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Monday 11 March 2019

‘The Last Thing She Told Me’ by Linda Green

Published by Quercus,
7 March 2019.
ISBN: 978-1-78648-373-7 (PB)

I think it was the babies that did it. There I was, book open on my lap, tissue box beside me, floods of tears pouring down my face. And me a hardened old hack; would you credit it?

It really isn't often that any book provokes that level of emotion in me (apart from a few that make me hurl them against the wall, of course), but The Last Thing She Told Me really did reduce me to tears. There they were, this lovely family, embroiled in a nightmare situation stretching back through three generations and still wrecking lives and causing misery.

It starts at a deathbed, which is sad enough, but that really is only the start. Nicola is with her 90-year-old grandmother when she dies, and the old lady's poignant last words are, 'Look after my babies for me.'

And what a topical can of worms is opened by those words. Nicola is convinced that her grandmother was asking her to do something important, but her mother refuses to discuss it, though she clearly knows more than she is willing to say. Going through her gran's things in an attempt to throw some light on the mystery, Nicola thinks she has identified a cousin she didn't know existed.

And then her own small daughter finds a tiny bone buried in the garden.

The multi-layered plot of this emotional story bears all the hallmarks of an author who knows exactly what she's doing; letters and flashbacks interleaved with the main narrative create tensions and misdirection’s, and we learn what's going on when Nicola does, so there's plenty of suspense. The West Yorkshire setting, too, with its down-to-earth inhabitants and small towns cheek by jowl with bleak countryside, comes across loud and clear.

But it's the characters who give it substance and bring it to life in a way few novelists achieve. By the end I felt I knew the family at the centre of it all better than my own neighbours. James, Nicola's husband, is the kind of partner most women dream of, but even he isn't perfect. The children, eight-year-old Maisie and Ruby, just turned thirteen, are instantly recognizable to anyone with daughters. Irene, Nicola's mother is damaged by life and crippled by shame. And John, the long-lost 'cousin' – well, you'll have to read it and find out for yourself.

I strongly recommend you do exactly that. And if you're not rooting for the family by the time your halfway through, and mopping tears away before the end, I'll be very surprised indeed.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Linda Green was born in North London in 1970 and brought up in Hertfordshire At sixteen she embarked on 'A' levels and a journalism course at De Havilland College, Hertfordshire. She joined her local newspaper, the Enfield Gazette, as a trainee reporter at eighteen. During a ten-year career in regional journalism She worked as a reporter on the Birmingham Daily News, news editor on the Birmingham Metro News and Chief Feature Writer on the Coventry Evening Telegraph, winning Highly Commended in the Feature Writer of the Year category of the 1997 Press Gazette Regional Press Awards. Although she loved working on regional newspapers by 1998 her features were getting too long and the urge to write a novel had become too great so she left her staff job to write her first novel and work as a freelance journalist. She has written for The Guardian, The Independent on Sunday, The Times Educational Supplement, The Big Issue, Wanderlust and Community Care Magazine. She found the writing and working from home a very solitary process so also worked as co-ordinator of the Birmingham Bureau of Children's Express (a national charity which ran a learning through journalism programme for young people) and taught journalism to schoolchildren for the National Academy of Writing. After she moved north in 2001 she qualified as an adult education tutor and taught creative writing classes to students aged between 18 and 82 for the Workers Educational Association across Calderdale, West Yorkshire. After more than a hundred rejections from agents for her first novel she  finally got an agent but still couldn't get a publisher. She started work on her second novel I Did A Bad Thing in 2003 and finally obtained a two-book deal with Headline Review in 2006. Massive sigh of relief! After six years with Headline She left to join Quercus in 2011. While My Eyes Were Closed was published in ebook in January 2016 and paperback in May 2016.  The Last Thing She Told Me is her latest book.  Linda Green lives in a village near Halifax, West Yorkshire. She is married to Ian Hodgson, a sports photographer for a national newspaper.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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