Monday, 17 April 2017

Complete and utter dross!

Woa...a book that some say is as good as The Collector by John Fowles, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier or even dare I breath it Jane Eyre with echoes of Rochester and the fair Jane! Winner of The English Pen Award (promoting new and exciting literature from around the world) and quoted on its front cover as being "chillingly atmosphere and hauntingly beautiful!  The Bird Tribunal has won two awards in Norway: the NRK P2 Listener's Novel Prize and the Youth Critic's Award..."  a taut, exquisitely written psychological thriller that builds to a shocking, dramatic crescendo" Well this is one reader that thought it was an overpriced piece of balderdash!

It is an effrontery in any way to compare such mediocre prose to such classic authors as Fowles, Bronte and du Maurier. Allis Hagtorn, presenter on Norwegian TV, and it would appear gaining promotion by sleeping her way to the top has decided on a change of direction/career (I can hear her colleagues breathing a sigh of relief) She takes a job as housekeeper to the surly, abrupt moody but hauntingly dashing Sigurd Bagge. It would appear that his wife is not in residence at the moment and even Allis, after a very short time in service can understand why she would want to be free from him..."a neurosis-inducing, hostile husband. It was hardly surprising his wife had made herself scarce." So Allis spends her time preparing meals, tending the garden and acting as a type of agony aunt to the deeply morose, "dark and stocky" with those cute little curls....Mr Bagge (very well named as he seems to come with a lot of access impassioned baggage) Now the beautiful Allis is not without her own emotional impairment and the scene is now set for these two beautiful lost, neglected, misunderstood souls to console each other and maybe (if only for the reader) find within themselves some inner contentment ....(ah reminds me of a demented Catherine running across the moors in search of her one true love Heathcliff...yes lets include Wuthering Heights in the mix)

So after some 250 pages of "will they or wont they" "did they or could they" the dramatic final scene is set for some sensational disclosure. What is the truth behind Allis's sudden departure? Where is the much referred to Mrs Bagge? Did something criminal befall the fair Nor Bagge? All will be revealed dear reader in the final exciting (yawn....zzzzz) paragraphs.  This book could have been easily concluded in a paragraph....scarlet woman meets contemplative man, they talk, the truth is revealed...end of story. What an over hyped piece of nonsensical dross still all those 5 stars reviews can't be wrong? you read you decide.....................

Saturday, 15 April 2017

A masterclass in storytelling

Do you remember a long time ago when the movie Alien was first released and the impact it had on you, as the horror unfolded, and how gradually Ripley and her crew were destroyed by a creeping evil. The tension and fear was created by the not knowing...not knowing who or what had entered the good ship Nostromo or where it would strike next...and when it did strike (which it surely would) there was nowhere to go...Ararat has had a similar impact on me, having absorbed the 300+ pages in two sittings resulting in a very restless night of sleep where I to encountered my own demon (I kid you not!)

Meryam Karga and Adam Holzer are two high risk documentary makers and with the support of the Turkish government, have agreed to investigate a strange large cave newly revealed following a  recent avalanche at Mount Ararat in Turkey. So setting off with a diverse crew of adventurers and guides "who knew the secrets of the mountain better than the curves of their wives' flesh" they make swift progress and soon enter the exposed cave where a discovery is made....a  strange inverted wooden ship. This ancient relic is believed by many to be the last hiding place for Noah and his motley bunch of travellers when God decided enough was enough and he destroyed the world by flood...."He'd only been in the ark for hours and already felt the tension of the place. It wasn't just the mountain or the creaking of the timber as the weather shifted." A bitumen covered casket is exposed containing a cadaver..."The fingers were inhumanly long, curved into hooks, by the millennia it had spent dead in the box. The skin stretched tight over its chest had a purplish-gray hue. It had withered and there were spots in which the flesh had caved in. Bone showed through in various places on its skull and one cheek had crumbled to dust. The eyes had sunken to dried berries in its head. The horns were pale, dusty white, like ivory elephant tusks...."

"The thing's got horns. It's not human"..In the story of Noah a demon or beast found residence in the hull of the ship and killed two of Noah's sons and a granddaughter. Is the same fate now destined to befall this expedition? If a demon has been released how will it manifest itself? So with bad weather closing trapping the explorers, and seemingly blocking any hope of escape the Karga/Holzer expedition has little choice but to withstand the unpleasantness that the beast will surely unleash....To say much more about the course of the action would spoil a rattling good story. There are shades of "The Exorcist" here and just like the adventurers the reader is frightened and alarmed as no one can tell what the demon will do next or how he plans to spread his evil once released. As the weather improves those "remaining" realize the only hope for survival is to escape the torture that is Mount Ararat and so a bid for freedom must be made. Will they survive? will they destroy the demon? The last part of this adventure is unsurpassed in its excitement and the final revelation is truly brilliant...possibly leaving the way open for a sequel? This story has greatly disturbed me and has truly made me understand and appreciate the value of the written word. I do not often have sleepless nights following my reading adventures but this book has been an inspiration and it is a joy to know that there are some damn good horror/supernatural thriller writers out there! Many thanks to the good people at netgalley for supplying me with this gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Predictable unimaginative and dull

On the front of the paperback edition to this book it boldly states that "Brings Glasgow to life in the same way Ian Rankin evokes Edinburgh"  This is a disgraceful statement to be pointed at the good name of Rankin and the god amongst crime detectives John Rebus. Reading "Never Someone Else" can only be compared to viewing a rather poor episode of Murder She Wrote starring the ever youthful Angela Lansbury. The crime market is awash with wannabe Rankinists and yet seemingly the author of this story is a well respected and revered past winner of Scottish Association of Writers' Constable and Pitlochry trophies for her crime writing....whatever that is....

DCI Lorimer has been tasked with the unenviable job of unmasking a vicious killer who has mutilated and scalped three women leaving their bodies to be discovered in St Mungo's park. To help him understand the mind of the perpetrator he requests the services of psychologist Sol Brightman. Lorimer is probably the most characterless detective I have ever encountered there is nothing enthusiastic or appealing about him...and surely a DCI should be bold and charismatic in order to instil enthusiasm in the officers under his command. Even his English teacher wife Maggie finds him unpredictable and boring, they rarely communicate and she never knows what time to expect his presence at home...if at all. We learn little about the inner Lorimer, his interests: does he like music? does he have a weakness for alcohol? does he prefer the company of other women? He is uninteresting and dull and it is surely only a short time before his long suffering Maggie departs in tears closely accompanied by a disillusioned reader! For crying out loud, dear author, this is the first in a supposedly exciting crime series and yet nothing is done to expose the mind of the lead player...leaving him as a dull soulless pathetic individual......you get the picture I didn't like him!

 Any reader of crime will know that the villain will always make an appearance in the story before he is unmasked and it is always fun to try to second-guess this individual. It was a relatively simple process to successfully select the killer in such a poorly written novel. Undoubtedly the later books in the series will gradually expose the inner thoughts of" Mr very very dull and boring DCI" but I will certainly not be reading and will be planning my escape with the lovely perplexed Maggie...........

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Enjoyable environmental adventure

An interesting story and possibly a warning to us all as to what could happen if we choose to ignore global warming and turn a blind eye to the continuous erosion of the polar ice caps. Two childhood friends Sean Cawson and Tom Harding have the opportunity and it would now seem the means to dictate future trends by the successful acquisition of a strategic land mass within the northern polar region: The Artic....."super-objective of Midgard: an inspiring venue in which to promote the reconciliation of business and environmental ethics." At the start of this story ( and 3 years since his disappearance), a body is discovered in the ice, soon identified as Tom Harding....What happened between the two Oxford graduate friends? How could a business venture so carefully construed turn into disaster under the auspices of two intelligent and far-sighted men; one who wanted to save the world and one who really wanted his name in lights and the benefits and comfort of untold wealth?

A large part to "The Ice" is given over to an inquest by The Coroner into the manner and cause of Paul's death. To establish the facts, and ensure that the death was an accident and not in any way contributed to by other members of the Midgard consortium. The outcome will have lasting repercussions and lead Sean to question the ethics of his venture and to finally realize the hidden agenda of those who supported him both financially and emotionally. A big thanks to the good people at netgalley for supplying me with a gratis copy of this enjoyable read, in exchange for an honest review, and that is what I have written.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Dark and Gritty

I have come to expect from Stuart MacBride a certain use of language, a certain Celtic/Scottish razor-sharp banter and a brutal realism in the unfolding of the story...with that in mind A Dark So Deadly does not disappoint. The setting is the fictional town of Oldcastle (used previously by the author and in particular the Ash Anderson books, Birthdays for the Dead and A Song for the Dying) as seen through the eyes of DC Callum MacGregor...."Squat grey council houses scrolled past on either side of the street, lichen -flecked pantiles and harled walls. Front gardens awash with weeds. More abandoned sofas and washing machines than gnomes and bird tables...." Macgregor has been accused of accepting a bribe and tampering a crime scene in order to allow Big Johnny Simpson escape a murder charge and because of this has been assigned to the "Divisional Investigative Support Team" Officers assigned to DIST are asked to work on boring impossible to solve cases, one step away from dismissal. When what appears to be a ancient mummy is discovered Macgregor and his colleagues from the Misfit Mob are sent to investigate. A post mortem examination reveals recent dental work and Macgregor now finds himself part of a murder investigation. As the  body count mounts the race is on to reveal the identity to a killer who enjoys "smoking" his victims granting  them a type of God like status.

This is one big story, stretching to some 600 pages with the action and crisp dialogue full on from the opening. There are some wonderful characters, and that fine turn of wit and black humour that is the signature of MacBride's writing. We encounter DCI "Poncy Powell" and Macgregor's immediate superior DI Malcolmson affectionately  referred to as "mother" (not quite as gregarious and crude as DI Steele in the Logan McRae novels) And of course not forgetting that great witticism..."A sad excuse for a beard that looked as if he'd made it himself out of ginger pubic hair"... "Watt stiffened. Thank you, Constable, but I'm dealing with this.."Please forgive him. He's been in a bad mood ever since he got back from the doctor. They can't do anything about his frighteningly small penis, and it's upset him a bit."....."He wasn't a dick when I met him."Yeah  well you know the old saying: some men are born dicks, some have dickishness thrust upon them, and some achieve dickosity all on their own."

This is a story full of murderers and paedophiles, of people living at the edge of society in squalor and depravity, a story where even the police survive by adopting a type of gallows humour. Where else but in Stuart MacBrides writing would you encounter a character like police officer Andy McAdams, dying of bowel cancer, still on active service, and able to create humour out of his terminal condition.."There he was standing at the bar, knocking back a sneaky whisky while the barman pulled the pints. "They've got him on another round of chemotherapy, Being colourful is how he copes. Great. Callum puffed out a breath. "I'm sorry he's dying. But now and then, it might be nice if he was colourful at someone else for a while...."

My only small criticism is the page count and I personally felt it would have been better condensed into 450 pages. As I reached the surprising conclusion and the perpetrator was finally revealed I felt, similar to many of the police officers, mentally battered and bruised and somewhat glad that the action was at an end. This however is a small and personal observation which did not detract from the telling of an exciting story from an author I greatly admire. I do hope Police Officer Callum MacGregor will return in the near future for another breathtaking roller coaster outing. Many thanks to the good people at Harper Collins for supplying me with a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written...

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Life and love in small town America

Young Regan Whitmer has set off on a journey to find her birth father Will Fletcher now living in the quaint small town of Half Moon Hollow. Here she will encounter a close-knit and suspicious community having to tolerate a somewhat schizophrenic Will who appears to have lost his mind following the death of his first daughter Emma.

This is a book which looks at relationships within a small town and in particular their approach to mental health and how they adopt and change (if at all) to accommodate it. I did enjoy this story but found the telling of it, in particular the conclusion, somewhat akin to an episode of Little House on the Prairie or The Waltons. Those are only my observations, and I can appreciate those 5 star reviews, it was certainly easy to assimilate and read albeit at times a little too homespun and cosy.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

A welcome return for an old friend

It's a great big welcome back to that Merle Haggard, country lovin' detective, Tom Thorne. In one particular chapter there is a great and memorable moment when D I Tom Thorne is driving down the road singing at the top of his voice..."The late great Merle Haggard provided the accompaniment on the drive to a retail park in Wembley and Thorne sang along to Silver Wings with rather more gusto than he managed in the school hall the day before....." After the rather poor "Die of Shame" where we were first introduced to DI Nicola Tanner, and Thorne had a very minor cameo role in the final chapter, (the only good part of that book) it's a day of rejoicing to have TT back to his investigating best...we forgive him that he enjoys the company of country music and reluctantly accepts the approach of middle age...here he is back doing what he does best solving crime and crime does not come more topical that Mark Billingham's  Love like Blood.

DI Nicola Tanner has been investigating a series of what appear to be honour killings when her partner Susan is murdered. Turning to her good friend Tom Thorne she persuades him to help her uncover the truth behind the killings within the Muslim community, contracted out to hired assassins. Reading this book it is a pleasure to catch up on the old familiar faces especially the heavily tattooed  Phil Hendricks, police pathologist,  who is arguably Thorne's only real friend and together they enjoy good beer and watching football. He is in a relationship with social worker Helen and her young son Alfie but I can't help feeling that there is little future between them. The sex they share is passable...."Neither of them, had they been inclined to talk honestly about it, would have claimed it was the best sex they ever had.." and Helen still misses Paul, her previous partner, who was tragically killed and in one poignant moment she reveals her true feelings towards Thorne....."I'm happy really. You need to know that. But I want to be honest with you, and if I could go back and stop him being killed, I would. I'd do anything to have Paul alive again"....

So for fans of Mark Billingham, "Love Like Blood" will not disappoint, it's like putting on a well worn pair of comfy shoes! The subject matter is very well chosen and of the moment, the police investigation of the finest, the characterization and familiarity of the "cast" most welcome, and the perpetrators Muldoon and Riaz evil and well suited to the task of hired assassins. I only hope that when we next encounter DI Thorne that he has resolved his differences with the lovely Helen, but sadly I fear this relationship is doomed! Many thanks to the publishers Little Brown for supply me with a gratis copy in return for an honest review and that is what I have written.