Never Coming Back

Publisher: Penguin

Synopsis from Amazon:

A SECRET THAT WILL CHANGE LIVES FOREVER

It was supposed to be the start of a big night out. But when Emily Kane arrives at her sister Carrie’s house, she finds the front door unlocked and no one inside. Dinner’s cooking, the TV’s on. Carrie, her husband and their two daughters are gone.

When the police draw a blank, Emily asks missing persons investigator David Raker to find them. It’s clear someone doesn’t want the family found.

But as he gets closer to the truth, Raker begins to uncover evidence of a sinister cover-up, spanning decades and costing countless lives. And worse, in trying to find Emily’s missing family, he might just have made himself the next target …

My thoughts:

Tim Weaver is a new author to me however when this latest book (no. 4) in the David Raker series came through the door, I was intrigued. The storyline is one that immediately grabs your attention – a whole family suddenly disappears from their home and apparently no-one knows where they are – the dinner is left cooking on the stove, wallets and phones are left behind and the dog is left wandering around the house.

The advance reading copy is a whopper of a book – it’s over 500 pages but it doesn’t drag at all. The story is well paced with plot twists throughout which made me keen to keep turning the pages.

David Raker is an investigator who looks for missing people. He becomes involved in this case because an ex-girlfriend, Emily, asks him to look into the disappearance of her sister’s family. They have been missing for 10 months and despite a couple of earlier witness sightings the police have been unable to solve the case.

Raker himself is not in the best of places. He is still recovering from a near fatal attack and has relocated to his late parent’s cottage in Devon to recuperate. However he agrees to find out what he can for Emily.

Running alongside is a separate strand concerning a body found washed up on a nearby beach. Although it is at first unclear as to the relevance, all does become clear later in the book.

The action takes place in Devon and in Las Vegas. The story initially starts in December 2007 in Las Vegas before quickly moving back to Devon and to November 2012. At first I found this very confusing and couldn’t understand how this brief chapter connected to the story. Stick with it though because the story that follows is a real rollercoaster of a read with twists and turns that I didn’t see coming.

Our protagonist, David Raker is a well-developed character with a history and seems to be a man of integrity. He is not a superhero but if you were in a hole, he is the sort of person you’d want to help you out of it. I hadn’t read any of the previous books in the series so I wasn’t aware of his back story but that didn’t matter. This book can happily be read as a standalone without the reader feeling disadvantaged.

There are many characters in the book (as well as dead bodies) and the plotline does become complex. The timeframe slips between the past and present however it’s easy to distinguish as the ‘past’ chapters are in a different font. These chapters are vital to the story as piece by piece the reader learns more about the reasons behind the family’s disappearance.

I had my doubts about the ending, it seemed a little too convenient, but on the whole I found this to be a tension filled, gripping read and will now be looking out for the previous books in the series.

I was pleased to see that this book has been chosen as one of the Richard & Judy Autumn 2013 Bookclub reads (see here for current list).

My thanks to Real Readers for the review copy and for the introduction to this author.

My Rating: 4/5 

Author website: http://www.timweaverbooks.com

The Shock of the Fall

Publisher: HarperCollins


Synopsis from Amazon:

‘I’ll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name’s Simon. I think you’re going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.’

The Shock of the Fall is an extraordinary portrait of one man’s descent into mental illness. It is a brave and groundbreaking novel from one of the most exciting new voices in fiction.

My thoughts:

Matthew Homes is 19 years old and has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Matthew’s decline into mental illness appears to take a hold after the tragic death of his older brother Simon, although it was never entirely clear to me whether this was the sole reason as there is a suggestion of a family history of mental illness. Simon died when Matthew was 9 and life was never the same afterwards.

Matthew has a brutally honest voice and this is a compelling and moving account of how the aftermath of a tragic event can fracture a family. Matthew’s family dealt with his brother’s death in different ways. His mother appeared to exist in a state of depression and over protectiveness whilst his father retreated into himself. Nanny Noo was the only constant in Matthew’s life, always there for him and accepting him for what he was.

The story flips back and forth in time, to the time before Simon’s death, and the years afterwards, when Matthew takes his first steps at living independently – initially with his friend Jacob when they shared a dilapidated flat, and then as his mental state deteriorated, being incarcerated in an institution; he tells of the hell of being constantly medicated and then taking more medication to counteract the side effects. Matthew is very intelligent and the repetition and boredom of daily routine whilst detained takes its toll. However he finds an outlet by drawing and writing – he has a talent for drawing and after his beloved Nanny Noo gives him a typewriter, he realises he has a story to tell. Matthew tells his story both with clarity and confusion – at times it was difficult to follow which parts were real and which were his imagination which makes the story seem even more realistic.

Simon was 12 years old when he died and had his own special needs. Matthew blames himself for Simon’s death and believes that his family blame him too – however the love they have for him shines through and one part of the story towards the end was particularly moving.

Having had close personal experience as an onlooker of bipolar and schizophrenia, I found this a very difficult book to read at times. Matthew’s actions, his illucinations and thought processes were so familiar and it is quite clear that a lot of research has gone into this book owing to Nathan Filer’s experience as a mental health nurse. It is an excellent debut novel and the author deserves every success. 

5/5

Author website: http://nathanfiler.co.uk

The Husband's Secret

Published by Penguin




Synopsis from Amazon:

At the heart of
The Husband’s Secret
by Liane Moriarty is a letter that’s not meant to be
read . . 

Mother of
three and wife of John-Paul, Cecilia discovers an old envelope in the attic.
Written in her husband’s hand, it says: to be opened only in the event of my
death. 

Curious, she
opens it – and time stops.

John-Paul’s
letter confesses to a terrible mistake which, if revealed, would wreck their
family as well as the lives of others.

Cecilia –
betrayed, angry and distraught – wants to do the right thing, but right for
who? If she protects her family by staying silent, the truth will worm through
her heart. But if she reveals her husband’s secret, she will hurt those she
loves most . . 

Perfect for fans of Jodi Picoult, or anyone who enjoyed One Moment, One Morning or The Midwife’s Confession, The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty is about the things we know, the things we don’t, and whether or not we ever get to choose. Above all, though, it’s about how we must live with the consequences of our actions – whether we like it or not.

My thoughts:

This book follows the lives of three women, spread over a week and is set in Sydney in the lead up to the Easter period. Cecilia Fitzpatrick, happily married to John-Paul and living with their three children. Rachel Crowley, a widow, grieving over the death of her teenage daughter many years before and lastly, Tess O’Leary, who has been betrayed by the two people closest to her.

This was the first of Liane Moriarty’s books that I have read and I became completely engrossed in the lives of Cecilia, Rachel and Tess. At first, the three women’s stories seem completely random but as the story progresses there is a connection which binds them together.

‘The husband’s secret’ of the title is a letter accidentally found by Cecilia and written by her husband John-Paul many years before and hidden away. It is marked to be opened in the event of his death and although she initially resists opening it, not surprisingly temptation takes over. I’m not sure that I could have left it unopened either, however once Pandora’s box has been opened, it can’t be closed. The contents of the letter are devastating and her world is ripped apart. Her ultimate decision has far reaching consequences not only for her own family but for the lives of others too.

There are quite a few characters in the book, although not all of them have a major part in the storyline and at first I found it confusing trying to remember the different family relationships but once you get into the story this becomes clear.

Throughout the book are short chapters telling the backstory leading to the death of Rachel’s daughter Janie. This was written in such a way as to be with the benefit of hindsight and I found this an interesting addition to the story.

The main characters, particularly those of the three women, are all well written and interesting. An observer may not agree with their actions but can empathise with the situations they find themselves in. All three women are forced to reconsider their lives and family relationships are explored along with the question of forgiveness and love.

The ending of the book was unusual in the way it was written however this fitted perfectly with the rest of the story.

This is a thought provoking and compelling read. I would certainly recommend it and look forward to reading further books by this author. 

4/5

My thanks to Real Readers for a review copy. 

Author website: www.lianemoriarty.com.au

Some Day I'll Find You

Published by Simon & Schuster UK

Synopsis from Amazon:

James Blackwell is sexy
and handsome and a fighter pilot – every girl’s dream partner. At least
that is what Diana Arnold thinks when her brother first introduces
them. Before long they are in love and marry hastily just as war is
declared. 

Then fate delivers what is the first of its cruel twists:
James, the day of their wedding, is shot down over Northern France and
killed. Diana is left not only a widow but pregnant with their child.

Ten years later, contentedly remarried, Diana finds herself in the
south of France, sitting one morning in a sunny village square. A taxi
draws up and she hears the voice of a man speaking English – the
unmistakable voice of someone who will set out to torment her and
blackmail her and from whom there can be only one means of escape…

My thoughts:

I don’t read many ‘celebrity’ written
novels but the storyline for this debut novel sounded like something I would
enjoy and I’m pleased to say I wasn’t disappointed.   It was well written with an interesting and
captivating storyline.  I loved the short
sharp chapters in the first part of the book; 
for me it certainly makes for quicker reading as I think I’ll just read
one more chapter.…and then it’s the early hours!

The first part of the book gives an
indication of what kind of a man James Blackwell really is.  Despite his good looks and charm, he is
actually the type of man that should come with a warning notice.   His insidious charm wins over the Arnold
family, especially Diana.  In the time
leading up to the outbreak of WW2, Diana and James enjoy a whirlwind courtship
and marriage and then tragedy strikes.  

Although Diana is written as a feisty
character she seemed to have had a naivety and vulnerability where James was
concerned and at times with the benefit of being an onlooker I wanted to shout
“no don’t do it”.   The main characters
are extremely well drawn.  Some of the
lesser characters are not quite as well developed but nevertheless they have
sufficient depth to make them believable. 

The main part of the story is set in the
south of France and it’s obvious from the excellent descriptions of the
locality that this comes from the author’s personal knowledge.  I could imagine myself sitting at a pavement
café in the sunny south of France watching the story unfold. 

I don’t want to give away any more of the
plot, you can enjoy finding out for yourself but the twists and turns made this
a book that I couldn’t put down and it was a very enjoyable read.  My only niggle is with the poor proof reading
– in some places the wrong names were used, for example ‘James’ instead of
‘John’ which was somewhat confusing and I also spotted some grammatical
errors.    I expect to find mistakes in a
proof copy but not in a copy on public sale.

4/5

Published by Bloomsbury Publishing


Synopsis from Goodreads:

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It is summer in the south of France, and Pea and her little
sister Margot spend their days running free and inventing games in the meadow
behind their house. But Pea is burdened with worries beyond her five and a half
years. Her father has died in an accident, and her mother has just lost a baby.
Maman is English, isolated in this small, foreign village, and in her sadness
has retreated even further. Pea tries her best to help, makes Margot behave,
brings home yellow flowers, but she can’t make Maman happy again. When Pea
meets Claude, a man with a dog who seems to love the meadow as she does, she
believes that she and Margot have found a friend, and maybe even a new Papa.
But why do the villagers view Claude with suspicion and what secret is he
keeping in his strange, empty house? Beautifully written, haunting and full of
surprises, The Night Rainbow is a novel about innocence and
experience, grief and compassion, and the blessings and perils of imagination
and truth.


My thoughts:

“We stand in the courtyard and wonder
where we will go today, although the answer has been the same for two summers,
one winter and a birthday.  Our choosing
began when Maman came back from hospital last year.  She had changed from fat to thin, but she
didn’t bring back a baby like she promised. 
She left it at the hospital, along with her happiness”.

This is a beautifully written and poignant
story and I totally fell in love with Pea. 
When the story begins we are introduced to the narrator, 5 year old Pea
(aka Peony) and her 4 year old sister Margot.  
Pea has a much older voice for her years and longs to make her mother
happy again but nothing seems to make her mother smile.   Her mother has suffered a double loss –
first her baby and then her partner in a tragic accident and her grief is
evident.  As a result, Pea and Margot are
left to their own devices most of the time and Maman takes no more than a
cursory interest in where they go or what they do.  Their mother is pregnant again with their
late father’s baby and she hardly has the energy or the will to look after
herself, let alone Pea and Margot.  

During one of their games in the meadow,
they meet Claude, an older man and his dog Merlin.  Claude is treated with suspicion by some of
the villagers and seems to be as sad and lonely as they are and as the story progresses,
we find out the reason for Claude’s sadness.  
Pea thinks a new daddy will make her Maman happy however is Claude that
person?  Claude tries to make things
better for them and builds a tree house in which he places biscuits and drinks
for them to find.  

The trust and innocence in Pea’s nature is
very evident throughout and the reader sees life through Pea’s eyes – she
doesn’t understand why Claude won’t give her a hug or why their grandmother
doesn’t seem to like them.  4 year old
Margot is very much the bossy one, again with a much older voice than a 4 year
old would have.  Pea has such a vivid
imagination, always inventing stories and games for them to play and it was
only when I was halfway through the book that I realised that the story had a
deeper meaning.

I really enjoyed this book, there is a
wonderful sense of place and I could actually imagine myself in the French
countryside along with Pea and Margot. 
There were times when I could have cried for Pea –  when there was no food, or clean clothes and
at times the girls’ innocent observations made me smile.  

This a wonderful debut novel and I look
forward to reading more by this author.

 

 5/5

Author website: http://www.claire-king.com