BOOK REVIEW | Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

4/5 stars

Murderess is a strong word to have attached to you. It has a smell to it, that word—musky and oppressive, like dead flowers in a vase. Sometimes at night I whisper it over to myself: Murderess, Murderess. It rustles, like a taffeta skirt across the floor.

That’s a taste of the Atwood magic at work in Alias Grace – writing that is hard to match with a compelling story to accompany it. Atwood tells the tale of Grace Marks, a young Irish immigrant who comes to Canada to work as a domestic servant. Along with stablehand James McDermott, Marks is convicted of the murder of her employer and his housekeeper in the 19th C. Based on true events, Atwood’s telling is entertaining and engrossing, though characteristically a bit long winded. It’s hard not to imagine that Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites was influenced by this book.




BOOK REVIEW | The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson


4/5 stars

From the publisher:
In a tantalizing set-up reminiscent of Patricia Highsmith’s classic Strangers on a Train… On a night flight from London to Boston, Ted Severson meets the stunning and mysterious Lily Kintner. Sharing one too many martinis, the strangers begin to play a game of truth, revealing very intimate details about themselves. Ted talks about his marriage that’s going stale and his wife Miranda, who he’s sure is cheating on him. Ted and his wife were a mismatch from the start—he the rich businessman, she the artistic free spirit—a contrast that once inflamed their passion, but has now become a cliché.

But their game turns a little darker when Ted jokes that he could kill Miranda for what she’s done. Lily, without missing a beat, says calmly, “I’d like to help.” After all, some people are the kind worth killing, like a lying, stinking, cheating spouse. . . .

Back in Boston, Ted and Lily’s twisted bond grows stronger as they begin to plot Miranda’s demise. But there are a few things about Lily’s past that she hasn’t shared with Ted, namely her experience in the art and craft of murder, a journey that began in her very precocious youth.

Suddenly these co-conspirators are embroiled in a chilling game of cat-and-mouse, one they both cannot survive . . . with a shrewd and very determined detective on their tail.

My thoughts:
Talk about a page-turner! Peter Swanson’s The Kind Worth Killing is action packed with just enough psychological unrest to keep the reader guessing at everyone’s motivations.

Truthfully, I don’t think murder is necessarily as bad as people make it out to be. Everyone dies. What difference does it make if a few bad apples get pushed along a little sooner than God intended? And your wife, for example, seems like the kind worth killing.

There are a few storylines to follow, but everything is centered around Ted and Lilly. Ted and Lily meet at the airport bar and begin to chat. They quickly realize that they are both heading to Boston, but assume they will never see each other again after the flight. Since they are strangers, Ted confides in Lily, sharing that his wife is cheating on him and reveling a dark desire. Lilly is surprisingly receptive to his confessions, and plans are made for another meeting. I really can’t say much more than this, because the plot twists in this book are amazing! I will say that the twists are surprisingly plausible – they make sense in this scenario. Swanson doesn’t throw in twists just for the sake of it, and it all ties together perfectly.

Having read two Swanson books, I can see consistent stylistic choices across both. He loves multiple narrators, and reliving the same scene from each of these points of view. In both, Swanson name drops authors and books and I kind of love it. It’s fun to look up some of the books he mentions, and I imagine that some of these are his personal influences as a writer. He’s definitely a fan of classic mysteries, and I love that he pays homage to the genre through his work.

If you’re a fan of thrillers, this is definitely one to check out. I must say I enjoyed this a bit more than Her Every Fear (which I really liked), and Swanson has become a writer to watch!

BOOK REVIEW | Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye


3.5/5 stars

From the publisher:
Like the heroine of the novel she adores, Jane Steele suffers cruelly at the hands of her aunt and schoolmaster. And like Jane Eyre, they call her wicked – but in her case, she fears the accusation is true. When she flees, she leaves behind the corpses of her tormentors.

A fugitive navigating London’s underbelly, Jane rights wrongs on behalf of the have-nots whilst avoiding the noose. Until an advertisement catches her eye. Her aunt has died and the new master at Highgate House, Mr Thornfield, seeks a governess. Anxious to know if she is Highgate’s true heir, Jane takes the position and is soon caught up in the household’s strange spell. When she falls in love with the mysterious Charles Thornfield, she faces a terrible dilemma: can she possess him – body, soul and secrets – and what if he discovers her murderous past?

My thoughts:
I warn the tempted: secrets decay, as corpses do, growing ranker over time.

I’ve wanted to pick up Jane Steele since it’s release, and finally decided to jump in. Jane Eyre is one of my all time favourite books and as a fan of the macabre, this had my name all over it. This is a fun read, especially for fans of it’s inspiration. This book works really well if you haven’t read the original – however, there are a lot of great moments in there for those who have.

The first half of Jane Steele had me sold and I was loving every second. The story begins with Jane as a young girl, living at Highgate House with her mother. Family drama ensues, leaving Jane and her mother to live in a guest house on the property. Shortly before her death, Jane’s mother reveals to her that she is will inherit Highgate House one day. Jane is sent to boarding school, events unfold, and let’s just say more murder takes place. In the second half of the book, Jane returns to Highgate House as a governess hired by it’s new master, Charles Thornfield. A bit of momentum was lost for me during this part of the story but there were enough twist, turns, revelations, and gore to satisfy. Oh, and the love story between Jane and Charles is fantastic.

Jane Steele is well written and engaging, and I enjoyed that Jane was a Dexter-style killer – she only takes down bad guys. I have a copy of The Gods of Gotham sitting on my bookshelf unread, and I think I’ll pick it up soon as I’d definitely like to read Faye’s 100% original work.