CTG Reviews: The Girl Next Door by Ruth Rendell

The Girl Next Door cover image

The Girl Next Door cover image

What the blurb says: “When the bones of two severed hands are discovered in a box, an investigation into a long buried crime of passion begins. And a group of friends, who played together as children, begin to question their past.

‘For Woody, anger was cold. Cold and slow. But once it had started it mounted gradually and he could think of nothing else. He knew he couldn’t stay alive while those two were alive. Instead of sleeping, he lay awake in the dark and saw those hands. Anita’s narrow white hand with the long nails painted pastel pink, the man’s brown hand equally shapely, the fingers slightly splayed.’

Before the advent of the Second World War, beneath the green meadows of Loughton, Essex, a dark network of tunnels has been dug. A group of children discover them. They play there. It becomes their secret place. Seventy years on, the world has changed. Developers have altered the rural landscape. Friends from a half-remembered world have married, died, grown sick, moved on or disappeared. Work on a new house called Warlock uncovers a grisly secret, buried a lifetime ago, and a weary detective, more preoccupied with current crimes, must investigate a possible case of murder.”

Ruth Rendell is one of the UKs most successful crime writers. Her first novel, From Doon With Death, was published in 1964, and since then her readers have grown steadily with every new book. In 1996 she was awarded the CBE and in 1997 became a Life Peer. In 2013 she was awarded the Crime Writers’ Association Cartier Diamond Dagger for sustained excellence in crime writing.

Published this week, her latest book, The Girl Next Door, begins with the discovery of a crime: a pair of severed hands clasped together – one male, one female – are found in a tin box beneath a new build. The discovery leads to a group of childhood friends who’d drifted apart reuniting. It also sets off a course of events that lead to the rekindling of lost love and forgotten friendships for some, and to death for others.

This gentle-paced story has a large cast of characters, the majority of whom are over the age of seventy. It’s an unusual crime book in that although it starts with the crime and ends with the crime, the solving of the crime is almost incidental, with the main focus being on the interconnections between the group of childhood friends, now in their twilight years, and the adults who influenced their lives (not always in a good way). It shows how attitudes, especially to sex and marriage, have changed during their lifetime, and how the things hidden away in your past can shape your present and come back to haunt you when you least expect it.

The reader is aware of the murder, and the identity of the murderer, from the outset. I found that even though the overworked police and the people in the community seemed generally unconcerned about uncovering the killer (if they were still alive) I kept turning the pages because I, as the reader, complicit in my knowledge of what had happened and who had done it, wanted to see the killer brought to justice.

 

[with thanks to Hutchinson for my copy of The Girl Next Door]

AudioBook Addict reviews: The Child by Sebastian Fitzek – an abridged dramatisation

Today, AudioBook Addict takes over the controls at CTG HQ to give his verdict on new audible drama The Child by Sebastian Fitzek. Here’s what he has to say …

The Child cover image

The Child cover image

Title: The Child

Author: Sebastian Fitzek

Narrated By: Rupert Penry-Jones, Jack Boulter, Emilia Fox, Stephen Marcus, Robert Glenister, Andy Serkis

Run Time: 6 hrs and 56 minutes

Abridged Dramatisation: released on 07/08/2014

What the blurb says:My name is Simon. I’m 10 years old. I’m a serial killer.

Robert Stern (Rupert Penry-Jones), a successful defense attorney, doesn’t know what lies in store for him when he agrees to meet a new client in a derelict estate on the outskirts of Berlin. Stern is more than surprised, when his old love interest and professional nurse Carina (Emilia Fox) presents him a ten year old boy as his new client. Simon (Jack Boulter), a terminally ill child, who is convinced he has murdered many men in a previous life.”

The review:

So, just to be clear, this is good, very good! But I want to go back a bit and tell you how I got to that conclusion.

I think it was Stephen King in his book ‘On Writing’ that said words to the effect of ‘abridged audio is the pits’ (Stephen, I wholeheartedly agree and if you didn’t say it, I am now). I’d add to that by saying I’d always thought that dramatised, abridged audio would be even worse. I based this only on experiences of listening to recordings with my children, like Blyton’s Malory Towers or The Famous Five – this is not them!

The story itself is excellent – dark, edgy, challenging – everything I like in my crime thrillers. From the time we first meet Simon, you’re compelled to like him and (NO SPOILERS) the relationships that build, grow and break down during that story are crafted masterfully. The action and intrigue are non-stop and at just short of 7 hours – I wanted more.

The recording and scripting are simply excellent with first class narration and, whilst the sound effects in previous recordings have seemed to distract me from the story, here, the sombre music and effects only served to add genuine atmosphere to this excellently creepy book. The young boy, Simon, narrated by Jack Boulter deserves a special mention for his excellent role; I really rooted for him throughout the book. Also, Robert Glenister put in another superb performance equal to that of his work on The Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silkworm.

Recommended

 

[With thanks to Audible UK for a review copy of The Child.]

CTG Reviews: The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

The Good Girl cover image

The Good Girl cover image

What the blurb says: “I’ve been following her for the past few days. I know where she buys her groceries, where she has her dry cleaning done, where she works. I don’t know the colour of her eyes or what they look like when she’s scared. But I will.

Mia Dennett can’t resist a one-night stand with the enigmatic stranger she meets in a bar. But going home with him might turn out to be the worse mistake of Mia’s life …”

This spellbinding debut thriller uncovers just how many dark secrets can be hidden behind a perfect family image. Schoolteacher, Mia Dennett, turned her back on her family’s extravagant lifestyle to work as an inner-city teacher and make her own way in the world. But when her boyfriend stands her up one time too many, a spare-of-the-moment decision to go home with the smooth and attractive Colin has horrifying consequences for more than just Mia.

Told through three main viewpoints – the mother, Eve, the kidnapper, Colin, and the cop, Gabe – each character shows the reader a different perspective on the events, and on Mia, leading up to, during and following the kidnapping.

It’s really hard to write about this story without giving anything away (and, trust me, you don’t want me to do that). What I will say is that with the different time-points told out-of-sequence, the story gradually builds the tension to the max as the details of what happened to Mia are uncovered. It’s a complex tale of deceit, jealously, fear, and love played out against the bustling, bright lights of Chicago and the frozen, unforgiving landscape of rural Minnesota in winter.

I found this artfully crafted story brutal at times, and yet so beautiful that it made me cry (and I can’t remember the last time a story did that). A stunning debut.

Highly recommended.

 

[with thanks to Harlequin MIRA for my copy of The Good Girl]