~~ Some of the following are abbreviated due to travelling or poor choices in grab-and-run ~~
S.J. Watson. Before I Go to Sleep. Toronto: HarperCollins, 2011.
Imagine waking up every morning in a strange bed with a stranger beside you in unfamiliar surroundings. Christine, a middle-aged woman, has lost her memory of the past twenty years in a rare type of amnesia case. Each day her life begins again as a blank slate. Husband Ben is lovingly diligent in taking care of her. Psychologist Dr. Nash suggests writing her daily experiences in a journal as a way to inform herself and possibly trigger some missing pieces. The tension becomes unbearable as she has odd flashbacks, realizing someone must be lying to her about the accident that caused the amnesia.
And I've totally lost my notes about (what I think are) appropriate little quotes. This entire four-book post is about reading in the midst of travelling, my only excuse. Sorry: because as a random choice this book was a pleasant surprise in the writing and construct. It was Watson's first novel ― an author to watch!
Claire Douglas. The Sisters. UK: HarperCollins, 2015.
A random choice again. First impression was that the two leading ladies were acting more like teenagers than 30-somethings, but the mystery and psychological suspense are nevertheless there. Abigail (Abi), suffering guilt and grief, lost her identical twin Lucy in a car accident. She meets Beatrice (Bea) who quickly becomes a good friend; Bea is also a twin. The story is told from Abi's first-person perspective, but we also get third-person glimpses of Bea's inner thoughts. As Abi falls for Bea's handsome twin brother and the plot matures, the reader cannot tell which woman suffers from paranoia or delusion; the sense of some underlying evil is well played out. Ambivalent feelings rage back and forth with each odd, inexplicable events occurring in the house they share.
One-liner: It never crossed my mind that I would reach thirty and Lucy would not. (200)
She hesitates and I can tell that there is a lot more she wants to say, but my mother has always been a great believer in thinking before speaking. Instead she says how wonderful it is that I've found a friend, that I'm beginning to settle in Bath. Then she reminds me, as she always does, that I need to keep seeing Janice, that I mustn't forget to take my antidepressants, that I have to do all I can to make sure I don't end up in that place again – she lowers her voice when she says this last bit, in case the neighbours can hear through the walls that her daughter has been in a mental institution. (30)
The room swims and, with a sickening thud of clarity, I'm aware that I can't trust my oldest friend. That I'm forever going to be tied with the mental illness tag, that I'm never going to be believed because Abi's a sandwich short of a picnic, she's been in a mental facility, didn't you know? How can you believe anything she says? She's paranoid, delusional. It's as if I'm in a nightmare, where I'm trying to explain myself, trying to tell everyone that I'm perfectly sane, that it was a stupid mistake, a one-off, I'm not dangerous, I'm not a nutter, but no sound comes out of my mouth. (225)
Nancy Bush. The Killing Game. USA: Zebra/Kensington Publishing Corp., 2016.
A young widow, a family business, a psycho killer with a complicated plan ... looked interesting, coming from a prolific writer I'm unfamiliar with (later learning she is Lisa Jackson's sister). Andrea (Andi) Wren is at odds with her late husband's family and business partners. Threatened with notes that play on birds' names (oh, please), she hires handsome ex-cop Luke as her bodyguard. They can't tell if the warnings are personal or business-related, but women are dying.
Andrea's (and every other female character's) dependence on a man to the rescue quickly became tiresome. How dare they ... a bodice-ripper in disguise as "suspense" and "page turner" ... fluttering stomachs and heavy breathing. I must learn to discern and differentiate among the cover blurbs despite the accolades from well-known crime writers! Firmly put on hold until my travels were finished, then a weary push to the (reading) finish line. Bad me, only skimming bits here and there, wanting it to be over.
He hung up and let his mind wander back to Andi Wren, a wandering that was becoming more and more frequent. The last thing he wanted was a romantic entanglement. He'd been trying to extricate himself from Iris for months and had determined he was bad at breakups. And every new relationship had a breakup waiting for it; Taylor Swift sure had that one right. (249)
She took a step backward, needing space, when his arm reached for her and he dragged her back to him. Her breasts were a hairbreadth from his chest. She had to angle her face to meet his hungry gaze.
His hands ran up her arms to her shoulders, his grip tight. She could feel he was struggling, but then, with a sigh, his lips captured hers again. Her hands were limp at her sides as his mouth ravaged hers. She sighed in complete abandonment, her knees trembling. She wanted to make love to him until they were both exhausted. (280)
James Oswald. The Hangman's Song. Toronto: HarperCollins, 2014.
Since I've given up trying to find Craig Russell's Glasgow books in Canada, happiness was discovering that Oswald ("the next Ian Rankin") has this Edinburgh character, Inspector Anthony McLean. Happiness quickly segued into disappointment: this is no Rankin, no Rebus, and it was unfair to compare, raising my expectations! McLean and his detective cohorts lack empathy in moi, although the author presents promising political police infighting. There are far too many unclear references to previous events (presumably prior books in the series), rather a "bugger's muddle" as one character said in another context. Woe, when the story behind multiple suicide hangings degenerates into something implausible like Ghostbusters. Too bad.
One-liner: The acting superintendent pushed his chair back from the desk and stood up, obviously finding it hard to make a decision whilst sat on his arse. (427)
No peer love for McLean:
Brooks scowled, which just made the rolls of flesh on his face wobble. "Why are you still here, McLean?"
The question took him by surprise. McLean looked around the canteen, then hefted his booty. "A man's got to eat. You of all people should know that. Sir."
The scowl deepened, folds of skin rippling across Brooks' damp, ruddy forehead. "Don't get cocky with me. You know damn well what I mean."
"I do? Come on then. Say it out loud. Everyone's been dropping enough hints to start a war. About time someone said it to my face."
"You don't need to do this job, man. Way I heard it you inherited big time when your grandmother died. So why are you still here? Why don't you fuck off to the country or something? Let us get on with our jobs." (249)
Strange force at work:
On the outside she is carefree, confident, happy even. But the spirit can see through to her core. The spirit knows the secrets of her heart. The failure, the fear, the darkness that has dogged her all her days. The spirit sees her true nature, and through it I know her too.The world is so much brighter when the spirit enters me. People glow with an inner fire, and everything is pin sharp. I know no doubt when he is with me; anything is possible. I work my way through the crowd, chatting occasionally, charming people, laughing. It's so easy. (348)