“A gunshot rings out in a London cafe and the lives of five strangers will never be the same again. The only thing that’s certain is that nothing is as it seems”
D.I. Eliza McClean – a forty-five year old policewoman working for the Metropolitan Police in their serious crime unit by day, a hostage/crisis negotiator on the side. Eliza loves her work and thrives on the intensiveness of her position. Eliza is married and is the mother of two. An anxious adolescent and a toddler. She must disappoint her eldest child in order to be present for the hostage drama unfolding in a London café.Neil Cunningham – a homeless man who lives on London’s streets. His life was not always this way, he was once married, a father, and a qualified school teacher. Now, he and his faithful dog, Buddy sleep rough and live day to day. When a kind person puts £4 in his cup, Neil decides to go to the café for some warmth and a bite to eat.
Mutesi Nkunda – a grandmother from Rwanda who now lives in London and works as a carer at a rest home. She is very loving, caring, and positive. She adores her grown son, daughter-in-law, and six-year-old grandson, Emmanuel. After working a night shift, Mutesi meets her daughter-in-law and grandson at the café.
Abi Garcia – a successful criminal barrister, is in her late twenties. She and her partner are trying for a baby via IVF and have had many disappointments. Her career is what keeps her sane. She is due in court for an important hearing, but decides to stop for a cappuccino on the way…
Paige and three-year-old daughter Lily – pregnant Paige and her daughter are accompanying an elderly neighbour, Arthur Beaumont, to a medical clinic. They stop for a coffee on the way…
All of these everyday people will have their lives forever changed by Sam Ballard.
Sam Ballard – is a farmer from Sussex who is married and in his mid-twenties. He has a three-year-old daughter named Julia, who he adores. He has come to the café, Tuckbox, in order to confront his lifelong nemesis. Desolate and desperate, he will come to regret bringing his shotgun into the city…
It is true that you never really know another person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. After spending several hours in a small London café with the characters in this book, I have come to know them. And love them.
This is one of those novels that I’m sure I’ll think about for years to come. Though it is only January, I’m also certain it will make my end of 2021 Top Reads list.
Superb characterization and deep human understanding make this novel stand heads above the rest. The author’s own career as a lawyer and crisis line mediator shines through in this book via the narratives of Eliza and Abi.
The novel takes place over the course of one very long day. It is by times, tense, emotional, heartwarming, and heartbreaking. I’ll never be able to hear Elton John’s ‘Rocket Man‘ again without thinking about this book.
My favourite characters were definitely Sam and Mutesi. Characters that are ordinary people yet are larger than life, characters whose stories moved me to tears.
Highly, highly recommended.
This review was written voluntarily and my rating was in no way influenced by the fact that I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from the author. She kindly gifted me a copy after learning that her book is NOT available from Amazon.ca
ISBN: 9781911630418 – 364 pages
Charity Norman was born in Uganda and brought up in successive drafty vicarages in Yorkshire and Birmingham. After several years’ travel she became a barrister, specializing in crime and family law in the northeast of England. Also a mediator and telephone crisis line listener, she’s passionate about the power of communication to slice through the knots. In 2002, realizing that her three children had barely met her, she took a break from the law and moved with her family to New Zealand. Her first novel, Freeing Grace, was published in 2010. Second Chances (After the Fall) was a Richard and Judy Book Club choice and World Book Night title. See You in September, her last book, was shortlisted for Best Crime Novel in the 2018 Ngaio Marsh Awards for Crime Fiction. The Secrets of Strangers is her sixth book.