A review of “Iron Lake” by William Kent Kreuger

So, I was looking forward to reading this book as it had been highly recommended, and I did like it, but not as much as I expected. To begin with the main character Cork O’Connor is interesting and likable. He is part American Indian and there are quite a lot of American Indian characters in the book, known collectively as “the people” which interested me very much as I know nothing of their culture.

The story is gripping from the off – incomprehensible murders, a wealthy politician, a crumbling marriage, a sweet love story – and secrets and silence everywhere. An occasional mention of a supernatural element adds to the whole but doesn’t intrude. There’s an easygoing quality as well, and many back stories, but they are so engaging – and easygoing doesn’t mean slow.

However. nearing the end of the book I found that some situations were very contrived to allow the hero to unravel the mystery. Also, the denouement is very drawn out and quite boring. It was disappointing after so good a story.

There isn’t any quotable dialogue here but the pace and shape of the story is good. This is the first in a series of books featuring Cork O’Connor and I will definitely read another one in the future. If formally reviewing this book, I would give it three and a half stars.

A Review | The Chalk Man by C. J. Tudor

The plot of this novel revolves around four young boys and a girl, who – eventually – find a dismembered body in the woods. The story moves backwards and forwards between then and now. Eddie, the main character grows into early middle age, single, lonely, and too fond of the bottle. He has never forgotten that awful time and still tries to make sense of it all.

The narrative drive at the beginning is so strong I couldn’t stop reading but as I continued I found myself waiting for the story to get to the point. It seemed to meander all over the place. For me, the book had no structure, no shape, no core, no coherent skeleton. Some parts were undeveloped; some characters were so vague and indistinct they were hardly there at all. One of the main characters, Eddie’s teacher, Mr Halloran, was enjoyable and interesting to read about but I almost feel the book could have been written without him.

In general, I found the book very disappointing as I love a good thriller, and it began so well. But to end on a positive note, I liked the characters (and their nicknames) and the writing was very good and kept me reading to the end. Here are two quotes from a nightmare Eddie was having:

“Something has woken me. No. Correction. Something has wrenched me into wakefulness. I stare around the room. Empty, except no room is ever empty, not in the darkness. Shadows lurk in the corners and pool on the floor, slumbering, sometimes shifting. But that’s not what woke me. It’s the feeling that someone, just seconds ago, was sitting on my bed.”

“The first pile of leaves bursts open and a pale hand claws at the air . . . I stifle a cry. From another pile, a foot emerges and hops out, pink painted toes flexing. A leg shuffles forward on a bloody stump and, finally, the largest pile of leaves erupts and a slim, toned torso rolls out and starts to push itself across the ground like some hideous human caterpillar!”

The entire nightmare takes up a couple of pages and I was truly frightened by it. I enjoyed the book on a lot of levels and I think I would read this author again.

A review: The Chain by Adrian McKinty

I have read a good many books by Adrian McKinty, all of them a series of police procedure thrillers set in the north of Ireland and centred on the detective, Sean Duffy. They were great fun to read.

But here we have a stand alone novel, a new look at the kidnap and ransom trope. You r child is kidnapped; to get her/him back you have to pay a ransom and kidnap another child. When you have done that your child is set free; you free the child you have taken when her/his parents repeat the procedure. This is the chain and you are given to understand that it has been going on for a long time, unknown to the police or the general public.

At the beginning I thought – I can’t read this; I hate anything to do with children suffering in any way but I was intrigued and the narrative drive was so good I decided to read on for a bit. After a while I realised that this could never happen – life and people are too unpredictable, and unforeseen complications would always arise. So I relaxed into the story then, treating it as a puzzle to be worked out.

I found the characters interchangeable, loving desperate parents, cute, clever children; the story is entirely plot-driven and everything depends on whether parents, mothers in particular, are capable of doing ANYTHING for their own child.

To avoid spoilers I won’t give details, but I had many questions regarding the Big Brother aspects of the plot. I couldn’t imagine how the story would be resolved and it was a terrible anti-climax when it arrived. The reason the baddies were caught was far too light considering the heavy material being written about here.

The writing itself was fine and the dialogue was good but the pace just wasn’t right, especially in the last quarter of the book. It was a novel idea though and I think the book should have been a good bit longer with a more thought-out resolution.

I’ll give it 3 stars ***

A Review of “Keep Your Eyes on Me” by Sam Blake

I love a good thriller and “Keep Your Eyes on Me” doesn’t disappoint. It truly is a page-turner. The premise is based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel – Strangers on a Train, and of course, Hitchcock’s movie of the same name. However, that doesn’t take away from this novel. The two protagonists are women, two very different women, but equally determined to avenge the wrongdoers.

Lily and Vittoria meet in a waiting lounge in an airport and before long they get into conversation, becoming more and more intimate as time passes. Lily tells Vittoria about how her brother, Jack, was taken advantage of in a card game; he has lost the family shop to a man with a suspicious history in the Art business. Why would he want Jack and Lily’s shop? Was he dealing drugs? Laundering money? Or what? And Vittoria – she is tied up in a prenuptial agreement with her unfaithful husband and would do anything to get out of it before she is left with nothing.

Lily is the softer of the two, more worried about her brother than anything. Vittoria is tougher, and it is she who works out the plan of revenge. At this point the reader is fully involved and reading quickly; the tension makes it hard to put it down. You know there is more going on than you’re aware of – something devious at the back of everything but what could it be?

The prose is straightforward, without fluff or padding; the dialogue is terrific; the plot ingenious and the characters believable. And the ending – it’s ambiguous, and all the better for it!

It took me a couple of chapters to get really into this book but apart from that it’s terrific and I am happily giving it 4.5 stars.

A review of “Iron Lake” by William Kent Kreuger

So, I was looking forward to reading this book as it had been highly recommended, and I did like it, but not as much as I expected. To begin with the main character Cork O’Connor is interesting and likable. He is part American Indian and there are quite a lot of American Indian characters in the book, known collectively as “the people” which interested me very much as I know nothing of their culture.

The story is gripping from the off – incomprehensible murders, a wealthy politician, a crumbling marriage, a sweet love story – and secrets and silence everywhere. An occasional mention of a supernatural element adds to the whole but doesn’t intrude. There’s an easygoing quality as well, and many back stories, but they are so engaging – and easygoing doesn’t mean slow.

However. nearing the end of the book I found that some situations were very contrived to allow the hero to unravel the mystery. Also, the denouement is very drawn out and quite boring. It was disappointing after so good a story.

There isn’t any quotable dialogue here but the pace and shape of the story is good.

http://www.amazon.com/author/elizabethmerry

10 Tomes!

Here’s a list of the 10 largest books on my bookcase:

Shogun by James Clavell

A Pillar of Iron by Taylor Caldwell

Hawaii by James A Michener

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

A History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell

The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir

and before you think I only read ancient books . . .

Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

Does anyone want to add to the list?

Next time I’ll make a list of wonderful authors no one reads any more – a list of 20 this time.