Some Autumn reading – four book reviews

I’ve just been reading through Northern Male’s cinema recommendations; some sound wonderful. I particularly like the sound of the George Clooney one. Personally I’d rather watch a film at home when I can pause the action when I need the loo or a cuppa, and I can watch it whilst crocheting or knitting or stroking Rollo. 

Anyway, I’ve been glued to the television – like all of us – watching the Funeral.  I’m old enough to remember the Coronation; like many others, my Dad bought a television set to watch it on. I am totally wrung out after it and need copious cups of tea.

So I’ve had to catch up on my reading:

Together, Again by Milly Johnson (Simon & Schuster)

First up is one of my favourite authors, the wonderful Milly Johnson, and her latest is Together; Again and whilst all her novels are thought-provoking, somehow this one delves even deeper into human emotions.

Born seven years apart are the three Vamplew sisters (where does she dream up these surnames?), and although their lives have drifted apart, they are all together now at Fox House after the death of their mother Eleanor Vamplew. 

There’s Jolene, the eldest, a successful romantic novelist, although romance is sadly missing from her life even though she’s married.  Marsha – the one in the middle – is a self-made and wealthy businesswoman whilst the youngest, Annis, left home at 16 and didn’t even come home for their father’s funeral.  But she has turned up now.  And they are all back for the reading of the Will.   They decide to stay at the house together and are delighted to find out how much they enjoy being together as a trio of sisters and how their lives are beginning to change because of this.

This is a wonderfully heartwarming novel, full of family love, heartache and the ending of family feuds.   Milly Johnson just gets better and better.

The Central Line by Saskia Sarginson (Piatkus)

I used to travel daily on the Central Line, and having retired, I certainly don’t miss it.  But the Central Line is central (sorry!) for Cora and Jacob. Cora’s local stop is Shepherds Bush, whilst Jacob gets off at Bethnal Green, where he lives on a houseboat nearby. (I think it’s the Regents Canal near Roman Road – I do love a book with actual places I know).

The Central Line is one of the most lyrical, magical, romantic love stories I’ve read for a long time.

Cora’s grown-up daughter and drunken wild child Fran falls asleep whilst travelling home (on the Central Line naturally) and doesn’t even wake when the tube shunts into the end of the line station. She is rescued by Jacob, a knight in shining armour, who not only wakes her but takes her home to ensure she’s safe.   Cora invites him for tea the following day so Fran can thank him in person.   Sparks fly but for whom?

Jacob is a loner living on his houseboat full of secrets, whilst Cora a widow; her husband Andrew has died in a tragic accident – and she is living a busy but unfulfilled life as a TV editor.  Fran – well, she’s just a mess whilst Cora’s youngest is Luke, busy with his exams.

I defy anyone to read this without a lump in their throat and a tear in their eye.  Truly a wonderfully romantic read.

Hope To Die by Cara Hunter (Penguin)

Moving on from romance and onto ‘tec novels’. Hope to Die is the fifth outing for DI Adam Fawley and his Oxford-based team, and can safely say that this is by far the most tricksy case Fawley has encountered so far in his career.

He gets called out to what seems like a simple murder case of a  burglar who was found shot dead on the floor of an isolated cottage somewhere in the wilds outside Oxford.  But something doesn’t ring true for Fawley.   If the elderly and a somewhat eccentric couple who own the farmhouse really thought it was a burglar, where’s the gun? The questions to be answered go on and on without any convincing – or indeed any – answers, so Fawley decides to investigate the couple. And what he discovers leads him to an extremely high profile unsolved sort of murder mystery from many years ago, with an alleged miscarriage of justice.

I have absolutely no idea how author Cara Hunter dreamt up this plot. Just when you think you’ve sorted out what’s going on, she springs yet another twist onto the readers.  It’s partly told in a series of interviews (think Line of Duty style), and it’s brilliant with many twists and turns and a compulsive read.  

You have to feel sorry for my poor little doggy Rollo, who sat cross-pawed impatiently waiting by the front door as with two chapters to go – I simply couldn’t stop reading. I think he’s forgiven me!

Genesis by Chris Carter ( Simon & Schuster)

It’s become customary to put a trigger warning on all sorts of things nowadays, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one on a new “serial killer” read.  But, if anything deserves a trigger warning, then it’s this book, Genesis.

I’ve followed Chris Carter since his first novel featuring Robert Hunter and his Brazilian sidekick Carlos  (The Crucifix Killer 2009). Not only is he getting more and more accomplished, but his novels are getting decidedly darker. 

We again meet the insomniac Robert Hunter, a Criminal Behaviour Psychologist and head of the LAPD Ultra Crimes Unit, at a barbeque thrown by Carlos and his wife so that Robert should meet single lady  Denise. Barely has Carlos mixed his legendary meat dressing, then the duo are called away to one of the most horrific crime scenes they’ve ever encountered.

There are no clues, no DNA, no witnesses – nothing.  Apart from what could be a line from a poem – or could it? And then they’re called to the next murder. And if it’s at all possible, it’s even more horrific. But there is another line from that so-called poem. And now, they – and us – realise the two are linked.  Such a convoluted plot, such leaps of imagination, and such a can’t-put-down read.

It’s not just blood and gore and more gore; it’s fascinating to see how Hunter gets inside the killer’s mind. Carlos is quick, but Hunter is quicker and with such an agile, intuitive mind.  Each of Carter’s novels is stand-alone, but if you haven’t read any, it would make sense to read them in order so that you understand the way in which the two colleagues grow – not only their crime-fighting abilities but also their friendship.

Chris Carter used to be a Criminal Psychologist, and it shows. He’s also been a guitarist for many well-known glam rock bands. His books were always empathetic somehow; since his beloved wife died a couple of years ago, they now just have an extra edge.  But be warned. That trigger warning is well deserved.

For more book reviews by Janet Gordon, click HERE