The Girl on the Train

tgottTitle: The Girl on the Train

Author: Paula Hawkins

Summary: EVERY DAY THE SAME
Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens.
She’s even started to feel like she knows them. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy.

UNTIL TODAY
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough.
Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar.
Now they’ll see; she’s so much more than just the girl on the train…

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Review: This has been on my to read pile for a while, so long, in fact, that my SO got to it first. With the recent release of the film, i decided it was time (though i didn’t, and still don’t, have any plans to see the film–i’ve heard it’s terrible).

It’s a gripping book that definitely kept me reading. The chapters were quite short and often had a teasing or slightly revelatory end to them which made starting the next so easy. The plot–the mystery–is established well with plenty of scope and lots of avenues to consider. Although the draw for this book might be the plot, i felt it was more the string tying the characters together, because it was the characters who stand out.

As seems to be the theme with popular thrillers these days, none of the characters are exactly likeable. Mostly, though, i’m sick of readers moaning about not liking characters. To me, readers who just outright dislike all these characters aren’t looking deep enough. Yes, they are all extremely flawed, but they all have their own motivations, vices and shortcomings. They’re all complex individuals, and we get to see them trying to live and be better people, but we also see them failing at their worst moments. That’s more real and interesting to me than likeable but only two dimensional characters.

Rachel, our main character, i mostly didn’t like because she comes across as very weak, needy and desperate. She’s also an alcoholic who i preferred much more when she was sober and talking honestly about her issues. I’m glad the road wasn’t easy for her in this regard, though, because that would have been unbelievable. As much as i wanted her to get sober, i wouldn’t have bought it if she hadn’t fallen off the waggon and fucked up a few times.

Megan, our missing girl, i neither liked nor disliked. I felt like she wasn’t getting the chance to be who she wanted to be, and that maybe that person could be someone i’d like. Anna i very much disliked, i think mostly because there was nothing about her i could relate to, but a few of her actions later in the book more than redeem her in my eyes. Cathy was nice, but a bit too nice–i dislike too nice. And the men, well. I found them less fleshed out, less complex, less… just less.

The plot was simple enough, and the narrative devices standard and formulaic. The narrators were unreliable, but only in ways the author wants them to be. Missing, misleading and vague information is just as telling as what is clearly presented and discussed. If you know what to look for, this book holds no surprises. If you’re encouraged to consider X, instead take a closer look at Y. I had my suspicions by chapter four, my bet placed on the ending by halfway through, and every new revelation from there just made me more confident i was right. I half hoped i wasn’t, though, because i like being surprised!

Overall this was an okay book. What it did it did well, but it played it too safe, stuck to tricks and tactics so well-used they are easy to spot if you know to look for them. But it kept me turning pages, kept me hoping there’d be something i’d missed, something i’d not considered. When there wasn’t, i couldn’t give it more than a solidly average three stars.

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Dead Girl Walking

dgwTitle: Dead Girl Walking

Author: Christopher Brookmyre

Summary: Famous, beautiful and talented, Heike has the world at her feet. Then she simply vanishes.

Jack Parlabane has lost everything: his journalism career, his marriage, his self-respect. A call for help from an old friend offers a chance of redemption – but only if he can find our what happened to missing singer Heike.

Each member of her band has secrets, not least newest recruit Monica Halcrow. Fixated on Heike from day one, she is driven by paranoia, jealousy and fear.

Pursued across Europe by those who would punish him for past crimes, Parlabane must find out what Monica is hiding before it’s too late.

Rating: ★★★★★ 4.5/5

Review: Well, first of all that blurb is misleading and inaccurate. Finding out what happened to Heike isn’t a chance at redemption–it’s a job. None of the band really has secrets, and Monica was not fixated or paranoid. Parlabane isn’t pursued by people wanting to punish him for past crimes and he only even knows Monica is hiding something in the last 75 pages or so.

Despite the poor summary, the book is good. I had missed Parlabane, and so had a lot of his friends, it turns out, because the man we meet at the start of this book is certainly not the Parlabane we know from previous books. Along with Brookmyre’s writing, Parlabane’s grown up a wee bit. I’d say he’s having a midlife crisis, but as his life is usually so full of comedy, adventure and danger, a midlife crisis for him is having no job, no wife and no hope.

When he gets a call from the sister of an old friend with a job offer, things begin to change. I saw the love-interest angle here from the get go, and from the get-go i did not like it. It seemed forced, and she seems like not at all the kind of partner Parlabane needs; she might be able to corral rock stars, but if she can’t make a sharp exit down a rope or keep her head in a crisis, what good is she to Parlabane? I would be much more interested if Parlabane and McLeod ended up dating. Journalist and copper. They’d disagree on a hell of a lot, but in a fiery wild way, and they’re both able to handle themselves in dangerous situations.

The best part of Parlabane stayed the course, though: his humour. His dry, cynical, straight talking makes me crack a grin every time, with more than a few chuckles.

He had recently heard some chinless Tory fuckpuddle say that London was a world-class city being held back by the rest of the UK. Parlabane had reckoned that if he poured all his money and efforts into fitting out his toilet he could almost certainly have himself a truly world class shite-house. Obviously there would be little in the way of cash or other physical resources for the development and upkeep of the living room and the kitchen, etc… but if anyone asked, he could tell them he had a world-class bog and it was just a shame the rest of the house was holding it back.

Parlabane is only half the book, though. The other half is Monica and Heike. I was ambivalent on the pair of them, to be honest. Throughout I seemed to dislike one or the other of them. I think they were supposed to be in their early 20s, but they often read like teenagers. They were moody and fickle and never properly talked to each other, which lead to many misunderstandings. I just really like it when two female lead characters are mature and get on with each other, so it’s a shame these two couldn’t manage it. I liked that Brookmyre included a lesbian character and a bi-curious character, but i couldn’t buy their relationship because it never seemed consistent enough

The story was fine–typical crime/mystery thriller type with a sex-traffic angle, though the missing rock star and band-on-tour blog added an interesting shade to it all. I looooved the start, in that the only thing revealed was that someone was murdered and someone witnessed it, but you don’t know who these people are. It had me interested and analysing everything right from the first chapter. Unfortunately the twists in the reveal weren’t a shock to me–i’d called most of them.

Ultimately what makes this book, like any other Brookmyre, is the writing. It is witty, relevant, concise and addictive. It might not be quite as crude and immature as his early books, but it’s miles better than your average crime fiction. I’m looking forward to more Parlabane soon!

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Fellside

fellsideTitle: Fellside

Author: M.R. Carey

Summary: You will find Fellside somewhere on the edge of the Yorkshire moors. It is not the kind of place you’d want to end up, but it’s where Jess Moulson could be spending the rest of her life.

It’s a place where even the walls whisper. And one voice belongs to a little boy with a message for Jess. Fellside will be the death of you – if it doesn’t save you.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Review: After the brilliance that was The Girl with All the Gifts, it was inevitable i would read Carey’s second novel. I was prepared for different; different setting, different genre, different vibe… I was not prepared for not-quite-as-good.

This book is a slow burner, setting up the characters, moving them into positions, and setting out several story lines before things really get going. And while that didn’t make the book that exciting, it was still very readable. It was easy to fall into the world and learn more about the characters.

Talking of characters, Carey does a brilliant job with all of them. They all have their faults, but they all have things to appreciate about them; they’re all realistic. Which i’m sure i’ve said dozens of times in various reviews, is the most important thing for me. Jess, the main character, was probably the character i liked the least. It’s not that i hated her, it’s just that she was the most lacking in character. For the protagonist I found her far too reactive (or simply inactive), rather than proactive. She let things happen around her and only did things in response to others. Dr Salazar, the prison doctor, i adored. He felt the most caring in a lot of ways, despite the fact that he was such a push over. I was waiting and hoping all the way through for him make a stand. Sylvie Stock was a self-centred bitch; i loved to hate her. The prisoners, the guards, the lawyers… all of them had their layers and were interesting to read about. The characters, i think, are what i enjoyed most about this book.

The different story threads were intriguing, and I enjoyed following them all. I’d just be getting into one over a few chapters, then it would change back to another one and i’d forget all about the previous to find out what was happening with this one… it was a good way to keep me reading and keep the book engaging. I loved the way the stories slowly began to overlap and then weave together, and how that affected the characters and their motivations. It was some pretty well executed storytelling.

But still, this book was not above three stars for me. I have quite a lot i wasn’t too impressed with, but to talk [read: rant] about them at any length or in any detail would involve pretty big spoilers. Suffice to say… there were no surprises for me in the book. From the very beginning I could guess how and where things were leading, if not the specific details. The trial, the little boy, the roles characters would play in the narrative… i called it all accurately and early enough that none of it was a revelation to me. Generally, i found the book a little too formulaic. The plot–its twists and turns–were very standard, if you know what to look for.

Mostly, though, i wasn’t a huge fan of the supernatural aspect of the story. That’s not a fault of the book, just a way in which we didn’t get on. I love books that could be real, that have their plots rooted in reality in some way. I loved The Girl with All the Gifts because it was science fiction; it gave its horror a biological basis. I find pseudoscience more palatable than the outright supernatural. And i would likely have enjoyed this book more if it had leaned more towards an ambiguous interpretation of certain aspects; the classic ‘is it real or was it all psychological’ get out clause.

I will likely read more of Carey’s work, but will hope for more in the vein of Gifts than Fellside. And with The Boy on the Bridge, a book set in the Gifts world, due out next year, i am cheerfully optimistic!

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The Hourglass Factory

hourglassTitle: The Hourglass Factory

Author: Lucy Ribchester

Summary: Meet Ebony Diamond: trapeze artist, tiger-tamer, suffragette. Where there is trouble, she is never far away. But now she’s the one in trouble, and she’d up to her neck in it.

Enter Frankie George: tomboy, cub reporter, chippy upstart. She’s determined to make her name on the London Evening Gazette, if only someone will give her a chance. The Ebony disappears during a performance at the London Coliseum, and Frankie jumps at the chance to find out what happened.

How did Ebony vanish, who was she afraid of, and what goes on behind the doors of the mysterious Hourglass Factory? From the newsrooms of Fleet Street to the suffragette headquarters, Frankie enters a world of society columnists, corset fetishists and circus freaks on the trail of a murderous villain with a plot more deadly than anyone could have imagined…

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 2.5/5

Review: I bought this book on a whim after i saw in in a shop. The cover caught my eye, it had females leads, it included suffragettes… it seemed interesting. It seems like it will be the last time i buy a book on a whim.

This has taken me over a month to read, it was so hard going. The worst of it is, though, that there is nothing i can point to to say ‘this was bad’, but at the same time, not much i can point to to say ‘this was good’. It wasn’t so exciting or engrossing that i wanted to pick it up to keep reading, but it wasn’t so bad that i just wanted to give up altogether. I wanted to have read it, i just didn’t want to read it. And in some ways, that’s worse than just disliking a book enough to not finish it.

It had a great concept, a great premise. The era it was set in and the suffragettes… except the plot was so (so, very, very) slow to get going that instead of being interesting in the book itself, i was more inclined to research more details about the suffragette movement. In fact i have a copy of The Militant Suffragettes on my bedside table to read in the near future now i’ve (finally) finished this book!

I liked the characters, at least, the characters i was supposed to like. And i disliked the characters i was supposed to dislike. It was all very easy–too easy. What i would have liked is more. There are hints and trickles to these characters, but nothing more. Inspector Primrose and his wife particularly gained my affections and interest, and i wanted to know more about them. Instead they seemed like bit-part characters filling the role of stars. The same can be said for all the characters. I liked Frankie, but we’re only ever given hints of her feelings. Does she regret her childhood sweetheart married someone else? Does she feel for the women she gets to know over the course of the book, or is she only interested in making it in a man’s world? Milly and Ebony seemed too far away to reach… too attractive to be very deep. Liam seemed smart and highly under-appreciated, and i would have liked him and Frankie to stop arguing and acknowledge the value of each other at some point.

The plot meandered, with the characters fumbling from one clue to the next, not really figuring anything out until it was put right in front of their noses. And never actually finding the missing Ebony–instead she finds them. The end culminates in action-packed fashion, but mostly i didn’t care, unfortunately.

There was just so much to like about this book… but it was so lacklustre and mediocre. I’m annoyed with it for not being what i had hoped it would be.

Hallowe’en Party: Graphic Novel

hallowe'enTitle: Hallowe’en Party: Graphic Novel

Author: Agatha Christie, Chandre (Illustrator)

Summary: A 13 year-old girl holds the clue to a death at a party on 31st October – was it a fatal mistake or a murder?

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Review: Yesterday i found myself in a library with some time to kill. I happened to pass by the graphic novel section and spot some Agatha Christies. I hadn’t even known there were graphic novels versions of her books, so i was a little excited. With it being the end of October, of the five or six books that were there, of course i picked up ‘Hallowe’en Party’. I found a nice comfy spot and read all 46 pages.

It was odd, reading a Poirot graphic novel. There were distinct elements missing. Most noticeably Poirot’s air of egotism. It is, i am happy to admit, my favourite thing about Poirot. He’s a clever sod, and he knows it. Though there is reference to the “little grey cells”, the closest the books gets to Poirot’s conceitedness is a smug face when someone else describes how smart he is. It was nice, but it wasn’t the same.

I also found it harder, somehow, to keep track of the characters. Even though there were faces to go with the names, there were a few people i kept mixing up. “The blonde one” was not enough to remember a character by, apparently. Graphic novels are, of course, less in-depth than textual novels, and not having Poirot’s descriptions and observations of characters made them much more forgettable.

With everyone Poirot talked to toting the same line about the victim, at first i was convinced this was another Orient. When the truth was revealed, it seemed much more out of no where than usual. Again, i think this was due to the lack of clues in the details about characters and their actions that graphic novels are prone to.

As much as this was a enjoyable enough book, overall i don’t think Christie’s books, or murder mysteries in general, are the best material for adapting into graphic novels. There is something essential in the detail of clues that this genre needs, but graphic novels just can’t provide.

The Vesuvius Club: Graphic Edition

vcgeTitle: The Vesuvius Club: Graphic Edition

Author: Mark Gatiss, Ian Bass (Illustrator)

Summary: The first adventure of Lucifer Box rendered in every detail.

Lucifer Box, the greatest portraitist of the Edwardian age and England’s most dashing secret agent, investigates a series of bizarre disappearances and plunges headlong into low life and high society.

Who is killing Britain’s most prominent vulcanologists?
What secrets lie beyond the grave?
And which tie goes best with a white carnation?

Rating: ★★★★☆ 4/5

Review: I read and loved The Vesuvius Club many years ago. When i found out there was a graphic novel edition, i wanted it. It was on my wish list for a few years, but i never received it. So, a little while ago, i bought it myself. It was worth the wait.

While the story itself is not as in depth as the original book (obviously), the art does such a good job of bringing the character and the action and the settings to life. There is no colour, it is only black and white. This is a shame in some respects, because i would have loved some colour in a few particular panels (mostly the violent ones, i will confess–what’s a blood splatter without a little red?). On the other hand, the black and white provides such a noir, mystery and classy feel to the images.

Lucifer, whom i fell in love with in the book, is very much as i pictured him; a handsome devil who knows it. There were a few images where he seemed overly comic (bug-eyed, squared-chinned and fat-lipped) and others where he just looked old, but on the whole he personified the character described in the book.

Mr Victor is my second favourite character, though to reveal more about him would spoil far too much. Suffice to say there is a wonderful full-page image that sums it up efficiently.

The plot and action move swiftly and the story never gets dull. It was great to see the fight scenes play out, rather than having to image them as they play out slowly among detailed descriptions, as they so often do in prose. And in a few cases, particularly plots twists, it was much nicer to have visual cues as to the nature of what was playing out, and that slight anticipation evoked with an image before the narrative progresses.

I would definitely recommend this as a supplement the original book. Although the art is wonderful and the story flows well enough, there is obviously a lot omitted. As much as the graphic edition can stand on its own, it was only enhanced by my knowledge of the book, and the nuances and details of characters and plot that simply can not be converted into this edition.

Gone Girl

Title: Gone Girl

Author: Gillian Flynn

Summary: Who are you?
What have we done to each other?

These are the questions Nick Dunne finds himself asking on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, when his wife Amy suddenly disappears. The police suspect Nick. Amy’s friends reveal that she was afraid of him, that she kept secrets from him. He swears it isn’t true. A police examination of his computer shows strange searches. He says they weren’t made by him. And then there are the persistent calls on his mobile phone.

So what did happen to Nick’s beautiful wife?

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3.5/5

Review: WARNING: This review contains huge, massive, mega spoilers for Gone Girl. The entire thing. So, read on at your own risk. /WARNING

I ummed and ahhed over reading this for quite a while. I had heard both good and bad things and, along with my general habit of avoiding something if it’s too popular, i held off for a long time. When the film trailer was released, i watched it to see if it was a film i would want to watch. It was, and being a book > film kind of person, that decided it for me. I bought the book next time i saw it in a charity shop.

It was easy to read, and i enjoyed it a lot more than i worried i might. That i knew there was a twist helped. The story is told in chapters alternating between present-day husband and historical diary entries wife. For the first half of the book i didn’t really like either of them, but i didn’t hate them either.

The wife, Amy, came across as a little weak, a little bit too naive. Nick, the husband, was a bit oblivious and was obviously hiding something. These obvious omissions were what drew my interest the most. I was driven crazy with casual lines like:

It was my fifth lie to the police. I was just getting started.

All i wanted was to know what the hell had happened and what the unexpected twist would be. Because Nick being the murderer everything indicated he was was clearly not going to be it.

My very early theory had been that Nick and Amy had faked it together, to claim the life insurance money and solve their financial problems. I was half right.

When the twist that Amy had faked her own death was revealed about halfway through the book, the main thing that had kept me reading was brought to an end. She even reveals how she did it pretty swiftly, and enough to satisfy my curiosity. What then became the driving force of the book was: Who is Amy, really? With the diary entries we had been reading revealed as fake, Amy was now almost a new character. I still didn’t like her.

Throughout the second half of the book, i liked both Amy and Nick less. I appreciated Nick’s simmering anger at Amy, but hadn’t forgiven him for his affair and disinterest. The more i learnt about the real Amy the more i disliked her, but i admired her intelligence and ability to hold a grudge and seek revenge. Really, I wanted them both to win and to lose.

In that respect, i thought the ending was great. These two, i disliked them both the perfect amount, so for them to end up stuck with each other seemed like a wonderful comeuppance for the pair of them.

I’ve heard the film has changed the ending, which i’m not so attached to that that idea bothers me. I just hope they haven’t gone with Amy getting caught. As much as i dislike her, i wanted her to get away with it. She doesn’t have to get a happy ending, but her getting caught would be dull, as far as i’m concerned.

I just love more ambiguous open endings–endings the reader can decide the details on, decide where the story ultimately goes. And the idea that Amy and Nick spend the rest of their lives together, playing mind games and one-upping each other all the way, is the best kind of ending.

The Knitting Circle Rapist Annihilation Squad

knitTitle: The Knitting Circle Rapist Annihilation Squad

Author: Derrick Jensen & Stephanie McMillan

Summary: The six women of the Knitting Circle meet every week to talk, eat cake, and make fabulous sweaters. Until the night they realise they are all the survivors of rape—and that not one of their assailants has suffered a single consequence. Enough is enough! The knitting circles becomes the Knitting Circle Rapist Annihilation Squad. They declare open season on rapists, with no licenses and no bag limits. With needles as their weapons, the revolution begins!

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Review: I think my expectations were too high for this one. I knew of some of Derrick Jensen’s non-fiction books, and his general political leaning. So a book by him about a group of women forming the Knitting Circle Rapist Annihilation Squad had to be amazing, right? Not so right.

Let’s start generally. Generally, this book reads like it’s written for 9-13 year olds. At several points i considered giving this book to my 9-year-old niece, the only thing that stopped me was the fact that she wouldn’t understand a lot of the references. Generally, the humour is trying too hard. It’s past funny and into cringe-worthy slapstick territory. It’s not clever humour, it’s not even well done humour, it’s loud and poorly written humour. Generally, none of the characters were well-developed or likeable. They weren’t hateable, either, they were just two dimensional and there to serve an obvious point. Generally, the plot progression was ridiculous. Nothing was believable. Maybe i was being to logical and rational in a book that had neither of those things, but i’d like a story about the eradication of rape to be somewhat based in reality.

More specifically, i like that the book broaches important topics that are not often discussed in day-to-day life. Rape, exploitation of women, women’s rights, media influence, police brutality, how fucked up politics is, religion, extremist groups and more. It broached these topics, but it did not discuss them. Instead, it tried to use humour and over the top caricatures to make their opinion of these things clear. Key word in that last sentence: tried. Rather than making their opinions clear, they shoved them into the reader’s face, while using such awful humour, i’m sure anyone who didn’t share the opinions would laugh it all off as a bad joke.

Ultimately, that’s my problem. That this book isn’t doing anything. It could have provided readers with an opportunity to think about things, things they might not have considered before, because they are told by the world that those things are normal. It could have helped a lot of people start to think about their life and the world around them a little more. Instead, it’s a poorly written book of bad humour. Wavering close to offending me, and allowing others to laugh at what they should be thinking about.

Purely on quality, this book is really only worth two stars, but i felt obligated to throw on an extra, because it is at least trying to write about subjects that should be written about–read about–more. But really, it’s a book about rape. I think this book could have been so much more well written, and with witty, intelligent humour. I think this book could have been written with a lot more respect.

The Godfather

gfTitle: The Godfather

Author: Mario Puzo

Summary: Tyrant, blackmailer, racketeer, murderer – his influence reaches every level of American society. Meet Don Corleone, a friendly man, a just man, a reasonable man. The deadliest lord of the Cosa Nostra. The Godfather.

A modern masterpiece, The Godfather is a searing portrayal of the 1940s criminal underworld. It is also the intimate story of the Corleone family, at once drawn together and ripped apart by its unique position at the core of the American Mafia. Still shocking forty years after it was first published, this compelling tale of blackmail, murder and family values is a true classic.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Review: I very much enjoyed The Godfather film. It has been a while since i watched it, though, so i can’t clearly compare the book to it. I do plan on re-watching it soon, so i guess i’ll see if i still like it as much now i’ve read and only 50% enjoyed the book.

I’ll try to start positive. I love a good bad guy. I love an intelligent evil character. And Vito Corleone was definitely that. Known as a reasonable man, one who would listen and be fair… he really wasn’t. He was just excellent at manipulating people. At sounding so reasonable as he issued his threats.

The mafia and five families storyline was the most interesting to me. The secrets and plots and revenge. It was entertaining. And i think the first half was better than the second. (And this ties in with my opinions on the films, too.) The first half, the action was spread nicely across the chapters. It was most interesting to read. The second half was slow going, then had all the action pay off in the last few chapters. I also prefered the characters in the first half. They seemed more real, more rounded and more genuine. By the second half they felt more two dimensional, too squeezed into roles, rather than being real characters. (Michael turning from an intelligent, rebellious youth to a man set on nothing but revenge is the most obvious example.) This could be put down to character “development”, as the book is set over 10 years or so, but i saw it more as laziness on the part of Puzo–he just didn’t bother writing the characters as well. By the second half of the book it was much more about the plot and what was happening, rather than the people it was happening to.

The book is also far too long. There are entire chapters of sub-plots that, as far as i am concerned, added nothing to the overall story and were entirely unnecessary. I didn’t give two hoots about Fontane’s singing and acting career, or his relationship with the wife he cheated on and left (which was ultimately her fault, apparently), or his friend who was determined to drink himself to death. I didn’t give two hoots about Lucy, who was one of the Corleone son’s mistresses with a gaping vagina, or how she ended up meeting a doctor who fixed that problem up for her, or the intricate details about the surgery involved in that. I’m still baffled and wondering what the point of any of that was.

I can’t put it off any longer. I have to talk about the things i hated and found unforgivable in this books: the sexism and racism. I don’t care when it was set and what culture is being represented. I don’t care if that’s how things were. The sexism and racism are not the point of the book, Puzo is not making any great point by including them. They are just little extras to help me hate every single character in the book. I was tempted to list examples, but that would take too long and make me too angry. The sexism is rife throughout the book, the racism blatant in the few times it is mentioned. My hate was on a medium-to-high heat the entire time. All the female characters are weak, either oblivious housewives good for nothing except cooking and bearing children, or mistresses, good for nothing but sex. And it’s not the fact of that that annoyed me so much, it was the blasé, commonplace of it all. The casual way it was talked about, the way it was accepted, by everyone. Just… i hated it, it was not okay.

Really, i wanted to give this book at least four stars. I did love the mafia families war plot… but the rest of the book was just so bad, so rage-inducing, that i couldn’t do it.

What i really want is the same book written from the female points of view, in which they really run the show. They are the ones manipulating their husbands and lovers, while allowing the men to think they’re in charge…

Flesh Wounds

16204828Title: Flesh Wounds

Author: Chris Brookmyre

Summary: Private investigator Jasmine Sharp’s father was murdered before she was born, and her mother went to self-sacrificing lengths in order to shield her from the world in which he moved. Since her mother’s death, all she has been able to learn is his first name – and that only through a strange bond she has forged with the man who killed him: Glen Fallan. But when Fallan is arrested for the murder of a criminal her mother knew since childhood, Jasmine is finally forced to enter his domain: a place where violence is a way of life and vengeance spans generations.

Detective Superintendent Catherine McLeod has one major Glaswegian gangster in the mortuary and another in the cells for killing him – which ought to be cause for celebration. Catherine is not smiling, however. From the moment she discovered a symbol daubed on the victim’s head, she has understood that this case is far more dangerous than it appears on the surface: deeper than skin, darker than blood; something that could threaten her family and end her career.

As one battles her demons and the other chases her ghosts, these two very different detectives will ultimately confront the secrets that have entangled both of their fates since before Jasmine was even born.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 4/5

Review: Flesh Wounds = ((Gangster history lessons + Revenge) x (Police + Sharp Investigations)) ^ Secrets + Mystery

It has been almost two years since i last read a Brookmyre book. That makes it almost two years since i last wrote a book summary equation. (They’re fun, but for some reason i’ve only ever done them for Brookmyre books.)

You wont catch me with many bad things to say about a Brookmyre book, and this is no exception. So, let’s start with the good.

Female characters. I won’t deny i prefer classic Christopher Brookmyre more; the bizarre characters (Spammy forever), the outlandish situations and the big laughs. But what the Sharp Investigations series has that they didn’t is a concentrated wealth of strong females, including the two leads, Jasmine Sharp and Catherine McLeod. It’s so refreshing to read, especially from a male writer who’s actually doing it well. They aren’t all the same female with different names. They aren’t all stereotypically feminine. They are individual, well-rounded characters who happen to be female. Brookmyre is doing females here better than some female authors, and that’s because he’s doing characters, and he excels at that.

Plots and sub-plots and sub-sub-plots. A couple of times it was difficult for me to remember who was what and what was where and where was when, but the detail and history and plots that are weaved in this book (in this series) are incredible. I want a peek at Brookmyre’s notes to see how he’s managed to keep all the facts organised.

An event (a death, a conversation, a deal, an arrest) can be mentioned almost off-handedly, or only briefly referenced, then pages and chapters later in a flashback chapter we get to see it played out in full (and even then it might not be the main point of the scene). Once i was left thinking, “Is that the guy whose death was mentioned earlier? His name rings a bell. It must be. So this is how he died. (I think.)”

Other sub-plots include the budding romance of two more minor characters, McLeod’s children’s penchant for violence and Jasmie’s Aunt’s lesbianism. These things don’t advance the main plot of the book–they advance the development of the characters. (Have i mentioned how good the characters are?)

Points of view. There are many. The main two for most of the book are Jasmine and McLeod, but the book is spattered with others. Some get a three or four chapters, others only one. It’s the kind of thing that could leave the reader confused, but in this case it just… doesn’t. It works well with the plots and sub-plots that are woven, letting them all exist in their own sections of the book. It helps everything be kept clearer, until all the threads start to meet towards the climax of the book.

I think really there are only two things i can say i didn’t like about this book. The first was that i would have preferred more Jasmine. For a book in the “Sharp Investigations” series, this book felt very much dominated by the police investigation and characters. This isn’t “bad”; it worked, it’s just not what i would have preferred.

The only other thing that didn’t work (for me, personally) were some of the attempts at mystery and twists. I have a knack for seeing twists coming (not always, but often), so this isn’t completely a reflection of the book. But it felt far too often hints were made at ~something~ that was supposed to keep the reader in suspense until it was revealed, but i would just think, “Okay, so [this is what that’s about].” And it left me a little disappointed, because to me it was so obvious. The biggest of these were the chapters scattered through the book about a young girl growing up on a farm. She is very carefully left unnamed, which told me she was someone we know–that this was a flashback plot. Process of elimination quickly lead me to who it was before the end of the first of these chapters, and i was already working things out about her history, character and motivations in the present-plot. Which isn’t a bad thing, you might say. And i would agree–but not for a first read through; it shouldn’t have been that obvious. I can’t let myself judge too harshly on this, though, because as i said, i am prone to noticing the hints and putting things together quicker than the dramatic reveals plans for.

Ultimately, this book was really great. When someone writes characters and invents plots as well as Brookmyre, he could write about anything and i would read it. And really, the last paragraph of the book has left me happily craving the next!