Book Review: The Murder of Graham Catton by Katie Lowe

I was lucky enough to be given an advance review copy of ‘The Murder of Graham Catton’ by the publisher – and I am so glad I was, as it’s BRILLIANT (and out now #drowninginbooks). Here’s the blurb:

Ten years ago, Hannah Catton’s husband was brutally murdered in their home.
The murderer was convicted. The case was closed.
But now a podcast called Conviction is investigating this horrific crime – and they have Hannah in their sights.
Someone knows more than they’re letting on, and listeners are about to become judge, jury and executioner as they undercover the truth about the murder of Graham Cat
ton.”

The book follows two timelines – back in 2008 when Hannah’s husband Graham is murdered – and then in 2018 when a true crime podcast decides to investigate the crime, as the lad convicted for it has always protested his innocence. The book is very clever at showing the way now, in the age of social media, that something like a podcast can bring a ‘pile on’ to the people / victims / potential murderers that is a curse of our age. It’s frightening to see how that develops. It’s also disturbing (and I suspect true in real life) how many people are prepared to sell out a friend or family member for the sake of their 15 minutes of fame in a podcast.

During the book Hannah appears to be something of an unreliable narrator. She claims no memory of what happened a decade ago and is clearly ‘haunted’ by her dead husband. Hannah also works at a psychiatric facility for teenage girls with eating disorders – and her knowledge as a psychiatrist is evident in her own musings but also in her relationship with her family and friends – as she’s hyper aware of what they may be thinking of her and themselves. I do think that sometimes stops Hannah from opening up to people and admitting how she’s feeling as she doesn’t want to be judged. If she’d just talked to people it could have changed various outcomes.

The relationship between Hannah and her daughter Evie in both timelines is written really well. From the small innocent child when her father was murdered, to the slightly stroppy teenager when everything is brought up again 10 years later. I found this a really believable element of the book (being the mother of a teenage daughter – and with a pre teen called Evie!). I also loved the relationship between Hannah’s new partner Dan, and Evie – he was a great step Dad and clearly provided stability for Evie when her Mum was being a bit flaky.

Hawkwood House looms large – literally and figuratively – in the book. It’s an old psychiatric facility where Hannah’s Grandmother was incarcerated for murdering her husband and child. It has a magnetic hold over Hannah – and when she randomly bumps into an ex colleague who is hoping to refurbish it and start her own facility for women only, it really piques Hannah’s interest. The descriptions of the house and it’s decaying condition before the refurbishment starts is brilliantly described – and quite scary.

Throughout the book there are twists and turns, and you’re not sure who you should be suspicious of! I’d suspected loads of different people in both timelines and still didn’t get either right – which I think shows what a great book this is.

It is quite dark – and there are some pretty gruesome descriptions at times – but that just added to the content. It’s really well written and the characters really well constructed.

It’s pretty rare for me to give 5 stars on Net Galley – I have to be blown away to click on that 5th star – but this is a full house of stars from me. A really excellent crime / mystery / thriller read.

Book Review: Waiting To Begin by Amanda Prowse

I’d had an advance review copy of this on my Kindle for months and never got round to reading it – but I’m so glad I finally did, and just before publication date which was 8 June 2021!

Here’s the blurb:

“1984. Bessie is a confident sixteen-year-old girl with the world at her feet, dreaming of what life will bring and what she’ll bring to this life. Then everything comes crashing down. Her bright and trusting smile is lost, banished by shame―and a secret she’ll carry with her for the rest of her life.
2021. The last thirty-seven years have not been easy for Bess. At fifty-three she is visibly weary, and her marriage to Mario is in tatters. Watching her son in newlywed bliss―the hope, the trust, the joy―Bess knows it is time to face her own demons, and try to save her relationship. But she’ll have to throw off the burden of shame if she is to honour that sixteen-year-old girl whose dreams lie frozen in time.
Can Bess face her past, finally come clean to Mario, and claim the love she has longed to fully experience all these years?”

The book is based on Bess’s birthdays and follows two timelines which alternate – her 16th birthday in 1984 and her 53rd birthday in 2021. I’m a little bit younger than Bess – but still close enough in age to totally empathise with the setting of both birthdays. Many a rugby club party where I embarrassed myself too (throwing up on the geography teacher’s shoes being one of the more repeatable ones!).

The two timelines are totally believable – although you’re not sure exactly what has happened to Bess in the intervening years. The relationship between Bess and her brother Philip and parents is written so well in both timelines – and whose retired parents don’t love a voucher for lunch out?!

I also liked the random fact that our favourite resort in Portugal, Vale do Lobo, where we used to have a house (must be a construction company thing – as the people who own a house there are skip company owners #newmoney) gets a mention. I could picture the beach top dog walk. (Please let us be able to go back there soon!!)

A number of times I wanted to shout at Bess to not do something – but obviously couldn’t!! Overall I enjoyed the book – and was keen to see how each timeline played out – and found the ending very satisfying.

It’s out now – so you can download it immediately if you like the sound of it. A huge thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for my ARC.

Book Review: Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Like the rest of the world, I read Daisy Jones and The Six back in 2019. I really enjoyed it, and so when I saw Taylor Jenkins Reid had her next book out, I jumped onto NetGalley for an advance review copy. Here’s the blurb:

“From the New York Times bestselling author of Daisy Jones & The Six and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo . . . Four famous siblings throw an epic party to celebrate the end of the summer. But over the course of twenty-four hours, their lives will change forever.
Malibu: August 1983. It’s the day of Nina Riva’s annual end-of-summer party, and anticipation is at a fever pitch. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas:
Nina, the talented surfer and supermodel; brothers Jay and Hud, one a championship surfer, the other a renowned photographer; and their adored baby sister, Kit. Together the siblings are a source of fascination in Malibu and the world over—especially as the offspring of the legendary singer Mick Riva.
The only person not looking forward to the party of the year is Nina herself, who never wanted to be the center of attention, and who has also just been very publicly abandoned by her pro tennis player husband. Oh, and maybe Hud—because it is long past time for him to confess something to the brother from whom he’s been inseparable since birth. Jay, on the other hand, is counting the minutes until nightfall, when the girl he can’t stop thinking about promised she’ll be there. And Kit has a couple secrets of her own—including a guest she invited without consulting anyone. By midnight the party will be completely out of control. By morning, the Riva mansion will have gone up in flames. But before that first spark in the early hours before dawn, the alcohol will flow, the music will play, and the loves and secrets that shaped this family’s generations will all come rising to the surface. Malibu Rising is a story about one unforgettable night in the life of a family: the night they each have to choose what they will keep from the people who made them . . . and what they will leave behind.”

The book flicks between two timelines. Firstly there are the 24 hours building up to and including the annual Rivas party – and then back to the 1950s when Mick and June Riva meet and have 4 children. The second timeline continues at pace through the children’s childhoods and all they go through. I enjoyed the different speeds of the timelines.

Much like ‘Daisy Jones and the Six’ it appears to intertwine real life people of the era with the characters in the book in a very clever way. Malibu itself and the amazing coastline is also a character in itself.

The eldest sister, Nina, has definitely put herself way down the pecking order over the years – looking after her siblings, and I felt sorry for her at times as she’d never put herself first. Equally the siblings all had secrets from each other that evolved during the hours leading up to and during the party.

The party itself is fairly horrific – and the trashing of the house awful – it made me feel quite sick the amount of destruction that happened.

One minor niggle was the book talked about Madeira being in Portugal. And whilst Madeira is a Portuguese territory, it is a totally separate island in the Atlantic and it wasn’t mentioned like this at all. (I realise this makes me sound like a total pedant – but hey ho!!) But I had never realised Madeira was a surfers haven – I think of it as a place where my parents and other retirees go for some winter sun!!

Overall it was an immersive read and I did enjoy it, and the twists and turns in both timelines were excellent. In fact I think I enjoyed it more than Daisy Jones and the Six. I also thought that the ending was really well done with lots of the individual story arcs being concluded.

Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for my ARC. It was released last week, so if you like the sound of it you can buy it now!