I’m sharing another instalment of my Mini Review Mondays, the most recent of which was last week. In case you haven’t seen any of my previous posts, I do ‘mini’ reviews of books that I’ve previously read and am now ready to share my full thoughts about. Today’s books also share a publication date, as they all publish in the UK on 15th September!
First up, I’d like to talk about Marple: Twelve New Stories. Thank you to Harper Fiction for granting my wish for an eARC.
Featuring huge names from across the literary spectrum – including Leigh Bardugo, Lucy Foley and Val McDermid – this irresistible collection of short mysteries reimagines Agatha Christie’s seminal sleuth through a dozen different pairs of eyes.
This collection of twelve original short stories, all featuring Jane Marple, will introduce the character to a whole new generation. Each author reimagines Agatha Christie’s Marple through their own unique perspective while staying true to the hallmarks of a traditional mystery.
Miss Marple was first introduced to readers in a story Christie wrote for The Royal Magazine in 1927 and made her first appearance in a full-length novel in 1930’s The Murder at the Vicarage. It has been 45 years since Agatha Christie’s last Marple novel, Sleeping Murder, was published posthumously in 1976, and this collection of ingenious new stories by twelve Christie devotees will be a timely reminder why Jane Marple remains the most famous fictional female detective of all time.
Publication Date: 15th September
TW: death, murder, poisoning, blackmail, adultery, anti-Semitism, sexual harassment, Sinophobia, sexual assault
Right from the foreword, I knew this was going to be a treasured love letter to Marple. This anthology is a unique collection that really allows each author’s individual style to flourish, while having this deep respect and reverence for the character and Christie herself.
We kick off proceedings with Evil in Small Places by Lucy Foley, which was a fun twisty little gem with a Wicker Man like atmosphere. Following on was The Second Murder at the Vicarage by Val McDermid, which I loved for its complexity and tangled nature. I loved how these two stories are outside of Marple’s perspective, adding that much more finesse to her particular set of skills.
Miss Marple Takes Manhattan by Alyssa Cole calls out some of Chrisite’s problematic elements, while focusing on all about Marple’s skills of deduction and knowledge of human flaws. The Unravelling by Natalie Haynes had incredibly strong classical tragedy vibes, contrasted by the festive atmosphere of Miss Marple’s Christmas by Ruth Ware, which also featured a lovely nod to Dorothy Sayers. The Open Mind by Naomi Alderman had some interesting comments around conspiracies and history.
The Jade Empress by Jean Kwok was one of my favourite stories of the collection, with really interesting character work and overarching themes. A Deadly Wedding Day by Dreda Say Mitchell was such a devious little story. Similarly, Murder at the Villa Rosa by Elly Griffiths hooks you from the opening but it isn’t the perspective you think it is.
The Murdering Sort by Karen McManus was just as twisty as you would expect from a queen of YA thrillers. It had that younger perspective, which really added that revered layer to the story and that sense of Marple passing down her skills to a new generation. The Mystery of the Acid Soil by Kate Mosse was so quintessentially Marple, with a quaint seeming village, tangled human relationships and complications and motives that expose the darker side of humanity. Finally, The Disappearance by Leigh Bardugo was probably my favourite story of the collection, with its morally dubious and ethically complicated themes.
Marple brings that quintessential Christie feel to a new generation and reimagines the character in twelve completely intriguing and fresh ways.
Next up, I’d like to talk about Stone Blind by Natalie Haynes. Thank you to Mantle for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Medusa is the only mortal in a family of gods. Growing up with her sisters, she quickly realizes that she is the only one who gets older, experiences change, feels weakness. Her mortal lifespan gives her an urgency that her family will never know.
When, in Athene’s temple, desire pushes Poseidon to commit the unforgivable, Medusa’s mortal life is changed forever. Athene, furious at the sacrilege committed, directs her revenge on Medusa. The punishment is that she is turned into a Gorgon: sharp teeth, snakes for hair, and a gaze that will turn any living creature to stone. Appalled by her own reflection, Medusa can no longer look upon anything she loves without destroying it. She condemns herself to a life of solitude in the shadows to limit her murderous range.
That is, until Perseus embarks upon a fateful quest to fetch the head of a Gorgon…
This is the story of how a young woman became a monster. And how she was never really a monster at all.
Publication Date: 15th September
TW: rape, sexual assault, misogyny, graphic violence, torture, blood
Natalie Haynes has done it again.
She is one of the defining Greek mythology retellers for me. The way she fleshes out the entire context around a story, fully forming the characters, histories and legacies of each strand until they come together in spectacular fashion is beautiful to witness. She also always takes the story into unexpected territory, placing her distinctive twist on it.
Medusa is a myth that has fascinated me throughout my life, from the initial story I heard as a child, to discovering the various versions of her backstory. She is such an important symbol in today’s society and Haynes delves into this in intriguing and nuanced fashion. Here, she is a symbol of the monstrosity perceived in women’s emotions and a reflection of the horrors of patriarchal violence and rape culture. She is all too human in her vulnerability and in the way she becomes a pawn or plaything in the hands of the gods. Haynes also weaves this incredibly compelling narrative that fleshes out the entire backstory surrounding Medusa. We get insights into every connecting character and a real sense of the history that has come before this. It is an intricate and incredibly detailed web that brings this ancient world fully to life.
However, it is important to note that this is not entirely the story you think you know. There is a sharp sense of pathos and different explorations of women holding power. These women are all deeply flawed in one way or another, yet Haynes still evokes a shred of empathy for the reader. In particular, I am thinking of the ending scene and how beautifully emotional it was for me. It was entirely unexpected and yet fit perfectly into this tapestry woven for us by Haynes.
Stone Blind is another deeply fierce reimagining of the stories we think we know from an author that is carving her own path and pulling up the voices of forgotten women from these narratives.
Finally, I’d like to delve into The Weight of Blood by Tiffany D Jackson. Thank you so much to Harper 360 YA for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
When Springville residents – at least the ones still alive – are questioned about what happened on prom night, they all have the same explanation … Maddy did it.
An outcast at her small-town Georgia high school, Madison Washington has always been a teasing target for bullies. And she’s dealt with it because she has more pressing problems to manage. Until the morning a surprise rainstorm reveals her most closely kept secret: Maddy is biracial. She has been passing for white her entire life at the behest of her fanatical white father, Thomas Washington.
After a viral bullying video pulls back the curtain on Springville High’s racist roots, student leaders come up with a plan to change their image: host the school’s first integrated prom as a show of unity. The popular white class president convinces her Black superstar quarterback boyfriend to ask Maddy to be his date, leaving Maddy wondering if it’s possible to have a normal life.
But some of her classmates aren’t done with her just yet. And what they don’t know is that Maddy still has another secret . . . one that will cost them all their lives.
Publication Date: 15th September
TW: racism, police brutality, colourism, bullying, physical abuse, emotional abuse, violence, blood, child abuse, weaponised religion, fatphobia, death, murder, gore, grief, ableism
The Weight of Blood wrecked me. This was such a poignant story, with nods to Carrie, incredible character work and something truly important to say.
Tiffany D Jackson is one of my favourite authors. She consistently writes such thought-provoking thrillers, with characters that truly stay with you and twists that spin your world on its axis. Her style of writing is so immersive and imaginative, always surprising and challenging you.
This book is truly spectacular. I genuinely feel like I could talk about it and sing its praises forever. The way Jackson exposes the rotting core of racism and white supremacy at the heart of Springville, particularly considering the fact that this book is set so close to the present. These are not horrors of the past, these are imbedded deep in our society and in our present.
Jackson masterfully uses the lens of Carrie to depict the systemic marginalisation and violence against Black people. That blend of horror and social commentary is exquisite. For me, this was encapsulated in prom night, which is just as blood-drenched as you would expect. However, do not assume that you know what is going to happen because trust me, you do not.
She also adds so much emotional power and intensity into the characters. There is so much nuance in our central character of Maddy. She is so fragmented by her upbringing, particularly the way she is literally forced to worship white women. I found myself falling in love with this sweet, kind-hearted and all too naive young woman. Also, I loved the narrative style and how the past events were intercut with podcast snippets and interviews. It added that meta feel of a true crime investigation and allowed the story to become more layered and overlapping.
The Weight of Blood is another exquisite offering from an author who is a shining star of YA thrillers and horror.