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Well plotted – though the writing, absolutely, is not for me

With our BlessingFirst time author Jo Spain’s crime novel With Our Blessing, which I received as a Vine ‘for review’ was, in the end a surprising, a very surprising 4 star (3 ½ rounded up, for me)

I took it initially because it had an absolute slew of 5 star reviews (and at that time, no others) which I didn’t examine too closely, it was also shortlisted for a ‘Richard and Judy’ 2015 bestseller and it is a top ten bestseller in Ireland. Now, having, earlier this year surrendered completely to the wonderful much-more-than-just-individual-crime novels of Tana French, I was probably too much under the influence of French, and expecting similar – particularly as I knew this book too was a ‘more-than’ crime, and, like French, was looking at crime arising out of a particular society, time and place. In this case, it was out of the infamous Magdalen laundries.

The problem, as I started the book, is that I did not at all enjoy Spain’s writing: it was, to my taste, clunky and full of cliché. Short choppy sentences presumably to drive plot forward, little description, obvious rather than more ‘organic’ ways of creating individuality and texture for her characters. I felt everything was coming out of Central Casting, in novel writing terms. Sorry, harsh I know. This is an example which had me, literally, throwing the book down in annoyance, intending to go no further, on page 33

It took McGuinness a few seconds to spot Tom and Ray. He took long strides over to the car and banged forcefully on the roof before yanking open the driver’s door. The young guard who had arrived with him caught up and tried to put an umbrella over his superior’s head.
McGuinness flapped him away. ‘Really? You think an umbrella will make much difference?’ he roared, pointing to the open heavens.
The young constable scurried off, red-faced, but not so far as to be outside shouting distance.
Staying nice and warm, are we, gentlemen?’ the chief barked at them in his thick Kerry accent, as his dripping head poked into the car.
Have we a mini-bar in here? Are ye having Irish coffees? No? Then get the hell out!’ He roared this last part

I wondered how long it would be before whinnies, chirrups and gibbers would be employed, particularly as a little later in a briefing, we had gasps and

to a man and woman, their eyes flew back to the photos on the wall

I was prepared to ditch, abandon, unreviewed, as is my wont if I embark on a ‘not to my taste book’. Except, this was a Vine, and therefore had to be reviewed. So I felt I really should read further…………and here, a writer whom I feel still has a long way to go (sorry) in subtlety of writing, description, with less slapping the reader with obvious ‘humour’ and sometimes unbelievable characterisation, began to weave her strength, and charm me.

Plot, that is what she used.

She dangled and whisked away where I thought we were going, pulling successions of marvellous red-herrings out in front of me, and by about a hundred pages in (yes, I know that was staying with it a long way) I was absolutely sunk into the story. Which is cracking.

So………..an excellently plotted thriller, with a warning about some pretty graphic and unpleasant detail of a murder earlier on.Jo Spain

And, for those who care about these things – a singular absence of serial killers getting their rocks off by murdering beautiful young women, and a central police team, and particularly chief investigating officer who is likeable, normal, has a happy marriage, is far too over-protective a dad, doesn’t seem to have a drink and drugs problem, is not a maverick, and respects and values his colleagues, and does his job well with compassion, intelligence and good humour. Nor is there too much technical whizz kid reliance on high technology. Just low presence painstaking police investigation.

Recommended for a page turner, if not for a page turner which is also wonderfully well written with avoidance of cliché in style, imagery, characterisation and dialogue (that’ll be Tana French)

With Our Blessing Amazon UK
With Our Blessing Amazon USA

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