Monthly Archives: November 2013

Killing Me Softly

Killing me softlyby Nicci French

The book was first published in 1999 and has since been made into a film, which I must have seen as the story was very familiar.

This husband and wife team always deliver gripping and chilling stories and this is no exception.

“Killing Me Softly” tells the story of Alice Louden and how she threw her whole life ion its head for the sake of love. But can love truly be blind? As Alice beguines to suspect, then discover, unsettling truths about her new husband, she finds in impossible to turn away from the truth.

But since meeting the hero mountaineer Adam Tallis, Alice has turned her back on her family, her friends and her boyfriend. Even her job seems to have lost its appeal. 

The only thing she seems blind to is her new lover’s tendency to sexual violence and the damage it does to her, both physically and mentally.

Throughout the book, Alice tells of the journey from all consuming passion to her fear for her own life. 

The story is tense, with lots of pace.

Abduction

Abductionby Robin Cook

I have read a few Robin Cook novels but had never heard of “Abduction” until recently. Robin is best known for his tense medical thrillers, most notably “Coma” which features alongside this story in the omnibus I bought.

It was obvious from the synopsis that this was something of a new direction for Robin Cook, but I had expected something a little better.

The plot, such as it is, centres around a group of scientists and divers who find themselves snatched from the bottom of the Atlantic whilst trying to drill into a mysterious rock formation. What they find is a lost civilisation, populated by humans, but not as we know them. In a story reminiscent of “Brave New World”, the group find themselves in a peaceful world that seems to offer everything anyone could want. But as always there is a price and those they meet are ill prepared for the violence and feelings of the people they have abducted.

I found the whole premise of the book disappointing. The idea of a civilisation living under our feet is not a new one, but Robin failed to make it either relevant or believable. The whole way through the book I kept thinking: “it will get to the point anytime now” – but it didn’t. 

Although reasonably well defined with good back stories, I found I had very little empathy for them, and opportunities to make their relationships central were missed.

Robin Cook is an expert in his field. Unfortunately, this is far off field and way out of his depth. He should stick to what he does best and leave science fiction to those who can do it.

A disappointing read.

This Is Your Life

This Is Your Lifeby John O’Farrel

To anyone who is new to his work let me start by saying how delighted I was when he failed in his recent quest to become an MP; Westminster’s loss is very much the literary world’s gain as I am sure he would have thrown himself so completely into the role that he would have stopped writing, and that would never do.

In “This Is Your Life”, John O’Farrell casts his critical eye over the cynical and shallow world of celebrity. We are led on the journey by would be comic, Jimmy Conway. As a spotty teenager, Jim had a dream that one day he would be a star, with all the riches and trappings that go with it. And to ensure that he keeps a sense of balance, young Jimmy writes his older self a series of letters giving advice on what he should and shouldn’t be doing.

Fast forward 10 years. Jimmy is working as an English teacher in a sleepy seaside town, his earlier ambitions seemingly forgotten. Until, that is, the letters are discovered by his older brother who uses them to embarrass Jimmy in front of his friends.

With his dreams rekindled, Jimmy soon finds himself at the centre of a misunderstanding regarding his relationship with a local celebrity. But rather than correct the error, our hero builds on the lie, drawing him deeper and deeper into the glitzy world of showbiz.

But fame is not all it seems, particularly when you do not have the talent and experience you are claiming.

This is your life is something of a cautionary tale for anyone who has ambitions of stardom. It is also a very funny book, with O’Farrell’s trademark insight into the weaknesses and foibles of men. 

The believability and the absurdity of the plot kept me engrossed from start to finish. Whilst part of me found the story unbelievable fantasy, I couldn’t help feeling that there is probably some truth in much of the observations O’Farrell makes about the world of celebrity.

A thoroughly good read.

Twins of Evil

Twins of Evilby Shaun Hutson

When I first selected this book I wasn’t aware that it is one of a number of novelizations commissioned by Hammer. It is based on the 1971 film of the same name, one I am not familiar with.

Hammer were synonymous with British horror throughout the 1950s and 1960s and into the 1970s. But by 1976 the studio was in decline as the demand for the traditional gothic horror waned. 

Now they are back, and in partnership with Arrow Books, are publishing new and old stories, hoping to reach a new generation of horror fans.

“Twins of Evil” was released in 1971, the third part of a trilogy of films featuring the Karnstein family. The film itself is typical of its type and has all the hallmarks of a Hammer Horror, including its predictability and stock characters.

The plot is simple and hardly inspiring, but none the less, Shaun’s writing style is such that he can make even the most mundane of activities seem interesting and sinister. And although the book lacks any of the subtleties and unexpected twists I have come to expect from him, it is a good read. 

The twins of the title are sisters who find themselves taken away from their home in Venice to live with their aunt and uncle in the remote village of Karnstein, situated in an un-named part of Europe. Their uncle, Gustav Weil is the head of a brotherhood who spend their evenings burning young women who they suspect to be witches, ignoring the evil that lives in the castle that dominates the countryside.

The emotions that the beautiful twins arouse in several of the characters eventually leads to confrontations between the villagers and Count Karnstein, with inevitable results.

This was never going to be a typical Shaun Hutson book, but he has done what he can to turn a rather mundane script into a sinister tale of ancient horror and hidden lusts. 

The film is worth seeing, mainly for the cheap effects and ham acting. The book is worth reading because it is a Shaun Hutson!