4.5 I am pretty much overjoyed when I find a crime novel so refreshingly different than the norm, and I've found it in this book. It's well off the be...more4.5 I am pretty much overjoyed when I find a crime novel so refreshingly different than the norm, and I've found it in this book. It's well off the beaten path, appealing to my need for the quirky and strange, it's got an unusual premise, it floats securely over two different time periods, and there are pages and pages of truly fine writing that raise this book well above much of the standard fare.
If you want to know about plot, you can click here - otherwise, I'll just offer my reaction to this book here.
What really stands out for me are the unique, crazy and offbeat characters that fill this novel, as well as the author's keen eye for detail. The part of this story that took place in the Blue Parrot is one of my favorites, and is an excellent example of how the author sets a scene that sucks the reader right into the action. Using impressive descriptions, dialogue that's totally believable and creating such a realistic atmosphere that you feel like you're actually there along with the boys from the bus drinking it all in, he's created a world out of this nightclub that I hated to leave. And that's only one instance ... he does the same where ever the action is -- in Pakistan, India, and most especially in Kathmandu.
This is definitely not your average crime novel, which is a very good thing. It's quirky enough to be cool, it's got a nice twist I didn't see coming, and it's one of those novels where you just have to let yourself go where the flow takes you. Nothing formulaic or tedious here either, which is a huge plus. Definitely and most highly recommended, mainly for crime fiction readers who want something different. (less)
Review soon, but for now, I'm looking for a new home for this book, so if anyone in the US would like my copy, it's yours for the price of commenting...moreReview soon, but for now, I'm looking for a new home for this book, so if anyone in the US would like my copy, it's yours for the price of commenting first. (less)
I can't begin to tell you how much I hate star ratings. They don't really reflect a) how much I enjoy/can't stand a book, and b) they're rather subjec...moreI can't begin to tell you how much I hate star ratings. They don't really reflect a) how much I enjoy/can't stand a book, and b) they're rather subjective at best. But I'll go with a 3.75 here.
The blurb for this novel by Times UK reads "an absorbing psychological thriller," and I'd go along with the "absorbing" part of that statement. Thriller, no. So if that's what you're expecting, forget it. However, getting back to absorbing, that's precisely what it is -- with some very twisty bits along the way. I've done a longer review with a highlightable spoiler section (since I give an opinion on what would have been a better ending) at the crime page of my online reading journal; if you go there, be sure you've read the book before you start highlighting.
here's the gist:
A woman in her 70s returns to her family home after being away for some time in a convalescent hospital. Her physician son, Martin, comes every so often to see her to make sure she's okay; otherwise her only company is her housekeeper, and Elsa Préau has a lot of time on her hands. One Sunday afternoon, she is awakened from her nap by the sound of a swing squeaking and the sounds of children at play. Watching out her window, she notices a little girl and two boys outside playing in their back yard. Watching the Desmoulins children becomes a pastime for Elsa, and she notices the same thing every week: the little girl playing with her younger brother, while the older boy sits still and quietly, "constructing totems with bundled twigs and flat stones" under a weeping birch tree. The more she watches, the more she notices that the older boy has very little interaction with the rest of the family. She also never sees him with the other children when they're out walking with their father. She starts keeping a record of what she sees, along with other observations, in a small moleskin notebook, writing about the dirty condition of the older boy's clothing, his grayish skin, that he only went outside on Sundays, and that he never played with the other two. She's drawn to him not only out of curiosity, but because he has an incredible resemblance to her grandson. In her notebook, she begins to refer to him as "the stone boy." Determined to get to the bottom of things, she starts asking around, only to find out that according to the local school, the social welfare office, and the little girl herself (who has started taking piano lessons from Elsa), that there are only two children living in the house behind Elsa's wall -- that the "stone boy" does not exist. Elsa decides it's time to take matters into her own hands.
I am of two minds about this book. First, I thought it was very well written, especially because the author has constructed a story that plays quite nicely on reader expectations and then proceeds to turn them all on their respective heads. Ms. Loubière also weaves some powerful contemporary issues into the story through Elsa's letters to the mayor and other officials as well as in her notebooks and in the last few pages where all is revealed. I have to admit to being so wrapped up in this story that everything else just sort of fell by the wayside and I accomplished absolutely nothing at all during my day while reading it. But after finishing it, I realized that this book could have had a much better ending that unfortunately I can't reveal without giving away the show (hence the above-mentioned highlightable spoiler section at the reading journal blog).
A book that had me as wrapped up in it as this one did can't help but be good, and I'd definitely recommend it. This is not going to be one of those novels that goes down in the annals of great literature, but it's a great way to while away the hours on a rainy day. It's also an amazing character study much more so than it is a thriller, and the way the writer plays with our heads is simply topnotch, ultimately delivering a one-two punch that will hit you in the gut.
The main focus of this novel is a manuscript entitled The Accident, which if published threatens to take down the...morehardcover from the publisher, thanks!
The main focus of this novel is a manuscript entitled The Accident, which if published threatens to take down the wide-ranging, worldwide empire of media mogul Charlie Wolfe. The anonymous author has written a tell-all book that exposes a lot of egregious secrets about the rich and powerful, and the manuscript also churns up an incident in Wolfe's past that the author now decides to reveal. Isabel Reed, who receives the manuscript with only an e-mail address as a contact, has to make a pretty hefty decision herself: should she make sure that this book gets published? Should she pretend that she'd never read it or even received it? Or should she go the authorities, the news media itself, or even call the White House? Figuring that she can't be killed "in front of the whole world," if she goes public, she decides to hand the book off to an acquiring editor she knows would be the right person to see it through. Unknown to Isabel, along with Wolfe, there's a CIA agent in Copenhagen who also doesn't want the book to be published; in fact, he doesn't want the manuscript to exist at all. But as it turns out, the manuscript is already making its way into hands other than those belonging to Isabel and her editor friend, as others see it as a perfect medium for saving or making their careers.
At the heart of this novel it's all about betrayal, and trust me, there is a lot of duplicity and double-dealing going on all through this book. Well beyond the anonymous author's exposé of Wolfe, there are people who see the manuscript as a way to elevate or launch their respective careers, there is one who sees its potential as not only a blockbuster but also a way to save a failing business, and there are other, more personal types of betrayals going on among some of the characters as well. This theme was well expressed, and the look behind the scenes at the publishing industry is quite interesting, especially the fact that it sometimes takes only a look at the first page to decide whether a book is worthy of continuing on to the second or not. The author's bio page at his website reveals that he knows what he's talking about, since he spent nearly two decades working at a number of different publishing houses. And I do have to say that I particularly enjoyed the piece-by-piece unraveling of one particular secret that isn't made known until the very end. But let's face it: the trope of the anonymous manuscript that if made known will cause empires to crumble and secrets of the rich and powerful to be released is just not that original any more. Not only that, but the big secret that the anonymous author refers to in the title of his manuscript would be along the same lines as if someone had revealed that Steve Jobs had done something heinous in his college years -- yeah, it's shocking, but that act alone wouldn't have brought down either Apple or Jobs, especially nowadays. In my head, I'm thinking that all of the other stuff that Wolfe was up to would have been far worse and better to focus on as the meat of the anonymous manuscript. Bottom line here: while there is some suspense that kept me reading this novel, I've read better.
I'm looking at reader criticism on another screen right now, and most people are saying that The Accident is not nearly as good as Pavone's The Expats, so I'll probably try to rotate that one into my reading schedule to see what I may have missed. All in all, this one was just okay. (less)
I have a lengthy review on the crime page of my reading journal, so if you want the longie, click here. Otherwise, read on.
As Sorrow Bound opens, DS Aector McAvoy in Hull, East Yorkshire, is called to a horrific murder scene which might be gang related - McAvoy's boss tells him that the murdered woman had recently spoken out publicly against street dealers wrecking the neighborhood. When another woman is murdered, the police make a discovery that throws the gang-related theory right out the window. However, while Aector is busy with the police-mandated shrink, moving his family into a new home and trying to function in this investigation with very little sleep, a drug runner makes a serious error that will bring a cocky, self-styled "prince of the city" drug dealer with a lot of serious, well-placed protection behind him crashing into the life of one of McAvoy's colleagues and into the lives of McAvoy's family.
David Mark's third entry in this series featuring DS Aector McAvoy is the best he's written and also the darkest of all three books. For some people the dark tone of the novel may be a drawback, but for me, it's a definite plus. He ratchets up both the tension and the darkness, and there's nothing at all formulaic to complain about in this series of police procedurals. Once I picked it up, I didn't want to stop reading it.
So here's the big niggle (which is really hard to scoot around since I don't really want to give anything away): one of the main recurring characters does something that is so totally out of character and so completely unexpected that it absolutely threw me into "WTF?" mode. Then not long afterward, the same person, who you'd think would be so frightened as to listen to advice at this point, does something so foolishly stupid as to be just plain dumb, also very much out of character. I suspect that the repercussions that may follow for the last scene in this novel will lead to a major game changer for what's next in the series, and to an even bigger angst-fest than I've seen in any of the McAvoy novels so far. And since I'm a big fan of both McAvoy and of David Mark, I will be waiting right here to see it all unfold.
While you most certainly can read this book as a standalone, I'm a true series purist so my advice is to start with The Dark Winter and continue with Original Skin before reading Sorrow Bound. I found that by now I have a better feel for the very angst-laden DS McAvoy and what drives him. Just a heads up: this is no cutesy little cozy.
My thanks again to Blue Rider Press for the lovely copy they sent me to read. (less)