Catch-Up Quickies 35

First a quick explanation!

Due to some severe health issues over the last few years, and a lingering chronic condition, my planned review schedule went right out of the window and I have been scrabbling ever since to get it back on track.

In my latest attempt to try to regain some lost ground, I have been scrunching some of my (overdue) NetGalley reviews together into one or two posts each week: shorter reviews, but still covering all of the points I intended to.

That’s the plan anyway… New Year, new start, so let’s do this!

Title:  The Interview
Author:  Gill Perdue
Publisher:  Penguin General UK – Fig Tree, Hamish Hamilton, Viking, Sandycove

Blurb:  A girl covered in blood. A missing man. A cryptic fairy tale.

Detective Laura Shaw seems to have it all: a supportive husband, a happy two-year-old and a great career. She is her team’s top interviewer, brilliant at coaxing victims to open up.

Then, she meets Jenny – a 14-year-old assault victim – and the façade crumbles. Jenny’s stepfather is missing, the blood on her clothes is not her own and Laura can’t interpret the fairy tale she keeps repeating.

But Jenny isn’t the only one with secrets. With every hour that passes, Laura loses more of her grip, grappling with the biggest question of all:

Is every life worth saving?

Review: This is a psychological suspense thriller, told in three alternating viewpoints – Laura (detective), Niamh (a Special Victims Garda and Laura’s friend) and Jenny, their suspect/victim.

The reader is kept in suspense throughout, just as much as the investigators, as to whether Jenny is a genuine victim or a calculating killer, but what is clear from the very beginning is that Laura is in serious trouble with her precarious mental health and this hits-too-close-to-home case can only make her spiral further. I felt mentally hoarse from the effort of my internal screaming at her to please tell someone and get some help!

And the plot definitely takes her to some dark places. In terms of triggers, there is domestic violence, child sex abuse, rape and post-partum depression/psychosis. Most of the plot happens inside the small room where Laura is – somewhat unprofessionally – interviewing Jenny, or in Jenny’s case a lot of the action happens inside her head, in the form of the myths and fairytales she uses to cope with the trauma of what has happened to her.

Dark and, at times, a little confusing in the timeline of what happened when and what is real or imagined, this story did keep me gripped throughout and had me thoroughly invested in, if not a happy ever after, at least the best possible outcome for all involved. Well… for most involved, anyway.

Purchase Link: The Interview on Amazon

Title:  A Matter of Death and Life
Author:  Simon R. Green
Publisher:  Severn House

Blurb:  Master thief, rogue and chancer Gideon Sable is back for another fast-paced supernatural heist – and this time he has the vault of a Las Vegas casino in his sights

Judi Rifkin is one of the world’s most successful collectors of the weird and unnatural. In a London underworld filled with criminals with very special talents, Judi is a force to be reckoned with.

And Gideon Sable – thief, rogue and chancer – owes her a very large favour.

Judi makes him an offer he can’t refuse: steal her the legendary Masque of Ra, kept safe in a Las Vegas casino, and she’ll wipe the slate clean.

This isn’t Gideon’s first heist by a long shot. But with old grudges threatening to cloud his judgment, an unpredictable crew who don’t entirely trust each other and a formidable supernatural security team guarding his target, this job might be a gamble too far . . .

Review: I read this immediately after finishing The Best Thing You Can Steal and highly recommend this approach as, while both stories stand alone perfectly well in terms of plot, the characters and action in this one pick up where the previous book left off.

Having failed triumphantly in their last job for her, Judi Rifkin has Gideon and the gang over a barrel and intends to make sure they deliver this time. Nothing major… just a relic that grants immortality, held in a high-security Vegas casino. What could go wrong?

I love these characters so much (Gideon, Annie Anybody, The Damned, The Wild Card, and now Switch-It Sally) and the heist plots are cool – think Now You See Me but with real magic instead of illusions. The worldbuilding is good too, with its magic cameras, creepy pawn shops and general atmosphere of a seedy city underworld populated by anything from angels and demons, to fortune tellers and petty thieves.

I could quite happily read millions of these novellas – they are quick, fun, easy reads, packed with action and intrigue and memorable, interesting characters.

More please!

Purchase Link: A Matter of Death and Life on Amazon

Title:  Obsessive, Intrusive, Magical Thinking
Author:  Marianne Eloise
Publisher:  Icon Books

Blurb:  Obsessive was, still is, my natural state, and I never wondered why. I didn’t mind, didn’t know that other people could feel at peace. I always felt like a raw nerve, but then, I thought that everyone did.

Writer and journalist Marianne Eloise was born obsessive. What that means changes day to day, depending on what her brain latches onto: fixations with certain topics, intrusive violent thoughts, looping phrases. Some obsessions have lasted a lifetime, while others will be intense but only last a week or two.

Obsessive, Intrusive, Magical Thinking is a culmination of a life spend obsessing, offering a glimpse into Marianne’s brain, but also an insight into the lives of others like her. From death to Medusa, to Disneyland to fire, to LA to her dog, the essays explore the intersection of neurodivergence, fixation and disorder, telling the story of one life underpinned and ultimately made whole by obsession.

Review: This is a personal memoir of OCD, autism and ADHD, in the form of a series of short, unconnected essays on subjects like time, death, Disney (special interests… if you know, you know!) and LA.

Everything revealed within these pages is very personal, raw and honest. There is not much that could be considered widely applicable, even to those with the same conditions, as the author is telling specific anecdotes and exploring her own feelings rather than speaking in generalities. As the saying goes, if you know one person with autism, you know one person with autism! That said, I still recognised much of myself and some of my loved ones within her experiences and thought processes.

I was particularly interested in the distinction between healthy and unhealthy obsessions and their differing effects on the author’s life and health. This is definitely a battle I am familiar with and Marianne Eloise explains it brilliantly.

The anecdotes aren’t in any sort of chronological order, so there is sometimes some overlap between the content in different essays, and while each essay is very well-written, the book as a whole lacks a cohesive flow from one chapter to the next, so it works better to dip in and out of it rather than sitting down to read it all in one go.

I would definitely recommend this as an insight into a neurodivergent mind and as a series of interesting essays in their own right.

Purchase Link: Obsessive, Intrusive, Magical Thinking on Amazon

Title:  Saint Death’s Daughter
Author:  C. S. E. Cooney
Publisher:  Revellion, Solaris

Blurb:  Nothing complicates life like Death.

Lanie Stones, the daughter of the Royal Assassin and Chief Executioner of Liriat, has never led a normal life. Born with a gift for necromancy and a literal allergy to violence, she was raised in isolation in the family’s crumbling mansion by her oldest friend, the ancient revenant Goody Graves.

When her parents are murdered, it falls on Lanie and her cheerfully psychotic sister Nita to settle their extensive debts or lose their ancestral home—and Goody with it. Appeals to Liriat’s ruler to protect them fall on indifferent ears… until she, too, is murdered, throwing the nation’s future into doubt.

Hunted by Liriat’s enemies, hounded by her family’s creditors and terrorised by the ghost of her great-grandfather, Lanie will need more than luck to get through the next few months—but when the goddess of Death is on your side, anything is possible.

Review: Rather a long read, but so worth it!

I was a little uncertain at first, as Nita didn’t appeal to me as a main character, but once I realised we would be sticking with Lanie for the story, I was in. Lanie is an instantly engaging, sympathetic main character and I loved her from beginning to end, plus the majority of the side characters (with Nita as a notable exception!).

The worldbuilding is utterly immersive in this book – I was fascinated by the death magic, fire magic, fascination magic and shapeshifting, and how they all worked. The whole story – plot and setting – was spellbinding, and the writing displays beautiful use of language and imagery.

And just to lighten things up a bit amidst all the death and darkness of the main story, there are the silly ‘history fact’ footnotes, filling us in on the ridiculous deaths of various Stones down through the ages, among other miscellaneous and unnecessary titbits. It was all a bit early Terry Pratchett, and I enjoyed it as a little bonus worldbuilding (as it doesn’t really affect the plot at all if you were to just skip those bits).

I actually lived in this book. I gasped, swooned, cried and smiled, and couldn’t stop thinking about it when forced to put it down. In fact, despite the length, I wasn’t ready for it to end. Luckily the ending hints that there is more to come from these characters and this world, and I am definitely there for it!

I would love to find out what happens next… the sooner, the better.

Purchase Link: Saint Death’s Daughter on Amazon

Title:  The Echo Man
Author:  Sam Holland
Publisher:  HarperCollins UK

Blurb:  The murders have begun…
Across England, a string of murders is taking place. Each different in method, but each horrifying and brutal.

But the killer is just getting started…
Jess Ambrose is plunged into the investigation when her house is set ablaze. With her husband dead and the police pointing at her, she runs. Her only hope is disgraced detective Nate Griffin, who is convinced Jess is innocent.

And he’s going to shock the world…
Soon, Jess and Griffin discover the unthinkable; this murderer is copying the world’s most notorious serial killers. And now, imitation isn’t enough. The killer dubbed The Echo Man is ready to create his own masterpiece, and it will be more terrifying than anything that has come before…

Review: This one is definitely not for the squeamish or sensitive!

There are soooo many trigger warnings here: self-harm; child abuse; violence against animals, women, men, children and the unborn; loads of rape and torture, and murders, of course. No gory detail is spared and the excessively graphic lingering is clearly intended to provide maximum shock value.

Despite this excess, this was nearly a 5* read for me, as I took to the characters very quickly and the mystery plot had me totally gripped. We follow four main viewpoints – Jess, detectives Griffin and Cara, and the anonymous killer – as they investigate/perpetrate respectively a series of varied copy-murders from multiple well-known real life cases.

The story content and tone are super dark and the twisty plot really kept my adrenaline pumping right up to the big reveal. Which is where it all fell disappointingly flat for me, unfortunately!

The ‘resolution’ at the ending pretty much cancelled out the effect of the climactic events, leaving the reader with the feeling that all of the violence, action and intrigue had been for nothing and nothing had changed at all. I can see why the author threw in that ‘last word’ but as final twists go, it was a very unsatisfying one. Which was a shame, as the rest of the book is a really great read for dark thriller fans.

Purchase Link: The Echo Man on Amazon

So there you have it for this book batch!

1 neurodivergent memoir, 2 crime thrillers – one psychological and one shockingly dark – and two fantastic fantasy books – one a short, humorous heist and one a long, haunting family drama.

I hope you are enjoying your current read as much as I enjoyed this little lot?

Happy reading until next time! 🙂

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