This is the first book by B P Walter that I've read, and I'm looking forward to more. A gripping psychological thriller, it weaves the stories of Julianne and Holly into a roller-coaster read that hooked me from the start. Here's a taster:
2019: Julianne is preparing a family dinner when her son comes to her and says he’s found something on his iPad. Something so terrible, it will turn Julianne’s world into a nightmare and make her question everything about her marriage and what type of man her husband is or is pretending to be.
1990: Holly is a fresher student at Oxford University. Out of her depth and nervous about her surroundings, she falls into an uneasy friendship with a group of older students from the upper echelons of society and begins to develop feelings for one in particular. He’s confident, quiet, attractive and seems to like her too. But as the year progresses, her friends’ behaviour grows steadily more disconcerting and Holly begins to realise she might just be a disposable pawn in a very sinister game.
A devastating secret has simmered beneath the surface for over twenty-five years. Now it’s time to discover the truth. But what if you’re afraid of what you might find?
Two women, two timelines, one awful truth...
First, let's deal with the characters. None of them are particularly likable, in my opinion. Julianne has a tendency to bury her head in the proverbial sand when it comes to her husband. James, Ernest, Peter and Ally are self-absorbed and cruel. Holly is unbelievably naive and at times an inverted snob.
None of this matters; I'm not the kind of reader who needs to like characters in a novel, but they do need to interest me. And they did. When would the scales fall from Julianne's eyes? Why can't Holly see how warped her friends are? Is James really that easily led by Ernest?
Other downsides to the characters? I wish the author had developed Diane, Julianne's mother, more. B P Walter does a great job of portraying this narcissistic woman and how she undermines her daughter, so i assumed this was part of a character arc/subplot that would develop as the novel progressed. I was wrong - Diane doesn't appear again. A shame, as her acerbic brand of commentary used as the novel reaches its climax would have, in my opinion, added to the tension. As it stands, she appears to contribute nothing to the plot.
As for Holly, she vacillates between uptight virginity and sexual abandon in a way that fails to convince. One moment she's a prudish bookworm, the next she's spying on her friends' sex lives. That scene where she hides in a wardrobe? Really?
I also rolled my eyes at the way the wealthy characters are portrayed as selfish and uncaring individuals who use their social status to procure their twisted desires with no regard for others. It's stereotypical thinking - 'All rich people are bastards!' - and says more, in my view, about the holders of such opinions than wealthy people themselves.
Other loose ends and anomalies
Let's move on and examine the plot. Some parts are hard to believe - would James really have saved those documents in the family Dropbox account, even by accident? However tired he might be, its hard to imagine him making such a catastrophic error. Also, the way his character arc ends is weak and far too convenient, letting him off the hook for his crimes.
The ending almost calls for a sequel and doesn't answer the question of whether the other members of James's cabbal get their comeuppance. From what we're told, it could go either way, but we never get to find out. The reader is left hanging, which makes for a less than satisfactory finale.
So would I recommend 'A Version of the Truth'?
You might be thinking that I disliked this novel. I didn't. 'A Version of the Truth' drew me in from the first chapter. It's soon obvious that Julianne's husband harbours a dark side; the mystery lies in the fine details and how James manages to conceal his depravities for so long. I enjoyed the way the stories of Julianne and Holly are interwoven along with the different timelines - that worked well. A warning - this book is not for the faint of heart. It examines rape, people-trafficking, abuses of power, dysfunctional families and class envy. Some readers may find the sexual scenes uncomfortable reading. The novel is dark, twisty and intriguing, despite its flaws. You can check it out via this link: A Version of the Truth.
Have you read 'A Version of the Truth'?
Did you like it, love it, hate it, find it a bit 'meh'? Leave a comment and let me know!
'The Abattoir of Dreams' is thriller writer Mark Tilbury’s third novel, and as I’m a fan of the first two, reading this one was a must! Unlike Mark’s other books, 'The Revelation Room' and 'The Eyes of the Accused', it's a standalone offering and not part of the Ben Whittle investigation series. Instead, in 'The Abattoir of Dreams' Mark takes his writing down a supernatural route, blending a paranormal theme with thriller material, a dash of time travel and dollops of humour. A unique and intriguing concept! Here’s a taster:
Michael Tate has not had an easy life. With his father in prison, and his mother dead, Michael was sent to Woodside Children’s Home.
Now an adult, Michael wakes up from a coma in hospital suffering from amnesia and paralysis. Confused and terrified, he is charged with the fatal stabbing of his girlfriend, Becky. He also learns he attempted to end his own life.
Detective Inspector John Carver is determined that Michael is sent to prison. With no way of defending himself, Michael is left in his hospital bed awaiting transfer to remand. But then strange things begin to happen and his childhood comes back to haunt him. Can Michael ever escape the past? Will he ever discover the truth about Becky’s murder? And why is DI Carver so eager to make him suffer?
How does Mark Tilbury blend humour and horror so well?
Sounds intriguing, doesn't it? Much of the action takes place in the 1970s, at a government-run children’s home. In recent years we’ve seen the unearthing of many terrible abuse cases that happened at such places, and this theme is examined in depth in 'The Abattoir of Dreams'.
The plot delves into many dark concepts, such as cruelty to children, corruption and murder and yet Mark throws in splashes of humour along the way. This is what has struck me before with his writing, and what makes him stand out – I read his books and think, ‘how the hell does he do that?’ You wouldn’t think horror and humour make good bedfellows, yet they do in Mark’s capable hands. He manages it with a succession of witty asides, sarcastic comments and other gems, often in the head of Michael Tate, the protagonist.
Talking of characters, what a fine cast we have!
There are many dark souls in this book: Michael’s father, Kraft and Malloy at Woodside, and none more dogged in his pursuit of Michael than D I John Carver, the police officer determined to bring Michael to justice. Alongside them are many sympathetic characters, though: Michael’s mother, her friend Rachel and the kindly vicar, Paul Brady. The friendship between the younger Michael and damaged fellow Woodside resident Liam is both tender and touching, and lightens the part of the story that deals with terrible things. And then there’s Michael himself. Paralysed, his memory faulty, he’s vulnerable to the machinations of D I Carver, and the reader feels for his plight, especially once his tragic story begins to be revealed. He needs to confront his past, but how can he when he doesn’t remember it? Michael has friends, however, and not all of them belong to this world. As a ghostly presence transports him back in time, the truth is gradually revealed, and Michael learns what really happened to Becky.
Want to know more? Check out these links:
Combining writing with travel - is it possible?
Those who know me well are familiar with my wanderlust! I've been passionate about solo travel for decades now and I've been fortunate to have explored many wonderful countries. For a long time it's been my ambition to combine travel with writing and become, at least for a while, a nomadic novelist. All I need to work is a computer and a decent internet connection, so the idea seemed very achievable. In addition, there were several trips I longed to get under my belt, and most of them were west of the UK, in the Americas. Combined with the nagging feeling I was in somewhat of a rut in Bristol, it wasn't a hard decision to arrange another overseas jaunt. This time I liked the notion of travelling without a set return date. I bought a one-way ticket to Canada to enable me to fly to Toronto in April 2017, with some vague plans as to where to visit after French Canada, which I'd missed on my last trip to the country back in 1990. I ending up spending a couple of months in Canada before I crossed the border into the USA, where I had friends with whom I wanted to reconnect.
In America I visited Vermont, then Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, before making my way to Las Vegas, where I hired a car and went touring for a week. My journey included the wonders of Monument Valley, Zion National Park and other beautiful places before I finished up in San Diego. Next came Mexico, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama. Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina.
Towards the end of my trip I seized the chance to travel to the Falklands, South Georgia and the incredible White Continent, Antarctica. WOW!!! What a fantastic experience. The wildlife on South Georgia was awe inspiring - beaches packed full of seals and penguins, accompanied by some very strong fishy odours! As for Antarctica, a friend told me it's like being in a different world, and she was right. The silence, the ice, the remote location… I'd love to return some day and explore further.
So how hard was it to travel and write at the same time?
My main fear before I set off was whether I'd be able to combine travelling and writing. My previous trips had usually been done at a fast pace, with lots of planes, trains and buses involved - hardly conducive to the quiet writing environment I prefer! I found it hard to write the first draft of 'His Kidnapper's Shoes' while travelling in 2010-11, and I only completed the book by parking my butt in the gorgeous Bolivian city of Sucre and not leaving until I'd finished. Hence my concern. How would I manage all the sight-seeing I'd want to do while writing my novels? As well as maintaining the rest of my business - marketing, finance, etc?
It turns out I needn't have worried. I managed to maintain a full work schedule and still got to visit the sights I want to see. Most times I would work during the morning and get out and about during the afternoon and evenings. I also tried to arrange travel and sight-seeing whenever possible at the weekends. It all worked out really well and my schedule left me plenty of time left to practise yoga, read and socialise. What helped was not having a set itinerary; there was nowhere I needed to be at any particular time. From what I understand, this way of working is becoming more common, with more and more people choosing to become digital nomads. and why not? If your work is internet-based, such as web design or life coaching, then you can earn money wherever you are in the world. You're not location-dependent for your income. It's immensely freeing and if, like me, you love travelling, it's the ideal solution. As I mentioned earlier, I'd become aware I was deep in a rut in Bristol, and needed to break out. It felt right to be backpacking again, with everything I needed in a couple of bags, moving from one wonderful place to another, doing as I pleased. Since my return from that trip, which lasted ten months, I've moved to Newcastle-upon-Tyne and been busy with other things, but I plan to continue combining travel and writing in the future. Who knows, maybe I'll inspire some of my readers to become digital nomads! See you in Rio, perhaps!
I still feel very much like a newbie when it comes to writing, even though I've been a full-time novelist for over five years, with seven published novels, a novella and a non-fiction book. I remember how I wanted to write a novel but hadn't a clue how to start. Part of my hesitation was down to not knowing any other novelists. If I'd had an example of success to inspire me, perhaps I'd have embarked on my writing adventure sooner.
As it is, I'm always looking for ways to encourage would-be novelists. That's why I've compiled a free book as a companion to 'Write Your Novel! From Getting Started to First Draft'. This one is called 'Write Your Novel! Success Stories from Published Authors', and it's packed full of advice and inspiration. Contributors include British best-selling horror writer Iain Rob Wright and American novelist Robert Bidinotto. Read the stories in the book, absorb the wise words contained therein, and I hope you'll be inspired to continue your writing journey. The book is only available from this website and is available in kindle (.mobi), ePub and PDF formats via the image or the button below.