Friday, 6 December 2019

Review by Jeannette Flannery of “The Last of Us” by Harriet Cummings.

The Last of Us tells the story of 82-year-old Nettie, a lonely widow whose memory is not as vivid as it once was. Ostracised by her neighbours, taunted by local children and estranged from her only daughter Catherine, Nettie enters the story as a sympathetic figure.

But when young handyman James arrives in the village Nettie is thrilled to discover he is an old friend of her daughter and the two of them quickly build an unlikely friendship. As James begins to question Nettie about her past, Nettie begins to remember treasured memories of her husband Harold, as well as memories she’d rather forget. James, much like the reader begins to wonder if Nettie is really a harmless old lady or if there could be truth in the rumours circulating about her around the village.

Harriet Cummings is an accomplished writer of the domestic mystery novel. Here, as in her first novel, We All Begin as Strangers, secrets simmer under the surface of an idyllic village. The reader experiences Nettie’s nostalgic memories for themselves in the tiny details; the music and miniskirts of the swinging sixties; Harold’s garish red Ford Cortina of the seventies. 

The sights and sounds as we travel with Nettie through scenes of her past are vivid but as the reader learns more about Nettie, we too begin to question her version of events. What really happened to Harold? Why doesn’t her own daughter want to talk to her? How much of what she remembers is the truth?

The Last of Us is a heartfelt exploration of loneliness, ageing and complicated family relationships: a slow burning novel where tension builds to a final devastating climax. I found the character of Nettie stayed with me long after I had turned the final page.

About the Reviewer: Jeanette Flannery is a writer of fiction for young adults. She loves all things Japanese and lives in the midlands with her partner and a pair of mischievous kittens.

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Review by Colin Gardiner of “Pattern Recognition” by William Gibson

Cayce Pollard is a young American woman with a ‘sensitivity’ to corporate branding symbols. Cayce makes a living advising clients on the viability of their product. She has been hired by an eccentric, rich client to investigate the origins of a mysterious film clip that has appeared on the internet.

Gibson deftly draws the reader into a post-11 September world of espionage and intrigue.

The novel has a melancholic feel, suited to the geo-political tensions of the era.
His characters are sharply defined, in particular the protagonist, Cayce, who forms a sympathetic but sharp-eyed lead.

Gibson has a talent for describing the cultural undercurrents of the city. London, in particular comes across as a potentially lonely, but vibrant place, filled with possibility.

The novel works, both as a compelling thriller and as a curious historical time-capsule, written just before the social media boom of the mid 2000’s. Recommended for readers of science fiction, and techno-thrillers.

About the Reviewer 
Colin Gardiner lives in Coventry. He writes short stories and poems and has been published by The Ekphrastic Review, Ink Pantry, The Midnight Street Press and The Creative Writing at Leicester blog. He is currently studying a Masters in Creative Writing at Leicester University. More of his work can be read here

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Review by Kathy Hoyle of “The Glass Woman” by Caroline Lea

The Glass Woman is a stunning debut from Caroline Lea, taut and atmospheric from the very first page. 

Set against the unforgiving claustrophobic landscape of an Icelandic winter, the reader cannot help but be pulled into this dark and isolated world of secrets and superstition. 
The year is 1686. In the remote Icelandic village of Stykkishólmur, the ice cracks, and a body is pulled from the water. The villagers have their suspicions, there is talk of murder, witchcraft and punishment … and newcomer Rosa is determined to find the truth. 

Rosa’s heart belongs to Páll, but when Jón Eriksson passes through their village and asks for her hand, she cannot refuse. A girl must be dutiful and pious and Jón is not the sort of man to take no for an answer. Desperate to help her ailing mother and knowing that Jón will provide for them both through the harsh Icelandic winter, Rosa agrees.

Rosa is afraid. The women of Stykkishólmur refuse to talk, save for whispers of Jón’s first wife, Anna and her mysterious death. Rosa must stay in the house, forbidden by Jon to be anything other than his dutiful wife, trapped and afraid. Then there is Petur, Jon’s strange but trusted friend, who seems intent on catching her out. Rosa must find answers. 
What are the noises she hears in the attic above? Why do the villagers fear Jon so? And what happened to Anna, his first wife?

In this tense and powerful story, Lea weaves a brilliant tale of mystery, witchcraft secrets and lies. This debut novel is rich, dark and poetic, with twists and turns that keep the reader guessing all the way to the end.  

About the reviewer:  Kathy Hoyle is an MA graduate of Creative Writing from the University of Leicester. Her Flash fiction and short stories have appeared in various Online Zines. She has been shortlisted for The Exeter Short Story Award, The Fish Publishing Short Memoir prize and the Ellipsiszine Flash Fiction Collection Competition. She will write for chocolate.