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 Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.

Cover imageJudging by the sales figures I must be the last book reader in the country to tackle this book. I really wish I hadn’t bothered. I kept struggling through it, driven on by the thought that it must suddenly get better – but it didn’t. A long, tedious churning through of a family history (difficult for a reader to distinguish between so many characters sharing a surname); a totally unconvincing central character and an absurd plot – which of those features made this book such a commercial success? I also suspect that it lost something in translation as phrases appeared that seemed totally inappropriate. The marketing department did a good job with this one.

I bought it for Kindle from Amazon when it was on special offer. It is available in print format from bookshops everywhere. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium series Book 1)

Room by Emma Donahue

Cover imageThis book is clearly based on the Fritzl case that shocked us all. There is a basic ethical question here as to whether it is acceptable for an author to use the horrifying real-life experiences of someone else as the basis for a money-making novel. But I bought the book and I may as well review it, although I’m probably the last person in the country to read it and with over 800 reviews already another one is hardly going to matter.
The original twist of making the narrator a 5-year-old worked for me. If the narrator had been the mother I’m sure it would have had less impact. As it was I found myself constantly forced into considering the experiences of a child living his entire life confined to a single room with only his mother (who must have been living in a perpetual state of anguish) and a television guiding his development.
The contrast between Jack’s life and the love-filled, joyful, stimulation-packed existence of my granddaughter (same age) kept bringing tears to my eyes.
In the unlikely event that there might be someone reading this who hasn’t aleady read the book, I’ll avoid giving away the storyline. I’ll just say that the tension mounted as I read on and I was really rooting for Jack and Ma.
I read it in a single session and two months later it’s still fresh in my mind.

I bought it for Kindle from Amazon but it’s available in print format from all good bookshops.

Pompomberry House by Rosen Trevithick

cover imageThis is a delightful journey into the angst-ridden world of the indie author. No one escapes ridicule: the obsessively self-promoting, deluded ‘authors’; the ascerbic reviewer acting as the self-appointed guardian of literary standards; the traditional publisher bewildered by the rapidly-growing, amorphous enemy at the gates. But this is much more than just a funny book, nominally of the crime genre, accurately aimed at some deserving targets; it’s an entertaining tale very cleverly structured using the obvious plot devices commonly found in novels of the common genres – so the whole dull, formulaic book industry is under fire. It seems to me that here we have a very talented writer hoisting the standard of what indie publishing should be about.

I bought it for Kindle from Amazon. Other formats are available. Pompomberry House

 

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

cover imageMany years have slipped by since I last read The Moonstone. I was reminded of it when it was suggested as a book club read and thought it must be time to take another look. The book tells of the disappearance of a rare diamond, the Moonstone. The events surrounding its disappearance are related in turn by a number of individuals, each of whom is involved to some extent.
The book is a delight. There is a lot of humour, particularly in the first half when it feels like a combination of P G Woodhouse and Charles Dickens. The characters are captured perfectly; even those on the fringe, such as Ezzra Jennings, or the street urchin known as Gooseberry, left me wanting to learn much more about them.
A couple of things caught my eye this time around. The book is frequently referred to as the first detective novel, but the detective in it says, ‘It’s only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake.’ So, presumably, detective novels were already well known.
I had the feeling that the cult of celebrity must be an invention of our times tied in with our current media enabling instant fame, but writing in 1868 Collins says, ‘In our modern system of civilisation, celebrity (no matter of what kind) is the lever that will move anything.’
A beautifully written book that gives a fascinating insight into attitudes of the time, as well as being an entertaining ‘whodunnit’. The only downside lies in this ebook version. I obtained it as a free download for Kindle from Amazon The Moonstone
. The formatting has been disrupted and it’s hard to read without that being a distraction – but it’s difficult to complain when the conversion means that the book is available free of charge.
On the other hand the complete works of Wilkie Collins can be bought for less than £2 from Amazon Delphi Complete Works of Wilkie Collins (Illustrated) which has to be a bargain.

The Last Queen of England by Steve Robinson

Cover image for The Last Queen of England.Find an eye-catching historical fact (such as Queen Anne experiencing 18 pregnancies, but having no child live beyond the age of eleven and none survive her); discover that a group of respected intellectuals were executed towards the end of her reign under mysterious circumstances; create a conspiracy theory that proof of the invalidity of the current monarchy, having been passed down the generations, is about to be used by republican sympathisers, and we should have the basis of a very readable novel. So it proves.

I enjoyed this action-packed thriller set against the background of a murderous genealogical mystery that has to be solved within tight deadlines.

After surviving numerous attempts on his life through three novels, Mr Tayte is proving as hard to kill as James Bond. May he last as long.

The book is available from Amazon. The Last Queen of England (Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Mystery)

To the Grave by Steve Robinson

Cover image of To the GraveThis is the second in what looks like becoming a series of books with genealogy researcher Jefferson Tayte as the central character who was introduced to us in In the Blood.

We have the same basic format of the researcher running into danger, but this is more complex. The action moves between two time periods. In one we follow Tayte as he fulfils his research contract; in the other we have moved back in time to discover the human story behind the cold facts.

Those past events may sound hard to believe, but the truth about the Magdalene Laundries has finally emerged and the Irish Government is paying out millions of euros as compensation to the victims.

The book is well written and thought-provoking, as well as being entertaining.

I bought it for Kindle from Amazon, but print copies are also available. The Last Queen of England (Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Mystery)

In the Blood by Steve Robinson

Cover image of In the BloodI’m not usually a fan of the crime genre; books are often formulaic and predictable. This one is different. The genealogy theme allows the tale to cover events and individuals spread over a long timescale. I found both the plot and the characters engaging. It also helps that it is set in a beautiful and atmospheric part of the country. Some reviewers on Amazon have commented on buying it because of the low price – of the Kindle edition, presumably, as the print edition is a standard £7.99. It was £1.99 when I bought it and that seems to me to be a fair price to pay for an eBook, although it does seem cheap when compared to the grossly over-priced output of the mainstream publishers. It’s a rapidly developing marketplace and I suspect that we will eventually see it stabilise with quality eBooks selling in the £1.99 to £2.99 range. However, commenting on the price of an ebook is probably a waste of time. Authors/publishers can change the price with a few mouse clicks – and they frequently do.
I’m suspicious of indie-books that immediately receive a lot of 5* ratings. I can’t help thinking that it’s friends and connections rallying around, but I recognised quite a few of these reviewers from their postings on book forums and I respect their opinions. On that basis I was happy to give this book a go – and I’m glad I did. Making the central character a genealogist whose researches drag him into danger is an original approach. Jefferson Tayte is a strong enough character to reappear in more books of the same genre.

I bought it for Kindle at Amazon where it is also available in print format. There are several different editions. In the Blood (Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Mystery)