaper, seems to have any inkling of why Seren has to venture to a house in an obscure spot to interview a man who seems reluctant to answer any questions on the record. This is a well constructed book, where the suggestion of danger, guilt and so many unanswered questions dominates a strong narrative. I was intrigued and fascinated to be given the opportunity to read and review this mystery thriller. 

 

The book opens thirty – three hours after Julia’s disappearance, with Max at bay in his kitchen as Detective Sergeant Katie Ingles asks questions. Memorably we discover three things about Max “He looks like he hasn’t slept. He looks like a man desperate to find his missing wife. He looks like he’s lying”.  The story of how Seren is asked by the infuriating and influential Theo to get the exclusive story of Julia’s disappearance is told by her; her confusion and determination. This book charts the visits made by Seren to the house and the contradictory way he greets her, at one moment affable host, the next frightening, possible guilty man. Julia is impressed, frightened and a little awed as Max’s wealth and the elusive Julia contrasts with her flat share and family who are left bereft by an ongoing sadness. There are moments where Julia is in some doubt as to her safety, and even more concerning the whole project, as she is forced to put everything on the line for her exclusive story. The presence of Miriam, personal assistant and questionable character adds to the confusion, as both Seren and Katie Ingles piece together who was at the fateful party, and the guilty secrets behind the glittering surface.

 

This is a mature and confidently written book, full of the chances and weather conditions that increase the tension of an already difficult situation. For Seren there is unresolved guilt, but for Max nothing is certain. There is the mundane details of daily life, mobile phones and cars. There is the star quality of a woman apparently given everything in life, but seemingly dissatisfied. The characters of Seren, who is after all a young woman, and Max, who seems to have much to hide, really work as characters against a background of jealousy, strife and expectation. I recommend this book to all those who enjoy a well paced thriller with a strong mystery, largely set in a very British, very well described house and grounds. 

#You Too by Candy Denman – a contemporary mystery with realistic roots

#You Too by Candy Denman 

 

A Jocasta Hughes mystery is always well worth a read, and this third in the series is an excellent, if slightly lighter in tone. Despite being in a series, this book can easily be read as a standalone crime novel. Yes, there are unexplained deaths, some in very unsavoury circumstances, but Jo herself is revelling in her life between being a G.P.  and on call doctor to the local police station. In this novel she has to deal with some patients that are challenging in her main job, and realises that she sometimes stretches herself a little thinly, but it is her drive to discover the truth that means that she will not let some mysteries rest. Jo has to deal with the pressure of a mother who

is hoping she will find a husband, but she accepts that some relationships have more potential than others. The element of perfectly normal behaviour makes this a fascinating novel, as Jo drinks a little too much with her friend Kate, she eats easy to cook food, and she is sometimes aware that others are not really pulling their weight. There are some difficult scenes near the beginning, but it soon relaxes into the territory of finding out who is inflicting such embarrassing circumstances on certain people and why. This is not a standard police procedural, but there are lots of carefully researched elements of realistic situations where the police must act in certain ways to satisfy the law and financial restrictions. I was really pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book.

 

The book begins with Jo being called to the scene of a death which has apparently occurred as a result of a sexual practice. While the reactions vary from the strictly factual to the crude, there seems to be a lot of publicity very quickly. Jo as an experienced forensic practitioner is not satisfied that the death is accidental or a complicated suicide, and quickly begins to see links with another embarrasing discovery. Other strange events occur, but Jo’s detective work must run alongside her work as a G.P, especially as certain patients prove demanding. Can Jo avoid professional mishaps while making sure that there are no more victims of the person who seems to have their own agenda?

 

I found this a really gripping read, yet the setting and the very real character of Jo and her friends and colleagues mean that it did not proceed at a breakneck thriller speed. This is a well researched book with some depth, and manages to hit some contemporary points as well as being simply a good read. Gender issues, the problems of publicity and the nature of crime fit neatly alongside the problems of strange dogs, self medication and everyday life in Hastings. Jo is certainly an engaging character, whose persistence and quick wits solves several situations. This is a series of books which is definitely worth discovering, especially as each novel is really good. I recommend this as a particularly timely read with lots of interesting issues.      

The Missing Years by Lexie Elliott – an atmospheric novel of a house with a disturbing past?

Can a house watch you? In this novel a young woman is wondering about that question as she moves into the Manse, an old house which seems to be full of secrets. Featuring things that literally go bump in the night, this terrifically atmospheric novel is full of swirling mystery and menace as Alisa discovers that her old family home seems invested with the actions of those who have gone before her. Despite the fact she shares the house with her half sister, she feels the presence of others with malign intent. The brooding threat of violence manifests itself in small ways, dead animals, strange noises and the conviction that everyone is aware of the house, all the elements of a thriller without a manifest threat. The locals which she encounters are a mixed bunch, each with their own beliefs about the house and those who have lived in it. This is a sophisticated thriller in some senses, full of small hints and suggestions rather than dramatic action, which in a way is far more effective. I found that the novel was a great achievement in terms of being unsettling and suggesting much by its atmosphere. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this intriguing book.

 

As the book opens the first paragraph appears concerning Ailsa’s father, a theory about where he is, what he is doing. This strange revelation appears just before Ailsa sees the house for the first time since she was a child, copes with fleeting memories and tries not to disagree with her half sister, who is also coping with the death of their mother. It soon emerges that at the time of the death, Ailsa was with a news team and could not get a flight home owing to the explosion of a volcano in Iceland. The eerie silence of empty skies was memorable, and adds to the atmosphere. From the start there seems to be the real threat of incursion despite locks and bolts, just enough to unsettle any sense of peace. Ailsa considers her relationship with an older star news reporter, how she has sought the unattainable. She meets some locals who are all more aware of the history of her house, and her father’s disappearance. While making efforts to socialise, she discovers that not everyone is pleased to see her, and indeed hold onto past grudges. There are various layers of tensions, of threat, and the author skillfully holds all the threads together as Ailsa begins to fight back. As time is discussed in all its complications, the reader is left to consider exactly who or what may be trying to drive Ailsa away.

 

I found this a complex and tense read, full of the subtle hints of threat which seek to unsettle the characters and indeed the reader. I found Ailsa a convincing character, full of doubts but with a core of strength. As revelations about her parents emerge, and her own past and choices are recalled, the combined effect is of characters with sufficient depth to seem real. Elliott is a clever and careful writer, using all the small details to create a setting and events that convince the reader of a reality. I would recommend this as a good read, well paced, cleverly written and raising a real sense of tension.