My Little Eye – Stephanie Marland

My Little Eye is a very unique take on the classic murder mystery. A story told technically from two different points of view but with the added bonus of an online true crime group adding their perspective.

It is the story told by Dominic the Detective working for the police department, and Clementine, the PHD student who joins an amateur online detective group and attempts to solve a series of murders carried out by ‘The Lover’, a sadistic serial killer who poses his victims after he murders them.

Blurb

A rocket-paced, dark thriller for fans of Mark Billingham, Sharon Bolton and Luther. Can a group of true crime addicts take on the police to catch a serial killer?

Kiss the Girls – A young woman is found dead in her bedroom surrounded by rose petals- the latest victim of ‘The Lover’. Struggling under the weight of an internal investigation, DI Dominic Bell is no close to discovering the identity of the killer and time is running out.

And make them die – As the murders escalate, Clementine Starke joins an online true crime group determine to take justice in their own hands – to catch the killer before the police. hiding a dark secret, she takes greater risks to find new evidence and infiltrate the group.

As Starke and Bell get closer to cracking the case, neither of them realise they are being watched. the killer is close to them than they think, and he has his next victim – Clementine – firmly in his sights.

Thoughts about the blurb

Personally, I think that this blurb gives too much away. In my opinion, and it is just an opinion, a blurb should give you a set up for the story and perhaps a few tantalising nuggets of information to encourage you to read past the first chapter, which in most books would be introducing characters and setting the scene.

Often, if I am struggling to get into a book after the first chapter, I’ll skip a few pages to read on, if I then feel I’ve missed anything, I’ll double back to catch up.

NONE of this was necessary for My Little Eye.

The book itself

The book begins with a prologue. Written in the voice of one of ‘The Lovers’ victims, this is essentially a prologue to the kill. It sets the tension level really well and leaves you wanting much much more.

Monday – the first chapter is Clementine and it begins as so:

“They say I was dead for three thousand and six seconds. They say that when I woke up I was different, but I don’t know if that’s true.”

Already I was hooked.

Chapter 1 is just over a page long, chapter two is just over two pages long. We continue in this pattern until the introduction of the online crime group and divert back to this pattern when small titbits of information need to be added to the story.

One thing that Stephanie Marland is very good at in her books, is pacing. She knows just when to speed things up with a short chapter to introduce more evidence and just when to include more characters with more viewpoints and thought-provoking clues.

My Little Eye is a great book. It follows a very familiar path of serial killers and police investigations, but where it differs from your average crime thriller or police procedural is with the introduction of this online true crime group and their lines of investigation. Often ahead of the police, they pool their expertise, knowledge and on some occasions the fact that they are not tied by rules and procedures, to solve the case.

Do they solve the case before the police? That would be telling.

Stephanie Marland

I have been a fan of Stephanie Marland for a few years now. All be it, under her pseudonym of Stephanie Broadribb, or more accurately as her blogging name ‘Crime Thriller Girl’.

Taken from the introduction on her website:

Crime Thriller Girl (aka Steph Broadribb aka Stephanie Marland) leads a double life …

I started out as a corporate suit by day and a crime fiction blogger – Crime Thriller Girl (hence the name of my blog) by night. Now I’m a thriller writer, writing as Steph Broadribb and Stephanie Marland. I’m an avid reader of all things crime thriller and I love to connect with people who share the same passion for books.

I first discovered her whilst looking for bloggers who wrote about one of my favourite areas, crime fiction. She is one of the best. But not only does she write about crime and is friends with some of the biggest crime writers in the industry, she also writes crime. When I discovered that she wrote as Stephanie Broadribb, I downloaded Deep Down Dead and began to read.

Blurb for Deep Down Dead

“Lori Anderson is as tough as they come, managing to keep her career as a fearless Florida bounty hunter separate from her role as single mother to nine-year-old Dakota, who suffers from leukaemia. But when the hospital bills start to rack up, she has no choice but to take her daughter along on a job that will make her a fast buck. And that’s when things start to go wrong. The fugitive she’s assigned to haul back to court is none other than JT, Lori’s former mentor – the man who taught her everything she knows …”

The Lori Anderson series is set in Florida and at first, I found it hard to reconcile a UK crime writer who sets their work in the USA. Why I found this so hard, I’m not really sure, I love Lee Child’s work and all of his work is set in the USA, in the US military in fact, and he was born in Coventry UK.

Once I got past the first few chapters though, I was hooked. The Lori Anderson series is fast-paced action from the get-go. Information is introduced into the story in much the same way that a grenade is introduced into a room.

This speed makes it ideal reading for commuting. When you get off that train, even if you have only travelled a mere couple of stations, you feel as though you have read one hell of a lot of the story.

A few months ago, I was lucky enough to attend an event at a local literary festival in which Stephanie Marland/Broadribb and her fellow author, Isabel Ashdown did a talk on ‘How to get published’. It was one of those talks which was designed to encourage you, the writer, to progress your work and your career in the right way, not just to dither around unsure where to go for help. What I took away , however, was just how much I wanted to read Stephanie’s new book ‘My Little Eye’.

Both authors read a passage from their newest books and I decided then and there to purchase both. Luckily there was a table manned by the local independent book shop, Barnards Books there selling copies and I was lucky enough to get them both signed.

I am actually quite ashamed that it has taken me this long to get around to reading and in fact finishing this book. The pace meant that I should have managed it within a week of the talk. Once I did pick it up and begin to read properly, it really did only take me a week.

It is a great story, gruesome in parts, but not unnecessarily so. I love the characters, especially Clementine, who Stephanie herself admits to rewriting in full on the second draft. The use of the online crime group to add intrigue and another dimension which really adds depth to the story. The lead characters, as well as the supporting characters, are fully developed and most have their own back story which gives reason and justification for their actions.

**** Potential spoiler ahead ***

Continue reading My Little Eye – Stephanie Marland

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle – Stuart Turton

I’ve been seeing this book around for a while now and decided it was time to read it. Having been super busy with work, I knew I’d end up buying it and not reading it for months. Black Friday came around and Audible had a sale on some of the year’s bestsellers, a mere £2.50 per audiobook! Sold!

I downloaded it and spent just over a week listening to it on my way to and from work. Best £2.50 I’ve spent in ages. I would most certainly recommend this.

WINNER OF THE BOOKS ARE MY BAG NOVEL AWARD 2018
SHORTLISTED FOR THE COSTA FIRST NOVEL AWARD 2018
SHORTLISTED FOR THE SPECSAVERS NATIONAL BOOK AWARDS 2018

The problem with an audiobook

Audiobooks can be difficult though, I have a real fondness for a good audiobook read by a good narrator. Unfortunately, the narrator can add or take away so much from the story that they can really make or break it.

Having listened to some audiobooks which I’ve given up on because of the narrator alone, I was pleased by the narrator on this one; Jot Davies has a versatile voice, smooth and with a lot of dexterity. Read in the first person the narrator is integral to the story working.

Since finishing the audiobook I have read some reviews; although overall they are good, there are a few people who do not like the narrator. This is a very personal thing I believe. I found Jot Davies to be a delightful narrator who added to the story for me. Sadly, not everyone felt the same way.

The Story

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a thought-provoking and intriguing story. It is one of the first truly existential pieces of literature that I’ve ‘read’, and enjoyed, in quite some time.

I can’t help but imagine what Stuart Turton’s office must have looked like whilst he was writing this book. The story is not limited to seven different timelines, there are also several other characters whose timelines are relevant and integral to the story, and both the ‘reader’ and Aiden’s ability to solve the mystery of Evelyn Hardcastle’s murder.

For me, I was totally enthralled by this story,  I would happily have read/listened to this story all in one day, I was excited to get to the next host to find out the other perspectives of the timeline, to see if I could solve the murder before Aiden did.

I failed!

Although there were some aspects of the mystery that I did solve, the main murderer was a total surprise. And my surprise was not limited just to the murder. This story contains many twists and turns relating to the identity of Aiden and his counterparts as well as the murder of Evelyn.

I found each of the characters to have depth and Stuart certainly explored many areas of the suspect’s lives, aspects which had a true impact on their place in this mystery.

I have seen this story compared to a cross between an Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes, Groundhog Day and Quantum Leap, all of which seem accurate to me. It is well written, contains twists and turns and I would certainly recommend this book in both audible and written form to anyone who likes a good mystery and a plot twist.

Setting

I do not know when or where this book is set.

It has been compared to the Great Gatsby and I agree. Blackheath is a stately home out in the countryside. There are no real indications of which time period this story is set though, the only technology which is mentioned is an ancient record player and a car which is a little temperamental. No other technology, but in a place like Blackheath, this doesn’t actually narrow it down at all. Often people aim to get away from themselves when they stay in a place like Blackheath. I’d narrow it down to somewhere between the 1920s and 1980s.

The characters all have very different accents, but as it is written and read in the first person and accents aren’t really relevant to the plot, there is no real indication as to the location of Blackheath, it could be the UK, it could be the USA, the only place I know it isn’t based in, is Paris, as that is the only place specifically mentioned in the book.

This lack of location actually only adds to the mystery which surrounds the story and the mystery of Blackheath.

Synopsis

“It is meant to be a celebration, but it ends in tragedy. As fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed. but Evelyn will not die just once. Until Aiden – one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party – can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself over and over again. Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot.

The only way to bread this cycle is to identify the killer. But each time the day begins again, Aiden wakes in the body of a different guest. And someone is determined to prevent him ever escaping Blackheath…”

Burial – Neil Cross

I am a little ashamed to say that this is the first Neil Cross book that I have read. I am a massive fan of Luther and was really pleased to discover that the series also had a series of three tie-in novels.

Why this book?

Neil Cross has written nine books in total and for most, it would make sense either to start at the beginning or with one of the Luther novels. I, however, chose to read one of his stand-alone novels to get a better idea of his writing style.

I love it when books are combined with other media. If you’ve checked out my Instagram you’ll see that I do love a good multimedia tie-in. From Terry Pratchett, via Harry Potter all the way to The Rivers of London series, if there are different media versions or tie-ins in different media’s then I’m there. Give me a good film adaptation, a tv series or an audiobook and I’m there, combine it with a game, graphic novel and display models of characters and I am in love.

This way of supplementing the storylines of Luther with additional tie-in novels is really appealing. So why not choose one of those as my first Neil Cross reading experience? If I’m honest, I didn’t’ want to taint the experience with my love of Luther the TV series. I often find that if you love a character or a series of characters then you can ignore bad writing.

Take J K Rowling as an example, she has done amazingly well and has written a brilliant story which appeals to both adults and children alike, but I genuinely do not feel that the Harry Potter series would have been commissioned on book one and two alone. If she had not submitted the overall story arc for the series, I don’t think book three would have been picked up. I find the writing style in the first book to be pretty basic and actually quite terrible. It was only at book three that I really began to enjoy the reading experience. Book one and two are necessary for setting out the storyline and introducing the characters, but for anyone (over the age of about 14) who enjoys reading, I think these are a necessary chore.

And for that reason, I chose a stand-alone.

The Story

Burial has a very simple storyline

Can your guiltiest secret ever be buried?

Nathan has never been able to forget the worst night of his life: the party that led to the sudden, shocking death of a young woman. Only he and Bob, an untrustworthy old acquaintance, know what really happened and they have resolved to keep it that way. But one rainy night, years later, Bob appears at Nathan’s door with terrifying news, and old wounds are suddenly reopened, threatening to tear Nathan’s whole world apart. Because Nathan has his own secrets now. Secrets that could destroy everything he has fought to build. And maybe Bob doesn’t realise just how far Nathan will go to protect them…

[Synopsis is taken from the back cover of the book]

The story for Burial is a simple one, girl dies and secrets are kept. It spans a period of about ten years I think and although some of these years are covered with the cursory, years later, you can forgive Neil this as the main events are covered in great detail and within a matter of pages, he is able to paint a realistic picture of the relationships which develop in the years not documented. True to life, it is the mundane which shows the passing of time and the extraordinary events which shape the actions and relationships of the main characters.

Neil manages to make you feel the pain of loss which is felt by the death of this girl as well as the regret and fear of the lead characters.

Note from the author

I wanted to tell a story where things just keep getting worse and worse for the main character. I wanted to write about guilt and ghosts and murder. But mostly, I wanted to entertain people, and frighten them. I wanted to keep them awake until the early hours.

In this respect at least, it turns out that that Burial was pretty successful. My new editor Francesca and I kept a nightmare tally.

[Taken from Neil-cross.com]

Did I find this book scary? At times it was a little spine-chilling yes. I think for me though, reading takes away some of the fear factor, I am in control and I know I can put the book down at any time.

I did, in fact, have one nightmare, but perhaps because I read this book in several sittings over a series of weeks, I was not continuously immersed in the world and the characters lives to the extent that I would have been if I read it all in one or two sittings.

Overall review

I really enjoyed this book and found that putting it down was quite hard. Unlike some though, it was easy to pick up again without having to re-read pages to discover where I had gotten up to. Like many of his other books, I feel this story would translate really well into a TV production. The fact that Neil Cross writes for TV shows in his writing style. The more I read and discover about authors, the more I realise that you can tell those authors whose job revolves around writing and those who do it as a side project or hobby.

The Girl Who takes an Eye for an Eye

Stieg Larsson and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was one of those books which was recommended by everyone. So many of my friends said that they had read it and enjoyed it, that it was “my kind of book”.

Eventually, I gave in and picked up a copy at my local charity shop. This is my usual strategy for dealing with books and/or authors who, I feel, are too popular. I refused to buy any of Dan Brown’s books brand new, and don’t even get me started on James Patterson. I’m a little bit less self righteous now a days.

The first two chapters (from what I can remember – it was a few years ago now) were a bit of a hard slog, Larsson was most certainly one for detail and he clearly did an awful lot of research for each of his novels. I did actually learn from these two chapters, but the subject was mainly the financial market of Sweden and how technology companies made their money, so really a bit dry.

Once I got past these chapters though, the story began to unfold and grabbed me, I began to read it ferociously, even taking it in the bath with me (not something I’m keen to do with hardbacks – after so many years and so many ‘destroyed’ books and dust jackets). I fell in love with the characters and willed them to find their happy ending, or perhaps just some closure and peace after so many years of mystery and loss.

This trilogy is not for the faint-hearted. There are several very graphic scenes depicted within its pages. I have to admit, when I found out it was going to be made into a film, I was pleased, but also a little apprehensive over how the director would deal with this level of graphic physical and sexual violence whilst still keeping the integrity of the story. I was, thankfully, pleasantly surprised.

After book one, I wasn’t sure how the story would progress as there did seem to be a rather neat round-up at the end,  but I was keen to find out and purchased each of the other two books in the trilogy brand new as they were released. It was a relief to see that Larsson really was a master storyteller and was able to push his characters into new plots and new conspiracies with ease.

One of the things which makes his stories so believable is the vast cast of characters who appear. Often in novels, the author will only write about and focus on characters with whom the main protagonist will come into contact. Larsson, however, knows that there are more than just the main characters in play in each of the scenarios and predicaments his characters get themselves into, he sees the far-reaching effects of the, often rash behaviour of his main characters, and he shows it to us. His ensemble cast is massive. For any of you who have read or even seen Game of Thrones, well he could easily have rivalled George R R Martin if he focussed on more than one the lands of Westeros and their ruling families.

When I first started reading this series of books, I got a little annoyed at his jumping between, seemingly unimportant, characters. but as time went on, and I learned of their importance to the story, I forgave him. It is this aspect which makes his often far-fetched stories come to life, seeing the scenarios from different characters, including the villains, makes each event a lot more tangible and real.

David Lagercrantz

Steig Larsson died prior to the publication of the Millenium series and it with this knowledge that I read them, knowing that the third book would be the last. So in 2015, when I saw that there was a fourth book, I was a little surprised, to say the least.

The publishers and Larsson’s estate (controlled by his brother and father) decided that a fourth book was a good idea in order to continue the ‘adventures’ of Lisbeth, such a foreboding (all be it tiny in stature) female character, one who showed strength and a strong moral compass (you really do have to read more than just a few chapters to see what is meant by this).

The Girl who took an Eye for an Eye

I was rather keen to read this book, to learn more about Lisbeth’s history but I was still worried about what a new author would do with the characters. It was well recorded that Lagaercrantz had a bit of an issue with the way in which women would throw themselves at Bloomkvist without a seconds thought. He, therefore, tries to make Bloomkvist work a bit more for female attention. Other than that though, he has kept quite closely to Larsson’s style.

Parts of Lisbeth’s story was, of course, explored and explained, in the three books written by Larsson; Lagaercratz goes on to explore some of the incidents in more depth, adding more psychology to the character of Lisbeth.

It is a well-written story which doesn’t take away from the Millenium series. Instead, adding to the depth and personal history of several of the characters, filling them out to make them more than merely two-dimensional characters on the periphery of Millenium and the authorities investigations, and instead making them fully fledged characters in their own right.

There are some interesting themes explored in this book; religion, honour and family play a pivotal role in the story and its twists and turns. Lisbeth and her moral beliefs and complexities get her into all sorts of trouble, whilst dealing with her own demons, both real and imagined.

Synopsis of the previous books

**** BEWARE – if you have not read any of the “trilogy” then please note that these synopses may contain spoilers. ***

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Steig Larsson

The first book in the Millennium series featuring Lisbeth Salander – the global publishing phenomenon.

Forty years ago, Harriet Vanger disappeared from a family gathering on the island owned and inhabited by the powerful Vanger clan. Her body was never found, yet her uncle is convinced it was murder – and that the killer is a member of his own tightly knit but dysfunctional family.

He employs disgraced financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist and the tattooed, truculent computer hacker Lisbeth Salander to investigate. When the pair link Harriet’s disappearance to a number of grotesque murders from forty years ago, they begin to unravel a dark and appalling family history.

But the Vangers are a secretive clan, and Blomkvist and Salander are about to find out just how far they are prepared to go to protect themselves.

The Girl Who Played With Fire – Steig Larsson

The second book in the Millennium series featuring Lisbeth Salander – the global publishing phenomenon

Lisbeth Salander is a wanted woman. Two Millennium journalists about to expose the truth about sex trafficking in Sweden are murdered, and Salander’s prints are on the weapon. Her history of unpredictable and vengeful behaviour makes her an official danger to society – but no-one can find her.

Mikael Blomkvist, Millennium magazine’s legendary star reporter, does not believe the police. Using all his magazine staff and resources to prove Salander’s innocence, Blomkvist also uncovers her terrible past, spent in criminally corrupt institutions. Yet Salander is more avenging angel than helpless victim. She may be an expert at staying out of sight – but she has ways of tracking down her most elusive enemies.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest – Steig Larsson

The third book in the Millennium series featuring Lisbeth Salander – the global publishing phenomenon

Salander is plotting her revenge – against the man who tried to kill her, and against the government institutions that very nearly destroyed her life. But it is not going to be a straightforward campaign. After taking a bullet to the head, Salander is under close supervision in Intensive Care, and is set to face trial for three murders and one attempted murder on her eventual release.

With the help of journalist Mikael Blomkvist and his researchers at Millennium magazine, Salander must not only prove her innocence, but identify and denounce the corrupt politicians that have allowed the vulnerable to become victims of abuse and violence. Once a victim herself, Salander is now ready to fight back.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web – David Lagercrantz

The sequel to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series has been shrouded in such secrecy that the novel was written on computers with no internet connection to avoid any leaks. Based on a plot outline Stieg Larsson wrote before his death, the novel was completed by David Lagercrantz and is finally here.

The uncompromising anti-hero Lisbeth Salander is again the chief protagonist, along with campaigning journalist Mikael Blomkvist, a lone wolf and champion of the truth. When a superhacker has gained access to top secret U.S. intelligence, Lisbeth is accused of acting without reason, but Blomkvist knows there must be something deeper at the heart of this – unveiling a tangled web of truth that someone is prepared to kill to protect.

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO IS BACK WITH A UK NUMBER ONE BESTSELLER Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist have not been in touch for some time. Then Blomkvist is contacted by renowned Swedish scientist Professor Balder. Warned that his life is in danger, but more concerned for his son’s well-being, Balder wants Millennium to publish his story – and it is a terrifying one. More interesting to Blomkvist than Balder’s world-leading advances in Artificial Intelligence, is his connection with a certain female superhacker. It seems that Salander, like Balder, is a target of ruthless cyber gangsters – and a violent criminal conspiracy that will very soon bring terror to the snowbound streets of Stockholm, to the Millennium team, and to Blomkvist and Salander themselves.

The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye – David Lagercrantz

From the author of the #1 international best seller The Girl in the Spider’s Web comes the fifth book in the Millennium series, which began with Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – the global publishing phenomenon that has sold more than 90 million copies worldwide.

Lisbeth Salander, the girl with the dragon tattoo, the brilliant hacker, the obstinate outsider, the volatile seeker of justice for herself and others—even she has never been able to uncover the most telling facts of her traumatic childhood, the secrets that might finally, fully explain her to herself.

Now, when she sees a chance to uncover them once and for all, she enlists the help of Mikael Blomkvist, the editor of the muckraking, investigative journal Millennium. And she will let nothing stop her—not the Islamists she enrages by rescuing a young woman from their brutality; not the prison gang leader who passes a death sentence on her; not the deadly reach of her long-lost twin sister, Camilla; and not the people who will do anything to keep buried knowledge of a sinister pseudoscientific experiment known only as The Registry.

Once again, Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist, together, are the fierce heart of a thrilling full-tilt novel that takes on some of the most insidious problems facing the world at this very moment.

Into The Water – Paula Hawkins

The Author

Paula Hawkins is most famously known for her debut novel ‘The Girl on the Train’, which is not only a bestselling novel but now a very successful film starring Emily Blunt.

I loved this book, I also quite enjoyed the film. There was something not quite right about the main character and everything that happened to her. You willed her to be more than she appeared. You felt sorry for her, but at the same time, you could definitely see yourself making the same mistakes. Rachel is a flawed individual, an alcoholic, at times a horrible person, but someone who you are rooting for. Hawkins manages to make her all of those things within the first couple of chapters and untangles her twisted tale throughout the rest of the book. It truly was a page-turner.

The Book

I have on occasion been known to use the cliched saying “This book was a joy to read”, I cannot, however, say that about this book. It is well written and the story is intriguing, but it is harrowing and I’d compare it to the feeling you get when watching a true life crime programme.  You know the feeling when you question how humanity can be so cruel and evil? That is how I feel about this book.

Into the Water front cover

The way I talk about this book is the way I hear people talking about ’13 Reasons Why’, it is at times painful to read and it reminds you of the horrendous acts which people can inflict upon each other.

However, Hawkin’s way of storytelling is really keeping me hooked, I really do want to know what happens.

Who killed Nel? Did she jump? Was she pushed? Who or what is this mysterious power who rids the town of ‘troublesome women’?

Synopsis

‘I need you to call me back. It’s important’

Just days before her sister plunged to her death, Jules ignored her call.

Now Nel is dead. They say she jumped. And Jules must return to her sister’s house to care for her daughter, and to face the mystery of Nel’s death.

But Jules is afraid. Of her long-buried memories, of the old Mill House, of this small town that is drowining in secrecy…

And of knowing that Nel would never have jumped.

Relationships

The book focusses on the relationships between several central characters. It is perhaps the relationship between Jules and her sister Nel which makes me most uncomfortable, but this is, in fact, a positive reflection of Hawkin’s writing.

The realism of the relationships in her writing makes me question my own sibling relationship and wonder if I, the older sister are seen in such a negative light as Jules clearly see’s Nel. This relationship is tragic really, the sisters could have helped each other through so much, instead, they were at each other’s throats.

I have an almost morbid fascination with stories which focus on dysfunctional family relationships, I think that they make me feel better about my own. It can be cathartic, whilst also being incredibly uncomfortable, to relate to these characters so deeply.

Another main theme appears to be the relationship between parent and child. Each character’s relationship with either their parent or child is explored and the flaws in these relationships laid bare. Be it the distrust which Josh Whittaker has for his mother, the painful shared loss which prevents Sean from interacting properly with his father or perhaps Nel’s dysfunctional relationship with her daughter Lena.

At the heart of this book is not the river, as first believed, but the interactions and often disastrous encounters which the characters have with one another. the love and the hatred felt by each of them is visceral

Mystery and intrigue

The mystery surrounding ‘The Drowning Pool’ is what pulls the story on, but it is the character relationships which make up the bulk of the narrative, these interactions make up the daily lives of the characters whose lives seem rather mundane and normal on the surface. Once you look below the ordinary exterior of the people in Beckford you discover the dark secrets and turmoil hiding just below the surface

Setting

Into the Water is set in a small town called Beckford. It is supposedly about an hour’s drive from Craster and Howick. In spite of Hawkins very clear description of the town, it’s geography and it’s layout, it does not actually exist.

In researching this town, I have discovered a website called ‘The Book Trail‘ which discusses the locations discussed in various books. It is basically a blog which focusses on the settings of books. There is even a section in which authors will discuss their works in relation to the settings.

“As much fun travelling via fiction is, sometimes all you need is to sit back and take the time to enjoy a drink, a piece of cake and chat with the people on the journey with you”

Overall opinion

Although this book is not the most upbeat book I’ve read recently, it was certainly one which kept me hooked and wanting to know more every time I had to put it down. The twists and turns were not predictable and although you felt like some of the character’s actions were vindicated, I still felt myself questioning their motives or arguing with them in my head.

This is a very well written book and a story that keeps you hooked from beginning to end. Well worth a read, but only if you are in the right emotional state.

The Word is Murder – Anthony Horowitz

Book and Skull

Anthony Horowitz

I found this book on offer at my local supermarket. Having never read an Alex Rider novel, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the idea of Horowitz moving from Young Adult stories into Adult stories intrigued me.

When I picked up the book, I was unaware of Horowitz’s other career achievements in TV and film.

To me he had always been a YA author.

Story device

This book struck me as a bit strange and unusual within ten pages. Anthony Horowitz has broken the fourth wall of writing. This in itself is not unusual. It has been done in many novels over the years. What is unusual is that he had made himself a character. And the information he provides about himself is pretty accurate. It makes me wonder how much of the rest of the story is based on real people and real events. 

Lemony Snicket, of course, used this method in his ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’, so it is not a new device, I think I was just a little surprised to see it used in such a way. This is, after all, a murder mystery. It is not as if he is using his voice as a character, he himself is the character, with a real life and a real family and his achievements are real and accurate, his career is real, even his script for Tintin being scrapped is real (although, who knows if it went down the way the describes in the book).

As I read through the book, I realised that there is a lot of factual information about who Horowitz has worked with and what he has worked on. So much so that at times I feel his main characters in the murder mystery are in fact real people. Although, after a few more paragraphs, you realise that he has likely taken the trajectory of one actor’s career, an actor he has worked quite closely with over the years, and lent it to his character. Changing perhaps only the spelling of his name and his, of course, his surname. In a way, this use of real people reminds me of ‘Being John Malkovich’ or James Van Der Beak’s character in ‘The B**** in apartment 23’.

Thoughts and opinions

Having now finished the book, I am more and more inclined to believe that this murder actually happened. Both Hawthorne and Anthony are of course real people, the places they visit are most certainly real, and it leads me to believe that many of the events are also. I am still unsure if Horowitz would have been allowed to play as big a part as he leads us to believe, but when you break the fourth wall, you’ve got to be at the heart of the action. 

The title of the novel appears on page 25, during a conversation between Horowitz and Hawthorne, he then also makes reference to this at the end of the book. I found this running commentary to the story to be very useful but at times a little off-putting. It is a good story, told well, but I think I found it hard to get over the main device.

Horowitz’s career

The other main character, Hawthorne, reminded me, in a lot of ways, of Sherlock Holmes. Which makes total sense as in 2011, Horowitz released ‘The House of Silk’ the first Sherlock Holmes novel written as a new story with the estates blessing. However, I believe that he is also a real person, but whether he’s as insightful or reserved as his character in the book, is anyone’s guess.

The more I read about Horowitz and his career both on and off the screen, the more I realise that he was an ideal choice for such an endeavour.

He has since written a second Sherlock Holmes novel, Moriarty and in 2014, the Ian Flemming estate commisioned him to write ‘Trigger Mortis’, a new James Bond novel. His Alex Rider novels, of course, made him an obvious choice for this franchise as they are often referred to as ‘Teenage James Bond’.

His second James Bond novel “Forever and a Day” has just been released in hardback.

“007 is back. After authentically recreating the golden age of James Bond in his high-speed thriller, Trigger Mortis, Anthony Horowitz is back in Ian Fleming‘s shoes once more.  In Forever and a Day he brings readers an official prequel to Casino Royale, telling the story of the origins of the world’s most famous secret agent.” – Waterstones

The Word is Murder

The story itself is a pretty good one, a murder mystery at heart and one which compels you to read on and learn more. Not just about the murder but about  Horowitz, (or Anthony, as he likes to be called) and Hawthorne themselves. 

“A wealthy woman strangled six hours after she’s arranged her own funeral.  A very private detective uncovering secrets but hiding his own. A reluctant author drawn into a story he can’t control. What do they have in common?

Unexpected death, an unsolved mystery and a trail of bloody clues lie at the heart of Anthony Horowitz’s page-turning new thriller.

Spread the word, The Word is Murder!” (sic) – Waterstones

I have to admit, even if this novel weren’t written by a world-famous author like Horowitz, I’d have picked it up, the blurb alone is intriguing. Although, it now gives me pause on the idea of pre-arranged funerals. The story actually turns out to be quite emotional with plot twists galore, most of which I, the reader, did not see coming.

I also found the writing to be easy to follow and fast paced, perhaps this is down to his career in young adult fiction. I did actually find myself steaming through the pages of this book. A great read to take away on holiday or on a long train/plane journey. Reading this book was actually quite pleasurable if at times a little off-putting when Horowitz himself interjects his thoughts and feelings. Definitely worth a read though.

Tin – a young adult novel by Pådraig Kenny

This book is great!

At first glance, I totally misjudged this book. I thought Tin was going to be another re-telling of Oz, I was wrong. Instead, it is an inspiring story which tackles such topics as Empathy, Loss, Prejudice, Discrimination, Love and Friendship. And it does so in such a naturalistic way that you never feel as though you are being preached to, rather that you are on this journey with the main characters and are experiencing each of these through their eyes, through their thoughts and through their feelings and emotions.

Book Cover of Tin

Blurb

Orphan Christopher works for Mr Absalom, an engineer of mechanical children. he’s happy being the only ‘real’ boy among his scrap-metal buddies made from bits and bobs – until an accident reveals an awful truth.

What follows is a remarkable adventure as the friends set out to discover who and what they are and even what it means to be human.

[Taken from book jacket]

About

Tin is Pådraig Kenny’s first book. Published by Chicken House it falls into the category of ‘young adult’. For all you adult readers out there, this should not put you off, in fact, I think it has helped Kenny that this book is classified in such a way. I feel that this could greatly increase his readership.

Tin has certainly opened my eyes to the variety and depth of the young adult market. Gone are the days when all YA books are about shiny vampires and werewolves.

Themes

The themes explored in Tin are quite deep. At first, I had images of reading this book to my nephew (he’s seven) but after getting a little further in, I realised, although he would love the characters and the vivid haphazard environments full of metal and mechanics, there were parts of the story which he would find upsetting.

I think that Tin would most definitely make a good film. With the right director, producer and film studio picking this up, I think Tin could most certainly become a film in the realms of Box Trolls or Coraline.

I can most definitely see Tin being turned into a film or TV series one day. For any of you who have watched films such as ‘box trolls’ or any Tim Burton animation, I would compare its visuality and it’s mismatched characters to them. If Tin does not get picked up by a film company soon, I will be incredibly surprised.

I found that more and more throughout the story, I sided squarely with the mechanical characters and believed the ‘human’ or ‘proper’ characters to be, if not evil, then severely wanting of certain emotions and empathy. More mechanical in nature than the mechanicals themselves. Kenny slips seamlessly between the narrative of children and mechanicals and that of the adult and ‘proper’ characters. Often highlighting the moral subtext and ethical issues through character interaction and description of behaviour rather than their speech.

After finishing Tin, I happened to re-watch Blade Runner. Now, I am not comparing the two as such, but if you enjoyed the ethical suggestions and moral issues which Blade Runner addresses, then this is a good book to read.

Thoughts

I finished this book in under a week, it is the first time I’ve managed to do that in a long time. I would say, that in part, this is because it was such a delight to read.

Tin is an incredibly visual book. Kenny paints such vivid pictures with his words that you are drawn into the environments and become not merely a bystander, but a real part of the action unfolding, you become a character, all be it a silent one, in the story.

The backdrop for Tin is similar, in set up, to a ‘steampunk‘ kind of reality. Except, instead of steam you have mechanicals who seem to be powered by the mechanisms within and a tiny drop of magic. Kenny does such a good job in writing this story that it becomes natural for the reader to suspend their disbelief. I was intrigued as to how the mechanicals operated in the way that they do, but once explained, it seemed to make so much sense that I didn’t really question it.

I do like fantasy and sci-fi novels, but sometimes, when an author chooses magic over science, I do find it slightly hard to swallow. In Tin though, the use of a magical element makes total sense and is not juxtaposed to the mechanics of the era at all. The culture and society, as well as the backdrop for the story, are rural in their heritage. The divergence in our timelines being centred in the World Wars is the perfect way to account for such great difference in our technological advances and history.

Who should read Tin?

I would totally recommend this book to anyone! If you are twelve, then this is a great book. It will offer up moral perspectives which you may not yet have come across in your lifetime as well as a story which will keep you entertained and wanting more every time you have to put the book down. For the avid young reader, this is the perfect book to add to your library. It should be stocked in all school and local libraries.

If you are an adult, then I would equally recommend this book to you. Sod the YA classification for this book. Harry Potter was a YA book and that didn’t stop millions of adults openly reading it. Tin is a great book which opens your eyes to different perspectives associated with the possibility of Technological Singularity and moves away from the classic Terminator-style future we are so used to seeing in most post-apocalyptic sci-fi novels and films.

 

Black Widow – Chris Brookmyre

Black Widow – 7th Jack Parlabane novel

By Chris Brookmyre

I picked up Black Widow a few months ago. It looked like my kind of book; crime thriller, critically acclaimed, award-winning (Don’t worry, I’m not always swayed by that aspect, it just helps to narrow down when waiting in a train station or looking for something to read on holiday when I don’t want to take a risk on an unknown quantity of quality). And half price to boot (loss-leading marketing by such stores as Waterstones and W H Smith, really does work on me when it comes to books, my reading habit is expensive so any discount I can get is truly a winner for me).

I had heard of Chris Brookmyre before I picked up the book, but to my surprise, I’d never actually read anything he’d written.
It’s been sat in my bookcase for months now, even moving with me, and yet still I’d not picked it up to read. Last weekend I was looking for a paperback to read in the bath, my most consumptive reading occurs in the bath, it’s time I feel as though I can completely relax and do what I want, immerse myself in the story with no interruptions. Reading in the bath is the ultimate me time.
On the off chance, I picked up Black Widow. I’m not sure why I’d been putting it off for so long. I am really glad I picked it up that day though.

Chapters and writing

This book is brilliant! It took me a chapter or two to get into it, but the chapter length meant that this was a mere few minutes and the writing style appealed to me instantly. The chapters are reasonably short, although not Patterson short, ranging from 3-10 pages in length, and they jump around between different characters, allowing you to experience the story through their eyes and their words.

The chapter length I find was perfect for getting you gripped and keeping you entertained throughout the whole book. You don’t tend to find your mind wandering half way through a chunky chapter, wishing that you could go back to the Jack or the Jager perspective of the story, instead, when you get to the end of each chapter you are keen to keep reading regarding of whose story arc is next.

I also found this length to be conducive to me being able to read at work and on the train, I rarely found I had to stop reading halfway through a chapter thus interrupting my flow, unlike with some books. This was the main factor in me getting through the book so fast.

Instead of numbers, the chapters are all named, giving you an idea of what you will experience or learn in this chapter. If I midway through a session, I wouldn’t necessarily read the chapter titles before reading the chapters themselves, but I found them to be very useful upon my return to the book after a few hours. You can flip back and remind yourself of the previous chapters contents without having to re-read.

Story and characters

Chris Brookmyre is great at giving you a full view of the characters thoughts and feelings without giving away anything too revealing to the plot. He keeps you on your toes whilst also explaining enough of what is going on that you are never lost in the storyline. His use of non-linear storyline is very naturalistic, and being that Black Widow is his 21st novel, he has had plenty of practice at getting this type of narrative right, and he does, in fact, manage it well.

“There is no perfect Marriage. There is no perfect Murder.”

This is the kind of novel which turns your beliefs about each character upside down with each new piece of information that you learn. One minute you are rooting for the Jager to be found guilty and the next you are questioning what you would do if you were in her shoes. Is Jack truly the ‘catch’ he first appeared? Putting this book down was difficult at times, Chris really does know how to keep you interested, each chapter holds a new twist to be dissected and analysed.

I’m not going to give anything away, but I can tell you that I experienced a strong sense of satisfaction at the outcome of this story. I felt vindicated in my feelings towards characters whose moral compasses had been ambiguous from the start. I also found that Black Widow made me reflect upon my own relationships and how they had formed and panned out over the years.

There is a healthy dose of suspicious and anxiety injected into the narrative of this story. Chris certainly does know a lot about the human psyche. For anyone who has read and enjoyed ‘The Girl on the Train’ by Paula Hawkins, you will know exactly what I mean by this.

Blurb

And now for a bit more about the story…

Diana Jager is clever, strong and successful, a skilled surgeon and fierce campaigner via her blog about sexism. Yet it takes only hours for he life to crumble when her personal details are released on the internet as revenge for her writing.

Then she meets Peter. He’s kind, generous and knows nothing about her past: the second chance she’s been waiting for. Within six months, they are married. Within six more, Peter is dead in a road accident, a nightmare end to their fairytale romance.

But Peter’s sister Lucy doesn’t believe in fairytales, and tasks maverick reporter Jack Parlabane with discovering the dark truth behind the woman the media are calling Black Widow.

[Taken from the book Jacket]

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a thrilling read. I have lent this book to at least two other people who have both massively enjoyed reading it. It is the ideal book for long journeys or if you are looking for a good read for a staycation. The question of whether Jager is truly the Black Widow she is portrayed as or something else entirely will keep you interested throughout.

Then She Was Gone – A novel by Lisa Jewell

The first book I read of Lisa’s was Ralph’s party, followed by Thirty nothing. And surprisingly, at the ripe old age of 17 these books really spoke to me.
I remember really identifying with the characters, in spite the obvious age difference.

As an author, I had not been following Lisa’s Work and then then a few weeks ago, whilst moving, I found those books and decided it might be an idea (now I’m actually in my 30’s) to re-read. I haven’t actually got that far yet, because I’m the mean time, I discovered her new book.

Then She Was Gone

Just as her early books, I found this book a delight to read. Easy to pick up and hard to put down, just what I like in my fiction.

The plot is a good one, mystery and intrigue all wrapped up in everyday life. In spite the unlikeliness of the mystery, it is completely believable because of the way in which Lisa writes her characters. Not once do you disbelieve how Laurel (arguably, the main character) acts or reacts, each of her behaviours and actions is discussed and you really feel as though you are going along this journey with her.

About a third of the way through, I got the feeling that I knew where the story was going, but how she would achieve this goal was intriguing. Knowing what was coming did not in any way distract from my enjoyment of reading this book, I found that I genuinely wanted to know what happened to the characters and how they got to what I believed would be the end point. In fact even though I thought I had a fair idea of what was coming, Lisa still managed to throw in a couple of twists that I had not predicted.

Lisa guides Lauren through the emotional roller coaster of re-living the disappearance of her daughter all those years ago. You feel her pain, you see the shell of a woman that she had become so clearly. And then you follow her as she begins to learn to accept and move on.

The Story

The story jumps from ‘Now’ to ‘Then’. This allows you to experience what happened to Ellie and what she was going through at the same as seeing the effect this has on Lauren and her family. The use of shifting time works really well and progresses the storyline whilst all the while keeping you emotionally attached to the characters.

I’ve mentioned this tool before in my review of ‘The Girls by Emma Cline’. I feel that Emma lost her way a little using this. Lisa however, seems to have a very good grasp of how to sign post for the reader whose story and when we are in the timeline, which makes this story a lot easier to read than Emma’s novel which uses a similar technique. This could be due to Lisa’s writing experience. With a back catalogue of no less than 15 books prior to ‘Then She Was Gone’, I feel she has had a lot of practice in honing her skill and finessing the readability of her work.

Ellie is not just a Macguffin in the story, she is a fully formed character who has he own thoughts and feelings, who experiences fear and pain. Lisa allows you to follow her on her journey and experience these emotions with her. This allows you to be emotionally attached to the character of Ellie and deepens the emotional investment you have.

The story for this book does seem a little far fetched on the face of it and I can only imagine the raised eyebrows that Lisa would have received on presenting the synopsis to her publisher. Lisa’s writing style brings a whole level of believability to it. So much so that you don’t once question it’s strangeness.
In the acknowledgements Lisa thanks her editors for making sense of the story. I am realising more and more that editors can sometimes make it break a story with subtle suggestions and in some cases I have read books which are screaming out for an editors guidance.

That is not to take away from Lisa’s ability and talent to create believable and loveable characters. A nudge on the story line from an editor still needs to be backed up by the ability of the author to sculpt these changes around the already developed and written story.

My Review

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, couldn’t put it down and ended up finishing it in record time. I would certainly recommend it to others. A book that you can completely immerse yourself in. This one is definitely staying on the bookshelf for a second read.

Blurb

(Taken from back cover)

She was fifteen, her mother’s golden girl.
She had her whole life ahead of her.
And then, in the blink of an eye, Ellie was gone.

Ten years on, Laurel has never given up hope of finding Ellie. And then she meets a charming and charismatic stranger who sweeps her off her feet.

But what really takes her breath away is when she meets his nine-year-old daughter.

Because his daughter is the image of Ellie.

Now all those unanswered questions that have haunted Laurel come flooding back.

What really happened to Ellie? And who still has secrets to hide?

 

A steamroller vs a hard-drive

It was August 25th in a sunny field in Dorset, people were leisurely going about their day visiting a local steam fair, unaware that the death of a universe was taking place just yards away.

This was a relatively young universe, as far as one can really measure these things, a mere 34 years old, give or take a few months. It was the home to such characters as Mort, Granny Weatherwax, Rincewind, Sergeant Vimes and Nanny Ogg to name just a few. This universe was, of course, The Discworld.

Discworld
Great A’Tuin and Discworld

Terry Pratchett first introduced us to The Discworld in 1983 in his novel ‘The Colour of Magic’ and since then there have been a further 46 novels set in the Discworld.

Two years ago in March 2015, Terry lost his battle with early onset Alzheimer’s  and the literary world lost a genius in storytelling. One of his last wishes was to have his unfinished works destroyed and on the 25th August his former assistant and friend Rob carried out his last wishes, by having the hard drive (containing an approximated ten unfinished novels) run over by a steam roller.

The destroyed hard drive will be available to view at and exhibition to be held in Salisbury Museum named His World.

http://www.pratchetthisworld.com

[photo of page]

Why destroy your work?

Terry is not alone in his desire to have his unfinished work destroyed, in fact a lot of writers and artists have requested that their unfinished work be destroyed upon their death to ensure that their legacy is kept intact and that no one can finish telling their stories in words that are not their own.

Franz Kafka famously requested that his works be destroyed upon his death. However, his friend Max Brod ignored his request and published his works posthumously. It was in fact this great act of betrayal which allowed the world to experience the great works of Kafka.

Rob Wilkins did in fact fulfil Terry’s last wish and when the steamroller, Lord Jericho, failed to do a satisfactory job, he used a rock crusher to ensure that there was no rescuing the data. For better or worse, there will be no more Discworld novels and as sad as that makes me, I think it was necessary.

Anyone who read Terry’s last novel will be able to understand why this novel was his last. It was clearly written by a man saying goodbye to the world.

Reading this novel was an emotional roller coaster for me, I spent almost the entire thing in tears. Sometimes these were tears of laughter and sometimes tears of joy and when I got to the last pages, I really didn’t want to finish. There is no denying that this book was his last, he said all he needed to say, he said goodbye.