I’ve lived in Yorkshire now for nearly 17 years – I’ve lived in the North for most of my life even though I’ve never quite picked up the accent – and I have, on Yorkshire Day, taken the declaration of integrity. Yorkshire is now home and, by declaration, I am a Yorkshirewoman (even if trips down to Essex to see my Mum are referred to as ‘going home’ – home is also where your Mum is…). I am fascinated by the history, geography and people of my adopted home so was very keen to read Morris’ book – I do also love the idea of history being ‘lyrical’!
Years ago I read Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel which explained, among other things, how geography guided the way that civilizations, represented by guns and steel, spread around the world. Reading this book reminded me of this – the part that Yorkshire’s geography, the rivers, hills, valleys and coasts, played in history. In where settlements were built, where roads led and where industry developed: which, in turn, led to art, poetry and literature, and, maybe more importantly, to the Yorkshire character. It is not a linear history – we move back and forth through time to a certain extent – and it isn’t just about places. People feature strongly some, like J.B. Priestley or Winifred Holtby, well-known and others either known locally (like Richard Oastler in Bradford) or just to their families. Some should be better known, in my opinion, and, like so many good history books, this one has suggested lots of subjects I need to find out about. If you don’t know much about Yorkshire then read this book: you’ll learn a lot. And if you think you do know a lot about Yorkshire (am I looking at Rob here? possibly…) then still read this book: there’s so much more to know than you think.
I read Linda Green’s previous novel because I knew exactly where it was set. I was completely familiar with the park in which a little girl goes missing. In this book I was on slightly less familiar ground – I know bits of Leeds but have rarely been to Mytholmroyd (although I am always amused by the fact that it rarely got a mention in the National news during the floods of December 2015 – too hard to pronounce when Hebden Bridge is so much easier…). Anyway, it is still good to be reading fiction in really mainstream genres, like psychological thrillers, which are set outside of London (or the USA).
The book on one hand follows the love story of Jess – a feisty, take-no-prisoners, kind of girl in her early 20s – and Lee, a little older, working in PR, sophisticated and relatively well-off. And at first it seems like an amazing, whirlwind romance but suddenly Jess starts to see strange posts on Facebook, dated 18 months in the future, full of outpourings of grief. What shocks her is that her friends and family are grieving for her death. In their posts she can see the remains of her life mapped out before her – marriage, a beautiful baby and then, suddenly, a brutal, and possibly suspicious death. But no-one else can see the posts, she can’t even take a screen shot or photo of them: is she losing her mind? She has a history of mental health problems – having a breakdown after the death of her beloved mother when she was just 15 – but she is sure that this message from the future is real.
This is a pacy and well-plotted novel which touches on issues of parental love, domestic violence, public mourning via social media and mental health. It certainly made me think about whether the course of our lives is fixed. Do we move blindly into our future or can we shape it ourselves? Even as the book drew to its conclusion I couldn’t tell if Jess would succumb to the life that Facebook was showing her or whether she would find the strength to fight for herself and for her beloved baby. If you enjoyed Gone Girl and its imitators then give Linda Green a try. Even if you can’t pronounce Mytholmroyd…
After enjoying my first foray into the world of Frances Brody and her 1920 sleuth Kate Shackleton I was very much looking forward to this next adventure. I was not at all disappointed either – and I do love finding another reliably good writer, adding another one to my personal collection (so I can pick and chose between golden age crime, science-fiction or romance depending on my mood). The fact that this particular writer sets her books in my adopted home of Yorkshire is an added bonus.
After various stories set around a number of Yorkshire Dales villages our heroine decides to travel east to visit Whitby. She plans to see an old school friend, Alma, and her daughter Felicity, to enjoy the peace and quiet of a seaside town and to make the most of the fact that crimes tend to be thin on the ground in the sleepy month of August. Of course things don’t go strictly to plan – Felicity has disappeared and a local jeweller, Jack Phillips, is found dead. Alma considered Jack to be her ‘special gentleman friend’ but although she want’s Kate to investigate his death the local police would rather she minded her own business.
Once again the story is beautifully plotted – although I could see some twists ahead of time there were still plenty of surprises – and I enjoyed the various characters, both recurring ones and those specific to this story. Kate’s usual helpers, Jim Sykes and Mrs Sugden, are fortunately also holidaying in the area (and both seem to find that sleuthing is more rewarding than trying to relax!) so we get see them at work once more. The Whitby characters are an odd mixture of businessmen, artists and fortune-tellers and they all seem to have secrets for Kate to uncover. The period detail is well researched and, because everything fits so well into that period, this does mean that this book is one I can happily recommend to those who prefer their murder mysteries without graphic sex scenes or lots of swearing.
Of course my only problem now is that I still need to find time to go back and read the first six books in the series. I could definitely do with a time machine of some sort…