Book Review: The Kill

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The Kill, by Jane Casey, is classic crime fiction. It features troubled cops with messy personal lives trying to solve difficult cases involving multiple murders, in this case of police officers in London. There is sexism, relationship breakdown and corruption within the force.  The protagonist, Maeve Kerrigan, is a beautiful young detective who must overcome stereotypical prejudices. Her colleague, Josh Derwent, is physically strong and outwardly unpleasant but with a soft side that is rarely acknowledged. Alongside this pair we have the respected, older cop with secrets to hide and the career minded woman who nobody seems to like. It is the typical team of characters that works well for fans of the genre.

Maeve Kerrigan is shown to be strong in so many ways: putting up with the running commentary of sexist remarks from colleagues; gaining the upper hand when cornered by a group of young thugs; successfully fighting back when attacked by a desperate suspect. It is a shame that she has less success in fighting back the tears at inopportune moments whilst at work, a problem which none of her male colleagues appears to have.

Josh Derwent displays a serious attitude problem towards women as well as an apparent inability to control his temper in public. Neither of these attributes would suggest that he could become a good upholder of law and order. As the author is reported to have a ‘unique insight’ into crime fighting and to incorporate ‘gritty realism’ into her stories I do feel some concern about the make up of our police force. I hope that she took plenty of artistic licence in developing her team of characters.

The plot is compelling and the writing flows effortlessly until about three quarters of the way through the book. At this point there is a major development which felt rushed before the pace once again evened out and progressed smoothly towards the denouement. This hiccup was unfortunate as it made me feel as if the author had tried to squeeze more into the story than there was room for.

However, throughout the book I wanted to keep turning the pages to find out what happened next, and a great deal certainly happened. I was glad that the focus remained on the crimes rather than personal lives, except where they were deemed relevant. There were twists and turns aplenty with false leads suggested and enough surprises to keep me guessing until the end. The ending was very well done.

This is good crime fiction featuring layered sub-plots and gratifying if questionable practices to get results. Some of the dislikeable characters come good in the end, others get their comeuppance. There were issues to ponder such as how the media reports crime based on a victims looks or perceived morality, and how politicians skew events to feed contrived public prejudices.

If you enjoy the genre then this book is worth reading. It is the fifth Maeve Kerrigan tale and, if the ending is anything to go by, will not be the last.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the Dead Good Book Group on Goodreads.

 

Book Review: Twin Truths

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Twin Truths, by Shelan Rodger, is a tale of abuse, betrayal and survival. Jenny and Pippa are twins, different in many ways but always there for each other. Their childhood has left them damaged and their personalities have been shaped by their divergent coping mechanisms. One withdraws into solitude, finding escape in academia and books. The other lashes out in anger, seeking danger and excitement, punishing those around in an attempt to manage the hurt that is always present but rarely acknowledged.

A plane crash sets in motion a spiral of events that force a confrontation between past, present and future. Travelling between Britain, South America and the Mediterranean, the truths about events that have shaped the twins’ lives are gradually revealed. There are many unexpected twists and turns as the story unfolds. The individual construction of memory is laid bare, a perception that is nigh impossible to fully share with family and friends, reliant as it is on the complex web of personal experience.

At a superficial level this is a well written, psychological thriller with a satisfyingly unexpected ending. At its heart though it is so much more. I enjoyed the unpicking of the human psyche, the difficulty in seeing ourselves as others see us, the way we see the world and those around, how we translate our experiences from the baseline of everything else that has happened in our past.

Other than the obvious mystery surrounding the twins history, the central aspect explored in this book is what makes a person who they are, what is truth. Such questions are prodded at gently but cogently as the tightly written and compelling story unfolds. The short chapters facilitate pauses for thought, but I did not want to put this book down. It is a page turner with depth, thought provoking story-telling at its best.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Cutting Edge Press, via a Goodreads ‘First Reads’ giveaway.

On fault and appreciation

I cannot remember a time when I did not gain pleasure and inspiration from reading books. As a child I would drink up the adventures of Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven and Famous Five before riding my bike to the fields and glens close to my parent’s house to re-enact their exploits in my solitary play. When I was feeling down and friendless I would imagine myself to be a suffering heroine from a Frances Hodgson Burnett story, or find some aspect of my life to be glad over aka Eleanor H. Porter’s Pollyanna.

As a teenager I read Arthur Conan Doyle, C.S. Forester and Tolkien, imagining myself to have the courage, stamina, intelligence and power of their famous protagonists. Although I went through a short lived stage of reading trashy romances I could not relate to these books, comforting my oft hungry heart with music rather than literature. The books that I savoured took me to worlds that I knew I could never experience, they were the stuff of dreams.

As I have grown older I have become more picky about the books I will read. I fear that I have become something of a literary snob, not an attribute to be proud of. There is a fine line between choosing wisely from the plethora of available titles and condemning an entire genre. Who am I to say what constitutes a good book?

This question has reared it’s head recently. Having carefully researched many review sites I decided that I wished to read ‘Infinite Jest’ by David Foster Wallace. I was aware that it was long and complex but felt comfortable with the idea of tackling such a tome. The literary snob in me believed that I could cope and benefit from such a read.

Can a book be described as good if it is not enjoyed? In a little over a month I have struggled through a mere hundred pages of this novel. As an avid reader I am feeling starved, yet I cannot bring myself to spend long in the company of this book’s unpleasant characters. I recognise that this is rather the point of the plot, but to me that point is questionable when it becomes so hard to enter the world described.

I am a monogamous reader by habit. I will plough through a Great Work of Literature for the personal satisfaction of having read it. ‘Infinite Jest’ is, however, making me question my usual resolve. I am hungry for the escape that books give me, for the feeling of satisfaction that a good story provides.

This weekend I finally succumbed to temptation and allowed myself to stray. I picked up a book recommended by my daughter, John Green’s ‘The Fault in Our Stars’. Oh my. I was thirsty for a good book and I found an oasis. I read it cover to cover in two sittings. I cannot remember the last time, if ever, that a book has made me cry.

It is a love story, which is not my usual choice of genre. It is about two young ‘cancer survivors’ but does not seek out sympathy, nor dwell unnecessarily on the pathos of their situation. It’s use of language is magnificent.

I love the lead female, her honesty and ability to put into words what she is thinking without glossing over the truth. I love the lead male for appearing real, with his love of computer games, bad driving, and for appreciating the girl’s attributes. What really sets the book apart for me though is how easy it is to read whilst relinquishing none of the depth of feeling, time or place. I was there with them, rooting for them, despite knowing how hopeless the outcome had to be.

“There are infinite numbers between 0 and 1. There’s 0.1 and 0.12 and 0.112 and an infinite collection of others. Of course, there is a bigger set of numbers between 0 and 2, or between 0 and a million. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities […] I am grateful for our little infinity. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.”

This was a book where every word deserved to be there, was needed and served a purpose. There was nothing gratuitous, voyeuristic or pretentious. The author was not trying to show how clever, astute or sagacious he could be. His story climbed inside me and made me care. The use of language was sublime.

And all of this is, of course, just my opinion. To gain the reviews that it did, ‘Infinite Jest’ must have impressed many readers. Perhaps I am just not intelligent enough for it; perhaps it is simply not a book for me. There may be satisfaction in ploughing through to the end of a worthy work of esteemed literature. I am stubborn and am likely to keep trying to work my way through simply because I do not like to admit defeat.

In terms of recommendations though, ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ has blown me away. I wish to savour this intimacy before I move on. Perhaps if you have read it you will understand.

“Okay?”

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