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Posts tagged ‘mystery’

Written in Red by Annie Dalton

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Shortly before Christmas, Professor James Lowell is found brutally attacked in his rooms at Walsingham College, where Anna Hopkins works as an administrator. Baffled as to why anyone would wish to harm such a gentle, scholarly man, Anna discovers that Lowell had a connection with her fellow dogwalker, Isadora Salzman, who knew him as an undergraduate in the 1960s, a co-member of the so-called Oxford Six. It turns out that Isadora has been keeping a surprising secret all these years. But someone else knows about Isadora’s secret: someone who has sent her a threatening, frightening letter.

Could the attack on Professor Lowell have its roots in a 50-year-old murder? And who is targeting Isadora and the surviving members of the Oxford Six? Anna, Isadora and Tansy, the dogwalking detectives, make it their business to find out.

Written in Red is the second in the Oxford Dog Walkers Mystery series, and such an enjoyable read. This one kept me up late at night, and cost me a few hours’ sleep, due to my reluctance to put the thing down when it was time to go to bed.

Anna has become a million times stronger, mentally and emotionally, than she was at the beginning of the first book, in which she was tormented and haunted by the horrific events of her past. Isadora, Tansy, Jake and her other friends and family all help her heal, slowly but surely. She becomes a much more stable and happy individual. Throughout the two novels, Anna’s friends help her realise that life is worth living and that it IS possible to keep moving on without forgetting those that she has lost.

However, what I think makes Anna’s story all more the realistic is that she isn’t completely ‘fixed’: she still struggles in certain social situations; still gets scared and claustrophobic and still has troubles lurking beneath the surface. Anna isn’t managing to develop a more quiet, settled life; instead, violence and crime seems to be following her around more often that it ever was. But this time, she’s managing to fight it without completely falling apart. To me, this makes Anna more of a 3D character, and gives us the promise that more character development is yet to come in subsequent books.

I also think that it’s the need for Anna to support others in their times of crises that help her get through things. In Written in Red, it’s Isadora’s past that comes back to haunt her and it’s down to Anna and Tansy and their friends to help her get through it and discover the truth behind a series of killings and threatening letters. A wide range of strange, compelling, colourful characters come out of the woodwork from Isadora’s youth: the dangerous and sinister Tallis, who single-handedly ruins the lives of many of her friends; Catherine, the enigmatic born-again Christian with a big secret, and Professor James Lowell, racked with pain and regret about his actions of his past, to name just a few.

Now, since I was a young girl, Annie Dalton has been teaching me about history through fiction. In her Agent Angel books, the main character zoomed throughout history and I learned so much about various civilisations and events of the past from all over the world. She didn’t stop there: I learned a lot in terms of war and the fight against communism in this book. Annie expertly intertwines a modern-day narrative with diary excerpts and tales from a troubling political time in British history, showing how business, politics and international relations can affect the home lives of normal, innocent citizens.

Another brilliant aspect of this series is that there are also a lot of twists and turns within the books that aren’t necessarily linked to main crime story. These twists build upon the underlying and continuous story of Anna and her world, parallel to the individual murder mystery within the novel. I won’t give anything away here, but I was just as surprised and intrigued by these as I was by the many surprises thrown in my direction by the crime aspect of the story. If you think you know Anna and her life from reading the first book, think again! And if you haven’t read the first book yet, then you are most definitely missing out.

The truth about the killer, and other mysteries, is not revealed until really quite close to the end of the book, and what I particularly loved about it was that it isn’t a straightforward, black-and-white, morally simple case. I defy you to read this book and come out of it thinking that there is only one side to every story.

I seriously loved this book; lovers of crime and mystery will adore it, but it will also appeal to lovers of literary fiction, romance, and even chick-lit alike. Well, well worth a read!

 

 

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Little Girl Gone by Alexandra Burt

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I’ve been hearing a lot of people saying they’re tired of hearing about books with ‘girl’ and ‘gone’ in the title – but ignore them. This book is powerful and breathtaking and you’d be missing out on something very special if you didn’t pick it up due to its title!

A baby goes missing. But does her mother want her back?

When Estelle’s baby daughter is taken from her cot, she doesn’t report her missing. Days later, Estelle is found in a wrecked car, with a wound to her head and no memory.

Estelle knows she holds the key to what happened that night – but what she doesn’t know is whether she was responsible…

Little Girl Gone is another one of those books where I completely forgot to make my usual notes as I go along because I was just far, far too engrossed in the plot line and the story. It is a harrowing tale of a woman who suffers badly with post-partum depression and it sends her spiralling into a pit of despair and desperation. Somebody has taken her baby, quite possibly murdered or hurt her, and even Estelle knows that there is a distinct likelihood that she has done it.

Waking up from a horrific car accident and finding out that her baby has gone missing, Estelle doesn’t remember a single thing about the whole episode. All she knows is that there is no sign of Mia anywhere and very few clues as to what might have happened. As a result, she is admitted into a psychiatric ward and must probe into the depths of her psyche, with the help of her counsellor Dr Ari, to figure out what happened and if she is responsible for her baby’s disappearance, or whether there is someone else involved.

Delving deeper into the labyrinth of Estelle’s mind is an emotional roller coaster and just endlessly fascinating and intriguing. This book encapsulates perfectly just how complicated and mysterious and fragile the human mind can be, especially when that person is going through depression or an incredibly difficult time. It explores the different psychological mechanisms and afflictions that are associated with trauma and actually teaches the reader a lot about the human condition.

I’ve known and heard about people who have had such massive traumas in their lives that their minds have just completely wiped their memories of them in order to cope. But what this book does is show us how and why that process happens. In the book, we have no idea what to believe and whether or not to trust Estelle’s version of events. She can’t even trust herself.

My heart bled for Estelle with every syllable of this book that I read. She hasn’t got a clue what is up or down any more. She feels like she wants to hurt her baby, but we know that it is just the depression getting to her and she’s aware that these thoughts are horrifying and wrong. She can’t trust anybody around her and she can’t trust herself. The author has done an amazing job on conveying what it is like inside her head: you can almost feel the despair weighing on your own shoulders and wrapping itself around your heart as you read through the book.

Estelle’s husband Jack is a difficult man to weigh up: he most definitely has his faults in that he can be controlling and condescending, and throughout the book he does often come across as a real jerk. But I did also feel a strong degree of sympathy for him. Though he handles it utterly appallingly, he does also suffer when Estelle’s depression hits and, having dealt with family depression in the past, I know only too well how upsetting it is. It is not always within the family member’s power to get everything right: they are suffering too. For that reason, I did understand Jack more than I really wanted to. After all, it is also his baby daughter that has gone missing and his instinctive inclination to blame Estelle can’t be entirely blamed.

I won’t give away what actually happens to Mia, but my god, the story is just mind-blowing. I was on the edge of my seat throughout the whole thing. There are few books where I have wanted to skip to the ending as much, although I did restrain myself.

You will adore this book, especially if you are a mystery or crime fiction fan. Little Girl Gone is action-packed, tense, and leaves an impression on you long after you finish reading. It is a stunning book.

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