Category Archives: Crime and Thriller

I am Pilgrim

i am pilgrimWell well well. I did NOT expect this book to be the 2nd best thing I would read in 2016. But it is. The writing is simple to read but has a great deal of accuracy regarding the life of a spy. Pilgrim himself is an amalgamation of James Bond (the Daniel Craig iteration, not the cheesy nonsense of yesteryear) and Sherlock Holmes – possessing the brains and (to an extent) brawn that an exciting spy should have. The plot is bombastic at times and emotionally gripping throughout. A compelling antagonist should be either be completely evil or a sad, relatable figure….who is also completely evil. The Saracen is the latter. His childhood trauma results in him becoming a monstrous figure but this allows the author to show him as human enough to illicit a touch of sympathy. Only a touch, mind – the dude is a genocidal maniac, after all. Something the novel does magnificently is connecting ideas that appear to be unconnected. The crime scene of the opening chapters and the potential terrorist attack aren’t linked exactly but they do affect each other for Pilgrim which constantly had me wracking my brain for answers. I Am Pilgrim is 900 pages and I read it in two sittings. TWO. I just could not stop until Pilgrim either saved the world or doomed it. If the other books by Terry Hayes are this good, my bank account is surely the thing that is doomed.
5 out of 5.

Thanks for that Adam. Your reviews make me smile! This is another I struggled with. I am the black dog of the group, that’s for sure, but isn’t it wonderful how 7 people can each have their own and varied views of the same subject. That’s what great Book Clubs are made of and ours is great!

Now, I didn’t realise that the author Terry Hayes is a screenwriter having penned Mad Max 2 and Dead Play. I am Pilgrim is his debut novel. Here is a review I read about it in the Guardian.

As a screenwriter, Terry Hayes gave us Mad Max 2 and Dead Calm. His debut novel has been hyped as “the only thriller you need to read this year”, and for once that isn’t nonsense. I Am Pilgrim (Bantam, £12.99) makes moussaka of its rivals, not because it does anything so radical as reboot the genre – a claim that’s been made for it – but because it features a solid, credible hero (a US intelligence agent codenamed Pilgrim) moving through a solid, credible world; a worthy adversary in the Saracen, a jihadist doctor radicalised by watching his father’s beheading; and a dazzling structure that fuses the micro plot (what looks like the perfect murder has been committed in a run-down Manhattan apartment) with the macro plot (the Saracen has created a version of smallpox with which he hopes to destroy America) into a Möbius-like loop of pure narrative pleasure.

Hayes gives Pilgrim a superhero’s background – after his mother’s murder he was adopted by a well-meaning billionaire – and as an agent he is at the top of the pile, answerable only to the president. Yet where most spies are sociopathic, Pilgrim is capable of both loyalty and an intense cross-cultural empathy, which gives him the edge over his colleagues.

A progressive hero, then, but one adrift in a novel whose engine is an invidious post-9/11 paranoia. Pilgrim acknowledges in an offhand way that the US does shady stuff it shouldn’t, but in the broader context of a plausible novel about a terrorist spectacular, the message that the NSA should have carte blanche to intercept and imprison is beamed out loud and clear.

So sorry for the delay in post this. Has it really been a year since we read it???

Please comment and let us know what you think of this book. Thank you


Summer Reading

Fish Bowl

A lot of mixed reviews for this book on Goodreads. I was enjoying it until the book disappeared! I hate losing books but I have had a number of mishaps recently with pages falling out of a book whilst on holiday 3 weeks ago, then same book getting covered in a squashed nectarine I happened to have put in the same bag as my my book, AND same book getting wet by a beach towel so it got much thicker and contributed to the falling pages!!


Said b511q3XO0C1Look was  a cheeky little holiday read that I indulged in while in Barcelona a few weeks go. It was called ‘The Girl with a Clock for a Heart’ by Peter Swanson. A great beach and balcony read but what an infuriating end! The story has some twists and turns and is really fast paced. I got into it quickly and although it isn’t a great book I did find it difficult to put down once I started. It is a thriller of sorts with gentle George being played for a fool by his first love, Liana/ Jane/ Audrey, who re-appears in his life some years later and thus begins the thrilling journey which ends ludicrously! I actually thought that I had indeed lost pages from the book and read the ending over and over  just to make sure that I hadn’t missed anything but no – the book had finished!! The end reminded me of stories I have read over the years written by school pupils who run out of ideas on how their story will end and just simply finish quite a well written narrative with two lines as they can’t really be bothered to think any more!! I felt cheated by the author, and very resentful of the time I felt I had wasted. In summary, there was a good story in here somewhere but Mr Swanson, in my opinion, got lost on the way and could not be bothered, just like those students , to work out a satisfying end to his story!

However, with this in mind, this novel isn’t anything hugely different but it’s certainly entertaining, and I would recommend it as a fun, intriguing read for the summer!

I Let You Go

“A tragic accident. It all happened so quickly. She couldn’t have prevented it. Could she?”

i let you go

In a split second, Jenna Gray’s world descends into a nightmare. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of a cruel November night that changed her life forever.

Slowly, Jenna begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating…

I let You Go was our second Book Club book and it was enjoyed by us all. I struggled with it at first and toyed with reading it or not due to the tragic beginning which sets the story but that is all I will disclose! However, I persevered with it and was so glad I did. A  psychological thriller, part crime novel,  follows both a police team and a number of characters through the unraveling of the ‘tragic accident’ twisting and turning, surprising and shocking from beginning to end  and then surprising you even more  with its unsettling ending! This is one of those reads that takes you far too late into the night and leaving you wanting more.

I enjoy a good psychological thriller, and this one for me, fell into the category of excellent ones.

It’s so hard to say too much about the book without giving away too much. The plot is very, very cleverly written, the characters are well developed and the relationships between each one of them are very realistic. I felt I could relate to each of them. I think the author got a bit carried away with the setting or didn’t bother to do too much research into the places as, being from Wales and living near Swansea, there is no way Jenna could have walked from the bus stop to the coast where the people on the caravan site speak only in Welsh to each other and have such Welsh names. Now, had she got off the bus in Cardigan and walked along the Cardigan Bay coast towards Aberystwyth, I may have believed the setting, but please, not Swansea!! That is the only moan I have about this book! It was a great read, full of killer surprises and a powerful message running throughout.

I found this article while researching the author Clare Mackintosh, which I thought you may find interesting to read.

How I write by Clare Mackintosh.

clare mackintosh

The way I approach a novel changes all the time, but
 as I start work on my third book I feel I am now beginning to develop some kind of system. I wrote I Let You Go piecemeal, changing and editing as I went along; stopping halfway and rewriting the first section; always looking over what I did the previous day, before continuing. Now I simply press on, getting the first draft down in whatever way I can, until I write The End.Clare Mackintosh

I plan in a notebook first of all, with vague attempts to separate the pages into ‘characters’, ‘settings’, ‘story’, ‘themes’, ‘research’ and so on. Generally these become muddled very quickly, and I’m left with a notebook filled with scribbled pencil marks. I then start making a proper plan in a Word document. I have previously experimented with spreadsheets, and although they make it easy to move scenes around, there is something about a spreadsheet that saps me of creativity! I don’t write a synopsis, but I do write two documents that fall either side of one. The first is a sort of blurb for the book.

Longer than an elevator pitch, but more ‘salesy’ than a synopsis, this is what I send to my editor and agent, and it’s what encapsulates the ‘feel’ of the book, as well as the story concept. The second document is a list of what happens in the story. I could call it timeline, except that would be a slight exaggeration – it’s more of a brain-dump onto a Word document, and it changes all the time. It’s just there to help me capture all the little flashes of story I’ve been thinking about, and hope will find their way into the book.

If there’s research to do, I’ll type up my notes into a separate document, and save everything in neat folders in Dropbox (‘previous drafts’, ‘current draft’, ‘research,’ and so on). I am meticulous about saving previous versions, and so each time I start a rewrite I create a new document and file the old one away. That way nothing is ever lost, and I can see the progress the book makes from draft to draft.

When I’m finally ready to start I open a new Word document and begin. At the start of the writing day – normally before I do the school run, so I can ponder on my dog walk – I look at my rough scene breakdown and start thinking about what that scene will look like. I let it play out in my head, and use ‘dead’ time like swimming, or waiting at the bus stop for the school bus, to plan my writing approach. That way the moment I sit down at my desk I’m ready to start writing the scene. I don’t like to finish work in the middle of a scene, but equally I hate being faced with a blank page the following day, so I tend to leave my manuscript with notes in capitals. FOLLOW THIS WITH THE CAR SCENE, for example, or SHE FINDS THE LETTER, is enough to give me a jump-start when I next look at the page.

My first drafts are short – around 75,000 words – but that no longer worries me. I know now that’s just how I write, and that the rewrite is where I flesh out some of the story, or bring out more of the characters’ back-stories. It takes me about three months to write a first draft, and I like to get a head start on the word count by going on retreat. I go to an amazing place in France called Chez Castillon, where I can write 5,000 words a dayinstead of my usual 2,000, and come home with virtually a third of my story written. As soon as I get home I start looking forward to the next trip…

When I reach the end I print this ‘dirty draft’ out and go through it with a thick red pen. I ignore minor issues and focus first of all purely on plot. Then I read it again, with a different coloured pen, focusing on character. I take my mutilated manuscript back to my desk and start correcting some of the glaring errors I’ve identified. I still consider this my ‘first draft’, and although I make some significant amends at this stage, it’s not as substantial a rewrite as it will need – I just want to tidy it up so that it’s in pretty good shape for when my editor sees it.

After a long chat with my editor, the hard work really begins! I start a new worddocument, and literally write the book again. There’s a fair amount of copying and pasting, but generally I’ve found that I produce much better work if I write from scratch, using the previous draft as inspiration. So I often have both versions on my computer screen, side by side, clearly labelled as I have a horror of saving the wrong one! I work my way through chronologically, swearing liberally when I reach the middle, and it feels like a pack of cards about to come tumbling down.

I repeat this process as many times as it takes to get it right, and although I could cry with frustration at times, I can see each draft getting stronger and stronger, and it makes it all worthwhile. Just about!
“I Let You Go” book review & “How I Write” by Clare Mackintosh.

We were 7 members at the meeting and the conversation was quite lively. I had prepared a ‘high tea’ for us with a variety of sandwiches, and other members contributing to some savouries and cakes. The pleasure of Book Club lies in the gastronomic delighted as well as the written word! Click on the picture if you would like to know more about throwing an afternoon tea!

How-to-Throw-An-Amazing-Summer-Afternoon-Tea-Party1-700x467   Please post your reviews of this book on this blog.