Thursday, 8 June 2017

Beyond Agatha Christie

I attended this event on Wednesday, 7th June, organised by Goldsboro Books, and held at Browns Judges Court, where a panel of Agatha Christie experts discussed the Queen of Crime, her far-reaching influence over crime fiction and golden age crime itself. 

The panel, sponsored by GAMMA, was made up of Sophie Hannah, internationally bestselling author, and author of the first new Hercule Poirot mysteries since Agatha Christie’s death, Ragnar Jónasson, bestselling author of the Snowblind crime series and lifelong Agatha Christie fan. Ragnar has translated 14 of Agatha Christie’s titles into Icelandic. Also John Curran, Edgar-nominated author of Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks (2009) which won the 2011 Agatha, Anthony and Macavity Awards and his Agatha Christie’s Murder in the Making (2011) was also nominated for all four awards, and then finally, there was Agatha Christie’s own great-grandson, James Prichard, executive chairman of Agatha Christe Ltd, the company that manages the literary and media rights to Agatha Christie’s works around the world.

Introduced by David Headley, he quickly handed over to John Carran who was chairing.

John asked the panel: What was the first Agatha Christie (AC) book you read?

Ragnar Jónasson said Evil Under The Sun (1940) when he was eleven.

Sophie Hannah read The Body in the Library (1942) when she was twelve. And by the time she was fourteen had read all of Christie's novels twice!

James Pritchard, great grandson, had recollections of an old woman coming to stay. He was told he had to behave and not to knock her over. He discovered she was so much more on the day she died when he came home from school and his father had shut himself in a room and was unresponsive. And there was his great grandmother, Agatha Christie on the news. He said, "That was the day I realised there was this dual thing going on, on the one hand a warm woman and on the other, a legend. Two people in this one person." The first book he read was Death on the Nile (1937). He stole it off the shelves and read it really quickly so it wouldn't be discovered missing and he'd be able to put the novel back on the shelf without being caught.

John also asked: What was it that you enjoyed about Agatha Christie's novels?

Sophie spoke about the pleasure of the story, how it was foregrounded and of the elegance and flawlessness of the structure. She added that Christie's top priority was for the reader to have a brilliant time.

John asked Ragnar what made him start translating Christie's novels into Icelandic especially as the stories were so English, so old fashioned. And in particular he wondered how the clues translated?

Ragnar said he began translating out of necessity. He had read everything in Iceland, and he ran out of books. So he started reading in English. At 15, he wrote for magazines but didn't tell them his age. At 17, he went to the publishers and told them he was a big fan of Agatha Christie and wanted to translate her works. They let him choose which one. He chose Endless Night (1967), because it was the shortest one.

He said it was very difficult to translate some of the clues and so he sometimes used English words which meant the clue stayed in the book. He added Christie was a brilliant plotter and that the stories worked by crossing all boundaries. She keeps you wanting more. Very readable. A lot of people in Iceland read Agatha Christie first, it was their introduction to a foreign language.

Sophie felt the murder mystery books have a magic quality. You start reading for example Murder in the Mews (1937). It's just Poirot and Japp commenting how strange it is that people don't commit more murders on Bonfire night as the bang could disguise a gun going off, and what happens? There is a murder. The stories are archetypal. Can't get anymore storyish than Agatha Christie. Blends opposites. Good with evil. Not a light read and yet she is read all over the world. She is still the best writer. And we learn so much, for example in The Murder at the Vicarage (1930), there is the desire for survival and we learn about the human condition.

Ragnar added that being very English, is part of the charm. He didn't understand walking out of windows, until he realised this was the English French windows and that the characters seem to eat a lot of kidneys. Possibly, he said, that while translating, something of Christie slipped into his own storytelling either consciously or unconsciously. He learnt from her plotting. "She's done all the good plots." The other thing she did well was the setting. Her world is known as Miss Marple villages.

John asked Sophie whether when writing her Poirot continuations, had she told herself not to do this or that?

Sophie replied that she knew there were things it would be hard for it to be. It had to be Christie-ish. Unguessable. What Christie did was fool you until the end. And yet she waves all the clues around. Even tells you to think about the footprint in the snow. She's so confident you won't get it. None of this was conscious thinking. "Both my crime novels have openings where something very weird happens." For example in Closed Casket (2016), an elderly woman leaves everything to a terminally ill woman. In Christie's A Murder is Announced (1950), everyone goes to a house where the murder is supposed to take place and they turn it into a jolly event, well we'd better get some sandwiches in!!! It's deeply surreal writing.

John wondered if Christie is darker and more edgy than we're led to believe?

James replied that when he read And Then There Were None (1939) - he was blown away by how dark it was. Raw terror. Though, she believed murder was a terrible thing. There was only one case where she thought the murder was justified...

Ragnar added that in fact in Iceland, people didn't believe it was a real adaptation as it was so dark.

Sophie said, Christie had a literary agenda. She was exploring how people balanced their dark sides. And yet, Sophie added, the thought of reading an Agatha Christie is comforting, like chicken noodle soup even though the novels deal with heavy topics.

Ragnar said, Sophie is right. They are cosy to read, it is comforting to grab something you've read before.

Tony added that the novels are set in Agatha Christie time.

Sophie went on to explain Christie was dealing with warped, evil minds and yet the 'I' of the book has an awareness of the danger. In Death on the Nile (1937), the characters are warned they are heading for proper bad evil if they don't watch out. And yet it is comforting that Poirot know this, he is in control of the situation.

In those days, said Tony, murderers went to the gallows and then everything returned to normal. He then asked, Is Poirot a character or a caricature?

Sophie replied, he's a character, amplified, an exaggerated persona like a super hero. We never learn anything about the detective character's background, either Poirot or Miss Marple. They are there when needed like mary Poppins. In this way, it sets them apart from other characters, backed up by many years of accumulated wisdom.

Tony's final question was: Tell us what book you would recommend for someone who has never read Agatha Christie before and which one would you take to a desert island?

Ragnar chose The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920), as the recommendation and for the desert island, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926) which he read when he was a child. They couldn't buy it from anywhere and so he went to the library every week with his father and read it in there.

Sophie's recommendation for the desert would be The Hollow (1946) it has an emotional depth.
Her recommendation for someone who has never read an Agatha Christie is Body in the Library (1942), it was the first one she read herself.

James' desert recommendation was A Murder Is Announced (1950), and for a first read recommendation And Then There Were None (1939), he says it is her best novel. James finished the talk by explaining there were lots of exciting things happening in the future. He explained they would be republishing Agatha Christie's plays, some of which haven't been available before. And that one of the plays would be put on 'near here' it will be site specific, but he added mysteriously, 'I can't talk about it'.

I'll just add that it was a fascinating and interesting evening for an Agatha Christie fan like myself. I bought some books and got the authors to sign them. I told Tony Curran that when I was younger I always knew who the murderer was. He seemed astounded by this revelation and asked how. I told him I was very clever, and he said - good answer. But the truth is, I believe I had close on to a photographic memory which unfortunately doesn't work as well as it once did. I could never re-read a book or re-watch a film because I remembered everything from the first time round and it would drive me bonkers as I hated knowing what would happen. I wanted the mystery and challenge of solving the crime. As Sophie Hannah said, there is something very comforting about reading Agatha Christie. I'm not sure that she got to the heart of what that was. But for me, it is about the structure. I suspect I found safety in the reading that I didn't have in real life. And with Agatha Christie I had tradition, afternoon tea, Earl Grey (of course), an old England, front gardens, hedges and lawns. I knew I would be safe in the narrative of Christie's books even though the plots were often very different. But, they always ended up in the same place. Normality. Life would go back to how it once was though there was always change. Often love too. Even if in Poirot's case it was always unrequited.

Follow Sophie on Twitter: @sophiehannahCB1

Follow Ragnar on Twitter: @ragnarjo

Follow Agatha Christie on Twitter: @agathachristie

Follow GoldsboroBooks on Twitter: @GoldsboroBooks

Follow David Headley on Twitter: @DavidHHeadley

Friday, 2 June 2017

The Wild Air by Rebecca Mascull

In Edwardian England, aeroplanes are a new, magical invention, while female pilots are rare indeed. 

At the launch of The Wild Air in May, Rebecca Mascull spoke about the early female pioneers who risked their lives and how much we owe them. She told of how she sat in one of the Edwardian planes that looked so fragile she worried that her shaking with cold and fear would damaged it. 

When shy Della Dobbs meets her mother's aunt, her life changes forever. Great Auntie Betty, ‘the Broughton disgrace’ who married a ‘common fisherman’, has come home from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, across whose windswept dunes the Wright Brothers tested their historic flying machines. On the first night home, Betty discovers Della has inherited the family talent for fixing things.

A window opened in Della's mind, a dozen windows flung open. All this time, she'd crept through her life shamed by her uselessness. And now, to discover she had had a talent, born in her, handed down like a precious heirloom. She could be special. She could shine.

Puck, Della’s brother, gets pneumonia and Della is packed off to stay with Aunt Betty. Almost immediately they start to make kites and take them to Cleethorpes beach where they learn about the mechanics of flying. Della develops a burning ambition to fly and Betty is determined to help her.

But when Aunt Betty wants to take Della to see a ‘lady flyer’, Della’s father absolutely forbids it and she finds herself having to lie for the first, but not last, time to her family.

Once at Burton-upon-Trent, Della not only meets Hélène Dutrieu, a ‘lady flyer’ nicknamed Girl Hawk, 
but also gets to fly with her. It's reported that Dutrieu caused a minor scandal when it was revealed she did not wear a ‘corset’ while flying, 

Get me back down on the ground and I’ll never do anything so bloody foolish again…Closing her eyes, she couldn’t escape the wind and feel of speed all around her when her mind suddenly spoke to her…Open your eyes. Look around… Fear had dissolved, replace by wonder. There were so many things she could see from the air that she couldn’t have imagined on the ground. The serpentine pattern of tractor tracks in fields. Sheep like polka dots. Lakes as small as silver puddles that glittered like brooches…

Hélène Dutrieu - Girl Hawk
This was a time where women did not wear trousers, though Girl Hawk did and had made a specially designed flying suit.

Della soars, and so too does the reader’s heart. But when the car breaks down on the way home from Burton on Trent, she and her aunt are stranded and they have to find a hotel to spend the night in. The following day, Della will have to tell her formidable father the truth of why she did not come home when she was meant to. Della of course deals with her father in her quiet, competent and determined way, the same way she will go on to disregard the taunts of men in the schools of flying.

With World War One looming, the reader will visit the airfields of Britain and Europe, the horrors of the First World War, and experience the bureaucracy and stupidity of rules and regulations.

The fictional quiet Della has a strength and determination that matches the real-life amazing exploits and braveness of the first female aviatrixes. Mascull’s research is meticulous, some of which she explains at the end of the novel. 

History, historical fiction and romance, the novel encompasses all three. Mascull travels back in time and writes her version of clever women’s lives by paying great attention to detail. We see the prejudice and misogyny that they had to deal with on a daily basis if they dared to leave the home, be different and insist on experiencing and claiming what was then a man’s world.

If you were poor and a woman, you were seen as a different species. I questioned, suppose you had a good idea, how would people hear that? Statues throughout history are rarely to women. My books are like a statue to those people.” Rebecca Mascull, Launch of The Wild Air, Saturday May 6th, Waterstones – Piccadilly.

Thanks to Hodder & Stoughton for the review copy.

You can follow Rebecca on Twitter: @rebeccamascall


At the launch, Rebecca mentioned Rob Millinship who helped with the research and apparently took one and half years to get her to go up in a light aircraft Cessna plane. Read about that here.

And for those of you interested in visiting Shuttleworth where Rebecca spent some of her research time, see here.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

My Life in Books

I saw this via @PoppyPeacock some time ago and thought it looked like good fun. The idea is to answer the questions using book titles you read in 2016. Here's my attempt at describing my life in books. I've also included one non-fiction book as it is a book I often refer too and fits in with my PhD studies. Let me know if you have a go yourself. 

* Describe Yourself:
* How do you feel:
* Describe where you currently live:
* If you could go anywhere, where would you go:
* Your favourite form of transportation:
* Your best friend is: 
* You and your friends are like:
* What’s the weather like:
* Favourite time of day: 
* If your life was a book: 
* What is life to you: 
* Your fear:
* What is the best advice you have to give: 
* Thought for the Day: 
* How you would like to die:
*Your souls present condition:

The End

Friday, 10 February 2017

Quick Reads Does Crime

The Quick Reads event at Foyles on Wed 8th Feb at 107 Charing Cross Road, London marked the launch of six new Quick Reads books, published on 2 February. The line-up featured some of crime's most wanted authors - Mark Billingham, Dreda Say Mitchell, Clare Mackintosh, and Harry Bingham - chaired by novelist and Quick Reads commissioning editor, Fanny Blake.

I attended both as a huge supporter of Quick Reads and in my capacity as Senior Library Assistant at the medical library in the North Middlesex University Hospital to pick up the latest six titles.

'Quick Reads are the bridge between literacy and literature. They’re the next step after learning the basics, they’re a crucial tool in the journey from being a non-reader to being someone who has the world of books and words at their disposal.' Cathy Rentzenbrink

Mark Billingham, Clare Mackintosh and Harry Bingham have all written a short story in the brand new collection, Dead Simple while Dreda Say Mitchell has written the new Quick Reads title, One False Move.

The evening began with Fanny Blake, Chair of the panel, introducing the authors:

Dreda Say Mitchell's books are inspired by the gritty, tough and criminal world she grew up in. She still lives in London's East End. In 2016, she became a Reading Ambassador for the Reading Agency to promote literacy and libraries.

Mark Billingham Mark Billingham was born and brought up in Birmingham. He is the author of 16 novels. Time of Death is the 13th Tom Thorne novel and is currently being adapted for television by the BBC.

Harry Bingham is a successful crime thriller author and the creator of one of the most critically-acclaimed and engaging female protagonists in crime fiction in DC Fiona Griffiths. He also runs The Writer's' Workshop, an editorial consultancy for first-time writers, and organises the York Festival of Writing. He lives near Oxford.

Clare Mackintosh spent twelve years in the police force, including time on CID, and as a public order commander. She left the police in 2011 to work as a freelance journalist and social media consultant and is the founder of the Chipping Norton Literary Festival. She has written two novels. She now writes full time and lives in the Cotswolds with her husband and their three children.

Fanny Blake asked Dreda Say Mitchell: Why did you want to be involved with Quick Reads?

Mitchell said she had been working with the Reading Agency for some time including the six book challenge. The first place she came across QR was during her work in prisons. She felt they worked well for prisoners, many of whom have reading difficulties, as QR are mature adult stories and work cognitively at adult level.

Mitchell grew up in the East End where she noticed girls progressed more than boys...some of the girls may have had babies young but would then later in life go into education.
She explained how her work in prisons evolved. "Somebody close to me ended up in a Detention Centre while I went to university and it affected me deeply.

One False Move by Dreda Say Mitchell (Hodder) - is a gritty novel set on the Devil's Estate in London, the same setting as her recent Flesh and Blood trilogy.

A young mum just out of prison, wants to go straight. Something happens and she only has twenty-four hours to get out of the dilemma and create a better life for her young daughter.

Fanny Blake asked Mark Billingham if he had encountered any problems while writing his QR short story:

Gillingham replied it had been great. And that when writing a short story there were certain things you didn't do, like going off on tangents. Making every word count. The short story is not in a good place publishing-wise. Plus it's harder to write. In the crime short story there's only room for only one twist. And how the prose ends up being muscular - hard boiled. His QR short story in the anthology is about a game of scrabble in prison.

Harry Bingham on the other hand, found it hard to go from his natural crime novel writing to something like the QR short story. He overcame this by thinking of a reader who may be encountering a crime story for the first time. As it's only a few pages, there should be little twisting and more emphasis on solving the conundrum.

Bingham edited the Dead Simple crime anthology (Orion) - the crime collection brings together eight writers including himself, Mark Billingham, Clare Mackintosh, James Oswald, CL Taylor, Angela Marsons, Jane Casey and Antonia Hodgson.

He also spoke about putting the crime anthology together and how he thought about an emerging reader - "you wouldn't want Noddy stories", he wanted a gender balance and feels the collection is like a chocolate box with a diverse list of author stories to choose from.

Fanny Blake asked Clare Mackintosh about literacy in the prison service:

Clare Mackintosh replied there was an absence of it. She grew up with books in every single room unlike the vast majority of people coming in to custody who couldn't read or write. Mackintosh felt literacy was creating an unfair divide. She came across QR when organising a literacy festival and thinking about literacy and accessibility. She read some QR because of event. Mackintosh added she had been terrified of writing the short story and found it really hard.

Dreda Say Mitchell grew up without books in the house with only her dad's tabloid newspaper and mum's bible. But her mother made sure they went to their local library once a month so they had access to books. There was always more of an oral tradition in their house.

Fanny Blake asked the panel how important was setting?

Mitchell replied that she is a lover of London and loves writing about the East London, it's a rich and diverse character.

Billingham said London had become a character in his books. But that he had a love hate relationship with it, i.e. writing about the city that has so much happening underneath and then standing on a bridge by the Thames and thinking wow! Crime writers can give a good introduction to a city, for example, if you want to know about Edinburgh just read Ian Rankin. He said, there was no point setting place somewhere dramatic if you can't write about it

All the authors agreed that a good sense of place sells a book.

Clare Mackintosh spoke about how the open landscape can be quite threatening, that she sometimes finds London threatening and will walk around like a person about to be mugged! She tends to research feelings rather than places and used to spend a lot of time sitting on the circle line to see how this felt for one of her characters.

Mark Billingham wanted to set the record straight, he did not wear a false baby bump when writing about a pregnant women! He tends to do less research these days, felt he had wasted time in the past researching, trying to get it right and yet still getting spoiler letters. He once placed a Starbucks in Brixton, when it didn't have one and immediately received letters: "I think you'll find there is no Starbucks in Brixton!" He said that some writers have a fetish-like approach to research, though things like DNA and getting that right is paramount.

Fanny Blake thanked the authors and handed over to the audience.

A question from the audience:
Do you have to have a devious mind to be a crime writer?

Harry Bingham:
No. You have to be in tune with your character. Bingham thinks about the crime, what it is, what it looks like. Is that devious? No, that's professional.

Mark Billingham:
No, you have to be a reader. He always has one looking over his shoulder when he's putting together a plot, and often thinks, that would fool them! "I create the best performance that I can". The key to creating suspense is the cliffhanger and characters that readers care about that makes them utterly gripped.

Another question: How are you matching up the young men with the books (Earlier in the evening the writers discussed how men tend not to read fiction as much as women)

Sue Wilkinson, CEO of The Reading Agency answered:
It's challenging and I can't ever say you do one thing. There are books available in public libraries and getting a book into young peoples hands is one of our aims. We go into public libraries, adult learning organisations, colleges, workplaces and prisons with the Reading Ahead scheme (formerly called the Six Book Challenge) it's a gateway. We support young people and adults by changing their perception of reading, opening up opportunities and building their confidence. The programme isn't just about books - it's about newspapers, magazines and websites too. The new name reflects this to help those for whom books might be a barrier to joining in. When they've read six things, they get a certificate. It might be the first time they've ever got one. "It's my job to get you reading and then you get your friend reading and he gets his friend reading and so on plus it's also important to see family members reading so we work with parents too."

Fanny Blake closed the panel discussion by asking the crime writers for their crime novel recommendations:

Dreda Say Mitchell - Sharp Objects (2007) by Gillian Flynn

Mark Billingham - Slow Horses (2010) by Mick Herron

Harry Bingham - Sharp Objects (2007) by Gillian Flynn

Clare Mackintosh - The Night Visitor (2017) by Lucy Atkins

Follow the authors on Twitter:


Sunday, 1 January 2017

Top Twelve Reads of 2016

My plan at the beginning of 2016 was to read Orphan Lit and review it. Here are some of my favourite reads, in no particular order, some reviewed and some not, from last year and nearly all of them feature orphans! 

Christmas Days: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days – Jeanette Winterson

I recently won a ticket to the Guardian Christmas event with Jeanette Winterson and Nigella Lawson where they spoke about traditions, recipes and memories and Jeanette red from her Christmas book. For the twelve days of Christmas, a time of celebration, sharing, and giving, she offers these twelve plus one—a personal story of her own Christmas memories.  These tales give the reader a portal into the spirit of the season, where time slows down and magic starts to happen. From jovial spirits to a donkey with a golden nose, a haunted house to a SnowMama, Winterson’s innovative stories encompass the childlike and spooky wonder of Christmas. Perfect for reading by the fire with loved ones, or while traveling home for the holidays.  The orphan narrative resurfaces in these Christmas tales featuring abandoned young children locked in or out of doors, trapped inside chests or treated cruelly as in Mrs Reckitt’s Academy for Orphans, Foundlings and Minors in Need of Temporary Office. Jeanette Winterson is a heroine of mine and this Christmas collection will become one of my treasured books. The perfect Christmas gift that I gave myself.

This is a strange book filled with old black and white photographs of peculiar children, an abandoned orphanage and a mysterious island. As the story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. I felt the second half of this book works more for a YA audience. The film of the book was released in September 2016, and I look forward to watching that soon.

My Name is Leon - Kit De Waal

This book made me cry and I don’t think I’ll ever quite forget it. It is very well written and truly captures the voice of a traumatised child in care. Leon experiences what it is like to be nine years old and taken away from a mother and brother whom you love and adore. To be left alone in a strange world where all your belongings have disappeared and living with a stranger whose house rules you have to get used to.

Song of the Sea Maid - Rebecca Mascull

Written from protagonist, Dawnay’s viewpoint, the book opens onto eighteenth century life in London. We witness the terrible poverty and the way orphans, and women were treated. Ultimately though, this is a feel-good novel that re-writes the often terrible history of the neglected, nameless, and homeless orphan. This is ‘the age of sail, orphanages, the flora and fauna of islands, and even the origins of all humankind’. Impeccably researched, at times I had to wear a peg on my nose as the scenes of filthy London were so rancidly lifelike. In many ways this novel is the true definition of the ‘What if’ scenario. What if a poor female orphan was given an opportunity to become educated. What would she become? If you like stories about independent women, think Forever Amber, historical novels with a touch of romance, then this is the book for you.

The Fish Ladder - Katharine Norbury

Katharine joined us at last year’s Finchley Literary Festival where she spoke about The Fish Ladder, a beautifully written travelogue, memoir, with exquisite nature writing, fragments of poetry and tales from Celtic mythology. It explores the void, the hole, the ‘missingness’ that can quite suddenly engulf a person who has experienced trauma as a baby or a young child.

Mothering Sunday – Graham Swift

I’m currently re-reading this book and enjoying it even more. The writing is exquisite. The emotions of Jane Fairfax, the orphan, captured perfectly. Abandoned outside an orphanage at birth in 1901, this is a fairy tale about the transformation of Jane from servant to world-renowned writer. At times the lyrical waves of prose remind me of a stanza in the way certain refrains are repeated throughout the book – it’s very cleverly done. Mothers Day 30th March 1924, Jane looks back at this one perfect day that will haunt her for the rest of her life.

The Good Guy - Susan Beale

The inspiration for this novel came from Susan Beale’s adoption files. The papers included interviews with her mother, grandmother and one with her birth father. This is an extremely evocate, powerful and well-written novel that has truly captured the essence of 1960s suburban, New England and the plight and stigma of the unmarried mother.

The Mountain in my Shoe – Louise Beech

This novel is about a missing boy. A missing book. A missing husband. A woman who must find them all to find herself. But more than that it is about a young boy who has been fostered. Louise uses a Lifebook throughout the narrative – this is a book put together throughout a child’s time in care – to fill in the gaps – in this instance Conor’s past. It is a clever device and not one I had seen before. Exquisitely written and deeply touching, The Mountain in My Shoe is both a gripping psychological thriller and a powerful and emotive examination of the meaning of family … and just how far we are willing to go for the people we love.

The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry

This Gothic novel was birthed to amazing reviews and it was one that had been on my TBR for some time. Along with many other people I also coveted the cover. From the first to the last page, I could not get enough of this book. Set in the early 1890s, and told with exquisite grace and intelligence, this novel is most of all a celebration of love and friendship, and the many different guises it can take.

The Mother – Yvvette Edwards

Another FLF guest, this novel is about a 16 year old boy who is stabbed and killed by another 16 year old boy. The book follows the trial of the boy accused of his murder and the narrator is the victim’s mum. A truly harrowing and emotional journey as the protagonist goes through a tidal wave of emotions dealing with that worst of all parent nightmares, losing a child. Extremely well-written, the narrative explores the harsh realities facing families who have lost children to knife crime.

Butterfly Fish - Irenosen Okoji

Irenosen also joined as at the Finchley Lit Fest where she spoke about Butterfly Fish, a powerfully told story of love and hope, of family secrets, power, political upheaval, loss and coming undone. Let go and fly with the flow of the narrative of this haunting and compelling magical realism novel. The Benin scenes are particularly breathtaking. It is a story of epic proportions, skillfully held together by Irenosen Okojie, an author to watch out for in the future.

The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra – Vaseem Khan

Another Finchley Literary Festival guest, Vaseem kept us all entertained with his experiences in Mumbai that were the inspiration for the series. On arriving in Mumbai he was greeted with the unusual sight of seeing an elephant wandering down the centre of the road. This vision stayed with him and a passion for elephants developed – after cricket and literature of course! A well written book, easy to read and very entertaining with wonderful descriptions of the vibrant city of Mumbai. It is the first in the Baby Ganesh detective agency series, I have the second in the series on my TBR list.

All that is left for me to do now, is wish you a very healthy, creative, and booky New Year.