The Secret Commonwealth, Philip Pullman

Oh Lyra Belacqua, Lyra Silvertongue. I devoured the original trilogy of your journeys to the North. Bolvangar, Svalbad, Iorek Byrnison, The World of the Dead. I adored the Miltonic and Blakean echoes. Fell in love with the mercurial, quick witted, innocent girl. Loved the world created by Pullman, the familiarity of it, the uncanniness, the…

Wakenhyrst, Michelle Paver

This was my first Paver read having heard some good things about her, and it thrust me straight into a solid Gothic historical yarn with some genuinely creepy moments! The novel is perhaps misnamed: it focuses on the house Wake’s End set beside the local fen, some three miles from the village of Wakenhyrst; and,…

My Sister, the Serial Killer, Oyinkan Braithwaite

Next up, from the Women’s Prize Longlist came Oyinkan Braithwaite’s My Sister, the Serial Killer, an interesting parallel to Akwaeke Emezi’s Freshwater. It is an intriguing little novel – a mere 240 pages, for those for whom that is relevant, not much more than a day or weekend’s read – and remarkably effective in the…

The Mitford Murders, Jessica Fellowes

What a classy cover! Don’t be judging a book by its cover, but even so… classy! I want to describe it as being in an art deco style but I’m not entirely sure what that term means… Similarly classy is the pedigree of the author: Jessica Fellowes is a well renowned journalist and editor; she…

The Sentence is Death, Anthony Horowitz

Why do we read detective stories? It is a strange genre.  Every piece of advice is that tension and conflict are the driver of a narrative and, with this genre, unlike the thriller genre, the most significant conflict – the one which traditionally culminates in murder, as it does with this one – occurs significantly…

The Mystery of Three Quarters, Sophie Hannah

Hercule Poirot. Arrogant and dandy and moustache firmly in place. An extended cast of somewhat two-dimensional characters. A convoluted and contrived plot – very contrived in this instance. Very contrived. Let’s face is, when the plot of a novel revolves around the construction of a battenburg cake, that novel is – for fear of being…

See What I Have Done, Sarah Schmidt

Lizzie Borden took an axe And gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done, She gave her father forty-one. Oh, Sarah Schmidt can write! What a strange strange thing to start a review with! But there is writing and there is writing and Sarah Schmidt can write! Not only can she create a…

The Black Book of Secrets, F. E. Higgins

Every year, I determine to teach at least one text which is new to me that year – which with a shrinking pool to choose from at GCSE becomes harder year-one-year – and that is why I have stumbled upon F. E. Higgins’ The Black Book of Secrets. It is an odd little book –…

The Pure In Heart, Susan Hill

I’m genuinely unsure of what to make of this book. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not a bad book; listening to it as an audiobook was a pretty pleasant way to spend my journeys to work. But it didn’t seem to be what it was packaged as and marketed as: a crime mystery. It felt…

In The Woods, Tana French

This is my second Tana French novel, and it was her debut with the Dublin Murder Squad series. And I do enjoy her writing style.    We have here, ostensibly, a crime novel. A twelve year old girl, Katy Devlin, is discovered dead on the altar stone at an archeological dig. Detective Rob Ryan and…