Addressed To Kill Review: A Creepy Christmas Crime Story

COVER FOR ADDRESSED TO KILL

The newest instalment in the Inspector Stark novels features a chilling Christmas mystery, as Keith Wright delivers another thrilling instalment in this incredible series.

In 1987 Inspector Stark is gearing up for another busy Christmas, having just enjoyed his station’s festive shindig, when on Christmas Eve the body of a young woman is found having been brutally raped and murdered in a park.

Switching between viewpoints, Wright paints a picture of a deeply twisted murderer with a strange modus operandi revolving around toying with his victims before raping and brutally murdering them.

As such, Stark and his team are forced to spend the festive season battling to find the culprit before he attacks again. With many leads to follow and a variety of red herrings put in their way, the team have their work cut out if they want to uncover the truth.

Wright isn’t afraid to delve into the gritty details of sordid crimes such as this, and as such this book, much like the others in the series, has many enticing details that will engage and thrill crime fiction fans. For those who love reading creepy, dark novels full of suspense, this is the book for you this winter.

It’s not as atmospheric as it could be, but Wright has a way of pushing the plot along so you hardly notice, and instead quickly become wrapped up in the disturbing world of the killer and the police’s obsessive hunt for the truth. Stark and his team, as well as the other characters readers encounter, are all deeply human and well-rounded, making the story believable and engaging.

Overall I was incredibly impressed by Addressed To Kill. I’m not usually a big fan of Christmas themed books, but in this novel Wright shows how the festive season makes victims more unsuspecting and gives killers opportunities they don’t usually have, making it an eye-opening and gripping tale that you’ll want to revisit time and time again.

 

His Dark Materials Proves Fantasy Is Better As TV Shows Not Films

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The BBC’s new adaptations of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy proves that fantasy novels deserve to be made into TV shows, rather than films.

The Northern Lights, the first book in critically acclaimed series, designed originally for children, was adapted as a film a few years ago and renamed The Golden Compass.  

The film was a flop, for the simple reason that it tried to fit so this vast book, with all of its exposition and explanation, into one film. It was a long film, but not long enough to fit in all of the knowledge required to make viewers fully understand the concepts and worlds Pullman created.

The appeal of the show, rather than the film, is that it doesn’t ‘tell’ the story so much as it shows you. There are no huge info-dumps, nor any rambling conversations that are exclusively exposition designed to fill you in quickly before something else happens. Instead, the show draws you into the world of Lyra and Pan, showing you everything that happens whilst not overwhelming you.

The critical success of the TV series also shows that fantasy epics belong on television, not in films. HBOs beloved Game Of Thrones is another good example of a book set that would’ve made an awful film series, but as TV show it flourished (until the writers went and blew it on the final series).

Sometimes films can bring fantasy books to life, as is the case with Lord of the Rings, however it can be argued that the films are far too long, and would be better off serialised on TV. Indeed, Amazon has commissioned a series based on Tolkien’s epic novels, proving that the stories have yet more potential that, I don’t think, more films could fulfil.

Overall, it’s clear to see that fantasy belongs on TV. Adapting it for films means cramming it into too little time, or creating far too many, far too long movies that are hard to sit through. The best way to experience fantasy is always to read it, as that way you can let your imagination run away with you and really immerse yourself in the ideas and new worlds the author has created. However, if you’re going to watch fantasy, I urge you to watch a TV show version of your favourites, rather than slogging your way through a boring film

The Regret Review: A Heart-Stopping Thriller You Won’t Be Able To Put Down

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Dan Malakin’s The Regret is a fast-paced psychological thriller about how far people will go when their lives are threatened.

The novel centres around Rachel, a young nurse and mother to a three year old girl, Lily. Her seemingly perfect life is interrupted by the possible return of her past stalker, who may or may not be the person responsible for attempting to destroy Rachel’s life now.

Having been sent to prison for being a paedophile, Rachel’s former stalker is seemingly out for revenge, as Rachel framed him when she couldn’t make the stalking allegations stick. However, as the book moves on it becomes clear that the plot is much more complicated than that and that the protagonist is facing something far more frightening than a man scorned.

Malakin throws in a lot of red herrings, including a sketchy boyfriend, his dead-beat best friend and a technological wiz kid with questionable morals in the form of Lily’s dad and Rachel’s friend. Throughout the novel Rachel and, by extension, the reader, are left constantly wondering who is behind the destruction until the book reaches its apocalyptic climax.

Switching between a third person review of Rachel’s life and a deliciously creepy first person insight into the thoughts of the person trying to wreck her life, the novel is deeply disconcerting from the beginning and designed to unnerve and frighten.

The author has clearly done his research, giving an in-depth account of how the cyber-crime is being committed. From hacking Rachel’s bank account and re-routing her money through to scamming the NHS into giving access to patient records to be altered, the first-person chapters of the novel are the most harrowing of all, and the novel is well worth reading just for them.

The only issue I have the The Regret is that I feel that Malakin may have underestimated victims of such vile abuse. Often they become cautious after such experiences, and would not be as trusting as his protagonist. After all, she agreed to have a baby with a man she barely knew, and then allowed her boyfriend of a short time to have a key to her home.

If you can overlook this major character flaw then this is a thrilling and, frankly, terrifying novel about how remarkably easy it can be to ruin someone’s life. The twist at the end is so horrifying that it leaves you literally wondering how you never saw it coming. Malakin is a master of suspense and really leads his reader on in this tightly wound novel.

In all, The Regret is an enticing and deeply-disturbing book that I would recommend for those looking to get some real thrills this Halloween and frighten yourself with a tale of how far someone would go to destroy someone else’s life.

The Folio Society’s Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil Review: A Beautiful Way To Experience Berendt’s Savannah

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From the very opening sentence, it’s easy to see why the Folio Society has chosen John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil for one of its stunning editions.

Everything about this book is seductively and intellectually stylish and designed to bring to life more than just the tale of a real life murder in Savannah, but to showcase the diverse range of characters this majestic city has to offer.

From liars to thieves to everything in between, Berendt brings to these characters to joyful life in all their glory, showing that there is more to Savannah than meets the eye.

The cast of characters is incredibly eclectic and some of the tales are so tall they’re almost unbelievable. From petty grievances in the sitting rooms of the middle classes through to voodoo rituals held in graveyards and dalliances with unsuitable men, there are so many mad tales in this book.

Its main plot surrounds the murder of a homosexual handyman and kept man, who was killed in the home of his employer Jim Williams, who claimed self-defence. However, Williams’ story doesn’t entirely stack up against the evidence, and local opinion was divided. An unpopular man among some of the region’s influential elite, Williams fell foul of their wrath and the case ended up going to trial.

The first trial was overturned when the DA is found to have falsified evidence, and as such Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil follows both trials and their aftermaths. Berendt integrated himself fully into Savannah society, both its high society and lower class neighbourhoods, allowing him a broad perspective on the region’s opinions on this divisive trial, in which neither the killer nor the victim was universally liked.

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Whilst the murder, its impact on the community and the trials are a key aspect of the book’s plot, they are not its sole focus. After all, the killing doesn’t even occur until more than halfway through. Predominantly, this is a love-letter to Savannah, and a way to show that cities are more than just the buildings and places they feature, but the people who populate them and the beliefs they hold.

Trying to make his view of the city as diverse as possible, Berendt immersed himself in Savannah life, and delved into both black and white culture at the time. Although integration had begun at the time of his writing the book, the two communities were still, predominantly, separated, and the author shows us this and offers a unique glimpse into the lives of both races.

In fact, through his book Berendt shows us both sides of practically every binary in the city at the time: black and white, rich and poor, gay and straight, male and female. He shows how the cities diverse cast of characters’ lives were deeply entwined, and how the actions of one group, or even an individual, shaped the lives of others throughout the community.

Whilst people are, clearly, an integral part of the book, music also plays a big part in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Emma King, Johnny Mercer and many others are featured in the chapters marked out by nicknames or phrases they used. For those in love with the music of the Deep South this is the perfect book.

This stunning edition features photos of Savannah and the places and properties portrayed in the book. There’s a stark contrast between the photos, which are of people-less places, and as opposed to the chapters and narratives themselves, which teem with colourful characters are all named after titles or phrases used about the characters within.

It also features an introduction by the author himself, making it the perfect gift for fans of the book, or a great way to introduce yourself to Berendt’s Savannah.

In all, whether you choose to treat yourself or someone else, I would urge anyone looking to buy a copy of Midnight in the Garden of Good Evil to consider this meticulously crafted edition. With its introduction and haunting photographs of Savannah’s landscape, it is a beautiful book that will bring Berendt’s atmospheric tale to life.

The Folio Society edition of John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good Evil, including a new introduction by the author, is available exclusively from http://www.FolioSociety.com

 

Trace and Eliminate Review: Inspector Stark Is Back And Better Than Ever

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After having interviewed author Keith Wright I was excited to check out the second in his Inspector Stark series. I had to wait a little while but eventually I received a copy and was keen to check it out.

Set in the 1980s, this latest in the Inspector Stark series sees the dogged detective battle against both his own demons and the seemingly motiveless murder of a solicitor.

A hard-working family man seemingly with everything going for him, there doesn’t seem to be any reason for anyone to kill him. As Stark and his team race to find the killer a second, equally motiveless murder occurs, and the team has to work even hard to prove themselves to be ahead of this evil killer.

This is only the second in the Inspector Stark series, yet somehow he feels like a long established character with his own quirks. Yet, despite this, he doesn’t feel like a tired caricature; Stark is as individual as it gets, and his team all work together well, interacting in a natural way that makes this book exciting, thrilling yet at the same time completely believable.

The characterisation is the real selling point for this novel, with the core detectives, their suspects and witnesses all perfectly crafted so as to be both suspicious and at the same time believable. Many obvious but often-overlooked traits, such as pride, envy and intuition are all shown here in all their glory, making readers sympathetic to the character’s and their situations.

One thing I would say, and it’s literally my sole criticism, is that at times the language is a little clunky. There’s a lot of hedging that goes on, with phrases like ‘a bit’ used with alarming regularity at times. At others, the novel is exceptionally witty and intense, with the author taking control of the narrative and driving it towards intense conclusions that leave readers guessing with every new clue discovered and every new lead followed.

In all, this is a great historical novel, and as such if you’re a fan of old school detectives then Trace and Eliminate is the book for you.

Bodies From The Library 2 Review: Another Incredible Anthology Celebrating Golden Age Crime Fiction At Its Finest

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Initially, I found out about Bodies From The Library when someone recommended it as something I would enjoy.

They were completely right, and the first edition of this unique anthology of forgotten stories from some of the greatest golden age crime fiction writers was a real hit. I later looked into it and discovered that the anthology is linked to an event of the same name, which explores golden age writing and the influence it had on the crime fiction genre as a whole.

When I found out there was going to be a second edition I was excited to get my hands on it and see what new forgotten tales (some of which are actually previously unpublished) of this often underrated sub-genre editor Tony Medawar had in store.

This second collection is as ingenious, unique and perfectly curated as the first. Medawar has selected some real gems from previously overlooked authors, as well as old favourites such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers, as well as writers whose work has been forgotten over the years such as Q Patrick and Jonathan Latimer.

There is a truly diverse selection of tales here, from play and radio scripts through to dialogue driven short stories, descriptive narratives through to longer, almost novella-esq works. The stories are all written in English but are set around the world, and there are a variety of different writers here so that the reader can really delve into the depths of crime fiction, rather than settling on the more common authors and the predictable detectives.

Each story is accompanied by a short description of the author and their other work, offering readers a chance to find out more about the writer, their lives and the role they played in the crime fiction market during their day. Many of the authors were members (in some cases influential ones) of the Detection Club, the renowned dining club for crime fiction authors, and through his descriptions of their lives and works Medawar weaves a unique timeline of the club and its rich history of inspiring some of the greatest works of crime fiction that the world has ever seen.

If you need any further reason to check out Bodies From The Library 2, you need look no further than the Q Patrick thriller Exit Before Midnight. This ingenious tale is incredible and the perfect choice for the anthology, and its worth picking up a copy just to read this one story, although you’d be mad not to keep going afterwards.

At the end of the day, such a perfectly collected anthology is a testament to the hard work and dedication Medawar and his associates put in to showcasing the golden age of crime fiction. For those interested in the genre, this is a must-read.

The Olympian Review: A Glitzy Jet-Setting Thriller

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Having recently interviewed author Mark Atley I was keen to read his debut novel, The Olympian.  

The titular Olympian is a guy called Samuel, who is being blackmailed by a bookie while on a family vacation. His holiday is intercepted by a bookkeeper who is determined to get back money that someone else skipped town with.

Set in an all-inclusive Mexican resort owned by a cartel, it features a strange cast of characters that are all equal parts evil, strange and dastardly. As more characters from both Samuel’s past and the cartel’s roster of criminal associates arrive the plot thickens and the reader is drawn into a complex plot involving love, money, drugs and much more.

There’s Johnny, an escaped criminal on the run from his bondsman and his bookie with a load of stolen cash, as well as a journalist and her cameraman, attending a bizarre intervention that is quickly derailed by everyone else’s criminal activities. The plot quickly spirals forward and the reader is propelled on a strangely compelling journey.

The only downside The Olympian is the slightly stilted dialogue. Ately’s characters are intriguing, two-dimensional individuals, yet they speak like robots that have, at one point read a Raymond Chandler novel.

For all of its dialogue flaws, the novel is still fast-paced and deeply thrilling. Readers are invested in following the plot as it rattles on towards a gripping finale. There are plenty of twists and turns along the way, and with so many characters the reader has to work hard to keep on top of who’s aligned with whom as each moves to outwit the others.

At the end of the day, I’m impressed by Atley’s debut and keen to find out what’s in store for his next book. The Olympian will be a tough act to follow, but with a few enhancements any future books have the potential to be bestsellers.