Friday Book Whimsy: The It Girl

The It Girl is the latest novel from prolific author Ruth Ware.

Hannah Jones was a quiet, studious girl, thrilled to have been accepted into one of the Colleges of Oxford University. She immediately is taken with her roommate, the beautiful April Clarke-Cliveden, daughter from a very wealthy family, the ultimate It Girl. The two of them become thick as thieves and gather a very close group of friends who support each other through everything.

And then April is found murdered in their room, and the world changes for Hannah. Hannah has had run-ins with a creepy employee of the university named John Neville, and just before entering the room to find her roommate dead, she sees Neville sneaking away from their apartment building. Hannah testifies in court, and Neville is sent to prison.

Fast forward 10 years, and Hannah, now married to one person from their group of friends and pregnant, learns that Neville has died in prison from a heart attack. His death brings Hannah again face-to-face with the horror of that day. A short time later, she receives a phone call from a reporter who claims to have information that will prove that Neville was innocent.

Hannah’s world begins to crumble, and she begins to wonder if she helped put an innocent man in prison. She begins to investigate on her own, and eventually learns that you can’t always trust those you think you know very well.

The author begins to set the stage for reasons why nearly every one of the group might want April dead. Red herrings abound, ala Agatha Christie. Though I guessed the murderer before he/she was revealed, I was fooled nearly until the very end.

Though I have read almost all of Ware’s novels, and have liked some and felt more neutral about others, The It Girl kept me reading long into the night. It is probably my favorite of her novels thus far, at least the ones that I have read.

Here is a link to the book.

Guess Who’s Talking

Given my love for British mysteries, you can imagine that I’m always on the outlook for a new series. There are plenty from which to choose, but some of them are really quite old. I’m old too, but I’ve moved along with the times. These programs are static. They still use land lines. Their lapels are disturbingly wide and their ties are disturbingly short. They smoke endlessly. I prefer period pieces that are made in this century, but take place in the last. While the clothes are 60s or 70s in design, there is a bit more pizazz than there was in the real 60s and 70s.

Anyway, I stumbled upon a series that I noticed was recorded in 2015. It is called River. It stars Stellan Skarsgard (a man of whom I was wholly unfamiliar) as Detective Inspector John River. His partner, I noticed with delight, is played by one of my favorite British actresses named Nicola Walker. That was the extent of what I knew about the program before I dove in to the first episode.

It started out with the two going through a fast-food drive-thru, and DI River being revolted by the food his partner DS Jackie Stevenson is eating. It was amusing. Then, however, it moved to the next scene in which DS River is talking to a shrink, clearly not happy to be there. It took me an embarrassingly long time, but I finally figured out that DS Stevenson is dead, killed on the job. DI River, however, continues to “see” her and, more disturbingly, talk to her. I’m unaware if the fast food had any connection to her death.

So after watching about the first half hour, I had to turn it off. I found it too weird to see him talking to his partner, and listening to her talk back to him. She’s dead, remember. So basically, he’s talking to himself. So, although Ms. Walker has a starring role in the series, she’s kind of fuzzy and, well, dead. It remains to be seen whether she is very helpful in helping him solve crimes. Because, see above, she’s dead.

That’s a very long introduction to my real point, which is that I, too, talk to myself. It’s not supposed to be a problem unless you answer yourself. Which, of course, I do. This phenomenon is not new. I have talked to myself for as long as I can remember.

When I was a child, I had an invisible friend. Her name was Cathy. This, by the way, was an odd choice for a name because I had a real neighborhood friend named Kathy, spelled with a K. Perhaps I felt the spelling difference was significant enough to make it less weird. The bottom line is that I was basically talking to myself because she was invisible.

As I got a bit older, my imagination got even weirder. I would imagine that my life was being filmed and people were watching live. Basically it was reality television before reality television became a thing. Being only 11 or 12 years old, my life wasn’t all that interesting. But then neither are the lives of the Kardashians, and they’ve become filthy rich via their lives being filmed. The point is, because my life was being filmed, I had to talk to myself. And so I did. I basically narrated my pitiful little 11-year-old life to my audience, who existed only in my mind.

Stop laughing. I don’t do that any longer.

Having said all of the above, since DI Rivers and I are basically soul brother and sister, I will give his show another try.

Friday Book Whimsy: The Girls in the Garden

The idea of living in a gated community where children run around freely, in and out of each other’s houses, sounds delightful. But perhaps this freedom doesn’t protect the children as much as one might think. After all, sometimes the danger is within the gates. The Girls in the Garden, by Lisa Jewell, gives us a taste of that kind of a life.

After Clare’s husband Chris burns down their house without knowing whether his wife and two daughters are inside (they weren’t), he is committed to a mental health facility. Clare and her daughters, 11-year-old Pip and 12-year-old Grace, move to just such a place. Things seem fine. The girls make friends. Clare learns to survive without her husband.

And then the night of Grace’s 13th birthday party, Pip finds her sister unconscious and near death, overdosed on sleeping pills. Until Grace awakens from her coma, no one knows how this travesty happened.

Readers are led down one path and then another. Just when you are certain you know who tried to kill Grace, that person becomes just another red herring.

Lisa Jewell is one of my favorite authors. I believe I have enjoyed every book of hers that I have read. While The Girls in the Garden was not necessarily my favorite of her’s, I think the author’s writing is exceptional, and was enough to make me enjoy the book.

And enough to want to put my arms around my grandkids and keep them close.

This one is a thumbs up.

Here is a link to the book.

Friday Book Whimsy: Mr. Nobody

What would you do if you woke up in an unfamiliar place and couldn’t remember who you are or why you are there? It’s a frightening notion, and one that author Catherine Steadman makes us think about in her new novel, Mr. Nobody.

A man awakens on an unfamiliar English beach, and hasn’t the slightest idea who he is and is carrying no identification. His past is a complete blank. He is found by a couple of police officers, and taken to the hospital where he is treated for dehydration and shock.

As officials reach out to the public to try to learn the man’s identity, the public’s interest is piqued. He is nicknamed Mr. Nobody, and held in the hospital until more can be learned.

In the meantime, Dr. Emma Lewis receives a telephone call from a renowned psychiatrist for whom she has the greatest respect. He asks her to become the chief doctor on this man’s case. It is the break for which Emma has been waiting, too good to turn down.

But then she finds out that she will need to return to the area in which she grew up, the area that she and her family had to flee and take on new identities because of something that happened. Nevertheless, she decides to risk it.

And then Mr. Nobody sees her, and says her name. Her real name. How could this be?

What follows are many twists and turns that made the novel very entertaining. I will admit that I felt as though the author made me wait waaaaay too long to find out about Emma’s past. In fact, the novel moved a bit slowly until the very end. Still, I finished the book in a couple of sittings, and I love when endings are unpredictable as this novel’s was.

I recommend Mr. Nobody to people who enjoy thrillers.

Here is a link to the book.