Book Review: The Long Call by Ann Cleeves 

What’s it about?

In North Devon, where two rivers converge and run into the sea, Detective Matthew Venn stands outside the church as his estranged father’s funeral takes place. On the day Matthew left the strict evangelical community he grew up in, he lost his family too.

Now, as he turns and walks away again, he receives a call from one of his team. A body has been found on the beach nearby: a man with a tattoo of an albatross on his neck, stabbed to death.

The case calls Matthew back to the people and places of his past, as deadly secrets hidden at their hearts are revealed, and his new life is forced into a collision course with the world he thought he’d left behind.



My thoughts

Having not read any of Ann Cleeves’ novels before but very much enjoying the Vera TV series I was delighted to be sent 10 advanced copies of The Long Call to share with my book group.

I found it quite an easy book to get into although there are a lot of diverse characters to follow and being the first in a series there’s also a lot of back story to take in.

As you’d expect from such an accomplished author her writing is excellent; she certainly knows how to weave her plot and conjure a setting.  The book is a police procedural and I am a fan of this style as I like to know the mechanics of an investigation and in that respect this book doesn’t disappoint, however it does feel a little sluggish in places with the pace not really picking up until the last few chapters.

Although I enjoyed the book and will look forward to watching the tv adaptation I do think that the plot could have been written for any of Ann Cleeves’ characters; the plot would have worked just as well with either Shetland or Vera as lead detective which makes me wonder if this manuscript was just hanging around in a drawer waiting for a new main character to emerge from the depths of Ann Cleeves’ mind.

Overall the group felt it to be an okay and enjoyable read although not without flaws.  Whilst I wouldn’t want to dwell on those too much I feel it only fair to pass on some of their thoughts:

“Read The Long Call and felt it was OK. It didn’t really grip me and felt main character, Matthew Venn was quite dull. No idea why he had to be gay – felt it was a ploy to meet ‘inclusion’ policies to attract a TV adaptation (which it obviously was)! Especially with the addition of ‘learning disabled’ characters. I just hope the TV series actually casts these characters from the gay and learning disabled communities.”

“As a whole I felt that the book was setting the scene for a series as it didn’t feel like a standalone thriller with a beginning, a middle and an end. The first fifty pages contained descriptions of a gay couple, suicide, homelessness, disabled adults, domestic violence, a hippy, a born again Christian plus a vicar. Every single person is a problem waiting to be figured out. Perhaps it would have been better to leave some description to books 2 or 3? The ending was also quite abrupt and a bit flat.”

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon

Author Links: Website | Twitter

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Source: Publisher – ARC
No of pages: 384
Publisher: Macmillan

Book Review: The Woman in the Window by A.J Finn

What’s it about?

What did she see?

It’s been ten long months since Anna Fox last left her home. Ten months during which she has haunted the rooms of her old New York house like a ghost, lost in her memories, too terrified to step outside.

Anna’s lifeline to the real world is her window, where she sits day after day, watching her neighbours. When the Russells move in, Anna is instantly drawn to them. A picture-perfect family of three, they are an echo of the life that was once hers.

But one evening, a frenzied scream rips across the silence, and Anna witnesses something no one was supposed to see. Now she must do everything she can to uncover the truth about what really happened. But even if she does, will anyone believe her? And can she even trust herself?

My thoughts

This was our book club choice for January and overall, for our group, a pretty good pick!

Anna is agoraphobic, living online and on a diet of red wine and various pills.  It’s fair to say she’s been through some serious shit.  She spends her days counselling others on a specialist site, watching old thrillers and drinking!

Kudos to the author, he’s managed to take the best plot devices of several hugely popular books and movies and create his own book.  Within the first few pages I’d already begun to pick out The Girl on the Train, within the next few chapters it drove me to watch Rear Window (a movie I love…no hardship), there were also elements of Gone Girl – so not highly original but thrilling just the same.

I’ve not read any books featuring an agoraphobic protagonist and in all honesty know little on the subject.  What I read in this book about Anna’s situation, I can’t honestly say whether I thought it realistic or not.  I don’t know if agoraphobics can or are able to go out under certain conditions and this character left her house 3 times that I recall, they weren’t pictured as easy, in fact highly stressful – but still, would that be possible?  I assume the author will have researched the condition and therefore have to presume it is.

I liked the short, sharp, punchy chapters that constantly left you wanting just one more, as all good thrillers do and all the references to the Hitchcock movies like Vertigo.  I totally get how watching these kind of movies could enhance your senses, especially if you’ve sunk a few bottles of red.  The one thing that really bugged me about this book though was Anna and the alcohol.  I appreciate that she needed to have a problem with alcohol in order to make the story work but jeez give a girl a break!

I thought there were 3 main threads to the plot which needed solving.  I rarely work out the twists but one of them I saw coming a mile off (thanks to a famous bald actor’s late 90s movie with an equally famous line…no spoilers here ;)).  Having said that, I didn’t see the rest coming at all!

If you’re a fan of the unreliable narrator thriller and Hitchcock movies then this is your next go to read!

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Author links: Twitter | Instagram

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Source: Purchased
No of pages: 464
Publisher: Harper Collins

Book Review: The Various Haunts of Men by Susan Hill

What’s it about?

A woman vanishes in the fog up on ‘the Hill’, an area locally known for its tranquillity and peace. The police are not alarmed; people usually disappear for their own reasons. But when a young girl, an old man and even a dog disappear no one can deny that something untoward is happening in this quiet cathedral town. Young policewoman Freya Graffham is assigned to the case, she’s new to the job, compassionate, inquisitive, dedicated and needs to know – perhaps too much. 

She and the enigmatic detective Chief Inspector Simon Serrailler have the task of unravelling the mystery behind this gruesome sequence of events. From the passages revealing the killer’s mind to the final heart-stopping twist.

My thoughts

I’m always drawn to a good murder mystery and having read, and enjoyed, The Woman in Black, I was expecting eerie atmosphere overload and wasn’t disappointed there.

I initially thought with it being a chunkster of a book at over 500 pages that I’d take me a while to read, but I read it in a week which is good-going for me.  I thought the book was well structured with a good balance of description and conversation, I didn’t feel anything was out of place or overdone.

We are introduced to many characters, some of which won’t make it into book 2, but they’re all given sufficient plot time that you get to know them and care about them, even the fleeting visitors.  Having said that, DCI Serrailler plays quite a small part in this opening book – considering it’s his series!  There’s also plenty of conversation and good old fashioned investigation which does make for a gripping read.

I liked the mix of chapters told from the killer’s point of view in “The Tape” so as a reader we find ourselves knowing more than the police and being that one step ahead.  With this extra detail, I did manage to put it together and figure out who the murderer was – highly unusual for me!

I’ve just discovered that there are now a further 8 books in this series with another due later this year.  Did I enjoy this book, yes very much, will I read anymore, mmm probably not.  Realistically, I think I’m too far behind and as I already try to follow and keep up with 2 other crime/murder mysteries series, this may just be one too many, nevertheless thoroughly recommended!

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Author links: Twitter | Website

Small print for info
Source: Borrowed
No of pages: 549
Publisher: Vintage

Book Review: The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

What’s it about?

Some doors are locked for a reason…

Newly married, newly widowed Elsie is sent to see out her pregnancy at her late husband’s crumbling country estate, The Bridge.

With her new servants resentful and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie only has her husband’s awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. For inside her new home lies a locked room, and beyond that door lies a two-hundred-year-old diary and a deeply unsettling painted wooden figure – a Silent Companion – that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself…



My thoughts

After a disappointing read of The Little Stranger for our book club read in November, I was looking for a book that would maybe go a little further up the scare-ometer and give us the chills.  I’d bought this back in the summer after seeing it featured on the Zoe Ball book club TV show so picked it as our book club choice for December.

I really enjoyed having the story told in the 3 parts over the 3 time periods, with the revelations being drip fed bit by bit.  The setting is perfect in an isolated large country manor house with a small staff, foggy and eerie weather – really setting the scene and atmosphere.  However, it felt to me as if there was too much content thrown at the story.  Almost as if the author was told this is how you write a gothic ghost thriller story, you must have X, Y and Z and so I’m going to include as many of those elements in my book…a little overkill.

I don’t generally go looking for books that will give me the creeps, or that will play on my mind after dark, which was good as this didn’t affect me in this way at all.  I could easily visualise the companions and how unnerving their faces at the windows and in the doorways would be – all the right elements were there but it didn’t give me the edge of the seat read I thought it might be.

I thought the ending was very good.  It surprised me as I just didn’t see it coming.  So, overall some good points and not so good points but if gothic thrillers are your thing, you might want to give it a whirl!

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Author links: Twitter | Website

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Source: Purchased
No of pages: 384
Publisher: Raven Books

Book Review: The Store by James Patterson

What’s it about?

Imagine a future of unparalleled convenience. A powerful retailer, The Store, can deliver anything to your door, anticipating the needs and desires you didn’t even know you had.

Most people are fine with that, but not Jacob and Megan Brandeis. New York writers whose livelihood is on the brink of extinction, Jacob and Megan are going undercover to dig up The Store’s secrets in a book that could change the entire American way of life. But after a series of unsettling discoveries, Jacob and Megan’s worst fears about The Store seem like just the beginning.

Harbouring a secret that could get him killed, Jacob has to find a way to escape The Store’s watchful eye and publish his expose – before the truth dies with him.


My thoughts

This book was recommended to me by a member of my Meetup book swap group.  I enjoyed it so much that I’ve taken it back to the swap, had a mini rave about it and passed it on to another member of the group.

The book starts off at a good pace, enticing you in and didn’t let go all the way through.

The Store seems like the most perfect place to work and the community that they’ve built, the most perfect place to live…on the outside.  There’s always a trade off though isn’t there?  This community and workplace seems to operate just like Stepford and not just the wives.  The homes have cameras installed everywhere, and if you take them down, more appear.  Drones are everywhere.  You can’t do anything without being watched.  But The Store have filled your larder with all the food you like, the neighbours are super friendly and helpful…are you prepared to trade your liberty and privacy for convenience?  Our protagonists, Jacob and Megan, are going to speak out but first they need inside info so do a deal with the devil and get jobs at The Store.

The thing I liked most about this was that it’s not so far-fetched.  Amazon practically rules the online marketplace, so in ten, twenty years, why couldn’t this become how people will actually live.  That’s the scary part!  You only have to search for something online and it then starts appearing in your Facebook timeline.  It reminded me of the movie Enemy of the State and 1984 – Big Brother is always watching you, ain’t that the truth!

I found this to be an edge of your seat thriller with a twisty, if somewhat hasty, ending that I didn’t see coming.  Definitely recommend.

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Author links: Twitter | Website

Small print for info
Source: Book Swap Meet
No of pages: 304
Publisher: Little Brown