Way back in the olden days when the words Covid, furlough and lateral-flow didn’t form part of our daily vocabulary, authors went out on the road and saw their readers. They even talked to them and signed books and generally felt connected. As the rules around the pandemic have relaxed, this can happen again.
The last time I posted was back in July, and I mentioned then that I’d gone to a couple of events put on by a (relatively) local book shop in February of last year (you can read that post here). One of those focused on two authors, Ann Cleeves and Chris Ewan. Cleeves, of course, is well known for the series that spawned the TV shows Vera and Shetland. Ewan has a lower profile, but I have at least read one of his books. I have nothing against Cleeves; her books just haven’t been on my radar.
All that said, I thoroughly enjoyed the interview that took place, and found Ann Cleeves a very engaging speaker. When the TBR allows, I’d be more than happy to read one of her books. The new character she was introducing with her – then – latest book sounded just as appealing as Vera Stanhope and Jimmy Perez. It’s good to see an author not settling for the same thing over and over.
Although the interview included Chris Ewan, it did nevertheless seem as if he was along as the support act. Which was a shame because, having read Safe House a few years ago, he was the main reason I was there. I was curious to see what he was writing now, and did wonder if it’d inspire me to return to his older works.
Inevitably, when the interviews were over, it was time to purchase books and get them signed. I did get one each of the Vera and Shetland books, but they weren’t for me. My mum’s a big fan of the TV series Vera – being a Geordie meant she already had an affinity for the setting – so I asked Ann to sign one for her. My partner is a fan of both TV series, so I opted for a Shetland book for her and Ann was happy to oblige on that front too. It didn’t take away from the embarrassment I felt at not showing a personal interest, but she was very gracious.
Chris Ewan’s new book was A Window Breaks, and I spent a little longer with him as he signed a copy for me and we talked books. I went home that night a very satisfied man, and looking forward to reading Chris’s book before long. And then Covid struck.
At the time, I was spending a lot of time going back and forth between my home on the edge of Sherwood Forest, and my partner’s home in Berkshire. Guess where I was when the first lockdown came in.
So, many months passed before I was able to return home to where my accumulated paperbacks were. And, having acquired several from various events I’d been to in the 6-8 months preceding lockdown, there were quite a few to get through. Frankly, because I also read on my Kindle, there still are. From the blurb, I got the impression A Window Breaks would be a fast-paced thriller, which is the kind of thing I love to immerse myself in, so it wasn’t too long before it rose to the top of the pile.
My recollections about Safe House are, if I’m honest, a little vague. I remember it took place on the Isle of Man; I remember it being pacy; and I remember tension. Other than that, it hasn’t stayed with me. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Like movies, books don’t always need to touch your soul – you just need to be entertained.
So, was A Window Breaks any different?
It didn’t take place on the Isle of Man, but it was pacy and there was a lot of tension. The book engaged me from the off and kept me hooked all the way through. When you consider that the core of the action takes place over a matter of hours, I did wonder how Ewan would spin it out for 450+ pages. Surely it was going to drag in places? Not a bit of it. As the action progresses, the plot twists and turns, taking us in a direction I wasn’t expecting. Ironically, the outcome is one I’ve seen before in different guises, but the author steered far enough away from it that it came as a surprise when we got there.
I’ve already referred to movies, and this did have a cinematic feel to it. Much as a book works well on its own, there are some that would convert well to film, and this is one of them.
It isn’t a park your brain kind of novel, but it won’t change your life either. What it will do is entertain. And if that’s all a book achieves, then it’s done well as far as I’m concerned.
If you haven’t yet read this book and my words here have tempted you to get a copy yourself, I’d strongly recommend getting down to your local independent bookshop. These are becoming fewer all the time, so they need our support. If there isn’t one handy or, like me, you are a complete Kindle convert, click on either of the following links:
If you’re curious as to why I’m suggesting Hive for the paperback, you can read my post on the subject here.