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Ratings and Book Reviews ()

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  • Twisty, windy thriller set at St. Oswald's

    It's the beginning of a new school year at St. Oswald's Academy and the way of things has changed considerably. Roy Straitley, the long-standing master of Latin is still there but the latest change might be a step too far. The school now admits girls and the new headmaster is a woman, Rebecca Buckfast. Straitley's Brody boys come to see him the day before classes begin and report having found a body on the site of the new swimming facility that is under construction. After a number of scandals in recent years, Straitly is reluctant to report this incident but goes to the headmaster anyway. Buckfast has other reasons to avoid contacting the police and thus embarks on telling her story to Roy Straitley over the course of many weeks. Rebecca was five when her much older brother Conrad went missing and this impacted her life in numerous ways. I will point out this is the third book in a trilogy of stories that all feature Roy Straitley. It's been a while since I read the first in the series but I do remember Straitley as the main character. Fortunately, this falls into the category of series books that can stand alone although I imagine reading the previous stories will give more insight into the school and some of the characters. I haven't read the second book yet but assume it also fits into the thriller category and involves narrative between two characters. In this case, we hear from Rebecca and Roy, in the present time of 2006. We also hear Rebecca tell her story from the past, from periods of time in both 1971 and 1989. The mystery of Conrad's disappearance focuses much on Rebecca's memory of events. Or perhaps it's better to say the lack of memory of the events. We are taken on a twisty, windy journey through time and through Rebecca's memory. By the end, some of the revelations aren't as surprising as one might expect when considered against earlier revelations. As a thriller, this really worked for me and I enjoyed the layers of information being released as the story went along. Rebecca's character is quite sympathetic through much of the story and it was hard to break away from it, especially as the book raced to its conclusion, which I found to be quite satisfactory at answering questions at the heart of the story. The plot device of Mr. Smallface was very clever and, to me, supported the story quite well. Who doesn't like a scary story from childhood creating tension in situations in later life? What I like about this series of books is that Roy Straitley is a sympathetic character throughout. However, he's not without his flaws. He's very much old-fashioned in his thinking and it seems he's been dragged kicking and screaming into the modern age. And yet, he also tends to come around and adjust his thinking eventually so that perhaps he's not so conservative as he thinks. As for the character of Rebecca, I find myself curious about the intervening years between 1989 and 2006 because she had come a long way from just a teacher to becoming headmaster. What sort of development occurred after the events of 1989 to create the person she is in the current state? I guess that part will forever be left to the imagination but it does create a considerable gap in her story. My one criticism of the book is that considerable progress seems to be made on the swimming facility in such a short time and I find that rather difficult to accept. It's a pretty small issue but it did rather glare out at me while "reading" the book. This audiobook was narrated by Alex Kingston as Rebecca and Steven Pacey as Roy. I found both did an excellent job of creating the atmosphere and characters they represent. Initially, I found the prologue was a bit on the harsh side, making Rebecca a quite scary character at the start. But then I found her voice more sympathetic while the story unfolds and it seems the prologue was indeed well done. Overall this was an excellent book and I rate it four stars. I would like to thank Netgalley and Orange SkyAudio for giving me an advanced copy. I am providing this review voluntarily.

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  • Satisfying yarn

    This was a clever story and one that I found very enjoyable. I thought the telling to be excellent and narrated in an interesting and gripping way.

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