An elderly resident of an inner-city tower block is brutally attacked and left for dead. Her neighbours, a pregnant alcoholic, a vulnerable youth, a failed actress and a cameraman with a dark secret, are thrown together in their search for answers. Misfits and loners, they are forced to confront uncomfortable realities about themselves and each other, as their investigation leads them towards the shocking finale.
Page Count: 202 (Kindle Edition), 288 (Paperback Edition)
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ (actually, after a mental analysis, I’ve decided to give it 3.5 stars because it was better than 3, but not enough for 4, but I rounded it down to 3)
I would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for a free, electronic ARC of this novel received in exchange for an honest review!
Yeah, I love me a book with the word crime in the title, so of course, the title of this book spoke to me before the actual synopsis did. So as soon as I managed to get it, I started reading it without too many clues of what is going to happen, because sometimes I choose books after an elaborate synopsis analysis and other times the book catches my eye and I read it without caring much about what it is, I read it just because it has a cool name or a pretty cover.
Giving the fact that it was Mystery & Thriller Week on Goodreads I concluded that reading this book is a fabulous idea (I get loads of fabulous ideas, folks, it is not out of the ordinary! – This is me
being modest bragging.), because a) it is so new that it feels like I am holding a fetus and b) my timing with this book was on fleek.
The Lonely Hearts Crime Club by Tanya Bullock is nothing more than the title says and, speaking of which, this is such a spot-on title. It might be a tad long, but it contains the quintessence of the whole thing. Bonus points from me to that!
It begins in an unexpected way, and when I say unexpected, I say that the author places us in front of the novel’s intrigue like we are supposed to already be prepared somehow, without even a warning (Hey, lady, watch out, there is going to be a murder in the first sentence of the book, don’t panic, you’ll get through!). I continued reading, being very confused about what happened. And I read and read and read until I finally got comfortable with the story and somehow I understood that the book is going to be narrated through four points of view.
There are four main characters in this tale and, obviously, each has a point of view:
- Ella, an ex-alcoholic soon-to-be mum who wants to start another life for her and her baby and recently moved in a tower block on the 19th floor, but she’s still haunted by her ghosts of the past;
- Birdie, a fifty-two-year-old failed alcoholic actress whose daughter is too busy being a successful businesswoman and believing her husband’s absurdities to even try to care for her mother;
- Ethan, a weird, but handsome wedding filmmaker who has some serious socialisation malfunctions and a dark secret piggy-riding his back;
- William, a socially-awkward young man who just moved in in order to live on his on and be his own man, but his condition keeps getting him into trouble (also, he loves looking at people, but more like spying on them).
All those people have two common traits: all four of them live in the same building and also, all four of them are, in their own ways, the outcasts of their own society, being in this way categorized by the author as lonely hearts. And this is true. Each one of them is so lonely and miserable that somehow they managed to attract each other (making a club!).
What is it actually about, you might ask. Well…
It all starts with the attack of the nice old lady from the nineteenth floor, Aggie, who is left to die after being beaten and strangled by a mysterious redheaded man. Ella and William, they both saw the attacker leaving the building, but neither really saw his face. Aggie gets into a coma, while the lovely LHCC members start an investigation on their own. After a few days, Aggie awakes, but her mind is troubled and she says something to Birdie that, at first, sounds like nonsense, but then it just gets to complicate the whole amateur investigation set by the four. From that point on, the situation gets more and more confusing and also dangerous, because, well, they are trying to hunt down an attacker and a possible criminal.
What I can say that I really didn’t like about this book is that it was too focused on presenting the days in the life of the four and it was less focused on the actual thing that was the mysterious crime, at least until a certain point, way past the half of the book.
On the bright side, despite all I have said above, I did like the writing style. Tanya Bullock is a talented describer of circumstances and also, may I add, the witty British language used by her was there and out and about! Well, this is something that I really enjoyed as I myself speak in a British accent and sometimes tend to slang too much. You haven’t a bloody clue how refreshing is the feeling of seeing colloquial British English in a book. The British slang is a-l-i-v-e in contemporary literature. And, surprisingly, it is accessible and very easy to understand (and also deliciously sarcastic, as British colloquialisms should be).
As I might’ve already said, every single member of LHCC has his or her issues. Those issues are not to sleep on, because they reflect reality. Mental health, emotional health, drug and alcohol abuse, violent pasts…all of this show the past life of four loners, survivors of their kind, trying to rise from the ashes and build their future. The manner in which each one of them is described as trying to live with the person they are is very accurate and easy to picture:
„The young man clamped both hands over his eyes, like an infant playing peek-a-boo. The childish gesture filled Ella with pity.”
Tanya Bullock presents to us not one, not two, but four different social issues, trying to make us understand the struggles that come with them and I think this is one major idea in this book and I applaud that. All in all, setting aside the long introduction into the actual crime and the fact that something felt like missing (at least for me), the book did speak some actual social truth. So, either if you’ll want to read it for the mystery part or for the socially-orientated part, it is a good reading that is worth a shot, at least as an encouragement for some future works! And also, make sure you read it until the end because there is a nice twist!
And now, to end my speech in a powerful note, I’d like to insert here the biggest piece of truth from the whole book:
E.R. aka Birdie
„My pride hurts more than my head.”
and I think that is, also, quintessential.