The Murder Farm Written By Andrea Maria Schenkel

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ARC received from NetGalley in return for an honest review.

5 out of 5 stars

My village had become the home of “the murder farm,” and I couldn’t get the story out of my mind.

This story has something pervasive in its language and in the story telling. I am unable to get the words and the images and the ideas out of my mind. My imagination is consumed with images and I can feel the cold, hear the storm, and imagine how lonely it would be for those living on the farm.

A reader of this book must approach this book in a different fashion to most crime novels – it is unconventional and therein lies its cleverness. The story is linear but fragments around multiple narrators, each unique voice telling their part and how they connect with murder victims. Each narrator, it seems, has no agenda or anything to hide, however, each one unreliable, spinning the story to their own histories and experiences. Even the victims and their relatives seem sympathetic without being likeable. The persistent references to “tittle-tattle” suggest to me that each of them knows far more than they are willing to divulge.

Some books are impressive because of the story they tell – others are impressive because of the feelings they create. This book is impressive for both story and feeling. The writing style itself is perfectly pitched to keep the reader wound up and wanting to turn the page. The book itself isn’t overly long and so it is a relatively quick read. On occasion, a short story suffers from lack of substance but there is no hint of this problem in The Murder Farm. There were few descriptive parts throughout but Schenkel always provides just enough for you to imagine the scene. Fans of Norwegian crime dramas will enjoy this book as will fans of cinema as this book would be easily adapted to tv or film.

Originally published in 2006 by Nautilus, translated in 2008 by Anthea Bell and first published in the US by Quercus, this book truly deserves the positive attention it is receiving.

ISBN: 978-1-62365-167-1

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The Second Deadly Sin written by Åsa Larsson

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ARC received from NetGalley in return for an honest review. No financial incentive received.

0 stars out of 5
Book not read in full.
On discovering this was the fifth book in a series I went to my fellow reviewers to find their take on the book. The general consensus seemed to suggest that the book could be read as a stand alone work. For me this did not turn out to be the case. I felt as though I was starting a movie after the first thirty minutes had passed and couldn’t. Catch up with who the characters are. I would be interested to come back to this after reading the other four books.

I did like that the opening pages read as a screenplay as this certainly helped set the scene and the mood. Some of the language was problematic but I feel this has more to do with the translation (potentially) rather than the original writing.

The Rise and Fall of Great Powers written by Tom Rachman

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4 out of 5 stars

ARC from NetGalley – no financial incentive was received for this review. Please note; quotes are from the unedited edition and may differ in the final version.

Matilda “Tooly” Zylberberg is not a character who suffers from an undeveloped chronology, far from it. Tooly has lived many lives in her thirty odd years and when we meet her, she is running a bookshop, “The World’s End”, in Wales and with the rise of Amazon, her sales are fast declining.

Enter the shades of her childhood, Paul with whom she travels to Thailand as an eight year old; Sarah, mysterious and irresponsible; Venn, enigmatic but forever changing; and Humphrey, the kindly Russian who teaches Tooly to be an intellectual. Each taking on the position of role model and drawing the reader into an elegant web of secrets and deceptions that span the globe and nearly all of Tooly’s life.

Rachman’s characters are kinetic. Even when they seem their most settled there is an undertow lurking to drag them away. The only semi-stable character is Fogg, the eccentric assistant at the bookshop.

Initially, this book courted disaster. The characters were all lovely, you wanted to like them and somehow you couldn’t help wanting them to be your friend. Especially with lines like If ever a man fancied her these days, she suspected of him of low standards, of being a goat in heat. However, just as you start to think the entire story is going to be sweet and light the undertow grabs you and you’re dragged into the story. For me, this was the only time I felt there was an opportunity to stop reading.

Such is the strength of this story it wasn’t until the end that I realised just how much the people you love and trust can let you down in life – or more simply, show themselves not to be the person you though them. The truths of this novel, for me were sad and deeply realistic, as too are the elements of redemption.

Rachman also has a knack for observation that does not sound like a diatribe of negativity. And walking had become an obstacle course, pedestrians inebriated on handheld devices, jostling one another as they passed, glancing up dimly at the shared world, then back into the bottomless depths projected from shining glass.

It is clear why some have compared this work with that of Donna Tartt and for me, the intense characters are what lifts this story away from being just another story about just another girl. As Venn so aptly puts it Everyone’s their own world, and this book takes you further into understanding just how fractured from each other we truly are.