Don’t Believe It by Charlie Donlea

This was a really original take on a crime novel that, when I first began reading, I wasn’t sure how I would feel about it but as the story progressed, I was really hooked. Basically, this is the tale of TV documentary producer, Sidney Ryan, who is making a promising career out of filming “true crime” series – two of which have exonerated formerly convicted criminals after producing evidence that investigators overlooked.

When the novel opens, Sidney is in St Lucia, looking into a ten-year old case involving Grace Sebold, a promising medical student who was arrested and convicted for the murder of her boyfriend, Julian, on the island a decade earlier. Grace and one of her closest friends have written to Sidney for years, begging her to prove Grace’s innocence. Their letters and the evidence Sidney starts to uncover prove compelling. It appears that the St Lucian authorities were keen to convict someone and thus minimize the damage to tourism a murder could potentially wreak. Grace, Sidney begins to believe, was a victim of island politics as opposed to being a perpetrator.

Able to see a convincing real-time investigation and series, Sidney pitches her idea to the network who are sold. As the weeks pass and each episode is screened, revealing what the team discovered that week, ratings soar and Sidney becomes the darling of the network. But when a member of the growing audience introduces an element of doubt into what seems a forgone conclusion, the series and Sidney’s confidence in her project and the subject of it, is thrown into serious doubt.

What I really enjoyed about this book was the angle of the investigation, the insights into television networks, documentaries and the politicking that occurs in the “back rooms” and who producers and how the stars of shows are feted. The plot itself is quite tight and the investigation really interesting and convincing. The forensics are laid out and the mistakes made in the initial investigation realistically explained and the actual reasons to rethink them justified.

However, I only gave it three stars because for all that, and even though the revelation at the end makes sense, it’s the way it’s ultimately rushed that leaves a feeling of dissatisfaction. After spending so much of the book proving how an investigation got it so wrong and how even ten years on, more sophisticated forensics can reveal the killer and weapon etc (or can it?), I found it highly implausible that yet again, human stupidity, assumptions and clearly badly-done forensics allow a miscarriage of justice. It seemed to undermine the entire intention of the book – or perhaps that was the point. That killers still get away with it because humans make judgements about people and their motives. I am not sure. Anyhow, I still enjoyed the book overall and will certainly read another Donlea.



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The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

It’s hard to know where to begin with this book. Recommended to me by a dear friend, Kerry, who, when I said I wanted a novel to lose myself in, asked, “Have you tried Patrick Rothfuss?” I replied in the negative (though I had heard of him – you’d have to be deaf to the literary and fantasy community not to have), and picked up the first book in his Kingkiller Chronicles a little unwillingly. Unwilling because, with the exception of Kim Wilkins, Juliet Marillier, and Sara Douglass, I’ve read very little fantasy since George RR Martin. I’ve nothing against it; on the contrary, I am a huge fan and have been since I read Prince Caspian when I was eight. My bookshelves bulge with fantasy novels and my first foray into publishing was in that marvellous genre as well. It’s just that having to research my own work and loathing the interminable wait between instalments in fantasy series, I’d deferred my reading in this genre (apart from authors above) indefinitely. I’m just not patient enough and understand completely why my friend, Joy, waits until all books in a series are out before commencing them.

So, I picked up The Name of the Wind reluctantly…

Oh. My.

What a book.

What a reading sensation.

imgres-8How had I deprived myself of this work for so long? Beautifully structured, holistically conceived, filled with characters in whom you believe and a world that is so rich and complex, I found this book impossible to keep away from. I’d rise in the morning and drift towards it; begin to eat and flick it open, regardless of the company (so rude, I know); record a favourite television show (yes, even Game of Thrones) to watch later and read instead; stay up till all hours wishing I could remain in Rothfuss’ world.

And this is why (without, I hope, spoiling the experience).

When the book opens, we’re introduced to Kvothe, the youthful inn-keeper with an incredible past that involves, wizardry, death, monsters, music, women, wine and song, sharp intellect and no small degree of talent, as well as incredible adventures, abject poverty, suffering, brutality, violence, academic and physical lessons, hope, resilience, hard work, love, bets and the lurking ill-will of dire enemies. So how did this amazing red-haired man with a colourful and unbelievable past, who when we meet him seems to have lost the will to live, end up running an inn in a remote, quiet place while the world around him plunges into darkness?

Against his better judgement, Kvothe begins to tell the story of how he became a legend in his own life-time to a man whose been searching for him in order to record his memories – the Chronicler.

And so Kvothe’s tale, from itinerant performer to wunderkind, is told – in Kvothe’s first-person voice in the past before switching to a third person present. The language is poetic and moving, the dialogue snaps one minute and brings you to tears in the next. Kvothe is irreverent, honest, modest (except when he’s not) and completely convincing and lovable, even has he grows into what you can tell will be formidable powers. He’s possessed of a wicked sense of humour, a strong sense of justice and refuses to be a victim, no matter what life metes out. I went through every conceivable emotion and then some reading this book and grabbed the next one immediately (it’s almost a thousand pages), delighted I would be able to spend more time with someone who has fast become one of my favourite characters of all time.

Elegant, original, magnificent in scope yet humble in execution, this is imgresa book any lover of reading would enjoy. Furthermore, Rothfuss is very open with his many fans about his writing, the world he’s created and his ambitions for the writing future. Only, in getting to know him as a writer through words other than those in his marvellous novels, I’ve also learned that the third book in this series, Doors of Stone (there are novellas and short stories connected to the world as well), despite being promised earlier, might not be available until 2016. This brings me back to why I stopped reading fantasy all together –the waiting when you willingly give yourself over to a new book and world is painful. However, in this instance, I make an exception. Learning that Rothfuss doesn’t want to let DoS go until he’s absolutely satisfied it’s as good as it can be, makes sense to me and kudos to him.

Despite the wait ahead, I’ve no regrets I read these books – such is the power and beauty of what Rothfuss has accomplished and my faith in his very impressive abilities – I was poorer without this experience.

Just a marvellous read. I’ll try and be patient… really.

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