One, Two, Buckle My Shoe is another gripping story from the Queen of Crime and one I really enjoyed. I have to admit, it wasn’...moreOriginally reviewed at:
One, Two, Buckle My Shoe is another gripping story from the Queen of Crime and one I really enjoyed. I have to admit, it wasn’t one of my all time favourite Christie books (although I still think that it would be near impossible to write anything better than And Then There Were None), but the ending – or rather the way the murder has been planned and carried out - was genius and it still blew me away.
The set-up might be familiar to avid readers of Christie’s books: we’re in a dentist’s office, in a completely average house in central London. A house from which there is only one exit. There are no other entrances or hidden passages. None. And since no one could have entered the house without a key or being let in by the doorman (who was a hilarious character, by the way), we have a limited number of possible suspects. We’re sure right from the beginning that the murder must have been committed by either Mr Morley himself, or someone who had an appointment for that day. Including, of course, Hercule Poirot. The police seem to think it was suicide but Poirot can’t help wondering: why would a successful and relatively happy man like Mr Morley kill himself? Not only that but why would he do it during working hours? Why not wait until all her patients are gone? But if it was murder… who would want to kill him?
The reason why I’m a tiny bit disappointed by the killer’s identity is that I think we’ve had something like this in another story of Christie’s. I won’t say which one in case someone figures it out but yes, I’m pretty sure there was something similar in another book. When Poirot and Japp started talking to the suspects and visited this particular person, I was almost entirely sure they were looking at the murderer. Purely because it would have been so typical of Christie to give her murderer such characteristics and because, as I said, we’ve had something similar before. However, it wouldn’t be a regular Agatha Christie book if she didn’t make each and every character behave in a rather suspicious way, thus making us suspect each and every one of them in turn, so thank God it’s not that predictable. I also think that the mystery of how and particularly why s/he committed the murder would be quite difficult to solve so even if you manage to guess who the killer would be, the ending will still take you by surprise. All in all, I think it was definitely worth a read and the surprising ending made up for the murderer’s predictability.
Christ, why is it that every time I try to write about S.J. Bolton’s books I’m at a loss for words (and then end up writing a...moreOriginally reviewed at:
Christ, why is it that every time I try to write about S.J. Bolton’s books I’m at a loss for words (and then end up writing a whole novella)? There are so many things I’d love to say, yet, I don’t want to give anything, not even a tiny hint, away in the hope that you’ll pick them up and read them. Because what I can’t possibly emphasize more is that they are brilliant, unputdownable and are guaranteed to chill you to the bone.
Having read and thoroughly enjoyed the first book in the series and an accompanying e-book short story, I couldn’t wait to pick up Dead Scared and find out how Lacey Flint’s story continues. While I’m normally quite wary of sequels and am often disappointed by them after a brilliant first book, this one was just as twisted, haunting and well-written as Now You See Me and If Snow Hadn’t Fallen were and completely lived up to my expectations.
A good story, for me, is made up of three things. Firstly, and most importantly, I have to feel safe in the knowledge that I’m in the hands of a great writer. In these cases, the writing is so effortless and so engaging that I know for certain that nothing can and will go wrong, that it will all be neatly wrapped up in the end, it won’t leave me feeling puzzled or wanting more. A good book also needs to leave a lasting impression. These are the books that, once I finish them, I don’t feel like reading anything for a couple of days or even a week, purely because the characters are still with me long after I finished the last chapter and I’m still reliving what I’ve been reading in the past couple of days. Thirdly, an exceptionally good book for me is so intriguing, so full of twists and turns that it makes me want to keep on reading despite the fact that it’s half past three in the morning and I have to get up in just a few hours. Dead Scared ticks all these boxes. If there’s an author who knows how to keep you reading long after your bedtime and – sorry for putting it like this – scare you shitless with such ease and without excessive violence, it’s definitely S.J. Bolton. And I mean this in the best possible way.
One of the things I enjoyed the most about this particular book (and the whole series, for that matter) is the fact that it keeps you on the edge from start to finish. There are no dull moments in the story, no unnecessary facts or background information that is unnecessary for solving the mystery. There are a great deal of red herrings to make sure that you’re taken by surprise when the case is solved and the killers’/killers’ identity is revealed and an even greater amount of foreshadowing which makes it an unputdownable white-knuckle ride. And a terrifying one at that. Despite the fact that many people claim its opposite, it’s definitely not a character-driven book, if you ask me. The appeal of this novel lies not with its intricate background stories and complex characters but its twisty, edgy, unpredictable plot. Mind you, it doesn’t mean the characters are shallow or one dimensional. Quite the opposite, actually. They still remain absolutely believable, common, everyday people we can all relate to – which makes the story itself feel so much more creepier and much more real. Another thing I’ve already mentioned in my review of the first book and something I particularly like about Bolton’s books is the fact that you can feel how much research went into writing these stories which, again, makes them a lot more real and frightening. While we had detailed descriptions of the Jack the Ripper myth and all his/her victims in Now You See Me, the author gives a thoroughly detailed account of how these suicides (or murders?) are committed in Dead Scared. And this is where I’m going to be very vague because revealing how people are killing themselves (or are being killed) would mean revealing the whole mystery behind the book, but let’s just say all these details and the fact that it’s all so well-researched makes it so much harder for us to separate fiction from reality.
Also, as a side note, whoever did the cover for the UK edition of both Dead Scared and Now You See Me did a brilliant job. Both of them reflect the creepy, haunting atmosphere of the books and fit the stories perfectly, I think. I would also add, because some of you have been asking me this, that even though it’s the second book in the Lacey Flint series, I don’t think it’s necessary to read them in order or feel agitated if you haven’t read Now You See Me yet. Reading the first book gives you a bit of background knowledge of the two main characters – Lacey and her boss Mark – and what happened a few months before this story starts but since neither NYSM or Dead Scared are character-driven books and are two completely different stories, even if you’re not familiar with the previous one, you should be fine.
I would love to be able to say I managed to figure out who’s behind these deaths but for the most part I was suspecting people who ended up dead or became targets themselves so I think we can say I failed beautifully. (It’s not impossible to figure it out, mind, it’s just that a) everyone’s behaviour seems mighty shifty and b) I tend to suspect nice people because frankly, being nice and innocent-looking in a thriller is suspicious in itself. However, this theory doesn’t always seem to work out) As for the reason behind people’s deaths (Holy Mother of God…) and the ending that took me completely by surprise… let’s just say reading it in a pitch-dark room in an empty and silent flat at three in the morning wasn’t such a good idea and I’ve no intention of visiting Cambridge anytime soon.
Anyway, to put an end to my gushing and to sum up my rather vague review, Dead Scared is a truly memorable, chilling read which I, after staying up until the crack of dawn and reading more or less non-stop, managed to finish in just two days. It’s a combination of unique writing, a haunting atmosphere, an intricate plot, an arresting opening and a surprising ending – it’s an absolute must-read, one I can’t possibly recommend more highly than this. Trust me, it’s fantastic.(less)
I should probably start this review with a warning and say that this book is not for the faint-hearted. I read quite a lot of crime fiction so I like to think I’ve had some time to get used to these kind of things and I’m pretty unshockable but some of Hayder’s descriptions of mutilated victims still made me shudder. This is not a book you should read at night or when you’re on your own either. Having said that, I still liked it. I should probably add that this is definitely not among the best handful of crime novels I’ve read and it didn’t exactly live up to my expectations but I will no doubt read the rest of the series. And I’ll tell you why.
So, the reason why I think this book didn’t really work for me or live up to my initial expectations is the fact that it didn’t keep me guessing. I like to read thrillers and/or mysteries where it’s all down to the detective – and the reader, of course – to figure out what happened, what type of a person the killer was and what motivation he had and piece all the clues together. In the case of Birdman, however, some of these are given. Beside the ongoing investigation, there are little bits of flashback episodes told from the killer’s perspective included in the book and we get a sense of what type of a guy he must be. Therefore, based on some of his stories from his childhood and his teens, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that the police is looking for a sadistic sexual killer. The police may not be aware of that yet but we readers do know and it ruined it a bit for me. Another thing I didn’t particularly like is that most of the victims turn up all at once. There is a logical explanation for this in the story, of course, but this meant that it was not (or if it was, it didn’t work for me) the race-against-the-clock sort of thriller I was expecting, more of a 'let’s figure out who dumped these five bodies here and why' thing.
However, and one of the main reasons why I’m still determined to read the next couple of books in the series is that Jack Caffery’s character is brilliant. Imagine a typical tough and attractive guy with a shady past no one knows about, someone who lives for his work and whose private life is in pieces. It may sound a bit cliché if I put it like this but it’s still believable and it still works. Or at least it worked for me and I really liked Jack’s own personal storyline. Also, despite not being the biggest fan of the plot itself, I found Hayder’s style enjoyable and very engaging. So, even though it wasn’t my favourite thrillers and think it was quite mediocre, I will still continue reading this series and see where Jack’s story goes.(less)