Archive for the ‘Woman protagonist’ Category

As a fan of the DCI Banks series, I was eager to try one of Peter Robinson’s stand alone novels. I found ‘Before the Poison’ a riveting read. Unlike the DCI Banks books it’s not a police procedural, more a mystery story with aspects of supernatural. It’s about a successful musician who buys a secluded and rambling manor house on the North Yorkshire moors. His wife has just died and he becomes obsessed with proving that the woman who owned the house before him should not have been hanged for murdering her husband. Metaphorical ghosts and real ones abound, the later in the form of the hanged woman’s diary.

I loved Peter Robinson’s style of writing. He uses a range of devices together with extracts from the diary of the hanged woman, to imply her story, including chapters from a contemporary true crime book and the protagonist’s dreams and conversations with his own dead wife. But he uses them with great skill and believability. For classical music and cinema lovers there are continuous references from the protagonist’s experience of writing film music which add to the enjoyment.
‘Before the Poison’ is an interesting and satisfying read. Well recommended.

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Finishing my second book about criminologist Kate Trevelyan and starting a new role delivering books to housebound people mean I’ve fallen behind with my reviewing. As crime fiction is by far the most popular genre requested I’ve gone back through my own reading preferences and decided to complete an alphabetical guide to my favourite authors, starting with A for Rachel Abbott.

Rachel is one of the UK’s most successful independent crime writers. Her first seven psychological thrillers have combined to sell over three million copies, and have all been bestsellers. In 2015, she was named the 14th bestselling author over the last five years on Amazon’s Kindle in the UK. Her thrillers feature Detective Chief Inspector Tom Douglas and like Sophie Hannah’s ‘Culver Valley’ series we follow the story of a lone protagonist who may be the perpetrator, victim or witness of a crime alongside the police’s attempts to find the culprit and stop further crime. This creates a strong sense of jeopardy as the reader hopes the victim will survive but knows the police can’t benefit from what they know. DCI Tom Douglas continues to have his own relationship problems which get in the way but make him enduring, and the series provide the satisfaction of getting to know him better with each book.

Rachel Abbott novels always start with dramatic prologues which hint at the suspense to come. My favourite is still the prologue in the first of the series, ‘Only the Innocent’ which starts with an illicit liaison for sex play and soon develops into something more dangerous. The prologue in the last of the series, ‘Come a Little Closer’ is much briefer but is compensated by having more viewpoints to follow before the connections between them become apparent.

Callie, the protagonist of ‘Come a Little Closer’ is a young woman struggling to escape an abusive relationship who is vulnerable to exploitation by others. She’s worn out, depressed and not thinking straight and it takes her a long time to recognise what is happening to her or how she may be connected to other apparently random deaths. The short sharp chapters and varied viewpoints make multiple twists in this riveting suspense a gripping read.

‘Come a Little Closer’ is the seventh and last book of the series. Rachel’s latest novel ‘And so it begins’ was released last month and is the start of a new series about police woman Stephanie King. I’m sure I’ll enjoy that one too, but I hope I haven’t read the last of the Tom Douglas thrillers.

‘Old friends, sat on their park bench like book ends.’
Simon & Garfunkel – ‘Bookends’ Album 1968.

 

The Woman in Blue:
An old friend, now a woman priest, contacts Ruth regarding some threatening letters she has received. She is coming to Walsingham to attend a conference and take part in some of the religious events. Meanwhile, Cathbod is in Walsingham too, house-sitting for a friend when he sees a vision of a woman wearing blue in the graveyard who is soon found dead. This is just the start to a string of murders, as Ruth tries to balance her work lecturing in archaeology, helping the police and taking her daughter to endless play rehearsals while Nelson tries to get over his wife’s affair and the new ‘super-boss’ bent on reform. The crowds are gathering for the local Mystery Play, religious fanaticism rears its head and the scene is set for a fascinating romp through personal relationships and murders.

The Chalk Pit:
Ruth’s archaeological skills are needed again as boiled bones are found in an underground tunnel below Norwich. DCI Nelson and his team are kept busy tracking down a serial killer preying on the homeless. Then a middle class mother of two disappears and Nelson’s boss wants results fast.

In this 9th Ruth Galloway story, where old bones meet modern murder, Ruth and Nelson’s not quite a relationship features as much as the crime. Both have family difficulties to focus on, and however much the reader wants them to get together things always get in the way.

This is Norfolk Noir at its best – misty, gloomy, dangerous, mystical, pagan, set within bleak salt marshes and ancient buildings. The stories turn at a comfortable pace with great twists to reveal hard to guess satisfying endings.