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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

 

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The Thief by Fuminori Nakamura
Publisher: Corsair
Publication Date: 16th August 2012
IBSN: 9781780339139

This little beauty was my back to work (only after the weekend…it’s not like I’ve been on maternity leave. Can you even imagine.) read and what a quick read it was. A short-feeling 208 pages after a list of much longer books and with its stylish lay out – i.e. missing out loads of pages – I reckon it only came in at about 180.

I’m always a bit wary about reading Japanese translations, I’ve read the odd book that I’ve not identified with at all or the culture has seemed too alien. I’ve also read some that have been fantastic. It can be very hit and miss. I don’t know if it’s just me, but every single one that I’ve read involves prostitution.

Well hello, fantastic. Nice to see you again. This book was stark, snappy, honest and thrilling. It follows a pickpocket who’s cruising through life one rich man’s wallet at a time. His compelling first-person narrative quickly slots itself into your psyche until the anonymity of a thiefing lifestyle doesn’t seem so strange anymore. The thing is, he gets himself into a bit of a sticky situation. One harmless crime too many and now pure danger is nipping at his heels.

The protagonist is smart, likeable and sitting on the oustskirts of the community. But can he get himself out of this pickle? You’d better read it to find out then.

Oh and by the way, I feel like this today:

“Good thing I’m so fluffy.”

A Wanted Man by Lee Child
Publisher: Bantam Press
Publication date: 30 August 2012
IBSN: 9780593065730

So today is the day that the Starbucks red cups came out. It is now officially christmas time. And I am a sucker for soya toffee-nut lattes. Don’t worry, I realise that makes me a prick. But being a special occasion, and the fact that my housemates are never home anymore, I decided to shack up in Starbucks for a while after work and finish my book. Said book being A Wanted Man.

I can never fault Lee Child for giving me an easy and compelling read. He is, after all, the ultimate master of the single-word-sentence. Bam. Yeah, you liked that, didn’t you? If I were to pick a bone with the series as a whole, it would be that, once read, each book is barely distinguishable from any of the others. Pair this with similar, non-descript titles and it can be very difficult to remember which ones you’ve read. So read ’em all, I say.

Book 17 begins with Jack Reacher, a 6″5 ex-military cop, trying to hitch a ride. INTERLUDE – can I point out that Tom Cruise was picked to play Jack Reacher in the film adaptation. Tom fucking Cruise. How tall is he? Nowhere near 6″5, the height of the REAL Jack Reacher which is mentioned a gazillion times in all 17 books. Ok, Interlude over – as you can tell Tom Cruise makes me very irate. With a recently broken nose, bandaged with some good old duck tape, Reacher is not setting himself up for an easy hitch-hiking experience. So who picks him up? Two men and a woman.

The book flips between Reacher’s road-bound narrative and that of FBI agent Julia Sorenson. There’s been a murder. One man dead, two suspects. And the continuing presence of nosy outside agents shrouds this death in mystery.

Reacher, with his sharp military eye, picks flaws in his car-companions and after an extensive blinking session, works out the woman’s secret code. Karen Delfuenso has been kidnapped. At the same time, Sorenson’s case gets murkier and murkier.

A few of gun-shots later and nobody is who they first seemed to be. And finally, Sorenson and Reacher cross paths.

I would like to point out that there is no sex in this book. This Mr Child, I think is a serious mistake. One reads a Jack Reacher novel expecting a lot of violence and at least a smattering of sex. And there were TWO viable women in this book. And no sex.

Nevertheless, an enticing tension builds between Sorenson and Reacher as they set out to solve this intriguing mystery against many opposing forces.

All in all, this book was ok. It felt a little static considering the amount of driving in the novel. I kept wondering when the action was actually going to hit – which it does in a thrilling climax, but a little too late and a little too lack-lustre.

In Lee Child style, here’s my short sentence round-up: Page-turner. Gripping. Not exactly ground-breaking.

3/5

IBSN: 9781472100146
Published by: Corsair
Publication Date: 17th January 2013

This little gem was handed to me, in proof copy form, with the lines ‘well everybody else is going bat-shit crazy for this, so you might as well read it too.’ Hmm. Bat-shit crazy, I thought, I think I will.

Now, I love a good crime thriller as much as the next Lee Child and Harlen Coben enthusiast, but this was something different. Renner’s debut novel follows David Neff, a best-selling author who is still struggling with the aftermath of his wife’s suicide. Thrown back into writing by his pushy editor, he investigates the murder of the man from Primrose Lane.

I found myself enthralled in Renner’s suspenseful plot line, his oscillations between past and present creating questions I had to read on to answer. This was until I reached the first interlude. Confused. Apparition about a frog-type monster. I won’t go into details, wouldn’t want to ruin the incredible tie-ins. And then suddenly we’re back into the swing of things, the book and I, continuing on the search for the identity of the Man from Primrose Lane.

And then something happens. I had to read it back over four times to make sense of it. I’m still not sure I’ve made sense of it. I was tossed out of my comfortable crime-thriller world into a narrative I wasn’t sure I liked. The book became difficult, messy even, but definitely thinking outside of the box.

By the end of the book, I wasn’t sure if what I was reading was fictional or auto-biographical. Lavender from Matilda ran through my head with her distinctive, croaky ‘wow’. If you like your reading easy and satisfying, then don’t buy this book. But if you’re up for a rewarding challenge…read away.

4/5