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on 18 January 2014
Just over a year ago I bought Gold Digger as a result of a review. I liked it so much I gave to everyone as a Christmas present, and read some ten more of Frances Fyfield's books. Some turned out to be among the best thrillers that I have read, particularly The Nature of the Beast, The Playroom and The Art of Drowning. There are some irritations, particularly the style: sentences little bursts, never a verb unless absolutely necessary. There was also Shadows on the Mirror, a Sarah Fortune book, marred by the fact that the author seemed to find her main character much more fascinating than she made her for me, anyway - though maybe it would be different for a woman.

The events of Casting the First Stone follow those of Gold Digger. Unfortunately the book has all the problems of Shadows on the Mirror. Not a lot happens; most of the book taking place inside the heads of the various characters, who all apparently think in harrumphing short sentences without verbs and who are not nearly as interesting as we are expected to find them. Indeed, you often find yourself thinking, now which one is this, a problem for which the word-search function in Kindle is tailor-made. It has all the features of a book where the author has fallen in love with her creations, which is always a bad development.

And at the end we are promised a third instalment.

At her best Frances Fyfield is a writer who can make you feel totally disorientated; she can be very strange and very frightening. She has a capacity, shown in Gold Digger, for baddies who have absolutely no redeeming features at all and who yet work in a book full of real complex people. So I hope very much that she will not follow the path sketched out in this book, and leave her larky cast, Quig, Jones and the rest, to harrumph away by themselves. Enough is enough.

I don't recommend reading this book. Even if you are tempted to read it you should read Gold Digger first or it won't make much sense - but as I say you will be disappointed if you do. There are many others far better.
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on 22 February 2014
I found the characters to be as unbelievable as the story line and struggled to finish it - which I only did so because it was a book club choice. Two women, only one of whom is apparently going to commit the actual burglary they are intent on, hiding in the basement of a building patrolled by guards, amuse themselves by making as much noise as possible by singing, shouting and banging on pipes!!!! I also found it hard to believe that someone hiding from the police in a bathroom of someone else's home thinks it is "logical" to take a shower. From the title one might have assumed some sort of biblical analogy but all it seemed to refer to is that the main character was really good at throwing stones, although the only stone-throwing she did was into the sea.

This is the second in what I assume is to be a series about an odd group of people. I read the first one, "Gold Digger" (again, an inappropriate title because the main character was shown to be anything but) and disliked it slightly less because I had not yet met the characters. I will not read a third.
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on 16 December 2016
3.5 stars

Casting the First Stone is a meeting of two of Frances Fyfield's leading ladies and along with Di Porteous of Gold Digger, there is an opportunity to meet the vivacious Sarah Fortune, a central character in six novels of her own, the first of which is Shadows on the Mirror.

For readers who haven't yet met Di Porteous, nee Quigley, in the excellent Gold Digger, this is not a novel that works as a standalone: without a knowledge of the woman, the eclectic cast of misfits that surround her and her passion for both paintings and the elderly Thomas Porteous, I expect Casting the First Stone will be rather nonsensical. For unenlightened readers devoid of a knowledge of the dubious morals of the spirited second Mrs Porteous, it is highly unlikely that full appreciation of this follow-up will be derived. Gold Digger told the story of a teenage tearaway and thief, Di Quigley, returning to the home of the man she herself was party to swindling under the watchful eye of a group of burglars. Caught in the act and sent to prison, two years later sees a newly released Di return to that home and fall in love with the venerable Thomas, art collector and passionate lifelong teacher. The scepticism regarding the "eponymous" Gold Digger, Di Porteous, abounded throughout the entirety of a blissfully happy marriage and even remains into widowhood at just twenty-eight-years-old. There is no doubt amongst those closest to Diana just what she brought to the life of Thomas, and vice-versa, although his disenfranchised daughters, Gayle and Beatrice, are still consumed by enmity. Having tried to defraud Di and come off second-best in the events of Gold Digger, the greedy and bitter sisters keep Di under their surveillance and with twelve-year-old step-grandson Patrick, a frequent visitor, their lives are forever entwined.

A year on from the demise of Thomas and for Di the depression seems endemic as she finds herself engulfed in an all consuming lethargy, leaving her devoid of interest in life. For art dealer Saul Blythe, a man who shares Di's passion for the collection of artwork that Thomas cherished, Di wallowing does not suit his ambitions for the continued growth of their portfolio. Ever manipulative, Saul enlists his chameleon like sister, Sarah Fortune, to reinvigorate the feisty Di for a renewed assault on the world of high art. In return for introducing Di to the style and confidence that accompanies life in the environs of Central London, Sarah inveigles Di into a plan to orchestrate the rightful return of two paintings stolen from her friend, the elderly Granta Cockerel, by her very own son, Steven. After all, theft with a worthy and just motive is a morally ambiguous area, surely?

When Di and Sarah learn that Granta's story is a collection of selected half-truths and has its own motives, namely to lure son Steven home, the two women find they have unwittingly allowed a very unscrupulous young man into their realm. As Saul finds out that worse is yet to come as Edward, son-in-law of Thomas, engages his old school associate, Steven, to do the dirty work so desired by his wife and her sister, the vultures are once again circling around the treasures housed in the former Victorian schoolhouse by the sea. Not to mention the bones of first wife and mother to the daughters, Christina... As much as the synopsis sounded like a re-hash of the original art theft scenario of Gold Digger, I should never have expected Fyfield to be so one-dimensional, as she throws several spanners into the works pretty swiftly and tells a story that is every but as devious as the first. Admittedly just a year on from the death of Thomas, the character development of the ersatz family who surround Di have not seen major change with watchdog Jones, housekeeper Peg and ostracised father Quig, once again forming the mainstay of this novel, with Granta an all too fleeting figure.

Sadly, I ultimately found this follow-up a little too similar to Gold Digger and my appetite for appreciation of treasured works of art has now been well and truly sated! However Casting the First Stone is another excellent study into the vagaries of human nature and is touched by several flashes of brilliance and underhanded twists. I believe that there is a third novel in the Diana Porteous trilogy, but in all honestly second time around this formula does not feel half as striking. Whilst still a highly enjoyable novel, I will not be embarking on this final novel, but will be looking into the back catalogue of Fyfield. But for readers of understated psychological crime thrillers, an introduction to Mrs Porteous the second in Gold Digger certainly comes highly recommended.

Fyfield's skill is in delivering a powerful psychological narrative, with razor sharp caricatures and the underlying currents that ebb and flow between her characters, unspoken but ever present. For fans of pulsating police-procedurals and thrillers, I expect Fyfield's subtle build-up of tension and focus on characters over plot, will find her novels hard to appreciate. For readers not averse to the more literary end of the crime fiction market, I expect the response will be rather different. Fyfield does questionable morals in exemplary fashion, meaning her entire cast are less than transparent, all with ulterior motives and their own ambitions. But arguably, what she does even better is breath life into her characters, with visible flaws apparent and all judgement cast aside.

Review written by Rachel Hall (@hallrachel)
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on 10 February 2015
Having really enjoyed the previous novel which introduced Di porteous,i must say i was a bit disappointed by this sequel.It seemed to me that the author started with the idea of bringing together 2 "heroines" in Fortune and Porteous,but then had to construct a plot to fill a novel and it just didnt work.It was too similar to Golddigger but not as well written,in fact not a lot actually happens.The involvement of characters from Goldigger never worked for me,i hope she gets back on form as she is a very good writer.
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on 27 January 2014
Frances always relates her stories with great insight of people and how they interrelate. This story does not disappoint. She has a wonderful breadth in her use of English, sadly lacking in many writers today.
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on 13 April 2015
A slightly disappointing follow up to the first book which was better. 2.5 stars would be a better grading.
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on 30 May 2015
Especially good if you know the town personally. Memorable characters.
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