Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Book Review: An Unfamiliar Murder: Jane Isaac

The following review was also posted on Amazon UK & US and Goodreads

I enjoyed reading this mystery. The main characters were well depicted and likeable and the story suspenseful right the way through until the end. There were a number of twists and turns with false trails that left me trying to guess what was happening and I didn't.
I'm really surprised that this is a first novel and pleased to see that there are more books by this author featuring DCI Helen Lavery. I've just bought the next one and I'm looking forward to reading it.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Book Review: The Wicked Boy by Kate Summerscale

 I obtained a copy of this book from the publisher via Net Galley, in exchange for an honest review. The book was a very enjoyable read. This has to be the most researched book I've ever read in my entire reading life. No stone has been left unturned by the writer Kate Summerscale into the life and times of Robert Coombs the Victorian child murderer and that of many of his associates.

I'm not sure which aspect of the research all woven into a fascinating narrative, appealed to me the most, but it just about covered a number of my interests in one fell swoop. We have history, social history, Victorian crime and punishment, emigration, family history, maritime history, Gallipoli during the First World War and later in France and Flanders with quotes from a book that was with me on a visit to the Somme 'Somme Mud' by EPF Lynch, where I did visit the places mentioned in the book and now also in this one

I was very surprised by the descriptions of life in Broadmoor for inmates of the asylum for the criminally insane during Victorian times. According to the book,  a reporter wrote in an article published in the Daily Mail, that the day room ‘looked like the smoking room of a comfortable but unpretentious hotel'. The regime was both light and enlightened. Lloyds Weekly described it as 'a murderers paradise'. There are interesting descriptions of the other inmates and the crimes that brought about their incarceration in Broadmoor and their peculiarities within the walls of the establishment where they appeared to lead quite a comfortable life.

An absolutely fascinating read and I much preferred it to the other book by this author 'The Suspicions of Mr Whicher'

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Book Review: In Her Wake by Amanda Jennings

The following review has been posted on Amazon UK here & US and Goodreads

I realised what an excellent writer Amanda Jennings is within the first few chapters of this book. This writer knows her craft. This is the first book I've read by the author and it certainly won't be the last. In Her Wake is such a richly descriptive and psychologically chilling read that kept me enthralled until the very end.

 There are many different parts and twists to the story of Bella, the protagonist, finding out who she really is and such a variety of emotions revealed by the people who have really loved her, or have just been there at some point in her life. All the facets of each character revealed bit by bit, good or bad. Who are they, who were they? Why did they act the way they did and what actually did happen? We, the readers are drawn into the story very cleverly as each new detail is revealed - or is it? And the book is mostly set in the beautiful St Ives, Cornwall. What's not to like? 

Thursday, 3 March 2016

The Guillotine Choice: Michael J Malone

The Guillotine Choice by Michael J Malone

My 5* review. Also posted on Amazon UK & US and Goodreads.

If only there was a ten star choice available for rating books because this one would certainly deserve it. One of the best books I've read in a while. Completely and utterly absorbing and compelling.

This is a fictionalised account of the story of a young Algerian man, who in 1923,  was given a long sentence to the French Penal colony on Devil's Island off French Guiana for a crime he didn't commit. Kaci Mahond Saoudi had to choose to identify the real culprit, his cousin, (not a spoiler, it's in the synopsis) and send him to the guillotine, or keep quiet and therefore condemn himself to a long sentence with doublage of hard labour in a penal colony. Throughout his sentence, according to this book, he manages to retain his dignity and self-worth and keep hold of his respect and empathy for his fellow men.

Devil's island is covered in dense jungle. More than 80,000 prisoners were sent to this notoriously brutal regime, with hardly any successful escapes.
Forget Papillon, this is so much better and this skilled writer Michael J Malone describes the conditions and treatment the convicts had to endure so vividly that it's possible to see it all in your minds eye.
He also builds up the picture of the plight of Algerians and what they had to suffer under French colonial rule. We are initially introduced to Kacid Mahond Sauodi as a young intelligent boy living within a close-knit family, who are at times barely surviving given the constraints they had to endure. Could just go on and on using up my whole range of superlatives. If made into a movie, would no doubt be an Oscar winning production given the right treatment.

Buy the book here