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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE DRIFT by C. J. Tudor (@cjtudor) (@PenguinUKBooks) A jigsaw puzzle of mysteries in a dystopic but not so-distant future #bookreview #2023publication

Hi all:

I don’t normally review books months in advance of their publication (as I’m always behind with my reading), but, for some reason, I read a comment about this book, and as I’ve been following the author for the last few years and have always enjoyed her novels, I managed to convince myself that I had missed the launch of the book, managed to get hold of a review copy, and rushed to read it as soon as I could, only to discover that it is not due to be published until the 19th of January 2023. I considered programming the post for later, but as I don’t know what my circumstances will be like by then, and the book is already available for pre-order, I thought I’d share the review with you. I’ve realised that the author had published a book of short stories as well, and I hope to bring you those in the near future.

This is a good one.

The Drift by C. J. Tudor

The Drift by C. J. Tudor

An overturned coach. A stranded cable car. An isolated chalet . . .

Three groups of strangers. A deadly killer. No escape.

THE DRIFT . . . survival can be murder

Praise for C. J. Tudor:

‘C. J. Tudor is terrific. I can’t wait to see what she does next’ Harlan Coben

‘Britain’s female Stephen King’ Daily Mail

‘A mesmerizingly chilling and atmospheric page-turner’ J.P. Delaney

‘Her books have the ability to simultaneously make you unable to stop reading while wishing you could bury the book somewhere deep underground where it can’t be found. Compelling and haunting’ Sunday Express

‘Some writers have it, and some don’t. C. J. Tudor has it big time’ Lee Child

‘A dark star is born’ A. J. Finn

https://www.amazon.com/Drift-C-J-Tudor-ebook/dp/B092YVZJQJ/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Drift-C-J-Tudor-ebook/dp/B092YVZJQJ/

https://www.amazon.es/Drift-English-C-J-Tudor-ebook/dp/B092YVZJQJ/

Author C.J. Tudor
Author C.J. Tudor

About the author:

C. J. Tudor lives with her partner and young daughter. Her love of writing, especially the dark and macabre, started young. When her peers were reading Judy Blume, she was devouring Stephen King and James Herbert.

Over the years she has had a variety of jobs, including trainee reporter, radio scriptwriter, dog walker, voiceover artist, television presenter, copywriter and, now, author.

Her first novel, The Chalk Man, was a Sunday Times bestseller and sold in thirty-nine territories.

https://www.amazon.com/C-J-Tudor/e/B074WBT1GL/

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Penguin UK for providing me an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review.

I discovered C. J. Tudor when she published her first novel, The Chalk Man, and I had no doubt that her name would become a familiar one for many readers. I have read several of her novels since (all of them, if I’m not wrong), and I also have a collection of her short stories already waiting on my reader. I am happy recommending her books to readers who love thrillers with a touch of menace and more than a few drops of dark humour. Her writing is fluid and engaging; her plots are gripping, and her protagonists always have a surprise or two in stock for us. She is the real deal.

All of this is in evidence in her latest novel, which is due to be published in January 2023.

The description of the plot is sparse, and that is for a very good reason. As you can guess, the action of the book is divided into three settings, and readers of classic mysteries will soon realised that they all seem to be variations of the isolated location mystery: a number of characters are locked (sometimes physically, sometimes not) in a place that is not easily accessible to others, where strange things start to happen (characters disappearing and being murdered are the most common). One of the characters becomes the de-facto investigator (sometimes a real investigator, sometimes not), and readers follow this character’s attempts at finding out what is going on. So, here we have a similar situation, only that we have three stories taking place in three different locations, in a fairly dystopian version of the not-so-distant future (although nowadays not quite as outlandish as it might have been a few years back) where the population has been decimated by an infectious illness. We have two groups of survivors headed to the same safe place, and the third is a group of people actually working and living at that safe location. I can’t share too many details of the story without revealing too much, but I can say that two of the characters whose point of view we follow are women (one, Hanna, a young student, and the other, Meg, an ex-policewoman), and then there is Carter, who works at the Retreat. All of them are survivors, all of them keep secrets, and you would be right if you thought these groups must be connected somehow. But no, of course, I can’t tell you how.

Those readers who worry about different storylines and points of view making things confusing don’t need to worry. Although the three stories are narrated in the third person, each section is clearly labelled, and the three characters are quite different in their thoughts and outlooks, so confusion should not be an issue. For those who appreciate having advance warning, there is violence; there are pretty graphic scenes that have made some reviewers class it as horror (I think it is a combination of both thriller and horror, but I love horror, so that is a plus for me), and there is nothing cozy about the story (even though there is a dog and… No, I can’t say). Also, those who prefer not to read and/or think about pandemics after COVID-19 might want to give it a miss.

Anybody who doesn’t fall into these categories appreciates a well-written, tightly plotted, and gripping story (stories) that will keep their mind going and wandering about what is really going on and who is doing what should read this novel. I liked the two female protagonists in particular (not that they were without their issues and contradictions), but even in the case of the male, their circumstances and their sheer determination to keep going made me side with them and keep reading. The story centres on the plot, which is beautifully and cleverly constructed, but the characters have to face many personal and moral challenges, and some of the questions and decisions they have to make will have all readers wondering about right and wrong and about what they would do if they were in the same circumstances.

Despite the tense atmosphere and the dire straits, the characters find themselves in, or perhaps because of them, the author also offers us some glimpses of humour (mostly dark), some beautiful descriptions, and thought-provoking reflections that allow us to catch our breath. There are some wonderful little details that we only become fully aware of at the end (oh, and I love the ending, mini-epilogue and all), and I am very impressed by the talent of the author to make all the pieces of the puzzle come together seamlessly. People who love a mystery will probably start to tie some threads early on, and some will be faster than the characters (although, of course, we have more information than they have, and we are not under the same kind of pressure), but, my guess is that most won’t be disappointed when everything is revealed.

In sum, this is another great novel by C.J. Tudor, and one that I am sure will keep her followers coming back for more. And those who haven’t read her yet, if you like the sound of this, what are you waiting for? 

I leave you a few quotes, although I recommend checking a sample online if you aren’t sure the writing style will suit your taste.

Here’s the other thing my grandpa taught me. You´re either a good guy or you’re a survivor. And the earth is full of dead good guys.’

One of the characters, when asked why they care, says:

Because caring is all we have left. If we stop caring —about life, about other people— who are we? What have we become?’

If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, it’s also a oneway street. No going back.

 Thanks to the publisher, the author, and to NetGalley for this very early ARC copy (there might be changes to the final version, although I didn’t spot any evident mistakes), and thanks to you all for your patience, your comments, and for reading my reviews and sharing them around. Make sure you keep reading, and never forget to smile. ♥

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE BURNING GIRLS by C. J. Tudor (@cjtudor) (@PenguinUKBooks) A priest turned detective, a small town with a dark past, and plenty of secrets

Hi all:

I bring you the third book by an author I’ve been following from the first novel she published, and I’m not surprised she’s become very popular (and there is talk of TV adaptations as well).

The Burning Girls by C. J. Tudor

The Burning Girls by C. J. Tudor  

The darkly compelling new novel from the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Chalk ManThe Taking of Annie Thorne and The Other People, soon to be a major TV series

‘Hypnotic and horrifying . . . Without doubt her best yet,’

The Burning Girls left me sleeping with the lights on’ CHRIS WHITAKER, bestselling author of Waterstones Thriller of the Month We Begin at the End

‘A gothic, spine-tingling roller-coaster of a story . . . CJ Tudor is a master of horror’ C.J. COOKE, author of The Nesting
______

500 years ago: eight martyrs were burnt to death
30 years ago: two teenagers vanished without trace
Two months ago: the vicar committed suicide

Welcome to Chapel Croft.

For Rev Jack Brooks and teenage daughter Flo it’s supposed to be a fresh start. New job, new home. But, as Jack knows, the past isn’t easily forgotten.

And in a close-knit community where the residents seem as proud as they are haunted by Chapel Croft’s history, Jack must tread carefully. Ancient superstitions as well as a mistrust of outsiders will be hard to overcome.

Yet right away Jack has more frightening concerns.

Why is Flo plagued by visions of burning girls?
Who’s sending them sinister, threatening messages?
And why did no one mention that the last vicar killed himself?

Chapel Croft’s secrets lie deep and dark as the tomb. Jack wouldn’t touch them if not for Flo – anything to protect Flo.

But the past is catching up with Chapel Croft – and with Jack. For old ghosts with scores to settle will never rest . . .

______

‘Tudor operates on the border between credulity and disbelief, creating an atmosphere of menace’ Sunday Times

‘A mesmerising and atmospheric page-turner, with plenty of shocks and a surprise twist for a finale. Her best novel yet’ Sunday Express

‘The best book yet from C. J. Tudor’ Best

Praise for C. J. Tudor:

‘C. J. Tudor is terrific. I can’t wait to see what she does next’ Harlan Coben

‘Britain’s female Stephen King’ Daily Mail

‘A mesmerizingly chilling and atmospheric page-turner’ J.P. Delaney

Her books have the ability to simultaneously make you unable to stop reading while wishing you could bury the book somewhere deep underground where it can’t be found. Compelling and haunting’ Sunday Express

‘Some writers have it, and some don’t. C. J. Tudor has it big time’ Lee Child

‘A dark star is born’ A. J. Finn 

https://www.amazon.com/Burning-Girls-C-J-Tudor-ebook/dp/B0882PLRBF/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Burning-Girls-C-J-Tudor-ebook/dp/B0882PLRBF/

https://www.amazon.es/Burning-Girls-C-J-Tudor-ebook/dp/B0882PLRBF/

Author C.J. Tudor
Author C.J. Tudor

About the author:

C. J. Tudor lives with her partner and young daughter. Her love of writing, especially the dark and macabre, started young. When her peers were reading Judy Blume, she was devouring Stephen King and James Herbert.

Over the years she has had a variety of jobs, including trainee reporter, radio scriptwriter, dog walker, voiceover artist, television presenter, copywriter and, now, author.

Her first novel, The Chalk Man, was a Sunday Times bestseller and sold in thirty-nine territories.

https://www.amazon.com/C-J-Tudor/e/B074WBT1GL/

My review:

I thank NetGalley and Penguin Michael Joseph UK for providing me an ARC copy of this book, which I freely chose to review.

I discovered C. J. Tudor with her first novel, The Chalk Man, a pretty impressive debut, and have read the two novels she has published since, The Taking of Annie Thorne and The Other People. As you can guess from that, I enjoy her writing and her penchant for creating stories that are never boring, with characters that keep us guessing until the end (or near enough). It is true, as well, that the topics she covers and her plots are not unique —if such a thing even exists—, especially for people who read plenty of thrillers, horror novels, mysteries, and watch films and TV series in those genres. But she knows how to pick up some elements that might feel familiar at first (after all, that is one of the reasons why many readers enjoy reading certain genres, because they know what to expect) and create something that manages to meet the expectations while keeping readers on their toes. And sometimes, scaring them a fair bit in the process.

That is true as well for this novel, which for me had a few things that made it particularly attractive. One would be the setting. The novel is set in the UK, in Sussex, an area where I lived for a few years and that I know fairly well. Although the village where the novel is set doesn’t exist, and neither does the actual tradition that gives it its name (and I won’t elaborate on that to avoid spoiling the story, although there is a fake Wikipedia entry at the very beginning that explains it all), I’ve read in an interview that the author felt inspired by the area and by the town of Lewes and its history, and I am not surprised that is the case. It is a very atmospheric place. I’ve read comments calling it “Gothic”, and it isn’t a bad name, but there is something more ancient and primordial at play as well (The Wicker Man comes to mind).

Another thing I found interesting is how self-referential the novel feels. The author has been compared to Stephen King (and she acknowledges how much she loves his books) on many occasions, as you can see reflected by the editorial comments, and his novels appear repeatedly in the book, as do references to popular movies and TV (The Lost Boys, The Usual Suspects, Heathers…) that might (or might not) be connected to the story and the plot. By openly acknowledging those in her pages, the author seems to be giving us clues and adding layers of meaning, although perhaps it is a fairly tongue-in chick ploy, and it is all part of the misdirection, twists and turns, and red herrings that are spread around the novel. Because another thing (and author) I kept thinking about when reading this novel was Agatha Christie and her works, in particular her Miss Marple novels, with their small villages with dark goings-on, where everybody is hiding something and outsiders have a hard time trying to find somebody trustworthy and to discover the truth. And there is also an elderly lady, Joan, who would fit perfectly into one of Christie’s novels, (and she is one of my favourite characters as well).

As I said, I won’t be discussing the plot in detail, to avoid spoilers, but I’ll mention some of the things readers can find in this novel: exorcisms gone wrong, crypts hiding dark secrets, ghoulish ghosts, disappeared girls, religious martyrs, child abuse and death, bullying and manipulation, abandoned creepy houses, unrequited love and jealousy, hidden motives and fake identities… This is not a mild or cozy novel, and there are some pretty gruesome and violent episodes, so I wouldn’t recommend it to readers looking for a light-hearted read.

That doesn’t mean the novel is all doom and gloom, as there are several characters with quite a sense of humour, and the protagonist, Jack, and Jack’s daughter, Flo, are both pretty witty and often funny. The protagonist narrates a lot of the story in the first person: Jack’s self-comments and observations appear sharp, clever, and they made me chuckle many times. Some also made me nod in agreement, and although I won’t say I agree with everything Jack does in the novel, I definitely understand the protagonist’s reasons. Apart from Jack’s first-person narration, there are fragments narrated in the third person, some from Flo’s point of view, and others from the perspective of a different character who we soon realise is trying to find Jack. Who he is and why he is after them… well, you’ll need to read the book to learn that. There are also brief fragments in italics that help create a fuller picture in our minds of what might have happened, even if we don’t know exactly whose memories we are accessing when we read them (but we are likely to have our suspicions). Does that mean the story is confusing? I didn’t find it so, and although this might depend on how familiar readers are with the genre, the different personalities of the characters come through in the writing, so I don’t think most people will have many problems telling whose points of view they are reading. Nonetheless, I recommend readers to be attentive and keep a close eye on everything, because, as is the case with more traditional mysteries, all the details are important, and the clues are there for a reason. If you blink, you might miss a piece of the puzzle that becomes important later on.

As is to be expected from these kinds of books, there is a false ending and a big twist. The author drops hints and clues along the way, and I am sure most people will suspect at least some of the information that is revealed, although perhaps not everything. Because, let me tell you that if you love unreliable narrators, you shouldn’t miss this one. Some reviewers felt disappointed by the ending, because… Well, I can’t tell you, of course. But, as I’ve said, there are hints dropped, and there is a bit of a soliloquy (not a soliloquy, but I could imagine it would become one if this were a play) where we get an explanation/justification of some important plot points. I’m not sure it was necessary, to be honest, but I can see why the author did that. Oh, and I did enjoy the ending, by the way.

Other reviewers also took issue with some depictions of characters and events that they feel reinforce negative stereotypes and prejudicial media representations of certain groups. Although this could be argued in one or two instances, and it is always a matter of interpretation, much of that view might result from a partial or perhaps too literal reading of the book with might have missed some of the nuances of the story.

This is a novel that, beyond the gripping plot and the mysteries it contains, deals in identity, in how we can reinvent ourselves and get a second chance, and also in what important role prejudices and labels can play in the way we are seen and perceived by others. While some people struggle to fight against assigned roles and expectations, others can use them to hide behind them and protect their true selves, or even manipulate them to their advantage. It also revisits the debate about evil. Do we believe some people are born evil or are we all born innocent and other people and our circumstances can turn us into monsters? Can there be some valid justifications, no matter how subjective they might be, for actions that would be considered evil by most people? Or there is no grey area when it comes to good and evil, and a person’s point of view doesn’t come into it? We might or might not agree with how things work out in the story, but I am sure we will all have formed an opinion by the end of the novel, perhaps even one that surprises us.

I recommend this book to fans of mysteries with some supernatural and horror elements, also to readers looking for a page-turner with plenty of atmosphere and a gripping storyline. I am sure most followers of C. J. Tudor won’t be disappointed, and, personally, I am looking forward to her next novel already.

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog A Caller’s Game by J.D. Barker (@jdbarker) Highly satisfying literary popcorn for fans of non-stop action #thriller

Hi all:

I bring you a book highly recommended for those who want a fix of action and something that will get their minds off current events. The complete opposite of a relaxing read.

A Caller’s Game by J.D. Barker

A Caller’s Game by J.D. Barker

DIE HARD meets TALK RADIO in this heart-pounding, relentlessly fast-paced thriller from the New York Times bestselling author of The Fourth Monkey—master of suspense, J.D. Barker.

“I’m going to offer you a choice.”

Controversial satellite radio talk show host, Jordan Briggs, has clawed her way to the top of the broadcast world. She doesn’t hold back, doesn’t spare feelings, and has no trouble sharing what’s on her mind. Her rigorous pursuit of success has come at a price, though. Her marriage is in ruins, she hasn’t spoken to her mother in years, and she’s distanced herself from all those close to her. If not for her young daughter, Charlotte, her personal life would be in complete shambles.

When a subdued man calls into the show and asks to play a game, she sees it as nothing more than a way to kick-start the morning, breathe life into the beginnings of drive-time for her listeners. Against her producer’s advice, she agrees, and unwittingly opens a door to the past.

Live on the air with an audience of millions, what starts out as a game quickly turns deadly—events long thought buried resurface and Jordan Briggs is forced to reconcile with one simple fact—All decisions have consequences.

https://www.amazon.com/Callers-Game-J-D-Barker-ebook/dp/B08Q1TWS2M/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Callers-Game-J-D-Barker-ebook/dp/B08Q1TWS2M/

https://www.amazon.es/Callers-Game-J-D-Barker-ebook/dp/B08Q1TWS2M/

Author J. D. Barker
Author J. D. Barker


About the author:
J.D. Barker is the New York Times and international best-selling author of numerous novels, including DRACUL and THE FOURTH MONKEY. His latest, A CALLER’S GAME, released February 22. He is currently collaborating with James Patterson. His books have been translated into two dozen languages, sold in more than 150 countries, and optioned for both film and television. Barker resides in coastal New Hampshire with his wife, Dayna, and their daughter, Ember.

https://www.amazon.com/J-D-Barker/e/B005FCUYU4/

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Hampton Creek Press for providing me an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review.

I read and enjoyed J.D. Barker’s The Fourth Monkey a few years back (you can check my review here), and I was aware he had published quite a few books since but hadn’t managed to catch up and read any others. When I saw he had a new novel out, and especially when I read that one of the protagonists was a radio talk show host (satellite radio, but radio nonetheless), I had to get it. You see, I love radio, and I have been a collaborator of a couple of local radio stations for the last few years, so I couldn’t let the opportunity pass me by.

Die Hard meets Talk Radio pretty much captures the mood of this novel, with the beginning being more akin to Talk Radio, and the ending diving head-first into Die Hard mood, particularly when it comes to action and thrills. While I was reading it, though, I couldn’t help but think of Phone Booth, a 2003 Joel Schumacher thriller that I remember going to watch and leaving the cinema shaking my head. Great sense of tension and rhythm but… Much ado about nothing. I felt the premise behind the whole thing was over the top and rather ludicrous, although, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t intended as a social commentary or a moral treatise, and as entertainment, especially if you didn’t stop to think too hard, it worked. In this novel, the reason behind the macabre game being played (I won’t go into details, evidently, but let me say it’s pretty extreme at all levels) is not as minor, superficial, and random as it was in that movie, but it felt like a revenge fantasy taken to the extreme. Although, as the author says in his (rather) masterful note at the end:

I’ve been told I write literary popcorn, and I’m fine with that. I always have been. When you read one of my books, you’re never going to find some deep-seated social message or moral code…. I literally get paid to make shit up. Do you really want to take advice from me?

Threats, non-stop action, characters being forced to make impossible decisions, chickens coming home to roost, people of doubtful morality and others as heroic as Captain America (minus shield and costume, because Cole, the police detective, isn’t even wearing a uniform for most of the novel), right-wing militias, extreme political views, the power of media, grief and loss, corruption and professionalism, crime and punishment, the justice system, sense of guilt and responsibility, family ties… All of these feature, in one way or another, in this story; and I suspect most readers will wonder what they would do if they found themselves in a similar situation to that of Jordan, the radio host, unlikely as that might be. I suspect none of us know for certain what we would do and how far we’d get, but that is what makes it a compelling read.

A number of reviews complain that the main characters are not very likeable. Well, Cole, the detective, is, although we know very little about him, other than he’s been demoted to traffic (but not for doing something bad. And no, I’m not telling either). But Jordan is fast-talking, witty, sharp-tongued, at times quite bitchy, self-obsessed, and other than her daughter Charlotte, her ex-husband, Nick, and some of her radio collaborators (especially Billy), her circle of close people seems to be pretty small, and she hasn’t seen her mother in years. I quite like these kinds of characters, at least in books, and I thought I would probably listen to her radio programme but wouldn’t want her as a friend. Too many hard-edges, although fun to listen to. We get to know her a bit over the period of hours the story lasts (there is a clock counting down from the very first page, and you’d be right if you assume things get more frantic as we come close to zero), but this is not a story that dwells inside of characters’ minds, and if I had commented in my review of his first novel that I missed a deeper psychological insight, there isn’t much of that here either, although that is not the point. Some of the readers found Charlotte, the 11 y. o. girl, annoying, as she is very much a mini-me version of her mother, but I found her amusing, and she was one of my favourite characters. We don’t know much about the rest of the characters, although some keep secrets and surprises well-hidden, and Bernie, the baddie… looms big behind everything but he remains rather unknowable. Personally, I think that is as it should be, and we can all make our own minds up about him.

The story is told in the third-person, alternating chapters from Jordan’s point of view with those from Cole’s viewpoint. This helps keep the momentum and the tension up, and also allows us to see both sides of the situation: one, that of an interested party who is deep in the thick of it and for whom the whole matter is deeply personal; the other, an observer who gets involved out of professionalism and a sense of duty. The language flows well, the dialogue and Jordan’s repartee on the radio (especially at the beginning) sizzle and spark, and the prose increases its tempo as the action comes to a head. It’s not a story for those who like a leisurely and contemplative reading experience but it will suit people looking for excitement and a gripping read.

What about the ending? Well, I’m still thinking about it. It is satisfying on many levels (not a happy ending per se, but with happy elements): some characters grow up, come to realise that actions have consequences and that they need to rethink their priorities; others get their own version of a happy ending; and there are also new beginnings and hope for other characters. Holding onto the suspension of disbelief becomes more difficult as the novel progresses and as things get harder and harder for all the characters, good and bad (however we define that). Like in those horror movies where the monster/serial-killer refuses to die, there’s always one more twist awaiting us. I’m sure if I stop to think about it for too long it won’t make a lot of sense, but it more than fulfils its role as literary popcorn, and it does it pretty well.

I recommend it to people who love action movies, action novels, and a thrills-filled read, and who are not after a deeply intellectual exercise or a book full of hard-hitting psychological truths. I particularly enjoyed the setting at a radio station and the real-time feel of it. If you’re looking for something to take your mind off current news, which will keep you turning the pages, and enjoy non-stop action, I definitely recommend it. And don’t forget to read the author’s note.

Thanks to NetGalley, the publisher and the author for the novel, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to stay safe, and to keep reading, writing, sharing, commenting, and especially, to keep smiling.

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#BlogBlast #Bookreview The Disappearance of #StephanieMailer: A gripping new thriller with a killer twist by Joël Dicker Many stories, many genres in one great read @QuercusBooks @MacLehosePress

Hi all:

I couldn’t resist and had to read this book and participate in this blog blast:

The Disappearance of Stephanie Mailer by Joël Dicker

The Disappearance of Stephanie Mailer: A gripping new thriller with a killer twist by Joël Dicker  (Author), Howard Curtis (Translator)

A twisting new thriller from the author of The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair

In the summer of 1994, the quiet seaside town of Orphea reels from the discovery of four murders.

Two young police officers, Jesse Rosenberg and Derek Scott crack the case and identify the killer.

Then, twenty years later and just as he is on the point of taking early retirement, Rosenberg is approached by Stephanie Mailer, a journalist who believes he made a mistake back in 1994 and that the real murderer is still out there, perhaps ready to strike again. But before she can give any more details, Stephanie Mailer mysteriously disappears, and Rosenberg and Scott are forced to confront the possibility that her suspicions might have been proved true.

What happened to Stephanie Mailer?

What did she know?

And what really happened in Orphea all those years ago?

TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH BY HOWARD CURTIS

https://www.amazon.com/Disappearance-Stephanie-Mailer-Jo%C3%ABl-Dicker-ebook/dp/B07WFJJ2L5/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Disappearance-Stephanie-Mailer-Jo%C3%ABl-Dicker-ebook/dp/B07WFJJ2L5/

https://www.amazon.es/Disappearance-Stephanie-Mailer-Jo%C3%ABl-Dicker-ebook/dp/B07WFJJ2L5/

Author Joel Dïcker

About the author:

JOËL DICKER was born in Geneva in 1985, where he studied Law. The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair was nominated for the Prix Goncourt and won the Grand Prix du Roman de l’Académie Française and the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens. It has sold more than 3.6 million copies in 42 countries.

HOWARD CURTIS is an award-winning translator of Italian and French, including books by Fabio Geda, Gianrico Carofiglio, Jean-Claude Izzo and Giorgio Scerbanenco.

Remember The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair?

  • A huge bestseller in Europe on publication
  • Joel Dicker was just 28 when this, his second book, came out. He became so famous in his native Switzerland; his picture was plastered all over public transport in his hometown Geneva
  • 250,000 copies were sold in the UK alone
  • Sky Witness series starring Patrick Dempsey aired in Autumn 2018

PRAISE FOR THE TRUTH ABOUT THE HARRY QUEBERT AFFAIR

‘Maybe, just possibly, the book of the year’ – Simon Mayo

‘An expertly realised, addictive Russian doll of a whodunnit’ – Daily Mail

‘A top-class literary thriller that smoothly outclasses its rivals’ – The Times

‘Should delight any reader who has felt bereft since finishing Gone Girl or Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy’ – Metro

‘Unimpeachably terrific’ – New York Times

‘The cleverest, creepiest book you’ll read this year’ – Daily Telegraph

My review:

I thank the publisher, Quercus Books, and NetGalley for providing me an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review.

I read and reviewed The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair (you can check my review here) almost a couple of years back (during my summer holidays. Remember those?), and I was enthralled by it, to the point where I got a couple of other books by the same author, which I intended to read. Being aware that his books are normally quite long and you need to keep your wits about you when you’re reading them, I’d been postponing that moment (I don’t need to tell you that things have been weird recently, and I think a lot of us have found it difficult to concentrate), but when I saw this book was available, and I was invited to participate in the blog tour, it was all the motivation I needed to plunge into it. I also realised why the name of the book was so familiar to me. I’ve seen it published in its Spanish translation and doing quite well, but I hadn’t realised it hadn’t been released in English yet.

Sorry for the long detour, but I think it’s a reflection of the impact the book has had on me, as it has a way of going off on tangents, or so they seem at the time. I wonder what would happen if somebody else wrote a book like this, and it reached the hands of a standard editor, who would follow the usual advice of removing anything that did not serve to move the plot forward, avoid unnecessary detours, streamline the story… This is a long book, with twists and turns galore, cul-de-sacs plot-wise, and of course, secrets, red herrings, clues, and revelations spread merrily around. I can imagine the author being advised to get rid of characters, or to, perhaps, leave out some of the side-stories and plotlines, maybe write separate novelettes or bonus chapters for followers which would include the background story of some of those characters. But this is a Joël Dicker novel, and he has proven more than once that he can get away with murder. Quite literally.

I am not sure I can talk about the plot in detail without revealing any spoilers, and I want to avoid that at all costs. Without going into the story, I can tell you that what struck me the most, thinking about it, is that although this book includes many standard plot devices and even clichés (you have the detective about to leave the police force, trying to solve a last case just before he hands back his badge; you have a female police detective trying to fit into a small town’s police force whose members are less than accepting of women among their ranks; you have a corrupt politician; a middle-aged man in a powerful position cheating on his wife with his young secretary; an ambitious reporter going after a story at all costs; the spoilt daughter of a rich man who’s mixing with the wrong company and getting herself into trouble…) they all fit in together and create a whole that is not in itself a challenge of any of the tropes, but something other.

I thought I could share this video to give you more of an idea…

In some ways, the story brought to my mind the term of pastiche as used by Fredrick Jameson when talking about postmodern writing. It is not a parody of other genres, it’s a celebration. The author knows and loves a multitude of genres, and rather than poke fun at them, he uses them to create a narrative that is many things in one. Let me count… the genres (or subgenres): 1) the mystery. Overall, there is a mystery hanging over the whole novel and pulling all its strings and characters together, like a centrifugal force, towards Orphea, the small town where most of the events and actions converge, and a character in its own right. The title hints at the mystery, and the disappearance of Stephanie Mailer, a journalist, is what sets the whole story in motion. I’ve mentioned red herrings, twists and turns, clues… We even have secret messages and codes, and we are likely to recognise the typical elements of a cozy mystery, with the setting in a small lovely town in the Hamptons, a friendly bookshop, a charming theatre festival…; 2) the police procedural. I’ve talked about a detective who’s about to leave the force, Jessie. He is challenged by Stephanie Mailer to reconsider the first case he solved, the beginning of his successful career, and that turns his world inside out. He manages to convince his partner at the time, Derek, to join him in the investigation (he took a desk job after the case, for reasons that become clear much later), and they get the assistance of the most recent recruit into the small-town police force, a female officer, Anna, who is having trouble fitting into the close-knit and somewhat misogynistic department. They review the old case, investigate the new clues, and keep digging into evidence, old and new; 3) the noir novel/thriller. A local gangster who uses underhand methods to gain influence over men and turn them into his slaves (underage girls and torture are featured as well), has a night club with an alluring singer, a brutal henchman by his side, and who manages to rub too many people the wrong way plays a part; 4) the second-chance/reinventing yourself story. Anna, the policewoman, has reinvented herself more than once. She studied Law and started working for her father’s company but soon realised this was not for her and trained to enter the police. She quickly became a detective, got married to a lawyer working for her father, and became a negotiator. Her husband wasn’t terribly keen on the idea, things went terribly wrong, and she decided to leave it all behind. Unfortunately, what she finds in Orphea, the charming town, isn’t exactly what she bargained for; 4) the coming of age story. Dakota, the daughter of a rich man, the CEO of an important TV channel, keeps getting into trouble, mixes with the wrong companies, and seems unable to keep her life in order. But there is a reason behind her behaviour; 5) small-town American and its dark underbelly. The lovely town of Orphea might seem idyllic, but it hides all kinds of corrupt practices, characters who are not as squeaky clean as they seem to be, and there is a dark secret (well, a few) about to burst open; 6) dark comedy/farce. We have a talentless ex-chief of police who desperately wants to become a successful dramatist, and he’d do anything to get his play (he’s been working on it for twenty years, so you can forgive him for that) onto the stage. We also have an important literary critic who’d love nothing better than to become an actor, and he will subject himself to any humiliation willingly to be given that chance. He’s joined by another chief-of-police who also wants to shine on stage (Oh, and how they do…). And the play… But those are not the only comedic elements in the story. Jessie’s back story, and his maternal grandparents, also seem strait from a less-than-gentle comedy (expletives and all; and I must confess there is a blonde wig somewhere that made me think of ET), and some of the most extreme behaviours of some of the characters seem taken right out of the Looney Tunes (the original Warner Bros series); 7) romance/romantic novels. We have quite a few stories that have romance at its heart, some set in the past and not standard HEA fare (Jessie and Natasha’s love story, with something of the Greek tragedy about it), Derek and his wife, the critic and his lover (I’m keeping my mouth firmly shut about this), the town mayor and his wife, the local newspaper editor and his wife, and… (sorry, no spoilers); 8) the story I mentioned of a middle-aged man who falls madly in love/lust with his young secretary, featuring adultery, manipulation, extortion and… I’m sure I’m forgetting some, but this wasn’t meant to be an all-inclusive list.

If all that sounds like chaos, well, you have a point, but, quoting Shakespeare, I’d say “there is a method to his madness”.

As you can guess, talking about all the characters would take forever, and I won’t try. I’ll only say that although many are not particularly likeable, at least, to begin with, we get to see many of them under a different light by the end of the novel (not always for the better, but most of them come out of it as quite human and relatable). The same goes for the themes, and you’ve got a good idea about those already from my comments about the genres. Guilt, lost opportunities, the consequences of keeping secrets from those we love and from everybody, and the cost of trying to find out the truth when there are powerful incentives at play to keep it buried, come up often in the novel, and there are multiple references not only to other genres, but also to classic plots and works of literature (the name of the town and the reference to Orpheus could easily apply to Jessie and the mourning of his lost love, but this is just one of many).

The novel is narrated by a variety of characters, and we hear the first-person narratives of quite a few of them (not all, but many). The way it works is: somebody is telling us what is happening (Jessie, for example) in 2014, the time when the contemporary story is set, and he finds a clue or he talks to somebody, and then, as if in a flashback, we are transported to 1994, and, usually in the third person, we get to see/experience that scene. There are multiple references to the actual time and to the person whose perspective we are reading, but these are interrupted by the trips to the past, or by somebody’s memories (like those of Dakota, at some point). That results in readers getting both, a personal perspective of the story, from several points of view, and also a narration of past events, seemingly from an omniscient point of view. It didn’t always run completely smoothly (I’m fully aware I was reading an early ARC copy, so some of the issues might have to do with that, and they were very minor), but I felt it was a satisfying alternative to the long stretches of “telling” so typical in classical mysteries. I’ve only read another novel by this author, but from the comments I’ve read, I understand that he’s also used a similar narrative style in several of his novels (and I definitely intend to read more of them in the future), so it might have become his trademark, although it’s too early in his career to come to conclusions.

There are plenty of memorable quotes here as well, but not quite as many as in Harry Quebert. This is a long book, and readers need to be on their guard and pay close attention to all they read, but as I’ve said, temporal changes are signposted, there is a list of characters at the back, and the writing isn’t precious or overly complicated. There are plenty of detours, and the writing meanders rather than rushing at breakneck speed towards the finish line, but I enjoyed getting side-tracked and following the character’s stories. After reading many stories that strictly follow the rules, I enjoy those who go their own way and take risks, although I know many people won’t share my feelings.

Did I guess the mystery? Well, which one? I did guess quite a few of the important twists and picked up on many of the clues, although no, I didn’t guess the final reveal, and I think that most people won’t until very close to the end, because of the way the story is constructed. But I must confess to being more taken by some of the side-stories at times and not being that concerned about the actual name by the end. It reminded me of a scene in Amadeus when Mozart describes to the emperor a particular scene in one of his operas, where he keeps adding more and more voices singing all in unison. A tour de force. Yes, as the ending neared I kept wondering how many more turns the plot would take before the actual final curtain. In case you’re worried, the main mystery is solved. (What does that mean? Well, you go ahead and read the book if you want to know). And yes, there is a coda of sorts, and I liked what we’re told happens to the characters later on.  I’m not sure it’s the ideal ending, but I enjoyed it. If I have to choose from the two books I’ve read by Dicker, I prefer The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair, but that was one of my favourite books in recent years, so this is no mean feat either.

So, would I recommend it? Of course. With some provisos. Be sure you have plenty of time to read it. As I’ve said, it’s complicated, and it brings many stories together, so if you only have time to pick it up a few minutes at a time over days and days, you might get quite confused, or you might have to keep going back. It’s important to set aside sufficient time to read it so that you can keep the details (or at least the main details) fresh and straight in your mind. Also, if you prefer slim, streamlined, and bare narratives, or straightforward mysteries with no flights of fancy or backstories, this is not for you. If you’re happy to be taken for a ride, enjoy long books, and like to mix and match genres and challenge conventions, you’ll definitely have a good time. I would also recommend it to writers thinking of writing mysteries or crime novels, as it is impossible to read this book and not ponder and keep thinking about how it has been written.

I’ll leave you with a quote from The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair, which I feel applies here: A good book, Marcus, is a book you are sorry to have finished.

Thanks to the author, translator, and publishers for this book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to spread the word if you are intrigued by what you’ve read. Let me know what you think, and remember to keep safe!

 

 

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE VISITOR: A POST-APOCALYPTIC MURDER MYSTERY by Terry Tyler. A twisted murder mystery in a twisted time #murdermystery #bookreview

Hi all:

I’m sharing a review of the latest book (to date) of an author who keeps visiting my blog. And she’ll carry on coming.

The Visitor by Terry Tyler

The Visitor: A Post-Apocalyptic Murder Mystery by Terry Tyler

In 2024, a mystery virus ravages the entire world. ‘Bat Fever’ is highly contagious and one hundred per cent lethal.

A cottage tucked away in an isolated Norfolk village seems like the ideal place to sit out a catastrophic pandemic, but some residents of Hincham resent the arrival of Jack, Sarah and their friends, while others want to know too much about them.

What the villagers don’t know is that beneath Sarah’s cottage is a fully-stocked, luxury survival bunker. A post-apocalyptic ‘des res’.

Hincham isolates itself from the rest of the country, but the deaths continue―and not from the virus. There’s a killer on the loose, but is it a member of the much-depleted community, or somebody from outside? Paranoia is rife, as friend suspects friend, and everybody suspects the newcomers.

Most terrifying of all is that nobody knows who’s next on the list…

The Visitor is Terry Tyler’s twenty-second Amazon publication, and is set in the same world as her Project Renova series, while being a completely separate, stand-alone novel.

https://www.amazon.com/Visitor-Post-Apocalyptic-Murder-Mystery-ebook/dp/B08ML72P2K/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Visitor-Post-Apocalyptic-Murder-Mystery-ebook/dp/B08ML72P2K/

https://www.amazon.es/Visitor-Post-Apocalyptic-Murder-Mystery-ebook/dp/B08ML72P2K/

Author Terry Tyler
Author Terry Tyler

About the author:

Terry Tyler is the author of twenty-two books available from Amazon, the latest being ‘The Visitor’, a post-apocalyptic murder mystery set in the same world as her popular Project Renova series. She is currently at work on ‘Megacity’, the third and final book in her dystopian Operation Galton series, after which she may decide to write something a bit more cheerful. Proud to be independently published, Terry is an avid reader and book reviewer, and a member of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team.

Terry is a Walking Dead addict, and has a great interest in history (particularly 12th-17th century), along with books and documentaries on sociological/cultural/anthropological subject matter. She loves South Park, the sea, and going for long walks in quiet places where there are lots of trees. She lives in the north east of England with her husband.

https://www.amazon.com/Terry-Tyler/e/B00693EGKM

My review:

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

I have read and reviewed a number of novels written by Terry Tyler, both in her Project Renova Series (I have to catch up with a volume of short stories, but otherwise, I think I’ve read all of them), and also in her Operation Galton series (I’m eagerly waiting for the next one). I am aware she writes in other genres, and I’m sure I’ll get to read some of her other works too, but, for some reason, I seem to be drawn towards her dystopian novels (perhaps these feel like particularly dystopic times, one way or another). She is a great writer and manages to combine gripping plots, a credible and varied cast of characters (very recognisable), and an immersive fictional world, which closely resembles or reminds us of our daily lives, especially for those who live or know the UK fairly well.

As the book’s description and the author’s note at the beginning explain, although the novel is set in the Project Renova world, it is a thriller/murder mystery, and it is not necessary to have read any of the books of the series to enjoy it or follow the action. That doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy it if you have read the whole series or some of it, rather, you’ll hit the ground running, as you’ll have much more background information than the characters do. Not that it will help you discover who the murderer is, but… That would kill all the fun, wouldn’t it?

This being a Terry Tyler’s book I wasn’t expecting a standard crime novel, and yes, although lovers of the genre and those who are fans of mysteries will still find plenty of red herrings, assorted clues, twists and turns, and plenty of potential suspects (at least to begin with), things are a bit more complicated than usual. This is not a frantically paced story, where we hardly have time to breathe. Of course, there are hints of things to come from the very beginning, but there is a slow build-up and the early part of the book is dedicated to providing a solid background to the story, explaining how the virus started and took hold, while at the same time introducing us to the four friends who seem destined to be the main characters in the story. Of course, things don’t go according to plan, and although a group of four meets up in the village of Hincham to take advantage of the foresight of Sarah’s uncle in building a fully stocked (and secret) bunker, there are some changes.

The idea of setting the thriller in a small village isolated due to a pandemic is very clever. It turns on its head the convention (of subgenre) of a mystery set in an old house or an isolated island (or a ship, like one I read recently), because apart from the limited cast of characters and the lack of resources to investigate, in this case, there is limited to no hope that there will ever be any meaningful help coming from outside (or it is dispelled very soon).  And the paranoia, accusations, and blaming of outsiders are further enhanced by the lack of information, loss of contact with the outside, and the quick loss of modern life comforts and resources (no electricity, no running water, no police, no telephone, no local services at all…).  While the characters have many other things to worry about, the fact that what should be one of their strengths (being a small community where everybody knows everybody else) seems to have become a weakness and mistrust is rampant, makes the situation much harder. There’s nowhere to hide and nobody will come to the rescue.

Tyler creates a very credible and recognisable village in Hincham, and most readers will feel familiar with the setting and the characters, which are quite recognisable and realistic. As always, the author shows her strength in her development of the characters, especially the four sharing Sarah’s cottage, and although we don’t get to know that much about some of the villagers or the other strangers, there is enough there to create clear a picture in our mind. The visitor of the title is somewhat different, but I won’t go into any detail about it, as I want to avoid spoilers. For the same reason, I don’t want to talk about the characters too much, but let me say that although I didn’t like most of them (I confess I wasn’t particularly fond of Jack, who is the main narrator. There is nothing wrong with him per se; it’s probably me being me), that didn’t impact my enjoyment of the novel. I liked Finn and Avalon in particular, and I liked what I saw of a couple of the villagers, but we don’t get to know them well enough to make a full judgement of them. Oh, and yes, I’ll freely admit to really liking the baddy. (I won’t get into detail or analyse what possible pathology there might be or why the Visitor behaves that way, as this is not a psychopathology textbook and does not intend to be). So there.

The story is told from a variety of characters’ points of view and in different narrative voices. I’ve mentioned that Jack is the main narrator, and he tells his story in the first person, but he is not the only one. Several other characters tell parts of the story in the first-person from their own perspective (the Visitor as well): some are important characters, and some quite incidental, which offers readers a slightly less claustrophobic or one-sided view. (There is no head hopping or confusion possible, as each chapter is clearly labelled with the name of the character or characters whose perspective we read). There are also some chapters in the third-person, some depicting the scenes of the murders, but not all. And there is the odd comment hinting at an omniscient point of view (or perhaps something slightly different, but I’ll keep my peace). Otherwise, the story is narrated chronologically, and other than some instances of sharing/narrating past events and the mandatory reveals towards the end (secrets there are aplenty, and people who have kept information hidden also), the story flows well, with no major detours. I mentioned the build-up at the beginning, and the pace does increase as people are killed and others leave, but it never becomes frantic. There is plenty of time for readers to make conjectures and scratch their heads, pondering the clues.

There are plenty of references to pop culture, TV series, music, fashion, UK everyday life, social media, writing (Jack is a writer) that help flesh out the era and the place, and lovers of all things British will appreciate. There are some dialogue gems and some dark humour (very sharp and dry, which I really enjoyed), and the writing is, as I’ve come to expect from this author, flawless. (No, I won’t share any quotes because it’s difficult not to slip up and give something away).

The one thing I found a bit jarring was the issue of COVID-19. Because the original Project Renova series was written well before it appeared, there is no mention of it in the other books (and yes, I kept thinking about the series as the illness developed and became a pandemic). Here it is mentioned often, mostly by people who think the “bat fever” will be the same, and they talk about just isolating for a few days, make jokes about hoarding toilet paper, etc. Although at first, I liked the connection to reality, I soon found it difficult to read, and it also kept stretching my suspension of disbelief, as the characters talked and acted as if COVID-19 had only lasted a few months and had been a minor inconvenience that was over in no time at all. Perhaps that was how things looked like after the first wave, but unfortunately, that was only the beginning. The touch of realism is broken by what has happened since, and imagining that people will be so blasé about it only three or four years down the line —the story is set in 2024, and yes, I know about COVID-19 deniers, and that attitude is well reflected in the novel— didn’t quite work for me. I guess it’s difficult to know what to do when reality becomes truly stranger than fiction and catches up with our fictional stories in ways we didn’t expect, but I would much rather have assumed Project Renova took place in an alternate reality where COVID-19 hadn’t happened. I don’t know if the author intends to make changes to some of the other titles in the series, although I hope not.  But it’s her story.

Did I guess who the guilty party was? It’s difficult to talk about it without giving anything away, but let’s say I had my suspicions, and I guessed some of the other secrets that are revealed at the end, although not all. I’ve already said I truly liked the baddy, and don’t worry, although there is the possibility of further stories for some of the characters, there is no big cliff-hanger. When it comes to warnings to readers… I think the main one is the fact that there are references to COVID-19, and I know I’m not the only one who still finds reading about the topic quite difficult. This is not a blood and gore story, but there is violence (even if not described in excessive detail or graphically and although it is not the most important aspect of the story), of course, so people who prefer cozy or gentle mysteries should stay away.

I recommend this book to fans of Terry Tyler’s books, to people looking for thrillers with a difference (especially those who enjoy an interesting setting and realistic characters), and to anybody who appreciates a claustrophobic backdrop with dark undertones, doesn’t mind a touch of the unexpected, and loves all things British.

 Thanks to the author for her new book, for her acknowledgments (bloggers included. Yes, me too!), thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and especially keep safe, and keep smiling!

 

 

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE WHISPER MAN by Alex North (@writer_north)( @PenguinUKBooks) An entertaining mix of mystery, paranormal, and psychological thriller

Hi all:

I bring you a book today that has been getting a lot of attention, but I was a bit slow catching on. Well, I finally got around to reading it!

The Whisper Man by Alex North

The Whisper Man by Alex North

THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER, RICHARD & JUDY PICK & GUARDIAN BOOKS OF THE YEAR, LONGLISTED FOR THE THEAKSTON CRIME NOVEL OF THE YEAR AWARD

The gripping thriller that will keep you turning the pages all night long . . .

‘An ambitious, deeply satisfying thriller – a seamless blend of Harlan Coben, Stephen King, and Thomas Harris’ A J Finn, bestselling author of The Woman in the Window
______________

If you leave a door half-open, soon you’ll hear the whispers spoken . . .

Fifteen years ago, a serial killer known only as ‘The Whisper Man’ wreaked havoc on the sleepy village of Featherbank.

But with the killer behind bars, the village is now a safe haven for Tom and his young son Jake to make a fresh start.

Until another boy goes missing. It feels like history is repeating itself.

Could the killer still be out there – and can Tom protect his son from becoming the next victim?


‘THE BEST CRIME NOVEL OF THE DECADE’ Steve Cavanagh, bestselling author of Twisted

‘A true skin-crawler’ Guardian

‘Shades of Thomas Harris and Stephen King but brilliant in its own right’ C. J. Tudor, bestselling author of The Chalk Man

‘This flawlessly plotted thriller absolutely deserves to be shouted about’ Sunday Mirror

‘More than just superbly creepy, this beautifully written thriller might just break your heart a little, too’ Heat

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Whisper-Man-Alex-North-ebook/dp/B07F24WHXJ/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Whisper-Man-Alex-North-ebook/dp/B07F24WHXJ/

https://www.amazon.es/Whisper-Man-Alex-North-ebook/dp/B07F24WHXJ/

Steve Mosby (a.k.a. Alex North)

About the author:

Alex North was born in Leeds, England, where he now lives with his wife and son. The Whisper Man was inspired by North’s own little boy, who mentioned one day that he was playing with “the boy in the floor.” Alex North is a British crime writer who has previously published under another name.

Here an interesting interview with the author:

https://celadonbooks.com/author-alex-north-on-his-suspenseful-thriller-the-whisper-man/

My review:

I thank NetGalley and Penguin UK-Michael Joseph for providing me an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review.

I confess this novel got buried on my e-reader and despite the good reviews I have read and the many times I’ve seen it mentioned since its publication, it kept being knocked down by reviewing commitments and general lack of attention. After coming up as a recommendation in another article right as I finished a book I was reading, I decided its time had come. And? It kept me reading, and I enjoyed many aspects of it, although some worked slightly less well for me, but it has much to recommend it.

I hadn’t come across Alex North before, although that is not surprising as this seemed to be his first novel. As his biography explains, though, he had published a number of books under a different name before (it wasn’t hard to find this is Steve Mosby), but I hadn’t read any of those either. I don’t know if this marked a change of direction or it is part of a marketing campaign, but, in any case, it seems to have worked.

The description provides the gist of the action. We are in a small village where terrible things had happened many years back. The child killer (not molester, let me clarify that) is now behind bars, but another child goes missing. As you can probably imagine, the new police team investigating are drawn to check on the old case, and Pete, the detective who was almost destroyed by that case —which had some loose threads still pending— becomes once more entangled in it. But this is not a straightforward police procedural. It is a bit of a mixed bag. There is the mystery element (as we don’t know who the culprit is but are given a number of clues, red herrings, and repeatedly sent down the wrong path along the way); it also has aspects more typical of a thriller than of a classical mystery (the grisly nature of the crimes, the teasing serial killer, the different points of view, including also snippets from the perpetrator); there are paranormal elements (the young child at the centre of the story, Jake, has an imaginary friend who seems to know a lot about the case) and at times it also veers towards horror; and there  is plenty of attention paid to the psychology and state of mind of some of the protagonists, particularly Tom, Jake’s father, traumatised by the sudden death of his wife and having to look after a young child on his own, Jake himself, also showing evident signs of trauma and not coping particularly well with his grief, and Pete, the detective who caught the previous killer, who struggles to keep the ghosts of his past at bay.

As I said that some aspects of the book did not fully work for me, I thought I might as well say which ones right now, although I’ll try to avoid any spoilers. I’ve just mentioned how much attention the book pays some of the characters and their psychological difficulties. I enjoyed this but was quite puzzled that nobody ever mentions the possibility of getting help. After all, we have a policeman whose work would have been supervised, and a young child going to school, presenting with bizarre behaviour and evidently struggling. I know this is a novel, but it does require quite a degree of suspension of disbelief to imagine that nobody would have picked up on that and suggested a psychological evaluation or some therapy. The novel feels a bit timeless (and it did remind me of some of Stephen King’s novels set on small towns, usually many years back), but there are dates mentioned, and the action is not set sufficiently far back in the past to justify that. Talking about the setting, one of the other things that bothered me was that I had no real sense of where we were supposed to be. Many of the minor characters and locations felt standard, and although the house Tom and Jake move into seems to have a defined personality, the rest of the place is a bit of a mixed bag. The police department seems rather large for a sleepy village; there are parts of the place that are half abandoned and less than savoury (as if we were in the outskirts of a big city), with known drug dealers and criminals tracked by the police as well; and some of the action fits in better with a rundown city than the village suggested. The fact that some aspects of the story reminded me of the typical book or movie about an urban legend (down to the nursery rhyme or playschool song) contributed to that feeling and gave the story a touch of the dark fairy tale. There were some other inconsistencies I won’t mention, as those might easily be explained away, and I don’t think will curtail the enjoyment of most readers.

Apart from the investigation and the mystery side of things, the novel also explores grief and trauma (Jake shows signs of PTSD, and so do his father and Pete), relationships between fathers and sons, and legacy. How much do our childhood experiences influence our adult behaviour? It also looks at memory and the way our minds are not always reliable witnesses of what happened.

I have mentioned the main characters, but there are others like the main investigator (whom I quite liked but didn’t get to know too well, although I understand she plays a bigger part in the next novel by the same author), one of the mothers at Jake’s new school, the serial killer, of course… The story is narrated in the first person by Tom, who is, after all, a writer, but there are also chapters narrated in the third person by other characters, including Jake, Pete, the new detective, and the perpetrator (who only appears a few times, and those chapters do help provide some clues as to motivation). I sympathised with Tom, who had a hard time of life in general, liked Jake (and his invisible friend). I also empathised with Pete but I wouldn’t say I liked him. Although there is something generic about the characters (most readers of the genre will have met other characters in similar circumstances before), I thought the author did a good job of getting inside their heads, but it is true that this slows down the action somehow and might not work for people looking for a page-turner. People who don’t like first-person narration might not appreciate Tom’s narrative voice, although it does make sense in the context of the book, and there are a few instances when it takes on an omniscient quality. As for the third person narratives, each chapter is told from one distinct point of view,  and readers don’t need to worry about getting confused, though I recommend paying close attention to the action. The original serial killer didn’t impress me in particular (for me, it lacked something to make him distinct enough. He seems just thoroughly evil), and I found the new killer more interesting.

The writing is fluid, although, as I said, some readers might not appreciate the emphasis on the psychology of the characters and their obsessive thoughts and guilty feelings. There are some detailed descriptions of some of the objects and locations but this does not apply to the actual murders. The book is not gore, especially considering the topic. There are some violence and blood, but this does not relate to the main crimes an does not involve the children. I think people who worry about explicit or extreme violence would not be upset by this book, but readers must remember the book is about a serial child killer, so the topic is a hard and harrowing one nonetheless.

I enjoyed the ending, which sits well with the genre, rather than being all lights and no shadows, and it sheds new light over the whole book. Some readers have complained about the paranormal aspect, feeling this is not fully explored, and I don’t disagree with the comment, although for me, it is left open and there is much that can be read between the lines.

In sum, a mystery with touches of the police procedural, the thriller, and a paranormal element, with an emphasis on the psychological angle, some pretty eerie touches (although I wouldn’t call it horror), which will grab the attention of most readers intrigued by these kinds of books. It might not work for people keen on realistic crime novels, but it is a very entertaining read, and I’m sure the author will not be short on followers.

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview THE OTHER PEOPLE by C.J. Tudor The Other People by C. J. Tudor (@cjtudor) (@penguinrandom) Conspiracy theory, twist and turns, revenge and a touch of the supernatural

Hi all:

I bring you the third book by an author I’ve followed from the beginning of her career.

The Other People by C.J. Tudor

The Other People by C. J. Tudor

The chilling new novel from the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Chalk Man & The Taking of Annie Thorne

‘C. J. Tudor has done it again. A mesmerizingly chilling and atmospheric page-turner’ J.P. Delaney, bestselling author of The Girl Before

She sleeps, a pale girl in a white room . . .

Driving home one night, stuck behind a rusty old car, Gabe sees a little girl’s face appear in the rear window.

She mouths one word: ‘Daddy.’

It’s his five-year-old daughter, Izzy.

He never sees her again.

Three years later, Gabe spends his days and nights travelling up and down the motorway, searching for the car that took his daughter, refusing to give up hope, even though most people believe that Izzy is dead.

Fran and her daughter, Alice, also put in a lot of miles on the motorway. Not searching. But running. Trying to keep one step ahead of the people who want to hurt them.

Because Fran knows the truth. She knows what really happened to Gabe’s daughter. She knows who is responsible. And she knows what they will do if they ever catch up with her and Alice . . .

‘CJ Tudor is terrific. I can’t wait to see what she does next’ Harlan Coben

A creepy, intense novel that drew me right in and never let go’ Samantha Downing, author of My Lovely Wife

‘A darkly compelling tale of justice, revenge and the darkness lurking at the edges of everyday life – with an utterly propulsive plot that makes it very, very hard to put down’ TM Logan, author of The Holiday

‘Hugely enjoyable and deliciously creepy. I was hooked from its gripping opening, all the way through its many twist and turns’ Alex Michaelides, author of The Silent Patient

‘Utterly magnificent. Such a beautifully weaved and satisfyingly complex tale, with just the right level of spookiness’ James Oswald

‘Chilling and utterly gripping. Loved the twists and the well-drawn everyday details. A fantastic new book from the Queen of Creepy’ Will Dean, bestselling author of Red Snow

Praise for C. J. Tudor:

‘Britain’s female Stephen King’ Daily Mail

‘Some writers have it, and C. J. Tudor has it big time. The Taking of Annie Thorne is terrific in every way’ Lee Child

‘If you like my stuff, you’ll like this’ Stephen King

‘A tense gripper with a leave-the-lights-on shock ending’ Sunday Times

‘Utterly magnificent. Such a beautifully weaved and satisfyingly complex tale, with just the right level of spookiness’ James Oswald

https://www.amazon.com/Other-People-C-J-Tudor-ebook/dp/B07NRY6VCL/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Other-People-C-J-Tudor-ebook/dp/B07NRY6VCL/

https://www.amazon.es/Other-People-C-J-Tudor-ebook/dp/B07NRY6VCL/

Author C.J. Tudor
Author C.J. Tudor

About the author:

C.J. Tudor was born in Salisbury and grew up in Nottingham, where she still lives with her partner and young daughter.

She left school at sixteen and has had a variety of jobs over the years, including trainee reporter, radio scriptwriter, shop assistant, ad agency copywriter and voiceover.

In the early nineties, she fell into a job as a television presenter for a show on Channel 4 called Moviewatch. Although a terrible presenter, she got to interview acting legends such as Sigourney Weaver, Michael Douglas, Emma Thompson and Robin Williams. She also annoyed Tim Robbins by asking a question about Susan Sarandon’s breasts and was extremely flattered when Robert Downey Junior showed her his chest.

While writing the Chalk Man she ran a dog-walking business, walking over twenty dogs a week as well as looking after her little girl.

She’s been writing since she was a child but only knuckled down to it properly in her thirties. Her English teacher once told her that if she ‘did not become Prime Minister or a best-selling author’ he would be ‘very disappointed.’

The Chalk Man was inspired by a tub of chalks a friend bought for her daughter’s second birthday. One afternoon they drew chalk figures all over the driveway. Later that night she opened the back door to be confronted by weird stick men everywhere. In the dark, they looked incredibly sinister. She called to her partner: ‘These chalk men look really creepy in the dark . . .’

She is never knowingly over-dressed. She has never owned a handbag and the last time she wore heels (twelve years ago) she broke a tooth.

She loves The Killers, Foo Fighters and Frank Turner. Her favourite venue is Rock City.

Her favourite films are Ghostbusters and The Lost Boys. Her favourite authors are Stephen King, Michael Marshall and Harlan Coben.

She is SO glad she was a teenager in the eighties.

She firmly believes that there are no finer meals than takeaway pizza and champagne, or chips with curry sauce after a night out.

Everyone calls her Caz.

https://www.amazon.com/C.-J.-Tudor/e/B074WBT1GL?

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Penguin UK for providing me an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review.

I have read and reviewed the two previous novels published by this author (The Chalk Man and The Taking of Annie Thorne) and enjoyed them both, although, personally, I was bowled over by the first, and slightly less so by the second. This one, for me, falls somewhere in between. The premise behind the book is gripping, and it’s impossible not to put yourself in the shoes of the main character, Gabe, and imagine what having such an experience would feel like. The premise is quite intriguing; there are many twists and turns, and although thriller lovers might guess some aspects of the plot, the story is build up in such a way that it’s difficult to get the full picture until you’re quite close to the end. On the other hand, the supernatural element and the way the story is told might not be to everybody’s taste.

I will not go into a lot of detail about the plot, because I think the description gives a good indication of what readers might find, and I want to avoid spoilers. Some aspects of the story will seem fairly familiar to followers of the genre (and to those who also watch a lot of thriller, mystery, and action movies); the book itself mentions Hitchcock’s Strangers in a Train, and readers will think about many other films (I also thought about the Lady Vanishes, although more modern versions also exist, and similar movies where somebody goes missing and nobody believes the story of the person trying to find him or her, be it a relative, or a total stranger), but Tudor is very skilled at mixing what appear to be disparate elements and creating something new and fresh. There is also a good dose of conspiracy theory behind the story (a very interesting part of it, dark web and all, although perhaps one that is not explained in as much detail as some readers would like), and, as I have mentioned, a supernatural element as well. I enjoyed the overall story and how it was developed, although I got the sense that this is a novel best read quickly and taken at face value, as it does require a fairly large dose of suspension of disbelief, and if readers stop to analyse every little detail, they’re likely to find fault with it. The supernatural element means that people looking for a totally plausible and convincing thriller will be disappointed, but because that part of the story is not fully explained either, fans of the supernatural might feel cheated as well, although those who prefer the magical/unexplained elements of a story to remain open to interpretation, will be happy.

The story deals in a variety of subjects like grief, loss, revenge, regret, remorse, punishment, family relationships, truth and lies, love, making amends, and it questions our sense of justice. How far would we go to get justice if we lost a loved one due to somebody else’s actions? What would be the right price to pay? Can we truly forgive and forget? What about extenuating circumstances? Is an eye for an eye the only kind of justice we understand? And where does it stop? The three main characters (Gabe, Fran, and Katie) reflect upon very similar topics throughout the book, and there are many quotable and memorable fragments, although some reviewers were not too enamoured with this aspect of the novel, as they felt it detracted from the flow of the book (I enjoyed them, but sometimes the “kill your darlings” advice came to mind, and the reflections by the different characters were not always distinct enough to differentiate between them or help create an image of the characters’ personalities in the mind of the reader).

I’ve mentioned the three characters already, and they are introduced to us through their actions and the story —as we meet them in the thick of things— rather than as individuals with their distinct personalities and belief systems. We slowly learn more about them as the novel progresses, and we discover that although the story is told in the third person, mostly from the points of view of the three protagonists (but not exclusively), that does not mean we get an accurate depiction of their lives and past. While Tudor’s two previous novels where written in the first person, and both narrators were notably unreliable, I wouldn’t say the change in the point of view results in an objective account. In fact, by following the three characters —that we might suspect are linked although we don’t know how at first— we get different aspects and alternating versions of events that eventually fit together (and we also see each character through the eyes and perspective of the others). I am not sure how convincing I found any of the characters. I quite liked Katie, perhaps because I feel she’s the more consistent and well described of the three, and she tries hard to do the right thing. While I empathised with Gabe due to his situation (as most readers are likely to do), this was more at an intellectual level, rather than because of personal affinity, and for me, my sympathy decreased the more I learned about him, although I admit he is an interesting character. Fran… well, we don’t learn as much about her as about the others, and like Gabe, we discover things about her that make us question what we thought we knew (although less so than with Gabe). I did like the girl, but we only briefly get to see things from her point of view, and her reflections seem very grown up for her age, although it’s true that her circumstances are pretty unique. There is also a baddy, although we don’t learn who that is until the end (but I think a lot of readers will have their suspicions before they reach that point), a character that weighs heavily on the story despite not playing too active a role, and some pretty mysterious characters, that are not fully explained, especially one. Yes, I know I sound mysterious, but it’s truly intentional.

I’ve read some reviews complaining of the changes in point of view, saying that it’s confusing. I didn’t find it so, and as I said, I also enjoyed the character’s pseudo-philosophical reflections, although they did not always help advance the plot, but this book combines a variety of genres, and I felt the writing style suited the combination well. It is not purely action-driven, and the narration is not just scene after scene pushing the plot forward, but that also helps give readers time to digest the story and to keep trying to work out how all the parts fit in. In my opinion, Tudor writes very well, and I wonder in which direction her writing will go in the future.

Just a couple of quotes from the book:

People say hate and bitterness will destroy you. They’re wrong. It’s hope. Hope will devour you from the inside like a parasite. It will leave you hanging like bait above a shark. But hope won’t kill you. It’s not that kind.

‘A fresh start.’ Fresh start. Like life was a carton of milk. When one went sour you threw it out and opened another.

Regarding the ending… Well, I’ve already mentioned that the supernatural element is not fully explained, and some readers were very annoyed by that, either because they felt it was unnecessary to the story and it detracted from the overall credibility of the plot, or because they thought that the supernatural aspect of the story should have been developed further rather than just introduced and left to readers’ imagination. There is a fair amount of telling at the end, and it did remind me of classical mysteries, where one of the characters would piece together the explanation after talking to everybody and getting all the facts, summarising the story to make sure everything was clear. The many twists mean that we get some false endings as well and there is an epilogue that finalises everything, introducing a hopeful note as well and one not as hopeful. As I have mentioned before, the ending makes sense in the context of the story, but this is not a police procedural, and I’m sure sticklers for details and those who are looking for something totally realistic might question it. Considering the many different threads weaved by the novel, I thought the ending was quite successful in bringing it all together, with the caveats mentioned.

In sum, this is a book I’d recommend to those who enjoy thrillers that combine a number of different elements, very twisty, not too focused on strict realism and consistent characters, and who don’t mind a touch of the supernatural. It is not a fast and quick thriller, but rather one that builds up at a slower pace, with detours that allow the reader to reflect upon subjects pertinent to the genre. Many interesting elements, intriguing characters, and good writing. I wonder where the writer will go next, and I wouldn’t mind following her into other genres.

Thanks to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author, for the novel, thanks to all of you for reading, and of course, if you’ve enjoyed it or know anybody who might, feel free to share, comment, click… And always keep reading and smiling! 🙂

 

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview #NineElms (Kate Marshall Book 1) by Robert Bryndza (@LittleBrownUK) I liked the main character but not enough attention to detail for me #NetGalley

Hi all:

Today I bring you a book that didn’t rock the world for me, but you might find it more to your taste (I think I should stop reading thrillers with plots that are too closely related to my previous professional life).

Nine Elms by Robert Bryndza
Nine Elms by Robert Bryndza

Nine Elms (Kate Marshall Book 1) by Robert Bryndza

From the breakthrough international bestselling author of The Girl in the Ice, a breathtaking, page-turning novel about a disgraced female detective’s fight for redemption. And survival…

Kate Marshall was a promising young police detective when she caught the notorious Nine Elms serial killer. But her greatest victory suddenly turned into a nightmare. Traumatized, betrayed, and publicly vilified for the shocking circumstances surrounding the cannibal murder case, Kate could only watch as her career ended in scandal.

Fifteen years after those catastrophic events, Kate is still haunted by the unquiet ghosts of her troubled past. Now a lecturer at a small coastal English university, she finally has a chance to face them. A copycat killer has taken up the Nine Elms mantle, continuing the ghastly work of his idol.

Enlisting her brilliant research assistant, Tristan Harper, Kate draws on her prodigious and long-neglected skills as an investigator to catch a new monster. Success promises redemption, but there’s much more on the line: Kate was the original killer’s intended fifth victim…and his successor means to finish the job.

Editorial Reviews

“[A] heart-pounding series launch.” Publishers Weekly

Nine Elms is a taut thriller that sweeps up the reader into the world of Kate Marshall. Kate is a thoroughly realized character with troubles and virtues who will have you rooting for her through to the nail-biting end.” —Authorlink

“A taunt thriller that will keep readers guessing, this is a powerful start to a new series.” The Parkersburg News and Sentinel

“Robert Bryndza’s characters are so vividly drawn—even the slightest character—and fully human and uniquely imperfect. His plots are clever and original and cool and his sense of timing is excruciatingly flawless. Nine Elms is Robert Bryndza spreading his already formidable wings to thrilling effect.” —Augusten Burroughs, New York Times bestselling author of Running with Scissors

“So chilling, with truly terrifying characters and a hard-hitting storyline that is gripping from start to finish. I will wait with bated breath for the next Kate Marshall thriller.” —Rachel Abbott, Amazon Charts bestselling author

“Bryndza is my type of author and Nine Elms is my type of book. Twisty, dark, and layered with a protagonist you root for from page one, this is a superb start to what promises to be another stand out series.” —M. W. Craven, author of The Puppet Show

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07PJKBZDH/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Nine-Elms-Kate-Marshall-Book-ebook/dp/B07PLNY832/

https://www.amazon.es/gp/product/B07PJKBZDH/

Author Robert Bryndza

About the author:

Robert Bryndza is the author of the international #1 bestselling Detective Erika Foster series. Robert’s books have sold over 3 million copies and have been translated into 29 languages. He is British and lives in Slovakia.

www.RobertBryndza.com

My review:

I thank NetGalley and Little, Brown Book Group UK for providing me an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review. This has in no way influenced my review.

I’ll try to be brief and provide information that might help others decide if this is a book they’d like to read. On the whole, I had far too many issues with the book to enjoy it as others have, but I am a regular reader of thrillers and have fist-hand knowledge of many of the issues central to the plot (I have worked as a forensic psychiatrist in the UK, where the story is set, and I have experience of working in a high secure hospital, so I’m more familiar with their security procedures than most readers will be), so I understand that my reading experience is likely to be very different to that of others. (And I won’t mention what my issues were not to derail others’ reading experience).

I had never read any of this author’s books before, and it is evident that he is well attuned to what people expect. He keeps the rhythm of the narration fast; this books starts with quite a bang, and there are only brief moments when the reader can have a bit of a break from the tension and the flow of the story. The plot covers many favourite points of the genre. We have not one but two horrific serial killers (even if the second one is a copycat, he is quite twisted in his own right); their murders are discussed in detail (although I’ve read books where the violence is more extreme, this is not for the fainthearted); we get the story told from a variety of points of view (although for the most part each chapter follows only one point of view), including victims and killers; we do not get all the information about the motivations until the end; there are characters to root for as well, and a complex investigation where the police get the assistance of outsiders (although in this case, Kate Marshall used to be a police detective, so she’s not quite the true amateur of other stories).

I did like Kate Marshall and her assistant, Tristan. It’s true that we do not learn a lot about him, but this is the first book in a new series, so there’s plenty of time for that. Kate seems to combine the characteristics of the main characters in many thrillers, as she is both a victim who survived a terrible attack and has suffered trauma due to that, and she is also a disenchanted and retired member of the police force, who due to her experiences and her way of coping with them lost her career, her way, and her family and is now asked to take a look at a case related to her past. I thought that the peculiarities of her circumstances, her relationship with her son, and her attempts at forging a new life for herself make her an interesting character in her own right, even if some of her actions and decisions are not always consistent.

As I have already said, I found that the story stretched my suspension of disbelief too far, and as I am a bit of a stickler for details and love a well-constructed police procedural, it did not work for me. I am aware that I only had access to an ARC copy, and it might well be that some of the minor issues I detected are not present in the final version. If you are a reader who enjoys novels and TV series about serial killers, prefers fast action, an easy read, don’t mind a good deal of explicit violence and some less than savoury characters and family relationships, focus more on the overall plot than on the details, and are looking for a satisfying ending, you’re likely to enjoy this novel. Do check a sample of it and see what you think.

Oh, the fact that I’ve also written a story about a copycat killer might not have helped matters. Just as a reminder, in case you’re interested, I introduced my book Deadly Quotes here (although the offer is no longer available).

Escaping Psychiatry 3. Deadly Quotes. Cover by Juan Padrón
Escaping Psychiatry 3. Deadly Quotes. Cover by Juan Padrón

Thanks to NetGalley and to the publishers for the book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to share, like, and comment if you’re so inclined, and always keep reading, reviewing and smiling!

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview Closer than You Think (A Broken Minds Thriller) by Lee Maguire (@TCKPublishing) A solid first novel for lovers of psychological suspense and Basset Hounds

Hi, all:

Today I bring you the review of a book that I got sent quite a while ago but had been hiding from me. I’ve finally got around to it, and I hope to catch up on some more that I’m sure are also buried under my long list. Sorry! Better late than never, I hope!

Closer Than You Think by Lee Maguire
Closer Than You Think by Lee Maguire

Closer than You Think (A Broken Minds Thriller) by Lee Maguire

Meet Bryce Davison, a gifted psychologist who can heal any troubled mind—except his own.

You see, Bryce’s life is falling apart. His marriage is crumbling. His insomnia brings only half-sleep and troubled dreams—visions of dark and buried memories he’d rather forget or ignore completely. And the new female patient in his psych ward just might be more trouble than he’s able to cope with.

…and now he has a stalker.

Somebody’s been watching Bryce for a long time. Somebody who knows his life inside and out—his fears, his regrets, his greatest longings and deepest despairs. Somebody with access to his most private places—his workplace, his home, his family…anywhere Bryce might have felt safe.

They do their dirty work in the shadows… and they want Bryce Davison dead.

So Bryce has got to get his life together. To save his patients. To save his family. To save his marriage…and his life.

Because no matter how close Bryce gets to the deadly truth, the enigmatic stalker is always closer than he thinks.

Fans of psychological thrillers like I Am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll, Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine, and No Exit by Taylor Adams will love this book.

You will enjoy Closer Than You Think if you like:

  • Psychological thrillers
  • Psychological suspense
  • Cerebral mysteries

Here is the link of the book:

http://geni.us/closerthanyouthinkm

Amazon links:

https://www.amazon.com/Closer-Think-Broken-Minds-Thriller-ebook/dp/B07FZ9XFGF/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Closer-Think-Broken-Minds-Thriller-ebook/dp/B07FZ9XFGF/

https://www.amazon.es/Closer-Think-Broken-Minds-Thriller-ebook/dp/B07FZ9XFGF/

Lee Maguire
Lee Maguire (or his representative…)

About the author:

Lee Maguire grew up reading mysteries and thrillers. While he has continued to enjoy medical and legal thrillers, psychological suspense quickly became his preferred genre. Writing such a work became a passion.

Lee has practiced as a psychotherapist, behavioral health consultant, clinical supervisor, and graduate psychology instructor. His clinical experience meshes well with the activities of Doctor Bryce Davison, drawing the reader into the mind of the clinician.

Closer Than You Think is book one of the planned Broken Minds Thriller series featuring Doctor Bryce Davison. Additional information may be found at leemaguirebooks.com

https://www.amazon.com/Lee-Maguire/e/B07G2VJCB1/

Lee’s Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/Dr-Bryce-Davison-Thriller-Series-1497309670567574/

My review:

Disclaimer: the publisher offered me a free ARC copy of this book. This this not affect my review.

In brief, this is a promising debut novel (in a planned series of psychological thrillers), narrated in the first person, with a solid stalker plot (clues, red-herrings and twists likely to make most readers of the genre happy), an interesting setting (a mental health treatment facility for troubled youths) and a good development of the main character (psychologist Bryce Davison, a man with an unsettled and traumatic past), and a wonderful Basset Hound. On the minus side, it could do with a tighter editing, more development of the secondary characters, and more attention to the pacing of the action.

This book will be especially appealing to those who enjoy psychological suspense, with particular emphasis on the “psychological” part. The author’s professional experience shines through, and that aspect of the novel is particularly well achieved, although it might seem overdetailed to people used to faster-paced thrillers.

The first-person point of view works well for the type of story, as it allows readers to share in the doubts and thoughts of the victim, experiencing his anxiety, reliving the trauma he experienced when he was young, and also trying to piece together the clues with him. On the other hand, the novel reads, at times, like a poorly focused memoir, with plenty of repetition of everyday living activities and chores that don’t help move the action forward and don’t add much to our understanding of the character. (There are so many times we can read about the character having a shower, the fact that his fridge is empty, or his switching or on off the computer). I’ve read novels that meander through stuff that does not seem particularly noteworthy, but the style of writing makes it impossible not to enjoy the detour. In this novel, neither the style of writing nor the genre are best suited for it. The other characters are not very well-developed, partly perhaps to do with the choice of point of view, and in some cases, like Bryce’s wife, that has the effect of making them appear inconsistent or totally at odds with the protagonist’s opinion of them.

The suspenseful plot and the way it builds up work well, although I agree with some of the reviewers that complain about the ending and the final explanation being too rushed. The story is not heavy on action or violence, although there is some, and the ending itself is satisfying.

As I said, this is a solid first novel that could be further improved by another round of editing, and I’d recommend it to people who prefer psychological suspense and who value plot over character building. Also recommended to Basset Hound lovers.

Thanks to the publisher and to the author, huge thanks to you all for reading, if you like it, share it and/or comment, and keep on smiling!

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog Everyone Dies (Karma’s Children Book 3) by John Dolan(@JohnDolanAuthor). It ends with a bang, not with a whimper.

Hi all:

I bring you the latest (and last in the series) novels by one of my favourite indie authors:

Cover of Everyone Dies (Karma's Children Book 3) by John Dolan
Everyone Dies (Karma’s Children Book 3) by John Dolan

Everyone Dies (Karma’s Children Book 3) by John Dolan

“An obsession with revenge might not be great for your mental health, but at least it’s calorie-free.”

Private detective David Braddock is holed-up on the Thai island of Samui plotting the death of Grigory Polzin, the Russian oligarch who ordered the killing of his daughter. Embittered and descending rapidly into alcoholism, the Englishman must find a way to exact his retribution before he completely falls apart.

Fate, however, has one final lesson for David Braddock: the dead don’t always stay dead.

‘Everyone Dies’ is the final book in John Dolan’s ‘Karma’s Children’ trilogy.

https://www.amazon.es/Everyone-Dies-Karmas-Children-English-ebook/dp/B07T1T91HN/

https://www.amazon.com/Everyone-Dies-Karmas-Children-English-ebook/dp/B07T1T91HN/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Everyone-Dies-Karmas-Children-English-ebook/dp/B07T1T91HN/

Author John Dolan
Author John Dolan

About the author:

“Makes a living by travelling, talking a lot and sometimes writing stuff down. Galericulate author, polymath and occasional smarty-pants.”

John Dolan hails from a small town in the North-East of England. Before turning to writing, his career encompassed law and finance. He has run businesses in Europe, South and Central America, Africa and Asia. He and his wife Fiona currently divide their time between Thailand and the UK.

He is the author of the ‘Time, Blood and Karma’ mystery series and the ‘Karma’s Children’ mystery trilogy.

https://www.amazon.com/John-Dolan/e/B008IIERF0

My review:

I love John Dolan’s books. I was lucky enough to “discover” him early on in his career, shortly after he published his first novel, Everyone Burns, in 2013. Since then, he has completed two series, the first, composed of four books (the Time, Blood and Karma series) and now, this is the third (and final) novel in his second series, Karma’s Children. And I have read them, reviewed them, and loved them all. Therefore, I approached this, the last novel in the David Braddock universe (well, sort of, as it happens), with trepidation. I wanted to know how this series ended, because there were many issues left hanging after Two Rivers One Stream (you can read my review here), but I was also sad that the end was near. Let me assure you, this book is a blast and a more than fitting conclusion to the series.

All these novels share the setting, mostly in Thailand, in Samui (well, some of the action takes place back in England, and there are some other trips and excursions along the way), and although I’ve never visited Thailand and can’t make comparisons, for me the novels have managed to create an atmosphere and a clear picture in my mind, not only of how the place looks like, but of its people, how their society works, and also what it must be like to live there day to day rather than just visiting as a tourist. The novels also share a main character, David Braddock, a British ex-pat/detective/therapist, who has issues of his own aplenty which we slowly discover through the novels. Not all the novels are narrated from the same point of view or take place in the same time-frame and following a chronological order. That gives us the advantage of getting background information and becoming familiar with the characters from a variety of perspectives, and we also become privy to some information that the main character doesn’t know (and that might make us think we are a step ahead, but, boy, are we wrong or what!).

This novel, narrated in first-person by David Braddock, the King of unreliable narrators, gives us another opportunity to share in his witticisms, his philosophising, his bad habits, and his peculiar interactions with those around him (ghosts included). I recently highlighted the first line of a book I read that I said had become one of my new favourites. The first two sentences of this book are also among the most memorable I’ve read (I’ll let you read them yourselves if you fancy the sound of the book. Remember you can check a sample on your usual online store). In case the description above is not enough, I thought I’d share how the book sums up its own content, because it will give you a fair idea of what is to come:

A tale of human mortality comprising a prologue, twenty-eight chapters, two interludes, and a Post Morten Report.

We find Braddock at a low point in his life, following the traumatic events in the previous novel and his very personal loss, and as a result, he starts plotting a revenge that would be complicated even for an experienced assassin, something he is not. His physical condition is also suffering due to his unhealthy lifestyle, but his goal keeps him going and then… I won’t go into the details of the plot, because I don’t want to spoil it for readers, and also because this novel brings together with great flair all the loose threads, not only of this series but of the previous one, and it would be difficult to explain it all to people who are not familiar with the story so far. This is not a novel I’d recommend to people who haven’t read any of the previous ones, because although there is enough background offered to refresh the memories of those who have read them over the years, I think much of the context would be lost if somebody started reading here. I had my suspicions about some of the new plot elements that are revealed in this novel, but I didn’t guess all of them, and I was in awe at how the author managed to weave such a complex story and make it flow naturally. I enjoyed meeting again my favourite characters (some who had not appeared for a while), and I was more than happy with some of the turn of events in the novel (but again, I’ll keep my mouth shut).

I can’t resist sharing a couple of early lines from the book, as a taster:

When one’s focus is on murdering someone, the proximity of female legs —even if aesthetically pleasing— hardly registers.

“Disillusionment should start young. It stops you from becoming bitter when you’re older.”

“Grief is not the presence of some red-clawed monster; looming up at us in the night. In point of fact, it’s not a presence at all. It’s an absence. The absence of something good.”

Well-written, with a dark and sharp sense of humour, clever dialogue, wonderful characters (and some awful ones as well, but wonderful in their awfulness), a fantastic setting, plenty of great quotes (quotes of other books opening each chapter, and eminently quotable lines), and a more-than-satisfying ending, this novel has it all. I keep recommending Dolan’s books to everybody but make sure to read both series in the right order, first Time, Blood and Karma and then Karma’s Children. You can thank me later. Oh, and the author is hard at work, writing the next novel about another character in the Braddock’s universe, and I can’t wait.

Thanks to the author for both series and for the characters that have become part of my fictional universe as well, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and always be smiling!

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