Intricate and intriguing murder thriller from PD Viner

It is generally a good sign when a novel grabs your attention from the first page and The Last Winter of Dani Lancing achieves just that by introducing us to the key characters and setting up a murder mystery that piques curiosity and will keep you turning the pages.

We are introduced to Dani and her father Jim and it quickly becomes clear that something has happened to Dani which continues to have a huge impact on her father.

Before long, we realise that Dani is, in fact, a ghost and that Jim and his wife Patty have separated some time after Dani was murdered.

Patty, a journalist determined to find the person responsible for hurting her daughter, is initially terrifying and her quest for the truth drives much of the action in this intricately plotted novel.

Other key players are Tom Bevans, a young policeman who was in love with Dani at the time that she was killed, and the family of the prime suspect, Duncan Cobhurn.

This is an impressive debut novel that is part part psychological thriller, part ghost story, part crime and part murder mystery.As the story unfolds, the threads linking these various characters become increasingly interwoven in a complex and intriguing manner. While there are, perhaps, a few too many twists in the tale, there is no denying that The Last Winter of Dani Lancing will grip many readers’ attention to the very last page.

As the action plays out towards the end of the novel, I could visualise it as a scene from a movie and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see The Last Winter of Dani Lancing making it on to our screens before long.

The Last Winter of Dani Lancing is published by Crown (2013). ISBN 9780804136822; eISBN 9780804136839.

[Disclosure: An advance copy was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.]

Gripping Psychological Thriller from Koren Zailckas

I love when a book grabs me from the first page and Koren Zailckas’s debut novel Mother, Mother did just that.This is a skilfully crafted and suspenseful dark story about a very disturbed family. The writing is beautifully controlled — the tension builds gradually and every sentence moves the story forward. The characters are believable and the suspense is maintained right to the end of the novel. Did I say I loved this book?

On the surface, the Hursts maintain the appearance of a normal family. The father, Douglas, works for an IT company and appears to lead a normal life. But Douglas is an alcoholic who doesn’t pay enough attention to what is going on in his own house.

Meanwhile, the mother, Josephine, raises our suspicions from the very first page where we see the first of many signs that all is not quite right in her relationship with her youngest child, William.

William finds himself at the centre of a family storm that brings the Child Protection Service into the Hurst family but not before his older sister, Violet, finds herself locked up in a psychiatric hospital.

Meanwhile William’s eldest sister, Rose, has apparently left home to live with a boyfriend, Damien Koch but it quickly becomes clear that all was not well in Rose’s family relationships. The question is, where is Rose? Is she lurking just out of sight and playing tricks on Josephine? Has she been having an illicit affair with a married man? Or has she simply set up home and found a new life with Damien?

Koren Zailckas’s inspiration for Mother, Mother is apparently drawn from her own childhood. Whatever her inspiration, she has written a cracker of a first novel. Let’s hope we see more from her soon!

Mother, Mother is published by Crown.[Disclosure: An advance reader’s copy was provided by the publisher.]

If you like this type of fiction, you might also like The Accident by CL Taylor.



The Racketeer — Another Legal Thriller from John Grisham

The Racketeer by John Grisham is the latest thriller to catch my eye

It has been a while since I last read John Grisham.  His earlier novels —  A Time to Kill and The Pelican Brief in particular — are enjoyable legal thrillers and having spotted The Racketeer on a list of recently published fiction, I purchased the Kindle edition and was looking forward to reading it.

The opening is promising — Malcolm Bannister, a lawyer, is half way through a ten year jail sentence having been convicted of a money laundering offence. His wife has left him and his only visitor is his father, Henry.

When a judge is murdered, Malcolm claims to know the killer and uses a legal strategem — Rule 35 — to trade information with the FBI that helps them to catch the killer which gets Malcolm out of jail with a new identity.

On the positive side, the plot of The Racketeer is okay —  perhaps a little far-fetched — and there is enough suspense — just about — to keep you turning the pages but the characters lack depth which makes sticking with the story more of an effort than it might otherwise have been. I couldn’t help thinking that The Racketeer would work better as a movie than it does in print. As a novel, it seemed to me overly long and rather flat. I was a full 50% into the Kindle edition before I felt engaged with the story and although I persisted to the end, overall I found The Racketeer a disappointing read.