Category Archives: riverrun
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.
The Birdwatcher by William Shaw
The Last Word Review
Sometimes reading a crime novel that is set in a specific location it can help if you know the landscape, and the setting for William Shaw’s new crime novel The Birdwatcher is the desolate Kent coastline that is Dungeness an area I know only too well as I spent a lot of my younger days birdwatching along this part of the Kent coast and for a base to write a crime novel it works.
William South is the Police Sergeant for the local area he lives and works this part of Kent and a keen birder the autumn migration is now in full swing and William South would rather be out looking for birds, but when he is asked to attend murder, there is already a DS from London investigating and Alexandra Cupidi needs some support. William is somewhat nervous as we already know William himself is a murderer this by his own admission and through the story-line we move back and forth to William’s past as a 13-year old growing up during the troubles in Northern Ireland.
The brutally murdered man Bob Reyner is a neighbour and also a friend to South they used to go birding together so there is no way he will be able to leave this alone, as much as he would rather. So why was Bob so brutally murdered? So now the past memories of growing up in Northern Ireland start to come back we will learn later in the book as to why South calls himself a murderer.
Newly arrived Alexandra Cupidi from the Met this is her first case, and together will South they start to investigate the murder, but there is something that is causing a distraction to Alexandra and that is her daughter Zoe who is troubled in her own way and is struggling to settle into her new home and environment. For both South and Cupidi there is a connection of sorts between them. Now there is another murder and this one is belongs to the distant past of South, is there a connection between the two murders is South’s past slowly catching up with him. Suddenly Cupidi does not want South anywhere near the murder investigation.
South is a loner and grumpy by any standards and would prefer his company. At first you struggle to empathise with the leading character but as the story moves along at a blistering pace you start to understand William South and his troubled life.
The Birdwatcher is a gripping crime novel that is superbly written and delivers on a level that only the very best in crime writing can deliver. The story moves back and forth to the past and the present as we read of young Billy and then William in the present the characters have been so well brought together which makes the story more credible.
The cover to the hardback actually brings to life the wind swept moody Dungeness coastline this is a hardback to savour and enjoy. A must read.
My thanks to the publishers riverrun for an advanced review copy.
The Birdwatcher by William Shaw was published on 19 May by riverrun and is available through branches of Waterstones and all good book shops.
Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama
The Last Word Review
The epic crime novel that took Japan by storm, ambitious and addictive from the start.
There is a lot of expectation surrounding Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama, it sold a million copies in Japan in six days does a book consisting of over 600 pages survive the hype quite clearly yes.
Some readers may skip this crime novel because of its size and it is a hefty tome to carry around with you, but I can assure the reader that they really should give Six Four a go, this is a real slow burner of a novel but builds and you will become immersed into the story and you will forget the size of the book if you like to lose yourself in a gripping crime drama then this is very much a book you should read.
Six Four is wonderfully translated by Jonathan Lloyd-Davies and we learn of the abduction of a seven-year-old back in 1989 the anxious parents listened to the ransom demands, the young girl is murdered and the kidnapper makes off with the vast ransom. The crime is never solved.
We now fast forward 14 years later and the case has been reopened with Press director Yoshinobu Mikami taking centre stage being a former detective now transferred he has to deal daily with surly media representatives rather than the job he would rather be doing that is solving crimes for Mikami this case is somewhat personal as his own daughter has been missing for a number of weeks after suffering a mental breakdown.
What we have in Six Four is dramatic, and sinister plot that plays on the old themes of Japanese society and culture. The story goes delves into real detail and Mikami has to work through all the police politics and office machinations to try and solve the case, not helped by a press pack that is baying for blood as the police are refusing to name the driver in a traffic accident. Time is against Mikami and not only time as the drama unfolds and the reader becomes more and more involved in the story. Six Four makes for compulsive reading.
I found reading this enthralling crime drama that you need to concentrate on for most of the storyline, as you can easily get confused with the great detail, this may not be for everyone’s taste in reading but what it lacks in pure investigation technique it sure makes up in its richness as far as characters are concerned and incredible detail. This is not a pure and simple who done it crime novel there is so much more to Six Four. It is one of those incredible novels that the more you put in the more the reader will get out of it. This is not just any crime novel it is a seriously deep and thoughtful crime novel that rewards the reader.
Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama was released on 3 March by Riverrun (Quercus Books). Available through Waterstones and all good bookshops.