Cruel Heart Broken is Emma Haughton’s third YA novel. I enjoyed her previous two books, Now You See Me and Better Left Buried, so I was keen to read this latest offering and I’m pleased to say I loved it.Continue Reading
Full Dark House is the first book in Christopher Fowler’s crime mystery series featuring the octogenarian detectives Arthur Bryant and John May who work for the Peculiar Crimes Unit in London.
The fact that the detectives are in their eighties, are named after a box of matches and are assigned peculiar crimes to solve tells you a lot about the rich vein of dark humour that pervades the book.
Full Dark House is mainly set during the London Blitz in 1940 when the two detectives are young men working on their first case, but the story opens sixty years later when a bomb blast rips apart the Peculiar Crimes Unit, killing Arthur Bryant. John May sets out to solve his elderly partner’s death, a mystery that takes him back to their first ever case solving a series of murders at the Palace Theatre in London 1940 where a risqué production of Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld was in rehearsals.
Full Dark House is a richly complex story that mixes a host of colourful characters, some bizarre deaths, themes of Greek mythology and revenge, life in the Blitz and the relationship between the maverick Arthur Bryant and his more down to earth sidekick, John May.
Christopher Fowler is also fascinated by London itself and the city is as important as any of the characters. The author’s love for his home city would seem to be summed up by Arthur Bryant when he says:
“This city is a veritable repository of the wonderful and the extraordinary. Isn’t that right, Mr May?”
You can find out more about the Bryant and May series of books here.
When I came across this book on Jane Davis’ blog, I liked the sound of it and I decided to give it a go. Well, I’ve just finished it and I loved it!
The Fifth Voice is a bittersweet comic novel about four men who form a barbershop quartet. Paul Connolly is a singer himself and he really knows what he’s talking about when it comes to music.
Here’s part of the blurb for the book from Paul’s website:
The lives of four singers are far from harmonious. Danny’s marriage is on the rocks, while Vince is struggling with a debilitating illness. Henry is having a mid-life crisis, and Neil is at war with his father. But when they sing together none of that matters. Because something magical happens.
The Fifth Voice is a poignant and comic tale of four lives and a single passion.
Connolly draws you into the lives of Vince, Danny, Henry and Neil with a writing style that is both assured and gentle. He’s particularly good at bringing his characters to life through their speech and actions, especially the wise-cracking Vince and the larger-than-life voice coach, Ken. Each character has their own unique story and the author weaves these stories together in a very satisfying way. The Fifth Voice is a funny and uplifting book and would make a great mini-series or feel-good film.
All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. It’s a beautifully written account of two lives in World War Two, a blind French girl called Marie-Laure LeBlanc and a German boy called Werner Pfennig.
The chapters alternate between Marie-Laure who lives in Paris with her father, a master locksmith at the Museum of Natural History, and Werner who, with his sister, lives in the coal-mining town of Zollverein. Werner, who discovers an aptitude for fixing broken radios, finds himself sent to a Nazi school for training soldiers and is eventually employed in a team that traverses Europe on the hunt for illegal resistance broadcasters. For Marie-Laure and her father, the outbreak of war sees them fleeing to the Brittany coastal town of St Malo to stay with her great uncle, Etienne LeBlanc, a shell-shocked survivor of the First World War and a keen radio enthusiast.
The two threads of the story do eventually meet, but not until about three-quarters of the way through what is a very long novel. Until that moment, it can feel a little as you’re reading two separate books and, at times, as if the story is treading water. When the plot lines do merge, however, the story becomes very satisfying.
There’s a sub-plot to do with a valuable, possibly cursed, diamond that is held at the Museum of Natural History. When Marie-Laure and her father flee to St Malo, he is given either the real diamond or one of three fakes to take with him. The Nazi Reinhold von Rumpel, a rather grotesque, comic character, is traversing Europe on the hunt for valuable artefacts. Needless to say, his searches bring him to Marie-Laure’s door.
If you enjoy slow, poetic and poignant reads then you’d probably enjoy this book. The third person, present tense narrative moves backwards and forwards between 1934 and 2014, although the main action is centred in 1944. The writing is beautiful and detailed and the author does a good job of weaving the stories of Jules Verne into the text, specifically Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea which Marie-Laure reads in Braille.
A book to read slowly and savour.
Available at Amazon