mystery

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Short Stories Challenge 2018 – Four Hundred Rabbits by Simon Levack from the collection The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Vol 7.

Published April 12, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s Four Hundred Rabbits all about?:

Four Hundred Rabbits tells the story of a midwinter festival to honour the Aztec gods in which a young man is drugged. As our protagonist investigates, we find out exactly what happened to him and why.

What did I think?:

Once again with my Short Stories Challenge, I’ve been introduced to an author that I’ve never heard of before and I love it for that! Simon Levack is a British author of historical mystery novels that so far, all feature the same character, Yaotl who is a slave in in Precolombian Mexico with the Aztec people. Almost immediately, I appreciated the detail that has gone into Four Hundred Rabbits and in it’s execution, it very much reminded me of the Matthew Shardlake series by C.J. Sansom (which I have fallen woefully behind on). Generally, I thought it was a decent enough tale and it was obvious that the author had created the plot meticulously however it didn’t blow me away. It was enjoyable but unfortunately, only okay in my opinion.

Our protagonist for the story is the same character featured in the author’s novels, a slave called Yaotl who used to be in the priesthood but was expelled and turned quite heavily to drink before he became apprenticed as a slave. In Four Hundred Rabbits, he is brought up before his master, Lord Feathered In Black and his assistance is demanded. In the corner lies the body of Black’s great-nephew, Heron in a drugged stupor. As Yaotl has had a lot of experience with different plants/drugs through his studies as a priest, Black wants him to investigate the incident and find the culprit so that he can be punished. We are taken to a world of strange religious rituals, where four hundred men compete to drink sacred wine through a hollow straw and it is by these means that Yaotl believes Heron has been poisoned. Why was he attacked in this way? Yaotl must find out before his master’s impatience runs out or before he becomes a target himself.

First of all, I really loved how unique this story felt, especially in comparison to every other tale in this collection. I certainly wasn’t expecting to be taken to another country, another culture and another point in time that is so vastly different from our contemporary world with different beliefs and ideals. I mentioned Shardlake earlier and the way Yaotl goes about his business of attempting to find the perp really reminded me of Matthew’s own investigations in the Sansom novels of King Henry VIII’s England. I was fascinated by how all the pieces of the puzzle came together although I still found it a bit difficult to realise the exact motives of our culprit. Although the writing was excellent, something didn’t fully connect with me unfortunately. Perhaps I was interested in Yaotl himself as a character and was far more intrigued about why he had been expelled from the priesthood rather than a young (rather obnoxious) young man being drugged during a festival. Maybe Yaotl is explored further in Levack’s novels and I’d certainly be curious enough to give them a try.

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

NEXT SHORT STORY: 20th Century Ghost by Joe Hill from the collection 20th Century Ghosts.

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Talking About Close To Home (DI Adam Fawley #1) by Cara Hunter with Chrissi Reads

Published April 7, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Someone took Daisy Mason. Someone YOU KNOW.

Last night, 8-year-old Daisy Mason disappeared from her parents’ summer party. No one in the quiet suburban street saw anything – or at least that’s what they’re saying. DI Adam Fawley is trying to keep an open mind. But he knows that nine times out of ten, it’s someone the victim knew. That means someone is lying. And that Daisy’s time is running out…

Introducing DI Fawley and his team of Oxford detectives, CLOSE TO HOME is a pulse-pounding race against time and a penetrating examination of what happens to a community when a shocking crime is committed by one of its own.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: Did you have any preconceptions about this book before you started it?

BETH: I really try not to have preconceptions about any book before I read it but I think it’s human nature, you do make a snap judgement depending on how the book looks and what you’ve heard about it. Luckily, I had heard only good things and if anything, the preconceptions were basically high expectations based on the number of positive reviews I’ve read and the fact it was picked for the Richard and Judy Spring Book Club list this year. Always a good sign! However, we do know there have been books that have been chosen that we haven’t particularly loved – would this be one of them? No chance. I adored this book and believe it’s the start of a hugely promising crime series that I’m now desperate to follow.

BETH: Our lead detective, DI Adam Fawley is reported in this novel as also experiencing tragedy in his life. Were you as eager as me to know his back story?

CHRISSI: So very desperate. I loved how it was teased throughout. That sounds like I mean that I was happy he experienced tragedy, not at all, I just loved the way the details were drip fed to us. Anticipation. I really wanted to know what had happened to DI Adam Fawley. I was intrigued throughout and wanted to know what had happened to him. I grew to love him as a character and felt like I could feel his pain through the pages of the book. He’s not real, Chrissi, he’s not real!

CHRISSI: What does this novel say about children and the world they’re growing up in now?

BETH: Interesting and very tough question! And I’m going to try and do this without spoilers….One of the things that I enjoyed most about this book was the use of different media to tell the story. For example, we have Twitter feeds, news articles, interview transcripts etc. and not only did this give an alternative look at the story from a number of points of view, it broke up the narrative in a really fun-to-read way. However, I think it illustrated perfectly how powerful and dangerous social media can be in distorting views, inciting hatred, giving false information and potentially endangering lives. We already know from the very start of the novel that Daisy has disappeared with someone “close to home,” and it makes you wonder if you can really trust anyone – a terrifying thought.

BETH: Who do you think is a better parent to Daisy, Barry or Sharon?

CHRISSI: Well this is an evil question, Beth! They both have their flaws. Definitely. I have to say that I doubted them all the way through at different points in the story. Cara Hunter is awesome at keeping you guessing, I have to say. If I had to choose it would be Barry. I think. Argh! I don’t know. I don’t like this question, Beth. I don’t know if I’m picking Barry because I intensely disliked Sharon!

CHRISSI: Cara Hunter sets her novel in Oxford, a place that’s been portrayed many times in crime fiction. What do you think of her version of the city?

BETH: I’ve visited Oxford a couple of times now (once with you fairly recently!) and I loved Cara’s version of this beloved and well-known city. I enjoyed that we got to hear about a few staples of the city, like the spires but it generally felt much more focused on an ordinary street with very ordinary people living there but where an extraordinary and very traumatic thing has occurred. I liked how the author focused on the community around the Mason family, what they saw, how they connected with the Masons and how they reacted to the event.

BETH: Without spoilers, did you see this ending coming and what did you think of it?

CHRISSI: That ending! Oh my goodness. I don’t want to spoil it at all, so I’m going to be very careful around discussing it. It deserves to be read without knowing what’s going to happen. If you manage to get it without spoilers (like I did!) then your mouth might drop open…a bit like mine did. I definitely didn’t see it coming. As I mentioned before, Cara Hunter totally kept me guessing. The ending that happened never, ever crossed my mind. Mind blown.

CHRISSI: How does this book compare to others in the (heavily) populated genre?

BETH: It’s up there with the best in my opinion. As I mentioned, I loved the way in which Cara Hunter styled this novel and used a vast array of other media to tell this tale. It felt unique, different and was a clever little break from a cliffhanger in the narrative that just made you want to read as fast as you could to get back to the main crux of the novel and find out what happened next! These parts were ever so important however as they brought vital information into the case of Daisy Mason that you wouldn’t want to miss by glossing over these sections. There was not only a stellar plot (and THAT ending) but I absolutely adored all the characters, even those you love to hate. They were frank, authentic, fully formed and I felt just as interested in them as I did in what happened to Daisy. Can’t say enough good things, it was brilliant.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: Yes, yes I would. I have automatically downloaded the next book in the series on NetGalley, which I’m super excited about. I tend to find crime fiction a bit overpopulated and a little bit samey, but I’m happy to say that I found Cara Hunter’s book to be incredibly unique and well worth reading. It kept me captivated throughout. I’m excited to see where this series goes.

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Without a doubt!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

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CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):

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Close To Home by Cara Hunter was the twenty-seventh book on my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

Come And Find Me (DI Marnie Rome #5) – Sarah Hilary

Published March 29, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Gripping, tense, twisty and full of emotional insight, COME AND FIND ME is Sarah Hilary’s Marnie Rome 5 book, for fans of Mick Herron or Clare Mackintosh. 

‘Hilary belts out a corker of a story, all wrapped up in her vivid, effortless prose. If you’re not reading this series of London-set police procedurals then you need to start right away’ Observer

On the surface, Lara Chorley and Ruth Hull have nothing in common, other than their infatuation with Michael Vokey. Each is writing to a sadistic inmate, sharing her secrets, whispering her worst fears, craving his attention.

DI Marnie Rome understands obsession. She’s finding it hard to give up her own addiction to a dangerous man: her foster brother, Stephen Keele. She wasn’t able to save her parents from Stephen. She lives with that guilt every day.

As the hunt for Vokey gathers pace, Marnie fears one of the women may have found him – and is about to pay the ultimate price.

What did I think?:

I cannot stress enough how wonderful Sarah Hilary’s DI Marnie Rome series is and urge you all to start reading it if you’re not already obsessed like I clearly seem to be! Generally speaking, I usually begin crime series quite excited, determined to read all the books the author releases and then – something happens. It falls by the wayside, I read an “okay,” book in the series and sadly, my enthusiasm wanes and I either forget about the series or resolve that it’s no longer for me. However, the Marnie Rome series is one of the very few set of books where each story seems to get better and better and when I hear that one is due to be released, I’m gleefully anticipating it and genuinely leap-frogging it over other books in my TBR just so I can read it even sooner. Therefore, a HUGE thank you to Jenny Harlow and all at Headline Books for granting my wish and providing me with a copy of Come And Find Me in exchange for an honest review. I think you can already guess (and apologies for the awful gushing!) but all my expectations for the fifth book in the Marnie Rome series were exceeded, dramatically so. In fact, I’m beginning to think it impossible that Sarah Hilary could ever write a bad book and both her plot-lines and characters become more intricate and infinitely more wonderful than I ever could have expected.

Unlike other books in different series, I feel like I can talk about Come And Find Me quite easily without ruining too much for anyone who has never read any Sarah Hilary before. I’ll attempt to explain myself – you know in other series where there’s a bit of a re-cap of previous situations and if you’re reading the series out of order, it can possibly ruin things slightly if you haven’t realised? I really don’t feel like this is the case with this fifth novel. Sure, we get some slight references to events that have happened both in Marnie’s and other characters pasts but it’s all a little vague and not too detailed so if you did happen to come to this novel first, it could easily be read as a stand-alone and you wouldn’t face huge amounts of spoilers. Obviously, I would definitely advocate reading the first book in this series before any others as you get a much better idea of the personalities of our main protagonists and certainly, their back stories that has led to current events BUT I do like the way Sarah Hilary doesn’t spend oodles of time re-hashing past events.

In Come And Find Me, Marnie and her team are investigating a jail break and the disappearance of a dangerous prisoner, Michael Vokey. As he escaped from the prison, there was an almighty riot  and horrific fire which ended up with some men dead and five others including Michael’s cell-mate, Ted Elms and Marnie’s foster brother, Stephen Keele critically ill in hospital. As Marnie and her side-kick Noah desperately try to find Michael, fearing he might hurt someone else, they find letters from two women, Lara Chorley and Ruth Hull who had not only been writing to him on a regular basis, but seemed to have got slightly obsessed. The letters include photographs, have quite shocking content on occasion and make Marnie wonder if one/both of them could be aiding him or hiding him from the authorities. We hear from both Marnie and Noah as they struggle to crack the case and from Ted Elms as he lies in a coma in hospital and it is not long before the revelations of what happened the day of the riot are much more surprising and unexpected than previously believed.

I adore this series. As I alluded to before, Sarah Hilary can do no wrong and with each book she knocks it out of the park in terms of plot and character development. Of course, there are inevitable twists that you think as a reader, you might have figured out but she still manages to turn things round and bring in that unpredictable element that you never see coming. I probably mentioned in my previous reviews but Marnie and Noah are amongst my favourite characters in fiction, I really feel like I know them and admire how with each novel, the author seems to take them to the next level. This book wasn’t so much about Marnie’s struggles with her foster brother Stephen, although it was obviously mentioned as he was a patient in the hospital after the prison riot, but I quite enjoyed that we got to see a side of Marnie where she wasn’t constantly caught up in the misery of her parents deaths. Saying that, I am rubbing my hands in anticipation of what’s to come for both Marnie and Noah, especially after THAT cliffhanger. Finally, I just want to mention the writing which I have always enjoyed in the previous novels but in Come And Find Me, it was if I noticed it for the very first time. Some of the lines of this narrative were so gorgeously poetic it was a pleasure to read and brought a whole new dimension to a story I was already enjoying but ended up admiring and respecting purely for the way in which Sarah Hilary was using her words.

If you haven’t read any of the Marnie Rome series before, you’re in for such a treat. I almost wish I could go back and experience them all again, knowing nothing, right from the beginning.

Someone Else’s Skin (DI Marnie Rome #1)

No Other Darkness (DI Marnie Rome #2)

Tastes Like Fear (DI Marnie Rome #3)

Quieter Than Killing (DI Marnie Rome #4)

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Tangerine – Christine Mangan

Published March 20, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The last person Alice Shipley expected to see since arriving in Tangier with her new husband was Lucy Mason. After the accident at Bennington, the two friends—once inseparable roommates—haven’t spoken in over a year. But there Lucy was, trying to make things right and return to their old rhythms. Perhaps Alice should be happy. She has not adjusted to life in Morocco, too afraid to venture out into the bustling medinas and oppressive heat. Lucy—always fearless and independent—helps Alice emerge from her flat and explore the country.

But soon a familiar feeling starts to overtake Alice—she feels controlled and stifled by Lucy at every turn. Then Alice’s husband, John, goes missing, and Alice starts to question everything around her: her relationship with her enigmatic friend, her decision to ever come to Tangier, and her very own state of mind.

Tangerine is a sharp dagger of a book—a debut so tightly wound, so replete with exotic imagery and charm, so full of precise details and extraordinary craftsmanship, it will leave you absolutely breathless.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Little, Brown publishers for getting in touch with me via email and secondly, for allowing me to read an advance reading copy from this exciting new voice in crime fiction via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. As this book is released today (happy publication day!) I have seen relatively few reviews of it knocking around but comparison to Patricia Highsmith and Donna Tartt is never a bad thing and made me very keen to check it out and see if it stood up to the hype. It does, without a question. Tangerine is one of the most evocative and compelling debut thrillers I’ve had the pleasure to come across and it managed to lift me right out of a massive reading slump so of course, I thank the author for that! I also thank Christine Mangan for providing such a fascinating plot, interesting characters and although the reader is aware fairly soon what is happening in the novel, nothing can be taken for granted purely because of the unreliability of our narrators.

As with most thriller novels, I don’t want to give too much away but I’ll try to give you the bare bones of the synopsis if I can. This is the story of Alice Shipley who is living in Tangier, Morocco with her husband in unfortunately quite an unhappy marriage where she is forced to turn a blind eye to his numerous faults. The match was loosely arranged as very much one of convenience by her Aunt, who also happens to be her only guardian after Alice’s parents were killed in an accident. One day, an old college friend, Lucy Mason turns up unexpectedly on the doorstep of Alice’s apartment in Tangier and although in some ways, Alice is happy to see her friend, it takes her right back to an incident many years ago that the friends have never really discussed or come to terms with. Alice is thrown right back into that close, intimate relationship with Lucy until her husband abruptly disappears which causes both women to start re-examining everything, including each other.

One of the best bits about this novel, as I alluded to in the first paragraph is the unreliability of our two female protagonists. Both Alice and Lucy have their own issues in the past and these issues have continued into their present and still haunt them on a daily basis. It reminded me a little bit of those heady days of adolescence female friendships when things could get a little intense – obviously rarely to the extreme, but does anyone else remember the ferociousness of those feelings? This is what Tangerine felt like to me. At certain points of the narrative, I wasn’t quite sure what exactly was going on, basically with the fragility of both girls let me just say, things could have gone either way. As things started to unravel, piece by piece, we began to get a very unnerving picture of what is happening and how it may turn out for each character and it’s absolutely gripping. I read this book in under forty-eight hours, I found myself hooked and appalled in equal measure and it became completely necessary to keep reading until I knew how it was all going to end. Christine Mangan is a fresh and exhilarating new talent in the world of crime fiction, I adored every minute of this and can’t wait to see what she writes next, I’ll definitely be watching out for it.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie (Flavia de Luce #1) – Alan Bradley

Published March 18, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

It is the summer of 1950–and at the once-grand mansion of Buckshaw, young Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison, is intrigued by a series of inexplicable events: A dead bird is found on the doorstep, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. Then, hours later, Flavia finds a man lying in the cucumber patch and watches him as he takes his dying breath.

For Flavia, who is both appalled and delighted, life begins in earnest when murder comes to Buckshaw. “I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.”

What did I think?:

I have to admit I was first attracted to this novel by the extremely quirky title and the promise of a precocious and determined female protagonist. Essentially, The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie provided me with exactly this but I was delighted to get so much more besides. This novel is like a hot water bottle in your bed on a freezing night and the cosiness of the narrative is perfectly complimented with our wonderful female lead, whose endearing qualities and dogged stubbornness to root out the truth is both charming and heart-warming.

Our setting is 1950’s England, where eleven year old Flavia de Luce lives with her father and two older sisters, Ophelia and Daphne. Flavia has a thirst for knowledge and a keen mind, being particularly interested in chemistry and the possibility of incorporating poison ivy into her older sister’s lipstick when she annoys her!

If Feely only knew that lipstick was made from fish scales, I thought, she might be a little less eager to slather the stuff all over her mouth. I must remember to tell her. I grinned. Later.

However, Flavia’s mind is about to be thoroughly tested after a number of strange occurrences. First, she finds a dead bird with a postage stamp attached to its beak and then a little later, she finds a strange man dying in the cucumber patch in her garden. Rather than being terrified, Flavia becomes set on discovering what has happened to the stranger, why it happened and who is responsible. As a result, her amateur detective skills and intelligent ponderings lead her right into the heart of a rather sinister mystery where she will not rest until it is resolved.

I’ve read quite mixed reviews of this novel on Goodreads, particularly about the character of Flavia who seems to be a bit of a “marmite” individual for various reviewers. I can completely understand this, Flavia can be incredibly annoying, nosey and stubborn and I can see why she might frustrate some readers. However, I adored her. Her sense of humour (as illustrated in the above quote) was so engaging and I loved all the opportunities Alan Bradley took in the novel to make me smile, they were so numerous. If I had to describe this novel to anyone interested in reading it, I would perhaps talk about a miniature, female Sherlock Holmes with the wit of the very best stand up comedian in a setting Agatha Christie would be proud of.

It’s a real feel-good story and although the mystery isn’t difficult to unravel for the reader and in fact, I did guess what was going on fairly quickly, it doesn’t matter in the slightest. The beauty of this book for me is to be had in the character of Flavia and the way she unpicks a very mysterious murder. I can only imagine growing to love this character more and more as the series continues and I simply must make time for the second book, which also has another fantastic title – The Weed That Strings The Hangman’s Bag.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Blog Tour – Killed (Henning Juul #5) by Thomas Enger, translated by Kari Dickson

Published March 2, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Henning Juul sits in a boat on a dark lake. A man with a gun sits opposite him. At the man’s feet is a body that will be soon be dumped into the water. Henning knows that the same fate awaits him. And he knows that it’s his own fault. Who started the fire that killed Henning’s young son? How is his sister, Trine, involved? Most importantly, who can be trusted? Packed with tension and unexpected twists, Killed is the long-waited finale of the internationally renowned series featuring conflicted, disillusioned but always dogged crime reporter Henning Juul, and one of the most chilling, dark and moving crime thrillers you may ever read.

What did I think?:

Thank you so much to Anne Cater, Karen Sullivan and all at Orenda Books for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour. When Anne contacted me via email to ask if I was interested, all I needed to do was read that synopsis, notice it was Scandinavian crime fiction and I literally jumped at the chance. Then I found out it was the fifth and final book in the Henning Juul series and I have to admit, I was a little worried. I get strangely anxious about wanting to read things in order, however I’ve relaxed the reins slightly in recent times and have read a few books “out of order,” where it hasn’t mattered a jot and I was crossing my fingers that Killed would be exactly the same. Well, let me assure you there is no doubt that it can absolutely be read as a stand-alone and, better still, provided at the beginning of the novel is such a handy little character list that it was very simple to keep track of who was who in the grand scheme of things.

So our main character in the series is Henning Juul, an investigative crime journalist who has recently lost his small son, in a horrific fire at his flat. As the story begins, he is desperately trying to piece together what happened to his son and more importantly, who was involved. He finds out quite quickly into the narrative that his sister Trine was on the scene just before the accident occurred but why? Furthermore, there are hardened criminals both at home in Norway and abroad that are determined to keep their wave of crimes silent and therefore, anyone who stands in their way or gets a bit too close to the truth has to be dealt with as quickly and as quietly as possible. Henning finds himself in a very real race for his life to uncover the mastermind behind a string of suspicious deaths so that he can finally put old ghosts to rest. He just has to be careful he doesn’t become a ghost himself in the process.

I mentioned before that I enjoy Scandinavian crime fiction and Killed is up there with some of the most gripping thrillers I’ve had the pleasure to read from that beautiful area of the world. I love the darkness, the brooding characters and even Norway almost becomes a character in itself with the picture perfect surroundings and the often freezing conditions. The dark and the cold is just a fantastic setting for any crime fiction and Killed chilled my heart at times with the beauty and brutality of our setting. Of course, this is my first introduction to Henning Juul as a character but I’m already inclined to believe myself a little bit in love with him already. I love the dedication he shows to his work, the memory of his son and his sheer stubbornness in never giving up, even with a couple of bullets in his body! I can’t speak for the rest of the books in the series but I thought the ending was pretty much a perfect way to round everything up (although he did give me a little heart attack when I thought he was taking the story a whole different way!). My only concern with the Henning Juul books, and it’s a purely personal one, is that I feel I’ve missed too much of Henning’s back story and I only wish I had made time to read the previous four books before starting this one. However, that just means I’ve still got four more to enjoy now I feel I know the character so very well!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Granite Noir fest 2017. Thomas Enger.

Thomas Enger (b. 1973) is a former journalist. He made his debut with the
crime novel Burned (Skinndød) in 2010, which became an international
sensation before publication. Burned is the first in a series of 5 books about
the journalist Henning Juul, which delves into the depths of Oslo’s underbelly,
skewering the corridors of dirty politics and nailing the fast-moving world of
24-hour news. Rights to the series have been sold to 26 countries to date. In
2013 Enger published his first book for young adults, a dark fantasy thriller
called The Evil Legacy, for which he won the U-prize (best book Young
Adult). Enger also composes music, and he lives in Oslo.

Find Thomas on Goodreads at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4471063.Thomas_Enger

on his website at: http://www.thomasenger.net

on Twitter at: @EngerThomas

Thank you once again to Anne Cater, Karen Sullivan and Orenda Books  for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. Killed was published on the 28th February 2018 and is available from all good bookshops now. If you want some more fantastic reviews don’t forget to check out my fellow bloggers stops for some more fantastic reviews!

Link to book on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35960953-killed?ac=1&from_search=true

Amazon UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Killed-Henning-Novel-Thomas-Enger/dp/1910633992/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1519580458&sr=8-1&keywords=killed+thomas+enger

The Lie Tree – Frances Hardinge

Published February 27, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Faith Sunderly leads a double life. To most people, she is reliable, dull, trustworthy – a proper young lady who knows her place as inferior to men. But inside, Faith is full of questions and curiosity, and she cannot resist mysteries: an unattended envelope, an unlocked door. She knows secrets no one suspects her of knowing. She knows that her family moved to the close-knit island of Vane because her famous scientist father was fleeing a reputation-destroying scandal. And she knows, when her father is discovered dead shortly thereafter, that he was murdered.

In pursuit of justice and revenge, Faith hunts through her father’s possessions and discovers a strange tree. The tree bears fruit only when she whispers a lie to it. The fruit of the tree, when eaten, delivers a hidden truth. The tree might hold the key to her father’s murder – or it may lure the murderer directly to Faith herself.

What did I think?:

The Lie Tree has been on my radar for the longest time, ever since it won the Costa Book Award back in 2015 and I was delighted when the lovely booksellers at Mr B’s Emporium Of Reading Delights in Bath recommended it as one of the books I simply had to read on a reading spa I went to with my sister Chrissi Reads. Now, they picked some outstanding books perfectly tailored for my reading tastes but this book was one of their more intuitive choices and one that had me jumping up and down about it within just a few pages. I think I was merely twenty pages through when I had the urge to tweet gushing all about it and I had barely begun! You know when you start reading a book and everything slots into place? The lyrical writing, the atmospheric setting, the mystery of the characters, the magical elements? They were all spectacular and I knew it was a book destined to make it to my all-time favourites book shelf.

This is the story of Faith and her family who are fleeing England after a scandal involving her father’s work as a natural scientist. They encamp themselves upon a small island where they believe at first the rumours haven’t followed them and the Reverend can continue his rather secretive work in relative peace. Faith is an intelligent, determined girl who takes great interest in her father’s studies although the fact that she is a woman in 19th century England does not bode well for her future intellectual development i.e. she is not expected to pursue anything else other than marrying well. However, when her father meets an untimely end under suspicious circumstances, Faith is desperate to peruse his current research, in search for answers about his mysterious death, his very strange behaviour and his often rattled demeanour in order to uncover the secrets behind a very special plant, The Lie Tree. It is only when she discovers what The Lie Tree can potentially provide that Faith begins to realise she may have opened a bigger can of worms than she ever could have expected.

This gorgeous novel was so much more than I anticipated and I thank Frances Hardinge from the bottom of my heart for every word of it. The language used is sumptuous and glorious and I loved the combination of the historical setting with the fantastical element of the Lie Tree mixed with subtle hints of feminist undertones. Each character and their intricate relationships was developed so beautifully that they felt completely authentic, especially with the addition of flaws that only served to increase my belief in each one of them. I have to talk briefly about Faith’s relationship with both her parents, which broke my heart at times. I clocked her mother, Myrtle immediately as being disinterested, two-faced and not in the slightest maternal but it was Faith’s relationship with her father that really floored me and at one point, almost had me in tears.

There’s a particular scene with Faith and the Reverend just prior to his death where he tells her exactly what he and the rest of the world expects of her as a female and it’s just a horrific, passionate exchange that was upsetting yet very illuminating to read. Faith is herself as I alluded to, flawed and becomes enamoured with the power provided to her by The Lie Tree. She makes some really terrible decisions, suffers for her bravery and hurts a few people in the process but at the end of the day, I couldn’t help but admire her for her tenacity and dogged determination to ensure that her father’s death was avenged. Basically, I can’t gush enough about the magnificent nature of this novel, it is a very worthy Costa Award winner and for me, proof that a book can still capture my heart within twenty pages.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge was the sixteenth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!