Ireland, the 1990s. Eight missing women. Did a serial killer prowl the vanishing triangle? And if so, were they ever caught?
Between 1993 and 1998, eight women went missing from an area around Dublin that became known as the ‘Vanishing Triangle’. Was there a link? Speculation abounded. There were whispers of a serial killer, responsible for some, if not all, of these cases. But nobody was ever brought to justice.
Twenty years later, the brutal murder of Jastine Valdez disturbs crime Novelist Claire McGowan into action. Reminded, like many in Ireland, of those previous missing women, McGowan brings her skills as a novelist to the real world, setting out to uncover the truth of the vanishing triangle. As she digs deeper, she finds something terrible lurking behind the idyllic image of rural Ireland and the 21st century success story of the ‘Celtic Tiger’. An incompetent police force, a traumatised nation and, a rank, murderous misogyny.
But are the disappearances linked? Are they linked with other murders? Was there, is there, a serial killer on the loose?
Claire McGowan is a writer and lecturer - perhaps best known for her crime/thriller books published under her own name, but also known for her other books published under the name of Eva Woods. McGowan has also had several radio dramas broadcast on Radio 4, has a number of scripts currently under development, and has written articles for a number of leading publications.
Claire McGowan's skill as a novelist translates hugely well to this step into non-fiction - and it's that skill which elevates this from just being a fascinating listen about some horrific crimes, to a state of the nation piece which explores the wider socio and economic factors that would affected the deaths, coverage, and investigations into these 8 missing women.
There can often be a rather seedy theme that runs through 'True-Crime' books - and they can often glamorise the violence and the killings rather than investigating what truly happened. McGowan is careful to ensure that this isn't a line that ever gets crossed her - and in examining in great detail the background that led to these crimes happening and the way that they were responded to, she is able to give life and voice to the missing women, whilst also providing a social history for Ireland at the time of the disappearances, and ensuring that the listener feels, much like the author (and narrator) justifiable anger for those affected by these crimes, and the lack of justice that still haunts the families to this day, over 20 years later.
Chilling and gripping, but never gratuitous or sordid - The Vanishing Triangle is a fascinating listen that shines light on an unsolved series of crimes and the wider circumstances surrounding them.
Many thanks to MidasPR for my copy!
Almost everything we do generates data.
Digital technology is now so pervasive that it's very hard to escape its influence, and with that growth comes fear. But whatever the news has told you about data and technology, think again.
Data expert and tech insider Sam Gilbert shows that, actually, this data revolution could be the best thing that ever happened to us.
Good Data examines the incredible new ways this information explosion is already helping us - whether that's combating inequality, creating jobs, advancing the frontiers of knowledge or protecting us from coronavirus - and explains why the best is yet to come.
Data touches everything, from our biggest hates (online advertising) to our greatest loves (our pets), and in this fascinating new book, Gilbert explores how, if we can embrace the revolution (even the ads), we could all live vastly improved lives.
We are standing on the edge of greatness, we just need to know how to get there.
Sam Gilbert is an affiliated researcher at the Bennett Institute for Public Policy at the University of Cambridge. An expert in data-driven marketing, he was employee number one and chief marketing officer at Bought By Many, an award-winning fintech start-up named as one of Wired's hottest start-ups in Europe and ranked 13th in the Sunday Times TechTrack100 list of the UK's fastest-growing companies in 2018. Previously, he was head of strategy and development at the data company Experian and head of consumer finance at Santander. Sam also advises early-stage tech businesses on growth strategy and digital marketing. He lives in London and Copenhagen. Good Data is his first book.
Data is rather a broad term - we all encounter and deal with it every single day, in a myriad of different ways.
However, the word 'Data' is a loaded one - and whenever you see it in the papers, it seems to be packed together with potential negatives. "Data Breaches", "Data Confidentiality", "Remove my data" etc. - despite data being hugely integral to how the world works, our media is unfailingly pessimistic about it, and seems keen to stoke those pessimistic fires every day.
I work with data (in my day job!) so my approach to it is perhaps somewhat different, but I was nevertheless hugely keen to read 'Good Data' - a book that attempts to change the conversation about data to a positive one.
As author Sam Gilbert points out, 'digital technology is now so pervasive, that almost every aspect of our daily lives consumes or generates data'. As a result, it's hugely important that we become better educated when it comes to data and what it means for us as a society - and Sam Gilbert explains this in fascinating detail.
A book solely about data may at first strike you as something that could be dull - but Gilbert is an excellent writer, and allows his personality to shine through, which, combined with many fascinating case studies about how data is used, makes for hugely interesting reading.
Perhaps the most interesting chapter for me was about Zimbabwe - Gilbert using his personal experiences there to shed light on global events and exactly how they have been impacted and communicated with regards to data.
With so much misinformation currently being circulated (Covid is caused by 5G, the Vaccine is created by Bill Gates in order to track us...), it's important that we educate ourselves as to exactly how our data can be used, and why it's not something to be afraid of.
'Good Data' is an excellent place to start - and Gilbert's skill is such that anybody will be able to read this and come away perhaps a little bit calmer about the use of their data, and somewhat excited about our data driven futures.
Good Data: An Optimist's Guide to Our Digital Future by Sam Gilbert is published 1st April 2021, published by Welbeck, price £14.99 in hardback.
Thorn Marsh was raised in a house of whispers, of meaningful glances and half-finished sentences. Now she's a journalist with a passion for truth, more devoted to her work at the London Journal than she ever was to her ex-husband.
When the newspaper is bought by media giant The Goring Group, who value sales figures over fact-checking, Thorn openly questions their methods, and promptly finds herself moved from the news desk to the midweek supplement, reporting heart-warming stories for their new segment, The Bright Side, a job to which she is spectacularly unsuited.
On a final warning and with no heart-warming news in sight, a desperate Thorn fabricates a good-news story of her own. The story, centred on an angelic apparition on Hampstead Heath, goes viral. Caught between her principles and her ambitions, Thorn goes in search of the truth behind her creation, only to find the answers locked away in the unconscious mind of a stranger.
Marika Cobbold was born with newspaper ink flowing through her veins. She used to visit her father and grandfather at their offices at the Gothenburg-Post, the Swedish broadsheet her grandfather had rescued from oblivion decades earlier.
At home, when Marika wasn't reading, she listened as the grown-ups around her discussed the issues of the day, and to the stories told by her mother and great aunt, who was a writer.
She left Sweden for England when she was nineteen, with vague plans of studying law, but eventually what her grandfather called 'the family curse' caught up with her, and some years later she wrote her first novel, Guppies For Tea. She has been writing ever since.
In the uncertain times we're living in today (hello pandemic!), it's fascinating to see how people have found that unexpected things have given them great joy, even when they haven't known they've needed them. For me, an unexpected lockdown discovery was that I really, really love spending my evenings doing embroidery (I'm as surpised as you are!), but another completely unexpected, absolute joy of my lockdown, can now absolutely be said to be 'On Hampstead Heath', the latest by Marika Cobbold, who has taken up her pen after a decade long break.
I've read plenty by the author in the past, (Drowning Rose and Aphrodite's Workshop are two that stick in my mind), and have always hugely enjoyed them, but 'On Hampstead Heath' is the first that has had me unable to tear myself away from the pages - so eager was I to find out just how much mess Thorn would find herself in, and how exactly she would wrangle her way out of it.
Cobbold's heroine, Thorn, is, as her assumed name suggest, sharp, prickly, and tricky to get close to - but she's a remarkably fun narrator for the reader - at once relatable and funny as she is moving and open.
There are many, many plot threads here - work related dramas, a relationship with an ex-husbnad, one best friend who is an elderly Jewish evacuee, and another who is dead. A burgeoning love interest, a family secret and an adorable dog too, make this a collection of threads that I imagine a lesser author would have been told to potentially edit down when telling their tales in what is a relatively short book.
Not Marika Cobbold though - her time off from writing has allowed her to come back as a master spinner of stories, and she carefully takes all of those threads and weaves them into an utterly beautiful tapestry. There's also a healthy dose of social commentary here too, as Cobbold takes on the current state of print journalism in Britain. It is (rather unsurprisingly) quite a depressing thing to read about, as experienced, dedicated journalists are put out to pasture in order to fill the ever growing need for bite-size, quick pieces of news about celebrities and gossip. A bleak state of affairs, yes - but one that lends itself ever so well to the dark comedy of Cobbold's plot - and Thorn's despair at the state of things in her industry is one I'm sure that many readers (including myself) will share.
A beautiful story by an author who is clearly on top of her game - with a skill for bringing vibrant characters to life in just a few words, and for weaving social commentary in with warm humour and a page turning plot. In short, like a bizarre but wonderful lovechild of Penelope Fitzgerald and Anita Brookner - and if you know how much I love those two authors, then you'll know that this is about as high as my praise can get!
On Hampstead Heath is a perfectly balanced novel - and whilst I was sad to leave the characters after only 250 or so pages, barely anything was left unfinished - with the ending leaving me warm and hopefuly and eager for more, more, more from this author.
Huge thanks to Midaspr for my copy of this book - I heartily encourage you all to add it to your lists in order to brighten up your gloomy spring immeasurably.