Falling Short by Lex Coulton
Falling Short (John Murray) is the debut novel by Lex Coulton and has two central characters’ in Frances and Jackson. Frances is 39-years-old and teaches Shakespeare to a class of six former’s at a North London School, so there is a hint of Shakespeare coming through at times. She harbours a memory of her father that when she was very young was told that he was ‘missing’ at sea but this has led to lots of questions. She also has real concerns about her mother and her eccentric behaviour, but is there something else behind this behaviour? We also hear from Jackson who is a work colleague of Frances and they were good friends but it pretty clear reading both their stories that both are two very fragile characters and building and keeping relationships is something that both are not great at.
The story of Frances’s father really does bring the story to life and makes this a very readable debut novel. This is very much a character driven novel and it is so important that the characters are believable and have a voice. I am pleased to say that Lex Coulton has done just that in Falling Short. For Jackson he recounts his younger life back in his native South Africa and what brought him to the UK. In both Frances and Jackson, they are imperfect people but you did feel for both throughout the story for different reasons. When you realise that someone close to you is suffering from an illness that you know that there so little you can do is so difficult and you feel alone and desperate. This is Frances’s story. At times this book is warm and funny then there are moments that you feel really sad. The desperate search for real happiness can be a lonely search. Lex Coulton is a new and exciting voice in writing and I am interested to see what comes next from Coulton.
Thank you to for the review copy of Falling Short by Lex Coulton
Falling Short was released on 14th June by John Murray and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
Devil’s Day by Andrew Michael Hurley
The follow up to the Costa Book Award winning The Lonely is Devil’s Day by Andrew Michael Hurley. This is a dark and atmospheric creepy novel based in a valley called the Endlands and the bleak landscape mirrors the horrors that locals hide.
It is autumn and John Prescott has returned to the valley to gather his sheep from the moor for the winter, he has been doing this for many a year but this time something is different, he has brought with him his wife who is pregnant. Now his grandfather (the gaffer) has died and also this is the time for the annual Devil’s Day. Some of the locals still talk and carry out the slaughter of a lamb this according to folklore will keep the devil away. John is arranging the funeral for ‘the gaffer’ while some of the locals from this bleak outpost are preparing the local Devil’s Day ritual.
It was about 100 years ago that the locals believe the devil came to Endlands and took a sheep as disguise during the cold snowy winter and a number of mysterious deaths occurred. Now the locals carry on the tradition of Devil’s Day in songs and the taking of the first lamb of the season.
A dark and sinister story of the past and present traditions and folklore. For Katherine she longs to get this visit over with and head back to her own life away from the bleak moors and valleys. She does not belong here with past feuds and their lifestyle. They have a child one the way and she wants their normal life back.
The novel started slowly and it builds as you get further in to the story and there is tension and it builds as the story progresses. Hurley can really tell a creepy tale and this is just as good as his debut novel. If you liked The Lonely then Devil’s Day will be for you. This is not a horror story but it is dark with secrets of the past and its traditions and local feuds that threaten. The is a sense of unease that burns away through the storyline. Andrew Michael Hurley delivers with Devil’s Day and is a worthy read for these dark nights. RECOMMENDED.
Thank you to for John Murray Publishers the advanced review copy of Devil’s Day.
Devil’s Day by is published by John Murray and was published on 19th October 2017 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
Conflicts of Interest by Terry Stiastny
Here is a writer that is already making a name for herself with her political thrillers, Terry Stiastny’s debut novel Acts of Omission won her the Paddy Power Political Fiction Book of the Year for 2015, now she returns with her second novel Conflicts of Interest that will really appeal to those who like the thrillers with a political twist.
I have to say just how much I really enjoyed this thriller, why I really enjoyed Conflicts of Interest is that there are no murders, no real high octane crime thriller this is just a real gripping political thriller that just moves along at a steady pace and keeps the reader glued to the storyline. What really helps here is Stiastny’s very clever writing and plotting.
What is have is wonderfully created characters and a story that is believable, as we move through the storyline we start to uncover a real scandal that is starting to come through. With the trapping of becoming a Lord comes all the trappings and at the same time all the seedier goings on and in this story that is actually what is happening. It is something we all know has happened and we all know it goes on. Lawrence Leith is a former TV Journalist and now retired living a peaceful life in Provence. Close by his former producer lives and this is where the story now focuses as Martin Elliott is about to become a Lord. Just how did this all come about? The story never changes pace as it moves along steadily with enough to entertain. The real star is Terry Stiastny and how she writes with just wonderfully crafted prose a novel written so beautifully. A novel of corruption and how its tentacles can spread far and wide. This is not a fast paced thriller by any means but how this really entertains is down to the authors skill in using the right words.
Thank you to Katherine Burdon for the advanced review copy.
Conflicts of Interest by Terry Stiastny is published by John Murray and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
The Countenance Divine – Michael Hughes
The Last Word Review
For a debut novel The Countenance Divine by Michael Hughes can only be described as ambitious. This is a novel that will sweep you through four centuries and through a number of different voices. At times a complex but also some real humour added.
The story moves from one century to another we are in the year 1666 the Plague and The Great Fire of London ravage the city and the impoverished John Milton is trying to complete his epic poem ‘Paradise Lost’ despite the fact he was blind. It is 1777 and William Blake who is of course best known for writing ‘Jerusalem’ now becomes inspired by Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ and now adds visions to the poem are these visions spiritual? We then move to 1888 and a more sinister individual in Jack the Ripper and his descriptions of some of his brutal murders are a little gruesome to read some may find this aspect difficult.
In 1999 and Chris a computer programmer was trying to make sure that the dreaded millennium bug never struck to bring chaos to the world akin to the end of days. Chris has an assistant called Lucy with whom he holds a torch for, though Lucy is a somewhat struck by the meltdown that could be about to happen seems constantly to have a cigarette constantly on the go. I actually got a real liking to both characters though each was different with Chris’s lack of confidence it was a case of hoping it would come off for them both.
Each time period has its own unique voice that tells of that time and as it shifts from one time to another it keeps the reader guessing and they must keep up with an ever shifting complex tale. As you try and figure out for yourself as to where the story is heading. It will test the reader for commitment but I for one feel that this is a story well worth a read during the autumn as the nights draw in. You really become absorbed into a plot that makes you think. It is cleverly stitched together novel from a writer with ambition and for a debut novel this is making a statement and one to keep an eye on for the future.
Thank you to John Murray publishers for the advanced review copy.
The Countenance Divine by Michael Hughes is published by John Murray and is available through Waterstones and all good bookshops.