The Garfield Conspiracy Review: A Creative Tale Of Mid-Life Madness

As part of acclaimed Irish Author Owen Dwyer’s blog tour, I’m proud to share my thoughts on his latest novel, The Garfield Conspiracy.

At first, I genuinely thought the ‘Garfield’ mentioned in the title was the lasagne loving cat! After all, the advanced copies are bright yellow and feature a surrealist-inspired image of a man with his face inside an old-fashioned TV. I’d also read the synopsis and knew that the book was about a man going making a series of unfortunate choices and reassessing his life.

What I didn’t realise was that this man, the protagonist Richard Todd, is an academic turned celebrity author who’s popularity is dwindling. His publisher, as a last resort, sends in an ambitious young research assistant, Jenny, to help him polish his latest book and conduct research into his next project. Richard’s next book will be an exploration of the assassination of James A. Garfield, the 20th President of the USA, who was the second, after Lincoln, to die by assassination, and the man who was killed after being found guilty of the murder.

It has to be said, from the first chapter, I was expecting something a bit different from The Garfield Conspiracy. I thought that the historical conspiracy theory would take precedence over the modern tale of a man in the throes of a mid-life crisis. I also thought that the past and present would stay separate.

Instead, the novel focuses on the protagonist and his young research assistant, as the pair battle with their feelings. At the same time, Richard is dealing with voices in his head and the frightening implications that comes with. He has a family to protect and care for, including three kids, ranging from teenagers to a younger kid. So, he’s facing a crisis that threatens to upend not only the stability of his own life, but also that of his family.

So, as you can see, I was wrong, but that doesn’t mean that this isn’t an engaging and enjoyable read. On the contrary, despite being completely different to its initial promise, the novel quickly transforms into something even more relevant and relatable. With varying perspectives, the book is able to give the reader an insight into how we all see the world differently.

What I especially like about The Garfield Conspiracy is that Dwyer doesn’t sugar coat the predatory nature of his protagonist. The guy is, essentially, a sex pest. But Dwyer doesn’t try to portray him as anything else. He doesn’t do that cobblers where he tries to put a higher purpose to his character’s creepiness. Richard is still a well-read, educated man, but he’s also shown to be a cretin.

He’s going through a lot, and Dwyer gives us a unique insight into his character’s mind. I love the author’s portrayal Richard: he’s conceited, self-obsessed and dealing with a lot of catastrophes, only some of which are self-inflicted. As the novel goes on, we see him battle with strange dreams in which the man who allegedly killed president Garfield comes to him and says that he was framed for the crime, all while dealing with the impact of the fallout as he leaves his family behind and starts a new life with a girl young enough to be his daughter.

The ‘action’ as it were, takes place in the Richard’s palatial home in a posh neighbourhood in Dublin, where Richard and Jenny, his new young assistant, work on his upcoming work together while family life goes on around them. Dwyer sets the scene amazingly and creates a unique juxtaposition between the stuffy setting and the snappy dialogue that takes place in it.

All in all, I thought that The Garfield Conspiracy was an insightful book that acts as a unique combination of critique of modern life and historical fiction. I learned a lot about the past and enjoyed meeting Dwyer’s host of characters. If you’re looking for an intriguing read that keeps you on your toes, then I’d recommend checking out this latest example of amazing Irish fiction.

Just Haven’t Met You Yet Review: A Funny Take On A Love Story That Even Romance Skeptics Will Adore

In general, I’m not a huge fan of romantic fiction. I don’t even really like rom-com films or TV shows- they’re easy to watch but they usually lack any real substance.

So I was intrigued when I received a copy of Just Haven’t Met You Yet. In essence, the plot sounds like that of a typical cheesy rom-com: girl loses her suitcase on a solo work trip, and sees the contents and realises that she might just love the guy who owns it.

However, from the moment I picked the book up, I knew this wasn’t your typical cheap holiday read. Author Sophie Cousens already has one knockout bestselling book under her belt, and she’s got extensive experience working in TV and producing amazing reality TV series. The writing is top-notch from the very first sentence, and as you get further into the novel, you realise that the plot isn’t as simple and obvious as you might think.

The novel revolves around a woman named Laura, who works for a website in London called Love Life. She runs the site’s ‘How They Met’ video segment, where couples tell cute tales about how they met and got together. During a meeting, she suggests a story about her parents’ love story, which is cute. Her mum found half of an old coin, and set off to Jersey to find the second half. When she got there, she met the son of the woman who had the other half and fell head over heals in love.

With both her parents now dead, Laura only has a few mementos, including the coin and a selection of photos of their time on Jersey, to remember them by. Her editor is excited about the prospect and arranges a short-notice work trip for Laura to go to Jersey alone and write a feature on the island and its romantic scenery.

Laura heads off to the island for a long weekend trip with just hand luggage. As the airplane is full, the airline asks Laura and anyone else with a wheeled suitcase to put it in the hold. In her rush to grab her bag in Jersey, Laura picks up the wrong case. When she opens the bag, she finds that it contains everything that she thinks a man ought to have, such as a copy of her father’s favourite novel, warm jumpers and more.

As she searches for missing suitcase man, who could very well also be Mr Right, Laura encounters a host of eccentric locals, including a morose cab driver and his dad, a randy elderly beekeeper and more. Each of them has their own story to tell, and as Laura gets potentially closer to meeting the love of her life, she learns that not everything is as it seems when it comes to her parents’ picture perfect Jersey love story. While meeting long-lost relatives, Laura gets thrown for a loop by the revelations that they provide and the new information they give her could permanently change her views on love and romance.

Cousens creates relatable and engaging characters, who make you want to keep reading just to find out more about them. At times the plot feels like a predictable romantic comedy, but then the author throws the reader a curveball that keeps you on your toes. She repeatedly breaks the fourth wall in a way by having Laura remind the reader of what would happen if she were in a romantic novel or film, which is intriguing and unique. It sets the novel apart from the rest of the predictable romantic fiction that I’ve read in the past, and I’ve read a fair few of these when I’ve been on holiday and ran out of decent books to read. When faced with a limited selection of books from a hotel lobby or holiday home bookshelf, I often find that romantic books are the best of a bad bunch, and gravitate to them, but I’ve never read anything quite like Just Haven’t Met You Yet.

I think what I like most about this novel is how much I can relate to it. That won’t be the case for everyone- there are a lot of coincidences in my case, but the novel and its characters are very realistic and I think that many people could find something to relate to. For me, there’s a lot- firstly, Laura is 29 and a writer who’s a bit rudderless- I am the same age, have the same profession and have no idea what on earth I’m doing with my life!

Then there’s Love Life, the online magazine that Laura works for. It’s run by an editor called Suki, who is the archetype of a typical dreadful magazine editor, and someone who I have tried to be the opposite of as a manager. I have met and worked for my fair share of Suki’s in the past- editors who demean and bully their staff, dismiss their ideas without even hearing them, put all the blame on their employees when things get rough but grab all the credit if things go right.

That’s pretty much every past boss I’ve had in writing until I got my current job, and hit the boss jackpot with a really kind and supportive person. However, I don’t think I know a single writer who’ve not worked for someone who’s almost exactly like Suki. Her incessant nagging and rudeness, as well as her attitude towards her staff, is precisely why so many publishers have such a high turnover of staff.

I also enjoy the fact that the novel is about more than just Laura’s search for love. Cousens also infuses the book with unusual life lessons and teachings from unlikely characters, such as an elderly couple who are having an affair to get through the torment of a dementia diagnosis. The writer shares a selection of lessons, but the biggest one is that you can either take them or not- you do you. That’s refreshingly un-preachy from a book full of proverbs and snippets from a fictional self-help text that the protagonist is reading- another example of the writer playing with the form.

To conclude, I think that Just Haven’t Met You Yet is a fun, intelligent version of the classic rom-com. It’s a cut above the rest, and worth checking out even if you’re not usually a fan of romantic fiction. Cousen’s experience as a screenwriter shines through and gives the novel an edge that most romantic books simply don’t have. I really enjoyed it and found it hard to put down, and that’s coming from someone who isn’t usually a fan of sentimental books about romance and family histories, so this one must be bloody good.

The Noise Review: An Engaging If Overly Long Fantasy Thriller

Having recently reviewed James Patterson and Bill Clinton’s book The President’s Daughter, I was excited to check out his latest book, The Noise.

A collaboration with J.D. Barker, the book is set in modern day America, in a remote settlement where a sudden anomaly tears through the landscape and leaves destruction in its wake. The anomaly is a loud noise, that causes physical and mental devastation to everything in its path. The book switches between perspectives, so the reader gets to see the destruction from various viewpoints.

Among these is a scientist, Dr Martha Chan, who is bought in by the US government to investigate the anomaly and what caused it. There are also two young girls, Tenant and Sophie, who lived in an off-the-grid settlement and survive the disaster, alongside their labrador Zeke. The pair settle into a storm shelter after the noise catching them out while they’re trapping rabbits. Once the event is, seemingly, over, the pair resurface, with Sophie experiencing strange symptoms, including a fever. She also keeps saying ‘Anna Shim’, a name that her sister doesn’t know. Another character whose perspective the authors show to the reader is a US solider who works with Martha to try and understand what’s going on.

The initial team bought in to deal with the anomaly and understand it thins out, as specialists visit the site of the tragedy and promptly disappear. The leader who’s handling the situation instates a 2 hour rule, where everyone has to leave the site of the anomaly after 2 hours or less.

That doesn’t stop him and others from disappearing. As the anomaly hits other towns and other people encounter it, it becomes clear that the problem is spreading and that it is gathering momentum and growing in power. The initial team bought in by the US government thins down to a few, including Dr Chan and the solider, who work together to analyse the two girls that survived the initial blast and work out what’s causing it.

With the threat growing ever more real and major, the US government realises that if it doesn’t do something soon, then other international powers will take action. The anomaly and the destruction it causes are soon covered by the media, both traditional and social. The result is mass panic, and a gripping race for the characters to understand the noise and what it means for humanity.

The Noise starts out a little slowly, with a lot of exposition that makes the book exceptionally and needlessly long. However, as the book picks up its pace towards the middle, it becomes a unique take on the modern fantasy thriller. It blends the writers’ skills in political and thriller writing with a creative dystopian world in which all of humanity is at risk from being consumed by an all-encompassing sound.

What I like the most about the novel is the characterisation. There are loads of great characters and engaging dialogue, so the reader starts to really feel invested in the story and wants these characters to survive. That’s particularly true of Dr Martha Chan, who is an engaging character who is both interesting and empathetic. Her relationship with the two girls who survived the anomaly is endearing and pushes the reader to want her to survive and find a way to deal with the issue facing humankind. She regularly mentions her young twin children, which brings us back to the real facts of the issue: that the anomaly could potentially wipe out everything she and the other experts hold dear.

The chapters that are from Dr Chan’s perspective are intriguing and engaging, as are the ones from Tenant’s point of view. However, as the book jumps around so much, it’s difficult for readers to keep up with the complicated story and feel truly engaged in it. The story jumps not just in perspective but also in space, as the book takes us to different areas near or around the anomaly or to a secure unit where the army is experimenting to find a way to stop the noise from infecting other people.

In the end, it’s clear that Patterson and Barker are trying to emulate Stephen King with this supernatural thriller, right at the time when King is trying his hand at police procedural writing. It makes for a unique insight into the literary world, but as far as reading experiences go, The Noise needs some work. For a first attempt it isn’t half bad, and with a little sharpening and less repositioning of the narrative, I think that the two authors have the potential to become a fantasy thriller powerhouse.

Death In Daylesford Review: Another Inventive 1920s Crime Caper

Since the announcement that Kerry Greenwood was writing another of her excellent novels about the flapper turned sleuth Miss Fisher and her merry band of misfits, I’ve been excited to read it. It took some time for Death In Daylseford to be published in the UK, where I live, but now it’s here I’m really pleased that it is.

I’ve been a massive fan of Kerry Greenwood and her amazing Miss Phryne Fisher novels for a long time now. There are over 20 books in the series, which has been turned into a successful TV series and also a film. The series is progressive and gives great visibility to many often-overlooked communities, such as LGBTQIA+, Asian and indigenous Australian individuals.

The book begins with Miss Fisher and her faithful companion Dot embarking on a holiday. They’ve been invited to a spa that’s designed to support wounded veterans and help them to recuperate safely and properly. It seems like a great opportunity for the pair to relax and unwind, but as ever, trouble isn’t far behind.

In fact, it’s actually ahead of them: as soon as the intrepid duo arrives they’re informed of mysterious disappearances of women around the town, as well as a young child who went missing alongside his mother. These mysteries soon pale in comparison to the murderous intent of one of the villagers, who uses ingenious methods to murder an individual, seemingly at random, during a Highland Games event.

The disappearances continue, and soon Miss Fisher and Dot find themselves tangled in a potentially deadly web, with many different strands and a list of suspects a mile long. Many of the townsfolk are acting suspiciously and have secrets that they’d rather keep hidden, so the pair has a lot of sleuthing to do and not a lot of time. The killer keeps going, leaving our intrepid duo to unravel the threads of this tangled web and uncover the truth in the lead-up to another event that could spell yet more murder.

Meanwhile, in her Melbourne home, Sergeant Hugh Collins is staying over while his own home is being renovated. Just as he moves into his temporary home, his boss, DI Jack Robinson, is moved onto a new taskforce to help take down one of the city’s most renowned criminals, known as Barry The Shark. The Shark is well connected in the criminal underworld, and most of those who oppose him end up either being dismissed on fake corruption charges or, worse, dead in the river.

With Collins now under the temporary leadership of a deeply incompetent acting detective inspector, he’s given a new case that links him to Miss Fisher’s household. Tinker, her adoptive son, finds a body floating in the river while he’s out fishing with Miss Fisher’s communist wharfie friends, Bert and Cec. The body is of a young woman who went to school with Miss Fisher’s adoptive daughters, Ruth and Janie.

Both girls were fond of the murdered girl, so they’re determined to uncover the truth. When Tinker thinks that the killer could be one of the boys at his school, the group hatches a plan to ensure that the rightful killer is unmasked and that an innocent man isn’t convicted by the spineless and lazy acting Detective Inspector.

While the plot might start slowly, it evolves into multiple mysteries that both Miss Fisher and her Melbourne cohort have to unravel. The information is slow in coming, but once it does, the reader quickly becomes invested in the outcome and eager to find out more about the various characters and their murky backgrounds.

Almost every character from the series is involved in the story in some small way. Miss Fisher’s long-term lover meets with her at the beginning of the story. Bert and Cec appear at the beginning only briefly, and Mr and Mrs Butler also dip in and out of the novel. However, none of these characters are actually essential to the plot, so Greenwood quickly moves on from them, making them feel a little shoe-horned into the book. Jack Robinson and his taskforce are only mentioned at the beginning and the end of the novel, which is a shame as it sounds like it could’ve made for an interesting addition to the tale.

It might’ve been better for the author to focus on fewer characters, and not slot the rest in. This would have allowed the reader to see more of the important individuals who drove the plot forward, rather than getting a little of everyone, but as a fan of the series it is good to see them appear, however briefly. Clearly Greenwood is focusing on giving fans of the TV show what they want, but it might be at the expense of the book itself. One minor inconstancy I found is that Ember, Miss Fisher’s cat, becomes female, where previously he had been male. It’s a small thing, but it bugged me more than it probably should have done.

However, for the most part Death In Daylesford is a triumph that’s easy and fun to read, making it ideal for summer. It’s a unique cosy crime novel with a truly ingenious ending that even the Queen Of Crime herself, Agatha Christie, would’ve been impressed by. Everything ties up nicely in the end- if it were a modern book, then it would almost be too perfect, but cosy crime novels rely on this slightly unbelievable style of ending, making this a perfect example of the genre.

Ultimately, I feel the same about Death In Daylesford the same way I do about the full-length film Miss Fisher And The Crypt Of Tears. It’s a great read, but I wouldn’t let it be your initial introduction to the series. Start at the beginning, or go in with a amazing book like Dead Man’s Chest. This book is an intriguing and interesting addition to the series, but it doesn’t show Greenwood’s skills at their fullest. So, in all, if you’re looking for a nice summer read, then a cosy crime fiction book like Death In Daylesford could be the ideal choice for you, but if you’re new to the series, start somewhere else.

The Marlow Murder Club Review: A Cosy Cryptic Mystery

It’s been a long time coming, but I’ve finally got round to sharing my thoughts on the popular cosy crime fiction novel The Marlow Murder Club. I’ve had the book on my TBR pile for a while, but I didn’t get around to checking it out until recently.

Written by Robert Thorogood, the creator of the longstanding TV series Death In Paradise, the book is a cute cosy crime novel. It fills ever aspect of the cosy crime fiction formula, giving you a feel-good read from start to finish.

It was published at around the same time as Richard Osman’s amazing book The Thursday Murder Club, and while the novels are similar, they’re unique in their settings and storytelling.

The Marlow Murder Club is set in a small town in Buckinghamshire, and tells the story of a eccentric old woman named Judith Potts. She lives in a mansion she inherited from her aunt, and sets crosswords as a job. She also loves to swim naked in the river wending its way behind her house, which is what she’s doing one day when she hears a scream coming from her neighbour Stefan’s house.

Then she hears a shot, which leads her to call the police. Despite the police visiting, it’s Judith herself who finds the body of her neighbour, who used to run a art gallery before he was brutally killed. He’s been shot and the police are quickly called back.

Judith isn’t taken seriously by the police, but she finds it hard to stop thinking about the crime. Then another murder takes place in the sleepy, small village, this time a local taxi driver, who is seemingly unconnected to Stefan. While investigating both crimes, Judith meets Becks, the wife of a local vicar, and Suzie, a dog walker who took care of the taxi driver’s Doberman.

At first, the dog walker is eager to join in on the fun while Becks tries desperately to stay out of it, but gradually the three unlikely friends start working together to solve the murders. Like in The Thursday Murder Club, there’s a local policewoman who just about tolerates the group enough to let them in on some of the information about the investigation.

There are plenty of similarities between the two books, including the age of the main characters, how their lives become entwined with the investigation as it continues, the fact that they all seem to know the ins and outs of everything that goes on in their small town and more.

At the same time, Thorogood’s novel is just different enough from Osman’s to make them both worth checking out; they’re definitely made to fit the same mould, but they’re also individual books. In that respect, they’re a lot like Death In Paradise: they follow a set formula but each book, as is the case with the show’s episodes, is slightly and clearly different. In that way, these novels are comforting for those of us who enjoy knowing that we’ll definitely enjoy reading a book without wanting to re-read an old favourite. We know what we’re in for, but we still get the benefit of checking out something new. It’s a win-win.

From the beginning, Thorogood gives both the reader and the main characters an obvious suspect: an obnoxious local auction house owner with a shady past who was seen fighting with Stefan a few weeks before his death. However, from the beginning both the readers and the group of characters that becomes the murder club are faced with the insurmountable issue of the character’s watertight alibis for each of the crimes.

The plot is as cryptic as the crosswords that the elderly, aristocratic protagonist Judith writes for national newspapers. She works with her two new friends to uncover the truth, and the group come up against everything from a sleazy lawyer who fakes his client’s will, through to cryptic clues, art fraud, theft and more. The group works together with the police, who after their initial apathy are eager for all the help they can get.

All the twists and turns are still predictable and comforting, making this a cosy book that’ll make you feel relaxed while still keeping you gripped. It’s like an episode of Death In Paradise, but without the vague colonial undertones and cheesy British actors who look about as out of place in the Caribbean as a Vulcan walking around a Tesco Metro.

In all, with a sequel in the works, it’s clear that The Marlow Murder Club was a hit, and while it’s probably not going to become an unforgettable classic, it’s still a great read. If you’re looking for something to read that’s cosy, comforting and uncomplicated, then this is a great choice. It’s surprisingly easy to read and delightfully entertaining, even if it’s not a hard-hitting read that will make you question humanity.

The President’s Daughter Review: A Punchy Political Thriller That’s Ideal For Summer

Following the success of their first novel together, The President Is Missing, former U.S President Bill Clinton and internationally acclaimed thriller writer James Patterson have collaborated on another book, which is due to be published next week.

This new book is titled The President’s Daughter, and despite the similarities in the titles, it’s a standalone novel, not part of a series with the previous book. That means a whole new cast of characters and a completely new tale. It also means that you don’t have to have read The President Is Missing to enjoy this new novel.

It’s a book about the kidnapping of a teenage girl, who’s father is a former Navy SEAL who later served as the President of the U.S. With his daughter kidnapped by a former enemy, he’s left to use his skills to track down his little girl and get her back safely, a journey that takes him around the world and into dangerous situations.

The title of the book is slightly misleading: by the time she’s kidnapped, Mel Keating’s father Matt is an ex-president, and has been so for 2 years. He’s now living quietly in a small house in a small town in New Hampshire, while his wife is working on an archaeological dig in Boston.

Mel was out hiking when she’s abruptly snatched from the trail and her boyfriend is shot dead in front of her. Now, she’s in the hands of a dangerous terrorist: a man whose own daughters, along with his wife, were killed while Keating’s men were exploring his compound during his presidency.  

Now, this terrorist is out for revenge, and he has the former President’s daughter in his clutches. Emotions run high as the former President and his wife watch in horror as the current administration, which already betrayed them politically, now fails them in trying to recover their precious daughter.

Switching between different perspectives, including Matt Keating, his wife, his daughter and the terrorists who hold her captive, the new President, the secret service agents working with Keating to find his daughter, and various international diplomats, the two authors create a varied and intense narrative. By withholding information from the reading, and showing us the initial, horrified reactions of a variety of characters, the writers turn even simple plot points into thrilling passages.

One of the downsides to this technique is that it does make the book much longer. The President’s Daughter is an immense volume with over 100 chapters split into 5 parts, plus en epilogue. Despite this extraordinary length, the book is surprisingly easy to read.

Clinton and Patterson do a good job of creating tension and making Matt Keating, the former POTUS protagonist, realistic and believable. We can really feel his pain and empathise with his feelings of impotence and inadequacy as he watches the hostage situation unfold. He feels powerless, until he decides to go off-script, in true action hero fashion, and take matters into is own hands.

Armed with a selection of weapons he understands from his days as a Navy SEAL, his grief, and a handful of security operatives and high-level contacts that he can trust, Matt Keating sets out to take down the terrorist who took his little girl. All the while, the truth is obscured and it’s unclear as to who Keating, or the reader, can trust.

While the pair are both clearly very good at writing powerful male characters, they fall seriously short when it comes to portraying women. Despite the sheer volume of female characters, the novel is very clearly written by men. The female characters are almost entirely either women who behave like the male characters and are almost indistinguishable from them, as is the case with the female secret agents, or they’re entirely controlled by men.

That’s the case with the new President, Pamela Barnes. She is married to a former cowboy, who’s now her chief of staff and who controls her. He literally makes decisions on her behalf. Her character is a caricature of what the first female President of America might look like, which is frankly shocking from the husband of a woman who stood a decent chance of becoming the first real life female POTUS if it wasn’t for America’s overwhelming racism and bigotry. Even when Pamela Barnes does eventually wise up to her husband’s debauchery and ditch him, she’s still facing the fallout from his past decision making.

Also, Clinton and Patterson both miss out on the irony of the female characters, particularly the secret service and FBI operatives, being constantly mansplained at and being overlooked for top jobs by incompetent men. There are plenty of male characters in this book who are clearly completely useless at their roles, but meanwhile women are running around cleaning up their messes and generally just doing their jobs for them.

For me, it’s characters and writing like this that makes me wish for more inclusivity and female perspectives in the crime fiction and thriller market. The women in The President’s Daughter have all accepted their fates as helpless and waiting for rescue, puppets or tokens. It’s such a shame that neither of the writers could take the time to consult with a woman, or research real women in power, before they put this book together.

The same goes for the foreign characters, many of whom appear to be a string of stereotypes clustered together. There are a few redeeming paragraphs which show some small international cooperation and appear to suggest that not all foreigners are bad, but for the most part the novel is incredibly regressive and filled with out-dated values. It’s hardly inclusivity if you include diverse characters but write them from your own, ignorant perspective.

This is the biggest let down the novel has, but if you can look beyond the lack of real diversity and the weird characterisation of everyone other than the ex-Navy SEAL turned former POTUS and his male security detail, then this is an interesting read. Patterson has written hundreds of books over the years, many of which have become international bestsellers. Combined with Clinton’s knowledge of the U.S political system, and you’ve got an interesting read that can help make your staycation feel like a really relaxing break. There’s not a lot of complicated plot points or information to absorb, so you can just sit back and enjoy the ride through this action-packed book.

Overall, if you enjoy fast-paced thrillers then you could find that The President’s Daughter is right up your street. Written by a former President and a master of popular thrillers, the book is a well-researched page-turner. It’ll be a great read for the summer. If you’re looking for a book with substances and a social conscience, then this isn’t the novel for you, but it’s still a great way to pass the time. It might be a hefty book, but it’ll fly by and you’ll be shocked by how quickly you finish it thanks to Patterson’s narrative skills.

Guilty Review: A Shocking Thriller With A New Twist In Every Chapter

Having recently interviewed author Jane Hobden, I was eager to check out her book, Guilty.

It’s billed as a unique version of a traditional crime novel, and it’s easy to see why as soon as you turn the first page. The narrative is divided into sections, so that the reader sees the case from multiple perspectives. It offers almost Gone Girl esq perspective flips, but more of them, so that the reader is constantly unsure about whose version of the truth is the real one.

The plot follows the strange case of Megan Sands, a young mother whose six-year-old daughter is taken into care following a fall down some stairs. The teaching assistant who took the child to hospital and urged the staff there to call social services is also a mother with a daughter in the same class; indeed, the two young girls are friends.

Not long after Lola Sands is taken into care, someone breaks into the teaching assistant’s home and throws acid over her husband’s face, before tying her up and berating her before letting her go. The teaching assistant, Becky Thurston, recognises the assailant and identifies her as Megan Sands. She tells the police that Megan had threatened her before and been abusive prior to the devastating attack.

When the police go to visit Megan at her flat to quiz her about the attack, they find a bottle of acid and a blanket out in the hall on the floor below where she lives. It’s this coincidence, and Megan’s lack of alibi and shifty behaviour that leads the police to arrest and charge her with the crime.

The novel details the court case, as well as the events leading up to it and in between. Skipping from different perspectives and narrative styles, Hobden creates an enthralling tale that’s very difficult to put down. The reader is thrust into this captivating story and soon finds themselves wondering who to believe.

Many of the characters that narrate chapters, and deliver witness statements that Hobden uses to change up the writing style, are unreliable, with their versions of events differing drastically from other people’s accounts. So, the reader is left on tenterhooks and you’re unable to guess what’s going to happen next.

Thanks to Hobden’s diverse writing style, which includes witness statements, court dialogue and first person, character narrated chapters, the reader gets a complete perspective over the case. As mentioned, several of the characters are, at specific times throughout the story, unreliable, meaning that we see the action unfold slowly. The tale becomes increasingly complicated as Megan gives her evidence in court, and twisted versions of the truth start to come out.

The book is great, but it’s not without its flaws. The main issue I find is that the witness statements, used at the beginning of the novel to break up the narrative, feel a little samey. For those that are supposed to be written by characters in professional jobs, they don’t quite hit the right note. The same goes for the court proceedings: at times, the lawyers just don’t sound right. I’m not a lawyer or an expert myself, but I’ve read enough crime fiction to know that some of the text isn’t quite accurate.

That being said, accuracy isn’t everything, and while these minor issues might impede the narrative slightly, they don’t change the fact that this is an incredible book that keeps you hooked to the very end. Hobden structures the novel well, so that you feel compelled to keep going to get to the next twist and uncover the next fact.

It’s this propulsion that drives the reader through the novel and makes Guilty such a great read. You’ll be surprised how quickly you finish this compelling read. Once you’ve finished it, you’ll be haunted by the plot. It’s not just the plot that’s unforgettable; the characters are also engaging and memorable. Megan Sands, whose first-person account is interspersed with her witness testimony, is a relatable and understandable character who inspires both pity and understanding.

Her supposed victim’s wife, Becky Thurston, is also relatable and is both suspicious and subtly threatening. Even small, minor characters are intriguing and memorable, including Megan’s lawyer. He’s a robotic career man who has no compassion for his client and is neither sympathetic nor particularly competent. Through characters like him and the unsympathetic policemen who interview Megan, Hobden makes a point that the legal system in the UK is often incredibly prejudice, particularly towards single mothers living in social housing. 

When all’s said and done, Guilty is a unique thriller that works on many levels. It’s not without its flaws, but those don’t detract from the novel. It’s still a great read that will keep you riveted for a long while to come. The book also makes you question the truth and how every story has more than one side. So, if you want to enjoy a gripping summer read, then this could be the perfect solution for you.

The Patient Man Review: The Gripping Tale Of A Deadly Small Town Crime Spree

With a nomination for British Book Awards under the Crime/Thriller Book of the Year category, it’s safe to say that Joy Ellis’s latest novel, The Patient Man is turning heads, and it’s easy to see why.

Set in modern times, the book is a gripping thriller that captures your attention from the off and keeps it right the way through to its intense conclusion. From the first chapter, it’s clear why the awards committee decided to nominate this intense thriller for this prestigious accolade. It’s an almost timeless story that is unsettling and almost frightening, adding a tinge of excitement to the reading experience without going too far.

Ellis is up against some stiff competition for the award, with household names such as Lee Child and Ian Rankin also nominated. She’s also the only writer on the list whose book was launched by an independent publisher, which just shows that indie publishing houses are definitely worth checking out. There are some awesome independent publishers out there offering incredible content, and while some, like the wonderful Urbane Publishing, have sadly closed, there are still plenty of them out there.

The Patient Man is one phenomenal example of a book from an independent publisher that’s definitely worth checking out. It’s a combination of police procedural and serial killer thriller that perfectly encapsulates the terrors of a murderous psychopath with the challenges of small town policing. As such, it’s clear why it was nominated for this award and if it doesn’t win, then that will be a very big shame.

From the very beginning of the book, the tension is palpable in this fast-paced thriller. It begins with a dream, in which DI Jackman’s nemesis, serial killer Alistair Ashcroft , AKA the novel’s namesake patient man, returns to the picturesque English countryside town of Saltern-Le-Fen. As if it was a premonition, suddenly Ashcroft returns and begins terrorising Jackman and his team. He’s been gone for a long time, but he’s been hatching an evil plan to torment the village and get back at Jackman, his nemesis, through the people and places he loves.

While Ashcroft’s crime spree is unfolding, there’s a break-in at a local gun club, and it quickly becomes apparent that the crime is linked to the deranged serial killer. Minor farmyard thefts, including the abduction of some pigs and the attempted theft of red diesel also take up the team’s time, and there could potentially be a link between them and the serial menace. The crimes are soon connected to a small local family of uneducated individuals, who quickly start their own vendetta against Ashcroft after he dupes them.

Luring specific members of Jackman’s team to the scene of his crimes, Ashcroft makes his crime spree personal. He also targets Jackman’s girlfriend and photographs him at his home and workplace, which adds an immensely creepy edge to novel’s plot. Ashcroft is both a typical insane serial killer and an inventive psychopath, so while he does have some traditional tropes, he’s also incredibly unpredictable. Thanks to the author’s skilful handling of the character and plot, you’ll never know what’s around the corner and always be kept guessing. 

The author crafts unique and bold characters that enhance the novel’s tension. Ashcroft is a psychological bully, and he launches a campaign of terror that is both thrilling and terrifying in equal measure. Ellis keeps readers enthralled and ratchets up the tension by showing the reader different perspectives, so that we see the violence play out at close quarters and then watch the madness unfold afterwards from all angles.

As well as Ashcroft, the police team are also a bunch of relatable, two-dimensional characters. Ellis shows the reader just enough personal insight into them to make the reader invest in them emotionally, without filling the novel with erroneous back-story. That means that you’ll feel all of Ashcroft’s menace and evil deeds as if they’re real, and become very invested in the story. Ellis puts the reader firmly on the side of the police, giving the novel some interesting twists and unique coincidences to keep us guessing.

There is one thing that surprises me a little about The Patient Man. In this day and age, where everyone carries a glorified tracking device in their pockets and CCTV monitors our every move, I find it difficult to believe that Ashcroft could live for so long without getting caught. Even though he is hiding out in a small fen town, I still find it a bit weird that he was able to stay underground for such a long time.

Still, I can allow for a little creative licence; after all, it would be a pretty boring novel if the serial killer were caught immediately! Ellis is an amazing storyteller, and she keeps the narrative on a knife-edge from page one through to very end.

So, if you’re a big fan of crime fiction and gripping books that merge modern serial killer troupes with traditional English police fiction, this could be the ideal summer read for you.

In all, with its sleek plotting and witty dialogue, The Patient Man reads like a hardboiled American thriller. The novel has a sophisticated and slick plot with a humble and homely setting, which is a unique and intriguing combination. I’d thoroughly recommend this book to readers who love all types of crime novel and want to read a compelling thriller that will keep them guessing.

Lost Souls Review: An Thrilling Modern Mystery You Won’t Be Able To Put Down

Hot on the heels of the amazing and engaging Serpentineis John Kellerman’s latest novel, which he created in collaboration with his son, award-winning playwright Jesse Kellerman.

Part of the Clay Edison series, Lost Souls follows the intrepid coroner as he deals with a case of a baby’s dead body, found decomposing under a stage at a Berkley University park.

The park in question, known as People’s Park, is due to be demolished and turned into a dormitory complex. However, as the building crew come to tear down the park’s infrastructure, including the stage, a bone is discovered.

The bone turns out to be the entire skeleton of a young baby, wrapped in a blanket and clearly old. The discovery turns the park into a political playground, with the University on one side and organisations fighting to protect the park, which they believe to be a Native American burial site, on the other.

In the middle, Edison and his team are trying to uncover the identity of the infant whose remains were under the stage. They find out that he’s a boy, and then they uncover a match for his DNA. This discovery, made early in the novel, takes Edison to a prison cell where a violent white supremacist is in denial about the child, and his kids refuse to acknowledge their previously unknown sibling.

At the same time, Edison is contacted by a wealthy tech entrepreneur, who thinks that the remains might be those of his long lost sister. He’s never met her, and he doesn’t remember ever having done so, but he has a snapshot of his mother and a baby long before he was born. His mother is now dead, and he’s desperate for some kind of closure on the subject. So much so that’s he’s gone to desperate lengths and, so far, found nothing. His father, who doesn’t speak to anymore, has let slip that the child was a girl, but he doesn’t know much more about her.

The remains at the park are not the tech wizard’s sister, but Edison, who has his own little baby girl at home, agrees to take on the case to help find out what happened to the child in the picture. Through the case, which he takes on privately, he comes up against silence, bureaucracy and the FBI, all of which takes him on towards some shocking discoveries.

All the while, the fight over the park and the potential building of the dormitory is reaching fever pitch. Tensions boil over and violence ensues. Edison also receives personal threats, leading him to fear for the safety of his family. While the plot has a lot of twists and turns, it remains enticing and easy to follow. If anything, the multiple plot points help readers to feel engaged in the story.

Thanks to the narrative skills and extensive experience of the writers, Lost Souls is an eye-opening tale that teaches readers a lot about American policing and the process of managing cases. As an English woman, I didn’t realise that American coroners have so much power, and that they act as a combination of pathologist and police officer. Clay Edison is certainly not like the fuddy duddy English pathologist type character that you see in a lot of British crime novels.

Instead, he’s a hardened yet compassionate officer who understands people and has a lot of experience handling individuals in many different painful, dangerous or generally difficult situations. The two Kellerman’s deftly entwine his personal and professional lives in the novel, giving just enough insight to make the issues he’s dealing with at work seem so deeply personal and painful to the protagonist.

As well as Edison, there are so many incredible, believable characters in this novel. There’s the tech mogul, who is both dedicated to finding out more about his long lost sister and disillusioned that his past attempts have all led to dead ends. Also, there is the family of the white supremacist, who are intriguing and more than just the typical stereotypes that you see in many thrillers. Instead, they’re two-dimensional figures who are clearly a product of a very messed-up upbringing and who really enrich the story.

The characters are backed up by punchy dialogue that sounds realistic yet slick. The police characters are all witty enough to keep the novel moving but not so much that they seem corny or completely fake.

One of the few criticisms I have of the novel is that some parts of the storyline, namely Edison taking on a private case, feel a little forced. It seems a bit unbelievable that a busy coroner, in the midst of a hectic investigation and barely sleeping because of his young daughter, would jump so readily at the chance to take on yet more work. The case appears unsolvable, and there while the character of the tech businessman is portrayed as slick and persuasive, I wondered a few times whether a busy public official would stoop to taking on a private job. I also wondered about the legalities of doing so; while Edison doesn’t agree a fee, in the UK such a practice would definitely be frowned upon, if not a definite breach of rules.

However, that’s a minor grumble, and given that it is a book, and not real life, I suppose I can give the Kellerman’s a bit of artistic license, especially since it makes the novel that much more enticing. It’s fascinating to watch the two cases unfold alongside one another, and between them the two entwine to carry the plot through to its dramatic and satisfying conclusion.

Ultimately, Lost Souls is a fascinating addition to the Clay Edison series and incorporates all of the best parts of John Kellerman’s storytelling abilities with the fresh ideas and innovation of his son Jesse. This is a gripping thriller that should definitely be added to your summer reading list. It’ll make the perfect read for when you’re relaxing out in the sun and want to enjoy a fascinating crime caper.