Tuesday, 22 May 2018

The Taste of Blue Light by Lydia Ruffles

I didn’t really take to the main character, Lux, in this book. One thing I can say, though, is that Ruffles is an extraordinary writer. She writes very intelligently and articulately. But that rather-too-adult intelligence and articulateness didn’t give credibility to eighteen/nineteen-year-old Lux, the narrator of the story. I would have been more comfortable with this in third person POV.

Lux, a (female) student at the Richdeane art school (for rich privileged teenagers), goes to a party and wakes up in hospital with an arm injury and no recollection at all of how she got there. As she spends most of her recreational time getting drunk and getting high, there's probably an obvious explanation for her blacking out and therefore not remembering how she got there. I never expected what actually landed Lux in hospital, and I enjoyed that element of surprise, but it still didn’t endear me to this character, who, despite her trauma, remained rude, ungrateful and simply not very nice at all. It was very hard to engage with her. If that was Ruffles' intention, then job done.  If not, it's a misfire.

The truth is revealed at about twenty-five percent from the end, and the story just goes a bit flat after that…three quarters of it seemed rather incongruous.

I liked the writing but the main character not so much.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

The Man on the Roof by Michael Stephenson

Well. I have rather mixed feelings about this book. A young boy is found murdered in a street, nine of whose residents are the immediate suspects. It’s up to Detective Cady Lambert and her sidekick to find out the connection between the suspects and the victim and which of them had sufficient reason to want a young teenager dead. Probable causes are many: drugs, theft, abuse…and more. So many secrets. For a whodunnit, however, the detectives make few appearances.

The book is rather long: too long, especially when it’s extremely hard to feel anything for any of the characters. There are chapters in third person POV, punctuated with chapters in the first-person POV for each of the suspects. But they are nameless…they are merely Suspect 1, Suspect 2, etc. It was very difficult to apportion any sympathy, dislike even, for anonymous characters.

More annoyingly, there’s a plethora of howling errors: spelling and grammatical. Annoyingly, because the author is actually a not-half-bad writer: his descriptions of people’s mannerisms in particular were very good. But the dialogue was inconsistent, the plot is rather convoluted and there is some very clunky phrasing. I just didn’t like the constant use of inverted sentences like ‘to the back she went’, which seemed totally incongruous to the author’s otherwise intelligent style.

I suspect that this was self-edited. I would urge the author to find a good technical and developmental editor, who could shave twenty percent off this novel and tighten up the errors. A lesson in the difference between 'lay' and 'lie' might well be at the top of the list, as well as when to use ‘they’re’ and when to use ‘their’, that thirst is slaked, not slated. Perhaps a dictionary would help solve the enigma of spelling words like cacoughany (yes, really).

I would also recommend checking a few facts. Us Brits do actually use electric kettles, Mr S. We’re quite civilised. We have pavements on roads and everything.

A half-decent plot, some stylish writing, but the frayed edges need some heavy-duty trimming. 


Saturday, 28 April 2018

The Confession by Jo Spain

A man walks into the living room of wealthy banker Harry McNamara and his wife, Julie, one evening while they are watching TV and is beaten to an inch of his life, while Julie, frozen with shock, does nothing. Within the hour, the attacker, JP Carney, hands himself into the police and confesses to his crime.

This is the scene set at the very beginning of the book. So, of course, we know who did it. What we, the readers, need to now know, is why.

DS Alice Moody and her team investigate what possible motive, JP Carney might have. McNamara was a wealthy owner of a bank, accused...but cleared...of fraud a few years earlier, one who came out of an economic collapse somewhat unscathed and probably with an arm’s-length list of enemies. Is JP one such embittered enemy that he was forced to commit a life-sentencing crime? What possible other motive could he have?

This is an outstanding psychological thriller…a whodunnit in reverse. Everything about it was on point: the plot (twists, turns, roundabouts right to the end), the writing (sharp, precise, real), the characters (I loved the dynamic of the police team, and Spain has a talent of making you feel a gamut of emotions for characters whom you expect to hate), the dialogue (credible, witty, charged, dramatic, poignant). It was tense, absorbing and faultlessly gripping.

The chapters are shared by three POVs: DS Alice Moody, JP and Julie. And we have to discover how a loyalty stretched to its limit, an abusive and neglectful childhood, grief and dishonesty play their part in a carefully planned murder.

If all Jo Spain’s novels have you hooked from page one like this one, then I’m looking forward to reading more by this talented author.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Dark Game by Rachel Lynch

This excellent thriller exhausted me. I had many matchstick moments, desperately trying to keep awake late at night to read on and desperately wishing my eyes would read the words as quickly as the action was unfolding!

After being let down in the Met, by a colleague, D.I. Kelly Porter returns to her roots in the Lake District and transfers to the Cumbrian police force. If she thought crimes were going to be a bit milder here, she finds she’s very much mistaken. She reopens an old case…a distressing one involving the murder of a young child and at the same time investigates when a local businessman is found dead in a nearby hotel. Lottie’s case is heartbreaking but requires closure, especially for the mother, and the other is seemingly straightforward. But as Kelly digs into evidence in both cases, she discovers that crimes in Cumbria can be as far removed from mild than she ever imagined.

This is an exceptionally well-crafted plot...and extremely well characterised…from the devious, hideously perverted, amoral, seedy characters, to the innocent, virtuous and law-abiding. Whilst the criminals in this story are very likely not going to be seen again, Lynch left plenty of scope for further development of Kelly and her team in further stories. Don’t get me wrong…that doesn’t mean it was lacking in this one!

A terrific, gripping, fast-paced thriller…I sincerely hoped this was going to be the start of a long line of DI Kelly Porter instalments, so I was ecstatic to find I could pre-order the next one, due later this year.  A very very easy decision!



Monday, 9 April 2018

A Map of the Dark by Karen Ellis

Ach! Present tense narrative. Just don’t like it, sorry. For me, personally, it’s awkward and a bit distracting. However, that’s just me, and I’m probably in the minority with this aversion. My rating is in no way influenced by that. But, if anyone else shares my dislike…this is a heads-up!

More importantly, this was a very sophisticated thriller. The writing is excellent: insightful and intelligent and intense. It’s a story packed with mystery and suspense.

FBI agent Elsa Myers searches for missing people: a distressing task when the victims are young teenagers. And when they’re found, they are sometimes corpses. So when young Ruby goes missing, Elsa is determined to find her before she ends up like the latter. But she has to juggle her job at the same time as dealing with her terminally ill father. The father who, ambiguously, failed her in her childhood, but at the same time shares her devastating secret.

The story rolls along at a good pace; it’s compelling and well written: no unnecessary padding, but at the same time no detail is overlooked.

Without doubt, an author to look out for.


Friday, 6 April 2018

Soul Walk by Melissa Bowersock

Number seven in the Lacey Fitzpatrick and Sam Firecloud mysteries. I’ve enjoyed each and every one of this paranormal-investigator team's adventures, and until this point, I’d have been hard pressed to choose a favourite. But I think I can vote this one into first place. 

Each investigation is quite different from the last, and at the same time, Sam and Lacey’s relationship progresses…not necessarily without a few bumps along the way…but gently and positively, and it’s an enjoyable lining to the mantle of the main plots of each book. This latest investigation is a biggie in more ways than one: it’s going to be televised for a TV ghost series, which could lead to great things for the pair, but the two ghosts they've been commissioned to release have particularly tragic histories—one of them stirring some painful memories for Sam. Lacey and Sam have a sensationalist TV team to satisfy and difficult research to conduct for two cases, for which records are virtually non-existent. 

As always, Bowersock’s writing is fluid, smooth and cohesive. She always strikes the right balance between the concurrent story lines and each book leaves you wanting more. 

So, the good news is: there's book number 8.

See also:

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Demon Walk by Melissa Bowersock

Sixth in the Lacey Fitzpatrick and Sam Firecloud series, the private-investigating duo are asked to get to the bottom of a menacing evil threatening the lives of the San Jan Capistrano mission. A tough nut to crack, this one, as some of the usual methods aren't enough to combat a killer force.

It’s so easy to slip into this duo’s adventures. They’re like old friends, their tales like a comfy sweater or slippers. Better still, their personal relationship is heading in the direction us fans want. 

As always, Bowersock strikes the perfect balance, careful to make this a compelling supernatural mystery without overdoing the romantic elements between Lacey and Sam.

I’m about to do something I very rarely do: dive straight into book 7. I’m not ready to take off those slippers just yet.

See also:
Being Travis
Burning Through
Dragon Walk
Dream Walk
Finding Travis
Ghost Walk
Queen's Gold
Skin Walk
Star Walk
Sonnets for Heidi
Stone's Ghost
The Man in the Black Hat