The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton

Orion Publishing Group 3 May 2018 |432 pages|e-book |Review copy|4.5*

First Chapter First Paragraph: The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton

Every Tuesday First Chapter, First Paragraph/Intros is hosted by Vicky of I’d Rather Be at the Beach sharing the first paragraph or two of a book she’s reading or plans to read soon.

On Sunday I thought I’d just have a quick look at Sharon Bolton’s latest book, The Craftsman and was immediately hooked and had read 20%. I’ve had to put the other books I’m reading on hold as I just have to know what happens next.

 

The book opens with a letter from Sharon Bolton:

Dear Reader,

On a spring day in 1612, a mill owner called Richard Baldwin, in the Pendle forest of Lancashire chased two local women off his land, calling them ‘witches and whores’, threatening to ‘burn one and hang the other’, and in so doing, set in motion events that led to the imprisonment, trial and execution of nine women on the charge of murder by witchcraft: the infamous Pendle Witch Trials.

Like Sharon Bolton the north of England is my homeland and just as she has always wanted to write a book about witches, I have always been fascinated by such books. So it’s no wonder that I am now immersed in her book. It’s not about the Pendle Witch Trials as such, but is set in the shadow of Pendle Hill and moves between the events of 1969 and 1999.

Chapter One

Tuesday, 10 August 1999

On the hottest day of the year, Larry Glassbrook has come home to his native Lancashire for the last time, and the townsfolk have turned out to say goodbye.

Not in a friendly way.

Blurb (Amazon):

Devoted father or merciless killer?

His secrets are buried with him.

Florence Lovelady’s career was made when she convicted coffin-maker Larry Glassbrook of a series of child murders 30 years ago. Like something from our worst nightmares the victims were buried…ALIVE.

Larry confessed to the crimes; it was an open and shut case. But now he’s dead, and events from the past start to repeat themselves.““

Did she get it wrong all those years ago?
Or is there something much darker at play?

What do you think – would you read on?

Six Degrees of Separation from The Tipping Point to Five Red Herrings

I love doing Six Degrees of Separation, a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. Each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain.

This month the chain begins with The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell, a book I haven’t read. The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behaviour crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. 

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

My chain is made up of a mixture of books that I’ve read or are on my TBR shelves and they are all crime fiction.

The Secret Place: Dublin Murder Squad:  5 (Dublin Murder Squad series) by [French, Tana]A Lesson in Secrets (Maisie Dobbs Mysteries Series Book 8) by [Winspear, Jacqueline]Dead Scared: Lacey Flint Series, Book 2 by [Bolton, Sharon]Time is a Killer: From the bestselling author of After the Crash by [Bussi, Michel]Five Red Herrings: Lord Peter Wimsey Book 7 (Lord Peter Wimsey Series) by [Sayers, Dorothy L.]

My first link in the chain is to the word ‘point’ in the book title – The Point of Rescue by Sophie Hannah, also a book I haven’t read. It’s a psychological thriller in which Sally Thorning has a secret affair.

The Secret Place by Tana French is another book about secrets that bind  a group of adolescent girls together in a girls’ boarding school when they become involved in a murder investigation. It’s the 5th book in the Dublin Murder Squad Series. Another book I haven’t read yet.

A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear – historical crime fiction set in 1932. Maisie Dobbs directed by Scotland Yard’s Special Branch and the Secret Service goes undercover as a lecturer at Cambridge University to monitor any activities ‘not in the interests of the Crown.’ Yet another TBR book.

Another crime fiction book set in Cambridge University is Sharon Bolton’s Dead Scared in which DC Lacey Flint is posted at the University, after  a spate of student suicides, with a brief to work undercover, posing as a vulnerable, depression-prone student.

Sticking with the theme of crime fiction takes me to my next link – Time is a Killer by Michel Bussi, a murder mystery set in Corsica. Clotilde is determined to find out what  happened in a car crash that killed her parents and brother 27 years earlier. There is a plan showing the Revellata Peninsula, a wild and beautiful coastline, where Clotilde’s grandparents lived, and all the key locations.

I think maps and plans are really useful in crime fiction. Another book that has a map is Five Red Herrings by Dorothy L Sayers. Lord Peter is on holiday in Scotland, in a fishing and painting community when Campbell, a local landscape painter and fisherman is found dead in a burn. The map at the beginning of the book helped me follow the action – I needed the map!

 ~~~

My chain this month is linked by: crime fiction, books about secrets, books set in Cambridge and books with helpful maps. And in a way the books all link back to The Tipping Point as they all demonstrate how the little, minute things in the details of each case add up to help solve the crimes.

Next month (July 7, 2018), we’ll begin with Tales of the City, the first in the much-loved series by Armistead Maupin – yet another book I haven’t read or even heard of before!

Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton

You can tell from the title what to expect from this book – lies, black lies, but they’re not little lies, they are whopping great big lies. The story is narrated by three of the main characters, Catrin, Callum and Rachel, all unreliable narrators either self deceptive, delusional or manipulative. They are all damaged characters.

Three years before the story begins Catrin’s two sons died in an accident caused by her then best friend Rachel. She has never got over it; they have haunted her ever since and she has not spoken to Rachel since then, determined to take revenge as the third anniversary of their death approaches. A year after their deaths Fred Harper went missing and was never found, then another boy, Jimmy Brown disappeared. As the story begins yet another boy, Archie West is missing. The nightmare continues with the disappearance of Peter, Rachel’s third and youngest son.

Little Black Lies is set in the Falkland Islands in 1994, twelve years after the war and Sharon Bolton’s descriptions of the islands paint a vivid picture of the isolation, the close knit community and war scarred landscape.

But there are a few things about this book that mean whilst I enjoyed the descriptive writing, the sense of place and the opening section very much I didn’t really like it. I began reading it with high expectations as it has received much praise and I’ve enjoyed everything else by Sharon Bolton that I’ve read. And although I was dismayed when I found it was written in the present tense (which is not my favourite style) I thought it was very promising and read on eagerly.

But when I finished it I gave it 3 stars on Goodreads, rounded up from 2.5 (Goodreads doesn’t have half marks!). I wasn’t keen on the focus on missing/dead children which so many books seem to have had recently. And it was a combination of the present tense and the way the plot descended into more of a farce with several twists and turns, particularly as the book draws to an end, one after the other that I just didn’t think was credible. The final  twist at the end came out of the blue for me, although thinking back it shouldn’t have been such a surprise. But I felt a bit cheated. In fact I’m rather annoyed with myself as I’d totally forgotten FictionFan had reviewed this book and I’d thought then that it was one that didn’t appeal to me – at least I was right!

A Dark and Twisted Tide by Sharon Bolton: Mini Review

I finished reading A Dark and Twisted Tide, the 4th in the Lacey Flint series, at the end of September, but never got round to writing about it, so now this is just a mini review.

Synopsis from the back cover:

Police Constable Lacey Flint thins she’s safe. Living on the river, swimming in the river, she’s never been happier. It can’t last. Because Lacey has secrets. And when the first body floats, it’s only a matter of time before her fragile life falls apart. And the river is the last place she should be ..,

This is such a terrifying novel, particularly if like me, you have a fear of drowning. No longer a detective, Lacey is now a police constable with the Metropolitan Police’s Marine Unit on the River Thames, living on a houseboat (actually a vintage sailing yacht) in Deptford Creek and wanting a quieter and safer life whilst trying to recover from the terrifying events of her last cases. Unlike me, Lacey loves swimming and is perfectly at home in water, so much so that she wild-swims in the Thames as often as tide and conditions allow, loving it so much that she feels she has become part of the river. But even she experiences the terror of being drawn down into the water ‘within a frantic gasp of drowning‘.

A Dark and Twisted Tide is a multi-layered book, told from different characters’ perspectives, complex and chilling as it weaves its way through murders, people trafficking, a mysterious character called ‘the swimmer’, more details about Lacey’s background and the ongoing saga of her relationship with Mark Joesbury. It’s a grim tale with a great sense of foreboding and mystery – a book I read far too quickly, making me think at some point I’ll read it again more slowly as I’m sure there’s a lot I missed. An excellent read for RIP X!

Two Lacey Flint books by Sharon Bolton

I’ve recently read Dead Scared, Sharon Bolton’s  second Lacey Flint book and Like This, For Ever, the third book in the series:

Bolton bks

Synopses from Sharon Bolton’s website:

Dead Scared

Someone is watching you…

When a Cambridge university student dramatically attempts to take her own life, DI Mark Joesbury realizes that the university has developed an unhealthy record of young people committing suicide in extraordinary ways.

Despite huge personal misgivings, Joesbury sends young policewoman DC Lacey Flint to Cambridge with a brief to work undercover, posing as a vulnerable, depression-prone student.

Psychiatrist Evi Oliver is the only person in Cambridge who knows who Lacey really is – or so they both hope. But as the two women dig deeper into the darker side of university life, they discover a terrifying trend…

And when Lacey starts experiencing the same disturbing nightmares reported by the dead girls, she knows that she is next.

Like This, For Ever (published as Lost in the US)

Twelve-year-old Barney Roberts is obsessed with a series of murders. He knows the victims are all boys, just like him. He knows the bodies were found on river banks nearby. And he’s sure the killer will strike again soon. But there’s something else, a secret he’d rather not know, a secret he is too scared to share . . .  And who would believe a twelve-year-old boy anyway?

Like This, For Ever is a twisty, addictive, up-all-night thriller from a writer who loves nothing more than to play with your mind.

Two perfect books for the RIP Challenge. they are both totally absorbing murder mysteries – maybe Like This, for Ever is even better than Dead Scared. I did have an inkling quite early on who was pulling Lacey’s strings in Dead Scared, but I just didn’t know how it was being done – nightmares, hallucinations, bizarre suicides and vulnerable students. It is terrifying in parts.

With Like This, For Ever I had no idea until very near the end who the killer was. It’s so full of red herrings and twists (more than in Dead Secret) that I swung from believing it could be this person to that, or thinking it can’t possibly be that person, or I do hope it’s not that one. It was one of the people I thought maybe it’s that one, but I quickly dismissed that idea.

Both books are full of believable and individual characters, plus there is the ongoing story of Lacey, her boss Mark Joesbury and psychiatrist Evi Oliver. I’d love to read the next book in the series soon – A Dark and Twisted Tide.

I first read Sharon Bolton’s books when she was writing under the name SJ Bolton, and I wondered why the name change.  The answer is here in this post on her blog . It’s long, so I’ll summarise – ‘SJ Bolton’ was the name her publishers suggested in 2006 in the manner of PD James and JK Rowling and she went along with it, the thinking being that men don’t buy books by a woman author. But she doesn’t have a middle name and chose ‘J’, confusing for people who knew her personally , and then more SJs appeared on the book shelves and she felt lost in the crowd. There was also the issue around the name ‘Sharon’, a name that can conjure up images of Pauline Quirke slouching around Chigwell in a shell suit. So  she now writes as Sharon Bolton and I for one am glad she does – it’s less anonymous as well as being a much more memorable name.

As well as being perfect for the RIP challenge, Dead Scared is a book I’ve owned for a while and so qualifies for the Mount To Be Read Challenge.