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This week I spend a wonderful couple of hours spending a birthday gift voucher in Waterstones, Truro,

I felt familiar excitement as I breathed in the scent of books from the doorway. As always I viewed the laden tables in dizzy wonder. So many books, so many writers, so many stories. So many lives, memories, heartache lying between covers. So many hours of work and waiting, disappointment, exhilaration, satisfaction, fear and pride. And there the beauties lie, finished. Each a little miracle to its author. A work of art made good.

So much emotion and intellect invested in each and every book. They lie before me temptingly. Choose Me! Choose Me!

Like a child in a sweet shop I pick up, pause, pick up. Peruse and read. Author I know; unknown author with a beautiful cover. Good review. Old favourate. Terrifying crime writer…but a page turner… I make my choices, conscious I should, maybe, push my comfort zone, that I may miss a gem… But I am thrilled at my choices as they are packed and handed over.

So what did I buy?

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald. (Reading and loving)

A God in Every Stone, by Kamila Shamsie

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

Nora Webster by Colm Toibin


Is it just me…

Is it just me…



Is it just me who finds the ending of many recent crime novels totally implausible?

It is so disappointing to be gripped throughout a book and then, in the last chapter, the main character, bewilderingly, bizarrely and deliberately puts herself slap bang into the danger she has been fleeing from for the whole book.

In one gripping bestseller a woman who has just worked out who her would be killer is makes her way straight to him. It was like a sudden discordant note in a symphony. Yeah, it was scary but why would she do that in the light of all the horrors he had already inflicted? She wouldn’t. No woman would.

Even when this psychopath was distracted by his unbelievably, unbelieving wife neither women used their mobile phones to get help though they had ample opportunity as the killer could not kill both of them at once. Though he had a go.

It made me wonder if endings for thrillers are sometimes determined for visual impact, by publishers with an eye to the book being filmed.

I was heartened to read a regular reviewer for a weekend paper who felt exactly the same as me about improbable endings.


The plot of an audio book, by an author I had previously enjoyed, was so ridiculous, the characters so one dimensional that I just kept listening, (I did have flu) thinking it must get better. It did. The last few chapters turned into something else altogether and concentrated on a subject the author obviously felt strongly about. It rang true in a way the rest of the book did not. I pondered on her editor. It could have been an interesting book on a subject I knew nothing about… if she had not got seduced into setting her book in an exotic location she possibly had a holiday in, but knew little about. My disbelief was not helped by the fact that I had lived in that particular country. There seemed to be two separate books masquerading uneasily as one. The location and subject did not marry up. The ending of this book was the only thing that felt real.

Improbable plots and endings made me look more carefully at my own writing. What we do for effect, to heighten tension. The constant checking in the far reaches of the night. Would he or she really have done that? Reacted in that in that way. Said that. The fascination we have with certain words, the fall of a sentence, the lilt and texture of a piece of prose we feel proud of. None of this necessarily makes the words coming out of our character’s mouth sound natural or real.The reading aloud test will trip you up or vindicate you every time. The voice cannot obscure pretension or the false note that jumps out at you like a cat.

Luckily, all opinion and enjoyment of books is subjective and interesting. How often have we raved about a book to find it leaves a friend cold or bored to death?

How often have we wondered if we have missed something essential in a universally acclaimed book that we just did not get?

Like every writer I have smarted at a snide review while secretly acknowledging they have a valid point. This makes me wonder how we dare write anything at all and offer it up to scrutiny. Even this blog. Terrifying. Or is that just me…



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