Tuesday, 25 August 2015

The Wolf in Winter by John Connolly

John Connolly is a brilliant author and with his creation Charlie Parker has produced one of the most complete series of books ever published. This is the 12th outing for our great hero/ private detective and in this taut tale he is drawn to the town or Prosperous in an attempt to find what really happened to Annie Broyer.  Annie’s  estranged father Jude, living on the streets, has amassed the princely sum of $100+ that he hoped would entice the detective to help him....in Charlie’s own words that might have bought some 2 hours of this time. When however Jude is discovered dead, an apparent suicide, our hero knows that he must help discover the truth behind the mysterious disappearance of Annie.

There is a solid and memorable list of characters that we meet as we travel with Charlie on his journey which is fraught with danger and in particular the evil Hayley Conyer the “voice” of Prosperous , her chief of police Morland who is no stranger to killing, and the wonderfully named Ronald Straydeer. If you add in the old favourites of Louis and Angel we have all the ingredients for a cracking story!

It is however the tormented mind of Charlie Parker that always holds the reader’s interest and never fails to draw me back. He is tortured by the death of his wife Rachel and in particular his daughter Samantha who appears to him throughout and always give the impression that she is calling him home. I don’t feel that CP will ever find peace and contentment until he can be with them again....wherever that may be...So once again Connolly has produced a masterpiece of crime combined with just the right amount of dark horror to entice the reader to return for the next instalment. Anything by John Connolly comes highly recommended and this is no exception...

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Serial Killer book by which all others should be judged!

If you are a fan (and I use the term loosely) of serial killers such as Edmund Kemper the you will love By Reason of Insanity. The story of mass insane killer Thomas Bishop and the fixation of a young hungry reporter Adam Kenton to find Bishop and bring him to justice. This is a brutal and at times graphic story travelling deep into the mind of a mass murderer as he conducts his war against the world in his attempt to explain and show his hatred of women as he butchers his way across America. If I was to level one small criticism I would question the constant introduction of new characters (some remaining for a very short time) which tends to make the storyline a little over complicated causing the reader to have to refresh his memory on occasions. For a big novel the storyline moves at a frantic pace and makes for a fantastic read with a little unexpected and well thought out "sting in the tail" on the very last page.....I actually rated the book 4.5 stars and have bumped up to 5 stars simply because By Reason of Insanity was first published in 1978 and still has the power to shock and frighten many years later. Some will say this is the book by which all other serial killer novels should be compared and judged and they are not wrong!

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Nostalgia read from an 80's icon...

Good nostalgia read from the mid 80's when some might argue saw Mr K  on top form. The story is a mix of horror and fantasy with at it's heart a rather lovey dovey story of Travis Cornell and the virginal Nora Devon...and of course the cute little dog Einstein. Einsteen is part of a secret gov experiment and he can actually communicate with humans although we do have the rather farcical 200 page interlude of Einstein learning to reading and playing scrabble (I kid you not!) Having said that there are some strong characters as always in the writing of Dean Koontz which makes Watchers an enjoyable read. Of special mention is the somewhat despicable Arthur (do people really still call their kids Arthur?).....unfortunately his appearance in the story was much too brief and the equally adventurous hired hitman/assassin Vincent Nasco. I am not sure I would agree with the quotation on the front of this 2015 addition "Not just a master of our darkest dreams but also a literary juggler" but a good read still the same.............

Sunday, 24 May 2015

A song of shadows by John Connolly

The 13th book in the long running Charlie "bird" Parker dark crime series. The great concern about reading the latest offering from John Connolly is to ask the question...is this a step too far? is it not time that Charlie Parker was put into retirement? does the author not run the risk of simply boring the reader with a character, indeed list of characters that quite simply have no more to say or offer? However let it be said here now that "bird" is alive and tweeting! and A Song of Shadows is another remarkable achievement from an author who seems to go from strength to strength.

The central theme of this story is the unveiling and uncovering of Nazi war criminals living in the United States. Bruno Perlmans body is washed ashore in the town of Boreas, his family had been interned at a concentration camp called Lubsko. What is the connection between him and Marcus Baulman, Ruth Winter and her mother Isha? This is an exceptionally well researched novel that probes deep into both America and Germany's attitude to war criminals guilty of genocide and how they should be dealt with (or not)

We see a very subdued Charlie Parker who is recuperating in Boreas (having almost died in his previous outing) and at first his contribution to the story is incidental making the acquaintance of Amanda Winter (Ruth's daughter) on one of his early morning exercise outings along the beach. "His presence in Boreas was incongruous, given his reputation. It was like having a grenade rolling around, one you had been assured was defused but hadn't had time to check out for yourself". What is remarkable in this story is that John Connolly has kept our interest in Parker very much alive even thought he has tended to dwell more on the central issue, the unmasking of war criminals and by doing this Parker receives the readers utmost sympathy in his battle back to full health with of course the help and guidance of his personal body guards the mysterious and dangerous Louis and Angel together with a welcome appearance from The Fulcis, and a cameo role for “The Collector of Souls”

What sets Connolly’s books apart is the adding of a dark element to Parker’s persona. Parker blames himself for the murder of his wife and daughter Jennifer and you cannot help but feel that he will be relieved when it is time for him to join them. He has many visions and often daughter Jennifer appears before him, is she real or a product of his disturbed mind. In A Song of Shadows we once again meet Parker’s second daughter Sam who appears to have inherited the family trait of talking to the dead and in one memorable scene has an encounter with Jennifer…….

“The dead daughter had returned, standing at the end of Sam’s bed, her head bowed so that her hair might conceal the ruin of her face. Sam felt sorry for her, the way she felt sorry for anyone who was forced to endure a form of disability or physical disfigurement. She also understood that it had to be this way for the girl. When she crossed over to this world, she took the last form in which she had inhabited it when she was alive. Her beauty was for another place”

So where does Charlie Parker go from here, can we expect a 14th outing? In the final pages surprisingly Parker secures his own future (I will not disclose how but it comes about from an unexpected source) and that for all JC fans can only be great news. This is storytelling of the highest order, intelligent well researched and a joy to read and I highly recommend!

In Plain Sight the life and lies of Jimmy Savile

This is a very difficult book to read as I like many thought warmly of Jimmy Savile for so many years, and can you blame us? Here was a man who from such humble and hard working beginnings led an extraordinary life. From his early years as a miner (and I use that word with trepidation ) his short spell as a wrestler, his love of marathon running, his virtual creation of the British TV institute  “Top of the Pops” and his equally electrifying Jim’ll fix it, a programme that for so many years was at the heart of BBC Saturday night entertainment. Then there was his memorable road safety ads, the famous clunk-click phrase followed by his equally renowned promotion of British Rail “This is the age of the train” He was friends to the powerful and famous, Prince Charles, Margaret Thatcher (who fought for years to obtain his OBE) and even the late Princess Diana sought him out so eager were they to ask his advice and be seen in his company....but against this all and against the charity money he raised was a monster of a man who used his position of celebrity to sexually abuse and destroy the lives of so many.

In Plain Sight by Dan Davies is a monumental book and a compulsive colourful and chilling read. This is a book that was researched for many years and over the course of that time Davies interviewed and spoke with Savile on numerous occasions, yet he always felt that there was a dark untold side to this seemingly affable gent.....and how right he was. It is with great sadness that Savile was not exposed during his lifetime and that those who were abused had not the courage to come forward (or indeed if they did were not believed) at an earlier time. Society and our obsession with celebrity must bear so much of the responsibility and blame for we kept this vile individual on a pedestal for so long even thought the crimes that he committed were done....in plain sight.....

Friday, 27 March 2015

The Rain Dancers Greg F Gifune

Will and Betty have arrived at her late father Earle’s house to arrange for the property to be cleared and the contents sorted prior to its imminent sale. As they set about the sad task and as Betty reacquaints herself with her childhood there is a knock at the door......”After a slight hesitation, I opened the door. “Come in.”...”Much obliged.” He stepped inside, bringing a gust of wind and a spray of rain with him. “Great Gosh Almighty, nasty night out there, isn’t it?”...”Quite a rain,” I said. He made sure the storm door closed and latched behind him. “Apologize for showing up announced like this,” he said, “but when I heard Earl had passed I felt it only right to stop in and pay you and your lovely bride my respects.”

Thus the reader is introduced to the deeply disturbed, overtly friendly and thoroughly evil “good ole southern boy” Bob Laurent. Greg F Gifune has done a wonderful job of introducing a seemingly harmless, friendly stranger and yet from the moment we meet him his evil intent is apparent. “The inexplicable fear I’d initially felt had subsided, but in its wake was an equally baffling sense of unease.” It is this growing fear and the knowledge that something terrible is about to befall Will and Betty that makes The Rain Dancers such an unforgettable experience. I read with such a sense of foreboding and fear as I waited for the fate of Will and Betty to be decided...

The reason for Laurent’s visit and the unravelling of Betty Colby’s past come together in an explosive and brilliant conclusion making this one of the best short novellas I have ever read. Greg F Gifune is a writer of such emotive and descriptive power and this short story as a showcase for his undoubted writing talent.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Tormentor by William Meikle

This is a first class example of just how to write an intelligent and gripping horror novel. A good horror story, and in particular a good haunted house horror story, needs certain vital ingredients, firstly an isolated and inviting haunted house, and secondly a troubled even tormented central character. William Meikle does a wonderful job of exploring his native homeland (Scotlands's loss is Canada's gain) and in Jim Greenwood he has chosen the perfect victim to showcase his dark writing talent.

Jim’s partner Beth died swiftly and horribly of cancer and he has taken the decisive step to move into a house by a sea loch on the Isle of Skye...”without her London seemed pointless-a mound full of termites running around doing things that benefited other termites and pretending it mattered a jot.” I find it difficult to believe that William Meikle is no longer a resident of this fair isle as his sense of time and space and his descriptive prowess is breathtaking as he expertly brings alive the isolation of this dark and beautiful windswept island.....”From this vantage point the view was completely wild-no roads or pylons visible, no other houses, just the loch, with wavelets slightly churning in a stiff breeze, the purple hills hanging in a haze across the water and white clouds scudding north across the sky.”

Jim befriends a young estate agent Alan Bean and enjoys his company in the drinking dens of nearby Dunvegan whilst settling into his rustic one-bed roomed home. As befits the setting for this wonderful tale all is not well and soon Jim begins to receive strange messages and notice odd occurrences as he slowly learns what befell the previous owner Annie Menzies.

Meikle’s mixing of the dark, the horror, the setting, the folklore set around Dunvegan Castle and the historical loss of a young drummer boy, many centuries ago, all adds to the atmosphere. The reader becomes confused as to whether what is happening to Jim Greenwood is real or part of the madness surrounding him and possibly controlling him as he lives life without his beloved Beth.

 Alex Wark the local minister was a character in particular I found enticing and a great way for the author to express and compare the presence of good and evil...
“How you can still believe in God when there are so many things wrong in the world and it is obvious that he doesn’t care? He looked up and smiled. “The Bible says that God is love. And part of his loving nature is that he allows people to have free will. As a result, we have evil, pain and suffering, due to the choices we and others make.”
A truly brilliant, intelligent, dark tale of a damaged man attempting to find peace and happiness in the wild and haunted setting of the isle of skye. Highly recommended.