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Tea-drinking introvert found either behind a book or within arm's reach of one. Book reviewer, and book sniffer. You may have seen me on W24, BooksLive, Aerodrome, Bark Magazine, CultNoise Magazine, or Expound Magazine.

24 Aug 2020

Review: Precious You by Helen Monks Takhar

Katherine has been editor of Leadership magazine for two decades. Where she was once the youngest editor on staff, she is now simply comfortable. However, the magazine is soon bought out and must undergo some changes. One such change is that she has a new intern, Lily, who seems like a newer, fresher, and more threatening version of Katherine. But not only is Lily threatening to replace Katherine at work, she seems to be dead set on stealing Katherine's life, and partner, Iain. As Lily starts to play a larger and more sinister role in Katherine’s job and life, the older woman can’t help but wonder what Lily’s true motives are.  

Not only must Katherine come to terms with a new office culture that proves she’s no longer at the top of her game, but she’s got to learn to navigate a world in which the forty-something women who are her peers are sliding into invisibility and obscurity, forced to pass the torch to a younger, prettier, and seemingly more capable generation. As Katherine desperately tries to cling to her glory days and stay relevant, she needs to outsmart Lily, and beat her at her own game, before she has nothing left to fight for.

Precious You is a thoroughly enjoyable book with a myriad unpredictable and shocking twists that makes for an exhilarating read. Apart from a brilliant commentary on the power of youth and beauty, as well as the devastating effects of obsession, the author has subtly and cleverly illustrated the horde of challenges faced by the modern woman in the workplace and the wider world. But most impressive is the dynamic between the two main characters, and how they represent the tension between millennials and older generations, and the misunderstandings and jealousies that fuel both groups. As a thirty-something reader, I also consider this book a cautionary tale of what’s to come – what will we have left when, like Katherine, our looks fade and the wrinkles start? There’s nothing like a psychological thriller to get you thinking about what’s really important in life, and it’s not eye cream and hair dye.

Precious You by Helen Monks Takhar is published by Harper Collins and is available in South Africa from Jonathan Ball Publishers

20 Aug 2020

Review: Gallows Rock by Yrsa Sigurdardottir

When Huldar’s team is called to investigate a suicide within sight of the presidential palace, it seems straight-forward enough. Remove the hanging corpse before any of the political big-wigs can spot the body. However, once they arrive at the scene, it is evident that this hanging was no suicide. As if a murder disguised as a suicide wasn’t bad enough, when the police search the dead man’s apartment, it contains a four-year old boy not related to the victim, with no recollection of how he got there.

As Huldar and Freja team up to find the little boy’s home, it becomes increasingly obvious that the there’s a link between the murder, and the child’s missing family, they just don’t know what it is yet, and time is running out.

Sigurdardottir hasn’t earned the title of the Queen of Nordic Noir for nothing – this fourth installment in the Freja and Huldar series is simply brilliant. Not only does Sigurdardottir have a talent for dark story-telling, but she has created characters they never bore, and are still fresh and interesting after several installments. Add to this her flair for the macabre, and you have all the makings of a great book, that keeps you hooked from the first page.

Gallows Rock is a brilliant commentary on the social ills of class, wealth, and gender-based violence, all while being action-packed and deliciously dark. The author has a definite skill for discussing important themes through a lens that’s dusted with a bit of horror and a dash of the mind-blowing, making her books enjoyable and addictive, and Gallows Rock is no exception. With good writing and a great story line, what more could you want?

Gallows Rock by Yrsa Sigurdardottir is published by Hodder & Stoughton, and is available in South Africa from Jonathan Ball Publishers.

12 Aug 2020

Review: Firewatching by Russ Thomas


DS Adam Tyler works cold cases, but his newest case is a pretty hot one. Amid the discovery of a burned corpse bricked away in a cellar, someone has been setting fire to buildings across the city, and somehow, Tyler is convinced that the two cases are linked. Unfortunately, by the time he can prove this, he may have compromised his position on the case by becoming involved with the main suspect.

But regardless of his personal involvement, the arson cases are soon taxing the city’s law enforcement to breaking point, and if they don’t find the person responsible, it could end badly for the city. With no new leads to the murder case, it’s tough to piece together who is responsible for the body in the cellar, although once they identify the victim and his sordid past, it’s hard to believe anyone would pass up the chance to get rid of him.

Firewatching has some very clever and novel narrative devices in play – including a key witness to the cold case that now suffers from dementia. While this excellently builds tension and prolongs the mystery, there are aspects that Thomas overuses, such as the detective’s homosexuality. Every pages, the reader is reminded of this fact, giving the impression that the author is concerned we’ll forget the detective’s sexual orientation.

Despite this, Tyler is an immensely intriguing character with enough emotional baggage to make him relevant for several books – the perfect introduction to a series. Add to this the writer’s flair for the macabre, and we have the first in what will likely be a long series of great stories. Russ Thomas has a knack for penning the unexpected, and making any outlandish details so believable that he can master any narrative – it’s impressive and enviable, and an indication of true talent.

Firewatching by Russ Thomas is published by Simon & Schuster, and is available in South Africa from Jonathan Ball Publishers.