Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

gonegirlJust how well can you ever know the person you love? This is the question that Nick Dunne must ask himself on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, when his wife Amy suddenly disappears. The police immediately suspect Nick. Amy’s friends reveal the 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 aren’t his. And then there are the persistent calls on his mobile phone. So what really did happen to Nick’s beautiful wife? And what was in that half-wrapped box left so casually on their marital bed?

In this novel, marriage truly is the art of war… Continue reading “Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn”

Review: The Nosferatu Scroll by James Becker

Bohemia, 1741
On the northern banks of the Vltava River an extraordinary event is taking place.  Inside a private chapel a high-born Hungarian lady is being laid to rest.  But not before her heart is removed from her body and she is buried beneath a layer of heavy stones – lest she rise again to prey upon her victims…

Venice, 2010
Holidaying in the world’s most beautiful city, Chris Bronson and Angela Lewis discover a desecrated tomb.  Inside it is a female skeleton and a diary dating back hundreds of years.  Written in Latin, it refers to a lost scroll that will provide an ‘answer’ to an ancient secret.

Soon corpses of young women, all killed in the same ritualistic manner, start appearing throughout the city.  And when Angela disappears, Bronson knows that he must find her before she too is slaughtered.

But his hunt for Angela leads him to the Island of the Dead, and into a conspiracy more deadly than he could ever have imagined…

I picked up The Nosferatu Scroll with hopes for a fast-paced romp, maybe even a bit of so-bad-it’s-good cringey enjoyment, and, in general, I wasn’t disappointed.  Yet again, I’ve managed to join a series at the fourth installment; Bronson and Lewis have already starred in three popular thrillers, involving policework but also historical/archeological investigation, courtesy of Angela Lewis.  We’re reminded a number of times of her day-job at the British Museum in London.

The story was perhaps a little slow of kick off, at times reminding me more of a guide book of Venice, but that in itself was enjoyable – having visited the city myself, it was fun recalling the various locations, although perhaps they could have been introduced more subtly.  However, once the momentum began to build, the story zipped along, aided by the teeny chapters and normally well-used cliffhangers.  Occasionally, as with the location shots, these were a little clunky – there’s a question towards the end of the book which Bronson realises an Italian policeman didn’t ask that is made much too much of – but for the most part felt well dealt with, and in keeping with the thriller ‘formula’.

I will say that I won’t be recommending The Nosferatu Scroll to anyone for the beauty of its prose, but I don’t think anyone reads a book like this for delicate metaphors and lyrical description. This is a solid murderous thriller with a paranormal edge, providing a very different view of vampires to those twinkly Forks-dwellers from the Twilight franchise.  If you enjoyed the oeuvre of Dan Brown but wished he would stop splurging out information at start of each chapter like some kind of verbal Wikipedia, this may well be for you. And, for a next step up in terms of enjoyable writing style, why not try Kate Mosse’s Labyrinth or  Sepulchre, which merge historical fact with a hint of the supernatural and the beautiful landscape of the south of France.

The Nosferatu Scroll is published by Bantam Books.
The copy I’ve read is a BookCrossing book, and will be released back into the wilds of Colchester soon, if you fancy giving it a try.

Kate Neilan

Review: Fear Not by Anne Holt

We all have our secret rooms.  That’s the way it should be.  That’s the way it will always be.

The snow-covered streets of Oslo are the very picture of Christmas tranquility.  But over the tolling bells for Christmas Day, a black note sounds.  As first light breaks, Bishop Eva Karin Lysgaard is found stabbed to death in the quiet city centre.

DI Adam Stubo heads up the police investigation, but it is Johanne Vik, criminal profiler, who infers and unlikely pattern from this shocking murder, and who suspects that a bitter and untempered hatred has been unleashed upon the city of Oslo.  A hatred that is not yet satisfied…

I picked up Fear Not from the ‘Scandi-Crime’ stand in my local chain bookshop on a whim, having previously read 1222, the last in Holt’s other series, about a female police officer, which I’d really enjoyed – it’s a great example of a locked-room murder mystery in a snowy setting.  Again, my it’s-not-the-first-in-the-series curse struck again.  This is in fact ‘Vik and Stubo #4’, according to Goodreads.  Never mind, I thought, I might as well give it a try.

In fact, I didn’t feel I’d missed out on previous installments when I began to read.  The characters of Vik and Stubo were drawn so clearly that I felt I was the beginning, even though they’d had three prior outings. I think one of Holt’s strengths is her details characterisation; Johanne was so well described as to seem completely rounded and believable, as a profiler, as a mother, and a woman.  Adam also seemed totally real, doing his best under difficult circumstances, and I really enjoyed the way their relationship developed during the narrative, with all the tensions of modern family life as well as working to solve crimes.

I thought Holt picked up on an interesting idea in this book too; rather than a traditional revenge or money motivation, there’s a strong theme of religious extremism leading to victimisation of minorities, in this case Norway’s gay and lesbian community.  It was an interesting conceit to explore whether liberalisation can in fact prompt extremism, and of course Holt has more insight into this than most, given her time in the Norwegian government.

Despite my enjoyment of the journey with Fear Not’s main characters, the novel didn’t grab me in the way that 1222 did.  The plotting is not as tight, and key clues and revelations were a very long time coming, compared to a lot of cold crime.  Vik and Stubo, while very real, are far less gritty than Nesbo’s Harry Hole, less charismatic than Mankell’s Wallander and less dramatic than Falck and Hedstrom in Camilla Lackberg’s Fjallbacka series.  Perhaps, despite my liking for them, they’re a bit too real! I found myself longing for something a little more gruesome, or a little more fast-paced, with a little more mystery and tension.

I wouldn’t say than Fear Not has put me off going back to book one of the series, but I think perhaps I won’t be trying it any time soon.  I’ve got a Mankell on the shelf that’s calling my name, and I don’t think I’ll be able to resist for long.

Fear Not is published by Corvus, translated by Marlaine Delargy

Kate Neilan