Clean Break by David Klein

Clean Break is a psychological thriller that tells the story of Celeste Vanek, a graphic designer, married to Adam and mother to a nine-year old son, Spencer. When the novel opens, Celeste is in the process of leaving home driven out by Adam’s compulsive gambling, temper and physical violence.

While Celeste wants a ‘clean break’, Adam wants to hold on to his wife and son and, before long, there is a violent episode during which Celeste is rescued by Jake Atwood, a computer business development executive at the company where Adam works.

As a witness to the violence, Jake becomes involved with Adam and Celeste. Meanwhile, Jake’s relationship with married police woman, Sara Montez, is set to become an important element in the plot.

As the novel unfolds the ethical choices faced by Celeste, Adam, Jake and Sara and the consequences of their choices become the driving force of the plot. Klein presents strong and believable characters and this reads like a novel that would translate well for the screen.

While Adam is the villain of the piece, each of the main characters makes decisions that are morally questionable giving the reader much to think about, not least whether a ‘clean break’ is ever really possible, which makes the book a good choice for book clubs. There is even a list of discussion points included at the end.

A paperback edition of  Clean Break  was provided free of charge by the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Clean Break by David Klein by David Klein is published by Broadway Paperbacks. New York, 2012.

ISBN 978-0-307-716835-5.

eISBN 978-0-307-59025-1

Published 5 June 2012.

The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D : A Novel by Nichole Bernier

The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D is an insightful novel about friendship and marriage that is a beautifully written and compelling read. It is also a thoughtful and thought-provoking examination the impact of fatalism and determinism on friendships and marriages in the post 9/11 world.

When The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D opens, post 9/11, Elizabeth has died in a plane crash leaving behind a husband, Dave, and three young children. She and Dave had an apparently happy marriage — friends enjoyed socialising at their house where children had space to play and adults could relax and talk.

From her early teens, Elizabeth had kept a journal and recorded her thoughts, described day to day experiences and meditated on her relationships. In her will, she left instructions that her friend Kate should read these journals. We don’t know why she has selected Kate over Dave for this task or what she hoped that Kate would take away from the exercise.

Elizabeth’s journals are both fascinating and a burden for Kate who realises how little she really knew her friend. Certainly, Elizabeth’s life experiences had left her with a bleak view of friendship and marriage: “In the end I go back to that same feeling I’ve always had about confidences. The other person rarely has anything useful to offer and usually you leave feeling no better, sometimes worse.”

As Kate reads the journals and reflects on Elizabeth’s often troubled writing, she too questions how much anyone really can know another person.

By leaving the journals to Kate, Elizabeth creates a tension between Dave and Kate that comes to the fore as Kate becomes  increasingly absorbed in the journals. From the journals, Kate learns more than she might have wished to know about the problems in Elizabeth’s marriage. This new knowledge comes as a burden but it also brings her closer to Elizabeth and makes her miss her even more.

Throughout the journals, we  see that Elizabeth was always aware of the complex interrelationship between fatalism and choice. As she puts it, “It was the opposite of fatalism, this stark recognition of the effects of choices that had not seemed much like choices at the time.”

And, the more she reads, the more Kate herself begins to muse on the fatalistic choices and consequences that determine lives.

This is a skillful and a well told tale that is driven forward by a good mystery but at its heart The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D is a serious novel that tackles universal themes and will leave you mulling on the issues it raises long after you close the covers.

An advance copy of  The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D  was provided free of charge by the publisher for the purpose of this review.

The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. : a novel by Nichole Bernier is published by Crown Publishing, New York, 2012.
ISBN 978-0-307-88780-1
eISBN 978-0-307-88781-8

Published: 05 June 2012


Before Ever After by Samantha Sotto

“I’m only here because you needed a storyteller,” Shelley Gallus tells Paolo Rossi in Before Ever After by Samantha Rossi. And, in a way, that sums up the structure of Sotto’s original and very entertaining first novel which has as its theme the human dilemma of wanting to build permanent relationships in lives that are inherently impermanent.

Before Ever After is a love story but it is more than that: part romance, part historical novel, part mystery and part fairy tale it is an unusual and accomplished novel that has good pace and style.

It tells the story of Max Gallus — an attractive Dr Who-like figure —  who is a tour guide with an unusual affection for chickens.

Max runs his tour business from a battered VW minibus which he uses to ferry clients to locations of  minor historical interest across Europe. It is through this business that he meets and marries Shelley and she hears him recount stories of a family whose members’ lives touched on various historical events across Europe including the French Revolution and the destruction of Herculaneum  in AD 79.

When Before Ever After opens, Max has been dead for about three years. His widow, Shelley, is just beginning to emerge from a period of deep grieving when Paolo Rossi turns up on her doorstep looking uncannily like Max and claiming to be his grandson. The mystery kicks off from this point and, together, Paolo and Shelley fly to the Phillipines in search of answers. Their conversation over the course of that long flight provides the framework for the novel as they piece together what they know of Max’s life.

Once the story gets underway, Before Ever After is an enjoyable and entertaining page turner. Samantha Sotto builds momentum and suspense and never loses the attention of her reader.

A paperback edition of  Before Ever After  was provided free of charge by the publisher for the purpose of this review. 

Before Ever After by Samantha Sotto is published by Broadway Paperbacks. ISBN 978-0-307-71988-1. eISBN 978-0-307-71989-8