Susan White's favourite reads of 2015
Tabula Rasa - Ruth Downie - This is set in Britain at the time of the Roman occupation when Hadrian's Wall is being built. The Wall is creating great tension between the locals, many of whom have been relocated from farms that have been in their families for many generations, and the occupying forces. Gaius Petreius Ruso is a doctor and his wife, Tilla, a local born Briton, a healer who do their best to minister to both Romans and Britons. The author's awareness of historic time and place comes through very clearly. Her knowledge and understanding of the period really enhances the book. A very enjoyable read.
Liar's Chair - Rebecca Whitney - A woman driving carelessly home from a meeting with her lover is enjoying the power of her car and revelling in its speed as she pushes herself and the car to its limits when she loses control. She is horrified when she finds that she has knocked down and killed a tramp well known in the area. She hurriedly drags the body into hiding and continues home to the luxurious house she shares with her husband. A powerful and fast moving story set around Brighton. A debut novel that is written with assurance, dealing with powerful themes, including violence in marriage. Recommended as a good read.
Humber Boy B - Ruth Dugdall - A ten-year-old boy, Noah, falls from the Humber Bridge while out with his friends. His friend, another ten-year-old boy, is found guilty of his murder. Eight years later Humber Boy B, or Ben as he is called now, is parolled from prison and relocated to Ipswich. The author has worked with young children that have been committed to prison for similar crimes that form the basis for this story and this experience shows through in the writing. The boy at the centre of the story comes from such an emotional and physically deprived environment that, while making no attempt to provide excuses for Ben, the author manages to generate a degree of sympathy that for him that took me by surprise.
Cold Revenge - Alex Howard - A young woman is found dead after what appears to be a meeting with one of her lovers that went drastically wrong. She was an aspiring journalist who was writing a blog about her adventures. She attended classes in Philosophy with Professor Gideon Fuller and the police focus their attention on him as he is well known for his interest in the same sort of sex games. While there is a degree of violence in the book, some with a graphic sexual content which may well take many readers outside their comfort zone, on balance I feel that this, while uncomfortable to read, is necessary for the storyline. It is a good read with an interesting, though very flawed, main character.
Double Tap - Hania Allen - A former senior detective in the police force has resigned and moved from London back to Edinburgh in order to look after her daughter and new grand daughter. Von Valenti now works as private detective and her latest case is to locate a young man with mental health problems that has left home to live on the streets. The young man, Phil, has always remained in touch with his mother but when he fails to meet her she employs Von to find him. Threaded through the story is Von's difficult and demanding relationship with her daughter. The daughter who was brought up by her grandparents as Von concentrated on her career. Now Von is finding that her daughter, barely an adult, is not ready for the responsibilities of being a mother either.