Hastings District Libraries

Monday, 26 June 2017

The House at the Edge of the World by Julia Rochester

While not a detective story this first novel by Julia Rochester relies on the element of surprise and I simply could not put it down until it was finished in one day. The narrator Morwenna is eighteen years old at the start and she and her twin brother Corwin live with their unhappily married parents and paternal grandfather, Matthew, on the family estate near the coast in Devon.

The twins' mother hates the place while both her husband and father-in-law have centred their lives on the property. Matthew is an artist who has for years been working on an enormous painting of the estate and the surrounding area. The twins have a very unusually close relationship even for twins.

One evening the twins' father, while walking home drunk from the pub with a friend, falls to his death from the cliff top. Soon after his death the twins move away to start their separate adult lives, Corwin in Africa and Morwenna to London. However after years away, they return to the family home and question their father's death.

If novels about families and their secrets are your thing then this book is well worth looking at.

Posted by VT

Catalogue link: The House on the Edge of the World

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Always Watching by Chevy Stevens

I first discovered Chevy Stevens when I read her first novel, Still Missing. Still Missing follows a realtor who is kidnapped by a potential client and spends a year as his captive. I followed that up with Never Knowing, a book about an adopted women trying to find her birth parents. Once she find her mother she discovers that she was the only living survivor of a well known serial killer. While I was searching the shelves to find something to read I stumbled across Always Watching.

I enjoyed reading Always Watching and I managed to read it curled up by the fire in one night. I found myself developing my own theories about what was happening and who might be responsible- some which were correct and some which missed the mark entirely.  At times I did think the author had stretched some events out into the slightly unbelievable but I was willing to overlook it and I have put her other books on my ‘to read’ list.

Dr Nadine has recently given herself a new start. In her mid fifties, she is widowed, experiences bouts of severe claustrophobia, repressed memories and is estranged from her only daughter who has been living rough on the streets for the last seven years. She has given up her private practice, moved cities and begun working in the psychiatric ward of the hospital. She is in her element there, she can help people, heal people and rebuild lives. It is her safe haven.

Heather is admitted to the psychiatric ward after an attempted suicide. Nadine finds herself drawn to Heather and once she begins to unravel her story she begins to see connections between their lives. Both women have spent parts of their lives living in a commune. Heather recently, Nadine during her early teenage years.

As Nadine’s interest in her new patient begins to border on obsession and the lines of professionalism blurring, her past is quickly catching up to her. With Nadine, Heather and every else she holds dear in danger, she must begin to face her past and find the cause of her repressed memories before it finds her.

Reviewed by Kristen

Catalogue link:  Always Watching

Monday, 19 June 2017

A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee

Set in Calcutta 1919, A Rising Man is written from the viewpoint of Captain Sam Wyndham, newly off the boat to take up the reins as detective inspector in the Imperial Police Force. The murder of a senior civil servant, Alexander MacAuley, throws him in at the deep end, the body discovered near a brothel in a part of town not normally frequented by British sahibs after dark.

Assisted by Sergeant Digby, passed over for promotion and barely polite, as well as Cambridge educated Sergeant Banerjee, Sam is soon aware of an undercurrent of civil unrest. A note on the body suggests the murder is the work of terrorists trying destabilise British rule.

When a rail worker is killed during a train hold-up, a known terrorist gang is suspected and Sam finds himself working with military intelligence, who operate on a shoot first, ask questions later basis. It’s an uncomfortable relationship for someone who has seen too much unnecessary death in the trenches.

Mukherjee has recreated Calcutta under British rule, the heat, the grandiose architecture and the politics of the day. While it is suggested that the British may have had good intentions at one time, as one character says, ‘India makes hypocrites of us all’, and it is obvious that many in power put gain above public good.

While giving the reader pause for thought, the story still has plenty of action to keep you whizzing through the pages. Sam takes a bullet and gets beaten up more than once, earning both admiration and sympathy from potential love interest, MacAuley’s secretary Annie Grant.

A Rising Man is the first Sam Wyndham book, and it’s a nicely paced whodunit, well researched and peopled with terrific characters. Mukherjee’s second Sam Wyndham novel has been nominated for a Dagger award, which gives me hope that this is just the start of an unmissable series.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue link: A Rising Man

Thursday, 15 June 2017

The House Between Tides by Sarah Maine

Imagine inheriting a rambling old house on a remote Scottish island. This is what happens to Hetty Deveraux in The House Between Tides, a debut novel by Sarah Maine. Hetty's pushy boyfriend and financial adviser, Giles, is full of big ideas for Muirlan House, but Hetty begins to have cold feet and catches a plane to Scotland alone. She desperately needs to see the place for herself and have some space to think.

James Cameron has long family ties to the island where Muirlan House stands. He has been surveying the building and things don’t look good. Neglect has seen the foundations undermined, the staircase is positively dangerous and a storm could easily bring down an entire wall. On top of which, James has just discovered a skeleton under the floorboards when Hetty arrives eager to inspect her inheritance.

The two clash over what might happen to the property while the story weaves back to a hundred years before, when estate owner, artist Theo Blake, brings his young bride home to Muirlan. He hasn’t been back for twenty years, since he left to study art, leaving behind the love of his life. He’s a difficult person to get to know, and his new wife Beatrice struggles to build a happy marriage. If only Theo could settle back to painting again, but the longer they stay on the island, the more distant and moody he becomes.

There are simmering passions, wild weather and an atmospheric setting filled with stunning views and bird-life. Author, Sarah Maine, is a gifted writer when it comes to capturing the mood and feel of this remote and lonely house and its misfit characters. However the book could probably have lost around fifty pages – there are a lot of wistful walks along the shore and light playing on water. However I did enjoy the book enough to keep reading.

There are plenty of novels like this - family secrets, a neglected house, conflicting interests and undercurrents of romance, but if you enjoy the genre, The House Between Tides is better than most. And it’s hard to resist a story set on a Scottish island.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue link: The House Between Tides

Monday, 12 June 2017

Bit Rot by Douglas Coupland

Bit Rot is the term to describe the way digital files can spontaneously decompose. Who knew? On the cover, it states this book is a collection of stories and essays. Inside you will find keen observations and sharp musings on the world as it is and what it could become. Interspersed with fiction.

Here again, as one review puts it, is Douglas Coupland, trying to break our brains and our library cataloguing systems. Is Bit Rot fiction or non-fiction? It’s a collection of both! Oh noes!

Bit Rot contains short stories, such as Beef Rock (all librarians should read this); The man who lost his story; Bartholomew is right there at the dawn of language; Temp; and George Washington's extreme makeover. All with observations that will make you laugh and think.

If you don’t recognise these words: 
Bit rot
Blank-collar workers

- then you should probably read this book.

Posted by The Library Cat

Catalogue link: Bit Rot

Thursday, 8 June 2017

If You Knew Her by Emily Elgar

Everyone has secrets and the three main characters in this book are no exceptions. This psychological thriller has three main characters and a whole host of suspects.

We follow Cassie, a young, recently married woman, keen artist and free spirit who is brought into the intensive care unit at St Catherine’s Hospital, the victim of a hit and run accident. She is cared for by Alice, a hard- working nurse on the ward. Alice also cares for Frank, who is in a coma and suffering from locked- in syndrome brought on by alcohol abuse, which means he is aware of everything going on around him but is unable to communicate with the outside world.

Frank observes everything in his very limited world and takes particular interest in Cassie, noting that although she appears to have a loving family surrounding her , that there is more to them than meets the eye. Ultimately this means that his life too is placed in danger.

Cassie’s story is told through flash-backs to the weeks and days leading up to her accident interspersed with observations in real time from Frank and the thoughts and later suspicions of Alice as she comes to realise that all is not as it seems and that secrets abound with all the characters.

There are a number of themes within this book, the first novel for this author, including betrayal, shame of the past, obsession and emotional pain. We share with each of the main characters as they struggle to make sense of the situation in which they find themselves.

It did take me a few pages to become hooked into the book. Once I started to relate to the characters however, I quickly became engrossed in trying to work out why Frank felt Cassie was in danger. If you like medical crime thrillers then this is certainly one to consider. The whodunit theme ramps up as the book progresses, there is more than one twist and turn in the story and I was left guessing right to the end.

I did enjoy the book and would certainly read more by this author should she publish again.

Reviewed by Fiona

Catalogue link: If You Knew Her

Monday, 5 June 2017

The Last Policeman trilogy by Ben H Winters

The main theme running through these books is that a previously unseen asteroid is going to hit Earth and completely destroy all life. Many people have decided to throw in their old lives and go and complete their bucket list before time runs out. As we know this from the beginning, this motivates or alternatively doesn’t motivate all the characters that we come across.

There is a timetable, a certain number of days till the end of the world So what do you do?  How do you resolve your issues with your siblings, partner, workmates etc.? Why should you go to work? Money is becoming meaningless. Law and order is breaking down so what would you do if you knew you wouldn’t be held accountable?

The Last Policeman is the first book in the trilogy and finds Hank Palace, who has just been made a detective, on site of a suicide. Many people are killing themselves as the end draws near, but this just doesn’t feel right. His fellow officers are uninterested so what should he do?

Hank has a rather strained relationship with his sister Nico for whom he is over protective, as their parents died when they were very young. She however is a wild child and has always done everything her own way. She believes in some scheme that will save the world. Can the world be saved?

This is Hank and Nico’s story, at the end of the world. Recommended.

Posted by The Library Cat

Catalogue links: