A fanatical book reader, Kirstie has works hard to fit the ‘evil day job’ of Financial regulation around her passion of writing, promoting writers of all genres and encouraging more people to read books. Kirstie is the News and Events Co-ordinator for Shots.
Tarnished is the third novel by Julia Crouch and one that lives up to the expectations of anyone who has read her previous books; Cuckoo and Every Vow You Break. Tarnished centres around the unlikely heroine of Peg; an unsophisticated lesbian librarian with major issues. Brought up in a small seaside town by her paternal grandmother, Doll, and morbidly obese disabled, Aunty Jean, after the death of her mother and disappearance of her father.
As Doll spirals into Dementia Peg does her best to care for her and Aunty Jean when she can now she is living in London, but as Doll gets worse she has to make some hard long term decisions. This leads to her looking harder into her past and trying to understand the flashbacks she has of her childhood. Skeletons start coming out of the closet and the need to find out more and more pushes her to the limit – but does she really want the answers and are some things best left unknown?
I’ve been a fan of Julia Crouch since her first novel Cuckoo and awaited the next, wondering if it can possibly be as good and will it leave me disappointed? That has not happened and I can honestly say that Tarnished will be on my top ten best books of this year; despite the fact it’s only March. The story is full of suspense and slowly opens up like the unfolding of complex origami through a series of flashbacks entwined with the present day. Each character is vivid in their realism their flaws being central to the tale, which gives them both believability and empathy – whether they are likeable or not. Added together with a complexity in the plotting that weaves so many threads together effortlessly, pulling you closer and closer to a stunning climax with an ending that leaves you thinking, you have a book that you just have to keep turning the pages of.
Whilst Julia is a master of taking something simple and slowly making it unravel twisting it with suspense and the peculiarity of human nature, every book is different. There is no following of a formula, but originality each time which is refreshing. Tarnished should be on everyone’s reading list this year in my opinion.