Our Little Cruelties by Liz Nugent – unexpected twists and a satisfying ending

Our Little Cruelties is a character-driven novel about three brothers — Will, Brian and Luke Drumm — and the rivalries of their family life.

The story begins at a funeral. One of the brothers is dead but we don’t find out which one until the end of the novel.

Timelines move back and forth from the brothers’ childhood through into their adult lives. The story unfolds slowly, switching between individual points of view and revealing key events that help us understand how each brother became the man he is.

Different but alike, each life story is both influenced by and impacts the brothers’ wider family, work and social relationships. Individual actions have consequences in this novel, often lasting and terrible.

As in her earlier novels, Unravelling Oliver and Skin Deep, Liz Nugent manages to make us feel sympathy for unlikeable characters in a tightly-woven story with unexpected twists, nicely wrapped up in a satisfying ending.

[Disclosure: Review copy from the publisher, Penguin received via Netgalley.]

Strangers by C.L. Taylor – a thriller with loneliness at its heart

The three main characters in CL Taylor’s Strangers have led entirely separate lives up to the moment when fate brings them together at a death scene in a Bristol shopping centre.

Ursula, a courier and occasional shoplifter, is a lonely, but sympathetic character, who has lost the lover of her life Nathan. Despite her light-fingered ways, which see her evicted by her flatmates, there is a kindness in Ursula which comes out strongly at certain points in Strangers and makes her more likeable than she perhaps appears at first sight. She’s impulsive, with a tendency to land herself in sticky situations that sometimes force her to make bad decisions. One such situation is, involves her decision to move in with a creepy landlord who actually gave me nightmares at one point when reading this novel

Gareth, a security guard in the shopping centre and a carer for his elderly mother also plays a key role Strangers, part of the significance of which only emerges towards the end of the novel.

Meanwhile the third character, Alice, recently back on the dating scene, is being stalked in a threatening way that seems to have something to do with her new boyfriend. But who is the stalker and why are they targeting Alice?

What I liked about Strangers is that the characters are individually strong and interesting. I also liked the short chapters, which make Strangers easy to pick up and put down again without losing the thread of the story.

Previously on this blog, I reviewed another CL Taylor novel, The Accident – a psychological thriller about an emotionally unstable mother determined to find out why her daughter deliberately stepped in front of a bus. You can find that review here.

Strangers by CL Taylor is published by Avon, a division of Harper Collins.

[Disclosure: I received an advance proof copy].

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]