Another quick visit to the blog today – I really couldn’t miss the opportunity to share a short review of The Final Reckoning by Margaret James on publication day. My thanks to publishers Ruby Fiction for my advance reading e-copy: the book is available for kindle from Amazon, and in all other major e-book formats. Margaret and I go back quite a long way – I remember my mum being totally engrossed in the Charton Minster trilogy, and I very much enjoyed two later books in the series, The Wedding Diary and Magic Sometimes Happens (links are to my reviews – the second includes a rather lovely 2014 chat with the author). But I was quite excited to see that her latest book is something very different – to quote the cover “a compelling page-turner you won’t be able to put down” – and I was really looking forward to seeing how successfully she’d made the transition to the dark side.
What if you had to return to the place that made you fall apart?
When Lindsay Ellis was a teenager she witnessed the aftermath of a violent murder involving her lover’s father. The killer was never found.
Traumatised by what she saw, Lindsay had no choice but to leave her home village of Hartley Cross and its close-knit community behind.
Now, years later, she must face up to the terrible memories that still haunt her. But will confronting the past finally allow Lindsay to heal, or will her return to Hartley Cross unearth dangerous secrets and put the people she has come to care about most at risk?
I’m never really sure where the line is drawn between romantic suspense and thriller – and it really doesn’t matter – but I do know that this book certainly lived up to its promise. I enjoyed it very much, finishing reading in the early hours when I just couldn’t set it aside without reading to the end.
I very much liked Lindsay at the book’s centre – there’s a nice lightness in her relationship with Nick (not your usual astrophysicist), a sadness around the loss of her mother, and a borderline obsessiveness about her enduring attraction to the lover of her youth and the uncovering of the truth about the violent event that drove her from the village. I very much liked the well-drawn setting of the Herefordshire village too, and the convoluted relationships of the Casson family. This is a book with a significant twist towards its end – not a jaw-dropping one, but certainly unexpected, and I thought it was very well handled.
Although there’s a particularly violent death and quite a lot of blood, I suspect this might not be the book for a hardened thriller reader – the developing romance slightly softens the edges, and because of that (I’m really not a crime and thriller fan) I liked it even more. The writing, as always, is excellent – crisp dialogue, intriguing characters, a well-paced story that totally engaged me. Welcome to the dark side, Margaret – I very much enjoyed this one.
About the author
Margaret James was born in Hereford, a beautiful cathedral city in the English Midlands. She started writing fiction when her children were very small, and her first novel A Touch of Earth was published in 1988.
Since then, she has expanded her range of writing-related activities to take in journalism, short story writing, teaching creative writing, helping to organise and judge writing competitions, and editing other people’s books.
Since becoming a novelist, Margaret has realised that having a name like Margaret James leads to lots of confusion, and in her next life she intends to have a name that she shares with absolutely nobody else.
When she’s not writing, Margaret loves walking, reading anything and everything, gossiping, gardening and eating chocolate. She quite often manages to eat chocolate and write at the same time, which occasionally makes for a somewhat sticky keyboard, but also makes for happy writing.
Just for the record – this Margaret James wrote: A Touch of Earth, Fortune’s Favourite Child, The Treasures of Existence, The Snake Stone, A Green Bay Tree, The Ash Grove, A Special Inheritance, The Final Reckoning, Hallowed Ground, The Morning Promise, The Long Way Home, The Penny Bangle, Elegy for a Queen, The Silver Locket, The Golden Chain, The Wedding Diary, and she contributed to the anthology Loves Me, Loves Me Not. Margaret’s latest novels are Magic Sometimes Happens and Girl in Red Velvet.
The Silver Locket, The Golden Chain and The Penny Bangle are available as a Kindle download entitled The Charton Minster Trilogy.
Margaret and Cathie Hartigan are co-authors of The Creative Writing Student’s Handbook, which takes students through the entire creative writing process. The Short Story Writer’s Workbook is the second of their bestselling guides for writers and is published in ebook and paperback. The third guide in the series is The Novelist’s Workbook and is available now. Visit the CreativeWritingMatters website for more details of the writing guides and the competitions run by CreativeWritingMatters, which include the Trisha Ashley Award for the best humorous short story.