I decided to keep a log of every book I read last year – in the end this wasn’t at all necessary because I only read eight and could have remembered them anyway. And if I were an octopus I could have read them at the same time too (just occured to me).
Eight is rather pitiful isn’t it? I mean it’s not even one a month. But for posterity and something to write about….
C. J. Tudor – The Other People & The Burning Girls
I like C. J. Tudor. I first read The Chalk Man (reviewed here) during lockdown – the first lockdown, the PROPER LOCKDOWN – and enjoyed it immensely. Subsequently I have continued to read her books at any given opportunity – i.e. if I see one in the Asda supermarket book chart or have one kindly donated by a friend (one of each in this instance).
If you enjoy thrillers, thrown with a bit of supernatural, genuine mystery and occasionally some very violent gore then I say go for it – because the three books of hers I’ve read so far have all of these elements. What I’d call ‘easy reads’ perhaps, but certainly with more edge and intrigue than average. Tudor has been likened to Stephen King and whilst the comparison is fair, her books are undeniably easier to get into.
Fans of strong female characters will like her spunky leading ladies and there’s always cool, fairly obscure movie and music references. Many 80s films consistently namedropped and there’s a cool dad in The Chalk Man who wears a Grateful Dead t-shirt.
Between these two, The Burning Girls was my favourite but I can honestly say I enjoyed them equally and generally highly recommend her books.
Us – David Nicholls
David Nicholls wrote one of my all time favourite books EVER – Starter for Ten. I really, really love that book. Mainly because of my lifelong addiction to University Challenge (“yay I got two questions right this episode”) but also more mainly because it’s so unbelievably funny. Nicholls’ books are usually funny and touching (i.e. sad) in relatively equal measure but Starter for Ten was particularly leaning on the humorous side and I just adore the inner thoughts and turmoil of poor old Brian Jackson.
I’ve never read a Nicholls’ novel since that’s enchanted me quite as much, but Us would probably take second-place – mainly due to the similar, self-deprecating tone of hapless protagonist Douglas who actually could have been Brian all grown up and still continually missing the mark on life. I enjoyed Us and laughed a fair few times, but it did lack any re-readability for me personally. Still definitely a fun, sweet, funny little read though – ideal to take on holiday.
Minette Walters – Chickenfeed, A Dreadful Murder & Acid Row
Three Minette Walters books.
So Chickenfeed and A Dreadful Murder are both ‘quick reads’ and were a pleasure to devour in one or two sittings. Both stories relate to real-life murder cases which Walters basically ‘novelized’ (think In Cold Blood by Truman Capote) to make more entertaining to the reader.
I read A Dreadful Murder first and enjoyed it, then Chickenfeed straight after and enjoyed it even more – the stronger of the two and I’d defy anyone to read it and not get caught up immediately with the love affair of Norman and Elsie – the latter of which was later found murdered…..
Acid Row is a full blown novel and was a highly addictive read. I could barely put it down, with its story following events over just a few days, when a vigilante crowd start getting out of hand following protests of a supposed paedophile being rehomed in the eponymous ‘Acid Row’ – a place filled with chavs, social workers, drugs and crime (think Shameless as a book but with far less laughs).
With police reports and detective interviews included in the chapters, this was not an easy read – but certainly a thrilling one. I’d highly recommend, but make sure you have a strong stomach. You will need it especially during the most shocking of chapters. And if that doesn’t entice you then I don’t know what will. If I read that sentence for the first time (literally impossible I know) I know I’d really want to read that book.
The Dinner Guest by B P Walter
THE DINNER GUEST. Definitely a favourite despite being another supermarket book chart ‘easy read’. Not that I’m slating those kind of books but you know what I mean. Reading the latest Lee Child probably won’t stir up the emotions or invoke the ideas you’d associate with Steinbeck or Orwell maybe. But considering how much less I read nowadays, I’m going for pleasure over kudos.
As you can probably tell I do like a crime novel (as most on this list are) and this Whodunit murder mystery set in a posh area of London sounded like a decent read. Happily it was even better than I anticipated and I devoured it. I think basically it came down to the simple fact that the author is really, really good.
The characters, the mystery and the twists (which just kept on comin’) were all executed exceptionally well and the best bit was I couldn’t even work out the ending before the ending. The Dinner Guest was really good, really fun and really satisfying. Highly recommend.
The Back Road by Rachel Abbott
Though I haven’t written this in exact order, The Back Road was indeed the last book I read last year and I finished it just after Christmas – no mean feat considering there was barely one day over the whole of December that I didn’t drink alcohol.
The Back Road started particularly terrifically (too many syllables?) with a completely unnerving opening chapter. Yet another murder mystery, this book was pretty good too but it dragged a tiny bit in places and the big reveal ending wasn’t as good as The Dinner Guest.
Still very fun to read and with some clever twists and turns along the way.
P.S You’ll be reassured to know that I am starting 2022 with something a little lighter – I’m currently reading Richard Osman’s The Thursday Murder Club. So…….technically a murder mystery, but far fluffier and very, very funny.