Lock the Door by Jane Holland

I’ve posted a review on GoodReads.com.

Lock the DoorLock the Door by Jane Holland

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The book starts as a case of a missing baby and I thought it had interesting parallels with the Madeleine McCann case where a British child disappeared from her bedroom in a Portuguese holiday complex although her parents checked on her regularly. I wondered if it might even shed some insight or light on that case. I suppose it is still possible that it does but I’m not convinced of the believability of the conclusion.

I thought the first half, which is the immediate aftermath and police investigation, was very good, making me want to keep reading, although I wanted to shake Meghan or rescue her, I wasn’t sure which. I’d prefer a bit more about the police procedure but that is mostly about my liking of police procedurals!

However, the second half went off the rails a bit for me. It turns in to more of a domestic story, the consequences of infidelity on married couples with one wronged party reacting quite passively while another goes off the extreme, irrational, deep end. I didn’t understand the motivation of the protagonists, perhaps because the key players in the denouement were not sufficiently rounded to me. Everything is described through Meghan’s eyes and she seems self-absorbed, reasonably so given what is happening to her, but that leaves us with limited understanding of key players. I did wonder if beefing up the police procedural structure would have been a better way to tell the story. You could really have expected a change of gear in the police investigation which instead seemed to disappear from view.

It was well written and I did feel for the protagonist and was quite shocked by what happened to her. I just wish the second half had turned out differently.

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My Secret Sister

by Helen Edwards and Jenny Lee Smith

It may not be entirely obvious from the blurb but this is a true story, told in the first person by Jenny and Helen, alternating through the book, assisted by ghost writer, Jacquie Buttriss. As such it is more moving than fiction would be because, as you read, your heart goes out to these little girls and what they experienced.

It is written in a quite matter of fact tone and always from the perspective of the girls, supplemented occasionally by a comment from the women they have become. It mostly travels at quite a pace from about 1950 to the present day, describing childhoods spent in the North-East of England. It is a social history told from the perspective of two people living it, demonstrating the opportunities available to some and how others could be left behind. At the end, it is a joyful celebration of two twins (as the blurb gives away) finding each other.

The book never steps out of the first-person frame of reference so there is no analysis or discussion of what is happening to the girls or of what the people around them were thinking. I cannot believe that the neglect and abuse of one of the girls could continue to be allowed. I am shocked that no-one, even in the family, intervened at any point. I suspect something would be done today because teachers have more responsibilities and there were some signs that they might have investigated. However, on the other hand, there are still cases today where children are harmed and the beefed-up system fails them, so who knows?

The dynamic driving the story for me was finding out how the two women meet and that took a long time coming. However, the stories of their lives, the parallels, similarities and differences, kept me intrigued. I think the only times I baulked were where I might have yearned for some of that analysis and discussion as to how this could have happened. Apart from that, these seem to be two extraordinary lives. Helen lived in South Africa and Australia and America and Jenny became a professional golfer. These seem amazing trajectories for the times.

This is a domestic social history. Even though Jenny Lee Smith was a well-known professional golfer and there is some discussion about how she became that, who she trained with and her career, there is not sufficient detail of the tour nor of the technical aspects to satisfy a golfing fan. It is a book that will appeal to people who are interested in the family histories, social history of the second half of the twentieth century in England and human interest stories. If that is you, I heartily recommend it to you.

It’s a good read and it is an ultimately heart-warming story.
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SS:GB Len Deighton

I’ve published a review on GoodReads.com.

SS-GBSS-GB by Len Deighton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this because in the UK the BBC is showing an adaptation and I prefer to read the book first, if possible. It’s an unsettling thought to think that the Germans might have won the Battle of Britain and defeated Britain but this book is less about how that happened and more about what people might have done in a defeated and occupied Britain after the war.
It starts as a murder story and the main protagonist, Douglas, is a British, public school-Oxford, police Superintendent; it explores his choices and how it becomes increasingly difficult just to do his job and keep the country safe “for when it is all over”.
I liked the interplay and background related to Douglas and his sergeant. The story becomes increasingly complicated as the players are the resistance (foot soldiers and leaders), the German army, the local police chief and the SS visitor from Berlin, the American journalist, Douglas’s landlady and their two children (a boy each) and their motivations start to appear very diverse and incongruent. Douglas seems to understand and explain what they are – at least some of them – without the book necessarily showing us them. The denouement gets faster and faster and ends up being much more a spy novel or thriller. I thought the journalist was thrown away in the end.
I’ll be interested to see how the TV series presents it all. They’ve already simplified some of the relationships in the interests of time and because it is more difficult to present motivation on screen. I think it is less easy to understand why Douglas is doing what he is doing without that but we’ll see how it turns out.

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