Crime/Thriller/Horror

Book Review: Thy Killer’s Keeper

You’d be forgiven for believing this is an ordinary detective novel. I thought it was throughout most of the book, honestly. But there are some vital and very unique aspects that are definitely science-fiction, even bordering on paranormal.

Detective John Salton is sent to work on a homicide case near Eureka. The case has no clear links to previous cases, but John is certain that it is the work of the same killer of almost a dozen other cases over the past nine years. The only link is the killer’s strange, morbid sense of curiosity – expressed through acts of violence toward the victim after they’re already dead.

At the same time, John is visiting his autistic son at the new care centre in Eureka. He admits to his partner, Ruby, that he believes the death of his wife – perpetrated by his own son – was also somehow caused by this same serial killer. But how is that possible?

This was truly exciting and intriguing throughout, and I was always waiting to see what happened next. Links to the fertility clinic were soon suggested, which added even more intrigue and excitement. It was superbly clever and incredibly unique. I’ve certainly not come across anything like this before.

At the end especially, the sci-fi elements became almost overpowering. It stopped feeling like so much of a deterctive/crime novel and more of a paranormal thriller or something. I personally thought it was a bit too paranormal, too far-fetched almost. But again, it was well thought out and clever. Though some parts were not particularly well explained in my opinion and kind of went over my head, honestly.

There were a fair few typos and spelling mistakes, such as names being spelled differently, which gave the novel a bit of an amateurish feel. I received an ARC though (thanks to Hidden Gems), and so the final publication may not include so many mistakes.

I thoroughly enjoyed the detective side of this novel, but the sci-fi aspects became a bit too overwhelming. 3.5 stars.

 

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Book Review: Sophie Last Seen

This was, somehow, more emotional than I originally anticipated. It’s about the mother of a girl who went missing at the age of 10, six years ago. So I knew it was going to quite a hard read. But… wow.
I’m going to be super careful here, as I really don’t want to give anything away for potential readers. There are a few sub-plots that I may reference, but I don’t think that will ruin the main story.
Jesse Albright is the mother of Sophie, or ‘Bird Girl’ as the media dubbed her. Sophie was a difficult child, with some kind of condition that doctors couldn’t quite pinpoint. The only thing that really kept her calm when she reached the ‘red zone’ was birds. She watched them, read about them, wrote about them, drew them… Hence the title ‘Bird Girl’.
The book is set six years after Sophie’s disappearance. Jesse has seoarated from her husband, who has a new family, but she still lives in the old family home. She collects ‘clues’ that she believes Sophie has left her – anything from clothing to road signs to letters. Sophie’s case was never closed; Jesse is determined to find her daughter.
Sophie’s best friend, Star, has a lot of issues of her own. Her grief manifests itself in the form of Sophie’s ‘ghost’, and the only way for Star to keep her away is cutting herself.
Jesse’s relationships with everyone – her ex-husband, her friends, even Star – have been almost completely severed. Her life is a mess. She can’t paint anymore, her house is full of junk, and even being near the now-teenage Star is painful.
That’s all I’m really going to say about the plot. Jesse continues to look for her daughter, with the help of a detective working on another missing girl case.
Jesse’s desperation is palpable; my heart broke for her. Her life was a downward spiral, and everything she did seemed to make it worse. When she started to re-build connections, and even build new ones, I was so happy for her. Slowly, she edged closer to happiness, even if she will never really get closure.
The small details Adelstein used to link Jesse’s later life to her old life with Sophie were fantastic. They were possibly a little romantic, but I think they were sweet. (The crows visiting Jesse and Star right at the end was probably the best.)
Throughout the whole book I shared Jesse’s tentative optimism, despite all the signs against Sophie being alive. I thought this was really fantastic. 5 stars!

Book Review: Dark Fantasy Stories

Dark Fantasy Stories (Illustrated) by S.S. WolffA huge thanks to Hidden Gems for providing me with the opportunity to read this anthology!

I haven’t read a huge amount of anthologies but am becoming increasingly fond of them. I like having a collection of similar but unique stories all in one place. I was under the impression that these would be quite creepy/scary stories, but they were only slightly ‘dark’ in my opinion. They all had fantasy elements, as the title would suggest, and were all rather good.

Of course, as it’s an anthology, I’m not really reviewing the individual authors’ writing. Instead, I’m going to focus on the editing and the selection of the stories included. The chouces are definitely quite unique, all fantasy tales with supernatural elements. There were some that I especially enjoyed, and some I was not quite so fond of. Overall, I think there was a pretty good range of stories.

As for the editing, I did notice some strange mistakes. There was misplaced punctuation, for example, and I saw a few letters replaced by ‘lookalikes’ – such as replaced by rn. As the copy I own is a review copy, it is possible that the mistakes I noticed were edited out in the final publication, though.

It was a rather short book, which can be seen as both a good and bad thing. 3.5 stars.

Book Review: Two Skies Before Night

A huge thanks to Hidden Gems for providing me with a copy of this book in return for my review.

At first I thought this was a detective novel, but I soon realised that it was far more sci-fi than I anticipated. This combination of science fiction and detective elements was really unique and honestly, I loved it.

Initially, Detective Lang is working on a double murder case. It seemed quite simple at first, if a bit strange what with all the bizarre descriptions of characters. It got a bit confusing when Lang began commenting on the ‘undersky’ and people from ‘Above’ and ‘Below’, but I soon figured it out. All these different elements made a thoroughly intriguing story, and things I didn’t think were important at first turned out to hold quite a deal of significance.

The Powers were really interesting. The few that were described were so strange, and I loved them. The few times these Powers interected with citizens of the City were strange, too, and I was really intrigued to see what the Powers actually did. They were like gods, feared but almost worshipped by everyone. I would have liked to find out a bit more about them – perhaps there will be a sequel that will reveal more.

There are a lot of intertwining details, which I always appreciate. It was definitely a unique story, with a lot of exciting moments and unexpected discoveries.

One issue I had with this book was that there were a few mistakes, misplaced commas and so on. The copy I received was a review copy, so I can’t be sure whether these mistakes are in the final publication, but I thought I should point them out just in case.

Overall, this was a really interesting book and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. 4 out of 5 stars.

Book Review: I Know You Know

A massive thanks to Edelweiss+ for giving me the opportunity to read this book.

Two young boys were murdered in 1996. Twenty years later, their best friend is revisiting the case in his own podcast. The man convicted of the murders has killed himself, and one reporter has published an article questioning the reliabilty of his conviction.

I would summarise the plot a bit more, but it’s really quite complicated. There are so many twists and turns, and little details that link together. The best way to understand abd appreciate these things is to read it yourself.

I really, really enjoyed this. The links that are uncovered throughout are fantastic. It was really interesting to see different sides of the story, too – we follow Detective Fletcher when he first works on the murder case, as well as twenty years later when the case is revisited. We also follow the friend of the boys, Cody Swift, as he produces his podcast, as well as one of the boys’ mother, Jess, as she struggles to hold her new family together. The different angles really made this unique and exciting. When new information is uncovered, it made me look at certain characters in a whole new way. Characters I initially liked turned out to be pretty horrible in reality.

One problem I did have was the amount of typos/grammar mistakes, but I can only assume that these are only present in my ARC and will be removed/rectified in the final publication.

I would definitely recommend reading this if you like excitement, thrillers, plot twists and crime novels. A strong 4.5 stars for I Know You Know.

Book Review: Raven’s Peak

I recently signed up to OnlineBookClub and requested this book as my first to review on the site. It’s a paranormal thriller, focusing on a “hunter” who tracks down demons. It begins with an epilogue following another character, who we later learn more about. The protagonist is a young man called Haatim, completely ordinary and unaware of the paranormal activity in the world. Strange circumstances send him and Abigail – the hunter – off to Raven’s Peak together.

The beginning was rather interesting; Haatim was hired by a complete stranger to track down a suspected stalker. It soon became clear that this was no ordinary stalker, and the situation was definitely unique. However, the following plot felt a little slow to me, taking a while to really develop. It’s possible that the intended peak was earlier than I felt, but I personally felt like the main story only really started when the pair arrived at Raven’s Peak. This did not happen until much nearer the end. This meant that the “main” sotry only lasted for a few short chapters. There was a section between Haatim’s stalker mission and the arrival in Raven’s Peak that felt painfully slow and, quite honestly, boring.

The characters were okay, but I didn’t connect with them emotionally. Haatim was given an emotional backstory – as was Abigail, in fact – but I just did not feel anything for them. Their speech felt a bit disjointed and artificial, and they just didn’t feel particularly real to me. It would’ve been nice to develop the characters’ relationships more, both with each other and their own families.

Many books in the paranormal/supernatural genre feel very similar, and this book is sadly included. There was nothing about it that particularly stood out to me. Some of the ideas in the book are very interesting, though. I am intrigued as to how Haatim’s father is connected to the Ninth Circle, and I also want to know what happens in Abigail’s quest for saving Arthur. But this book didn’t fill me with anticipation or excitement to read on. In fact, it barely mentioned the Ninth Circle, and without that being the series title, I’d never have picked up on it.

I also noticed a few typos and grammatical errors, which would be the result of insufficient editing. While a few errors are often found in books, this felt quite amateurish and unfinished.

Overall, the book wasn’t particularly special or exciting, and didn’t feel as fluid as it should. It wasn’t bad, but it was not outstanding. 2.5 stars.

Book Review: The Returners

I have a vague recollection of reading this some time in the past which is kind of ironic considering the topic of the book itself. While I felt a repeated deja vu throughout this book, I can’t seem to remember when I actually would have read it before. I also couldn’t remember much of the main plot, which is pretty weird.

Anyway, the review.

It’s a good book. honestly, the opening paragraph of this review sums the book up quite well – it’s good, but not overly memorable. When you read it, you often think, “this is good” or “cool” or whatever, but a few months later you’ll forget all about it. At least, that’s how I felt.

Gemma Malley is an author I used to love when I was in my preteens, and I’m not sure if that’s why her books feel very adolescent to me, or if it’s because they actually are. Basically, I feel too old for them now. The protagonists are usually “cool” mid-teens, who the reader is supposed to look up to in some way. But I’m older than most characters and actually find their attitudes a bit pathetic and petty.

The story was good but I felt like there were a few loopholes, honestly. The idea of the “Returners” is interesting but not developed enough – who actually ‘controls’ them? Where did they come from? What is their real purpose? I felt like their purpose was a bit wishy-washy. Douglas’s refusal to change his attitude because it “isn’t their role” or whatever just sounded a bit… lame. Like a cop-out, I guess. I really would’ve liked to know more about the Returners and why they actually exist.

It’s only short and this may contribute to it feeling quite young, but it is well written and really enjoyable to read. Will is almost an anti-hero, and as the reader I both loved and hated him. His thoughts and attitudes were quite sporadic and it was sometimes hard to keep up, but that may have been the intention. I did like how we learned things at the same time as Will – we followed him through his own story. It was also really interesting how Will decided to handle the life he’d been forced into.

4 stars.

Book Review: Glow

This is just going to be a quick review of the book I finished last week, Glow. I found it and borrowed it from my local library on a whim because it looked interesting, but I was sort of disappointed. Although I love the scientific references throughout the book I just found it a bit boring, honestly. It was meant to be thrilling and gripping… I just didn’t feel that way.

Raf manages to get caught up in some major business involving a new drug, Glow, and a massive corporation called Lacebark. Somehow the mysterious girl he met at a party is also tied up in it, as is the friend of Raf’s who recently went missing.

Somehow Raf also meets all the right people along the way, and gets accepted into helping them with their cause. I found this rather unplausable but that’s just me, I suppose. My main problem was having no investment in Raf as a character, and not feeling any of his relationships with any other characters to any degree whatsoever. He just didn’t feel real enough.

I honestly don’t quite get what even happened. Why was Lacebark killing people? Why was Win working for them? I just got a bit lost in the end. It’s a shame, because I really liked the amount of biological vocabulary scattered throughout – it made me feel like I’m actually learning things in my Psychology A-Level!

2 to 2.5 stars at a push.

Book Review: Murder Under The Christmas Tree

This is the third and final book I was given for Christmas, another collection of classic crime stories. It’s similar to Murder On Christmas Eve, so I’m not going to write too much in this review. Out of the two, though, this is my favourite collection.

The stories in this collection are, for the most part, very good. The last couple weren’t as engaging, but there’s always going to be one or two you don’t like. This collection even includes a tale about Sherlock Holmes (and Watson, of course) bt Arthur Conan Doyle himself. It was actually the first I’ve read of his work, and it was definitely as fantastic as I’d hoped.

Like the other book, the ten stories very from missing jewels hidden inside geese, to missing candle sticks, to death-by-radio. They’re all very interesting mysteries, again seemingly simple on the surface but always a lot more incricate than they seem.

A nice collection of classic “festive” crimes. 3.5 stars.

Book Review: The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories

It’s getting a bit late to post these festive reviews so I’ll keep it short. It’s only a short book, anyway.

This book contains four short stories, all crime/detective tales, starting with The Mistltoe Murder. My personal favourite was the final story, The Twelve Clues of Christmas. Every story was great, though, and A Very Commonplace Murder was particularly surprising.

James manages to include a fantastic little hint/twist at the end of the stories, changing your whole perception on what you’ve just read. This made the crimes so much more interesting and real. They were relatively simple crimes – stabbings, poisoning – but there’s always a lot more going on under the surface than you’d expect.

A fantastic little collection, with a foreword by Val McDermid too. 4 stars.