Joanna Hines’ novels, Surface Tension & Improvising Carla

The Joanna Hines’ novels, Surface Tension and Improving Carla, are highly compelling reads that are worth looking out for at second-hand bookstores.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Surface Tension Synopsis

In the scorching summer of 1976, six friends enjoy a blissful time at Grays Orchard, where art and camaraderie thrive under the brushstrokes of resident artist Gus Ridley. Their paradise is shattered when one of them is murdered, a crime that remains unresolved, haunting the group for decades. Gus, now married to Carol, has since buried his past, avoiding both his former friends and the artistic pursuits that once defined him.

Twenty years later, Gus’s niece who was conceived that summer arrives, stirring up the past and reigniting Carol’s determination to uncover the truth. She seeks answers from the main suspect, now the leader of a cult and bound by a vow of silence, hoping to finally solve the mystery that has haunted them all.

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My Review

Surface Tension was the first book I’ve read from Joanna Hines and now I’m hooked on this author.

She has a beautiful writing style, just enough descriptive detail to paint the scene but not so much that it gets in the way of the story. Hines’ characters are well developed and grow with us as the story unfolds and the mystery surrounding the cult deepens.

And, the plot twist at the end is brilliant. An excellent, enthralling read!

BOOK RATING: The Story 4.5 / 5 ; The Writing 4.5 / 5

Good secondhand copies of Surface Tension are available from Abebooks.

Improvising Carla Synopsis

On a serene Greek island, Carla Finch is found dead on a desolate road, with only her friend Helen present at the scene. Helen alone knows the circumstances of Carla’s death, yet their friendship was built on deception and falsehoods, trapping Helen in a cycle she cannot escape, even as tragedy strikes.

Returning to England burdened by guilt and haunted by the past, Helen struggles to move forward. Mysterious events begin to unfold, drawing her into Carla’s family and the life she left behind, especially Daniel, Carla’s beloved. However, as a threat from their time on the island looms, Helen is forced to confront her secrets, plunging her into perilous situations but ultimately leading her toward redemption.

Improvising Carla Review - Joanna Hines

My Review

Improvising Carla is deep, complex and gripping.

Hines really is an author that deserves to be much more well known. She has an uncanny ability to achieve two things with her writing, (1) craft and tell anintriguing, mesmerizing story, and  (2) evoke a particular emotion with the reader that goes well beyond the usual empathy one might feel for a character. This is one of those novels that leaves you thinking about how you think about things.

But, for all the skilful character development and important little details cleverly woven into Improvising Carla‘s story fabric, it remains a highly accessible read.

Any author that can make me change my opinion on multiple characters within a novel with fewer than 400 pages is a superb talent.

BOOK RATING: The Story 4.5 / 5 ; The Writing 4.5 / 5

Good secondhand copies of Improvising Carla are available from Betterworld Books.

About the Author, Joanne Hines.

  • Joanna Hines was born in London and studied at Oxford and LSW.
  • Lives in Cornwall with her husband poet Derrek Hines. Check out her website.
  • Improving Carla and Surface Tension were the 7th and 8th novels of her ten novels published.