Showing posts with label Nicci French. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nicci French. Show all posts

Monday, 31 December 2012

My favourite novels of 2012

It’s New Year’s Eve, so what better time to look back over a year of brilliant reads? I love reading about other people’s favourite books of the year, so as 2012 draws to a wet and windy close, here is my list.

Australian ML Stedman’s first book is the moving account of a young lighthouse keeper and his wife in the 1920s. The couple live on a remote island off the coast of Western Australia, barely seeing anyone from one month to the next. Then one morning a boat washes up on the shore, with a dead man and a crying baby inside. As I wrote in the Daily Express earlier this year: “Keep a box of tissues at the ready – Stedman’s book is a real tearjerker.”

I was lucky enough to hear Rachel Joyce speak about her work and cherish her description of writing as “like having knitting in my head.” Her debut novel is the touching, uplifting story of a man in his sixties who leaves home one morning to post a letter to Queenie Hennessy, a friend he hasn't seen for 20 years. She's dying, and on the spur of the moment he resolves to walk from one end of the country to the other to see her. He has no walking boots, no map, no compass and no mobile phone, but he’s adamant that he’s going to keep on walking till he gets there.

Tuesday’s Gone by Nicci French
As the years go by, I like crime novels and thrillers more and more. I’m a big fan of Ian Rankin but my favourite crime novel of the year was Tuesday’s Gone. The second of the husband and wife writing duo’s series about psychotherapist Frieda Klein was even better than the first. As I wrote on House With No Name: “I’m very squeamish and the opening scene, where a social worker discovers a rotting, naked corpse in a delapidated Deptford flat, stopped me in my tracks. But I was so desperate to discover who he was and why on earth the confused woman living there kept trying to serve him afternoon tea that even if I’d wanted to, I simply couldn’t stop reading.”

Alys, Always by Harriet Lane
Harriet Lane writes beautifully and her story of a lonely, 30-something newspaper sub who witnesses a woman’s death in a car crash was one of my favourite reads. When I chose it for one of my Friday book reviews I called it a subtle, beautifully observed and exquisitely written novel – the sort of book you read in one beguiling go.” And I can’t say better than that.

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
It’s very special when you love a book and then get the chance to interview its author. And thanks to Headline’s Sam Eades, I interviewed Eowyn Ivey for House With No Name this year. Her first novel, the tale of a middle-aged couple who move to the wilds of Alaska to start a new life, is, as I said at the time, “a touching and truly exceptional portrayal of heartbreak and hope.”

Pure by Andrew Miller
One of my most memorable evenings of 2012 came way back in January when I was invited to the 2011 Costa Book Awards party. I’d been lucky enough to be on the judging panel for the first novel of the year category (a prize awarded to Christie Watson for the compelling Tiny Sunbirds Far Away) and as a result got an invitation to the glittering awards ceremony at Quaglino’s. The overall prize went to Andrew Miller for Pure, his novel set in a Paris cemetery four years before the start of the French Revolution. I later reviewed it for the Daily Express and wrote: “You can almost smell the cemetery’s stifling odour, see the noisy, turbulent streets and sense Baratte’s joy when he unexpectedly finds love in the midst of all the horror.”

2013 promises a host of eagerly anticipated novels, including Instructions for a Heatwave (February) by Maggie O’Farrell, Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (March), the latest in Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones saga and William Boyd’s new James Bond novel.

So on that happy note, thank you so much for reading House With No Name over the past year. I hope you have a cracking New Year’s Eve and a brilliant 2013.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Friday book review - Tuesday's Gone by Nicci French

My son gazed out of the car window and sighed. “If it doesn’t stop raining soon I’m going to leave Oxford and go and live somewhere hot,” he said.

I could understand his frustration. He’s just taken up road biking with a vengeance and five miles out of Oxford, lashed by wind and rain, his bike had suffered a flat tyre. He didn‘t have a puncture kit or bike pump so he did the next best thing and rang and asked me to collect him. No problem, except it was rush hour and by the time I got there he was dejected and completely drenched.

With rain forecast for the next few days (probably the next few months) I reckon there’s only one thing for it. Don’t emigrate, just batten down the hatches and get reading. As the rain pelted down, I curled up on my sofa and whizzed through Nicci French’s new novel in one go.

I’ve blogged about my admiration for Nicci French before. Nicci French is actually two writers - Suffolk-based husband and wife Nicci Gerrard and Sean French, who turn out cracking psychological thrillers. They have now launched a new eight-book crime series featuring a psychotherapist called Frieda Klein and I’m completely hooked.

The second in the series, Tuesday’s Gone, is out next week, and it’s even better than the first, Blue Monday. I’m very squeamish and the opening scene, where a social worker discovers a rotting, naked corpse in a delapidated Deptford flat, stopped me in my tracks. But I was so desperate to discover who he was and why on earth the confused woman living there kept trying to serve him afternoon tea that even if I’d wanted to, I simply couldn’t stop reading.

The copper leading the police investigation, DCI Karlsson (no one ever uses his first name), calls in Frieda Klein to help him get to the bottom of it all. And the deeper Frieda digs, the murkier the story gets.

Frieda is an intriguing character, with a complicated family history, an on-off lover and a fondness for walking the streets of London in the dead of night.

But after reading Tuesday's Gone I feel I’m getting to know her better. And with a plot that kept me on the edge of my seat and the promise of six more to come, all I can say is “ roll on book three…”

Tuesday's Gone by Nicci French (Michael Joseph, £12.99)

Friday, 23 March 2012

Friday book review - Blue Monday by Nicci French

My admiration for husband and wife writing team Nicci Gerrard and Sean French knows no bounds. Just before my husband took up a new post in France we spent a month working in the same office at home. It did not work. He drove me mad pacing about and talking at top volume on the phone, while he couldn’t stand my cluttered workspace (he’s a fan of the clean desk policy) and leaning towers of books.

But Gerrard and French are an inspiration to working couples everywhere. They’ve been married for more than 20 years and in that time, as well as writing separately, they’ve turned out a cracking run of stand-alone thrillers under the pseudonym of Nicci French. Gerrard writes in the attic of their Suffolk home while French works in a shed in the garden. Most of the time they write alternate chapters and email them back and forth until they’re happy with them.

I’ve read quite a few of their books but I reckon their latest is the best. Blue Monday, now out in paperback, is a completely new departure - the first in a series of eight crime novels starring psychotherapist Frieda Klein.

In her late 30s, Frieda is an insomniac who walks the streets of London in the dead of night, drinks whisky and much to the irritation of her office, doesn’t own a mobile phone. The first book of the series focuses on a child abduction case and isn’t for the faint-hearted. But it’s a classy, nerve-jangling and addictive read, with the promise of more Frieda Klein stories to come. The second, Tuesday’s Gone, is out in July and I can’t wait.

Blue Monday by Nicci French (Penguin, £6.99)

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