July 2015 Round-Up and Raven’s Book of the Month

_DSC0185 (Common Raven)Well, if I do say so myself, July* has been a very productive month for reading and reviewing. I still have a couple of reviews outstanding from the plethora of great releases in the last month, but have managed to make a little dent in the teetering to-be read pile. Aided by a week’s holiday from work, there’s been a good mix of books read this month and a couple of blog tours too- one for fellow blogger Sarah Ward and her debut thriller In Bitter Chill and a blogathon par excellence for  Neil White organised by the brilliant Liz Loves Books whose site is definitely worth a visit. Looks like August will be another busy one, but I will endeavour to get to some of my to-be-read pile too, as there are some as yet undiscovered gems lurking there I’m sure. Have a good month everybody!

Books Read and Reviewed:

Kate Griffin- Kitty Peck and the Child of Ill Fortune (www.crimefictionlover.com)

Alexandra Sokoloff- Huntress Moon (FBI Thrillers Book 1)

Sarah Ward- In Bitter Chill

Michael Robotham- Life Or Death

Mark Edwards- Follow You Home

Ruth Ware- In A Dark Dark Wood

Ed McBain- So Nude, So Dead

Chris Carter- I Am Death (www.crimefictionlover.com)

I also managed to read Sarah Hilary’s Someone Else’s Skin (winner of the Theakston’s Crime Fiction Prize) and Kate London’s debut thriller- Post Mortem. If you like London-based police procedurals with strong female protagonists, both of these will probably hit the spot. Both had very assured plotting, and Hilary has already published a second book featuring her detective Marnie Rome, who has quickly established quite a following in the crime fiction reading community. With Kate London’s background in policing, her book had a brilliant authenticity in terms of procedure, and the psychological impact of the job on her police protagonists, which proved thought-provoking throughout. A highly promising debut. Both are recommended by the Raven…

Raven’s Book of the Month

25484031Despite the utter joy of getting my talons on a re-discovered Ed McBain classic with So Nude, So Dead, there is little hesitation in picking Michael Robotham’s Life Or Death as my favourite read this month. Showing his flexibility as a writer, as this book is so different in tone, character, and setting to his previous books (which I’ve also been rather partial to), this book was really something special. Sharing more in common with some of the best written contemporary American fiction, this book was by turns, emotive and violent, but never losing sight of the writer’s aim in providing a tension-fuelled thriller, that proved exceptionally hard to put down. Excellent.

*I know there was mention of an incredibly special book that I wanted to share with you this month. I will post a review soon, as it’s just been published in the UK, and I need to hit the thesaurus for some more superlatives…

 

Ruth Ware- In A Dark Dark Wood

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If the murderous goings on at a stag do in Peter James` Dead Simple chilled you to the bone, Ruth Ware sets out to even the score in In A Dark Dark Wood,  with a hen weekend that is full of  deliciously disturbing surprises. With my normal, cynical air, I feared that my general apathy with British psychological thrillers would continue as I embarked on this one. Idly sitting down to read a few pages to test the water, I was hooked. Completely. And breaking only for some quick refreshment, I read this in pretty much one sitting…

Crime writer Leonora (Nora) Shaw leads a fairly solitary existence in London, mostly happy to keep herself to herself, with sporadic entertainment provided by her larger than life best friend Nina. Out of the blue, she and Nina receive an invitation to a hen weekend in the wilds of Northumbria, from a mystery woman called Flo, purporting to be a close friend of the bride, Clare Cavendish What is strange for Nora is that she and Claire broke all contact ten years ago, for reasons as yet unrevealed, so why the invite? Egged on by Nina, Nora accepts the invitation and quelle surprise, this is where the trouble really begins…

As far as any expansion on the plot goes, I am keeping it zipped, as it is tricky to avoid spoilers, and spoil your participation as a reader, trying to untangle and second-guess the nature of the relationships at play. With the plot shifting between the events of the weekend itself , and the aftermath with Nora finding herself at the centre of a police investigation, the pacing of this book is exemplary. With the Christie-esque air of a pseudo country-house mystery, there is palpable feel of tension and claustrophobia pervading the whole book. With our six relative strangers, trapped in some horrible contemporary glass monstrosity in the woods in the beginning of winter, the location works beautifully to ratchet up the feeling of peril. The house becomes almost another character in the book, made even more sinister by the encroaching tendrils of the dark, dark woods. Likewise, the tension that Nora and Nina feel in this setting, amplifies the feeling of dread that both experience over the course of the weekend, and to be honest I would have turned tail fairly sharpish.  Woods + goldfish bowl of a house + remote location = whole heap of trouble…

Another real strength of the book is the characterisation, and the balance of Nora’s reticent and introverted nature, making her a highly empathetic character, is superbly counterbalanced by the boisterous, loud and kick ass attitude of Nina. Hence, the juxtaposition of two such contrary characters works very well, particularly when they find themselves even more closely aligned in their mockery and suspicion of their fellow ‘hen’ guests- Clare, the icy bride-to-be, Flo, the mental chief bridesmaid, Tom, camp best friend, and Melanie, the over emotional new mum. It’s a real melting pot of weirdness, and as events from the past come to light, be prepared for some very odd and irrational behaviour indeed. Oh. And a murder…

On the whole, I enjoyed this debut very much. I wasn’t entirely convinced by the ending, but to be honest, with the strength of how it had built up to this point, it wasn’t really a major problem. Heaps more enjoyable than Girl On A Train (or any other book at the moment with girl in the title), and in true reviewer style, I’ve little hesitation in announcing this a total page-turner. Oh, and take a peep underneath the dust jacket. A thing of beauty lurks beneath…

(With thanks to Random House for the ARC)