Tag Archives: Transworld Publishing

Into The Water – Paula Hawkins

For those of you who were following the blog before it’s hiatus, you may remember that I was a real fan of The Girl on the Train, the novel that went on to sell and sell and sell, and have a movie made and then sell more and sell more and sell more. I was a fan of it from the off (I think I read it a month or so after it came out, my thoughts are here) finding the thrills and the slightly side eye wry way it looked at how society pigeon holes women and how they ought to behave. So I was instantly looking forward to the follow up, Into The Water, which I wanted to go into forgetting all those sales I mentioned but must have been a pressure for Paula herself in some way. A shame that success like that can bring the freedom to write but also brings out the pressure and reviewers knives freshly sharpened at the ready. This reviewer has no sharpened knife. This reviewer thought it was bloody good.

Transworld Publishers, hardback, 2017, fiction, 368 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

When they came to tell me, I was angry. Relieved first, because when two police officers turn up on your doorstep just as you’re looking for your train ticket, about to run out the door for work, you fear the worst. I feared for the people I care about – my friends, my ex, the people I work with. But it wasn’t about them, they said, it was about you. So I was relieved, just for a moment, and then they told me what had happened, what you’d done, they told me you’d been in the water and then I was furious. Furious and afraid.

The main story that runs through Into The Water is that of Jules who finds out that her somewhat estranged sister has died, seemingly having thrown herself into the infamous ‘drowning pool’ back in their home town of Beckford. (I say the main story because there are layers of stories throughout the drowning pools history, the first narrative in the book being of Libby in the 17th century, this will all make sense soon I promise.) Despite herself Jules returns to her hometown to look after her niece, Lena whose best friend died in the drowning pool not long before her mother, who clearly would really rather Jules hadn’t come into their lives and harbours some ill will against her aunt for her seeming desertion of her family until now.

As Jules starts to sort out Nel’s house, she discovers that her sister had a rather grim fascination of the drowning pool and its history. For many, many years it has had a dark history, particularly for women, as it was the place of the drowning of accused witches (see, told you Libby’s narrative would make sense soon) as well as the spot of suicides of women for generations since. Yet what if some of the deaths weren’t suicide, what if someone used those legends and tragedies for their own gain. Would Nel really be the sort of woman to kill herself and leave her sister behind? These are the things Jules starts to contemplate, whilst also bit by bit her history with her sister and their estrangement start to come back to Jules and also make her question how well liked her sister might have been.

 I returned my gaze to you, to your slender wrist, to the place where the onyx clasp would have rested on blue veins. I wanted to touch you again, to feel your skin. I felt sure I could wake you up. I whispered your name and waited for you to quiver, for your eyes to flick open and follow me around the room. I thought perhaps that I should kiss you, if like Sleeping Beauty that might do the trick, and that made me smile because you’d hate that idea. You were never the princess, you were something else. You sided with darkness, with the wicked stepmother, the bad fairy, the witch.

This is all gripping stuff. I mean you have historical drownings of suspected witches, a period in history I find fascinating and I do love a good witchy tale. (I have to admit when I thought Paula had written a thriller about 17th century witches I was almost beside myself. That isn’t this book, though there is a slight supernatural moment or two which I really liked and thought really worked.) Then you have the deaths throughout the years since, one of which really genuinely shocked me – in an ‘I am slightly disgusted with myself for enjoying being so shocked’ way. Then you have the modern day family drama, another thing I love, and the secrets from the past that come back to haunt you. Then Hawkins adds another level, perfect for nosey people like me, as you start to get to know (and nosy about in) the lives of other people in Beckford and go behind those twitching curtains.

It’s a fucking weird place, Beckford. It’s beautiful, quite breath taking in parts, but it’s strange. It feels like a place apart, disconnected from everything that surrounds it. Of course, it is miles from anywhere – you have to drive hours to get anywhere civilised. That’s if you call Newcastle civilized, which I am not sure I do. Beckford is a strange place, full of odd people, with a downright bizarre history. And all through the middle of it there’s this river, and that’s the weirdest thing of all – it seems like whichever way you turn, in whatever direction you go, somehow you always end up back at that river.

Admittedly this might not be for everyone, there are about eleven or twelve narrators in this book. Yet for me, the way Nel and her life intersected (and in some cases didn’t, who doesn’t love a red herring) with the rest of the people of Beckford and any naughty/dark shenanigans they had going on in their own lives and homes creates a wider jigsaw puzzle for you to put together. I really liked that. I particularly liked Erin Morgan one of the detectives on the case, who I really hope comes back in another Hawkins novel in the future.

One thing I find crime fiction and thrillers can do really well is look at human nature and how some people react in that kind of pressure, in Into The Water with such a big cast you have plenty of that. The area that they excel at, when done well, is looking at a subject or theme in society of our times, or the times if they are historic. As I mentioned in The Girl on the Train it looked at alcoholism and the expectations/stereotypes society created for women, and did it brilliantly I thought. With Into The Water Hawkins takes a look and discusses – and I am have not named many characters so as you can see how this happens yourself with no spoilers – the subject of consent and again, I think, handles it brilliantly whilst really making you think. I shall say no more.

I really, really admire Paula Hawkins for doing something really quite different from what people might have expected after the success of The Girl on the Train. How easy it would have been to create another thriller with a smaller cast and just one big juicy, twisty plot. Instead she has created multiple narrators, multiple plots and multiple mini drama’s around the central story and created a whole town and a whole host of characters and their secrets. I think it really worked, it certainly had me turning the pages until the early hours. I look forward to the next.

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Vanish – Tess Gerritsen

I hate flying but from now on whenever I have a big trip coming up I am going to have to make sure that I take a Tess Gerritsen book with me. I had been unsure of which book to read as I flew to and from Switzerland and most of my contenders seemed too heavy (especially as I was on a little bit of vallium) but my latest read in the Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles novels ‘Vanish’ was absolutely perfect. I always say that a Tess Gerritsen book for me is my favourite ‘Guilty Pleasure’ but actually I am going to remove that tag from her books now as frankly literary or not (dependent on what you believe is and isn’t literature) she writes brilliant books that completely grip me and have me turning pages like crazy.

Vanish is in fact the fifth book in what was the Jane Rizzoli series and then became the Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isle series of crime/thriller novels that Tess Gerritsen has become incredibly famous for. Every single of the previous fur I have absolutely loved and raced through and so each time I open another one I always worry that this will be the one that I don’t like or that isn’t as good as the ones that have gone before it. I needn’t have worried as I was in safe, if gruesome, hands of a master of her work, or is it mistress of her work?

Dr Maura Isles is going about her routine paperwork at the morgue when she hears a noise. Not one for getting the creeps, as she is named ‘Queen of the Dead’, even she is shocked when she checks on the bodies and one of them opens their eyes. The woman is rushed to hospital where she then (and this isn’t spoiling the plot as its in the blurb) kills a guard and takes some of the staff and patients hostage. One such hostage is Detective Jane Rizzoli of homicide who is heavily pregnant. Who is this Jane Doe and what does she want and can Jane survive long enough to find out.

In previous books, as with this one, they are quite gruesome dark and tense. What makes an interesting twist with this book in particular is that Gerritsen decides to throw in some political twists which she hasn’t done so much in the past, had I known this I would possibly have been put off a little as I don’t do politics but Gerritsen makes it compelling reading adding to the suspense and twists which I don’t find many authors manage when they cross over the political thriller with the crime thriller. I can see this book gaining Gerritsen even more fans who may not have tried her before.

Along with all this is the fact that Gerritsen herself is a doctor and so she knows what she is talking about, never for one minute do you feel any of the scenes in the hospitals or morgues are faked, in fact Gerritsen has said that finding non dead people in morgues is more common than you would think which is a bit of a scary thought. Ok so some of the story line means you really have to suspend your belief (in the last one Dr Maura Isles opens up a body bag to see herself in it), but many, many books do that. Her characters though are superb and she does something only a few crime writers do which is get the reader to know the victim, making the death not only shocking tense and chilling but also adding the feeling you know that person makes it all the more horrific to read. I can’t say a bad thing about this book and do you know what… the next book, The Mephisto Club, sounds even better!

It was also perfect after the Orange shortlist (reviews still being sorted for the final two I read… I don’t understand what blogger is playing at) which though a great read and made me read some wonderful books I would otherwise have missed was a bit like an exercise and all too planned. Now before I try and do the Man Booker Long list when its announced I am more than happy to just let my reading whims take me wherever they should lead. Bliss!

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The 19th Wife – David Ebershoff

So I finally get round to reviewing the latest Richard and Judy Challenge read which has only come in almost 4 days late… whoops. The thing is The 19th Wife is huge and actually didn’t take me as long as I thought it would but at the same time wasn’t as quick to read as I had thought it might be. Has that confused you yet?

When I opened this novel I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I was thinking ‘wow a Mormon murder mystery how unusual’ and indeed it is an incredibly different novel. There are really two stories running through it. Firstly there is the tale of Jordan Scott a young man in his mid twenties who sees in the news that his mother has murdered his father. Jordan has seen neither of his parents for quite some time, in fact since his mother drove him into the desert and left him on the roadside ‘at God’s will’. Jordan’s parents are in fact part of the First of Latter Day Saints and his mother was one of many wives, in fact she was his 19th wife. Jordan decides that he will go back to his home town and try and help his mother meaning he has to look back at his past and face some of his demons.

The second story of the book is all about Ann Eliza Young, the 19th wife of Brigham Young the second Prophet of the Mormon Church, who in the late 1890’s leaves her village and sect and battles for freedom and an end to polygamy in the United States. Ann Eliza Young was in fact a real person, which I didn’t realise until I had read the authors notes at the end which everyone should do with this book, and to me this made her story all the more compelling. Ebershoff tells her tale both from his fictional reworking of her novel (which she actually did write) through Brigham Young’s diary, letters from her son and through Kelly Dee who is researching the life of Ann and the fact that the Mormon’s one time biggest enemy actually helped create the Mormon religion of now and made the break between them and the ‘Firsts’.

Now this sounds confusing and I am going to admit that in parts of the novel I was somewhat lost. Especially as thrown into Jordan’s narrative keep coming press cuttings and news reports from Ann Eliza’s tale and I thought they should have been in the other sections of the novel as they related to that. As an editor himself I am surprised that Ebershoff didn’t have them moved. I also thought in parts the book was a little too long and yet, I am going to sound very contrary, I wanted so much more of Ann’s tale as I found it fascinating. This is actually what was bizarre, at the start of the book I really wanted to read more of Jordan’s story and by the end I wasn’t so bothered about the Mormon murder and was much more interested in Ann.

I think this had to do with the character or Jordan and the way he spoke and the two people he became attached to. He kept speaking in slang, so for example instead of saying something was boring he would say ‘same old blog’ and while I understand he is meant to be a young man ‘of the now’ it annoyed me. When he then meets Tom I found their relationship far too convenient and also quite unrealistic. After going to the cinema once they seemed to be a married couple. Then one scene where they are on the true killers heels they spend several paragraphs checking if the dog’s have the right toys and blankets. I just found that all quite ridiculous. However what Jordan’s character was good for was his story of being gay and the effects that causes in the ‘Firsts’ sects interesting and heartbreaking especially when his mother leaves him. It also showed how in the 100+ years since polygamy was outlawed that it is still going on as it the rape and grooming of children in these sects which makes for quite difficult reading.

I think what Ebershoff has done over all is quite spectacular. I know I had a moan about some of the Jordan parts of the book but that part was still a very good murder mystery and really looked at how children are affected by polygamy. I think really this was two separate books in one which is quite some feat. What this book has done that no books have made me do for quite a while is research. I have been trawling the internet looking to find out more about Ann Eliza and Brigham Young, reading about all the incidents she depicts. I think her story really sang out of the book and in a way the book could have been solely about her and still have been great. I think in bringing in the second tale helped to show that in all this time nothing has hanged for the ‘Firsts’ and they are still a law unto themselves which is slightly shocking and worrying.

If your looking for a huge book that will really make you think about things and want an insight into the life of ‘Firsts’ not Mormons (as I have learnt thanks to Ebershoff there is quite a difference) then this is a fascinating, clever and extremely well written book. I really enjoyed it and have come away wanting to find out much more about a woman I didn’t even know existed, and thanks to the authors notes I now have a list of more books to find and read. As for another Ebershoff… would I read one? No question, I would and will be. I thought Ebershoff was a new author however this is his third, randomly I found a copy of his debut novel ‘The Danish Girl’ in one of my favourite charity shops for 50p. I will report back on it in due course.

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When Will There Be Good News? – Kate Atkinson

I know its Booking Through Thursday day today but as I wrote about it before here (and I don’t mean that in a off way) I thought I would pop a link to it and mention it before discussing the latest Richard and Judy choice that is the superb and frankly brilliant When Will There Be Good News by Kate Atkinson.

Firstly if you haven’t read ‘Case Histories’ and ‘One Good Turn’ then frankly shame on you. Kate Atkinson has created something wonderful in fusing crime and mystery with literature without it being pigeonholed into either. She also has a fantastic plotting ability which deals with some very complex coincidences in fact coincidence has been the theme throughout these three Jackson Brodie novels however I think with ‘When Will There Be Good News’ she has surpassed the previous two, though they are both must reads. This book safely furthered Atkinson as one of my all time favourite authors. Now for me to describe it to without giving anything away from this book and the ones that came before it. I have to say that this is the darkest of the series and yet has an incredible humour to it too.

Jackson Brodie is a former detective and private investigator he carries a lot of baggage but is an absolutely brilliant and complex character though actually he isn’t in this book as much as in the later so if you become a fan you’ll want to read the others. Plug, plug, plug. Brodie is investigating something personal as we meet him, that ends in him getting lost in the Yorkshire moors and then on a train the wrong way which ends in a crash. Detective Louise Monroe has history with Brodie and is currently looking into a case of a man. In Scotland Louise Monroe is dealing with a missing homicidal manic, her new marriage and a convict fresh out of jail. Reggie is a sixteen year old nanny who has reported her employer Dr Hunter missing when no one else cares? How do their paths cross, how do they intertwine with the 30 year old case of Joanna Mason.

The start of the book centres on Joanna Mason and the horrific (and for the reader incredibly chilling I actually got frightened along with those involved) murder of her family on a walk in the countryside, she was the only survivor. It was shocking upsetting and also you wondered how it could affect the characters of the rest of the book. How does this link with all the characters above? You will have to read the book to find out… Speaking of characters though I must mention Reggie who I think is an amazing character, its very rare you find such a gem in a novel (though I mentioned Marianne Engel from The Gargoyle last week) and Reggie is a character I could read at least a dozen books about and I really hope that she is brought back at some point.

This has to be Kate Atkinson’s masterpiece to date (I never managed to finish Behind The Scenes at the Museum and must try to one day) and with each in the series she gets better and better, you begin to wonder how she can top this with the next one – she is actually giving the characters a rest for a while.

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When Will There Be Good News? – Kate Atkinson

This will be my last book of 2008 which is an odd feeling. I fly off to Barcelona later today and am taking Anna Karenina with me and strangely although I hope to read a lot I don’t think I will be able to get through that in just under a week. I have already typed up and saved my blogs for while I am away so hopefully I will be blogging as usual. So to the matter in hand and my last read of 2008 had to be one that I have been savouring and savouring after hearing some fantastic reviews and also having loved both its predecessors. The book in question is Kate Atkinson’s ‘When Will There Be Good News?’ the latest in the Jackson Brodie series which I hope just goes on and on.

If you haven’t read ‘Case Histories’ and ‘One Good Turn’ then frankly shame on you. Kate Atkinson has created something wonderful in fusing crime and mystery with literature without it being pigeonholed into either. She also has a fantastic plotting ability which deals with some very complex coincidences in fact coincidence has been the theme throughout these three Jackson Brodie novels however I think with ‘When Will There Be Good News’ she has surpassed the previous two, though they are both must reads.

Jackson Brodie is a former detective and private investigator who when we last saw him (forewarning of possible spoilers if you haven’t read the first two) had been rejected by his finance whilst sorting out a crime spree in Edinburgh and meet and fallen for the official detective of the case Louise Monroe. Now we pick up quite a few years later when Brodie is investigating something much more personal that ends in him getting lost in the Yorkshire moors and then on a train the wrong way which ends in a crash. In Scotland Louise Monroe is dealing with a missing homicidal manic, her new marriage and a convict fresh out of jail. How do their paths cross again, how do they intertwine with Joanna Mason who witnessed her families’ murder thirty years before and in the present day with Reggie a sixteen year old nanny who has reported her employer Dr Hunter missing when no one else cares?

I can’t really say anymore on this without puting you off with the complexities (which Atkinson makes easy) or without giving things away so I will simply say that this book is simply superb! Brodie is again wonderful and Monroe is great in her very professional yet completely confused character. I absolutely loved the new character of Reggie who is used to ‘everyone dying’ and has a wonderfully young yet cynical and sassy look on life that I just loved, I think she is one of my favourite charcters of the year. I would like to see her come back in the future along with Brodie. I hope they do.

This has to be Kate Atkinson’s masterpiece to date (I never cared for Behind The Scenes at the Museum and must try to finish it one day) and with each in the series she gets better and better, you begin to wonder how she can top this with the next one. This particular novel however I found much darker (yet still very comedic) than the previous two as did fellow Atkinson and Brodie lover Harriett Devine. I, like Harriett, cannot wait for the next in the series and pray there is one (I have heard rumour of one in 2010) as I will be rushing to the shops for it one its day of release it should become an annual event really.

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Why Do I Say These Things – Jonathan Ross

I have been lucky enough that the delightful people from New Books Magazine feel they can send me books and the like to review. Sometimes though when a package comes through the door be it from a publisher, a review for a mag, whatever you can inwardly groan. Now had this been Jonathan Ross’s book I would have possibly wept (you have seen the number of books arriving through my doors at the moment) and also I don’t really like him that much. However an audio book I was more than happy with, I could listen to it while I popped round Sainsbury’s and I actually did.

If you are a fan of Jonathan Ross then I won’t need to really sell you this because you will have already bought it or popped it onto your Christmas list. If you aren’t a fan of Jonathan Ross then this could be quite a hard sell and if you aren’t either a fan or foe of Jonathan Ross then it’s not going to matter. I will first of all say that this is not in fact an autobiography which it seems to be being marketed as. It is in fact a ‘selection of memories’ throughout his life.

I have to admit thought I found this puzzling as there wasn’t any order to it. He started of discussing the time that he ‘accidentally date raped himself’ now I know his humour is controversial and crude (especially of late) but this simply wasn’t funny and he didn’t actually make the point of when or how, and to discuss Mexican families he sponsors in the same context I thought was wrong.

I was surprised though as when Ross talks (for it is he who is reading his own work) about his pets that is when you see him at his funniest, and though you wouldn’t think he could shock when it comes to pets you would again be wrong. However it’s when he talks about his pets and the love of them all that you finally sense you are seeing a much truer side of him than you see on the TV and in the media, a much softer side. I found that really interesting and it was these bits more than the random theories on fame or date raping himself that I enjoyed the most.

I think this is also much better in audio format compared to book format. You hear the voice telling the stories that experienced them and he seems much less arrogant and patronising. It also will in places make you really chuckle, one particular story about a kitten made me laugh very loudly in public so that’s a good sign I was enjoying it, and I was… much more than I thought I would.

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Body Double – Tess Gerritsen

After a few ropey classics I have decided to start October with one of my favourite authors of the moment Tess Gerritsen. It is great to know in a world filled with so many books and the possibility of so many let downs (and yes so many gems) that you can pick up a book and just know the time will whizz by and you will be hooked and lost in another fictional world.

‘Body Double’ has just done exactly that and I think in all honesty that it’s my favourite of Gerritsen’s books so far and that is saying something. Whereas the previous books have in general focused on Jane Rizzoli this one is much more about ‘Queen of the Dead’ pathologist Maura Isles who has been sneakily becoming a bigger and bigger character in the series as it has gone on. You can read these books in any order; I am just a bit funny about reading things in order. I digress, the story…

Maura Isles has been on holiday after her previous horrific adventure with Jane Rizzoli. When she arrives back from ‘vacation’ she finds the police surrounding her house and a dead woman in a car outside, when she see’s the dead woman she sees herself and they share a birth day and the same blood type. In fact when the DNA tests come in Maura finds that the woman in the car was her twin sister given away when they were both adopted. Maura goes in search of her sisters past and finds it’s full of dark and deadly secrets.

Gerritsen is amazingly clever in firstly coming up with such a clever, warped and dramatic story and secondly in pulling it off. What seems so unlikely is made completely believable once the story of the past of these twin sisters starts to come to light and also it’s incredibly creepy. This is less of a gore fest than its predecessors also and I have to say is slightly better for it, you still get quite a lot of facts and some of them quite squeamish when the autopsies are performed to various cadavers.

Plot is one of the key element, like Christie (but much gorier) the prose is fast and blunt rather than flowery but the plot is tight and you can devour a five hundred page book in one sitting. I am a complete Gerritsen fan, and while I could quite happily move straight onto ‘Vanish’ I have decided to savour the moment and leave off, I don’t want to finish this series before the new one is out do I?

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