‘Aurora’ by David Koepp is sure to make quite an impact this year. Set in the present day, it is the story of a family and their struggles to survive the aftermath of a solar storm – a CME (Coronal Mass Ejection). The event causes electrical power to go out across the world, and no-one knows how long it will last. Aubrey and her stepson have to find a way to work together to get through a complete change in their lives and those of their neighbours. They soon discover just how much we rely on electricity for every aspect of our lives. Going back to a pre-electrical era is scary. Aubrey’s billionaire brother foresaw such an event and has plans in place to ride out the storm. But life doesn’t always work out the way you plan. How will society cope with being thrown back into what seems like the Stone Age?
I must admit to loving disaster movies, so this book was right up my street. In fact the book is going to be made into a movie. I was not surprised to hear this, as it is perfect for such an adaptation. David Koepp is a well-known screenwriter, and it shows in the structure of the novel. It is wonderfully descriptive, with short, punchy scenes that captured my imagination.
The story is told from various characters’ point of view and lets us see how all levels of society deal with such a cataclysmic event. It’s about finding strength in adversity. Some thrive, and some become an even worse version of themselves. It’s about learning and taking responsibility.
‘The Paris Apartment’ by Lucy Foley is a tense and chilling psychological mystery set in a luxury apartment block in Paris. Jess flees a bad situation back home for the comfort of her half-brother Ben’s flat in the French capital. When she arrives he’s nowhere to be found, and all her enquiries lead to more questions. His neighbours have secrets of their own -but what do they have to do with Ben? And can she trust any of them?
Told from the point of view of several characters, it means the unreliable narrator is part of the story. It keeps the reader guessing. Jess is not exactly a sympathetic character, so one never knows who to trust. There are so many secrets and shifty characters. It’s quite a slow burn story but worth the wait as the ending shocked and surprised me. I did not see it coming.
Eira has memories of the year a sixteen year old girl was murdered in her small rural community. Now a policewoman she finds herself dealing with the fallout. Olof Hagstrom confessed back then when he was fourteen years old. Now twenty years later he is back – and now his father has been murdered. Did he do it? Or is there more to the story?
First of all I will give a *trigger warning*. This book is not for the faint of heart. There are some appalling details that were very disturbing . I skipped over those parts as I have no desire to read descriptions of sexual assault. But it was an important part of the story and some people might be able to read these passages without a problem.
The book is very well written, with depth and emotion. It is about the past coming back to haunt people. It is always there, lurking in the background. The author ponders if we can ever escape our past ?
It dealt with the darkness that is the worst of human nature . However quiet and idyllic we may think a place is there is always the chance that this darkness lurks under the surface. We just don’t always see it. A powerful story.
I received some very welcome mail this week, in the form of new paperbacks to review. I must thank Faber Books for the opportunity to read these new books from two great authors- Tove Alsterdal and Nicola Upson.
‘Her Last Request’ by Mari Hannah is her best Kate Daniels story yet. When a murder victim leaves a note for whoever finds her, Kate is drawn into the life of the deceased, and must do everything she can to act on the one request she makes. ‘Find Aaron’. Who is Aaron and what danger is he in? It will take Kate into a world of fear, abuse and danger. Will her obsession affect her relationship with Jo – and will it put her partner in peril too? The story is full of tension and is impossible to put down.
You get fond of a character over the course of a few books and it’s scary to think something terrible could happen to them. It’s chilling and personal and it feels so very real. I know it’s fiction, but Mari Hannah makes me believe that these characters are real people, and so are the terrible things that happen to them. In this story the stakes are huge. This was the most immersive experience. The writing is of such high quality, the reader is transported to the world Kate Daniels inhabits. It was an excellent story, with an important message too.
‘The Rose Code’ is a stunning book. A mixture of historical fiction, suspense, mystery and passion. It’s the story of three young women who find themselves working at Bletchley Park, doing top-secret codebreaking – work they will never be allowed to divulge for decades. Osla, the well-connected deb, Mab, an East End girl determined to make something of her life, and Beth, a downtrodden twenty-something with a sharp and amazing mind. We follow their lives as they become vital cogs in the wheel during WW11, saving the Allies in secret, and trying to find some sort of happiness amongst the chaos of war.
The story jumped back and forward between the war years and post-war Britain. Tying it in with real events and with more than a spattering of real-life figures added to the excitement and intensity. I loved finding out about Bletchley Park when it was the secret hub of those trying to crack the Enigma codes. I’ve visited it and found it utterly fascinating – but this book brought it to life for me, with wonderful characters and a top-notch story. It was tense and full of suspense, with a fantastic mystery at its heart. The best book of the year for me.
Merrily Watkins is the new vicar in a small Herefordshire village. Women priests in the Church of England are still fairly unusual in the late 1990s and although some villagers are friendly, others seem resistant. But as time goes on she begins to wonder if the resistance is due to her gender or something rather more disturbing.
This is a beautifully written and perfectly executed mystery with a decidedly spooky element. Merrily and her teenage daughter Jane try to settle into the vicarage and the community, but they become aware that there is much more going on underneath. Things no one wants to talk about openly. The gradual teasing build up to the reveal is masterfully done and I did not see any of it coming. And the best bit? Finding out that this is only book one in the series, and I have many more hours ahead of me with Merrily Watkins. Highly recommended.
‘The Castaways’ by Lucy Clarke is the story of two sisters; one lost after her plane to a small Fijian island disappears, the other on a quest to find her. Erin cannot let it go. When everyone else wants to move on, she becomes obsessed and makes it her goal in life to find out what happened. The chapters move between then and now, between each sister, giving us insight into their relationship as well as how they function as individuals.
You will not be able to put it down. There’s a sense of foreboding, tension and suspense that never lets up. The writing is wonderfully descriptive, and takes the reader inside the minds of the characters and to far off places. The twists in the tale were astounding and did not come out as I expected. I was gripped from start to finish.
Ten years after a turbulent snowboarding season in the Alps, Milla Anderson and a group of her old snowboarding friends each receive an invite to a reunion. The invites are not exactly welcome. Who invited them – and more importantly why? It’s not as if they all parted on good terms. As they gather in a deserted ski lodge, miles from anywhere, they begin to worry about what is in store for them all. An icebreaker game turns nasty and fear takes over the group. The disappearance of Saskia a decade before hangs in the air. Secrets and lies abound and Milla doesn’t know who she can trust.
‘Shiver’ is a fantastic mystery, dripping in tension and suspense. Why they are there is just one part of it, but the gradual unfolding of the story of ten years before makes for a wonderful and addictive novel. Told from the first person pointing of view of Milla, we learn that they all have guilty secrets they would rather didn’t become public. Emotions runs high and there are some surprising revelations that I definitely didn’t see coming. It is so clever. Allie Reynolds brilliantly amps up the tension. I couldn’t put it down.
‘Legacy’ is a scary, creepy story that had me jumping out of my skin. It was brilliant. Jo and Carter are cousins and have spent their whole lives taking vacations in the family cabin in the mountains. But after a few years of neglect, the cabin is in need of repair and a good cleaning out. With a few friends, they hike to the remote cabin and hope to spend a couple of relaxing weeks sorting it out. The trip is anything but relaxing though. Strange occurrences give Jo cause for concern, but when it starts to become dangerous, and people get hurt, she has to start thinking the unthinkable. Meeting the most gorgeous woman out of the blue takes her mind off it for a moment, but all of the women have to admit that the cabin, and the mountain are not safe places to be.
The creeping tension is beautifully done and I was seriously spooked. Charlotte Greene ramps up the fear factor slowly and with delicate precision. Her masterful writing is so suited to this genre and I can’t imagine anyone doing it better. She weaves the relationship dynamics of the group, with references to the past and manages to introduce the scary elements bit by bit, never overdoing it. There were some surprising twist to the tale and some lovely romantic moments too. Jo’s burgeoning relationship with ranger Andy was tender and sweet, but also had an intensity that caught my breath. It was an amazing story, about family, love, history and fulfilment. Highly recommended.