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

Review of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl

With over 2 million copies sold worldwide, Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl was one of the most talked about books of the last year- and rightly so.

Gone GirlA dark and disturbing thriller, Gone Girl is the story of the disappearance of a seemingly perfect wife on her fifth wedding anniversary. For Nick, left behind in smalltown Carthage, Missouri, Amy’s disappearance plunges him into a waking nightmare. As the police and the American public begin to turn against him, it’s clear that something about his take on recent events doesn’t quite add up.

The first part of the novel switches between Nick’s first hand experiences of the days immediately after the disappearance and Amy’s diary entry’s, dating back to the day that they first met. But as the book progresses, we begin to realise that the two narratives we’re hearing are telling very different stories, and that at least one of the two of them is not telling the whole truth. In fact, they’re telling anything but the truth.

Then – and there are spoilers coming up so if you don’t want to know, don’t read ahead – the second half of the book hits and we realise that we have two very unreliable and wholly unlikeable characters on our hands. Both Nick and Amy are lying, concealing and misleading both themselves and the reader. It’s a bold move from Gillian Flynn, as she runs the risk of alienating her audience. Not everyone wants to read a whole novel with central characters they can’t relate to.

But in this case, it’s a risk that really paid off. Nick and Amy are human and throughout the novel they display very human weaknesses. Whether they have any redeeming qualities is a very different matter.

Gillian Flynn really ramps up the tension and holds her readers in suspense the whole way through. I was hooked and couldn’t put it down until I turned last pages in the (very) early hours of the morning! Ultimately, in Gone Girl Gillian Flynn has created a master psychological thriller that thoroughly deserves the praise that has been heaped upon it.