‘I opened this book with high expectations. They have been admirably fulfilled.  Here we have a stand alone thriller about two lonely people who pursue a relationship of monthly weekends together in remote spots.  Suddenly one of these two fails to get to the rendezvous-vous and the other realises how very limited her knowledge of her  companion is . . . Gradually the reader pieces together some of the facts as an atmosphere of rising tension envelops everything. The intelligent way Jay, Lisa and others plan their actions is enjoyable and the suspense of the tale is palpable.’


Nasty People

Last summer at the St Hilda’s crime fiction convention I guessed who the murderer was (Val McDermid!) in the after dinner play. I wasn’t the only one to get it right, but mine was the name picked out of the hat, and the prize was a year’s subscription for a crime novel sent by Blackwells every month and selected by them. Shiny new books! For free! Well, you can imagine what a treat that is and with what eager anticipation I rip open the parcel every month.

As a result I am reading more contemporary crime than usual and one of the books I’ve received is Lucy Foley’s The Hunting Party. I liked the set-up – a group of thirty-something friends celebrate New Year in the Scottish Highlands, are cut off by snow, and then a body is found. One of them must have done it: but who? I was gripped by the narrative and raced through it. And yet . . . what a very unpleasant group of people! What did they see in each other? I put the book down feeling glad that I don’t have friends like this.

When I moved on to the next book from Blackwells, I began to feel conscious of a trend. The protagonist of this one is a professional woman who drinks too much, has reckless adulterous sex, and treats her husband and child appallingly. I couldn’t get interested in this woman or care about her. I disliked her too much – and disapproved of her (call me old-fashioned . . ) and I felt the conclusion of the book let her off too lightly.

Nasty people as protogonists are not a new thing in crime fiction. Highsmith’s Tom Ripley, for instance, is a sociopath, but he is superficially charming at least. This new trend seems to be something rather different. Did it begin perhaps with Gone Girl (which I thought was a tour-de-force) and The Girl on the Train (which I haven’t read)? Do I have a point or am I becoming a censorious old bat?