Little by Edward Carey

little

Little grabbed my attention as soon as I heard about it, and I’m so pleased to have had the opportunity to read it ahead of publication.

The wry, macabre, unforgettable tale of an ambitious orphan in Revolutionary Paris, befriended by royalty and radicals alike, who transforms herself into the legendary Madame Tussaud.

In 1761, a tiny, odd-looking girl named Marie is born in a village in Alsace.  After the death of her parents, she is apprenticed to an eccentric wax sculptor and whisked off to the seamy streets of Paris, where they meet a domineering widow and her quiet, pale son.  Together, they convert an abandoned monkey house into an exhibition hall for wax heads, and the spectacle becomes a sensation.  As word of her artistic talent spreads, Marie is called to Versailles, where she tutors a princess and saves Marie Antoinette in childbirth.  But outside the palace walls, Paris is roiling: The revolutionary mob is demanding heads, and… at the wax museum, heads are what they do.

Edward Carey’s Little is a wonder – the incredible story of a ‘blood-stained crumb of a girl’ who went on to shape the world.

Marie or Little, as she is commonly referred to, is a fantastic character.  Her voice is utterly unique, and her narration carries you away to the seedy streets of 18th century Paris.  Little focusses predominantly on her earlier life, and the reader see her grow up and follows her story until the time she moves to London at the start of the 19th century.   As a child, she becomes the apprentice of Dr Curtius – a doctor who replicates organs and other body parts in wax for use in the hospital by trainee physicians.  Tiring of his trade, he turns his skills to the production of heads, Marie’s being one of his first creations.  As news of his talent spreads, so more people arrive at his door wanting their own wax sculptures.  Moving to Paris, Curtius and Marie rent rooms from the Widow Picot, who sees as opportunity to make money through Curtius and his sculptures, and to obtain a free servant in the form of Marie to whom she has taken an instant dislike.

There are some characters that you are so taken with that you go through a whole range of emotions during their story, and Marie was one such character for me.  I laughed, I felt sad, and oh my fury when she was mistreated and taken advantage of by others, particularly Picot and Curtius, who was supposed to look after her.  She learns to sculpt early on and shows quite a talent for it, but is forced into the role of a servant, for which she is never paid, by Picot.  But Marie bides her time, she continues to practice her craft (secretly, of course) and shows tremendous resilience and determination to improve her lot in life.  I thought that Marie’s narrative was fascinating throughout, and I loved the matter of fact tone with which she deals with her circumstances.  Yes, there is emotion, but she doesn’t cry or feel sorry for herself, and I loved this about her.

While the Widow Picot does not come across as an entirely pleasant individual, she certainly has a head for business, and she helps to transform Curtius’s fledgling business into something more lucrative, moving them to larger, grander premises and obtaining ever better clientele.  Her treatment of Marie is unfair, and yet it is because of Picot’s desire to obtain an ever-better station in life that Marie is sent to Versailles to live with and to tutor a minor royal.  To me, Curtius seemed to be one of those individuals who is intelligent and good at what they do, but naïve in matters of business, and I think it’s fair to say that he would have been completely taken advantage of had it not been for Picot.

Little may be a fictionalised account of the early life of Madame Tussaud, but it incorporates a huge amount of detail about the world in the 18th century.  Medicine and the lack of understanding about the human body, political and economic stresses, and the vast gap between the rich and poor are all apparent, but Carey avoids turning Little into a history lesson, and the background information serves to bring the story to life successfully.  This is a fascinating, fictionalised, account of a world-famous individual, and I highly recommend it.

Little will be published on by Aardvark Bureau, an imprint of Belgravia Books, on 4 October.  Many thanks to the publisher for the early review copy.

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

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This Week in Books – 26-09-18

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This Week in Books is a feature hosted by Lipsy at Lipsyy Lost and Found that allows bloggers to share:

  • What they’ve recently finished reading
  • What they are currently reading
  • What they are planning to read next

The last book I finished reading was The Hoarder by Jess Kidd, which I absolutely loved!  My review will be up soon.

the hoarder

Maud Drennan – underpaid carer and unintentional psychic – is the latest in a long line of dogsbodies for the ancient, belligerent Cathal Flood. Yet despite her best efforts, Maud is drawn into the mysteries concealed in his filthy, once-grand home. She realises that something is changing: Cathal, and the junk-filled rooms, are opening up to her.

With only her agoraphobic landlady and a troop of sarcastic ghostly saints to help, Maud must uncover what lies beneath Cathal’s decades-old hostility, and the strange activities of the house itself. And if someone has hidden a secret there, how far will they go to ensure it remains buried?


My current read is The Last by Hanna Jameson.

the last

BREAKING: Nuclear weapon detonates over Washington
BREAKING: London hit, thousands feared dead
BREAKING: Munich and Scotland hit. World leaders call for calm

Historian Jon Keller is on a trip to Switzerland when the world ends. As the lights go out on civilisation, he wishes he had a way of knowing whether his wife, Nadia, and their two daughters are still alive. More than anything, Jon wishes he hadn’t ignored Nadia’s last message.

Twenty people remain in Jon’s hotel. Far from the nearest city and walled in by towering trees, they wait, they survive.

Then one day, the body of a young girl is found. It’s clear she has been murdered. Which means that someone in the hotel is a killer.

As paranoia descends, Jon decides to investigate. But how far is he willing to go in pursuit of justice? And what kind of justice can he hope for, when society as he knows it no longer exists?


My next read will probably be Trap by Lilja Sigurdardóttir ahead of the blog tour.  I adored Snare, and so I have high hopes for this.

trap

Happily settled in Florida, Sonja believes she’s finally escaped the trap set by unscrupulous drug lords. But when her son Tomas is taken, she’s back to square one… and Iceland.

Her lover, Agla, is awaiting sentencing for financial misconduct after the banking crash, and Sonja refuses to see her. And that’s not all… Agla owes money to some extremely powerful men, and they’ll stop at nothing to get it back.

With her former nemesis, customs officer Bragi, on her side, Sonja puts her own plan into motion, to bring down the drug barons and her scheming ex-husband, and get Tomas back safely. But things aren’t as straightforward as they seem, and Sonja finds herself caught in the centre of a trap that will put all of their lives at risk…


And that’s my week in books! What are you reading this week?  Let me know in the comments! 😎

Snare by Lilja Sigurdardóttir

snare

I loved the sound of Snare when I first came across it.  Its premise struck me as being different to anything else I’ve read, and I was intrigued by the premise of a woman forced into the role of drug mule, wondering how someone might find themselves in that position.

Following her divorce, Sonja finds herself in debt to the kinds of people that you really don’t want to be indebted to.  Coerced into smuggling drugs into Iceland, she finds that she has something of a flair for it, always making sure that she has a plan as well as a backup plan should things go awry.  She is able to save up some money, under the cover of running a computer company, and longs for nothing more than making her final smuggling trip and regaining custody of her son.  Of course, the point at which her debt will be repaid is unclear, and her threats to stop are met with threats to her son’s wellbeing.

With the shipments becoming increasingly bigger, she finds herself being singled out by customs officer, Bragi, who’s convinced that there is more to her than a lady who frequently travels abroad for business.

Sonja is a fantastic character, and one that I was immediately taken with.  Her situation is horrific, and I thought that the alternating feelings of rage, fear, and resigned acceptance were brilliantly portrayed as she tries, unsuccessfully, to escape from the situation she finds herself in.  The people she works for give no indication of when, if ever, her debt might be repaid, and seeing her capabilities, force her into smuggling in ever larger shipments into the country.  And if she refuses?  Well, they know where her son is… She really is between a rock and a hard place, and I can’t imagine what I’d do in that situation.

Another complication in Sonja’s life, not that she needs it, is her relationship with Agla.  Agla worked with Sonja’s husband, who found them in a compromising situation one day, thus triggering the divorce.  Now under investigation for her involvement in activities contributing to the Icelandic financial crash, Agla seems to be in denial about her sexual preferences, often turning up at Sonja’s house drunk and in need of comfort, but running away the following morning.  I thought that their relationship was shown brilliantly, and I loved the few tender moments between them, before Agla’s shame made her say something hurtful to Sonja.  The backdrop of an Iceland following on from the financial crash also brings the setting to life, and I found the investigation into Agla and her colleagues to be a fascinating parallel storyline.

I thought that Snare was fantastic.  It moves along quickly, and whilst you might think that reading about someone making repeated runs abroad in order to smuggle drugs in their country might become repetitive, I loved how inventive Sonja was in her plans.  And the pace moves quickly, as things become increasingly difficult for Sonja as well as the investigation into Agla and her colleagues, eventually leading to prosecutions.  There is also a brilliant twist later in the novel that took me by surprise, but that I thought worked brilliantly.  This is a brilliant, original novel, and I can’t wait to read the second instalment, Trap, which is published in October.

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips

the beautiful bureaucrat

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from The Beautiful Bureaucrat when I was offered a copy by the publisher, One.  The strangeness of it appealed to me, and it certainly delivered on this promise.

Part modern fairy-tale, part existentialist thriller, this is a breath-taking joyride of a novel for the summer.

If the job market hadn’t been so bleak during that long, humid summer, Josephine might have been discouraged from taking the administrative position in a windowless building in a remote part of town.

As the days inch by and the files stack up, Josephine feels increasingly anxious in her surroundings – the drone of keyboards echoes eerily down the long halls, her boss has terrible breath, and there are cockroaches in the bath of her sub-let.  When one evening her husband, Joseph disappears and then returns, offering no explanation as to his whereabouts, her creeping unease shifts decidedly to dread.

Both chilling and poignant, this novel asks the biggest questions about marriage and fidelity, birth and death.  Helen Phillips twists the world we know and shows it back to us full of meaning and wonder – luminous and new.

Josephine and her husband, Joseph, have recently returned to the city, seeking a better life for themselves.  With few job options available, Josephine reluctantly takes on an administrative position, entering data into a Database from an almost never-ending stack of papers.  Understanding what the Database is for and what the data she is entering actually means she hasn’t been told, and whilst curious, she is grateful to have any job at all, and doesn’t question the details at all.  Until one day she stumbles across the meaning of her role entirely be accident.  I won’t spoil the revelation – it was quite unexpected, and I do think it’s best discovered whilst reading the novel.  From this point on, the novel has a sense of inevitability about it – I fully expected part of what followed, and raced through this short volume to confirm my expectations, and to see if what seemed inevitable could be avoided.

Josephine is the only character that the reader really gets to know throughout the novel, and even then, the details are light.  Both she and Joseph come across as everyday kind of people – a couple who are struggling to pay their rent and to save money to make a better life for themselves, who want a child but have so far been unsuccessful in that.  It’s hard not to feel sympathy for them as they are forced from one decrepit rental to another, and it’s easy to understand their desire to improve their situation.  Josephine’s work is dull, and I loved the light relief offered by the vignettes of her time with Joseph, and enjoyed their wordplay which seems a hallmark of their relationship.

The Beautiful Bureaucrat is a weird and wonderful little novel, which, at some 180 odd pages, can be read in a single sitting.  It reminded me a little of China Mieville in style, with a little Kafka thrown in for good measure.  The novel doesn’t give a huge amount of detail – it feels bleak and dystopian in nature, with its struggling job market, but the details around this aren’t fully revealed.  The city they are in isn’t named, nor is it clear where they came from (“the hinterland”) before arriving there.  Much is implied in Phillips’s writing, however, and if it’s sparsity may not appeal to everyone, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Beautiful Bureaucrat was first published in 2015, and has been republished by One, an imprint of Pushkin Press, in 2018.  Many thanks to Mollie Stewart for providing a copy for review.

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Blog Tour and Extract: What Falls Between the Cracks by Robert Scragg

I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Robert Scragg’s What Falls Between the Cracks, which is published in paperback by Allison & Busby on 20 September, and to be able to share an extract with you.

what falls between the cracks

Did she slip through the cracks, or was she pushed?

When a severed hand is found in an abandoned flat, Detective Jake Porter and his partner Nick Styles are able to DNA match the limb to the owner, Natasha Barclay, who has not been seen in decades.  But why has no one been looking for her?  It seems that Natasha’s family are the people who can least be trusted.

Delving into the details behind her disappearance and discovering links to another investigation, a tragic family history begins to take on a darker twist.  Hampered by a widespread fear of a local heavy, as well as internal politics and possible corruption within the force, Porter and Styles are digging for answers, but will what they find ever see the light of day?

You can find the first chapter of What Falls Between the Cracks on the Allison & Busby website, and I’m thrilled to share chapter two with you!


CHAPTER TWO

Natasha Barclay was a ghost, figuratively speaking, at least. Between them they couldn’t find a single mention of her dated past 1983. Her flat was one of fifteen in a five-storey late Victorian building near Walthamstow, in North East London, built originally as an orphanage. The airy high ceilings and ornate cornices had reminded Porter a little of his own place, although he guessed his flat could fit inside these twice over.

They left three uniformed officers at the building to go door to door with the remaining eleven residents to see if anyone knew Natasha Barclay. It wasn’t out of the question that she was just a private person, and didn’t make small talk with the neighbours. The interviews with the first three residents, particularly the one who’d lived there for over twenty years, didn’t sit well with him. Sure, people led busy lives, but for those lives to have never intersected with as much as a neighbourly nod while leaving or entering the building in over two decades seemed highly unlikely. Then there was the eerie air of dormancy that hung over the place. The dated decor and coat of dust that cloaked every surface had given him the feeling that the apartment had been slumbering for some time before the leaking freezer had rudely interrupted.

They headed back to the station at Paddington Green, along Edgware Road, lined with a cultural melting pot of takeaways, competing amongst themselves to ruin your waistline. Porter’s window was halfway down, spices and fried chicken wafting in on the breeze, making his stomach growl in protest. Compressed storefronts jostled for space, offering everything from Persian carpets to a bet on the three o’clock at Newmarket. Blocks of flats had been built up behind them over the years, peering over the tops of the two- and three-storey buildings on the main road like nosy neighbours. Typical mid-twentieth-century fare, blocky and functional. The station itself wasn’t any prettier. The jutting window ledges around each floor made Porter think of the Stickle Bricks he had as a child.

As soon as they got inside, Styles disappeared into the small kitchen area, returning armed with two mugs of steaming black coffee. Porter realised he’d been staring at a smudge of dirt on the window and blinked his eyes quickly to snap himself out of it.

‘I’ve told you before, you’re wasting your time batting your eyelashes at me. I’m a happily married man,’ said Styles. After a few years working together it was impossible not to be aware of his partner’s little quirks. He jokingly referred to this one sometimes as Porter’s ‘Spidey sense’ after the Marvel comic-book hero’s preternatural ability to read situations and intuit danger. He’d seen it happen on more than one occasion where Porter had progressed a seemingly dead-end case by zoning out like that and joining dots that no one else had spotted.

‘You can’t blame a guy for trying.’ Porter took a cautious sip of the coffee before putting the cup on the desk.

‘Any flashes of inspiration, then?’ asked Styles as he settled into the seat at his desk that adjoined his partner’s.

Porter shook his head. ‘No, no, ladies first this time. You got a theory?’

‘Kind of, actually,’ said Styles. ‘Well, more of a question really,’ he corrected himself. ‘The food in the freezer – that make sense to you?’

‘I was a little preoccupied with the hand to have much of an appetite.’

‘I wasn’t fixing to make myself a snack,’ said Styles. ‘I’m talking about the packaging. I’m assuming you missed that part?’

‘Afraid so. Go on then, enlighten me.’

‘The whole scene was just odd,’ Styles began. ‘The clothes and decor you could put down to individual taste. The dust and cobwebs might just mean she’s been living somewhere else for a while, maybe with a boyfriend. The boxes in the freezer make no sense, though.’

‘How do you mean?’ asked Porter.

‘The packaging,’ said Styles. ‘It was as dated as the rest of the place. Not that I’m an expert in the field of graphic design by any stretch, but it looked ancient compared to what you see in shops today. None of it had the nutritional info on either, and that’s been stamped all over everything for years now.’

Porter raised his eyebrows as he realised what Styles was getting at. ‘So you’re saying you think no one’s been in for years rather than months?’

Styles shrugged. ‘I know stuff keeps for longer in there, but who keeps food for that long?’

‘So we’re saying nobody’s been in there since she last opened her mail?’

‘Maybe, maybe not,’ said Styles. ‘I’m pretty certain nobody’s lived there for a long time. Whether anyone has had a reason to be there or not is another matter.’ Porter opened his mouth to reply, but was stopped in his tracks when his phone started to ring.

‘Hold that thought,’ he said, holding up a finger at Styles as he took the call. ‘This is Porter.’

‘Porter? It’s Will Leonard. You asked me to call as soon as we had something.’

‘Hey, Will. What have you got?’

‘It’s only a preliminary overview, but hopefully it’ll help get you started. The prints from the hand are consistent with the few clear ones we managed to find at the flat. I wasn’t sure what we’d find with it being like a museum in there, but we got lucky. We pulled some fairly clear ones from fatty deposits around the oven, and on and around the make-up products in the bathroom, so it’s reasonable to assume that both they and the hand they come from belong to somebody who lived there. I’m going to run them now and see if we get a match.’

‘OK, thanks, Will. Anything else?’

‘We’ll be doing DNA tests on hair from the hairbrush and a swab of the toothbrush to check against tissue from the hand and the blood from the living room. Results should be back in a day or so. There’s nothing so far to suggest more than one person living there. There were a few smudges that look like they used to be prints in the other rooms, but not as well preserved as the ones in the kitchen.’

‘Good stuff. Let me know when you get the DNA tests back.’ Porter was about to sign off but as an afterthought he mentioned Styles’s theory about the food. Leonard promised to look into it and ended the call. Porter gave Styles the highlights of the conversation.

‘What you said, about the food. I hadn’t twigged to that. You’re right, it does seem weird.’

‘Oh, I’m not just a pretty face,’ said Styles. ‘What’s the plan, then, boss?’

‘First things first, we need to find out what family she has. My gut tells me that it’s most likely her hand we found. I checked with one of the lads working the scene, though, and the amount of blood and distribution on the carpet isn’t consistent with it being removed there, so it begs the questions of where and why.’

‘Speaking of the flat, it would have been a fairly pricey area to live in even back in the eighties. How does a young woman living alone afford somewhere like that?’ asked Styles.

‘Good question,’ said Porter, reaching for his coffee again. ‘You look into the property and check out her finances. See if anything shows up apart from the account with Barclays. I’ll see if I can track down her parents.’

They agreed to meet up again as soon as the officers responsible for interviewing the neighbours returned, and Styles slid his own chair sideways on its casters to park himself at his desk. Porter drained the lukewarm dregs of his coffee and got to work. He hoped tracing the parents wouldn’t prove too tricky, although these conversations were the ones he hated the most. Being the bearer of potentially bad tidings was something he’d had to do more times than he cared to remember, but he’d never get used to it. He remembered it from the other side of the scenario; seeing the blurred shape visible through his front door. Not realising that all that separated him from the blow they were about to deal to his world was an inch-thick rectangle of wood and glass. The struggle to remember what life had been like before he opened the door to see the police officers outside. The bad news they carried carved into every crease on their forehead.

Best case, Natasha Barclay had been the victim of an assault, and worst case her injuries may have been fatal. Without immediate medical attention, she could easily have bled out after her hand was removed. The fact that at least part of the attack looked to have taken place inside her home meant there was a good chance she may have known her assailant. What Porter couldn’t quite reconcile, though, was that if she was alive and well, why nobody, including her parents, had bothered helping to look after her flat. On the flip side, if something more sinister had happened, why had nobody reported her missing? The last thought that struck him as he leant forward to start the task of locating her parents was a little less palatable, but one that would need careful consideration nonetheless. What if those closest to her knew she was missing but had a vested interest in hiding that fact?


Many thanks to Ailsa Floyd at Allison & Busby for the invitation to join the blog tour, and for my copy of What Falls Between the Cracks which I can’t wait to read!

Make sure you check out the other stops on the blog tour!

WFBTC tour poster 2

The Labyrinth of the Spirits by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

the labyrinth of the spirits

To say that The Labyrinth of the Spirits is one of my most highly anticipated novels of the year doesn’t really begin to cover it.  I adored The Shadow of the Wind which to this day remains one of my favourite novels of all time, and couldn’t wait to get my hands on this final instalment in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series.

As a child, Daniel Sempere discovered among the passageways of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books an extraordinary novel that would change the course of his life. Now a young man in the Barcelona of the late 1950s, Daniel runs the Sempere & Sons bookshop and enjoys a seemingly fulfilling life with his loving wife and son. Yet the mystery surrounding the death of his mother continues to plague his soul despite the moving efforts of his wife Bea and his faithful friend Fermín to save him.

Just when Daniel believes he is close to solving this enigma, a conspiracy more sinister than he could have imagined spreads its tentacles from the hellish regime. That is when Alicia Gris appears, a soul born out of the nightmare of the war. She is the one who will lead Daniel to the edge of the abyss and reveal the secret history of his family, although at a terrifying price.

The Labyrinth of the Spirits is an electrifying tale of passion, intrigue and adventure. Within its haunting pages Carlos Ruiz Zafón masterfully weaves together plots and subplots in an intricate and intensely imagined homage to books, the art of storytelling and that magical bridge between literature and our lives.

The Labyrinth of the Spirits reunites the reader with some old friends (and that is how it feels to me) as well as introducing some new characters into the mix.  Daniel now runs Sempere & Sons along with his wife, Bea, now that his father is less active in the management of the business.  Fermin, of course, is still present, and much the same as ever, doling out little seeds of wisdom (irrespective of whether these have been asked for), and generally being as cheeky as he feels as he can get away with.  I’m extremely fond of both Daniel and Fermin, and it was a pleasure to be reunited with them, and to see what they were up to two years on from The Prisoner of Heaven.

Whilst Daniel and Fermin feature in this novel, the main character is Alicia Gris.  Alicia was orphaned during the war, and still suffers from the effects of an injury sustained at that time.  Since then, she has been recruited into a role in a special unit of the police – one that seems to go unnamed throughout the novel.  This latest case sees her return to Barcelona in order to find Mauricio Valls, Minister for Culture and former head of Montjuic Prison.  Alicia’s character is an interesting one.  I didn’t find her as immediately likeable as Daniel and Fermin, but she grew on me as the novel progressed.  Bold and beautiful, she allows no one to get close to her, and hides behind a persona of femme fatale.  I loved her determination to get a job done, no matter how much pain her old injury causes her.  She is intelligent, and I loved her perseverance in getting to the bottom of this mystery even as things don’t go to plan.

The Labyrinth of the Spirits has a dark, gothic atmosphere, and this novel seemed to be more of a thriller than other novels in series, with the investigation into the disappearance of Valls uncovering a much broader and longer running conspiracy.  The storytelling is second to none, and whilst this is a long book, I read it relatively quickly, desperate to uncover the truth behind Valls’s disappearance.

One common theme running through the whole series is that of a love of books, stories and of reading, and The Labyrinth of the Spirits is no exception.  Here, the rare book in question is one by Victor Mataix, and is part of a series he wrote for his daughter, Ariadna, which features her as a heroine, facing up a series of horrors, fictionalised yet inspired by Spanish history.  Whilst this seems like an aside, it becomes clear that this book, and is author, Mataix, have a role to play in the story and in Alicia’s investigation.  It’s a dark and thrilling story, and if this novel perhaps contained more violence than the earlier novels, this is very much in keeping with the story as events come to a head.

The Labyrinth of the Spirits brings to a close an epic narrative, and I wouldn’t recommend reading this as a standalone novel.  I think that the whole series has been pitched as being a set of interconnected stories that can be read either as a series or individually, and in any order.  However, I think that because of the way in which this final instalment brings everything to a close, tying up all the loose ends from the earlier novels, that this should be read after The Shadow of the Wind, The Angel’s Game, and The Prisoner of Heaven.   Additionally, The Shadow of the Wind has long been one of my favourite novels, and is one that I recommend to everyone.

The Labyrinth of the Spirits will be published on 18 September by Weidenfeld & Nicolson.  Many thanks to the publisher for allowing me to read an early copy via Netgalley.

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Guess Who by Chris McGeorge

guess who

I love mysteries where we know that the culprit must be one of a limited number of people, and when I saw Guess Who available for £0.99 on Kindle, I just had to get it.  This is a novel that has garnered a lot of support ahead of and since its publication, and I’ve been wanting to read it since I first heard about it earlier this year.

Morgan Sheppard is the presenter of Resident Detective, and takes on a role very much like that of Jeremy Kyle – answering questions as to whether a person is cheating on their partner, who really is the father of this child etc.  His fame came about at quite a young age when he solved the murder of his maths teacher – something that the police had labelled a suicide, dismissing the case.

Sheppard is thrown out of his comfort zone when he wakes up in a hotel room with five other people, and a dead body in the bathroom.  He is given three hours to solve the mystery, knowing that the murderer is one of those in the room with him.  No one can leave – the only way out is for Sheppard to successfully identify the killer before the deadline.  His task is made harder upon finding that all five people in the room with him have some connection to the victim, as does he himself.  Can he solve it in time?

Whilst there are six people to get to know, I think that Sheppard was the only character that the reader gets to know in any detail, successfully replicating the situation that Sheppard finds himself in – the reader is also thrown into a situation of having to identify a killer with absolutely no information, and allows the reader to take on the role of detective as well.  I love novels where the reader is given the same information as the protagonist(s), and I love the feeling of participation that this setting allowed.

I didn’t actually like Sheppard in the slightest, however.  He comes across as being an extremely shallow individual – someone who has always wanted and pursued fame, and taking full advantage of the money, women, and substances that his fame has given him access to.  At no point did this put me off the story – I wanted to know who had committed the murder, whether he or I could solve it in time, and why Sheppard had been put in this situation.  I just wasn’t too concerned for his own outcome.

The plot moves along quickly, as you’d expect given the time limit on Sheppard’s investigation.  And it’s anything other than straightforward, as things become increasingly tense in the room.  There were elements of the plot that I figured out quite early on, although there was a twist that I did not see coming.  I did find the ending a little anticlimactic, however.  I thought the premise was fantastic, but the finale lacked a little je ne sais quoi for me personally.  I enjoyed Guess Who overall, however, and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on McGeorge to see what comes next.

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐