Quiet Dell

Jayne Anne Phillips

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

Phillips expertly evokes a mood of dream, frisson and hectic expectation as the snow falls and a fallen tree points fatefully to the front door. Yet this suspenseful opening phase of the narrative is almost a preface to the story proper, the fact-based tale of brutal serial killer Harry Powers who used matrimonial agencies and a pretence of wealth and trust to lure middle-aged women to their deaths. This part of the book introduces an entirely new cast of characters, many of them drawn from history despite their extraordinary names – Harm, Grimm, Law – but led by a saintly fictional modern hero, Chicago Tribune journalist Emily Thornhill [Read more...] in Reviews

An Everywhere

Heather Reyes

I think back to the first night of my first stay in hospital. Some time after the lights had been dimmed for the night (it’s never ever dark in hospital), a wailing voice started up from the adjacent ward. I think it was female.
‘I don’t want to die … Oh, please don’t let me die … Please don’t let me die … I don’t want to die … I don’t want to die.
First reaction: annoyance. Impossible to sleep. The voice was disturbing everyone. Even poor little Elsie was shifting in her bed. And it’s undignified, such yelling. You have to be brave in hospital: it’s what everyone expects. Stiff upper lip and all that …
Then I began to warm to the honesty of it. Wasn’t that what we were all doing, inside, yelling ‘I don’t want to die’? [Read more...] in Authors and extracts

Astonish Me

Maggie Shipstead

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

The central character, Joan, is a good but not great dancer who has earned her fame more as the helpmeet and lover of a Nureyev-esque (but straight) Russian dancer, Arslan Rusakov, than for her art. The Russian, a promiscuous and self-centered soul, was happy to involve her in his defection to the West, then moved on to other loves and better partners after freedom was gained and Joan’s dance limitations became apparent [Read more...] in Reviews

April Crime Round-Up

N. J. Cooper

Reviewed by N.J. Cooper

There were moments when I wished Paula would brace up a bit, but McGowan’s sad and gripping novel shows how hard it is for women to achieve autonomy in a culture traditionally ruled by superstition and inadequate education, both of which have always bred violent misogyny. As I read, I could not help remembering W. H. Auden’s lines ‘In Memory of W. B. Yeats’: ‘Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry/ Now Ireland has her madness and her weather still,’ [Read more...] in Reviews

Be Safe I Love You

Cara Hoffman

Reviewed by Alison Burns

This heartfelt novel tells the story of Lauren Clay, beloved sister and daughter, who comes home unexpectedly from Iraq, at Christmas. Home is Watertown, a small base town in upstate New York; it is her father Jack, the eternal ineffectual hippy, and her devoted younger brother Danny, whose life she has put before her own since she was fifteen. It is also the place from which Lauren’s promise as a classical singer might have taken her to concert stardom [Read more...] in Reviews

A Pleasure and a Calling

Phil Hogan

Reviewed by Zoë Fairbairns

The first chapter is as good as it gets. Which is very good indeed. It’s an almost-perfectly formed short story, that chapter, a stand-alone tour de force in which a concerned citizen takes exquisite revenge against a dog owner who allows the animal to crap on the pavement. The chapter is both complete in itself and suggestive of other stories in the future and the past [Read more...] in Reviews

An Everywhere

Heather Reyes

By Heather Reyes

The title is from a John Donne poem stating that ‘love’ can make ‘one little room an everywhere’. I had a bad time during my first three-month round of chemotherapy and was largely confined to ‘one little room’. But through reading I was able to bring countless worlds into that room: far from feeling confined, I felt on a continuous adventure. I cannot imagine how I would have coped, psychologically, otherwise [Read more...] in Authors and extracts