Review: The Stranger Times by C.K. McDonnell

 



Title: The Stranger Times

Author: C.K. McDonnell

Published: 14th January 2021, Bantam Press UK

Status: Read January 2021 courtesy Bantam Press/Netgalley

+++++++

My Thoughts:

The premise of Caimh McDonnell’s novel caught my attention because as a teenager I discovered a UK magazine called The Fortean Times, which reported on ‘weird news’ (and still does as far as I know) and went to great trouble and expense to have it imported by my local newsagent for a year or two.

“Publication seeks desperate human being with capability to form sentences, using the English language. No imbeciles, optimists or Simons need apply.”

Similarly, the titular ‘The Stranger Times’ is a weekly newspaper devoted to the weird and wonderful. When Hannah Willis, newly separated and desperate, answers an ad for a position at The Stranger Times she has no idea what it may entail, but she is not expecting to find a man threatening to throw himself off the roof, a wannabe reporter named Simon lurking by the entrance, and then for her new boss, Vince Bancroft, to set fire to his office and shoot himself in the foot during her interview. Still, Hannah needs a job and this is the only one on offer.

“We aren’t reporting the story as fact; we’re reporting the existence of the story as fact.”

Though Hannah doesn’t believe in the litany of the strange and implausible that The Stranger Times reports on that’s all about to change when, after Simon is found dead at the base of a construction tower, the staff of The Stranger Times becomes the target of a killer, who has a vicious beast at his command.

“Because, sweetheart, you ain’t never met a short-arsed slaphead quite like me.”

The Stranger Times is an entertaining urban fantasy novel. Set in Manchester, McDonnell introduces a shadow world that lurks amongst ours, where folk hide in plain sight. One of these folk has gone rogue, breaking a centuries old Accord, and the staff of The Stranger Times gets in the way of his plans for murder and mayhem. But no matter what happens, the paper still needs to go out.

The staff of The Stranger Times are an eccentric bunch, editor Vince Bancroft is a barely functioning alcoholic in a permanent bad temper, flatmates Ox and Reggie are feature writers, specialists in the supernatural and extraterrestrial, Stella is a teenage runaway, and pious Grace is the paper’s office manager. I loved their unique personality’s, and their group dynamic which is delightfully dysfunctional.

Though it gets off to a bit of a slow start I was quickly caught up in this witty, weird and wonderful romp full of magic, mystery and monsters. Read all about it in The Stranger Times!

++++++

Available from Bantam Press UK

Or from your preferred retailer via HiveUK I Book Depository I Booko

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #SundayPost #SundaySalon

Linking to: It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? at BookDate; Sunday Post @ Caffeinated Reviewer; and the Sunday Salon @ ReaderBuzz

——————————————-

Life…

It’s been a week already?

——————————————-

*

What I’ve Read Since I last Posted…

*

My Best Friend’s Murder by Polly Phillips

The Lost Boys by Faye Kellerman

Stranger Times by CK McDonell

———————————————

*

New Posts…

*

Review: Elizabeth & Elizabeth by Sue Williams

Review: My Best Friend’s Murder by Polly Phillips

Review: The Lost Boys by Faye Kellerman

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #2

———————————————

*

What I’m Reading This Week…

Laura Bloom has such a unique talent for modern historical fiction and this time it was a joy to be catapulted back to the 1970s. When I turned the last page I was so sad to say goodbye to her beautifully observed characters. A delight from start to finish!’ Liane Moriarty

Three friends. Three marriages left behind. Life begins in earnest.

It’s 1977, and warm, bohemian Libby – stay-at-home mother, genius entertainer and gifted cook – is lonely. When she meets Carol, who has recently emigrated from London with her controlling husband and is feeling adrift, and Anna, who loves her career but not her marriage, the women form an unexpected bond.

Their husbands aren’t happy about it, and neither are their daughters.

Set against a backdrop of inner-city grunge and 70s glamour, far-out parties and ABBA songs, The Women and The Girls is a funny, questioning and moving novel about love, friendship, work, family, and freedom.

++++++

‘The women in this family, we’re different . . .’

Blythe Connor doesn’t want history to repeat itself.

Violet is her first child and she will give her daughter all the love she deserves. All the love that her own mother withheld.

But firstborns are never easy. And Violet is demanding and fretful. She never smiles. Soon Blythe believes she can do no right – that something’s very wrong. Either with her daughter, or herself.

Her husband, Fox, says she’s imagining it. But Violet’s different with him. And he can’t understand what Blythe suffered as a child. No one can.

Blythe wants to be a good mother. But what if that’s not enough for Violet? Or her marriage? What if she can’t see the darkness coming?

Mother and daughter. Angel or monster?

We don’t get to choose our inheritance – or who we are . . .

The Push is an addictive, gripping and compulsive read that asks what happens when women are not believed – and what if motherhood isn’t everything you hoped for but everything you always feared?

++++++

Are you still a virgin?

Want to talk about it in a safe space?

Meetings every other Tuesday. You’re not alone.

Kate Mundy’s life is not going to plan. Nearing thirty, she’s been made redundant from her job, her oldest friends have quietly left her behind, and she can barely admit her biggest secret: she’s never even been on a date, let alone taken her underwear off with a member of the opposite sex.

Freddie Weir has spent most of his twenties struggling severe OCD and anxiety, and now his only social interactions consist of comic book signings and fending off intrusive questions from his weird flatmate Damian. There’s no way Freddie could ever ask a girl out and now he’s wondering if this is the way it might be forever.

When Freddie and Kate meet at a self-help group for adult virgins, they think they might just be able to help each other out so they can both get on with finding their real romantic destinies. But might these two have more in common than just their lack of experience?

———————————————

Thanks for stopping by!

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #2

I’m delighted to welcome you to the 2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge. The challenge asks participants to read up to 12 books over the year, each from a different category

Categories

1. Biography 2. Travel 3. Self-help 4. Essay Collection 5. Disease 6. Oceanography 7. Hobbies 8. Indigenous Cultures 9. Food 10. Wartime Experiences 11. Inventions 12. Published in 2021

Click here to learn more about the 2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge, sign up and join the fun!

For the next four weeks I will post some titles for each category that might inspire your own selections.

Click here for Part #1 – Biography, Travel, Self Help/Self Improvement

You can find more suggestions via other bloggers, and lists such as Goodreads Listopia, Library Booklists. Use your good faith judgement as to whether a book fits a particular category or not.

Essay Collection

Contemporary essay collections are a collection of personal or academic observations, usually linked in theme or subject.



Disease

A simple definition of disease is an illness or sickness characterised by specific signs or symptoms. It negatively affects the structure, function or system of the body and can be caused by a bacteria, virus, or genetic mutation.

Oceanography

Oceanography is the study of the physical, chemical, and biological features of the ocean, including the ocean’s ancient history, its current condition, and its future.

 

Feel free to add your own recommendations and suggestions in the comments

Review: The Lost Boys by Faye Kellerman

 

 

Title: The Lost Boys {Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus #26}

Author: Faye Kellerman

Published: 17th January 2020, William Morrow

Status: Read January 2020 courtesy William Morrow

++++++

My Thoughts:

I thought I’d missed no more than a handful of the Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus series but this is Kellerman’s 26th book featuring the couple and I’ve only read just over half, the last of which was book #22, Murder 101. Thankfully however this seems to matter little, aided in part because Kellerman ages her characters in real time.

In The Lost Boys, Decker and his partner Tyler are called in when a man disappears while on a field trip with a group from a local care home. In searching the woods nearby, a body is found in a shallow grave, but this man has lain there for at least a decade.

With his customary doggedness, Decker attacks both investigations. The missing man is his initial priority, with growing concerns that he has been targeted by because of his parent’s wealth. When blood is found at the home of a nurse that may be connected, Decker fears the worst, but despite his best efforts the case soon stalls. Unexpectedly Kellerman employs a cliffhanger of sorts in this instance, though the missing man is eventually located, the circumstance spawns another mystery.

In the second investigation, the remains prove to belong to one of three young college men who disappeared while on a camping trip. The damage to his skeleton suggests that he had been shot, and Decker wonders if he is looking for the bodies of his two companions, or if the two men may have killed the third and gone on the run. Investigating a ten year old cold case is a difficult task, but thorough police work results in an important break. In general I liked how this case played out, however one flaw I had difficulty overlooking was an emphasis on a shovel being out of place on a camping trip. Perhaps Faye has never been camping because I wouldn’t consider it at all strange that campers have a shovel, a digging implement is essential when there are no bathrooms.

While Decker is busy with police work, Rina is offering moral support to their foster son, Gabe whose biological mother has suddenly returned to the States with Gabe’s half siblings. It’s clear Terry is in trouble and Gabe is torn when she asks for his help, but it seems inevitable he will be drawn into the mess she has got herself into.

With this, and the unanswered questions of the first investigation, Kellerman has laid the foundation the next book in the series, though I think it’s clear that it’s end is creeping closer. Peter is seventy or thereabouts and is making plans for his retirement from the force, but there are hints, I think, that Tyler could take up the mantle.

Kellerman offers up two well paced, and involving mysteries in The Lost Boys, but as a fan it’s the opportunity to catch up with Peter, Rina and their family that I enjoy the most.

++++++

Available from William Morrow Books

Or from your preferred retailer via Indiebound I Book Depository I Booko

Review: My Best Friend’s Murder by Polly Phillips

Title: My Best Friend’s Murder

Author: Polly Phillips

Published: 6th January 2021, Simon & Schuster Australia

Status: Read January 2021 courtesy Simon & Schuster Australia

++++++

My Thoughts:

My Best Friend’s Murder is an entertaining domestic thriller from UK journalist Polly Phillips, who currently calls Australia home.

“You’re lying, sprawled at the bottom of the stairs, legs bent, arms wide.”

Bec and Izzy have been the best of friends since they met, aged eleven. In the years since, Bec has mostly been content to let Izzy set the terms for their relationship, but recently she’s begun to sense that contempt lurks behind Izzy’s backhand compliments and seemingly solicitous advice. Hurt and angry, Bec is determined to confront her best friend, but could she really be responsible for her murder?

My Best Friend’s Murder is told from Bec’s perspective, beginning with her standing over a broken and bloodied Izzy, before moving back three months previously as Bec and her new fiancé, Ed, celebrate their engagement at home of Izzy and her husband, Rich. The occasion is not the first time that Bec senses something awry between herself and Izzy, but she is surprised by her best friend’s cool behaviour.

Well-paced, this is a suspenseful novel as Phillips reveals the history of the friendship between the two women and it’s increasing toxicity. To Bec, Izzy’s behaviour is inexplicable- beautiful, married to her handsome highschool sweetheart with an adorable child, wealthy and ambitious, Izzy has everything, yet she seems to resent Bec’s recent small successes – her engagement, and a potentially career altering opportunity. Phillips skilfully explores the complex dynamic of their friendship, the role each of them play in maintaining the status quo, and how difficult it is for them to let go. With Izzy’s death, Bec is left to grapple with her grief, and her guilt.

I admired Phillips subtle, and not so subtle twists, in the plot, and though I wasn’t so enamoured with an element of the ending, it’s a minor flaw in what is otherwise a well told tale. My Best Friend’s Murder is an absorbing read and an accomplished debut.

++++++

Available from Simon & Schuster Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I HiveUK

Review: Elizabeth & Elizabeth by Sue Williams

Title: Elizabeth & Elizabeth

Author: Sue Williams

Published: 5th January 2020, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read January 2021 courtesy Allen & Unwin

++++++

My Thoughts:

Based on the lives of Elizabeth ‘Betsey’ Macquarie, the wife of Australian colonel governor Lachlan Macquarie, and Elizabeth Macarthur, the wife of a prosperous colonial woolgrower, Sue Williams blends fact with fiction to present an interesting story of adversity, courage, love, and friendship in Elizabeth & Elizabeth.

Thirty one year old Betsey Macquarie arrived in Sydneytown with her new husband, Lachlan, who was to replace Captain Bligh as governor, in December of 1809. Viewing the appointment as an adventure, with her keen interest in architecture, landscaping and social welfare, Betsey had hopes of working alongside her husband to grow the colony.

At the time of Betsey’s arrival in New South Wales, Elizabeth Macarthur, had been living in the colony for twenty years. Her husband John, a Corps officer and successful grazier had been called to England to answer charges of sedition for his role in unseating Captain Bligh, leaving Elizabeth to manage their home farm, three daughters, and Camden Park estate, where they raised their valuable flock of merino sheep.

In this novel Williams conjures a friendship between the two women that overlooks the political enmity of their husbands. Both intelligent, strong, and practical women, Elizabeth and Elizabeth grow to respect and admire one another despite their differences, and become confidantes. The friendship is delightfully rendered by Williams, and permits her to present a well-rounded picture of the ‘Elizabeth’s’ lives, disabusing history’s notion they were simply no more than extensions of their husbands.

History favours the role of men in the building of our nation, but Elizabeth & Elizabeth gives these two women credit for contributions to the betterment of the colony. Williams suggests Betsey was the driving force behind the design and construction of several of Sydneytown’s public buildings, including The Courthouse and St James Church, the ‘Rum’ Hospital, and The Female Factory in Parramatta, and the development of what is now known as The Royal Botanic Gardens. Her support of her husband was also crucial to his many accomplishments as governor, despite the opposition he faced from ‘exclusivists’. Elizabeth Macarthur’s role in developing the family’s wool export business is better recognised today, though her husband continues to garner the lions share of credit. In her husband’s long absence from the colony however, she ably managed their extensive holdings, and oversaw the improvement of the merino flock that solidified their fortune.

Well-written, rich in historical detail and engaging, Elizabeth & Elizabeth is a lovely novel and recommended reading especially for those interested in Australia’s past.

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD$29.99

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Booktopia

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #SundayPost #SundaySalon

Linking to: It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? at BookDate; Sunday Post @ Caffeinated Reviewer; and the Sunday Salon @ ReaderBuzz

Life…

Well here we are a week into the new year and it’s certainly been an eventful one.

I’m delighted that the Senate is now Blue, and Biden’s presidency has been confirmed. Obviously however news of the disturbing assault on the Capitol Building is on everyone’s mind. I wish for peace and safety in the United States, and the removal of Trump from office when the The House meets on Monday.

Australia is working hard to squash an outbreak of Coronavirus on the East Coast that began just before Christmas. We currently have 199 active cases in NSW, and restrictions have been increased in the Greater Sydney area, with face masks required in all indoor locations. Thankfully our region remains Covid free -there has not been a case for 253 days – so restrictions continue to be minimal.

In other, admittedly less globally noteworthy, news my youngest daughter turned 18! We had dinner with family earlier in the week, and her godmother, older sister, and I, in what is a traditional rite of passage, took her to the pub for her first drink (18 is the legal drinking age here).

I’ve done far too much doomscrolling this week so I didn’t do as much blog hopping as I had planned, I follow over 1000 book bloggers via Feedly and while I aim to comment on at least ten blogs a day, and visit at least double that, I never feel like I’m making much progress. I have posted the first of what will be four posts providing titles that suit the twelve categories for the 2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge. You can read the post HERE and leave further suggestions in the comments.

——————————————-

What I’ve Read Since I last Posted…

Lana’s War by Anita Abriel

Shelter by Catherine Jinks

Elizabeth & Elizabeth by Sue Williams

The Schoolgirl Strangler by Katherine Kovacic

———————————————

New Posts…

Review: This Has Been Absolutely Lovely by Jessica Dettmann

Review: When the Apricots Bloom by Gina Wilkinson

Review: Lana’s War by Anita Abriel

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration PART #1 -Biography, Travel, Self Help

Review: Shelter by Catherine Jinks

———————————————

What I’m Reading This Week…

There are so many ways to kill a friendship . . .

You’re lying, sprawled at the bottom of the stairs, legs bent, arms wide.

And while this could be a tragic accident, if anyone’s got a motive to hurt you, it’s me.

Bec and Izzy have been best friends their whole lives. They have been through a lot together – from the death of Bec’s mother to the birth of Izzy’s daughter. But there’s a darker side to their friendship, and once it has been exposed, there is no turning back.

So when Izzy’s body is found, Bec knows that if the police decide to look for a killer, she will be the prime suspect. Because those closest to you are the ones who can hurt you the most . . .

The Rumour meets The Holiday in this compulsive thriller with a toxic friendship at its heart that keeps you in the dark until the final breathless pages

xxxxxx

When Bertram Telemann, a developmentally disabled man, goes missing from a local diner near Greenbury, the entire community of the small upstate New York town volunteers to search the surrounding woods in hopes of finding him. High functioning and independent, Bertram had been on a field trip with the staff and fellow residents of the Loving Care Home when he vanished.

When no trace of the man is found, the disappearance quickly becomes an official missing persons case and is assigned to detectives Peter Decker and his partner Tyler McAdams. As their investigation deepens, the seasoned Decker becomes convinced that Bertram hadn’t lost his way, but had left with someone he knew. Soon Decker discovers that Elsie Schulung, a recently fired nurse who had worked at the home, seemed to be especially interested in Bertram. But answers proves elusive when Elsie disappears and human blood is found in her kitchen.

But the complications are only beginning. While combing the woods, searchers discover the remains of one of three young men who had vanished during a camping trip. And for Decker, personal problems are adding pressure as well. After a ten-year absence, the biological mother of Decker’s and Rina’s foster son, Gabriel, has suddenly appeared in New York, children in tow, wreaking emotional havoc on the young man.

Juggling the personal and professional, a hot case and a cold case, Decker and McAdams race to find answers, sifting through cabinets of old files, a plethora of clues and evidence, and discouraging dead ends. As on-going searches for Bertram and the campers’ missing remains continue, the frustrated detectives begin to wonder if the woods will ever give up its dark secrets . . . and if these intertwining cases will be solved.

xxxxxx

A masterly and agenda-setting inquest into how the deaths of two teenage girls shone a light into the darkest corners of a nation

Katra Sadatgani. An eye-blink of a village in western Uttar Pradesh, crammed into less than one square mile of land. A community bounded by the certainty of the changing of the seasons, by tradition and custom; a community in which young women are watched closely, and know what is expected of them.

It was an ordinary night, in the middle of mango season, when the two girls first went missing. When the next day dawned, and their bodies were found – hanging in the orchard, their clothes muddied – only one thing seemed clear: that life in Uttar Pradesh would never be the same again.

Sixteen-year-old Padma had sparked and burned. Fourteen-year-old Lalli had been an incorrigible romantic. But who they were and what had happened to them were already less important than what their disappearance meant to the people left behind. In the ensuing months, the investigation into their deaths would implode everything that their small community held to be true, and instigated a national conversation about sex, honour and violence.

A masterly and agenda-setting inquest into how the deaths of two teenage girls shone a light into the darkest corners of a nation, The Good Girls returns to the scene of Padma and Lalli’s short lives and shocking deaths, and dares to ask: what is the human cost of shame?

xxxxxxx

There are dark forces at work in our world (and in Manchester in particular), so thank God The Stranger Times is on hand to report them . . .

A weekly newspaper dedicated to the weird and the wonderful (but mostly the weird), it is the go-to publication for the unexplained and inexplicable.

At least that’s their pitch. The reality is rather less auspicious. Their editor is a drunken, foul-tempered and foul-mouthed husk of a man who thinks little of the publication he edits. His staff are a ragtag group of misfits. And as for the assistant editor . . . well, that job is a revolving door – and it has just revolved to reveal Hannah Willis, who’s got problems of her own.

When tragedy strikes in her first week on the job The Stranger Times is forced to do some serious investigating. What they discover leads to a shocking realisation: some of the stories they’d previously dismissed as nonsense are in fact terrifyingly real. Soon they come face-to-face with darker forces than they could ever have imagined.

The Stranger Times is the first novel from C.K. McDonnell, the pen name of Caimh McDonnell. It combines his distinctive dark wit with his love of the weird and wonderful to deliver a joyous celebration of how truth really can be stranger than fiction

———————————————

Thanks for stopping by!

Review: Shelter by Catherine Jinks

Title: Shelter

Author: Catherine Jinks

Published: 5th January 2020, Text Publishing

Status: Read January 2021 courtesy Text/Netgalley

++++++

My Thoughts:

Shelter is a tense, twisty domestic thriller, from Australian author Catherine Jinks.

Meg knows all too well what it’s like to suffer at the hands of an abusive husband so she is willing to accept the risks of providing temporary shelter to a young mother and her two daughters on the run. Meg’s home, ‘The Bolthole’, is an isolated property in country NSW, and great care has been taken to ensure the family are impossible to trace, yet Nerine remains terrified that her husband will find them. Though Meg does her best to allay Nerine’s fears, and reassure five year old Ana and 22 month old Collette they are safe, some minor incidents stoke’s Meg’s own anxieties. She thinks it is more likely her own ex-husband has returned to intimidate her with regards to a recent inheritance, than Nerine’s husband having found her, but the real threat is closer to home than Meg can ever imagine.

Shelter isn’t an easy read, the themes and issues central to the novel, which includes generational trauma, domestic violence, psychological manipulation, and narcissism, are uncomfortable to explore, however I got caught up in this taut, well paced thriller which cleverly subverts reader’s expectations. Though the primary plot twist is not entirely unexpected, it shocks nevertheless, and Jinks left me feeling breathless as the level of menace and violence accelerated in its wake. In regards to the conclusion though I am somewhat torn, it’s reasonably realistic and as such fitting, but not very satisfying.

At times I found Meg to be a frustrating character, however her behaviour really is in keeping with someone who has been a long term victim of psychological abuse by a narcissistic partner. Even though she is physically free of her ex husband, Meg’s first instinct is always to appease someone who exhibits high emotion, or makes demands of her, so she reacts, rather than makes decisions. Nerine is convincing as a mother paranoid about the safety of herself and her children, and though she’s not particularly likeable, she is sympathetic in light of the story she presents. Jinks’s portrayal of the children, especially Ana, deserves special mention, as they are accurately represented with regards to age and circumstance.

I found Shelter to be dark and disturbing, yet utterly engrossing, but fair warning, it may be too much for readers sensitive to its themes.

++++++

Available from Text Publishing

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Booktopia I Amazon

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #1

 

I’m delighted to welcome you to the 2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge. The challenge asks participants to read up to 12 books over the year, each from a different category.

Categories

1. Biography 2. Travel 3. Self-help 4. Essay Collection 5. Disease 6. Oceanography 7. Hobbies 8. Indigenous Cultures 9. Food 10. Wartime Experiences 11. Inventions 12. Published in 2021

Click here to learn more about the 2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge, sign up and join in the fun.

For the next four weeks I will post some titles for each category that might inspire your own selections.

You can find more inspiration via other participating bloggers, and lists such as Goodreads Listopia, Library Booklists. Use your good faith judgement as to whether a book fits a particular category or not.

Click the cover to learn more at Goodreads

 

Biography

A biography is the life story of a person written by someone other than the subject.



 

Travel

A narrative about a journey, and/or a place, often from someone unfamiliar with the region. Can also include destination guides.



 

 

Self Help/ Self Improvement 

A self-help book is one that is written with the intention to instruct its readers on solving personal problems.

 

Feel free to add your own recommendations and suggestions in the comments.

 

Review: Lana’s War by Anita Abriel

Title: Lana’s War

Author: Anita Abriel

Published: 2nd December 2020, Simon & Schuster Australia

Status: Read January 2021 courtesy Simon & Schuster

++++++

My Thoughts:

Lana’s War is Anita Abriel’s second historical fiction novel set during World War II.

Discovering she is pregnant, Lana Hartmann (née Antanova) hurries through the streets of occupied Paris, anxious to share the happy news with her husband, a music teacher. She is horrified when she finds her husband being questioned by the gestapo and devastated when she witnesses his callous execution while trying to protect a young Jewish girl. Miscarrying their child that same day, Lana staves off despair by volunteering at a convent where she is offered an opportunity to join the resistance. Eager to honour her husband’s sacrifice and save Jews from the Gestapo, Lana accepts and is sent to the Riviera region of France. There Lana is asked to trade on her Russian heritage and, as Countess Lana Antanova, help Swiss resistance member, Guy Pascal, with his efforts to smuggle Jews out of the country.

I like that Abriel has chosen a setting for her novel in an area of France usually overlooked in WWII historical fiction, which tends to favour Paris or the French countryside. Nice, and its neighbours including Cannes, St. Tropez, and Monaco, are part of the French Riviera, on the south east coast of France. Just 30km from the Italian border, Nice was occupied first by the Italians, and then the Germans before being liberated in 1944.

When Lana arrives in November, 1943, she is surprised that the city seems largely unaffected by the war. Unlike in Paris, stores are open and well stocked, and the casino’s, hotels and cafe’s are well patronised, though the place is overrun with German soldiers. Abriel ties the plot of her novel in with the escalation against Jews in the area, where Lana is tasked to learn the timing of upcoming raids, giving them an opportunity to evade being sent to Drancy Internment Camp. I liked the premise which promised adventure, tension and romance, unfortunately the execution fell short for me.

I liked Lana well enough but I didn’t find her to be a particularly consistent or convincing character. While her motivation for her choice to work with resistance is strong, and she’s obviously intelligent, given her education, she doesn’t seem wise enough to be so adept at espionage. It’s also a bit of a stretch that within days of her arrival she has four men essentially in love with her. I did like the romantic attachment Lana formed, but I wasn’t keen on how it played out. Lana’s relationship with Odette, a young Jewish girl, however was lovely.

Unfortunately, despite finding the broad strokes of the the story to be engaging, I thought the prose itself was rather flat, and a touch repetitive. Though I dislike the phrase, I also thought there was far more ‘telling than showing’ and as such, tension rarely eventuated, or fizzled out.

A story of war, vengeance, courage and love, Lana’s War was a quick read, but for me, not a particularly satisfying one.

++++++

Available from Simon & Schuster Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Indiebound

Also by Anita Abriel reviewed at Book’d Out

Previous Older Entries