[Disclaimer: I received a review copy via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.]
Cross and Burn is the eighth installment in Val McDermid's Tony[Disclaimer: I received a review copy via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.]
Cross and Burn is the eighth installment in Val McDermid's Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series, which follows a criminal psychologist, a police detective, and the crimes they solve. Except, because of the extreme events of the previous book, The Retribution, Tony and Carol become side-players here, while supporting character Paula McIntyre takes the lead. It's an interesting departure from the established format, and I really enjoyed the results.
In The Retribution, Tony and Carol's relationship and, in effect, lives were thrown into complete disarray by the actions of a serial killer. It was dark and it was painful and at the time I remember feeling that the stakes were ultimately too high, to the point that it was hard to see a road back for either of them. Cross and Burn deals with the aftermath of those events, and by minimising their roles, allows for breathing room and time for the healing process to begin. It's cathatic, realistic, and ultimately re-instilled hope for both their futures.
The case at the centre of the book is an interesting one (and unsurprisingly graphic) - a killer is bumping off blondes who look like Carol, leaving Paula to deal with the aftermath both on a personal and professional level. She's always been one of, or even the most promising supporting character, and easily shoulders the additional weight she's granted in this book. Given her recent promotion to a new firm, the characters from the MIT that have formed the focal point of many investigations from previous novels are either absent entirely, or reduced to a few walk-on scenes. I actually had no problem with this, given that I'd personally found the cast a little over-full in the past few books anyway.
Where things do get a bit weird is with Paula's new boss, DI Alex Fielding. Viewers of the Wire in the Blood TV series will know her as Simone Lahbib's character - Carol's replacement post-Hermione Norris's departure - secondary star of the show for three series. This is the first time she's popped up in a McDermid novel, and the result was puzzling. McDermid presents Fielding as the novel's secondary antagonist, second to only the bloke brutally murdering blondes in his garage. She's petty, officious, short-sighted and self-serving. Everyone who comes into contact with her actively dislikes her, and I don't understand the motivation in presenting her this way. I even went back and re-watched her first WitB episode to see if she started out that way and subsequent character growth had caused me to forget, but... not really. There are shades of her novel characterisation there - initially abrasive, by-the-book and resistant to Tony's skills - but within literal seconds of meeting him, she's also smiling at his foibles, divulging details of the case and letting him listen in on an interview. And by the end, she seeks out and is grateful for his help. I don't know if this is the start of a longer arc for her in the books, but I was a bit bewildered by her depiction.
On the whole, I found a lot of things to enjoy here. The writing was sharp as ever - in less skilled hands, Tony's pining and Carol's residual anger might have veered into melodrama, but most assuredly didn't. I enjoyed the interactions between Paula and Tony, even (maybe especially) the painful moment he accidentally called her Carol. I loved the humour that still lurked beneath the surface despite the circumstances ('He grabbed one of the sturdy reusable carrier bags that Carol - ouch, no, let her go, you can't get sentimental over a bloody carrier bag'). I particularly think keeping Carol and Tony apart for three quarters of the novel was a positive move, building towards their eventual meeting and allowing their interactions to be less raw and fraught than where The Retribution left them. Ultimately, book seven left me worried about where this series was going. Book eight has me pleasantly hopeful for the next installment.
(If there is one truly horrifying event in this novel, it's Carol leaving behind her beloved cat Nelson and getting a dog. Far more dreadful than all the murders combined, clearly.)...more
[Disclaimer: I received a review copy via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.]
I'm going to go ahead and note upfront that I don't ordinarily r[Disclaimer: I received a review copy via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.]
I'm going to go ahead and note upfront that I don't ordinarily read a lot of romance, and when I do it tends to be of the sugary sweet Shopaholic variety. It would be more than fair to say that erotic BDSM is a real departure from my regular reading material, and yet ever since last year's 50 Shades explosion, I've been curious about giving it a try. Het kink doesn't hold the greatest appeal for me, so its been a case of waiting for something to pique my interest, which the blurb of Rebekah Weatherspoon's At Her Feet did. The D/s world of Mommies/little girls isn't something that was necessarily on my radar beforehand, but that in no way prevented the plot from drawing me in and carrying me along for the ride.
While I had no pre-conceived notions about what to expect, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. It's certainly intensely erotic (and very ably written in that respect - realistic without ever becoming vulgar) but the two central characters, Suzy and Pilar, proved to be extremely likeable, and I was really rooting for their relationship from the off. There's a lot going on beyond sex - the development of a caring, nurturing relationship as they chart the potentially fraught waters of communication and trust issues. I genuinely didn't expect to be as moved as I was in places - Weatherspoon really has a talent for pulling at your emotions.
I finished the book quickly, in less than a day. I'd set it down after a few chapter breaks only to pick it up again within a few minutes because I was so invested in how it all panned out. If I'm completely hand-on-heart honest, I may have expected my first foray into erotica to be lacking in substance, but I'm very happy to have been proved wrong. The plot on the whole was well-rounded, and by including regular sections of Suzanne's 'straight' life and hectic work environment, it stayed firmly grounded and realistic. I'd happily recommend it to anyone comfortable with the subject matter, and would certainly be interested in reading more of Weatherspoon's work. The précis of some of Bold Strokes Books' other titles was also intriguing, so on the whole I'm glad I took the chance and dipped my toe into the water - it's always lovely to be pleasantly surprised!...more
As far as I'm concerned, Jeffery Deaver is the master of plot twists. His short story collections Twisted and More Twisted are packed with brilliantlyAs far as I'm concerned, Jeffery Deaver is the master of plot twists. His short story collections Twisted and More Twisted are packed with brilliantly crafted gems, and his on-going Lincoln Rhyme series has more stings in the tale than a rattlesnake. So I was excited to see what he'd do with The October List, a thriller told quite literally backwards. We open on chapter 36, with a frantic mother awaiting news of her kidnapped daughter. The door opens, revealing not her rescuers but the kidnapper himself, wielding a gun and a deranged grin. How did it come to this? We're about to find out, in reverse.
Although it takes a long time for the full picture to become clear (the game changes constantly, and the kaleidoscope doesn't come to rest as a fully-formed image until you've read all the way through to chapter one), the pace is never anything less than frenetic. I finished the book in around a day, and kept reading for several hours after I really should have been sleeping (when you physically can't hold the book open in bed, it's probably time to call it a night.)
Does the gimmick produce satisfying results? Yes and... hmm. The format does lend itself to some difficulties. You know the piece of proofreading advice, that if you read a document backwards you're more likely to catch mistakes? While there aren't mistakes here as such (ultimately, everything ties together beautifully), I think the problem with starting from a place of complete bewilderment is that I never really fully trusted anyone, nor took any information at face value. When the revelations come, they're more of the 'ah, that makes sense of that!' variety than the sudden sharp shock of being completely surprised.
When working with a regular chronology, Deaver is fully adept at misdirection and sleight of hand, techniques that I think this format fundamentally makes more difficult. I'm definitely not saying I guessed the resolution in advance, but I also wouldn't say I was miles from the ballpark. There are times Deaver's caught me from another continent entirely, so this wasn't necessarily in the same league.
That said, I think this will definitely bear a repeat reading, perhaps in reverse this time, to really catch all the subtle clues laid throughout. It's probably only a shade over half the length of most of his other books, so it wouldn't surprise me if this was the intention. I've quickly re-read the first (last?) chapter, and the additional depth and nuance once you know what's really going on is brilliant. As is the contents list at the back - I actually laughed out loud at how clever he'd been in places with the chapter illustrations.
Overall, while I wasn't completely blown away by The October List, I do think Deaver's writing here is very, very clever, and I'm looking forward to going through it again when it's not quite so fresh. For readers unfamiliar with JD, it does take a while to get in to - it was probably sixty pages or so before I stopped being completely bewildered, and maybe as much as another hundred before I was really rolling along - because of course, telling a story backwards does run the risk of making it choppy, disjointed and frustrating. My advice would be just to trust that he knows full-well what he's doing and that it will all pay off eventually. And enjoy!...more
Important upfront disclosure: The Shining is by far my least favourite Stephen King novel. (I got a touch grumpy about it in my review".) It's the onlImportant upfront disclosure: The Shining is by far my least favourite Stephen King novel. (I got a touch grumpy about it in my review".) It's the only King tale I've ever rated a solitary 1 out of 5, and as such I wasn't that excited about its sequel, Doctor Sleep. That said, some of his recent works have been really, truly excellent (11/22/63, Joyland) and so of course I still had it in my hands on publication day. While it's not one of my favourites, nor do I think it will prove to be especially memorable, it was still a serviceable 500 pages that I had fun delving through.
We meet up with Dan Torrence - The Shining's five-year-old protagonist and possessor of multiple supernatural abilities - several decades down the line. Now an alcoholic and all-round waste-of-space, Dan almost immediately hits rock bottom and spends the next several hundred pages engaged in a redemption arc I was initially dubious about, but which King ultimately managed to pull off.
Any quibbles I had with the novel are largely the same I have with many of King's works - chiefly that for a while, the whole thing turned into a bit of a boys-club romp (when there's a thirteen-year-old girl with her life on the line, it's not really excusable to cut her mother out for a hundred pages at a time while her dad, family doctor, psychic-shining-friend and random-train-driver have all the fun). Abra (said thirteen-year-old) lacked authenticity to me, and scenes in which she swapped bodies with Dan were especially bizarre.
There's a fairly substantial "twist" towards the home stretch which left me somewhat underwhelmed, and while King repeatedly has Dan brush aside the coincidence of it all, it felt unfortunately contrived to me. However, all this aside it was still a fast, well-paced read with villains as heinous as their backstory was complex. I enjoyed reading it despite my dislike of The Shining, and while the climax seemed over a little too swiftly, I was overall satisfied with the way things panned out.
(My biggest gripe is mainly that the US cover is way cooler than the UK one. Unfair!)...more