Don’t Make a Sound by David Jackson

You can’t choose your family. Or can you?display-74c12729f3664522c59b13a3f8a5d8be

Meet the Bensons. They’re an ordinary couple. They wash their car, mow their lawn and pass the time of day with their neighbours. And they have a beautiful little girl called Daisy.

There’s just one problem.

SHE’S NOT THEIRS.

D. S. Nathan Cody is about to face his darkest and most terrifying case yet . . .

When David Jackson’s latest book starts, Daisy Agnew has been missing for three years. She was taken from a beach in South Wales with her parents nearby when she was seven years old. When another girl, six year old, Poppy Devlin is taken from her bed while her parents are asleep under the same roof, Detective Sergeant Nathan Cody and his partner Detective Constable Megan Webley investigate whether the cases are connected.

Set in Liverpool like its predecessors, this is the third D.S. Cody book in the series after A Tapping at my Door (2016) and Hope to Die (2017) but the book doesn’t feel like it’s part of a series. And this is a very good thing. There are none of the obvious or stereotypical introductions to the characters and their back stories and it can easily be read as a standalone novel. After reading it however, I want to read the previous books in the series because of the masterfully constructed characters. The witty and easy dialogue between Nathan and Megan is incredibly natural and believable, and tells us all we need to know about their relationship. The fact that they dated in the past may seem cheesy or false but they never fall into cliche because of Jackson’s masterful writing. The book is incredibly dark, violent, and disturbing in places so the balance of the good-natured dialogue between the partners is greatly needed.

Although there are already lots of crime thrillers about missing children, this book stands out because of its focus on the kidnappers. Malcolm and Harriet Benson are portrayed as cruel and inhumane because they lock young girls in a room and never let them leave. But they are also portrayed as delusional and strangely childlike, thus turning the stereotypical portrayal of the kidnapper on its head. This is a couple who genuinely believe they are helping the girls and want to protect them from the outside world, turning them into strange saviours in their own minds. The events of the book are often focalised through the couple and they completely justify their actions at several points in the narrative, which turns them into either monstrous characters or pathetic figures depending on how you view it.

Another aspect of the book that differentiates it from the other missing children narratives out there are the chapters told from Daisy’s perspective as she tries to make sense of what has happened to her. It’s interesting that, after three years in captivity with the couple, she now understands them, knowing how to deal with them and even how to manipulate them. That is the most heartbreaking part of the book: Daisy knows what her captors are doing is wrong but she placates them so that they don’t hurt her. She tells us that they hurt her in the past. She obsessively plays out scenarios in her head of how she might be able to escape but she never trusts her instincts. What ultimately comes across is that Daisy is smarter than both Malcolm and Harriet but she doesn’t trust herself. The title of the book refers to how the Bensons control her but what could also be her means of escape from the claustrophobic room in which she is imprisoned.

The police procedural in literature and tv is known for its breathtaking pace and twisting plots but this book takes these to another level. The book never really slows down as moments of reprieve from the case are quickly taken up with the relationship between the partners.

Don’t Make a Sound demonstrates Jackson’s established mastery of the crime thriller and serves as a masterclass in how to build tension. The book is always thrilling and always frantic but is hugely enjoyable.

About the author

dj1David Jackson is the bestselling author of Cry Baby. His debut novel, Pariah, was Highly Commended in the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Awards. He lives on the Wirral peninsula with his wife and two daughters. Follow David @Author_Dave.

I Found You by Lisa Jewell

30753651Two women. Twenty years of secrets. And a man who doesn’t remember anything.
Or does he?

Lisa Jewell’s most recent book Then She Was Gone was first published in July 2017 but I’m taking a look at the book released before that in 2016. I Found You is an impressive page turner that brings together well-written characters and an intriguingly interwoven plot.

One day on the Yorkshire Coast, single working mother Alice Lake looks out her window to see a fortysomething man sitting soaked to the skin on the beach. When he is still there hours later, she invites him into her home and discovers that he is suffering from severe amnesia. He doesn’t know how he came to be on the beach, where he lives, or even his own name, though the children nickname him ‘Frank’. Alice soon discovers the implications of inviting a stranger into her hectic life with her children and makes it her mission to help him regain his memory. But, as his memories start to return, she wonders if he is as gentle and innocent as he seems.

Meanwhile, Lily Monrose’s husband Carl doesn’t come home from work one day. Lily has only been living in the UK for a few weeks and Carl’s daily routine is usually very predictable: he gets the same train home from work every day and arrives home at the exact same time each evening. When he suddenly disappears, she fears the worst. He seems like the perfect man but she soon starts to question everything that he has told her. When she reports him as a missing person and starts looking into his past, she uncovers secrets that he undoubtedly wanted to remain hidden.

In the Summer of 1993, Graham ‘Gray’ Ross and his younger sister Kirsty are on holidays in Ridinghouse Bay with their parents. When a stranger, nineteen-year-old Mark, takes a liking to fifteen-year-old Kirsty, Gray becomes suspicious of him. There’s something about him that Gray doesn’t like but he can’t quite figure out what it is. The Ross family soon become embroiled in an encounter that will change their family, and their lives, forever.

Jewell’s novel expertly weaves these three very distinct narratives together and they culminate in a very unexpected and refreshing way. And although the plot is complicated, the book is never itself overly convoluted. I don’t want to give away any twists because that is one of the joys of reading the book but the book is perfectly paced and the tension is always handled in a sophisticated way. From some of the blurbs and descriptions written about the book, you’d be forgiven for thinking I Found You is a romance. And whilst there are romantic elements in it, it’s much darker and a lot more sinister than that. I Found You is a magnificently written and constructed mystery that is reminiscent of the best Hitchcocks or, more recently, a Gillian Flynn or Paula Hawkins novel.

Another joy of reading the book is Jewell’s characters. The book is focalised through numerous people, including Alice, Frank, Lily, Gray, and Kirsty in both the present and in the past and it only becomes clear at the end how they are all connected. The characters are well-developed and all are inherently flawed but are also very likeable, which brings a complexity and authenticity to Jewell’s writing. Of all the characters, Alice Lake is perhaps the most intriguing. She’s a middle-aged single mother who runs a B&B by the beach. Although she’s surrounded by her children and friends and leads a very busy life, she is shown to be an inherently lonely character. When Frank enters her life, we discover just how lonely she is and how much she craves his attention. Similarly, as a result of his amnesia, Frank is also desperate for some care and affection, which Alice is only too happy to give. Their relationship throughout the book shows us how lonely any of us can become in modern life but also how toxic relationships from our past can continue to affect us into the future.

Similarly, Lily moved to the UK from the Ukraine to be with a man she barely knew. And, although her mother begs her to return home because she doesn’t know anyone else in the UK, she is determined to find out what happened to the man she married. No matter how dangerous he may be. When we first meet Lily, we is a romantic at heart and considers the UK to be a place where all her dreams will come true. What she finds along the way allows her to look at her surroundings and the people around her in a more realistic and rational way.

Ultimately, the three narratives demonstrate how our past lives, encounters, and relationships can come back to haunt us and how small decisions, which we often don’t consider to be that important, can change our lives. I haven’t read Then She Was Gone yet but I look forward to it as Lisa Jewell has quickly become one of the most compelling authors writing today.

About the author

lisa-jewell-q-and-a-article-main-960x450Lisa Jewell was born and raised in north London, where she lives with her husband and two daughters. She is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA TODAY bestselling author of over twenty novels, including The Girls in the Garden, The House We Grew Up In, and The Third Wife. To find out more, visit Facebook.com/LisaJewellOfficial, or follow her on Twitter @LisaJewellUK.

 

The Leopard by Jo Nesbø

9639166Originally published in 2009 in Norwegian and 2011 in English, The Leopard (or Panserhjerte) is the eighth novel to feature Harry Hole, the formidable detective with a host of demons. Hole is the quintessential sleuth: intelligent, good at his job, tenacious, but with a dark side signified by his drinking, drug taking, and womanising. He is renown both within the Oslo crime squad and in the media for his unorthodox methods but he always catches the killer. I’ve heard very mixed reviews of Jo Nesbø’s writing over the last few years as some people find his plots overly formulaic but I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Continue reading

When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife by Meena Kandasamy

33905006In its allusion to A Portrait of a Writer as a Young Man, the title of Meena Kandasamy’s second book reflects Joyce’s tale in which a fictional alter ego searches for his identity in late-nineteenth century Dublin. Similarly, in When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife, Kandasamy describes her own experiences as an abused and dehumanised wife in South India and her struggle to both retain and also create her identity. Her husband, a respected university English lecturer gradually dominates every facet of her life, including what she writes and who she talks to.

Kandasamy admits early in the book that she rushed into the marriage, describing her parents’ encouragement of the relationship due to her husband’s profession and her own vulnerability at the time after a recent breakup. Early in the relationship, everything was perfect and he seemed to be perfect husband material. She admits that she was charmed by his idealistic and dogmatic Communist views, describing him as a ‘Communist Crusader’ whose language ‘was a secret place of pleasure’. However, as soon as they married, he gradually forced her into isolation and his language became crude and abusive. He forced her to move to Mangalore, a place where she didn’t speak the language, and to shut down her Facebook account, hand over her phone, and eventually she isn’t allowed to look at her emails. In his control of all means of communication, he is free to verbally, physically, and mentally abuse her and to condemn her to everyone he meets. She describes his shifting personality and how he always plays the victim:

‘I have watched him play all the roles. The doting husband in the presence of his colleagues, the harassed victim of a suspicious wife to his male friends, the unjustly emasculated man to my female friends, the pleading son-in-law to my parents. The role of would-be-murderer, however, is new.’

His violence eventually causes her to ‘climb into the incredible sadness of silence’, her silence being the very thing her husband has demanded all along. Yet, when this itself only invites further physical abuse, she realises that she cannot win and must find another way to defend herself.

It is not only her ability to communication that is taken from her but also her autonomy and her voice as she is quickly forbidden to write. Thus, her husband also strips her of her language and her self expression. The book becomes not just a treatise on the experience of domestic abuse but also on the power of language, the written word, and art not only as a form of self expression, but as an important political statement. The narrator soon realises that the written word is even more important when it is taken from her. She cannot physically stand up to her husband as he routinely beats and rapes her, but she does exercise her intellectual right to retain her identity and defy her husband.

The book is divided into 14 sections, each introduced by excerpts of key feminist poetry and literature. Therefore, in her defiance of her husband’s control, she has not only written her own words but has incorporated the words of great writers alongside her own. And, like the book itself, the excerpts are equally lyrical and shocking. Her use of repetition and lists, such as in her imagined letters to past lovers, transforms her writing into a rebellious call-to-arms or political speech, dramatising her situation. She also imagines herself in various Hollywood and Bollywood films as a way of distracting herself from her everyday life.

One of the most revealing aspects of the book is Kandasamy’s discussion of the caste system and the excuses that her parents make for her husband’s behaviour:

‘My father on the phone:

What is going on? Well, that is common. It is a matter of ego. I know you, you are my daughter, you do not like to lose a fight. The marriage is a give and take. Listen to him.’

Her parents’ attitudes demonstrate wider society’s systematic support and justification of abuse and reveal the changes that need to happen regardless of location or culture. In its brutal honesty and very real depiction of an abusive marriage, the book demonstrates the systematic misogyny that exists no matter where you are. The book is very timely considering the #metoo campaign and the increasing prominence of the feminist voice around the world today. Throughout the book, the narrator never loses her dignity and even the most horrific events and situations are often conveyed with a touch of humour, demonstrating that she never lost her humanity in the face of dehumanisation.

This review first appeared in Storgy Magazine. Thank you to Storgy Magazine for providing a review copy.

Buy When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife by Meena Kandasamy here

About the author

Meena-Kandasamy-TP

Meena Kandasamy (born 1984) is a poet, fiction writer, translator and activist who is based in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India. She has published two collections of poetry, Touch (2006) and Ms. Militancy (2010). She holds a PhD in socio-linguistics from Anna University Chennai, has represented India at the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program and was made the Charles Wallace India Trust Fellow at the University of Kent, Canterbury. The Gypsy Goddess is her first novel.

Otherworld by Jason Segel & Kirsten Miller

28238589My first reaction to receiving a review copy of Otherworld was “Great, another novel written by a celebrity”. Although I enjoy most of Segel’s films, I was sceptical about reading this book, even if it is co-written with Kirsten Miller, a leading YA writer in her own right. Otherworld is the fifth book they have collaborated on (the other four are in the Nightmares! series published by Delacorte, which are aimed at middle grade readers). This book, in contrast, is written for an older audience. Continue reading

Cell 7 by Kerry Drewery

29864658The reality TV show to die for. Literally.

Kerry Drewery’s Cell 7, published in September 2016, sounds like an episode of Black Mirror. The public decides whether a person convicted of a serious crime is innocent or guilty via a public vote all broadcast live to the world via a nightly tv show, Death is Justice. The convict must wait seven days on death row during which the public decides their fate. Each day, they move from one cell to the next enduring various psychological tortures all of which are broadcast live. On Day 7, if they are voted guilty, they are executed live on tv, for an extra charge of course. It’s a concept that, like Charlie Brooker’s, isn’t completely unimaginable. Continue reading