runner

runner

I live in Bristol UK horror dark fiction and crime are my books of choice and when not reading I like to run

Review
2 Stars
Disappointing
Devil's Day - Andrew Michael Hurley

Having enjoyed immensely The Loney with the quiet and isolated Lancastrian coast, I was hoping to be equally enthralled by Devil's Day where John Pentecost returns to the place of his childhood, the rural farming community of the Briardale Valley known as the Endlands. On this trip he is accompanied by his wife Katherine who is heavily pregnant with their first child. The reason for the journey is to attend his grandfather's funeral affectionately known to everyone as Gaffer.

 

Whereas The Loney had a great story to tell with a very unsettling conclusion, I found Devil's Day a rather laborious exercise and almost give up at the half way point. It is really a story of rituals, local folklore and introverted hillside sheep farmers. Legend has it that once a year the Devil returns to the valley in an attempt to unsettle the community and cause mischief amongst the sheep. By telling tales, regurgitating stories from the past, and redrawing the boundary lines it is hoped that the Devil can be kept isolated and the people of Endlands kept safe for another year. Endlands is that rare thing a place separate from the intrusion of the modern age entrenched in tradition and a population willing to fight for independence to maintain their link with the past. John Pentecost is drawn to the beauty and harshness, his wife Kat feels very uneasy as she is seen as an outsider and viewed with suspicion; tolerated more than accepted. There is however one acceptation, Grace Dyer, a young and rather consused teenager who with her odd power of prediction forms a very disquieting attraction towards a pregnant Kat.

 

The story is somewhat confusing and at times hard to follow as we view Endlands both in the present and the past. The narration is through the eyes of John Pentecost and we meet him in the present, in the company of his son Adam, trying to instil him the ways of his ancestors then, without warning we are immediately in the past again with a pregnant and suspicious Kat. Whereas The Loney used the landscape to great affect creating a wonderful modern horror story Devil's Day has some good ideas and moments played out through the characters of John, Kat, Adam, Grace and Dadda but essentially little seems to happen and ultimately leading to a somewhat predictable conclusion. Many thanks to netgalley and the publisher John Murray for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

Review
5 Stars
Simply sublime
The Dark Gray Blanket - Robert Burns

In the winter of 76 and 77 in the area of Oakland in the county of Michigan four children aged between the ages of 10 and 12 were abducted, held for days before finally being brutally murdered their bodies being left either naked or partially clothed in the frozen landscape. The babysitter killer, as he came to be known, was never apprehended and The Dark Gray Blanket is a fictional novel about this event.

 

Frank Pellegrini, an experienced detective, works with the Child Victims Investigative Unit of the Detroit Police Department. He is tolerated by his boss Captain McDougal who knows that Frank has the best wishes of the greater community at heart even though at times his methods are somewhat unorthodox. He lives a lonely bachelor life having been greatly affected by events in his childhood disclosed later in the novel. His days are days of routine usually complemented with a visit to his favourite watering hole "O'Malleys"..."Frank's evening up until now had been predictable the medicinal shots of Wild Turkey 101 at O'Malleys, his favourite meal, two hours of mulling over his cases at his desk while dressed only in his underwear, and the final dose of Wild Turkey launching him into a deep, worry-free sleep." When the naked body of a child is found partly buried in snow Frank, together with his new partner Jimmy Wilson, is tasked with the job of bringing the killer to justice. As the body count rises, and the word serial killer is uttered, the good citizens of a frightened community are demanding answers exerting justifiable pressure on an overworked Detroit Police Dept.

 

The writing of The Dark Gray Blanket is sublime narrated in unhurried deeply descriptive prose. We learn a little of the history of the area made famous by the automobile industry in particular Henry Ford and also two renowned musicians; Vincent Damon Furnier and Robert Clark Seger better known as Alice Cooper and Bob Seger. The cold frosty snowbound Michigan winters of 76 and 77 add a frosty and chilly feeling to the developing nightmare...."The dark black night sky was being punctuated with the soft, fluffy, white falling snow, and the huge boughs, stretching in every direction from the gigantic Douglas firs, were gently swaying under their white burden and the gently blowing wind."....

 

Pellegrini's personal mission to solve a difficult case, his dogged unflinching determination and the relationship with his new young partner Jimmy Wilson create a spell bounding work of genius and a story that I found once started was very difficult to leave until completed. Throughout is a lingering uneasiness and a sense of morbid anticipation as we wait for the killer to strike again..."He still could not believe his eyes. In all his years, he had never viewed a scene quite like this-the solemn, cold, naked isolation of the frailest among us, having endured the most unimaginable horrors form something so evil."....

 

I always wonder when reading a detective novel if the author will have the ability to create a unique conclusion something that will be totally unexpected. The final chapters produced a sequence of events that thrilled me in their audacity and inventiveness, naturally I cannot disclose them to you (dear reader of my review!) for to do so would spoil your enjoyment of a novel that I rate as totally unique, and possibly the best book I have read this year. Many thanks to the good people of netgalley and publisher Howard Schrack for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written. Highly, highly recommended.

Review
4 Stars
Wily old fox
Even Dogs in the Wild - Ian Rankin

After so many years it is still great to read about that wonderful creation from Ian Rankin, that wily old fox who even in retirement can never let go; John Rebus. "Even Dogs in the Wild" is once again written to a very high standard and inevitably sees Rebus not so much confronting but consulting with his great adversary Big Ger Cafferty. As the years have passed they have developed perhaps not a fondness but a grudging respect for each other. The plot revolves around the murder of a well known MP and his association with "Acorn House" a care home for children. Given the amount of news coverage attributed to sexual abuse and in particular sexual abuse of minors it comes as no surprise the direction and shape this story takes. To me the bolder than life characters are more important than the theme and in this Rankin excels with shady underworld connections in the guise of Darryl Christie and Morris Cafferty and the robust old fashioned policing, nor forgetting the deadpan humour, of Detective Inspector John Rebus (retired) Rebus is everything you would expect a detective, whose routes lie in the past, to be. His methods are more suited to dogged hands on police work rather than as I am sure he would describe...fancy computers. He has no interest in the comforts of this world preferring to drive an old Saab, listen to bygone bands on his record player (The Steve Miller band and the amazing Rory Gallagher) and relaxing at the end of the day in his favourite watering hole The Oxford Bar with a pint of IPA close by.

 

Those readers acquainted with the style and wit of Ian Rankin will devour this story, just like stepping into a comfy pair of slippers. The only sadness is knowing that in the not too distant future John Rebus must surely finish leaving the reader to ponder if he will finally be stopped... his own decision? ill health? or perhaps have his life ended suddenly by an old acquaintance or underworld operator!

Review
2 Stars
Tedious and uninspiring
The Well of Ice - Andrea Carter

Benedicta O'Keeffe  affectionately known as "Ben", works and lives in Glendara, Inishowen a peninsula in County Donegal. We quickly establish that she had a sister Faye murdered by an individual known as Luke Kirby. He has served a prison sentence for manslaughter and is now released. On a business trip to Dublin Ben encounters, on a chance meeting, Kirby and immediately feels intimidated and frightened. Back in Glendara the body of a local barmaid, Carole, is discovered by Ben and her boyfriend Molloy, a sergeant in the local Garda Siochana, on an early morning xmas walk. In a separate incident the local hostelry "The Oak" is destroyed in a fire and arson is suspected......

 

I do have a few problems with the telling of this story: The synopsis for the book on all the usual forums ie Amazon, goodreads etc states that Ben was chilled to the bone when she encountered Kirby in Dublin by something that he whispered as she walks away? what could this startling revelation be? Did he threaten to kill her? In fact all he said was..."Looking good, babe" Again the book abstract refers to all kinds of strange and sinister happenings in Glendara boldly declaring that someone is out for revenge with devastating consequences! Yes the pub is destroyed and a body is discovered and I was set for a wave of murder and serial killing in this quiet Irish backwater. However apart from these two brief incidents the majority of the book descends into Agatha Christie territory where all the residents are introduced and displayed as possible suspects. Remember Luke Kirby? if you thought this story was about him and some big revenge plot...forget it...he is not mentioned again until 70% of the story is told. As we analysed the lives and loves of the residents of Glendara I became totally confused as to who they were and what actually was happening? Of course Kirby was involved and as I trolled through endless encounters and descriptions, I became thoroughly dismayed and disillusioned with the direction the book was going (or indeed if it had a direction)....You will not be surprised as to the culprit but the secret (so the author would have me believe) is discovering his accomplish and their reasons. If you enjoy this type of lumbering storyline then The Well of Ice is perfect for you, to me the whole experience was akin to watching paint dry and apart from the beautiful west Donegal setting I found little of merit. I received a gratis copy from netgalley in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

 

Review
2 Stars
Tedious and uninspiring
The Well of Ice - Andrea Carter

Benedicta O'Keeffe  affectionately known as "Ben", works and lives in Glendara, Inishowen a peninsula in County Donegal. We quickly establish that she had a sister Faye murdered by an individual known as Luke Kirby. He has served a prison sentence for manslaughter and is now released. On a business trip to Dublin Ben encounters, on a chance meeting, Kirby and immediately feels intimidated and frightened. Back in Glendara the body of a local barmaid, Carole, is discovered by Ben and her boyfriend Molloy, a sergeant in the local Garda Siochana, on an early morning xmas walk. In a separate incident the local hostelry "The Oak" is destroyed in a fire and arson is suspected......

 

I do have a few problems with the telling of this story: The synopsis for the book on all the usual forums ie Amazon, goodreads etc states that Ben was chilled to the bone when she encountered Kirby in Dublin by something that he whispered as she walks away? what could this startling revelation be? Did he threaten to kill her? In fact all he said was..."Looking good, babe" Again the book abstract refers to all kinds of strange and sinister happenings in Glendara boldly declaring that someone is out for revenge with devastating consequences! Yes the pub is destroyed and a body is discovered and I was set for a wave of murder and serial killing in this quiet Irish backwater. However apart from these two brief incidents the majority of the book descends into Agatha Christie territory where all the residents are introduced and displayed as possible suspects. Remember Luke Kirby? if you thought this story was about him and some big revenge plot...forget it...he is not mentioned again until 70% of the story is told. As we analysed the lives and loves of the residents of Glendara I became totally confused as to who they were and what actually was happening? Of course Kirby was involved and as I trolled through endless encounters and descriptions, I became thoroughly dismayed and disillusioned with the direction the book was going (or indeed if it had a direction)....You will not be surprised as to the culprit but the secret (so the author would have me believe) is discovering his accomplish and their reasons. If you enjoy this type of lumbering storyline then The Well of Ice is perfect for you, to me the whole experience was akin to watching paint dry and apart from the beautiful west Donegal setting I found little of merit. I received a gratis copy from netgalley in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

 

Review
5 Stars
The evil that men (and women) do
Rose West: The Making of a Monster - Jane Carter Woodrow

Absorbing and sickening in equal amounts this biography and evaluation of the life of notorious killer Rose West is essential reading for anyone interested into the thinking and deranged mind of serial killers. The early years of Fred and Rose is a harrowing tale of constant physical and sexual abuse in a world where there were few if any boundaries. What goes around comes around is the central theme and children will often imitate the teachings of parents whether that be good or bad. If the young are witness to and the object of incest, beatings, and even murder it is not surprising that they may choose to adopt this way of life as some code of practice. However no amount of bad upbringing can excuse the crimes committed by Fred West and Rose Letts. Crimes that spanned a period of some 25 years and never once did anyone suspect what this lovely chatty couple at 25 Cromwell Street were involved in behind closed doors. It was only after a flippant remark made by the younger West children when in care..."their father had joked that he'd put them under the patio like their big sister"...that social workers and finally the police in the guise of DC Hazel Savage demanded entry to Cromwell Street where the lives, deaths and torture of so many innocents was soon to be discovered under the patio.

 

This was never an easy read and yet once started I found it impossible not to finish so fascinated and shocked was I by the content, simply astounded by the evil that man or woman can perform and see as normal or accepted. The whole experience is best summed up in a quote from the early chapters...."I think the human race is pretty rotten. The more I see of it, the more rotten it becomes."...

Review
3 Stars
Roller coaster ride
The Good Samaritan - John Marrs

Laura works as a volunteer at an organization called End of the Line, a type of Samaritans, where distressed and suicidal people can speak and share their problems. Laura and her co workers are not there to advise or suggest but rather act as a kind of online friend or last resort to those who find the burdens of modern day living too much to cope with. However it soon becomes apparent that Laura is more than happy to counsel and indeed support those who wish to end their lives, indeed she is a woman of inner conflict possessing more issues than those she wishes to help.

 

The opening is dynamic; a young couple hand in hand, mobile phones held tightly to ears, jump to their deaths from a well known beauty spot. At the "end of the line" the last person they speak to is Laura who appears to have actively encouraged this double suicide to happen. I am disclosing very little if I tell you that one of the jumpers, Charlotte, is married to Ryan and he is determined to find the truth. Why would his beautiful and pregnant wife commit such an act when she had so much to live for. Thus starts a cat and mouse game between Ryan and Laura told in snappy short chapters in the first person. There is no doubt about that this is a very effective piece of storytelling especially as the author peels away the layers and presenting a somewhat troubled Laura. There are many surprises and unexpected moments and yet I could not help feel somewhat drained to the many (and I mean many) twists and turns before the final revelations. Having said that it is a good read and I will certainly search out more from this author...that is when I have sufficiently recovered from this present roller coaster ride!

 

 

Review
5 Stars
When all that's left is hope
The Tattooist of Auschwitz - Heather Morris

A beautifully written harrowing story of one man's will to survive in Auschwitz concentration camp during the 2WW. Lale Sokolov is transported from Slovakia to Auschwitz in 1942; an educated man fluent in many languages who also happens to be a Jew. His proud bearing and individuality immediately sets him apart from his fellow detainees and when he is offered the privileged job as tatowierer "the tattooist" he readily accepts. His job is quite simply to "mark" his fellow prisoners as and when they arrive, stamping them with a 5 digit number that will forever remind them (that is those who survive) of the hell of Auschwitz. He uses his position to help and befriend where possible fellow inmates and early on in his arrival meets and falls instantly in love with a young woman called Gita.

 

The centre of this remarkable story is the relationship of Lale and Gita and how they managed to sustain their love whilst all around death and slaughter is the order of the day, and it seemed only a matter of time before they met the same fate. We witness firsthand the cruelty of man and the barbaric acts carried out on the weak by those who saw themselves as true followers of the Fuhrer adhering to his orders by cleansing society of undesirables. The reality was that they themselves were no better than murderers and robbers. Yet Lale's account is much more than this; it is a story of hope and endurance and a beauty that emerges when all around is painted in black. As a reader you cannot help but be affected by this account the simplicity of the story telling only adds to the poignancy of the moment the sense of dread, the unexpected and the wait for the knock when death comes calling.

 

Many thanks to the good people at netgalley for sending me a gratis copy in return for an honest review and that is what I have written.

Review
4 Stars
Enjoyable reading with soap opera overtones
Save Me: The Most Gritty and Gripping Crime Thriller You'll Read This Year - Mandasue Heller

This review contains minor spoilers...On first blush Save Me reads like a soap opera examining the lives of many characters, focusing on emotional relationships to the point of melodrama...Ellie loves Matt but falls for inept and deranged Gareth. Holly, sister to Ellie, not only has an affair with Matt but also with socially unbalanced Gareth. Ellie's stepfather Billy made advances towards Ellie in her youth but has much more serious issues to confront as the story develops. Matt is hyper-sensitive, suffers from depression and is unable to acquire or hold down a job. And so the soap continues but having said all that I really enjoyed reading "Save Me" it's not a book of any real literary intent or a story that examines in any dept the characters but it doesn't purport to be this. It's simple light reading, a book that you can happily return to at any point without having lost the main thread, a book for the summer vacation, or reading as you journey by train or bus.

 

I think the author creates a very evil and controlling Gareth because it is his story that is the centre of all the events as they unfold...."See what you've made me do now? he hissed when her body went limp and her eyes rolled to the back of their sockets. That was your fault, not mine! All I'm trying to do is help you, so why did you have to start fighting with me?" Many thanks to the good people at netgalley for a gratis copy in return for an honest review. It surprised me I usually prefer to be educated in my choice of reading but sometimes it is best to just enjoy without being over critical.

Review
5 Stars
Tight plotting great characterization stylishly executed conclusion
The Confession: A Novel - Jo Spain

What a superb tightly plotted story that kept me reading from page 1 right to the smartly executed conclusion. JP(John Paul) Carney enters the home of rich Dublin socialites Harry McNamara and his beautiful wife Julie. In one insane moment he attacks Harry and bludgeons him to death with a golf club whereupon he immediately surrenders himself to the custody of the local garda siochana. What on the surface appears to be an open and shut case is a much more complicated and deeply rewarding account scrutinizing the lives of three individuals ensuring a course of action that will destroy everything they hold to be honest and true.

 

I love this style of storytelling where events unfold through first person account of the parties involved. Julie met Harry at the night of the Trinity ball where a mutual infatuation led speedily to a marriage of convenience; he the flamboyant, charismatic owner of his own finance company, she the attractive career driven graduate..."That was us at the beginning of our fairytale. But here's the thing about fairytales. Sometimes they're darker than you can ever imagine. Another world away JP Carney has survived into adulthood with little help from a boozing father Seamie and a mother Betty who abandoned the family home leaving JP to care and comfort his sister Charlie. But a dark event will occur and a murder will be committed where the question of responsibility is explored in this dark, unmissable teasing psychological thriller.

 

The tempo and pace of the novel is a credit to the author Jo Spain expertly teasing and drawing the reader into her web of intrigue and deceit before producing a magical and totally unexpected ending. I loved it!. Many thanks to the publisher Quercus and the good people of netgalley for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

Review
4 Stars
The band that time almost forgot
Sick On You: The Disastrous Story of Britain's Great Lost Punk Band - Andrew Matheson

Do you remember the 70's? Did you wear the tight loon pants? Did you have a silver shirt, or an afghan coat? Did you shake your elbows to tiger feet (that's right that's right I really love your tiger feet!) Did you wear a t rex feather boa, or glare like the leader of the glitter band? I did all of those and just like Andrew Matheson I played in a group, as an 18 year old, in the stormy shores of Northern Ireland. I could tell you stories about our band being chased over the border when we refused to play the "southern national anthem" (we actually did not know it!) or the night our band (Run of the Mill....have you heard of us?) continued to play when a fight broke out amongst the 200 party goers in attendance at the local Portadown Orange hall, or the evening our van broke down, coming home from a gig, and we were taken to the local police station (Banbridge) where my poor mother had to collect us at 6.00am and tow the van home!

 

But hold on I hear you say! this review is not about me!! Indeed you are correct but if you can understand and smile at the above then you will love "Sick on you" the story of the band "The Hollywood Brats" that should have made it before The Sex Pistols. The mid 70's musically was a time when  the young were crying out for something radical to happen on the music scene. There were still many creative artists about; David Bowie, Alice Cooper, The Who etc but equally the charts were awash with forgettable trash....Puppy Love, (Donny Os)....Chirpy Chirpy Cheap Cheap (Middle of the Road) Me and you and a dog named boo (Lobo) and into this quagmire of unoriginality stepped The Sex Pistols a band that has been declared one of the most influential acts in the history of popular music having initiated the punk movement in the United Kingdom and inspired many later punk and alternative rock musicians. Suddenly the young were dressing in torn clothes, spiked hair, inserting safety pins into body parts, and travelling to concerts where they could listen to a loud fast-moving and aggressive form of rock music. But this is nothing new I hear you say, teenagers have always rebelled...look at rockers and mods? That is certainly true but by the mid 70's a lethargic and somewhat inert music scene was presenting itself, and the time was ripe for anarchy and rebellion which The Sex Pistols, under the leadership of Malcolm McLaren, were more than happy to acknowledge and by doing so produced a generation of snaring, spitting, hostile youths openly welcoming such classics as "God save the Queen", "Anarchy in the UK" and "Pretty Vacant".......and The Hollywood Brats missed it all....

 

So what went Wrong? Andrew Matheson does an excellent of recalling how his band originally named The Queen but had to change to The Brats when the other famous "Queen" threatened to sue if they did not relinquish the name..."up walks a guy with hair like black straw and teeth like a particularly alluring camel"....The Hollywood Brats were born and spent most of their time playing gigs trying to keep four musicians together whilst consuming copious amounts of alcohol and testing/sniffing the odd illegal substance. Unbelievably in the early days they were offered a record deal by Polydor but for reasons best known to themselves refused. I loved the way these four guys dressed in tight almost feminine attire and rarely were seen in public without full makeup (possibly some would say imitating The New York Dolls)...."but try doing it in a cocktail dress, platform soles and full makeup while sporting the odd swastika. See how far you get".... They certainly had writing and playing ability; if you listen to recent cd's released you will certainly feel the raw energy produced by such hypnotic titles as Tumble with Me, Sucking on Suzie and the unforgettably named Sick on You...."You and me are through I`m sick to death of everything you do And if I'm gonna have a puke you bet yer life I'll puke on you"

 

When they finally did successfully put together a record it was too little too late. The fact that it was released in Norway meant..."it went utterly unnoticed. There was no marketing budget. We didn't even know what marketing was. The record was never advertised. It was never reviewed in print. It was never played on the radio, It came and went, shyly, politely, anonymously, with a minimum of fuss".....

 

This was a really enjoyable read and what I particularly loved was that the author bore no malice to their lack of fame. Other groups such as The Dammed  The Sex Pistols and The Clash were knocking on the door pushing The Hollywood Brats into extinction until their present day emergence...and we the public can now appreciate the energy of a group and time long forgotten. In the words of the author...."I thought the Sex Pistols were sub-standard, derivative posers and I thought Malcolm McLaren was a weak-minded, possibly insane, Fantasist"....Wonderful stuff, read the book but more importantly listen to the music, the raw energy, audacity, no holds barred approach of a great 70's punk band...let's have a big hand for The Hollywood Brats!

Review
5 Stars
Great characterization and a cracking dialogue
Righteous (An IQ Novel) - Joe Ide

It is refreshing to discover something new and exciting under the heading of crime fiction; meet Isaiah Quintabe affectionately known as IQ to his friends. He's a fast talking young man who lives and works in Long Beach California, almost akin to a modern day bounty hunter, who accepts occasional criminal cases as a means to survive. When Sarita the ex girlfriend of his brother Marcus (killed in a hit and run some 10 years previous) asks for his help to rescue her younger sister Janine who has gone missing in Las Vegas he is eager to assist. Together with his trusty partner Dobson (two egos trying to outflank eachother!) they make haste for America's gambling mecca and an imminent confrontation with a motley crew of gangsters including a hit team of Chinese triads. In addition IQ is convinced that his brother Marcus was not accidently killed but rather the target of some evil men and he is determined to find out who and why.....

 

I love the pace and sheer roller coaster ride as the narration introduces a many and varied list of characters that constantly confront the reader, all with a story to tell. The ability of the author to hold my interest was undoubtedly due to the cracking dialogue that positively fizzled from the first page....."the Eiffel Tower lit up like Elton John at a New Year's Eve party"....."why you'd wear a miniskirt if your thighs were like two whales swimming side by side"...."The bartender was a twist of beef jerky in a chartreuse polo shirt"....."its claws scooping out creek beds of flesh; suture marks left by someone with a knitting needle and kite string"...."There were consequences to violence, like grief it changed you"....."the real fear was of mortality. Death was palpable, and you're suddenly aware that you're alive by the thinnest of margins"...

 

In this review more than any other I am content to let the writing skills of Joe Ide bring the story alive.To me I almost feel he is a Raymond Chandler for the modern age; beautiful prose that smack you in the face with their audacity, leaving you smiling and begging for more. This is the second book in the series and I shall be reading book one almost immediately...it is that good and comes from me to you with the greatest recommendation. Many thanks to the good people of netgalley for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

 

Review
1 Stars
Complicated Scientific outing that evolves into Alien
Subhuman (A Unit 51 Novel) - Michael McBride

Where oh where do I start writing a review of a book that has been enjoyed by so many of my peers and yet I would honestly say it was the worst book I have read this year. How can some love a book so much and yet others find it impossible to see within its content any merit whatsoever? The story (i think!) involves a discovery made in Antarctica, a pyramid enclosed with bones and an odd shaped "cone" skull that spoke of an ancient people who inhabited our planet many many moons ago. From all corners of our present world a number of great minds are called to Antarctica to use their expertise and knowledge of this cone headed  species having unearthed a few of the said skulls at their own particular digs/excavations....

 

This book falls somewhere between Michael Crichton, Scott Sigler with a touch of The Thing (Kurt Russell 1982 version) and without a doubt shades of Alien...remember that scene when Sigourney Weaver gets up close and personal with the alien in Alien 3...."Its cranium was elongated and the flesh of its scalp torn. Its eyes bulged from their sockets to such a degree that its lids had to remain mostly closed to contain them. The veins had rupture, causing a skein of blood to form on the surface, so thick it was nearly black"..... This quote is from Subhuman but everything about it speaks Alien to me, we have the crew of the good ship "Nostromo" being selected individually and savaged  by an organism and in one horrific scene attaches itself inside the body of John Hurt. Now in our story a species or micro-organism referred to as "archaea" is "able to infest and subsume the bodies of these men."....I remember so vividly slime and blood dripping from the alien as one by one Ripley's (Weaver) crew are destroyed....now this quote from Subhuman, reads like something from Alien...."Something warm and wet struck his cheek. He slowly raised his eyes toward the ceiling, and the open vent directly overhead. Another drop streaked from the edge of the duct and struck the ground in front of him.".....

 

The first half of the book is so riddled with scientific jargon to the point of boredom and it is only when finally I am able to translate this technical vernacular that the theme begins to make  sense. This new alien archaea/organism is able to communicate by using sound waves that are projected through water. This creates a ripple/shape effect similar to the "crop circle" mystery where strange patterns appeared overnight in fields of cereal crops and many believed were the work of aliens who were trying to make contact. Therefore it follows in Subhuman that the sound/wave ripples is an attempt to communicate.

 

Now at this point if you are thoroughly confused by my review then Subhuman is not the book for you but equally if you enjoy a story technically filled with senseless jargon (think Tom Clancy merged with Stephen Hawking) then you are in for a treat. My only regret was that the predator in Subhuman was not quite as successful in his kill rate as the alien that Officer Ripley encountered on the good ship Nostromo. Many thanks to the good people of netgalley for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written. A free reading copy will never stop me writing a truthful review and to me as a reader/reviewer if the book is not to my taste I will certainly voice my opinion, otherwise what is the point?

Review
5 Stars
A sad beautiful biography of what could have been
Forever Young: The Story of Adrian Doherty, Football's Lost Genius - Kay Oliver Lewis

When I was a youth and growing up in the wilds of Northern Ireland most of my contemporaries, if they had the slightest interest in football, were in awe of one team only, Manchester United, and in particular one player: George Best. I mention this because as much as I knew about the life of this precocious talent I knew next to nothing or in fact had never heard of Adrian Doherty. I am sure that I am not alone in that revelation, and it is a tribute to journalist Oliver Kay that he has brought to print the sad, poignant, yet also happy  life of one Adrian Doherty and we and many others will ask the question....what if?

 

This biography is not so much a story about a young man's career (or lack of) at a professional football club, but rather it is the study of a loveable, gentle human being who was never hypnotised by the glamour and potential wealth that his position  as a winger in the great Untied youth team of the early 90's, and hopefully later a member of the main United squad, would undoubtedly bring. Here was a country lad from the homely streets of Strabane set adrift in a big city called here simply by the talent he showed from a very early age as a professional footballer. The one similarity between Doherty and the great Best is that when first called to Manchester to confront their destiny they were both allocated unsatisfactory lodgings. It seems that in the 23+ years that separated their two careers United had learned little in the way of how to make their new prodigies feel wanted and cared for. Here we have two shy Irish lads (not much older than children) fresh from the homeland with no real social skills and expected to fit in immediately with a tough but rewarding training scheme. George soon found help and companionship in the form of alcohol (and we all know how that ended....Where did it all go wrong George?) and Adrian found true love and companionship in his song, and poetry composition, and playing his guitar. This lonely, loveable individual often busked in Manchester city centre preferring his own company to that of the talented United youths who lodged with him; Giggs, Scholes, Neville to name but a few...."he was stuck in Manchester with no money and didn't know what to do. I set off as soon as I could, but when I got there, he was nowhere to be seen"....

 

So surprisingly for a biography of a Manchester United potential there is no accumulation of wealth, there is even no first team appearance.....but oh how close Adrian Doherty came. The cruciate ligament knee injury that he suffered might have benefited more some early intervention but that did not happen and together with the fact that in the early 90's the treatment of a knee injury was crude compared by today's standards meant that the young footballer's hopes and dreams were never to be fulfilled. Yet that is the funny thing, in reading this book I am struck by the fact that Doherty was not really concerned with a career in football, at one of the greatest clubs in Europe, in fact when offered a 5 year contract said he would much rather sign for 3 years....who in their right mind would ever suggest this? Adrian Doherty's talent meant that whether he liked it or not his wonderful footballing skills meant being sought after by top premiership (1st division) clubs. Do not be mislead a young Adrian loved playing football and he was exceptionally good at it but if football had not been present in his life he was more than happy to busk, play his guitar and write poetry and lyrics that the great Bob Dylan would have been proud of. When the knee injury destroyed his career he was content to live the life of a hippy/hobo dwelling for short times in places and cities (his choice of Preston to live was the result of sticking a pin in a map!) And yet there were still wonderful times ahead, the folk scene in New York and surprisingly the city of Galway which was the home of dreamers and would be poets and artists.

 

His death, just like his life, was unconventional and very sad as he slipped or tripped into a canal in Holland rescued but never emerging from a coma. There are those who say that Manchester United let down their young football genius by failing to deliver the home from home environment that was promised but I do not agree. They treated as well as they could given the standard and success or otherwise of knee operations at the time and finally, when the sharp skill and potential he showed never really returned, they reluctantly let him go. United were fast emerging as one of the greatest teams in the world, and Alex Ferguson as their manager had to control and direct this emergence which often meant making hard commercial decisions.

 

This is an exceptionally sad story, and without the research and persistence of Oliver Kay so many would have been unaware of the impact and legacy that Adrian Doherty left in his short time here. Highly recommended

Review
5 Stars
An author with great literary talent
The Disappearance of Adele Bedeau - Graeme Macrae Burnet

A smart, stylish story dissecting the life of one Manfred Baumann a strangely introverted man who works at the bank in Saint-Louis and dines most lunchtimes and evenings at The Restaurant De La Cloche. He regards, in an almost salacious way, a young waitress called Adele Bedeau and when she disappears Manfred becomes the chief suspect and is pursued relentlessly by Inspector Gorski of the Saint-Louis police.

 

This delicious novel is really the study of human behaviour, in all its quirks and oddities, and you the reader have a front row seat to observe and judge. Manfred is a wonderful character, socially inept, reserved, withdrawn, indeed some of his working and socializing colleagues are of the opinion that his preference may be towards a male rather than a female partner. He is fastidious almost a perfectionist in his approach to daily tasks... "He dressed, combed his hair and put on his watch. Back in the kitchen he laid out two croissants in a basket, butter and jam, a plate and a knife. He poured coffee into a large bowl and sat down at the table.".....

 

Inspector Gorski has a troubled marriage. His wife Celine, who manages and runs a fashion boutique in town, views Gorski as socially inferior but still insists that he attends social gatherings in order to "establish the Gorskis as part of the Good Society of the town." The Inspector therefore preferred to spend his day policing, and the pursuit of Manfred Baumann proves a welcome distraction.

 

I loved the unhurried telling of this story the unravelling of the everyday orderliness of Manfred and by doing so expose a dark secret. Can a wise and wily Gorski utilize this secret to expose the truth of Adele's disappearance and by so doing will this set in process a chain of events that may end in disaster? With a very neat and unexpected ending I was delighted, amused and thoroughly entertained by this literary work form a great writer.

Review
4 Stars
Classic horror at its best
The Lost Village - NEIL SPRING, Neil  Spring

Neil Spring is an elegant author of what I would term as classic horror. In his writing just like an artist he paints a picture and relies on the reader to look at that picture and use his imagination to envisage the story. In The Lost Village he again teams two of his favourite ghost hunters Harry Price and his assistant Sarah Grey. They have travelled to the former village of Imber on Salisbury Plain to help understand strange and ghostly sightings including the tragic disfigurement of Sgt Gregory Edwards. I love Spring's writing style and his simple but effective use of language which is a joy to read yet somewhat disturbing and creepy...."The winter sun was sinking beneath the spires of Westminster and casting a pink hue across the London skyline".... "I froze. Around me, the trees seemed to shimmer, as if I were seeing them through a haze. At first, there was absolute silence. The air had become chillingly cold, freezing, and then I thought I heard, faintly.....low whispering"......"Price was standing in the centre of the wrecked mill, next to the battered table and chairs. A length of rope dangled from his right hand. Wearing his black frock coat that fell to his knees, he exuded the sinister presence of a Victorian Executioner".....

 

The Lost Village is really the story of displaced inhabitants attempting to reclaim what the army has stolen. Once a year they are invited back but this will be no ordinary visit as a chain of events sets in motion a terrible reckoning, and a sickening revelation ensuring that Imber will be remembered for all the wrong reasons. I particularly liked the cover of this novel with its dark angry skies and the picture of a man approaching wearing his trademark black coat, all which really adds to the atmospheric, macabre tale. Many thanks to the good people at Quercus publishing for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

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