Two new titles featuring DI Callanach and DCI Turner


Helen Fields has recently added two new titles to her Scotland-based police procedural series that began with Perfect Remains and continued with Perfect Prey and Perfect Death.

Perfect Silence gets off to a gruesome start. When the  body of a young girl is found, pathologists are called in and discover that a doll has been carved from the victim’s skin. Soon, another victim is found and it looks like there will be more unless DCI Ava Turner and DI Luc Callanach can get to the bottom of what is going on. 

Perfect Silence is the fourth title in the Helen Fields Scotland-based police procedural series. Hot on its heels comes the fifth, Perfect Crime which opens with a 30-something year-old man about to jump off a bridge. Stephen Berry is talked down by suicide prevention counsellor Rune McClure but within days Stephen is found dead, having apparently fallen from a castle at the top of a cliff. Before long, DI Luc Callanach and DCI Ava Turner are on the case, trying to discover whether the death was suicide or something more sinister. When further apparent suicides follow, things begin to look very murky.

What I liked most about Perfect Crime is how Helen Fields is developing the characters of some of the police officers that Callanach and Turner work — Lively, Overbeck and Tripp in particular. The relationship between Callanach and Turner also moves forward in Perfect Crime although perhaps not in an entirely believable way. I thought there was perhaps too much crammed into the ending of Perfect Crime and that it took away from what was otherwise a good read. Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to the next instalment in this series.

[Disclosure: I read an advance copy of Perfect Crime via Netgalley]

Powerful and moving — Notes to Self by Emilie Pine

The blurb: Emilie Pine speaks to the business of living as a woman in the 21st century – its extraordinary pain and its extraordinary joy. Courageous, humane and uncompromising, she writes with radical honesty on birth and death, on the grief of infertility, on caring for her alcoholic father, on taboos around female bodies and female pain, on sexual violence and violence against the self. Devastatingly poignant and profoundly wise – and joyful against the odds – Notes to Self offers a portrait not just of its author but of a whole generation.

These vividly told and highly readable personal essay touched a chord with me for the raw, honest way they deal with everyday experiences — particularly female experiences from menarche through peri-menopause to middle-age.

The collection opens with a powerful account of Pine’s experience of the Greek healthcare system. She tells of the difficulties she encountered finding care for her father during his hospitalisation in Corfu for a serious alcohol-related condition. She reflects on the challenges families face when their loved one is an addict — of picking up after them when they are not able to look after themselves and of how it is not just practically taxing but metaphysically difficult. It hardens the heart.

The second essay — “From the Baby Years” — recounts Pine’s  experience of miscarriage and infertility. She describes the emotional and physical pain she went through while trying to conceive and the added heartache that came with the unexpected loss of her baby niece.

Then comes  a piece reflecting on Pine’s parents’ separation and her experience of being a go-between when communication broke down. 

“Notes on Bleeding & Other Crimes” is a strong essay on menstruation that captures intensely personal, unspoken experiences many women will relate to. 

For me, these four essays outshine the final two pieces — “Something about Me” which reflects on Pine’s troubled adolescence and “This is not on the Exam” which covers her experiences as an academic, teaching, researching, chasing funding and on the conference circuit.

All in all, though, a highly-readable collection. I enjoyed it. 

[Disclosure: I read an advance copy via Netgalley.]

The Last of Us by Rob Ewing | An engrossing read

Set on a remote island off the coast of Scotland, The Last of Us is the story of six children who have survived some kind of plague that took the lives of their parents and the other islanders.

All communication with the outside world has been lost. With no adults to rely on, the children must use their individual skills and imaginations to survive. Each new day involves searching for supplies — the food, water and medicines that they need to keep going. All of the children have lost their parents — either through death or through a parent being absent for one reason or another. Each is troubled by this loss and their grief influences their behaviour in different ways. Memory is important to all of them and they collaborate to preserve what they can remember of the past. They also keep to routines that help them maintain social order and respect the dead.

Mixed reviews

I really liked this book and am curious what other readers think. Reviews seem to be mixed with some readers thinking that the narrator’s voice is occasionally too adult for an eight-year old child. To be honest, I didn’t particularly notice this — perhaps because I was so caught up in the storytelling that it didn’t bother me.

Overall, The Last of Us held my attention from the first page to the end. So, for what it’s worth, I found Rob Ewing’s book an engrossing read and am  happy to give it the thumbs up. I think young adult readers in particular might like it. In terms of comparison with other novels, it reminded me of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and William Golding’s The Lord of the Flies.

[Disclosure: I received an advance review copy]