Manchester – Vermont – Ireland – The Letter – Kathryn Hughes

LETTER

Why a booktrail?

1930s, 1970s – Manchester. Two women living decades apart in Manchester are united by one very important letter which was never delivered.

Story 

A novel of love and hope across the decades.

1930s/40s –  A letter written on 4th September 1939 will have consequences which reach out across the decades hoping that one day an answer will come and the truth will be discovered. For the letter from a young man named Billy to a girl Christina was never delivered but found in the pocket of an old suit, left in a charity shop.

1970s Manchester – Tina finds this letter and starts to try and find who wrote it and what happened to the people it speaks of. It is a a moving letter, full of heartbreaking emotion and the pull of curiosity is just too great to leave alone. Tina suffers from an abusive marriage and recognises the sentiments of feeling trapped, longing to escape one’s past. She feels that by communicating with a stranger in the past, she can make sense of the future and escape her own reality.

Place and setting

Manchester, Vermont and Ireland - all featured in a heartbreaking story! Manchester Central Library The bulk of the novel is set in Manchester and without giving anything of the plot away, Central Library in St Peter’s square plays a pivotal part.
Manchester, Vermont and Ireland – all featured in a heartbreaking story!
Manchester Central Library
The bulk of the novel is set in Manchester and without giving anything of the plot away, Central Library in St Peter’s square plays a pivotal part.

Manchester 1970s

– Ireland and Vermont are also mentioned in the novel but the main action is set in and around Manchester –

Tina Craig is married to Rick, a drunken yob who tries to control her at every turn. He steals her escape fund and her life is one of daily drudgery and violence. The moment she finds a letter in the charity shop where she works, her world becomes a bit more hopeful and wider. 1973 is the year of the Grand National and Rick is depending on a win. Red Rum to win for Tina knows what is coming if the horse does not come in.

This letter introduces her to another woman across the years and soon she parallels her life to that of Chrissie from the 1940s also suffering at the hands of a brutal man, this time her father who thinks he can control everything she does. The link between these two women stretches out against a bleak yet hopeful Manchester setting.

Manchester in the 1940s was not the place where women could go out freely with men and when if your parents didn’t like who you were dating, things could get very messy indeed. Girls were not expected to get pregnant outside of wedlock and men were expected to sign up to the war effort.

Manchester in the 1970s – Turns out history can repeat itself as social boundaries and personal freedom can be just as restrictive as they once were. Abusive marriages or the constraints of a father who ousted you from the family home for bringing shame on the family are both signs that what a person wants and what society sees and expects are not always the same thing.

The detail of the 1970s – evoked via tins of peaches, Carnation cream, and power cuts is crisp and clear. The fate of women in both the 1940s and 1970s are frightening and raw. Emotional on every level and a time to sit and think how times have thankfully changed for the better.

Review

Next time you go inside a charity shop, take time to look in the pockets of a coat because if there’s the chance it sets you off on an adventure like this then count me in! This is one heck of an emotional ride mind. It reminded me of the story of Philomena in some respects with a child born out of wedlock and the resulting torment it brings. Abusive relationships and the feeling that history can put things right – or at least try to, is explored with full effect.

I did find the portrayal of domestic violence hard to read and Chrissie didn’t really have it much better – the abuse she suffered from her father was inexcusable. But this was a different time – still wrong though.

I felt so emotional for the two women. Hated what was happening to them and willed that letter to be found and read out. Oh take tissues with you when you read this, it’s heartbreaking and so sad. There is an event which happens later on to Tina which made me really angry and I had to stop reading such was its powerful effect. Brilliantly portrayed and evoked.

How the two stories wove together was really clever and it was like placing a black and white photo underneath a colour one and seeing the two pictures form a new one. Very, very emotional.

One last thing – I love the fact that a library was at the centre of the story. The author tells us that you can actually get married in this library and when you see it, you know why. Ooh this book has introduced me to the wonder of charity shops and the fact that libraries are even more magical than I thought. And that one short letter can have such a huge impact.

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The Domino Killer – Manchester – Neil White

domino killer

Why a booktrail?

The Third in the Joe and Sam Parker series shows Manchester’s underbelly through the eyes of a lawyer and detective brothers.

Story in a nutshell

Detective Constable Sam Parker is one of the investigating officers on the case when a man is found beaten to death in a local Manchester park. At first it appears a clear open and shut case and he quickly identifies the victim. However it later comes to light when he finds out that the dead man’s fingerprints were found at a crime scene a month earlier.

Joe Parker on the other hand has just had the fright of his life –  he has just seen a man he never wanted to hear about again least of all see. But now that he has, he has some demons of his own to face. He might be used to working on the dark side of Manchester as it were but this man is darker than dark. A pitch black abyss would be more accurate.

Place and setting

 Castlefield - An area of canals close to the city centre. Gentrified a bit but still got enough grime and bricks to get a feel of what Manchester once was. The location of Joe Parker’s apartment. St Ann’s Square - where Joe visits the pub St John’s Gardens. Not far from Castlefield, it’s the legal area of Manchester, close to the courts with good pubs. The setting for Joe Parker’s office. Piccadilly Gardens. A sharper edge to the city centre but close to the Northern Quarter, an area of the city that feels anything other than gentrified. It will give you the city centre as how it used to be. Ancoats   An area once filled with mills and terraces, now converted into apartment blocks. Interesting though, because it’s close enough to the city centre for the rough edges but with enough history to make it worth a walk.

Castlefield – An area of canals close to the city centre. Gentrified a bit but still got enough grime and bricks to get a feel of what Manchester once was. The location of Joe Parker’s apartment.
St Ann’s Square – where Joe visits the pub
St John’s Gardens. Not far from Castlefield, it’s the legal area of Manchester, close to the courts with good pubs. The setting for Joe Parker’s office.
Piccadilly Gardens. A sharper edge to the city centre but close to the Northern Quarter, an area of the city that feels anything other than gentrified. It will give you the city centre as how it used to be.
Ancoats
An area once filled with mills and terraces, now converted into apartment blocks. Interesting though, because it’s close enough to the city centre for the rough edges but with enough history to make it worth a walk.

Well now, you’ll not be wanting to see this side of Manchester in real life. This is the gritty and seedy underbelly from both sides of the fence – the legal side and the police side of things and the view from both ain’t pretty.

Manchester is a character along with the brothers.

Joe loved Manchester. He had been brought up in its suburbs but it was the noise and strut of the city centre that enthralled him. From the swagger of its musical history, embedded into the bars and clubs squeezed into grime-soaked railway arches, to the dirty scars of its industrial past, Manchester dragged its memories with it.

The city is undergoing change and has done so over the last few years. There is a mix of old and new – the old police station still stands and within a few yards there’s a mix of newer shiny buildings and modern touches. Neil obviously loves and cares for his city and draws out the good and the bad before whipping it to create his own backdrop.

The park where the body is found at the start of the novel –

“It wasn’t the best part of Manchester, but it wasn’t the worst, more tired old cotton town than inner-city concrete.”

This is the home turf and landscape of regret for both brothers following the death of their sister some 17 years ago. The streets have their footprints on them, the pubs and clubs their fingerprints. They live and breathe the city although it can feel like it smothers them at times.

Review

This is quite a unique read from a man who is both a prosecutor and a writer. He sees things from both sides as it were and the overall picture is a fascinating one. I’ve not read a book where both sides are represented like this, in quite the same way and getting inside the head of a killer was disturbing but powerful.

It all starts tense and dark and doesn’t let up – I mean imagine meeting the man who killed your sister? What would you and would your professional role blend into the personal?

I did find the Parker brothers an interesting mix. This is book three but reads as a stand alone. The link to the domino idea of a chain of events knocking into each other and having unexpected consequences was a deft touch. Very nice Mr White, very nice.

Letters to my daughter’s killer – Manchester – Cath Staincliffe

booky

Set in Manchester

Shortlisted in the CrimeThrillerAwards on itv3 – http://www.crimethrillerawards.com/

Ruth’ s daughter Lizzie has been murdered and as the title would suggest, what follows is the heartbreaking account of a woman trying to terms with that fact (if a person ever comes to terms with something so horrific)

She tells her story to a diary which we read thereby getting in to the mind and thoughts of a woman in turmoil. What would you say to a man you believe has murdered your beautiful daughter? Where do you even start? The way in which the book is written  really brings the horror and inner turmoil of Ruth to the fore as the diary is that one medium still left in the world where we share our deepest darkest thoughts that we don’t share anywhere else. Letters are personal between two people giving the writer the power to control events and say whatever they want without being interrupted. As the diary progresses and Ruth works through her emotions, its as if we are there at the murder scene, the arrest,and everything which follows.

This for me was the where the real horror must start – when the funeral is over, the people have gone back to their lives and you wake up the next day as usual. What the hell do you do now?

Ruth’s pain is strongly evident throughout and I had the strange feeling of being so involved that as I was reading I found myself slowing down as if to respect the grief of the people ‘talking’ and sharing their hearts. Only a powerful and very clever writer can do that.

This book is certainly about things we would never want to face or personal situations we would never want to think about but everything is done subtly and without sensationalism so only the raw real emotions are left.

This is  a very emotional read – Anger, sadness, shock, horror, disbelief and something which stays with you after the final page. Don’t be put off if reading someone’s inner conflict is not for you – this is so much more.

For more Manchester based crime fiction visit the lovely Cath Staincliffe here –  http://www.cathstaincliffe.co.uk/books/ltmdk/