murder mystery

Review: V for Violet by Alison Rattle

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V for Violet by Alison Rattle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: Review copy received via netgalley.com in exchange for an honest review.


Battersea, 1961. London is just beginning to enter the swinging sixties. The world is changing – but not for sixteen-year-old Violet. She was born at the exact moment Winston Churchill announced Victory in Europe – an auspicious start, but now she’s just stuck in her family’s fish and chip shop dreaming of greatness. And it doesn’t look like fame and fortune are going to come calling anytime soon. Then she meets Beau. Beau’s a rocker – a motorcycle boy who arrives in an explosion of passion and rebellion. He blows up Violet’s grey little life, and she can’t believe her luck. But things don’t go her way for long. Joseph, her long-lost brother, comes home. Then young girls start going missing, and turning up murdered. And then Violet’s best friend disappears too. Suddenly life is horrifyingly much more interesting. Violet can’t believe its coincidence that Joseph turns up just as girls start getting murdered. He’s weird, and she feels sure he’s hiding something. He’s got a secret, and Violet’s got a dreadful feeling it might be the worst kind of secret of all…

V for Violet is the story of Violet, a working-class girl in the early 1960s, stuck working in her family’s fish and chip shop. Her life is shadowed by the loss of her older brother during the war, and her arrival into the world a year later largely went unnoticed – the loss of Joseph still hangs over the family, 16 years on.

Violet is also drifting away from her best friend, Jackie, who has a new job at the sugar factory, and with it, a new gaggle of friends.

And then there’s Beau – the rocker who Violet can’t help being attracted to.

First off, I loved the setting – I loved all the little historical details, and this book really does feel like a fresh addition to the YA market. This is a book which makes you feel like you’re immersed in the 1960s, and the plot involving Joseph was really well executed. I loved the murder mystery element to the story – it really adds a tone of suspicion to most of the characters, and again, it feels different to a lot of YA novels today.

Most YA characters tend to be middle-class, with no money worries or a care in the world – but not Violet. Still being bossed around by her parents, she rebels with rocker Beau, your typical bad-boy and suspected murderer. Even though the bad boy rhetoric has been done a thousand times before, Violet’s attraction to him in understandable, and the murder mystery aspect of the novel adds a darker edge which makes Beau stand out.

I also enjoyed the sub-plot with Jackie – both Jackie and Violet are growing up – and apart – which is a story that I think most people can relate to but is rarely touched upon in YA. Often the heartbreak of losing a dear friend can be more than losing a love interest, and the difficulties in Jackie and Violet’s friendship are realistic and relatable.

If you’re looking for a new UKYA novel that will sweep you off to the swinging 60s, V for Violet is available in all good UK bookshops from 7th April, 2016.

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Annalise x

Review: Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens

Murder Most Unladylike
Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 

Blurb:
Deepdean School for Girls, 1934. When Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong set up their very own deadly secret detective agency, they struggle to find any truly exciting mysteries to investigate. (Unless you count the case of Lavinia’s missing tie. Which they don’t, really.)

But then Hazel discovers the Science Mistress, Miss Bell, lying dead in the Gym. She thinks it must all have been a terrible accident – but when she and Daisy return five minutes later, the body has disappeared. Now the girls know a murder must have taken place . . . and there’s more than one person at Deepdean with a motive.

Now Hazel and Daisy not only have a murder to solve: they have to prove a murder happened in the first place. Determined to get to the bottom of the crime before the killer strikes again (and before the police can get there first, naturally), Hazel and Daisy must hunt for evidence, spy on their suspects and use all the cunning, scheming and intuition they can muster. But will they succeed? And can their friendship stand the test?

First off, a little disclaimer: I’m older than the target audience for this book, but I’ll try not to let that cloud my judgement!

I picked up Murder Most Unladylike in Blackwells in Oxford, which, as it happens, turns out to be where Murder Most Unladylike was actually written. I’ve heard so much about these books (and the rate that Robin Stevens is churning them out at), that I thought I should give them a go, despite them being MG (Middle Grade).

I love the setting for these books (1930s England, not too far from Oxford) and I love mystery novels – this one kept me guessing until the end.

The characters here are flawed – Hazel questions herself, and Daisy is bossy and a little mean. Daisy being portrayed as a beautiful quintessentially English girl – and everyone loving her for it – sat a little uncomfortable for me, and a little unrealistic. I liked that Hazel was from Hong-Kong rather than stereotypically British.

Something I liked was that homosexuality was accepted – although I’m not sure whether this would be accurate for the time and lesbian relationships featured a lot more heavily that straight relationships (then again, it is set in a girls boarding school). There seemed to be a few facts that seemed to me a little historically inaccurate.

Overall, a fun little read with a thrilling mystery, perfect for MG readers.

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Annalise x

Review: Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

Rivers of London
Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I found this book the good old-fashioned way – it caught my eye when I was out shopping for books last January at Blackwells in Oxford. Usually when I buy books, I know exactly what i’m going to read from all the hype on twitter or goodreads, so it’s nice to find a book completely by yourself.

I found this book in the Fantasy section (which is next to the YA) but met the author, Ben Aaronovitch at YALC (which is primarily young adult fiction). The characters in the book are not young adults, but this book would be suitable for young adults (read: there aren’t any raunchy sex scenes).

Rivers of London (Midnight Riot in the US) follows Peter Grant, a probationary constable in the Metropolitan Police as he transfers to a proper unit. By chance, he takes a witness statement from a man, who is actually a ghost, and this brings him to the attention of Chief Inspector Nightingale, wizard and leader of the secret supernatural unit. Peter becomes an apprentice wizard and supernatural detective, all the while tending to his crush on his former colleague, Leslie May.

So why did I pick up this book? It’s written really well, with real British humour and a distinct witty voice. It’s a really original take on the genre, and it’s based in London, real London (not just the tourist traps). It’s great to see a book so brilliantly British taking on fantasy and mythology. It is definitely more character driven rather than plot driven, with memorable characters, although the plot is a little more forgettable.

Who would like this book? I think it makes a refreshing change for any YA fan out there, but also any fan of fantasy, mythology and/or murder mysteries should be sure to give it a go. The books are a little expensive on Amazon (£6-7) but they are coming thick and fast – Foxglove Summer, book 5, came out in July, and The Hanging Tree, book 6 is due out in November.

I look forward to reading more of the Rivers of London series, although their current price means that it might be a while before I pick up another Peter Grant novel.

Annalise x

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