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review 2018-03-22 12:37
El Cajon- Joel Shapiro

     One thing is for certain- this book gives El Cajon, California one heck of a reputation and one no city would want. Another thing, for certain- people don’t do well when addicted to Vicodin. Opiate addiction is very topical. One can only hope the medics and pharma people get a conscience before too many more people have their lives torn apart by addictive prescription drugs. But what the heck has that got to do with this book. Well, apart from the fact that Haim, the first-person narrator, is still somehow alive and even gets a few things right, there is a serious warning here. We see a few heroic deeds, but not from an actor one would ever wish to emulate. He is the very antithesis of John, Die Hard, McClane. A film about Haim Baker would not create quite the same sort of wannabe buzz.

     Before you take a first overdose on opiate-based medicines, read this book. However, don’t read this book if you are planning a trip to San Diego County, unless you are open to having your mind changed.

     This is a book which quickly becomes hard to put down, but not necessarily because you are enjoying it. Frustration with the first person, no hoper is going to drive you to distraction. Like the effect of the dumb principle in the high-tension film drama, one can’t believe the stupidity for walking into trouble, while not being quite irritated enough to switch channels. Actually, that is probably not so different to having a mild addiction to Vicodin.

     This book is extremely violent and at times exceedingly crude. Urine and blood seem to be constantly pouring in equal and often mixed volumes. And this book gets the near fatal stages of opioid addiction about right- except that PI Haim Baker somehow still manages to function, and even kill the right bad people. The book also highlights the terrible world of people trafficking, focussed here on girls bashed and drugged into the sex industry. Actually, that part of the book is particularly sickening. Sickening for the sane and those merely into substance rather than people abuse, that is! But, just as we know that nearly every neighbourhood has an addict at deaths door, we also know that not all our children are safe wheresoever we live. I choose to see a second serious message from Shapiro. That even in places with a veneer of respectability such abuses can be hidden.

     The writing is fast paced, and generally of a good quality. However, the grammar is far from conventional. For example, the disappearance of the period, the comma, is used to convey rapid and often chaotic and stressed, stream of consciousness, thought. Shapiro writes well enough to usually pull this off. However, one would want to load up with plenty of oxygen before reading some passages aloud. Even if there was pause for breath, one would have to check the audience first. Haim isn’t exactly shy about some excruciatingly detailed body malfunctions.

     Haim is like the most down-beaten, unprepossessing, suicidally inclined private eye one has ever read about, and then some. If it wasn’t for the kindness buried in his soul and for the reported damage in his personal life which has helped draw him low, many might jettison the read unfinished. That would be a pity. But to sustain any credibility, either Haim dies next time out, or breaks his addiction.

     Yes, the book deserves five somethings, though five pain killing white tablets may be more appropriate that five yellow stars. But for those that eagerly consume thrillers in which the least bad guy eventually wins this is a good fix. I would absolutely recommend this book for those that like no-holes plugged entertainment. The pictures Shapiro paints look disgustingly real to this reader.


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review 2018-03-22 10:17
The Fear by C.L. Taylor
The Fear - C.L. Taylor
The Fear tells the story of Louise, a schoolgirl who ran away to France with her karate teacher, thinking it was just for the weekend. Instead it turns into something a whole lot more, which leads to him going to prison for five years. Through a series of flashbacks you learn what happened, and also why Louise never testified against him in court. Told from three different perspectives, you are thrown into this story, and watch as the twists and turns unfold. Nothing is what it seems in this book, and you will question just what is going on - just like Louise does.
Very well written, with no editing or grammatical errors that disrupted my reading flow, this was a thrilling read that captured my interest from the very start. The way the story unfolds keeps your interest, and I adored the ending - although I won't say anything else about that!
Definitely recommended by me.
* A copy of this book was provided to me with no requirements for a review. I voluntarily read this book, and my comments here are my honest opinion. *
Archaeolibrarian - I Dig Good Books!
Source: sites.google.com/site/archaeolibrarian/merissa-reviews/thefearbycltaylor
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text 2018-03-21 21:09
Reading progress update: I've read 127 out of 384 pages.
My Husband's Wife: A Novel - Jane Corry

All caught up with updates. This book is boring. You still don't know what occurred between Lily and her dead brother Daniel. She apparently was a virgin prior to her marriage and isn't having sex with her husband and itscausingit issues. She alsonowa obsessed with a potential murderer whose case she's working on. 


Carla's story---still don't care. 

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text 2018-03-21 20:34
Reading progress update: I've read 51 out of 384 pages.
My Husband's Wife: A Novel - Jane Corry

I am not liking the dual POVs. We have Lily (a lawyer working an appeals case) and Carla (a 9 year old dealing with her mother and her special friendship with a man named Larry).

Lilly feels off to me in some weird way. I don't like the interactions between her and her has to be full of crap client. I also wonder would you even be working an appeals case if the client refuses to tell you about new evidence and is making up clues for you to solve? She is newly married to a man named Ed and seems to be doubting he loves her as much as he did his ex girlfriend. Due to her size (size 14) she wonders if he really is as happy with her as he says he is.

Nothing on Carla much besides I am bored with her POV.

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review 2018-03-21 20:08
A Nordic noir thriller with two fascinating protagonists, D.I. Hulda Hermannsdóttir and Iceland.
The Darkness - Ragnar Jónasson

Thanks to NetGalley and to Michael Joseph for providing me an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.

I’ve followed with interest the rise in popularity of the Nordic/ Scandinavian Thrillers in recent years, although I have read random titles rather than becoming a dedicated fan of any single writer. (I’ve also watched quite a few of the crime TV series produced in those countries and I’ve particularly enjoyed Wallander, The Bridge, and The Killing). This is the first novel I read by Ragnar Jónasson, although I suspect it won’t be the last.

The novel contains some familiar elements, although with interesting variations. The main character, Hulda, a Detective Inspector, that works in Reykjavík, is 64 and on her way to retirement. She is surprised by the news that this retirement has been brought forward, and, as an afterthought to keep her quiet, her boss tells her she can work on a cold case of her choice. She chooses the apparent suicide of a Russian girl, an asylum seeker because she mistrusts the lead investigator. The novel, written in the third person, mostly from Hulda’s point of view, follows her last three days in the force. I say mostly because there are other fragments that are told from other characters’ points of view, although at first, it is not that clear who they are. We come to understand how they relate to the main story later, but I must clarify that they are clearly distinct, easy to follow, and do not cause any confusion. They do provide additional information, a different perspective, and they help us understand the story and the characters more fully (and yes, they might also mislead us a tiny bit), although I suspect some readers might catch on faster than others as to their true relevance.

Hulda is a known standard of the genre: the old detective forced to leave the job that is determined to solve one last case before retirement. Only, in this case, she is a woman, and she does reflect on how difficult things have been for her because she is a woman, glass ceiling and all. She does share some of the other attributes sometimes typical of these characters: she is very good but not that very well liked; she has to work alone because she is not a favourite among the other detectives; she resents her younger boss and many of her teammates; she is effective but might bend the rules slightly; she is reserved and has suffered tragedies in her life… The author is very good at creating a very compelling character and then making us question our judgment. At least in my case, I really liked Hulda to begin with, but after a while, I realised that she might be one of those favourites of mine, an unreliable narrator (or, although not directly a narrator, her point of view is unreliable). She makes decisions that are morally questionable; she drinks a bit too much; and well… I am keeping my mouth shut. My feelings for this character went from really liking her, to not being so sure, to not liking her very much, and then… This change in opinion and perception is cleverly achieved and extremely well done, and it reminded me of books like We Need to Talk about Kevin (not the story itself, but the way the writer slowly makes us empathise with a character to later pull the rug from under our feet).

The story is dark in more ways than one. As I said, there are morally grey areas (or even quite dark): the subject matter and the fact that a young asylum seeker and her death are not considered important and have been all but forgotten a year down the line (unfortunately that rings true), Hulda’s own life and the secrets she keeps, and Iceland. Although there is not a great deal of violence (and definitely not explicit), there is a certain unsettling air and a cold and menacing atmosphere, that comes in part from Hulda’s paranoia and her personality (suspicious and mistrustful), but goes beyond it. The setting is very important and it contributes to the story and its effect on the reader. Iceland is a character in its own right. The descriptions of the many locations in the book create a picture in the reader’s mind and help understand how important the place is to the mood, the characters, and their way of life. A place where light and darkness rule people’s lives, and where the inhabitants have adapted to conditions many of us would find difficult and hostile. The title is apt for many reasons (as we learn as we read on). It is a noir novel, where nobody is exactly as they appear at first, and where red herrings, false clues, and side-stories muddy the storyline, adding layers of complexity to what appears straightforward, at first.

The writing is fluid, and versatile, providing different registers and clearly distinct voices for the different aspects of the story and the varied points of view, and although it is a translation, it is well-written and the style fits in perfectly the content. It is not the usual fast-paced thriller, but one that builds up tension and organically incorporates the psychology of the characters and the setting into the story.

A couple of examples:

Time was like a concertina: one minute compressed, the next stretching out interminably.

‘She’s being deported. It happens. You know, it’s a bit like those games of musical chairs you play as a kid. The music starts, everyone gets up and walks in a circle and when the music stops, one of the chairs is taken away and someone’s unlucky.’

The ending… I will not talk in detail about it but although perhaps not unexpected, is a bit of a shocker.

A great (and not long) novel for lovers of Nordic thrillers, or anybody who enjoys thrillers that deviate from the norm. I’d also recommend it to anybody intrigued by Iceland and unreliable narrators. And I’d also recommend it to authors always intrigued by other authors’ technique and voice. I intend to keep reading the series. And enjoying it.

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