If I had to pick a word to describe this book it would be ‘tedious’. It seemed to just go on, and on, not quite knowing what to do, or where to go with all the characters that had been created. I haven’t read any of Sophie Hannah’s previous books, so wasn’t aware that there was actually a ‘Culver City’ series featuring the partnership of Detectives Simon Waterhouse and his wife Charlie. I’m not sure this book has inspired me to read others from the series.
The book starts off with an advert from a website called ‘Intimate Links’ where someone is looking for a response from someone with a ‘secret’. It swiftly moves on to the bizarre death of infamous journalist Damon Blundy, and we meet our main (extremely unlikeable) character, Nicki Clements. Nicki’s carefully constructed life is based on an intricately woven web of lies, stretching back to early childhood. Her ex-best friend, Melissa, is now married to Nicki’s brother Lee and we slowly realise that there is more to this triangulated relationship than meets the eye.
Nicki’s non-entity of a husband, Adam, doesn’t seem to have a clue about the woman he’s married to, and although throughout the book, we hear how much she loves her family (husband and two children), we never see or hear evidence of a cosy family life.
Numerous (oh, so numerous!) characters are introduced who would have had motive to kill the vicious Damon Blundy, and the story quickly takes on a ‘Whodunit’ format. Unsurprisingly, Nicki takes centre stage as the Number One suspect.
Clearly the book did have some element that kept me reading, wanting to know about Nicki’s past, and how her private life had inextricably tied itself to Damon Blundy and his ill fate. But sadly, even when the ‘punchline’ was delivered it wasn’t the ‘Ohmygosh’ lightbulb moment one wants from a (semi-) suspense-filled prelude. My response in the end was more like ‘who cares?’ than the ‘Wow!’ that it should have been. Big, big disappointment.
One of my absolute favourite authors, and her latest offering did not disappoint. An extremely cleverly constructed story about the intricacies of adults navigating the hazardous terrain of the school playground … ending with murder! Aggressive, dynamic Madeline and her beautiful but seemingly vague friend Celeste, align themselves with waif-like newcomer Jane, when the nasty Renata initiates a witch-hunt against Jane’s son Ziggy for bullying her gifted daughter Amabella. As the school parents take sides in the volatile confrontation, secrets are revealed about those involved.
It’s an insightful exploration of the various forms that bullying takes, from the perspectives of both adults and children.
Many of the chapters end with brief snippets of conversations and interviews from the fateful School Trivia Night on which the murder occurs. Moriarty is such a master when it comes to her craft – astutely building to the crescendo: who was actually murdered? I must admit, I didn’t see it coming!!!
A highly enjoyable book … not quite as good as The Midnight Rose (which I’d give 10 out of 10), but maybe an 8 and a half, if only for its predictability.
Rosanna first meets Roberto Rossini when she is only 11 years old, and he is already a rising star of the La Scala opera house. On the same night Carlotta also meets Roberto, and so begin years of secrets and a passionate love affair that will last a lifetime.
Throw in all the usual characters: a treasured best friend (Abi), a devoted brother (Luca), a scheming mistress (Donatella) and a good natured ‘nice-guy’ (Stephen) and the stage is set for a saga spanning many years, filled with love, seduction, secrets, betrayal … and opera!
One of the most attractive things about this book is the foreward. Lucinda Riley wrote the original story some years ago, although it didn’t get published. When she picked up the discarded manuscript she realised that it was still a great story. So she re-worked the characters and the plot into what is today the very readable ‘The Italian Girl’.
Allison has a problem … while her life looks perfectly perfect on the outside, it’s actually spiralling out of control. There’s the pressure of dealing with her increasingly distant husband, Dave, her extremely volatile, sensitive child, Eloise, and her child-like mother’s inability to cope with her own husband’s (Allison’s father) journey into Dementia. The easiest escape for Allison is her fast-growing relationship with her prescription medication. Originally prescribed for her after for a back pain she experienced after a fall in the gym, Allison finds various ways to feed her growing addition through an efficient system of calling a number of doctors at suitable intervals, to fill new prescriptions for her pills. And when all else fails, she discovers a website where you can order them online, anonymously!
In the typical fashion of an addict, Allison assumes she has everything under control and that she is doing a great job of hiding her habit from those close to her. But again, through typical addict behaviour, the facade starts to slip as her behaviour becomes more and more erratic. Her constant need to ‘nap’, coupled with her ‘forgetfulness’ cannot go unnoticed.
So we painfully follow Allison through some excruciatingly embarassing rock-bottom episodes, and consequently to rehab and beyond.
Brutal and honest, Weiner has managed to construct a story so realistic that we will sub-consciously run through everyone we know, looking for signs of addiction, as we realise that addicts are not only the rough-looking, tattooed, typecast sorry lot from the wrong side of the tracks. Addicts can quite easily be the smart-attired executives, or the good-natured, harassed moms we see every day; people who look like you and me!