Tuesday 30 June 2015

River of Souls - Kate Rhodes

The fourth book in the Alice Quentin series and Kate Rhodes is properly into her stride. By book four the recurring characters all feel like nicely rounded individuals, with full back-stories and, as with all well written characters, the reader can have a fairly good idea how each one will react under stressful situations.
The story line of this book gets pretty stressful for all involved. One year on from a gruesome and horrific attack on the daughter of a cabinet minister, the family call in Alice Quentin to reexamine aspects of the case that were poorly investigated first time around. The victim's mother is desperate for her daughter's attacker to be found while there is still a chance that Jude, the victim, can know that justice has been served. Alice quickly comes under pressure from government aides keen to keep their up and coming minister's name out of any investigation, as well as having to deal with the trauma of interviewing Jude and confronting her horrific injuries. When other victims, all seemingly linked to the minister's family start to be found the pressure intensifies.
The POV flips between Alice and the unknown attacker, giving the reader some insight into his motivation. Just how far we can trust that he is committing the attacks as a gruesome tribute to the Thames is debatable though. Providing the reader with a wonderfully unreliable narrator is a sure way of drawing the reader in and it works brilliantly here. Certainly I thought that I had a handle on why he was committing the vicious attacks, then slowly some bits of his narrative started to fall outside of what I expected of him. I'm rather proud that I did have strong suspicions about the identity of the murderer quite a while before the big reveal. There were a few interesting red herrings thrown into the mix though that certainly made this a more interesting read. In fact the whole style really works to keep you turning the pages, and make this an exciting and unputdownable read.
Alice is a believable character, she is convincingly rounded and manages to combine empathy and tenderness with the resilience that must be necessary in her chosen profession. My one niggle with the whole book is that I found the writing about her love life to be a little grating after a while. I want her to have a background story, and want her to be a 'real' character with a personal life outside of work, but I did find some of the angst about her relationship with Burns to be a little repetitive and somewhat grating after a while. There were definitely moments where I would have preferred more development of the actual plot instead of further discussion about their abortive relationship. I'll admit that about halfway through the book, I found myself rushing through the 'relationship' bits in order to hurry back to the main story. Overall though this is a minor gripe and I would recommend these books for fans for Martina Cole or Belinda Bauer.

Saturday 20 June 2015

Reunion - Fred Uhlman

One of the most perfect books I have ever had the pleasure to read. This was recommended to me by a customer, and I had to admit that I had never heard of it at all. Being somewhat anal about such things I dislike having such total ignorance of interesting titles, so was sure to get hold of a copy as soon as possible. This is not something that I could ever regret, and I'd like to thank the customer concerned for drawing my attention to this literary gem.
The novel is the story of a brief friendship between two teenage schoolboys in early 1930's Germany. It encapsulates the shifts in this relationship in a pure and perfectly beautiful way, while also reflecting on outside events as they impact upon the two boys. The final chapters are deeply moving, and no matter how much you have read around the subject matter or about the period in question I defy you to remain unmoved by the clear and matter-of-fact way in which the narrative moves forward. As for the final paragraph, I don't know that I can remember the last time that such a simple ending devastated me so deeply. Even now, as I write this I am finding it difficult to remain composed.
This is a very short book, less than a hundred pages, and yet it's impact far outweighs it's length. I often come across people who would baulk at spending £8 on something that is this short, but I can honestly say that it is well worth every single penny and will move all but the most heartless  reader far more deeply than a longer, less perfect book could ever do. Five stars does not even begin to do this book justice.