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Book giveaway this week: A Commonplace Killing by Sian Busby

(36 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 23-May-13 10:49:11

This week we have 50 copies of Sian Busby's A Commonplace Killing on offer this week. This gripping murder story reveals the dark truths at the heart of postwar austerity Britain. Sian Busby offers readers of Sarah Waters and Pat Barker 'a perfect whodunnit'. Apply for a free copy and come back to discuss the book on this thread.

Sian Busby died in September 2012 after a long illness. Shortly after she died her husband, BBC business editor Robert Peston, found the final part of the book handwritten in her notebook; he transcribed the final pages so that the book could be published posthumously. As he explains in the foreword to the novel, "I did not know, until reading handwriting as familiar as my own and hearing her voice in my head, that she had finished this exquisite work."

If you would like to make a donation to the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, the leading lung cancer charity, visit

whitewineandchocolate Fri 13-Sep-13 19:02:00

I enjoyed this book. A decent set of characters and a reasonable page turner. Enjoyed the description of post war London, it seemed realistic.

miluth Thu 05-Sep-13 22:16:18

I saved this book for my holiday and I was not disappointed, absolutely loved it from start to finish. Although this wasn't the usually genre I go for, the descriptions of post war London and the characters were so vivid, I was hooked.

countingdown Mon 29-Jul-13 17:19:19

I struggled through the first few chapters of this book, but really couldn't get in to it. I want to like it, just can't! I think I am going to put it to one side for the next while and hopefully pick it up again in a few weeks or months.

WhenDoISleep Tue 16-Jul-13 14:01:35

I have really struggled with this book (which is unusual for me!) and admit to almost skim reading to get to the end. It was really easy to turn to something else when I wanted to read rather than carry on with this.

I have read a few books set in the same era recently and would recommend any of those above this, which is a shame as this book had the potential to be gripping, but just lacked something for me.

Liana83 Mon 15-Jul-13 19:54:25

I have to say, I really didn't enjoy this book which is a shame because I think it had real potential. I enjoyed reading and learning about post war Britain but that's about as positive as I can be :-( I really struggled to motivate myself to pick up and read the book which is something I rarely experience. I liked reading from different characters points of view but I think the story could have been far more gripping given the genre. Sorry! :-/

Kiwirose Mon 08-Jul-13 21:27:35

so I finally got to the end of the book. I just needed two weeks holiday to get me in the mood. Again I agree with a lot of what is said. I did find the book hard to get into but things improved by about chapter 4. The image of London that is created by the words is excellent and I got to like the characters. Although I think that the writing after Sian's death was true to the rest of the book I am a little disappointed by the ending. No romance? No idea of how Lil's family continue. No more about the murderer and why he did it? It didn't feel quite rounded off to me......but I guess real life is like that.

Jossykaye Thu 20-Jun-13 13:11:48

I agree with a lot of what has been said. Enjoying is probably too strong a word, but I'm finding it a really interesting take on the theme of post war. I don't think I've read a book that describes that era so realistically, those of us in later generations always assume that after the war ended, it was all joy and happiness.
Cooper is a likeable if stereotypical detective character. Found it a bit depressing to get to know Lil, already knowing she was a murder victim. I thought she was a really sympathetic character and would like to see her in a different story, getting out of her situation and a happier ending for her!

relaxedgirl Tue 18-Jun-13 14:24:34

I was really looking forward to this book but ultimately I was disappointed. Where the author excels is in creating/describing the atmosphere in London. It was interesting to read a book set not during wartime but in that period when the celebrations were over and disillusionment with the peace was seeping through the London population. However I found the pervasive atmosphere of hopelessness contagious and it left me feeling down. I was not gripped by the story itself, we knew too early on that Dennis was the murderer and Cooper's life and problems were not described in enough detail to make me care. I think the policewoman Tring stood for all that was unattainable for Cooper as a result of the war and as a result of his decision not to join up. This decision left him with a sense of self loathing that would not allow him to take any chance at happiness.

The future for Lilian's family was not even hinted at. It would have been nice to get some feeling of how they would cope with her absence- particularly her mother and her son. Would the sister throw the husband and his mistress out?

Overall top marks for creating atmosphere but less for the actual plot.

BigGapMum Mon 17-Jun-13 21:49:08

I was a bit disappointed with this book. Whilst the characters seemed real enough I felt that the story was a bit weak. The murderer was found, but there was no motive for the murder and no clues of the future of Cooper, Douglas, Walter and Evelyn.

However the author painted a detailed view of the atmosphere of life in post-war London and left me feeling that I knew a bit more about that time.

The introduction by Robert Peston was especially captivating and moving.

Yasmin1 Mon 17-Jun-13 10:57:06

Thank you for sending this book. Loved the book, Sian draws you in very quickly into the story. Loved the way that you can almost imagine what life was like post-war. The characters too were so vivid in my mind that I could almost picture them infront of me. Shame that there was no romance between himself & Tring. Only slight negative was the ending, wanted abit more on the story there, but fully understand why. Great read!!

Clarecoakley Sun 16-Jun-13 17:58:19

Just finished this book, found it difficult to get into. The authors own story kept me going. Really noticed a change of pace before it was highlighted and found it to be a very worthwhile read. Agree on the setting and age of police techniques was really interesting. Overall would recommend highly!

Dianec67 Sat 15-Jun-13 22:43:28

Thank you for sending me this book. I found it hard to put down. The writer is very good at creating the setting and atmosphere of post war London especially its criminal blackmarket side. It was interesting to read a crime book of old fashioned policing instead of the more modern methods of DNA etc.

Liana83 Sat 15-Jun-13 22:14:05

Still trying to get into this book, I will pop back again soon with a little more insight hopefully...

missmarplestmarymead Tue 11-Jun-13 21:41:32

I agree with you, Retillian. each character had a back story that could have been fleshed out a little more.

I hadn't noticed that about the fluid intake and output but now that you've mentioned it......... (confused)

violetwellies Tue 11-Jun-13 21:11:29

The one thing that marred the book for me was the relationship with the old lady.

Lillians mother soaked the towell she lay on then filled the po, yet she wasn't expected to drink half a cup of tea, this ruined the whole book. If she couldn't get this rather basic bit right what about the rest of it?
So I could either believe that Evie was looking after the old lady and making sure her fluid intake equalled her output,or Lillian was and the author forgot to mention it, thus making Lillian a much more likeable character.

This grated throughout the book and is still annoying me two days later.

TotallyEggFlipped Tue 11-Jun-13 07:54:43

It is an intriguing crime novel. I thought it was unusual in style but a compelling read, I have been gripped from the beginning. I find the descriptions of the times well researched and informative. At times I really felt like I could have been in 1940s London.
A great book to recommend. I'll definitely be passing it on to friends.

Kiwirose Mon 10-Jun-13 21:18:57

Am I the only one who is finding this book hard to get into?

tomsmumautism Mon 10-Jun-13 11:06:25

This book has really stayed with me. It's such a compelling description of post war life - no money, queues for everything, no joy. It reminded me of Brighton Rock. Very few redeeming features in the characters and decency no guarantee of happiness. It's a fairly grim read but really interesting and evocative. Not a period of history we hear that much about, the absolute grind of living in late 1940s Britain. I'd recommend it.

TotallyEggFlipped Mon 10-Jun-13 08:54:42

Just marking my place to come back and give a review when I've finished reading the book.

reptilian Sun 09-Jun-13 21:19:52

It was a very easy read, but lacking in depth. The characters were not as 3 dimensional as they could have been; they seemed flat and lifeless. To me it read more like the summary of a script for a TV drama - which I feel would give it more life. I would have liked to have known more about Mum, Evelyn and Douglas. The Cooper character was the only likeable one.
I understand that this was published after she had dies, so the ending was added from her notebooks, but wasn't this the case with Suite Francais by Irene Nemirovsky. SFrancais in comparison makes CK appear bland and lacking.
I appreciate the bleakness of the narrative - but felt not explore in enough detail.

MereMortal Sat 08-Jun-13 13:51:39

This a dark novel full of unfulfilled hopes, deprivation and longing for something better.

None of the characters are particularly likable. They inhabit a world where the elation of the VE Day has come to nothing. Life remains bleak and tedious. The men have returned from the comradeship of brothers in arms not, to the brave new world they fought for but to a life of drudgery and getting by. While the women have lost the independence the war gave them and are expected to step back into the narrow confines of "nice" ladylike jobs. While their main role is one of caring for their home and family.

Despite the bleakness I did enjoy this book. I liked Sian Busby's writing style. It's an uncomplicated. but satisfying read.

violetwellies Fri 07-Jun-13 21:29:41

Well, Ive not really got my teeth into this yet, but am loving her style. Not so sure about the forward as I was going to pass the book on to a newly diagnosed friend to read, I'll have to find someone else now.

lilsupersparks Fri 07-Jun-13 16:09:56

Just finished the book - this is my review as published on my blog

There are no winners in this book - each narrator has a sad story to tell and Sian Busby's evocative style will draw you right into their lives. Set in bleak, grey post-war London, the characters are all doing their best to navigate themselves through the depressing, mutilated landscape of both London and their own emotions.

Lillian Frobisher lived a life of freedom during the war, only to be brought crashingly back to earth when her husband returned into a life of drudgery, struggling to make ends meet on meagre rations - always hankering after the forbidden luxuries denied to her whilst trying to remain respectable. In post-war Britain she is described by some as a scarlet woman, yet what she yearns for is what a modern woman would take for granted. The character of Policewoman Tring is perhaps a little more hopeful - although she is usually reduced to driving around the men of the force and, like Lillian, is expected to magic up sustenance (in the form of tea and sandwiches) from nowhere.

Busby also explores the scorn towards those men who did not go to war - who played a different part and the damage sustained by those who did. An unlikely parallel is drawn between Dennis, a criminal, and Cooper, the principal detective on the case. Two men both permanently damaged by their experiences of war, neither with any hope for the future. Rather like London itself, suffering under the weight of a crime wave as ordinary people struggle to gain some sense of self by turning to the black market for items advertised on billboards, unobtainable by legal means.

Although the novel liberally draws on the traditions of detective fiction - the lone detective figure, Cooper and some real noir elements - really the novel is less about solving the mystery and more about communicating the bleak nature of post war London - and this is something Busby does expertly. It doesn't make for an uplifting read, it's got to be said, but if you want to really feel what it was like to long for something other than spam, powdered egg and stale bread - whislt fielding propaganda telling you that you should be happy to be at peace, eating the healthiest way you ever had then this is the place to start.

fal78 Fri 07-Jun-13 13:52:23

Just finished this book! I've enjoyed the story, particularly the descriptions of post war London. Although a dark subject I did find it quite a light read, nice and easy to pick up at the end of the day, and I would recommend it to my friends.

JackieTheFart Thu 06-Jun-13 22:53:20

I have mine on my 'next to read' shelf. I love WW2 and post-war period books so am really looking forward to this book.

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