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Book Bites: 18 June 2017

Published in the Sunday Times

Right Behind You
Lisa Gardner (Hodder & Stoughton)
Book thrill
***
Profilers Pierce Quincy and Rainie Conner have fostered a troubled youngster, Sharlah, who is traumatised by a childhood in which her drunken father murdered her mother, only to be killed himself by Sharlah’s older brother Telly, aged 9. Telly, now 17, has gone on a killing spree, starting with his foster parents: it seems he is after Sharlah, but she has little memory of the night her parents died, and no clue as to what would trigger this murderous rage. A manhunt ensues, with all the usual drama. This is the seventh book featuring Quincy and Conner and, while it works well as a standalone, is sadly forgettable. – Aubrey Paton

This Is How It Always Is
Laurie Frankel (Headline)
Book buff
****
The Walsh-Adams family already had four sons by the time Claude arrived. He was a bright boy, like his brothers, but different. By five Claude had renamed herself Poppy, grew out her hair, insisted on only wearing dresses and carried her lunch to school in a purse. Frankel, who wrote this novel as a tribute to her trans-daughter, gives an honest portrayal of the difficulties faced when raising a transgender child. For while the family may love and accept their child, society will have varying opinions, some of which can be deadly. Frankel’s true gift is capturing the essence of family dynamics, from the chaos to the hilarious smart remarks. – Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie
 
Live by Night
Dennis Lehane (Abacus)
Book thrill
****
Written, produced, directed by and starring Academy Award winner Ben Affleck, Live by Night was released last year as a major movie. A major movie disappointment, that is – comprehensively panned by the critics. Perhaps Affleck should have left the script to the original author, Lehane, one of the great American fiction writers. The tale starts in 1920s Boston, during the Prohibition years and sweeps majestically through to the eve of WW2. Joe Coughlin, a 19-year-old small-time stick-up crook, foolishly robs the casino of a big-time gangster. During the heist he becomes intrigued by one of the workers, the sassy, fearless Emma Gould. He tracks her down afterwards and falls desperately in love. But Emma is also the moll of the gangster whose casino Coughlin robbed, setting off a blood-splattered train of events that culminate in Coughlin becoming one of America’s most feared gangsters. – William Saunderson-Meyer @TheJaundicedEye

The Mermaid’s Daughter
Ann Claycomb (HarperCollins)
Book fling
****
This is the modernised version of The Little Mermaid – not the happy singing Disney version but the edgy Hans Christian Andersen telling. Kathleen is a young student and soprano opera singer. Her feet hurt like hell – like she is walking on broken glass all time – and her mouth pains with her tongue feeling like an alien part of her body. The fates decree that her life is a tragedy of murder. It’s an easy read and seems to be suited for younger readers but the story has a great hook and one learns quite a bit of the workings of an opera. – Jennifer Platt @Jenniferdplatt

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