The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde by Eve Chase

audrey wildeEve Chase has a thing for old houses and families, so it isn’t a surprise that this story has Applecote Manor smack bang in the middle of the plot. Everything is woven around the families who inhabit or used to inhabit this house.

Chase creates a very nostalgic atmosphere, which is part of the charm of this book. The story wanders from past to present, and the chapters in the past are especially good. They evoke a sense of familiarity, warmth and belonging. The reader basks in the sun next to the river and feels the cool water as the girls swim in the river.

Throughout the book there is a sense of a presence watching over every event and word. Audrey Wilde is as much a part of the story, as her disappearance is.

Although this is in every sense of the word a mystery it is also a book about identity and coming of age. It is also a story about non-typical families. The patchwork family of the present is also haunted by their very own personal ghost. In fact the ghosts need to be laid to rest for both families to finally get some peace.

One day Audrey Wilde suddenly vanishes into thin air, and the mystery of her disappearance is something that her cousin Margot never really gets over. At a time when everyone else has accepted the possibility they may never find out the truth, Margot is almost obsessed with discovering what happened to her.

I loved the feel of this story, especially everything about Margot and her sisters. I thought that element of the story was strong enough for the plot without adding Jessie and her family to the mix. I also thought it was intriguing how the crime element never overshadowed the rest of the story, despite it being the thread that held everything together.

The truth isn’t pretty at all, and perhaps that cold breath of brutality should have changed the whole feeling of the story, but it didn’t. It remains a charming tale until the end.

Buy The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde at AmazonUK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @evepchase @MichaelJBooks

Rush of Blood by Mark Billingham

rushBillingham plots like a mad scientist, It’s like driving down a long and curvy road with 1000m drops at either side, and wearing a blindfold at the same time.

Three British couples are on holiday when a young girl at their holiday destination goes missing. At first the enquiries are just routine and then as the net is drawn closer the reader realises that one of the six of them must be the guilty party.

The six of them start meeting up when they return to the UK in an attempt to cultivate their blossoming friendships. Of course the reality is that holiday friendships and romances are usually best left where they started in the first place.

As the story unfolds the reader is introduced to the possible suspects and their supposed alibis, whilst a zealous UK police officer uses the disappearance to make a name for herself. The US police are reluctant to listen to her extensive research until there is an update on the missing girl.

I really liked the way Billingham plays with the stereotypical assumptions and presumptions of his readers. I include mine in that statement. I wouldn’t be surprised if most readers thought the same thing during the process of elimination. Let’s just say, the conclusion was quite the revelation.

Buy Rush of Blood at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @MarkBillingham or visit markbillingham.com

Stolen Child by Laura Elliot

stolen child.jpgA parent’s worst nightmare in every sense of the word. Someone takes your child and you probably never know what happened to him or her. The worst thing being the not knowing.

That’s the situation Carla and Robert find themselves in. Their two-day-old baby has been taken and there are no clues to her whereabouts or who might have taken her.

Simultaneously the reader gets to hear the kidnappers side of the story, and as the years go on they also get to know the missing child. Sue commits an act of sheer desperation. I would like to say in a moment of confusion, but the fact is she planned the who and how.

She knew exactly what she was doing when she stole Isobel/Joy. A part of her can never resign herself to the facts and the guilt. There always seems to a barrier between her emotions for the child and being able to love her properly.

It’s fascinating to see the way the child and the pseudo mother find it hard to bond, however later when the kidnapper is gone the child is devastated.

People who steal children don’t just steal a child, they steal their lives and those of their real parents. They steal the memories they could have made and the bonds that should have been built. The Stolen children return as strangers and find it hard to reconnect to their real parents. No one can give you back missing years.

The premise is ok, but the writing style can do with little more finesse.

Buy Stolen Child at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

The Art of Not Breathing by Sarah Alexander

the art ofEssentially The Art of Not Breathing is about guilt, grief and loss. The focus is on Elsie and the way she deals with the death of her brother.

Everything revolves around water, because that is how Ethan disappeared. In the sea with plenty of people around, and yet he is still gone without a trace.

Elsie can’t really remember what happened that day. She is drawn to the water and the flashbacks she gets when she is at the last place Ethan was seen.

There is some element to being submerged, to diving under water and being unable to breathe, which initiates the flashbacks and memories. This realisation drives Elsie to push herself to the point of dangerous excursions and even beyond that.

The story is strangely compelling without being overly dramatic or too young adulty. It is interesting to note that the author hasn’t put much of an emphasis on the missing child. Instead it’s more about the family left behind and how grief can destroy relationships. Regardless of whether it is via neglect, anger, guilt or just overwhelming sadness.

I liked it, it was subtle and heartfelt without a lot of squee.

Buy The Art of Not Breathing at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.