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Radio 2 Book Club - Grave Expectations

The next book to be featured on the Zoe Ball Radio 2 Book Club will be Grave Expectations, an exciting debut novel by Alice Bell. The book was released on 4 May and Alice will be on the show with Zoe on Thursday 29 June.

We have a set of 10 copies to give away to one lucky reading group, just head over to our Noticeboard. We also have an exclusive extract available, and some discussion questions for your group to use.

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Grave Expectations

When 30-something freelance medium Claire Hendricks is invited to an old university friend’s country pile to provide entertainment for a family party, her best friend Sophie tags along. In fact, Sophie rarely leaves Claire’s side, because she’s been haunting her ever since she was murdered at the age of seventeen.
On arrival at The Cloisters, it quickly becomes clear that this family is hiding more than just the good china, as Claire learns someone has recently met an untimely end at the house.

Teaming up with the least unbearable members of the Wellington-Forge family – depressive ex-cop Basher and teenage radical Alex – Claire and Sophie determine to figure out not just whodunnit, but who they killed, why and when.

Together they must race against incompetence to find the murderer – before the murderer finds them…in this funny, modern, media-literate mystery for the My Favourite Murder generation.

Selection panel review

The book was selected with the help of a panel of library staff from across the UK. Our readers loved Grave Expectations – here are some of their comments:

“I loved the concept of this book before I even opened it. It’s such a good idea to have a list of suspects, locations and weapons, like Cluedo, and the ability for the reader to ‘lock in’ a guess on the back of the book. It also intrigued me because, before reading, surely you would know where the body was found? It all became clear in the first few chapters and I’m happy to say the book lived up to expectations. I also loved the quirky descriptions, for example ‘unfolded from the car like a sexy deckchair’. The writing was also really easy to follow, even when recounting past events that the narrator wasn’t present for. Overall, one of my favourite reads.”

“This was a brilliant cosy, whodunnit murder mystery read. Claire is a medium and upon bumping into an old uni friend ends up being invited to a party in their family’s grand old house. Claire is accompanied to the party by her friend Sophie, although the twist to this is that Sophie has been dead since she was 17 and is now permanently haunting Claire. After a night at the house, they wake up to find one of the family members has died, however they have unfinished business to do and need Claire’s help to solve the crime. I found this to be a really fun read, all the characters played an integral part in sorting out the crime at hand. I especially enjoyed the friendship between Claire and Sophie. I felt like it was quite different to other murder mysteries I’ve read mainly down to the medium perspective. The humour was fabulous and an entertaining storyline”

“This really reminded me of the Glass Onion series of films, which I watched recently and loved. A central character, Claire, full of fun and wit, embroiled in a classic ‘whodunnit’ with a small mix of suspects tied together by familial bonds and secrecy. The premise of Claire being a medium and talking to ghosts sounds completely ridiculous, but turned out to be really fun. The ghosts she communicates with are sassy, sarcastic and funny, with their own quirky personalities and behaviours. Particularly the ghost of 17-year-old Sophie, Claire’s childhood friend, who follows Claire around like a shadow providing witty commentary as she goes. It was very enjoyable.”

About the author

Alice Bell grew up in South West England, in a sort of middle-of-nowhere where teenagers spend their weekend drinking Smirnoff Ice in a field that also has at least one horse in it.

She is the deputy editor of Rock Paper Shotgun, a popular PC gaming website, and in 2019 she was named one of the 100 most influential women in the UK games industry.

After spending several years in London, Alice now lives in Cork in Ireland. She has probably read more detective fiction and watched more episodes of Midsomer Murders than you.

A word from Alice

“I was so surprised and delighted when I found out that Grave Expectations had been picked for the BBC Radio 2 Book Club, especially because of its connection to The Reading Agency. One of my earliest school memories is my infant school class walking in pairs, like little ducklings, down to the local library, to choose some books. When I got older, one of the first people who encouraged my writing was the school librarian. I still visit my local one – a great place for local artists and events, too. It’s so important to look after our libraries, not just because they’re good at holding a community together, but because books are empathy machines, and we need that a lot now. Reading means so much to me, and everyone should have the chance to find themselves in books.
That’s another reason I’m so grateful that Grave Expectations has been chosen for the Book Club. It’s a very silly book in some ways, but I wrote some nice friends in it. If someone reads it because of the Book Club and makes friends with them too, well, that’s all you can ask for, isn’t it?”

Get involved

Tune in to the Zoe Ball Breakfast Show to hear the live feature on Thursday 29 June. You can also listen to the full-length interview on BBC Sounds.

Have you read Grave Expectations? You can share your thoughts with us on Twitter using #R2BookClub and you can also follow Alice.

Planning to buy Grave Expectations for your group? Buy books from Hive or from and support The Reading Agency and local bookshops at no extra cost to you.

Want to make sure you get the latest news? Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.


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The BBC Radio 2 Book Club announced on 24 January that its new home is on the Zoe Ball Breakfast Show. The Radio 2 Book Club will feature a wide range of titles and authors, recommending great reads from both new and much-loved writers, encouraging listeners to perhaps try out a genre they might not have read before, and share their opinions and insights on the titles and great reads they’re enjoying right now.


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