Lisey’s Story by Stephen King

Lisey's StoryIt’s been a while since I’ve read a Stephen King novel. He’s such a prolific author that I’m now a lot of books behind with little likelihood of catching up. I picked out Lisey’s Story because it sounded different.

Well, it’s certainly different. Unfortunately, it’s the worst Stephen King book I’ve ever read. The structure is chaotic, jumping backwards and forwards through time and from place to place so often that I’m sure the author himself was confused. The constant repetition of made-up words (‘smucking’ for example) became infuriating, as did the trotting out of homespun philosophy that was at best trite, but more usually meaningless nonsense.

There’s at least one significant plot flaw and, on top of all that, I didn’t find any of the characters even remotely likeable, so I didn’t care what happened to them.

I felt sure that my views must put me in a tiny minority, but when I looked on Amazon I found that there are more 1* reviews than 5*. Lisey’s Story

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

American GodsI’m just back from a two-week holiday where the weather washed away all the planned long walks and I spent much of the time in front of a log fire, glass in hand, making serious inroads into my tbr list.

I began with ‘American Gods’. It’s a big book (650+ pages) and I’d had a couple of false starts with it, reading enough to realise that to do the book justice I needed to set aside a big slice of time. I was right: given that time I found the book truly remarkable.

One of the things I like about Gaiman’s work is that, as an Englishman who has lived in the States for years, he can set books in America in a way that I find convincingly authentic while remaining accessible – unlike many American writers whose work I’m finding increasingly impenetrable as American-English moves relentlessly away from British-English.

The basic idea behind this book is that gods exist as long as someone believes in them and that while they exist they will do anything to maintain their power. The book is fairly slow paced, but I found that the succession of strange events drew me in until I was desperate for an explanation. The occasional diversion into the history of migration into North America was interesting, building understanding of the diversity of gods. I found it an ambitious, intriguing and challenging book.

What I found particularly interesting is that the later edition I read contained additional passages that the author had persuaded the publishers to insert. It says a lot for the author’s conviction in his theme that he wanted to return to an already highly-successful book and make what he considered to be enhancements. This edition is the one with the cover image shown. You may have to shop around to find it. At the time of writing, this edition wasn’t listed on Amazon, but other editions are. American Gods

Obsession by Jonathan Kellerman

ObsessionI’ve often seen a row of Kellerman’s books on the library shelves. That is usually a sign of an author who is both prolific and popular, but I hadn’t read any of his books until now. According to the blurb and the quoted extracts from reviews he is a highly-rated writer of psychological thrillers with complex plots.

Maybe I made an unlucky choice with ‘Obsession’, but I was very disappointed. I wasn’t surprised to find the usual problems of coping with American English, of course. It’s simply a fact of life that American English, particularly spoken, is moving rapidly away from the language of England. As much of the content is speech, I often found that I had no understanding of what a character had said.

My real difficulty with this book is that the plot isn’t complex, but it is slow, over long, with far too many locations and characters. Far from being ‘a tense psychological thriller’, I found it a tedious novel written by someone curiously obsessed with French Bulldogs.

You can read what other reviewers thought on Amazon Obsession (Alex Delaware Book 21)

The Innocent by David Baldacci

The InnocentWhen I returned ‘Obsession’ by Jonathan Kellerman to the library I spotted a long row of books by David Baldacci, another American author of thrillers. I must admit that I hesitated, not wanting to repeat the disappointing experience, but I found a seat, read the first couple of chapters, and decided to go for it.

It was the right decision. Although the paperback is nearly 600 pages, the pace never lets up. The reader is carried at frantic speed from one incident to the next as two storylines merge amid violent chaos.  The FBI, CIA and Secret Service are all involved together with a top secret department of professional assassins, but a combination of moral outrage and huge cash bribes means that there are traitors within every organisation and no one can be trusted.

I really enjoyed it. At no stage did I struggle to understand the American English – after Kellerman that was a welcome relief.

The hardback, paperback and ebook are available from all good retailers, including Amazon The Innocent (Will Robie 1)