I was a reading machine again in April managing to get through 18 books. Those looming blog tours and publication dates sure do focus the reading brain! There were some five star reads and a few that fell just short of that….but no stinkers!
Click on the book title to read my full review.
First up we have Things Bright and Beautiful by Anbara Salam. If you haven’t already been getting warm feelings about this book because of that gorgeous cover can I also tell you that it is set in the 1950s on a remote island of the New Hebrides. Yes, I had to look up where they were as well. It’s the island nation now known as Vanuatu. I described Things Bright and Beautiful as the love child of Black Narcissus, Heart of Darkness and Wide Sargasso Sea. I also thought it an impressive and imaginative debut with a great sense of place.
Next up is The Black Earth by Philip Kazan. The book explores the theme of chance encounters and connections, starting in 1922 when Zoë and Tom briefly meet as young children in the chaos of Piraeus harbour. Years later, fate or destiny will throw them together again in another chance meeting. Apart from the wonderful story, what I loved about The Black Earth was that, although it unflinchingly portrays the chaos and breakdown of society in time of war, it demonstrates there are still opportunities for random acts of kindness. This was a five star read for me – even it did put me though the emotional wringer.
More historical fiction, this time of the crime variety set in Cambridge in 1939. In the first of a new series, The Great Darkness by Jim Kelly introduces the reader to Inspector Eden Brooke. A ‘nighthawk’ because of his sensitivity to light sustained as a result of his experiences in the First World War, he is tasked with investigating a corpse found on the riverside, the body torn apart by some unspeakable force. He enlists his fellow ‘nighthawks’ across the city to assist in the investigation. The combination of atmospheric setting, period detail, absorbing mystery and interesting characters ticked all the boxes for me. I’ll be eagerly looking out for the next book in the series.
My fourth choice is set partly in World War 2 and partly in 1956 – Prussian Blue by Philip Kerr. It was one of the books on the longlist for The Walter Scott Prize 2018, although it didn’t make the shortlist. Prussian Blue is the twelfth book featuring the author’s ‘anti-hero’, Bernie Gunther. It’s my first experience of the series – trust me to come in at number twelve in a series – and I absolutely loved it. Great plot, great characterisation and a terrific mystery for Bernie to solve. Guess what? My wishlist just went up by eleven – no, in fact, twelve because the latest book in the series, Greeks Bearing Gifts, has recently been published. Unfortunately, this will be the end of the line for Bernie because his creator, Philip Kerr, sadly died recently.
Finally there is The Good Father by S. R. Wilsher. This book was kindly sent to me by the author and has been languishing on my review pile for some time. (Who said, ‘too long’?) Opening in the war torn city of Sarajevo as Effie and her brother, Ajan, struggle to survive, the story then moves forward in time twenty years to an attempted assassination attempt on the British Foreign Secretary. What links these two events? Can ex-Army officer Nathan Lane get to the bottom of it? Well, The Good Father kept me guessing right until the end. It’s an accomplished thriller that demonstrates some people have long memories and, as the saying goes, that revenge is a dish best served cold.
Definitely plenty for historical fiction fans in this month’s selection. (By the way, well done to Allison and Busby for getting two of their titles – The Great Darkness and The Black Earth – on my list this month!) What were your favourite reads in April?