Post Script: The Long, Hot Summer – Kathleen MacMahon

“…relationships between men and women are about power. It’s all about the balance of power, and if you can’t get that right, then it’s a fight to the death.” (p. 258)

Cover The Long Hot Summer

The Long, Hot Summer

Kathleen MacMahon

Sphere; Little, Brown Book Group

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9780751550894

 

Description:

Nine Lives. Four Generations. One Family. The MacEntees are no ordinary family. Determined to be different to other people, they have carved out a place for themselves in Irish life by the sheer force of their own personalities. But when a series of misfortunes befall them over the course of one long hot summer, even the MacEntees will struggle to make sense of who they are. Meet the MacEntees: Deirdre, the reluctant matriarch. Manus, the eccentric grandfather. Alma, the TV star who falls victim to a vicious assault. Mick, the European politician on the run from a media storm. Liam, the Government minister sacked by an angry electorate. Acushla, the model wife with an unhappy secret. Connie, the wild child turned exhausted young mother. Nora, the idealist, missing somewhere in the Middle East. And Macdara, the fragile and gentle soul of the family. As the MacEntees do battle with their misfortunes, Deirdre is planning a family party for her 80th birthday, and with it one final, shocking surprise. From Kathleen MacMahon, the Number One bestselling author of This is How it Ends, comes this powerful and poignant novel capturing a moment in the life of one family.

 

My View:

This is a very surprising read – surprising because of the way this made me feel as I was reading it! Reading this was so relaxing, enjoyable and entertaining. I generally favour reading crime fiction – the tension, the adrenaline, the surprise, The Long, Hot Summer was the antithesis of the crime fiction novels I read- it felt comfortable, put me at ease, made me smile, made me cheer; it wrapped me in the warmth of a family made of unique individuals, each with their own insightful stories to share; these voices even more poignant when together, this family has a wonderful dynamic and synergy.

Long ago I was an ardent fan of all things Maeve Binchy, particularly her wonderful character based narratives sited in Ireland with their great relationship exposes, Kathleen MacMahon’s writing reminds me so much of a modern day Binchy; well-developed empathetic characters, realistic dialogue, a narrative that feels natural, unassuming, with relationships under the microscope.  This novel  invites you to read on and for a couple of nights (till I finished this book) I looked forward to sitting down with this family and listening to their stories. I would like to read MacMahon’s first book – This Is How It Ends, so enamoured am I with this style of writing.

 

Win With “Reluctantly Charmed”

Which reminds me I must write up my review of Reluctantly Charmed 🙂 More on that later.

 

Simon and Schuster and Tourism Ireland and  are hosting a wonderful competition –  win a trip to Ireland – so you can experience the colours of Ireland yourself. Details here.  Entry only available to Australian and New Zealand residents aged 18 and over.

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Post Script: The Dead Ground – Claire McGowan

The Dead Ground

Claire McGowan

Hachette Australia

Headline

ISBN: 9781472204370

Description

Forensic psychologist Paula McGuire returns in a nail-biting story that will keep you up all night…

A stolen baby. A murdered woman. A decades-old atrocity. Something connects them all.

A month before Christmas, and Ballyterrin on the Irish border lies under a thick pall of snow. When a newborn baby goes missing from hospital, it’s all too close to home for forensic psychologist Paula Maguire, who’s wrestling with the hardest decision of her life.

Then a woman is found in a stone circle with her stomach cut open and it’s clear a brutal killer is on the loose.

As another child is taken and a pregnant woman goes missing, Paula is caught up in the hunt for a killer no one can trace, who will stop at nothing to get what they want.

The Dead Ground will leave you gasping for breath as Paula discovers every decision she makes really is a matter of life and death…

 

My View:

Claire McGowan – you are a talent I wish I have discovered earlier! This is a superbly crafted, well written, wonderfully descriptive, powerfully emotional and engaging narrative. I just loved this book and imagine that the earlier books in this series as well written. And yes it did keep me up all night – it was 2am when I finally and satisfactorily finished this read and was then able to allow myself to surrender to sleep. This is  book that stands alone; it does not rely on incidents of graphic violence and forensic pathology to shock the reader into submission; it relies on good storytelling, depth and talent!

This is my first 5 star read for the year – and I am pretty discerning! This narrative has all the elements of a great read – wonderful settings – rural Ireland is stark, harsh, and often remote and eerie. It has  characters that leap of the page, a sub plot; Paula’s story, that is engaging and heart rendering, a background based on the cruel and relentless violence of “The Troubles”, murders and mysteries that will have you guessing to the end and a plot with many twists and turns that will keep you reading until the very last page.

This is a fascinating read. Be carried away to a distant land, to a land of “Troubles”, a land of suspicion and violence and…hope.

Post Script: Purgatory – Ken Bruen

Purgatory

Purgatory

Ken Bruen

Grove/Atlantic

Mysterious Press

ISBN: 9780802126078

Description

Recovering from the severe mental and physical wounds inflicted from his recent past, former cop Jack Taylor has finally found a modicum of peace. He has managed to kick the myriad substances that have had a stranglehold over his painful life, however tenuously. Yet this fragile existence is threatened when a vigilante killer begins targeting the scum of Galway, signing mysterious notes with the moniker ‘C 33’. The killer addresses these cryptic letters to Jack, trying to goad him into joining the murderous spree.

While Jack tries to unravel the mystery and motives of this demented killer, he is also brought into the fold of an enigmatic tech billionaire who has been buying up massive amounts of property in Galway, seemingly in the hopes of offering this downtrodden city a better future. Yet if Jack has learned one thing living in Ireland, it’s that people who outwardly claim to be on the side of righteousness are likely harboring far more nefarious motives beneath the surface.

With the help of his friends, former drug dealer-turned-zen master Stewart and dogged police sergeant Ridge, Jack is determined to track down C 33, even if it jeopardizes his livelihood, his friends, and the remaining shreds of his sanity. C 33 is Bruen at his best: lyrical, brutal, and ceaselessly suspenseful.

 

 

My View:

I haven’t read any of the others in the Jack Taylor series but did not find this a handicap when reading this book. I did enjoy the clever mix of humour, repartee and cultural references – particularly the quotes from contemporary authors at the start of the chapters – they were very interesting and apt!  Bruen writes a passionate mystery/crime novel – full of rich characters and colourful language and I did enjoy this book more than I thought I would ( I previously read “The Tower” and whilst I found the story engaging, the level of gratuitous violence was off putting), this is not the case with Purgatory, there is violence but it is integral to the narrative.

I was so engaged in this novel that I felt really disappointed with the ending of this book – I checked and re checked that I wasn’t missing a few final pages. The ending (no spoilers here) was totally unforseen, unexpected, harsh and final; brutal and shocking, I suppose we cannot expect any less of a Ken Bruen novel. The aftermath of this ending will most certainly have a profound effect on the next book in the series…a very clever ploy that has baited my imagination; I am ready to follow Jack’s misadventures in the next book.

 

Post Script: The Boy Who Could See Demons – Carolyn Jess-Cooke

The Boy Who Could See Demons

A Novel

Carolyn Jess-Cooke

Random House Publishing Group – Bantam Dell

Delacorte Press

ISBN: 9780345536532

 

Description:

Bestselling author Carolyn Jess-Cooke has written a brilliant novel of suspense that delves into the recesses of the human mind and soul—perfect for fans of Gillian Flynn and Lisa Unger. The Boy Who Could See Demons follows a child psychologist who comes up against a career-defining case—one that threatens to unravel her own painful past and jeopardizes the life of a boy who can see the impossible.

Dr. Anya Molokova, a child psychiatrist, is called in to work at MacNeice House, an adolescent mental health treatment center. There she is told to observe and assess Alex Connolly, a keenly intelligent, sensitive ten-year-old coping with his mother’s latest suicide attempt. Alex is in need of serious counseling: He has been harming himself and others, often during blackouts. At the root of his destructive behavior, Alex claims, is his imaginary “friend” Ruen, a cunning demon who urges Alex to bend to his often violent will.

But Anya has seen this kind of behavior before—with her own daughter, Poppy, who suffered from early-onset schizophrenia. Determined to help Alex out of his darkness, Anya begins to treat the child. But soon strange and alarming coincidences compel Anya to wonder: Is Alex’s condition a cruel trick of the mind? Or is Ruen not so make-believe after all? The reality, it turns out, is more terrifying than anything she has ever encountered.

A rich and deeply moving page-turner, The Boy Who Could See Demons sets out to challenge the imagination and capture the way life takes unexpected turns. In the best storytelling tradition, it leaves the reader changed.

My View:

A fascinating read! I was totally engaged in this story, a story that charts a passage through an alien landscape (Ireland, “The Troubles” and mental illness), territories that are painted in the grim shades of reality yet this is a picture that offers an optimism that speaks of healing and better times ahead.

The characters depicted in this book are both realistic and empathetic. Alex’s mother is depressed, self destructive and cries out for help and yet amongst this gloom her light shines on the son she is proud of, she passionately believes in his ability to rise above the bleakness of his surroundings; a rundown council flat, a life where money is scarce and happiness is even rarer, where onions on toast are gourmet delight. Alex is “different”; there are hints he may be autistic, he may have post traumatic shock, he may be schizophrenic. What Alex is, is talented, innocent, brilliant, comedic and knowing beyond his years.  And he can see demons! Dr Anya Molokova is a hero, has risen from her beginnings in poverty, is a talented academic and is the mother of child who had early onset schizophrenia, a child who had taken her own life. How could we not be warmed by her character and her determination to help others? And the minor characters are just as interesting and empathetic.

Jess-Cooke offers the reader a compulsive read; a real page turner. I was convinced by the quiet voice of this sensitive 10 year old, Alex, that demons were real and that he could see and talk to them! I was prepared to believe that Alex had a unique ability such is the convincing writing of Carolyn Jess-Cooke. I was not prepared for the final chapters! What a magnificent twist. I certainly did not see this coming; I could not have predicted this ending. Bravo!!!