Friday, 27 January 2017

Book Review - Burned and Broken by Mark Hardie

A vulnerable young woman, fresh out of the care system, is trying to discover the truth behind the sudden death of her best friend.

The charred body of a policeman - currently the subject of an internal investigation - is found in the burnt-out-shell of his car on the Southend seafront.

To DS Frank Pearson and DC Catherine Russell of the Essex Police Major Investigation Team, the two events seem unconnected. But as they dig deeper into their colleague's murder, dark secrets begin to emerge.

Can Pearson and Russell solve both cases, before more lives are destroyed?

Burned and Broken isn't a glossy thriller with a maverick cop solving cases in his own rule breaking way. Indeed the policeman who best fits the description of a maverick is the murder victim, Sean Carragher. Instead the officers investigating the case, DS Frank Pearson and DC Catherine (Cat) Russell have to grind out the truth, knowing the media, public and their superior officers are breathing down their necks demanding arrests. However, Carragher had been under investigation, suspected at the very least of financial irregularities. Can they solve his murder without casting bad light on the Force? Burned and Broken is a character led novel, the action often moves slowly which doesn't make for a heart racing thriller but does feel entirely believable. Pearson and Russell are both very ordinary, somewhat melancholy characters, likewise other characters throughout the book are complex, often seedy individuals with dark secrets and frequently unhappy lives. Although set in Southend I felt Burned and Broken has a Scandi noir feeling about it, although the murders are eventually solved not all the ends are neatly tied up and the actions of the protagonists aren't always entirely honourable. This is not a black and white novel and is all the better for it, the complexities and frustrations of modern policing are realistically observed and while the lack of a neat ending may be annoying for those who like a story to feel completed, I felt it was more believable finishing as it did. In all an accomplished and enjoyable debut from Mark Hardie.
Many thanks to the publishers for my ARC and for inviting me to take part in the Burned and Broken blog tour. Don't forget to check out the #BurnedandBroken hashtag on Twitter for more reviews and news about the book.

Burned and Broken is published by Sphere, an imprint of Little, Brown Books and is currently available in hardback and e-book format.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Book Review - Relativity by Antonia Hayes

Ethan is an exceptionally gifted young boy, obsessed with physics and astronomy.

His single mother Claire is fiercely protective of her brilliant, vulnerable son. But she can't shield him forever from learning the truth about what happened to him when he was a baby; why Mark had to leave them all those years ago.

Now age twelve, Ethan is increasingly curious about his past, especially his father's absence in his life. When he intercepts a letter to Claire from Mark, he opens a lifetime of feelings that, like gravity, will pull the three together again.

Relativity is a tender and triumphant story about unbreakable bonds, irreversible acts, and testing the limits of love and forgiveness.

Back in my school days I had to be given special permission to study all three sciences for my GCSEs (this was in the days when they were studied as Biology, Chemistry and  Physics and not grouped together as Science). However, Physics was my worst subject and to this day it remains a shock that I scraped a B! So I'm no Ethan and a quick flick through the chapter headings of Relativity gave me pause for thought - Time and Space were okay for this Whovian but Inertia? Entropy? Antimatter? Was this going to be a bit too science and not enough fiction?
The answer, I'm pleased to say is a categorical no! Relativity isn't actually a SF novel at all, it's actually a thoughtful and nuanced study of relationships, of how past events may shape the present but the truth can be twisted or hidden, and questions if forgiveness is possible. The story is told in the third person but different chapters focus on the three main characters, Ethan, Claire and Mark. Ethan is the heart of the book, he's immensely likeable, fiercely intelligent and yet still undeniably a child, and one who needs to learn the truth about his past before it engulfs him. Claire, his mother is a single parent, she is very protective of her son and at first it seems as though this is solely due to his intelligence marking him out as different from his peers and a target for bullies but as we slowly learn more about the truth of what happened to him as a baby we realise there is much more to the story. Mark, Ethan's father is a complex character who re-enters Ethan's life at a time when he is on the verge of adolescence and filled with questions about why he is like this, and what caused his dad to leave. As we slowly learn the shocking reasons for Mark's estrangement it would have been easy to portray his character as a monster but this is a much more complex novel and instead the book looks at how even the most heinous of acts aren't the whole story, guilt, fear, love and a desire to protect mean a more convoluted truth than the simple facts.
Antonia Hayes has written a powerful debut novel, I loved Relativity, it's a brave and honest look at complex issues, with a warmth that doesn't descend into sentimentality and doesn't shy away from discussing the violent and brutal but never feels gratuitous. Certain books stay with you long after you've finished reading them, Relativity will be one of those books for me.

Many thanks to the publishers for my advance copy received in return for my review. Relativity is published in the UK by Corsair and is available in paperback now.