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Book Reviews: 2016

The story so far...

Jacqueline Andrews

★★★★★

January 2016

It's 1976, England's hottest summer on record, when Catriana Page takes a bus from London to Kathmandu...

Eastbound is a stunning debut that will have you laughing and make you cry. From the beautifully poetic travelogue of a bus journey through mystical lands and foreign cultures, to the liberating allure of hippy chic 1970s London and,ultimately, the terrible consequences of the protagonist's descent into a world of addiction and abuse, this is a roller-coaster ride, much like the often precarious travails of the bus, lurching from sheer drop to improbable river crossing. It is an exceptionally crafted work of literary fiction written with a biographical eye for detail. I highly recommend it - you won't have read anything quite like it before.

Angie Smith

@cxviAngie

★★★★★

January 2016

Gritty Yorkshire policing with fast-paced espionage twists and turns.

I thoroughly enjoyed CXVI - The Beginning of the End, which combines gritty Yorkshire policing with fast-paced espionage twists and turns. The characters are well-rounded and engaging, the plot is intriguing and the villains cold and clinical. Maria Barnes is at first an unlikely hero, but it's soon apparent there's more to the Detective Sergeant than the baggage she brings to Detective Superintendent Greg Woods's Murder Investigation Team. The premise behind the spate of coded murders is intriguing and the complex sub-plots are handled masterfully. The tensions between the two competing authorities are palpable as it becomes clear there are greater forces at play beyond the tenacious efforts of the police investigation. But who are the real villains in this first instalment of the CXVI trilogy? With its shocking finale still ringing in my ears, I can't wait to read Book 2 (CXVI - Secrets Broken) to find out.

Angela Marsons

@WriteAngie

★★★★★

February 2016

Wow! What a stunning thriller!

This novel gripped me right from the start. I had the kindle and audible versions and began listening during daily dog walks. Suffice to say they just got longer and longer every day until I reach the exciting and unexpected climax to this stunning thriller. Highly recommended. Ella the beagle loved it too!

Donna Marie McCarthy

@roast914_k

★★★★★

April 2016

Extraordinary debut. Deserves, nay, demands five stars!

By chance I read a short extract of this book many months ago, and that was enough to convince me to buy a copy as soon as it was published. I knew then that it was destined to be something quite special and Donna Maria McCarthy didn't disappoint. She has produced a novel of stunning originality that harks back to the gothic horror classics of Poe and Stoker. Dark and intriguing, humorous and beguiling, this novel carries you along on a tide of authentic prose and richly embroidered dialogue as the fortunes of the hapless Frederick Abbotsby Feltsham ebb and flow to their dramatic conclusion. What would poor Freddy give to recover the prospects he once knew? Alas, he doesn't stand a chance against the enigmatic Joseph Black and the cast of ignominious charmers who frequent the inn at the end of the world!

Colm Herron

@colmherron

★★★★★

June 2016

Kept me reading and made me think.

It's fair to say this isn't my usual genre, but I do like to open my mind occasionally, and this book came highly recommended. I have to say it certainly broadened my understanding of Irish culture, and offered a fascinating insight into what it was like to be on the inside of a conflict I only ever saw through the blurred lens of English mainstream television and newspapers in the 1970s.

What I found interesting (and perhaps reassuring) was that whilst the Troubles permeate the very fabric of the society Jeremiah encapsulates, life still goes on. From the outside looking in, you assume the conflict would be all-consuming but on both sides of any divide, people are still people. I enjoyed the dialect both in the narrative and the dialogue and found the self-examination of the Irish psyche to be both poignant and humorous. There are moments when you nod with recognition of the sheer weight of politico-religious dogma and tradition, and others where you laugh out loud at the contradictions in the frailties of the human condition, enduring under such oppression.

Lots of reviews mention James Joyce and the similarities were apparent, but I preferred Herron's style. It kept me reading and it made me think.

Alex Marwood

@AlexMarwood1

★★★★★

July 2016

If they can make The Girl on the Train into a movie, then this must surely be next...

... but let's just hope they don't Americanise this one too! Not least because I know the area well, having grown up in Poole and spent hot, sunny days in Sandbanks - albeit before all that new money arrived. As this dark tale was expertly revealed, I could feel the heat of the sun, dulled by the haze of mid-day drinks, the cool evening walks to unpretentious restaurants, and the frisson of tension that rippled beneath the surface of this indulgent gathering of narcissists and sociopaths. The master stroke for me was the setting of the past in a glorious August bank holiday weekend (like they always were, weren't they?), and the stark reality of the present in mid-winter. This really is a book that delivers on every page, right to the bitter end. I rarely read books (or watch movies) a second time, but this is one I know I will savour again and again.

John Nicholl

@nicholl06

★★★★

July 2016

Gripping... at times deeply disturbing.

This was my first John Nicholl novel and my first Jake Urry narrated audiobook. The story was gripping from the start, and its subject matter was at times deeply disturbing. The procedural aspects of the investigation felt realistic, the characters were believable and the plot compelling. My only critique, I felt a slight drop in pace at around two-thirds in, but this was compensated by a thrilling climax. The narrator was excellent - the portrayal of narcissist Galbraith was perfectly sinister - and he dealt admirably with a large cast of Cambrian accents. I'm grateful to have received it free on Audible in exchange for an honest review.

Pat McDonald

@issyblack

★★★★★

July 2016

Thoroughly enjoyable.

Benjamin Matthews is 30, habitually between jobs, and down on his luck. His only achievement in life, 'O' level History and Chemistry. What happens next in this laugh out loud tale of unintended consequences, is a wickedly observed levelling of the playing field between the haves and have nots. The laughs come thick and fast as the hapless romantic is thrown into the midst of a Colombian drug cartel. Can love, crime and stupidity bridge the social divide? Pat McDonald is a talented author, stepping deftly into a sardonic male perspective and producing a beautifully written and fabulously entertaining read that I found thoroughly enjoyable.

Paula Hawkins

@PaulaHWrites

★★★★★

July 2016

What can I say about this book that hasn't already been said?

Yes, I too was a little confused in the beginning. Even though the changes in perspective were clearly marked, there was just a nagging sense at the start that the personas of these two women (Rachel and Megan) weren't sufficiently distinct; that the stream of consciousness could have been from one and the same person. And that was just enough to make me doubt the reliability of both narratives, before we were given good reason. And then we get to know Anna and finally there's someone with an apparent grasp on reality! But hey, I'm being hyper-critical because I did really enjoy this... even though I found Rachel to be extremely annoying, in the end I was rooting for her. As a frequent commuter on London-bound trains (and in the days before Blackberries, I too would watch the world go by), I was drawn by the premise of witnessing a dark deed and where that would then lead. Although this story didn't go in the direction I was hoping for, on reflection, it was probably a better psychological thriller for all that. Just a shame the movie has re-imagined all those archaic British Rail points failures and London graffiti within a US suburban setting.

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