Some quick reviews for some quick reads

BeFunky CollageCan you Keep a Secret? by Karen Perry

The well written prologue of Can You Keep a Secret? sets the book in motion – Lindsey’s work leads her to the vicinity of Thornbury Hall, the now crumbling ancestral home of the Bagenal family. Lindsey used to be best friends with Rachel Bagenal, but twenty years ago, something happened to end their friendship. Rachel’s brother is now the caretaker of the estate, and Lindsey’s appearance prompts him to gather their old teenage group back together for one weekend before shutting up the house for good. But this reunion is going to uncover a lot of buried secrets…

The rest of the book is told in alternating chapters – now, and twenty years ago- and we are slowly drawn into the intrigue of what happened. Karen Perry is skilled at description (hypochondriacs beware, she will make you paranoid you have an eye tumour!). I really enjoyed Perry’s Girl Unknown and so I was looking forward to this. However, I never got caught up in this one – it was a slow burner, I didn’t particularly warm to the characters, and I guessed most of the plot. I didn’t dislike it, but I certainly wouldn’t rave about it either.

The One by John Marrs

The premise is simple. A decade after the discovery of a gene that everyone shares with just one person, a DNA based dating website has completely changed the world. One tiny mouth swab and you will find your perfect partner. The One follows the fate of five people who take the test – the scientist who discovered the gene; a graduate downhearted she had to move back in with her parents; a psychopath with a big project; a woman starting to despair she will never get her happily ever after; and a happily engaged man whose fiancée insisted they both take the test.

This is a really snappy read – five people, five stories, told in alternating short chapters each with a mini-cliffhanger ending. It’s next to impossible to put down – the chapters are short enough you will say ‘just one more’, but each chapter ending will make you say ‘just one more’ again. I read it in one sitting (or lying to be precise!) and it was a great holiday read. In the cold light of the next day I realised that the plots had gotten pretty ludicrous in places but you are highly unlikely to care when you are rattling through it. Great fun!

Skintown by Ciaran McMenamin

Set in a vividly captured Northern Ireland in the early 90s, this could well be a marmite book for readers … there’s some brutal and detailed descriptions of violence that aren’t for the queasy. Our narrator is 18 year old Vinny – expelled from school, getting stoned working in the local Chinese, drinking heavily, and getting into fights. Following a chance encounter with some drug dealers, we embark on a long drug fuelled adventure.

There are shades of Trainspotting here, and of 24 Hr Party People, but Skintown is very much its own animal. This is the type of story I am more likely to follow in film than in a book, so I had mixed feelings at times, but this is crying out to be adapted for the screen so can someone make that happen please? McMenamin has a gift for black humour and acerbic asides (“…takes a couple of plastic bags from behind the bar to the toilets and splits the drugs into two smaller prison sentences”) and this is a cracker of a debut novel with a distinctive voice.

My thanks to Penguin books for the opportunity to read an advanced copy of Can You Keep a Secret?; to Penguin Random House for the opportunity to read an advanced copy of The One; and to Random House Transworld for the opportunity to read an advanced copy of Skintown – all in return for an honest review.

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