The flock, mothers and daughters, one for sorrow, the last commandment and the patient
I had decided to focus on the family-type readings in this issue – but to be honest, I only managed two before some great detective stories caught my eye. But the two I read are so captivating and so good…
The herd by Emily Edwards (Bantam Press £14.99)
First of all, the very current The Herd. With all the controversy over whether or not people have been vaccinated against Covid, think back to when you had to decide to vaccinate your offspring against mumps, measles and rubella (German measles) with the combination MMR vaccine . I don’t remember thinking about it with my son, I did it automatically.
The Herd is about Elizabeth and her beloved daughter Clemmie, who suffered from febrile seizures (like my own son) as a baby. Elizabeth decides it is dangerous to vaccinate Clemmie and is therefore extremely wary of mixing her with other children.
Her best friend Bryony also has a daughter, Alba. Bryony also has an autistic brother, Matty, who is unable to live at home, non-verbal and must wear a hard hat. Bryony was raised by her mother to believe that Matty’s condition was due to the MMR vaccine and therefore it is against family code to have Alba vaccinated.
It’s Clemmie’s birthday and Elizabeth, very organized, very prepared, invites guests and asks them to confirm that their daughters have been vaccinated. Most guests confirm this. Bryony does not answer.
The party takes place and soon after, Clemmie, Alba and Bryony have a fever which is confirmed to be measles. So who infected who – and who is to blame?
The consequences of this infection are so exhilarating, so distressing and so far-reaching that I was reading it. It’s bound to be a book club choice and it’s going to cause so many arguments – that is, discussions.
I still talk about it, a few days after finishing it. What a first novel. Absolutely captivating.
mothers and daughters by Erica James (HQ £14.99)
Sunday time Best-selling author Erica James needs no introduction – this is her 24th novel and I’ve read them all. Mothers and daughters might just rank among her best.
Naomi lives in Anchor House, a charming old estate with a wraparound garden by the sea. Recently widowed, she has two daughters, Martha and Willow. Martha is the epitome of organization and planning while Willow drifts through life in dead-end jobs.
Martha is desperate to be pregnant with Tom, her equally organized husband, but it’s something that all of her planning and organizing has failed to achieve. Meanwhile, Willow becomes pregnant by her latest boyfriend, who has declared his undying love. And Naomi has reconnected with an old boyfriend who rented the house next door and the two are deeply in love.
It sounds like a very simplistic plot but, oh my God, it’s anything but and this novel is very hard to put down. Pulling at the heartstrings are a whole host of distracting side issues. I absolutely loved it.
And, like that, I return to detective novels. And what a party there is this week…
One for sorrow by Helen Fields (Avon £7.99)
Helen Fields’ “Perfect” series of novels featuring the very gorgeous DI Luc Callanach and his DCI boss Ava Turner needs no introduction and One For Sorrow is the latest installment.
Edinburgh faces the greatest threat it has ever seen with a single bomber targeting casualties across the city and putting not only the whole city in danger but also the two detectives. The body count is growing every day and DCI Turner faces animosity from all sides for its handling of the situation.
Add to that her best friend Natasha who is still recovering from the effects of her cancer treatment and Luc so obviously in love with Ava and you have a situation motivated enough to push you to drink.
I love the “Perfect” series, but somehow, in One for Sorrow, Helen Fields outdid herself. Are there any fans of this series who don’t want to see Luc and Ava end up together?
The Last Commandment by Scott Shepherd (Head of Zeus £18.99)
Here our detective is Austin Grant, still grieving the loss of his wife and how his daughter Rachel seems to be moving away. The only joy on the horizon is his brother Everett and the fact that he is due to retire in a few days.
And then the killings begin. Accustomed to discussing his affairs with Everett as they spend evenings playing chess, Everett gives him hints that seem to show the connections between the murders and that the next one will take place in New York. In the Big Apple, he finds his equivalent John Frankel.
You can tell it’s written by an American from his descriptions of London, but it’s a gripping, fast-paced story with several unforeseen twists. Worth reading.
The patient by Tim Sullivan (Head of Zeus £18.99)
Tim Sullivan became an internet sensation (which I sadly missed). His two detective novels featuring DS George Cross, The dentist and The cyclist, have been downloaded over 200,000 times, and I caught up with it in The patient.
I love George. He is very clumsy, cross-eyed, taciturn, and very visibly on the spectrum. But these are the very characteristics that make him such a relentless pursuer of truth. His conviction rate is the best of the force. Once he decides there is a murder, then rest assured there is a murder, and he will stop at nothing to find out who, what, and when.
He knows he’s on the spectrum, and after befriending Ottey, a fellow technician, he’s learning exactly what to say in social circumstances and it’s an absolute joy. Fantastic police procedures and attention to detail, and he reminds me of a cop Jack Reacher.
* Just for independent readers, we have the full set of George Cross novels up for grabs. To try your luck, simply answer this question: What month does Mother’s Day fall in? Email your response, along with your full name, mailing address, and phone number, to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please mark the subject line ‘The patient’.