It’s possible that sometimes, just sometimes, we may be guilty of putting charming (and charmingly warped) British mysteries on a pedestal. But how can we not, especially after reading a book like bestselling author Lisa Jewell’s latest, Watching You? It’s a wonderfully addictive tale of neighborhood-watch-gone-wrong and well-to-do secrets.
Jewell lives in London with her husband and their two daughters. We asked her to tell us about a few books she’s been reading.
Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny
I rarely read funny books, and it’s rare, even when I do, that a funny book manages to make me laugh. I think the last time I laughed out loud while reading a book was Nick Hornby’s About a Boy back in the last millennium. But Heiny’s book made me laugh a lot. Set in Manhattan, it’s a fresh, though curiously old-fashioned (I sometimes got a little shock when a character pulled out a mobile phone) tale of a year in the second marriage of 50-something Graham Cavanaugh to much younger Adria. We only ever see Adria through Graham’s eyes, and Adria is quirky, over-friendly, intense, funny, infuriating, kind, unreliable, unpredictable and adorable. Their 10-year-old son is starting to display some symptoms of being on the ASD spectrum, and while Graham quietly wonders about genetics and what it means to be “normal” or otherwise, Adria is determined to befriend Graham’s ex-wife when she discovers she has a new boyfriend. It’s just a beautiful window into a weird and wonderful marriage, and I could have stayed there with them for longer.
Skin Deep by Liz Nugent
Liz Nugent’s third novel starts with a bang. Middle-aged Cordelia Russell is fading away on the Cote d’Azur, living on her wits and rapidly diminishing physical charms. After a night at the Hotel Negresco, doing cocaine in the toilets with strangers and dancing so hard her dress splits on the dance floor, she stumbles home in the early hours to find a corpse decomposing in her apartment. The twist being that she already knew it was there. Her story then spools back 40 years to a bleak and traumatic childhood in 1970s Ireland on the godforsaken island of Inishcrann. It’s written in the first person, and although the corpse is always there, loitering in the back of your mind, her life story is so compelling and satisfying that you don’t really mind if you never find out why it was there or who put it there. A thriller that doesn’t completely hinge on its big reveal is a brilliant thing indeed.
The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware
My absolute favourite Ruth Ware novel, this had me completely under its spell from the moment I picked it up. It’s the story of Hal (Harriet) Westaway, a young girl earning a pittance doing tarot card readings on Brighton Pier on England’s south coast. Her mother was killed in a hit-and-run accident two years earlier, and ever since she has been struggling to survive. Then a letter arrives from a firm of solicitors advising her that she is the joint recipient of her grandmother’s inheritance. Which would be great, except for the fact that it’s not her grandmother. She decides that it is a case of mistaken identity and ignores it. But when debt collectors come heavy handed to her apartment, threatening to break her legs, she feels she has run out of options and so takes a train down to Cornwall to play the role of the mysterious granddaughter. The setting is tremendous: a cold, unheated mansion, uncomfortable beds, a sinister old housekeeper, shadows and magpies and creaking floorboards. I read this in two days and put it down completely satisfied.
Author photo by Andrew Whitton