ShortBookandScribes #BookReview – The Final Hours of Muriel Hinchcliffe M.B.E. by Claire Parkin

The Final Hours of Muriel Hinchcliffe M.B.E. by Claire Parkin will be published on 21st March by Macmillan in hardcover, eBook and audiobook. My thanks to Philippa McEwan for the proof copy.

Muriel, a former bestselling romantic novelist, and Ruth, a journalist, are best friends. Inseparable since they were little, they’ve shared everything; unable to be without each other, even after the most vicious of fights.

Now fate has left them living together in a North London home, with Ruth caring for Muriel in her deteriorating health, playing Scrabble, arguing and making up, passing the days in monotony, ignoring the scars of their relationship. Then one afternoon, Muriel makes a shocking and sinister announcement, sending Ruth’s world into chaos. Only one thing is certain. Life, as she knows it, will never be the same again . . .

The Final Hours of Muriel Hinchcliffe M.B.E is the deliciously dark debut novel from Claire Parkin. An intensely gripping story of toxic friendship, jealousy and revenge, it is perfect for fans of A Tidy Ending and Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine.

Any book that has a character’s name in the title is always going to get my attention. Add to that two friends with a love/hate relationship, one a former novelist with a notion that something is going to happen in her final hours, and I’m sold.

Muriel and Ruth have known each other all of their lives. Now both aged 76 they share a home, with Ruth being an unofficial carer for Muriel. They spend their time drinking soup and playing Scrabble, with Ruth seeming extremely put upon, but my goodness, there is so much that lies beneath the surface of this fantastic multi-layered story.

I don’t intend to delve too far into the plot as I think what makes it so delicious is that I had no idea of the hidden depths of Moo and Roo’s (yes, really!) friendship. Let’s just say it’s super toxic and leave it at that. Ruth narrates the story and she is the very definition of an unreliable narrator. She has very little self-awareness and it made me contemplate the old nature/nurture debate.

This book is a brilliant debut from Claire Parkin. It goes back and forth between the present and the whole of the two women’s lives, filling in the blanks and building up the resentment and jealousy between them, even though on the face of it the pair are best friends. From the opening page when Muriel suddenly announces she is going to die in exactly seventy-two hours, to the gloriously twisted ending, via some dark deeds and manipulative actions, it captured my imagination and captivated my mind. There are some comical moments too so this book really has it all. I thought it was superb, fascinating and expertly constructed.

Claire was born and brought up in a village just outside Cardiff, and graduated from King’s College London with an MA in 19th Century English and American Literature. She worked as a journalist on women’s general-interest magazines for many years, writing for EssentialsWoman & Home and Candis, where she was known for being able to turn her hand to pretty much anything – from interviewing boxing champs and war correspondents, to learning how to pole dance and the correct way to iron a shirt. Other career highlights include taste-testing eight varieties of mince pie during an August heatwave, begging Victoria Beckham to donate a dress to a charity raffle, and visiting six second-hand car dealerships in one afternoon, in a bid to expose sexism in the motoring industry.

She turned to fiction after the birth of her twin son and daughter. Three of her short stories have been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize, and one was runner-up in the Fiction Desk Newcomer of the Year Award (2016). She is currently working on her second novel, Tell Tale, about a troubled ten-year-old girl who manipulates rising community tensions for her own amusement.

Claire lives in London with her husband and children. When she’s not writing, she’s a passionate Parkrunner, container-gardener and baker of calorific goods. After a break of several years, she’s finally enjoying mince pies again.


  • This sounds good! There is something very appealing about a book with a name in the title for some reason isn’t there?

    • There really is. I love character driven books anyway and I suppose the ones that have a name in the title emphasise that the character is really important.

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