Cage of Bone by David Dvorkin

Cage of Bone by David Dvorkin

At a loose end, after being fired from his latest low paid job, Max Iverson goes to the cinema. A young man comes to sit behind him and suddenly Max is able to read his thoughts. Like a film playing before his eyes, he sees that this man is responsible for killing the young woman at a petrol station that he had read about earlier in the newspaper. Deeply disturbed, he knows he must pass this information on to the authorities, but obviously cannot divulge his identity or how he found out. He decides to contact the Deputy District Attorney, Grady Jacobs, instead of the police.

Over time, his ability to read other people’s thoughts grows stronger, and he is able to pass on a lot of useful information. He is given a job in Jacobs’ office, though not everyone there trusts him. Up to now he has managed to retain his anonymity, but when he comes to the attention of a shadowy criminal organisation his life is put in great danger.

The characters are well written and the plot, though far-fetched, is made to seem entirely plausible. The writer raises the question of whether this ability to read the minds of others is a blessing or a curse. Max also starts to wonder if he is the only one who can do this, or maybe there are others out there reading his thoughts. Max Iverson is an unusual hero, tortured by half-remembered nightmares of the night his mother died and he was born, but how is this possible? I really enjoyed this gripping but sinister thriller, and will look for more books by this writer. I chose to read Cage of Bone as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team.

The Lifeline by Tom Ellen

The Lifeline by Tom Ellen

I really enjoyed this author’s previous book, so was keen to give The Lifeline at try, and I was not disappointed. Despite dealing with some fairly serious issues, this was ultimately a hopeful and heartwarming read. Annie is a former music journalist who is having trouble moving on after the death of her father. Will was lead singer in an up-and-coming indie band, but now works in a failing electronics store and volunteers for a crisis helpline in his spare time. The story is told from Annie and Will’s perspectives, both in the present and five years before. A large part of the narrative takes the form of phone conversations which come across as very natural.

Five years ago, Annie went to Paris to interview Will and they went on to spend a wonderful day together. She thought they had a real connection, but when he did not turn up to meet her after the gig she assumed the worst. Five years later in London, she is supposed to be contacting the band to write an article, but cannot track them down. Purely by chance she phones the helpline, Green Shoots, and speaks to Will, but neither of them know who the other is as they are using the names Jack and Pia. They make a connection and start to look forward to their weekly conversations. We have to wait until quite far into the story to find out what happened on that fateful night in Paris, but this is good as we have come to care about Annie and Will by then.

The Lifeline is much more than a romance novel, though there is a romantic element to the story. It is really about all forms of love, and the importance of having someone to listen and talk to. The writer does not shy away from serious and distressing topics like loneliness, grief, depression and guilt but handles them with a sensitive touch. The importance of friends and family runs through the narrative, along with forgiveness. There is humour as well to stop it getting too dark, and I particularly enjoyed the pop culture references. This book has left a lasting impression on me – I won’t forget it in a hurry and look forward to reading the next book by this talented writer. Thanks to HQ and NetGalley for a digital copy to review.

   

Always the Bridesmaid by Laura Carter

Always the Bridesmaid by Laura Carter

I started reading Always the Bridesmaid knowing nothing about it, only to discover it is the fourth book in the Brits in Manhattan series and I had not read any of the others. Usually this is not a problem, but here I felt at a distinct disadvantage. Part of the problem was the characters from the other books featured quite heavily, especially in the first half of the book, and not knowing their backstories just left me confused.

All the characters in this friendship group are gathered in England for Jess and Jake’s wedding, and have rented a large house in Surrey for the week of the celebrations. Due to unforeseen circumstances the main characters in this book, Sarah and Charlie, are forced to share a room despite having only just met when he picked her up from the airport. To say they do not get off to a good start would be the understatement of the year – I did not like either of them much, and was unsure whether I wanted to continue reading.

Sarah works as a legal secretary in Manhattan, and Charlie is a stand-up comedian in London. As we gradually learn more about them (perhaps this is why you need to have read the previous books), their behaviour is easier to understand. My opinion of Charlie improved a lot quicker than that of Sarah who I could not relate to. I enjoyed the second half of the story much more, as Sarah stays on in London after her friends have gone home with the intention of seeing the sights, and Charlie offers to be her guide. They start to get to know each other and the burgeoning attraction is much more believable. I especially liked the rom-com film references, but have to say that most of Charlie’s comedy routines did not make me laugh. I’m glad I persevered as I enjoyed Always the Bridesmaid, but will not be going back to read the others. Thanks to Boldwood Books and NetGalley for a digital copy to review.

The Typo by Emily Kerr

The Typo by Emily Kerr

I’ve read and enjoyed other books by this author so was happy to take a chance on The Typo when it was offered to me. Amy receives an email destined for someone else, goes to the trouble of trying to find the other person and sends it on. Cameron is grateful that she did, as it was from a gallery offering him the chance to exhibit his photographs, and they begin corresponding. Amy is marketing manager at The Variety theatre in Edinburgh, and Cameron is the photographer on a cruise ship in the Antarctic. Thinking that they will never meet, Amy embellishes her life as she does not think it sounds that interesting. In reality, she gave up her promising career as a violinist after a bad review and has not played for two years. The theatre is not doing well and is in danger of closing down, so she might lose her job. Writing to Cameron, each of them encouraging the other to be braver, worrying about the lies she is telling, makes her re-evaluate her life and acts as an impetus for her to go back to what she loves most.

Apart from the emails between them, the story is told from Amy’s point of view. The characters are well drawn and believable – I particularly liked her elderly neighbour, and his two cats that spend half their time in Amy’s flat. The Edinburgh setting is vividly brought to life. I loved reading about Antarctica, though I wouldn’t fancy the cold conditions or the rough sea crossing, and found Cameron’s descriptions fascinating. Amy’s embellishment of her musical career was understandable; it’s only human to want to make yourself sound more interesting, and she assumed they would never meet in real life anyway. But what if it turned out that they wanted to? Novels written mostly in email form don’t always work, but this one does as the conversations flowed naturally. I liked both main characters, which helps a lot, and the epilogue rounded the story off nicely. Thanks to One More Chapter, HarperCollins and NetGalley for a digital copy to review.

Dark Island by Daniel Aubrey

Dark Island by Daniel Aubrey

Daniel Aubrey’s debut novel, Dark Island, is set on the Orkney Islands and features journalist Freya Sinclair, who has recently returned home in search of a quieter life after working on a national newspaper in Glasgow. On her first day, before she has even made it into The Orcadian office, remains are discovered at the historic site of Skara Brae, uncovered during a violent storm the night before. It is believed they belong to a teenage girl who disappeared when Freya was at high school. A conspiracy is uncovered that makes it difficult to know who can be trusted.

Set over the course of just a few days, the story is told entirely from Freya’s point to view with occasional passages in italics from an unknown character keep the reader guessing. Dark Island gives us a realistic picture of how Freya’s mental health struggles affect her ability to do her job and live her life. She is waiting for the result of an autism assessment, and both wants and doesn’t want to know the outcome. While it was interesting to have a neurodivergent main character, at times there was too much information about her condition and it overwhelmed the narrative. It took me a while to warm to Freya as her impulsive behaviour and total disregard for her own safety was frustrating to read.

The characters are well drawn, and it made a pleasant change for women to outnumber men on the staff of the newspaper, although Gill was a total nightmare to work with and Kirstin’s habit of calling everyone ‘chick’ really started to jar after a while. The Orkney setting was vividly described, and the constantly changing weather almost a character in its own right. I enjoyed this gripping atmospheric story with a journalist at the forefront of the investigation. I will definitely be on the lookout for the next book in the series. Thanks to HarperNorth and NetGalley for a digital copy to review.