The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn

Although this got really intense in the second half of the book, I found this quite slow and tough to get through at first.

The main character in this I just found extremely irritating to begin with. I think this would be great for fans of The Girl on the Train, but for me I just got frustrated by the lack of sense the main character made. Anna Fox never leaves her house, instead observing her neighbours through her windows – she drinks, she plays online chess, and has an interesting relationship with her husband and daughter. She’s a child psychologist, so I did enjoy seeing her relationship with her own mental health change and evolve. For me however, I didn’t enjoy the first half of the book as much, as it was too repetitive and too reliant on the shadowy events that were unfolding and the unreliability of the narrator. Her observations and discussions with people she interacts with make no sense due to her drinking and mixing prescription drugs, but for me this just went on too long and it became frustrating. Some readers will definitely like this though, and will enjoy the sense of the true unknown that this provides.

Towards the second half of the novel, however, things really picked up. As Anna became more proactive, the descriptions and language became really visual and it’s easy at times to feel like you are actually feeling and experiencing Anna’s agoraphobia. It was a very absorbing second half, and A. J. Finn writes Anna’s mental health struggles very well. It was also increasingly difficult watching her struggle to believe her own memory, as it made the mystery of what was happening in the house across the road take a backseat for a while.

This then meant that once the reader got back into the mysterious events unfolding in the house, there was absolutely no way to know who did what. The ending is rather sudden, although genuinely quite surprising, and I did enjoyed the level of closure Finn allowed the reader – not so much a ‘happy ever after’ but a definite sense of satisfaction.

Anna’s relationship with herself also becomes much more interesting towards the end of the novel – without giving away spoilers, her relationship with her family was definitely not what I was expecting, and sudden extra twists like this I thought really gave this novel it’s edge.

Overall, this is a great quick read, but for me it just takes too long to build. Once within the mystery though, it’s a really gripping tale and I did enjoy it.

The Woman in the Window
A. J. Finn
HarperCollins, 2018

Dead Memories by Angela Marsons

Wow. Simply, wow. **minor spoilers ahead**

Not only is this series one of my favourite detective series, the characters are so interesting and complex that I find it impossible to put this book down.

Couple that with a truly gripping story, with events from Kim Stone’s past being recreated in the present, this is both a deeply disturbing and emotional storyline.

What I loved about this Kim Stone book in particular is that while is it very fast-paced there was also a lot of time dedicated to her past and the emotions of the team. This really balanced well with the truly horrific crimes they were dealing with.

I also liked the way that the main suspects began as the obvious contenders from Kim’s past, but of course it was never going to be that simple! The range of characters that are, quite frankly, chilling to read about, from Nina to Symes, really does make you completely hooked on this book. What I also loved is that even though this draws heavily on crimes and characters from Kim’s past and previous cases, absolutely nothing about it feels repeated or overdone.

As per usual, Marsons provided lots of red herrings, twist and turns, and sudden revelations to keep the reader absolutely hooked. This book does use a lot of connections with Kim’s past, and so to truly get the most out of the story and understand all the links and nuances, it would be better to read this series in order, as it really does benefit your reading.

But of course, this is not to say that if this book takes your fancy as a one off, you can’t read it! It’s an absolutely cracking read, truly gripping, and I’m super grateful to Bookouture & NetGalley for sending it my way! As a standalone book it’s still a horrifyingly good story.

I would of course recommend this book, along with the entire series. I loved this book so much that I have found it almost impossible to put it into words! What a genuinely thrilling 10th book in the series!

Dead Memories
Angela Marsons
Bookouture, 22nd February 2019

The Librarian by Salley Vickers

Despite a rather slow story, this novel hooks you in gradually, with wonderfully layered main characters.

This book isn’t what I thought, in that I was expecting a bit more ‘drama’ – I think this is fair enough considering the blurb ends with ‘dramatic consequences for them all’. I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting, but what this novel provides is a very focused story in the 1950’s with a quaint but thoughtful narrative.

The centre of the book is the setting, the Children’s Library in the small town of East Mole. It’s old fashioned, and beautiful in its descriptions, and yet it’s actually quite a subtle setting. Many of the events that unfold are related to the library in some way, and it’s fascinating with the way that Vickers associates the opening up of the library, and so perhaps the opening up of imagination and creativity, as the trigger to the drama that occurs.

The main character, Sylvia Blackwell, is interesting in that she seems unaware of her own naivety but also frustratingly aware that she’s overly involved in the lives of others. Her decisions seem to end up affecting or alienating those around her, and there’s a very subtle underlying sense of annoyance with her; but I also can’t deny the fact that I really liked her and the friendships she has with the children. This may be due to the fact that she is a very real character, with emotions and decisions that we could all relate to.

Many of the key characters are actually children, and they are wonderfully written. Sam Hedge, a young boy living next-door-but-one to Sylvia, is a fascinating character – he is rebellious, but also sensitive and emotional, and I loved seeing the evolution of the friendship between the two.

The one thing I really wasn’t keen on was the ending – the fast forward in time felt forced, like a way to bring together a love story that I wasn’t invested in anyway. For a book that highlights the way reading and learning can change lives, for it to fall back on a happy-ever-after ending was a frustrating read for me. I loved the undertone throughout that kept bringing Sylvia back to books, the way that at almost all key moments a book was mentioned or referred to. It was a beautiful message of love for literature, so I was disappointed that the ending was an ambiguous love story.

I did like that the flash-forward brought us back to the original library, and the clash with technology was made abundantly clear – it was an interesting reflection on modern life. The characters (with the exception of parts of the ending) were exceptionally interesting, mainly because none of them were perfect. They were so utterly human that it was impossible not to be drawn into their story.

Although this wasn’t what I was expecting when I picked up this book, it’s a lovely read, with great characters and a story that seems to almost be grounded in real life.

The Librarian
Salley Vickers
Penguin, 2018

Snap by Belinda Bauer

With unusual main characters and a fast-paced story, this book keeps you intrigued for the whole story.

I liked that the main character was a 13-year-old boy, desperately trying to solve the mystery of his mothers disappearance and subsequent murder. It was a slightly more unusual protagonist than an adult or detective, and it was interesting to follow the thought process of a child through a very traumatic incident.

I also enjoyed the fact that there wasn’t any confusion about who ‘did the crime’ so to speak – the novel builds the story as much as it possibly can, and then starts to hint towards a side of one of the characters that you don’t see coming. The boy, Jack, has fascinating relationships with each of the other central characters, including his sisters, the detectives working his case, his criminal best friend and most intriguingly, his father. The novel focuses so much on the disappearance of his mother that I almost genuinely forgot his father existed, except for the odd mention of him that raises the sneaking suspicion that all is not as it seems with his relationship with his father.

I loved the constant twists and turns, which ran right to the end. I would admit that it was slightly predictable towards the end, but this actually made for an extra satisfying ending in my opinion, rather than being an anticlimax. It felt like a very fulfilling ending, as the characters get what they deserve (or that’s how it seems anyway), while also ending suddenly enough that there wasn’t room for any ‘happy ever after’ type writing. After a fast-paced thriller, I turned the final page both wishing for more but also pleased it ended the way it did.

The novel was quite an easy and quick read for me, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and could hardly tear myself away from it! I haven’t read a Belinda Bauer novel before but now I’m thinking I’m missing out on a really great author.

Belinda Bauer
Black Swan, 2018

Dead Lions & Real Tigers by Mick Herron

What I love about this series is that each book is so different, and without giving too much away, there is a reasonably high turnover of characters. Each character has their own intriguing backstory and the way they work together in these two great mysteries is really interesting to follow.

They follow on from the first book really well, but on both these books I was completely hooked from the beginning, unlike the first one, so this is a series worth sticking with.

Jackson Lamb, the apparent ‘lead’ member of this team of ex-spies, is both disgusting but also has hidden depths of intelligence and well-laid plans that often surprise the reader.

I also like that Jackson Lamb often alienates the rest of the team through his methods that he rarely bothers to explain to them, and it’s an interesting dynamic. Rather than a clearly cohesive team, there are often times when each member or pair goes off on their own, but manage to just about hold everything together by the end.

The books do offer satisfying endings, but the journey to the ending is always full of ups and downs and struggles to complete the job, which makes for an exciting read.

These are definitely great books, different to everything else I’ve read, and I would highly recommend this series.

Dead Lions
Mick Herron
John Murray Publishing, 2017

Real Tigers
Mick Herron
John Murray Publishing, 2017

Slow Horses by Mick Herron

Despite a slow start to the drama, once this book got going I really got hooked.

The first few chapters were pretty wordy, and although I don’t mind long descriptions sometimes, when there’s about 7 characters to introduce, it got a little repetitive. The one positive thing about this is that there was plenty of room for character development, which for some of the characters became quite integral to the story. I liked this, as normally a big development for a character can be more of a slow burn, but the nature of the novel meant that the characters were forced to confront their own flaws in a very stark way.

Once the book gets past the long intro, it was really interesting. With a twist on current political issues, involving a kidnapping, beheading, out-of-favour spies and dodgy journalists, there was a lot going on here. It was sometimes quite hard to follow with the long descriptions, but the drama did really intrigue me.

I was a bit lost as to the actual ‘mystery’ for a while, but as a sneaky, unnoticeable conspiracy started to show itself, it became really enjoyable and quite an unusual story.

This is not your typical crime story, with a death and a detective ready to solve it, and was instead quite disintegrated, with a lot of different characters and mini-stories involved. It’s a more unusual style of writing, but once I got into it I really enjoyed it. I have two more in the same series to read, and am looking forward to seeing where Herron takes the characters, particularly some of the core ones.

Slow Horses
Mick Herron
John Murray Publishing, 2017