Tag Archives: serial killers

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: 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: Hush (By Anne Frasier)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 380 pages

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Ivy Dunlap had been waiting for the call for sixteen years – the call that would tell her that he’s resurfaced. She had no doubt that he would. The man who had murdered her son and left her for dead wouldn’t stay in the dark forever – he was compelled to kill. As a criminal psychologist, Ivy knew that.

And when the call did come, Ivy knew that she had no choice. She couldn’t continue living the life that was a lie, the life where she was safe, but where no one knew who she really was. So, she went back to help the Chicago PD apprehend the man who had been murdering single mothers and their infant sons. But going back was not going to be easy. Keeping her real identity a secret was not going to be easy. Chasing the man who’d haunted her waking and sleeping hours for sixteen years may come at a price that even Ivy could never have anticipated. And all the while, a single question remains – will the Madonna Murderer succeed where he’d once failed?

My take:

There are a lot of things you expect from a psychological/crime thriller. And for the most part, Hush delivers. It’s got a good story that shows you the evil that can exist within people. It’s blunt, sometimes gory, the right amount of mess-with-your-head disturbing, and its criminal psychology seems to be pretty spot on (speaking from the perspective of someone whose criminal psychology course was basically watching Criminal Minds). It’s even got some interesting characters who seem to do justice (for the most part) to what you would expect, given their backgrounds.

But the execution of all those aspects is what kills a lot of the experience.

And the grammar and formatting errors. I mean, it can’t be that difficult to ensure that if you’re moving from one scene to another altogether, at least hit Enter twice. When you’re reading a fast paced thriller, those things can really throw you off, hitting the breaks on an otherwise good momentum.

Coming back…

The characters are as good a place as any to begin. The characters are good, but their growth is terrible. The main characters seem to have some bipolarity going on at the weirdest of times. They go from being angry and closed off to super emotional in seconds, and that too for no real reason. They have these over-dramatic reactions to random things, and mainly just seem a little confused about who they are. I get the intense aspect – cops, trauma survivors, and people dealing with crime day in and day out will be so – but there is no consistency in their personalities or evolution of personalities. And that really slows the book down.

Coming to the story – the delivery is choppy. A lot of things are happening which come together eventually, but they are presented in a way that leaves you confused about the timeline. You think days have passed and it’s been only hours, or vice versa. That makes it a little hard to follow and you have to take a lot of things as just given and move on.

The last aspect that wasn’t tapped to its full potential was the depth of the evil that the book touches upon. It does decently on showing you the darkness that people can have. But it seems to only scratch the surface and leave a lot implied. I wouldn’t have minded reading more thoughts, monologs, or even narration, if it would have helped paint a complete picture, instead of just bits and pieces here and there.

All that being said, the book does great on closure. It brings almost all tangents to a comfortable close, and gives you a nice, complete feel – at least on the story. And that’s why I wouldn’t greatly mind reading more of the author’s work. As long as there isn’t too much of the off-putting stuff, of course!

Recommended for:

  • 16+ (or maybe even 17+) because of the gore and disturbing details
  • Fans of psychological thrillers as a thrill (or holiday or easy) read
  • Readers who enjoy crime fiction and crime thrillers
  • Readers who tend to enjoy the commercial (TV/Book) versions of criminal psychology

Share your thoughts in the comments below! I’d also love a recommendation of a really good psychological thriller.

– Rishika

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