TRCH - Flawless

Book Reviews: June - July 2014

20 June 14 words: WriteLion
A corrupt detective inspector, a post-war love affair, a cub who can't sleep in the dark, and more
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The Unquiet Grave
Steven Dunne
£7.99 (Headline)

This is Dunne’s fourth novel to feature Detective Inspector Damen Brook, a hybrid of Connelly’s Bosch and Robinson’s Banks. If working in Derby isn’t bad enough, Brook has been banished to the constabulary’s basement and forced to work in the Cold Case Unit. An unsolved murder piques his interest and he’s soon investigating a series of deaths spanning half a century. Meanwhile his sidekick, DS Noble, is focusing on the recent disappearance of a local boy. Corruption and old loyalties blight Brook’s efforts, as do his many adversaries, but the dusty files reveal a pattern pointing to a serial killer. What ensues is a complex story of skilfully manipulated threads, culminating in a race against time finale. Dunne’s imagery is vivid and chilling, and in Brook he has created a troubled character whose relationships, not least with his Sillitoe-quoting teenage daughter, provide insight into an intriguing crime fighter. John Baird
Headline website

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Kerry Young
£8.99 (Bloomsbury)

Not content with her first book being shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award, Kerry Young’s second has been nominated for this year’s East Midlands Book Award. It’s 1938 in rural Jamaica, and Gloria, a sixteen-year-old girl, commits a violent, irrevocable act that means she must flee with her younger sister for Kingston. Once there she falls in with two women who run a house of uncertain reputation, and begins to piece together the belief that she can forge her own way in a world that seems to hem a woman in on every side. Young’s decade-spanning story encompasses the revolution in Cuba, Jamaica’s independence, the struggle for the rights of women, motherhood and feels authentic from the first sentence to the last. The second in a linked trilogy of novels featuring the same characters, Gloria is a touching, convincing and absorbing portrait of a woman in turbulent times. Robin Lewis
Bloomsbury website

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Under the Jewelled Sky
Alison McQueen
£7.99 (Orion Books)

Set against the post-war backdrop of British expat circles living in India during the fight for its independence, this is a bittersweet tale of a love affair that defies the constraints of race, stature and social convention. McQueen’s novel is flawlessly paced, unfolding with filmic precision to reveal complex familial and interpersonal relationships which linger in the mind long after reading. India is so vividly portrayed that it almost becomes a character in itself; an exotic, otherworldly being that is at once enchanting and provocative in the plight of its troubles. The historic dimension adds depth and weight to the story, and it is evident that her seventh novel is thoroughly researched, drawing on the author’s own history and close ties with India. It is this seamless merging of the fictitious and factual, of love and despair, that saw McQueen crowned winner of the East Midlands Book Award. Helen Frear
Orion website

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Too Small For My Big Bed
Amber Stewart and Layn Marlow
£6.99 (Oxford University Press)

This charming book for little uns focuses on Piper, a happy go-lucky young tiger cub who enjoys his independence in the day, but cannot sleep all alone in the darkness. His patient mother, with several tactics, shows him he can. My child - who’s now the grand old age of two - has, fortunately, never been one to climb into our bed in the night so I am not sure exactly how effective this book would be at convincing your little one to go it alone between dusk and dawn. One thing I have learnt as a parent, though, is that anything is worth a shot. The illustrations are colourful and interesting, with a story and words that are not too long for impatient young minds. Marlow and Stewart work on the book together to create a reassuring message for toddlers who find it hard to settle themselves to sleep on their own. Definitely a book for just before bedtime. Harry Wilding
Oxford University Press website

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Silent Witness
Nigel McCrery
£18.99 HB (Random House)

“Every contact leaves a trace” said Dr Edmond Locard, ‘the French Sherlock Holmes’ which has become the defining principle of forensic science. This book is a spin-off from the television series and offers a whistle-stop tour of detection that spans two centuries, crosses the globe, and is littered with fascinating case studies that one day will come in handy in a pub quiz. McCrery is not a scientist, which works to his advantage as he is superb at simplifying complex information, making this an accessible and illuminating read. He focusses on seven areas: establishing identity (fingerprints), ballistics, blood (Dexter fans will enjoy this chapter), trace evidence (hairs, etc), post-mortems, poisons (useful before divorce laws changed) and DNA. Clearly science has transformed detection and helped us move away from superstitious thinking but it has presented new problems, in particular the ease with which coppers can tamper with seemingly irrefutable evidence. James Walker
Random House website

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The Pre-War House & Other Stories
Alison Moore
£12.99 HB (Salt)

Let’s forget the Booker and all those other awards Moore’s work has been nominated for and cut to the chase. This woman can write. As with The Lighthouse, this collection of short stories - some of which date back to 2000 - are equally bleak and uncompromising, revealing an array of vulnerable characters caught, often, in their own self-imposed prisons: a father trapped by nostalgia who hums the love songs his wife had left behind, an Indian woman beating shirts so hot against the rocks the buttons break off, photographs with thumbs half over the lens, a man who can’t lose the stench of the slaughterhouse when he returns home from work. Moore provides just enough detail so that the reader, like her characters, is left uncertain as to the outcome. The title story (and last in the collection) is like watching a still life art project as we see a house and generations of a family slowly decaying. Fortunately, one character gets to shut the door on the past just as the reader gets to close the book. Phew! James Walker
Salt Publishing website

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Division Street
Helen Mort
£12 (Chatto & Windus)

Helen Mort grew up in Chesterfield and her writing is rooted in the places and stories of the East Midlands and the North. Division Street – Mort’s debut full collection – is a real location in Sheffield, but the title also alludes to social tensions and issues of personal identity. She explores these themes through beguiling and superbly crafted poems, from the witty play on her surname (The French for Death) to the boundaries of consciousness between human and animal (The Dogs, Fox Miles). In the profound sequence (Scab), she draws an analogy between the eighties miners' strikes and Deller’s re-enactment of The Battle of Orgreave, crossing the invisible picket line of class as an undergraduate student attending Cambridge University. Shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize and the Costa Prize in 2013, Mort was the youngest ever Poet in Residence at the Wordsworth Trust and is the current Derbyshire Poet Laureate. Aly Stoneman
Random House website



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