Genuine Fraud by E Lockhart

Like Lockhart’s earlier work, Genuine Fraud explore themes of privilege, truth and lies.

In an author’s note, E Lockhart lists her sources of inspiration for Genuine Fraud.  They include Victorian orphan stories, con artist tales and narratives of class mobility. She talks about stories told backwards and tales of female ambition. Much of this filters through into Genuine Fraud, the story of Jule West-Williams, a young con woman who exploits friendships for personal gain.

Jule is rather like the orphans in Dickens who engage in crime out of necessity. She sees herself as an action hero, physically and mentally strong yet she’s also vulnerable, living on her wits and in constant danger of being uncovered as a fraud.

Like Lockhart’s earlier novel, We Were Liars, Genuine Fraud explores themes of privilege, truth and lies. It’s a story of good and evil, privilege and want, elite and envy. It’s dark and twisty — a tale of self-invention and self-deception. It’s a fast and engaging read.

Jule spends a lot of time worrying about her origin story. She struggles between what she tells herself and what she tells others. Is she disturbed or is she simply dangerous? That’s the question you’ll ask yourself if you decide to read Genuine Fraud.

Disclosure: The publisher provided a review copy via Netgalley.

Perfect Death – the third title in Helen Fields DI Callanach series

If you are a fan of police procedurals, keep an eye out for the third title in Helen Fields DI Callanach series. Due out out this month (January 2018), Perfect Death follows on  Perfect Remains and Perfect Prey.

Perfect Death DI Callanach seriesCallanach is a French-Scottish fictional detective.  Along with his colleagues DCI Ava Turner and DS Lively, he investigates crime, corruption and murder in and around Edinburgh. I like the fast pace and interplay of characters in these novels. They are gritty, but there is also humour and the plots are strong.

In Perfect Death – the third title in Helen Fields DI Callanach series, a serial killer is on the loose in Edinburgh. The killer selects his victims carefully, building close relationships with them before subjecting them to death by poison. His motivation is enjoyment of the grief experienced by those closest to his victims.

A lot to like

There’s a lot to like about Perfect Death.  The pace is fast and the characters, including minor characters, are well drawn. There are nice references back to the earlier titles in the series. There is also good development of the relationships between the main characters.

As well as the main plot which features the murders, there are several subplots. The most important of these involves police corruption.  At times, this reminded me of the BBC Line of Duty series.

Another subplot concerns Callanach’s troubled relationship with his French mother. We are given more insight into why their relationship broke down. Thanks to Turner’s intervention, there are hopeful signs  it may improve in future. If this comes to pass, it will benefit Callanach’s personal life.

I enjoyed the grit and humour in the evolving relationship between Callanach and DS Lively.  There is also a nice undercurrent of romance between Callanach and Turner.

Perfect Death by Helen Fields is published by Avon Books.

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

The Chalk Man by CJ Tudor

This description of The Chalk Man was what first drew me to C.J Tudor’s debut novel.

‘None of us ever agreed on the exact beginning. Was it when we started drawing the chalk figures, or when they started to appear on their own? Was it the terrible accident? Or when they found the first body?’

C.J. Tudor gets off to a strong start — so much so,  I read the first 30 percent of The Chalk Man in a single sitting.

The idea for The Chalk Man is intriguing and slightly scary.

The story opens when a dismembered body is found in the woods. Schoolboy Eddie Adams is the main narrator. He’s an interesting kid who observes a lot of what is going on around him even if he doesn’t always understand what he sees and hears.

Inspired by something a teacher says, Eddie gets the idea of drawing chalk men as a secret code. He and his friends then begin to use the code to leave messages for each other. They use different colours so as to distinguish who drew which message.

The timeline switches between 1986 and 2016. Apart from the discovery of the dismembered body, other troubling events take pace in 1986. Then, as adults, Eddie and his friends each receive a letter containing a chalk stick figure. The letters scare them for different reasons. Each has secrets from the past and reasons to fear discovery.

The more that I read, the more I found myself wondering about the intended audience of The Chalk Man. It may appeal more to the YA market than to adult readers. I felt the characters didn’t really develop as the story progressed. I found this frustrating, particularly in the second half of the book. More frustrating, though, is that when secrets are revealed, they don’t always live up to the promise of The Chalk Man’s strong opening.

That said, this is a fast read and received some great reviews on Goodreads.

[Disclosure: I read an advance copy via Netgalley]