In an undisguised attempt to catch up on my review backlog, what follows are some shorter reviews of some excellent books I’ve read recently. For that, my apologies to the authors and publishers – it’s not that I loved your books any less, just that I’d like to be in a position to do justice to a book by reviewing it as soon as I finish it, so I do hope you’ll forgive me.
So, first, a book that many of you will have also read by now (especially given Kindle’s magnificent former promotional price of 99p – it’s £2.99 as I write, but still worth every penny), It’s Raining Men by Milly Johnson. I’m a totally unashamed fan of her books, and this is one of her very best – three friends on a holiday in Yorkshire that doesn’t turn out the way they were expecting, all with dramas in their personal lives. It’s a wonderful read, full of big characters and drama, run through with humour, and a real touch of magic. I love the way Milly Johnson writes – with a Yorkshire accent, with a real understanding of how love and friendship work and with the most wicked sense of humour and turn of phrase that sometimes catches you totally unawares. If you haven’t had your holiday yet, make this the book you take with you – I really loved it, and only wish she’d write faster.
I’d never read a book by Martina Reilly, but if What If?is anything to go by I’m going to really enjoy catching up with her large back catalogue. When Lily Flynn is admitted to a nursing home with Alzheimer’s disease, she decides she needs her daughter Deirdre to know the story of her life, so she asks a care assistant to read her the diary she has been keeping since she was fifteen. The story then follows the lives of the three women – the care assistant Zoe, Deirdre the radio gardener (her programme the source of much of the book’s gentle humour) who has always had a difficult relationship with her mother, and Lily herself through the years.
It’s a really engaging read, exceptionally well written with real emotional depth and a deft touch with the different story lines as they unfold. So many Irish woman writers could lay claim to the title of “the new Maeve Binchy”, but it’s difficult to get away from making that comparison – if you enjoyed her books, you’ll simply love this one. The story has a number of unexpected twists and turns, and a real heart – and it left me with a tear in my eye and a sense of loss for the friends I’d have to leave behind.
And finally, the latest in Peter James’ excellent Roy Grace series, Dead Man’s Time. I’ve often said that I don’t really read series – Nicci French’s Frieda Klein books are one exception, and this series is the other. This is the ninth in the series, where the basic storyline involves a robbery and its aftermath, focused on a single valuable item prized by the family above all the others. The story moves from Brighton, across Europe to the New York gangland of the 1920s, and it is as thoroughly gripping as every other book has been. But the real strength of this series is in the characters – Roy Grace and his new family, the shadow of Sandy the disappeared wife, the criminals he’s apprehended who want revenge, and the familiar team with Bella and her Maltesers and the obnoxious Norman. Don’t start here – start with the first, Dead Simple, savour how the characters develop and be as enthralled as I have been by the taut writing and the twisting turns of the plots. This is a series that really shouldn’t be missed – it’s certainly hooked me.