Tag Archives: paranormal crime

Review of KINDLE Ebook Demon Hunting in Dixie – Book 1 of the Demon Hunting series by Lexi George

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I had just finished reading a beautifully written book on loss and grief – and needed something brimming with energy and naughtiness with oodles of humour and sassy rejoinders. And I got exactly what I was looking for when I turned to this offering…

demonhuntingindixieAddy Corwin is a florist with an attitude. A bad attitude, or so her mama says, ’cause she’s not looking for a man. Mama’s wrong. Addy has looked. There’s just not much to choose from in Hannah, her small Alabama hometown. Until Brand Dalvahni shows up, a supernaturally sexy, breathtakingly well-built hunk of a warrior from – well, not from around here, that’s for sure. Mama thinks he might be European or maybe even a Yankee. Brand says he’s from another dimension. Addy couldn’t care less where he’s from. He’s gorgeous. Serious muscles. Disturbing green eyes. Brand really gets her going. Too bad he’s a whack job. Says he’s come to rescue her from a demon. Puh-lease. But right after Brand shows up, strange things start to happen. Dogs talk and reanimated corpses stalk the quiet streets of Hannah. Her mortal enemy Meredith, otherwise known as the Death Starr, breaks out in a severe and inexplicable case of butt boils. Addy might not know what’s going on, but she definitely
wants a certain sexy demon hunter by her side when it all goes down. . .

This is not my normal fare – I freely admit it. But this was just plain fun. While the insta-love was more about insta-lust, I was prepared to go with the flow as Addy is just so much fun. I enjoyed the fact that she was still concerned about what the neighbours thought and was very mindful of her mother’s opinion even after all the life-changing adventures. Meanwhile, she plays with the trope of the good Southern girl, looking for a husband, concerned with her appearance and intent on putting on a good front for the neighbours.

While behind all that, she has a wicked wit and a lovely turn of phrase that had me grinning throughout and reluctant to put this one down. That said, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it if the story had been a crock – and it isn’t. Granted, there isn’t a lot of explanation about the other dimension, or much backstory about why the small town of Hannah seems to be such a hotspot for demons, but then this is the first book in a series, so presumably we’ll get more answers in future books.

The supporting cast are also great fun – I loved the talking Labrador and Addy’s hapless older brother – the scene at the funeral parlour was hilarious. Overall, this is an amusing farce with plenty of action and fun, some steamy sex scenes all applied with a zingy coating of witty one-liners.
8/10

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*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Very Important Corpses – Book 3 of the Ishmael Jones series by Simon R. Green

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I’ve read a couple of books by the author before – see my review of The Man With the Golden Torc – and know that I enjoy his writing, so when I saw this offering on Netgalley, I couldn’t resist.

veryimportantcorpsesThe Organisation has despatched Ishmael and his partner Penny to Coronach House on the shores of Loch Ness where the secretive but highly influential Baphamet Group are holding their annual meeting. The Organisation believes an imposter has infiltrated the Group and they have instructed Ishmael to root him or her out. It s not Ishmael s only mission. The first agent sent by the Organisation has been found dead in her room, murdered in a horribly gruesome manner. Ishmael must also discover who killed his fellow agent, Jennifer Rifkin and why. Dismissive of rumours that the legendary Coronach Creature is behind Jennifer s death, Ishmael sets out to expose the human killer in their midst. But he must act fast before any more Very Important People are killed.

I’ve done my usual trick of dropping into the middle of a series, but while I was aware there was something of a backstory that I didn’t know, most of the action and focus was on the current situation so it wasn’t an issue. Ishamael is certainly an intriguing figure. Endowed with superhuman powers, he is used to dealing with the nasties coming from other dimensions. Neither is he wholly on the side of the angels – he’s been involved in plenty of dirty operations in the past, although he’s doing his best to clean up his act, these days. So he isn’t an operative who would usually be in evidence for this kind of assignment, where he is dealing with VIPs who require some finesse when dealing with them. But a colleague has been brutally murdered, so he has been sent, along with his pretty young colleague Penny, to sort it out.

This story is the equivalent of the locked room puzzle, except it is a locked house tucked away on the shores of Loch Ness, with a shadowy creature roaming around in the grounds – and a savage killer in their midst. Ishmael stomps around thoroughly upsetting everyone, while Penny smooths them over. Meanwhile, the bodycount is rising and so are the stakes… This is an enjoyable, fast-paced whodunit with plenty of plot twists and turns. No, I didn’t guess who the villain was as I just tucked in and went along for the ride. If you enjoy your whodunits with a paranormal twist, then have a go at this one – it’s fun.

While I obtained the arc of Very Important Corpses from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
8/10

Sunday Post – 26th February 2017

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Sunday Post

This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

It’s been my turn to have a week off, as it’s half term. That said, I’ve been hard at it – last week I suddenly had a breakthrough with how to move forward with Miranda’s Tempest so this week I’ve cracked on with the rewrite and finally completed it Friday afternoon. The relief is staggering – I’d begun to think this was the one that would defeat me… I still have to go through it a couple more times to tidy up the prose and catch those stray pronouns – I’ve changed the viewpoint from first person to third – but hopefully I’ll have it in a readable state before Easter.

Other than that – I’ve read. A lot. It’s amazing just how much more mental energy I have when I’m not teaching or trudging through the inevitable pile of admin that comes with it. Both the Fitstep and Pilates sessions went well this week and I am still thrilled at the progress I’m making fitness-wise. Next week, back into the hurly-burly but I’m still on a high at having completed my rewrite – yay!

This week I have read:

The Mercy of the Tide by Keith Rosson
Riptide, Oregon, 1983. A sleepy coastal town, where crime usually consists of underage drinking down atthemercyofthetide a Wolf Point bonfire. But then strange things start happening—a human skeleton is unearthed in a local park and mutilated animals begin appearing, seemingly sacrificed, on the town’s beaches. The Mercy of the Tide follows four people drawn irrevocably together by a recent tragedy as they do their best to reclaim their lives—leading them all to a discovery that will change them and their town forever.

This book is definitely on the literary end of the speculative fiction spectrum, with a nod to alternative history and magic realism. It is a study of loss and grief. A car crash months before the story starts has killed two women and not only does their death massively impact the main protagonists in the story – it also appears to set off a chain of events that have recurred on this site before.

 

Demon Hunting in Dixie – Book 1 of the Demon Hunting in Dixie series by Lexi George
demonhuntingindixieAddy Corwin is a florist with an attitude. A bad attitude, or so her mama says, ’cause she’s not looking for a man. Mama’s wrong. Addy has looked. There’s just not much to choose from in Hannah, her small Alabama hometown. Until Brand Dalvahni shows up, a supernaturally sexy, breathtakingly well-built hunk of a warrior from – well, not from around here, that’s for sure. Mama thinks he might be European or maybe even a Yankee. Brand says he’s from another dimension. Addy couldn’t care less where he’s from. He’s gorgeous. Serious muscles. Disturbing green eyes. Brand really gets her going. Too bad he’s a whack job. Says he’s come to rescue her from a demon. Puh-lease. But right after Brand shows up, strange things start to happen. Dogs talk and reanimated corpses stalk the quiet streets of Hannah.

This is not my normal fare – I freely admit it. But this was just plain fun. While the insta-love was more about insta-lust, I was prepared to go with the flow as Addy is just so much fun. I enjoyed the fact that she was still concerned about what the neighbours thought and was very mindful of her mother’s opinion even after all the life-changing adventures.

 

Clean Sweep – Book 1 of The Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews
On the outside, Dina Demille is the epitome of normal. She runs a quaint Victorian Bed and Breakfast in cleansweepa small Texas town, owns a Shih Tzu named Beast, and is a perfect neighbor, whose biggest problem should be what to serve her guests for breakfast. But Dina is…different: Her broom is a deadly weapon; her Inn is magic and thinks for itself. Meant to be a lodging for otherworldly visitors, the only permanent guest is a retired Galactic aristocrat who can’t leave the grounds because she’s responsible for the deaths of millions and someone might shoot her on sight. Under the circumstances, “normal” is a bit of a stretch for Dina. And now, something with wicked claws and deepwater teeth has begun to hunt at night… Feeling responsible for her neighbors, Dina decides to get involved.

Dina is a thoroughly engaging protagonist. Impulsive, brave and with an over-developed sense of responsibility, she immediately plunges into this adventure when she feels the caretaker of this territory is not doing enough. I really enjoyed her character, particularly as she also has a vulnerability that pulled me further onto her side.

 

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
allthebirdsintheskyPatricia Delfine talks to trees and birds in the hope they will answer back, as they did one amazing day when she was little… Laurence Armstead invents a two-second time machine in his bedroom. Unsurprisingly, they are both targets for the bullies at school who make their lives hell. So under duress, they become unlikely friends. A friendship that is tested and often found wanting as their lives both spin off in amazing directions…

What I won’t be doing is telling you that this is a fantasy or science fiction book, because it’s a little bit of both. After all, one of the major protagonists is a nerdy scientist and the other is a witch. And what Anders is doing throughout this highly readable, roller-coaster adventure is exploring the space between the magical, natural world and the high-tech, scientific community.

 

Very Important Corpses – Book 3 of the Ishmael Jones series by Simon R. Green
The Organisation has despatched Ishmael and his partner Penny to Coronach House on the shores of veryimportantcorpsesLoch Ness where the secretive but highly influential Baphamet Group are holding their annual meeting. The Organisation believes an imposter has infiltrated the Group and they have instructed Ishmael to root him or her out. It s not Ishmael s only mission. The first agent sent by the Organisation has been found dead in her room, murdered in a horribly gruesome manner. Ishmael must also discover who killed his fellow agent, Jennifer Rifkin and why. Dismissive of rumours that the legendary Coronach Creature is behind Jennifer s death, Ishmael sets out to expose the human killer in their midst. But he must act fast before any more Very Important People are killed.

I’ve done my usual trick of dropping into the middle of a series, but while I was aware there was something of a backstory that I didn’t know, most of the action and focus was on the current situation so it wasn’t an issue. Ishamael is certainly an intriguing figure. Endowed with superhuman powers, he is used to dealing with the nasties coming from other dimensions.

 

The Demonic Arctic Expedition – Book 4 of the Skycastle series by Andy Mulberry
thedemonicarcticexpeditionFast-paced, action-packed and funny, perfect for reluctant readers. The Demonic Arctic Expedition is the fourth in a series of MIDDLE GRADE books for fantasy-adventure loving readers. This book contains a scowling demon, an ancient weapon, an adorable Hound of Hell, a sort of angel, a dragon, an ordinary boy and an extraordinary castle. And a not so cuddly polar bear…

Yes… the plot is every bit as surreal and whacky as it sounds. There is also an enchanted sword and a dragon, who spends most of the time coating the dungeon in dragon snot as he has a cold, which he has given to the guardian angel… Mulberry has a trick of pulling in all sorts of classic characters and themes from fantasy and subverting them in her Skycastle adventures. Great fun!

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 19th February 2017

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – The Mercy of the Tide by Keith Rosson

Teaser Tuesday featuring Clean Sweep – Book 1 of The Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews

Discovery Challenge 2017 and Tackling my TBR

Review of The Vanishing Throne – Book 2 of The Falconer series by Elizabeth May

Friday Face-off – Little Green Men… featuring The Tar-Aiym Krang – Book 1 of the Pip and Flinx series by Alan Dean Foster

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Review of The Demonic Arctic Expedition – Book 4 of the Skycastle series by Andy Mulberry

 

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

Point of View Blows Up in My Face (or the end of the “Normal’s Menace” experiment)
https://jeanleesworld.com/2017/02/23/point-of-view-blows-up-in-my-face-or-the-end-of-the-normals-menace-experiment/ Jean’s blog is always worth a visit – she is a passionate, talented and searingly honest writer, but this experiment in writing viewpoint is a MUST for anyone who struggles with it.

10 of the Best Poems about Dreams and Dreaming https://interestingliterature.com/2017/02/24/10-of-the-best-poems-about-dreams-and-dreaming/ I love this site – and once more it delivers a series of excellent poems about this mysterious thing we all do…

Space Features of the Week http://earthianhivemind.net/2017/02/23/space-features-week-23-february/ Once more Steph delivers an excellent roundup about what’s going on in space. And plenty is…

Photolicioux – untitled https://photolicioux.wordpress.com/2017/02/20/untitled-98/ It may be untitled but I’ll guarantee it’s burn out your visual cortex if you focus on it for too long.

Using Speech-To-Text Software as an Editing Tool http://writershelpingwriters.net/2017/02/using-text-to-speech-software-as-an-editing-tool/ The marvellous Sara Letourneau has set out very clearly in this excellent article how to save your voice and your sanity by getting your computer to read back your work to you during the editing phase.

Thank you for visiting and taking the time and trouble to comment – and may you have a wonderful reading and blogging week.

Review of The Rhesus Chart – Book 5 of The Laundry Files by Charles Stross

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I have enjoyed Bob Howard’s adventures and was a bit shaken to realise that since I’d read The Apocalypse Codex, two more had been released in the series. Would this fifth book once more tick all the boxes?

therhesuschartBob Howard is an intelligence agent working his way through the ranks of the top secret government agency known as ‘the Laundry’. When occult powers threaten the realm, they’ll be there to clean up the mess – and deal with the witnesses. There’s one kind of threat that the Laundry has never come across in its many decades, and that’s vampires. Mention them to a seasoned agent and you’ll be laughed out of the room. But when a small team of investment bankers at one of Canary Wharf’s most distinguished financial institutions discovers an arcane algorithm that leaves them fearing daylight and craving O positive, someone doesn’t want the Laundry to know. And Bob gets caught right in the middle.

I really enjoy Bob’s snarky commentary on his job with The Laundry, a Government-backed agency created to deal with the more arcane threats facing the country. Stross has clearly worked in an office during a previous career – and he has nailed some of the dafter activities that go on in admin-heavy organisations. What sets these books apart is that Bob’s first person narration is juxtaposed with his encounters with Lovecraftian beings who are waiting to break into our dimension and turn us all into snackfood.

This latest adventure, however, features more familiar monsters – with a unique Stross spin on them, of course… I love the fact that the infection causing vampirism is a prion disease that infects the brain, similar to mad cow disease. If vampires don’t get regular amounts of human blood, the parasite in their blood that makes them long-lived, allergic to sunlight and very strong, will also attack their brain. However, the same disease also attacks their donors’ brains. Although it takes a while for anyone to take this seriously, after all, EVERYONE within The Laundry knows that vampires don’t exist.

Once more I was swept up in the Stross magic, as this fantasy adventure whipped along at a satisfying clip. I particularly like the fact that Bob isn’t ever some invulnerable magic-user, even though he can pack a punch, but instead comes across as a more than slightly burned-out operative, who manages to prevail due to out-thinking his enemies while sitting at a desk and painstakingly preparing in advance. Though the devastating climax at the end of the book may change that… It was certainly a jaw-dropper – and whatever you do, don’t start your Bob Howard experience with The Rhesus Chart, but instead, go back to the start of it all in The Atrocity Archives. This is a series that deserves to be read in order.
10/10

Teaser Tuesday – 29th March 2016

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Teaser

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Books and a Beat.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:

Deceptions – Book 3 of the Cainsville series by Kelley Armstrong
52%: But they weren’t “that” sort of sound at all, simply them whispering and laughing, their voices too low for him even to make out what they were saying. That was enough, those whispers and laughs pounding through his skull like red-hot spikes.

BLURB:
TRUST NO ONE. Olivia Jones is desperate for the truth. The daughter of convicted serial killers, she hasDeceptions begun to suspect that her parents are innocent of their crimes. But who can she trust in a world where betrayal and deception hide in every shadow.
RISK EVERYTHING. Liv does have one secret weapon: a mysterious sixth sense that helps her to anticipate danger. The trouble is, this rare power comes with its own risks. There are dark forces that ant to exploit Liv’s talents – and will stop at nothing to win her to their side.
FACE THE TRUTH. Now Liv must decide, before it’s too late. Who does she love? Who is really on her side? And can she save herself without burning down everything that matters most?

I’d just finished reading an apocalyptic near-future offering featuring an environmental holocaust, so needed something a lot lighter, while flicking through my TBR list, this seemed to tick the box. I’ve read and enjoyed the other two books in the series – see my review of Omens here – and have been once more, whisked into Olivia’s world of improbable, paranormal events thousands of miles away. Thank goodness!

Teaser Tuesday – 23rd February 2016

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm.TeaserTuesdays-ADailyRhythm3-300x203
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:
EBOOK Rosemary and Rue – Book 1 of the Toby Daye series by Seanan McGuire
34% Considering my stained and increasingly grimy gown, no one was going to believe I had a good reason to be entering an upscale office building in the middle of the night. There’s pushing the bounds of credibility, and then there’s just getting silly.

BLURB
rosemaryandrueOctober “Toby” Daye, a changeling who is half human and half fae, has been an outsider from birth. After getting burned by both sides of her heritage, Toby has denied the Faerie world, retreating to a “normal” life. Unfortunately for her, the Faerie world has other ideas…

The murder of Countess Evening Winterrose pulls Toby back into the fae world. Unable to resist Evening’s dying curse, which binds her to investigate, Toby must resume her former position as knight errant and renew old alliances. As she steps back into fae society, dealing with a cast of characters not entirely good or evil, she realizes that more than her own life will be forfeited if she cannot find Evening’s killer.

So far, I’ve really been enjoying this fae-based whodunit. Toby is an enjoyable protagonist and the world is satisfyingly threatfilled and quirky.

Review of Day Shift – Book 2 of the Midnight series by Charlaine Harris

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I really enjoyed the first book in this series, Midnight Crossing – see my review here. Would the second book be as strong?

DayshiftIt’s a quiet little town, perched at the junction between Davy Road and Witch Light Road and it’s easy to miss. With its boarded up windows, single traffic light and sleepy air, there’s nothing special about Midnight… which is exactly how the residents like it. So when the townspeople hear that a new owner plans to renovate the run-down, abandoned old hostel in town, it’s not met with pleasure. Who would want to come to Midnight, with its handful of shops, the Home Cookin diner, and quiet residents and why? But there are bigger problems in the air. When Manfred Bernado, the newest resident in town, is swept up in a deadly investigation, suddenly the hotel and its guests are the least of the town’s concern. The police, lawyers and journalists are all headed to Midnight, and it’s the worst possible moment…

Harris has set up an enjoyable juxtaposition in this entertaining read, as this small settlement contains so few people that Manfred is able to observe their lives and characters fairly easily. So we have scenes set at the diner and meetings when concerned residents discuss the hotel renovations and we get to see some of their daily routines – which is when the cosiness fades… All Midnight’s residents are concealing some sort of secret that marks them apart. And in many cases, that secret would land them either behind bars, or in some secret Government facility where white-coated scientists would eagerly be experimenting on them. It also makes a number of them highly dangerous. So the mundane is rubbing shoulders with oddness in a disturbing mix that Harris fans recognise only too clearly and the HBO True Blood series spectacularly failed to achieve. They only managed to convey the danger and oddness, which wrecked the dynamic of Harris’s storytelling.

Though as one of his client readings turns into a tragedy, Manfred’s interest in his neighbours is lessened as his involvement comes under police scrutiny. Other Midnight residents pitch in to help. Not just out of neighbourly concern – no one in Midnight wants the police knocking on doors, or enquiring too closely into their movements. At all.

What I really love about Harris’s version of American Gothic are the slices of humour, where a tight-wound situation tips into farce. A growing boy needs new clothes and everyone notices that he is literally bulging out of his apparel, except his carer, the Reverend, who wears exactly the same clothing day in and day out. So it falls upon the kindly witch to provide him with new outfits and very welcome snacks. As well as providing necessary lighter moments, it is these small details that make me bond with the characters and have me holding my breath when the situation suddenly lurches into one of uncertainty and danger. I’m only too well aware that Harris is capable of killing off one of Midnight’s main residents, should the plot require it.

Any niggles? Well, I did feel the denouement to Manfred’s problem lacked the satisfying smoothness I am accustomed to experiencing with Harris – the solution seemed slightly tacked on. But it that isn’t the dealbreaker you might imagine. Midnight has the same hold over me that Bon Temps exerted and I will happily tolerate the occasional unevenness in the plotting to experience Harris’s particular mix of charm and humour, death and alienation.
8/10

Review of Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris

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I’ve always enjoyed reading Harris – the best of the Sookie Stackhouse series is right up there as some of my favourite and memorable reads. See my review of Dead Reckoning here. I also thoroughly enjoyed the Harper Connolly books – read my review of Grave Sight here.

midnight crossroadWelcome to Midnight, Texas, a town with many boarded-up windows and few full-time inhabitants, located at the crossing of Witch Light Road and Davy Road. It’s a pretty standard dried-up western town. There’s a pawnship (where someone lives in the basement and runs the store during the night). There’s a diner (although those folk who are just passing through tend not to linger). And there’s a new resident: Manfred Barnardo, who thinks he’s found the perfect place to work in private (and who has secrets of his own). If you stop at the one traffic light in town, then everything looks normal. But if you stay a while, you might learn the truth…

Charlaine Harris was one of the guests of honour at Fantasycon 2014 and came across as a sweet natured, gracious lady with a keen sense of humour and a delicious Southern accent I could have listened to all day. It was a real fangirl moment actually seeing one of my favourite authors… But, aside from all that – would I enjoy the start of this new series?

The answer is overwhelmingly – yes. I like Harris’s chatty, easy style. She builds up a story from the ground up by having her protagonist depicting a series of everyday details about his life. I quickly bonded with Manfred and thoroughly enjoyed exploring this one-horse town stranded in this dusty corner of the States. Because the community is so small and tightly knit, when a murder does occur there are a ready-made pool of suspects – much like those country house crimes investigated by the likes of Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. It was refreshing to have a main character, like Manfred, who didn’t see fit to rush around and try and solve the crime. One of the book’s strengths is that there are also a group of intriguing characters, all with an interesting backstory. Some we got to thoroughly know – and some we didn’t… I particularly liked the witch, Fiji. She is refreshingly different from the tall, beautiful heroines we regularly encounter in so many fantasy novels – short, plump, out of condition and very unsure of herself. But smitten with Bobo, who has heartbreak of his own and is oblivious of her attraction. I also enjoyed Lemuel, whose first encounter with Manfred is particularly memorable.

Because I cared for so many of the inhabitants of Midnight, as soon things started happening, I was hooked and stayed up reading faaar too late into the night. As you’d expect with such an experienced, talented writer, the pacing of the narrative arc was pitch perfect with plenty of twists that caught me off-balance and snagged me further into the book. I certainly didn’t come close to guessing who the culprit was… But before you go away with the idea that this is a cosy whodunit, there is a dark underside to this story. For all their apparent charm, there are those living in Midnight who don’t take any prisoners – literally. And Harris throws out a wider question for us all to ponder – is murder ever justified? She goes on to unpack that question quite thoroughly within the book.

All in all, this book is real treat. And I’m looking forward to the next one.
9/10

Review of Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz

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oddWell, you won’t find a book more aptly named. Odd by name and odd by nature… Twenty-year-old Odd Thomas takes pride in his work as a fry cook. His fame has spread, bringing strangers to the restaurant in Pico Mundo. Odd cannot say what it is that disturbs him about this particular stranger, but his sixth sense is alert… This is a man with an appetite for operatic terror. The violence he craves is of the extreme variety: multiple untimely deaths spiced with protracted horror. Tomorrow.

Odd’s fears are first for Stormy Llewellyn, his one true love. Stormy believes that our passage through this world is intended to toughen us for the next life – that the many terrors we know here are an inoculation against worse in the world to come. But Odd Thomas knows more than Stormy about this world. Many people in Pico Mundo think he is some sort of psychic, perhaps a clairvoyant, a seer, something. None but a handful know that he sees the restless dead, those with unfinished business and sometimes, plenty of post-mortem rage.

Now, I generally don’t do too much Horror – I dream far too vividly to be able to cope with anything liberally gore-drenched. But this offering was vetted by Himself, who assured me that it was both worth reading and reasonably spatterless and I thoroughly enjoyed this accomplished, well-written book. There is a touch of Gothic otherness in a small-town American setting that had me feeling fiercely protective of the likes of Stormy Llewellyn, Odd’s girlfriend, Police Chief Porter, Mrs Sanchez and Little Ozzie – characters who bounce off the page with their eccentricity and niceness. Writing nice without descending into sentimentality takes skill, which Koontz amply demonstrates in this slow-burn thriller than had me reading far too late into the night/early morning, given I had a poorly grandson to tend.

I enjoyed the fact that Odd’s facility for encountering ghosts has kept him in his hometown, away from busy city streets where sudden deaths are far more frequent, so that he appears to be under-achieving. Whereas in actual fact, he strives to be the best breakfast cook he can be – while keeping track of the creepy black shadows that gather when something terrible is about to happen and trying to avert the impending catastrophe.

Yes, I know it’s not staggeringly original – but Koontz’s particular handling of this plot device is slick and accomplished. I love Odd’s first person narration – that as a bookish, nerdy kid, he is rather wordy. That his terrible upbringing has left him… odd – with a strange innocence alongside his otherworldly gifts and a knack for making friends. It is a refreshing change when so many young protagonists spend their time angst-ridden over their own emotions and feelings, to encounter a character who rarely will address his own pain – turning his emotions into trying to keep everyone he cares about safe. Which brings its own terrible urgency, as a terrible evil continues to circle the heartbreakingly vulnerable community of Pico Mundo.

If, like me, you’re a tad allergic to horror that describes dead bodies in loving detail, but appreciate a tension-filled, paranormal thriller of above average quality, then track down this 2004 offering. You won’t be sorry if you do.
9/10

Review of Grave Sight, Book One of the Harper Connolly series by Charlaine Harris

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Gollancz have brought this series out under their Romance imprint, which has me scratching my head, somewhat.  Because romantic it ain’t.  As far as I’m concerned, it is a cracking paranormal whodunit, written in first person POV by an accomplished writer.

grave sightSometimes, Harper Connolly dreams of buying a house and settling down.  But mostly she just gets on with cris-crossing the States with her stepbrother Tolliver, travelling from one job to another.  Because since a bolt of lightning zapped her on the head, she has an extra talent – Harper can find dead people.  Some people find Harper’s gift useful, but she’s getting used to most people treating her like a blood-sucking leech.  So she concentrates on getting the job done, getting paid and getting out, fast.

However, when they travel to Ozarks to find a missing teenager, things don’t go according to plan.  And while Tolliver is locked up on trumped-up charges, Harper finds herself fighting for her life…

If you like this sub-genre, then this series is a joy.  The character of Harper is delightfully complex – she is often morose, with a disturbed past and the world through her eyes is tautly described.  I relaxed and enjoyed the ride – for Harris is no slouch when concocting a murder plot.  There is a host of likely candidates with a suitably creepy backdrop.   And the denouement – always crucial in these books – is satisfyingly dramatic, with a surprising twist.

The relationship between Tolliver and Harper is another strength in this book.  It is multi-layered and beautifully depicted with not an ounce of sentimentality.  I suppose this is the Romance that allows Gollancz to shoehorn the Harper Connolly series under this imprint.  But don’t go looking for languishing looks and steamy sex.  There isn’t any.  This series is so much better than that…

9/10