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]

Skin Deep by Liz Nugget | Compelling psychological drama

The title may be Skin Deep but there is nothing superficial about the characters in Liz Nugent’s third novel. 

The story opens with Cordelia Russel in a room where she has just murdered somebody and is wondering when rigor mortis will set in.

Born on a remote Irish island, Cordelia has been living on the French Riviera for twenty-five years, passing herself off as an English socialite. But her luck has run out. And we find out why as her story slowly unfolds over the coming chapters.

Like Liz Nugent’s earlier novels — Unravelling Oliver and Lying in Wait  Skin Deep is dark. Cordelia is not a likeable character but slowly you come to understand at least some of the reasons why she behaves as she does. And those reasons go back to her early life on the island, particularly her relationship with her father and the expectations he encouraged during her childhood — expectations grounded in myth and dark storytelling.

There are a lot layers to explore in this novel — island life with its hardship, secrets and tight community, family jealousies, betrayal, myth, charity, home, retribution, the elements of fire and water, earth and the mercurial nature of Cordelia herself.

This is carefully crafted novel where the threads are well interwoven and expertly tied together in a satisfying conclusion.

Chaos by Patricia Cornwell | Slow-moving Scarpetta investigation

Chaos opens on a hot summer evening in Cambridge, Massachusetts with Dr. Kay Scarpetta on her way to meet her husband FBI agent Benton Wesley for dinner. Before they get a chance to eat, however, Scarpetta and her investigative partner Pete Marino have to respond to a call about a young woman cyclist who has been attacked. 

But even before they are officially notified about the case, Marino and Benton receive suspicious calls, allegedly from someone at Interpol who already knows what has happened. Then it emerges that the attack may be linked to threatening messages Scarpetta has been receiving by email.

This is a slow moving novel, particularly in the early chapters. It picks up after a while but, for me at least, it’s not one of the better novels in the Scarpetta series.