Adult Fiction, Crime, ReadAgatha2019, Thriller

The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie

I have been following the official Agatha Christie website on Instagram and Twitter and their #readchristie2019 challenge in which they suggest a different Christie novel to read each month. In January they kicked the challenge off with The ABC Murders and I as I had been lucky enough to receive this beautiful hardback edition for Christmas so I happily jumped on board. I am a big Christie fan, watching countless TV adaptations, but as a reader I have read shockingly few of her actual novels and short stories. Time to rectify that me thinks.

If you’d like to join in with Read Christie 2019 then why not visit their website here and sign up for the newsletter.

The February book is The Giant’s Bread which Agatha wrote under the pseudonym, Mary Westmacott. I’m currently listening to that on audio book (my first!).

The March title is The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side, the 8th Miss Marple novel and one that I very much look forward to reading soon. I have read none of the Miss Marple stories as of yet.

There has been much discussion and awareness about The ABC Murders after the recent BBC adaptation was screened over Christmas. This adaptation was my first experience of the story.

But before we get into the TV adaptation let’s talk about the novel itself…

It is not often that I read the book after watching the film or TV adaptation but I did on this occasion. I enjoyed all three versions but I have to say that it was wonderful to return to the original story, exactly how Agatha Christie wanted to tell it. Her writing is superb and I can see why her stories continue to inspire and engage. If you’ve never read a Christie novel then I urge you to pick one up. They are such a delight and she has a rather brilliant way of bringing humour and a lightness of touch to even the darkest of subject matter. They are, after all, jolly good crime novels, written to reveal the dark side of human nature but first and foremost to entertain…and that they certainly do.

The edition that I received is a stunning hardback edition published by HarperCollins. It is beautiful and certainly adds to the joy whenever picked up. I am hoping they may reproduce the entire Poirot collection in this format. I want to read each and every one. What a wonderful addition to the bookshelves that would make!

Now on to TV…

Now, I came to the conclusion long ago that when watching a film or small screen adaptation of a book it is best to view it, where possible, as a completely separate entity. Very rarely can they be the same. It is after all not (usually) written, directed or produced by the author. It is therefore a collaboration of opinions pulled together from an original story. Not one person will read a story in exactly the same way and when it comes to reproducing they will, of course, want to add their own touch to it.

I thoroughly enjoyed Sarah Phelps’ interpretation on the BBC. It was dark, brooding and kept me thoroughly gripped over the three nights. It has moved towards the slightly more gruesome side that TV seems to need these days. I mean why just batter someone other the head when you can literally decapitate them with a spade or leave them in a vast pool of blood after slitting their throat?

I also found the stereotypical chubby sister of the second murder victim, Betty Barnard, finding freedom from the shadows of her slim, beautiful sister a little unnecessary. The Megan Barnard of the novel was rather intelligent and interesting. We could delve deeper into why Sarah chose for the attractive, promiscuous sister to meet a gruesome end, and the sister who was presented on screen as over weight, drab and bitter, as the one who eventually finds freedom by escaping out the window (where on earth does she go!?) but that’s not for this blog to discuss today. Agatha has written many meek, forgotten women in her novels but they quite often tend to end up having strength simmering beneath the surface, as what is revealed is a strong, resilient (and at times calculating and murderous) woman. Perhaps this is how Sarah chose to portrayed this.

My only (slight) disappointments in this adaptation being the death of Detective Inspector Japp, the absence of Hastings, and the rather sad, lonely and humiliated Poirot that I couldn’t really see in the novels. Once I got over that though I became thoroughly engrossed. I did feel John Malkovich made an excellent Poirot and as the story progressed our beloved character did make a rather wonderful comeback. Saying that I do feel that losing the Belgium accent takes away part of the essence of the character (but I believe that was director, Alex Gabassi‘s call). You could say they have almost created a completely different Poirot.

The retelling as a whole did encourage me to look at Agatha’s books in a new light to see where Sarah’s inspiration came for the backstory and changes she chose to make. This is the wonderful thing about brokerage bringing these fresh adaptations to the screen. Not only do they bring a whole new audience to the stories but they make those of us familiar with the author and characters look at them with fresh eyes too. The acting and overall production was superb and I look forward to more from the BBC and Sarah in the future.

David Suchet – my Poirot

A few weeks after watching the BBC adaptation I settled down to watch the wonderful David Suchet take the lead in the investigation along with Hastings and, thankfully, a very fit and healthy Japp. I never tire of watching these versions and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I have enjoyed each of the many different actors who have taken on the famous detective but Suchet is without doubt my favourite. He played the detective for 25 years and in an article in The Express is quoted as saying that whilst preparing for his role back in 1988…

I started to write my private list of Poirot’s habits and character. I called it my ‘dossier of characteristics’. It ended up five pages long and detailed 93 different aspects of life. I have the list to this day – in fact, I carried it around on the set with me throughout all my years as Poirot, just as I gave a copy to every director I worked with on a Poirot film.

I feel that he is possibly the truest Hercule to Agatha’s creation. He is a joy to watch and he is how I imagine Poirot to be when I read the books.

Are you taking part in Read Christie 2019? Which Christie novel would you most like to read this year? I’m hoping for Murder on the Orient Express. A story I know very well but still haven’t read.

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Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Thriller

The Blameless Dead by Gary Haynes

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Today I am delighted to be hosting the blog tour for The Blameless Dead by Gary Haynes. This novel is equally incredible and disturbing and without doubt will stay with you for a very long time.

Synopsis

In the dying days of World War Two, Pavel Romasko and his Red Army colleagues pick their way through the carnage and detritus of a dying Berlin. Stumbling upon the smoking remains of a Nazi bunker, they find something inside that eclipses the horror of even the worst excesses in the city above them…

As the war ends, retribution begins. But some revenge cannot be taken at once. Some revenge takes years.

And so it is, as post-war Europe tries desperately to drag itself back onto its feet, and soldiers attempt a return to normality, that retribution continues to ferment in the Gulags of the Soviet Union and beneath the surface of apparently ordinary lives.

Which is how, seventy years later, FBI agent Carla Romero and New York lawyer Gabriel Hall are enlisted to investigate a series of blood-chilling crimes that seem to have their roots in the distant past — even though the suffering they cause is all too present. And for one of them, the disappearance of young women is a particularly personal matter.

The Blameless Dead is an epic, compelling, edge-of-the-seat drama that sweeps the reader from twentieth century Europe to modern-day New York, taking in some of the most important events of modern history and exposing them in honest and unflinching terms. Part murder-mystery, part historical novel and shot through with adrenaline-pumping action, this novel superbly demonstrates that, while the hostilities may cease and the peace be signed, the horror that is war is never really over.

This novel is an incredibly brutal read. Gary’s writing technique is distinctive and rather unusual. At times blunt and cold, yet there was also incredibly beautiful descriptive passages which stood out amongst the dark story line. This style, I think, reflects the subject matter brilliantly. I found it an incredibly stirring read and quite difficult at times. It shocked me. The horrors arose from the outset and it wasn’t an easy ride but was nonetheless incredibly gripping.

There are so many layers to this novel and the story is built gradually, moving back and forth through different timelines. Characters damaged by the most heinous of acts that ricochet through generations, culminating in an explosive, emotional ending. Violence breeds violence and you wonder where it can ever end. Not for the feint-hearted but an important exploration of the effects of extreme trauma.

About the Author

Bestselling thriller, crime and historical fiction novelist published by HarperCollins/Endeavour Quill. Gary Haynes studied law at university before becoming a commercial litigator. He is interested in history, philosophy and international relations. When he’s not writing or reading, he enjoys watching European films, travelling, hillwalking and spending time with his family. He is a member of the International Thriller Writers Organization.

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Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Suspense, Thriller

The Cliff House by Amanda Jennings

I’m so thrilled to be hosting today’s stop on the blog tour for The Cliff House by Amanda Jennings.

Synopsis

Some friendships are made to be broken

Cornwall, summer of 1986.

The Davenports, with their fast cars and glamorous clothes, living the dream in a breathtaking house overlooking the sea.

If only… thinks sixteen-year-old Tamsyn, her binoculars trained on the perfect family in their perfect home.

If only her life was as perfect as theirs.

If only Edie Davenport would be her friend.

If only she lived at The Cliff House…

Amanda Jennings weaves a haunting tale of obsession, loss and longing, set against the brooding North Cornish coastline, destined to stay with readers long after the final page is turned.

Cliff House

You sit and watch them from the same place you always do.

I spy.

With my little eye.

The opening lines to this thrilling novel are sinister and full of meaning. The prologue setting the tone of the book from the get go. I read this in two days straight. I loved it. It held my interest and sparked a need in me to find out what happened and who indeed would become the victim in the end. I could feel it coming. The sense of foreboding that ran through the novel like a stream rushing towards the ultimate deluge when all was revealed.

The characterisation was fantastic. The different view points gave an interesting perspective on proceedings never quite allowing me to work out who I should feel sorry for, who was the victim and who was really injecting the posion that threaded its way through the story. I have my theory now but not wishing to spoil the story for you I’ll keep my thoughts to myself. Do message me though if you’d like to know.

The characters are complex, all damaged in their own way. This novel has so many layers. It looks deeply at how past experiences can taint our actions and lives forever but it also looks at how memories are never quite true but heavily influenced by who owns it. The same experience is never equally remembered by two different people and time has the power to change and alter events so that the reality can become grotesque and unbelievable in our self editing minds. We remember what we chose to remember from our own view point.

So what is the story about? The central character for me, is the house itself. Echoing faintly of Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca, The Cliff House not only takes the title but also takes centre stage. It seems to have a life of it’s own and possesses people in an unnatural way that makes them either love or hate it. Jennings has done a wonderful job of creating the atmosphere, providing the contrast of a hot summer in 1986 and the cold, sinister evil that seems to catch hold of both the occupants and visitors of The Cliff House.

As you read you know that things are going to go horribly wrong but you can’t quite work out what or who it will happen to. It was a thrilling read and one that lingers in my mind. I can almost hear the soft lapping of the water as Tamsyn swims through the still, dark water or the ‘caw’ of the raven.

Tamsyn has never recovered from the death of her father six years ago. The whole family have been suspended in their grief, doing all they can do to survive but never quite living. She takes solace in stolen visits to the house she and her father adored from afar when he was alive. The house they crept into to swim in the pool on the day he died. For Tamsyn there was always a part of her father still at the house and there wasn’t anywhere in the world she’d rather be. One day she sneaks back into the house only to be surprised by the early return of the owner and she soon becomes a part of the lives she has spent so long watching and idolising. And so begins a story of obsession and jealousy that can only lead to catastropy.

Amanda Jennings has a beautiful way with words. Her descriptive prose is stunning as she gets to the heart of the way her characters are feeling and sets each scene perfectly.

I turned my attention back to them all as they danced and screeched and smoked and drank. I was mesmerised by it all and relieved I’d stayed and not run back to St Just. This world was Wonderland and I was Alice. The characters around me were as weird and wonderful as the Queen of Hearts and the smoking Caterpillar and the Cheshire Cat’s floating smile. I thought of my father, hear the voices he used when he read me that story. Saw his face twisted into the manic grin of the Mad Hatter as he poured tea on the Dormouse. As I watched them they seemed to grow more fantastical. Their clothes brighter and more outlandish. I watched them pop whole eggs into their mouths, the eggs so tiny it gave the illusion they were giants.

Tamsyn longs to be part of the life at The Cliff House. She longs to run away from the pain and frustration of her family, a family left splintered by the death of her father.

He drags his feet up the stairs. He can never be the man he knows he should be. A man his father would be proud to call his son. While his mother worries about red-topped bills and food in their bellies, what does he do? Kicks around feeling sorry for himself. Moans about unemployment and the government and Tory wankers who live up their own arses. He smokes weed he can’t afford. Apathy is his constant companion, his Peter Pan shadow, sewn to his heels so he can never escape. It’s like he’s slipped into a waking coma. He is numb.

Just wonderful. I especially loved the line ‘Apathy is his constant companion, his Peter Pan shadow, sewn to his heels so he can never escape’

This was a thrilling, exciting read and one that I would thoroughly recommend.

The Cliff House is published by HQ, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd in Hardback on the 17th of May 2018.

You can find out more about author Amanda Jennings here.

Adult Fiction, Family Drama, Historical Fiction, Liz Robinson Reviews, Relationship Stories

Last Letter from Istanbul by Lucy Foley – a guest review by Liz Robinson

Last Letter from Istanbul is the latest offering from Sunday Times bestselling author, Lucy Foley.

Last letter from IstanbulJust gorgeous, this is a story to shine a light in the darkness, even in moments of despair.

Constantinople in 1921 is a confusing, often frightening place to be, in the first few pages, two reports from 1918, perfectly sum up the two opposing sides, each report almost interchangeable. Nur’s house is in the hands of the British and being used as a hospital, she finds her thoughts on the occupiers altering and conflicted when she takes an orphan in her care to be treated by George Munroe. Five separate yet entwined stories exist side by side, different time frames ensure the past spears the present, while the future whispers to the past. Lucy Foley has developed a beautiful writing style, the vivid colour stamps it’s impression on the pages, conjuring taste, touch, smells and sounds, as well as creating a feast for your eyes.

As the book began to come to a close, it felt as though two trains were on an inevitable collision course. The sweeping horror of war and occupation, both momentous and insidious, is clearly felt, yet it is the intimate, the individual connections, that were the highlight of this read for me. ‘Last Letter from Istanbul’ caresses, sparks and skewers thoughts and feelings, it is a truly penetrating and captivating read – highly recommended.

Synopsis:

Constantinople, 1921

Each day Nur gazes across the waters of the Bosphorus to her childhood home, a grand white house, nestled on the opposite bank. Memories float on the breeze – the fragrance of the fig trees, the saffron sunsets of languid summer evenings. But now those days are dead.

The house has been transformed into an army hospital, it is a prize of war in the hands of the British. And as Nur weaves through the streets carrying the embroideries that have become her livelihood, Constantinople swarms with Allied soldiers – a reminder of how far she and her city have fallen.

The most precious thing in Nur’s new life is the orphan in her care – a boy with a terrible secret. When he falls dangerously ill Nur’s world becomes entwined with the enemy’s. She must return to where she grew up, and plead for help from Medical Officer George Monroe.

As the lines between enemy and friend become fainter, a new danger emerges – something even more threatening than the lingering shadow of war.

Last Letter From Istanbul will be published by HarperCollins on the 5th of April 2018.

 

Adult Fiction, Crime, Debut, Liz Robinson Reviews, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller

The Devil’s Dice by Roz Watkins – a guest review by Liz Robinson

 

Here Liz gives us the heads up on the start of a fantastic, thrilling new Crime series…

Devil's DiceThe first in the ‘DI Meg Dalton Thriller’ series is an addictive, absolute treat of a read. Meg recently moved forces and is now based in Derbyshire, she is thrown in the deep end when a lawyer is found dead in a cave and a sinister game of cat and mouse is initiated. ‘The Devil’s Dice’ was shortlisted for the 2016 Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger Award (for unpublished writers), so my expectations were high, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. The first few pages set my thoughts fluttering, and throughout this tale a ghostly shadow hovers over the pages. Roz Watkins allows humour to enter at just the right moments, and has created a fabulous main lead. While Meg does have her fair share of problems, and a certain vulnerability too, she really grew on me. As I read, I set my mind free, to delve into the pages, to ponder, to speculate. The Devil’s Dice’ is just so readable, this is a thoroughly modern tale with a teasing strange connection to the past, and a towering cliff hanger of an ending… hopefully there will be many more stories to come.

Synopsis:

A SHOCKING DEATH

A lawyer is found dead in a Peak District cave, his face ribboned with scratches.

A SINISTER MESSAGE

Amidst rumours of a local curse, DI Meg Dalton is convinced this is cold-blooded murder. There’s just one catch chiselled into the cave wall above the body is an image of the grim reaper and the dead man’s initials, and it’s been there for over a century.

A DEADLY GAME

As Meg battles to solve the increasingly disturbing case, it’s clear someone knows her secrets. The murderer is playing games with Meg and the dice are loaded

A white-knuckle crime debut introducing DI Meg Dalton, perfect for fans of Broadchurch and Happy Valley

The Devil’s Dice was pubished by HQ an imprint of HarperCollins on the 8th of March 2018

 

Adult Fiction

The Woman In The Window by A J Finn

For a few months now I’ve been doing some freelance work back at Lovereading. It’s been lovely working back with some of the old team. New owners, a whole new team and very soon an updated and refreshed new website, I’m told great plans are afoot. An exciting future, bright and full of exciting possibilities. Lets hope so.

One of the things I loved most about the job were those moments when I’d hold a proof in my hand and know that it contained something amazing and I was going to help, in my own small way, to bring it into the world. There is something very special about that.

At the end of March my time with Lovereading will come to an end. I will still be reviewing a little for them but It’s time to move on. I very much intend to continue reading and reviewing books and look forward to sharing some stories with you too. Do follow me on my journey and share where you can and I’ll keep searching out wonderful books that I may also be able to tempt you with.

Now to share another gem with you… Towards the end of 2017 we received a proof in the Lovereading offices that caught our eye. It was hailed as THE book of 2018. Quite a claim don’t you think? Yet it did sound intriguing.

So what’s the hook? – A woman trapped in her own home and suffering with a debilitating mental illness witnesses a terrible crime. She is an unreliable witness. She drinks heavily, barely existing on meds and a diet of wine, she limps through each day watching classic crime movies and spying on her neighbours. The police shrug the crime off as an hallucination caused by the mix of drugs and alcohol, yet she’s convinced what she saw actually happened. But how can she prove it when she’s unable to even leave the house without being consumed by terror and panic?

Yet things are about to become even more terrifying for Anna as someone else knows what really happened that night and they’re determined to make sure the truth stays hidden – no matter what.

The book…

9780008234157

The Woman in the Window By A.J.Finn

What did she see? It’s been ten long months since Anna Fox last left her home. Ten months during which she has haunted the rooms of her old New York house like a ghost, lost in her memories, too terrified to step outside. Anna’s lifeline to the real world is her window, where she sits day after day, watching her neighbours. When the Russells move in, Anna is instantly drawn to them. A picture-perfect family of three, they are an echo of the life that was once hers. But one evening, a frenzied scream rips across the silence, and Anna witnesses something no one was supposed to see. Now she must do everything she can to uncover the truth about what really happened. But even if she does, will anyone believe her? And can she even trust herself?

So, I was intrigued. Fellow Lovereading expert reviewer, Liz Robinson loved it, the consumer reader review panel at Lovereading loved it. I leant it to a friend who quite simply devours crime novels – and she loved it. Finally over half term I found time to sit down with it myself and I absolutely LOVED it.

It’s a cracking psychological read. Brilliantly told through Anna’s perspective, the tension is built in such a way that I felt as though I was standing right next to her, so palpable was her fear and distress. His ability to plunge us into her mental issues whilst slowly revealing both her past and present was absolutely gripping. Finn’s nod towards the classic thrillers such as Niagara, Wait Until Dark, The Vanishing, Rosemary’s Baby and of course, Rear Window add a sense of crime noir that has you gripped from the start (and started the itch to watch those old, yet timeless classics again).

This is definitely worth the hype and one that I would recommend reading when you have the time to immerse yourself fully, without distractions.

Published by HarperCollins

Published on the 22nd January 2018