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Thriller Of The Month – January 2013
This month featuring
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|Close To The Bone by Stuart MacBride|
|Review by Leslie Gardner
This is the first of this very successful novelist’s novels I’ve read; and I’ve always been curious: and I discover, after initially resisting it, I’ve been seduced…but I held back for a long while (first quarter).
I am not used to long streams of misogyny: every woman a dolt, with a moustache or some other ‘unattractive’ physical attribute (fat – Steele repeatedly digs under a bra strap to release its tightness): they are incompetent and too-talky, unprofessional – the acting head of the department is a screechy, foul-mouthed lesbian with a charming child and GF. There’s an overly controlling mom who destroys her mentally imbalanced daughter who worships a boyfriend.
In other words, this novel is a sequence of linked cartoon figures in fast-moving snippets of scenes, changing so fast from one locale to another I was always on the hop = where am I? Who is it? (even after my seduction by Macbride, I could not always remember who was who – I think sometimes this had to do with references to characters I did not know from earlier novels in the series).
But soon I realised, wrestling to be honest, that, really, it has to be said, the men are as cliché ridden and appalling (and funny) as the women are.
The story-telling is choppy but slick, fast-paced and satiric – a combination ordinarily I don’t go for, but Macbride mesmerises me with his skill and his splendid central character, DI Logan. As the novel nears its end, it is true that the prose thickens and becomes less digressive, or at least less the feel of sliced-and-pasted-prose (I felt I could relax a little) – but it ends fast with things sewn up too neatly – see what a Method Actor does to learn her trade…
But Logan has a heart, and he’s our moral compass, even though he is as ‘moany’ and eccentric as they come – we are tricked about his primary serious relationship but it’s sweet, and it’s okay (I won’t tell you what it is). He does right by his fellows, and his heart is in the right place, caring for homeless people, knowing right from wrong, he takes his bashes in good-enough humour, and disparages of wealthy careless types. If I’d not warmed to him, the race to keep up with all the characters, and the weave of sometimes incomprehensible allies he makes and haywire plot lines, I do not know if I’d have stayed with it. Overall, a very impressive venture – not sure yet I’ll seek out another one though.
Rating: Very Impressive.
Where To Buy:
Author website: www.stuartmacbride.com
|The Bellwether Revivals by Benjamin Wood|
|If Music Be the Food of Delusion… Review by Sophie Scott
Two people are dead and a third lies injured. To the sound of approaching sirens, those remaining bicker, vying to lay claim to blame and guilt, while a broken organ, blown by the wind, wheezes into life ‘like a machine that had found a way to breathe’.
Benjamin Wood’s prologue is a meticulously written tease identifying only two characters in the final scene – who appear to reverse roles as soon as the narrative proper begins. Blessed with Cambridge scholarships and financial privilege, Eden Bellwether is a brilliantly gifted musician, convinced that he has the power to heal through music. When Oscar Lowe, a labourer’s son and care assistant, falls in love with Eden’s student sister, Iris, the alchemy is set for a devastating series of experiments. As Eden’s charisma and philosophy insinuate his presence into all conversation and thought, it proves more and more difficult for Oscar to extract himself from this strangely blinkered and magnetic world.
Melding fiction with faux-journalism and academia (all beautifully researched) Wood plays upon the psychological drama inherent in all relationships. The insecurity of being is so acutely observed that the reader is prey to Wood’s writing, questioning his or her own reason as much as Eden’s. He traverses the line between madness and genius with such assurance that cynics must pause for proof. Wood handles human illness with delicacy and he writes music well, conveying sound as well as atmosphere, which is no mean feat. With precision he captures an aspect of Cambridge University life, of privileged lives, keenly investigating the desire and confusion of those outside-looking-in. There are late narrative discoveries that seem to touch on a greater depth to Eden’s plot than is fully explored, but this is a great debut with full-blooded characters that will drive you to read Descartes and Johann Mattheson, as well as Wood’s next adventure.
Rating: Intriguingly creepy COSTA nominated debut.
Where To Buy:
Author’s Website: www.benjamin-wood.com
|Steps To Heaven by Wendy Cartmell|
|Review by RR Gordon
My favourite teacher at school was the archetypal hard-but-fair Mr Birch. I think he revelled in his surname – and its implied thrashing from the cane – but underneath the tough exterior he simply wanted us to get our spellings right and appreciate good writing.
I remembered Mr Birch when I read about the exploits of Sgt Major Crane in Wendy Cartmell’s book, Steps To Heaven. Crane has a similarly tough exterior, but underneath it all he cares for the other members of his team and, more importantly in this case, has a desire to uncover the truth about a soldier’s supposed suicide.
This is an absorbing story, with a well-constructed plot assembled on the foundations of a strong basic theme. The characters are believable and likeable and the backdrop to the story – the army garrison – provides an interesting glimpse of life in the forces.
Producers of television shows are always looking for new detective characters and I imagine that the army investigator, Sgt Major Crane, would be right up their street. Who would play Crane I wonder? If Tom Cruise can play Jack Reacher then perhaps my old English teacher could be tempted out of retirement.
I heartily recommend Steps To Heaven to fans of crime thrillers, police procedurals and whodunnits.
Rating: Heartily Recommended
Where To Buy:
Author’s Website: www.wendycartmell.webs.com
Publisher: Costa Press