“In the Night Wood” by Dale Bailey

Thanks to HarperCollins UK and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.

First of all just look at that cover. LOOK AT IT. It is totally my aesthetic. If I saw it in a bookshop I’d buy it no matter what so, kudos to the designer.

This book follows the story of Charles and Erin Hayden. They move from North Caroline to rural Yorkshire upon receiving an old mansion as part of Erin’s inheritance. Cool right? Well…

Continue reading ““In the Night Wood” by Dale Bailey”

“Things in Jars” by Jess Kidd

Thanks to Canongate and Netgalley for the Advance Review Copy.

What to say about this book? How does one describe perfection?

“The child looks up. For the first time she can see the stars!

She smiles at them, and the stars look back at her and shiver.

Then they begin to burn brighter, with renewed fever, in the deep dark ocean of the sky.”

This appears in the first few pages. You know when you read writing like this that you are in for a real treat. Continue reading ““Things in Jars” by Jess Kidd”

“The Silver Road” by Stina Jackson

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Thanks to Atlantic Books and Netgalley for the Advance Review Copy 

I had to resist the urge to throw this book across the room when I finished it. I spent the last 10% of my time reading it with my heart pounding and trying and failing not to cry. Be warned, this is not an easy read. It is raw, bleak and brutal. 

The book follows the different perspectives of Lelle, a man whose 17-year-old daughter went missing three years prior to the events of the novel, and Meja a 17-year-old girl with a difficult past. Lelle searches nightly for his daughter along the eponymous Silver Road and Meja struggles to adjust to her new existence living in a remote corner of Sweden. 

I haven’t read any Scandi-noir type books before and am not particularly interested in the tv dramas either, but I enjoyed this book. The setting is described well and although not from Sweden, as someone from a small, remote community I could identify with Meja’s initial despair. The description of the long summer days and long winter nights also helps to develop the current of isolation and foreboding running throughout the novel. 

The characters are well written for the most part and the relationship dynamics are believable. I thought Meja was a bit clueless at times but that is largely explained by her background. Lelle could be frustrating at times but I thought his actions as a grieving and desperate father were credible. I was beginning to suspect who was involved in the abductions towards the end of the novel and my suspicions were proven correct. However, there are a few red herrings thrown up to keep readers guessing. 

The themes of the book include violence against women, right wing survivalism, the impact on families when someone goes missing without trace and the meaninglessness of social media sympathy and platitudes. 

The last third of the novel dragged a little but the conclusion was absolutely gripping. I tend to read multiple books at the same time, but I abstained from reading any others until the mystery was solved.  

“The Wych Elm” by Tana French

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Thanks to Penguin Books UK and Netgalley for the advance reading copy.

I’ve heard a lot of people raving about Tana French so was chuffed when I got an ARC of this novel. The mystery of the body in the Wych Elm is something that has always fascinated me, and this is an interesting spin on the concept. If you’re interested in the real-life incident that helped to inspire this novel, the “Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm” episode of The Dark Histories Podcast gives a really good overview of it. I also have another book on my reading list that features a similar story so it will be interesting to read that too and compare. That said, this book is not a simple retelling of the real incident, it just has a similar main event.  

This book follows Toby and the fallout from a life altering event that happens to him towards the beginning of the novel. I’d say the story takes rather a long time to get going, I think I was a good 20-30% into it before things really started happening. I’m not against a slow burn myself, but other fans of the crime/thriller genre may find it more difficult to stay interested. The author is clearly a great writer and the Dublin setting and supporting characters are portrayed well.  

My main issue with this novel wasn’t its rather sedate pacing, but more to do with the sheer unlikeability of the main character Toby. He really is just an awful person. I’m aware that this is probably intentional, but his snide inner monologue just rendered me entirely unable to feel any empathy for him. The family dynamics are portrayed well, and the characters are for the most part interesting, but aside from Uncle Hugo, I didn’t find myself liking any of them. I struggle with the “everyone is a shitty person” trope in any form of media and it was the same for this book. The resolution to the main mystery was quite underwhelming too. 

All that said, I still enjoyed reading it for the most part. The quality of the writing carried the less likeable aspects of the novel and the story was interesting enough to hold me attention. I’ll certainly be checking out some of the author’s other work based on this novel and the positive reviews i’ve read from others.