Posts Tagged ‘Agatha Christie’

Here’s some information about the novels I enjoyed on my recent holiday in Spain:

‘Under my Skin’ by Sabine Durrantc1yr-square-orig.jpg

This debut psychological thriller has been likened to ‘Gone Girl’ and ‘Girl on a Train’. It is certainly domestic noir and takes the reader straight inside the world of TV presenter Gaby Mortimer as she goes through the horrors of finding a dead woman’s body and then becoming the police’s first in line suspect. I didn’t warm to Gaby as a character but was fascinated to read more about her TV life-style. She was strong enough to carry the plot and I didn’t guess the ending until close to the end. Some of the other characters, especially the police ones like D I Perivale were less convincing. The book takes a while to get going but when it does with the introduction of journalist Jack it rips along. ‘Under my Skin’ was an excellent holiday novel. It was easy to read and interesting with its continuous twists and turns which gave the reader lots to think about under their parasol.

‘Murder at the Lighthouse’ by Frances Evesham – to curl up in comfort with a G & T.murder-at-the-lighthouse

This is the first of the Exham on Sea Cosy Crime Mysteries. It was a very enjoyable light hearted read in the Agatha Christie tradition, bursting with village life idiosyncrasies and implausibility and a litany of very amusing characters. Just right for basking in a temperature of 41 degrees. Libby Forest, the lead character and amateur detective is an endearing and insightful recent divorcee who has moved to Exham on Sea for a fresh start in life. As an incomer she has a refreshing take on the hypocrisy of her fellow residents and the stupidity of the local constabulary. Of course she immediately finds a body by the lighthouse and from then on in refuses to be side tracked until the identity of the victim and then the murderer are discovered. Frances Evesham has invented an array of lively village personalities to get in Libby’s way from her Goth teenage lodger to the pompous chair of the women’s group or the rude but kindly garage proprietor. Fortunately there are two further books in the Exham on Sea Mysteries (based on Burnham on Sea) waiting on my Kindle for my next sunshine break.

‘Cross and Burn’ by Val McDermid9780751551273
Having caught up with all the books in the delicious Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series I am reading them through again enjoying my extra closeness to the main characters and Val McDermid’s masterly plotting. I have reviewed this before but it is worth a second look.

‘Cross and Burn’ is the eighth book in the series of nine. It can be read as a standalone as the plot arc starts with the two lead characters in dark places because of what happened in book seven, something that is deftly revealed without holding up the pace as the book progresses, and ends with a resolution of sorts and a new direction for the future. While Tony Hill and Carol Jordan are sorting out their downfalls a parallel plot with a serial murder unfolds with flashes of scary insights into the mind of the murderer as Paula aided by the few who remain from Carol’s old team try to save the lives of his victims. Like all Val McDermids books the victims are portrayed as real people whose lives you care about, making the whole thing much more suspenseful.

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Sarah Hilary - Theakston prize winner 2015

Sarah Hilary – Theakston prize winner 2015

Our Sidmouth Crime Fiction Group’s read for February was ‘Someone Else’s Skin’ by Sarah Hilary. I love this book. It was the Theakston’s Crime Novel of the Year in 2015. I was at the prize giving and thought the prize well deserved. I’d read the book in one sitting after attending a workshop on novel writing that Sarah was running at the International Agatha Christie Festival at Torre Abbey, Torquay in September 2014. The workshop was inspirational as was our chat over coffee and cakes in the sunshine during the break. Sarah is a crime writer I admire and I’ve loved both of her novels, so I was curious to know what other members of the group thought about it.

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This novel goes straight into the action with a scene from five years ago when the main protagonist, D I Marnie Rome arrives at the burnt out ruin of her parent’s house to find it they have been murdered by their fourteen year old foster son. The story then moves at a pace as Marnie and her Sergeant, Noah Jake, try to get evidence against a violent murderer who has also grievously assaulted his sister. Arriving to interview her at a woman’s refuge they arrive to witness a stabbing.

The novel explores themes of domestic violence, controlling behaviour and abuse of power. But be warned, Sarah Hilary is the queen of twists – and things are never as they first appear.

So what did the group think? Overall, they didn’t like it as much as me, although everyone found it a riveting read and appreciated the writing and great descriptions. They liked the theme and the way the plot twisted and changed direction and no-one guessed the ending.

Some of the group didn’t like the graphic violence and not everyone warmed to Marnie Rome. They found her too edgy and her attitude to Michael, the foster brother who murdered her parents, hard to understand. We did all love Noah Luke though. An interesting and believable character. We also liked the alternating viewpoint between him and Marnie, which provided some interesting insights into Marnie’s behavior. Most of us are now going to read the sequel ‘ No Other Darkness’ , a novel about child abuse. Some might just skip over the violence, but not me. I like the total package. It’s nail biting stuff.

For our March Book Group on Thursday, 24th of March, we are doing something slightly different. Peter Robinson is our chosen author but we are each going to read a different book from his Inspector Banks series to see how they compare. The group starts at 2.30 p.m. at Kennaway House and new members are always welcome.

51Wdy79SxDL__AC_SY220_Crime writer, Alison Joseph (Sister Agnes Mysteries) has started writing a new series of novellas. ‘Hidden Sins’ is the second in the series. When I read the description for this book I thought what a neat idea – and it was. A novel that turns Agatha Christie into an amateur detective. Although it is one of a series, Hidden Sins is just as good as a stand-alone, covering the period just after the First World War. Agatha is in her early twenties and has the sleuthing characteristics of watchful waiting, and intuitive analysis which proves useful as she finds herself alone in a hotel in Cornwall, where she is expected to solve a murder of one of the other guests. She’d prefer to be writing her first romance. We are given extracts of this and it doesn’t seem to be going that well – probably the distraction of knowing a murderer is close by. The writing is very atmospheric and I loved the Christie-like setting of a grand and somewhat faded cliff top hotel, providing the perfect ‘locked room’ scenario. ‘Hidden Sins’ is a light-hearted and enjoyable read.

International Agatha Christie Festival 2015

International Agatha Christie Festival 2015

I’m still glowing from attending the last weekend of the International Agatha Christie Festival. This is the second year I’ve been – and I love this event. It is held in and around Torquay, where Agatha was born. Despite being all about crime, it is the most light-hearted writing festival that I’ve been to. The sun always shines, well it did for the last two years, and as well as talks and performances about Agatha’s work and new versions of her work like Sophie Hannah’s there are lots of event about contemporary crime novels. It has steam train rides, visits to Greenway, Agatha Christie’s holiday home near Dartmouth and a murder mystery set in a funicular too.

This year I went to hear the ‘Killer Women’ panel talk about their books and their inspirations and the practicalities of writing them. ‘Killer Women’ are a collective of London based women authors. Alison Joseph has been writing crime novels about a Nun as well as other stand alone novels for some years. Her latest novels, published by Endeavour Press, are appropriately about Agatha Christie becoming a sleuth herself. It’s a neat idea. I’ve just finished reading ‘Hidden Sins’ and I’ll be reviewing it in my next post.  Louise Voss has just published her first solo crime novel, ‘The Venus Trap’ after the recent success of her thrillers co-written with Mark Edwards, and Helen Smith’s work is more light-hearted about a female PI called Alison Wonderland.

Then there were noneLots to think about there and then I went to see a charming production of ‘And then there were none’ at the Princess Theatre in Torquay – although the ending was a bit gruesome. All very Agatha.