Catching Up: Darkside by Belinda Bauer & The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

Once more I’m behind with reviews of some of the books I’ve read in the past few weeks, so here are some brief notes on two of them that fall into the 10 Books of Summer Reading category.

Darkside by [Bauer, Belinda]

5*

Darkside  is Belinda Bauer’s second novel, set in Shipcott on Exmoor a few years after the events in her first novel, Blacklands. Some of the characters in Blacklands also appear in Darkside, but only in minor roles and I think that Darkside can easily be read as a standalone novel. Shipcott is an isolated village and young PC Jonas Holly is the only policeman in the area covering seven villages and a large part of Exmoor. When Margaret Priddy is killed his inexperience means that has to call in the Taunton Homicide team, led by DCI John Marvel.

Jonas and Marvel clash and Jonas, undermined by as number of anonymous notes accusing him of failing to do his job, tries to keep out of Marvel’s way. More murders follow as Jonas, whose wife Lucy has been diagnosed with MS, is struggling to hold everything together. I liked the characterisation, the description of the setting and the twisty, turning plot. Like Blacklands, Darkside is full of a dark, brooding atmosphere and suspense. I had my suspicions about the identity of the murderer but it was only as I was getting near to the end of the book that I began to think I could possibly be right.

The Woman in Cabin 10

3*

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware didn’t satisfy me as much as Darkside. I liked the beginning of the book. The main character, journalist Lo Blacklock takes the opportunity to fill in for her boss on a luxury press launch on a boutique cruise ship and hopes it will help her recover from a traumatic break-in at her flat. But woken in the night by a scream from cabin 10 next to hers she believes a woman was thrown over board, only to discover that the ship’s records show that cabin 10 was unoccupied. Lo is exhausted from lack of sleep, overwrought with anxiety and dependent on pills and alcohol to see her through. She fails to convince anyone that she is telling the truth.

So far so good. I thought the setting on a luxury cruise ship worked well for this type of locked room mystery. But then as I read on I felt the book was too drawn out, I wasn’t convinced by the plot and in places I found it hard to believe. I wanted to know how it would end  and it is easy reading, so I kept turning the pages. But the final chapter left me cold – tying up the ends in a facile way.

New-to-Me Books from Barter Books

On Tuesday it was time for another visit to my favourite bookshop Barter Books, one of the largest secondhand bookshops in Britain. This is where you can ‘swap’ books for credit that you can then use to get more books from the Barter Books shelves.

These are the books I brought home:

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Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner. I first read this many years ago and want to reread it – and hope I still like it as much. It won the Booker Prize in 1984. From the back cover: ‘Into the rarefied atmosphere of the Hotel du Lac timidly walks Edith Hope, romantic novelist and holder of modest dreams. Edith has been exiled from home after embarrassing herself and her friends. She has refused to sacrifice her ideals and remains stubbornly single. But among the pampered women and minor nobility Edith finds Mr Neville, and her chance to escape from a life of humiliating spinsterhood is renewed . . .’ 

Now is the Time by Melvyn Bragg. I loved his Soldiers Return quartet amongst some of his other books, so I’m hoping this historical fiction set in 1381 at the time of  the Peasants’ Revolt will be as good. Richard II was on the throne of England when a vast force of people led by Wat Tyler and John Ball demanded freedom, and equality. 

Then, three books by Belinda Bauer that I’ve been wanting to read for some time now:

Blacklands, her first novel – this tells the story of a game of cat and mouse between a 12 year old boy, Steven, and Arnold Avery, a serial killer and an abuser of children, who murdered Steven’s Uncle Billy, when he was 11 years old, twenty years ago.

Her second book, Darkside is set in the middle of winter time, when the people who live in a peaceful place, Shipcott, are shocked by the murder of an old woman in her bed.

The Beautiful Dead is about Eve Singer, a TV crime reporter, who will go to any length to get the latest scoop. But when a twisted serial killer starts using her to gain the publicity he craves, Eve must decide how far she’s willing to go – and how close she’ll let him get.

I’d love to start all these books straight away but I think I’ll begin with Belinda Bauer’s books, especially as I also have a review copy of her latest book, Snap which is due to be published as an e-book on 3 May 2018, with the hardback and paperback editions coming out later this year.

What do you think? Have you read any of these? Do they tempt you too?