Sunday, 18 January 2015

Book Review: The Liar's Chair by Rebecca Whitney



The Liar's Chair isn't a novel that eases you gently into the story, on the first page we learn that married Rachel is having an affair and is now driving back home, still drunk from the night before. Within a few pages she will run over and kill a homeless man then conceal his body in nearby woods.
Not a character to warm to then, yet Rachel whilst never a likeable character is at least somebody to pity, unlike her manipulative and abusive husband, David. The Liar's Chair is certainly an unusual book in that it's hard to think of any redeeming qualities for any of its characters; Rachel's lover Will is possibly the easiest to like and he's a cocaine dealer.
Nevertheless despite the lack of protagonists to warm to, this is a book that hooked me, it follows Rachel's life as it spirals unrelentingly out of control, as she goes from being a successful businesswoman in a marriage that to the outside world looked perfect to somebody barely hanging on to her sanity and taking crazy risks that put her life in danger. David is a truly chilling character, an example of the devastating power of the abuser, both verbally and physically.
As the book progresses we gradually learn more about Rachel's past and while her present day actions often can't be excused we do at least understand more about why she has become the woman she is. My only slight criticism would be David's shady double life, it felt a little like over-egging the pudding, we already know he's a bad person but I'm not sure it was completely necessary or entirely believable for the boss of a reality TV production company to also become so involved in organised crime. However, despite my questioning the believability I can't deny it helped ratchet up the tension so I won't say it didn't work, just that it made me raise an eyebrow now and again.
The Liar's Chair isn't a light and cheerful read, it's disturbing and twisted meaning I can't say I enjoyed it as such but it's a brilliantly written and constructed psychological thriller that I couldn't put down.
With thanks to Sam Eades and Mantle, an imprint of Pan Macmillan for my copy of The Liar's Chair, published in the UK now.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Book Review: Death in the Rainy Season by Anna Jacquiery



Death in the Rainy Season is the second novel in the Commandant Serge Morel series but true to form I haven't yet read the first book, The Lying-Down room. It's always a concern when reading subsequent books in a series without having read the first, do I need prior knowledge of the characters for this book to make sense? Thankfully in the case of Death in the Rainy Season the answer is no and while I intend to read the first book now I felt this one can be read and enjoyed as a standalone book as well as part of a series.
Set in Cambodia, the story begins with a break-in and we almost immediately learn there has been a murder, the house-breaker knew the victim but at this point we don't know if he was responsible for his death. We soon find out the victim was Hugo Quercy, a Frenchman working for a NGO, Kids at Risk. Crucially he was the nephew of the French Interior Minister who is concerned there may be a political scandal and so Commandant Morel, currently holidaying in the country his mother was born in, is reluctantly brought in to assist on the case.
Death in the Rainy Season isn't a heart-racing thriller, instead what we're given is a novel superbly crafted to slowly remove the layers as secrets and lies are gradually revealed. Often dark and with an uncompromising look at the seedier side of life it's a deeper and ultimately more fulfilling book, one to immerse yourself in, with its vivid descriptions of Cambodia and in particular Phnom Penh. It's more than just a crime novel, exploring as it does the effects of Pol Pot's brutal regime, both on families who lived through it and those who managed to flee. If I have any criticism it would be that perhaps the subplot was tied up a little too easily, I'd have liked a little more tension there first. However, this is only a minor gripe and this is a compelling novel I thoroughly enjoyed.
With many thanks to Sam Eades and Mantle, an imprint of Pan Macmillan for my ARC, Death in the Rainy Season will be published in the UK on 9th April 2015.