BOOK BITES | Rachel Abbott, Clare Clark, Samantha Downing

A layered psychological thriller, a novel based on a real-life art scandal and a creepy mystery about a dysfunctional married couple - here's what we read this week

19 May 2019 - 00:00
'And So It Begins', 'In the Full Light of the Sun', 'My Lovely Wife'.
'And So It Begins', 'In the Full Light of the Sun', 'My Lovely Wife'.
Image: Supplied

Published in the Sunday Times: 19/05/2019

And So It Begins ****
Rachel Abbott, Black Dog Publishing, R185

"So this is how it ends. It is clear to me now: one of us has to die." From the first line of this psychological thriller, Rachel Abbott sets the scene, but what precipitated the killing of famous photographer Marcus North by his girlfriend Evie remains a mystery until the end. Is it murder or self-defence? The layered plot is unpredictable, hinting at human frailties in snappy dialogue, but not giving away too much as the characters in a small coastal town take shape. The conniving girlfriend and the victim's sister, at the heart of the plot, do not evoke much empathy, but policewoman Stephanie King and their in-common friend Aminah bring warmth into the storms that swirl around them. This is the first time the self-published author, whose bestselling series featuring Tom Douglas have sold millions, has teamed up with a publisher. Claire Keeton

In the Full Light of the Sun ***
Clare Clark, Little Brown, R295

Berlin, 1923. Charismatic, yet shrewd art dealer Matthias Rachmann enters the life of established art connoisseur, Julius. Author Clare Clark uses Julius's narrative to pull the reader into his turbulent life in the years between the World Wars. Enter Emmeline, an ambitious art student who is either manipulative or being manipulated. She and Julius part, only for Frank, a Jewish lawyer, to come into her orbit. Together they are swept into one of the greatest art scandals of all time. Based on a true story about a hidden cache of early "Van Goghs", this tale is interesting, although some sections are weighted down with extraneous characters, interrupting the flow. Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie 

My Lovely Wife ****
Samantha Downing, Michael Joseph, R290

It's flippin' creepy - a husband and wife planning murders to fulfil their sexual needs. Samantha Downing takes us into the mind of the unnamed husband through first-person narration, making the reader complicit as we live in their dysfunctional family. We witness as the husband hunts the next victim, posing as a deaf man named Tobias. Wife Millicent waits at home to be given the go-ahead. What the husband doesn't know is that she did not kill one of their victims immediately (as was their plan), but tortured the woman for an entire year. This is all apparently to frame escaped serial killer Owen Oliver Riley. The community in their larney suburb in Florida is shaken by these events and so are their kids, Jenna and Rory, who are absorbing the gory news. It seems that Millicent is hiding things from her husband he's on a mission to find out what. The narration is prosaic at times, but the increasing tension makes up for it. And the end is satisfying. Jennifer Platt @Jenniferdplatt