Centaur by Declan Murphy & Ami Rao
The May bank holiday Monday of 1994 the world was still coming to terms that weekend of the deaths of racing drivers Roland Ratzenberger and the three times World Champion Ayrton Senna at the San Marino Grand Prix. At Haydock Park the celebrated jockey Declan Murphy was riding Arcot the favourite in the Swinton Hurdle as they approached the final hurdle they were lying third after coming through the field. Arcot misjudged the hurdle and they fell for Declan Murphy the world just seemed to disappear into a world of blackness then a following horse crashed into Murphy with one hoof colliding with his head causing 12 fractures in his skull. It was so severe that soon after Declan was given the last rites. He was not expected to survive such dreadful injuries.
The world of sport now held its breath, one of this countries’ top sportsmen was now in such a critical condition that the Racing Post ran his obituary. Despite he was facing having his life support switched off Murphy in a dark world was not giving up he was fighting and fighting hard. Now 23 years later Declan Murphy with Ami Rao tells his story in Centaur in what is one of the most incredible and brave memoirs that many will want to read and is surely in the running to win the William Hill Sports book of the year. This is a brave and open memoir of Murphy’s fightback from a man who looked death in face and lives to tell his story. Hidden within the pages of Centaur is a secret that at the time he kept from his loved ones and that for the celebrated Jockey is shattering. For coming back from the dead there was a price to be paid, as he fought to regain his health there were choices to be made some so painful that even this part of Declan’s journey brought a tear to my eyes. This brave man was going to overcome this crisis in his life he was mend his shattered injury and he was going to do this in the only way he could by shutting the world and those close to him away. This fight was personal and some may say selfish but I would like to call it brave.
Just eighteen months later Declan Murphy recovered to ride again in what some would call sheer madness after facing death. The date was Tuesday 10th October 1995 Murphy rode Jibereen at Chepstow to win. This was the comebacks of all comebacks. To have your obituary in the Racing Post then comeback not only to ride again but win. This long tunnel that Murphy was in finally was the end was reached but for this brave sportsman that had to be more to life that riding and for Declan Murphy after a spell in New York and now Barcelona he has found peace and personal happiness. An extraordinary memoir that is so beautifully written. Riding a horse there is symmetry between both the rider and horse in Centaur there is symmetry between both Declan Murphy and Ami Rao and the result is a book worthy of the highest plaudits. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Thank you to Alison Barrow for the advanced review copy of Centaur
Centaur by Declan Murphy and Ami Rao is published by Doubleday and is published on 27th April and available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
The Stolen Child by Sanida Kay
Anyone who read Sanjida Kay’s debut novel Bone by Bone will know just what a powerful novel it was and now in her second novel The Stolen Child Sanjida Kay really has managed to go one better as this really is a superb psychological thriller that will leave you on the edge of your seat.
The title of Kay’s second novel gives more than a hint as to what the story is about. The Stolen Child is about a mother and her daughter. The story starts as Zoe and Ollie have been trying to start a family for a number of years and have accepted that this is not going to happen as they had hoped and so they turn to adoption and they have adopted a baby girl and they name her Evie. Their lives now complete, sadly for both Zoe and Ollie it is not that simple. For baby Evie is struggling as her natural mother was addicted to drugs and so Evie was born with the effects of those same drugs so in those early days and the watchful parents watched and cared for her anxiously.
As the years moved on Zoe gave birth to a baby boy who they called Ben by now the family had relocated to Yorkshire and the family unit was complete. Life could not be better for both Zoe and Ollie. But as the title of the book suggests you just know something is coming and sure enough it does. Card and gifts start arriving for Evie from her real father. This man has been on a mission to seek his daughter and take her back. For both Zoe and Ollie, the nightmare is about to begin.
Sanjida Kay has delivered a pulsating and disturbing psychological thriller that will have the reader wanting to know what is going to happen on every page. This is a clever piece of writing as you are being sucked into the story just as Evie was being sucked in by her real father. You feared for the leading characters they seek to punish each other and lives are being torn apart in full view of the small community where they live. It would be easy for me here to give the storyline away but this is such a gripping story that you really want to read this for yourself. Kay’s writing style really lends the story its real edge it is tense and visceral and then there is the climax of the novel. But we will leave it there. I promise you The Stolen Child will steal your weekend from you. I highly recommend you head to your local bookshop and settle in for the weekend. Not to be missed.
Thank you to Kirsty Doole and Corvus for the advanced review copy.
The Stolen Child by Sanjida Kay is published by Corvus and is now available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
Faithless by Kjell Ola Dahl
(Translated by Don Bartlett)
Kjell Ola Dahl made his literary debut in 1993 and has won a number of prizes and has been shortlisted on two other occasions. He has become known as one of the fathers of Nordic Noir. Yet again Orenda Books has come up with another incredible find.
This is the latest instalment featuring the Police investigators Frølich and Gunnarstranda The story starts with a stakeout and then subsequent arrest of a young woman but on letting her go after she was charges in possession of cocaine, but later this very same young woman is found dead, dumped in a dumpster. But for the arresting officer Frank Frølich he did not know it at the time but she was the fiancé of one of his best friends. Who killed her and why? Did she know something that the police would be keen to know? So now the two investigating officers set about trying to uncover who she really was. But then Gunnarstranda finds a body during the subsequent investigation. For both police officers time now is of the essence as they believe the killer has struck again.
Although this was a slow-burner of a start and the story moves along at a pace that is not hurried in any way, there was something rather chilling and intense in the drama that began to unfold from page one. This is a clever piece of writing the internationally renowned writer who writes in a very atmospheric style that sets the tone for a Norwegian thriller with some very dark and twisting undercurrents. You feel you are being slowly sucked into the story and before you realise it you have raced through half the book.
Having read many Nordic crime thrillers there is something unique about this that stands out from the rest. It is slower than most but the two main investigators are two that are going to get answers. So is the door ajar for more for these two Oslo detectives. I for one really hope so.
Thank you to Karen Sullivan for the advanced review copy.
Faithless by Kjell Ola Dahl and published by Orenda Books and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
The Faithless by Kjell Ola Dahl Blog Tour Continues
The Single Soldier by George Costigan
Many will know George Costigan as the theatre, television and screen actor, best known for appearing in the successful hit TV dramas Rita, Sue and Bob Too as well as Happy Valley as well as many theatre productions. The Single Soldier is his debut novel set in France during the German occupation.
This is a story that is both heartbreaking and heartwarming, it is big and the passion that runs through the heart of this incredible story-line. There is some much in The Single Solider that will stop you and make you think. Set in a village in South Western France tells the story of Jacques who has running the family farm on his own after his father was killed during WWI, it is also a story of Simone a young woman fleeing the onslaught of the German army and has found her way to the farm and has been taken in. She has endured a perilous journey and is lucky to be alive.
The war is raging around them and Jacques is trying to maintain the farm he has looked after single handed since he was thirteen. It is not long before war brings both Jacques and Simone together. As the months move on Simone gives birth to a baby boy but now German troops are looking seeking revenge for the activities of the French resistance fighters and it is now too dangerous for Simone and their son to remain on the farm. It is decided that they should leave to stay would put their lives in danger. Now the story become so heartbreaking as Jacques later finds out that Simone and his son have fled Europe. Jacques is now all alone, he cannot follow his family so he does what he has done nearly all his life and that is bury himself in his work on the land. This is the story of how one man moves his entire house via a cart pulled by a cow to rebuild his shattered life after hopes and dreams are destroyed. The war is over now peace returns to rural France but can one man ever again find similar peace.
This is simply an outstanding debut novel with so many vivid characters and the storytelling so lifelike that you feel part of the story and the lives the community during those war years. This is testimony to the sacrifice of those who endured and suffered the brutality of the German occupation and the tone is captured superbly.
The Single Soldier is beautifully presented by Urbane Publications and this is a book I highly recommend at over 500 pages it is by no means a quick read, but once you have started reading you will quickly come to realise this is a remarkable story.
Thank you to Matthew at Urbane Publications for the advanced review copy.
The Single Soldier by George Costigan was published by Urbane Publications on 30th March and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
Gone: a Girl, a Violin, a Life Unstrung by Min Kym
This is the story of a child prodigy in her own words a story of a love for music and composers and a love for a very rare Violin. When Min Kym was given a cheap violin at the age of six little did her parents realise what was to come next. Now Min Kym has released her memoir Called Gone: a Girl, a Violin, a Life Unstrung.
At the age of 7 Min Kym was a child prodigy and within a few years she went on to win international awards for playing the Violin, the stage was set for this extremely talented musician. Here in this deeply moving memoir she openly talks about love and loss Min Kym through the pages of this her early life from South Korea to London and then a rare 1696 Stradivarius which became her soul mate it was as if it was truly made for her, fitted Min and was the perfect match for her. Surely her life was set and everything she had worked so hard for was at her very fingertips add a boyfriend and life is complete. Or is it?
One day while waiting for a train they sat together in the station cafe her precious Violin sat beside them before she realised what had happened it had gone. The 1696 Stradivarius Violin valued at over £1m was stolen in broad daylight. To Min this was totally devastating something inside her died. Her life seemed in an instant devoid of meaning. To a classical musician the bond between them and their instrument is unique it transcends almost anything. Unless you are close to a classical musician you may not realise the bond they have. No to Min Kym that bond was broken and she fell into a non-existent land where she could not function let alone perform. This is brave writing, it is straight from the heart telling of loss and depression she also openly talks of her boyfriend as she seems to mistrust as he is controlling. This was the very boyfriend who was minding the rare Violin at the time it was stolen.
Min Kym is driven to be successful and her passion for music pours out of every page as well as her grief, how she describes her life and her feelings is so emotional. There is real open honesty captured between the pages here as she openly talks about her own mistakes in her life. It could be that part of the healing process was writing her memoir and pouring her own grief out on paper.
This is highly recommended for those that love music and those who want to understand someone who is passionate about being the best at what she does at playing the Violin.
To accompany the book, look out for a special CD by Min Kym Gone – The Album which is available now.
Thank you to Viking UK for the advanced review copy.
Gone: a Girl, a Violin, a Life Unstrung by Min Kym is published by Viking UK and is published today 6th April 2017 and available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
Gone Without A Trace by Mary Torjussen
In early February I was very fortunate to have been invited to Headline’s Blogger Night to meet a number of the publisher’s authors for 2017. I can honestly say it was a great night and a privilege to have been invited. Little did I realise that I was going to meet a writer who lives on the Wirral and just a short walk from the very road I was born. That writer is Mary Torjussen and her debut psychological thriller Gone With A Trace which has just been released through Headline.
I was given a heads up about the story-line by Mary when I met her and the thought of a novel based in and around my home really had me excited. Well when I started reading I did wonder about where this story was going to take me. I need not have worried because Mary Torjussen has written a debut thriller that will have you wondering from one page to another.
The story starts as Hannah is returning to her Wirral home and is very excited with the news she has for Matt her boyfriend. Hannah has just been appointed a director for the company she works for, she even stops off to buy a bottle of champagne to celebrate. Then as she opens the door to her home it is in complete darkness and the silence is deafening and a sense of foreboding comes over Hannah, something is not right. She is right. Something is very wrong. Matt is not there to greet her and in fact it is as if Matt has never existed at all, any trace of him living there has been removed. His clothes have gone, he has even turned the house back to as it was before he moved in and set up home with Hannah. The clock has really been turned back for Hannah, Matt has just vanished into thin air. All trace of their relationship has been removed. But where is Matt? More importantly why has he just gone without a trace. Even his telephone number has been removed and is no longer working all the text messages have gone. Something is very wrong. There is a real chilling feel to this part of the story and Torjussen has played a real blinder here with her leading characters. It raises the hair on the back of your neck.
As the reader is taken along with Hannah as she tries in vain to try and find out where Matt is and why he has just vanished. There is no real sense as to what has just happened and there were no signs of any impending break up of their relationship. This is an addictive storyline and you are trying to second guess what is coming next. There are doubts about Hannah and her friends that will appear to you as this story really gets going not to mention the tension that is palpable. This is a truly gripping debut novel that has a leading neurotic character that you just are not too sure about. It felt like a real crime thriller with so many suspects coming into view. Then the ending just left me open mouthed. Many thrillers will keep you guessing but in Mary Torjussen’s debut she has you on the edge of your seat hanging on for dear life. Just think about that the next time you arrive home from work as you put the key into the lock and open the door.
Gone Without A Trace by Mary Torjussen is published by Headline and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski
The idea of setting a thriller around a series of six podcasts is a unique one and in the debut novel Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski I was not sure at first how this was going work, but have no fear I devoured this gripping psychological thriller on my journey to London for the recent book fair were I was going to meet the publisher of this gripping psychological thriller Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books. And it really is a book I recommend.
Podcasts have really taken off over recent years, there are podcasts that cover all manner of things, just search the internet and it is all there. I am a fan of listening to podcasts on my journeys. But here in Six Stories is a series of six podcasts based around a murder mystery. The host of the Podcast series Scott King is an ex journalist and through his chosen medium he sets out to investigate mysteries that have not been solved. It is a clever way of getting an audience and then the listeners could end up being the judge and the jury in some cases. Through his podcasts Scott King interviews key people involved with the mysteries thereby breathing new life into a case that may have been long since closed or forgotten about. Now he has turned his attention to attention to the death of the teenager Tom Jefferies who died on Scarclaw Fell in 1997. Now twenty years on King is attempting to uncover just how Tom Jefferies died and just what why was he on Scarclaw Fell when he met his death.
Through his six interviews Scott King will talk to those with close links to the teenager and each of them has a story to tell of that time and of the group of teenagers that Jefferies was involved with. Each character has a story and you the reader are listening to the podcast through the pages of this dark twisting story and through the podcasts more and more details become available to the reader/listener. Scarclaw Fell is depicted as a dark and desolate place and just how Matt Wesolowski through his words describe this place and foreboding, just why would Tom Jefferies would want to be there is part of the story.
By talking with those linked to Jefferies Scott King slowly uncovers just what was going on and as the plot deepens and thickens you become deeply involved. This is a clever trick by the author as he wants you to come to your own conclusion as if you are listening to the very podcasts themselves. It really works, I found this very addictive. Slowly the jigsaw of this case is put together through the interviews and more of the mystery is uncovered. This is a classic murder mystery and reads like one.
The one great aspect of this is that it in my view was completely unpredictable and I was never sure what was coming in the next podcast. I will not give any clues here as to how this ends but I found this to be a dark and at times very unsettling and sinister for different reasons but one thriller I am so glad I have read and Matt Wesolowski is a writer I am looking forward to hearing more of. Yet again Orenda Book has pulled off another great scoop of a novel and one that you need to read and be warned. Once started you will not put this book down. It is impossible.
Thank you to Karen Sullivan for the advanced review copy.
Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski is published by Orenda Books and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
Larchfield by Polly Clark
One of the most beautifully written novels of 2017 so far and I have no doubt will feature as one of my books of the year. Larchfield the debut novel by Polly Clark already shortlisted for the prestigious T.S. Eliot Prize is one book that should be on everyone’s ‘must read’ books this Spring. I have high expectations for this book through 2017.
A novel set over two time-frames firstly during the early years of the 1930’s and a young poet W H Auden was based at Larchfield School and then to the present day when Dora tries to cope with motherhood and a life that seems to be in isolation. It is not unusual these days in literary terms to see novels set over two time-frames but Clark as more than written a timeless novel this is a modern day classic, it is just so beautiful and captivating in every sense.
Dora’s life is one really one that she looks back on and thinks of what could have been. She met her future husband (Kit) while they were both studying at university. Dora had dreams of being a writer and has swapped that life for a life in a large converted house and they live in one of the flats, she has to cope with the baby more or less on her own and feels alone and there is an overwhelming sense when reading that the walls are closing in on Dora as there is mistrust between her and those that live in the other flats. All this while her husband seems to be away working all the time. Dora is alone and depression is setting in and there is some concern here for her welfare and that of her baby. Dora tries to cope by escaping into another world that only she knows.
Meanwhile back in 1930 Auden is to struggling but in a very different time and different sent of scenarios he was viewed with suspicion because of his sexuality and mocked by the very school boys he is trying to teach. Just imagine for one moment the mental torture that Auden himself must have gone through not just trying to teach and write poetry but the bigotry that must have followed.
For both Dora and Auden two very different people sent in two very different timeframes the results are the same a crisis for both a human crisis. For both Clark has treated so passionately and sensitively that you feel for both protagonists to the point of shedding a few tears. You connect with both characters as the need for compassion is so very strong through the pages of Larchfield that you just want to reach out to both. Maybe in a way just by reading that is exactly what we are doing. This however is a novel but built on personal experiences after she moved to Helensburgh and the desolate isolation she felt. Without doubt one THE debuts I have read in a long time. Unforgettable and deeply moving as well as haunting. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Thank you to Elizabeth Masters for the advanced review copy.
Larchfield by Polly Clark is published by riverrun an imprint of Quercus Books and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops from 23 March.
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
This is probably one of the most unusual books I have read this year, yet it is something unique and a real treasure of a novel one that many have been waiting patiently for. Hard to believe that Lincoln in the Bardo is in fact George Saunders first novel, his previous collection of stories as in Tenth of December have won awards and received praise in many quarters.
Lincoln in the Bardo is a novel set two days after the death of Willie Lincoln the 11-year-old son of Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States who died of typhoid and is set on one night 22 February 1862 and Abraham Lincoln visits the grave of his son and the story is set to this one night. Lincoln cannot rest and the spirits of the souls who are laid to rest want to talk and through the course of this one night in February 1862 his son who he mourns is trying to talk to his father but the ghosts of those dead all want to communicate. Now this sounds totally extraordinary basis for a novel but Saunders has created a real tour de force of s story that I could leave.
Is this just a story of a man deeply missing his dead son and fretting over a war that seems to have no end or is this a story that delves deeper into the meaning of grief, loss and so much more. So many deep questions and the answers you can only answer for yourself. What this book is in fact a book of many voices all of them trying to talk to the reader. It is a very clever book and when you read of Abraham cradling his son in the crypt and the spirits of the dead seeing this it has an effect like no other book I can recall. A story that is life-affirming and those who have read George Saunders previous work will know just how good a writer he really is. Some of the deceased wander by night and must return to their ’sick boxes’ before daylight brings a new day. Then there are those that continue their long held bickering that must happen every night like a well- rehearsed play. Then again how good would this be if it was on stage. This is a book that I recommend it really is an experience that you will not forget and a book not even close to anything you will read this year.
Thank you Ros Elis at Bloomsbury to for the advanced review copy.
Lincoln in the Bardo George Saunders by is published by Bloomsbury and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.