“As always, one of her books was next to her.”
Markus Zusak, The Book Thief
I have been a relatively slow reader in 2018 but still managed to clock up 30 books. Again psychological and crime thrillers predominate but there are also a couple of modern classics and an autobiography, links are included to the books on Amazon by clicking on the title though, of course, they are available from other book sellers. They are listed in no particular order apart from chronology of reading them.
* denotes debut titles.
The Collector (Ds Fitzroy 2) by Fiona Cummins
Less macabre than Rattle, Fiona’s debut title which was in my top ten of 2017 and which really needs to be read first, but definitely no less gripping and unsettling. It picks up the story from Rattle a few months on with a child still missing and the Bone Collector having escaped from custody re-establishing his gruesome work with an apprentice. The author has a wonderful gift for descriptive writing that sucks you into the story, injecting chilling suspense and insightful character back-stories to keep you turning the pages. Brilliant.
The Chalk Man* by C.J. Tudor
I’ll definitely be watching out for more to come from C.J. Tudor. The Chalk Man is a unique psychological thriller. Whilst there may be similar plots out there, they haven’t been told in this way from the perspective of a 12-year-old boy named Eddie expertly alternating with his adult self about what happened when he was playing with his friends in the woods and they notice some drawings of chalk men. I loved the 80s references and the interactions between the group of childhood friends. Highly recommended.
The Pact by S.E. Lynes
I read this book in March and was certain as soon as I finished it that it would be in my top ten for the year. I thoroughly enjoyed Valentina and Mother, S.E. Lynes’ previous titles, but this is the best yet. A story of family loyalty and how far someone could go to protect their only child as well as an exploration of social media and its dangers. Scarily authentic with extraordinary and intriguing characters. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Come and Find Me (DI Marnie Rome Book 5) by Sarah Hilary
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Sarah Hilary’s books. Book 4 in the Marnie Rome series, Quieter Than Killing, featured in my top ten of 2017. Come and Find Me starts with a prison riot, an escapee and continues at pace. As with previous titles, the book is as much about the why as the what happened and the psychological insights are compelling alongside Sarah’s characteristic commentary on difficult issues – the prison system in this title. There are also developments in the back stories of Marnie Rome and DS Noah Jake. Some answers to the questions raised in previous books, but more questions too ... The books in the series do stand alone but I’d recommend reading them in order for the full impact of the back stories.
The Cliff House by Amanda Jennings
The first book I have read by Amanda Jennings but I will definitely be looking up her other titles. With shades of Daphne du Maurier, an all time favourite author, in the descriptive prose around the location of the Cliff House in north Cornwall, this is a haunting story of obsession, despair, love and loss. At first it may seem like an innocent tale of a long ago hot summer but it soon becomes more foreboding.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine* by Gail Honeyman
A deserved winner of the Costa First Novel Book Award, this book was raved about by many in 2017. You can’t help but feel very sad for Eleanor when you first meet her – she’s not living, she’s existing within a lonely routine without friends or family. And yet there are also moments of laugh out loud humour. I loved the play on words throughout the book and I wish I’d read it sooner. It is genuinely a fantastic debut book about how people can impact other’s lives – sometimes in truly awful ways but also how small acts of kindness can make such a difference. It deserves to become a modern classic.
The Child by Fiona Barton
An excellent example of a fast-paced yet slow burning psychological thriller. The story is told from the point of view of three women affected by the discovery of a baby’s skeleton when an old house is demolished in London and the reporter Kate Waters who also featured in Fiona’s debut title The Widow. You know the individual stories are going to come together somehow and that keeps you turning the pages. I did guess the twist at the end a bit before the end but it was no less enjoyable for that.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Definitely not a book to be rushed but one to be savoured and absorbed. You know what’s going to happen in the end. Death, the narrator, tells you at the beginning so there’s no need to hurry. It is the story of Liesel, the book thief, a young German girl coming of age with a foster family during World War II. An absolute classic that made me cry. I can’t do better than leave you with a couple of quotations to show you Zusak’s glorious prose:
“People observe the colors of a day only at its beginnings and ends, but to me it‘s quite clear that a day merges through a multitude of shades and intonations with each passing moment. A single hour can consist of thousands of different colors. Waxy yellows, cloud-spot blues. Murky darkness. In my line of work, I make it a point to notice them.”
“She said it out loud, the words distributed into a room that was full of cold air and books. Books everywhere! Each wall was armed with overcrowded yet immaculate
shelving. It was barely possible to see paintwork. There were all different styles and sizes of lettering on the spines of the black, the red, the gray, the every-colored books. It was one of the
most beautiful things Liesel Meminger had ever seen.
With wonder, she smiled.
That such a room existed!”
Keeper (Roy & Castells 2) by Johana Gustawsson
Another author whose debut book, Block 46, was in my top ten of 2017. In Keeper the same profiler, Emily Roy, and true crime writer, Alexis Castells, find themselves drawn into an intriguing case with some personal links. It is an unflinching story and darker than dark with the plot interweaving two timelines between Jack the Ripper’s Whitechapel in 1888 and London and Sweden in 2015. Johana Gustawsson clearly has a vivid imagination. It’s no surprise that she has been crowned the new Queen of French noir. Kudos to the translator, Maxim Jakubowski, too for keeping the writing utterly compelling.
Becoming by Michelle Obama
If you had to sum up this book in one word it would have to be “Inspirational”. I don’t often read biographies but this is a fascinating insight into Michelle’s childhood in Chigago, her career, her relationship with Barack, motherhood, and the American political system. There are many inspiring passages but this really spoke to me:
“For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end.”
Becoming reminds you that there is still good in this world and I urge you to read it.