Publisher: Viper Books
Publication Date: 27th February 2020
I was lucky enough to receive a bumper pack of proofs from the new Serpents Tail imprint Viper Books (Thank you Miranda!) and A Famished Heart was the one I was most drawn to. It was one of those books that I had to restrain myself from picking up too soon!
I patiently waited until new year rolled around and then it felt like the right time to pick it up. I read it within two days and it was an absolute belter.
The book opens in Dublin in the 1980’s with the grim discovery of two middle aged sisters dead in their own home. The local priest Father Timoney, is called by the two women’s niece Maddy when she finds that they are not answering the door and are not contactable, nor have they been for a long time. Father Timoney on entering the property finds Berenice, the oldest sister, dead in her arm chair, essentially looking like a skeleton. The younger sister Rosaleen is then discovered dead, curled up under her own bed in much the same emaciated state as her older sister.
The police are notified and it quickly becomes apparent that the sisters have in fact starved themselves to death. But what had prompted them to act in this way? Who’s idea was it to die in such a horrifically painful and long drawn out way? and was anyone else aware of what the sisters had planned?
To certain members of the Gardai it is an open and shut case of suicide, albeit a very unusual case. However to Detective Vincent Swan there is more to the case than initially meets the eye and he is determined to find out what has been going on.
The sisters young sister Francesca returns home from the US where she moved some decades prior to pursue a career in theatre. She finds herself in the middle of the case not really knowing herself what could have happened to her sisters. She is tasked with sorting out affairs amidst the fractured remains of her family and trying to take young Maddy under her wing.
There is a strong religious theme running through the book with the dead sisters heavy involvement with the local church and their staunch religious beliefs. Father Timoney, the local priest plays a huge part in the investigation and feels somewhat guilty that this grim discovery is tarnishing his church having recently taken over there.
This book is not just a crime thriller, for me it was more a family tale and a character study. Each of the characters are well formed and vital. Francesca is a confident and strong woman who is not afraid to speak her mind and is more than used to outside attention. Father Timoney is somewhat hapless (constantly putting his back out!) and bumbles along trying to do his best under the judging gaze of his superiors (and housekeeper!).
If you’re looking for a high octane thriller, this book is certainly not that but in my opinion is equally as gripping and compelling. Fully formed and complex characters are the mainstay of this mystery and you really do find yourself propelled forward in the search for answers. We get to learn about the background and secrets of these characters, through not only their back story which is fed to us in increments but their nuanced interactions with each other.
This was just my kind of novel. Not overstated and horrifyingly believable. I would thoroughly recommend it! Nicola White is certainly one to watch!
Thank you so much to Miranda and huge congratulations to Viper Books on their first published book!
See you soon
Amanda – Bookish Chat xxx