A Second-Hand Husband by Claire Calman

A Second Hand Husband by Claire Calman

Many years ago I read and enjoyed some of Claire Calman’s earlier books, so when A Second-Hand Husband turned up on NetGalley I thought I’d give it a try. After a whirlwind romance, Natalie and Carl have married and are looking to move out of London in order to be closer to Carl’s children from his first marriage. When Carl announces he is buying a house at auction, without even giving Natalie a chance to view it, that also turns out to be extremely close to where his first wife now lives, this sets the tone for the rest of the story.

The characters are well drawn and believable, and Claire Calman treats sensitive subjects with understanding and empathy. There is a lot of humour, but also some really cringeworthy moments. The setting in the Kent countryside is described as idyllic, and seems very peaceful when compared with London, but is also a bit claustrophobic with everyone knowing each other’s business.  

At the beginning of the book, despite Natalie successfully running her own business, she is portrayed as being a bit indecisive and dithery. The story is told from Natalie’s point of view so the reader can see firsthand how her character develops as she learns to stand up for herself and have more faith in her own abilities. Carl, on the other hand, does not really change much; I’m not sure he even thinks he’s done anything wrong. His complete disregard for what Natalie might want or think seems at odds with how much he claims to love her. His high-handed and thoughtless behaviour would be enough to send most women running for the hills; Natalie is very forgiving, but even she has her limits. Will they overcome the obstacles in their path to live happily ever after? – You’ll have to read it for yourself to find out. Thanks to Boldwood Books and NetGalley for a digital copy to review.

So It Began by Owen Mullen

So It Began by Owen Mullen

I had previously enjoyed Owen Mullen’s Glasgow-based series featuring PI Charlie Cameron so I was intrigued to try So It Began, which is a crime thriller set in New Orleans introducing us to PI Vincent Delaney. The location may be very different, but the writing and storytelling are excellent as always and I have now added New Orleans to the list of places I’d like to visit in America.

It is seven years since Delaney worked as a police officer, but when he is asked to help NOPD and the FBI with a joint investigation into a serial killer targeting children performing at pageants all across the country he cannot refuse. At the same time, he is investigating the extortion of shopkeepers in the North Le Moyne area of the city by corrupt police officers, and is looking over his shoulder for an escaped criminal, Julian Boutte, seeking revenge for the death of his brother.

I don’t particularly enjoy reading about the murders of children, but here the main focus was on catching the killer, rather than dwelling on the crimes themselves, and thankfully it was all handled with great sensitivity. The separate plot threads are woven together and brought to a conclusion in such a way as to suggest this may be the beginning of a series; I certainly hope so.  

The story is told mostly through Delaney’s character, and his droll inner monologue lightens the darkness of the story. He is likeable and believable, with a cast of well-drawn supporting characters especially his music-loving dog, Lowell, who steals the show. There are also chapters giving us more detail about the children taking part in the pageants, and their families, so that we see them as real people and not just statistics. So It Began is a tense and gripping thriller with a great setting, that will keep you up late into the night as you just have to read one more chapter.

Thanks to Bloodhound Books and NetGalley for providing me with a digital copy to review.


Annie Stanley, All At Sea by Sue Teddern

Annie Stanley All at Sea by Sue Teddern

Annie Stanley is taking time out; she has given up her teaching job, split up with her boyfriend and is spending a lot of time on her sofa. When her father dies suddenly she is, as the title suggests, ‘all at sea’.  When she finds out that her father’s partner, Bev, plans to scatter his ashes somewhere that has no significance for her or her sister, Kate, she acts on impulse and steals the urn.  She embarks on what becomes a road trip around the coast visiting all the areas mentioned in the shipping forecast. Despite living in landlocked St Albans, her father had been an avid listener to what he called ‘the soundtrack to our lives’ and ‘the poetry of our Isles’ and had even named the cat, Cromarty.

Annie is grieving and needs to find a way to say goodbye that means something to her, which I can totally relate to. What starts as an ill-thought-out impulse, becomes a plan to visit all the coastal areas mentioned in the shipping forecast. As she travels from Cromarty to Forth, Tyne, Dogger and beyond, Annie re-evaluates her life, past and present, and gradually makes peace with herself, and comes to appreciate that, even if just for a short while, Bev was an important part of her father’s life.

The characters are well drawn and believable, a road-trip theme always appeals to me, and each chapter is aptly prefaced with a phrase from the shipping forecast. I had to look up the shipping forecast online to find out where some of the areas were and discovered some beautifully illustrated maps which are well worth a look. I really enjoyed this book, it made me laugh despite the sadness and grief, and look forward to reading whatever Sue Teddern writes next. Thanks to Pan Macmillan, Mantle and NetGalley for a digital copy to review.

Dark is the Grave by TG Reid

Dark is the Grave by TG Reid

Dark is the Grave is the first book in a gripping new Scottish crime series featuring DCI Duncan Bone. Still on sick leave after having been seriously injured in an explosion that killed the Peek-a-Boo killer, DCI Bone receives a gruesome film of another killing, and has no choice but to return to active duty, even though he may not be quite ready. This has to be the work of a copycat killer, but the clock is ticking and DCI Bone and his team must stop them before any more police officers die.

The action is set in the area around the Campsie Fells just north of Glasgow which makes an unusual and interesting setting for a crime novel; I grew up not too far away and really enjoyed revisiting the area. It made a pleasant change from big-city settings and reminded me of JD Kirk’s crime novels in this respect.   

The characterisation is convincing with each member of the team quite clearly defined, and humorous dialogue often used to offset the grimly dark storyline. DCI Bone is a flawed and troubled character, but this does not stop him being an excellent detective. The pace is fairly relentless as the killer could strike again at any time. The author makes it difficult for us to determine who the killer is by introducing several red herrings, but this is only to be expected. As usual, I was almost at the end of the book before I worked it out. I read a lot of crime fiction and was very impressed with Dark is the Grave; I have already pre-ordered the next one in the series – Blood Water Falls – and look forward to reading it later in the year. Thanks to TG Reid for a digital copy that I review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team #RBRT

Kimura: A Tale of a Japanese Murderess by RG Honda

Kimura by RG Honda

 I chose to read Kimura: A Tale of a Japanese Murderess because of the setting as I am fascinated by Japanese culture, and this did not disappoint.

The novel opens with Naoko realising that she has killed her husband; he is lying in a pool of blood at the bottom of the stairs, but was it an accident? She makes her escape and goes off to meet her friend Akari at a festival. There are hints that Naoko has a problem controlling her violent temper, both with her husband and with her sister, Yuki, who disappeared seven years previously. They now have a lead on her whereabouts and plan to rescue her. With the police chasing Naoko, they are forced to go on the run, but will they get to Yuki before it is too late?

This novel reads as though it was translated from the Japanese as some of the expressions are strangely stilted and awkward – I could find no information as to whether this was the case or not – but this did not hinder my understanding and perhaps added something to the narrative. There are graphic scenes of violence and torture, so bear that in mind before you begin reading as it is not for the faint-hearted.

The characters are well drawn and believable, except perhaps for Yuki who is almost a caricature, and I really liked Takamoto, the old man who lived on the boat. I loved the road trip section of the plot, and could imagine this book being made into a dark atmospheric film. The setting comes across as completely authentic, but the underlying theme of the human trafficking and slavery was deeply upsetting.

I was unable to find out anything about this author, so have no idea if they have written anything else, but would like to thank them for the digital copy that I chose to review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team #RBRT