August Picks

Riddell, Shona (2020) Guiding Lights: The Extraordinary Lives of Lighthouse Women. Exisle.

Women have a long history of keeping the lights burning, yet their stories are generally not well-known. Lighthouses are a beacon of fascination for many, including me, and it is the intrepid and the brave keepers of the light that are the inspiration behind this book. Riddell explores the romance and reality of lighthouse keeping around the world, including chronicling the lives of heroic and isolated female keepers, accompanied by photos, paintings, portraits and poems. Impressive treasury of new insights into women’s work.

Rating: 8.5/10

DeCarolis, Stephanie (2021) The Guilty Husband. HQ.

Vince Taylor has a perfect life – successful CEO of his own tech firm, married to Nicole the love of his life, and the owner of a beautiful home – that is until he messes it all up by having an affair with Layla, one of his interns, who later turns up dead. Vince becomes the obvious suspect for her murder. He will do anything to prove his innocence and keep the police from his door. Is it true that it only takes one lie to destroy a life, and a marriage? Psych thriller with a unexpected twist.

Rating: 8/10

Steadman, Catherine (2021) The Disappearing Act. Simon & Schuster.

Mia Elliot is on the verge international stardom. Following huge success in the UK she travels to LA for the pilot season, ready to do what it takes. A favour to a fellow auditioner turns into a dangerous mystery when she is the only witness to a sudden disappearance. Mia discovers the dark side of Hollywood and starts to doubt her own sanity as she desperately tries to find answers. A psychological thriller about the cutthroat competition of Hollywood and the murky industry of creating illusions. An uncomfortable sense of foreboding throughout.

Rating: 8/10

Miranda, Megan (2021) Such a Quiet Place. Corvus.

Hollow’s Edge is a quiet and close neighbourhood, in an idyllic setting, that is until the Truetts are found dead. Ruby Fletcher, is convicted of murdering them. When Ruby is set free some fourteen months later by mistrial, she returns to the home of her old housemate Harper Nash, determined that someone will pay, and in the process sets the outraged neighbours against one another. Although Ruby has always been duplicitous Harper realises she must uncover the truth to save her neighbourhood, and herself. Claustrophobic thriller, with a classic ‘village’ mystery vibe.

Rating: 8/10

Moggach, Deborah (2021) The Black Dress. Tinder Press.

Pru is about to turn seventy when her husband leaves her for her best friend. Her self-pity and loneliness become overwhelming until she inadvertently attends the wrong funeral service. So, she buys a little black dress at a charity shop and discovers funerals are perfect for pick-ups and lots of adventures ensue. Well-observed plot about life’s changes and the unexpected pleasures and challenges of being alone. Moggach does it again – it is lovely to find a writer whose stories have aged with her over the decades. Funny and tender.

Rating: 8.5/10

Stone, Brad (2021) Amazon Unbound: Jeff Bezos and the Invention of a Global Empire. Simon & Schuster.

The unprecedented rise and rise of Jeff Bezos and Amazon is recounted in Stone’s remarkable sequel, of sorts, to his earlier work The Everything Store. The evolution of Amazon and Bezos himself from the dramatic innovations and costly missteps, to the micromanagement, the wielding of unbridled power and the making of a trillion dollar company (and richest man in history) are all covered in this business portrait, with some juicy bits such as the frenzy around HQ2 and Bezos’ marital breakup. Frenetic, revelatory and momentous – one wonders how unbounded Amazon will be from now on without Bezos at the helm.

Rating: 8.5/10

Bailey, Anna (2021) Tall Bones. Doubleday.

In the claustrophobic small town of Whistling Ridge, Colorado, seventeen-year-old schoolgirl Abigail goes missing following a party in the woods. It is assumed she has run away. Her best friend Emma seeks answers but the bigotry, racism, misogyny, fundamentalism and long-held secrets of a fractured close-knit community get in the way. An atmospheric, although brutal and totally depressing, tale of people trapped by trauma and ignorance.

Rating: 8.5/10

Walker, Martin (2021) The Coldest Case. Quercus.

Climate change has come to the Dordogne with tinder dry summer drought conditions a threat to historic sites and woodland. Meantime in a gastronomic travelogue Bruno and his friends, in their fourteenth outing, are still enjoying life in the Périgord alongside fighting wildfires and solving a cold case with links to the Stasi. Bruno as per usual keeps his head and becomes the hero of the moment. An annual delight.

Rating: 8.5/10

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