Monthly Archives: August 2015

No Safe House

by Linwood Barclay

No Safe HouseIt is seven years since the events of “No Time For Goodbye”, when Cynthia Archer came to face to face with her past, triggering a series of events that almost cost her the lives of her family. Although the family have managed to rebuild their lives, Cynthia finds it almost impossible to give her fourteen year old daughter Grace the freedom she craves.

But when Grace and her new boyfriend break into a strange house, she finds herself at the centre of a chain of events that once again threaten the lives of the family.

On the face of it, the Archer’s are just an average, all American family, but looks can be deceptive. Circumstances conspire to put them at the centre of another mystery, but this time the body count is starting to get seriously worrying.

We all like to feel that we are safe in our own homes. It is our sanctuary from the violence and traumas of the world outside, our refuge. In “No Safe House”, that sanctity is violated, but in an unusual way.

From its violent opening chapter, “No Safe House” keeps up the pace, and the body count, until it’s unexpected and equally violent conclusion. The book is everything you would expect from Linwood Barclay. I did question why he brought back the Archer family, but once you get into the story it makes sense as their backstory makes them the right kind of family to face this particular ordeal.

I do enjoy Linwood Barclay’s books. His stories are centred around people who on the face of it are nothing special, just ordinary people who find themselves in extraordinary situations. I suppose part of the attraction of his stories is the feeling that these things could happen to any of us. Although, I sincerely hope not.

Like all his previous books, this is a well structured story that keeps you gripped right from the very beginning. It has pace, great characters and just enough twists to keep you guessing without getting lost.

The only thing I will say is that I am seeing a pattern in his books, something that has put me off other writers in the past.

For anyone who has not read his work before, I would recommend at least reading “No Time For Goodbye” just so you get the background to the family. 

Started Early, Took My Dog

by Kate Atkinson

Started Early, Took My DogDetectives with private lives more complicated than the cases they investigate have become the norm these days. Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie is certainly no exception. With two children by different women that he hardly sees, no place to call home, no friends or family, this former soldier/policeman/private detective is a disaster, but one you can’t help but like.
 
It seems that Jackson Brodie is incapable of making sensible, or even rational decisions about his life as he blunders from one disaster to the next. And in this particular outing, he is also very much on he back foot for the entire investigation.
 
“Started Early…” begins with an unexplained murder in 1975 when rookie police constable Tracy Waterhouse and he colleagues discover the body a young woman in her flat. It is a case that haunts Tracy for the next 30 years, until someone begins asking awkward questions. As if Tracy didn’t have enough on her plate as she realises the impact of her shocking impulse purchase outside the shopping centre where she now works as chief of security.
 
For Jackson Brodie, it started out as a simple case of tracking down his client’s real parents, but as is always the case, there is so much more to it than that.
 
I must admit that at first I was a little disappointed with this book. It took a good few chapters before I really began to get the feel for the characters and the plot, but once I got there, I was gripped and couldn’t put it down. Kate Atkinson always delivers a gripping tale with a unique mix of humour and dark mystery, and this book is no exception. The various plot lines are expertly woven into an easy to follow way, although I must admit that I missed the vital clue right at the beginning that would have made the end result a little less of a surprise.
 
Jackson Brodie is a great creation. His weaknesses and faults are something I can relate to whilst at the same time making me feel relieved that it’s all happening to him and not me. 

The Syrian Virgin

 by Zack Love

The Syrian Virgin

Every now and then a book comes along that really moves and entrances you. For me, “The Syrian Virgin” by Zack Love is one of those books.

The story, centred around a young girl escaping the civil war in Syria, has everything you could ask of a good book. It has pace and emotion, a good plot, is well written, and leaves you wanting to know more.

The central character is the teenager Anissa, who tells her story in a series of letters, from the atrocities she faces in her home town of Homs, to the new life she is building for herself in New York. Alongside Anissa’s letters, there are also extracts from the journal of her college professor, Julien, who is drawn to this mysterious young woman in a way that frightens and excites him.

Both characters are haunted by the events of their pasts, but each faces them in different ways. Anissa draws strength from the tragic events that unfolded in January 2012, using them to give some meaning and direction to her life. For Julien, his past is something he is constantly running away from, but continues to catch up with him, no matter how rich or successful he gets.

The two parallel stories give the reader two very different perspectives on the events that shape Anissa’s new life.

The book was a recommendation, and I am so glad I took it up. It is a very moving story, written with passion and conviction. I was hooked from the first page. There is no waffle, no padding of the story and no distractions from the story itself. The pace and style are just right. An excellent book that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys tales of human resilience and compassion.