A(nother) Review: Here and Gone by Harlan Beck

For the last few weeks I’ve been talking about the Thumping Good Read award (pop over to the WHSmith blog for more details) and this week, we’re onto Book 5 – Here and Gone by Harlan Beck.

 

This was one of the first ones I read and one of my favourites of the whole bunch.

 

The story starts out with Audra driving across America with her two small children. It becomes clear that she is running from something, though we’re not exactly sure what. She is pulled over by a policeman on a deserted road, who writes her up for having her car too loaded up.

 

A routine investigation escalates and she soon finds herself jailed for possession with intent to supply, despite protesting that she didn’t know how the drugs got into her car. This is just the beginning of her nightmare, though.

 

Once jailed, she asks the police officer how her children are. He simply replies there were no children in the car when he pulled her over.

 

Audra flips.

 

As you would.

 

Soon, she’s accused of having done all sorts to her children and she must fight to prove her innocence. And her sanity.

 

From this moment, Here and Gone had me hooked. Audra found herself in this situation so simply, it could happen to any of us. What would we do if we found ourselves in this situation when we just KNEW we were right?

 

This seems like a good time to crack out a picture of Dr Beverly Crusher:

 

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Here and Gone is tense throughout, and leads to one of those endings where your fingers are turning the page faster than your eyes can read because you just need to know what happens.

 

A definite page-turner, I loved it. I think you will too.

 

Here and Gone is available now from Vintage and is half price in WHSmith High Street stores until Wednesday 4thJuly

A(nother) Review: Guess Who by Chris McGeorge

There are so many different reasons why we pick up books – word of mouth, an exciting jacket or intriguing title, even a special offer, but sometimes the marketing does its job and the slug on the front of the book, explaining the concept manages to sell it in just ten words.

 

That was the case with Guess Who by Chris McGeorge for me:

 

One room.

Five suspects.

Three hours to find a killer…

 

That said it all for me, I wanted to read this book and I wanted to love it.

 

If you need more than that to whet your appetite, there’s not much I can say without ruining the plot too much, but I’ll try. TV personality Morgan Sheppard (think Jeremy Kyle but a detective version) wakes up in a hotel room, chained to a bed and slowly comes to realise that there are other people in the room with him, all starting to wake up as well.

 

He is the only one locked up and when the TV turns on with a message for them all, it seems to be directed straight at him. Their captor challenges him to solve a mystery within three hours, or they will all die.

 

Does it live up to its premise? Did I love it?

 

Well… not quite. It’s still very good, and McGeorge is a great writer, but the narrative jumps out of the hotel room into Sheppard’s past quite regularly and so doesn’t quite maintain its feeling of mystery and claustrophobia.

 

But, that’s a big challenge anyway. It’s difficult to wring tension and drama out of that situation and the exposition was necessary for the pay-off… I just wish the author had found a way to keep all the action in the room.

 

I wondered as I reached the end, whether the concept would work better as a play. Tense silences, suspicious glances and a restrained location can work wonders on the stage, but are very hard to convey in writing. Hard, but not impossible.

 

It’s still definitely worth a read, and I’d highly recommend for a summer read, but it doesn’t quite live up to its marketing.

 

Guess Who is published by Orion and is available now as part of WHSmith’s Thumping Good Read Award. It is half price in High Street stores until next Wednesday.

 

 

A(nother) Review: The Silent Companions

Here we go.

 

After a couple of weeks of reading books that are away from my usual fare, we’re back firmly inside my comfort zone with The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

 

This one has been around for a while and one of those I’ve been meaning to read for ages, so I was really pleased when it made it on the longlist for Thumping Good Read.

 

Little secret: As part of the team that chose the shortlist, I’m not supposed to have favourites, but if I were to have one, this MIGHT be it.

 

If you don’t know – this is a story about Elsie, a widow who travels from London to her late husband’s country estate The Bridge. There she deals with her grief and her growing pregnancy, but there are some mysterious goings on – all centered around life-size paintings on wooden boards. Think a ye-olde-cardboard cut-out.

 

Nowadays, these things would be sold in hipster cafes that also sell vinyl, or in a motorway service station, but back in the nineteenth century, these things are extremely creepy – especially when they seem to move on their own accord.

 

It’s a brilliant, atmospheric gothic horror with a plot that constantly evolves and develops. As a reader, I wasn’t sure where it was going to end up – I, like Elise, assumed there had to be a practical explanation, but I just couldn’t think what it might be so I started to believe that maybe – in this world at least – ghosts were real.

 

As I alluded to before, this MIGHT be my favourite from the Thumping Good Read list – but my opinion doesn’t matter. It’s your job to vote for the favourite (by clicking on this link right here).

 

The Silent Companions is available now from Raven Books and is half price in WHSmith High Street stores until Wednesday 20th June

 

A(nother) Review: Sail Away by Celia Imrie

After last week’s heart-stopped, testosterone-filled spy thriller Capture or Kill, this week’s #ThumpingGoodRead2018 is a complete 180-degree-turn. And another book that I wouldn’t normally read (starting to realise how niche my reading list can be!).

 

It’s Celia Imrie’s Sail Away.

 

Everyone will know Imrie of course for her acting and has most famously appeared on TV alongside Victoria Wood in Acorn Antiquesand in films such as Calendar Girlsand – rather left-field – Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.

 

But Imrie, in latter years, has also dabbled in writing and Sail Away is her third novel. It follows two women who are in their – let’s say twilight years – Suzy Marshall and Amanda Herbert.

 

Through a series of misunderstandings, they both find themselves on a cruise across the Atlantic. They meet all sorts of strange people, including a few who can’t be trusted. Their lives are inter-connected in ways they don’t yet know, and they are thrown together in a way that might just solve all their problems.

 

Sail Away is NOT a love story.

 

It most books store it sits in a strange genre of books – that of general fiction, which is essentially the home for any book that isn’t a thriller, crime, sci-fi or old-lady-romance. With the soft pastel colours on the cover you might be forgiven for thinking it is a love story.

 

Most books are these days.

 

But this is a story about two women, friendship and farce.

 

I have a problem with ‘funny books’ – I often think humour is the hardest of all emotions to invoke in a reader. Particularly me. I *LOVE* slapstick and farce, I love watching people fall over and run in and out doors.

 

It’s the sort of humour that relies on fast-paced visual gags. Even if you can describe them perfectly, you probably won’t be able to do it at the pace that keeps it funny.

 

However Imrie manages to strike the right tone with Sail Awayand I really enjoyed it – especially as you can easily imagine the BBC turning it into a lottery-funded British film starring a list of people who all have Dame or Sir before their names.

 

Like I said, it’s not the sort of book that I would normally read – I love prolonged explorations of death and terrible things that make me cry – but this is the perfect book to give you a break from all the angst of those.

 

Next time I’m heading on holiday, I’ll definitely be looking for more books by Imrie to read around the pool.

 

Sail Awayis available now from Bloomsbury Publishing and will be half price in all WHSmith stores until Wednesday 13thJune.

 

You can find out more about Sail Away, the Thumping Good Read award and all the other  contenders by visiting the WHSmith blog.