Bitter Fruits (2 July 2015) by Alice Clark-Platts
The premise: This is the first in a series featuring DI Erica Martin. Set in Durham, it follows Martin and her colleagues as they investigate the murder of Emily Brabents, a popular, privileged university student, and depicts 'a close-knit community fuelled by jealousy, obsession and secrets'.
First line: The body was found in the icy coffin of the weir.
What I read: Chapters 1-3 (up to 8% in the ebook).
Would I read the rest of it? Probably not, but I think this has more to do with my dwindling enthusiasm for this type of story than any fault of this particular book. Though the blurb positions it as 'part psychological thriller, part detective novel', Bitter Fruits feels from the start like a police procedural, with a style that's quite refreshing in its straightforwardness. That does change a bit circa chapter 3, when a first-person voice, belonging to a male student with a thing for Emily, is introduced. I also know from other reviews that the plot involves 'cyberbullying' (ugh, that word) and online 'slut-shaming' and, to be honest, I'm not really interested in that; while I love novels that integrate online lives into their stories, I'm getting a bit fed up of the internet-bullying-as-thriller-plot-point thing. Clark-Platts is very good at portraying setting and atmosphere, though, and even a couple of chapters in, the Durham of this book is already very real, and rather seductive despite the subject matter.
Freedom's Child (30 July 2015) by Jax Miller
The premise: A 'heart-stopping debut thriller' about Freedom Oliver, a woman living under a witness protection scheme after being accused of her husband's murder. Her two children have been adopted, but when she finds out her daughter has gone missing, she escapes her handlers and goes in search of her family.
First line: My name is Freedom Oliver and I killed my daughter.
What I read: The prologue and chapters 1-4 (10%).
Would I read the rest of it? I'm cheating a bit with this one: I have in fact already read an extract from it back in March, when I reviewed the Penguin Random House Spring 2015 Debut Fiction Sampler. It's stuck in my head since then, and I couldn't resist reading a bit further in to see how the story would unfold. It's horribly compelling, and Freedom is a great character - a bit of a bag of cliches, maybe, but it's perhaps even more impressive that I instinctively cared about her despite that. Chapters 3 and 4 introduce some truly grotesque supporting characters, indicating that this is a rather darker story than I think I have the stomach for right now. It does, at least, promise to be very gripping, but personally, I doubt I'm going to be reading any more.
The Crooked House (8 January 2015) by Christobel Kent
The premise: Alison is the sole survivor of a family tragedy, and has been living anonymously ever since. When she falls in love, she realises that 'to have any chance of happiness, she must return to her old life and face a closed community full of dark secrets.' (An uncannily similar-sounding outline to Freedom's Child above!)
First line: When it starts again she is face down on her bed with her hands over her ears and she feels it more than hears it.
What I read: The prologue and chapters 1-3 (5%).
Would I read the rest of it? No. I'm afraid this didn't appeal to me at all - I found the prologue confusing and didn't like the style much, but crucially, I just wasn't interested in the story or characters. The premise also feels similar to Gillian Flynn's Dark Places, albeit transposed to a British setting. Anyway, this is the superior Crooked House.
Throughout September I'll be working through some of my 2015 to-read list, sampling the books and cataloguing my thoughts on each of them. Find all the posts in this series here!
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