"The

What the blurb says:

Northeast Mississippi is hill country, rugged and notorious for outlaws since the Civil War, where killings are as commonplace as they were in the Old West. To Quinn Colson, just back from a tour of Afghanistan, it’s home. But home has changed.

Quinn returns to a place overrun by corruption. His uncle, the county sheriff, is dead – officially it was suicide, but others whisper murder. In the days that follow, it will be up to Colson, now an Army Ranger, to discover the truth – not only about his uncle, but also about his family, friends, hometown and himself.

Quinn Colson, what a gent. I think that Jack Reacher may have finally found a decent competitor. And they have their similarities, the army affiliations, the silent-but-sturdy type and that hot-dang animal magnetism; but Quinn is the new kid on the block, a little fresher and a little less dog-eared.

His story is one of growth, having returned from the army, he seems an outsider in the world in which he grew up. There’s the ex-girlfriend, now married, the mother, now with the sister’s child in tow, and his old buddies. It’s a frightful mix of no-one to trust, because double crosses are rife in Mississippi.

I loved the setting of this novel. ‘Redneck noir’ is my favourite description of the book. It always seems that small-town America gets a bad rep in novels and to be honest, this book doesn’t really showcase any different, but it gives a truthful perspective as our protagonist, Quinn, has grown up there, moved away and been dragged back by a family death. Mississippi, comes across as a collage of trailer parks, meth labs and truck stops.

Quinn’s is not the only story, however, that we follow in The Ranger. We also follow a sixteen year old pregnant girl whose main reason for existing appears to be attracting trouble. As she goes off in search of her baby-daddy, she lands in the heart of corruption and at the hands of some pretty nasty characters.

As Quinn unravels the mysteries surrounding his uncles death, the plot-lines draw closer together and the answers cause some violent show-downs. My only complaint about the novel is the lack of romantic interaction for Quinn. Although the police officer offers a tempting character, their relationship doesn’t quite tread the line of unbearable tension. Subtle hints are not always enough.

Truthful, fast-paced and gripping. Mr Atkins, bring on the next book please.

4/5

Advertisements

I’m very excited to get to be a part of the blog tour for Victoria Lamb’s The Dark Lady. 

For all the details of the rest of the tour check out the gorgeous poster below:

Image

I am about 3/4 of the way through this compelling novel and will be posting a review as soon as I’ve finished (which I don’t think will be long as I’m currently whizzing through).

Until my review, here’s an interview with the lovely author herself:

What are your inspirations behind writing the Lucy Morgan trilogy?

 A few years ago, I was living near Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire, where the first book, The Queen’s Secret, is set. I was fascinated by their lavish exhibition about Elizabeth I’s visit there in 1575. I began to plan a novel set during that time, with my main narrative character as one of the Queen’s ladies. During my research, I came across the shadowy character of Lucy Morgan and her possible candidacy for Shakespeare’s “Dark Lady of the Sonnets”. The plot began to fall into place. But of course Shakespeare, a local Warwickshire lad, was eleven years old in 1575. That was when I realised it would have to be a trilogy, set over several decades, and with multiple narrators.

 Is there something specific about Shakespeare’s time that interests you?

I became fascinated by Shakespeare and early Elizabethan drama while at university. It seems such a vibrant and influential period of English history, with huge talents at work in London, and yet also incredibly dangerous, with religious persecution and fanaticism still very much dominating everyday life. I couldn’t help wondering what it would have been like to be alive and involved in theatre at such a dynamic time, when the English language itself was evolving at an incredible pace and writers became part of that evolution.

 What are you working on at the moment (if you are currently writing)?

 I’m always writing! At the moment, I’m dividing my time between a poetic version of the Middle English poem Gawain and the Green Knight, and an idea for a new novel set in Cornwall, where I’m currently living. Later this year I will be writing the third book in my Tudor Witch series for Young Adult readers. (The first book in the series, Witchstruck, just won YA Romantic Novel of the Year.)

Where do you write? (It’s interesting that you live in Bodmin, I’m a Cornish lass myself)

 I write at home mostly, in a small office, but like to get a change of scene most days, so frequently also work in cafes. When I’m up against a deadline, I book a quiet country cottage for a fortnight and hunker down there on my own to thrash out the last few chapters …

 What are your favourite types of books to read?

I read huge amounts of non-fiction and poetry, and have a lively interest in languages, so tend to collect books on translation and linguistics. Where fiction is concerned, I prefer to read anything which does not distract me from the work in hand. So mostly old favourites in romance, historical fiction and adventure – Georgette Heyer and H. Rider Haggard, for instance – or newer novels in any genres I don’t write in, i.e. literary fiction or crime. Though if I started writing crime, I would not find those books so pleasurable to read. It’s rather like working in a fish and chip shop all day, then being offered fish and chips for supper. No thanks!

When you’re not writing, how do you spend your free time?

Translating and/or learning dead languages, particularly Latin. Latin is a fascinatingly tricky language; I’ve been studying it for three decades now, and still feel like I’ve only scratched the surface. I also like to walk in the countryside, and since we live on the edge of Bodmin Moor, do so quite often.

 Who is your favourite writer that is still currently writing?

One writer I deeply admire is Ursula Le Guin, an American fantasy and sci-fi novelist. I’ve enjoyed some of her sci-fi; it’s marvellously rich and clever. But her Earthsea novels are in a class of their own. They have been hugely influential over me as a writer, from my childhood onwards. Her ability to build worlds and to keep the pages turning is phenomenal, and her characters are so real, they live in your imagination for years after closing the book. I highly recommend her to any reader who enjoys fantasy writing.

Image

Below the Thunder by Robin Duval
Publisher: Matador
Publication date: 01 February 2013
ISBN: 9781780883830

What the blurb says:

One Summer eveing in Bavaria, fortyish history professor Bryn Williams – more Frasier than Bond – falls simultaneously into love and mortal danger. He becomes a target for MI6, Mossad and an American hit man.

Oblivious to his predicament, he continues his holiday in America. Walking alone in a National Park, he stumbles on a newly dead body. He is arrested for murder, and release only when evidence of a third party emerges. But when he discovers the identity of the killer, and reports it to the San Francisco police, his motel room is blown up. With no-one to turn to, he flees north.

He is intercepted in the mountains by a cousin, who works for MI6. And by the woman he fell in love with in Bavaria. They persuade him – against his better judgment – to help frustrate a plot to destroy the American President. He is drawn into a web of conspiracy and deceit whose true nature only gradually becomes apparent. 

As the narrative races towards it unexpected and shocking climax, the hero discovers untapped reserves of talent – as lover and as man of action.

Is it just me or did that just give a way a hell of a lot of the story? Pretty much all of it to be honest – a seemingly poor move in the political-thriller genre. I think I should have known better when I read the ‘more Frasier than Bond’ comment. I can’t stand Frasier.

There are some serious problems with this novel – some good points too, which I will get to in due course. Firstly, it was extremely verbose. Too many adjectives and adverbs – even in the short sentences – and this slowed down the pace drastically. The choice of language also seemed off for a thriller, albeit one in which the protagonist is a professor. Anachronistic, for example, is not a word that belongs in a descriptive sentence about a jukebox. It belongs in the historical context section of an academic essay. Ok? Ok. Glad we’ve got that sorted.

Plot-wise, I didn’t really feel that it was plausible that a cousin would know their other cousin was an MI6 agent, let alone ask them to help out on an international problem. Brother would have been better. The love interest also baffled me, I had to reread a few sections several times because I thought that I must have missed something that turned the completely platonic relationship between two people into ‘love’. The plot seemed very linear, I wasn’t gripped with suspense as it didn’t seem like the story was particularly driving to anywhere.

My main problem – and I don’t know if it’s just me with my feminist tendencies – was that I felt the underlying tone of the novel was quite sexist. On several occasions the protagonist made me feel irate with his assumptions about women. I paraphrase a little but ‘Agnete was something even scarier, an independent woman.’ It made me really annoyed, to the point that I showed my flatmates these sections. I also thought it was similar with racial stereotypes, especially in the section around Oakland in California (a place I’ve actually studied in). But please, don’t get me wrong. I don’t think the author was being deliberately and maliciously and making stereotypes – it felt like it was coming from someone a little out of touch and naive.

Good points: The political context was very interesting and showed a huge depth of knowledge. I would have liked to have seen more of this, perhaps breaks in which the narrative switched to those of MI6 or the baddies, so to speak.

I would like to thank the publisher for kindly sending me a review copy.

1/5

Image

The Snuff Syndicate by Keith Gouveia
Publisher: Beating Windward
Publication Date: 10/12/2012
IBSN: 9780983825241

What the blurb says:

In a world where serial killers are usually isolated and disconnected, The Snuff Syndicate provides an online forum founded on the camaraderie of serial killing peers – made for them by them.

For members social media is a tool to share experiences of pure, murder-filled ecstasy. Killing is a business of painstaking details, and every killer, from novice to expert needs a place to go to see what others are doing, from the ways they select victims to the methods they use to bloody their hands. The Snuff Syndicate is where they can brag, ask for advice and revel in their most gratifying hobby.

The Snuff Syndicate offers readers a unique look into the gritty world of bloodletting. Keith Gouveia’s novella strings together eight disparate stories of serial killers. As the novella unfolds, it reacts to and intersects with the stories more and more. This unique collaborative-anthology reads more like a multi-point-of-view novel rather than anthology.

Hmm. I really wanted to like this, but I’m afraid I can’t say I did. It sounded so great, serial killer point of view and all; I was expecting a gritty and disturbing read, yet felt like I was left with a pastiche of unbelievable characters.

The main problem is that I didn’t really like the ‘novella’ in which all those other stories were woven around. I found the idea that two guys would be so blase about murder and how it happened unrealistic and the fact that it kept coming back to them annoying. I also felt like the attempts to ‘weave’ these stories together were disjointed and lazy, as though all the stories had already been written and an extra sentence or two added in to make them conform to the central idea.

Despite this, there must have been something enticing about this book as I whizzed through reading it in three days of train journeys. The short story form was great as I could really get into the individual stories without getting cut off mid-stride and in general, the narrative voice of each story was easy enough to jump right in to.

My favourite story of the collection was Lorne Dixon’s ‘NSFW’, which told the story of two male teenagers thinking they wanted to get into the killing business, but not really having any idea of what they were getting into. With a nice twist this was definitely the most gripping of the stories and it also rang true. Perhaps this was because it was about two boys who don’t really cut it as killers, whereas I felt the real killers in the collection weren’t always portrayed convincingly.

I still think this concept could have been great, it just needed better execution.

I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with a review copy.

2/5

 

Image

Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway
Publisher: Windmill Books
Publication Date: 03 Jan 2013
IBSN: 978-0099538097

It has not taken me this long to read a book since, well, sliced bread came into function. I lie. But still, it took an awfully long time to whittle away on my daily train journeys.

This book is utterly charming, but it is also bloody weird and I had no idea, for the life of me, what was going on in the entire first third. His use of language is bloomin’ creative, I can tell you that. I don’t quite know how to define its genre either, have to stab at fantasy…or sheer madness.

Introducing Joe Spork, an honest clock maker, son of a crook, friend to a Dell boy character  and tangled up in the most horrific of webs.

And his counter-narrator, Edie Banister, ex-spy extraordinaire, living a much duller life with her trusty pup, Bastion. Pushing 90, she’s beginning to wonder if her past adventures even happened.

When Joe receives a mysterious job (and I mean mysterious…I.E…no client…and the device is …well, who knows?) Oh, wait. The device is a weapon of mass destruction, with lots of mechanical bees. Well why not set it off, Joe, I’m sure there won’t be any consequences. Or, you’ll be chased by crazy ruskinites, interrogated by obscure departments of the government and hailed as a terrorist. Throw in Edie’s old enemy, a man who has about four different names throughout the novel, and you’ve got a riot. Hard to follow? I think you get my point.

On the flip-side, the narrative style of this novel is actual gold. And several of the minor characters shine through in an abundance of hilarity (Mercer Cradle, you are my hero). So I don’t think this book is bad, but I think it’s certainly challenging. I would advise to read it when you actually have some time, rather than attempting to pick it up for 20 minutes everyday.

 

Bonkers.

3/5

Image

The Starboard Sea by Amber Dermont
Publisher: Corsair
Publication Date: Thursday 17 January
IBSN: 9781780338484

New book for the favourite list alert. It was reminiscent of The Secret History by Donna Tartt, which is possibly my favourite book of all time. So, holy Moses, let’s get to it.

The Starboard Sea is a tale of the upper-class elite. The rich kids that, if were English, none of us from the comprehensive school posse would like – a little too close to the bell-ends on Made In Chelsea, perhaps. But the fact that it’s set in the eastern coast of America, gives us just enough distance for an unhealthy and morbid fascination. Cue Jason Prosper, the epitome of the pensive protagonist, a Catcher in the Rye-esque thinker and as the name would suggest he comes from a prosperous background. Son of a high-flying New York Banker and a neurotic mother and brother to a dodgy Dell-boy investor, Jason spends his summer between New York penthouses and summerhouses in Maine, whereas term time was spent at the prestigious Kensington Prep. That was, until he got kicked out.

The reader is, to begin with, shrouded in mystery as to why our hero has faced a scandalous expulsion and is now heading to the illustriously crappy Bellingham Academy. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lot fancier than the chewing-gum decorated halls that I used to walk through, but as far as the elite US schools go…it’s scraping the barrel.

Set against the wall street crash of the eighties, the kids knock around at school; sex, drugs and wild parties are a daily occurrence. But our Jason doesn’t quite fit this mold. He has the money and he has the looks (if you squint a bit), but he also has a torn heart, still mourning the suicide of his best-friend, roommate and sailing partner, Cal.

But a new school brings a new start and a new friend with it. Aidan. A troubled girl with unruly hair and a striking face. Tentatively together they attempt to mend each other. Everything is starting to look up until a storm brings a devastating tragedy upon it’s waves.

It’s a story of unlikely friendships and sinister undercurrents. The language is perhaps the most beautifully metaphoric of its kind that I have recently read – each line taking you back to the gentle whirring of the ocean.

Let this story sweep you out to sea.

5/5