Cushla

RDO for libraries...book reviewer...lots of book and reading related stuff...animal rights, dog person, LFC and warcraft player

 

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The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

Compulsively readable, The Girl on the Train is an emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller and an electrifying debut.

Our Endless Numbered Days

Our Endless Numbered Days - Claire Fuller 1976: Peggy Hillcoat is eight. She spends her summer camping with her father, playing her beloved record of The Railway Children and listening to her mother's grand piano, but her pretty life is about to change.

Her survivalist father, who has been stockpiling provisions for the end which is surely coming soon, takes her from London to a cabin in a remote European forest. There he tells Peggy the rest of the world has disappeared. And so her life is reduced to a piano which makes music but no sound, a forest where all that grows is a means of survival. And a tiny wooden hut that is Everything.

Peggy is not seen again for another nine years.

1985: Peggy has returned to the family home. But what happened to her in the forest? And why has she come back now?


Beautifully written, accomplished novel but I didn't enjoy this as much as I thought I would. Found it difficult to warm to the characters and ultimately it was rather unsatisfying.

A Killing Winter

A Killing Winter - Tom Callaghan 'The Kyrgyz winter reminds us that the past is never dead, simply waiting to ambush us around the next corner'.

When Inspector Akyl Borubaev of Bishkek Murder Squad arrives at the brutal murder scene of a young woman, all evidence hints at a sadistic serial killer on the hunt for more prey.

But when the young woman's father turns out to be a leading government minister, the pressure is on Borubaev to solve the case not only quickly but also quietly, by any means possible. Until more bodies are found...

Still in mourning after his wife's recent death, Borubaev descends into Bishkek's brutal underworld, a place where no-one and nothing is as it seems, where everyone is playing for the highest stakes, and where violence is the only solution.


I love a book that makes me immediately open Google Maps!

Set in former Soviet Union state Kyrgyzstan its follows Inspector Akyl Borubaev as he tries to solve the brutal murders of several women whilst still mourning his wife's death 3 months earlier. Kyrgyzstan is unforgiving and pitiless, a country seemingly drowning in corruption, drugs, alcohol and violence. The casual misogyny is horrific and unrelenting.

Descriptions of a dark brutal winter in Bishkek are so vivid you can hear the snow crunch under your boots. The characters are so well drawn, even minor ones are well fleshed out, you really care about what might happen to them in this lawless city where anything can happen to anyone.

Borubaev's dead wife haunts the pages of the book and centres him bringing an emotional balance to the story “I wanted to think of her as an unseen presence, spurring me on, watching from the sidelines”

I read a good number of thrillers and a lot are forgettable but this was so original and so beautifully written it will stay with me for a long time I think....


The Silent Boy

The Silent Boy - Andrew  Taylor Paris, 1792. Terror reigns as the city writhes in the grip of revolution. The streets run with blood as thousands lose their heads to the guillotine. Edward Savill, working in London as agent for a wealthy American, receives word that his estranged wife Augusta has been killed in France. She leaves behind ten-year-old Charles, who is brought to England to Charnwood Court, a house in the country leased by a group of émigré refugees.

Savill is sent to retrieve the boy, though it proves easier to reach Charnwood than to leave. And only when Savill arrives there does he discover that Charles is mute. The boy has witnessed horrors beyond his years, but what terrible secret haunts him so deeply that he is unable to utter a word?



Hush now. Say nothing.

Another thoroughly enjoyable novel by this author this time set during the French Revolution.

An intelligent twisting plot about a boy who believes his silence is the only thing that will save his life in dangerous times.

The characters are beautifully drawn, the sense of time and place exemplary. The book is gripping, immersive and demands your attention, though it's not a page turner as such.

Highly recommended

The Well: A Novel

The Well: A Novel - Catherine Chanter Ruth Ardingly has just been released from prison to serve out a sentence of house arrest for arson and suspected murder at her farm, The Well. Beyond its borders, some people whisper she is a witch; others a messiah. For as soon as Ruth returns to The Well, rain begins to fall on the farm. And it has not rained anywhere else in the country in over three years.

Ruth and her husband Mark had moved years before from London to this ancient idyll in the hopes of starting their lives over. But then the drought began, and as the surrounding land dried up and died, and The Well grew lush and full of life, they came to see their fortune would come at a price. From the envy of their neighbors to the mandates of the government, from the fanaticism of a religious order called the Sisters of the Rose to the everyday difficulties of staying close as husband and wife, mother and child—all these forces led to a horrifying crime: the death of their seven-year-old grandson, drowned with cruel irony in one of the few ponds left in the countryside.

Now back at The Well, Ruth must piece together the tragedy that shattered her marriage, her family, and her dream. For she believes her grandson’s death was no accident, and that the murderer is among the people she trusted most. Alone except for her guards on a tiny green jewel in a world rapidly turning to dust, Ruth begins to confront her worst fears and learns what really happened in the dark heart of The Well.

A tour de force about ordinary people caught in the tide of an extraordinary situation, Catherine Chanter’s The Well is a haunting, beautifully written, and utterly believable novel that probes the fragility of our personal relationships and the mystical connection between people and the places they call home.


Ordinary couple wanting to escape the London rat race buy a idyllic farm and then the drought begins.....

While the rest of the country suffers the Well appears to be the only place in the UK where rain still falls. Soon they are under siege from the media, the curious public and increasing government interest. Disgruntled locals are muttering about witchcraft, their lives are torn apart and Eden becomes Hell.

Ruth's troubled traveller daughter arrives with son and fellow travellers in tow, closely followed by a group of creepy nuns calling them the Sisters of the Rose of Jericho.

The overwhelming feeling I got from this book was a sense of isolation, The Well had become a prison for Ruth and her increasingly disturbing thoughts.

Beautifully written, the descriptive prose is very evocative:

Dawn was late, dusk early in the dying days of the year, but the mornings were medieval blue and gold.....


A long, melancholy book that maybe could have done with a little pruning here and there but worth the investment.

A Song of Shadows: A Charlie Parker Thriller: 13

A Song of Shadows: A Charlie Parker Thriller: 13 - John Connolly Grievously wounded, private detective Charlie Parker investigates a case that has its origins in a Nazi concentration camp during the Second World War.

Broken, but undeterred, private detective Charlie Parker faces the darkest of dark forces in a case with its roots in the second world war, and a concentration camp unlike any other . . .

Recovering from a near-fatal shooting and tormented by memories of a world beyond this one, Parker has retreated to the small Maine town of Boreas to recover. There he befriends a widow named Ruth Winter and her young daughter, Amanda. But Ruth has her secrets. She is hiding from the past, and the forces that threaten her have their origins in the Second World War, in a town called Lubko and a concentration camp unlike any other. Old atrocities are about to be unearthed, and old sinners will kill to hide their sins. Now Parker is about to risk his life to defend a woman he barely knows, one who fears him almost as much as she fears those who are coming for her.

His enemies believe him to be vulnerable. Fearful. Solitary.

But they are wrong. Parker is far from afraid, and far from alone.

For something is emerging from the shadows . . .

I Let You Go

I Let You Go - Clare Mackintosh Never saw that coming.....

Mind of Winter

Mind of Winter - Laura Kasischke On a snowy Christmas morning, Holly Judge awakens with the fragments of a nightmare floating on the edge of her consciousness. Something followed them from Russia. Thirteen years ago, she and her husband Eric adopted baby Tatty, their pretty, black-haired Rapunzel, from the Pokrovka Orphanage #2. Now, at fifteen, Tatiana is more beautiful than ever—and disturbingly erratic.
As a blizzard rages outside, Holly and Tatiana are alone. With each passing hour, Tatiana’s mood darkens, and her behaviour becomes increasingly frightening . . . until Holly finds she no longer recognizes her daughter.



Read this in one session late into the night, unable to stop a growing sense of dread. Something is wrong, very wrong here but you cannot even begin to guess. You can tell the author is a poet by the repeated rhythms and phrases especially "something followed them home from Russia". The rambling, obsessive inner dialogue of Holly the mother is broken up by the increasingly strange behaviour of Tatty the daughter. It may be slow and repetitive but stick with it and you will be rewarded with an ending that will haunt you for a long time to come.

The last page is like a slap in the face.....

The Killer Next Door

The Killer Next Door - Alex Marwood Synopsis: No. 23 has a secret. In this gloomy, bedsit-riddled South London wreck, lorded over by a lecherous landlord, a horrifying collection quietly waits to be discovered. Yet all six residents have something to hide.
Collette is on the run from her ex-boss; Cher is an underage children's home escapee; lonely Thomas tries to make friends with his neighbours; while a gorgeous Iranian asylum seeker and a 'quiet man' nobody sees try to keep themselves hidden. And there for them all is Vesta, a woman who knows everything that goes on in the house - or thought she did.

Then in the dead of night, a terrible accident pushes the six into an uneasy alliance. But one of them is a killer, expertly hiding their pastime, all the while closing in on their next victim...


Murder is no laughing matter except maybe in this fiendish urban thriller set in London's bedsit land.The story focuses on a decaying house and its tenants,each with a secret to keep and one more so than the others.
Roy Preece is the repellent landlord from hell, a masterpiece of vileness, and his long suffering boarders are a quirky mix sympathetically drawn by this superior writer.

Suffused with dark humour, ingenious plotting and moments that if it were a film, you would be watching through your fingers.

It is extremely gruesome but also a strangely moving read, warm hearted and filled with compassion for those who find themselves lost and alone in a city of eight million plus people.

Behind Closed Doors

Behind Closed Doors - Elizabeth Haynes Ten years ago, 15-year-old Scarlett Rainsford vanished while on a family holiday in Greece. Was she abducted, or did she run away from her severely dysfunctional family? Lou Smith worked the case as a police constable, and failing to find Scarlett has been one of the biggest regrets of her career. No one is more shocked than Lou to learn that Scarlett has unexpectedly been found during a Special Branch raid of a brothel in Briarstone.
Lou and her Major Crime team are already stretched working two troubling cases: nineteen-year-old Ian Palmer was found badly beaten; and soon after, bar owner Carl McVey was found half-buried in the woods, his Rolex and money gone. While Lou tries to establish the links between the two cases, DS Sam Hollands works with Special Branch to question Scarlett. What happened to her? Where has she been until now? How did she end up back here? And why is her family—with the exception of her emotionally fragile younger sister, Juliette—less than enthusiastic about her return?
When another brutal assault and homicide are linked to the McVey murder, Lou’s cases collide, and the clues all point in one terrifying direction. As the pressure and the danger mount, it becomes clear that the silent, secretive Scarlett holds the key to everything.


Intense, face paced and at times uncomfortable read. The dual timeline is handled really well by the author but you are always racing to get back to Scarlett whose story is heartbreaking and shockingly plausible. Haunting....

The Death House

The Death House - Sarah Pinborough Toby's life was perfectly normal . . . until it was unravelled by something as simple as a blood test.

Taken from his family, Toby now lives in the Death House; an out-of-time existence far from the modern world, where he, and the others who live there, are studied by Matron and her team of nurses. They're looking for any sign of sickness. Any sign of their wards changing. Any sign that it's time to take them to the sanatorium.

No one returns from the sanatorium.

Withdrawn from his house-mates and living in his memories of the past, Toby spends his days fighting his fear. But then a new arrival in the house shatters the fragile peace, and everything changes.

Because everybody dies. It's how you choose to live that counts.


“I’m not afraid”

Ouch! That took me by surprise! I adore Sarah Pinborough's work especially the Thomas Bond series so I came to the Death House unprepared for this deeply moving book of love, life, friendship and death.

Beautiful, effortless writing and a story, best taken at face value, I tried not to dwell too much on what came before the sickness, or any of the other speculative aspects. It was a distraction and you can ponder preceding events after you have finished the novel.

Stunning....*mops tears*

The Damned: A Novel

The Damned: A Novel - Andrew Pyper Danny Orchard wrote a bestselling memoir about his near-death experience in a fire that claimed the life of his twin sister, Ashleigh, but despite the resulting fame and fortune he’s never been able to enjoy his second chance at life. Ash won’t let him.

In life, Danny’s charming and magnetic twin had been a budding psychopath who privately terrorized her family—and death hasn’t changed her wicked ways. Ash has haunted Danny for twenty years and now, just when he’s met the love of his life and has a chance at real happiness, she wants more than ever to punish him for being alive—so she sets her sights on Danny’s new wife and stepson.

Danny knows what Ash really wants is him, and he’s prepared to sacrifice himself in order to save the ones he loves. The question is: will he make it back this time?

The Serpentine Road

The Serpentine Road - Paul Mendelson Even after the release of Nelson Mandela and the promise of free elections, extremist groups terrorized South Africa, bombing churches, opening fire in bars and restaurants. Nearly twenty-five years ago, as a young Captain, Vaughn de Vries finds himself in pursuit of the suspects of a fatal bombing in his precinct, under the command of one of the most feared white police officers of the time: Major Kobus Nel. Out of radio communication and without clear evidence, the SAPS barge into a township and set off a chain of events which will resonate for a quarter of a century.

In Cape Town in 2015, the heiress of an Apartheid-era industrialist is found murdered, her body posed to suggest a racial hate crime. But, as Colonel Vaughn De Vries investigates, possible motives for her death abound: a highly controversial art exhibition, her sexual preferences, her relationship - as yet unknown by the press - with the son of one of the heroes of The Struggle.

And, moving South down through the country, North to South, five men are murdered, each with a connection to a point in history De Vries would sooner forget. When the link is made, De Vries must re-live the traumatic event to uncover the perpetrator. Old wounds, hidden in history, are exposed, and a mysterious killer approaches, whom no one seems able to stop.


I really enjoyed the second installment in this series set in modern day South Africa. Thrilling plot with amazing locations and excellent characters, esp Vaughn de Vries; grumpy, racist and forever teetering on the edge of self destruction. The politics of the new South Africa are never far away and the tension, distrust and violence are encompassing.

Can't wait to see how this series develops.

The Dark Meadow

The Dark Meadow - Andrea Maria Schenkel At the end of the war, Afra Zauner returns to her parents’ cottage on the edge of Mauther Forest. Unmarried, and pregnant. As she struggles to raise her child, her father’s shame, her mother’s fury and the loud whispers of the neighbours begin to weigh upon her. She doesn’t believe in her sin. But everyone else does.

And someone brings judgement down upon her.

Many years later, Hermann Müller is throwing a drunk out of his tavern. A traveller, who won’t stop ranting about a murder left unsolved, about police who never investigated. Out of curiosity, the file is reopened. And in the cold light of hindsight, a chilling realisation creeps upon the community.
No-one ever atoned for Afra’s death. But her story is waiting to be told.


Intense, clever and beautifully written slice of German noir told from several viewpoints that twists and turns before we learn the truth about 18 year old murder.

Perfect if you like Euro crime but are looking for something a little different.

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania - Erik Larson On 1 May 1915, a luxury ocean liner as richly appointed as an English country house sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool. The passengers - including a record number of children and infants - were anxious. Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone. For months, its submarines had brought terror to the North Atlantic.

But the Lusitania's captain, William Thomas Turner, had faith in the gentlemanly terms of warfare that had, for a century, kept civilian ships safe from attack. He also knew that his ship - the fastest then in service - could outrun any threat. But Germany was intent on changing the rules, and Walther Schwieger, the captain of Unterseeboot-20, was happy to oblige. Meanwhile, an ultra-secret British intelligence unit were tracking Schwieger's U-boat...but told no one. As U-20 and the Lusitania made their way towards Liverpool, forces both grand and achingly small - hubris, a chance fog, a closely-guarded secret and more - converged to produce one of the great disasters of 20th century history.

It is a story that many of us think we know but don't, and Erik Larson tells it thrillingly, switching between hunter and hunted. Full of glamour, mystery, and real-life suspense, Dead Wake brings to life a cast of evocative characters, including the US President Wilson, a man lost to grief, dreading the widening war but also captivated by the prospect of new love. Gripping and important, Dead Wake captures the sheer drama and emotional power of a disaster that helped place America on the road to war.



Fascinating narrative non-fiction account of the sinking of the Lusitania that brings the disaster, as told through various passengers experiences, to life.

Beautifully written the reader feels a connection to those people whose words you are reading and they are are made especially poignant when you eventually discover the writer (often) did not survive the ordeal.

A seaman lookout first spotted "a burst of foam about 500 yards away," then a track moving across the flat plane of the sea as clear as if it had been drawn "by an invisible hand."

It was just after 2 p.m. The sun was shining; the sea was like glass; the Irish coast was visible just over 10 miles away and passengers were strolling on deck after lunch.

Some of them also saw the torpedo approaching. One noticed "a streak of froth" arcing across the surface towards the ship. Another leaned over the rail to watch what would happen when it hit the side. He described the torpedo as "a beautiful sight,'' covered with a silvery phosphorescence as it sped through the green water.

A woman asked, "That isn't a torpedo, is it?" The man bedside her later said, "I was too spellbound to answer. I felt absolutely sick."


The main feeling I came away with was how fate, as well as deliberate action, played such a large part in the disaster...a late departure, changing weather and unclear instructions to the Captain. As the liner approaches the Irish Coast and its last moments, you are willing the ship to sail to safety but it is not to be. What follows is panic, confusion, disbelief and accounts of heroism and tragedy. If things, even little things had been done differently such as closing the portholes the disaster might not have resulted in such massive loss of life.

Even as the ship was sinking - fate played a role, even though the sun was shinning and the sea calm, rescue was slow in coming and too late when it did for many people.

The author must be praised for how he conveys the despair and sheer terror of that sunny afternoon in in 1915...just a few miles off the Old Head of Kinsale

Living across the Mersey from the Lusitania's home port of Liverpool I was interested, and sobered, to see information from the brilliant Liverpool Maritime Museum on where the crew came from. A 2nd officer lived 3 doors down the road from my house and another in the next road.

Unwanted

Unwanted - Kristina Ohlsson In the middle of a rainy Swedish summer, a little girl is abducted from a crowded train. Despite hundreds of potential witnesses, no one noticed when the girl was taken. Her mother, left behind at the previous station, alerted the crew immediately. But as the train pulled into Stockholm Central Station, the girl was nowhere to be seen. To Inspector Alex Recht of the Stockholm police, this looks like a classic custody row. But none of the evidence adds up and young Investigative Analyst Fredrika Bergman is convinced the case is far more complex than her boss is prepared to admit. So when the missing child is found dead in the far north of Sweden, with the word UNWANTED scribbled on her forehead, the rule book is finally thrown out of the window. Now on the trail of a ruthless murderer with a terrifying agenda, will Alex and Fredrika manage to put aside their differences and work together to find the killer, before it's too late?

Solid debut novel and welcome addition to the burgeoning Scandi Noir genre though the setting is irrelevant to the story.

The characterisation was excellent and the story had good pace though the ending was rather abrupt. Normally I am hopeless at guessing the killer and their motives however this time I was right for once and that earned this book an extra star :)

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