Here are my favourite eight books of the third quarter of 2021. So far this has been a good year for books if for nothing else, so it was a really difficult decision.

The Beresford by Will Carver

Firstly let me just say one thing – don’t get too attached to the characters, they may not be around long enough. Apart from Mrs May that is. She is about a hundred years old. She never leaves the building. Her day is always the same. She drinks cold coffee in the morning, wine in the day, takes an afternoon nap, prunes the roses and lies in the bath until “her wrinkles have wrinkles”.

I loved this book. The dark humour is at times hilarious, but I admit that I did wince at the matter of fact way in which the killings and disposal of the bodies are portrayed. Let’s just say I winced a lot. For instance, Abe has to dispose of artist Sythe’s body.

For my full review click here

The Black Dress by Deborah Moggach

I could totally identify with Pru. I like to think I’m a strong, independent woman, but if I found myself in her position, I feel I would be the same. Slobbing about the house, while the dust collects on the kitchen work surface (I’ll be living on microwave meals and cheese and crackers if I can be bothered to spread the butter), while the weeds grow waist high in the untended garden.

Because Pru’s husband of decades, the father of her children, had gone off to find himself on a spiritual journey, as you do in a middle aged, mid-life crisis.

For my full review click here

The Gathering Storm (The Sturmtaucher Trilogy #1) by Alan Jones

This book is staggeringly brilliant, the work, the research, the emotions it invokes and the horror. There were times when I gasped at what was perpetrated against not just the Jews, but also the Roma, disabled people, homosexuals and anyone who did not make up the perfect Aryan race. This included the rape and murder of young Jewish girls by drunken SS soldiers (one incident of which will stay in my head for a long time to come) and the burning of the synagogue in Warsaw, killing 200 Jews praying inside. I knew these things happened but it is described here in such terrifying detail, yet without embellishment or glorification. It doesn’t require any. It’s not Hollywood. It’s horror in its own right, a perfect example man’s inhumanity to man.

For my full review click here

The Rule by David Jackson

Absolutely brilliant. Funny, poignant and sad at the same time, this book has everything including murder.

Daniel is nearly twenty-three but he’s like a child, with his fixation on Adam-9, his favourite superhero, his love of comics and a chocolate caterpillar cake for his birthday. There is just one rule in Daniel’s life – don’t touch anyone because he doesn’t know his own strength and one hug could kill someone. Until it does. Another important thing about Daniel is that he doesn’t know how to lie.

For my full review click here

Stone The Dead Crows by Carrie Magillen

Three sisters. Two points of view. We don’t hear from Daisy because she’s been in a coma for three years. Younger sister Rose visits every week and sits by her bedside, talking to her and holding her hand, because people in a coma react to sound and touch stimulation like a familiar voice or favourite music, don’t they.

Maggie is on a sabbatical in a cabin in the woods with author husband Luc, 18-month-old Alfie and their dog Cairo. She’s been working to support Luc while he writes his second novel, but she’s stressed and needs a break. In fact she doesn’t want to go back at all. But then she sees a hooded man in the woods and she’s convinced he’s after her, stalking her.

For my full review click here

The Beloved Girls by Harriet Evans

Another book that’s gone straight to my top books of the year. This book is so unique, amazing, heartfelt, sad and at times quite creepy. It revolves around the annual bee ceremony where the Hunter family and the whole community must follow the path to the old Chapel at Vanes to open the combs and taste the honey.

It all sounds highly risky and even more so this hot summer of 1989. August 31st is the 18th birthday of Joss and his twin sister Kitty and the bees have had to wait an extra two weeks and this had made them crosser than ever. We discover there have been accidents in the past. But it’s an obsession for Charles Hunter and his sister Ros – why is the ceremony so important to them?

For my full review click here

The Late Train to Gypsy Hill by Alan Johnson

I’m not usually a fan of books about modern-day spies, the Russian mafia and oligarchs. But The Late Train to Gypsy Hill is all of that but with added laugh out loud humour. The debut novel from former Home Secretary Alan Johnson is slick, fast-paced, wicked and hilarious.

Poor Gary, our hapless hero, who is more like a reject from The Inbetweeners than a budding James Bond, is drawn into a race against time, when the young woman he has admired every day, invites him to take the empty seat beside her. Fiddling with her mascara, she holds up her mirror and Gary reads the words ‘HELP ME’.

For my full review click here

The Whistling by Rebecca Netley

Following the deaths of both her father and her beloved sister Clara, 24-year-old Elspeth Swansome leaves her life in Edinburgh to take up a position as nanny to nine-year-old Mary on the windswept, remote Scottish island of Skelthsea. A withdrawn, silent child, Mary has lost both her parents and then her twin brother William died just days after her nanny Hettie disappeared without telling anyone she was leaving.

Mary is being cared for and educated by her aunt Miss Gillies. But there is no affection there and poor Mary is starved of love and emotional support. Hopefully Elspeth will be able to help her to overcome her grief and start to speak again.

For my full review click here

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