Jenner, Natalie (2020) The Jane Austen Society. Orion Books. A few months after the end of WW2 Jane Austen’s cherished home in Chawton, Hampshire, comes under threat. A disparate group of village Janeites come together to form a society to preserve Jane’s home and legacy, each with their own story of loss and trauma. As new friendships form and Jane’s story is revealed the pain of the past begins to heal and hope arises. Uplifting little romantic tale. Rating: 8/10.
Aitken, Molly (2020) The Island Child. Canongate. Oona grew up on a remote rocky island off the coast of Ireland, in the 1950s, where the Bible ruled and girls stayed at home with their mothers until they became mothers themselves. Her resentful and fearful mother keeps Oona close to save her from temptation. As soon as she is old enough Oona flees the island for Canada but her past travels with her and she fails to connect with her own daughter. Her eventual homecoming brings solace and redemption. Steeped in Irish myth and folklore this is a story filled with superstition, secrets and sadness. A darkly mysterious coming-of-age tale. Rating: 8/10.
Marshall, Owen (2019) Pearly Gates. Vintage. Pat ‘Pearly’ Gates is the mayor in a small provincial South Island town, he runs a successful real estate agency and is a former representative rugby player. He is happy, popular and proud of his achievements, but like all of us he is flawed and human. He becomes increasingly aware that not everything is ‘peachy’ in his life and that his complacency and pomposity may have something to do with it. Marshall’s dry humour and ability to tell personal stories about people and place makes this an engaging and insightful story. Loved it!. Rating: 9/10.
Mejia, Mindy (2020) Strike Me Down. Simon & Schuster. Nora Brier is a renowned forensic accountant who catches thieves. When $20m in prize money goes missing days before a major tournament Nora is called in. The tournament hosts are the husband and wife owners of Strike – Logan Russo, the legendary face of the feminist kickboxing empire and marketing genius Gregg Abbott. Both have secrets but which one is is trying to sabotage the tournament? Nora has a personal connection to both Logan and Gregg – will her famed independence be compromised? This brutal tale of lies, ambition and obsession is unexpected and grabs you from the beginning. Makes accounting seem sexy. Rating: 8.5/10.
Farrow, Ronan (2019) Catch and Kill: Lies, spies and a conspiracy to protect predators. Fleet. A routine television investigation into sexual harassment in Hollywood leads to a major piece of journalism about serial abusers and the deeply entrenched conspiracy of corruption and silence that surrounds them. In chasing the Harvey Weinstein story, Farrow exposes a vehement culture of resistance and denial of wrongdoing, elicit media practices, sabotage and prevarication at the highest levels, sinister operatives, and other sexual transgressions by the rich and powerful. At its heart is the victimisation of so many women and the brutish strategies used to keep them quiet. This is meticulously documented investigative journalism, with the pace of a thriller, handled with empathy. Well deserving of the Pulitzer. Wow! Rating: 9/10.
Baker, Chandler (2019) Whisper Network. Hachette. Ames is the General Counsel in the legal department of Truviv Inc, in line to become the Dallas athleisure company’s new CEO, but he is a man surrounded by whispers. Sloane, Ardie, Grace and Rosalita are watching his rise with horror – enough is enough! As the whispers become a roar, lies are uncovered, and secrets exposed – the sisterhood tales control. A spirited #MeToo rebellion and revenge fantasy. Rating: 8/10.
Snow, Richard (2019) Disney’s Land: Walt Disney and the Invention of the Amusement Park that Changed the World. Scribner. In the early 1950s Walt Disney imagined building a theme park on 240 acres of farmland in Anaheim, California. Snow’s carefully researched history of the park tells, in extraordinary detail, of a vision that becomes reality. Against overwhelming odds Walt Disney persevered, initially financing the park with his own life insurance policy. On 17 July 1955 Disneyland opened its gates, and the rest is history. Wonderous. Rating: 8.5/10.
Grisham, John (2020) Camino Winds. Doubleday. In the midst of a devastating hurricane Bruce Cable’s (Camino Island) friend, author Nelson Kerr, mysteriously dies. Who would want Nelson dead? Is there a link to his new novel? The local police are overwhelmed in the aftermath of the storm, so Bruce and his literary crowd start to investigate. There are lots of unexpected twists and plenty of trouble in paradise. Leisurely whodunit. Rating: 8/10.
Lackberg, Camilla (2019) The Gilded Cage. Harper Collins. Faye Adelheim is trapped in a perfect life as a cosseted wife. She has everything she has ever wanted. When it all goes wrong she won’t go down without a fight – her husband Jack has totally underestimated her and her capacity to turn rage into payback. This revenge romp by Swedish thriller queen Lackberg won’t disappoint. Rating: 8/10.
Coben, Harlan (2020) The Boy from the Woods. Grand Central. Coben has a new hero, Wilde. Thirty years ago Wilde was found living feral in the woods, and he still does not know who he is. When an outcast schoolgirl goes missing her story resonates, and draws him into a world of dark secrets that unearths a heady mix of bullying, kidnapping, incriminating videotapes, politics, and fake news. Wilde must use his unique set of skills to solve the mystery. Plenty of subplots, action and intrigue. Room for a sequel. OK read. Rating: 8/10.
Walker, Martin (2020) The Shooting at Chateau Rock: A Bruno, Chief of Police Novel. Knopf. The suspicious death of a local farmer has links to a shadowy Russian oligarch. Bruno’s languid investigations lead him to a conniving notaire and insurance agent, with ties to a luxurious retirement home and international criminals, and an ageing rock star. Although a bit light on mystery and action, it is still a mouthwatering tale of the Perigord and the delightful pantheon of characters we have met over previous adventures. The 13th time we have had the pleasure of Bruno’s company. Rating: 8.5/10.
Mantel, Hilary (2020) The Mirror & The Light. 4th Estate. In May 1536 Anne Boleyn is dead. In the final volume of Mantel’s trilogy, that began with Wolf Hall (2009) and continued with Bring Up the Bodies (2012), we follow her epic hero Thomas Cromwell through his final years, between 1536 and 1540, when he is at the height of his power, but always subject to the will of a capricious King. Cromwell, a master of the manoeuvre, the architect Tudor policy and reform, is set on remaking England but is constantly in battle with his aristocratic foes. It is his focus on an alliance with the German Protestant states through Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne of Cleves, that ultimately brings about his downfall. Meticulously researched portrait of the 16th-century and likely to be a contender for this year’s Booker. Solid read at 882 pages, so give yourself time to enjoy. Rating: 9/10.