Melody

Michael Joseph | 14 September 2021 | 496 pgs
Source: Library 


To begin with, I think this is more of a domestic drama than a psychological thriller. That said, it does have a mystery aura though, but there's not much action or intensity but lots of family drama, guessing games and miscommunication. 

Joy and Stan Delaney used to coach and run a tennis academy but have sold their business for their retirement. They've four grown-up children (Amy, Logan, Troy and Brooke) and although they're all trained by their parents since young, they aren't good enough to be successful and as the years go by, their interest for tennis waned and each pursue their own success either by getting married or venture into something else. 

The Delaney children understand their parents' passion for tennis and Joy's enthusiasm in running the business, but they all knew that they would never forget about their star student, Harry Haddad who once walked away from them years ago at the peak of his performance, leaving the parents feeling despair and betrayed at the same time, especially Stan. But they've somewhat walk out from that gloom and are looking at spending a relaxing life while occasionally fretting about their adult children when a stranger knocks at their door one night. A young woman named Savannah claims she's running away from her abusive boyfriend and of course, Joy and Stan couldn't turn her away. Savannah's overnight stay at the Delaneys soon extends to staying with them like a tenant since Joy and Stan enjoy her company and most of all, she's a good cook. The children, on the other hand, feel their family space being invaded yet they could do nothing about it. Then Joy goes missing one day and Savannah is nowhere to be found. The scratch marks on Stan's face is suspicious to the police so naturally he becomes a suspect. Not all of the Delaneys children believe that their father is guilty; and this is where all the doubts come in as the reader watch the story unfolds between the present and what happened leading to Joy's disappearance. 

This story was great for the characters developments and the family dynamics but you'd be disappointed if you're looking for suspense and thrill as they're minimal. Basically it revolves around the relationship among the Delaneys and how Savannah's intrusion is the fuse to their calm (or make-believe) life. It's a great exploration of the connection and the complexity between people; how communications can be easily misinterpreted and that looks may be deceiving. The book was funny at times despite the content and while it was an interesting read, I find it to be a bit long and dragging. I'm not too sure how I felt about the ending though; there was closure but I felt it was somewhat anticlimactic. Perhaps I dived into this book with a different expectation and viewpoint so overall it was an average read to me. 

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Melody
Riverrun | 13 May 2021 | 336 pgs
Source: Library 

In the previous third installment, DS Alexandra Cupidi solved a case involving a developing site but the outcome (plus some past awful experiences) had left her suffering from post-traumatic stress; thus in this book she is taking her leave and is assigned to a desk job doing data analysing. But of course this doesn't stop Alex from snooping around and observing things especially after her hefty interception between a knife-wielding woman and a newlywed (gay) couple. Alex has no idea about her heightened sense of danger and insecurity ever since her last investigation, but she sure is intrigued by the dynamics between the newlywed couple and the older woman who doesn't seem to be mentally well but is adamant that one of them had killed her son. 

On the other end, Alex's colleague, Officer Jill Ferriter is charged with investigating the murders of a couple after a delivery woman discovered their naked corpses in their home. The only clue is a bloody message and most perplexing of all, why would they order some mundane groceries which are less than forty dollars? Based on initial interviews, Jill learned that Aylmer and Mary Younis were both nice and reserved people who have no enemies and only have a handicapped son who stays at a special care facility. Upon further investigation, they learned that the Younises had made investments in a green reforestry scheme in Guatemala but have lost their savings. But that is not all, they've also found a list of other investors, including Alex's ex-colleague and long-time friend, Bill South (There's a history surrounding the dynamics between Alex and Bill over a past case and this resulted a somewhat awkward strain in their friendship but new readers would be able to understand through some scattered snippets and their conversations.) 

I've mentioned before that I love William Shaw's writing and his storytelling, but I've to say the settings he created for each of the story is another big draw and most of them revolve around the nature and the wildlife theme. In this book, he takes us to the sea and gives us more than a glimpse about the fishing community of Folkestone, trawling and the dangers alongside the job. I find I've learned something after reading his books. 

And despite Alex isn't active in terms of running the investigation in this book, she still prove herself to be proactive and capable of analysing the situation while battling with her own demons and the PTSD. Her relationship and her banter with her teenage daughter, Zoe, felt relatable and again I've to applaud the author for his fleshed out characters, the complexity of human connections and the humanity being portrayed in his books. This is one series I'd recommend to follow and I hope that we'll get to see Alex back on her feet in the next installment.
© 2021 Melody's Reading Corner (https://mel-reading-corner.blogspot.sg/), All Rights Reserved. If you are reading this post from other site(s), please take note that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.
Melody
Grove Press | 12 June 2018 | 176 Pgs
Source: Library 
Translated from the Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori

36-year-old Keiko Furukura has been a society misfit since young. She doesn't really know how to interact with others; and what she expresses or does at times may seem inappropriate or unsound to others although her intentions are simply innocent and to get things done in her own ways. Her portrayal may lead to some wondering if she's autistic but the direction wasn't clear. At the age of eighteen, Keiko dropped out from school and began working at a convenience store, "Smile Mart". For once, she finds peace and purpose in her life and she realises that in order to fit in with the society, she has to act "normal" like others. Like following the rules from the store manual, she does her best in copying her colleagues' mannerisms, speech and even their fashion sense. 

Keiko may have perfected her speech and mannerisms as the time go, but she has other problems to face, such as the pressure of finding a husband and getting a "real" job. When she crosses path with an ex-colleague, Shiraha, she begins to think that perhaps she could lend a helping hand considering he is a misfit, too. This leads to misconceptions from her family and colleagues as they think that she's finally found someone and the latter embrace her more warmly into their groups. Keiko values her friendship with her colleagues, but in her mind she's wondering if she should be content living a troubled normal life rather than a carefree abnormal one. 

At its core, this book is about meeting societal expectations. Keiko was an empathetic character who thinks nothing much about herself but more of how she should portray herself and being accepted by the society regardless of her unusual characteristics. This isn't to say Keiko is wrong, but since the autistic spectrum was never fully explored (perhaps intentional by the author?), it is easy for the society to interpret her as an "outsider" - someone who simply doesn't fit in or adjust. While this perception happens anywhere around the world, it was strongly felt through Keiko's narrative as the role of men and women are often viewed differently based on their culture, mindset and any other issues. Work culture and gender discrimination (Shiraha's views will anger many women so I won't go there) are also explored here; and you'll learn more about the job and responsibilities of a store clerk through Keiko's eyes (she's a devoted employee and definitely deserves an award in my opinion). Overall this was a quick read and an interesting portrayal of an extraordinary quirky heroine in today's society conformity. 

© 2021 Melody's Reading Corner (https://mel-reading-corner.blogspot.sg/), All Rights Reserved. If you are reading this post from other site(s), please take note that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.
Melody


Riverrun | 18 March 2021 | 480 pgs
Source: Library 

This book is the third installment featuring DS Alexandra Cupidi and the more I read of this series the more I'm liking it. 

Alexandra and her colleague, Constable Jill Ferriter, are called to look into a case after a couple discovers a body in a freezer in an empty mansion which is up for sale. Since the owner hardly lives there, no one knows how or why the body was buried there. The body was later identified as a Vincent Gibbons, who was a naturalist and was active in a protest campaign of a housing development and its developer, Whiteland Fields. The campaign is valid to some locals, even Cupidi's teenage daughter, Zoe, think that the developments will threaten the badgers setts which have been around for decades and not to mention would cause a disruption to the wildlife. To complicate matters, Jill has just began to date Harry French, who's the developer and later becomes their suspect after a human bone was found buried within the development site. The discovery of the bone is purely accidental, thanks to the digging of an old badger after his terrority has been compromised. 

Cupidi's investigation of the bone led them to a case of a boy who went missing twenty five years ago. These two investigations soon caught the interest of the Housing minister, and Cupidi later find herself being caught in the world of politics and the environmentalism issue specifically the protection given to badgers by the law. As Cupidi digs deeper (pun intended) into these two cases, it becomes clear that there is a connection but there's no evidence and worse still, someone will go to any lengths to stop Cupidi's further investigation, including murder. 

Once again, I find myself drawn to William Shaw's writing and the developments between Cupidi and Ferriter as the series go. The countryside setting in Dungeness, Kent, is vividly described and I liked it that the author even feature the perspective of an old male badger in this installment. This endearing creature plays part of an important role in this story and I find it refreshing reading about their habitats and livelihood through his eyes. There are multiple threads to this story, but they're nicely linked and there're also enough red herrings alongside a few issues like class divide, abuse and even civilisation (which is always a thought-provoking topic). This book works fine as a standalone, but it is best to start from the first book as far as characters developments go. 

The DS Alex Cupidi Series:
#1 Salt Lake (my review here)
#2 Deadlane (my review here
#3 Grave's End
#4 The Trawlerman
© 2021 Melody's Reading Corner (https://mel-reading-corner.blogspot.sg/), All Rights Reserved. If you are reading this post from other site(s), please take note that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.
Melody

Atria Books | 4 May 2021 | 384 pgs
Source: Library 

48-year-old Jennifer Barnes receives the most shocking news when she goes for her doctor’s appointment after a series of symptoms that's plagued her for months. She has glioblastoma - a brain cancer and that she has only six weeks left to live. The test result reported that there's a high dose of lead in her blood and that this may have already started a year ago as the tumor started to spread gradually. 

While Jennifer is reeling from the news, she's also curious about how the lead got into her body in the first place. She knew that plumbing that contains lead can contaminate water, or they could be leached into food or drinks as well. Jennifer could only suspect her husband because he's been pestering her for a divorce for a while and she didn't give in to his request. It isn't that she still has feelings for him, she's just angry that he has had an affair and he's leaving her for a much younger woman. 

Her adult triplets, on the other hand, took the news differently. Emily is the eldest and a fraternal triplet unlike Aline and Miranda. Emily has her own family and issues but she's willing to stand by her mother's side physically and emotionally. Aline and Miranda aren't close with their mother, but Aline agrees to look into the lead issue (she's in bio research field) and even the imprudent Miranda moves into Jennifer's house although one might wonder about her reason and think of her financial difficulties. But despite everything, the daughters feel that Jennifer is being paranoid in doubting their father, and this leads Jennifer wondering if her condition has worsened as she starts imagining things. Or is it not? 

I've read and enjoyed a few of Catherine McKenzie's previous novels so I was excited to read this latest book but regrettably I didn't feel the same thrill and excitement I'd had with her other books. To begin with, I didn't feel any connection with the characters. Perhaps they're all unlikeable characters, but still Jennifer's sensitive role didn't allow me to fully empathise with her either and I think it might be more or less to do with her voice in this story. While I understand this is more of a domestic drama than a psychological thriller, I was fazed as well as saddened by the dynamics of this (dysfunctional) family. Unfortunately, I couldn't discuss the issue without spoiling the story but nevertheless, this still made an interesting read based on the identities and characteristics of the characters. Although this book isn't a favourite, I'd still look out for McKenzie's future releases. 
© 2021 Melody's Reading Corner (https://mel-reading-corner.blogspot.sg/), All Rights Reserved. If you are reading this post from other site(s), please take note that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.