Caraval by Stephanie Garber.

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About the Book

Scarlett has never left the tiny isle of Trisda, pining from afar for the wonder of Caraval, a once-a-year week-long performance where the audience participates in the show.
Caraval is Magic. Mystery. Adventure. And for Scarlett and her beloved sister Tella it represents freedom and an escape from their ruthless, abusive father.
When the sisters’ long-awaited invitations to Caraval finally arrive, it seems their dreams have come true. But no sooner have they arrived than Tella vanishes, kidnapped by the show’s mastermind organiser, Legend.
Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But nonetheless she quickly becomes enmeshed in a dangerous game of love, magic and heartbreak. And real or not, she must find Tella before the game is over, and her sister disappears forever.

My Review

Caraval has to be one of the strangest books that I have read and once I got into it I loved it.
Scarlett and Tella are desperate to get away from their abusive father’s clutches. As far as Scarlett is concerned the way to do it is to go along with the marriage that has been arranged for her, even though she has never met her husband to be. Her plan is to take Tella with her, but before she marries they decide to accept an invitation to take part in the game that has been devised by Legend.
When they arrive on the island Tella disappears and Scarlett has to find her before the game is over and get back in time for her wedding. She is helped by a number of people including Julian, Dante and Jovan. But who can be trusted?
Everything about this book is bizarre. Colour is exaggerated, vibrant and seems to be brighter if emotions are high. There is magic, buildings move, tunnels and bridges appear and disappear. Some people show how little they can be trusted in their desire to win the game. When Scarlett makes mistakes, and she makes a few the danger levels increase for everybody.
There are always characters I am not keen on, obviously the father is one in this novel. But with the others, my opinion changed constantly. As it stated in the synopsis everybody was playing a game and everything was a performance. What I thought was real might not have been, and who might have been be a good person could have been part of a cruel trick.
I hadn’t realised that this was a debut novel, or that it was part of a series. I hope that I don’t have to wait too long for the sequel.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy via NetGalley.

Mr Mercedes by Stephen King

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About the Book

A cat-and-mouse suspense thriller featuring Bill Hodges, a retired cop who is tormented by ‘the Mercedes massacre’, a case he never solved.

Brady Hartsfield, perpetrator of that notorious crime, has sent Hodges a taunting letter. Now he’s preparing to kill again.

Each starts to close in on the other in a mega-stakes race against time.

My Review

It is years since I read any novel by Stephen King, from memory the last one was probably IT which was first published in the 1980s.
From the opening chapter I knew Mr Mercedes was going to be good. The prologue that described the mass killing was very convincing, a crowd of people spending the night in a queue for jobs who are mowed down by a madman. It then moves into present day, the lead detective has recently retired and not coping very well. All he has to focus on is an endless cycle of daytime trashy TV. And then he receives a letter that gives him something to think about, and a desire to get justice for the innocent who lost their life that night.

There was a lot to enjoy, fans of Stephen King will pick up on the references to the film adaptations of his novels, I thought this was a clever touch and it made me smile after the grim start.
I liked Hodges instantly but my favourite character was Jerome, I really hope that he appears in the other books in the trilogy. I liked his dedication to his family and friends and his determination to prevent further disaster. Brady’s character was very creepy, especially his relationship with his mother. Cold, calculating and capable of anything, but he isn’t as clever as he thinks. My favourite parts of the novel were when others upset his plans.
I really enjoyed this first book in the Detective Hodges series and I’m happy that I have the others to read soon.

When the Music’s Over by Peter Robinson.

 

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All this week there have been a series of blog posts discussing the work of Peter Robinson and today I am delighted to feature him on my blog answering a couple of questions about his latest novel in the Inspector Banks series followed by my own review.

Day Four

A Modern World

The events in When The Music’s Over reflect recent celebrity scandals, I am sure most readers will be aware of Operation Yewtree. Is researching and writing about topics which may make readers uncomfortable an unwelcome challenge?

It’s not unwelcome, but it is a challenge, and it can be uncomfortable. Both subjects in the book, grooming and historic abuse, are so complex and controversial that it can be very difficult to stay on track and remain honest. That to me is the main thing, to illuminate honestly many of the complexities and ambiguities as possible, while being careful not to be exploitative towards the victims.

How do you decide which dastardly deeds will feature in the next novel? Is there a pressure to make the crimes more grand/lavish/despicable with each new book?

No, I don’t feel any pressure to make the crimes more dastardly. If they are, it may be reflection of the fact that the world is becoming more dastardly, but I don’t think so. It’s not so much the sordid or gruesome aspects crime itself that grabs my attention as the psychology of the characters and their relationships. Sometimes the crimes are shocking in their details, and I do believe it’s important not to fudge that aspect. But there can be a thin line between realism and gratuitousness in crime fiction.

About the book

While DI Annie Cabbot investigates the circumstances in which a 14-year-old could possibly fall victim to such a crime, newly promoted Detective Superintendent Alan Banks is faced with a similar task – but the case Banks must investigate is as cold as they come.

Fifty years ago Linda Palmer was attacked by celebrity entertainer Danny Caxton, yet no investigation ever took place. Now Caxton stands accused at the centre of a historical abuse investigation and it’s Banks’s first task as superintendent to find out the truth.

While Annie struggles with a controversial case threatening to cause uproar in the local community, Banks must piece together decades-old evidence, and as each steps closer to uncovering the truth, they’ll unearth secrets much darker than they ever could have guessed…

My Review

I have enjoyed reading and watching on TV the Inspector Banks series for a few years now so jumped at the chance to read an advance copy of the latest book. I have missed a few of them but it hasn’t really mattered, even though the character’s personal lives are ongoing the book could easily be read as a stand alone novel.
There are two cases that Banks is involved in. Both are investigations that appear far too often in our news. One is a cold case, a celebrity accused of rape and the other is child sex grooming. Neither were easy to read but both were very well written and made very compelling reading. Banks was mainly involved with the investigation into the celebrity who was one of the most convincingly obnoxious characters that I have come across. I can only admire an author who can create such a despicable character. The other is being handled by Annie Cabbot, and a new DC Gerry. Banks has to get involved to smooth over ruffled feathers. The police in the area concerned don’t appreciate having two women from another force on their patch.
It’s very modern, the first crime novel I have read that features a historical sex case alongside modern day sex abuse and murder. Some may not appreciate its storyline, I don’t think it will be for everybody but I really liked it. Its gritty, topical, and thought provoking. There were twists, not everything was how I assumed it to be. It’s one that I will read again, I will probably appreciate the writing even more on a second read.
With thanks to Hodder for the copy received.

A Time of Torment- John Connolly: Charlie Parker’s Music

All this week, Liz from LizLovesBooks has been running a feature on John Connolly and his series of books featuring Charlie Parker.
The features have appeared here:

The Mythology of Charlie Parker at LizLovesBooks

Anti- Heroes at Northern Crime

Creating The Villains at Grab This Book

Charlie Parker’s World at espresso coco

I am delighted to welcome them both to my blog today.

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Q/A – Charlie Parker’s world through music.

Can you talk a little about what made you name your main protagonist after a famous musician and how that feeds into the stories?

If I remember correctly – and it does seem like a very long time ago – it was the nickname that attracted me. Parker was known as “Bird”, and there was something about a man like Charlie Parker (the PI version) having a nickname associated with flight, and perhaps spirituality, while being so earthbound and mired in mortality. But as the books progressed, “Bird” came to be used less and less in association with him, and that was very deliberate. I didn’t want people to think it was a gimmick, and now I actually wince a little when writers or journalists refer to him as Charlie “Bird” Parker. In my mind, that’s the musician, while Parker is just, well, Parker.

There’s maybe also a small in-joke in that Parker ends up accidentally named after a jazz musician, as it’s made clear in the books that his parents didn’t listen to jazz at all. Also, Parker doesn’t really listen to jazz. I do – a little – but I always wonder a bit at the number of detective characters who seem to listen only to jazz and blues. Does nobody listen to the music of the eighties apart from me?

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You can read more about Charlie Parker on the website

Charlie Parker

Music obviously inspires you – the CD’s that come with the occasional special edition are full of gorgeous tone and atmospheric sense – how do you discover the artists that DO inspire?

Gosh, often by accident. It’s funny, but in terms of books and music I find myself going back, not forward. I do listen to new artists, just as I read new writers, but I’m very conscious of the gaps in my knowledge of both books and music; it may be a function of my age. I’m reading a lot of classics, and less in my own genre, as I think, or hope, that I’m pretty familiar with it by now. As for music, ABC to XTC, the weekly radio show that I host, focuses on the late seventies to the mid-eighties, which is the era of my teens. I thought I knew a lot about the music of the period, but the deeper I delve, the more I realize that I actually missed a great deal. It’s become a very pleasurable process of musical excavation.

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When it comes to the music on the Parker CDs, though, it’s often lyrical touches that catch my attention, and then it’s mood. Actually – and you’re the first person to be told this – I’m just putting the finishing touches to a limited edition (a long one!) that has music as its primary focus, using the songs on the CDs as a starting point for discussions of the novels, or writing, or sometimes simply the artists themselves. We’ll be giving people information about that at the end of April. So there: an exclusive!

If the books were to be turned into a show for television (if wishing made it so) which one piece of music or song would you imagine as the title sequence ran?

Gosh, that’s a hard one to answer! I suspect that I’d just leave it up to those involved. After all, I don’t think anyone would immediately have associated The Handsome Family with a detective drama until True Detective used their music – although they’ve always had a pronounced gothic streak.
One track that I never tried to license, even though it was hugely influential on Every Dead Thing, is Something I Can Never Have by Nine Inch Nails. It has one use of the f-word, and I always try to be careful about that with the CDs, as stores sometimes like to play them over their PA systems. But the mood of that song might be appropriate.

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You can read more about Nine Inch Nails on their website

Nine Inch Nails

That question is going to bother me now: I’ll end up obsessively going through the CDs on my shelf.

You can read more about John Connolly on his website

John Connolly