THE NIGHT SHE DISAPPEARED

THE NIGHT SHE DISAPPEARED
LISA JEWELL

Rating: 3 out of 3.

Another proficient, if slightly moribund, novel from Ms Jewell. The story begins and ends with Sophie, a writer who never does any actual writing. In truth, she doesn’t have a lot to do with the progression of the investigation into the missing girl, except for finding a clue which had been left for her and wandering about thinking about things a lot, so I did wonder why she was there, to be honest.
It was hard to like any of the characters, especially as just about everyone had a nasty secret with the exception of the missing girl’s mother. Of the three main teenage(ish) characters, none were particularly likeable.
Perversely, I found myself drawn to the one who came to be

portrayed as a minor villain after first being described very positively.
The story starts quite slowly, Although we know from the beginning that Tallulah has disappeared, we then go into quite a lengthy flashback to return us to the point of her disappearance. Once the strands start drawing together, the pace picks up a bit and it jogs along quite nicely, only to descend into a messy credibility-stretching ending.
It’s a quick read and Ms Jewell has many and, so I’m sure it will do very well.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

THE FIRST DAY OF SPRING

THE FIRST DAY OF SPRING
NANCY TUCKER

Rating: 3 out of 5.

This was not an easy book to read and probably not an easy book to write. The theme of a child murderer, now an adult and a mother seeking redemption, is not new and most people can correolate to real-life cases.
Whether or not it is suitable for fictionalisation is not for me to say but from a personal perspective I found this particular book just too dark and despairing in the sections written by ‘Chrissie’. This was, in part, due to the overly mature language used and the emotions that such a young girl would be as yet

incapable of recognising.
Had it been written in third person I believe it could have been just as strongly portrayed.
In retrospect, even with these caveats, the ‘Chrissie’ sections were much stronger than the adult ‘Julie’ chapters which I found wearing with the continual self analysis. I felt that, after all the angst devoted to the child murderer, the book deserved a better resolution than it got.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

THE FINAL REVIVAL OF OPAL & NEV

THE FINAL REVIVAL OF OPAL & NEV
DAWNIE WALTON

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Ms Walton is an excellent writer and presents a meticulously researched account of the music industry during the 1970s and 1980s. Although entitled The Final Revival of Opal & Nev, the story is dominated by Opal. Told through a series of interviews and newspaper clippings, interspersed with many footnotes, the plot is glacially slow. An inordinate amount of time is given to the two protagonists’ early lives and I was a little impatient for the ‘real’ story to begin. The seminal moment that affects Opal and Nev’s relationship occurs halfway through the book and it is at this stage that the story finally runs out of steam. The rest of the book recounts what happened to them in subsequent years but doesn’t really add anything to resolve the issues raised.
Characters: at one stage Opal and Nev are described by another character as ‘arrogant’. This certainly applied to Opal who is one of the most self-centred characters I have ever read and that includes Becky Sharpe. She endlessly preaches, proselytises and complains until my teeth were on edge. I felt that she was merely a mouthpiece for the author’s opinions. Nev is selfish and weak but at the same time very loyal to Opal.

The point where doubt is cast on this loyalty, a defining moment in the plot, is never fully resolved one way or another. The narrator, Sunny, never came alive for me and, although emotionally involved at one level with Opal, remained strangely detached through most of the story. Opal’s friend and designer, Virgil, was the only really likeable character in the story.
Ms Walton’s habit of constantly name checking, and attributing quotes to, famous people made sections of the book seem like a non-fiction tract as she hammered home yet another ‘fact’, usually to excuse Opal’s increasingly bad behaviour.
I nearly gave up at the three-quarter’s stage as the writing had become a long string of who did what next, most of non-related to the main story, but I stuck it out to the end when it briefly rallied and I thought a big reveal was coming. Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be the case and the whole thing fizzled out with a couple more footnotes to wrap things up. Three stars for the excellent writing and the interesting accounts of the music industry but two stars lost for the weak story and unbelievable characters.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

THE PLAYERS

THE PLAYERS
DARREN O’SULLIVAN

Rating: 3 out of 5.

BLURB
A stranger has you cornered.
They call themselves The Host.
You are forced to play their game.
In it one person can live and the other must die.
You are the next player. 
You have a choice to make.This is a game where nobody wins…

REVIEW
The Players has the bones of a good story and succeeds in raising questions in the reader’s mind about just how far one would go to protect one’s family.
DI Karen Holt is an interesting character, in a stable relationship and a welcome change from the tormented alcoholic / guilt ridden main character that pops up all too often in contemporary thrillers.


The author does however, succumb to a few predominant cliches – the officer who is the only competent person who can solve the crime in spite of being forbidden to do so, putting one’s loved ones in danger, loyal and admiring sidekick who hangs on Holt’s every word.
The novel built slowly with an over emphasis on Holt’s therapy, which was endlessly discussed but bore no relevance to the story.
Disappointingly, I found The Host completely unbelievable when his identity was revealed and there was more than one occasion where he could have been apprehended much earlier in the story.
A good premise which unfortunately stutters to an unconvincing end.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

GOOD EGGS

GOOD EGGS
REBECCA HARDIMAN

Rating: 3 out of 5.

BLURB
Meet the Gogartys; cantankerous gran Millie (whose eccentricities include a penchant for petty-theft and reckless driving); bitter downtrodden son Kevin (erstwhile journalist whose stay-at-home parenting is pushing him to the brink); and habitually moody, disaffected teenage daughter Aideen.
When Gran’s arrested yet again for shoplifting, Aideen’s rebelliousness has reached new heights and Kevin’s still not found work, he realises he needs to take action. With the appointment of a home carer for his mother, his daughter sent away to boarding school to focus on her studies and more time for him to reboot his job-hunt, surely everything will work out just fine. But as the story unfolds nothing goes according to plan and as the calm starts to descend into chaos we’re taken on a hilarious multiple-perspective roller-coaster ride that is as relatable as it is far-fetched.

REVIEW
More of a curate’s egg than Good Eggs, really. Rebecca Hardiman has peopled her debut novel with whimsical stock Irish characters – the granny, a bit of a kleptomaniac; the guy having a midlife crisis; the stroppy misunderstood teenager etc. She writes cleanly and the story flows along quite steadily. The problem, for me, was that I’ve read it all before and in stories that were livelier and that captured my imagination. I couldn’t work up any sympathy or liking for the Gogartys and, at times, just longed for the over-written granny to calm it down a bit.
I’d rate Good Eggs as a potboiler, a quick easy read to pass an afternoon but, sadly, lacking the depth and charisma I look for in Irish based novels.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.


THE POET

THE POET
LISA RENEE JONES

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Detective Samantha Jazz has just returned to work after traumatically witnessing the murder of her father, who was also a detective, but a dirty one. She and her partner, Detective Ethan Langford are assigned to a murder case which takes place at a poetry reading.  She quickly determines that the killer is obsessed with poetry and assigns him the nickname of The Poet. 
Quite early on in the investigation, the computer expert finds a Professor Newman Smith who, for one semester, had a course called Abstract Poetry and Criminology. On the strength of this information alone, Jazz is convinced that Newman (she always refers to him by his first name) is their man and concentrates her investigation solely on him. For most of the first half of the book, Jazz charges about energetically trying to trap Newman in spite of lack of evidence and advice from several people who caution her to broaden her thinking.  
It is only when Newman is proved to be innocent of the killings and the investigation goes off in a different direction that I began to get invested in the story, although Jazz still isn’t any nearer to finding the elusive Poet. It is left to the sections written from the killer’s point of view to reveal a large part of his motivations. I felt a bit cheated because the denouement is all crammed into the final few chapters, revealed to Jazz almost by happenstance, so there was no build up of tension to keep the reader eager to know if their suspicions were right.
Overall, I felt that this was a book I should be really enjoying. Jazz is quite feisty, secondary characters are really well drawn in and there is a liberal sprinkling of red herrings and some deft touches of humour. Unfortunately, it was let down by an unrealistic plot which required too much of a suspension of belief for me.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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