Up Close by Henriette Gyland
|Up Close by Henriette Gyland|
|Reviewer: Lesley Mason|
|Summary: A hard one to rate. In its own context it probably warrants a 4-star, for a more eclectic reader, closer to 3 or 3½. Dr Lia Thompson comes home to Norfolk sort out her late grandmother's estate to find that the past is not quite what she thought it was... and maybe her grandmother didn't simply have a heart attack. Deftly plotted, but lacking in suspense and no real surprises - except that it IS an enjoyable read.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 365||Date: December 2012|
|Publisher: Choc Lit|
|External links: Author's website|
Dr Lia Thompson is an E.R. specialist. She patches people up for a living. Her fiancé is some hot-shot lawyer (specialism unspecified) with an all-American-apple-pie family and a mom pressing for a wedding date.
When Lia's grandmother dies and her mother eschews any right to the inheritance or obligation for dealing with the estate, it falls to Lia to come up and tidy up.
That's exactly what she intends to do. Sign the papers, clear the house, get it on the market and go home.
But going 'back' is always dangerous. You run into old school friends, that somehow became ex-friends even if you never really knew why. You bump into boys you never paid any attention to who are suddenly stunningly attractive men (well, I don't, but I'm told it's what happens). You start digging around in attics and drawers and dusty old boxes and you find out things you never knew…
Home – and family – are never quite what you think they are. Your world shakes a little when you make the discoveries.
It's hard to resist a book set where you live. Add in the tag-line a mystery as chilling as the wild Norfolk setting… and resistance was, as they say, futile.
To that extent, Up Close was a disappointment. It was researched well enough and the beaches are where she says they are, and they are as empty as she says. There's probably an Indian takeaway in Wells duly ungrateful for the publicity. There are a number of dive sites around the Norfolk coast and a number of clubs that enjoy them… although I suspect that they tout their BSAC accreditation rather than their PADI one. Norfolk tends to be a bit parochial like that.
Yes, I know, it's a slip. But sense of place - that indefinable atmosphere that the best writers have - think Du Maurier or Hardy, they made up their locations and yet we can find them - that depends upon getting the detail spot-on. Not the street names, or the beach geography, but the essence.
Gyland doesn't quite nail it. I've walked the beaches she talks about. I know how they feel in the middle of winter. For all I recognised the names, she could have been talking about Cabot Cove for all I recognised the atmosphere.
I'm as much an outsider as she is, but I know people who come from the depths of Norfolk, and she misses their essence as well.
I'll accept the silliness of her main protagonist as necessary for the narrative arc. Frankly if I'd made a life for myself in the U.S. and found myself engaged to a controlling, albeit rich and gorgeous lawyer, I might well want to get back to the wilds of the north Norfolk coast once and for all. I might even be willing to take on a Jack Russell morphed strangely out of Tintin or Scooby Doo. But I wouldn't be wasting any time on an old school-friend who's bearing unjustified grudges fifteen years on – at least, not unless she was willing to come clean about 'why'.
I'd make learning how to keep the woodstove alight a priority – it's midwinter for goodness sake.
And as for old biddies who, Marplesque, know more than is good for them… those I've met fall into two categories: they tell all or they tell nothing. Dropping hints isn't the style. Certainly, after a decade in the States I'd have lost any patience I might once have had with that kind of insinuation.
Oh yes, and if the handsome local artist wanted to tempt me to abandon a life-long fear of being underwater, he'd have no chance. A few of the other temptations I might not bother resisting... especially as it starts to become obvious that it is just a rock on the finger not a symbol of reciprocal joy and commitment.
That's the bad news.
The good news is that despite all of that, Gyland's tale holds the reader and genuinely makes you think about the options and possibilities. Published under the Choc Lit imprint, you know it's going to be what I gather is now called cosy crime, rather than anything more shocking or tantalising. But that's no reason not to read.
As Lia delves into the dust in the old Norfolk house where she was largely brought up after some family dissonance she was too young to have understood, she finds that her beloved grandmother wasn't necessarily the person she knew and loved, but that doesn't necessarily mean anyone would have wanted her dead… does it?
It's an old house. It creaks and groans and doors will open of their own accord. Dusty footprints could belong to the local builder pricing repairs. And the dog is just a dog.
But when others start to suggest that the old woman's heart attack was, let's say, unexpected, Lia tries not to face the possibility that the death wasn't quite 'natural causes'.
It is of course preposterous… but no more so than, say, Midsomer Murders or Hamish Macbeth.
The twists and turns of the plot are neat enough, though any reader paying proper attention should be able to come up with all of them as at least a possible. That, though, is the fun of this kind of crime. It's the puzzle, not the suspense.
There are a few moments of tension, but none prolonged unnecessarily.
Most of the characters are 80% believable, but it is the working out of what has happened, what is happening, and why, that is the only reason to read. It's a good enough one. Clues are drip-fed at precisely the right dosage to keep you hooked.
If you enjoy this, then you'll also like Dead in the Water by Veronyca Bates.
Thanks to Choc Lit for this one.
You can read more book reviews or buy Up Close by Henriette Gyland at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Up Close by Henriette Gyland at Amazon.com.
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