Month: June 2018

Goldsboro Books Glass Bell Award for Contemporary Fiction 2018

Update: the winner was announced on 27th September and Irish author John Boyne has scooped the Award for his “sweeping, poignant and comedic odyssey” of post-war Ireland in The Heart’s Invisible Furies. 

Announced during Independent Bookseller’s Week this prize is awarded annually to an outstanding work of contemporary fiction, rewarding quality storytelling in any genre. The jury of ten consists of team members from Goldsboro Books, DHH Literary Agency and The Dome Press.

Longlist below (shortlisted novels in bold)

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne (winner)
American War by Omar El Akkad
The Nix by Nathan Hill
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz
Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land
The Innocent Wife by Amy Lloyd
You Don’t Know Me by Imran Mahmood
Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor
The Ice by Laline Paull (I’ve read this but am yet to write my review)
Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough
The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell
My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent

The longlist will be reduced to a shortlist, due to be announced on 30th August and the winner will be awarded £2,000, and a beautiful, handmade, engraved glass bell, at a party at the bookshop on 27th September 2018.

I’m starting to think I need to set up my own award – the only way I’ll manage to read a decent proportion from any list!

Have you read any of these? Who would you have your eye on as the winner?

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The McIlvanney Prize longlist 2018

Further update: the winner was announced at Bloody Scotland as Liam McIlvanney and The Quaker.

Update: shortlist announced and those titles now shown in bold.

Following the launch of the Bloody Scotland programme for 2018 the longlist for the McIlvanney Prize has been announced. The award recognises excellence in Scottish crime writing, includes a prize of £1,000 and nationwide promotion in Waterstones. The initial longlist has been compiled by an independent panel of readers from eligible books which must have been first published in the UK between 1st August 2017 and 31st July 2018 and either written by someone who is born or domiciled in Scotland or set in Scotland.

Longlist:

Lin Anderson for Follow the Dead
Chris Brookmyre for Places in the Darkness
Mason Cross for Presumed Dead
Charles Cumming for The Man Between
Oscar De Muriel for The Loch of the Dead
Helen Fields for Perfect Death
Alison James for Now She’s Gone
Liam McIlvanney for The Quaker (winner)
James Oswald for No Time to Cry
Caro Ramsay for The Suffering of Strangers
Andrew Reid for The Hunter
Craig Robertson for The Photographer

The next stage is a formal judging process and the panel comprises of chair Craig Sisterson, journalist and book reviewer, alongside Susan Calman, comedian and crime fiction fan, and journalist Alison Flood.

I’ve only read one book on the list (another woeful contribution from me) but The Photographer is really excellent, so perhaps I’ve managed to read the winner! What about you – any tips for a winner from this list?

Sunday Morning Coming Down – Nicci French

Title – Sunday Morning Coming Down

Author – Nicci French

Published – July 2017

Genre – Crime fiction

This is the seventh in the series of eight books in the Frieda Klein series and a review that I feel particularly guilty about. I made a bit of a fuss to get the review copy of the book as I so wanted to make sure I read and reviewed the whole series and then look – my review is about a year late! What can I say except sorry…?

If there is one thing we’ve learned about Frieda it’s how much she values the sanctuary of her home, so when a body is discovered under the floor it’s a clear, unequivocal message. Perhaps more significantly it’s the tipping point for Frieda as there is general acceptance that Dean Reeve is still alive – an important moment for her.

The main driver of the book is that it isn’t Freida who is coming under attack – it’s her friends and family. But is it Reeve who is behind the onslaught or is it a copycat? The multiple potential targets adds pace (where did all these friends come from!?) and tension. This is also an opportunity to find out more about each of them.

Frieda does dip her toe back into her psychotherapy, but the sessions have become secondary to her investigations.

It’s impossible not to have in the back of your mind, as you read this book, that this is the penultimate in the series. So without reading a word it’s easy to be pretty sure that both Frieda is going to survive to make book #8. Is that a spoiler? No – just common sense. It’s not unusual that within crime fiction the characters ‘go on a journey’ it’s just more overt here. The climax of book 1 will be, I imagine, book 8 – the pleasure is the way the story unfolds, the journey.

This is too close to the end of the series to consider reading this as a standalone, the story is interesting enough but you would be missing so much. I would recommend beginning with Blue Monday. But roll on number eight!

Many thanks to Penguin for the review copy.
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The Story Keeper – Anna Mazzola

Title – The Story Keeper

Author – Anna Mazzola

Published – 26 July 2018

Genre – Historical fiction

It’s been a long wait since Anna’s excellent debut ‘The Unseeing’ was published and I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s been looking forward to reading her second novel. Before I go any further I should say that it doesn’t disappoint!

Set on the Isle of Skye the book opens with the arrival of Audrey, running away from her family and an event which, at least in the early part of the book, is only hinted at, she is set to take up a post collecting folklore. She hopes that a return to Skye, which she remembers vaguely from  some time in her childhood spent in the area, is a way to recapture a connection to her mother, who died when Audrey was ten. Her new employer is the imperious Miss Buchanan, she is to stay with Miss Buchanan and her nephew in their family estate – the neglected and brooding Lanerly Hall.  Audrey isn’t feeling particularly confident about her ability to do the job she’s been employed for but she’s burned her bridges. And then she discovers the body of a young woman on the shore by the Hall.

While making some efforts to collect stories from the crofters Audrey asks tentative questions about the dead girl. The answers are a mix of superstition based around the folktales and more ‘earthly’ explanations. Her discovery of another girl’s disappearance only deepens the mystery. But as events play out Audrey becomes more isolated and weakened by the toll her involvement takes on her.

There is a social history aspect to the book, communities ravaged by the land owners and struggling, protective of their heritage and suspicious of outsiders. The factual background to the events which took place are probably not well known by most people and it’s always a positive to learn something from a work of fiction, especially when it’s done seamlessly, without the reader feeling that they’re being given lots of information. The folklore offers an interesting insight – does it develop as an explanation for the things which have no rational explanation; do the stories represent the truth or a warning?

I’ve read a number of historical fiction books recently which have this type of gothic feel to them but this one hits the mark in creating the dark and claustrophobic atmosphere with a set of compelling characters. There is a real sense of menace pervading this book and despite the July publication date it would be perfect for curling up on a dark night in front of a log fire.

I’ve seen comparisons to the excellent Burial Rites but for me it was similar to Burial Rites crossed with Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. Like Burial Rites the location is hugely important – rugged coastline, isolated communities, brutal weather. Audrey stands up as the heroine of the piece – conflicted,  isolated, trying not to be defined by her past but at a time when women weren’t expected to act on their own. She has an inbuilt sense of justice but acting on it isn’t always the best course of action.

The story develops into multiple threads and there were some surprises in the way it plays out and the directions it takes. It’s unusual for a debut author not to be embarking on a series but other than the dark subjects and the compelling writing it was quite different to The Unseeing although equally enjoyable (in a dark and moody way). Many thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

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