Review: Catherine Steadman – Mr Nobody

Mr Nobody
Catherine Steadman

Dr Emma Lewis is a specialist in memory loss and brain damage. Perhaps it comes from her own past, a man who did something terrible and a memory Emma couldn’t forget. Mr Nobody has no memories of his own, but he knows things about Emma that he shouldn’t know.

There is a beautiful slow pacing in the first half of the novel which potentially could be considered glacially slow if you prefer a novel with a bit more action. I wasn’t in a hurry because I’d only brought one book! I enjoyed the perspectives, although I felt like there was perhaps too much insight into each of their minds. I also didn’t really ‘need’ all of the characters. For example, the nurse wasn’t that necessary.

The ending to this one was a bit of a twist, but not quite as twisty as I thought? I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. Honestly, after all the build up I thought something exciting might happen in the final pages. I was wrong, and it made me sad. It seemed like Emma had given up (something nebulous that I’m not going to say because it’ll spoil the book).

Thanks to COVID-19 I’m more than a year behind on reviewing this novel. With all the bad stuff that was/is happening in the world I couldn’t face a thriller. This is worthy of three stars – 4 from the beginning and 2 for the ending! If you want a gripping crime go check out Before Her Eyes.

Simon & Schuster | 1 February 2020 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Lois Duncan – Down a Dark Hall (K)

Down a Dark Hall
Lois Duncan

When Kit’s mother and stepfather go to honeymoon in Europe, Kit is sent away to a boarding school in the middle of nowhere. She hates the idea from the very beginning, but little does she know, the school is much worse than she could have ever imagined.

This book was focused more on atmosphere and feeling than on having a complicated storyline, with detailed descriptions of the characters and scenery. At first I wasn’t too fond of the descriptive nature as I felt like it was just fluff that didn’t add to the story, but over time I realized that it added to the atmosphere of the book and made it a much scarier read than it otherwise would have been. Considering that I read this book in the middle of the day, it did a great job at getting me spooked.

The mystery throughout the book, on what the school was trying to do, was quite well-written. The blurb on the back, describing it as a ‘psychic prison,’ gave away some of the mystery, which I wish hadn’t been included, but the details of what exactly was going on were still left to be discovered.

The ending of the book took me on quite a roller-coaster. At first, it seemed like the book was going to end in quite an unsatisfying manner, but at the last minute everything got turned around, and it became much more exciting.

This was quite a satisfying short book. I typically prefer reading longer books as I spend a lot of energy getting invested in characters, but for a short, few-hour read, it went through a nice arc and had a satisfying conclusion. The book also feels complete, which is nice as I often feel that shorter books leave loose ends that need to be tied up. The version of the book I read is the one written in 1974, not the 2011 update.

(This book was given to me by my grandmother, so I wanted to say thanks! And I love you <3)

Review: John Ajvide Lindqvist – I Always Find You

I Always Find You
John Ajvide Lindqvist

John moves into a basement apartment to prepare to enter a competition of magicians and get away from his mother. Instead he finds himself adrift and poor in a city that doesn’t care about him, with people who are indifferent to everything. Except maybe whatever is hiding in the laundry room.

Who always finds John? Is it the guy calling him and asking for Sigge? What does that even mean? Does Sigge mean a particular word in Swedish? Is it actually important that John is a magician? Or would like to be one? Does anything matter? I think the answer is no.

Honestly, I’m not sure why I finished this novel .Was I torturing myself in some way? Hoping for a redemptive ending? It went from strange to weird, to even more strange. Maybe it’s all my fault for reading a second book in a trilogy out of context? But is it actually relevant since it’s Lindqvist pretending to be the protagonist in his novel?

Is this a horror story? I mean, I felt terrible for the child with the broken legs, but I wasn’t horrified by it. And the thing in the bathtub? That wasn’t horror. That was just a thing in the bathtub! I didn’t mind that things might come out of the Subway – because they never did. It seemed like the horror was just an excuse to let people be mean and nasty to each other.

I know that since I finished this I shouldn’t technically give it 1 star. But since I don’t know why I finished it, I’m not going to worry about it! Perhaps it would appeal to readers who love Lindqvist’s other novels? But for me, I know that I’m not going to touch anything by this author ever again if I can help it.

Text Publishing | 2nd July 2018 | AU$32.99 | paperback

Review: Brad Parks – Closer Than You Know

Closer Than You Know
Brad Parks

Melanie aged out of the Foster Care system and is determined to never be like her parents for her own son. When she arrives to pick up her son from childcare, she finds herself being reported and jailed for domestic disturbance and an unknown drug charge. In the pages that follow, Melanie cannot defend her innocence,

This novel is told from the perspectives of Melanie (the accused ‘Drug Mom’) and Amy (the prosecutor), with interjections from the whispering rapist. The perspectives felt noticeably different while I was reading them, and their interactions felt real. I would have liked to be able to identify the rapist myself, as in other novels (Before Your Eyes), but that is a minor complaint. I could feel Melanie’s anguish at the same time as I saw things from Amy’s frustrated perspective.

I didn’t pick up this novel for almost a year because I thought it would be focused on the problems with the Foster Care system. Instead, despite the blurb, I found this to be a fast-paced thriller, even if it wasn’t totally psychological – it was more about how some disasters can’t be prevented, and that sometimes you just have to trust other people to have your back. I also learnt an interesting fact that prisons will let you keep your underwear (at least in Virginia), so if you’re going to be arrested, make sure you are wearing plenty of pairs so that you can use your own underwear. YMMV (pun intended)

When I was 3/4 of my way into this novel, I thought to myself that the ending would either make or break it. Thankfully the ending was really quite satisfactory, if not quite creepy enough for me. I felt that the ending really wrapped up a bit too quickly for me, as I wanted a little more information about Marcus (ew). How did the reader not see that coming? Or was it just me in the dark… 4 stars from me.

Allen & Unwin | 28th March 2018 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Jack Jordan – Before Her Eyes

Before Her Eyes
Jack Jordan

Naomi Hannah has been blind since birth, abandoned in a bus shelter and brought up in a loving family. She’s always felt alone, but at least safe in her little town. When she stumbles across a body in an alley, and the murderer caresses her, it starts a chain of reactions that steadily get more sinister. Who is leaving her alive at each crime scene, and why?

This novel put the creepy factor up high right from the beginning and it only got worse (or better?)! This is a true psychological thriller that caused me to shiver and make sure I had a good grip on myself (and my stomach). Some of the passages when Naomi were alone almost took my breath away.

Oh, the ending was perfect! I read the novel at a frantic pace for about two hours straight, holding out for an ending that would be satisfying and amazing. And it was everything I could have hoped for. Even possibly more than I could have hoped for. Go read it for yourself already!

This could have simply been a thriller and I would have enjoyed it, but having a disabled, black woman as the protagonist warmed this novel up from another run of the mill (but very good) crime novel to a great one with a diverse range of characters. Her unique perspective put me literally into her shoes. However, I could have had more insight into Lisa as the eventual explanation of her character didn’t exactly ring true for me.

Having finished the novel I can say that it was a totally engrossing read. Since I’ve read it, and I know the thrilling ending now I don’t think I’d reread it. But I think that if you’re a psychological thriller lover you are going to really enjoy this novel. 4 stars from me.

Allen & Unwin | 12th September 2018 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Laura Purcell – The Corset

The Corset
Laura Purcell

Ruth is in prison for murder and is awaiting hanging. Dorothea is a well bred woman with a fascination for phrenology (skull physiology that predicts character traits). When Dorothea sets out to map Ruth’s skull she is forced to decide whether she believes in Ruth’s truthfulness or her own ‘scientific’ mind.

The detailed gore at the beginning of the novel was cringe worthy and my feeling was that it was unnecessary. The torture might have been intended to make things feel Gothic and gloomy, but instead I just felt revulsion. I also couldn’t work out why I should care about David and Thomas. What were the men’s purposes in this novel?

It’s such a pity. The cover of this book was such that I expected a peacock to feature. Instead this felt a little like symbolism gone wild. The corset! The corset! And in the end, is it even what she thought it was? The reader and Dotty seem to move towards believing in magic, but the ending makes you questions that – and not in a good way.

About halfway through this novel I thought to myself that the ending would make or break the novel. I didn’t know what would constitute a good ending, but I knew it needed one. The ending I received however was disappointing and unsatisfying and made no sense to me. Will she recover? Was Ruth actually hanged?

Other reviewers are saying this is historical fiction, and I’m saying it might be. But there are plenty of other sources of historical fiction that are better focused and with better endings. 2 stars from me because I finished it, but I wish I hadn’t done so because it left a bad taste in my mouth.

Bloomsbury | 1st November 2018 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Andrew Mayne – Black Fall (Jessica Blackwood #3)

Black Fall
Andrew Mayne

Jessica is an FBI agent with a difference – her training as a Magician and her knowledge of tricks is the reason for her placement at Quantico with three other technonerds. When a long dead scientist starts predicting natural disasters, it’s up to Jessica to debunk the predictions.

I was pretty excited about the missing town! How was this one going to be explained? And of course there was a fantastic explanation! The other parts about the set up of the underground rooms seemed predictable and boring in comparison. Because I knew Jessica could solve any problem, it wasn’t exciting anymore.

There was very little Jessica-development and a lot of racing around with nothing to show for it. A couple of potential dinner dates and a couple of potential friendships. Oh and a couple of close calls on death, but nothing that her oldest brilliant buddy can’t fix.

I’m not sure this novel had the same pizzazz as the first two novels (Angel Killer and Name of the Devil). It all happened too quickly and I found it difficult to trace the clues for myself. I’ll still give it 5 stars, but it’s heading down towards 4 stars. I’m going to keep reading the series in the hope that it will return to its awesomeness.

Review: Lisa Jackson – After She’s Gone

After She’s Gone
Lisa Jackson

Cassie’s sister Allie has gone missing so Cassie checks herself out of the psychiatry ward to find her. Cassie is still suffering from nightmares and flashbacks, and doesn’t even know how to look after herself. If there was ever a girl in need of a Hero, it’s Cassie, Allie and their famous mother. Can they find Allie in time? Does Allie even want to be found?

Oh dear. This novel sat on my shelf for about 2 years before I picked it up. I just wasn’t feeling another strange disappearance or mystery after try not to breathe and Painkiller. That’s the problem with copy-cat authors that produce all the novels that are compared to Girl on the Train or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I get that they must sell well, and thus it’s not really the authors’ faults they have to write that stuff as no doubt publishers pushing for it.

Um Hollywood glamour (or rather just hints at it being important but it’s really not) does not make a novel! Especially for someone who doesn’t really follow or understand Hollywood the way a homegrown North American might. I found myself completely and utterly confused most of the time (ringing any bells like Ankaran Immersion?). The protagonist was an unreliable narrator, which would have been fine if everything else in the plot hadn’t been jumbled up. And then the other characters were also confusing as hell with a healthy does of insanity themselves. There was no redemption for anyone. Anyone heard of counselling?

I ended up reading about 1/6 of the novel before I started skipping forwards to try to get to a meaty good bit! But alas, I found myself just skipping all the way to the end where, because I hadn’t actually connected properly to any of the characters, I was utterly indifferent to who the baddie was and was kind of hoping that they all died!

1 star from me. Don’t bother attempting it.

Hachette Australia | 1st February 2016 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Chris Carter – Gallery of the Dead

Gallery of the Dead
Chris Carter

Hunter is known to be brilliant at psychological evaluations and getting inside the Killer’s mind. With a new killer on the loose that seems to be creating fantastically horrible art with his victims, will Hunter be able to stop them before he creates a whole series?

Keep in mind that I have not read any of the first 8 books in this series. Thus I think I was missing some background information that could have been useful in helping me interpret Hunter’s particular personality traits. This was less about his ability to read criminal minds, and more about his ability to interpret weird clues. In the end though, the solution was pretty simple, and didn’t really need that much fancy interpretation. Try any of the Kendra novels or Sanderson’s Legion instead for that.

Again, my problem with this ‘Thriller’ / Detective novel was that I wasn’t given enough information to work things out for myself. I’m all for an insight into the perp’s brain (think The Admirer), but I need it with some suspense and fear for the main character as well. I had this problem with Corpselight and The Fix as well, and would make the suggestion of Name of the Devil or babydoll instead. There are so many other better options out there that I have read!

I finished reading this novel, but I think I wouldn’t have necessarily started (and finished) it on the same day it arrived had I known the ending. It was in the end a lot of flopping around during the text with no suspense. Also, a couple more victims would have been interesting. Morbid as that sounds, it IS just a novel. I wanted to know what other things The Artist might have done, given time. Did he want to collect a whole series of focal pieces?

I’m giving it 3 stars because of that relatively simple ending and lack of suspense. Also, all I seem to have done in this review is compare it to other novels, and that’s never a good sign for the uniqueness of the plot.

Simon and Schuster | February 2018 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Jake Halpern & Peter Kujawinski – Edgeland

Edgeland
Jake Halpern & Peter Kujawinski

The Drain is designed to take the rich dead through to the afterlife. No-one knows what is actually beyond the drop, but when a death boat accidentally takes a funeral payment with it, Alec and Wren fall in. If they are ever to get out of the Drain they will have to understand its problems and its secrets,

Wren is a plucky heroine that seems to be afraid of nothing except perhaps another betrayal. Alec on the other hand seems a bit wussy to me (which is perfectly ok), but he toughens up and becomes a character you can empathise with. They don’t really know what to expect next, and so neither does the reader.

This reminded me of Nightfall, honestly, which shouldn’t be surprising, as it’s by the same authors. Another novel by them is Dormia, which is also a decent read. But why aren’t they working on the inevitable sequel to Nightfall? There was certainly more there to be explored as well.

I’ll be keeping this novel on my shelf as a 4-star winner. I know some other readers who might enjoy it, and I’d love to get the opportunity to lend it out to them! For a ‘Hot Key’ book, it was very good. I’ve had bad experiences with them before, such as fly on the wall, but these authors kept me much better entertained.

Allen & Unwin | 1st August 2017 | AU $16.99 | paperback