I was given an ARC copy of Inside Out by the author, in return for an honest review.
I gave Inside Out 5* out of 5*
Triton station, Outer Circles headquarters of Ragnox Inc, on the moon of Neptune, is as far as the intrepid can go. It’s a place to make money, lots of money, and for seven lucky travellers, bound for Triton on the ISF Heloise, that’s exactly what they intend to do. Maggy Jole wants to belong. Peter Selden wants to escape. Abigail Dieterman wants to be free. Merrit Burnand wants to start again. Christie Steen wants to forget. No one knows what David Rabiotti wants. And Smith, well, Smith wants everything. Does it really matter what they want? The journey to Triton will take them eleven months – eleven months to contemplate the future, come to terms with the small print of their contracts, and wish they’d never signed. But changing their minds is not an option. Sometimes it really is better to travel… than arrive.
For many years I have admired Thorne Moore’s work. She has written in various genres but, threaded through all, there is always a psychological mystery: a need to know why her characters have acted in a certain way, what were the circumstances that “upset the applecart”, as I like to think of it. The mystery may have parallel themes of crime, or the introduction of historical or contemporary, events, or the exploration of relationships, but there is always the psychological ‘why’ lurking. I think this is one reason I have always been gripped by her stories and the intricate ways they move along.
And this smooth progression of the plot is often reinforced by the background of the novel, whether it’s of the countryside and life at a certain era, an old house that’s been lived in by generation, or myths and legends. And, as an added extra, to give atmosphere and emotion to these settings, there are always short evocative descriptions of the weather to reflect the mood of the scene. Wonderful!
So, I have to admit, I was surprised and not a little perturbed to hear she has delved into writing Science Fiction. After all, one of this author’s greatest qualities is her innate ability to bring setting to life, by just a line or two of description that instantly evokes a sense of place and an immediacy to the background that her characters move around in.
I mean, a spaceship in Outer Space! No weather, no interesting ‘moving around settings’ for the characters, no historic background, no real characters (Maybe ET-Type aliens?).
Yes, yes, I know; I have little knowledge of the Sci-Fi genre. Which I was to learn. Very quickly.
It is at this point I always say that I don’t give away spoilers.
But what I will say is that Inside Out is not just science fiction, it is a story that includes all that I admire of Thorne Moore’s writing..
There is mystery and intrigue. Excellent individual dialogue from the brilliantly rounded main characters, all with their own back stories and reasons for being on what initially seems to be a luxurious cruise liner for rich, middle-class passengers. (I say “luxurious” but there is a ‘wait and see’ moment – and that’s all I will say about that). Together, with a cast of minor characters as foil to the main ones, there is crime, danger, adventure, humour, and even a little romance. And … there are brilliant settings: of the layers and decks of the ship, of the various planets that the ISF Heloise docks at, and of a chilling description of outer space. And, then, ultimately, we land on Triton, the destination of the group of main characters, where we are made aware of the truth of life with Ragnox Inc.
Just here, I was very tempted to write, Dum De Dum Dum Dah here, but I won’t.
All I will say, is that Inside Out is a novel I thoroughly enjoyed and one I would recommend to any readers who enjoys character-led stories – whatever the genre.
Thorne was born in Luton and graduated from Aberystwyth University (history) and from the Open University (Law). She set up a restaurant with her sister and made miniature furniture for collectors. She lives in Pembrokeshire, which forms a background for much of her writing, as does Luton. She writes psychological mysteries, or “domestic noir,” exploring the reason for crimes and their consequences, rather than the details of the crimes themselves. and her first novel, “A Time For Silence,” was published by Honno in 2012, with its prequel, “The Covenant,” published in 2020. “Motherlove” and “The Unravelling” were also published by Honno. “Shadows,” published by Lume, is set in an old mansion in Pembrokeshire and is paired with “Long Shadows,” also published by Lume, which explains the history and mysteries of the same old house. She’s a member of Crime Cymru. She also writes Science Fiction, including “Inside Out” (2021).
When Val Poore first agreed to take on an abused rescue puppy, nothing prepared her and her partner, Koos, for the challenges they were going to meet in the coming years. This short memoir is a story of the love and loyalty they developed for Sindy (Sin) against considerable odds and frequent pessimism. It is Sindy’s story, but at the same time it is that of many other damaged dogs.
The ebook book is illustrated with a few photos to mark the different stages of her life, but there is also a link to a file with further photos at the end.
Val would also like to thank the hugely respected dog psychologist, Lisa Tenzin-Dolma, for reading the first draft of this book and giving it her support. Lisa, whose knowledge of dog behaviour is simply incredible, is the founder and principal of the International School for Canine Psychology & Behaviour whose website can be found at http://www.theiscp.com
My Review: Living With My Sin is a story that one moment made me laugh and the next brought tears. And it will be a story that stays with me for quite a while in its simplicity for showing the love, compassion and patience that only anyone who has had a damaged, yet lovable, animal in their lives could truly understand. Sindy’s start in life was fraught with emotional and physical abuse so when Val and her partner Koos took her on, they knew life would be difficult with Sindy – but they had no idea how hard. Or how soon they would fall in love with her.
And it was wonderful to read how easily Val and Koos friends also adored her; enough to help this oh so troubled puppy ( soon to grow into a large lovable dog), cope with her surroundings.
The descriptions of the various places the author lived with Sindy and Koos give a wonderful sense of place: the barges, flat, the dilapidated cottage. However, Val comes into her own when describing the walks and parks where she and Sindy go – they are easy to envisage. But it is the emotions in these settings and circumstances, threaded throughout these sections of the book, especially as Sindy grows older, where the reader can empathise with her. I have to admit I reached the end of the book in tears
A brilliantly written book that I wholeheartedly recommend to any reader ( especially dog lovers like myself!). Living With My Sin tells not only the life of Sindy but also gives a glimpseinto the life and emotions of the authorand her partner.
About the Author:
Val Poore was born in London, England, and grew up in both north London and the west of Dorset. After completing her degree in English, History and French at Bournemouth, she took a further course in the conservation and restoration of museum artefacts at Lincoln College of Art which qualified her for nothing at all really. She then spent two years doing furniture restoration before going to South Africa in 1981 with her husband and small children.
Valerie left South Africa permanently in 2001 and has settled in the Netherlands, where she shares her time between a liveaboard barge in Rotterdam and a cottage in Zeeland. She teaches academic and business English on a freelance basis and still writes in her spare time, although she admits there’s not enough of that at the moment. In fact, she has been writing since childhood and wrote stories, articles and radio plays for years before embarking on her first book in 2005. Val loves travelling especially when it involves roughing it a bit. She feels that she has better adventures and more interesting experiences that way.
Ireceived a copy of The Boy and the Lake from the author as member of Rose Amber’s Review Teamin return for an honest review.
I gave The Boy and the Lake4* out of 5*
Set against the backdrop of the Newark riots in 1967, a teenage Benjamin Baum leaves the city to spend the summer at an idyllic lake in northern New Jersey. While fishing from his grandparents’ dock, the dead body of a beloved neighbor floats to the water’s surface—a loss that shakes this Jewish community and reveals cracks in what appeared to be a perfect middle-class existence. Haunted by the sight of the woman’s corpse, Ben stubbornly searches for clues to her death, infuriating friends and family who view his unwelcome investigation as a threat to the comfortable lives they’ve built. As Ben’s suspicions mount, he’s forced to confront the terrifying possibility that his close-knit community is not what it seems to be—that, beneath a façade of prosperity and contentment, darker forces may be at work.
The Boy and the Lake is a coming of age story that was recommended to me. I have to admit it’s the first of this genre I’ve read, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I found it to be a good story well told. It’s a steady read, introspective and very well written; I did like the author’s writing style, especially the descriptive language of the settings, the seasons, the lake.
And it’s the lake in New Jersey (a summer retreat for the protagonist, Ben, and his family before the riots in the nineteen- sixties made it too difficult to stay in the city) that is the background of the book.
The story is told from the first-person point of view by Ben. The reader learns of his relationship with his parents, Abe and Lillian, his friend, Missy and various members of the closed, committed Jewish community he lives in. And, through his eyes we see the rituals and ceremonies that are celebrated throughout the year. Learn of his attitudes towards them, whilst all the time he is also grappling to solve what he sees as an unexplained drowning of one of the neighbours, Helen.
The discovery of the body in the lake by Ben and his grandfather is the lynch pin for all the action, for all the contemplation by the protagonist. How Helen drowned takes up quite a lot of the narrative, and of both his internal and spoken dialogue. But there is also the angst of youth: of indecisiveness, self-doubt, infatuation, guilt for thoughtless actions. And a retreat into childhood, where he needs the love and comfort of his mother (two attributes she cannot supply) that vies with an insight to adulthood, when he sees, with pity, the weakness in his father (who refuses to acknowledge the truth of his marriage). But there is also a strong bond between father and son which will be broken when Ben leaves the life he has always known, to go to university. A bond not only broken by distance but by the results of actions of the two of them.
As I said at the beginning, this is the first of this genre I have read. There is a much to enjoy: the descriptions, the many layers and growth of the protagonist, The twist at the end of the story. For readers who enjoy a coming of age story, I have no hesitation in recommending Adam Pelzman’s The Boy and the Lake.
The darkness closed around her. She tried to clear her vision, but there was no light, no noise, nothing. Only the emptiness, the echoing sound of being alone. Fear pulsed through her. The man had come out of nowhere. Who was he? Blinking away tears of frustration, in the pitch black she felt the floor and walls surrounding her. Cold. Steel. Bars.
Detective Ellie Reeves heads into the wilds of the Appalachian Mountains when she wants to get lost––to forget the whispers chasing her and the past that keeps her up at night. She’s sick of having to prove herself to her small town.
But hiking in the endless miles of woods isn’t the escape she was hoping for. One night, as dusk falls, a gust of wind blows some petals on to Ellie’s path. Following the trail, she finds a golden-haired young woman dead on a bed of daffodils, with a note: Monday’s child is fair of face.
When Ellie emerges from the forest, there is a message on her phone. Someone has sent her a picture of her colleague, Officer Shondra Eastwood, with the words: Can you find her, Detective Reeves? Ellie is racked with guilt––while she was busy hiding from life a killer was on the loose, and he has taken her beloved friend.
The wilderness, and its shadows, are the perfect hunting ground for a criminal––but what does the sinister nursery rhyme mean? It soon becomes clear when another dead woman, Tuesday’s Child, is found.
Ellie is up against a serial killer who will claim a victim for every day of the week, and in the next twenty-four hours there will be another body. As this ruthless murderer closes in on her, can she save more innocent women––and Shondra––from his clutches? Or will he get to Ellie first?
I realised as soon as I was into the first chapter that I was reading the sequel of a previous book. The characters are already formed and interact well with one another, showing previous relationships and a backstory. And this is okay, there is enough spoken dialogue and internal dialogue that explains both the action and the denouement of the first book.
I liked the story, it is a good plot with an even pace, and enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing. And I did like the author’s narrative writing style.
There were only a couple of things that disappointed me: the dialogue sometimes (and it is only sometimes) is written in a ‘telling style’, as though as an explanation to the reader. And, although the outdoor settings are evocative, occasionally there is unnecessary repetition. The initial descriptions are excellently written, but then there are extra clauses that aren’t needed and so slow down the action.
However, this doesn’t happen in the sections which describe the “Cold. Steel. Bars.” the last place the victims know. ( I try not to give spoilers in my reviews – it’s a little difficult here) Suffice it to say, these well written settings are both sinister and chilling to read.
I found the explanation of the symbolism of wild flowers and nature fascinating; it’s obvious the author has researched this extensively and has cleverly interwoven them with the story.
All in all, I enjoyed the read and have no reservations in recommending this book to readers of crime fiction.
Many thanks to the author, Bookouture and NetGalley, for the copy of Wildflower Graves, in return for an honest review.
n 2024, a mystery virus ravages the entire world. ‘Bat Fever’ is highly contagious and one hundred per cent lethal.
A cottage tucked away in an isolated Norfolk village seems like the ideal place to sit out a catastrophic pandemic, but some residents of Hincham resent the arrival of Jack, Sarah and their friends, while others want to know too much about them.
What the villagers don’t know is that beneath Sarah’s cottage is a fully-stocked, luxury survival bunker. A post-apocalyptic ‘des res’.
Hincham isolates itself from the rest of the country, but the deaths continue―and not from the virus. There’s a killer on the loose, but is it a member of the much-depleted community, or somebody from outside? Paranoia is rife, as friend suspects friend, and everybody suspects the newcomers.
Most terrifying of all is that nobody knows who’s next on the list...
The Visitor is Terry Tyler’s twenty-second Amazon publication, and is set in the same world as her Project Renova series, while being a completely separate, stand-alone novel.
A post-apocalyptic murder mystery describes this cross genre book perfectly, with greater emphasis on the murder mystery. Yet, without the background on the post-apocalyptic world, this story would not be as strong as it is. The isolation of the village and its people, the lack of any outside authoritative representation, the fear of the murders vying with the deadly virus, are all layered through every setting of this novel.
In every review I have written of Terry Tyler’s work I have admired her ability to create strong characters. I love character-driven plots. The Visitor is no exception. The chapters are written from various points of view. And in each the character becomes more multi-layered, more rounded, more complex.
Which, undoubtedly, the author intends, because this is indeed, a murder mystery, There are a lot of subtle and not so subtle red herrings. And I’m afraid I fell for every one; all the way through I was convinced the murderer was this character or another – or another.
I was particular struck by the sections written from the protagonist’s, Jack, point of view.The internal dialogue is excellent, showing an insight both of his character and that of the other characters. Whilst I was reading, I was trying to think what it was that I liked so much, and I came to the conclusion that it was as though I was actually listening to him, evaluating his impressions of his friends and fellow villages. So that by reading the chapters from their viewpoints – and then his – the story becomes more complex, much as it does when trying to work out a situation in ‘real’ life.
And a word for the sections written from the Visitor’s point of view ( I almost said written by the visitor!) Quite sinister. And not giving anything away!
All in all another brilliant book from this author: the plot runs seamlessly and at an even pace, the story held my interest throughout, the settings and background of a world struggling to survive after a virus attack are there, and necessary, but are not the main theme (I say this to any reader who may be hesitant to try The Visitor because it is post-apocalyptic), and the writing style of Terry Tyler is, as always, admirable.
I have no problem in recommending The Visitor to any reader who enjoys a good murder mystery.
Terry Tyler is the author of twenty-two books available from Amazon, the latest being ‘The Visitor’, a post-apocalyptic murder mystery set in the same world as her popular Project Renova series. She is currently at work on ‘Megacity’, the third and final book in her dystopian Operation Galton series, after which she may decide to write something a bit more cheerful. Proud to be independently published, Terry is an avid reader and book reviewer, and a member of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team.
Crime Cymru has three main aims. – To support crime writers with a real and present relationship with Wales – To help in the development of new writing talent – To promote Wales, Welsh culture and Welsh crime writing in particular, to the wider world.
2020, a year that brought us Covid 19, months during which many brilliant books have been produced but have struggled to be found by readers. Here is the list of books by our authors that have arrived this year or are in the pipeline: https://bit.ly/2Q2rqpA. I have read quite a few of them but have been remiss in writing reviews, so have set myself the task of catching up over the next few weeks
My fourth review is ofWilderness by B.E Jones.2020 saw its publication in paperback (already available as e-book and audio).
Two weeks, 1500 miles and three opportunities for her husband to save his own life. It isn’t about his survival – it’s about hers. Shattered by the discovery of her husband’s affair, Liv knows they need to leave the chaos of New York to try and save their marriage. Maybe the road trip they’d always planned, exploring America’s national parks – just the two of them – would help heal the wounds. But what Liv hasn’t told her husband is that she has set him three challenges on their trip – three opportunities to prove he’s really sorry and worthy of her forgiveness. If he fails? Well, it’s dangerous out there. There are so many ways to die in the wilderness; accidents happen all the time. And if it’s easy to die, then it’s also easy to kill.
I readWildernessquite a while ago and it’s a book that has lingered in my mind for all this time.
I try not to give spoilers in my reviews(and, here, the book description gives a quick run-down of the story anyway)so I tend to concentrate on what I liked about the make up of a book and the writing style of the author. And I have to say I loved B. E. Jones’ masterful command and stylish portrayal of the English language. This is a skilfully crafted psychological thriller; a story of juxtaposed timelines that, as a reader, swayed me one way and another in empathy with the main characters. Liv and Will, both rounded, both meticulouslydeveloped as the plot unfolds. And supported by a cast of well drawn minor characters.
As the protagonist, Liv tells the story. But from the start it is obvious that she is an unreliable narrator. Her judgement is flawed and erratic; she is ruled by self-doubt and mistrust of others, by her anger and hurt. Although portrayed as a meticulous planner of the journey, her reactions to the unexpected sometimes give the storyan unexpected slant.
Both the internal and spoken dialogue is well written and adds to the layers of all the characters.There is never any ambiguity as to who is speaking. And there is no ‘head hopping’ from minor characters (a pet hate of mine).
The descriptions of the settings bring each to life. From the immense skyscrapers and crowded streets of New York, where it is possible to feel both excluded and at one with the city, to the evocative images of America’s national parksthat are the background of so much of the actionon the road trip, the author manages to draw the reader into each scene. The sensation of being alongside Liz and Will travelling through so many remote areas and also having access to her thoughts and deliberations adds to the tension.
Wildernessis one of the best psychological thrillers I have read in a long time. Threaded throughout the plot are themes that reveal the characters’ strengths and weaknesses: love and hate, rage and revenge, betrayal and forgiveness. Packaged inside the powerful writing style of B E Jones, I have no hesitation in recommending Wilderness to any reader who enjoys a gripping, character-driven crime novel.
About the Author:
Beverley Jones is a former journalist and police press officer, now a novelist and general book obsessive. Bev was born in a small village in the South Wales valleys, north of Cardiff. She started her journalism career with Trinity Mirror newspapers, writing stories for The Rhondda Leader and The Western Mail, before becoming a broadcast journalist with BBC Wales Today TV news, based in Cardiff. She has worked on all aspects of crime reporting (as well as community news and features) producing stories and content for newspapers and live TV. Most recently Bev worked as a press officer for South Wales Police, dealing with the media and participating in criminal investigations, security operations and emergency planning. Perhaps unsurprisingly she channels these experiences of ‘true crime,’ and her insight into the murkier side of human nature, into her dark, psychological thrillers set in and around South Wales. Her latest novel, Where She Went, is published by Little Brown under the name BE Jones. Visit Bev’s website at bevjoneswriting.co.uk, chat with her on Goodreads.co.uk under B E Jones or Beverley Jones and on Twitter @bevjoneswriting
Crime Cymru has three main aims. – To support crime writers with a real and present relationship with Wales – To help in the development of new writing talent – To promote Wales, Welsh culture and Welsh crime writing in particular, to the wider world.
A page-turning crime thriller set in Catalonia.
killer is targeting figures of corruption in the Catalan city of Girona, with each corpse posed in a way whose meaning no one can fathom
Elisenda Domènech, the head of Girona’s newly-formed Serious Crime Unit, believes the attacker is drawing on the city’s legends to choose his targets, but soon finds her investigation is blocked at every turn.
Battling against the press, the public and even her colleagues, she is forced to question her own values. When the attacks start to include less deserving victims, however, the pressure is suddenly on Elisenda to stop him.
A gripping series sure to appeal to readers of Val McDermid and the Inspector Montalbano novels
Ireally enjoyed City of Good Death. Chris Lloyd has an easy writing style and, although both Girona and its history and legends of Catalonia were unknown to me it didn’t detract from what is a a clever and intricate plot, It’s also an astute study in human nature, where evil deeds are seen as retribution and values are twisted to justify immoral acts.
The author was recommended to me and I chose this book knowing that it is the first of a series. I was anxious to see if I could relate to the main characters before I carried on with the others. I needn’t have worried; the characters are well rounded and distinguishable despite the names and ranks being unfamiliar(though I must admit that, at first, I needed to go back once or twice to make sure I knew who I was reading about. But that didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book).The protagonist, Elisenda Domenech, the law-enforcement officer leading the investigations, is portrayed as a lonely, yet self sufficient woman. Her background and that of her family are, as yet, to be explored more thoroughly in the next books, I surmise. Nevertheless she is a character with whom one can empathise.
The dialogueis good, with those idiosyncrasies and turns of phrase a reader would expect of a book set in a different country with a mixture of languages.
But it is the descriptions of the settings, especially those of the legendary clues, that give the story so many levels. It is obvious that the author both knows Girona and has extensively researched the country in both its historical and contemporary eras.
As the book description says this is a page turner. Any readers who enjoys a crime thriller in an interesting setting, with characters that evolve as the story progresses, will enjoy City of Good Death as much as I did. Recommended.
Straight after graduating in Spanish and French, Chris Lloyd hopped on a bus from Cardiff to Catalonia and stayed there for over twenty years, falling in love with the people, the country, the language and Barcelona Football Club, probably in that order. Besides Catalonia, he’s also lived in the Basque Country and Madrid, teaching English, travel writing for Rough Guides and translating. He now lives in South Wales, where he works as a Catalan and Spanish translator, and returns to Catalonia as often as he can. He writes the Elisenda Domènech crime series, featuring a police officer with the newly-devolved Catalan police force in the beautiful city of Girona.
Every now and again one my books receive a review that takes my breath away – that makes my day/week/month… even makes me think that, if I never write another word, this is what I’ll treasure. Something that says I succeeded in writing something I can be proud of.
This review from author Barb Taub covered not only one of my books, but the whole of the Haworth trilogy and the prequel. So chuffed was I that I copied, pasted and printed it off to pin on my notice board to remind me that I can write – even on the days when I am banging my head on the keyboard and writing xmjhnsdjhsdjhfjhf …
This is Barb’s review:
“We’ve all read epic family sagas—sweeping multi-generational tales like The Thorn Birds, The Godfather, Roots, the Star Wars franchise, and anything remotely connected to the British Monarchy. So as I read Judith Barrow’s Howarth Family trilogy, I kept trying to slot them into those multigenerational tropes:
*First generation, we were supposed to see the young protagonist starting a new life with a clean slate, perhaps in a new country. *The next generation(s) are all about owning their position, fully assimilated and at home in their world. *And the last generation is both rebel and synthesis, with more similarities to the first generation made possible by the confidence of belonging from the second one.
But the complex, three-dimensional miniatures I met in the first three books of the trilogy stubbornly refused to align with those tropes. First of all, there’s Mary Howarth—the child of parents born while Queen Victoria was still on the throne—who is poised between her parents’ Victorian constraints, adjustment to a world fighting a war, and their own human failures including abuse, alcoholism, and ignorance.When Pattern of Shadows begins in 1944, war-fueled anti-German sentiment is so strong, even the King has changed the British monarchy’s last name from Germanic Saxe-Coburg to Windsor. Mary’s beloved brother Tom is imprisoned because of his conscientious objector status, leaving their father to express his humiliation in physical and emotional abuse of his wife and daughters. Her brother Patrick rages at being forced to work in the mines instead of joining the army, while Mary herself works as a nurse treating German prisoners of war in an old mill now converted to a military prison hospital.
Mary’s family and friends are all struggling to survive the bombs, the deaths, the earthshaking changes to virtually every aspect of their world. We’ve all seen the stories about the war—plucky British going about their lives in cheerful defiance of the bombs, going to theaters, sipping tea perched on the wreckage, chins up and upper lips stiff in what Churchill called “their finest hour”. That wasn’t Mary’s war.
Her war is not a crucible but a magnifying glass, both enlarging and even inflaming each character’s flaws. Before the war, the Shuttleworth brothers might have smirked and swaggered, but they probably wouldn’t have considered assaulting, shooting, raping, or murdering their neighbors. Mary and her sister Ellen would have married local men and never had American or German lovers. Tom would have stayed in the closet, Mary’s father and his generation would have continued abusing their women behind their closed doors. And Mary wouldn’t have risked everything for the doomed love of Peter Schormann, an enemy doctor.
I was stunned by the level of historical research that went into every detail of these books. Windows aren’t just blacked out during the Blitz, for example. Instead, they are “criss crossed with sticky tape, giving the terraced houses a wounded appearance.” We’re given a detailed picture of a vanished world, where toilets are outside, houses are tiny, and privacy is a luxury.
The Granville Mill becomes a symbol of these dark changes. Once a cotton mill providing jobs and products, it’s now a prison camp that takes on a menacing identity of its own. Over the next two volumes of Howarth family’s story, it’s the mill that continues to represent the threats, hatred, and violence the war left behind.
Unlike the joyful scenes we’re used to, marking the end of the war and everyone’s return to prosperity and happiness, the war described in these books has a devastatingly long tail. When Changing Patterns takes up the story in 1950, Mary and Peter have been reunited and are living in Wales, along with her brother Tom.
But real life doesn’t include very many happy-ever-afters, and the Howarths have to live with the aftermath of the secrets each of them has kept. The weight of those secrets is revealed in their effect on the next generation, the children of the Howarth siblings. The battle between those secrets and their family bonds is a desperate one, because the life of a child hangs in the balance.
Finally, the saga seems to slide into those generational tropes in Living in the Shadows, the final book of the Howarth trilogy. Interestingly enough, this new generation does represent a blend of their preceding generations’ faults and strengths, but with the conviction of their modern identities. Where their parents’ generation had to hide their secrets, this new generation confidently faces their world: as gay, as handicapped, as unwed parents, and—ultimately shrugging off their parents’ sins—as family.
But I didn’t really understand all of that until I considered the title of the prequel (released after the trilogy). 100 Tiny Threads tells the story of that first generation, their demons, their loves, their hopes, and their failures, and most importantly, their strength to forge a life despite those failures. That book, along with the novella-sized group of short stories in Secrets, gives the final clues to understanding the trilogy. As Simone Signoret said, “Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads, which sew people together through the years.” And it’s both those secrets and those threads not only unite them into a family, but ultimately provide their strength.
This is the part where I’m supposed to tell you that each of these wonderful books can be read alone. But no, don’t do that. In fact, if you haven’t read any of them, you’re luckier than I am, because you can start with the prequel and read in chronological order. I chose to review these books as a set, and I believe that’s how they should be read.
Every now and then, I come across books so beautifully written that their characters follow me around, demanding I understand their lives, their mistakes, their loves, and in this case, their families. Taken together, the Howarth Family stories are an achievement worth every one of the five stars I’d give them.”
An edited excerpt from the first of the trilogy, Pattern of Shadows. (Taken from the chapter where Mary Haworth, the protagonist – has just had her first date with Frank Shuttleworth.)
Frank stared into the flames for a couple of minutes and then said. ‘Tell me about your brother, Tom.Patrick told me he’s a Conscientious Objector. There doesn’t seem much love lost there.’
The anger flared immediately. ‘My younger brother has a big mouth. Tom’s a lovely bloke and entitled to his own beliefs.’
Frank held his hands up. ‘Whoa, I was only saying.’
‘Yes, well,’ Mary said, ‘for some reason, Patrick’s been jealous of him for as long as I can remember. Her voice faltered. ‘Look, I know what people think about COs. I’m not expecting you to feel any different. Let’s leave it for tonight.’
‘No. I want to know.’ Frank was insistent. ‘Tell me.’
Mary felt the clench of her stomach muscles. ‘Tom was always the odd one out, the only one in the family who still went to church when the rest of us lapsed years ago.’ How many times had she tried to understand the depths of Tom’s unquestioning faith? ‘His beliefs rule his life. It would have been easier for him if they didn’t. After it all came out, we discovered he’d belonged to a group in Manchester for ages. You know, meetings, talks on pacifism, how he felt about violence, how he felt it wrong to get involved with the war. When he first refused to sign up, he was given exemption, provided he continued to work in local government; he was in the Stationery Department. But he turned that down; he said he wouldn’t work for a government of a country at war.’ Mary met Frank’s stare. ‘He was sent to London to Wormwood Scrubs and he’s been there on and off ever since. They keep trying to make him do fire watching and he won’t do that either. They’ve extended his sentence loads of times. Dad won’t have his name mentioned in the house … won’t let Mam visit him, wouldn’t let him come home the times he’s been released.’
A memory of the last grubby bed-sit Tom lived in flashed into her mind. It had been in a part of Bradlow she didn’t even know existed, a maze of narrow streets lined with shabby back- to back terraced houses and filled with gangs of dirty kids and barking dogs. She’d studied the bit of paper with the address written on it before pushing her way past the two women smoking on the bottom step of a flight of stairs. The door to Tom’s room was open and for a moment she’d watched him sitting on the edge of the bed, his head in his hands, his arms sticking out of the sleeves of a jacket too small for him, his back shuddering with sobs.
‘They keep saying he has to do work that involves the war and he refuses. I think they do it for spite.’ Sparks flew from the fire onto the hearthrug and Frank reached out with his foot and stamped down on them. She couldn’t tell from his expression what he was thinking. ‘I admire what he did. I think it took a lot of courage.’
Frank leant forward, his hands clasped in front of him. Then he pressed his thumb against the first knuckle of each finger until it cracked. The noise jarred in the silence between them…
In halcyon days BC (before children), Barb Taub wrote a humor column for several Midwest newspapers. With the arrival of Child #4, she veered toward the dark side and an HR career. Following a daring daytime escape to England, she’s lived in a medieval castle and a hobbit house with her prince-of-a-guy and the World’s Most Spoiled AussieDog. Now all her days are Saturdays, and she spends them consulting with her occasional co-author/daughter on Marvel heroes, Null City, and translating from British to American.