Vera Magpie by Laura Solomon
|Vera Magpie by Laura Solomon|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: A story which grabs you and simply doesn't let go until you turn the final page. I read it in less than two hours and it was a real pleasure.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 94||Date: May 2015|
|External links: Author's website|
I have murdered three husbands.
As an opening line that must take some beating, but Vera's telling us the truth. The first two husbands, Gary and Harry were abusive, but Larry was a treasure, a keeper, and it's difficult to understand why Vera would have killed him, particularly when she was likely to get found out very quickly and now she's in prison with a mandatory life sentence. Her only friend is Shirley, a lesbian, but Vera's not one to let herself be a victim. She's not keen on having a sexual relationship with Shirley (although she wouldn't risk the security of her life in prison if of a fling was called for), but she is keen on getting an education and she's studying for a degree in English Literature.
So, why did Vera Magpie develop a taste for murder? Was Larry doomed from the start, or could it have been different? Should Vera be in prison at all? Gradually the details of Vera's life emerge: she was abused by her step-father from an early age. Her mother was having an affair and you suspect that he was getting his own back. Her birth father had disappeared before she was born. She had talents - as an artist and a musician - but never really had the backing and support to make something of herself. There are odd glimpses of times when life might improving, but somehow the good times slid away, sometimes violently.
Unfortunately she's not alone - in fiction or in real life. A lighthouse in rural Devon should have been a good place to live, but Vera wanted to be independent. Unfortunately she failed to realise that marriage to controlling, abusive men was anything but. The story is well written: at every stage you can understand why Vera takes the path she's chosen. You might not have done it yourself, but you can understand why she did. We begin by being - at best - ambivalent to Vera, but gradually you hope that something will go right for her.
Laura Solomon has a real talent for creating characters, situations and locations in very few words and she shows this again in Vera Magpie. Shirley, her fellow prisoner, is brought to life beautifully: I had a vivid picture of her in my mind despite the fact that Solomon is never generous with physical descriptions. I felt what the prison was like: it's not where you would want to be but you sense that there are benefits for Vera. The story was a real pleasure to read - I finished it in a couple of rather indulgent hours - and I'd like to thank the publisher for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
It's a different setting and strictly speaking, a police procedural, but if you can empathise with Vera Magpie you'll understand Ragna Riegel in The Whisperer by Karin Fossum.
You can read more book reviews or buy Vera Magpie by Laura Solomon at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Vera Magpie by Laura Solomon at Amazon.com.
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