Tuesday, May 17, 2022

A Tidy Ending by Joanna Cannon

Happy Tuesday, readers! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Joanna Cannon's latest, A Tidy Ending!

Linda's life is fairly uneventful. She spends her days working part time and keeping house. She and her husband, Terry, have fallen into a life of routine...habit...boredom even. 

But that was before the murders. And the mail. 

The murders, two women the news say are connected, immediately get Linda's attention. Because she's noticed something. But she knows the police won't listen to her. They never do. The mail...well, that's Rebecca's. Mail that gets delivered to Linda's new home, addressed to the prior resident. Mail that suggested this Rebecca leads a much more interesting life than Linda. 

You could say that Linda becomes a bit obsessed. So much so, that when her husband starts spending more time at work, the distraction is welcome. But Linda's not quite what she seems. And that routine life isn't quite as routine as you might think. 

A Tidy Ending is, dare I say, quite a delight to read!

First, I'm a sucker for a quirky main character. And Linda is quirky indeed!

Second, I'm an even bigger sucker for books with unexpected (or, not quite unexpected in this case) twists that turn the beginning framework you expect on its head. 

And third, I do so love dark reads!

This is, if you haven't gathered, one that could very easily be spoiled. I will say, however, that it is great fun and I absolutely loved it!

A Tidy Ending is out now in the UK from The Borough Press. It'll release this summer in the States. Wherever you are, I highly recommend snagging a copy for your TBR!

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

The Attic child by Lola Jaye

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Lola Jaye's The Attic Child

Two children separated by almost seven decades, share a similar trauma in this latest from Lola Jaye. 

Dikembe was just a boy when he was given over to Sir Richard. In truth, he couldn't have known his mother's fears for his future. And she was promised that he would gain an education and be brought up as an English gentleman. 

Torn from his home and everything he'd ever known, he was thrown into British society. Renamed Celestine, he served as Sir Richard's companion and was given every privilege befitting Sir Richard's place in society. 

But he always longed for home. Even when he was told his home and his family were gone. 

And then Sir Richard died. 

Lowra's early life was a happy one. But when her mother died and her father remarried, all of that changed. Her father disappeared, leaving her in the charge of her new stepmother, who made no bones about her feelings for the young girl. And the abuse she suffered at the woman's hands were unknown to everyone else in her life. 

She escaped when she was fifteen, living in group homes until she turned eighteen. 

Now, at thirty, she has just learned that her stepmother has died. And the house where she experienced the worst years of her life is hers. It's there that she once found evidence of another child. And now, so many years later, she's determined to find out what she can about the boy who lived in the attic before her. 

This is a hard read. The abuse both Dikembe and Lowra suffer truly made my heart ache as I read the book. But it's about a deeper trauma than that. A history of upper class society figures basically kidnapping children from what they viewed as lesser societies. 

These children, and there are a few mentioned in the book, were, as Dikembe is, part of a collection. Yet another piece or artifact showing off wealthy people's travels and allowing them to pat themselves on the back for their "good deeds."

In truth, Dikembe's slate is wiped clean as soon as he's handed over to Sir Richard. His name, his history, his culture, his family...all of it is lost to him. 

Lowra too experiences something of the same at the hands of her stepmother. All of the photographs of her family are gone. She knows nothing of her past or her family connections. Nothing of her own story. 

This is a heart wrenching book. But it's also one about holding on to the things that are important to you. Dikembe never forgets his family. Never forgets where he came from. And in searching for his story, Lowra learns more than she ever expected about a history she was completely unaware of. 

The Attic Child is a beautifully written story, even at it's most painful to read parts. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

The Last Guests by J. P. Pomare

Funds have been tight for Lina and Cain for some time. Cain, a former SAS soldier, has been trying to get a personal training business off the ground but it's Lina's job as a paramedic that keeps them afloat. 

And then their friends turn them onto WeStay, a site that would let Lina and Cain list Lina's grandparents' house for rent to guests. 

It's a nice house, just needs some sprucing up. And it's ideally situated on a lake. But Lina has reservations about opening it up to strangers. It's the house she grew up in. The one she wants to raise her own family in. 

But she goes along with it anyway. Until it turns into a nightmare that threatens to reveal her darkest secrets. 

Let's just call this book what it is, the one that make never want to stay in an AirBnB ever again!

Lina and Cain both have secrets. Cain had a bit of an issue with gambling, but it seems to have ended by the time the book begins. And yet, they still have money problems Lina can't quite figure out. 

The bigger problem is the fact that they've been told it will take a virtual miracle for them to conceive a child. Which is where Lina's big secret comes in. And both issues are what make her agree to list her grandparents' home on WeStay. 

And at first things are fine. The reservations start rolling in and they're getting good reviews. Easy money. 

Except anything that seems to good to be true...

The prologue for the book really does set the tone. An anonymous man is placing cameras in a rental home. And that definitely tells you where some of the plot is heading. But there's way more to the plot that just a twisted voyeur. 

This is a super creepy premise—maybe more for people like me who are already inclined to be uncomfortable with vacation rentals :)

I should note that I both read the physical book and listened to the audio over the weekend. Sarah Mollo-Christensen is the narrator on that edition and she does a fabulous job!

Pomare is a a new-to-me author I've been aware of but hadn't read yet. He's an award-winning author from New Zealand (where this title is set), currently living in Australia. 

I really enjoy both New Zealand and Australian crime fiction and I've been trying to read more of it of late. If it's a genre that interests you, I've been getting recs from Craig Sisterson's Southern Cross Crime

Order a copy from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

Monday, May 9, 2022

The Agathas by Kathleen Glasgow & Liz Lawson

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Kathleen Glasgow and Liz Lawson's The Agathas!

Apologies as this was supposed to post last Thursday. 

Alice Ogilvie has been on the outs with her best friend ever since she stole her boyfriend. In fact, when Alice and Steve broke up, she was so upset about the whole thing that she decided to teach everyone a lesson and disappear. Her hope was that they'd all be so worried about her, Steve in particular, that he'd beg for her to take him back. 

It didn't quite work out that way. And now Steve is dating Brooke. 

But when Brooke herself goes missing after the big Halloween party, Alice knows she has to do something. Even though she hated Brooke, she was still her best friend. Plus, Alice has an admittedly big admiration for everything Agatha Christie. 

Iris Adams is not an Agatha Christe fan. But she is Alice's new tutor. And, seemingly, Alice's only friend currently. So when Alice becomes determined to solve the mystery of Brooke's disappearance, Iris agrees to go along. 

It helps that Brooke's uber rich grandmother is offering a reward—money that would go a long way towards getting Iris out of town. 

Two teen detectives and a town with a history of missing girls...The Agathas is a fabulously fun read and an excellent homage to Agatha Christie!

Alice and Iris are seemingly as different as two girls can be. Alice is a "Main" or one of the popular kids. At least she was before she faked her own disappearance and got caught. Now she's on the outs with all of her old friends. 

Iris is a "Zoner" one of a group that doesn't really fit in with anyone. But Iris is also super smart, which is why she's tapped to tutor Alice once she returns to school after being on house arrest. 

It's the tutoring that throws them together but it's Brooke that forms the bond. See, Alice was involved in a bit of a tiff between Brooke and Steve on the night of Brooke's disappearance. And Iris...well, it seems she might have been the last person to see Brooke alive. 

Together, with some of Iris's buddies, they take on a case the cops believe is open and shut. Which of course turns out to be anything but!

The plotting is tight and the pacing follow suit. But it's definitely Iris and Alice (and Agatha Christie) that make this a great read! 

Alice has been knocked down several spots in high school popularity. She's actually become something of a pariah. Which is a shame because her parents are pretty much nonexistent in her life. Iris offers some stability, but she has her own issues and is desperate to get our of Castle Cove as soon as possible. Both of their stories are intertwined with that of Brooke and the mystery that makes up the bulk of the story, making it a rich and layered read—perfect for, dare I say, Christie fans!

I absolutely loved The Agathas! And I can't be sure, but I think we may see a return of Alice and Iris in future books. At least, that's what seems to be hinted at in the end. Castle Cove is a hotbed of mysteries, it seems, and I would definitely like to see them return in at least a few more titles!