Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult: no “Mockingbird’ alas

When a newborn baby dies after a routine hospital procedure, there is no doubt about who will be held responsible: the nurse who had been banned from looking after him by his father.
What the nurse Ruth, her lawyer Kennedy, and Turk the father of the child cannot know is how this death will irrevocably change all of their lives, in ways both expected and not.

 

My review:

On the whole, this book is a disappointment especially as usually I really love Picoult’s books. This is definitely not her best and not even her most far-reaching work. The trouble is that the author has been so taken up by the nobility of her cause (campaigning against racism) that she has forgotten to write a novel. Most of the first three-quarters of the book could have been better expressed by means of non-fiction, and I felt that the material was being forced into a novelistic form which it definitely did not fit. As a result, Ruth is very dull and irritating and needs a good shaking every now and again – she repeats herself constantly and I ended up skipping her sections in order to read the sections on Turk or Kennedy, which were better written by far.

It’s a great relief when the court scenes finally arrive in the last quarter of the book, and Picoult actually starts writing the novel rather than beating us over our heads with her cause. From then on in, I enjoyed the story, and it raced through to the dramatic (and, yes, a wee bit laughable) end. Ruth of course remains unbearably smug, but I loved the way things turn out for Turk. He at least is a great character.

I hope Picoult will remember to let the story and the characters (not the cause, please!) take centre stage for her next novel – a return to form would be appreciated!

Anne Brooke Books

Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz: interesting but unsatisfying thriller

Sherlock Holmes is dead.
Days after Holmes and his arch-enemy Moriarty fall to their doom at the Reichenbach Falls, Pinkerton agent Frederick Chase arrives from New York. The death of Moriarty has created a poisonous vacuum which has been swiftly filled by a fiendish new criminal mastermind.
Ably assisted by Inspector Athelney Jones, a devoted student of Holmes’s methods of investigation and deduction, Chase must hunt down this shadowy figure, a man much feared but seldom seen, a man determined to engulf London in a tide of murder and menace.
The game is afoot . . .

My review:

Having loved the first book in this series, The House of Silk (well worth a read if you’ve not done so already), I was really looking forward to this follow up and read the whole story very quickly as a result. It’s not entirely what I expected – yes, the description is fabulous and you do really feel as if you’re walking through Victorian London with all the sights, sounds and smells that entails. The plot is also first-rate.

However, neither Holmes nor Watson appear in the novel until the very end (via a curious short story addendum) and there is therefore a great sense of frustration. The level of violence is also more than is necessary to my mind and I didn’t need to have such detailed descriptions of it. The ultimate twist is good, but not what I hoped for and the end is ultimately very unsatisfying indeed. If there’s a third book, then we do really need to have Holmes and Watson in it! Please?…

Anne Brooke Books

The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton: a wasted opportunity

The story is rather too full of cliche for me – ‘woman in jeopardy’, and partial ‘environmental thriller’ were both just a little dull here. The journey across the snow was also far too long and uninteresting and I did a lot of skipping. That said, Ruby (the daughter) has a very strong voice and is by far the most interesting character in the book. I particularly liked how Ruby describes words by taste and smell. The sign language is also well used as a key part of the plot.

I also enjoyed the mother/daughter relationship and tensions, but Matt (the father) was just far too flat and really very annoying. He appears directly in the book at far too late a stage, and then launches into a huge section of ‘info dumping’ concerning what exactly has gone on, which is very amateur. It would have been better if Matt could have had sections earlier so we discover things in the same timeframe as he does – this would have been far more exciting.

In general, this book could easily have been cut by a third, and I suspect the film will be far better than the novel. That said, the final scenes of drama are fun (though anything would be good after that dull trawl through the snow!), and the ending surprisingly delicate.

Anne Brooke Books

Thorn in the Flesh: psychological thriller

Psychological thriller Thorn in the Flesh has just been republished today at Amazon with a delightful new cover, that I absolutely love!

Kate Harris, a lecturer in her late thirties, is attacked in her home and left for dead. The assault and the hate letters she starts to receive bring to light the past she longs to leave behind, a past which includes the son she chose to give away.

What happens to Kate also affects the people she counts as friends and colleagues. She has loved her best friend, Nicky, for a long time but Nicky is happily married with two young children, and Kate is determined never to damage the lives of those she cares for.

However, when she makes the decision to contact the father of her son, Kate sets in motion a series of terrifying events she has no control over. Can she save herself and those she loves from the menacing enemy who stalks them?

Thorn in the Flesh was longlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Awards 2006.

Reviews:

“Thorn in the Flesh is emotionally stirring, dealing with circumstances that most of us will never understand … Despite never having been in Kate’s circumstances, the story made me think about my own life and where I am currently. I recommend the book to everyone.” (Open Book Society Reviews)

“Thorn in the Flesh is a slow burning mystery woven into the ordinary lives of a close-knit group of friends. This is a great choice for readers who prefer to get to know characters well before the plot heats up. The payoff at the end is well worth the initial emotional investment!” (Long and Short Reviews)

I hope you enjoy the read!

Anne Brooke Books
Gay Reads UK
The Gathandrian Fantasy Trilogy

Blog 101: Half-price sale at Amber Quill Press!

There’s a half-price sale of suspense and thriller fiction at Amber Quill Press untilFriday! So, if you’re a non-EU reader, you can get ALL THREE of my gay thrillers at discount prices:

A Dangerous Man

Michael Jones, a young gay artist and part-time prostitute, will do anything to stage his first exhibition. When he falls in love with rich financier, Jack Hutchinson, he seems set to achieve his goal. But as Michael becomes caught between the unforgiving territory of smoky-bar Hackney and the green-garden luxury of upper class London, the intense mindscape of a man obsessed with his dreams is revealed as he attempts to free himself from his past.
When a net of antagonistic relationships and inner battles encroaches upon him, the consequences of Michael’s uncompromising pursuit emerge in tragedy, leaving him having to fight for all he holds dear, and in the only way he knows how.
 
 
Reviews:
“…brilliant…powerful as hell too… The protagonist, Michael…His obsession is huge, a swallowing emotion that sweeps out of your feet with every line you read… Another astonishing fact is how brilliantly his self-destructiveness is painted…Michael was brilliantly written…” – Thommie, MM Good Book Reviews

Buy the book at half-price today!

Maloney’s Law

Shortlisted for the Harry Bowling Prize 2006 (for novels set in London) and the Royal Literary Fund Scheme, and longlisted for the Betty Bolingbroke-Kent Novel Award…
Paul Maloney, a small-time private investigator from London, reluctantly accepts a case from his married ex-lover, Dominic Allen. Before he knows it, Paul finds himself embroiled in the dark dealings of big business and the sordid world of international crime. The deeper he pushes, the closer he comes to losing everything he holds dear.
Can he solve the mystery and protect those he loves before it’s too late?

Reviews:

“…Paul is an complex character. In fact it’s difficult to put down in words all the various aspects of Paul’s character…my favourite part of Paul’s character were the little quirks given to him by the author…a breathtaking ride from start to finish…Once again Anne Brooke has produced a book which is high in emotional intensity and yet never strays into hysteria. Her descriptions of setting, character and situation all combine to make Maloney’s Law into an unforgettable read. I highly recommend that you read this book…Grade: ‘Excellent.'” — Jenre, Well Read
“…a gay romance and mystery. It’s also a dark, deep, and poetic gay romance and mystery…I confess I love novels written in the first person and present tense, but I also know it’s quite difficult to write them well. But not, apparently, for Brooke. Her Maloney’s Law is exceptionally well-written…I thank you, Anne Brooke, for writing this story.” — Ron Fritsch, Rainbow Book Reviews

Buy the book at half-price today!

The Bones of Summer

The sequel to Maloney’s Law, garnering third place in the inaugural 2009 Rainbow Mystery Fiction Awards…
When Craig Robertson’s religious fanatic father disappears, Craig is forced to return to the home he left behind after an underage affair in order to look for answers. He takes with him his new lover, private investigator Paul Maloney, who is more than willing to help solve the mystery.
During his initial search, Craig locates items that belonged to Michael, his lover in that long-ago ill-fated affair, and soon discovers that Michael has disappeared as well. The search becomes an investigation into Craig’s past, and, because of distressing gaps in his memory, he’s terrified of the truths he might find.
As Craig’s obsession with uncovering clues grows, however, his fragile relationship with Paul begins to disintegrate. Haunted and stalked, Craig has to face down the horror of his memories if he wants to have any hope of a future at all…

Reviews:

“… good and well written…It focuses on religious obsession and how people twist and perverse faith into abnormality and loses the very point of it…you’ll like this one.” — Thommie, MM Good Book Reviews

Buy the book at half-price today!

Happy reading to all.

Anne Brooke Books
Gay Reads UK
Dryathlon 2015: Support Cancer Research UK!

Blog 58: The Death Instinct by Jed Rubenfeld – a gripping tale of intrigue and derring-do

September 16, 1920: under a blue September sky, a quarter ton of explosives is detonated in a deadly attack on New York’s Wall Street. Witnessing the blast are war veteran Stratham Younger, James Littlemore of the NYPD, and beautiful French radiochemist Colette Rousseau. A series of inexplicable attacks on Colette, a secret buried in her past, and a mysterious trail of evidence lead Younger, Littlemore and Rousseau on a thrilling journey – from Paris to Prague, from the Vienna home of Dr Sigmund Freud to Washington, DC, and ultimately to the hidden depths of our most savage instincts. As Younger and Littlemore’s investigations come together, the two uncover the shocking truth about the bombing – a truth that threatens to shake their world to its foundations.

After trudging my way through a fair few less than stellar books recently, it’s a great relief to be back in the hands of master storyteller, Jed Rubenfeld. This is a truly gripping thriller which successfully combines excellent and sometimes poetic writing with the thrills and spills of the storyline. I loved it. The two male characters, Younger and Littlemore, are simply excellent and spark off each other very well indeed. I cared about both of them very much. On the other hand, it took me a while to warm to Colette – perhaps because her actions in the beginning sometimes seem very strange and it’s only much later on in the book that we realise what’s actually driving her and what her real mission is. I’d also say that Rubenfeld isn’t quite as spot-on with female characters as he is with male ones, but that’s a minor quibble here.

Other aspects of this novel I really appreciated was the domestic relationship between Littlemore and his wife – there was one moment where I held my breath and dreaded the thought that Littlemore was going to be allowed to slip into a pointless cliche moment when he was working away from home for a while, but he acts true to himself (phew!) and the pointless cliche is dodged. Thank you, Mr Rubenfeld, and yes, I should have trusted you a little more – you’ve not let me down yet.  There’s also a lovely scene between Mr and Mrs Littlemore when he is faced with a terrible choice between money which would very much help his family, and his own personal honour. Kudos to Mrs Littlemore here for opting without any hesitation at all for the personal honour choice. This was a lovely marital scene which felt very real indeed.

Rübenfeld also plays teasingly with cliche when it comes to Colette’s apparent relationship with the German officer she is trying to locate, but the scene when Younger pursues her out of love and discovers the real truth of the matter is excellently and breathtakingly done. It turned the whole book round on its head and I loved it. I always enjoy being so cleverly fooled by a writer – it’s a real skill.

And, once again, as in Rubenfeld’s earlier and also excellent novel, The Interpretation of Murder, we have the presence of Sigmund Freud who is trying to help Collette’s brother Luc. Freud has some great and very witty scenes and I very much appreciated them. That said, I do wonder if the Freud factor is perhaps becoming something of a deus ex machina in this author’s work, and for the next novel I could probably live without it.

Finally, there’s also a great deal of political intrigue going on, which is very clever indeed – but I did tend to lose track every now and again – then again my particular focus as a reader is the relationships between the characters and so I wasn’t greatly concerned about politics. I was more interested in the people here, who never let me down. My one other quibble is nothing to do with the book itself but its cover – I have to say I’m really rather bored with that back view of the man in a hat walking away into various scenes – it seems to be on all sorts of history and thriller books these days and I wish publishers would lay the pesky scene to rest once and for all!

Anyway, cover rant over. As I expected, the closing chapters of this book are very thrilling indeed, and the ending is deeply satisfying for all. I thoroughly recommend it.

5 stars. Literary thriller perfection.