The Whispers Review: A Haunting Thriller That You’ll Remember For All The Right Reasons

As part of her blog tour, I’m excited to share my thoughts on the latest book from renowned thriller writer Heidi Perks.

After Perks’ past works, including Come Back For Me, Three Perfect Liarsand the incredible Now You See Her, comes her latest offering, the deliciously deceitful The Whispers.

The author’s latest release is a gripping thriller with a Gone Girl esq twist. Not to spoil the plot, but honestly, if you love Gillian’s Flynn’s bestseller then The Whispers could be the perfect read for you.

The story revolves around four very close friends, who live in the picturesque, fictional Dorset town of Clearwater, near the very real town of Weymouth. These four friends are all parents of 8 year olds kids, who are all in the same class at primary school.

On the surface, these four live picture-perfect, happy lives. They have great husbands, lovely children, and beautiful homes. Those who have jobs seem to enjoy them, and the rest love being homemakers and taking care of their husbands and children.

All of this is pulled apart with the arrival of Grace, a woman who used to live in Clearwater but moved to Australia when she was a teenager. Now a married mother with an 8 year old daughter in the same class as the four friends’ kids, she comes back and expects to fit in with her former best friend, Anna, one of the four.

However, Anna now has her three new friends, and she is increasingly distant from Grace. The other three women all rally round her and seem to try to keep her away from her childhood best friend. In a desperate attempt to fit in and win her old friend back, Grace agrees to come to a Christmas night out at the local pub.

The night is filled with in fighting and strange revelations. Grace leaves early while the other four women stay and party. The next day, Anna has disappeared, and Grace soon finds that her friends aren’t being honest about what happened to her. In desperation, Grace goes to Anna’s gormless husband, then takes it upon herself to report the disappearance to the police.

Not only is Anna’s vanishing scary for Grace, but it also brings back unwelcome memories of an eerily similar disappearance that happened back when the girls where teenagers. A girl in their class disappeared, only to be found dead having fallen from the cliffs. The cliffs in the area are renowned as dangerous, but now Grace begins to wonder.

She meets up with a policeman who worked the case all those years ago, and the two reminisce. There’s little he can do to help Grace find Anna, and no one else seems to care that she’s missing. Anna has left an amazing husband and a gorgeous small boy behind, and there doesn’t seem to be any reason behind her sudden vanishing.

When Anna reappears suddenly, it’s clear that all is not well. All of her friends are clearly keeping secrets, and the story rattles on to its final, breath-taking conclusion. In between, the story is taut and tense, with Perks teasing the reader with small titbits of information but never giving us the full story until right at the very end.

It’s the author’s masterful storytelling abilities that keep The Whispers so engaging and enticing. The tale itself is a deliciously simple one, but the writing style means that the reader is left hanging on Perks’ every word as they traverse this bitter and backbiting fiction town with her as their guide.

The ending of the novel is insanely captivating. The reader is left wondering who was right: Grace or Anna? Perks does an amazing job of keeping everything ambiguous and leaving it open to interpretation. She keeps you guessing right to the very end, and then leaves you with more questions than answers. By giving various perspectives on the narrative, she makes it tough for you to get a clear view of the plot. You’re constantly wondering who is lying and who is covering for themselves.

It’s for this reason that her latest novel is so haunting. Even after it’s over, you’ll still be questioning everything that you read and wondering who to believe. I’ve been left wondering about the book and dissecting each detail of the plot ever since I finished it a few weeks ago. I struggled to put the book down when I was reading it, and now I can’t get it out of my head.

That’s the hallmark of a good thriller. It stays with you long after it’s over and haunts you at odd moments. There are few truly exceptional books that will stay with you and give you the fear long after they’re done, and this is definitely one of them. You’ll remember the plot and notice random qualities in people you meet that remind you of the characters. It’s also the kind of thriller that you’ll want to re-read as soon as the plot even starts to fade from your memory. I’m already considering giving it another go and I’ve only just finished it!

With all that said, it’s clear that I’d thoroughly recommend The Whispers to anyone who wants to read an engaging thriller that will help you escape from your reality. The book quickly draws you in and makes you feel invested in the fates of the characters. You’ll want to find out what happened to Anna and how her past actions have affected her future reality.

When all is said and done, I think that Perks’ latest novel is a gritty, modern thriller that really packs a punch. Like Now You See Her before it, I believe that this is the sort of novel that’ll soon be optioned by NBC, Netflix or Hulu and I can totally see Reese Witherspoon trying to grab one of the main roles for herself. She’d make a great Nancy, in my opinion. I’d be excited to see a TV adaptation of this terrifying exploration of the depths of human deceit and how quickly families and relationships can crumble under the pressure of past deception.

Black Coffee Review: A Tantalising Thriller That Doesn’t Really Reflect Christie’s Prowess

As a bored, Golden Age crime fiction fan looking for something to keep me entertained during the lockdown, I’ve been turning to re-reading old favourites over recent months. Among my most beloved books is my collection of Hercule Poirot novels from the renowned Queen Of Crime, whose novels were the epitome of Golden Age crime fiction, Agatha Christie.

Re-reading old favourites offers many benefits, including giving you the satisfaction of knowing that you’ll definitely enjoy the book. That’s why I’ve been devouring Agatha Christie novels during the pandemic. While I’m not averse to reading the odd Miss Marple novel, or even one of her lesser-known Tommy And Tuppence books, my favourite series of all out of Christie’s extensive back catalogue is the Poirot novels, which feature the pernickety Belgium private detective and his various accomplices as they solve devious crimes.

There are several of these books that I love, including the gripping Dead Man’s Folly and the twisted Curtain: Poirot’s Final Case, as well as her short story collections such as Poirot Investigates and Poriot’s Early Cases. However, I’ve also been searching for new Poirot stories that I haven’t read yet, but which I know will give me a taste of one of my favourite fictional sleuths and a new tale to sink my teeth into.

My search for new Poirot novels, beyond the original ones by Christie, which I’ve already read, and the ones by Sophie Hannah, which I’ve also checked out and reviewed, led me to Black Coffee. The book is an adaptation of a stage play script written by Christie herself, and turned into a novel by Charles Osborne, with the permission of Christie’s family and estate.

Osborne has also adapted a couple of other plays by Christie, so I was interested to check out this book. As mentioned, the original script for the play was written by the Queen Of Crime herself, but Osborne has bought it back to life by turning it into a novel, so readers like me can enjoy it even during the lockdown.

The play was slightly less popular than the renowned Mousetrap, also written by Christie, and which is the longest running show on the West End. However, Black Coffee was still incredibly popular, and it was turned into a 1931 film, as well as being turned into a novel.

Before I begin giving my opinions, I just want to say that I’ve never seen the film or play, or read Christie’s original play script. As such, I don’t know how much of it can be attributed to Osborne and how much was Christie herself. While I enjoyed reading Black Coffee, I did find it lacked certain elements that make for the perfect Poirot novel.

The book tells the story of Sir Claud Amory, a reclusive scientist living outside London in a large, luxurious home with his family, servants, secretary and a mysterious Italian friend of his daughter-in-law. Amory is developing a revolutionary formula for a new explosive that could completely change the world of war and the global power landscape.

Worried that the formula is about to be stolen by someone in his house, Amory hire Hercule Poirot to come down and take the formula back to London, where it can be given to the Government. On the evening when the detective, with his old friend Captain Hastings in tow, is due to arrive at the house, the formula is stolen from Amory’s safe.

The head of the household offers the thief one last chance to redeem themselves by switching off the lights and allowing them to anonymously return the formula. When the lights go out, the envelope in which the formula was is returned, but it later turns out to be empty. At the same time, Amory, who had just complained that his coffee was bitter, is found dead.

Poirot and Hastings arrive on the scene in time to find the dead man and offer their services to the family. The great detective hopes to find both the formula and the murderer, who he believes might be one and the same.

The plot is certainly thrilling and engaging, and the outcome is definitely unexpected and inventive. However, one of the key plot twists is taken directly from another Poirot novel; I won’t say which, so there are no spoilers. It’s simply a little disappointing that the main plot device is lifted from another book, although it is understandable that Christie would do this, as she probably believed that the play audience wouldn’t notice as they were watching rather than reading the tale.

Poirot himself is slightly off in Black Coffee. He’s a bit of a caricature of himself: like someone has heard of Poirot and his quirks, and then written a version of him without actually ever reading a Christie novel. Again, I understand that, for a play, the depiction needs to be more intense, as theatre goers will be less engaged and have less time with the character than book readers.

It’s very clearly an adaptation of a play: you can see it in the way the book is written. Osborne doesn’t do much by way of novelisation: while the book clearly isn’t written in the style of a play script, it isn’t quite a novel either. There is a very clear idea of space in the book, meaning readers can clearly see where each person is in the room and how they interact with one another. Also, the book is dialogue heavy, as you would expect a play script to be.

None of this detracts from Black Coffee’s appeal, but it does make it understandable that Poirot wouldn’t exactly be what I was expecting. However, he feels very different from what I wanted from the Belgium super sleuth. He’s not as sharp or perceptive in this as he is in most other novels and stories.

I’ve also got an issue with the book’s depiction of Captain Hastings. Hastings is a renowned detective sidekick, mostly because of the TV and film adaptations of the Poirot novels and the amazing portrayal of the character by actor and author Hugh Fraser. The character is not actually in that many of Christie’s books; in fact, he makes it into just 8 of the author’s 33 novels about the Belgium private eye. He also narrates many of the writer’s short stories featuring Poirot. In Black Coffee, Hastings isn’t the narrator; unlike he is in the novels written by Christie, which shows that Osborne didn’t take too much trouble to change the play script.

Hastings is another caricature of the character; Christie portrays him as a conceited and slightly uptight man who doesn’t have the wit or ingenuity of Poirot, but who is still deeply brave and loyal. He’s loyal to both his friend Poirot and his wife, but Black Coffee portrays him as flippant, deeply unintelligent and disloyal. In Christie’s books, you can see why Poirot likes to have Hastings around, but in this adaptation it’s difficult to see any benefit in this conceited man.

Even Inspector Japp, who turns up towards the end of the book, isn’t remotely similar to Christie’s original. In The Mysterious Affair At Styles, the first Poirot novel by the Queen Of Crime, the character is described as:

“One was a little, sharp, dark, ferret-faced man, the other was tall and fair.

I questioned Poirot mutely. He put his lips to my ear.

‘Do you know who that little man is?’

I shook my head.

‘That is Detective-Inspector James Japp of Scotland Yard-Jimmy Japp.’” (Page 82).

The character is, again, very different in Osborne’s version of Black Coffee. The book portrays him as:

Japp, a bluff, hearty, middle-aged man with a thick-set figure and a ruddy complexion” (Page 132).

The two portrayals differ greatly. As you can see, Black Coffee does not continue the traditions of Christie, as several of her long running characters are different from their usual descriptions and actions. So, while the plot is gripping and intriguing, and the dialogue is fascinating, the book doesn’t really feel like a real Christie, or an actual Poirot story.

As I’ve said before about Kenneth Branagh’s film depiction of Poirot, just because you give your character the name doesn’t mean they’re necessarily the same. The version of Poirot adapted by Osborne isn’t the real Poirot; he might have the same fastidiousness and speak partially in French, but he’s not as delightfully diligent in his investigations, nor as characteristically witty as Christie’s original, despite the book being based on a play the Queen Of Crime wrote herself.

So, if you’re a Poirot fan who’s looking for a way to satisfy your craving for Christie, then you’re better off re-reading her novels. If you want to read something new, then I’d suggest checking out the amazing Poirot adaptations by Sophie Hannah, which are a much more realistic and relatable version of the great Belgium detective. Start with The Monogram Murdersand go from there; that’s a truly great series of adaptations that will give avid Christie fans something else to get their teeth into once they’ve finished re-reading all the original novels.

The Primary Objective Review: A Promising Political Thriller Missing A Few Teeth

Political thrillers, when done well, are the perfect escapist literary. As a far of political thrillers who’s in need of an escape, I was looking forward to checking out Martin Venning’s new novel The Primary Objective.

Primarily set in a small village on the border between Iran and Azerbaijan, the novel charts the work of Peace International, a fictional charity organisation dedicated to providing reconciliation and mediation support to governments and military factions around the world.

Led by London-based Operations Director Edwin Wilson and a mysterious insurgent named only as ‘Dave’, a small team is put together from international experts in warfare, local tour guides, scientists and communications experts. Together, they infiltrate the small town of Ibrahim Sami and work to understand how the region is becoming so prosperous and what the military base on the outskirts of town is doing.

During the initial reconnaissance, the team from Peace International find out that the base is being managed in tandem with the Chinese military. Slowly, the team uncovers a lot of information about skulduggery that could threaten to destabilise the region and cause untold harm to millions. There’s a lot at stake, and the team has to work hard to understand the issues they face and to work together to stop threats that are coming in from all sides.

The novel switches between the perspective of the team and other players in the drama that unfolds. These include a young shipping magnate who is being used to provide logistics support for an underground organisation and a local man who is supporting Peace International’s work but is deeply concerned about his father’s involvement with the military in his hometown.

By switching through a variety of different perspectives and by moving around the world, Venning keeps the reader interested. From the dismal streets of London to the wilds of small town Iran and the hustle and bustle of Tehran, the plot traverses the globe and means that there’s never any shortage of action and adventure. As such, the novel lives up to its name- everyone’s ‘Primary Objective’ is different, so we see a variety of perspectives.

While this does serve to keep the reader entertained and the plot moving forward, the author’s constant chopping and changing does make The Primary Objective harder to follow than it needs to be. Also, as each chapter is from a different character’s perspective, and in some cases, the perspective switches even within paragraphs, readers aren’t able to get attached to any one character or storyline.

Instead, we’re constantly seeing the action from a different point of view. This approach does serve to ensure that the reader is never bored when reading this book, but it also makes the action less engaging. With so many characters involved, and with the reader seeing the story from the perspective of almost all of them, it’s hard to get attached to anyone or to care about their fate.

Also, Venning uses a lot of info dumping in his novel; where loads of information is foisted on the reader through a lengthy explanation or piece of explanatory dialogue, rather than being integrated naturally throughout the story. Inserting long explanations makes the text feel very dense and less enjoyable to read, although Venning makes up for that issue with his fast-paced plot and by moving the action around a lot.

As for the characters, while there are too many, and the reader isn’t able to get too attached to them thanks to the almost constantly switching perspectives, they are still intriguing and well crafted. Each character is believable and relatable in some way, even the very unique military individuals that most people don’t encounter on a day-to-day basis.

The character backstories are often dumped on the reader haphazardly, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t slowly become invested in their fates as the novel progresses. Many of the characters give long, rambling depictions of their lives and what has happened to them, but as the action gets more exhilarating and the plot thickens we still get excited to see their fates.

Ultimately, I enjoyed The Primary Objective, but the novel is far from perfect. In the future, I’d be interested in reading some more from Martin Venning, and seeing if his coming works rectify some of the issues I found with this exciting yet somewhat confusing book.

Serpentine Review: A Cold Case That Becomes A Contemporary Crime Caper

Having enjoyed The Museum Of Desire when I reviewed it last year, I was excited to check out the latest Jonathan Kellerman novel Serpentine.

Kellerman brings back his gruff, burly LAPD homicide lieutenant Milo Sturgis and psychologist Dr Alex Delaware, who join forces once again when Milo has a very cold case foisted upon him by the higher ups.

He’s unwilling to take on the case, which is more than 35 years old, but he and Alex go to meet a wealthy and influential young businesswoman who has used her connections to wangle herself a review of the case, despite it’s age and the very low probability that it’ll get solved.

From the first meeting with the women, a gym wear mogul whose mother was found shot dead in a car miles on a remote road in LA, it is clear things aren’t what they seem with this accident case. The site where the car is found is very from her home in Danville, but besides that there’s very little for the pair to go on.

From this first meeting, it’s clear that the unusual yet well-matched sleuthing duo know that they’ve got their work cut out for them. The woman has little information to go on; she only found out a few years ago from her stepfather what had happened to her mother. Her stepfather refused to tell her anything and there’s limited information out there about the case.

She only has one photo of her mother; a strange picture that shows her standing awkwardly alongside the man she’s supposedly in love with. The only possession she has left from her late mother is her necklace, made of Serpentine, which is where the novel gets its name. The jewellery isn’t something that this seemingly stylish lady would wear, but her daughter clings to it like a comfort blanket that reminds her of the mother she never knew.

With her stepfather now dead and gone, the young woman is desperately searching for answers, and she’s happy to get the help of a pair of experts, neither of whom is as happy to be taking on the case. Milo and Alex have limited information from the start- there’s not even an accurate site for where the car was torched all those years ago.

Kellerman’s characterisation is brilliant in this novel; there are some really amazing characters involved with this case as it unfolds. One of my personal favourites is the last living detective who was assigned to the case: a truly obnoxious vegan who goes by the name ‘Du’.

It’s as the pair, with a little help from Du and the Internet, delve deeper into the case, that they see that it’s not the dead end they’d originally thought it was. In fact, alongside the initial victim, there are several other unexplained and unusual deaths connected to the case. For example, the boyfriend of the murdered woman, who raised her daughter, died on a hike when he’s clearly not an man who’s accustomed to spending time outdoors.

As the case shambles on, Milo and Alex realise that there’s more to this case than meets the eye. There’s something sinister going on, and there are powerful people who don’t want the truth to see the light of day.

Much like The Museum Of Desire, Serpentine is witty and engaging. The main detective, Milo Sturgis, is reminiscent of some of the best hardboiled detectives. His supporter and fellow investigator, psychologist Alex Delaware, who’s also the novel’s narrator, is his opposite, and in a way the pair turn the traditional detective pairing on its head.

While many detective duos are headed by a cerebral detective who is aided by a strong everyman, in this case Milo is the strong, burly, ordinary bloke. Alex is the cerebral thinker of the pair, and he assists the LAPD detective by using his professional and personal knowledge to assist his more streetwise colleague.

Together, the pair works hard to solve the case. As with the previous novel, there are a couple of small issues with the plot, and it does feel a little frustrating how hard the sleuthing duo works, only to have some major for major breakthroughs in the case to drop into their laps. While luck and coincidence must, in real life, assist with some cases, with a cold case like this one, it seems highly unlikely that so much good luck would bring so many great pieces of information and fresh leads to light.

These issues are small and inconsequential, however, when you consider the excellence of this fast-paced plot. Kellerman is a master at suspense, and his excellent characterisation will keep you engaged and invested in the story throughout this witty mystery.

Overall, Serpentine is much more than just a dry old cold case story. The plot quickly transforms into a fast moving modern thriller with plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing. There are plenty of mysteries associated with the cold case where the investigation begins, so there’s enough to keep you entertained and leave you with no idea what’s coming next, which is ideal for a police procedural.

Matters Of Life And Death Review: An Enthralling Collection Of Occult-Themed Fantasy Stories

Short story collections are usually a mixed bag; they usually contain half-baked ideas and the tales that preceded longer, better writing projects. While it’s interesting to watch the thought-process unfold, short story anthologies can sometimes compromise on readability as a result.

As such, I wasn’t expecting every story in Philip M Stuckey’s collection, Matters Of Life And Death, to interest me. I’d expected that some would be works in progress, but I was amazed by how engaging and unique each one is in this incredible collection.

The stories range from futuristic stories of how tech is changing our lives, through to timeless tales of witches and sorcery. There’s also a truly terrifying reimagining of the Bogeyman that will actually haunt your dreams. Some of the stories are clearly set in a specific time period or setting, usually the English countryside. Others are timeless and seem to be set in another world, but the author still keeps them grounded and unique.

Characterisation is amazing in this collection of short stories; Stuckey creates two dimensional, well-rounded characters with backgrounds, feelings and unique perspectives, despite the short length of most of the stories. Some are as short as just one page, but they still manage to pack a punch and capture the reader’s imagination.

What unites this disparate group of tales is the author’s unique storytelling and inventive plots. Stuckey deftly combines human interest with inventive plotting to create relatable short stories that capture the imagination and hold it long after you’ve finished this relatively short book.

While each story is unique and inventive, that isn’t to say that there are not some similarities and reoccurring themes throughout the collection. The tales in Matters Of Life And Death are all bound together with the same focus on human nature and the way that people are connected to the earth and the mysterious forces that drive the often inexplicable occurrences that come about in nature, such as coincidences and supposed miracles.

Also, some writing techniques, such as the simile of a mute dog straining at a leash, are repeated in several stories; after a couple they become noticeable. However, these repetitions are few and far between, so while you might notice them slightly more than you would in other short story anthologies, they don’t detract from the tales as much as they do in other collections. It’s clear that all of these stories are unique and that they’ve all been written specifically for the collection; they’re not just old, half-finished projects that are thrown into a short story book to make up the numbers and get something published. These are all engaging stories in their own right, and together they create an unmissable short story collection that has something for every reader.

One of the issues in this innovative short story collection is that some of the dialogue reads too well; it sounds like a written diary entry. Most people don’t speak in this flowery, descriptive way, so the dialogue sounds a little forced. The dialogue in some stories, such as the first one in the collection, Witch In A Bottle, should really have been a diary entry or a written statement. As dialogue, it seems a little overdone and unlikely, but it would make a fantastic written statement from the character in question, a historical priest who is the victim of a supernatural possession or crime.

My only other issue with Matters Of Life And Death is that there’s no author introduction. It would be amazing to have insight direct from the author’s mouth about the inspiration behind the short story collection, which is usually reserved for the introduction. This book is only around 100 pages long, so a short intro wouldn’t have made it too long and difficult to read. It would also give us an insight into the author’s fascinating life; Stuckey isn’t just an author, but also a entrepreneur, a singer, songwriter and a poet, so he clearly has a lot of interesting things to say. If they ever re-release this short story collection in the future, I think that his publishers should definitely insist on an introduction; I’d buy another copy just for that addition!

Despite these small niggles, I’m a pretty big fan of this collection of enthralling tales. It’s a great book to binge-read, simply because once you start it, you won’t be able to put it down until it’s finished. Some of the stories are haunting and evocative, so they’ll stay with you for a long time.

Overall, I think that Philip M Stuckey’s collection of eclectic, occult themed short stories is engaging and intriguing in equal measure. If you enjoy creepy, spine-tingling tales, then you should definitely check out Matters Of Life And Death. This incredible anthology has got me all excited for the author’s upcoming fantasy novel, The Hunt For Moss And Magic. If it’s even half as good as the short stories in this collection, then it’ll be a knockout.

Vesper Flights Review: A Masterful Book About The Wonders Of The Natural World

A couple of weeks ago, I randomly realised that it’s been a long time since I posted any pastoral content on this blog.

That’s a real shame, because I love the pastoral genre and I read a lot of it, so I thought I’d amend this by reviewing an amazing new pastoral book from one of my favourite writers, Helen Macdonald.

Author of the incredible and evocative H Is For Hawk, Macdonald is back with Vesper Flights, an essay collection that aims to bring together her love of the natural world with her fascination with people. The author is a highly respected bird trainer and natural world expert, so over the years she has amassed a lot of knowledge and tales about nature.

The book is collected essays from Macdonald, and span many years and countries. Macdonald takes the reader on a journey across the world and gives us a glimpse into the habitats and lives of many flora, fauna, animals, birds and, most intriguingly of all, people.

In the introduction, Macdonald compares her book to a Wunderkammern, a traditional German house of curiosities that was less ordered than a modern museum. Her aim is to combine nature with humanity and discuss our fragile relationship with Mother Nature.

That’s why each essay features a different topic; from birds’ nests to wild boar, mushrooms to the effects of climate change. In each essay the author discusses both her own personal feelings and the wider way that people interact with wildlife, plants and the environment.

By incorporating literature, history and the opinions of renowned naturalists, Macdonald showcases her passion for nature and brings together many different views and ideas. She also makes amazing points on the ways that people have interacted with the wild in Britain and around the world for centuries.

So, if you love nature and want to learn more about it, then Vesper Flights is the book for you. Macdonald has heavily researched her work, and she incorporates many intriguing facts into her book. For example, I bet you didn’t know that in the early 2000s around 60 captive wild boar were released into the wild in the South of the UK, and that since then, they have blossomed into a hoard of potentially thousands of boar that roam the woods, according to studies.

That and many other facts are sprinkled throughout the book, so you’re always learning and picking up exciting new information. Macdonald has researched heavily and has read a lot of books on the topic of the natural world, so you’ll learn some really intriguing facts and insights. She also delivers her information in an accessible and memorable way, so you’ll find yourself remembering loads of useful nature facts. These are particularly useful when you consider them in the context of the world’s environmental crisis.

The book isn’t exclusively about wildlife and nature; there’s a truly glorious tale about Macdonald’s pet parrot and a young autistic boy whose parents are considering renting her home. There are personal stories, anecdotes, academic-style essays and teachable moments in the book, so there’s something for all readers and every mood. You’ll laugh, cry and learn, all in one, which is pretty cool for one medium sized book.

At the end of the day, if your New Year’s resolution was to learn more about nature or to read more non-fiction books, then Vesper Flights is your ideal read. Even if you didn’t make a New Year’s resolution, or it wasn’t about reading, then you should still check this engaging and beautifully written book. Whether you’re a novice naturalist or you’re already knowledgeable about the world around us, you’ll find this book a creative and heart warming read.

Dishonoured Review: A Gripping And Unique Psychological Thriller

From the acclaimed author of Proximity and No Signal, Jem Tugwell, comes a new stand-alone novel, Dishonoured.

I was really excited to check it out, and I wasn’t disappointed. Tugwell creates a gripping thriller that has stayed with me even though I finished reading it at the end of last year.

Dishonoured begins by introducing its readers to Dan. Dan’s a happy dude. He’s got a pretty perfect looking life. He has a family, a nice home and a great job.

He’s also a bit of a creature of habit. One day, one random day, he’s taking his usual train, when he recognises the waitress who served him earlier. In one short moment, everything changes in Dan’s life.

No spoilers, but when Dan gets off the train he’s a criminal with his life in tatters. The waitress said ‘sorry’ to him, but what could she mean by that? Dan’s left to pick up the pieces of his shattered life. He’s a determined guy, so he sets out to try and right the wrongs and find the culprit who’s trying to trash his life.

Through this journey, there are so many twists and turns that, in the hands of a lesser writer, this novel would be hard to follow. Thankfully, Tugwell is a superior writer, so Dishonoured is engaging and unforgettable. It’s remarkably easy to keep up with, despite the fact that there is loads of plot twists to keep you guessing.

Tugwell’s real skill is creating relatable characters, so that the reader invests in them emotionally. Every character is intriguing and enhances the story. The dialogue is also snappy and swift, so the story runs smoothly and you’re kept hooked throughout every plot twist and new piece of information.

One of the best things about this novel is that the really scary thing isn’t violence or monsters, but human nature and cruelty itself. Tugwell creates a psychological thriller that shows the darkest depths of human anguish and how far people will go to destroy each other. If you’re looking for a breathtakingly thrilling tale that will take your mind off the current mad situation, then this is the ideal book for you.

At the end of the day, while Dishonoured doesn’t have the same familiar characters as Tugwell’s past novels, it retains the same cutthroat plotting and razor sharp dialogue as his earlier work. It’s a gripping thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat, and with so many twists and you’ll find it almost impossible to put the novel down.

The Thursday Murder Club Review: The Ideal Cosy Crime Novel To Help You Beat The January Blues

Often when writers who are already famous publish books, there’s a degree of nepotism, which automatically makes me suspicious.

Some, like actor Hugh Fraser, turn out to be incredible writers with amazing skills who create phenomenal stories. Others, like social media personality and influencer Zoella, create duds that are ghost written, and badly done at that.

As such, I was unsure about what to think when TV quiz show host Richard Osman released a novel. Named The Thursday Murder Club, the book sounded like a Sunday TV drama on ITV from the off, and I wasn’t sure whether it would be an amazing work of cosy crime fiction or some lame attempt to break into a new market by a quiz show host seeking to broaden his horizons.

I’m pleased to inform you that the former is correct, and Osman’s debut novel is a witty, droll crime fiction caper that is both funny and engaging. Written in Golden Age style, The Thursday Murder Club is set in modern England, but it has a timeless feel that makes it an almost instant classic.

Osman’s smash hit, which has beaten many records for a debut novel, is set in a charming Kentish retirement village named Coopers Chase, where four elderly residents meet every Thursday to discuss real-life cases. Started by a retired policewoman and someone who is covertly referred to as a sort-of spy, the group loses its former cop and now includes a busybody unionist, a former psychiatrist and its newest member, a retired nurse.

The group meets in a small meeting room known as ‘The Jigsaw Room’ to paw over cold cases, although nothing ever comes from their musings. They simply work together to try and figure out a solution and get some kind of personal resolution.

All that changes when Tony Curran, the builder and part owner of Cooper’s Chase, is bludgeoned to death in his kitchen. A cryptic photo is placed beside the victim’s body, depicting him many years before, with a set of friends, including the professional boxer son of Ron, the busybody unionist who forms one forth of the murder club. In front of them sits a huge pile of cash.

The victim had a dubious career as an enforcer/ drug dealer, until he went legit (ish) and helped to create Coopers Chase. As such, there are a lot of suspects to wade through, including Curran’s business partner, the professional boxer, the Polish builder poised to take over Curran’s role at the retirement village and more.

The members of the club, together with a young policewoman that they befriended, start to sift through the clues and uncover new insight into Curran’s fishy background, dodgy dealings and dubious associates. All the while, they share the highs and lows of life in a retirement village, including worries about old age, infirmity, loss of memory, vulnerability, a struggle against the ever-encroaching digital age and more.

Osman switches between perspectives in each chapter, which makes for an interesting read that will keep you hooked. You’ll learn new information not from long, boring descriptions and info-dumps, but from dialogue, diary entries and weird little asides. Each chapter brings something new, and you become drawn into the funny, hum-drum life of the residential home and the cosy life in Fairhaven, where life used to move at a snail’s pace before the murder changed made things interesting. Some of the jokes are surprisingly funny (there’s an ongoing gag about llamas which is surprisingly effective).

The story is both heart-warming and inviting. You’re quickly drawn into the world of the club, and want to find out more about them. Osman makes his characters relatable and entertaining, so you’ll feel an instant connection to them. They’re endearing, particularly Joyce the former nurse, who is the main narrator of most of the first person chapters, written in the form of her diary entries.

With a combination of humour, human interest and murder, Osman manages to create an unforgettable novel that will keep you hooked and leave you wanting more. It’s already been announced that Steven Spielberg has bought the rights to The Thursday Murder Club, and with that stellar Hollywood recommendation as well as the amazing reception that the bestseller has received, it’s clear that we’ve not seen the last literary endeavour from Richard Osman. I’m excited to see what else he can create in the future and how Spielberg will transform this funny and engaging mystery novel into a blockbuster movie.

Dilemma Review: A Compelling Human Interest Drama

While I specialise in crime fiction, I love reading a variety of different books from many different genres.

That’s why I was intrigued by Dilemma, a human-interest drama novel set in and around a hospital in Birmingham.

Written by Simon Bramhall, a Consultant Surgeon, and a former patient, Fionn Murphy, the novel centres on a team of doctors and healthcare experts in Birmingham, who are all connected to a liver donation drama.

They include an anaesthetist who was actually at the scene when the donor initially fell ill, the professor who wants to transplant the liver, the donation coordinator who’s doing her best to contain the situation, and more.

As well as the healthcare professionals, Murphy and Bramhall also give the individuals involved time, including the widow of the deceased liver donor, the family of a potential recipient and more. All of these individuals have their lives turned upside down during the course of the novel, and readers get to explore the emotions and challenges that they deal with throughout the book.

The real shining star of this novel is the characterisation. The authors create unique and believable people, who really drive the narrative forward. For example, the Professor character is a brilliant example of a passive-aggressive, self-important individual who thinks a lot of herself and is eager for everyone else to know it. She’s one of my favourite characters, but most of the characters in the novel are interesting and relatable.

The plot unravels slowly, and while it does take a short while to warm up, pretty soon the compelling storyline and the engaging characters will entrance you. The novel isn’t fast-paced, but it is easy to read, so it makes for a great way to spend time over the festive period or in any future lockdowns. As the novel is written by an actual surgeon, it’s also educational. Bramhall makes the complex healthcare passages in the book understandable, meaning that you’ll learn something when you’re reading it.

The issue I have with the novel is the spelling and grammar. It could do with a good proofread; the intriguing plot and unique characters are overshadowed by daft typos, poor sentence structure, missing words and bad grammar. These issues sound small, but they’re an important part of creating a book. While the authors have great narrative skills, and it’s clear that they know their stuff when it comes to healthcare, they’re let down by the poor writing.

With the help of a professional proof reader, Dilemma could be something truly special. The characters are believable and the situations relatable, but the writing lets it all down. It’s the one issue, but it is quite a big one.

Still, Dilemma is a great read that is interesting and compelling. I’d recommend it for anyone who enjoys human-interest dramas. The story is a timely reminder that, in this day and age, having your health is a blessing that none of us should take for granted. If the pair invests in the services of a decent editor and proof reader, then I’d be very excited to read their next novel.

You can buy Dilemma and read more about it here.