Jake, a therapist, is newly married to Alice, a former rock chic turned lawyer. One of their wedding gifts is an invitation to join The Pact, a cult like group that promotes life-long marriage. Sounds innocuous enough , doesn’t it? But there is a manual, a long and very complicated manual, which sets out hundreds of rules and the consequences of breaking them. And if you change your mind about joining and want out, you may just find that the door has slammed shut behind you. Continue reading
When I was a little girl we used chalk to mark out beds to play peever on – hopscotch, for non-Scots. Sometimes we’d use them to draw pictures, the braver among us describing an approximation of male genitalia on the hot summer pavements of Glasgow. In The Chalk Man, a group of disparate friends use chalk figures to send messages to each other. Lets meet at the park, see you in the woods.
But when the chalk figures start to reappear when the kids are all grown up, they know something sinister is afoot.
On the basis of this book it would be easy to call CJ Tudor the British Stephen King: outsiders? check; death? Check; a band of kids? Check; the past coming back to bite them on the bum? Huge check.
I have read several thriller/mystery books recently that share the King vibe, yet each one has been different and enjoyable in it’s own way. Knowing the time between writing and publication, it’s unlikely this is a fall out from the recent successful film of It. But I do wonder why there seems to be so many. At least it’s a welcome change from all ‘The Girl …’ titles.
The Chalk Man is well written. The characters are well drawn, not all likeable, but their actions seem reasonable within their circumstances and I really was rooting for the main protagonist, Ed. I enjoyed the plot and the creepy vibe and I’d definitely read more by this author. It’s a shame that the book’s impact might be diluted because of other similar themed titles, but if you decide not to read this book because of that, you’d really be missing out.
The year is yet young, but if this is the standard of book I can expect this year, I’m going to be a very happy Nettie!
Young people’s voices are notoriously difficult to do well in literature. Emma Donahue ‘s Room and Claire King’s The Night Rainbow did it really well. Ali Land’s Annie/Millie in Good Me Bad Me…for me, the author didn’t manage to pull it off.
Annie’s mother is on remand in prison, accused of killing 9 children. Annie turned her in, eventually, and is now living as the foster daughter of her therapist. While not as dysfunctional as her own family, Annie’s new family is not without its problems and her new life is less than perfect. Her new sister resents her and she has no friends. Soon, Annie will have to give evidence in court at her mother’s trial. How will she handle seeing the monster who abused her? And what will happen to Annie after the trial?
This book has been marketed as this year’s Gone Girl. I abhor lazy marketing like this and I feel that it didn’t do GMBM any favours. If you were to approach the story as a debut psychological thriller I think you’d not be disappointed. But it’s nowhere near as good as Ms Flynne’s book.
Annie is a typical unreliable narrator and very unlikable. I honestly didn’t care what happened to her. And back to the character’s voice – the author’s staccato style with single word sentences and sentence fragments makes for awkward reading.
The plot is decent enough but the twist ending wasn’t hard to see coming.
I’d give this book 3*. It’s not a bad book, but it’s nowhere near as good as the hype.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
When Chloe comes home early from a weekend with her dad and step family, she finds her house empty, but covered in blood. Where is her mother’s body and who would want her dead?
This book deals with the usual issues of good crime fiction: greed, jealously and revenge and lots and lots of blood. I haven’t read any of the other Maeve Kerrigan books by the author but I found her sleuth to be well written. There were references to previous relationships within and without the police force, obviously covered in previous books, but this didn’t spoil my enjoyment of this well paced mystery.
I must admit that I guessed what had happened fairly early on, but I soon realised that the plot point I thought obvious was only a part of the picture and there were more than adequate twists and turns to keep me guessing, right to the end.
This is a good book and I would certainly read more by Jane Casey.
Devils in Dark Houses wasn’t he book I was expecting to read. My take on the publisher’s blurb led me to expect four linked tales of terror and horror. While one of the stories, Each Castle Its King, could be described as a traditional horror, the other four were more what I’d call psychological thrillers, and damn good ones at that.
Connecting all four storied are Detectives Martinez and Shirdon, partners in Oregon where each story takes place. Although they appear in each story it is in the final tale, the titular Devils in Dark Houses where their presence is most pertinent to the tale.
Each novella is quite distinct from the others and offers a unique take on an aspect of modern living. The stories themselves wouldn’t be out of place as episodes in an American police series. This gives them a relevance that is sometimes missing from ‘olde worlde’ horror.
The author uses the internet, police corruption and identity theft to explore the dark side of the human psyche and as a result has provided the reader with stories that are close to their own experiences which has the result of making the tales more unsettling.
I’m not sure if I could say I had a favourite story within the book but the first one, The Eye That Binds, is the one I liked least.
All in all, Devils in Dark Houses is an excellent collection.
I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Charlie Doig is a half-Scottish half-Russian adventurer and naturalist. Who just happens to have appropriated 28 tonnes of Lenin’s gold in the immediate aftermath of the Bolshevik revolution. He soon realises that getting such an amount of loot out of Russia is impractical, so with his partner and side-kick Kobi, he scuttles the barge carrying “twenty-eight tons of the dead Tzar’s gold” in the hope he might be able to come back for it at some point in the future – or even send his children to get it as their inheritance. The only problem with this is that he had to shoot his wife as an act of mercy after she was horrifically beaten and raped by a soldier called Glebov and, for the most part of this book, female characters are noticeable by their absence.
What follows is the story of Doig and Kobi on their trip across Russia to Vladivostok and on to Japan. On their way they spend time on a refugee train (commandeered by Doig), walk for weeks across snow-barren countryside and spend some time with a people called the Tunga. I have had a google for this tribe and can’t quickly find a mention of it so it may have been invented for the story).
The chief relationship in the book is that between Doig and Kobi who comes across as a Mongolian Jack Dee, always moaning and complaining. There is real and true affection between the men although Doig maintains the upper-hand in all their interactions.
Doig is a more complex character than I first thought. Yes, he is motivated by money and glory – at one point of the story there is the very real possibility of him becoming the Prince of Siberia – but he is also motivated by vanity and the need for respect. He is a naturalist with the discovery of a beetle to his credit and in Rising Blood he manages to catch and preserve the skin of a ‘Lala Bird’, hoping that it will give him the intellectual immortality and respect – and riches – he so desires.
Rising Blood is a very plot driven book with less character development than I would normally like. I think the character arc for Doig would be clearer over the three books of the trilogy (this is the third book) and Kobi seemed to experience no change in character at all. I was also disappointed that Kobi seemed to have been almost forgotten about at the end and would have liked to know more about his possible future.
These criticisms aside, this really was a cracking read. The voice of each character was well defined and believable and the adventures Doig has on his way across the Russian landscape are gripping. I especially loved the voice of the Countess and Hijo, the Japanese doctor and researcher, is believably gauche and creepy. I loved the partnership between Doig and Kobi and got to genuinely care whether things would go well for them.
In chapter five Doig says, “Now I’m going on a pilgrimage to find my soul”, and by the end if he hasn’t exactly found it, he certainly has a better idea of where it has been hiding.
I’d recommend this book to everyone who enjoys a good old fashioned adventure story.
Dead Scared is the fifth book by S.J. Bolton and the second with DC Lacey Flint as the main protagonist.
In Dead Scared, Lacey is sent undercover to Cambridge University where there have been a number of student suicides. DC Flint assumes the identity of an emotionally vulnerable young woman – the profile of those who have recently died. She is sent purely to gather information and report back, but as she begins to be affected by the deaths she can’t help but become involved.
The suicide victims at first seem to have nothing in common, but thanks to Lacey ignoring orders and conducting her own investigations, it becomes clear that each of the deceased shared the same disturbing experiences in the weeks before their deaths: according to their friends and housemates, they all believed that they had been violated while they slept and had their greatest fears used against them.
Lacey soon finds herself targeted and experiencing the same horrors of the other students in the run up to their deaths.
Ms. Bolton has written a book that cannot help but send shivers down one’s spine. I have a daughter who is considering applying to Cambridge so reading this book was, for me, an ordeal. The mental tortures visited upon the victims are written in such a way that the reader is unsure whether the culprits are paranormal, real or the paranoid delusions of disturbed minds. There are red herrings aplenty and I found myself suspecting everyone but the dog, Sniffy, of being onvolved.
Lacey Flint is an enjoyably complex character. She has a complicated and sexually charged relationship with her boss, DI Joesbury and has a past where she actively sought casual sex from numerous strangers. She is passionate, intelligent and tough, yet shows great empathy with the weak and victimised.
I haven’t read Now You See Me, the author’s previous book, but after reading Dead Scared, I have it on my To Be Read list. Highly recommended.
Dan Brown gets an awful lot of stick, doesn’t he? After The Lost Symbol, I was one of the grumblers, complaining that he couldn’t write for toffee and that he wasted no opportunity to show us how clever he was and how much research he did. I vowed never to read another Dan Brown book.
Then I discovered that his new book was based on Dante’s Inferno and set in Florence, my holiday destination this year. Well, I kind of had to read it, didn’t I?
And I’m so glad I did.
Inferno is the fourth book to feature symbologist Robert Langdon and opens with our hero waking up in a hospital room with no recollection of how he got there. Langdon is soon under attack from assassins unknown and, with the help of the young doctor who was attending to him, he begins on a race across Florence, Venice and Istanbul in an attempt to prevent a deadly plague.
Brown’s hallmarks are evident: hidden meanings, the mix of science and great art, villains from the present using the art of the past to justify nefarious deeds, and characters not always being as they appear. Yes, the author does a lot of ‘information dumping’; yes, the prose isn’t beautifully written. But you know what? Brown is back to his page-turning best. He does tell a good story, however clumsily and fantastic, and his trade mark short chapters make you think ‘just one more’ time and again until the birds begin to herald dawn.
Dan, I know it’s fashionable to dismiss your books as trash but I’ll forgive you The Lost Symbol so long as you keep Langdon in Europe, doing what he does best.
We have a legal system so that the courts can take responsibility for meting out justice, taking decisions regarding punishment away from those who have been offended against and making that justice impartial instead of fueled by revenge. But what if those courts let you down?
This is the situation the main character in Random finds himself in. His 11 year old daughter is killed by a drunk driver. The culprit, because of a contact in the press, is portrayed as a pillar of the community and the young girl as a reckless, out-of-control tearaway. When the case reached the courts the drunk driver was let off. What father wouldn’t want to take matters into his own hands and mete out his own form of justice?
And if this was where the book concentrated, the actions of the man who ends up with the nicknames of Jock the Ripper and The Cutter would be understandable. But Robertson takes it much, much further. And I’m not sure how I feel about that.
The book is well written. The prose is punchy and Robertson, a successful journalist, has infused the tale with Weegie confidence. His portrayal of the various characters who populate Random is accurate and believable, the language they use is spot on and the gangsters are exactly as you would imagine a Glasgow gangster to be.
The story is told in the first person so we see events unfold through the eyes of the Cutter, a man who plans his attacks with cold intelligence. His methods of dispatching his victims are varied and gruesome and it was a brave decision to tell the story through the eyes of the killer rather than one of the detectives who is trying to catch him.
But…and this is a big but, I just could not empathise with the character.
It is one thing to want to kill the man who killed your daughter, but the death toll in this book goes way beyond that and the reasoning behind these other killings left a distinctly unpleasant taste in my mouth.
Would I read more by this writer? Definitely. Would I recommend this book? A more difficult question. Every other review I have read of this book is positive and I didn’t see any with the same problem with it that I did. I would probably say yes, if only to encourage you to read someone I am sure will become a big name in the crime fiction field.
West Seattle Blues is the second outing for music journalist Laura Benton. Set several years after Emerald City, Laura is now married with a son who is almost walking and a husband in the book business. She still works, albeit not as much as she used to, writing reviews and doing occasional interviews. When the editor of The Rocket calls Laura and asks her to contact old country singer Carson Mack (great name), who thinks his life story would make a good book, Laura isn’t convinced.
She goes to see Carson and when he realises she’s the one who solved the murder of Craig Adler, he convinces her to help him find the son he has never known. Of course, this book coming from the pen of crime writer Chris Nickson, murder and intrigue soon come knocking at Laura’s door and she finds herself yet again pulled into the dangerous side of Seattle life.
I like Laura. She is a strong independent woman who is doing her best in her new role as wife and mother. She adores her son and works hard at being the best mother she can. Her life is very different from the way it was in her last outing and Nickson portrays her struggle with desiring part of her old life, and the guilt this causes her, well.
The author shows his love and experience of Seattle on every page. He never shoves his intimate knowledge down the reader’s throat, but uses it to lend a very real sense of place to the world the story inhabits.
I loved Carson Mack. I want to listen to his music, so well and believably has he been written. In fact, each character has been written with great attention to detail and as a reader, I couldn’t help but root for, or against, each one. The only exception to this is Laura’s husband, Dustin. He is well written, yes, but…I’m not convinced he is the man the Laura Benton I knew from Emerald City would have married. But perhaps it is the character’s conventionality that Laura was attracted to after the shocking events she experienced then.
Regardless, this is a well written crime novel from a writer in command of his craft, well paced, expertly plotted and peopled with characters I cared about. I can’t wait for the final book in the Emerald City trilogy.