NO ONE HOME by TIM WEAVER

Nothing like your kid sister leaving behind a big fat thriller she’s finished – and a hardback copy, to boot. Such a joy, in this Kindle world.

Let me state upfront that I haven’t read any books by Tim Weaver before.

Dunno if that somehow coloured my judgement.

Shortly after I’d plunged into the book, and asked Jane if this was a stand-alone story or part of a series, I enthusiastically decided that I’d finish this book and then go back and read all the earlier books in the David Raker series.

Now I’ve finally finished the book, I’m not sure I’ll bother.

This murder mystery was initially really gripping – a community of 9 neighbours in the hamlet of Blackgale has disappeared, totally and without leaving any trace whatsoever.

David Raker, the main protagonist, specialises in investigating cold cases of missing persons, taking up the trail long after the police have stopped investigating. He is engaged by the families of the 9 missing neighbours to try and solve this seemingly impossible conundrum.

By the end of the book, shame on me, I was bored and just wanted to find out if I‘d guessed correctly who dunnit.

I had, pretty much.

The first 100 pages or so are super gripping, and I raced through them, but somewhere, something changes and the pace slows down, and the detail gets too much and the repetition – well, it just repeats itself, and to be brutally honest, once I thought I’d figured it out, I just wanted the book to end. There are only so many descriptions of people walking through endless forests that a girl can take.

As Raker investigates the crime in Yorkshire, there is a parallel story of a murder investigation in 1970’s Los Angeles.

At some point, the 2 stories do eventually converge, but I respectfully suggest that Mr. Weaver could have axed the whole American narrative and his story would not have suffered an iota. Might have benefitted by being snappier.

The total disappearance of a group of people is an interesting premise. It’s sad that Mr. Weaver squandered his idea with way too much detail, lots of it superfluous to the main narrative.

STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY DOG by KATE ATKINSON

One shouldn’t especially like a book because it is based in one’s home town, should one?

Or is that lovely insider feeling of “Yes, of course, I remember that building,” or “Yes, yes, that is exactly the way it used to feel” reason enough to love a book ?

Oh, the latter, I feel.

Already a fan of Kate Atkinson (albeit a new fan), her 2010 novel “Started early, Took my Dog” was a wonderful follow-on read.

Set in her (and your reviewer’s) beloved Yorkshire, the book is funny and moving and exciting and well-written, and Leeds has possibly never had such eloquent prose ever written about it.

Ms Atkinson is a skilled weaver together of different stories.  There is Jackson Brodie, the ultimate thinking woman’s thinking man –  battle scarred, fragile inside, but on the outside as tough as the Yorkshire moors.

There is Tracy Waterhouse, whose journey of self discovery is funny and moving and fraught with dangers.

There is Tilly, an ageing actress, long since her prime and teetering on the bring of dementia as she tries to stay abreast of her role in a sit-com.

As each of these story lines progresses, you know, deep down inside, that their paths will converge, but you cannot immediately work it all out.

And then there are Courtney and the dog, 2 waifs who end up as part of the literal and emotional baggage of their new parents.

There are lovely moments of written splendour :

He had the kind of Yorkshire accent that Tracy though of as ‘aspirational’ “(that was one of my “I know exactly how he sounds” moments)

There is a deliciously un-delicious description of a “full Yorkshire breakfast” in a drab B & B where Jackson stays:

“Nothing discernibly Yorkshire about the breakfast at all.  Jackson didn’t know what he’d expected –  Yorkshire pudding, a symbolic white rose cut into the toast perhaps – but instead there was the usual fry-up consisting of flabby slices of bacon, a pale, glassy egg, mushrooms like slugs and a sausage that inevitably reminded him of a dog turd.”

Kate Atkinson captures the atmosphere of the pretty holiday town of Whitby perfectly, and yet again, there were many “Yes, that is exactly how it is” moments.  Puffing up the 199 steps.  The slightly tacky souvenir shops.  The smell of smoked kippers. The collecting box for the Lifeboats.

The author’s eye for detail is spot-on.

Loved the book.

Loved the plot, which is intriguing and clever and ultimately surprising.  Death, humour, love, hate, sadness, loss of identity, loss of memory, fear, murder, the search for who one truly is –  there is hardly a human emotion that this skilled writer does not tackle in this clever book.

Loved the description of my home town, and my often harshly beautiful county, and the little seaside town where we, too, like Jackson Brodie used to holiday as children.

You don’t have to be from Yorkshire to enjoy and devour this book, far from it, but those “Yes, that’s exactly how it was” moments are pretty special.

 

“Started Early, Took my dog” is published by Black Swan, and the paperback costs £7.99.

If you now feel like buying this book (and it is a great read), then just click on the link below :

 

 

WHEN WILL THERE BE GOOD NEWS ? by KATE ATKINSON

Have you ever had That Moment when you see a book and say “Oh, this sounds good. Who is this author? Never heard of him/her,” and everyone else in the room stares at you as though you were from the dark ages ?
I had one of these moments a couple of months ago when I spotted Kate Atkinson’s “When will there be good news?” on a friend’s bookshelf.  She looked at me with a mixture of disbelief and pity, and promptly gave me the book to read.

How on earth could I have missed the wonderful writing of Ms Atkinson all these years, and a fellow Yorkshire-woman to boot ?

“When will there be good news?” is a skilfully and beautifully nuanced novel, with dark brooding themes, bringing Scotland and northern England to life in front of you, in dark, wintery brushstrokes.

The writer weaves together the lives, both past and present, of her characters, in moments that make you want to weep, others that make you fear for their lives, and many moments of pure laugh-aloud joy.

The ex-soldier-turned-ex-cop Jackson Brodie is the central pivot of the book, a man of integrity and honesty, a man capable of great love and tenderness, but one with heavy emotional baggage that he cannot offload.

The extra-ordinary child Reggie is a delight.  Bright, resourceful, a little terrier of a girl who deals with drama and poverty and loss and death, with wisdom and common sense way beyond her years.  She manages her buffeted-about life with a wonderful wry humour.  She is the type of girl you would love to have watching your back.

How these two meet is as dramatic an encounter as you could wish.  Reggie saves Jackson’s life.  We know it.  She doesn’t.  Nor does he.

The object of much of Reggie’s devotion is the beautiful, charming Dr. Hunter (and The Baby, of course) for whom she works as a nanny.  Dr. Hunter (and The Baby) inspire fierce love and loyalty from Reggie.  When Reggie ropes in the injured Jackson Brodie to search for Dr Hunter (and The Baby) when they go missing, they form a mismatched but oddly affectionate team, bickering and quarreling, but both as intelligent and committed as the other.

Another link in all their lives is the senior detective Louise Monroe, trapped in a marriage she is surprised to be in, still baffled by the crockery and the cutlery, the crystal and the jewellery – all the trimmings that come with marriage to a rich man, who clearly loves her –  he must do, poor man, since he puts up with a lot of downright bolshie behaviour from his driven, single-minded wife.

Louise knows Jackson, she also knows Dr. Hunter,  and she also knows Reggie a little, and as their lives become ever-more intertwined, the plot hurtles on like a speeding train…but they would be to give away too much.

Read this marvellous book for the story, which is compelling, with some unexpected twists and turns ; for the characters who are totally endearing.  Reggie is a firm favourite.  Ms MacDonald is a beautifully drawn portrait of a dying woman trapped in a declining mind and body, surrounded by leather-bound Classics and mounds of unwashed dishes and mouldy food.

A wonderful, wonderful book.

“When will there be good news?” is published by Doubleday and the hardback costs £17.99.

If you feel like buying the book, after reading this review (and it is a fab read) then simply click on the link below :