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I'll admit it, right here and now, this is the only book to have ever made me cry. Those who've read the book or seen the movie know exactly why and dI'll admit it, right here and now, this is the only book to have ever made me cry. Those who've read the book or seen the movie know exactly why and during which scene. What those who haven't read the book might not know is that Stephen King is much, much more than "just" a horror writer. The Green Mile proves it. This is a wonderful book and, more than that, it is a wonderful piece of literary fiction. If you've never read King, or think you'd hate his work, here's a good place to start....more
A woman awakes to find that she has lost her memory and that she is surrounded by a ring of dead people wearing rubber gloves. She finds a note in herA woman awakes to find that she has lost her memory and that she is surrounded by a ring of dead people wearing rubber gloves. She finds a note in her jacket pocket informing her that her name is Myfanwy Thomas (pronounced like Tiffany with an ‘M’). The note is signed Myfanwy Thomas.
You might think the story that follows this decidedly effective opening would be something akin to Bourn meets La Femme Nikita, while, in fact, The Rook is a tad more complicated—think the British version of the Men in Black or Hellboy’s BRPD meets Harry Potter, with a dash of The X-Men thrown in.
This world Daniel O’Malley has created, a world hidden just beyond our own, includes a giant flesh-cube, a dragon, a cult of Mengelian-cum-Frankensteinian bio-engineers, and other examples of O’Malley’s imagination best discovered on your own.
The tone is light, and features humour reminiscent of Jasper Fforde and Terry Pratchett, and there’s plenty of action, but the pace is uneven. At times, the letters Myfanwy receives from herself wander into the realm of info-dump, teaching Myfanwy and the reader about Myfanwy’s new job—and admittedly fascinating job—but at the expense of steady plot development.
Myfanwy is a funny, complex character. She will remind some of Fforde’s Thursday Next, but O’Malley manages to make Myfanwy unique by highlighting the contrast between her current self and the woman she’d been before the amnesia essentially erased her from existence.
Myfanwy is the novel’s greatest strength and, given that the setting, characters, and events introduced in The Rook could easily be developed into a continuing series, I hope to see more of our heroine and her creator. ...more
Much in The Concrete Grove reminded me of Clive Barker’s work. I don't know if it's a British thing, but McMahon manages, like his more famous (for noMuch in The Concrete Grove reminded me of Clive Barker’s work. I don't know if it's a British thing, but McMahon manages, like his more famous (for now) countryman before him, to blend sensuality with horror. I'm not talking here of your usual sex and violence, rather I speak of a blurring of the line between lust and loathing, between tenderness and terror.
At its heart, The Concrete Grove is a haunted house story with strong ties to The Turn of the Screw, The Haunting of Hill House and, more recently, Hell House and The Shining. Unlike its predecessors, though, McMahon's novel features a haunted neighbourhood with a single edifice not as the source of malevolence but as its centre. And like Barker, McMahon creates here a world which is not necessarily being invaded by the spirits of the dead, but one which overlaps with another, far stranger world. Much of this other world is left unexplored and only hinted at, but this only gives one further reason to read the next book in what is to be a trilogy. Also like Barker, McMahon sets his story in an urban environment, eschewing the rural, even pastoral settings preferred by his American counterparts and linking supernatural horrors with social and economic rot.
The plot is difficult to define but, as mentioned above, it entails a single building, called The Needle by locals, which appears to be a sort of nexus for an otherworldly infection, one which is evidently centuries old and rooted in the soil upon which the Concrete Grove was constructed. It is no coincidence, thematically or narratively, that the Grove is also an urban nightmare, crime-ridden and avoided even by the police.
The characters are well drawn and linked by what might be a shared melancholy but, as the story progresses, we come to realize they may have been brought together by forces far stranger than suicide, debt and accident.
I have enjoyed those short stories of McMahon’s I have been lucky enough to stumble upon in various anthologies, including End of the Line and The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 20. His mastery of subtlety and ambiguity in those stories has especially impressed me and it does so in The Concrete Grove as well. The elements of horror in the novel are created through unsettling imagery rather than abject gore or violence. Even the nature or source of that horror is largely left to speculation, possibly to be revealed or expounded upon in later books. It takes a skilled and, above all, confident writer to leave so much to a reader's imagination and, based on The Concrete Grove, McMahon's confidence is well earned and well deserved.
I look forward to the next in the series, titled Silent Voices and available in March of 2012.
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In this third instalment of the Flavia De Luce series of novels, a gypsy is beaten nearly to death, having been accused of stealing a local woman’s baIn this third instalment of the Flavia De Luce series of novels, a gypsy is beaten nearly to death, having been accused of stealing a local woman’s baby, and a murdered man is hanged from a statue of Poseidon.
But, as it was with the previous two books by Alan Bradley and featuring the precocious Flavia, the plot is secondary. Suffice to say that a crime is committed within the territorial boundaries of Bishop’s Lacey and Flavia is on the case. The details of her adventure are less important than Flavia herself. A ten year old amateur chemist given to seeking out mischief as often as mischief is given to finding her, Flavia is equal parts Veronica Mars and Lisa Simpson by way of post-WW2, small-town England.
As narrator, Flavia is impossible to resist and easily the most original new voice in mystery fiction. She is smart, capable, ingenious, and still a child, given to childish thoughts and feelings tempered only by a crumbling upper-crust upbringing and a healthy dollop of false modesty.
I would love to meet the girl upon whom Bradley has based his heroine—and she must exist because no grown man could ever create such a well-drawn character without some kind of map to follow.
But do not let my focus on the novel’s—and series’—main character mislead you: Bradley’s plots are tightly constructed and solidly woven, and, though they never take themselves too seriously, his stories are gritty enough to satisfy those readers who usually avoid “cozy mysteries.”
My favourite in the series remains The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag (the second), but A Red Herring Without Mustard is a fun, satisfying read and has me looking forward to the recently released I Am Half-Sick of Shadows.