Friday, 28 January 2011

Val McDermid - The Distant Echo

December 1978. Four students stumble across the body of murdered Rosie Duff on the way home from a night out. They become the prime suspects but lack of evidence means that the case is not solved. In 2003 the Scottish police start up a cold case review and the Rosie Duff murder is one of the cases being investigated. It seems that the four students are being picked off one by one so they must get together to find out who the killer is.

I choose this book as part of the Criminal Plots Reading Challenge. This is for the category "Author from a Blurb". Val McDermid had been quoted on The Breaker by Minette Walters which was a book that I had enjoyed a while ago, so I decided to give one of her books a try having not read any of her work before.

I liked the writing style. It did take me a while to get my head around the characters as the four students are known by nicknames and by their real names so remembering who was who took me a while. That may say more about my memory than about the book though!

There are really two interconnected plots here. There is the 1978 plot which follows the murder of Rosie Duff and its investigation and then there is the 2003 plot which follows the lives of the four students who discovered the body along with the cold case review team. The 1978 bit takes up just over one third of the book and the remainder takes place in 2003. I enjoyed the whole book but I preferred the 1978 section overall.

By about page 150 I had managed to work out who had murdered Rosie (the book comes to over 550 pages in total). I did have a few minor doubts along the way but overall I was pretty sure and it turned out that I was correct. Now, I'm not sure if it was intentionally supposed to be that easy to work out who the killer was. I read a lot of crime and whilst I do on occasion work out "whodunit" most of the time I don't, and certainly never that quickly! Working out who the killer was did not spoil the book at all as it was still suspenseful and interesting and I still wanted to find out if I was right or not! Working out who the 2003 killer was, was harder and I was never very sure on that one so I didn’t manage to work it all out.

I liked the characters and thought that they were well written. I liked the character development of which there was quite a lot. Both during the original investigation in 1978/79 and then seeing how they had further developed in the intervening years until 2003.

So overall I enjoyed the book and will certainly be picking up some more Val McDermid in the future.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Stephen King – Full Dark, No Stars

I had been looking forward to this as Stephen King is my favourite author. Full Dark, No Stars is a collection of four novellas.

This is the confession of Wilfred James, a farmer who murdered his wife in 1922.

I really liked this insight into the increasingly damaged mind of Wilfred James. Wilfred is not a likeable man, he planned his wife’s murder in a cold and calculating way and corrupted his son in the process. As the story unfolded I had some sympathy with the son but not with Wilfred. The story is dark and engaging and I really liked the ending.

Big Driver
This is the story of Tess, a writer who is brutally raped and left for dead on her way home from a talk and book signing event.

I also really enjoyed this story. Tess is an interesting character. How she deals with the attack and it’s aftermarth is quite intriguing. There is a fair amount of mystery and the story is very chilling in places. It was my second favourite from this collection.

Fair Extension
Streeter is suffering from cancer. He meets a mysterious man at the side of a road who claims that he can prolong his life, but it comes at a price.

This is the shortest story in the collection and in my opinion it is also the weakest. It was still an enjoyable read but it was a lot lighter than the other three stories in many ways.

A Good Marriage
After having been married for 27 years Darcy Anderson thinks she knows her husband well. That is until one evening when she makes a worrying discovery in the garage. She is suddenly faced with the realisation that her husband is not the man she had believed him to be and that he is harbouring a dark secret. She has to work out how to deal with the situation and live with the consequences.

This was my favourite of the four stories. It’s creepy and suspenseful and Darcy is a character that you can easily sympathise with.

I really enjoyed this collection and will get the paperback when it comes out so that I can read it again (I don’t really like reading hardbacks, I find them cumbersome). It’s not my favourite collection of King novellas; Different Seasons still holds that title; but is very good and I like it better than Four Past Midnight.

(I’m not including this as part the Stephen King reading challenge as I actually read it back in November but have been really slow posting the review!)

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Robert Masello - Blood & Ice

Journalist Michael Wilde is sent to a remote research station in Antarctica to write an article for a magazine. Whilst there he discovers two bodies, chained together and frozen in the ice. When the bodies defrost Michael and the scientists begin to realise that this is a discovery like no other and that they could all be in danger.

Parts one and two of this book use an almost alternating chapter system to tell two different stories. One story is that of Michael Wilde in the present day and the other is that of Sinclair Copley and Eleanor Ames in 1854. (There are slightly more present day chapters than historical ones hence the almost alternating chapters). In part three the narration moves to present day but with flashbacks to 1884 and in part four the setting is entirely in the present.

I liked this way of telling the story. Reading parts one and two was almost like reading two different books as the stories were so different. It was interesting to see how they came together.

I enjoyed reading this book a lot. The characters were well written and the imagery was excellent. The descriptions of the barren Antarctic landscapes and of London in the 1850's were equally well written.

The historical aspect of the book had an authentic feel to it, although I have no idea if it is in fact historically accurate, as I know nothing about the Crimean War!

The book was quite creepy in places, especially towards the end of part two when the ice enclosing the bodies is beginning to melt. I particularly liked this quote -
"An ear, put to the ice, would have heard a sound like static, as the ice cracked and crumbled...and a sound, too, of something else. Of scratching. Like nails on glass."

The book was an interesting blend of thriller, science fiction and historical fiction which I think worked really well. I took every possible opportunity to read the book and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Chris Evans - It's Not What You Think

The first part of Chris Evnas' autobiography. From childhood, following his dreams of working in radio, his rise to stardom up to the purchase of Virgin Radio.

This autobiography feels like an honest account from Chris Evans. He is not afraid to admit his mistakes (of which there have been quite a few!) and he tells of how hard work, determination and a bit of luck have all helped him along the way.

The book is well paced and has a good mix of serious and amusing stories. I like the way that the chapters are started of with "Top Tens", the number one then leading onto the main story for that chapter.

I'm looking forward to part two "Memoirs of a Fruitcake" when it's released in paperback.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Chevy Stevens - Still Missing

Annie O'Sullivan is an estate agent who is abducted and held prisoner for a year. This is the story of her abduction, imprisonment and the aftermarth.

The story is told in the first person by Annie as recounted to her therapist. I really liked the style in which the story was told. It was very unusual. I liked that the story was told in a non-linear fashion, Annie recounted what had happened to her, roughly in the order that it happened, but it was broken up with events effecting her life in the present and the impact on her current day to day life.

The story was believable throughout and Annie was a likeable character. The pacing was just right, the story sucking you in right from the very beginning. There was also a twist at the end that I did not see coming at all.

I really enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more by Chevy Stevens in the future.