The Punishment She Deserves
by Elizabeth George (2018)
#20 in the Inspector Lynley series
(Read on Kindle)
In the small town of Ludlow, one of its most revered and respected citizens - Ian Druitt, the local deacon - is accused of a serious crime. Then, while in police custody, he is found dead – thought to have killed himself. Barbara Havers is sent to Ludlow, not together with Thomas Lynley, but in the company of their boss Isabelle Ardery, to double-check on the local investigation (as there have been complaints about how that was carried out). Isabelle has other things on her mind, and sees the investigation as a routine formality to be sorted out as quickly as possible; while Barbara gets the feeling that there’s more to it. At the same time, Isabelle as usual takes every opportunity to criticize Barbara’s way of dealing with things; and Barbara in turn is struggling with strict orders to do only exactly what she is told to do, and nothing else (or her job is at stake). Through the first part of this novel, the never-ending tension between Isabelle and Barbara really keeps the reader in constant frustration as well! (Or at least it did with me… I have to confess I kind of want Isabelle removed from the series as much as Isabelle wants to have Barbara transferred to some obscure place in the countryside…)
A bit later, Barbara gets to go back to Ludlow again, this time with Lynley. Their cooperation throughout the rest of the book is almost back to the earlier novels in this crime series. The slow progress with solving the mystery as such is still rather infuriating, though. Is anyone in this town telling the truth about anything?!
All in all, and in spite of the infuriating bits, the complexity of this story still makes it a page-turner. And also makes one ask oneself moral questions like: At which point does holding something back become a lie – when no one has actually asked about it?
The Forgotten Girl
by Kerry Barrett (2016)
(read on Kindle)
I bought this one (cheap) because I recently read another one by Kerry Barret that I quite liked (The Girl in the Picture, see my review here). This one too is a stand-alone novel with a “double timeline”, i.e. one story set in our own time, and another from the past – which sort of come together at a certain point.
In the present time, Fearne has landed what she believes to be her dream job, as editor of the Mode magazine. However, she soon finds out that the magazine is struggling, and her job is really to come up with a way to turn things around (on a tight budget and a deadline), or the magazine will be closed down. While looking for ideas, she and her staff turn to the past, trying to recreate the spirit of the magazine’s heyday back in the mid 1960s – also involving trying to find the former editor of Mode from way back then.
The parallell story is told from the point of view of Nancy and her friend Suze coming to London in the mid 1960s, and their struggle back then to work their way up in the glamourous fashion magazine world as well.
I have to say that I felt less interest in this book than The Girl in the Picture. Perhaps partly because I’ve never been really interested in glamourous fashion magazines myself. But I also think I felt that the story somehow lacked “depth” in the details (and characters).
The Fifth Doll
by Charlie N. Holmberg (2017)
Audiobook narrated by Angela Dawe
Speaking of stories involving “layers” of truth and revelations…
The Fifth Doll belongs in the YA fantasy genre (I suppose) but my impression of it is that it was rather eerie, and lacks the relief of humour that make me love certain other books in that genre - like Harry Potter.
Matrona is a young woman who lives in an isolated village, together with her parents. Village life is very much centered on family life; and Matrona herself is about to get married to someone chosen for her by her parents. For some reason that I don’t remember now, one day she goes to visit a local tradesman, Slava, but finds his house empty. Inside, she finds a collection of (Russian) painted nesting dolls, and is mystified when she realizes that each of the dolls is made to resemble the actual inhabitants of the village. There is one doll for every person living there. She tries to open the one resembling her own father, but she either fails or is interrupted (I don’t remember). Anyway, she leaves the doll in a slightly twisted position. When she gets back home to her family, she notices that her father is suddenly ill, or behaving strangely. Matrona comes to realize that there is some kind of weird magic connection between the dolls and the real people. When Slava finds out that she has been into his house and has begun to suspect the connection, he decides to kind of make her his apprentice, and let her into the secrets hidden in the different layers of the nesting dolls – starting with her own…
I have to say I found parts of the story confusing; and as I only have the audio version, it’s not easy to go back and check details. I’m not quite sure whether it is meant to be a stand-alone novel, or the first part in a series. It did seem to come to an ending and an explanation of sorts, but still perhaps leaving an opening for a continuation.(?)
(As I often listen to audio books at night and/or in the early morning, it does happen that I nod off while listening, and lose track a bit… Having finished this book it left me with a feeling that perhaps I’d better go back and listen again to the later chapters – but I haven’t got round to it, and not sure if I will! But I would say the story involves some underlying thoughts about dictatorship vs free will – like who has the right to decide what may be the best thing for other people.
Clementine* – The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill
(*Alternative title: First Lady)
By Sonia Purnell (2015)
Audiobook narrated by Susan Lyons
This I found to be a very interesting biography and reflection on the life of Clementine Churchill, wife of Winston Churchill. It presents her very much as “the woman behind the man”, not just as his wife and mother of his children, but as his equal partner throughout their relationship and with more influence on his career than perhaps usually mentioned in accounts of Churchill’s life and his role in WWII and British politics. The author is an English journalist. The book is well written; and the audio narration is excellent too.