Saturday, 19 August 2017

Sad and difficult to read

This is an extremely sad and difficult book to read and even though some 15 years have passed since the brutal and callous murder of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman the events still remain fresh in my mind. Who can ever forget that last picture of the two little girls wearing their Manchester United tops the clock behind them showing the time at 17.04. How could loving parents ever guess that within a matter of hours their two beautiful daughters would have their lives taken from them by the evil monster Ian Huntley. Kevin and Nicola were exemplary parents and had instilled in Holly the need to be always vigilant and aware when out on her own. No one could have anticipated that someone employed as a school caretaker and who together with his girlfriend, and teaching assistant, Maxine Carr, could oh so callously murder two such innocents. The sad fact is that it took such an evil event to happen before the laws concerning the vetting of individuals (especially those employed in the company of children) would be drastically overhauled. If the background of Huntley had been known and in particular his history of sexual relationships with minors he would never have found himself in the trusted position of school caretaker and so it follows that the lives of Holly and Jessica would have been spared and their date with destiny avoided on that warm summer evening in 2002.

The safeguarding vulnerable groups act 2004 was introduced following the Bichard inquiry into the Soham murders The Act introduced a ‘Vetting and Barring” scheme for people working with children, whereby a new independent safeguarding authority (‘ISA’) must maintain lists of people who are barred from certain kinds of work with children and adults. That list includes those who are convicted of, or admit to, certain specified criminal offences, including various sexual offences, and those involving violence or the mistreatment of children. Once barred, the restrictions on work last from a minimum of 1 to a maximum of 10 years.  One of the greatest failings of the police was their inability to retain, store and pass information to neighbouring forces and colleagues throughout the UK. If only the residents of Soham had been aware that Huntley had in the past been accused of rape and sexual assault ( a charge that was later dropped due to lack of evidence) then the events that unfolded in Soham need never have occurred and the families of Jessica and Holly would not have had their lives altered in such a sad and callous way.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Keystone Cops meets Twin Peaks!

This is an enjoyable, light, frivolous summer read, somewhere between the Keystone Cops and Twin Peaks. David Harwood is back in Promise Falls, a quirky little small town on the east coast of America somewhere south of Boston. There are some very odd inhabitants in PF as David encounters when he visits his cousin Marla. She is overjoyed to see him and takes great pleasure in introducing him to her new baby, little Mathew. Is Mathew really the child of a somewhat disturbed Marla? Is there a connection between her baby and the murder of Rosemary Gaynor together with the disappearance of Rosemary's  newborn child? This is all the reader really needs to know as the absurd story develops he will be introduced to a bizarre and motley crew of local residents each with their own hidden agenda.

Linwood Barclay writes books of great enjoyment and he is loved and read worldwide. Most of his output is idle entertainment and instantly forgettable and having said that I expected no more or less from "Broken Promise" and I was certainly not disappointed. The chapters in the book are short (thankfully!) very easy to read the 484 page count easily consumed in two sittings. There is the odd quirky throw away phrase...."Sturgess looked at the high-tech chair in its elevated position. On the small table next to it, a remote, a book of crossword puzzles, an open box of chocolates, a Denielle Steel novel. That was her whole world there, a command center, sitting in front of the television."... There are two further books in the Promise Falls trilogy and followers of this internationally renowned author will devour with elation, I shall not be amongst them as one visit to this odd little township is possibly one visit too many.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Disappointing

Ally Cornwall sits at home in New York wondering why her husband Patrick has failed to keep in contact with her. He is an investigative journalist and his passion for his work, in particular those who are exploited, sees him travelling to distant and far places. A worried Ally decides to board a transatlantic flight, heading for Paris where she hopes to find answers as to the plight of her beloved Patrick.

Tove Alsterdal, is a Swedish author, who in The Forgotten Dead has written a novel preferring to rely on American lead characters. This does not work for me and I found the whole experience somewhat disappointing with a plot more akin to a B movie or a made for television series. I find it difficult to comprehend that within a very short time of arriving in Paris, she was able to establish the work that her husband was involved in before he disappeared. Equally preposterous was the speed at which she easily identified and interviewed those bad men involved in the notorious imprisonment and exploitation of illegal immigrants. It's not a badly written story and to its credit it tackles and confronts some very unsettling social issues that affect us all. Of course you the reader really want to know what befell Patrick and I certainly will not disclose that to you, suffice to say this was neatly accomplished making me feel that the reading of this novel had not been a waste of my valuable reading time. I received a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have
written

Monday, 7 August 2017

Beautiful and brutal in equal measures

A profoundly disturbing story of young Turtle (Julia) who dwells in Mendocino an America's west coast an area of outstanding natural beauty with dense forests and a rugged coastline. In deep contrast to this utopian scene Turtle lives alone with her father Martin who, although he expresses his undying love for her, feels the need to rape her in a never ending cycle of loathsome self pity. This is her guardian, the one entrusted to care for her, and because of these despicable acts Turtle cannot comprehend her feelings towards him, she both loves and loathes him in equal measures. The controlling influence of the father creates some frightening and upsetting scenes to read: The child is forced to complete a number of pull-ups from a rafter and when she lowers her body Martin holds a knife beneath her..."Then he raised the knife and lays the blade up between her legs."....."The knife bites into the blue denim of her jeans and Turtle feels the cold steel through her panties."

Turtle meets and befriends a boy called Jacob and she begins to understand that kindness and friendship can exist even in a world where despicable acts are performed on a daily basis. As she returns home one evening she notices that her home has a new lodger a young child Cayenne and realizes now as she is almost a teenager, Martin has acquired a new defenceless child, to fulfil his sickening sexual desires. Can Turtle escape the claws of this evil monster? Can she rescue Cayenne before it is too late? This is at times a very difficult story to read as the author paints a picture of an unsettling family life against a picturesque and idyllic backdrop. I was captivated by both the innocence and evil and found myself reading this story in a very short time. Many thanks to the good people at netgalley for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

A literary tour de force

This book is really something special and reading it has proved total addiction as the author plays expertly with my emotions often leading me down the path of utter shock. What at first glance might seem a pleasant tale about the inhabitants of Rathlin island welcoming Mr Marconi and is magical wireless telegraphy soon turns into an altogether sinister affair.

Nuala Byrne living alone on the island (having been deserted by her family when they moved to Newfoundland) is content to wed Ned McQuaid, the Tailor even though he is 30 years her senior. She is however attracted to the fact that he is a man of some means and living in a well built house. When Gabriele Donati arrives on Rathlin to help oversee and utilise this new technology Nuala finds herself strangely attracted to him and now has time to reflect that maybe her marriage to the Tailor was a mistake. To say much more about the plot would spoil the hidden surprises, and the decisions that Nuala Byrne is about to make will alter her life and have a lasting impact on many of the inhabitants.

After a truly exceptional opening prologue the first part of the book shows an island slowing acknowledging and accepting the genius that is Marconi. This idyll is soon to be shattered by an evil act and the unravelling of the mind of a pretty young girl. Bernie McGill has the ability to retain a strong hold on the reader and there is no doubt that she is in total control, at times offering false security only to have this eroded by the evil that men do. There is some wonderful prose...."I was to lie quietly in the dark on my wedding night, it advised, and await my husband's arrival. I was to desist from moving around too much until the act of consummation was complete."...."It'll double as a christening robe when the time comes, she said winking at me. That's if the Tailor has any juice left in him."....."The tremble that grows and passes between us is like the first test notes of the fiddle, the song warming in the singer's throat, the drumming on the skin of the bodhran, till we find a rhythm that suits us both"......"He looks like a painted wooden puppet whose strings have all been cut. He looks like all the movement have left him."

Many thanks to good people of netgalley for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written. Highly recommended.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Vibrant exciting psychological thriller

If you accept the fact that "The girl who came Back" has no real literary content and if you acknowledge that the plot and conclusion is not quite believable and indeed a little bizarre, then you will really enjoy this read! This is the second book I have read by Kerry Wilkinson (the first being Nothing but Trouble, Jessica Daniel 11) and I am beginning to warm to his young, vibrant and exciting style. I do not always read to be educated or to marvel at an authors descriptive prose or deep character analysis, sometimes I read for the shear hell of enjoyment, for the love of the printed word and the way I can be transported to another dimension. If what I have just said makes you the reader think that I am a confused reviewer/blogger then understand this I read indeed I consumed The girl who came Back in one day and was thoroughly entertained.

Some 13 years ago a young Olivia Adams vanished, presumed taken, from her back garden, in the picturesque village of Stoneridge. The trauma of this event was soon followed by the collapse of the marriage of Sarah and Dan, the parents of Olivia. Now all these years later a child, who most people feared was dead, reappears and confronts her mum in the local village cafe. Sarah has a new husband Max, a childhood sweetheart, and upon meeting the newly reinstated Olivia, Max together with his brother Ashley display resentment and hatred towards the young girl. There are questions to be asked and answers  to be sought. Is Olivia Adams the person she purports to be? Why is Max so full of hatred? Where is Olivia's real father? Who is the mysterious Lily and what is her connection to the events as they unfold?

I often wonder how bad reviews affect the mindset of an author. There will always be readers who love and readers who hate a particular writing style. Kerry Wilkinson has voiced his opinion on negative reviews on a well know video sharing site and I found his attitude and acceptance so refreshing and entertaining. He acknowledges everyone has a right to voice an opinion whether that be positive or negative. This young man certainly has a future in writing and I look forward to discovering his back catalogue as well as reading future publications and observe him developing as an author. Many thanks to the good people at netgalley for sending me a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Assured post-apocalyptic debut novel

The authors comments at the end of Defender add some interesting footnotes to what was a very enjoyable post-apocalyptic story. She explains that "bicameral" man is essentially a human who has two chambers. To you and me that simply means an inner voice within your head and in the context of this novel it is this inner voice that has caused the societal disruption by imploring you to kill. Although to add to the intrigue an "inner voice" can also work for the good as Pilgrim aka scout boy, Lacey, and Alex discover as the story progresses. This inner voice is not as strange a concept as might first appear and most of us would surely admit to having conversations with our conscience. (or maybe it's just me going mad!) "The voices are whispers, murmurings, whatever you want to call them. They were inside us. They're what talked so many people into hurting themselves and others."

The best post-apocalyptic  stories (The Road by Cormac McCarthy being a great example) follow certain set patterns. As society has been destroyed then the human race, or what remains, take on the mantle of nomadic travellers and restlessly move from place to place in the hope of finding sustenance and companionship. Within this world devoid of all leadership and direction the evil that man is capable of is soon unveiled...."Fairness and justice had lost their place in the world. If they'd ever had a place in it to begin with."..... Pilgrim has agreed to transport his new companion Lacey to her family home in Vicksburg in search of her niece Addison. They are soon to be joined in their quest by a young lady called Alex. "Defender" is the story of this journey the hardships of the trip and their encounter with Charles Dumont the personification of everything evil. This is a novel that is filled with wonderful colourful characters that come alive under the penmanship of the author GX Todd. The pace is relentless with some excellent descriptive prose.."This time it held no beauty, there was not buttery sun to soften its rough, crumbling edges, no warm, orange brush-strokes to paint it in a kinder light...."He had seen his fair share of half-eaten corpses and was familiar with most of the organs of the human body, in all their states of putridity." A great debut novel and I look forward to reading "Hunted" the second in the series due for release in early 2018.