Bloody Women by Helen Fitzgerald

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Bloody Women by Helen Fitzgerald

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Karen Inskip-Hayward
Reviewed by Karen Inskip-Hayward
Summary: An interesting and different novel that holds your interest throughout.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 240 Date: October 2009
Publisher: Polygon
ISBN: 978-1846971334

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Before reading Bloody Women, I hadn't heard of the author Helen Fitzgerald and by the title and blurb, I expected a standard crime-thriller novel. But early on, I realised this wasn't the case. The novel was a kind of black comedy and written with wit and humour, despite the theme of murder and violence.

We are straight into the action, with Catriona 'Cat' Marsden identifying the severed penis of her ex-boyfriend. This is shocking, but the humour comes through and Cat is very likeable. The reader wants to follow her story and discover more about what has happened.

Three of Cat's ex-boyfriends are found dead and Cat is accused of murder, being placed in Cambusvale Prison in Scotland. Meanwhile, author Janet Edgely has written a biography of Cat, delivering the copy of the manuscript to her prison cell. But as she reads Cat Marsden – Portrait of a Serial Monogamist she realises Janet has twisted her words – in a way common to many journalists looking for a sensational headline – and realises she might find her own clues as to what really happened.

It is hard to review this book without giving away too much, as every few pages, there seems to be some revelation or clue and the reader's own theories about the murderer will change throughout. I enjoyed this aspect of the novel, getting involved and playing along, trying to decide who was guilty and what their motives could have been.

The characters are well-developed throughout. As well as Cat herself, we meet her mother Irene, her friend Anna, her current fiancé Joe and his family in Italy. We also learn more about her previous relationships with the three men who were killed.

The book is written in an intelligent way, but with a chatty style that is very readable. I found the novel compelling and read the whole thing in a couple of days. It's split into three parts, so we get to see the events through the eyes of several characters, though mainly from Catriona's viewpoint. It's also exciting, especially the last third, which does follow more of the usual thriller style, as the reader turns the pages quicker and quicker, to find out what is going to happen.

All the characters are believable, and I love the way the author describes people in such a way that a few idiosyncratic details say so much about the person. The little bits of information about their sex lives is revealing too – not in a titillating way, but in a way that says a lot about their character and their faults. As a woman, I felt I could sympathise with Cat and her experiences too, as we have all met men who let us down in some way and don't deliver their promises.

So this novel has it all – thriller, drama, whodunit, comedy, great characters and good humour. There is sex and violence, but nothing gratuitous. This may well be more of a woman's novel than a man's (How many men would like to read about a killer who severs penises?!), but any age from sixteen or so upwards. I loved it and will definitely be looking out for more of Helen Fitzgerald's work.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag. We also have a review of My Last Confession by Helen Fitzgerald.

If this book appeals then you might also like to try The Dirty Secrets Club by Meg Gardiner.

Booklists.jpg Bloody Women by Helen Fitzgerald is in the Bookbag's Christmas Gift Recommendations 2009.

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