Half the World Away – Cath Staincliffe – Extract and Review

I’m a big fan of Cath Staincliffe’s books and jumped at the chance to be involved in the blog tour for this latest release.  Half the World Away was published by Constable/Little, Brown in hardback on 4 June, the Kindle version will be available on 11 June and the paperback will be published in February 2016.

My review is at the end of this post but to give you a taster, I have the first blog post from Lori, which I hope you enjoy.

Lori in the Ori-ent

What’s in a Name?

Posted on 15 October 2013 by Lori

Hello, and welcome to my new blog.

A bit of background – I’m a Brit, from Manchester, photography graduate (yay, Glasgow!), taking a few months out with my trusty camera to see something of this amazing planet and report back. In my former life I never made it beyond Tenerife so for me writing this from a guesthouse in Thailand is beyond cool.

(Hi Mum *waves* still alive. Sorry I’ve not replied to your texts – bit of hassle sorting phones out.)

Lori in the Or-ient will be my working title. I was going to be Lori on the Lam but someone got there first, heads up to www.manonthelam.com. Then I came up with Lori’s Big Adventure but that’s been well and truly snaffled by many bloggers. So we are where we are. In my case Thailand. Whoop-de-doo!

My given name is Lorelei. It’s not very common, though Marvel comic aficionados and the fans of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes will know it. The name means either ‘alluring rock’ or ‘murmuring rock’ or ‘alluring temptress’. There is an actual rock called the Lorelei on the Rhine river in Germany. The story goes that it’s inhabited by a siren whose singing lures mariners to their death. In my defence I’d like to point out that

a) No one asked me

b) I’m really not the alluring type

c) If I am called after a rock then so are the Jades and Rubys and Ambers out there, and maybe my rock has a little bit more character than theirs. Maybe. Granite, anyone? Millstone grit?

d) My singing may drive people to distraction but I have never drowned a soul, mariner or otherwise.

Most people call me Lori, not to be confused with lorry (a.k.a. truck, for any US visitors).

And here are my favourite photos so far, most from Ko Samet, where we stayed in a cabin above the bay and lounged like lizards. The island gets its name from the Cajeput tree – related to the Tea Tree – and also called a paper-bark tree. You can see why in the pictures.

Next week we head for Vietnam. Come and see me there. 

Lxxx

Newly graduated photography student Lori Maddox spends the year after university travelling and visits China where she finds work as a private English tutor. Back in Manchester, her parents Jo and Tom, who separated when Lori was a toddler, follow her adventures on her blog, ‘Lori In The Orient’.


Suddenly communication stops and when the silence persists a frantic Jo and Tom report her missing. It is impossible to find out anything from 5,000 miles away so they travel out to Chengdu, a city in the south-western province of Sichuan, to search for their daughter.


Landing in a totally unfamiliar country, with no knowledge of the customs or language, and receiving scant help from the local authorities, Jo and Tom are forced to turn detective, following in their daughter’s footsteps, tracing the people she mentioned in her posts, interviewing her friends, colleagues and students. It’s an unbearably difficult challenge and, as the days pass, the fear that Lori is lost for good grows ever larger.

REVIEW

Wouldn’t this be a parent’s worst nightmare. Your daughter goes travelling and is seemingly having the time of her life and enjoying new experiences when suddenly all contact is lost – no-one has heard from her, she has just disappeared. What on earth would you do and what lengths would you go to find answers?

This is the horrifying and desperate situation that parents Jo and Tom find themselves in. They are not together; they parted when Lori was very young and Jo is now married to Nick but they find themselves trying to put their past hurt and differences aside in the hunt for their daughter.

I’ve always enjoyed Cath Staincliffe’s books and this certainly didn’t disappoint. One of the aspects of her writing that I love is that her characters and storylines are just so believable with people facing dilemmas and family difficulties that could happen to anyone. Her characters are not perfect – they have insecurities and flaws just as any of us but she effortlessly weaves these in-depth characterisations into a story filled with tension and emotion. We share the frustration of Jo and Tom having to deal with the cultural differences, the language issues, the apparent inertia of the Chinese authorities and of procedures that seem so alien to our own. One or two of the friends that Lori has made seem to be behaving suspiciously and are trying to avoid Jo and Tom – do they know something?

This is not a fast paced thriller but very much a character driven story of two parents desperate to find their daughter, battling against foreign bureaucracy and sometimes unwittingly falling foul of local laws. Having said that, the suspense of wondering what has happened to Lori will keep you turning the pages! The vivid descriptions of the sights and sounds of the Chinese landscape bought the story to life and I particularly enjoyed the little insights telling of Chinese customs and culture.

The story is not just about Jo and Tom however. Jo’s marriage to Nick is in a very fragile state when Lori disappears and her feelings of guilt at being so far away only intensify when problems occur at home and their two young sons, Finn and Isaac need their mother.

The first part of the story, recreates some of Lori’s blog posts – this is a very creative way of bringing Lori to the reader’s mind and giving a feel as to the vibrancy of her character. During her search, Jo goes over these words again and again, trying to find some clue as to her whereabouts.

This story cements Cath Staincliffe’s position as one of my favourite authors, it’s a gripping and thought provoking read – and I can thoroughly recommend it.

My thanks to Grace and the Publisher, Little, Brown for the Netgalley copy for review. 

About the Author:

© Paul Herrmann

Cath Staincliffe is a best selling, award winning novelist, radio playwright and the creator of ITV’s hit series, Blue Murder. Cath’s books have been short-listed for the British Crime Writers Association best first novel award and for the Dagger in the Library and selected as Le Masque de l’Année. In 2012 Cath won the CWA Short Story Dagger for Laptop, sharing the prize with Margaret Murphy with her story The Message. Cath was shortlisted again with Night Nurse in 2014. Cath’s Sal Kilkenny private eye series features a single-parent sleuth working the mean streets of Manchester.  Letters To My Daughter’s Killer was selected for Specsavers Crime Thriller Book Club in 2014 and featured on ITV3s Crime Thriller Club. Ruthless is Cath’s third Scott & Bailey novel based on the popular UK TV series. Cath’s latest stand-alone novel is Half The World Away, a thriller which sees estranged couple Jo and Tom Maddox reunited in a desperate search for their daughter Lori who has gone missing in China. Cath is one of the founding members of Murder Squad – a group of Northern crime writers who give readings, talks and signings around the country. Cath was born in Bradford, Yorkshire, UK and now lives in Manchester, Lancashire with her family. You can find out more from her website, and you can follow her on Twitter, @CathStaincliffe, which she does when she should be busy writing! 

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2 Comments

  1. 10th June 2015 / 1:19 pm

    Great review. It's the dilemmas I enjoy in Cath's work too, wondering what I would do if in that position.

    • 10th June 2015 / 7:17 pm

      Thank you, the very first one I read was The Kindest Thing – an amazing book with that "what would you do" scenario!

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