Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

One of the books I’m reading is Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. This is a book that I’ve been hesitating about reading for a while. For one thing I had no idea what crawdads are – they’re crayfish and apparently they don’t actually sing – and for another it has mixed reviews. Anyway, I decided it was worth trying and I started to listen to the audiobook on BorrowBox, but had to return it unfinished and have now borrowed a paperback copy from the library. I’ve got to return it by 7 July as someone else has reserved it, which puts me under pressure to read it right now. It’s obviously in demand!

It begins with a Prologue:

1969

Marsh is not swamp. Marsh is a space of light, where grass grows in water, and water flows into the sky.

Followed by Chapter I Ma:

1952

The morning burned so August-hot, the marsh’s moist breath hung the oaks and pines with fog. The palmetto patches stood unusually quiet except for the low, slow flap of the heron’s wings lifting from the lagoon. And then, Kya, only six at the time, heard the screen door slap.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice, where you grab a book and turn to page 56 (or 56% of an eBook), find one or more interesting sentences (no spoilers), and post them.

Page 56:

Every warmish day of winter and every day of spring, Pa and Kya went out, far and up and down the coast, trolling, casting, and reeling. Whether the estuary or creek, she scanned for that boy Tate in his boat, hoping to see him again.

Synopsis from Amazon

For years, rumors of the ‘Marsh Girl’ have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life – until the unthinkable happens.

~~~

It’s looking good so far. Have you read it – if so, what did you think of it?

A Tapping At My Door by David Jackson

Zaffre/ 2016/ e-book/ Print length: 315 pages/ My own copy/ 4*

It’s that time of year ago when I’ve been reading and not reviewing – spending more time gardening as the grass grows so quickly and the weeds multiply. And I want to do some more family history . As it’s too hot to do much gardening today I’ve got some time to write a short review.

A Tapping At My Door is a crime thriller, the first in David Jackson’s DS Nathan Cody crime thriller series. I bought it not long after it had been published in 2016, but I’ve only just got round to reading it. I wrote about the opening in this post. Even though this book is more scary and, in parts more gruesome, than I like to read, I did finish it, and enjoyed it for the characters and the plot.

I liked Nathan immediately. He works in the Major Investigation Team in Liverpool, but was previously an undercover officer. It’s obvious that something had gone wrong whilst he was working undercover, which had affected him very badly. He can’t sleep, has a quick temper and flares up very easily, especially with the local reporter and he acts recklessly with little regard for his safety.

The mystery begins as Terri Latham is disturbed late one night by a ‘tapping, scratching, scrabbling noise at her back door’. When she goes outside to investigate she sees a large black bird trapped at her window and she is then struck with something hard and heavy, rammed into her skull. What follows is not a quick death and when the police find her, it is with the dead bird’s wings unfurled and spread across her where her eyes had been, and her cheeks. There is a note attached to the bird’s leg, with the message: ‘Nevermore‘, a reference to Edgar Allan Poe’s poem, The Raven.

There are more bodies, each accompanied by a dead bird and a cyptic note, and it is soon obvious that the murderer is targeting the police. This book is full of tension, it’s very creepy and in places it is utterly gross. Although, I’m giving it 4 stars I am not at all sure I’ll read any more of the books in this series, but if you have a stronger stomach than me you’ll probably love them.

I have a backlog of reviews to write, so this is the first of several short reviews so that I can catch up!

Library Books 18 June 2022

It’s time for another Library Books post – here are my current library loans. From the bottom up they are:

The Women of Troy by Pat Barker – the continuation of the story of Troy following on from The Silence of the Girls (which I have, but have not read yet). It is a retelling of The Iliad from the perspective of the women of Troy who endured it. I hope I’ll be able to read both before I have to return it.

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood, a retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, one of my favourites of his plays. I’ve seen it performed on stage twice, once at the Barbican in London and then at the Royal Shakespeare Company Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon. Margaret Atwood is one of my favourite authors, so I’m expecting this will be good.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. Now, this is a book I’ve wondered about reading ever since I saw other book bloggers’ reviews. It seems to be a book that some people love and others don’t, varying from five to one star ratings. I started to listen to the audiobook, but had to return it unfinished. It’s described as ‘part murder-mystery, part coming-of-age novel’ set in the North Carolina marshlands.

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie, a Poirot murder mystery. I have read this book, but I fancied reading it again, even though I do know who murdered Mr Ratchett, an American tycoon who was murdered in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside. I really like the cover of this book!

What have you been reading from the library recently?

Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: A Tapping at My Door by David Jackson

Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

I’m currently reading A Tapping at My Door by David Jackson, one of my 20 Books of Summer. It’s the first in his DS Nathan Cody crime thriller series.

Listen.

There it is again. The sound. The tapping, scraching, scrabbling noise at the back door.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice, where you grab a book and turn to page 56 (or 56% of an eBook), find one or more interesting sentences (no spoilers), and post them.

56%:

‘We can’t keep operating like this. We can’t treat every suspicious call as if it’s leading us to an unexploded bomb. We haven’t got the resources and pretty soon the public is going to start wonderingwhy we’re taking so long to deal with minor crimes.

Synopsis from Amazon

When police are called to a murder scene in the Liverpool suburbs, even the most jaded officers are disturbed by what they find.

DS Nathan Cody, still bearing the scars of an undercover mission that went horrifyingly wrong, is put on the case. But the police have no leads, except the body of the bird – and the victim’s missing eyes.

And then the killer strikes again, and Cody realises the threat isn’t to the people of Liverpool after all – it’s to the police.

~~~

The beginning of this book is so scary that I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to read it, but I am and I’m enjoying it. Jackson quotes from Edgar Allan Poe’s poem The Raven before Chapter 1, which gives you a hint of what is to follow.

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

The Hiding Place by Simon Lelic

Penguin UK| 22 May 2022| 340 pages| e-book| Review copy/5*

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Synopsis:

Four friends. One murder. A game they can’t escape . . .

It was only a game.’ Until a boy went missing. ‘No one was meant to get hurt.’ But a body has been found. ‘Just some innocent fun.’ Except one of them is a killer. Ready or not, here I come.

It’s time to play hide and seek again.

My thoughts:

I’ve read two of Simon Lelic’s books previously and enjoyed both of them, but I think The Hiding Place is the best. It’s the second book featuring D I Robin Fleet and D S Nicola Collins, first seen in The Search Party.

It’s set across two timelines – 1997 when Ben Draper, a 14 year-old teenager with a troubled background, and a history of absconding from school, started at Beaconsfield, a prestigious boarding school. He is bullied, disliked and feels shunned and despised, but he does make three friends, Callum, Lance and Melissa. Longing to be accepted, he thinks they are his friends, but then he is drawn unwillingly into their plot to damage the school. After playing a game of Hide and Seek with them, that ended in terror, he went missing and his body was never found. Until, that is, in the present day, when his skeleton was found in an abandoned crypt in the school grounds – Fleet and Collins are assigned to investigate the case.

I was soon thoroughly gripped by this book as it moves between the two time periods. The detectives interview the headmaster, who seems to be more concerned about the school’s reputation than about finding out what had happened to Ben. The investigation is made more difficult as Callum is now a well-known TV celebrity and aspiring politician, which means the case is potentially a political scandal and that Fleet’s hands are tied. The detectives efforts to trace the other two pupils, Lance and Melissa are also hampered.

What emerges is a fantastic story, with many complications, red herrings and plot twists. Lelic is a terrific storyteller and writes a really compelling story that moves along at a fast pace. It is full of tension and suspense that kept me enthralled.The characterisation and the school setting, surrounded by thick woodland full of ancient trees and a graveyard, are excellent. I really like Fleet, and the way he stands up to his boss, Superintendent Burton, a yes man whose main concern is to keep the politicians happy. It examines the problems caused by loneliness and feelings of being a misfit in an unfeeling elitist education system where bullying and manipulation is largely unchecked. I was never sure how it would end, or who was responsible for Ben’s death until the final dramatic conclusion. I think it is one of the best books I’ve read so far this year.

Many thanks to Penguin UK for a review copy via NetGalley.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books with Ambiguous Endings

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. For the rules see her blog. The topic this week is: Books without an Epilogue, but I’m tweaking it into Books with Anbiguous Endings, because they stay in my mind long after I’ve finished reading, wondering what happened next. Having said that I also enjoy Agatha Christie’s murder mysteries where Poirot or Miss Marple tie up all the loose ends at the end of the story.

But they don’t linger in my mind, unlike the last lines of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind (my review) – ‘I’ll think of it all tomorrow, at Tara. I can stand it then. Tomorrow, I’ll think of some way to get him back. After all tomorrow is another day.’ What happens next is left to the reader to decide … and I love that.

The following are all books that end ambiguously that I’ve enjoyed. The links are to my reviews, except for The Magus, which is linked to Goodreads

Picnic at Hanging Rock by Kate Grenville – The picnic, which began innocently and happily, ends in explicable terror, and some of the party never returned. What happened to them remains a mystery.

The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide. The ending which gave me much pause (pun not intended) for thought, is ambiguous, a mystery left hanging for you to decide for yourself what had happened – inevitable, I thought. Even the cover is ambiguous only showing part of the cat’s face.

The Deep by Alma Katsu – The story revolves around Annie Hebbley, a stewardess on the Titanic and a nurse on the Britannic. The ending is so ambiguous – just who was Annie Hebbley? It is surreal and you just have to make your own mind up.

The Buried Giant by Kazuru Ishiguru – mysterious, beguiling and slippery, hard to pin down in parts and startlingly clear in others. From a somewhat slow start it gripped my imagination and made me think, trying to pin down just what was happening as the prose is clear and yet ambiguous. It is extraordinary and mesmerising!

The Fatherland by Robert Harris – an ‘alternative history’, historical fiction that never was. But this is predominantly crime fiction, that makes you think about the nature of good and evil and about the ways in which society handles corruption. The ending is suitably ambiguous – all the loose ends are not neatly tied up.

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes – Just what did happen is never stated explicitly and the reader is left to puzzle it out with just a few clues. I’m not sure I got the whole picture, but I enjoyed trying to unravel the mystery. In the end I think it illustrates the nature of memory rather than being concerned about what actually happened.

Atonement by Ian McEwan – In the book and also in the film we see different versions of the same events, which adds depth and introduces uncertainty and ambiguity about what actually happened.What did actually happen – it’s up to the reader to decide.

The Magus by John Fowles – I read this many years ago and whilst my memory of it is hazy now I do remember that it was sometimes difficult to work out what was real and what was not, and that it ends inconclusively, with two possible outcomes.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson – not just an ambiguous ending, but full of confusion and misdirection throughout. The story took several ambiguous turns, so that I was not quite sure what was really happening. Was the house really haunted or was it all an effect of what was going on in their minds, or was it all just in Eleanor’s fevered imagination? The mystery haunted me.

The Classics Club Spin Result

The spin number in The Classics Club Spin is number …

which for me is The Mousetrap and Other Plays by Agatha Christie and I am delighted as this is a book I’ve wanted to read for years!. The rules of the Spin are that this is the book for me to read by 7th August, 2022.

Synopsis from the book:

These four gripping plays by the undisputed Queen of Crime, here published for the first time in book form, provide yet more evidence of her mastery of the domestic thriller. Agatha Christie’s talents as a playwright are equal to her skills as a novelist and reading her plays, with their ingenious plots and colourful cast of characters, is every bit as pleasurable.

The Mousetrap has made history by becoming the longest running play ever. And Then There Were None was another huge theatrical success and was made into a superb film by Rene Clair. The two remaining plays were both adapted by Agatha Christie from her earlier novels: The Hollow, set in the English countryside and Appointment with Death, set among the exotic ruins of Petra in the suffocating heat of the Jordan desert.

Agatha Christie dramatised many of her own stories and frequently devised new twists of plot and character to surprise and enthrall her audience.

The Mousetrap opened in London’s West End in 1952 and ran continuously until 16 March 2020, when the stage performances had to be temporarily discontinued during the COVID-19 pandemic. It then re-opened on 17 May 2021. It’s set in a guest house, Monkswell Manor, wintertime “in the present day”, that is the early 1950s. The play has a twist ending, which the audience are traditionally asked not to reveal after leaving the theatre, so I’ll be limited in what I can write about it.

Did you take part in the Classics Spin? What will you be reading?

Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: The Riddle of the Third Mile by Colin Dexter

Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

The Riddle of the Third Mile by Colin Dexter is one of my 20 Books of Summer. It’s an Inspector Morse murder mystery. I have just finished reading it and will write a review soon. But in the meantime I thought I’d do Book Beginnings on Friday and a Friday 56 post about it.

Chapter One: Monday, 7th July

In which a veteran of the El Alamein offensive finds cause to recall the most tragic day of his life.

There had been three of them – the three Gilbert brothers: the twins, Alfred and Albert; and the younger boy, John, who had been killed one day in North Africa.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice, where you grab a book and turn to page 56 (or 56% of an eBook), find one or more interesting sentences (no spoilers), and post them.

Page 56: This extract is part of Morse’s memories of his time at Oxford University.

But in the middle of his third year he had met the girl who matched the joy of all his wildest dreams.

Synopsis from Amazon

The thought suddenly occurred to Morse that this would be a marvellous time to murder a few of the doddery old bachelor dons. No wives to worry about their whereabouts; no landladies to whine about the unpaid rents. In fact nobody would miss most of them at all . . .

By the 16th of July the Master of Lonsdale was concerned, but not yet worried.

Dr Browne-Smith had passed through the porter’s lodge at approximately 8.15 a.m. on the morning of Friday, 11th July. And nobody had heard from him since.

Plenty of time to disappear, thought Morse. And plenty of time, too, for someone to commit murder . . .

Classics Club Spin

It’s time for another Classics Club Spin.

Before next Sunday, 12 June, create a post that lists twenty books of your choice that remain “to be read” on your Classics Club list. On that day the Classics Club will post a number from 1 through 20. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List by 7 August, 2022.

Here’s my list:

  1. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  2. Another Part of the Wood by Beryl Bainbridge
  3. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  4. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
  5. The Mousetrap and Selected Plays by Agatha Christie
  6. The Case of the Gilded Fly by Edmund Crispin
  7. The Stars Look Down by A J Cronin
  8. Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
  9. Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
  10. The Black Tulip by Alexandre Dumas
  11. The Birds and other short stories by Daphne du Maurier
  12. Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith
  13. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  14. Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
  15. How Green was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn
  16. A Town Like Alice by Neville Shute
  17. On the Beach by Nevil Shute
  18. Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck
  19. The Invisible Man by H G Wells
  20. Between the Acts by Virginia Woolf

I don’t mind which one is picked as I’m aiming to read all of them in due course! But which one/s would you recommend?

Edited on June 9, because I’ve just realised I’ve included A Room with a View which I’ve read – it was my Classics Club Spin book from the last Spin! I just copied the previous list (with a few alterations) and didn’t realise it was still on the list. I’ve now removed it and added The Awakening by Kate Chopin instead.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books with a Unit of Time in the Title

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. For the rules see her blog.

The topic this week is Books With a Unit of Time In the Title: seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, eternity, etc

  1. Casey Cep tells three stories in Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee – the crimes of Willie Maxwell, the trials of his lawyer Tom Radney and Harper Lee’s failed attempt to write about them.
  2. Thirteen Hours by Deon Meyer (translated from Afrikaans by K L Seegers) – crime fiction set in South Africa, DI Benny Griessel has just 13 hours to crack open a conspiracy which threatens the whole country.
  3. The Day Gone By the autobiography of Richard Adams, the author of Watership Down.
  4. Agatha Christie and the Eleven Missing Days by Jared Cade delves into the mystery of her disappearance in 1926.
  5. The Shortest Day by Colm Toibin – During the winter solstice, on the shortest day and longest night of the year, the ancient burial chamber at Newgrange is empowered. Its mystifying source is a haunting tale told by locals.
  6. The Wicked Day by Mary Stewart’s sequel to Mary Stewart’s Merlin trilogy, telling the story of Mordred, King Arthur’s illegitimate son, who was foretold by Merlin as Arthur’s bane.
  7. J L Carr’s A Month in the Country is a beautifully written book, set in the aftermath of World War I. Tom, his ‘nerves shot to pieces, wife gone, dead broke‘,  is still suffering from shell shock after the battle of Passchendaele. 
  8. The Year Without Summer by Guinevere Glasfurd telling how the volcanic eruption of Mount Tambora on Sumbawa Island in Indonesia in 1815 had a profound and far reaching impact on the world.
  9. The Year of Miracle and Grief by Leonid Borodin – a twelve-year-old boy, finds magic, mystery, romance, and sadness at beautiful Lake Baikal in Siberia.
  10. Yesterday’s Papers by Martin Edwards – solicitor Harry Devlin is investigating a crime dating back thirty years to the 1960s, the period of Beatlemania, with the focus on the sixties music scene.