Monday, 7 July 2014

Book reviews: The Murder Bag & A Hundred Pieces of Me

I joined a book club last year, and although our monthly meetings have become a bit sporadic the best thing is that it's got me reading again.  Before the book club I hardly read at all - but bought plenty to stack, unread, on the bedside table -  apart from the annual summer holiday when I'd take 5 books and read them all within a week on the beach.

This month I've read two books, which I know is not much by some people's standards but it's a lot for me.

The Murder Bag by Tony Parsons  

The Murder Bag by Tony Parsons
I'll confess that I haven't read any of Parsons' other books (Man and Boy, One for my Baby, Stories We Could Tell)  and I'm not a particular fan of the crime genre but when this one was chosen by the book club I was quite looking forward to it.  Something different, and all that.

Synopsis: Twenty years ago seven rich, privileged students became friends at their exclusive private school, Potter's Field. Now they have started dying in the most violent way imaginable.
Detective Max Wolfe has recently arrived in the Homicide division of London's West End Central, 27 Savile Row.

Soon he is following the bloody trail from the backstreets and bright lights of the city, to the darkest corners of the internet and all the way to the corridors of power.
As the bodies pile up, Max finds the killer's reach getting closer to everything - and everyone - he loves.  Soon he is fighting not only for justice, but for his own life ...

The main character DC Max Wolfe is not your typical maverick cop, he's a single parent for starters as well as a dog lover, a combination that gets plenty of brownie points from me. The emphasis on dogs is quite a striking feature of the story actually, with plenty of dogs mentioned and I'm sure a character is even compared to a German Shepherd at one point.

But if you're not a dog-lover don't let that deter you, because the rest of the cast of characters are interesting and well drawn, particularly Wolfe who comes across as flawed and human.   There were several red herrings although the denouement was a bit inevitable partly because I'd already figured out who did it based on a review which gave away a vital clue. Don't worry, I'm not going to do that here!

I can't compare it to other books in the crime genre, as this is my first, but nevertheless the story cracks along at a good pace and there's plenty to keep you guessing throughout. Not my usual type of book but very enjoyable.  Rating: 3.5 out of 5

A Hundred Pieces of Me by Lucy Dillon

A hundred pieces of me by Lucy Dillon
I think this book could probably be classed as 'chick lit', but don't dismiss it if you're not a fan of that category.  It's an uplifting and thought provoking read that will resonate with most people on some level.

Synopsis: Letters from the only man she's ever truly loved.
A keepsake of the father she never really knew.
A blue glass vase that catches the light on a grey day.
Gina Bellamy is starting again, after a few years she'd rather forget. But the belongings she's treasured for so long don't seem to fit who she is now.
So Gina makes a resolution. She'll keep just a hundred special items - the rest can go.
But that means coming to terms with her past and learning to embrace the future, whatever it might bring . . .

Set in the fictional town of Longhampton, the story focuses on Gina who is at a crossroads in her life. Recently separated from her unfaithful husband she moves into a small flat where the clutter of her former marital home no longer fits with her longing for a fresh start.  She decides to edit her belongings and keep just one hundred objects which have some significance in her life.

Each chapter is about a different item, and via flashbacks we learn about its significance to an event in Gina's life. And as an added bonus for me, and without giving away the plot, one of the central 'characters' is a greyhound called Buzz, who she becomes a reluctant foster carer for. The mannerisms of greyhounds are so perfectly described that I was convinced Lucy Dillon had one herself and mentioned it on twitter:

I finished A Hundred Pieces yesterday, and I'm still in the lovely afterglow of enjoying a book so much I didn't want it to end.  This is a book about letting go of the past and making the most of the present. It's an engrossing, satisfying read and will have you thinking about your own life long after you've finished reading. I loved it. This is the fifth book from Lucy Dillon, and I'll be searching out her other titles. Rating: a resounding 5 out of 5

Now, if you'll excuse me I'm off to declutter...