Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘suspense’

A Long Time To Die

Dying Takes It Out of You – Book One of the Madonna Diaries
by S.S. Bazinet. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

513xwn-wYJLMental gymnastics, emotional turmoil, and brotherly love, all add weight to this dystopian thriller. Dying Takes It Out of You is set in the near future, when a virus has been deployed by terrorists, and the entire world is threatened. Dory is one of those infected, who believes he’d rather die than live in this shit hole that has become his life. His brother Milton, a scientist and doctor, has other ideas for Dory, and tries to save him by finding a cure at all costs. It may cost them everything.

Ms. Bazinet has taken a terrifying world in the near future, and turned it into a philosophical and ideological tale about understanding, family, and what is worth living for, without giving up an iota of fear or suspense. The beginning is intentionally misleading, making readers believe that the pursuer is evil, and the narrator (Dory) is running for his life. The sudden switch in who is in danger, and the shift from which person is good, and who is bad, is well executed.

In the process of Milton’s heroics to save his brother, who craves blood, is afraid he’ll go crazy, and will most likely die a horrible death within weeks, Dory describes his experience. “Sometimes a person doesn’t know how strong they are until they keep dying and coming back. A few days in, Milton said that I was having a convulsion and then clunk, I was dead again. The old vessel in my chest decided it had had enough and just stopped working in mid fit. Even Milton was surprised. Most people take longer to kill.”

This fantasy, by S. S. Bazinet, explores the depths a loved one (in this case his twin brother) will take to keep them alive. The world she creates is not that distant, or foreign, and has a strong connection with its surroundings. Memories that Dory has of an abusive father, and kind mother, are also interspersed with lucid dreams and conversations with Thomas, an individual known as one of the Watchers. These dialogues provide Dory with insight and hope, and make Dying Takes It Out of You all the better.

If the Truth Be Told

The Story That Had No Beginning by Daniel Kemp.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

51eGvdQIgBLTom Collins, and his sister Alice (Alicia), are twins who were separated into foster homes when they were 8 years of age. As adults, they’ve taken different paths. Tom becomes a thug, in and out of prison, and Alicia is a famous photographer, care of the graces of her mentor and mother figure (Mary O’Donnell). The Story That Had No Beginning, takes a close look at these siblings as adults, and explores their lives together with friends, co-workers, and acquaintances, and the inter-connections that take place. What appears to be straight-forward, and obvious, may or may not be so.

Mr. Kemp has written a superb crime story, with the actions, thoughts, feelings, and consequences of the main characters being told by way of deceased Tom Collins, who can see into the past. Tom says, “All I can do is recount the story as it is shown to me without any interpretation, but bear this in mind as you continue to read. As I have been granted this ability to see the mistakes made in lives other than my own, are similar people such as I reading your thoughts and your hidden secrets as you indulge yourself with me? If so, then the skeletons in your past are being interrogated as I hold your attention.”

That is the rub, really. What is the truth? Who’s truth is it? Is what we think we know, what actually is? These questions are discussed in the beginning dinner party (that is not really the beginning), which includes Alicia, Giles Milton (Queen’s counsel – lawyer), Susan Rawlinson (national newspaper editor and novelist), and Rupert Barrett (owner of Bear Cave nightclubs). Tom returns to observe this dinner-party in the non-conclusion conclusion of the storyand learns about secrets, collusion, alternative facts, and circumstances that were not apparent at the time they occurred.

The Story That Had No Beginning is an intriguing, thoughtful, and intricate observation of how to write a good murder mystery. It is unique, complicated, and takes readers’ around the block for an insider’s eye view of cut-throat business, politics, sex, media, and the law. Everyone is suspect, and none are innocent. Like the best of a good soap opera, almost anything can, and does, happen to Tom and Alicia. There is order and insight behind the writing and the characters. I would think that this story would be easily adaptable as a four-part series for Masterpiece Mystery on BBC or PBS.

You Can See Her Again

The Heather in May – A Tale of First Love, Second Chances and Time Travel. Written by Phillip D. Curwood. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

516fmQeEgPLThe plot, circumstances, and descriptions of alternating between the present (in 2017) and the past (in 1973) in The Heather in May is very well written. A man named Trevalyn Scurr takes Tony (age 63) back in time to possibly save the love of his life (Katie) from dying in a fire at The Rivvis hotel. The story is told in the third person. It is well paced, and presented, by author Phillip Curwood. Some aspects of this tale remind me of the American TV show Forever. The are also  strong parallels to The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

As a succor for metaphors and visual interpretations of experience, the following excerpt was especially delightful. “As the spring sunshine began to fade, setting the clouds ablaze with colours of red and amber, the evening crept in, sending a whispering breeze through the yellow gorse, brown bracken, and heather. Tony took his hands from his pockets and pulled the collar ends of his faded blue denim jacket tight around his thin neck, to gain comfort and warmth in such a cold lonely place.“.

Here’s another beautiful passage, “The orange glow from the streetlights shown down on the rain-covered pavement, by the entrance to the hotel. Stepping outside, Katie and Tony bathed in the lambency, and stayed sheltered under the arch, watching the fine watery mist create pillars of light in the air.”

The author is also adept at creating a specific time and place, with music, cars, buildings, current fads, and people’s behavior and attitudes, in 1973 England. The physical characteristics of the characters is also spot on. Tony, Katie, Greg (villain), and Tony and Katie’s parents, are well defined and molded. The ending of this time travel suspense mystery comes full circle, and surprises readers’ with a brilliant setup (or new beginning), as a result of earlier circumstances, twists and turns. Mr. Curwood’s The Heather in May is a good read in May, or any other month of the year.

A Story to Savor

5168cuV1J3LMy White Dahlia (A Lesbian Romance) by C. M. Blackwood. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

I’m bowing down with gratitude to the literary goddesses that brought this book to my attention. C. M. Blackwood is a damn good writer, and My White Dahlia is a hell of a good book. Weave together some of the best suspense and mystery novels with a first-rate romance, and you’ll end up with this gem, which takes place in 1949 England, in the town of Kingston. It doesn’t take long before you will understand and love these characters. It is with that knowledge, and the author’s ability to reveal their history and past experiences, that your own emotions will become entangled with theirs.

The heroine’s name is Adette Salazar. This tale is told from her point of view. While listening to her friend, Henry, drone on about what he knows about the famous novelist who just hired Adette to be her personal assistant, she realizes, “At the ring of that final word, I finally began to be curious. It was the first moment I market it. It was the moment I remembered as the starting point, through all those long months that followed.” As Adette becomes more familiar with her new surroundings, memories from the past threaten to diss-rail her and ruin all she has come to adore.

Flashes of Adette’s childhood in Georgia (USA), before she is taken to the UK to live with her Uncle Henry after her mother has died, arise at crucial moments within her caring for her now invalid uncle, her new job, and ever changing relationship with Dahlia Frobisher (her boss). Dhalia’s housekeeper, Edwina, and Dahlia’s literary agent, Archie Willoughby, are first-rate characters and supporting players in the drama, as are Susan Heyward and Jane Albright. Though the focus is on Adette and Dhalia, everyone makes a difference, and has an impact upon readers.

One of the reasons that Agatha Christie is the best-selling author of all time, is because she had a knack for understanding human emotion and motives, and was able to describe place, time, characteristics, thoughts, and actions, with such clarity and insight. Everything and everyone, seemed somewhat familiar, yet one never knew for sure who did what and why until the end. Ms. Blackwood is cut from the same cloth of storytellers. My White Dahlia should definitely be made into a film. When you read the story the reasons will become self evident.

 

After School Class

51DkXJGlttL._SY346_Ninja School Mum by Lizzie Chantree
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

Skye is not an ordinary mother in a small town, and it turns out not everyone else is either. Reluctantly, Skye (and her son Leo), allows herself to become friends with Thea (and her daughter Florence, and niece, Allie). She also becomes “very close” to the landowner (Zack). Nobody knows Skye’s work history (or so she thinks), and she wants to keep it that way.

Ninja School Mum isn’t strictly a romance, suspense novel, or mystery, but more of a delicious stew with all three mixed in. Told from different points of view by the main characters (Skye, Thea, and Zack), it feels like you’re being taken into their confidence. It is impossible to not like them all, and understand their motivations for what they do, and how they interact with others.

The writing is pragmatic, with thoughts, feelings, and situations, clearly defined and explained. There is lots of drama, tension, emotion, and humor within these pages. Soon after Thea has met Skye, and they are in a bakery with her infant daughter (“Flo”), Thea thinks, “Im lusting after a slice of cake while my breasts have a mind of their own and are ready to combust with enough milk to flood this shop.”

If you think you know who did what when, and whether someone is tracking down Skye because of her previous job, you should be forewarned to not make any bets on your conclusions. Ms. Chantree has taken several genres and story lines and converted them into something familiar, yet also entirely different. Ninja School Mum is entertaining, romantic, suspenseful, and well worth the money and time.

A Search for Family

51LrMG-G4QL._SY346_A Dangerous Secret by Peter Martin
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

There are so many things to like about this story. It is well written, nicely edited, and engrossing from beginning to end. A Dangerous Secret turned out to be somewhat what I expected (from the description) and a lot that I didn’t.

The beginning finds Garry dealing with the loss of his mother. The grief he experiences is very true to life and expressed with great depth and understanding. What he learns just before she dies however, puts the wheels of the story into motion, and the search that continues from that day on.

I don’t keep reading a novel very long if I don’t in some way identify with, or have some empathy for, the main characters. That was not a problem in this story. Garry, his wife Delia (Deel), and their family (Cassie, Tom, Chris, Adam), are not only likable, but also very believable.

A Dangerous Secret is a well paced story, which gives just enough detail for each scene, without lingering too long either. It is as much a search for family, belonging, and understanding, as it is a mystery, genealogical exploration, and a wee bit of horror. Without giving anything away, there are shades of the film Get Out, though not to the same extent as the movie.

As is obvious, I liked A Dangerous Secret. It took twists and turns that I hadn’t expected, kept me fully engaged throughout, and gave me a new appreciation for this genre of mystery and suspense.

Agathe Christie & Willy Wonka

51E5HteP5iL._SY346_Thirteen Chocolates by Agatha Chocolats
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

Take one of the best movies ever made, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (with Gene Wilder), and combine it with the most widely read murder mystery writer in the world, (Agatha Christie) and you’ll enjoy the sumptuous wedding feast of Thirteen Chocolates.

If you’ve never thought of the joy and pleasure of chocolate, in combination with murder and suspense, you will now. In fact, you may never be able to eat another rich, delicious chocolate again, without wondering who may be eliminated next.

The chapters in this book are uniquely rendered backwards, starting out with Chapter 13, and ending with Chapter 1. Thus, corresponding to the number of apparent heirs who are at the famous Chandler’s Mansion, vying for their inheritance in a challenge that soon turns deadly.

The story is first rate, with great dialogue and metaphors, “That girl’s flakier than my Aunt Elma’s pork belly pot pie crust”; believable characters; and a well thought out plot. It’s always been difficult for me to figure out “who did it” when reading mysteries, and this was no exception.

If you love chocolate, you’ll devour this book. If you like murder mysteries, or suspense novels, you’ll delight in the similarities and differences included within its pages. If you are up for something completely different and decadently enjoyable, I encourage you to go ahead, have a bite, and read Thirteen Chocolates.

 

 

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