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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE DEVIL’S WHISPERS: A GOTHIC HORROR NOVEL by Lucas Hault (@TCKPublishing) A Dracula variation for lovers of old-fashioned horror and Gothic stories

Hi all:

Well, I love horror, but this one is for lovers of old-fashioned horror.

The Devil’s Whispers by Lucas Hault

The Devil’s Whispers by Lucas Hault

In a silent, sleepy castle, evil has awakened…

Famed British lawyer Gerard Woodward is summoned to an ancient Welsh castle to assist a dying lord in his final affairs. But as his host slips closer to death, Gerard begins to feel less like a guest and more like a prisoner. When he finds himself locked inside his room, he realizes he must escape.

After finding his way out of his room, Gerard begins to wonder if he was safer locked inside. The labyrinthine halls echo secrets. A terrible wail and the rattling of chains sets his nerves on end. Something sinister is happening within the walls of Mathers Castle, and when he descends into the dungeons, he discovers a horrible secret…

In nearby London, children vanish into the night, animals are horribly mutilated, and a savage creature stalks the shadows. When Gerard’s wife, Raelyn, becomes the creature’s next target, his need to escape reaches a fever pitch. He must get out alive so he can dispel the evil that threatens to destroy his beloved Raelyn… and the rest of us.

Fans of epistolary Gothic horror classics like DraculaFrankenstein, and The Picture of Dorian Gray will devour The Devil’s Whispers.

https://www.amazon.com/Devils-Whispers-Gothic-Horror-Novel-ebook/dp/B09Q6HFT83/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09Q6HFT83

https://www.amazon.es/Devils-Whispers-Gothic-Horror-English-ebook/dp/B09Q6HFT83/

Author Lucas Hault

About the author:

Faisal Johar, who writes under his pen name Lucas Hault is an Indian Novelist residing in Ranchi. He received his formal education from St. Anthony’s School, completed his intermediate from St. Xavier’s College and graduated from Jamia Millia Islamia in the year 2017. His first novel named The Shadow of Death — The Conquering Darkness was self-published in the year 2018 under Prowess Publishing. Faisal is also a screenwriter and has written a couple of short horror films for YouTube. He considers J.K. Rowling as his role model and aspires to walk in her path of punctuality. Another of his book titled, The Malign : A Collection of 12 Short Stories was published in June 2021. To get to know more about him, you can connect with him on FB and Instagram.

https://www.amazon.com/Lucas-Hault/e/B09QBTBKVD/

 My review:

I thank TCK Publishing for providing me with an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

The description recommends this book to fans of epistolary Gothic classics like Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Picture of Dorian Gray. Being a big fan of Oscar Wilde, I won’t compare the novels, but I have read many reviews querying if The Devil’s Whispers can be considered an homage to Dracula, as it follows the original story very closely, basically changing the names, locations, and some of the details of the monster, but not much else. What came to my mind, when trying to find a way of defining it, is something akin to what music composers call “variations”. It’s been decades since I read Dracula, so I can’t (or indeed want) to write a blow-by-blow comparison of the two, but it is true that they are very similar. Some of the differences I can easily mention are the settings (no Transylvania here, although people who love Cardiff might take issue with the way it is portrayed in this novel), the professions of some of the characters (Raelyn is a doctor, but as many people have mentioned, a female doctor in the early part of the XX century [1903] would have had a very difficult time of it, and that is no way reflected in the novel), some of the myths and the beliefs surrounding the supernatural events are different, and, unless I am mistaken, women and children play much bigger parts than in the original.

This is not a historical novel, and anybody looking for accurate depictions of the era, the place, the language, or even the mores and habits, will be disappointed. Neither the Cardiff nor the London of the story have anything to do with reality, and the characters are not very consistent either. Things develop very quickly, and somebody passes from love to hatred in the blink of an eye (sometimes as a result of supernatural influences, that is true, but not always). Suspension of disbelief doesn’t quite cover the reading experience, as we have characters who can leave their jobs at the drop of a hat and disappear for days or weeks on end with no ill consequences, married people who profess their love for their husbands or wives but don’t hesitate before leaving them without a word of explanation or making contact again, to name but two. What the story has, though, is plenty of atmosphere, and an old-fashioned Gothic feel to it. Rather than a reinterpretation of the genre, this is something closer to what many of the stories from the era might have been like, many of which wouldn’t have survived until now or become classics. It makes me think of Little Women, the scene when Prof. Bhaer is disparaging the type of sensationalist romance stories one can find in newspapers, knowing full well that Jo writes them as well, and advises her to write stories that truly matter to her. Those titillating narrations are the kinds of stories that would have been popular at the time, and, why not? (I will not reveal what happens in Little Women, in case somebody hasn’t read it. If you haven’t, please do. I love it!)

I also kept thinking of Nathaniel Hawthorne, the author of The Scarlett Letter among many other novels (I recommend it as well), who wrote about the differences between a novel and a romance (not a romantic novel in the sense of a love story, but something quite different).

This is what he wrote on the subject in his preface to The House of the Seven Gables (1851):

When a writer calls his work a Romance, it need hardly be observed that he wishes to claim a certain latitude, both as to its fashion and material, which he would not have felt himself entitled to assume, had he professed to be writing a novel. The latter form of composition is presumed to aim at a very minute fidelity, not merely to the possible, but to the probable and ordinary course of man’s experience. The former – while, as a work of art, it must rigidly subject itself to laws, and while it sins unpardonably so far as it may swerve aside from the truth of the human heart – has fairly a right to present that truth under circumstances, to a great extent of the writers own choosing or creation. If he thinks fit, also, he may so manage his atmospherical medium as to bring out or mellow the lights, and deepen and enrich the shadows of the picture, he will be wise, no doubt, to make a very moderate use of the privilege here stated, and especially to mingle the marvellous rather as a slight, delicate and evanescent flavour, than as any portion of the actual substance of the dish offered to the public. He can hardly be said, however, to commit a literary crime, even if he disregarded this caution.’

So, a novel has to be plausible, while in a romance, flights of fancy and imagination are allowed, and those are the working tools of the author. From that point of view, this book would fall into the category of a romance, and, readers who approach it as such, are likely to be swept by the story and enjoy the experience, but if you are looking for a well-written and high-quality novel as most critics understand it, you are bound to be disappointed.

To be fair, Bram Stoker wrote to entertain his readers and doesn’t seem to have been particularly concerned about issues such as classic status or high-brow definitions of quality. He had problems in the USA because he wanted his story to remain in the public domain rather than be copyrighted, so perhaps there is something more to the comparison than meets the eye.

I know this isn’t one of my usual reviews, but I hope people will get an idea of what they might find and if it is the kind of thing they’d like to read. There are scenes of violence, bizarre events aplenty, and some gore, but more in the style of classic horror than realistic modern descriptions. And I will agree with the recommendation to read Dracula as well if you haven’t yet. Oh, and don’t forget to keep eating onions!

 Thanks to the author and the publisher for this novel, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to keep the wonder going, the magic, to keep smiling, and to be happy!

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog I’LL PRAY WHEN I’M DYING by Stephen J. Golds (@SteveGone58) The best fictional depiction of OCD I’ve ever read. Hard-hitting, tough, and non-PC. Fabulous #OCD #noir

Hi all:

I’ve caught up with an author many of you felt curious about when I first reviewed one of his novels.

I’ll Pray When I’m Dying by Stephen J. Golds

I’ll Pray When I’m Dying by Stephen J. Golds

DO ALL SONS BECOME THEIR FATHERS?

Ben Hughes is a corrupt Boston Vice Detective and bagman for the Southie Mob.
Already desperately struggling with obsessive compulsions and memories of a traumatic childhood, his world begins to fall apart at the seams, triggered by the photograph of a missing child in the newspaper and the anniversary of his father’s death twenty years earlier.

‘I’LL PRAY WHEN I’M DYING’ IS THE STORY OF A BAD MAN BECOMING WORSE…

https://www.amazon.com/Ill-Pray-When-Im-Dying-ebook/dp/B096KM1384/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ill-Pray-When-Im-Dying-ebook/dp/B096KM1384/

https://www.amazon.es/Ill-Pray-When-Im-Dying-ebook/dp/B096KM1384/

Author Stephen J. Golds

About the author:

Stephen J. Golds was born in London, U.K, but has lived in Japan for most of his adult life. He enjoys spending time with his daughters, reading books, traveling, boxing and listening to old Soul LPs. His novels are Say Goodbye When I’m Gone (Red Dog Press) Always the Dead (Close to the Bone) Poems for Ghosts in Empty Tenement Windows and the forthcoming collection Love Like Bleeding Out With an Empty Gun in Your Hand

https://www.amazon.com/Stephen-J-Golds/e/B08TX1Q8TM/

 My review:

I was offered an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review.

I read a review Always the Dead by Stephen J. Golds a few months ago (you can check my review here), loved it, and when I shared my review on my blog quite a few people were intrigued and interested. Unfortunately, there were problems with that particular edition of the book, and it was removed from sale, but that didn’t diminish my interest and enthusiasm. Quite the opposite. Evidently, when I was given the opportunity to review a new novel by the same author, I couldn’t resist. And let me tell you, wow!

 Many of my comments about the previous novel apply here as well. This novel is darker than noir, harder than hard-boiled, and the characters are true bad-asses, but they are far deeper and better drawn than most bad characters are in novels. I have said, more than once, that I don’t need the protagonist of the books I read to be good to feel engaged and to be able to root for them, and I have always had a bit of a soft spot for anti-heroes and unusual main characters. We might not like to be reminded that we all have a dark side, and that we can do bad things as well (sometimes with the best of intentions, sometimes not so much), but as long as the characters’ behaviour can be understood at a certain level, and we can follow their journey and understand their motivations, no matter how little I like what they do, I’m happy to read about them. In the author’s note, at the end of the book, he explains that he decided to write this book because bad characters are always the antagonists, and very often we never get to understand why they do what they do; they are simply there as a foil to test the hero, a difficulty to be overcome, and he felt they should be given a chance.

Although the main protagonist of the novel is Ben Hughes, a British man who emigrated to the US (Boston) with his mother when he was quite young, the book also tells the story of his father, William, who was in the Met police, in London, and who, like his son, had survived a war but had been badly affected by it. The action and the setting are split into two timelines, separated by twenty years, as the father’s story takes place in 1926 and the son’s in 1946, in the days coming up to the 20th anniversary of his father’s death. There are many similarities in the behaviour of the two characters (Ben is a detective working for the Boston Police Department, but he has other fairly illegal occupations, and, in fact, he uses his job as a cover for the least pleasant aspects of his personality), and violence, corruption, threats, blackmail… are ways of life for both. But while we get much more of an insight into Ben’s motivations and traumas (growing up with a father like his was incredibly tough, and we get a first-row seat into some of his experiences through his memories and flashbacks of his childhood abuse), we don’t get to know that much about William. We don’t know anything about his life before the war, although we learn about a French woman’s betrayal and about the way the war seems to have dehumanised him, as he perceives violence now as an expedient way to get whatever he wants (because at least he is using it now in his own benefit, rather than for free at the behest of others). His alcohol consumption doesn’t help matters either, and he is unrepentant.

His son, Ben, suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and, as a psychiatrist and a reader, I must say I have never come across such a vivid and accurate depiction of the condition. The author explains that he feels this illness is always trivialized in popular media, and many aspects of it are never mentioned or delved upon, and he is absolutely right. I am sure many of us can bring to mind characters in books and movies who are supposed to suffer from OCD, but in most cases, it is only anecdotal, a minor hindrance, not something central to the character’s life. Although the story is told in the third person, Golds immerses us into the minds of the protagonists (we also get the point of view of some minor characters at times, but these are brief scenes, not quite as powerful or in-depth, although I particularly enjoyed meeting again a character from the other novel), and, in the case of Ben, that makes for a very uncomfortable experience. Beyond his actions (that yes, are extreme and hard, to say the least), we are locked inside a mind that is forever trying to fight repetitive thoughts (of contamination, paranoid thoughts, suspicions, guilt…), compulsions, engaging in routines (counting, repeating a poem) to guard against evil and doom, trapped by magical thinking… It is not surprising that his mind unravels as more and more of the things and people who moored him into his precarious existence fail him, and he cannot retain any sense of balance or equilibrium.

The writing style, the repetitions, the interruptions, the combination of short, sharp, and quick sentences combined with beautifully observed (even when ugly) descriptions of people and places, recreate the workings of the main character’s mind and reminded me somewhat of stream of consciousness, a writing technique often used by modernist writers. Although there is plenty of action, a plot thick with events and characters (from the lowest of the low to the highest echelons of society), this is not an easy linear read. The story follows a chronological order, alternating the chapters set in the 1920s and the 1940s, but there are many intrusions and flashbacks that can be disorienting and make the readers empathise (if not sympathise, as that is more difficult) with Ben. He is not good, as I said, and nobody could easily condone his actions, but he is trying to hold on to his soul and wants to help a child to make amends, as he wishes someone would have helped him all those years back. Even though the psychological insight into the protagonist’s psyche is one of the strongest points of the novel, the author also captures beautifully the atmosphere of both periods, the interactions between the characters, the way the gangs and tribes communicate, and the struggle for power (both inside and outside the law). I recommend people thinking of reading it to check a sample of the book, but I strongly advise giving it a good chance and not reading only a few lines, as it wouldn’t give them a fair idea of what the experience is like.

Despite my recommendation, I had to share a few lines with you:

Here, Ben describes how he feels when he sees a picture of a missing boy:

Something like a bullet in the back. A blade across the throat. A headache like a hammer blow to his skull and the start of a fever boiling underneath his clothes.

Distorted images passing through his head like the headlights of a speeding hearse down a black street.

And here, one of Ben’s routines:

He counted his steps in groups of seven. He reached the bakery in four sets. Four was an unlucky number. He turned around and walked back seven spaces, turned and walked back. Cancelling out the bad. Creating order….. He counted the steps up to her door. Twelve. Went back over two steps to make it fourteen. Two sets of seven. Felt relief.

As I had warned in my previous review, this is a novel that would fit perfectly in the publishing world of the era the main action is set in (the late 1940s), but not so much now. I had warned about possible triggers there, and here we have them all as well: brutal violence, corruption, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, child abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault… and anybody who might feel offended or upset by any of these subjects or preferring to read a book that fits into current political correctness sensibilities should be advised to stay away. This is a hard book, not without its moments of humour (very, very dark), and it deals in serious subjects, which, unfortunately, no matter how much the language we use has changed, are still present and as disturbing and ugly as ever. If you dare dig deep into the mind of a bad man and are not worried about, perhaps, getting to understand him and feel sorry for him, go on and read. Luckily, I have another one of Golds’ books waiting for me.

Thanks to the author for this opportunity, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to stay safe, keep reading, have as much fun as you can, and keep smiling!

 

 

 

 

 

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE LONDON PROPERTY BOY by Patrick Brigham (@PatrickBrigham) London in the 70s and 80s from a clear-eyed and no-frills perspective. And a bit of spying.

Hi all:

I bring you a book by an author who has visited my blog before, although this one is pretty different. You know I like different… Oh, I kept thinking about Pete who blogs from Beetley now and whose London stories (and others) I enjoy so much. If you don’t know him, you can check his blog here.

The London Property Boy by Patrick Brigham

The London Property Boy by Patrick Brigham

Michael Mostyne, a thirty-something developer and property dealer, has fallen foul of Great Britains 1970s economic recession. A property crash like no other, it foreshadows the end of a promising career, but it is also the end of his unhappy marriage to Lavender Mostyne. The tale of his painful struggle to get back on his feet, whilst dealing with the past and an acrimonious divorce, Mike Mostyne leaves his provincial home, moves to London and gets a job running a West London real estate agency. Through hard work, success soon turns to success and his life begins to change for the better. By manoeuvring around his bosses, with their narrow self-interest, his own desire for big money and a wish to be financially independent means he has to take huge risks.

London is not short of girls, and Mike Mostyne is rarely on his own. Christine, a West End PA and a good time girl, looks at him through a cloud of cannabis smoke. Sofie, a minor Dutch diplomat, disappears when Mike’s son Mark is mysteriously kidnapped by the IRA. And finally, there is Nadezhda Antova, who friends say is an Eastern European honey trap, but who he marries despite their warnings. From rags to riches, and with the next property crash waiting around the corner, will fate finally conspire to finish him off once again? Will he also find personal happiness with Nadezhda Antova, and why is MI5 so interested?

https://www.amazon.com/London-Property-Boy-Patrick-Brigham/dp/1704684587/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/London-Property-Boy-Patrick-Brigham/dp/1704684587/

https://www.amazon.es/London-Property-Boy-Patrick-Brigham/dp/1704684587/

Author Patrick Brigham

About the author

Patrick Brigham has lived in the Balkans for many years. Originally from London, where he was in the property business, he lived in the City until 1993 and then moved to Sofia. As Chief Editor of a magazine called the Sofia Western News, and the first English language magazine in ex-Communist Bulgaria, it introduced him to the intrigues of Eastern Europe, and a firm understanding of the people living there.

Now living in Northern Greece, Patrick has published many murder mystery novels as well as stand-alone literary fiction and a humorous play. Writing for the more thoughtful reader, Patrick Brigham says:–

“I have lived quite an eventful life, so much of what I write is based on fact. Most of my books concentrate on a particular subject, and The London Property Boy does just that and has quite a lot of me in it. We should never simply dwell on the past, but a colourful past is where much of our inspiration comes from.”

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Patrick-Brigham/e/B00BGZTKFE

My review:

I received an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to read and review.

I read and reviewed Bringham’s Goddess of the Rainbow some time ago, and I was curious to read a new work by him, in this case a novel that seemed totally different in setting and subject matter. And that is indeed the case. This is not a choral book, and although there are quite a number of characters, the story centres around Mike Mostyne, and most of it takes place in London (although other parts of the UK also feature, and there are occasional trips to Bulgaria as well, and that connects it somewhat to the previous novel). The author’s biography confirmed my impression that the novel showed a deep and personal knowledge of the world of the property business in London in the 70s and 80s.

I don’t want to go into a lot of detail about the plot, as the description covers the gist of the main events. We follow Mike Mostyne, who is a property developer when we meet him at the beginning of the novel, through several decades of adventures that mirror what’s happening in London’s property market and the UK economy at large, from bust to boom and repeat. Although a lot of the novel is taken by his work and his efforts to rebuild his business and avoid bankruptcy, we also read about his personal life (although not in so much detail): his two marriages and the other women who cross (and some share, even if momentarily) his life, the relationship with his son, his attempts at looking after his mother and his fraught relationship with his sibling, his interaction with friends and associates, and also some more unusual goings-on (there’s some spying thrown in). Although this is narrated in a third-person omniscient voice (most of it from Mike’s point of view, but we also get some inside information about some of the other characters the protagonist could not be privy to [at least not at the time when the events were taking place], and in some occasions, we appear to be observing Mike as if from a distance), at times it feels as if it were a memoir, but rather than Mike writing it, it is as if he had told the story to somebody else who had gathered other information as well, and we get to read this more detailed account of events. And believe me, the events make for quite a good read.

Although some of the themes might be pretty standard and to be expected in a novel (I’ve mentioned some already: private life, family relationships, love, friendship, business), Mike goes through more than his fair share of disappointments, betrayals, misunderstandings, strange deals and connections, unusual characters, politics (both in the UK and in Bulgaria, which gives him an unusual insight and perspective into the transition from the communist regime to the new democracies of some of the Eastern Bloc countries), and secrets beyond those most people come across in a lifetime. People familiar with the London of the 1970s and 80s will feel quite at home in this novel, and those who know or are interested in the property business, especially as it was 40 to 50 years ago in London, will remember and/or learn a lot about how things were really like. Tricks of the trade, underhand deals, backstabbing and internal company politics, corruption, traffic of influences, legal and not-so-legal procedures… It’s an eye-opener for those of us without direct experience who have always felt curious about it.

Mike is the main character, and we get to know him fairly well, although, as I’ve mentioned, the way the story is told and the fact that there is plenty of telling rather than showing, means that this is not in a touchy-feely way. Even when he is distressed, there is no much time dedicated to his feelings, and the style of the storytelling seems to go hand in hand with the character, who tries not to dwell on bad things, who is eminently practical and prefers to get on with things and act rather than to gaze at his own navel, and who never gives up. We get glimpses of his relationship with his mother, his sister and his brother, his first wife (who is a pretty dislikeable character, at least in my opinion), his son (who sounds like a terrific boy, but we don’t hear about him very often), some of the other women he comes across, and some pretty colourful characters, like a Bulgarian spy/politician, and John Cunningham, who is a puzzle in his own right. Personally, I would have liked to learn more about some of them (I particularly like his mother, although we meet her at a bad time in her life), but, as I have mentioned, the style of writing reflects the character’s personality, and one gets the sense that whatever his true feelings or interests, he would be unlikely to delve on them or divulge them even to those closest to him.

I’ve mentioned the point of view of the novel; the language suits the character and the location perfectly; it is peppered with local British expressions (which I think many readers will enjoy) and popular references to the period, without excessive or flowery descriptions (but there are some memorable characterisations); and it flows quite well. It isn’t a page-turner in the usual sense, as even when events take a turn that appears risky or dangerous, there isn’t a quickening of the pace but there isn’t an excessive build-up of tension either. It is a less-is-more approach that I found quite refreshing, although it seems to go against the usual dictates of how to write a bestseller. This is a fascinating story, told without too many bells and whistles, in a style that allows the facts to speak for themselves. That does not mean there is a lack of reflection and insight, as there are comments and quotes that are so sharp and true that one is left nodding in amazement and agreement. And, unfortunately in many cases, some of them are as relevant now as they were at the time the story is set in. I highlighted a lot of the text, and I share a few examples here (but, as usual, I recommend readers to check the look-inside feature or get a sample before deciding if the style suits their taste):

It always surprised him how solicitors managed to remove their umbrella when it began to rain, and to charge heavy fees when the pressure was on, and how, even after years of loyalty, you became their victim in the end.

Mike reflects about his mother and her failing memory:

Perhaps her memory loss was closely connected to her loneliness, and recollecting the past only served to increase her feelings of isolation. Maybe that was the solution to loneliness: to simply forget.

Here Mike is talking to John Cunningham about a pretty peculiar Bulgarian character (yes, Bulgarians don’t come out of this novel particularly well, although they aren’t the only ones to suffer a harsh treatment, and the author seems to be talking from personal experience) who after the fall of the Eastern Bloc decides to become a candidate in the first democratic elections in his country:

‘What, from con man to respectable politician? I thought that was an oxymoron?’

‘It’s just like good old Dr Johnson said —“Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”

The ending is open, and it promises further adventures (although I don’t know if there’s another book planned or not). That does not mean there is a cliff-hanger. Nothing like that. As I’ve said before, Mike is a man who never gives up and who’s always after a new project or challenge, so it’s not surprising he goes searching for the next thing.

This is a book for those who enjoy local atmosphere and fiction set in the recent past (the latter part of the XX century), particularly in the UK and London. It doesn’t easily fit into a genre (it is a fictionalised memoir with plenty of information about the property business, family and romantic relationships, and even elements of the spy novel), and it defies many of the expectations of the majority of novels published these days. If you want more of the same or love standard genre novels, don’t bother with this one. But if you’d like to check a story that reflects the period, has touches of humour, and is non-apologetically personal, give it a go. It’s likely to leave you eager for more.

Thanks to the author for his novel, thanks to all of you for reading, I hope 2021 has started on a good note for you (don’t we all need it!), and remember to comment, like, share, click, and especially keep safe, and keep reading!

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Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview OLIVE by Emma Gannon (@HarperCollinsUK) For fans of Sex and the City and Birdget Jones’s Diary #chicklit

Hi all:

I was intrigued by the topic of this book. After all, I’ve never had children and I’m happy with it, but I realised not that many books touch on that. Well, there were good and bad things about this book, but I don’t think it was for me.

Olive by Emma Gannon

OLIVE by Emma Gannon

The debut novel from the Sunday Times bestselling author, Emma Gannon.

‘Thoughtful, searching, funny, and (most importantly) honest’ Elizabeth Gilbert
‘Brilliantly observed’ Sophie Kinsella
‘It’ll give a voice to countless women’ Marian Keyes
‘Utterly distinctive’ Emma Jane Unsworth

OLIVE is many things.

Independent.
Adrift.
Anxious.
Loyal.
Kind.
She knows her own mind.

And it’s ok that she’s still figuring it all out, navigating her world without a compass. But life comes with expectations, there are choices to be made and – sometimes – stereotypes to fulfil. So when her best friends’ lives branch away towards marriage and motherhood, leaving the path they’ve always followed together, she starts to question her choices – because life according to Olive looks a little bit different.

Moving, memorable and a mirror for anyone at a crossroads, OLIVE has a little bit of all of us. Told with great warmth and nostalgia, this is a modern tale about the obstacle course of adulthood, milestone decisions and the ‘taboo’ about choosing not to have children.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07YCWZ8X6/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07YCWZ8X6/

https://www.amazon.es/dp/B07YCWZ8X6/

Author Emma Gannon

About the author:

Emma Gannon is an author, award-winning podcaster, speaker, and columnist who was named one of Forbes UK’s “30 under 30” in 2018. She is the former social media editor of British Glamour and has been published everywhere from the Times (UK) to Teen Vogue. Her popular interview podcast, Ctrl Alt Delete, where she discusses work, culture, and careers with interesting people from all walks of life, has been nominated for a Webby Award and has been recommended by Wired, Esquire, Elle, Red, Marie Claire, and many more. This is her second book. She lives in London.

https://www.amazon.com/Emma-Gannon/e/B07CNBMD9B

My review:

I thank NetGalley and Harper Collins for providing me an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.

I’ll try to be brief, as I think my review won’t be very relevant to a lot of people, because I am not a big reader of chick-lit, and I have no previous knowledge of the author, who is better known for her work as a podcaster, writer and editor in magazines, and non-fiction. I am sure both, fans of this genre and of the author, will enjoy the novel.

This is a novel that reminded me of Sex and the City (there are four female friends whose lives have taken different directions but remain close) although set in London and more modest (and they are not as obsessed with shopping), and Bridget Jones’s Diary (yes, the London setting works well, and the many disasters the main character gets involved in also resonate).  We have the four friends, who’ve known each other since they were children and shared an apartment in London while at university. We have a writer, writing for an online magazine (like the author of the book), a lawyer, an artist, and a therapist. The main events of the book take place at a particular point in their lives, and it is told, in the first person, through Olive’s (Olivia but she hates her name and most people call her Ol) point of view. Olive is at a point of crisis, as her long-term relationship (nine years) with Jacob has come to an end. He wanted to have children, and she didn’t, and that became a deal-breaker in the end. Olive is not the only one going through a crisis, and the rest of the women in the book are too. These crises centre on the issue of having or not having children (mostly) and how that can change a woman’s life. One of the friends is about to have a baby; one already has three kids and her relationship is not quite as good as it seems; one is desperately trying to get pregnant (on her second round of IVF), and then there is Olive. The story moves chronologically forward, but there are also interspersed fragments of the past (the year is clearly indicated) that helps give us some background into the friends’ experiences together and how things have changed with time and their altered circumstances.

What I liked about the book: I enjoyed the London references (not long descriptions but rather a feel for the locations and the atmosphere), the British-speech (especially the colloquialisms), the quotes from random women on the issue of being child-free at the end of each chapter, and some of the side characters (Olive’s old neighbour, Olive’s sister, and Colin, a colleague, were among my favourites). I also enjoyed the insights into the workings of an online magazine (it’s evident the author knows what she is writing about), and some of the interactions between the friends (although for me, those set early on in their relationship and the ones where Olive is with only one of her friends worked better than the big events or the four women’s reunions). I also liked the final section of the book, around the last 10%, when Olive seems to finally grow up and gain some true insight into her situation and understanding of others’ circumstances and is no longer so self-absorbed.

What I disliked about the book: I am not sure how much I liked any of the main characters. I didn’t dislike them either, and I sympathised with some of them (especially Isla, although I can’t say I’ve ever felt like her), but they were as expected. Nothing particularly original, distinctive, or diverse about them. Upper to middle middle-class women, with no particular financial difficulties,  fairly successful in their careers, whose only issues seemed to be their preoccupation with having children or not (and their relationship with their partners, but to a far lesser extent) and the fact that their friendship seemed to be deteriorating due to other aspects of their lives. I am not saying this is not important, but… I was intrigued by the main topic, which is something not often discussed, but I am not sure the humorous tone of the book served it well. I felt at times frustrated by how slowly time seemed to move (Olive is set to attend a club meeting for child-free women early on in the novel, and it seems to take forever for that day to arrive), and I realised that it was in part because of the inserts of past episodes, and in part because the central character has not changed at all in her outlook or behaviour through the years. As I have said, this changes towards the end of the book, and I felt that made the book feel more realistic and interesting, but it was a bit too little too late for me.

In sum, this is a light read about a serious topic that is not usually discussed in this genre. I recommend it to lovers of chick-lit, especially if they enjoy a London setting, and to readers who follow the author. Although the final message is a positive one, I think women struggling with the issue of childbearing might find some of the content upsetting, and they should approach it with some caution.

I wonder if I might have enjoyed this book more, or found it more helpful, when I was younger, but we all change.

Thanks to NetGalley and to Harper Collins for the copy of the book, thanks to the writer, and especially thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, keep smiling, and above all, keep safe.

 

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog There She Goes by Lynne Shelby (@LynneB1) A light-hearted read recommended to lovers of rom-com, theatre, and London.

Hi all, I bring you a fun and light read, thanks once more to Rosie Amber, the heart of Rosie’s Book Review Team.

There She Goes by Lynne Shelby

There She Goes by Lynne Shelby

‘A delightful romantic read set amidst the drama, hopes and dreams of aspiring stage stars – a must for theatre lovers!’ – Grace Lowrie, author of Before We Fall

When aspiring actress Julie Farrell meets actor Zac Diaz, she is instantly attracted to him, but he shows no interest in her. Julie, who has yet to land her first professional acting role, can’t help wishing that her life was more like a musical, and that she could meet a handsome man who d sweep her into his arms and tap-dance her along the street…

After early success on the stage, Zac has spent the last three years in Hollywood, but has failed to forge a film career. Now back in London, he is determined to re-establish himself as a theatre actor. Focused solely on his work, he has no time for distractions, and certainly no intention of getting entangled in a committed relationship…

Auditioning for a new West End show, Julie and Zac act out a love scene, but will they ever share more than a stage kiss?

https://www.amazon.com/There-She-Goes-share-Theatreland-ebook/dp/B07PDZMMT2/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/There-She-Goes-share-Theatreland-ebook/dp/B07PDZMMT2/

https://www.amazon.es/There-She-Goes-share-Theatreland-ebook/dp/B07PDZMMT2/

Author Lynne Shelby

About the author:

Lynne Shelby writes contemporary women’s fiction/romance. Her debut novel, ‘French Kissing’ won the Accent Press and Woman magazine Writing Competition. She has done a variety of jobs from stable girl to child actor’s chaperone to legal administrator, but now writes full time. When not writing or reading, Lynne can usually be found at the theatre or exploring a foreign city – Paris, New York, Rome, Copenhagen, Seattle, Reykjavik – writer’s notebook, camera and sketchbook in hand. She lives in London with her husband, and has three adult children who live nearby.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lynne-Shelby/e/B010MG2OSW/

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team,(authors, if you are looking for reviews, check here), and I freely chose to review an ARC copy of this novel.

In case you’re in a hurry (I know my reviews can go on a bit), I thought I’d give you a quick summary of my opinion. I had plenty of fun reading this novel. Although it does not break any new ground and there are no huge surprises, the characters are likeable, and if you love theatre (musical theatre in particular), you’re curious about what happens behind the curtains, enjoy romantic comedies not heavy on sex or drama, and fancy a visit to the London theatrical district, you’ll enjoy this novel.

This is the second in Shelby’s Theatreland series, but it can be read independently (although I guess from the teaser at the end of this novel that you might recognise some of the characters in the other novel in the series if you read it as well). I’d never read any of the author’s novels before, although I know her romantic comedies are popular and having read this one, I can see why.

The novel tells the story of Julie, a struggling actress, who’s only been out of acting school for one year, and whose life is split between the day (rather late-evening/night) job (handing leaflets for a London night club), and trying to land an acting job. She tells her story in the first person, and she is young, dynamic, attractive and talented, although she is not aware of how truly good she is. She shares a shabby apartment with her friend and fellow aspiring actress, Alexa, who is always ready for a good time, and although happy to have casual relationships, has her exacting standards when it comes to finding “the” man of her life. Julie is far more romantic, and she meets the man all readers will guess is the male romantic lead, Zac, very early on in the book. There is a certain deal of “will they/won’t they” going on at first, but let me reassure you that it doesn’t take long for things to go in the right direction, at least for a while. There are chapters also told from Zac’s perspective, although far fewer, narrated in the third person, and this allows us to gain some insight into his true thoughts and feelings, while at the same time keeping some information hidden. Zac is, of course, gorgeous, extremely talented, and has some acting credits to his name already, but he has been away for a while and needs to find his way back into the London stage, and there are hints of darkness and secrecy about him and his relationship with Julie.

As I mentioned at the start of this review, there are no major surprises when it comes to the romance side of things. The course of true love, etc., etc., is true here as well, and that is the case for several relationships that appear in the book (not only Julie and Zac’s, but also Alexa and her partners, particularly Tim, and there is also the story of Charlie, a friend of Alexa’s from acting school, and his long-term girlfriend Suzanne), but they don’t drag on to the point where one loses interest, and there is no excess of drama. There is sex, but the scenes are pretty mild and not very explicit. I’m not a fan of erotica and tend to avoid it as much as I can, and I was not bothered at all by the scenes in this book. If I had to rate the degree of heat, on a scale of 4, this would be, at most, a 2. I wouldn’t say this is a PG book, but a lot of the action takes place behind closed doors. And, of course, there is the obligatory HEA. And it is pretty satisfactory all round.

The characters are not complex and don’t deal with any major issues, although they are not cardboard cut-outs either. What brings them to life and makes them distinctive are the relationships they have with each other (particularly their friendships, which feel real), and also their love of acting and theatre. Julie and Alexa’s relationship, in particular, is one of the things I most enjoyed in the novel, and their shared apartment felt like home by the end of the novel. There are some nasty characters (egotistical and self-centred rather than truly evil), but there are no extremes of behaviour or true evil, and most of the characters are quick-witted, caring, and have a sense of fun.

I am a fan of theatre, and of musical theatre in particular (although I also love straight plays), and I enjoyed the talk about agents, acting schools, auditions, rehearsals, dance classes, and the imagination the author displays when she comes up with the plots and names of musicals (some sound like adaptations from well-known books), plays, and also theatres, and she shows a great knowledge of the topic, and love for its history (there are some homages fans of the genre are likely to pick up). As we follow Julie and her friends, through the process of auditions and the dreadful wait for “the call” we share in the excitement, and the joy and/or disappointment. It is a fascinating world, which Shelby manages to immerse readers in, managing to keep it light. (If you’d like a lighter version of A Chorus Line, you might have found it in this book). I am Spanish, and appreciated the fact that Zac Díaz, the hero, is of Spanish heritage and uses Spanish expressions often, and Joe García, the main name in musical theatre according to the novel is also Spanish. And I had great fun imagining what La Pasionaria, The Musical, would be like.

The writing style is fluid, it flows well, it is light and airy, full of amusing references and fun moments, and although we might feel sure we know where things are heading, we can’t help but keep turning the pages. There is a secret, something that makes us wonder about the hero of the novel and his true character, and there is a reveal at the end. I guessed what it was, but I must admit that I had several theories I kept swapping and changing throughout most of the book, and the author is good at hinting and misdirecting us, keeping us guessing.

I recommend this novel to anybody looking for a romantic comedy, especially to lovers of theatre (musical theatre in particular) and of London. Although there are no major surprises, the author manages to combine engaging characters, a fascinating background (there’s no business like show business, indeed), in a wonderful setting (London’s West End). I know where to go for my next theatrical romance!

Thanks to Rosie and her great time, thanks to the author, and thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, comment, share, click, review, and always keep smiling!

 

 

 

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Book review Book reviews

#TuesdayBookBlog THE DEVIL IN THE DOCK: A BOWMAN OF THE YARD INVESTIGATION by Richard James(@RichardNJames). An exception to the rules about second parts #Victorianmystery

Hi all:

I bring you the second book in a series I started reading recently, and I’m already a big fan of.

The Devil in the Dock: a Bowman of the Yard Investigation by Richard James
The Devil in the Dock: a Bowman of the Yard Investigation by Richard James

The Devil in the Dock: a Bowman of the Yard Investigation by Richard James

‘Are there devils here?’

Considered a loose cannon, Detective Inspector George Bowman of Scotland Yard is despatched to London’s docks where he can do no harm. When an explosion rips through the wharves, however, he’s soon pitched into a world of intrigue and extortion.

With the whole of Victorian London in the grip of the mysterious Kaiser, Bowman must find the strength to escape the ghosts that haunt him. Just who is the Kaiser, and what do they have to do with his wife’s death?

The explosive second investigation for Bowman of the Yard

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07S7RMN5G

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07S7RMN5G

https://www.amazon.es/dp/B07S7RMN5G

About the author:

I’ve been telling stories all my life.

As a playwright, I have written nearly thirty plays, all of which have been published by Lazy Bee Scripts. They often win awards for their performances up and down the country and around the world. My most popular play, a comedy called A Fete Worse Than Death, tells of a murder in the country produce tent at a summer fete. My best selling one act play, White Lies, features a reunion of four women thirty years after university, with hilarious consequences (even though I say so myself)! In 2014 I wrote a book, Space Precinct Unmasked, detailing my experiences working on Gerry Anderson’s last live action sci-fi series.

So, I suppose it was only a matter of time before I would write a novel. I decided it had to be set in a world I would want to spend time in and feature characters I would want to be with. And most importantly, it would have to feature a grisly murder or two! I love the Victorian era (or at least the literary version of it), and I devour books about nineteenth century detectives (yes, Sherlock Holmes, I’m looking at you). It seems such a rich period of history populated by some hugely colourful characters, so that’s where I’ve started my novel-writing career. The Head in the Ice follows the investigation of Inspector George Bowman of Scotland Yard into the discovery of – well, a head in the ice of the River Thames.

Three more books in the Bowman of the Yard series are to follow, together with some short stories from Bowman’s Casebook. These will fill in the gaps between the novels, giving the reader the chance to follow Bowman’s professional progress and personal battles (he’s a troubled man, as you’ll see) over twelve months of his life (although it might take me a little longer to write them all!). 1892 promises to be quite a year for Inspector Bowman, and I’m sure he would love to have your company!

Visit my website! www.richardjamesonline.com

Find out more about my books! www.bowmanoftheyard.co.uk (You can access a free short-story The Smithfield Murder here as well, and other extra materials and stories.)

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Richard-James/e/B00NHSS6H6/

Picture of author Richard James
Author Richard James

My review:

I received an early ARC copy of this novel and I freely chose to review it.

I recently read, enjoyed, and reviewed the first novel in this series, The Head in the Ice (you can check my review here), and was aware the second novel was on its way, and made sure to read it as soon as I was able to. And, let me tell you, it doesn’t disappoint. If anything, I’d say I enjoyed it even more than the first instalment (and that is saying something).

The story is told from an omniscient point of view (I talked about it at length in my previous review, so I won’t repeat it here), and that gives the reader a chance to see things from different characters’ perspectives, and sometimes experiencing the confusion of their circumstances and the events they are confronted with (we see things from the point of view of one of the victims of the story at some point, and it does make for pretty unnerving reading). Although we mostly share in the point of view of D.I. Bowman, we also read more about Graves, one of the younger detectives working for him and the most sympathetic to Bowman’s circumstances, and that helps us not get completely sucked in by Bowman’s subjective experiences. I know some readers don’t feel comfortable with the changes in perspective implied by this point of view, but I again feel it fits the story well, and I’d advise checking a sample of the book in case of doubt.

We meet again some of the same characters from the previous novel, and the events follow chronologically on from the previous ones, to the point where Bowman gets moved onto a security detail because of doubts about his performance and his mental state in the previous case. Bowman is disappointed and tries even harder to get a hold on his flashbacks and on his difficult recovery from the trauma of his wife’s death and from his guilt about it (I’m trying not to give away spoilers). He is not totally successful; he drinks a bit too much and does not always look after his appearance as well as he should, but he manages to keep his wits about him, and the fact that his analytical mind keeps ticking, despite the stress and the grief, evidence his intelligence and suitability for the job. He is also determined, and although he knows his word is doubted because of his mental health issues, he never gives up in his pursuit of the truth.

We also learn more about Graves, who is a pretty jovial and genial character, but we discover he hides depths of feeling not so evident in the first novel. Even Hicks, a man mostly interested in making his employment in the police force as painless an experience as possible, appears less obnoxious and more willing to work as a member of a team, despite his questioning some of the decisions. We meet some other characters, get to know better Bowman’s boss, we meet Callahan, who seems only interest in advancing his career within the ranks of the police, no matter what it takes, and we also come across a host of secondary characters, including plenty of inhabitants of the criminal underworld (and the distinction is far from clear-cut at times). Oh, and I loved the baddy (but I won’t add anything else on that subject).

The novel is atmospheric and conveys extremely well the feeling of the era, without becoming a catalogue full of description of Victorian clothing and wares. We have fascinating historical notes, such as information about the building of Tower Bridge, in London, also of the Thames Tunnel (initially for pedestrian use), the Queen’s steamer, and I particularly enjoyed the insights into the London Docks and how they were used at the time, as they were the point of entry for most of the goods arriving from around the world into London. We see the extremes of poverty and wealth, and how they are hardly separated by a few yards, and the characters themselves reflect upon the social gap between the haves and the have-nots (in fact, a chasm), also noting the level of crime, corruption, and the intermingling of the criminal underworld and the everyday activities of many people. There are workers being injured, protection rackets at work, goods being stolen, kidnappings, illegal betting, drug use… but the legal side of things is hardly blameless, and it is not surprising that the population remain suspicious of the police and of the workings of the justice system. There is much talk in the book of the Empire, Queen Victoria, and certain practices —like the transportation to the colonies as punishment— are highlighted and questioned. Readers can make their own minds up, but it is difficult not to look at it and conclude that such projects have a high cost, and those who pay for it are rarely the ones who end up reaping the benefits.

The mystery part of the novel is extremely well constructed, and as I advised in the first novel, here it is necessary as well to keep one’s eyes open, and not miss anything, as there are clues dropped along the book, and none of them are casual. There are red-herrings, some of the characters are led down wrong lines of enquiry (it is all to do with the Fenian Brotherhood [the pro-Ireland Independence movement of the era]?, is it all part of a protection ring?, who is the Kaiser?), and Bowman’s mind starts seeing connections between what is happening and his own tragedy, but, are they real?  The novel alternates scenes of action with those of observation and enquiry, but the rhythm increases as the story progresses and towards the end, the action scenes come fast and thick, and we can hardly turn the pages quickly enough to keep up. I enjoyed the ending, even if it is not what I’d call a “happy” one per se, but it fits perfectly well with the story, it shows Bowman in a very good light, and it answers many questions, not all pertaining exclusively to this book.

This is another great Victorian mystery novel, with solid and complex characters, which poses questions about the society of the time and also about the nature of the British Empire. I look forward to reading more adventures of Bowman and his team in the future.

Thanks to the author for his book, to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and always, keep smiling, and enjoying your summer! (or winter)

 

 

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE HEAD IN THE ICE: A BOWMAN OF THE YARD INVESTIGATION by Richard James (@RichardNJames). A masterful new Victorian #mystery series. #RBRT

Hi all:

I bring you the review of the first book in a new Victorian mystery series, another great discovery from Rosie’s Book Review Team.

Cover of book The Head in the Ice
The Head in the Ice: A Bowman of the Yard Investigation by Richard James

The Head in the Ice: A Bowman of the Yard Investigation by Richard James (@RichardNJames).

Who would send a madman to solve a murder?

Just released from a Lunatic Asylum, Inspector George Bowman is in no shape to lead an investigation, but the discovery of a severed head in the frozen waters of the River Thames sees him back in service at Scotland Yard. As he delves into the dark heart of the city in search of answers, the memory of the death of his wife threatens to derail his investigation and place his very sanity in peril.

Bowman must confront his demons and the part he played in her demise before he can solve the case; a case that leads him across Victorian London in pursuit of a killer.

The first Bowman Of The Yard investigation.

‘A genuinely impressive debut. Richard James has crafted an engrossing mystery, with a great sense of atmosphere, and meticulously researched.’ Andrew Cartmel, The Vinyl Detective

https://www.amazon.com/Head-Ice-Bowman-Yard-Investigation-ebook/dp/B07PDJCH8P/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Head-Ice-Bowman-Yard-Investigation-ebook/dp/B07PDJCH8P/

https://www.amazon.es/Head-Ice-Bowman-Yard-Investigation-ebook/dp/B07PDJCH8P/

Picture of author Richard James
Author Richard James

About the author:

I’ve been telling stories all my life.

As a playwright, I have written nearly thirty plays, all of which have been published by Lazy Bee Scripts. They often win awards for their performances up and down the country and around the world. My most popular play, a comedy called A Fete Worse Than Death, tells of a murder in the country produce tent at a summer fete. My best selling one act play, White Lies, features a reunion of four women thirty years after university, with hilarious consequences (even though I say so myself)! In 2014 I wrote a book, Space Precinct Unmasked, detailing my experiences working on Gerry Anderson’s last live action sci-fi series.

So, I suppose it was only a matter of time before I would write a novel. I decided it had to be set in a world I would want to spend time in and feature characters I would want to be with. And most importantly, it would have to feature a grisly murder or two! I love the Victorian era (or at least the literary version of it), and I devour books about nineteenth century detectives (yes, Sherlock Holmes, I’m looking at you). It seems such a rich period of history populated by some hugely colourful characters, so that’s where I’ve started my novel-writing career. The Head in the Ice follows the investigation of Inspector George Bowman of Scotland Yard into the discovery of – well, a head in the ice of the River Thames.

Three more books in the Bowman of the Yard series are to follow, together with some short stories from Bowman’s Casebook. These will fill in the gaps between the novels, giving the reader the chance to follow Bowman’s professional progress and personal battles (he’s a troubled man, as you’ll see) over twelve months of his life (although it might take me a little longer to write them all!). 1892 promises to be quite a year for Inspector Bowman, and I’m sure he would love to have your company!

www.bowmanoftheyard.co.uk

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Richard-James/e/B00NHSS6H6/

The author informed me that book two in the Bowman of the Yard series, The Devil at the Dock, will be available to preorder from June 4th and readers can pick up a free short story, The Smithfield Murder, by visiting www.bowmanoftheyard.co.uk

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you are looking for reviews, check here), and I freely chose to review an ARC copy of this novel ahead of its publication.

From the moment I read the description of this novel, a few weeks before its publication, I knew I’d end up reading it. I love mysteries, have been reading historical fiction in recent times and with my background in criminology, a mysterious murder set in the Victorian era ticked many boxes. To top it all, the main character, and the protagonist of the series, Inspector Bowman, had been in a lunatic asylum. As I’m also a psychiatrist and have read and enjoyed books looking back at the history of psychiatry, this was a further inducement, if I needed one. Of course, the title and the cover of the book worked in its favour.

I’ll try not to dwell too much on the story and the plot itself, to avoid spoilers, but I can tell you the book is a fine mystery that lived up to my expectations, and even surpassed them in many ways.

The style of the story and the way is told put me in mind of watching a movie (or a play, which I know is a genre the author is very familiar with, although here we have many more settings than in a standard play). The author uses an omniscient point of view, and that means that readers get to see scenes and events from a variety of characters’ perspectives (and not only the good guys either), and sometimes also from a neutral observer’s point of view (that works particularly well to set the scene and also to keep the mystery going, while at the same time offering readers some snippets of information that Bowman and his team do not have). That is an excellent method to avoid revealing too much while offering the readers great insights into the characters’ thoughts and motivations, but I know not everybody likes stories told this way, and I’d advise people to check a sample of the book to see if it is a good fit, in case of doubt. Personally, I did not find the way the story was told at all confusing, although due to the nature of the case and to the many characters, it is necessary to pay close attention and make sure not to miss any details. (Perhaps adding a cast of characters might help readers get their bearings quickly).

In some books that type of point of view might result in difficulty getting attached to any of the characters, but I did not think that was the case here. Although we get many points of view, the main one we follow is that of the Bowman, and because the inspector is the first character we meet, and in pretty difficult circumstances (he is a resident at a lunatic asylum just about to go in front of the board that must decide if he’s ready for his release), we quickly establish a connection with him. He is a sympathetic and intelligent character, who has suffered a personal tragedy that has resulted in mental health difficulties (nowadays, I’d say he would be diagnosed, most likely, with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder), and who tries hard to get on with his life, despite his anxiety, flashbacks, and the complex and emotionally challenging nature of his work. He is not the perfect and flawless hero, but a human being with flaws and weaknesses. His flashbacks, the physical symptoms he experiences, and his fragile mental state are well drawn and are, for me, one of the strongest points of the book. I also enjoyed the depiction of the asylum and its therapies, far from the ones we often see and read about in popular media that seem right out of a horror movie. There are other characters to root for as well, although not quite as fleshed out as Bowman, and even some of the baddies are individualised enough for readers to get a fair idea of who they are.

The novel also succeeds at creating a picture of the London of the era, the atmosphere of the different neighbourhoods, the asylum, Scotland Yard, the underworld, without going overboard with descriptions and details or slowing the action. It is a compelling and historically accurate portrayal of a time, and one that goes beyond the anecdotal to dig deeper into some of the unsavoury aspects of the era.

The plot is gripping, and we visit upper-middle-class locations, pubs, sewers, cemeteries, bridges, a lunatic asylum, a ship, Bengal, and we get to learn about laudanum, poisons, laws, Victorian trade, weapons, the criminal underworld of the era (including murders, robberies, prostitution…), and although we learn enough information to get suspicious about the guilty party (or parties) fairly early on, there are quite a few twists and turns, strange goings on, and we don’t get to understand how it all fits together until close to the end (we might have our suspicions but…). There are some red herrings thrown in, and even a suggestion of the supernatural. All in all, the atmosphere, the characters, and the plot, work well to create a solid story, a great opening to a new series of Victorian mysteries, and one that allows us to examine the laws, mores and morality of the era.

If I had to take issue with anything, other than the point of view that I think works well but some readers might not feel comfortable with, I felt that, at times, some of the experiences, tics, and behaviours characters engage in (clearing one’s throat, blowing smoke into someone’s face, etc.) are repeated fairly often, and that put me in mind of stage directions or business that actors have to engage in to indicate certain traits of a character, which might not be as relevant or necessary when we can share in their thoughts directly. I did not find it distracting and, like some of the side stories, I felt they helped readers catch their breath and regroup, but those who prefer stripped down and action-led plots might feel they could be slimmed down.

In sum, this is a great story that I’d recommend to those who enjoy mysteries within a historical setting (Victorian in this case), with a complex story full of compelling characters and plenty of atmosphere. I look forward to the next adventure of Inspector Bowman, and I’m sure I won’t be the only one.

 Thanks to the author, to Rosie and all the members of her wonderful team, to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and always keep smiling! ♥

 

 

 

 

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE ELIZABETH PAPERS by Jenetta James (@JenettaJames) #Regencyromance #Bookreview A joy of a novel recommended to fans of Pride and Prejudice. Excellent for book clubs.

Hi all:

Those of you who follow my blog and my reviews will know I fell in love with a collection of stories about some of the characters in Jane Austen’s novels and was determined to read more books by the authors. Here comes another one. And it’s a joy.

The Elizabeth Papers by Jenetta James
The Elizabeth Papers by Jenetta James

The Elizabeth Papers by Jenetta James

“It is settled between us already, that we are to be the happiest couple in the world,” said Elizabeth Bennet at the conclusion of Pride & Prejudice–but was it true? 

Charlie Haywood is a London-based private investigator who has made his own fortune–on his own terms. Charming, cynical, and promiscuous, he never expected to be attracted to Evie Pemberton, an independent-minded artist living with the aftermath of tragedy. But when he is hired to investigate her claims to a one hundred fifty-year-old trust belonging to the eminent Darcy family, he is captivated.

Together they become entwined in a Regency tale of love, loss, and mystery tracing back to the grand estate of Pemberley, home to Evie’s nineteenth-century ancestors, Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy. As if travelling back in time, another story unfolds within theirs. All was not as it seemed in the private lives of Mr. and Mrs. Darcy, but how can they ever uncover the whole truth?

How could they know that in 1817 Elizabeth Darcy began a secret journal? What started as an account of a blissful life came to reflect a growing unease. Was the Darcy marriage perfect, or was there betrayal and deception at its heart?

Can Evie and Charlie unearth the truth in the letters of Fitzwilliam Darcy or within the walls of present-day Pemberley? What are the elusive “Elizabeth papers,” and why did Elizabeth herself want them destroyed?

The Elizabeth Papers is a tale of romance and intrigue, spanning the Regency and modern eras, reminding us how the passions of the past may inspire those in the present.

Editorial Reviews

Awards for The Elizabeth Papers

Winner #RBRT 2016 Book Awards for Historical Fiction – Rosie Amber Book Reviews

Favourite JAFF Time Shift Story 2016 – JustJane1813

Favourite Read 2016 – Babblings of a Bookworm

Austenesque Reviews’ Favourite 2016 – Austenesque Reviews

Reader’s Choice 2016 – Austenesque Reviews

Favourite Book 2016 – From Pemberley to Milton

Favourite Book 2016 – Diary of an Eccentric

Praise for The Elizabeth Papers

“a novel that will appeal to fans of Jane Austen and romantic mysteries” – Publishers Weekly

“cleverly constructed and supremely suspenseful … An unusual and gripping page-turner” – Jocelyn Bury in Jane Austen Regency Magazine

“I loved the concept and … dual storyline – it had a perfect balance of intrigue poignancy and possibility … Jenetta James crafted a compelling and remarkable story that cannot help but enchant readers! Written with reverence towards Jane Austen’s characters and filled with vibrant settings in brilliant detail, this genuine and unique romantic mystery is one I emphatically recommend” – Austenesque Reviews

“It will definitely be on my Best of 2016 list and is easily one of the best Pride and Prejudice inspired novels I have ever read.” ~Diary of an Eccentric

“…poignant, stirring and beautifully crafted…” ~Just Jane 1813

“…written so touchingly that it made me cry!” ~Babblings of a Bookworm

“It’s the best Jane Austen Fan Fiction I’ve read in quite some time, and truly stands apart with its quality writing.” ~Calico Critic

“The suspense keeps you glued to the pages but the romance in this book makes you swoon! I still can’t get over the originality of it all and how much I adored it!” ~Margie’s Must Reads

“…real nailbiter for Darcy and Lizzy fans.” ~Delighted Reader

 

https://www.amazon.com/Elizabeth-Papers-Jenetta-James-ebook/dp/B01GBNF91Y/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Elizabeth-Papers-Jenetta-James-ebook/dp/B01GBNF91Y/

Author Jenetta James
Author Jenetta James

About the author:

Jenetta James is a lawyer, writer, mother, and taker-on of too much. She grew up in Cambridge and read history at Oxford University where she was a scholar and president of the Oxford University History Society. After graduating, she took to the law and now practises full time as a barrister. Over the years she has lived in France, Hungary, and Trinidad as well as her native England. Jenetta currently lives in London with her husband and children where she enjoys reading, laughing and playing with Lego. She is the author of “Suddenly Mrs. Darcy” and “The Elizabeth Papers”.

https://www.amazon.com/Jenetta-James/e/B00X4QR93S/

My review:

I was introduced to the work of this author via a collection of stories called Dangerous to Know: Janes Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues Ed. by Christina Boyd, which I loved (you can check my review here), and had also read a number of reviews of this novel, as it had won the Rosie’s Book Team Review award for historical fiction 2016, and I am a member of the group but hadn’t read it at the time. When the editor of the collection offered to put me in touch with some of the authors featured, I jumped at the opportunity and was lucky enough that Ms. James offered me an ARC copy of her book.

I’ve seen this book defined as a ‘sequel’ of Pride and Prejudice, and I guess in some way it is, as it follows on from the events on that novel, and we get to revisit quite a few of the characters in the previous one (especially Elizabeth Darcy, née Bennett, Fitzwilliam Darcy, and their family, although also Elizabeth’s sisters, mother, and Darcy’s sister Georgiana, and his friends and relatives). The story goes beyond that, moving across several generations, and the storyline is divided into two timelines, one in the Regency period (in the 1820s) and one much more recent, 2014. In the present time, we meet Evie, a young painter preparing her first exhibition and coping as best she can with a tragic family situation, and Charlie, a private detective, handsome, charming (yes, he would have fitted into the role of a rogue if he was a character in the other timeframe), and unencumbered by concerns about morality, who is asked to dig into a possible irregularity in the terms of a trust fund set up a couple of centuries ago. The case sounds like a wild-goose chase, but Charlie is intrigued, at first by the case, and later by Evie.

The author alternates chapters that share Elizabeth’s diary, written in the first person (and some of Darcy’s ‘official’ letters), with chapters set up in the present, from Evie’s and Charlie’s points of view, but written in the third person (there are some later chapters from other minor character’s point of view, that help round the story up and give us a larger perspective). This works well because readers of Pride and Prejudice (and, in my case, it’s my favourite Jane Austen’s novel) will already be familiar with the characters and will jump right into the thoughts and feelings of Elizabeth. I felt as if I had stepped back into the story, and although the events are new (as they happen after the couple has been married for a few years); I felt they fitted in perfectly with the rest of the narrative, and the characters were consistent and totally believable. Yes, they love each other. Yes, Darcy is still proud and headstrong at times. Elizabeth is aware of her family’s shortcomings and wonders at times why her husband puts up with her relations. She also doubts herself and can be annoyed at what she perceives as Darcy’s lack of communication. With all their humanity and their imperfections, they feel so true to the characters Austen created that they could have come out of her pen.

The modern part of the story provides a good reflection on how things have changed for the family, the house, and society in general. It also allows us to think about family, legacy, and heritage. How many family secrets have been buried over the years! While the characters have only a few traces and clues to follow, the readers have the advantage of accessing Elizabeth’s diary, but the truth is not revealed until very late in the novel (although I suspect most of us would have guessed, at least the nature of the truth, if not the details), and however convinced we might be that we are right, can one ever be sure about the past?

The writing is perfectly adapted to the style of the era, not jarring at all, and the historical detail of the period is well observed and seamlessly incorporated into the story (rather than shoehorned in to show the extent of the author’s research). The author’s observational skills are also put to great use in the modern story, and create a vivid and vibrant cast and background for the events. The pace and rhythm of the novel alternate between the contemplative moments of the characters, in the past and the present (emotions run high and characters question their behaviour and feelings), and the excitement of the search for clues and the discovery of new documents and evidence. The settings are brought to life by the author, and I particularly enjoyed visiting London with the modern day characters. Although there are love and romance, there are no explicit sex scenes, and, in my opinion, the book is all the better for it.

A couple of lines I highlighted:

To know him so well and still to be touched by him in darkness and light is surely the greatest fortune of all.

While fans of Austen will, no doubt, enjoy the parts set in the XIX century, the modern section of the novel is an attractive mystery/romance in its own right. I am not a big fan of love-at-first-sight stories, and I must warn you that there is some of that here, at least for Charlie, who is mesmerised by Edie from the very first time he meets her, but he does not have the same effect on her. In fact, he has information about her already (it is not a situation of love is blind), and he is taken by surprise as she is not what he expected. As we learn more about both of their stories, it is easy to see why he would feel attracted to her and her circumstances, as they are quite similar to his own. He was pushed into a business of dubious morality to help his family, and she has also had to cope with family tragedy, but in her case, she had the advantage of the Darcy Trust Fund. They are not copycats of Darcy and Elizabeth, but they complement each other well and bring out the best in each other. The rest of the characters in the modern era don’t play big roles but they are endowed with individual touches that make them relatable and distinctive.

The ending is left to the observation of one of the minor characters, allowing for readers to use their imagination rather than elaborate the point.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel that is beautifully written, with compelling characters (I fell in love with Elizabeth and Darcy once again) and a joy for any of Austen’s fans. I don’t think it is necessary to be a connoisseur of Pride and Prejudice to enjoy this novel (as most people are bound to have seen, at least, an adaptation of the story, and there are references to the main plot points scattered throughout the book) but my guess is that many people who read it will go back and read Austen again. And will look forward to more of James’s books. I surely will.

(Ah, the book has a series of questions and answers at the end that makes it an eminently suitable read for book clubs).

Thanks to Christina Boyd, to the author, to Rosie, and most of all, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click and REVIEW! Ah, and, of course! Thanks to Jane Austen!

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Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview LOVER’S KNOT by Jenetta James (@JenettaJames) #RBRT Darcy as an amateur detective, secrets, lies, and a peep into crime detection in the Regency period.

Hi all:

Although it’s not one of my usual days to share reviews, the book was just published yesterday, and I thought you might enjoy this for your Easter holiday.

I bring you another book by an author you might remember if you’ve been following my blog in recent times. Schhhhh! It’s a mystery!

Lover's Knot by Jenetta James
Lover’s Knot by Jenetta James

Lover’s Knot by Jenetta James

A great love. A perplexing murder. Netherfield Park — a house of secrets.

Fitzwilliam Darcy is in a tangle. Captivated by Miss Elizabeth Bennet, a girl of no fortune and few connections. Embroiled in an infamous murder in the home of his friend, Charles Bingley. He is being tested in every way. Fearing for Elizabeth’s safety, Darcy moves to protect her in the only way he knows but is thwarted. Thus, he is forced to turn detective. Can he overcome his pride for the sake of Elizabeth? Can he, with a broken heart, fathom the villainy that has invaded their lives? Is there even a chance for love born of such strife?

Lover’s Knot is a romantic Pride & Prejudice variation, with a bit of mystery thrown in.

Link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07BQVFJQ3/

About the author:

Jenetta James is a lawyer, writer, mother, and taker-on of too much. She grew up in Cambridge and read history at Oxford University where she was a scholar and president of the Oxford University History Society. After graduating, she took to the law and now practises full time as a barrister. Over the years she has lived in France, Hungary, and Trinidad as well as her native England. Jenetta currently lives in London with her husband and children where she enjoys reading, laughing and playing with Lego. She is the author of “Suddenly Mrs. Darcy” and “The Elizabeth Papers”.

https://www.amazon.com/Jenetta-James/e/B00X4QR93S/

My review:

I am writing this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you are looking for reviews, do check here) and was provided an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.

I have recently read and reviewed several books that take place in Jane Austen’s universe, from sequels to versions transplanted to modern times. One of them was The Elizabeth Papers by Jenetta James (you can read my review here), the author of this book. I was so impressed I could not resist getting an ARC copy of this book before its publication.

This is a more straightforward (and shorter) story, although it shares with the other the element of mystery, although, in this case, the story is not a domestic mystery but a police procedural of sorts (the police as we know it now did not exist at the time). Readers familiar with Pride and Prejudice will walk right into familiar territory when reading this story. We pick up the story when Bingley has moved into the area where the Bennetts live, with Darcy as his guest, and Jane Bennett is staying at the Bingley’s due to her illness, and her sister Elizabeth is looking after her. Rather than what happens in the original story, here we have a murder, and a bit later, another one (this one of a character we know, but I won’t give anything away). There are many familiar elements but interspersed with those, we have the investigation of the murders and the secrets behind it. As the description states, this is a variation on the story, as all the original elements are there, and the characters remain true to the original, but new events come into play and disrupt the action.

The story is told by Darcy in the first person and the present tense, and that makes readers feel they share his thoughts and his detecting process. This is quite different from the original novel, and it is one of the attractions of this variation, as rather than judging Darcy by his actions and having to second-guess him most of the time (let’s face it, he is the prototype of the strong and quiet man), we are privy to his thoughts and understand his motives and feelings. In this story, he becomes involved in the investigation, and that means it also fit into the genre of amateur detective fiction. In his case, though, he is not an old hand at this, eager to participate and imposing on the official team, but rather he is recruited by the magistrate investigating the case, Mr. Allwood, a fabulous character. Contrary to expectations, Darcy is not an immediate success at detecting as he is somewhat marred by his belief in appearances and his prejudices, but he is motivated to discover what happened to ensure Elizabeth is safe and goes out of his way to follow clues. The case helps him discover things about himself and about the society he lives in that make him change his outlook on life.

The case is intriguing. There are plenty of red herrings, devious characters, and, of course, there is romance. As I mentioned, Mr. Allwood is a great character. This magistrate doggedly pursues the investigation, not concerned about who might be discomfited by his methods, and making no distinctions according to social classes. People underestimate him at their peril, and I hope he might reappear again in later books (or get his own). I particularly enjoyed the mock paper by a Professor acknowledging the role of Allwood in the creation of the Metropolitan Police. A nice touch and a good way of providing more information on a star character that is not part of the original novel. Having studied Criminology, I only wish that many of the papers I had to read were written in such an engaging manner.

I am aware there are other mystery novels set up in the Pride and Prejudice universe (although I have not read them, so I can’t compare), although not at this particular juncture of the story (as this affords quite a different twist to the relationship between Darcy and Elizabeth). I enjoyed Darcy’s point of view, having access to his thoughts and getting to see a more human and less stiff version of the character (he still has his pride, of course), although as this book is very short, some of the changes of heart in the main characters feel somewhat rushed (and, personally, the process by which both of them end up changing their opinions and the way they feel about each other is one of my favourite parts in the original, but that does not detract from the writer’s skill). The scenes that take place in London and the friendship that grows between Georgiana and Elizabeth are among my favourite parts in this story.

The writing style is perfectly in sync with the original and it flows well. The mystery elements are well worked into the story, and they respect the nature of a criminal investigation of the time. In keeping with the proceedings, and with the role Darcy plays, there is a certain degree of telling and not showing, especially when it comes to tying loose ends, but that is also typical of the genre. Although the mystery elements would work in their own right, even without knowledge of the original novel, I think the ideal readers are those familiar with Austen’s work.

An interesting variation on Pride and Prejudice that offers a new perspective on their favourite characters for fans of Austen. And for fans of mystery/crime books, an intriguing insight into crime detection prior to the establishment of the Metropolitan Police in England.

Thanks to the author and to Rosie for this offering, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click and REVIEW! Oh, and thanks to Jane Austen, of course!

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Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview RAGDOLL by Daniel Cole (@TrapezeBooks). Weird murders, a London setting, a ticking clock, and a morally ambiguous hero #amreading

Hi all:

I seem to be reading a lot of thrillers recently, although this one had been on my Kindle for a long time (and I’ve read it will become a TV series…)

Ragdoll by Daniel Cole
Ragdoll by Daniel Cole

Ragdoll: The thrilling Sunday Times bestseller everyone is talking about (Ragdoll 1) by Daniel Cole

‘A brilliant, breathless thriller‘ MJ Arlidge, author of Hide and Seek

‘The most exciting debut we’ve read in a long time.’ Heat Magazine

‘Highly anticipated debut that is surely bidding to be the year’s most gruesome thriller.’ Metro

Terrifyingly brilliant. I dare you to turn the lights out after reading!’ – Robert Bryndza, author of Cold Blood

 

**********************

ONE BODY. SIX VICTIMS. NO SUSPECTS.

A body is discovered with the dismembered parts of six victims stitched together, nicknamed by the press as the ‘Ragdoll’. Assigned to the shocking case are Detective William ‘Wolf’ Fawkes, recently reinstated to the London Met, and his former partner Detective Emily Baxter. The ‘Ragdoll Killer’ taunts the police by releasing a list of names to the media, and the dates on which he intends to murder them.

With six people to save, can Fawkes & Baxter catch a killer when the world is watching their every move?


For readers who were gripped by PunishmentThe Guilty WifeThe Girl Before and Dark Matter


‘A first class, dark thriller.’ Emlyn Rees

‘A high concept solution to a mystery.’ Sophie Hannah

Gruesome, twisty and wildly addictive… I couldn’t put Ragdoll down.’ Lisa Hall, author of Tell Me No Lies

I loved Ragdoll. A rip-roaring, inventive and riveting read.’ Jill Mansell, author of Meet Me At Beachcomber Bay

‘A star is born. Killer plot. Killer pace. Twisted killer and a killer twist. Kill to get a copy.’ Simon Toyne, bestselling author of Solomon Creed

‘Give an arm or a leg to get hold of a copy… An exciting thriller.’ – Linwood Barclay


What readers have to say about Ragdoll

‘Quite simply one of the best books I have read for years – and I read a lot of crime novels.I can see this being made into a film. Looking forward to reading the next one.’ Amazon, 5 stars

‘Brilliantly written. Very clever police procedural, crime writing at its best. Murder mystery, psychological thriller, a touch of romance. I can’t wait for the next book.’ Amazon, 5 stars

‘I think this is going to be one of the most memorable crime novels of 2017.’ Goodreads

‘This better be the first in a series Daniel Cole, I want to see Wolf again soon.’ Goodreads

One of the best stories I’ve have read in a long time! A masterpiece if I can say that.’ Goodreads

 

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Briskly paced. . . . Cole’s grim yet humorous first novel offers a fresh take on British detective drama that is bound to attract admirers of Robert Galbraith and Clare Mackintosh.” (Library Journal)

“A smart, psychologically complex read. Think Luther (BBC) meets Harry Bosch, and toss in some dark, old-country folklore for good measure.” (Booklist)

“[A] strong first novel. . . . Cole uses the rising tension and the mystery of the killer’s true identity to create a page-turning narrative.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Daniel Cole’s Ragdoll is a bold first step in what is liable to be a spectacular career. Disturbing, taut and compelling, this book took me down the rabbit hole as only the best of thrillers can. Bravo, Mr. Cole.” (John Hart, bestselling author of Redemption Road)

“I’d give an arm or a leg to get hold of Ragdoll. . . . An exciting thriller.” (Linwood Barclay, bestselling author of the Promise Falls trilogy)

“A star is born. Killer plot. Killer pace. Twisted killer and a killer twist. Kill to get a copy.” (Simon Toyne, author of Solomon Creed)

“A gruesome delight! Daniel Cole’s thriller Ragdoll, in which gritty detective William “Wolf” Fawkes comes upon a single corpse stitched together out of six bodies, had me flipping pages furiously. It’s an impressive debut, dark, propulsive, and surprisingly funny.” (Gregg Hurwitz, bestselling author of Orphan X)

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Ragdoll-thrilling-bestseller-everyone-talking-ebook/dp/B01FG4LTTK/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ragdoll-thrilling-bestseller-everyone-talking-ebook/dp/B01FG4LTTK/

Author Daniel Cole
Author Daniel Cole

About the author:

At 33 years old, Daniel Cole has worked as a paramedic, an RSPCA officer and most recently for the RNLI, driven by an intrinsic need to save people or perhaps just a guilty conscience about the number of characters he kills off in his writing.

He currently lives in sunny Bournemouth and can usually be found down the beach when he ought to be writing book two instead.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Daniel-Cole/e/B01N26PO9D/

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Trapeze for offering me an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.

This novel had passed me by (my to be read list is getting longer and longer) when it was first published, but I have been reading quite a number of thrillers recently, saw this book mentioned, and remembered I had yet to read it.

The ARC copy I read includes a funny introduction by the author, which sets the tone for what is to come quite well, although I did not see it in the look inside feature at the front of the published e-book version. The novel is a hard thriller but with a considerable amount of dark humour thrown in (a very British version of it as well). The initial premise is gripping. We have a brief prologue that introduces us to a past case and a deranged detective, and then we discover that four years later he’s back at work, and he has to investigate a very bizarre case. The ragdoll of the title is the name given to the macabre discovery of a body composed of the parts of six different victims. Not happy with that, the killer also releases a list of names of people and the dates when he intends to kill them. And the said detective (Wolf) is the last one on the list. The methods the killer employs are also very imaginative, and there is plenty of violence (and pretty extreme at that).

This thriller, set in London, follows the format of a police procedural novel, but as some reviewers have noted, it does require a certain amount of suspension of disbelief. The fact that somebody who was as disturbed as Wolf, and who very seriously assaulted a suspect in front of a whole courtroom, is allowed to go back to work, stretches the imagination. The way the team works, that seems confused and disorganised, also will surprise those who appreciate the attention to detail and authenticity. As a psychiatrist who has worked in the UK, I didn’t find the portrayal of the mental health secure unit where Wolf had spent time very realistic either (although one could query the fact that he was not well at the time, and other than a brief visit by one of the members of the team, we don’t have any objective accounts of it), and one hopes that news agencies will not be like the one depicted in the novel either (Wolf’s ex-wife works for a TV news station and becomes involved in the case also). But, if we accept the premises of the novel, and forget about how likely it is that this could happen in the real world, it is difficult to fault the book for its imagination, pace, energy, and for the way it grabs and keeps the reader’s attention.

This novel keeps taking us back to the past, and at some points it felt as if it should have been the second novel in the series, as it is evident that what happened four years earlier has a lot to do with the current events, and the way the narration is structured, around the previous case, is one of the strong points, in my opinion. It is as if the whole department had been affected by what happened to Wolf and it has become something of a dysfunctional family. Although there are things that seem far-fetched, on the other hand, the general feeling of pressure, desperation, media attention, cover-ups… felt very real. I have mentioned dark humour, and there is a very cynical undercurrent permeating the whole book, which suits it well and, perhaps, will be easier to appreciate by those who live in or are familiar with the UK, its politics, and its current social situation. I felt as if it was almost a caricature of the truth. Exaggerated and taken to the extreme but easily recognisable nonetheless.

Although it is not a psychologically complex story (and many of the characters play to stereotype: the older detective who is about to be retired, the young rookie who’s just been transferred from a different section and is a stickler for details and rules, the young attractive female detective who looks up to the lead investigator but whose feelings are unclear…), there is plenty of action and many twists and turns, characters, locations, and the ticking clock makes it a rather tense and intense read that will keep most readers guessing. There are a large number of characters, and although we get to know the members of the New Scotland Yard team fairly well over the novel (although quite a few of them keep secrets and are contradictory at best), victims, witnesses, characters from the personal lives of the detectives… all are given a bit of space, and it is important to pay attention not to get lost, especially because of the way the story is narrated.  The story is told in the third person but from quite a number of characters’ points of view, not always the main characters either, and although I did not find it difficult to follow and it is a good way to keep the intrigue (by switching points of view and giving us snippets of information only some characters have access to), it means readers should not miss a beat.

Notwithstanding the dark and sharp sense of humour, there are some introspective moments, guilty feelings, and characters wrestle with the morality of the situation, although I do not think it breaks new ground or is the most successful attempt at delving into such issues. At some point, the novel seems about to enter into paranormal territory, and it did remind me of Jekyll and Hyde, as there comes a moment when you have to wonder what it takes to make somebody step over the fine line between fighting a monster and becoming the monster. I don’t want to go into too much detail to avoid any spoilers, but let’s say that good and bad are not ultimately such clear-cut concepts as we would like to believe.

This is a very enjoyable page-turner, especially recommended for those who like a tense and gripping read and are not put off by some over-the-top characterisations and some stretching of the truth, and who don’t mind graphic violence and dark humour. And if you enjoy a London setting, even better.

Thanks to NetGalley, to the publisher, and to the author, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, and REVIEW!

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