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  • Jo McCready

What I've been reading recently

There’s no other feeling like getting an armful of new books that you are desperate to read. One new book is exciting but three is off the charts. My little haul included The Girl in the Mirror by Rose Carlyle, The Survivors by Jane Harper, and The Kingdom by Jo Nesbo. Read on to see what I thought of them.

The Girl in the Mirror by Rose Carlyle – I am often left unimpressed by books that are tipped to be the next big thing, but I really did love The Girl in the Mirror. Finally, a book that lives up to the hype.

Sisters, Summer and Iris couldn’t be any more alike or any different. When Summer begs Iris for help, Iris can’t say no, especially as it involves sailing her beloved, and much yearned for family yacht all the way to the Seychelles with Summer’s rich and attractive husband, Adam. A change of plans changes all of their lives beyond recognition.

The setting was very different from other psychological thrillers as it is set on a yacht, sailing from Thailand to the Seychelles, for the first half of the story. This was fun to read as it is so unlike any other setting I have come across in this genre. The concept of mirror twins – identical twins that are mirror images of each other was unique and interesting. Rose Carlyle’s writing is simple and easy to read. I couldn’t put it down. Yes, I did guess the ending, but that didn’t take away from my overall enjoyment of it. I can see why it has already been optioned as a movie. For some reason, the family dramas remind me of the eighties shows Dallas and Dynasty, which is probably a weird thing to say. I’m not sure how to expand on that, except to say that the plot and characters take us back to a simpler time, a more glamorous time, and a time when everyone was out for themselves. High emotions and high stakes make for a thoroughly enjoyable read.

The Survivors by Jane Harper – I’ve enjoyed Jane Harper's previous three books, which I thought got progressively better, so I was keen to get my hands on The Survivors as soon as it came out.

Setting, like the first three books, plays a huge role, with the story set in a seaside town out of season. A small close knit community provides the range of characters, secrets and suspicions that Jane Harper creates so well. A town already scarred by tragedy is pushed over the edge and into despair when the murder of an out-of-towner occurs on the beach.

Jane Harper captures the sense of emotional devastation that the main character Kieran feels and has felt since he was a teen, when his brother died due to his actions. At times, I actually felt a pain on my chest at the anguish and sorrow that consumes Kieran.

I love the title of the book, which describes a memorial for the survivors of a long-ago ship wreck, the survivors of the tragedy of the storm twelve years prior, and finally the survivors of recent events as we are left wondering about the turns that their lives will take at the end of the book. When I finished reading, it was this that stayed with me the most. I enjoyed this book, but I think my favorite Jane Harper book so far has been The Lost Man. That said, I feel like The Survivors will stay with me for much longer.

The Kingdom by Jo Nesbo – The Kingdom has a very specific setting, in a quiet mountain town in Norway and whilst the setting is undeniably important, it’s the characters and their experiences that drive the story.

Without giving anything away, I’ve got to say, I completely forgot the content of the conversation Jo Nesbo had about this book at the Bad Sydney Crime Writers Festival so I was completely floored by the beginning. I’ve read some gruesome stuff in my time but this crossed a line that I didn’t realise I’d drawn in the sand.

Further in, I began to enjoy Nesbo’s skillful writing. I’d describe it as a melancholic and depressing book, a strangely slow burn considering so much happens. This seems like a negative comment but it's not. It’s symbolic of the slow way of life, or way of considering the world, that the local population has, and that Nesbo keeps reminding us of. The idea that any of us might be capable of violence and treachery should we or our family be threatened, is returned to time and time again in The Kingdom. The characters written in such a way that we can understand their actions, even if they are immoral or illegal solidify this notion. A fantastic read yet again by the master of Norway Noir, but definitely a book that you have to be in the right frame of mind for.

Coincidentally, I started watching Occupied (a political thriller based on an idea by Jo Nesbo) the evening before I started this book. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out.

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