Review: A Dark So Deadly

 

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Source: Goodreads

 

Length: 608 pages

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

DC Callum MacGregor is the latest addition to the Misfit Mob – the department where Police Scotland sends those officers that it can’t fire, but don’t want either. MacGregor does not deserve to be part of the Mob. But that’s only the beginning of his problems. He’s assigned to finding out which museum lost the ancient mummy that they found at Oldcastle tip. But then he discovers a connection between the mummy and three missing young men. The Misfit Mob manages to hold on to the case, and the disreputed department becomes the only thing standing between a serial killer and his next victim. With his professional life just about holding up, MacGregor dives head first into the case. Until a blast from the past changes everything. Questioning everything he’s ever known, MacGregor has to balance his search for a killer with the chaos of his crumbling personal life. Every step takes him closer to answers he may not like, and dangers he may not be able to avoid. As he watches his own life careen out of control, MacGregor realizes that things around him are just not as they seem. And by the time he learns the truth, it may be too late.

My take:

I had very high expectations from A Dark So Deadly. I’ve only read one other book by Stuart MacBride – Halfhead – and had absolutely loved it (read my review here). That’s why I was waiting with bated breath for the time that I’d get my hands on A Dark So Deadly. Unfortunately, the book didn’t really meet the anticipation I’d built up.

It definitely has a lot of things going for it. The story itself is really interesting and multi-layered. It isn’t a simple serial killer story. Instead, it takes multiple points of view, moves between the past and present, and explores a lot of storylines. They even leave you guessing how different things are related, which adds to the entire suspense element. It also has some really surprising elements – twists and turns you just would not see coming. Added to that is MacBride’s quirky sense of humor that comes through in narrative and dialog. At the same time, he does not shy away from making things as graphic as they need to be, which adds the right amount of thrill.

His characterization is excellent. Each person is well defined, has his or her own quirks, and has their own personality that comes through in action and dialog. Looked at from that perspective, there is great finesse in the delivery of the story.

However, the book also has a lot of things that just do not work for it. For starters, there are just so many characters. With a book that is already chaotic by design (it’s supposed to be a bit messed up given its genre), it doesn’t help that names are constantly added to an already lengthy list. And it definitely doesn’t help when a briefly mentioned name reappears only 200 pages later and starts playing a big role. It can get a bit overwhelming at times, especially if you take even a day-long break from reading.

Another thing that got really annoying were some of the characters themselves. I’m not sure if they were meant to be endearingly quirky. All they ended up being were borderline annoying.

The main thing, though, was that the book could have been shorter by just a bit. You can even make peace with the fact that it’s over 600 pages long. Except, the end feels like MacBride kind of got bored writing and so hurriedly completed it.

A lot of the story is actually left incomplete. You don’t know what happens to certain characters because the last time they’re mentioned is on sort of a cliffhanger. And when you’ve invested yourself into 600 pages, you want those extra few pages to tie things up into a neat little bow.

All the characters actually show great progression over the book. But the abrupt end leaves you wondering just what the heck happened! I mean, there’s more to a murder mystery than finding out who the killer is, right? I just hope that MacBride decides to turn the Misfit Mob into a series so that we can see how the characters continue to develop and address their many problems that have only begun in this book.

All in all, A Dark So Deadly is a good option in the genre of serial killer crime fiction. It is multi-layered, humorous, interesting, and has that typical Scottish vibe to it that makes you pick up a MacBride book in the first place. It could have been better, but still enjoyable and not something that would make you feel like you wasted your reading time.

I’d recommend it to:

  • fans of crime fiction, especially the serial killer sub-genre
  • fans of Scottish and British novels
  • fans of Stuart MacBride

Read A Dark So Deadly? Let us know what you thought of it, and this review, in the comments below.

– Rishika

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Review: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (By Robert Louis Stevenson)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 137 pages

My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

When London lawyer, John Gabriel Utterson, first sees Mr. Hyde, he’s struck by a sense of foreboding. He finds the infamous man as deplorable as the rumors state. And he hopes that he never has to lay eyes on him again. But fate has other plans. Dr. Jekyll, a respected man and Utterson’s good friend, refuses to share in Utterson’s disgust of Mr. Hyde. In fact, he seems to almost care about the strange, unlikeable creature. Strange events begin to unfold in the city and Utterson is inescapably pulled into them. At the heart of them all, he finds Mr. Hyde and Dr. Jekyll’s unrelenting support of the man being hunted by the entire city. As he is compelled to investigate further, he finds himself in the midst of a nightmare he’d believed unimaginable, and a reality that would challenge everything he’d ever believed in.

My take:

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is known for being one of the earlier works on the topic of split personalities. But the book is actually way more than that.

The book has a very archaic writing style and, with it, the charm of that style. It’s actually quite easy to read as long as you read it slowly and not in any rush. The prose will not leave you feeling overwhelmed or like you’re missing out on anything; in fact, it’s written in an incredibly enjoyable manner.

As a story, it isn’t exactly what I had expected. I was probably misled by the many adaptations of the book (which I’ve not watched/read but only heard about). So I kind of expected a book that begins with a murder and proceeds to the split personality angle. The book is nothing like that and that’s a good thing.

It’s a little difficult, to be honest, to explain how amazing this book is (because that would inevitably lead to spoilers). So, I’m going to focus instead on why this book is so good. The main reason is that The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is emotion in prose. The book has an eerie sense to it that stays with you as you read it. But, it also has this beautiful, profound sadness.

It touches upon topics like the duality of personality (which is very different from a split personality) really well and forces you to remain in thought long after it’s done. It talks about the contradiction that all of us are, within ourselves, and our ability to choose to be one over the other at varied times. And in a world where all of us are juggling so many different things that require us to be so many different things, the book and its emotion hit pretty hard.

Then there is the emotion you feel for the characters themselves. In a book as short as 137 pages (or even lesser, depending on the format and publisher), Stevenson manages to make readers truly associate with the people within his story. Whether they appear for one scene or carry the entire story, or whether they’re good or evil, you feel for each character. You share in their angst, their fight (often internal), and their decisions. As a result, you are left enjoying every single aspect of the book that really pulls you in from the get-go.

As a story itself, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is written in a mixture of retellings and present events. A lot of it is also written in the form of correspondence. It’s definitely not a linear murder mystery if, like me, that’s what you’re expecting. And I wouldn’t call it a horror either. But, it is definitely disturbing in certain ways, and even more so because those angles are a little too real. All in all, it is quite exceptional in its ability to evoke emotion of varied kinds, and in the way in which it makes you look within yourself.

I’d definitely recommend The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to:

  • all kinds of readers
  • people who haven’t really read classics (It’s a great classic that is easy to read even if you’re not a fan of classics)
  • fans of psychological thrillers, mysteries, and horrors (It’s a multi-genre book and would appeal to most genre fans)

Also, it seems that Dr. Jekyll is pronounced Jee-kal or Jee-kill and not Jek-ill (That was definitely a bit annoying to get used to).

What did you think of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? Let us know in the comments below!

– Rishika

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Review: The Adventures of Tintin, Vol. 2

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 192 pages

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Second in the eight-volume collector’s edition, The Adventures of Tintin, Vol. 2 contains Tintin in America, Cigars of the Pharaoh, and The Blue Lotus.

My take:

Volume 2 of The Adventures of Tintin is brilliant when compared to Volume 1. Individually though, it doesn’t reach that level of charm that the later books possess. Containing three stories, Volume 2 does get better as it progresses.

Tintin in America includes characters that are part of the earlier books. It’s just a brief mention though and you won’t really be lost if you choose not to read the previous ones. As a story, it’s quite random, with things happening abruptly and a little too conveniently. It doesn’t have an elaborately woven storyline and is also a bit racist. Of all the three books in Volume 2, Tintin in America is the worst.

Cigars of the Pharaoh has an interesting story. There is a bit of racism in this one too, but that’s quite negligible when compared to the others. It’s an interesting read and sets the stage for the next book too. It also includes characters that make appearances in later books (from what I remember). If you want to avoid the overly racist, not too great earlier books but at the same time don’t want to miss any central characters, then I’d recommend beginning the series from Cigars of the Pharaoh.

The Blue Lotus has the interesting, multi-layered, multi-dimensional type of story for which Tintin became famous. The story itself is quite interesting and (thankfully) has very little racism. In fact, at some point, the story mocks the stereotyping and racism habits of people too. All in all, The Blue Lotus comes across as the best part of Volume 2 and does leave you looking forward to Volume 3 and Tintin’s next adventure.

Highly recommended to:

  • people who enjoy Tintin
  • people who want to start reading The Adventures of Tintin (start from Cigars of the Pharaoh)
  • anyone looking for an interesting graphic novel to read

Let us know what you thought of The Adventures of Tintin, Vol. 2. Drop us a comment below!

– Rishika

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Review: Red Dragon (By Thomas Harris)

 

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 464 pages

My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Will Graham almost lost his life when he apprehended the psychopath and serial killer, Hannibal Lecter. Surviving the horrific attack, he retired from the FBI and chose a quieter, more peaceful life. But when another psychopath brutally murders two families over the span of two months, Graham is forced out of retirement. His gift for seeing things that others can’t may have made him great at tracking killers. But it left him chaotic and broken. Now, he needs to embrace that dark part of himself as he goes after the murderer. This time though, even Graham might need some help. But the only one who can help him is Hannibal Lecter. While Graham finds himself trying to understand the mind of two psychopaths, the killer sets his sights on another family. And an innocent woman is pulled into the dangerous game between Graham and the murderer. Will Graham find all the answers in time? Or will his failure claim numerous lives, and his own sanity?

My take:

To begin, let me say that Red Dragon is the book that introduces one of the world’s most infamous psychopaths – Hannibal Lecter. But that’s about as far as Lecter’s involvement in the book goes. He makes a couple of appearances and that gives you decent insight into his scarily calculative and cruel mind. But it does not really instill the fear of Hannibal the Cannibal into the reader.

Coming to the story itself – Red Dragon has a story that has the potential to be absolutely terrifying. It’s insane, psychopathic, cruel, and often very raw. There are scenes that are just so disturbing that they will make you jump. And since they come so unexpectedly, this effect is felt even more so. You will cringe, you will wonder just what the heck happened, and you will be intrigued/grossed out at the same time. These scenes are nothing short of powerful and really bring that ‘crazy’ touch to the book.

The story moves along briskly. It’s a long read, but it does not really slow down at any point. There is something or the other always happening and that keeps you turning the pages briskly.

The characters are believable, sometimes unfortunately. The Dragon himself is a complex person and his personality is depicted well. Graham is a complicated character too, and his constant state of being in an internal battle with himself is nicely presented. Most of the other characters fill their roles out perfectly, and the various relationships add good dimensions to the plot and people. The only part that got really annoying was Graham’s wife, Molly.

I don’t know how marriages used to be in the 1980s. But there existed an odd coolness to Molly and Will’s relationship that seemed very unlike that of two people who were apparently in love. Maybe it was Will’s job that took a toll on the relationship, but that needed to be described more convincingly. Without that, Molly’s character came across as plain annoying.

As far as the writing style is concerned, the only thing that I can say is that Harris’ is freakishly weird. He switches between tenses, writes half sentences, and just has this vague touch to his prose. A lot of the book made me feel like Harris had these disturbing, chaotic images playing out in his mind’s eye and he just wrote furiously, getting it all onto paper, and then just moved on to the next image. And that made the book so darned infuriating to read at times.

It sort of brought down the entire quality of a story that could have been absolutely amazing in its chaos. It seems to just miss that mark where abstract turns into discernible image. As a result, for me, the book had a lot of potential that remained unrealized.

I wouldn’t say that everyone needs to read Red Dragon. I’m sure you can follow the Hannibal Lecter series even without reading this as he isn’t really the main part. But I’d definitely recommend the book to:

  • people who love serial killer and psychopathic themed books (this is one of the craziest!)
  • people who enjoy dark mysteries
  • people who want to learn what psychopaths can truly be like (it’s got an oddly realistic sense about it)

Let us know what you thought of Red Dragon and/or this review. Drop us a comment below.

– Rishika

 

 

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Review: The Adventures of Tintin, Vol. 1

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 206 pages

My rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars

The Adventures of Tintin, Vol. 1 is the first in the collector’s edition of the series. It contains Tintin in the Land of the Soviets and Tintin in the Congo.

My take:

Let me begin by saying that I absolutely love Tintin comics, which is why I have the collector’s edition in the first place. I’ve read all the comics over the years. But, I had not really read the entire collection in order. Until now.

I picked up Volume 1 because I wanted to start right at the beginning. And let’s just say that if these had been the first Tintin comics I’d ever read, I probably wouldn’t have given the rest of the series a chance.

Tintin in the Land of the Soviets has no story as such and is just page after page of Tintin and Snowy escaping from crazy situations in ridiculous ways. I mean Tintin is famous for getting in trouble and getting away, but these scenarios were plain incredulous and un-entertaining.

Tintin in the Congo is painfully racist and depicts hunting in the most brutish and inhumane manner possible. It still has some story and is closer to the better Tintin comics in a few ways. But by no means is it a comfortable read (I’m pretty sure I actually cringed a couple of times).

Both books within Volume 1 aren’t really enjoyable. The creators have admitted that both books were heavily influenced by beliefs and assumptions of the time during which they were set. They’ve even updated some aspects of the books that just would not have been accepted later. But that still doesn’t make them a great read. And they definitely don’t compare in the least to the books that followed.

If you want to read Tintin then read any other than Tintin in the Congo and Tintin in the Land of the Soviets. The others are surely enjoyable. But the only reason you can consider reading Volume 1 is if you, like me, want to go through all the books in order. That compulsion is the only thing that’ll get you through them.

Leave us a comment below and let us know what you thought about Volume 1 of The Adventures of Tintin.

– Rishika

 

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Review: That Last Weekend (By Laura DiSilverio)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 312 pages

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Laurel Muir did not want to accept the unexpected but familiar invitation and return to Chateau du Cygne Noir – the castle turned BnB – for a weekend getaway with her friends. The tragedy that had struck ten years ago had sent those very friends on their own individual paths, the friendship strained, almost broken by what had happened. That event had ended a decade-long tradition of annual weekend getaways, and filled each of their hearts with doubt for each other. Driven by the need to rekindle that friendship and overcome the past, she finds herself accepting the invitation. But the past is not done with them yet. When a murderer strikes, the remaining friends are forced to face the truth – a killer lies in their midst. Thrown once again into a police investigation and with nowhere to go, they decide to uncover the truth this time. But Laurel does not know who to trust as she adamantly takes it upon herself to find answers. And as the skeletons in the closet are slowly exposed, Laurel finds that she may have been too ambitious and that her ambition could cost her her life.

My take:

First off, thanks to NetGalley for an ARC of The Last Weekend. Here is my honest review.

That Last Weekend is a ‘novel of suspense’. And it definitely keeps the suspense. The story is interesting and is filled with twists and turns, most of which you don’t see coming. Set in the present, the story touches upon events of the past through flashbacks. The transitions are smooth and comfortable to follow. They don’t break the flow and, in fact, add some interesting dimensions to the book.

The book gets right into it without much preamble. As a result, you take some time to get used to who’s who. That is still easier to do here than it is with a Mary Higgins Clark novel, though. Keeping with its ‘let’s get right to it’ beginning, the book moves along at a fast pace, without a single dull moment. It also has some good creepy elements which really set the scene perfectly. The writing style pulls you in and keeps you there, really allowing you to experience the entire eerie castle and small town setting, and adding to the suspense.

Yet, there are some aspects of the book that come across as a bit annoying. Some of the characters, for example. While Laurel seems level headed and easy to associate with, some of the other characters are just irritating. It wasn’t an in-your-face sort of irritation. It is just the way they are – not too pleasant would be the best way to describe it, I guess. You could chalk that up to the diversity that is existent in people. But their reactions to the events are just not sensible enough for someone who was in that situation. I have to admit that the diversity is what brings credibility and depth to such a story, but that didn’t exactly stop me from growling at the screen of my tablet at certain moments.

The last thing is that the story itself is actually incredibly interesting. It is twisted to a whole other level. But that itself is what made me wonder, “Can someone even be like that?” And that hint of incredibility brings down its appeal just a notch.

(Yes, I am aware that the last two paragraphs have me contradicting myself a lot. It was just that kind of a book.)

All in all, That Last Weekend was a more-than-just-good kind of read. It moved fast, kept me turning the pages, maintained its suspense well, and had a storyline that was convoluted to the right degree. It may not be the best suspense novel you read (given its few drawbacks), but is definitely worth reading especially if:

  • you like suspense novels
  • you like cozy mysteries
  • you enjoy murder mysteries and classic whodunits

That Last Weekend is scheduled for release on September 8, 2017 by Midnight Ink. I’d recommend grabbing a copy.

Liked or hated this review? Drop a comment below and tell us why. Also, let us know what you thought of the book or why you’d want to read it. And thanks for stopping by!

– Rishika

 

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Review: Buried (By Matt Shaw)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 93 pages

My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Todd wakes up after the celebration of his 21st birthday party to find himself locked inside a box. Broken memories begin taking over his mind, blurring the line between real and imaginary. Todd needs to distinguish fact from fiction before his claustrophobia completely eradicates that line. With time running out, Todd has to face his darkest fears if he is to ever learn who put him in a box, and find a way to get out alive.

My take:

This short novella takes around an hour to read. Keeping that in mind, I’m going to try to keep the review short too. Buried is meant to be a horror, and even a psychological horror. Its main theme is the claustrophobia that Todd faces, something that the readers are expected to associate with.

What’s good about the book is that it moves really fast. You don’t really feel the need to even take a break from it and can read it in one sitting. The second good thing is that it has this surreal dreamlike execution which gives off an uneasy, creepy vibe that has a lot of potential (although that remains highly unrealized). The third good thing is the few twists that the story contains – interesting, not very expected, and quite well presented. Fourth good thing – you can associate with some (not all) characters and even feel for them.

What’s bad about the book is that it does not really fulfill its aim of being a horror or psychological horror – it’s just not disturbing enough. Second bad thing – the claustrophobia was not really easy to associate with, and that’s coming from someone who actually has a touch of the phobia. The discomfort that Shaw intended for his readers to experience just did not materialize. The third bad thing was that it wasn’t a very well written book. Tense errors were abundant and that’s a real problem when you’ve already got a book that’s leaping from scene to scene every few sentences. Lastly, the story was interesting enough but its execution was just too blasé to do justice to the genre.

Should you read Buried? Sure, if you:

  • need something to pass the time on the commute home
  • need something to read as you wait for your appointment with the doctor/dentist
  • need something to read while waiting for a flight

Do you absolutely have to read Buried? Nope. It’s one of those books that tries hard to be dark, but fails because it’s barely disturbing, making it completely passable.

A lot of people did like this book though so do let us know whether you liked/disliked it and why. Drop a comment below. And thanks for stopping by!

– Rishika

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