The Shrouded Path

the-shrouded-pathI discovered Sarah Ward at a good time: when she’d only published two books.

That made it easier to start at the beginning of her work and not fall behind in my reading as new books were released. Since that initial discovery, she has added two more volumes to her DC Childs series.

In each of Ward’s books a crime in the present has links to events in the past.

Ward refers to this in a recent article.

My crime novels set in the Derbyshire Peaks usually have two timelines. I’m fascinated by crimes which have a long gestation, old hurts that simmer away for years, even decades, until they explode into violence.

http://www.crimetime.co.uk/sarah-wards-the-shrouded-path-what-is-it-about-the-1950s/

In the same article Ward says this about her most recent book:

…in The Shrouded Path. Six girls walk into a railway in the 1950s and only five emerge. The act of violence which takes place in the tunnel has reverberations up to the present day

The sense of time and place is what continues to draw me to Ward’s books. Those elements are common traits of the crime fiction I want to read and is why Ward is among a group of favoured authors I’ve been reading.

Advertisements

The Birdwatcher, by William Shaw

I found out about this book through a brief review on Sarah Ward’s blog. I quickly ordered a copy.

Ward had said the book had an interesting ending and assured she’s give “no spoilers” to ruin the book for others.
However, the book seller may not have been so thoughtful. Their brief description of the book on their sales site potentially revealed a significant “spoiler”, and my reading of the book became an exercise in second guessing what was ahead.

What appealed to me and encouraged me to get a copy?

Firstly there was Sarah Ward’s recommendation.

Secondly I was interested in trying a new crime writer, although I’m not sure why considering how many books I still have by the handful of authors I’ve already started.

Thirdly, as a backyard birdwatcher, the reference in the title  was appealing. How many novels these days have bird watching references?

As I write this I’m only a third of the way into the book, so I still don’t know whether my spoiler fears about the bookseller’s blurb will be realised. I’m also not sure to what extent I’m enjoying it. Throughout, the story splits between two time periods; the present, with the murder investigation, and the past where childhood memories are depicted.

So far I’ve preferred the parts from the past. They seem to have more life, more colour, and a stronger uncertainty of what comes next. They also cover a period and a political situation that’s interested me since my teen years (when these events would have been occurring).

Of course, it may not be fair to write a “review” with so little of the book completed, but when I can, I want to address books as an ongoing experience, and not as some kind of post-read judgement.

I’ll have to write again later to confirm whether the book seller’s blurb was a genuine spoiler or not, and of course give a more informed account of my overall reading experience.

 

A Patient Fury by Sarah Ward

“He had the heart of an ox, the specialist informed him, a metaphor that had made the evening glass of cognac all the more enjoyable. The cardiologist had failed to appreciate that even the heart of a beast of burden cannot outlive the ministration of a claw hammer…”

What links are there between the disappearance of a woman decades before and the recent deaths of a Derbyshire family of three? And can discovering those links help or hinder the application of justice?

A clear murder suicide might not be as clear cut as it seems.
DC Childs returns to work after leave taken to recover from injuries sustained in her previous case, and she doesn’t go along with the conclusions being drawn in the investigation.
Her reservations lead her to action that could potentially end her career.

The relationships of the book’s characters are central, and make the story more than a straight forward crime investigation.
Strands of the story are viewed through different character viewpoints, mainly those of DC Childs, and Julia Winson, daughter of one of the victims.
The twists and turns of the murder investigation challenge those relationships and give each participant cause for self examination. To what degree does their work define who they are? What concessions or sacrifices does their work require them to make? And in a case with so many contradictions will the truth ever be found?

____

This month Ward published a short story featuring Connie Childs and Julia Winson from A Patient Fury. The story was made available to subscribers to her newsletter (subscribe here).

In The Lamp Men, DC Childs seeks out Julia and her knowledge of local history to make sense of an unnerving experience she has during a night time walk.

Can she find out who (or what) the lamp men are and why are they being seen around Bampton?

 

________________________________

For more about A Patient Fury.

The Costs and Pitfalls of Book Buying.

I have far too many books – and still I buy more.

When I develop a new reading interest, or a new interest in general, I’m not satisfied to dabble around the edges, I jump right in and obtain as much as possible related to that interest.

In recent years I became interested in some aspects of military history. At first I just wanted to find out why Anzac day was such a big deal in Australia. Like many Australians, my knowledge and understanding of the Gallipoli campaign at the heart of Anzac day was minimal. As the centenary of the original Anzac day (25th April) came around in 2015, I decided to put an end to my ignorance and I read several books about the campaign that attained mythic status in Australian culture.

From there my curiosity about other aspects of WWI was sparked, and my reading widened to other battles and their historical consequences.

But that wasn’t enough. I moved on to WWII when I discovered some family involvement in the North Africa and Sicily campaigns of 1943.
I was able to untie some of my dad’s tangled childhood memories to find the facts behind the tragic loss of his cousins Albert and Horace during those campaigns; even being able to track a report of Horace’s desperate cries for help, followed by the sound of his drowning, after his glider crashed into the Mediterranean.

I sought out and bought as many books as I could find that might increase my knowledge of Albert and Horace’s experiences of war. A lot of the books were out of print so I needed to track down second hand copies. A helpful resource was https://www.bookfinder.com/

Through that site I was able to find books covering my topics of interest that have been long out of print. Unfortunately some were outside of my comfortable price range, but most weren’t.

As I’ve written in several recent posts, my current interest is crime fiction, a very popular genre with far too many reading options. The only way I could realistically launch myself into reading crime was to find someway to limit those options. I chose to be selective with the authors I read.

So far I’ve followed two paths. Firstly there are the two authors who helped me get into the world of crime in the first place. I’ve already written about Lynda La Plante and Ann Cleeves.
Secondly, because my greater interest has been fuelled by the strength of character and place in Cleeves’ books, I looked around for British writers basing their work around Derbyshire, the English county where I spent my pre-teen years. I’ve also written quite a lot about the three writers I’ve been following.

To date Sarah Ward has three published books, Steven Dunne seven, and Stephen Booth at least seventeen. It would be a very costly exercise to get all of them, so when available I’ve helped the process through purchases from charity and second hand book shops, while keeping an eye on the prices of new books in online stores. Occasionally books will be discounted and a little money can be saved if I’m viewing the right site at the right time.

book list 2Ideally I’d be able to find all of the books at a local bookshop, giving them support instead of some overseas mega-store, but they rarely (if ever) have the kind of books I want, that cater to my sometimes obscure tastes (how many Australian readers are looking for Derbyshire crime writers?).

I now own all of Sarah Ward’s books.

I have the first three of Steven Dunne’s books. The first I could only find second hand online, the second I bought new and the third I also found second hand in a Canberra bookshop.

Stephen Booth’s books have been a mixture of new purchases from The Book Depository , Some from charity shops and two I bought online through the book finder address cited earlier. Those latter purchases have been examples of the perils faced when buying used goods on line. When I received the books they weren’t the editions that had been illustrated (they were older) and their actual condition didn’t match that of the written description on the website.
Bringing the problems to the attention of the supplier doesn’t always lead to the customer finding a satisfactory outcome.*

After two disappointing experiences, I’m now reconsidering the buying of second hand books online unless they are completely out of print and can’t be obtained any other way. In the recent cases I only resorted to the second hand orders because the number of books in the Stephen Booth series pushed the overall cost of new ones into uncomfortable territory, and I was eager to get his earlier books for an affordable prices as soon as possible.

At the moment those early books are some of the more expensive, unless I compromised by buying American editions. However an American version of a Derbyshire book, with American spellings and the possible “translating” of Derbyshire turns of phrase into Americanised approximations… well it kind of defeats my purpose of choosing Derbyshire based stories.**

I’m resisting the temptation to order more books for a while.  Over the Christmas break I could be away from home from time to time, so won’t be around to make sure any book deliveries are received securely.

Anyway, I have more than enough crime fiction to keep me going for a few weeks before I need to order again in the new year.

Apart from filling in some of the existing gaps in my collection, next year there will be at least two new books to look forward to: Sarah Wards fourth DC Childs book The Shrouded Path is due for release in the UK autumn, but before that will be The Devil’s Dice, the debut book by Roz Watkins released around March 2018.

_____________________________________

The image illustrating this post is part of the book list I keep in my wallet to help me keep track of what I already have so I don’t double up on any title.

*Although one bookseller went above and beyond my expectations to sustain their reputation for good service – sending me a book autographed by the author as a replacement for a copy that had been an ex-library book and was marred by stickers and ink stamps)

 

** To keep things in balance, I have no problem buying American editions of books by American authors, where American-English is in keeping with the authors intent.

From the Midlands to the North and then Further North Again.

This week I finished Sarah Ward’s A Deadly Thaw, and posted a review of it yesterday. I loved the book but not my review.

I’ve now started Hidden Depths by Ann Cleeves, and I can easily see how her work helped draw me into crime fiction. She has an exceptional talent for telling story through character and place.

The first episode of the Vera TV series was based on this book.
I saw it a few weeks ago and was disappointed. I later saw other episodes based on books I’d already read and found them disappointing too. They cut and changed the stories far too much and didn’t capture the heart of Cleeves’ books.

That all changed when the series moved on to original stories with the same characters. They work far better than the adaptations and I’ve enjoyed the few original stories that I’ve seen so far.

I’m now most of the way through Shetland series two, another drama based on Cleeves’ characters. The first season was all adapted from published books, and in my opinion they were far better than the Vera adaptations. While there are still considerable differences between book and TV show, the first Shetland series worked for me.

Like Vera, the second Shetland series moves into original story territory and so far it has me hooked. I have two episodes to go, so I can only hope that the quality is retained right up to the final story resolution.

After I started Hidden Depths, my copy of Sarah Ward’s third book, A Patient Fury arrived in the mail. If it had come a little earlier I think I would have jumped right into that book, continuing my Derbyshire journey with Detectives Sadler and Childs. However I know I still have that to look forward to – and then there will be a long wait for book four, currently being edited.

I still have another route available on that Derbyshire trip, with the second novel by Stephen Booth, Dancing With the Virgins waiting on my bookshelves. I enjoyed Black Dog , a book I wrote about at the beginning of November (here) and have since started to order his subsequent books.

________________________________________________

For more I’ve written on TV adaptations of Ann Cleeves’ books see here:
https://outshadows.wordpress.com/2017/11/02/ann-cleeves-book-and-screen/

A Deadly Thaw, by Sarah Ward

A Deadly Thaw starts with the discovery of a murder victim. Clearly nothing out of the ordinary for a crime story, however DI Sadler recognises the victim as Andrew Fisher, a man who’d been murdered 10 years earlier, so how could his fresh body be there at this new crime scene?

Obvious questions arise. Who was the original victim? How did his real identity remain unknown? And where has the current victim been for the past ten years before being murdered “again”?

Lena Gray, wife of the victim, newly released from a jail term for the first murder is the only one with the answers, and yet, as soon as her “resurrected” husband’s recent murder comes to light, she disappears.

Is she now responsible for killing the man she was thought to have murdered a decade before?

This book follows a similar format to Sarah Ward’s previous book, alternating the police investigation with the story of another character who has family connections to the crime, in this case Lena’s sister Kat. It’s an effective technique that keeps us in mind of the human cost of the situation, so that the book‘s appeal remains much more than an intriguing legal puzzle to be solved.

We also see more of the personal lives of detectives Sadler, Palmer and Childs, how they become affected by a case, and also how their work on a case can be affected by their non-work related interactions.

Another feature the books have in common is the way the past and present both collide. In this book suppressed secrets are drawn out to the cost of victims, perpetrators and investigators alike. As one character says towards the end:

“Mistakes from our past are coming back to haunt us.”

The further I got into the book, the more I loved it. As the various seemingly unrelated strands started to come together, the pace increased incrementally to a satisfyingly unforeseen conclusion.
Along the way the story addresses some very serious issues related to the neglect of responsible authority, as well as the abuse and misuse of power.
These matters have become prominently topical in recent news reports.

______________________

More information on Sarah Ward’s website:

https://crimepieces.com/a-deadly-thaw-praise-and-reviews/

Phone Problems and Disrupted Crime Reading

Yesterday I was looking forward to finishing the last few chapters of Sarah Ward’s second book, A Deadly Thaw.
I’d been reading it over the weekend and had to put it down just as I reached that final climactic section where everything was starting to be resolved and revealed to the reader.

But my plans were disrupted by my phone company who were very unhelpful when we found we no longer had a working phone service at home.
I more or less spent a whole day at work trying to contact our service provider to speak to someone who was willing and able to help. At lunch time I even had to drive home to try something one of the customer service people suggested (a 30 km round trip) – and then, when it didn’t fix the problem I had to return to the office and try to contact them again.

After all of that I didn’t have the time or the desire to pick up my book. Fortunately, at about 8pm the phone rang and a technician from the phone company advised me that the issue with the phone service had been resolved.

I won’t go into all of the annoying details of the hours of wrestling with their customer service department. All I can hope is that our phone problems are behind us, and that tomorrow I can get back to my book and complete what has been an increasingly enjoyable reading experience.

Hopefully I can write a “review” of the book in a day or two.