Category Archives: Book Reviews
The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair, written by Joël Dicker and starring Patrick Dempsey (of Grey’s Anatomy fame) will soon, courtesy of MGM, hit our screens.
Under Jean-Jacques Annaud’s direction, Dicker’s entire novel will be brought to life over ten episodes. This is a similar approach taken to The Handmaid’s Tale, written by Margaret Atwood and starring Elizabeth Moss, which won a host of Emmy awards.
Back in the summer of 2014, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dicker in Dublin for writing.ie:
Having finished The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair only days before the interview, I was intrigued to meet Geneva born Joël Dicker, a writer with a novel which belies his mere 28 years. He is hailed as Switzerland’s coolest export since Roger Federer, with rights sold to 45 countries in 32 languages and over 2 million copies sold in less than a year. For me, minus the supernatural element, it was reminiscent of a great Stephen King novel. Dicker laughs when I mention it – apparently, I’m not the first to make the comparison although he has not, yet, read any of King’s novels. I suggest that with his busy schedule he could try Joyland, far shorter than King’s regular books but, in my opinion, up there with some of his very best. Dicker, like King, has a way of bringing his books to life by producing such fully formed characters that you feel as if you already know them personally and you never want to let them go.
The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair is set in New Hampshire. Here’s the blurb:
In the summer of 1975, struggling author Harry Quebert fell in love with fifteen-year-old Nola Kellergan. Thirty-three years later, her body is dug up from his yard, along with a manuscript copy of the novel that secured his lasting fame. Quebert is the only suspect.
Marcus Goldman – Quebert’s most gifted protégé – throws off his writer’s block to clear his mentor’s name. Solving the case and penning a new bestseller soon merge into one. As his book begins to take on a life of its own, the nation is gripped by the mystery of “The Girl Who Touched the Heart of America.”
But with Nola, in death as in life, nothing is ever as it seems.
Not just a book about an unsolved murder case, The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair explores the price of fame and the seduction of success, the ferocity of the publishing industry and the power of the media, love in all its forms and what it means to be a truly great writer.
Dicker is currently on a roller-coaster ride, jetting in and out of countries so fast, while promoting his book, that his feet have barely touched the ground. Yet, relaxing over a coffee in the Ballsbridge hotel, he is charming and humble, excusing himself for a moment while he finds a socket to re-charge his iPhone.
This is a guy who has worked hard for what appears to be overnight success. His writing career began at age ten, when he was Editor-in-Chief of a monthly wildlife magazine, and wrote factual articles about animals. Until then he had not considered short stories. “I wanted to feel free to tell the story I wanted, because with the magazine I was only able to write true facts, so I tried short stories.” Dicker admits he finds it difficult to be able to condense a story enough to produce a short story, yet he managed it successfully with The Tiger which won an award in 2005. Some accomplishment for him, he laughs, as he nods towards his current novel, The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair, which is over 600 pages long. Perhaps another similarity between himself and Stephen King …
At age 24, he wrote The Final Days of our Fathers which won the Prix des Ecrivains Genevois (Geneva Writers’ Prize) for unpublished manuscripts. The novel was subsequently published in 2012. His passion may always have been for writing, but he may well have taken another road when he headed off to an acting school in Paris. “I’ve always really enjoyed writing and playing music and doing some artistical creative stuff.” But Dicker explains, “I always felt the need to have a back-up plan. After six months, I realised I was not made for that. I really felt I should have a degree in something.” I ask if that’s how he ended up studying law. He laughs easily and nods, “I was not very good at literature and horrible at mathematics, so, I chose the only faculty at the University of Geneva that has no literature and no maths!”
We chat about his book and I ask whether his publishers might have requested him to shorten the title. Apparently that was never the case, but they were a little concerned about the pronunciation of Harry Quebert for his English-speaking audience. Dicker came up with a novel way to get over this problem. The waitresses, at the local coffee shop where the great Quebert frequents, are given a lesson by the owner, Tamara, on how to bring his order and on the correct pronunciation of his name:
“The chorus of waitresses croaked like frogs: “Kuh-bear, Kuh-bear, Kuh-bear.”
It does the trick!
With his first novel, Dicker had tried to imagine what it would be like to have his book in the shops, expecting the bookseller to have it displayed in the front window. But unfortunately, back then, that wasn’t the case. Today it is a different story. Wherever he travels he comes across huge posters of The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair displayed in bookshop windows; most recently earlier today in Dublin. “I feel very, very lucky with this one. Each time I see a window I think of the first book and how disappointed I was.” When I ask where he was when he came across his first novel, he tells me it was “at a book chain in Switzerland called Payot. It’s a terrible memory actually,” he grins, “because the book was supposed to be out on 10 January and I told my friends, ‘go, try to find the book,’ just to make the bookseller think it’s a must-read. But there was a delay in the delivery of the book in France and Switzerland and no-one told me. So I was very disappointed. But then it came out a week after and I finally saw it and I was very happy.”
His love of books was fuelled by his mother who works in a bookshop called, La Librerit. Dicker tells me “it sounds like bookshop but it’s a play on words – to be free and to love.” Directly translated to For The Love of Books, this is a Geneva bookstore with an immense stock of children’s books which no doubt whet Dicker’s appetite from an early age.
Dicker chose America as the setting for his novel, mainly because of the amount of time he spent there as a child. His cousins lived in Washington DC and had a summer house in Maine; an ideal location for them to spend their summer holidays and a feeding ground for Dicker’s imagination.
I ask about Nola, a character loved, it seems, by all who come into contact with her. Dicker tells me that in the beginning, Nola was not in the novel at all. “The very first idea, the first layer, was just a house by the ocean. Then came Harry and then came Marcus and the relationship between them.” Joel goes on to explain his thought processes and how they developed. “I should give Marcus a girlfriend and so that was Nola.” Then he got the idea to change the dynamics, “I tried again, but Nola should be going out with Harry, that’s much more interesting. And then – she could be dead! She could have been murdered, which is even better, so always going one step further and one step further. I’m very bad with plans, I much prefer just to write and let the story unfold.”
Dicker had four novels rejected before he was finally able to find his first publisher, yet when I ask him for the best advice he could offer new writers he appears uncomfortable. “It’s to keep working. I feel out of place giving advice, or anything, maybe in thirty years . . .” he shrugs. “I’m just a very lucky guy.” At book signings, he regularly has writers asking him for advice; he says the only thing he can tell them is to “keep trying. It’s very hard at times, but maybe there’s nothing more than that. Keep trying and try again and again.”
While currently travelling and promoting his novel, Dicker is still “working hard, trying to keep the machine going. Even though I don’t have much time to write a lot, I’ll read some pages – write down some ideas and plot ideas.”
As the interview draws to a close he tells me that ultimately, ”you write to please yourself. You write for an audience, of course. You write because you want to be read; because you want to share your story. But if you tell a story that you don’t enjoy yourself, how can you expect people to read it and enjoy it?”
“The cleverest, creepiest book you’ll read all year. Twin Peaks meets Atonement meets In Cold Blood.”
Gaby Wood, Daily Telegraph.
About The Drowning Child:
When Special Agent Ren Bryce is called to Tate, Oregon to investigate the disappearance of twelve-year-old, Caleb Veir, she finds a town already in mourning. Two other boys have died recently, although in very different circumstances. As Ren digs deeper she discovers that all is not as it seems in the Veir household – and that Tate is a small town with big secrets.
Can Ren uncover the truth before more children are harmed?
The Ren Bryce series continues with, The Drowning Child.
Barclay delivers a gripping crime fiction novel which keeps the reader enthralled from start to finish. The plot, this time based in Tate, Oregon, revolves around a missing child in a town which is already mourning two young boys.
In the wrong hands, the subject matter might have troubled some readers, but it is handled delicately throughout, allowing the readers imagination to fill in the gaps instead of painting a gruesome picture.
Although it can be read as a stand-alone, loyal fans can also enjoy the underlying story running through all six Ren Bryce books. After all, life is never dull for the bipolar FBI agent who has still not come to terms with the recent trauma she suffered in Killing Ways.
You can catch the full interview over on writing.ie by clicking here.
Freedom’s Child by Jax Miller
‘A terrific read from a powerful new voice.’
‘Original, compelling and seriously recommended.’
A heart-stopping debut thriller about a woman named Freedom, who will stop at nothing to save the daughter she only knew for two minutes and seventeen seconds.
Call me what you will: a murderer, a cop killer, a fugitive, a drunk…
There’s a lot people don’t know about Freedom Oliver. They know she works at the local bar. They know she likes a drink or two.
What they don’t know is that Freedom is not her real name. That she has spent the last eighteen years living under Witness Protection, after being arrested for her husband’s murder. They don’t know that she put her two children up for adoption, a decision that haunts her every day.
Then Freedom’s daughter goes missing, and everything changes. Determined to find her, Freedom slips her handlers and heads to Kentucky where her kids were raised. No longer protected by the government, she is tracked by her husband’s sadistic family, who are thirsty for revenge. But as she gets closer to the truth, Freedom faces an even more dangerous threat.
She just doesn’t know it yet.
Check out the Killer Reads TEASER TRAILER here.
Over the years, I’ve read and enjoyed all of Alex Barclay’s books. Darkhouse, up until now, would have topped my all-time favourite books. As an avid reader, that’s high praise indeed – but that was before I read Killing Ways. Don’t worry – I guarantee no spoilers – but if you enjoy your crime fiction gritty with plenty of twists and turns then look no further. Engrossed in the story and the characters, about half-way in I had my first of many “oh, my God” moments, as the tension, along with my blood pressure, ratcheted up.
Sitting on the Luas I nearly missed my stop and couldn’t wait to dive between the pages again on my return journey; half of me wanted to race through the pages to the end while the other half wanted to savour every moment.
It was reminiscent of reading childhood books where I became so engrossed in the story that my real world virtually dissolved. The characters were alive and I felt as if I knew them as intimately as close friends and family; my mind already worrying about their future, long after that final page. Barclay is, most definitely, at the top of her game!
About Killing Ways
In the game of vengeance, he holds a killer hand.
In her most shocking case yet, FBI Special Agent Ren Bryce takes on a depraved serial killer fuelled by a warped sense of justice.
A master of evasion, each life he takes ramps up Ren’s obsession with finding him. Then one victim changes everything and brings Ren face to face with a detective whose life was destroyed by the same pursuit.
Together, can they defeat this monster?
Or will he take them both down?
Crime Scene Book Club Reviewers over on www.writing.ie
Who could possibly argue with Louise Phillips, author of Red Ribbons, when she compared us – Joe McCoubrey, Mick Halpin, Triona Walsh and little ‘auld me – as similar to the X Factor panel! Just as discerning – and possibly even more dangerous – all of this in our roles as part of the Crime Scene Book Reviewer Panel over at www.writing.ie . . .
As avid readers, I know this is a role we are all enjoying immensely.
You can find links to a number of my reviews below to whet your appetite:
The Doll’s House by Louise Phillips
Headstone by Ken Bruen
In The Darkness by Karin Fossum
The Chosen by Arlene Hunt
Bad Moon Rising by Frances de Plino
Crossbones Yard by Kate Rhodes
And don’t forget to check out what Joe, Mick and Triona are reading and reviewing.
Dublin born, Alan Glynn, is a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin. He has written three previous novels: Winterland, described by John Connolly as ‘timely, topical and thrilling’, Bloodland, which, according to the Sunday Independent is, ‘a cracking conspiracy thriller worthy of Le Carré’ and his debut, The Dark Fields, which was released in 2011 as the movie Limitless, and went to number 1 at the box office on both sides of the Atlantic.
His latest novel, Graveland, released this month, is the final part of a loose-trilogy of conspiracy thrillers. A Wall Street investment banker is shot dead while jogging in Central Park. Later that night, one of the savviest hedge-fund managers in the city is gunned down outside a fancy Upper West Side restaurant. Are these killings part of a coordinated terrorist attack, or just coincidence? Set deep in the place where corrupt global business and radical politics clash, Graveland is the explosive thriller of, and for, our times.
I had arranged to meet Alan Glynn at his Dublin home. He arrives to the door; phone in hand, as he deftly finishes one interview, ready within moments to begin another. He’s a natural. It was a pleasure to sit over a welcome cup of tea, surrounded by books, as he chats easily about his writing career, movie deals and his time spent in New York.
You can catch the full interview over on writing.ie by clicking here.
All of us live with hope in our hearts and each hope, at different stages in our life, can, I’m sure you’ll agree, be all-consuming and extremely personal. But not too many of our hopes and dreams can save lives. The New Big Book of Hope is the exception!
It was introduced to me, by my good friend Orla Coffey, who has a non-fiction piece included, entitled, Flashflight, describing her first encounter with a Malaysian man in a Thai prison.
Orla is currently the face of MS Ireland’s World MS Day campaign for 2013, which this year focus’s on young people with MS. Her photo is currently plastered across buses and billboards and it is hoped that it will show sufferers and their families that many people with MS go on to live full and happy lives. Orla, a qualified solicitor, is a walking statement of how true this is. Karma ensures that her many good deeds are rewarded, which means her friends also get to share her good fortune – an evening with Joseph O’Connor, author of Ghostlight, which she won in ‘A Novel Break’ competition with the ‘Dublin: One City, One Book’ festival – was, most definitely, a prize treasured by us all.
As winner of the Curry’s and PC World writing competition, she was famous on YouTube in a fake, electric wedding, to Batman – since realised in true life – and definitely worth checking out.
But back to The New Big Book of Hope – also worth checking out – in the literal sense!
Compiled by Vanessa O’Loughlin, from writing.ie and Hazel Larkin and with its astonishing range of bestselling authors, political figures, business people and media celebrities, The New Big Book of Hope eBook has something for everyone. Claudia Carroll, Don Conroy, Brian Crowley, Brian Keenan, Sinead Moriarty, Kate Kerrigan and over forty other unlikely bedfellows rub shoulders – the only common denominator being their considerable talent. And in this special eBook edition, four new writers – Alison Wells, David Fairclough, Fr. David Keating and Orla Coffey – have been selected for their contributions in making this book a truly unique collection.
This book will save lives.
To live without hope is the ultimate deprivation. The Hope Foundation reaches out to the street children of Kolkata, India, on a daily basis: rescuing sick and abandoned children; delivering food and clean water to the slums; providing crèches where destitute and slum-dwelling mothers can safely leave their children while they do what they can to earn money; running its health-care programme, including its new hospital; fighting child labour and child-trafficking; breaking the cycle of poverty through education in its many coaching centres.
This extraordinary collection celebrates The Hope Foundation and – hopefully – will play a significant role in publicizing and supporting its courageous work. A potent blend of fiction, poetry, memoir and non-fiction, the contributions explore the theme of ‘hope’ and its vital presence in all our lives.
The New Big Book of Hope is now available to purchase in digital form online at Amazon and all digital outlets.
Eveyone involved in the project would greatly appreciate your support – even clicking the LIKE button on the Amazon page will make a difference to the collections sales and the work The Hope Foundation can do.
The Wait Is Almost Over!
Red Ribbons, the debut novel by Louise Phillips, will hit the book shops on Monday, 3 September.
But, if you can’t wait that long, it’s already available on Amazon, where reader reviews hail this chilling, psychological crime fiction book as one to make your heart pound and freak you out!
Louise, as well as being an accomplished writer, is also an inspiration to all around her, offering help and advice to writers on every rung of the literary ladder.
I would like to wish her all the success she so rightly deserves and look forward to helping her celebrate at her book launch on:
Wednesday, 5 September at 6.30pm in Hughes & Hughes,
St Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre. Maybe I’ll see you there?
Anyway, time to get this Blog Tour on the road. Check out the answers to the ten questions that,
as a fellow crime fiction reader and writer, I put to Louise:
1. Tell us about your debut novel, Red Ribbons:
Well the best way to describe it is to give you a mini-blurb.
A missing schoolgirl is found buried in the Dublin Mountains, hands clasped together in prayer, two red ribbons in her hair. Twenty-four hours later, a second schoolgirl is found in a shallow grave – her body identically arranged. Police call in criminal psychologist, Kate Pearson, to get inside the mind of the murderer before he strikes again. But the more Kate discovers about the killings, the more it all feels terrifyingly familiar. As the pressure to find the killer intensifies, there’s one vital connection to be made – Ellie Brady, a woman institutionalised fifteen years earlier for the murder of her daughter Amy. Ellie stopped talking when everybody stopped listening. But what connects the death of Amy Brady to the murdered schoolgirls? As Kate Pearson, begins to unravel the truth, danger is closer than she knows.
The bad man is everywhere, but can she see him?
2. Which character, that you have created, is your favourite and why?
That’s a hard one. When I finished the first draft of the novel, I missed all my characters, even the killer. It was before Christmas, and I had no Christmas shopping done, no decorations on the tree, but still I turned around when I got to the end of the manuscript, and I thought, gosh, their voices won’t be living with me every day anymore! And it felt like they had vanished. But of course they did come back – in the editing process and beyond. And in a way it was like old friends visiting, and in a kind of way, like they had never really left. But which one is the favourite???? I think it has to be Ellie, mainly because she went on the biggest journey. I also wrote her in first person narrative, which is always a more intimate experience for the writer. I lived her life for a time, or as close to it as a writer can with their fictional creations. Ellie is the woman who stopped talking because everyone stopped listening. She is the woman life left behind for a time, a person on the margins, but a woman of great strength in my opinion. I knew that from the moment she came to life on the page. Ellie was her own woman, and a testament that there is always light within the dark.
3. Where do you get your ideas from?
They come from everywhere, and nowhere, the present and the past, the imagined and the actual. I know that sounds very vague, but it is kind of a vague process. I sometimes think logic has no place in writing. By this I don’t mean you should put a garbled mess on the page, but more that sometimes it’s not a good idea to try to quantify it too clearly. On occasions, you are not completely sure what the story will be about, you have an idea yes, but often the end result is very far from what you perceived initially. It usual starts with an idea or a visual stimulation for me, something which asks a number of questions. I like to write about things which will push me as a writer, and also something with a huge emotional connection. It has to be real, it has to mean something to me, otherwise, if it doesn’t, and it doesn’t excite me, well it isn’t going to excite the reader either.
4. Who, in the writing world, has inspired you most?
So many writers, far too many to put down here on the page, and many of which are Irish. If there was an Olympics for writers, Ireland would come home with plenty of gold medals. I love great prose, and by that I don’t necessarily mean heavy literary stuff, but words which get inside my head emotionally. Most readers are the same. You recognise something good very quickly – it simply works. And when you write, you very often get a sense when something has that extra quality. It usually arrives around three o’clock in the morning when you want to sleep, but an idea is bubbling inside of you. If I had a euro for the amount of times I’ve gotten out of bed in the middle of the night and written in long hand, well I’d have a much bigger bank account! Like many, I have a favourite book shelf, and when I’m old and very grey, I’m going to take the books down one at a time, and read them slowly all over again.
5. When and where do you write best?
Early morning generally before the rest of the world gets in the way. Life is complicated, and we are bombarded with stuff, not simply with work or family, but noise everywhere – television, the radio in the car, social media, voices of strangers, and the credit card bill that you have to pay. It all gets caught up in a traffic jam called life. I live in the Dublin mountains, and in the early morning I can hear birdsong. After stormy nights, I listen to the wind whisking across the valley. It reminds me of when I was younger, and I would get up before everyone else woke up, to catch the sunrise as it reached a gap in the tenement buildings where we lived.
In the morning you are fresh, unburdened in many ways. As to where, I have different places, but I’ve often written in the bedroom with all the blinds down, blocking out a beautiful day. You don’t need great views to write, or even birdsong – all you need is an idea, a pen and paper, and the mental space to create.
6. What book are you currently reading?
At the moment I’m reading, Ancient Light by John Banville, but I have a stack of books by my bed yet to be read. They are The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, On Canaan’s Side by Sebastian Barry, Slaughter’s Hound by Declan Burke, Solace by Belinda McKeon, and Blue Monday by Nicci French. So much joy, so little time!!!
7. Could you ever see yourself writing in another genre?
Yes is the simple answer to that, and perhaps even for a different age group. I didn’t set out to write a crime novel, although I recognised fairly early on that my writing tended to visit darker issues. My children have often asked me why I don’t write about happy things, but I don’t see it like that. I like to think I find light within the dark, hope when there might seem little. Crime fiction is well suited for exploring elements with high emotional stakes, and I do think genre is important as a means of quantifying the script for the reader. At the end of the day however, you write about something you feel passionate about. If that happens to be under the crime umbrella, well that’s fine. If it’s another kind of exploration, well that will work too. Most of us read many genres, which is good, and writers and readers are like-minded souls.
8. Do you think it’s important for writers to connect with their readers on-line?
For sure. Online participation is not for everyone. I can understand that. Some writers find it makes their environment too noisy, and I can understand that too. Online presence however is part of our current communication system. Years ago complete strangers got to know each other, and became lifelong friends, writing letters to their pen pals, others people might have spoken for endless hours on their phone. Ireland is a nation of talkers – we didn’t have the highest per capita use of mobile phone users in Europe because we don’t speak a lot to one another. Now online activity, Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, email, is everywhere. When cars were invented, some preferred another means of transport. It is of course down to the individual.
A writer needs to connect with their readers, or potential readers. The emergence of writers going down the self-publishing route has broken down many of the old barriers to publication. If you are happy to connect with others online, you will find an audience – at the end of the day, you can have the best story in the world, but you want people to read it.
9. I know you’re currently working on your second novel, The Dolls House, can you share a little about it?
Yes, I’m writing The Dolls House, and yes, I’m very excited by it. I’ve chatted to a couple of people about it, and when I do I notice I start to talk faster, and louder, and my eyes open wide – all tell-tale signs! I can tell you it involves hypnosis, the sub-conscious, the death of a well known television personality, and memory. If I was to put a question out there, it would be – What if the one memory which could save your life, is the thing you cannot remember? You can read the prologue for The Dolls House on my website www.louise-phillips.com but I will give you a quote from it as a kind of introduction.
“After the fall, her white porcelain face spilt in two, half-cracked like me. I looked inside the crack, into the dark, and found emptiness. She is still here, just like the others from my doll’s house – living inside of me.”
10. And finally, what do you predict will be happening when I check back with you in a year from now?
Well, it will be six weeks to publication of The Dolls House. I hope, and I think, I will have learned a lot along the way. I’m learning all the time, and not just about writing. I’m learning about all aspects of one of the biggest contradictions of all – the solitary writing process saying hello in a very public way to the world outside!
I look forward to checking back, Louise, after we’ve had a taste of Red Ribbons. In the meantime, we’ll just have to whet our appetite with the Red Ribbons trailer . . .
RED RIBBONS Trailer – Click Here!
Not a review – yet – but I guarantee that from the snippets I have had the pleasure to read, this book will be one, that like me, you’ll be rushing out to buy.
If you don’t believe me, then let me whet your appetite with not one, but two fabulous trailers . . .
RED RIBBONS Trailer No 1 – Click Here!
RED RIBBONS Trailer No 2 – Click Here!
Hughes & Hughes, St Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre.
THE SERIAL KILLER:
A missing schoolgirl is found buried in the Dublin Mountains, hands clasped together in prayer, two red ribbons in her hair. Twenty-four hours later, a second schoolgirl is found in a shallow grave … her body identically arranged.
THE CRIMINAL PSYCHOLOGIST:
The police call in profiler Dr Kate Pearson to get inside the mind of the murderer before he strikes again. But the more Kate discovers about the killings, the more it all feels terrifyingly familiar . . .
As the pressure to find the killer intensifies there’s one vital connection to be made. . . Ellie Brady, a mother institutionalised fifteen years earlier for the murder of her twelve-year-old daughter. She stopped talking when everyone stopped listening.