Twisted Wing by Ruth Newman

Well, this is book that broke my library ordering ban. The cover image, at eye level, caught my attention first, And then I saw a glowing recommendation from Sophie Hannah, an author I love:

‘I absolutely loved TWISTED WING. It was so gripping, and I was both desperate and reluctant to get to the end. I found it scary, tantalisingly unpredictable and very, very hard to put down’

I picked the book up – and saw that it was  published by the wonderful Long Barn Books . I was tempted to buy but, because I rarely read modern crime novels more than once, I checked the library catalogue, found copies elsewhere in the county and placed my order.

Did the book live up to all of that? Yes and no.

The opening was striking. A university student murdered in her own room and another student catatonic beside her. You might expect the story then to follow the police investigation. But if you did you’d be wrong. This book takes two different, and much more interesting paths.

First it follows the lives of the friends of the two students involved. This would be so easy to get wrong, but Ruth Newman gets it just right. The characters,their interactions, student life, all utterly believable.

And then it follows forensic psychiatrist Matthew Denison as he treats traumatised patient, student Olivia Coscadden, certain that she can identify the murderer, that he has to draw the truth out. Olivia’s story proves to be shocking and quite unexpected.

Now this is the point at which I have to be careful what I say so that I don’t give too much away.

Twisted Wing is very well written, perfectly paced and a genuine page turner. The plot twists – and there are many – are startling and very well handled. There were just a couple of things that I felt lacked a little credibility, but I can’t say what without giving away too much of the plot, and they certainly didn’t spoil the story.

 And the ending is very clever. All in all this is a very polished debut.

I’m afraid though that the story was just a little more violent, a little more graphic, than I felt was necessary. Not to the degree that I have to say it was wrong – of course murder is brutal, and that shouldn’t be disregarded – but it took away from the pure shock of a the life of a young woman with a bright future being callously cut short, with her friends close by, in a place where she should have been completely safe.

Reading her blog though, I think that Ruth Newman has produced the book that she intended:

“I love Morse, but this isn’t your standard police procedural – the story’s mainly told from the point of view of the students who find themselves being picked off one by one. It’s nice and violent too (I don’t do genteel poisonings), though we’re not in Bret Easton Ellis territory just yet!”

And, I have to say, she has done it very well.

Library Loot

Do I have any library loot this week? Of course I do!

Here it is:

Twisted Wing by Ruth Newman

“Cambridge is home to 18,000 students, 1,500 academics – and one serial killer. The discovery of the headless, mutilated body of a female undergraduate in her bloodsoaked college room heralds the start of a series of bizarre and extremely violent murders. For the students of Ariel College, a siege mentality has developed following weeks of media interest in the ‘Cambridge Butcher’. University life has become not about surviving their exams, but surviving full stop. Forensic psychiatrist Matthew Denison is sure that his traumatised patient, student Olivia Coscadden, has the killer’s identity locked up in her memory. That within the little clique she belonged to lurks someone with a grudge. Someone who has yet to finish settling their score. In order to get to the truth, Denison must delve into the secrets hidden within Olivia’s subconscious. Secrets that are about to lead him into a nightmare beyond imagining.”

This is the book that broke my ordering ban. I blame Sophie Hannah.

‘I absolutely loved TWISTED WING. It was so gripping, and I was both desperate and reluctant to get to the end. I found it scary, tantalisingly unpredictable and very, very hard to put down’

An endorsement from an author of her quality – plus the fact that it is published by the wonderful Long Barn Books – left me in danger of buying the book. So I ordered it instead. I am still buying books, but not so much crime because there are so many good books coming through the library.

Dear Mr Bigelow: A Transatlantic Friendship by Frances Woodford

“”Dear Mr Bigelow” is an enchanting selection of weekly ‘pen-pal’ letters written between 1949 and 1961 from an unmarried woman working at the Pier Approach Baths in Bournemouth, to a wealthy American widower, living on Long Island, New York. Frances Woodsford and Commodore Paul Bigelow never met, and there was no romance – she was in her forties when he died aged ninety-seven – yet their epistolary friendship was her lifeline. The “Saturday Specials” as Frances dubbed them, are brilliantly-packed missives, sparked with comic genius, from post-war England. We follow her travails at the Baths (and her ghastly boss Mr Bond); the hilarious weekly Civil Defence classes as the Cold War advances; her attempts to shake off Dr Russell, an unwanted suitor; life at home with Mother, and Mac, her charming ne’er-do-well brother; and, escapades in their jointly-owned car, a 1934 Ford 8 called Hesperus. Most importantly, we get to know Frances – and her deep affection for Mr Bigelow. She started to write to him as a way of thanking his daughter for the clothes and food parcels she sent. But what had begun as a good turn offered Frances the chance to escape a trying job, and to expound with elegance, wit and verve on topical subjects from home and abroad, bringing us a beady commentary on her life and times that leaps vividly from the page. Her letters to Mr Bigelow during his final illness are a tender and moving farewell, a touching conclusion to a unique record.”

I love books of letters – fact or fiction. This one looked particularly lovely, so I checked the catalogue, saw that there was a copy in stock, and waited. It finally appeared on the returns trolley yesterday, and I swooped.

The Year of The Flood by Margaret Atwood

“Adam One, the kindly leader of the God’s Gardeners – a religion devoted to the melding of science and religion, the preservation of all species, the tending of the Earth, and the cultivation of bees and organic crops on flat rooftops – has long predicted the Waterless Flood. Now it has occurred, obliterating most human life. Two women have avoided it: the young trapeze-dancer, Ren, locked into the high-end sex club, Scales and Tails; and former SecretBurgers meat-slinger turned Gardener, Toby, barricaded into the luxurious AnooYoo Spa, where many of the treatments are edible. Have others survived? Ren’s bioartist friend Amanda, or the MaddAddam eco-fighters? Ren’s one-time teenage lover, Jimmy? Or the murderous Painballers, survivors of the mutual-elimination Painball prison? Not to mention the CorpSeCorps, the shadowy and corrupt policing force of the ruling powers Meanwhile, in the natural world, gene-spliced life forms are proliferating: the lion/lamb blends, the Mo’hair sheep with human hair, the pigs with human brain tissue. As Adam One and his intrepid hemp-clad band make their way through a ruined world, singing their devotional hymns and faithful to their creed and to their Saints – Saint Francis Assisi, Saint Rachel Carson, and Saint Al Gore among them – what odds for Ren and Toby, and for the human race?”

I didn’t have to check the catalogue for this one – I knew it was bound to appear. And it did!

Manna From Hades by Carola Dunn

“Eleanor Trewynn is a widow of some years living in Port Mabyn, a small fishing village in Cornwall. In her younger days, she travelled the exotic parts of the world with her husband. These days, she’s retired and founded the local charity shop. Her niece, Megan Pencarrow, transferred nearby, and was recently promoted to the rank of Detective Sergeant. Perhaps the only downside is that she is now working for a DI who doesn’t approve of women on the police force and who really doesn’t much approve of Megan’s aunt Eleanor, as she is something of a thorn in his rather substantial side. All of these factors collide when, the day after collecting donations, Eleanor and the vicar’s wife find the dead body of a longhaired, scruffy-looking youth hidden in the stockroom of the charity shop. Then they discover that some donated jewellery thought to be fake is actually very real, very expensive, and the haul from a violent robbery in London. Making matters more complex, the corpse found in the storeroom is apparently not one of the robbers.”

I’ve been meaning to try Carole Dunn’s Daisy Dalrymple mysteries for ages but I’ve not quite got to it yet. Then Cristina told me she had started a new series, set in Cornwall and I couldn’t resist tagging this one on to my order.I’m glad so I did – it looks wonderful! The book that arrived was an American edition – which seems strange given that I’m in Cornwall, doesn’t it?

And I brought home another Cornish mystery as well. I read it the same evening and I’m going to write about it tomorrow, so I won’t say any more about it now.

Have you read any of these? What did you think? Which book should I go for next? And which are you curious to know more about?

And what did you find in the library this week?

See more Library Loot here.