Posted in Books, murder mystery, Paranormal, Reviews, Thriller

Book Review: The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

I very rarely give five star ratings anymore but I am happy to give this book the first of hopefully many to come this year.

This book absolutely blew me away. It kept me up at night and awake at the crack of dawn. It weighed heavily on my mind for two straight days; I was thinking about it over breakfast, while I was reading my emails, when I was arguing with a colleague and I even spared it a thought while I was swiping through Tinder. Lol

This is like a supernatural version of an Agatha Christie novel. A colleague asked me for a synopsis of it and she wanted me to be succinct so I told her its like if Murder On The Orient Express met Groundhog Day and they had a baby then that baby is this book.

Evelyn Hardcastle will be murdered at the night of the ball during a weekend house party. I don’t think that’s a spoiler because duh, the bloody title gives that away. That is not the main point of the novel. The point is that she is doomed to be murdered again and again until someone solves her murder.

Aiden Bishop is the man tasked with this herculean task. And you would think he’d have a fighting chance if the day repeats itself over and over again because hey, at least you’ll learn from the mistakes of the previous day right?

There’s always a catch; and the catch in this instance is that every time the day resets Aiden wakes up in the body of a different house guest which will serve as his host until he either falls asleep or dies.

More to the point, this whole sequence of events is actually some kind of loop and at some point he will intersect with himself in his past and future hosts, in which case he will need to figure out how to either influence future events or change the course of the day without fucking everything up basically. It gets terribly complicated in the best way possible.

This book was completely mind-boggling. I am simply amazed at its level of complexity; the amount of attention to detail it must have taken to keep everything straight and to make sure nothing gets missed must have taken heaps and heaps of notes and post-its and cross-referencing, not to mention meticulous editing. I simply don’t know how Stuart Turton did it but I, for one, am glad that we have this fantastic book as evidence of his hard labor.

The best kind of murder mysteries are the ones where everything is so unpredictable that you’ve given up trying to wade through all the false information and red herrings to try and solve the mystery yourself. This was what I did with this one. I just prepared myself for the unexpected, and told myself this is one mystery that I will not be able to solve. And I was right, I did not see that ending coming.

Utterly unpredictable, compelling and compulsively readable, this kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time. I’ve read so many of these that I am very rarely surprised but well done, Mr. Turton, you’ve managed to do the impossible.

For my American readers, this book is out in the US sometime in September. For UK readers, get thee to your nearest bookstore now!

Five Jumping Up and Down Stars!

Posted in Books, Reviews

Book Review: Behind Her Eyes – Sarah Pinborough

I’m sorry but this is not going to be the most coherent of reviews. My emotions after reading this book and its ending can be summed up in three words:

My apologies for the expletive but there can be no other reaction to this utter mindf***of a novel. I cannot believe that the author actually went there. Towards the end, I wasn’t actually sure what kind of novel I was reading; the only thing I was sure about was that the characters in this book are all totally batshit crazy.

Mild spoilers ahead people! 

Okay so it starts out as a normal thriller. Lonely divorcee Louise meets rich, handsome married psychiatrist and has an affair with him. The other complication? She also strikes up a friendship with his beautiful wife Adele. As she gets entangled in their complicated marriage and the secrets of their past, Louise finds herself unsure of who she can trust. Her lover who has violent tendencies but seems to be so gentle when he’s with her? Or her new best friend who seems to only want what’s best for her?

I honestly don’t know how to even write this review. As I power read through the chapters I find myself growing more and more confused; at one point I thought for sure that this was going to be like John Cusack in Identity and that they were all really one person with one hell of a  multiple personality disorder and a clusterf*** of a life. I could not understand where the author was going with the narrative. This book’s whole marketing campaign had apparently been all about the “twist” and how it had “the most shocking ending you’ll read all year”.

Well, let me tell you something about that ending. 

Fine, okay. It managed to get a reaction out of me. My mind was completely blown, I can’t deny that. But if I think too hard about it, it doesn’t actually make any sense! And what’s even stranger is that in a weird sort of way, after you think about it a little more, it kind of does make a little bit of sense. I can’t explain it without giving it away but its the kind of twist that will generate a lot of discussion and will surely polarise readers; some will hate it, others will go gaga over it. I’m not a huge fan of it myself, but it sure added layers to the story and if you suspend belief for one second (or more) it does kinda grow on you.

Okay, there’s more to review than just the ending. There are some themes in this novel that number among my least favourite literary tropes. Infidelity, for example. I have really strong feelings about cheating and I think that there’s never any justification for breaking your marital vows. At the same time I’ve always been determined not to judge other people who have extra-marital affairs mostly because, having never faced that kind of situation myself, I can never fully say how I would react to the prospect of an affair with a married man. Love and lust can make you do crazy things after all.

And there it is. At the heart of this crazy, strange and utterly psychotic story is the fact that love for another human being can make you do things you wouldn’t normally do. Think about a mother who would give her life for her child, or a friend donating a kidney to a dying friend; love is at the heart of all those things, and when that love becomes all-consuming, when the other person becomes the one thing you see and value to the exclusion of everything else (even yourself) I think that’s when love becomes dangerous.

On a slightly lighter note, I think that this novel is also a cautionary tale that people should just MIND THEIR OWN DAMN BUSINESS. Some of the things that Louise did in this novel made me cringe. I mean come on, there’s busybody and intrusive, and then there was Louise in this story. Her reactions to certain situations were so annoying that I was screaming at the book as if I could get through to her. I mean there are a lot of things that I would do for a friend but she’s crossed so many lines in this book that I cannot even begin to describe it. And Louise is supposed to be the sane and sensible one in this story. That tells you a lot about how crazy the other characters are.

Anyway, to read this book and enjoy it you just have to be prepared to take it as it is and not dissect the hell out of it. Its escapist reading at its finest certainly, and it will sure take your mind off your problems at work or the flu you’re nursing (or your broken heart). I almost wish we could have picked this for book club meeting next month because I can already imagine the kind of fiery debate that this book will generate. But alas, this choice was vetoed by other members. I’m still thankful to the book club members who recommended this to me, though. I can’t say that I’m totally happy with it, but I sure enjoyed it enough to finish it in only 6 hours.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars because okay, that ending was actually good the more I think about it. Lol. Kudos to the author for thumbing her nose at naysayers and just going for the unexpected, no matter what!

Get this book for a good price on Amazon by clicking on the image below.

Posted in Books, Reviews

Review: Black Water Lilies – Michel Bussi: MIND BLOWN.

 

Its 1 am and I’ve just stayed up late to finish this fantastic crime/mystery book. As I said, I recently joined the Armchair Murder Book Club at Waterstones‘, which meets every first Wednesday of the month. You can imagine my panic on Tuesday night when I realised that the meeting was the following evening and I haven’t even started the damned book yet. Nonetheless, I decided to make a start so I could at least have something to contribute to the conversation. At the last meeting, some people didn’t finish and it didn’t really make that much of a difference because there wasn’t really a big reveal to spoil. I honestly thought the case would be the same for this book.

WRONG.

This book had one of the best plot twists I’ve ever read in my life. I don’t know if its because I haven’t read a good mystery book lately, but this one just blew. my. mind.

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What?! 

To my everlasting regret, I unfortunately learned of the plot twist during the meeting when I was still 30% into the book, but my mind was still blown. I was speechless for a good 2 minutes, which for me is a long time. I could not wrap my head around it.

The Blurb

Three women lived in a village. One was eighty year old living in a mill overlooking the river. The second was a pretty school teacher trapped in a loveless marriage. The third was a child progeny with the gift of painting. All three were trapped in the picturesque village of Giverny, famous for being the inspiration for Monet’s paintings. All three longed for escape.

Three women lived in a village. “The first one was mean, the second a liar, the third and egotist”. For thirteen days, the gates of Giverny were open for a possible escape but only one would make it out. The third woman was the most intelligent, the second one was the most cunning, the first woman was the most determined. 

This is a riddle solved against the background of the brutal murder of a prominent businessman who had a passion for Monet and an even greater passion for women.

Things are not what they seem.

The Review

I am not going to give away any plot twists. Suffice it to say that during our book club meeting, one of the other readers pointed out that in the hands of a less brave author, this book would have been written very differently. It takes courage and talent to have written it the way it was written; the plot was tight and there were no glaring holes that would make you say “but what about the time when…?” when the big reveal was finally unveiled.

The story generated a lot of discussion during the book club, even from me and I didn’t even finish the damn thing. I was kicking myself for the entire hour and a half for not finishing this book. Ultimately though, I can’t really say that my reading experience was less satisfactory because of the fact that I’ve already been spoiled. I read it with the understanding and  perspective of someone who already knew what was coming so I could look at certain plot lines and see exactly how the author cleverly placed red herrings deliberately designed to mislead us, but actually the clues to the real story were there all along.

This book is ultimately about the chances you take and the tragedy of a life that is not fully lived. I can’t really say much without unintentionally spoiling it for everyone. However, as tragic as the circumstances may seem, I find upon finishing it that there was no other way for the story to have ended and that things happened exactly as they were meant to. All the victims were victims of their own actions or inaction; one of my fellow book club members pointed out that it was hard for her to sympathise with any of the characters, and I agree. The characters will annoy you to the point of wanting to give up on the book, but DO NOT GIVE UP ON THE BOOK  because the payoff is worth it.

The writing was very fluid. I tend to be biased against books that have been translated from a different language, especially French, because sometimes the translation is too stiff and something inevitably gets lost in translation. However, this was so well done that I forgot that this book wasn’t originally written in English. The prose was seamless and easy to follow. Michel Bussi was very descriptive (almost too descriptive) that it really created a nice atmosphere for the story to unfold. I now want to visit the town of Giverny and see Monet’s pond for myself.

Armchair Murder Book Club

Kudos to the book club moderators at Waterstones’ for the awesome choice of books. I can’t wait for the next one. Readers in London, if you’re interested in joining like-minded individuals geeking out over books, check out the Waterstones website for events at the store nearest you. Usually, the book clubs are at the flagship store in Piccadilly, my happy place, 5 floors of bookworm heaven. There’s free wine involved if you want to check it out. Our next book is The Collin Case by Ferdinand Von Schirack.

Good night and good morning bookworms!

Posted in Books, Reviews

Book Review: The Mysterious Affair at Styles 

If you’ve followed my blog since I’ve resurrected it, you’ll know that every review I make will inevitably be linked to some kind of anecdote from my childhood. Far be it for me to disappoint readers at this stage.

My love of detective novels sprang from the days when I used to rummage through my older cousins’ collection of Nancy Drew novels. I loved how she would collect clues, make deductions and ultimately unmask the culprit and it would turn out to be someone that I wasn’t expecting. I always tried to play the game of whodunit but Nancy was always one step ahead of me. I loved those books. Every time I got good marks in school, it was a toss-up whether I would ask for a new Nancy Drew novel or the latest Sweet Valley installation. Sometimes I was able to sweet-talk my mum into buying me both.

From The Mystery of The 99 Steps to the books where she collaborated with The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew was a constant companion during my teenage years.

And that was a good thing because I think she influenced me to take pride in my intelligence, never mind the fact that she was also a leggy strawberry blonde. Anyway, I grew up loving whodunit and crime/mystery books. I bought all 45 installations of JD Robb’s In Death books for more than just the Eve and Roarke storyline, I genuinely love a good mystery. I am still waiting with bated breath for the next installation of the Cormoran Strike novels.

Dear JK Rowling, I know you’re probably busy with the Harry Potter prequels and being a scriptwriter and such but I need you to write the next Cormoran Strike novel please.

I was looking up things to do last month because I was really really bored and I wanted to participate in something that I can be passionate about. So I thought I’d join one of the book clubs that meet regularly at Waterstone’s Piccadilly. There’s an Armchair Murders Book Club that meets once a month and it was after one of those meetings that it came out that I, bookworm extraordinaire, have never read an Agatha Christie novel.

Seeing as I live in Britain and was attending a book club whose members were primarily British, you can imagine the looks of incredulity and aghast that I received after I let that little fact slip out. Agatha Christie is a British national treasure; I think she might have been made a Dame or something. She’s so famous that even though I’ve never read any of her works, I do know of her. So the manager at Waterstones decided we’d remedy this little affliction of mine then and there and proceeded to place Agatha Christie’s first published work in my hands with the strictest instruction to buy it. Like immediately. I was pretty sure I would be refused entrance to my favourite bookstore if I didn’t comply, so buy it I did.

So I’ve only just finished the book last night and boy, was it an experience. Have you ever watched an episode of Sherlock? Yeah, the feeling is the same. Halfway through the book I gave up on trying to pretend I had a brain and decided I would just let Hercule Poirot solve the mystery for me and enumerate the ways in which I have been too obtuse to see the clues to the murderer’s identity. I would enjoy the book far better that way.tumblr_nr92xgTYYd1uzk74go1_500

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The book is set in a country house in Essex. Emily Inglethorp has been poisoned in her own house and all evidence seemingly points to her new husband, 20 years her junior. Hercule Poirot has been brought in by his friend Hastings to help solve the mystery. Did the husband do it? Could it be either one of her stepsons? Or perhaps, the butler? I’m kidding.

The book took me on a wild ride of seemingly innocous instances that turned out to be significant and events that were made a big deal of but turned out to be inconsequential. There was a point when I had no idea what was going on, all I knew was that I was thoroughly entertained. Hercule, like many men who are too intelligent, is also a little bit crazy I think. He reminds me a little bit of Sherlock as portrayed in the tv series. giphyPoirot would go off on tangents that would turn out to yield frutiful information, he would notice everything, he’d already anticipated how each person would react and had forestalled it with a countermove of his own. Seriously, if I didn’t know better, I would think the current incarnation of Sherlock was influenced by the Dame rather than Sir Arthur.

There were no high-tech gadgets involved; Poirot used good old-fashioned observation and powers of deduction. Ok, so some of the plot twists were a little too contrived and convenient. But they weren’t far-fetched. In fact, I suspected one of the plot twists halfway through the book but there were a lot of red herrings that led me astray.

All in all, I found it a really great book, a real page turner, unputdownable. I really liked her prose, it was easy to read and the writing was elegant. I particularly liked how she used her experience of being a pharmacist (not to sure if it was a pharmacist or a nurse) during the war in the use of poison as a murder weapon. I was also really intrigued by the insight into the approaches to medicine during that time period, it makes me appreciate just how far we’ve come.

I’m surely going to read the other Hercule Poirot and maybe the Miss Marple books as well if this book is any indication of the rest of the series. Thank you Waterstones for the recommendation!