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Gothic Nightmares

Gothic Nightmares: Fuseli, Blake and the Romantic Imagination is the book of an exhibition I never went to. I’ve had it for so long I’ve forgotten where I got it. I first started reading it about ten years ago but didn’t get very far with it because it is too big to carry around and I don’t read much at home. And finally I’ve finished it, thanks to my miracle morning routine.

Fuseli’s The Nightmare is one of my favourite pictures and there are several others in this collection that I was taken with. I’m not such a fan of William Blake. The book explores Fuseli’s position on the divide between neoclassical and romantic art. The use of neoclassical forms in new ways with new themes to produce something that reflected the changing times of the end of the 18th century and beginning of the 19th.

I enjoyed looking at the pictures and learning a bit more about art history. Maybe one day I’ll know what it all means.

The Thirst

At the moment I am mostly reading non-fiction, because I’m working on a novel and it seems to go better if I don’t get caught up in stories. However, I am reading a few novels and The Thirst by Jo Nesbo is one of them.

Jo Nesbo is one of my go-to easy reads. I know what I’m getting and I know I’m going to enjoy it. I’ll get swept up in the story, and it will be engaging without being hard work. The Thirst did exactly what I wanted from it when I bought it.

A rapist and killer that Harry Hole failed to catch in the past is now active again and seems to have raised his game. There are plenty of twists. The identity of the killer is known from fairly early in the book; he even has point of view chapters, but even so, Nesbo manages to cast doubt at various points, making the reader question what they think they know.

I like way the theme of addiction in the Hole novels. Hole is an alcoholic which is a cliche for detectives these days, but it is lifted by Nesbo with the parallel with addiction to his work. Is alcohol really Hole’s addiction? Or is it his coping strategy for his addiction to chasing serial killers? This has been present in all the novels, but becomes much more central in The Thirst. Harry has retired and is now a lecturer at police college. He doesn’t drink. His life is satisfying and orderly and things are going well. But the reappearance of this killer and his return to the chase throws everything into disarray. All the elements in his life that represent success are threatened.

I feel like it could have done with a bit of an edit. It was overly long in places. Even so, I enjoyed it and if you’re already a fan, it won’t disappoint. If you’ve never read any Jo Nesbo, I’d start at the beginning of the series.

The Death House

death-houseThe Death House by Sarah Pinborough
Published 2015, Gollancz

This is one of the free books I picked up at FantasyCon 2015. I’ve not read anything by Sarah Pinborough before but I have heard her speak at events.

In a post-apocalyptic future some people have developed a genetic mutation that reveals itself in the teenage years. It is so serious that children have regular blood tests and those that show the markers are removed from society. They are taken to homes where they are fed and watched until the illness presents itself and then they are taken to the sanitarium.

The Death House is the story of Toby and Clara who meet in the house and develop a sweet teenage relationship. It is beautifully written and the interactions of the characters are engaging and moving.

The trouble is I had expectations that something gory and gruesome was going to happen and it never did. I liked the book and I will read more of Sarah Pinborough’s work; she’s a great writer. I guess I had it in my mind that she was a horror writer of a more physical sort. The Death House is a lyrical horror of a more subtle type.

Fragments is reviewed by /Garbage-File

I’m delighted that /Garbage-File has reviewed my collection of short stories, Fragments, and deemed it well worth your money. If you like psychological horror that is gore-free but leaves you feeling decidedly uncomfortable, then this is for you.

My favourite bit was when the reviewer described one of my stories as ‘car-crash reading’. 🙂

It’s available for about £1 from Amazon or Smashwords.

Fragments now available as an e-book

Fragments coverFragments is a collection of deliciously disturbing tales of psychological horror, featuring ghosts, supernatural creatures, and most terrifying of all, humans.

Fragments is now available via Amazon for the Kindle or via Smashwords for all e-reader formats.

C.R. Smith and I published Fragments a couple of years ago but originally it was only available on DriveThru.com as a .pdf. Not the best format for reading stories, especially ones so creepy you’ll need to be safely tucked up in bed, so we’ve created it in as many formats as we can.

If you read it, I’d love to hear your comments. Leave me a review where you purchased it, or a reply on this blog.

The Treatment

200px-ThetreatmentThe Treatment is the second in Mo Hayder’s Jack Caffrey series. Caffrey is still obsessed with the paedophile next door and the mystery of what happened to his brother all those years ago.

Caffrey gets a case that seems a little too close for comfort. A family is held prisoner in their own home for a weekend. No one notices because they were supposed to be going on holiday. Instead, the mother is restrained and locked in a cupboard, the father is restrained on the landing while the son is abused. Then the perpetrator takes the child out of the house and is seen by a passerby. The police sweep the area but can’t find anything.

Whilst investigating this case, Caffrey is also trying to work out what happened to his brother. The cases are linked and Caffrey gets information that takes him out to a remote farm in Suffolk. Some of his actions are ill-advised and Caffrey is risking his job to pursue his obsession.

An extra complication is that Caffrey is dating one of the women that was a victim in the last book, Birdman, and she’s dealing with her experiences in a very public way. His secrecy and obsession with his brother isn’t making things between them better.

The plot twists and turns and the killer is hidden in plain sight. There are a few plausible candidates and Hayder shows how easy it can be to miss what is really going on. I wasn’t keen on the heavy-handed use of dialect for the character of Caffrey’s boss but that was the only thing that spoilt my enjoyment of the book. The resolution of all the plot lines was brutal and I found it very affecting.

Birdman

birdman-re-issue-november-21Birdman is Mo Hayder’s debut novel and the first to feature Jack Caffrey, a handsome yet troubled detective. I enjoy a thriller and Mo Hayder is easy to read. Which should not be confused with easy to write.

Someone is murdering women and sewing live birds into their chests. Disturbingly, Hayder is able to present several plausible suspects. There’s a lot going on in the book aside from the investigation; there’s Caffrey’s struggle with the unresolved disappearance of his brother, and his overlapping romantic relationships. The plot is handled well and the real murderer is introduced early and hidden in plain sight.

Caffrey’s resolution of the crimes opens up some questions for the reader. Caffrey takes a personal path that might feel very satisfying of a need for retribution, for terrible crimes to receive terrible punishment. Birdman is a blend of horror and thriller and it is the horror ending we’re presented with; the evil that has risen is wiped out of existence. Only then can we sleep safe in our beds. But Caffrey is an officer of the law; he’s meant to serve it, not take it in his own hands. It’s an uncomfortable presentation of what a person might do when their sense of right and wrong is complicated. On reflection, this is a more thoughtful book that it appears, and I enjoyed it a lot.