Author: Jacqueline Chadwick
Publisher: Fahrenheit Press
After a slow start this book grabbed me and refused to let me go. I struggled at first with Jacqueline’s style of writing; she uses a lot of big and long words, sometimes unnecessarily, coming across as a new author trying too hard to impress, but after a while you become used to it. This style becomes the thing that makes her writing stand out from the norm; maybe just have a thesaurus and/or dictionary to hand. Ali Dalglish, our heroine and main protagonist, is a coarse, likeable, and extremely interesting character who grows on you as the story progresses. She’s a flawed, highly intelligent woman struggling with mental health issues that I’ve no doubt will feature more as this series progresses.
Story wise, this is a very, very messed up book indeed. There whole passages that made me feel physically sick and disgusted with some of the characters involved. Jacqueline’s descriptions of the heinous acts of Patterson and the main villain (name witheld because, spoilers!), are utterly disturbing and are a credit to her skills as an author that she is able to instil such feelings in her me. Rarely has an author repulsed me in such ways; only Stephen King usually manages that. There were times where I had to put the book down and take several deep breaths. If this is what she is capable of in her debut novel I can’t wait to see what she has in store for us in the follow up “Briefly Maiden” (which I have now read and is indeed another triumph), and into the future.
In brief: a highly recommended debut from an author to watch out for. Clever, disturbing, pitch black and, once you get past the big words, compulsive reading. Just don’t eat anything before reading. 5/5
Author: Stuart Turton.
Publisher: Raven (Bloomsbury imprint)
The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle is the debut novel from Stuart Turton and he doesn’t make it easy for himself! He couldn’t write a straight forward murder mystery, oh no, he had to write one with multiple protagonists whilst at the same time being the same protagonist, time travel and body hopping, oh, and set it in the 1930s, too. Yeah, he’s clearly a literary masochist. But, boy does he pull it off. I loved this book from first to last page, devouring all 505 pages of it in two days.
Briefly, there’s a grand ball up at the crumbling Blackheath House to celebrate the return of Lord and Lady Hardcastle’s daughter Evelyn, from Paris. Only problem is that she will be murdered at 11pm during the ball. One of the guests, Aiden, is charged to investigate and solve her murder, and until he does he will not be allowed to leave Blackheath. Ever. He is destined to relive the same day over and over and over again until he does. The added complication is that with each day he wakes up in the body of a different guest. Bummer. To say more would be to spoil the surprises, plot twists and fantastic imagination the Stu weaves throughout this book. Each character that Aiden inhabits has their own personality; they’re not just Aiden in a different skin, and Stuart juggles all of these deftly and with great skill. Never once did I feel lost as to who I was reading. In fact, quite how he kept all of his balls in the air (quiet at the back there!), is a feat in itself. I believe many, many Post-It notes were employed. The very first few chapters are a tad confusing, but that just mirrors the feelings of the characters themselves, and things soon become clearer (ish) as the plot starts to unfold, the book settling down into its stride nicely. Stuart conjures up the atmosphere of the decaying Blackheath wonderfully, not just in the bricks and mortar of the house itself and the surrounding estate, but also in its inhabitants, not least the Hardcastles themselves.
This is the type of book that will have you constantly trying to second guess the outcome; what is Blackheath? Where is Blackheath? Tbh, I did kinda figure it out early on, but not through anything the story gave away, I just had a “what if it’s….?” moment, and even then I wasn’t 100% spot on. It most certainly didn’t spoil my enjoyment of this superior novel, nor my satisfaction of its ending.
TSDoEH is a truly wonderful novel: plotted tighter than a duck’s bum that’s eaten a tube of super glue, populated with an extremely varied and fascinating set of characters, all set in within an original and quite terrifying concept. I believe that Stu is working on a follow-up of sorts set in the 15th Century, and I can’t chuffing wait!
Highly recommended. 5/5
Cursed is the 4th book in Thomas Enger‘s superior Henning Juul series. The series begins with Burned, followed by Pierced, Scarred, Cursed and finally ending with just published Killed. These are books that I personally feel need to be read in order. Throughout the series the main protagonist, internet news reporter Henning Juul, searches for the people he feels are responsible for the fire in his flat that left him deeply scarred, both emotionally and physically, and that claimed the life of his 6 year old son, Jonas. Although each book stands alone in terms of the main story, this arc is always running in the background, with breadcrumbs (and even the odd loaf of bread), laid though each book. It is this element that makes this series so compelling to read. Henning is a highly likeable and sympathetic character, a man driven to extremes to discover the truth and taking the reader along with him.
In Cursed, Henning continues his search for answers, delving further into the shadowy Oslo underground crime scene – a course of action that brings further physical pain and attempts on his life. Meanwhile his ex-wife, Nora, is investigating the disappearance of an old friend, Hedda Hellberg, which appears to be linked to the murder of a Swedish man at the time of her disappearance. Over the course of the book their two separate investigations appear to have more and more in common, bringing them closer together once again.
Thomas Enger is a master of the drip feed suspense. He tells you, the reader, just enough to ensure that you continue reading. Nothing is superfluous; everything matters. Along the course of the four books so far Henning has grown as a character, as have the characters around him. Some come and go more than others; I missed Henning’s booming, Tourette suffering boss Kåre Hjeltland this time around, and Detective Bjane Brogeland barely gets a look in either, but other characters, such as Nora and Geir Grønningen, are given their time to shine.
As with every book so far Enger leaves you on a cliff edge; the very last sentence dragging you kicking and screaming into the next book. I’ll tell you what, I’m very glad that I’ve come into this series late, because if I had to wait for months between books I would have strung someone up!
Cursed is a fantastic book; dark, thrilling and suspenseful. It takes its time, it doesn’t rush, but the last 100 pages or so are a real thrill ride as Nora, Henning and Iver….well, I’m not going to spoil it here, am I? 😉
5/5 Highly recommended.
Welcome to my brand new, shiny, book blog. Why? Why, I hear you clamour? Why have you decided to publish a book blog? Let me tell you:
Why not? Simple as that really. I’ve been toying with the idea for a while now; a bit like a cat with a mouse it’s just brought in and isn’t quite ready to squish and then chew the head off of, leaving it for you to step in in the morning. I mean, it isn’t as though the world really needs another book blog; there are a zillion out there. Maybe even a zillion and one. But none of those are my blogs, are they?
I’ve always enjoyed reading books, but recently I’ve discovered that I LOVE reading them. And with the discovery of the book community on Twitter and Instagram, plus Goodreads, I’ve found that I really enjoy posting reviews, too. And, for some reason, there are people out there who actually enjoy reading them. Seriously! Not many, I grant ye, but they are out there – lurking in the shadows of social media.
Social media has introduced me to some truly smashing authors: John Marrs; Louise Beech; Michael J Malone; Antti Tuomainen; Thomas Enger; Matt Wesolowski; Joe Hill; Samuel Bjork – the list goes on. And it’s not only the authors, but I hope to highlight their publishers too, such as Orenda Books and Fahrenheit Press, to name just two rising independents amongst the behemoths. I hope to showcase many, if not all, of this great talent on this very blog as the weeks, months, maybe even years, go on. There is SO much fantastic literature being created today that it needs to be read; their authors to be recognised.
This is very much a hobby blog. Maybe one day it’ll grow into something more, but my main focus is to have fun with it. I’ve had some great support from fellow bloggers over on Twitter, and I will hope to shine a spotlight on them too. The book blogging world is a rich and varied place that I’m very excited to be dipping my tootsies into. Hopefully the Beardy Book Blogger will be here to stay and make his mark.
Peace and Book Love. X
Mart – The Beardy Book Blogger.