Reviews of Fifty Fifty by Steve Cavanagh and Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

I read Fifty Fifty following the discussion on ‘Between The Covers,’ the BBC Radio Two book show that was on TV last year.   As soon as I heard the words ‘courtroom drama,’ I was in.  I love books, films or TV shows that revolve around court cases.

I was also interested as Steve Cavanagh is from Belfast like me.

The premise of the novel is that two sisters, Sofia and Alexandra are both accused of the same crime – murdering their father.   The question is -which one of them is guilty?

The novel is narrated by three different characters as we follow each of their stories.  First up is Eddie Flynn, a criminal lawyer who is sharp and now working with recently retired Judge Harry Ford. He is representing Sofia. To be totally honest I can’t remember that much about Eddie Flynn in terms of character, so he didn’t stick in my mind. 

The second strand of the narrative comes from the defence attorney Kate Brooks who is representing Alexandra.  She’s a bit wet behind the ears, but a likeable character who goes on quite a journey throughout the book.

The third view point of the novel are the chapters entitled ‘She’ and they are told from the murderer’s perspective.  A very clever idea, as we get an insight into the murderer’s mind, but the author also manages to throw us a few red herrings!

What I enjoyed most about this novel is the pace, it’s fast – no waffle! It also keeps you guessing.  I think I changed my mind three times about who the murderer was, despite having it right first time!

A good escapist novel for those who like their crime fiction fast paced, a bit tongue in cheek at times and with plenty of bluffs and double bluffs!

Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

Rarely am I left not knowing whether I liked or hated a book – in fact, I believe this is a first, but I was genuinely left a bit perplexed by this book.  I couldn’t decide.  I thought bits of it were brilliant and other parts were so boring and left me scratching my head.

Toby Fleishman is a doctor who appears to be pretty self-obsessed, has something akin to an eating disorder and thinks about nothing more than when he’s next going to have sex.  I found him a total bore. 

He is currently going through divorce proceedings with his soon to be ex-wife Rachel.

One morning Rachel leaves their two kids with him (Hannah 11 – spoilt brat and Solly younger and much sweeter) and goes off to a yoga retreat but fails to return to collect them at the appointed time. 

She doesn’t come back, and Toby is unable to make contact.

I couldn’t quite figure out what this part of the story was meant to convey – that Rachel was a bitch? That Rachel was mad?

The narration I also found totally confusing.  The novel is narrated by Libby – an old friend of Toby’s. But this didn’t become clear to me for quite some time.  It seemed to start in the third person and then be narrated by an unknown voice.  Not sure where I missed the note!  Perhaps I just wasn’t concentrating.  This book requires concentration at times.

The second half of the novel was where I began to tune in and enjoy it.  The author turns marriage on its head, and everything we think we know turns out to be wrong.  There’s much more to Rachel than we were led to believe.  

Libby wakes up and sees Toby for what he is – narcissistic and needy.

I think the point the author is making is that we stereotype genders, professions and even people, when there’s usually a lot more going on than meets the eye.

There’s no doubt the author is full of razor-sharp wit, insightful asides, and interesting view points on many subjects.  It was all just a bit too confusing for me.

I think the nub of it was that I didn’t care two hoots about either Toby or Rachel, and if you don’t get invested in the characters there’s not much point really.

However, I do know I am in the minority regarding this book, as it seems to have many adoring fans.

Let me know what you think!

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