‘The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August’ by Claire North

first 15livesofharryaugustIn the First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, author Claire North plays with our concept of time. In her vision, time runs over and over on a constant loop. Some people have the ability to retain their consciousness from one life to the next, and are born again and again – always in the same time, in the same place and to the same parents, but with the knowledge of the lives lived before.

Here, being reborn isn’t reincarnation, it’s more like doing endless laps around a track. People like Harry cross paths with the same acquaintances every life, and develop relationships that span more lifetimes than they can remember. Major events and landmarks pass by again and again, and even with their extensive knowledge, there’s nothing they can do to stop or change them.

For Harry and those like him, life is both a constant experiment and a bit of a bore. Childhood is a chore to get through. Death isn’t final and is sometimes, in extreme cases, welcomed. But then news of a disaster starts to filter through from the future. The end of the world is coming, and it’s getting closer with every generation. Someone is disrupting the balance, inventing technology far before its time with devastating consequences. When people start disappearing, murdered in the womb before they can be born and breaking the cycle for good, it becomes obvious that this threat is very real. Continue reading

‘The Girl with All the Gifts’ by M. R. Carey

The girl with the giftsTen-year-old Melanie’s world consists of the four walls of her room, the corridor and the schoolroom. She loves school, and even more so if it’s Miss Justineau’s day to teach. To all extents and purposes, Melanie seems just like any other little girl, but it soon becomes clear that all is not what it seems. Every time Melanie leaves her room, she’s strapped into a wheelchair, unable to move or even turn her head. Her classmates have a habit or disappearing and never coming back, and the guards never relinquish their grip on their guns.

It’s hard to go much further without giving away spoilers, but we soon find out that Melanie and her classmates are anything but normal children. In the wake of an unexpected and deadly event, society is struggling to survive. Melanie’s schoolroom is on a scientific army base, where people are desperately searching for solutions, whatever the cost. Continue reading

Koethi Zan’s ‘The Never List’

The Never ListBest friends Sarah and Jennifer list by the ‘Never List’ – a set of rules which dominate their lives. Above all, never take risks. But despite all their planning, the worst happens, and the girls are thrown into the middle of their worst nightmare.

Ten years later, Sarah is trying to move on with her life. But she’s still tormented by the past and trapped in a prison of her own making, and it seems that her persecutor hasn’t forgotten her. To give herself any chance of having a normal future, Sarah must face up to her demons. But is she putting herself back in harm’s way? And will what she is about to discover destroy her forever?

Koethi Zan’s The Never List was quite readable, but to me, it didn’t feel like it really offered anything new to the genre. The characters are described as going through some intense emotions, but they never really came alive to me and fell a little flat. The story trundles along well and picks up pace with some well-placed action scenes towards the end, but the twists were disappointingly predictable.

The author plays on society’s fears of hidden sociopaths disguised in plain sight. Continue reading

Chrysler Szarlan’s ‘The Hawley Book of the Dead’

photoReve Dyer and her husband Jeremy run a successful magic act in Vegas – until the day that a bullet trick goes horribly wrong, leaving Jeremy dead and Reve suspected of his murder. But as Reve attempts to comfort her grieving family, burned photographs of her and her three daughters going about their daily lives start to appear. Fearing for their safety, Reve flees home to Hawley Five Corners.

A village abandoned by its inhabitants during the 1920’s, Hawley Five Corners offers a safe haven. But Hawley Five Corners is haunted by secrets, rumours and unnatural disappearances, and being back in the place of her ancestors raises more questions that Reve isn’t yet ready to face. For the women in Reve’s family each possess a magical gift – an ability to find lost things, to heal or in Reve’s case, to disappear, temporarily slipping behind the veil between worlds. The more time that Reve and her daughters spend in the village, the more they start to understand their personal history and the mysterious powers of the Hawley Book of the Dead. Continue reading

‘The String Diaries’ by Stephen Lloyd Jones

String diariesThe best mystery novels keep adding twist after twist.
The best thrillers ramp up the tension and don’t let us go until we turn the last page.
The best supernatural stories include just a pinch of horror to keep us on the edge of our seats.

Stephen Lloyd Jones’ ‘The String Diaries’ was a perfect fusion of all three.

From the moment this book started, with our protagonist driving on a dark, remote road, trying to escape from a nameless but clearly dangerous pursuer, the bar was set high.

Hannah, along with her husband and her young daughter, is on the run from an enemy that has stalked her family across generations. He has the power to change his appearance at will and to speak in other people’s voices, and he is unswerving in his desire to hunt down Hannah as he has her predecessors.

From a remote farmhouse in Wales to a library in Oxford and a masquerade ball in nineteenth century Hungary, Stephen Lloyd Jones creates a thoroughly convincing story of an ancient hidden race, a spurned son and a dangerous obsession that won’t die. Continue reading

‘The Ties that Bind’ by Erin Kelly

The Ties that BindFleeing a bad relationship, struggling true crime journalist Luke runs to Brighton. Soon, he unwittingly stumbles across a story that has the potential to completely turn his career around. Joss Grand, now an upstanding business man and property owner, was once an infamous racketeer who ruled Brighton with an iron fist.

As he delves further into Grand’s murky past, and into the unsolved murder of his right hand man in the 1960’s, Luke soon finds himself increasingly over his head. His attempts to find the perfect story have stirred up old secrets that some people would prefer to leave buried. Someone is watching his every move, and it’s impossible to know who to trust. But by the time that Luke finds out just how high the stakes are, it’s too late.

There’s no doubt that Erin Kelly has a talent for writing skilful, well-structured mysteries, and this is no exception. It starts off quite slowly but then all of a sudden it picks up the pace and throws in a few curveballs to keep you guessing. The suspense gradually builds as the novel progresses and the twist at the end

My main problem with this book was that Luke wasn’t the most likeable main character. It was incredibly frustrating to watch his relationship with Jem develop. He then spends most of the book distrusting and ignoring his friends, whinging in self-pity when anything goes wrong and being wilfully stupid whenever the opportunity arises. Continue reading

Pierre Lemaitre’s ‘Alex’

Alex PLIt’s very difficult to explain the plot of ‘Pierre Lemaitre’s Alex’ without giving away too much. We open with the kidnapping and torture of a girl. The attempts of the police to track down this girl, with no evidence to show that a kidnapping has even taken place, help to start unravelling a web of lies, violence and deceit.

The book is split into three separate sections, each of which turns the story on its head and takes t in a completely new direction. It’s like solving a mystery within a mystery – each section throws up a new conundrum and completely changes our views on what has come before.

All of the characters are hiding secrets and our perceptions of different people shifted depending on the titbits of information that the author slowly released over the course of the novel. The pace moves along at a breakneck pace, shifting how we see characters with just a few short sentences and well-timed revelations. Continue reading