Shadow on the Highway

 Shadow on the Highway by Deborah Swift is a historical novel, following a deaf girl by the name of Abigail Chaplin. It is set in the 17th century, during the civil war. Abi is sent to work for Lady Katherine Fanshawe at the manor house and at first finds Lady Katherine to be difficult and demanding. However the two young women soon find they have more in common than they think, and form an unlikely friendship. 

The plot of this story was engaging and fairly easy to follow, although not quite what I was expecting. The book was written for young people and at times that is very apparent. I found the characters to be interesting but at times a little immature for my liking, particularly Abi.

Overall it was a quick read, mostly enjoyable, but probably not as interesting for an adult reader as for a young person.

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Origin

For a bestselling author, Dan Brown gets an awful lot of bad press. Everyone seems to have an opinion to express about his writing style and plots (mostly how dreadful they think they are). But here’s the thing: generally I’ve found his books to be pretty enjoyable page-turners. They may not be particularly literary, but let’s be honest, a lot of thrillers are written in a similar style.

With that in mind, and having read all of the previous books in the series, I decided I really wanted to read the latest Robert Langdon thriller Origin. The novel is set in Spain and follows the protagonist as he looks to uncover the mystery behind the assassination of his friend Edmond Kirsch, just as Kirsch is about to reveal a secret to the world that he believes will end religion for good. What follows is Brown’s usual mix of secret codes, hidden assassins and shadowy figures, leading to a final twist.

So what did I think of it? Well, I wasn’t overly impressed to be honest. It was slow to start, the action not kicking in until around half way through the book. And I’d figured out the twist well in advance of it happening. There were some good bits; the scenes in the Sagrada Familia were fast paced and exciting, and met the expectations I’d had for this book. Unfortunately they didn’t make up for the plot holes, or the slow start.

Better than Inferno but not as good as the earliest Robert Langdon books, this is probably one I won’t read again.

The Cuckoo’s Calling

I love a good detective story and this novel from Robert Galbraith  (a pseudonym of J.K.Rowling) is a fantastic addition to the genre.

Cormoran Strike, private investigator, is asked to look into the death of model Lula Landry by her adoptive brother. The police decided it was a suicide, but her brother doesn’t agree with this version of events and thinks there may have been something more sinister at work in her death. With his new temporary secretary Robin, Strike investigates Landry’s glamorous life, and discovers the dark secret behind what really happened.

Filled with red herrings, hidden pasts, this is a well-written crime novel. The characters are believable and the ending satisfying. Definitely one I’d recommend and I’ll almost certainly be looking to read the sequels.

An Act of Silence

I’ve read and enjoyed a few psychological thrillers this year, and seeing this was highly recommended, I thought I would give it a try.

Linda Moscow, once Home Secretary (until a role in a cash for contracts scandal ended her political career) is horrified to discover her only son Gabriel is wanted for questioning in a murder case. Gabriel wants his mother’s reassurance that she believes him, so why is it so hard for her to trust her son? 

Despite this worrying turn of events, Linda continues to pursue her leads for a book she is writing, revealing the truth about a sickening series of abuses within the care system and involving some very powerful men. However, Linda has already been silenced once in the past, and these men will stop at nothing to keep the truth hidden.

The idea behind the story was interesting, and worryingly, very relevant. The first half of the story contained lots of twists and revelations and was a real page-turner. However, after that the twists and reveals seemed to slow down, and the story lost its pace. The multiple narratives made it occasionally repetitive and the ending really did not hold the impact it could have. Also, at times the story did not seem to have a clear focus: the mother-son dynamic, the abuse cases, the murder investigation. None of them were given the full attention they really required and the time-shifts within the narrative proved distracting and made for disjointed reading.

At times thought-provoking, but the lack of pace let this story down unfortunately.

I Let You Go

Earlier this year I read and enjoyed Clare Mackintosh’s psychological thriller I See You. I Let You Go is Mackintosh’s first novel.

I Let You Go, follows an investigation into a hit and run, where a 5 year old boy was killed. The narrative shifts between the police investigation and Jenna, who needs to focus on restarting her life following the trauma she has been through. It is full of twists and turns and I don’t really want to explain too much of the plot as it is best left spoiler-free.

This was an absolutely brilliant book; once I’d picked it up it was hard to put down. Every part of the story was fascinating, and I enjoyed the fact that the characters were fully developed for the reader, including the officers investigating the case. Here, you can really see the impact of Mackintosh’s police background as she brings the justice process to life for the reader.

Hard-hitting, unsettling, it sometimes makes for uncomfortable reading, but it is a real page-turner and a book I would highly recommend.

The Convenient Marriage

Georgette Heyer is one of those authors that I’ve been meaning to try for a while; her historical novels seem to have an enduring popularity and receive a lot of positive reviews.

The Comvenient Marriage follows Horatia, who makes an unusual suggestion when her sister is forced to choose between marrying for love and for money. Horatia goes on to become the wife of the wealthy Earl of Rule herself, a marriage purely of convenience. However a rival for Rule’s attentions mean that he is forced to make a stand for his wife, and in doing so perhaps uncover that it is more than just a marriage of convenience.

I have to be honest, I didn’t really enjoy this book. I didn’t particularly warm to Horry as the protagonist and her brother’s exploits, whilst meant to be a light interlude, were just a bit ridiculous. Rule also, was not a particularly likeable hero. All in all, reading this story felt like a bit of a chore and I finished it with no real desire to try reading any of Heyer’s other novels.

I think maybe in this case through it was a matter of me and the book being a poor match; others seem largely postive about Heyer’s books. Personally I’d rather turn back to Jane Austen for regency romance.

‘The Witness’ Nora Roberts

I’ve never read any books by Nora Roberts before and if I’m honest, my reaction to this novel was mixed.

Abigail Lowery has a secret that she guards very carefully. Aged just 16, a moment of teenage rebellion ended disastrously when she witnessed a murder by the Russian mafia. Ever since then she has been in hiding, carefully guarding herself from outsiders and continually putting up barriers. Police chief Brooks Gleeson may be about to change that, but can Abigail let her guard down enough to let someone in? And can she ever be free from the past?

I really enjoyed the first 100 or so pages of this book. It was fast-paced, dramatic, and appeared to set up a scenario that would make for an exciting page-turner. However, after that the pace slowed and the rest of the storyline felt like a bit of a let-down. It focused more on the romance than on the mafia storyline, which seemed to lead absolutely nowhere. Also, when I say romance, I actually found the main male character Brooks to be pushy, controlling and annoying; it felt more like harrassment than romance. 

Overall, a great start but a disappointing ending and a middle section that lacked pace. It wouldn’t put me off reading anything else by Roberts (other reviews I’ve read suggest maybe this isn’t her best) but I wouldn’t read this particular book again.