Review of ‘Double Take’ by Annette Siketa

Available from Alfie Dog.  (This is the review I’ve posted on to Amazon and Goodreads, as a member of the AlfieDog reading panel.)

Mrs Ada Harris, an elderly lady apparently working as a cleaner, is sent to investigate two murders in the traditional seaside resort of Upper Markham. Based at an old fashioned hotel, the reader is served up a table d’hote menu with a fixed number of suspects, but not everybody is who they are supposed to be. Moreover, there is a practical joker at work, causing much dissension amongst the elderly guests. Unfortunately, I guessed who the murderer was very early on, although after this reveal there follows a lengthy and complicated explanation of why, and more of who was impersonating whom.

This is cosy crime as its cosiest, tinged with Fawlty Towers and James Bond. There is even a Major! The setting is firmly based in what Lucy Worsley (‘A Very British Murder’) calls ‘The Golden Age’, with characters addressing each other as ‘Mr’ and ‘Mrs’, even ‘Miss Elizabeth’ and ‘Miss Katherine’; and saying things like, ‘I’m forgetting my manners’. However, although none of the characters has a computer or a mobile phone, we are given to understand that the action all happened in the twenty-first century. This just doesn’t fit very well.

The author’s vocabulary was in places bizarre, as were her commas. The word ‘covetously’ was incorrectly used several times, as was ‘waiving’, and in one sentence a character ‘nodded in ascent’. In the blurb introducing this book, we are told that Annette Siketa is blind, so presumably she ‘wrote’ this novel using voice recognition software (such as ‘Dragon Naturally Speaking’), which is notoriously unreliable with homophones – or anything approaching a homophone – so we must not make too much of this. On the other hand, she deployed lovely earthy phrases such as ‘When she condescended to speak, her mouth was little wider than a coin slot’ and ‘Miss Katherine had stared at the floor, as though inspecting the carpet for fleas’.

Nevertheless, I read it. An easy and undemanding story.

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Story Published on ‘CafeLit’

Well, well, well, this is a good week, because my story ‘Ella’s Holiday‘ was published on CafeLit earlier this week.  Very timely, as it’s all about teachers planning their holidays.  Pity I myself have to go back to work on Monday, not to teach – yet – but to prepare for next year.

With a visit from Jordan (our friend from Houston), a week in the Tyrol and three days in Northern France, it’s all gone very quickly.  I’m also very pleased to announced – der-de-der-de-der – that I’ve finished cleaning out the kitchen cupboards AND the utility room shelves.  I’ve now forgotten about work so completely that, this morning, not only could I not remember my work password, but I couldn’t remember the telephone number of IT Services either.  I did remember the number eventually, though, and I’m now plucking up courage to Look At The Work Emails on my home computer.  I may be gone some time…

 

Review of ‘While No One Was Watching’ Appears in The Copperfield Review

My review of ‘While No One Was Watching’ (which I referred to in my post of 5 June 2014) has been published in The Copperfield Review.  Hurray!  Many more cheers, though, for Debz Hobbs-Wyatt for writing the book.  (I just did the easy part.)

Imo, writing reviews of other writers’ work is a win-win for all hopeful writers.  Firstly, and very obviously, it is necessary to read the novel/short story first, all the time thinking about what is pivotal to the story, characterisation, use of language and, generally, what you will include in your review – which is very different from reading a book casually, for pleasure.  Analysing other authors’ work in this way shows me how to tackle storylines and characters;  the way Debz drip-fed the back story into ‘While No One Was Watching’ was inspirational, something which I will attempt to emulate when I get back to writing The Novel.

I use ‘notes and highlights’ on the Kindle menu to pick out passages for putting into the review, although I rarely refer to them; if I make the effort to make a note about something, it is retained in the best note-taking application in the world – the human brain.  (Tell it not to Evernote!  Or to my students, whom I’m always telling to use Evernote!)  Writing reviews didn’t come easily to me at first, but doing them here, on this blog, when I’m my own editor and therefore more relaxed, I have developed my own style, which helps me to write more fluently when I’m composing reviews for (other) publication.

Secondly, reviews do generally get published and your name appears in well-regarded mags (like The Copperfield, which is at the top of its field (historical)) alongside good authors.  And the editor is used to hearing from you and knows your name when you do a proper sub – that is, a story.

Go on, Dear Writer.  Review something.

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