Book Club: Wrongful Death by Lynda LaPlante

IMG_0262-0Wrongful Death (Anna Travis, #9)

Synopsis:

Six months after the body of Josh Reynolds, a London nightclub owner, was found and determined by police and coroner to be a suicide, DCS James Langton tasks DCI Anna Travis to review the case. Reynolds died from a single gunshot wound to the head, the gun held in his right hand. But details are emerging that suggest someone else may have fired the gun… As soon as she wraps up the case, Langton tells Anna, she can join him at the FBI Academy in Virginia for training. Meanwhile, a Senior FBI Agent, Jessie Dewar, crime scene expert, is seconded to Anna’s team as part of her research and immediately the competence of the original investigation team is questioned.   

So, we met the other night and discussed Wrongful Death by Lynda LaPlante. This is the first book club book I’ve posted as such on this blog, but I will be posting one each month. Read on to the bottom for next month’s book too!

Wrongful Death is, in my opinion, a mix of really enjoyable elements, and really irritating aspects that got on my nerves. I’ve never read any Lynda LaPlante before but know that she’s very popular and a lot of her work has been made into television programme, so I was looking forward to reading her new novel, Wrongful Death, when it was picked as this month’s book club choice. No one else had read any of her work apart from the lady who picked it. 

Firstly, this is a fairly long novel, weighing in at 512 pages. Not exactly huge, but I felt it was a little slow at the beginning and at certain points in the story which maybe made it feel a bit longer, and everyone agreed that it took a while to get into – and a while to finish! 

Lynda LaPlante obviously knows a lot about Police and Detective work, and as a Police Procedural novel it seemed very detailed and thorough. The problem was that at some points it felt a little too detailed when it came to added info, such as what Anna (the main Detective) was wearing or eating. I didn’t feel that we really needed to know the exact colour of her lipstick, or the starter, main course and drink she ordered in a restaurant. A good amount of detail is fine in my opinion, but there’s no need to waffle on for this long! Others may well disagree but most of the book clube members felt that it cut have been cut down by a good 100 pages without detriment to the story! 

That being said, the attention to detail is excellent and you feel like you’ve really got to experience how police investigations get carried out (even though it’s a fictional story obviously) which we all really enjoyed reading about. I sort of guessed who ‘did it’ before the end but the conclusion was complicated enough that there was loads I hadn’t figured out too. The very end of the novel divided opinion among us; some quite liked it and others weren’t sure; it’s not a typical Crime novel ending, that’s all I’ll say here!

This was the first book I’d read in this series and my first impressions of characters might be a bit skewed. I found the main Detective Anna to be quite an annoying character, and I’m not sure if that’s how she’s meant to come across or if it’s just in this book; she grated on my nerves a bit throughout and I didn’t like the way she treated certain characters. Similarly Dewar was a pain in the a*se but to be fair she was obviously supposed to be!

There were also other characters that seemed just too clichéd. Whether they were Jamaican with dreadlocks and wearing a Rasta hat, or a gay Policeman flinging his arms around and repeatedly saying ‘Girlfriend’, there were some characters that really jarred with me simply because they were such a stereotype

However, I did enjoy reading this novel. The plot was quite intricate and although we all read the middle section- where Anna and Langton go to America and Langton goes after Fitzpatrick- with some impatience as we wanted it to get back to the main plot, it still flowed quite well and kept us all reading on. I see from other reviews that people who have read previous novels in the series also had some issues with Wrongful Death, so maybe LaPlante has changed her writing style a bit- though Sandra who picked this novel said that she hadn’t noticed a significant change from the last novel to this one, so who knows?! 

Overall, this is entertaining enough, but don’t expect it to be as succinct or fast-moving as some other reads in this genre, and remember to take some characters with a pinch of salt! 

Rating: 3/5  


** Next month’s book: Wild: From Lost to Found by Cheryl Strayed. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail **

  

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Marrakesh and what I read…

I recently got back from an AMAZING week in Marrakech with Tom. Although I didn’t have much time to read whilst I was out there, I did get some time to enjoy a few books. 

I really wish I had taken a better camera out there as there was so many amazing things to see and do! In the end I just took pictures using my phone which unfortunately didn’t really do the surroundings justice!

Here’s some holiday snaps anyway showing some of what we did, and also what I read whilst I was out there! 

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balcony cafe in Marrakech

Tea on the rooftop cafe in the souks

  

part of the Medina at night

The Medina at night

 
Olive Stall!

So many types of olive for sale!

  

parkland

One of the many city-centre parks with a sense of tranquility!

 
Palais de la Bahia

Palais de la Bahia

    

Community underground bakery in the Souks

Community underground bakery in the Souks

  

Underground oven for cooking lamb

Underground oven for cooking lamb- up to 40 sheep can be cooked in this hole all year round!

   

Jemaa el-Fna square

Jemaa el-Fna square: the view from a rooftop cafe!

camel ride in Marrakech

Very excited to be on a camel!

Quad ride in Marrakech

We also enjoyed some quad biking!

 
Morroccan tea with mint

We fell in love with their famous tea with mint!

Jemaa el-fna square at night

Jemaa el-fna square at night

What I read/ finished reading in Marrakech:

Elly Griffiths- The Ghost Fields 

This was a fairly easy read which wasn’t too taxing and which I enjoyed by the pool! Not your typical holiday read perhaps but hey, I really enjoyed it! (review here)

Lynda LaPlante- Wrongful Death

This was a book club title which I needed to finish in time for book club when I got back, and I had mixed feelings on it overall… A review will follow shortly on here, so keep an eye out for it!

Have you ever visited Marrakech or Morocco? What did you think?

The Ghost Fields by Elly Griffiths

The Ghost Fields



Synopsis:

The chilling discovery of a downed World War II plane with a body inside leads Ruth and DCI Nelson to uncover a wealthy family’s secrets in the seventh Ruth Galloway mystery.

Norfolk is suffering from record summer heat when a construction crew unearths a macabre discovery—a downed World War II plane with the pilot still inside. Forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway quickly realizes that the skeleton couldn’t possibly be the pilot, and DNA tests identify the man as Fred Blackstock, a local aristocrat who had been reported dead at sea. When the remaining members of the Blackstock family learn about the discovery, they seem strangely frightened by the news.

Events are further complicated by a TV company that wants to make a film about Norfolk’s deserted air force bases, the so-called Ghost Fields, which have been partially converted into a pig farm run by one of the younger Blackstocks. As production begins, Ruth notices a mysterious man lurking on the outskirts of Fred Blackstock’s memorial service. Then human bones are found on the family’s pig farm. Can the team outrace a looming flood to find a killer?

Laced with dry humor and anchored by perennial fan favorite Ruth, The Ghost Fields will delight fans new and old.

Since reading The Outcast Dead after a work colleague lent it to me, I’ve wanted to read more of Griffith’s Ruth Galloway series so was excited to be able to read an Advance Reading Copy of her newest novel, The Ghost Fields

Once again Elly Griffiths has produced an entertaining, enjoyable novel which combines Detective and archaeology work with family history, and a touch of romance too- in her trademark way of writing which has become so popular, and for a good reason!

The main storyline, which concentrates on the Blackwell family history and slowly unravels what happened to some of the family members all those years ago, is entertaining and I think Elly Griffiths writes this well. Although there were parts of this novel that is perhaps a little over-dramatic, particularly towards the end, it all adds to the tension and mystery which kept me wanting to read on.

In The Outcast Dead we left Ruth having got together with American TV presenter Frank and I expected her to have continued the relationship in the meantime. even though he’s returned to America. However she’s not heard from him for quite some time when he gets in touch and says he’ll be returning to Norfolk to film a new documentary about the case Ruth is helping on. Their subsequent relationship, as well as various other character’s love lives throughout the story, added some human, grounded elements to the story which I really enjoyed amongst all the mystery. 

I now need to read the earlier novels in this series which I’ve yet to read- it will be interesting to see whether Ruth’s character has changed much as the series has gone on. 

I’m also intrigued as to whether there will be any more Ruth Galloway novels to come or whether this will be the last- I hope not!– as the end of the book had a preview of what looks to be the first novel in a new series by Elly Griffiths…

Rating: 4/5

Many thanks to the publisher for providing an ARC in return for an honest review!

The Ghost Fields by Elly Griffiths is released in the UK on 26th March 2015.

– Have you read any of this series? If so, what did you think?

The Ladies of the House – I’m glad I’m not one of them!

The Ladies of the House



The Ladies of the House is a story about many things, but what stands out to me the most are the themes of longing, oppression and the unfairness of life.

Synopsis:

On a sweltering July day, three people are found dead in a dilapidated house in London’s elegant Primrose Hill. Reading the story in a newspaper as she prepares to leave the country, Marie Gillies has an unshakeable feeling that she is somehow to blame.
How did these three people come to live together, and how did they all die at once? The truth lies in a very different England, in the double life of Marie’s father Arthur, and in the secret world of the ladies of the house . . .

Stylish, enchanting and deliciously atmospheric, this is a tragicomic novel about hidden love, second chances and unlikely companionships, told with wit, verve and lingering power.


First off, i have to say that this novel is quite depressing in its subject matter and at times I struggled reading it. At points it really made me feel sad and even disgusted, which didn’t make it perhaps the most enjoyable novel to get immersed in, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it is a well-written, interesting story.
The novel feels a little slow at times, but I feel like this builds up the character development and narrative further, making you feel like you really know some of the women personally; it’s like you’ve been there in their crazy/ horrible/ mundane lives. The mix of backgrounds and classes of Arthur’s ‘women’ are intriguing to read about. Some of the characters I really felt empathy for, some I felt hugely frustrated with and just wanted to grab and shake some sense into, whilst others I absolutely HATED with a passion. The fact that The Ladies of the House stirred up such strong emotions in me whilst reading it is a testament to the skilled character creation and writing of author Molly McGrann!
At times I did get a little confused about who everyone is as it flicks back and forth between characters a lot, and also between timescales too, and sometimes you don’t return to the narrative of a character you’ve met earlier on for quite a while! However it wasn’t long before I figured out who was who, and I then remembered how they are connected to the storyline, an aspect of The Ladies of the House that I love. 
The writing flows well and the plot and characters are complex and multi-faceted without being completely baffling. I felt that the ending was quite abrupt but this fitted in well with the subject matter, though I would have liked a bit more of a ‘tying up’ of certain elements, just because I wasn’t sure I completely got the ending myself! 
I’m really glad that I got the chance to read this skilfully crafted (though at times shocking) book with added substance!
Rating: 3.5/5
~ The Ladies of the House is published in the UK on March 26th 2015.

Many thanks to Pan Macmillan for an Advance Reading Copy of this book in return for an honest, unbiased review. 

Book Club! Book 1…


Wrongful Death 

So me and my workmates have a little book club going on…

We actually DO make sure we properly discuss the book in question, (unlike many other book groups I know of!) but we combine it with a glass of wine and, occasionally, food too, one night in the week after work.

There have actually been a few other books we’ve previously read and discussed but I didn’t get my act together before to put them on here unfortunately. Well from now on I will! 

So if anyone wants to read along with us, I’d love to hear your thoughts, and you never know, it might encourage you to read something a little different, which is kind of the whole point! 🙂

** This month’s book is… Wrongful Death by Lynda LaPlante. **

Synopsis:

Six months after the body of Josh Reynolds, a London nightclub owner, was found and determined by police and coroner to be a suicide, DCS James Langton tasks DCI Anna Travis to review the case. Reynolds died from a single gunshot wound to the head, the gun held in his right hand. But details are emerging that suggest someone else may have fired the gun… As soon as she wraps up the case, Langton tells Anna, she can join him at the FBI Academy in Virginia for training. Meanwhile, a Senior FBI Agent, Jessie Dewar, crime scene expert, is seconded to Anna’s team as part of her research and immediately the competence of the original investigation team is questioned…

This was picked by one of my colleagues who is a big crime fan and it will be the first Crime/ Detective novel we’ve read. Surprisingly, even though I love crime novels, I haven’t yet picked one for my choice and I’ve also never read any Lynda LaPlante books so this will be a first for me!

I’ll post after our meeting and let you know what me and the group thought of it!

-Laura xo

Are you part of a book group? Have you read any Lynda LaPlante books? If so what did you think?

You HAVE to read ‘Mornings in Jenin’…!

Mornings in Jenin



…a strong statement, eh?

Well I feel that it’s true, because Mornings in Jenin was, without a doubt, one of the most real, raw and emotional books I have ever read.

Synopsis:

Forcibly removed from the ancient village of Ein Hod by the newly formed state of Israel in 1948, the Abulhejas are moved into the Jenin refugee camp. There, exiled from his beloved olive groves, the family patriarch languishes of a broken heart, his eldest son fathers a family and falls victim to an Israeli bullet, and his grandchildren struggle against tragedy toward freedom, peace, and home. This is the Palestinian story, told as never before, through four generations of a single family.

The characters, spanning several generations of one family (plus other families too), draw you in so much and you feel like you know them personally by the end of the novel. This is only reinforced by the beautiful writing, which is wonderfully descriptive and emotive, interspersed with some poetry. Although the narrative certainly jumps all over the place with regards to timescale, which I know some people are not a fan of, and this can sometimes be quite confusing, even so it doesn’t take long at all to work out what time period you are reading about.

The lives of people growing up and living  in Palestine from the 1940’s onwards is unimaginable; I can’t begin to imagine having to live in constant fear and terror and most of us, thankfully, will never have to experience this. It is incredible how many of them seem to remain so positive in their day to day lives, and this is really very humbling. This book certainly makes you appreciate how easy we have it in the western world.

Sometimes I felt like I couldn’t go on reading the book because it was so emotional and, at times, so sad and injust, but I’m glad I kept reading. You can’t always bury your head in the sand with these matters and although the characters are fictional the events and places are all too real. 

For a good few days after finishing this book I felt quite dazed and I kept thinking about the characters and story – but I’m so so glad I read it!

I feel like Susan Abulhawa could have really made the Palestinians out to be completely innocent in the entire conflict, but characters do awknowledge and discuss the awful situation for Jews after WW2 and the circumstances that led up to the conflict, which is sadly still raging on today. Both sides have reasons to be sympathised with in different ways, but this novel obviously focuses on the lives of the Palestinians who have to deal with losing their homes and, for many, most of their families. I feel that the novel tells it very well and doesn’t seem overly preachy or biased. 

As I write this review I kind of feel like anything I say about Mornings in Jenin won’t do it justice, so all I will say is just give it a go- you won’t regret it; it is very sad and poignant at times but it is a really beautiful novel.

Rating: 5/5
The Devil's Star by Jo Nesbo

The Devil’s Star by Jo Nesbo- review

The Devil's Star (Harry Hole, #5)

The Devil's Star by Jo NesboSynopsis:

A young woman is murdered in her Oslo flat. One finger has been severed from her left hand, and behind her eyelid is secreted a tiny red diamond in the shape of a five-pointed star – a pentagram, the devil’s star.

Detective Harry Hole is assigned to the case with his long-time adversary Tom Waaler and initially wants no part in it. But Harry is already on notice to quit the force and is left with little alternative but to drag himself out of his alcoholic stupor and get to work.

A wave of similar murders is on the horizon. An emerging pattern suggests that Oslo has a serial killer on its hands, and the five-pointed devil’s star is key to solving the riddle.

 

The Devil’s Star is the fifth novel in the Harry Hole series by Jo Nesbo. Harry is the same unruly, alcoholic but brilliant detective as always but he seems almost broken when he first see him at the start of the novel. He’s no longer with Rakael and misses her and her son Oley hugely, which only contributes to his depression. However, when given a case to focus on, his detective skills can’t be beaten!

Jo Nesbo creates suspense wonderfully in this novel as always, and the settings and characters are brilliant. The character of Harry Hole himself could be too much of a stereotypical literary Detective without Nesbo’s skilled writing, which elevates him to someone more real and, despite his many faults, a likeable character. In this novel he comes very close to losing his job altogether, and we see him at probably his lowest ever and this only adds to his desperation and determination at trying to catch the serial killer in question.

One thing I would say, however, is that this perhaps isn’t the best Harry Hole novel to start with if you’re new to the series; you do need to know some background which is featured in earlier novels to fully understand what is at stake for Harry and properly comprehend his character. I haven’t read every one of the series’ books but I have read quite a few and this was probably one of my favourite in terms of the perfect mix of suspense, action and detective procedure.

As usual I didn’t manage to solve the mystery before Harry Hole did, but I really enjoyed the ride! 

 
Rating: 4/5 

 The Devil’s Star is out now in paperback.

Have you read any of Jo Nesbo’s books? Have you got a favourite?!