The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

Synopsis from Amazon:

The Moonstone, a priceless Indian diamond which had been brought to England as spoils of war, is given to Rachel Verrinder on her eighteenth birthday. That very night, the stone is stolen. Suspicion then falls on a hunchbacked housemaid, on Rachel’s cousin Franklin Blake, on a troupe of mysterious Indian jugglers, and on Rachel herself. The phlegmatic Sergeant Cuff is called in, and with the help of Betteredge, the Robinson Crusoe-reading loquacious steward, the mystery of the missing stone is ingeniously solved.

This was a very good crime novel. The Moonstone is an expensive diamond that is left to Rachel Verrinder. After receiving it she puts it into a cabinet in her bedroom. During the night the Moonstone is stolen. Everyone is suspected. The story is narrated by different people who all give accounts of events that unfolded since the robbery. Suspects frequently change and there are some very clever detective tricks used to solve the crime.

I enjoyed this book but I did think it was a bit long at times. I found it interesting how Collins viewed women – as lesser than men and how he uses religion – as a lifestyle that dominates some and irritates others. I really enjoyed the narrators changing – I found it influenced who I thought did it, and as it turns out, I was wrong. I found this style of writing threw me off the scent.

I was not particularly fond of any of the characters. All of them had flaws which I found a little annoying, such as Betteredge and his obsession with Robinson Crusoe. However I still enjoyed this book because I was eager to find out who did it, and how they pulled it off. This book had me gripped.

I thought this was a great crime novel. I think it is just as sophisticated as modern crime novels, even though the police did not have modern technologies to help them. There was still the element of who-done-it and there was all the aspects of a crime book, with death, mystery and suspicion.

This is well worth reading.

8/10

Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller

notes on a scandal

Synopsis from Amazon:

When the new teacher first arrives, Barbara immediately senses that this woman will be different from the rest of her staff-room colleagues. But Barbara is not the only one to feel that Sheba is special, and before too long Sheba is involved in an illicit affair with a pupil. Barbara finds the relationship abhorrent, of course, but she is the only adult in whom Sheba can properly confide. So when the liaison is found out and Sheba’s life falls apart, Barbara is there…

Sheba is a new teacher at school; she is a pottery teacher and is instantly spotted by Barbara. She is different from the other new teachers, she keeps herself to her room and doesn’t participate in staff room gossip. Sheba meets Steven Connolly in detention, where she discovers he has some artist talent. She starts giving him tutorials after school, where their relationship blossoms. Soon they are having a sexual affair, a pupil and a teacher. During this time the friendship between Sheba and Barbara has been blossoming. Sheba confides in Barbara about Connolly. This affair cannot remain hidden forever, and when the people find out what has happened Barbara is there for Sheba; but what is her motivation?

This is a book which focuses on a controversial issue – pupils having sex with students when they are underage. Heller is brave writing this book, especially as she questions the portrayal of these teachers, and the different treatment male and female offenders receive. Heller looks at reasons why teachers would enter into this relationship, the effect feelings have over a person, regardless of age and who will stand beside you whatever you have done. She also studies spinstership, how the woman is portrayed and what it could do to you.

I enjoyed this book but I didn’t like the characters – I was gripped by the story and what the outcome would be. I found it an interesting read; a sensitive subject manner and I wanted to know how Heller would write it. I found Barbara manipulating and judgmental and Sheba delusional and a liar. This is a good read because even though I didn’t like the characters they did spark a reaction.

This was not a fast read but a well written book and a good read.

8/10

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

the-reader-jpg

Synopsis from Amazon:

For 15-year-old Michael Berg, a chance meeting with an older woman leads to far more than he ever imagined. The woman in question is Hanna, and before long they embark on a passionate, clandestine love affair which leaves Michael both euphoric and confused. For Hanna is not all she seems. Years later, as a law student observing a trial in Germany, Michael is shocked to realize that the person in the dock is Hanna. The woman he had loved is a criminal. Much about her behaviour during the trial does not make sense. But then suddenly, and terribly, it does – Hanna is not only obliged to answer for a horrible crime, she is also desperately concealing an even deeper secret.

This is a brave book. It follows Michael, who after a long period of illness goes to thank the women who helped him when he was sick in the street. This second encounter leads to a love affair that will haunt Michael for the rest of his life. Suddenly Hanna disappears and Michael thinks that is the end – until he sees her in court answering to crimes committed under Hitler’s reign. Yet as the trail proceeds Michael discovers something about Hanna that she is hiding, and which leads her to punishment.

This books looks at Germany, the aftermath of the war, the Holocaust and the guilt of a generation. It also looks at love and sex, and books. I thought this book was a good read. It isn’t a long book and it didn’t take me long to read. I did find the philosophy in the second part hard to grasp, and found it difficult to concentrate whilst reading those bits, but they are really my only complaints.

I liked Michael – he was a simple 15 year old who hadn’t been in a proper relationship, then a man trying to work out how to condemn those who had been involved with the Holocaust, and ultimately he proved himself a good friend. I felt sorry for Hanna and the secret she felt she needed to keep however she had a mean streak that I didn’t like.

As already said, this is a brave book. I think it addresses these sensitive issues well – I don’t think people will be offended when reading this book. I would recommend this as a good book.

8/10

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Synopsis by Amazon:

Everyone has a dark side. Dr Jekyll has discovered the ultimate drug. A chemical that can turn him into something else. Suddenly, he can unleash his deepest cruelties in the guise of the sinister Hyde. Transforming himself at will, he roams the streets of fog-bound London as his monstrous alter-ego. It seems he is master of his fate. It seems he is in complete control. But soon he will discover that his double life comes at a hideous price …

Dr. Jekyll is a scientist with a dark secret – he has created a drug which transforms him into his sinister dark side. At first this is OK, but then Hyde, his alter-ego starts making trouble and goes as far as committing murder. Jekyll’s friends start to get suspicious when Mr. Hyde is seen coming and going from Jekyll’s home – and then the hideous secret is out….

I really enjoyed this book. It explores human nature and good and evil – and ultimately the choices we make. The book was exciting and gripping. It is original and well written – clearly a classic.

Stevenson’s characters were great! I liked the fact Mr. Hyde was written in such a way that I really didn’t like him – it is nice to come across a book that sparks emotion and feelings, and this book did that.

I didn’t find this book scary, just a great read.

9/10

The Ingenious Edgar Jones by Elizabeth Garner

the ingenious edgar jones

Synopsis from Amazon:

Set in nineteenth-century Oxford, and shot through with a powerful sense of magic, Elizabeth Garner’s new novel will appeal both to fans of historical fiction and to the huge Susanna Clarke/Philip Pullman fanbase.

In nineteenth-century Oxford, an extraordinary child is born – Edgar Jones, a porter’s son with a magical talent. Though his father cannot see beyond his academic slowness, his abilities as a metalworker and designer are quickly noticed, and become a source of tension within the family. When Edgar comes to the attention of a maverick professor at work on a museum of the natural sciences, Edgar is at once plucked from obscurity and plunged into the heart of a debate which threatens to tear apart the university. Edgar’s position is a dangerous one – will he be able to control the rebellious spirit that fires his inventiveness, but threatens to ruin him, and to break up his family once and for all?

I really enjoyed this book. I didn’t know what to expect from the blurb, and in fact it is a lot more complex than the blurb lets on. The star of the show is Edgar. He is an exception in every way. He is a genius. From a young age he is creative, exploring the local neighbourhood and inventing all kinds of things. He catches the attention of an Oxford professor, who uses Edgar for his needs and then dismisses him. Edgar, just a child, seeks revenge, which could cause mayhem and destruction wherever he goes, but can anyone, or anything really keep him down?

This is an exciting, gripping book. Garner is a literary genius. Her descriptions are full and rich. Her writing style is easy to get into and enjoyable. She is imaginative and creative. I liked her characters, how each was different and how they all fitted together to make this wonderful book. She explores history, God and science and family values. All of which she does successfully.

I don’t think the ending was particularly convincing, but that is the only compliant. This is a must-read book.

8/10

Savage Tide by Glen Chandler

savage tide

Synopsis from Amazon:

This is a Steven Madden mystery. For Steve Madden, Brighton is no longer beaches, fish and chips and amusement arcades. It’s also a place of murder. Estranged from his son and grappling with the jealousy that comes from watching your ex-wife getting closer to another man, his world is thrown into turmoil when he is called to investigate a particularly savage murder. But there is something else, something that will change his life forever. Dragged into the twilight world of nightclubs, drugs and prostitution, Steve is about to realise that being a Detective Inspector in a seaside town is far more dangerous than he could ever have imagined.

Steve Maddon is called is called to a murder scene in Kemp Town, Brighton – the place notorious for where the homosexual community live. What he finds in the flat is a shock – and will completely rock his world. The murder is sex fueled and gruesome, and personal. Maddon is taken off the investigation, but unsatisfied with the police work, investigates himself, where he makes some shocking discoveries.

This book is not for faint hearted. The description of the murder was graphic, and horrific. The is a lot of violence, drugs and sex in this book, which aren’t really my cup of tea. That said; it was a good read, with a few twists and an interesting portrayal of the seedier side of Brighton.

Chandler wrote well – it flowed easily, I was able to keep up with the story and remember who all the characters were. It didn’t take me long to read and I was quite surprised by the revealing of the murderer. If you like crime novels, or a good murder book, this is for you.

7/10

No Time for Goodbye by Linwood Barclay

no time for goodbye

Synopsis from Amazon:

On the morning she will never forget, suburban teenager Cynthia Archer awakes with a nasty hangover and a feeling she is going to have an even nastier confrontation with her mom and dad. But when she leaves her bedroom, she discovers the house is empty, with no sign of her parents or younger brother Todd. In the blink of an eye, without any explanation, her family has simply disappeared. Twenty-five years later Cynthia is still haunted by unanswered questions. Were her family murdered? If so, why was she spared? And if they’re alive, why did they abandon her in such a cruel way? Now married with a daughter of her own, Cynthia fears that her new family will be taken from her just as her first one was. And so she agrees to take part in a TV documentary revisiting the case, in the hope that somebody somewhere will remember something – or even that her father, mother or brother might finally reach out to her… Then a letter arrives which makes no sense and yet chills Cynthia to the core. And soon she begins to realise that stirring up the past could be the worst mistake she has ever made…

Meet Cynthia – she is teenager out with her older boyfriend getting drunk in his car. Her Dad finds her, pulls her out of the car and drags her home. After a row she hits the sack to sleep off the alcohol. The following morning she wakes to a silent house. At first she finds plausible reasons for everyone being out, but once at school quickly discovers they are indeed missing.

Twenty-five years later she still doesn’t know what has happened to her family. And with a family of her own, it is starting to threaten her comfortable home. Still wanting answers, she is shocked when a letter arrives. Her past and what happened on that night is about to catch up with her, and it won’t be pretty….

What an exciting book. I couldn’t put it down. There were many twists and turns, and outcomes I did not see coming. Barclay leads you down one path, and suddenly flips it over and reveals your suspicions and guesses to be wrong. I was gripped by this adventure. So much happens, a lot of which you won’t predict. Barclay manipulates what you think, then corrects your wrong views. Just excellent. His characters were great – I especially liked the thugs who grabbed Cynthia’s husband off the street and then sat listening to the Carpenters. Quite funny! This is just a really good book.

My one complaint is the swearing. There is a lot of it. I managed to ignore most of it, but there is too much, and that is what stops me giving this book the highest rating. Overall, this is a must-read thriller, and I highly recommend it.

9/10