Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT @CathyRy reviews #crimefiction Brand New Friend by @k8vane

Today’s team review is from Cathy, she blogs here http://betweenthelinesbookblog.com

#RBRT Review Team

Cathy has been reading Brand New Friend by Kate Vane

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BBC journalist/reporter Paolo Bennet was recording a report when his phone rang. The caller was Mark, an old friend from his student days, with an urgent appeal for him to come to Leeds. Scenting a story and curious, Paolo agrees. On the train journey north Paolo scours the internet for anything he can find out about Mark. He wants to find out the truth—about Mark, his handler and about who caused a fire and unexplained death on campus back in the 80s. Paolo knew Mark Benson as an animal rights activist but he has now been exposed as undercover policeman Mark Swift. Paolo is conflicted after learning the truth about Mark and is unsure about his one time friend’s motives. Nevertheless, he travels to Leeds and meets Mark, only to learn Mark’s former police handler, Sid, has been murdered.

‘Paolo had so many questions he didn’t know where to start. On the train he had started to make notes, like he was preparing for an interview, structuring questions to establish a narrative arc — the political context, how Mark got involved, why he didn’t go back.

What it felt like to betray his friends.’

The narrative alternates between Paolo’s time at university and the present and it wasn’t quite what I was expecting and that threw me a bit. I’d assumed it would be primarily a murder mystery, but that aspect was very much in the background. The story’s main focus is the characters, their pasts and present and how everything connects. That made it quite a slow starter for me and I found some of the passages were a little too dialogue heavy. Once I’d changed mindset from a murder mystery to a character driven story I was able to get into it more.

Paolo has obvious doubts about someone who had influenced him so much as a young man but the promise of a story spurs him on to chase leads and look up his old university friends. Could Mark have killed Sid? If so, why? Paolo knows now Mark is a liar but does he really believe Mark could be a killer. And what, if anything, has any of this to do with what happened on campus.

It was interesting to witness the perceptively described and played out dynamics between the diverse group of students. How the characters and their attitudes and principles, seemingly all but Mark’s, had changed in the years between university and present day. And as it happens, Mark wasn’t the only one who was sparing with the truth. Paolo started life as the more ordinary Paul Bennett. Some serious issues were tackled in the story, including animal testing and fracking, without being prejudicial either way. I would have enjoyed a little more exploration into the murder case but that’s just my personal preference. What makes this stand out are the extremely good character studies.

Book description

Friend. Liar. Killer?

BBC foreign correspondent Paolo Bennett is exiled to a London desk – and the Breakfast sofa – when he gets a call from Mark, a friend from university in eighties Leeds. Paolo knew Mark as a dedicated animal rights activist but now a news blog has exposed him as an undercover police officer. Then Mark’s former police handler is murdered.

Paolo was never a committed campaigner. He was more interested in women, bands and dreaming of a life abroad. Now he wonders if Mark’s exposure and his handler’s murder might be linked to an unexplained death on campus back when they were friends. What did he miss?

Paolo wants the truth – and the story. He chases up new leads and old friends. From benefit gigs and peace protests, to Whatsapp groups and mocktail bars, the world has changed, but Mark still seems the same.

Is Mark the spy who never went back – who liked his undercover life better than his own? Or is he lying now? Is Paolo’s friend a murderer?

About the author

I’m an author of (mostly) crime and suspense, living in Devon.

My crime novel, Brand New Friend, will be published on 5 June 2018.

I have written for BBC drama Doctors and have had short stories and articles published in various publications and anthologies, including Mslexia and Scotland on Sunday.

I mainly read crime and literary fiction with some non-fiction and am a recent convert to audiobooks.

Kate Vane

Goodreads | AmazonUK | AmazonUS | Twitter

 

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #crimefiction Brand New Friend by Kate Vane @k8vane

Today’s team review is from Terry, she blogs here http://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading BRAND NEW FRIEND by Kate Vane

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4 out of 5 stars

The basic plot: Paolo is a BBC journalist, who gets a call from Mark, an old friend from university days, when they were fellow animal rights activists. Then a newspaper report exposes Mark as an undercover police officer, and his former ‘handler’ is murdered.  Paolo is wrenched away from his affluent life, with the house in Suffolk, successful wife and two children, back to his days at Leeds University, and the friends he knew at the time.  Who exposed Mark?  Who was really responsible for an on-campus fire back in the 1980s, in which a security officer died?  Paolo soon discovers that there is more going on than originally met his journalistic eye…

This book was a slow starter for me, but by about 20% I started to get more into it, and by half way through I was enjoying it a lot, and looking forward to getting back to it.  The story dots back and forth in equal measure between the murder case and Paolo’s life back in what I assume to be around 1984; gradually, the two stories merge.  I found the murder/conspiracy plot and present day half of the book only moderately interesting, but loved the sections set in the old days ~ the desperate-to-be-hip-and-relevant characters and the atmosphere of the time were so real.  The wannabe cool guy Paolo, terminally bored Isabel, spiky, chip-on-her-shoulder Claire and determinedly zany ‘Ratman’ are so well drawn, as was their dismissal of football-and-a-pint boy Graham, the odd man out.  I loved how aspirational they all were, though over the years their aspirations changed ~ from the ‘making a difference’ cliché and being seen as authentic and academically inspired despite having been drunk/stoned/speeding/in bed with a stranger until 4 am the night before, to succeeding in the capitalist society they once claimed to despise.

What kept me reading was the astute observations, and the slow unfolding of the changing dynamic between the friends – I actually would have been happy with just this as a novel, with maybe just the security officer murder aspect; Ms Vane’s understanding of her characters is good enough to carry a less sensational plot.  Only two aspects grated a tiny bit ~ in the 1980s Claire is meant to be a working class girl from Durham, but she talks like a middle class girl from the south; there is no trace of the North East in any of her dialogue.  Also, they all refer to ‘uni’ instead of ‘university’ ~ aside from the fact that it’s ghastly, I am not sure people had started doing so in the early-mid 1980s.  I believe it originated from Aussie soap operas; the first time I heard it was around 1989.

To sum up, I’d give 3* to the ‘main’ story which, for me, had too many long conversations with people explaining to each other why things happened and how they found them out, but 4.5* with some 5* moments to the whole 1980s element ~ thus, I shall round up at 4*.   I didn’t love it all but I liked it (some parts very much), and it’s definitely worth a read.  Especially if you were a student in the 1980s, I should think.

Book description

Friend. Liar. Killer?

BBC foreign correspondent Paolo Bennett is exiled to a London desk – and the Breakfast sofa – when he gets a call from Mark, a friend from university in eighties Leeds. Paolo knew Mark as a dedicated animal rights activist but now a news blog has exposed him as an undercover police officer. Then Mark’s former police handler is murdered.

Paolo was never a committed campaigner. He was more interested in women, bands and dreaming of a life abroad. Now he wonders if Mark’s exposure and his handler’s murder might be linked to an unexplained death on campus back when they were friends. What did he miss?

Paolo wants the truth – and the story. He chases up new leads and old friends. From benefit gigs and peace protests, to Whatsapp groups and mocktail bars, the world has changed, but Mark still seems the same.

Is Mark the spy who never went back – who liked his undercover life better than his own? Or is he lying now? Is Paolo’s friend a murderer?

About the author

I’m an author of (mostly) crime and suspense, living in Devon.

My crime novel, Brand New Friend, will be published on 5 June 2018.

I have written for BBC drama Doctors and have had short stories and articles published in various publications and anthologies, including Mslexia and Scotland on Sunday.

I mainly read crime and literary fiction with some non-fiction and am a recent convert to audiobooks.

Kate Vane

Goodreads | AmazonUK | AmazonUS | Twitter