It’s nearly Christmas and the end of another year, one I think we’ll all be glad to say goodbye to. But on a brighter note, it’s also favourite books of the year time.
As always it’s a difficult choice but despite my reading being a little hit and miss this year I’ve read some fabulous books. So in no particular order, and not necessarily published this year, here we go…
The Lion Tamer Who Lost ~ Louise Beech
The writing is powerfully evocative, the story extremely well crafted, poignant, touching and compelling, and I loved the fascinating insights into a lion sanctuary and the work they do. The Lion Tamer Who Lost was such an emotional read and explores complicated issues such as love, family, ignorance, fear, acceptance and more, with sensitivity and compassion.
The Other People is a steadily building, emotional, complex and intriguing story with more layers than a vanilla slice. Secrets and their repercussions are woven through the narrative, not to mention the effects of the all consuming need to keep searching that is slowly but surely destroying Gabe, physically and mentally. His despair and torment is intense and highlighted by some very insightful observations on the impact grief can have on a person’s psyche.
On the surface life in Withered Vale seems pretty near perfect and the residents perfectly respectable. There’s a good variation in age and background and as the detectives begin questioning the neighbours, outward appearances prove to be deceptive. It seems everyone had a problem with Olive. She was the classic nosy neighbour…and everyone was hiding something. Each of the residents had a potential motive for murder.
Degrees of Guilt is a twisty, well constructed and complex courtroom drama, unravelling Maria’s story throughout the trial, testing the reader along with the jury. Learning what Maria endured I couldn’t bring myself to blame her…but there was the fact that she was lying about certain things we didn’t know about to consider. Even so, the slowly revealing details of Maria’s life made chilling reading.
As always, the book is full of atmosphere and detail about the area, highlighting the conflict surrounding much needed housing against the destruction of the countryside and the effect on wildlife habitats. I love this series, the writing, multi-layered, well drawn characters and location all stand out, along with the interesting storylines.
The well paced narrative skips from present to past, filling in the gaps in both Robin’s and Izzie’s lives from when they originally met until the present, all the while observing the dynamics of their rekindled relationship. It was never obvious how things would play out with these two complex characters who are trying, each in their own way, to deal with grief and trauma. A very enjoyable and sensitively told story.
When You See Me is a fast paced, multi layered, well-plotted and researched, descriptively complex police procedural that starts as it means to go on, with tension building from the beginning—forensic descriptions blending seamlessly into the storyline. The main characters are fully formed and I really enjoyed the interaction between them all.
The Art of Dying is rich in evocative historical detail, mixing fact with fiction, and follows the fortunes of the characters from The Way of All Flesh. Historical fiction that incorporates authentic figures and events is intriguing and lends a very realistic edge to the story. Victorian Edinburgh is portrayed with atmospheric flair, the inequalities, medical practicesand procedures, the marked distinction between classes and areas of the city.
The Visitor has a multi layered, character driven plot, with the threat of the virus ever present, along with the newer horror and panic at the thought of a murderer being in the village. The sense of isolation added to the unease. People looked at each other, wondering and suspicious. I loved the combination of dystopia and murder mystery.
Storm Witch (The Spellworker Chronicles #2) ~ Alys West
Once again, Alys West has created a well written, compelling and visual story, full of magic as the theme of good versus evil plays out with a menacing atmosphere. It’s suspenseful and imaginative with wonderful, well fleshed out characters, set in a stunning location. I enjoyed how the plot unfolded, revealing more layers and surprising twists, not to mention the fact there is definitely scope for another book.
Rachael English has done a wonderful job of bringing these women to life, and showing that not quite all the nuns were lacking in kindness, decency and sympathy for the plight of the women. What horrors people inflict upon one another in the name of religion astounds and appals. A powerful, poignant and compelling story.
The Lost Blackbird is a fictionalised account based on real events and exposes a dark and terrible time in a not too distant past. Vulnerable children, who were not necessarily orphans, were shipped off to Australia, in most cases without their parents’ knowledge or consent, and very often with a life of drudgery and servitude ahead.
I love a good courtroom drama/legal thriller and Fifty Fifty definitely fits the bill. It’s well written and paced, twisty, full of deviousness, drama and murders with a well devised and executed plot. A very addictive read, with emotion and humour to counterbalance the drama, corruption, misogyny and severity of the crimes.
Fame & Fortune: the Victorian Detectives ~ Carol Hedges
I enjoy these books immensely and Carol Hedges’ writing and plotting never fails to draw me in, with witty and engaging prose. Characters are extremely well drawn, giving an immediate visual image and the existing cast continue to develop. And as always, London features as a character in its own right with atmospheric descriptions and the distinct social divide between all levels of society.
Gentleman Jim is a tale of romance, drama, revenge, overcoming obstacles and much more. Lots of wonderfully described detail, in keeping with the culture and etiquette of the period. Maggie and St Clare are charismatic protagonists who develop and adjust as the story unfolds, with the secondary characters adding much to the story. Highly recommended for those who like a good Victorian romance, with elements of danger, secrecy and daring.
The Darkest Evening is a complex character driven police procedural with a list of several suspects, all centred around a small community with secrets, gossip and undercurrents at its heart. Evocative and atmospheric scene setting gave an immediate sense of place, with the biting cold wind and deep snow blanketing the isolated countryside. Engaging and well plotted, the story unfolds at a steady pace with mounting tension, revealing a conclusion I hadn’t considered.
The well crafted and perfectly paced storyline alternates between Gibraltar and Spain, areas the author obviously knows well, with intrigue and a twisty plot, action scenes and tension, mystery and murder, all coming together in an ending that I wasn’t expecting at all. The writing is vividly descriptive with a definite sense of place, and Robert Daws keeps up the momentum throughout.
The plot is based around a local legend, that of the Lantern Man who lures women to their death in the reed beds of the Norfolk fens with his mesmerising light. It’s a well plotted, twisty mystery with familiar and engaging characters who I enjoy catching up with as they develop, age and move on with their lives.
The Searcher is a slow burning, multi-layered, character driven tale packed full of atmospheric, descriptive and evocative prose, insightful characterisations and a vivid sense of place.I love the relationship that builds between Cal and Trey, both are excellently portrayed and interesting—the unfavourable circumstances and poverty surrounding Trey and Cal’s compassion and rough kindness.
The storylines are well executed and meld together perfectly as tension and suspense increase and the body count rises. The element of danger and threat is always there as, in contrast, is the humour, trust and friendship between the main protagonists. The relationships between the characters is one of the best things about this series and LJ Ross really adds more depth to already rounded characters by giving a deeper insight into the personal and emotional aspect of their lives.