Blog Tours · Reviews

BLOG TOUR!!! The Den by Abi Maxwell

The Den CoverJanuary 19, 1852. 

Cold Friday.

The day when the temperature dropped to an impossible 31 degrees below in a matter of hours and the mercury froze in its gauge and a violent, piercing wind blew across the field and through the woods, breaking the family’s windows in…

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Henrietta and Jane are growing up in a farmhouse on the outskirts of town, their mother a remote artist, their father in thrall to the folklore and legend of their corner of New England. When Henrietta falls under the spell of Kaus, an outsider and petty criminal, Jane takes to trailing the couple, spying on their trysts, until one night, Henrietta vanishes into the woods. 

Elspeth and Claire are sisters separated by an ocean. Elspeth’s pregnancy at seventeen meant she was quickly married and sent away from her Scottish village to make a new life in America. When she comes to the attention of the local mill owner, a series of wrenching and violent events unfolds, culminating in her disappearance.

As Jane and Claire search in their own times for their missing sisters, each uncovers the strange legend of Cold Friday, and of a family apparently transformed into coyotes. But what does this myth really mean? Are their sisters dead, destroyed by the men who desired them? Or have they made new lives, elsewhere, beyond the watchful eyes of the community they longed to escape?

Myths seem to be everywhere in fiction at the moment. From feminist re-tellings of classical mythology such as Madeline Miller’s Circe and Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls to poetic explorations of folklore in Daisy Johnson’s Everything Under and Kerry Andrew’s Swansong. They are testaments to the stories that we tell ourselves, something that Abi Maxwell both explores and subverts in The Den, a lyrical coming-of-age story that plays with ideas of both myth and memory.

Set across two timelines, The Den explores the lives of two sets of sisters living in rural New Hampshire one and a half centuries apart. As the girls navigate the societal expectations of their roles and behaviour, they are forced to confront difficult truths about themselves and the world around them. And when two of the women disappear, their remaining sisters struggle to make sense of what has been left behind. As myth blends into reality, finding the truth behind the women’s disappearances becomes a search for peace the impacts the adult lives of both of the remaining girls.

The Den is a haunting, lyrical novel that moves glacially. Yet from the outset, there is a momentum to the book that is bought by the magnetic portraits of sisters, Jane and Henrietta. Once close, the girls have begun to drift apart as Henrietta grows into adulthood and starts a relationship with a neighbourhood boy. In her reluctance to let her sister go, watchful, restive Jane makes a fatal mistake that will have far-reaching consequences for both girls.

Almost a century and a half earlier, Claire becomes worried when the regular letters from her sister Elspeth, an ocean away in New England, cease. Elspeth had been making a new life for herself but now it seems that both she and her family have vanished leaving nothing but ghosts in the shape of coyotes behind. As Claire sets out for America to find out the truth behind her sister’s disappearance, she is confronted with strange tales and a fiction written in Elspeth’s own hand.

All four of the women in The Den are fascinating characters but it is the missing women, Elspeth and Henrietta, who command the attention of both the reader and of the sisters that they leave behind. Both girls are women out of their own time, pushing against the boundaries of a society that cannot contain them. As such, they have a hypnotic quality reminiscent of the Lisbon girls in Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides. More conventional in their beliefs, Claire and Jane struggle to understand their respective sister’s dissatisfaction, and it is this struggle for comprehension and understanding that powers the novel.

As I mentioned earlier, the novel is slow in pace, especially at the start so it won’t be for everyone. Stick with The Den, however, and Maxwell’s gorgeous prose, lush landscapes and sharply drawn characters will weave their spell. Meditating on love, loss, escape, and sisterhood, The Den is a haunting novel written with great skill and precision that will richly reward patient readers and is perfect for fans of Marilynne Robinson, or those who enjoyed Emma Kline’s The Girls.

The Den by Abi Maxwell is published by Tinder Press on 16 May 2019 and is available from all good bookstores and online retailers including Hive, Waterstones, Book Depository and Amazon. My thanks go to the publisher for a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review. 

The blog tour continues until 24 May 2019 so do check out other stops on the way for more reviews and content about the book. Thanks to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for organising and inviting me to take part in the tour.

The Den Blog Tour Poster

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Blog Tours · Reviews

BLOG TOUR!!! The Way of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry

Way of All Flesh CoverEdinburgh, 1847.

Will Raven is a medical student, apprenticing for the brilliant and renowned Dr Simpson. Sarah Fisher is Simpson’s housemaid, and has all of Raven’s intelligence but none of his privileges.

As bodies begin to appear across the Old Town, Raven and Sarah find themselves propelled headlong into the darkest shadows of Edinburgh’s underworld. And if either of them are to make it out alive, they will have to work together to find out who’s responsible for the gruesome deaths. 

Regular readers of The Shelf will know that I love crime fiction, especially a well-turned murder mystery of the classic variety. I also love evocative historical fiction capable of whisking me off to another time and place. So a book that brilliantly combines the two, such as The Way of All Flesh, was bound to be a winner for me!

This is the first novel by Ambrose Parry, a pseudonym for a collaboration between husband and wife team Chris Brookmyre (who’s latest standalone, Fallen Angel, I reviewed a couple of weeks ago) and Marisa Haetzman.

The Way of All Flesh is quite a different kettle of fish to Brookmyre’s usual fare, being a historical murder mystery set in 1840s Edinburgh and filled to brimming with the sights, sounds and smells of the bustling city. This historical touch has been provided by Haetzman who, in addition to being a consultant anaesthetist, uncovered much of the material upon which the novel is based when researching her Master’s degree in the History of Medicine.

The result is a taut historical mystery set in a fully-realised Victorian Edinburgh that features a fantastic cast of both fictional and historical characters. I love historical novels that teach me something about the period whilst also telling a fantastic story and, on this score, The Way of All Flesh, succeeds brilliantly.

The household of the real-life Dr James Simpson, the doctor who pioneered the use of chloroform, is brilliantly bought to life and I was fascinated to learn about the early history of obstetrics and the way in which the first anaesthesias were used to ease the pain and suffering of childbirth. Simpson is a fascinating character, treating rich and poor alike and pioneering the use of both new medicines and new social attitudes, with his open-minded approach to both social status and gender.

Fictional additions to Simpson’s household come in the form of Will Raven; a young medical apprentice with a hidden past and secrets it is vital that he keeps, and Sarah Fisher; a housemaid with a passion for knowledge and ambitions above both her gender and her station. Although the two initially dislike each other, they must soon learn to work together to prevent an unscrupulous medical practitioner whose underhand practices and back-street concoctions are killing desperate young women across Edinburgh’s Old Town.

The world of 1840s Edinburgh is vividly bought to life in the novel. I almost felt I was walking down the streets alongside Will and Sarah, visiting the bedsides of the sick with Dr Simpson, and sitting in the crowded lecture hall alongside the medical students. The contrast between the worlds of the rich and poor are extremely well-drawn, embodied in the character of Will who straddles both worlds without feeling entirely comfortable in either.

You can probably already tell that I loved this novel. It’s a cracking mystery, set in a fully-realised and thoroughly-researched historical setting and packed with realistic characters that you’ll soon begin to care for. Fans of C.J Sansom or Anne Perry are sure to love this series and, as the first book in a series, it’s a great jumping off point for crime fans seeking to move into historical fiction (or historical fiction fans who want to try a bit of crime in their reading life!). Thoroughly recommended, I’m so pleased that Raven and Fisher will return in a sequel later this year, as I cannot wait to read about their next misadventures!

The Way of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry is published by Canongate and is available now in paperback and ebook from all good booksellers including Hive, Waterstones (where it’s Thriller of the Month for May 2019) and Amazon.

My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review, and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for organising and inviting me to this blog tour. Do check out other tour stops for more reviews, exclusive content, and more! 

Way of All Flesh Poster

 

 

Blog Tours · Reviews

BLOG TOUR!!! Fallen Angel by Chris Brookmyre

Fallen AngelOne family, two holidays, one devastation secret.

To new nanny Amanda, the Temple family seems to have it all: the former actress; the famous professor; their three successful grown-up children. But like any family, beneath the smiles and hugs there lurks darker emotions.

Sixteen years earlier, little Niamh Temple died while they were on holiday in Portugal. Now, as Amanda joins the family for a reunion at their seaside villa, she begins to suspect one of them might be hiding something terrible…

And suspicion is a dangerous thing.

A dead body slumped over a desk. A tiny needle mark. An unrepentant observer. From the very first page, Chris Brookmyre’s latest standalone novel, Fallen Angel, creates an unsettling tension. Clearly, there has been a murder but discovering the identity of both victim and killer, and the reasons behind this sinister opening scene will take the rest of the book to discover.

Fallen Angel is the perfect thriller for packing in your suitcase and taking away with you to sunnier shores this year. The seaside villas inhabited by the Temple family epitomise the flawless luxury of their world. But beneath the apparently still waters of the Temple family, the ripples of a sixteen-year-old tragedy are about to break into turbulent waves. It gave me all the vibes of Helen Walsh’s The Lemon Grove, with a similarly heady mix of sun, sea, and secrets.

Given that none of the characters in Fallen Angel are particularly likeable, Brookmyre has done an excellent job of keeping the reader engaged with them. Watching the Temple family, in both their 2002 and their 2018 incarnations, is a little like watching a car crash in slow motion. As the reader, you’re unable to look away even as their lives spiral out of control. And, at the heart of it all, is a dark and terrible family secret and the tragic death of a little girl. Once all the threads are unravelled, there’s a chilling twist in this tale and plenty of scenes that pack an emotional punch along the way.

Combining a dark humour with gradual increases in tension, Brookmyre uses multiple viewpoints and dual timelines to provide a hazy picture, ensuring the reader is only ever able to gradually piece together the mystery that lies at the heart of Niamh Temple’s disappearance. Excerpts from patriarch Max Temple’s book on conspiracy theories are scattered throughout the book, providing tantalising glimpses of the larger narrative without ever giving the game away. It’s assured and accomplished writing that makes for easy and enjoyable reading.

Packed with intrigue and dark secrets, Fallen Angel is a complex and sophisticated thriller that will keep you guessing right up until the closing act. Cleverly weaving together the two timelines, this is a compelling narrative. And with some deliciously dark characterisation, Fallen Angel is a perfect read for ensuring that you keep the pages turning by the pool this summer!

Fallen Angel by Chris Brookmyre is published by Little Brown and is available now in hardback and ebook from all good booksellers and online retailers, including Hive, Waterstones, Book Depository, and Amazon. My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review, and for inviting me to take part in this blog tour. 

Blog Tours · Reviews

BLOG TOUR!!! Death at the Plague Museum by Lesley Kelly

Death at the Plague Museum CoverThe pandemic is spreading.

On Friday, three civil servants leading Virus policy hold a secret meeting at the Museum of Plagues and Pandemics.

By Monday, two are dead and one is missing.

It’s up to Mona and Bernard of the Health Enforcement Team to find the missing official before panic hits the streets.

When I was offered a spot on the blog tour for Lesley Kelly’s Death at the Plague Museum, the latest book in her Health of Strangers series, it was the premise that really struck me. Set in a world where a deadly flu virus has left Edinburgh in a bureaucratic nightmare, it seemed such a unique and intriguing setting for a crime thriller. And I wasn’t wrong!

Although Death at the Plague Museum is the third full book in the series (there is also a short story), the plot, which revolves around the sinister disappearance of a leading Virus policy expert, is largely self-contained.

That said, I do feel that I lost something by not having read the other books in the series. Kelly has done a great job of bringing new readers up to speed; explaining key characters and events from the past books whilst, for the most part, avoiding spoilers for those who want to go back and discover the series’ beginnings. But the relationships between the main characters are so well-established by this point that I felt at times like I’d walked into the middle of a conversation and couldn’t quite pick up the full thread. It didn’t stop me enjoying the book by any means but I’d probably recommend that new readers start with the first book in the series, The Health of Strangers, to fully appreciate the character arcs and intricate interpersonal relationships.

Laced with dark humour, the plot of Death at the Plague Museum roars along at a fantastic pace – this is a very quick read and Kelly is fantastic at leaving each chapter on a mini-cliffhanger, leaving you turning the pages for more! The world of post-viral Edinburgh is fascinating, with an increasingly sinister and controlling state eager to prevent panic and civil unrest by any means necessary. I dare say that civil servants have never been quite so interesting! At times, the book reminded me of classic spy thrillers, with the Machiavellian machinations of unseen higher powers having a chaotic and sometimes devastating impact on those characters working at the coal-face.

Those at the coal-face aren’t going to take it lying down, however, with Health Enforcement Team officers Mona and Bernard determined to uncover the truth. With snappy dialogue throughout, you do get a real sense of each character in Death at the Plague Museum – which is good because there are rather a lot of them and, with this being the third book in the series, quite a bit of water under the bridge in their interpersonal relationships.

If I had one issue with the book, it’s that at times some of the characters were just too abrasive for my taste. There’s one relatively major character in particular who expresses some horrible sentiments towards another character near the beginning of the book that seemed totally uncalled for in the context. I don’t expect all characters in a book to be nice by any means – difficult and downright nasty characters can be great to read. The waspish Mona is a fantastic example of this, balancing a serious attitude problem with fierce determination and a deep sense of justice. But without knowledge of prior events in the series, it was difficult to understand why certain characters have such an intense hatred of each other and this meant that, for me, some characters occasionally came across as just cruel.

Overall, however, Death at the Plague Museum is a well constructed and entertaining crime thriller set in a brilliantly realised dystopic world of sinister governmental agencies and bureaucratic red tape.

For the reasons mentioned above, I definitely think starting at the beginning of the series would be preferable for new readers as, whilst it’s possible to start with Plague Museum, I think you’d get so much more out of the characters and context, both of which have so much depth and development, by going back to the beginning. I’ve already downloaded The Health of Strangers and am very much looking forward to reading my way forwards to join all the dots!

Death at the Plague Museum by Lesley Kelly is published by Sandstone Press and is available now as a paperback and ebook from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Waterstones, Book Depository and Amazon.

My thanks go to the publisher, Sandstone Press, for organising this tour and providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review. The tour continues until 30 April 2019 so do check out the other stops for more reviews!

Death at the Plague Museum Poster

 

Blog Tours · Reviews

BLOG TOUR!!! The Ringmaster by Vanda Symon

The Ringmaster Final CoverMarginalised by her previous antics, Sam Shephard is on the bottom rung of detective training in Dunedin, and her boss makes sure she knows it.

However, when a university student is murdered in the Botanic Gardens, Sam finds herself on her first homicide investigation.

Sam soon discovers that the student’s murder is not an isolated incident. There is a chilling prospect of a predator loose in Dunedin, and a very strong possibility that the deaths are linked to a visiting circus…

Determined to find out who’s running the show, and to prove herself, Sam throws herself into an investigation that can have only one ending…

I had the pleasure of reviewing Overkill, the first book in Vanda Symon’s antipodean-set Sam Shepherd series, last year and said at the end of the review that I hoped we’d see more from Sam Shepherd and Vanda Symon. Well, my wishes have been granted because the second book in the series, The Ringmaster, has now been published in the UK by Orenda Books!

Although following on almost directly from the first book, The Ringmaster can definitely be read as a standalone. The events of the first novel inform Sam’s backstory and some of her relationships with supporting characters, but all of the important information is re-capped here and the central plot, which revolves around the brutal murder of a Dunedin university student, is self-contained within this book.

Sam’s character is nicely developed from book one. As I mentioned in my review of Overkill, Sam is feisty without being cliche. Clever, determined and aware of her own failings, she’s a refreshingly realistic voice. In The Ringmaster, we get to find out a little more about some of Sam’s personal relationships and are privy to some of the fiery exchanges that she has with her difficult and somewhat overbearing mother. We also see her tentative first steps into a new relationship with a fellow officer.

These insights into the personal add a new dimension to Sam’s character, and helped me to understand some of the more difficult aspects of her personality, like her fiery temper, her self-deprecating humour, and her doubts about her life and career choices. It also helps The Ringmaster to feel like a development from Overkill, a chance for readers who have experienced the first book of the series to enhance their relationship with the central character – always one of the joys of reading a series.

By moving the setting from the small town of Mataura to the larger community of Dunedin, Symon has taken away the small-town focus of Overkill but the transition is, I feel, a successful one. Sam is no longer a lone-wolf, the sole officer dealing with a case. Instead, she is part of a larger team of detectives and has to overcome the challenges posed by not having immediate access to all the information. She also has to overcome an obstructive and bullying boss, a man Sam crossed in her previous investigation and who is determined that she won’t be allowed to forget it. This makes the plot more complex, as Sam has to unpick the various strands of the investigation and re-knit them to get at the whole picture. It makes The Ringmaster more of a police procedural than a thriller, without sacrificing the fast-pace and page-turning quality that made Overkill such an enjoyable read!

Overall The Ringmaster is a satisfyingly meaty police procedural, a taut and atmospheric page-turner with a fantastic female lead. Perfect for fans of Jane Harper, this is a brilliant addition to an already accomplished series and I cannot wait for Vanda’s next book so that I can see what Sam gets embroiled in next!

The Ringmaster by Vanda Symon is published by Orenda Books and is available now as an ebook and on 25 April 2019 in paperback. It is available from all good bookshops and online retailers including Hive, Waterstones, Book Depository, and Amazon.

My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review, and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in this blog tour. The tour continues until the end of the month so do check out the other stops for reviews, extracts and more! 

The Ringmaster Poster

Blog Tours · Reviews

BLOG TOUR!!! The Conviction of Cora Burns by Carolyn Kirby

Corn Burns CoverBirmingham, 1885.

Born in a gaol and raised in a workhouse, Cora Burns has always struggled to control the violence inside her.

Haunted by memories of a terrible crime, she seeks a new life working as a servant in the house of scientist Thomas Jerwood. Here, Cora befriends a young girl, Violet, who seems to the subject of a living experiment. But is Jerwood also secretly studying Cora…?

I’ve been really enjoying historical fiction of late so I jumped at the chance to be part of the blog tour for Carolyn Kirby’s debut, The Conviction of Cora Burns. When the book arrived, not only was I wowed by the beautiful cover and design (gotta love French flaps, especially when they have a gorgeous map on the inside of them) but I was thrilled to discover that the book was set in Victorian Birmingham, a city that I know well. And the story itself did not disappoint, with The Conviction of Cora Burns proving to be a deliciously dark debut.

The plot revolves around twenty-year-old Cora, a workhouse orphan recently released from prison for an unrevealed crime. With few choices available to her, Cora reluctantly takes a position as between-maid at The Larches, home of photographer and scientist Thomas Jerwood and his ward Violet.

Raised in the workhouse, Cora isn’t afraid of hard work and soon settles into her new role, despite the suspicions of her fellow staff, Jerwood’s strange habits and his wife’s intense and unexplained hatred of her. But Cora is just biding her time, waiting until she can find her childhood friend Alice Salt and begin planning a new life, free from burdens of her past in the workhouse and the gaol.

But when her employer begins to ask for her assistance in ‘testing’ his ward, Cora begins to wonder if all is as it seems at The Larches? Why does Mrs Jerwood seem to recognise Cora? What does Thomas Jerwood know about Cora’s mother? And why does Cora’s medal, a beloved keepsake from Alice, seem to match those in Jerwood’s display cabinet? As Cora delves deeper into The Larches many mysteries, she must confront the ghosts of her past in order to realise her future.

There is, as you can probably tell, quite a lot going on in this novel and it is a testament to Carolyn Kirby’s skill that she manages to weave all of the apparently disparate strands, time frames, interspersed newspaper articles and letters,  together into a coherent narrative. And, remarkably, the novel never feels dense despite its complexity. Instead, it is a smoothly told and rich tale, like the literary equivalent of eating a chocolate torte.

Victorian Birmingham is brilliantly realised, from the intense poverty of the slums with its coating of soot and grime to the leafy outskirts where the upper classes live far away from the toil of the industries that support them, Kirby has created a vivid backdrop to the lives of her characters.

And those characters are an intriguing bunch. Cora herself is as hard as iron. Steely, determined and stubborn, she occasionally becomes filled with sudden and violent bursts of rage that both terrify and confuse her. Where does this violence come from? Is it the product of her difficult childhood, or an indelible taint within her nature? It is this uncertainty, and her determination to not let her past define her, that make Cora a sympathetic character in spite of her spikiness. And as the novel unfolds and the reality of what has happened to Cora becomes clearer, I only felt for her situation more.

Because there are one or two moments in this book that are not for the faint-hearted. Cora’s life has not been an easy one and there are a couple of very difficult scenes amidst Cora’s tragic past. They are, however, deftly handled – Kirby uses Cora’s trauma to deepen the development of her character and weave together the many mysteries of Cora’s past, all of which seem to have answers within the walls of The Larches.

Overall, The Conviction of Cora Burns is a rich, multi-layered tapestry of a novel, with many strands woven ingeniously together to create a compellingly intricate tale with a powerful heroine at its heart. It’s an accomplished and immersive debut that is sure to delight historical fiction fans, as well as anyone seeking an insightful and intricate read.

The Conviction of Cora Burns by Carolyn Kirby is published by No Exit Press and is available now in paperback and ebook from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Waterstones, Book Depository and Amazon. My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review, and to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour.

Cora Burns Poster

 

 

Book Prizes · Reviews

REVIEW!! Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss

Ghost WallTeenage Silvie and her parents are living in a hut in Northumberland as an exercise in experimental archaeology.

Her father is a difficult man, obsessed with imagining and enacting the harshness of Iron Age life.

Haunting Silvie’s narrative is the story of a bog girl, a young woman sacrificed by those closest to her, and the landscape both keeps and reveals the secrets of past violence and ritual as the summer builds to its harrowing climax.

I mentioned in my post on the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019 longlist that I had read and was still processing Ghost Wall, Sarah Moss’ strangely sinister novella about teenage Silvia and an experimental archaeology exercise that goes badly wrong. If I’m completely honest, I’m still not entirely sure what I think of it.

Ghost Wall is a strange story. The novella has a haunting lyricism that lingers long after the final pages but, despite its many excellent qualities, I can’t help feeling that there was something missing from my reading experience with it.

The undoubted strength of the book is the writing. Moss has a beautiful sense of style, creating stunningly lyrical sentences from deceptively simple prose. Her descriptions of the natural world; the landscape of the moor and the beach, is majestic, and there is a northern lyricism to the novel in the cadence of Silvie’s voice and her connection with this landscape. Take, for example, this passage, in which Silvie and some of her fellow students go foraging:

“We followed the green-signposted Public Footpath along a stone wall and over a stile towards the moor. As the hill rose, we could see Hadrian’s Wall drawn across the next rise as if it was made of something different from the rest of the landscape, as if someone had drawn it in marker pen on a photo. Dad and I had walked its whole length, Newcastle to Carlisle, at Easter the previous year, and I knew we were near the best bit now, the section where steep ground and sudden drops made a millennium’s worth of northern farmers not bother themselves to pull down milecastles and miles of dressed stone to build sheep-pens and byres. I half closed my eyes, imagined hearing on the wind the Arabic conversations of the Syrian soldiers who’d dug the ditches and hoisted the stones two thousand years ago.” 

The interconnection between past and present is a strong theme of the novel, as Silvie and her fellows become ever more intertwined with the lives of the Iron Age settlers they are supposedly interpreting. Amidst the beauty of this desolate landscape, lie hidden acts of violence that threaten to play out in the modern day.

This should make for a tense and claustrophobic reading experience, as the past and the present become ever more blurred, yet I found Ghost Wall strangely flat at times. At the start of the novel, as Silvie’s relationship with her difficult father and troubled mother becomes apparent, you could cut the narrative with a knife. Yet after a violent explosion at the midpoint of the novel, all that tension deflated and I felt that the story never really regained its former momentum – it seemed by turns meandering and then racing, rushing towards a conclusion that was both inevitable and strangely unsatisfying.

If this review seems a little vague, its because I really don’t want to give away any of the plot. At just under 150 pages, Ghost Wall is a spare novel and, for anyone thinking of reading it, it really is best enjoyed without spoilers. And it will most definitely wrap you up whilst reading it – I read it over two sittings, then spent about a fortnight digesting what I had read before I felt I could form a coherent opinion about it.

Because, for all its flaws, Ghost Wall is a mesmerising and accomplished book. As I said at the start of the review, it has a lingering quality that is hard to pin down. Yes, the ending is hasty and the characters occasionally little more than pencil sketches, but the overall effect retains a surprising force and impact. The overall moral of the book may be a little heavy-handed but the depiction of a complex father-daughter relationship, marred by both a strange kind of love and violent oppression, is one of the best I’ve read. Ghost Wall certainly deserves its place on the Women’s Prize longlist – like the ghosts that flitter through its page, it haunts the reader long after you’ve turned the final page.

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss and published by Granta Books is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Waterstones and Book Depository