The opening chapter of ‘Snap’ by Belinda Bauer presents a chilling premise based on the unsolved murder of Marie Wilks. On a hot day in the summer of 1998, eleven-year-old Jack Bright is left in a broken-down car by the side of a motorway with his two younger sisters, Joy and Merry, while their pregnant mother, Eileen, goes in search of a telephone for help. However, she never returns and her body is eventually found stabbed to death.
Three years later and abandoned by their father who was unable to cope, Jack turns to burgling houses to provide for his sisters and escape being noticed by social services. On the other side of town, a young pregnant woman, Catherine While, discovers a knife next to her bed with a note that reads “I could have killed you” but she decides not to tell her husband about the break-in or report it to the police. Elsewhere, DS Reynolds who does everything by the book and DCI Marvel who takes a slightly more unorthodox approach towards detective work are investigating multiple burglaries and the identity of Eileen’s killer who still hasn’t been caught and are in a race against time to solve both mysteries. Continue reading
I have recently read this year’s winner of the Man Booker International Prize ‘Flights’ by Olga Tokarczuk which was first published in Poland back in 2007 and has been translated by Jennifer Croft. I didn’t have time to shadow the MBIP last spring but as August is Women in Translation Month, this seemed like a good time to find out what to make of it. ‘Flights’ is about an unnamed woman and her reflections on travelling – and that’s about it as far as plot goes in this very fragmented book which can only be described as a “novel” in the loosest sense possible as it is more of a collection of thematically linked observations and vignettes. Continue reading
2018 marks the centenary of Muriel Spark’s birth and I have recently read her autobiography ‘Curriculum Vitae’ and one of her most famous novels ‘The Driver’s Seat’ which was first published in 1970. The main protagonist, Lise, is in her mid-thirties and is unhappy with her dead-end job. She hops on a plane to an unnamed southern European city looking for adventure and has a series of odd interactions with even odder people she meets along the way. Spark ingeniously drops a massive spoiler at the beginning of the third chapter in which it is casually stated that Lise “will be found tomorrow morning dead from multiple stab-wounds, her wrists bound with a silk scarf and her ankles bound with a man’s necktie, in the grounds of an empty villa, in a park of the foreign city to which she is travelling on the flight now boarding at Gate 14.” The narrative then continues as if this information had never been mentioned and the mystery of who the perpetrator is and how and why the murder occurs isn’t revealed until the final paragraphs. Continue reading
‘The Heart’s Invisible Furies’ by John Boyne is a 700 page epic novel about the life of a gay man, Cyril Avery, which also encompasses the social history of Ireland in the second half of the 20th century. The story is told in seven-year increments, starting with the circumstances leading up to Cyril’s birth in Dublin in August 1945 to an unmarried teenage mother, Catherine Goggin, right up until the year when Ireland legalised same-sex marriage by public vote in 2015. Cyril is adopted as a baby by novelist Maude Avery and her banker husband Charles who uses every opportunity to remind Cyril that he is “not a real Avery” with the couple depriving him of any real affection. During adolesence and beyond, Cyril has an unrequited crush on his best friend, Julian Woodbead, and this experience shapes the rest of his life as he struggles to be honest with other people and with himself. Continue reading
Shortlisted for this year’s Desmond Elliott Prize awarded to debut novels published in the UK, ‘How to Be Human’ by Paula Cocozza tells the story of Mary Green, a woman in her thirties who has recently separated from her partner Mark. Now living alone after buying him out of their home in Hackney in east London, she becomes captivated by an urban fox who regularly visits her garden. Meanwhile, her next door neighbours, Michelle and Eric, regard her new visitor as a pest while Mark makes an unwelcome return into her life. Continue reading
Medical memoirs such as This Is Going To Hurt by Adam Kay have vividly illustrated the highs and lows of working in the National Health Service and the importance of funding it properly. The Secret Barrister, an anonymous junior barrister practicing in London, now lifts the lid on the realities of the English and Welsh criminal justice system in ‘Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken’. Continue reading
The final part of Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy brings together the bioengineered Crakers from Oryx and Crake and the eco-religious cult known as God’s Gardeners from The Year of the Flood. Picking up from where both of these books end after the human race has been almost entirely wiped out by a man-made plague, Toby takes centre stage once again, leading the small community of survivors along with Zeb, a mysterious minor character from ‘The Year of the Flood’. Continue reading