Book read: Slade House by David Mitchell

Slade House by David MitchellMy first book of the year 2016. And a great read!

Slade House can only be reached through a gate in Slade Alley that is only visible some of the time. The house takes more space up than there is in the area, and people have been known to disappear ‘near Slade Alley’. Mysterious!

Every nine years, someone disappears. The person who investigates such an appearance will find nothing, unless he’s in the right place at the right time. And then he may disappear too.

A real page turner. With, as we are used to with Mitchell, references to other books by this author. Some are rather subtle, and I am bound to have missed a few. But a Dr. Marinus? Ah, yes! The ending was surprising, in a good way.

The publisher says:

“Born out of the short story David Mitchell published on Twitter in 2014 and inhabiting the same universe as his latest bestselling novel The Bone Clocks, this is the perfect book to curl up with on a dark and stormy night.

Turn down Slade Alley – narrow, dank and easy to miss, even when you’re looking for it. Find the small black iron door set into the right-hand wall. No handle, no keyhole, but at your touch it swings open. Enter the sunlit garden of an old house that doesn’t quite make sense; too grand for the shabby neighbourhood, too large for the space it occupies.

A stranger greets you by name and invites you inside. At first, you won’t want to leave. Later, you’ll find that you can’t.

This unnerving, taut and intricately woven tale by one of our most original and bewitching writers begins in 1979 and reaches its turbulent conclusion around Hallowe’en, 2015. Because every nine years, on the last Saturday of October, a ‘guest’ is summoned to Slade House. But why has that person been chosen, by whom and for what purpose? The answers lie waiting in the long attic, at the top of the stairs…”

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Number of pages: 234

First published: 2015

I got this: bought at local bookshop

Genre: Supernatural thriller


Book Review: The Shut Eye by Belinda Bauer

The Shut Eye by Belinda BauerThe Shut Eye: What it is about

From the publishers: “Five footprints are the only sign that Daniel Buck was ever here.
And now they are all his mother has left.
Every day, Anna Buck guards the little prints in the cement. Polishing them to a shine. Keeping them safe. Spiralling towards insanity.
When a psychic offers hope, Anna grasps it. Who wouldn’t? Maybe he can tell her what happened to her son…
But is this man what he claims to be? Is he a visionary? A shut eye? Or a cruel fake, preying on the vulnerable?
Or is he something far, far worse?

The Shut Eye: What I thought

I have read almost all of Bauer’s books and enjoy them a lot. This one was a little different: it had a supernatural element. Anna, who lost her son a few months ago, wants to know whether he’s still alive. Visiting a psychic, she is shown someone else’s picture, and she gets a vision. This happens several times. It doesn’t seem to be related to the disappearance of her son, but it may be something to do with the disappearance of a girl, a year earlier. The police think she’s crazy (which is how she behaves, from grief) but one inspector, DCI Marvel, believes that they should investigate further.

DCI Marvel is obsessed with the disappearance of the girl. He can’t get along with his colleagues and goes his own way. His superior, side lining him, gives him the lowly task of finding back Mitzi, his wife’s dog. This leads him to Anna. It becomes likely that the person who stole the dog is also responsible for the missing children.

I found the characters very convincing. Especially Anna, who was clearly mad with grief, even madder than it seems at first. When she is at the police station, one of the officers makes a discovery about Anna, which came very suddenly – I had not seen this coming at all, even though Anna had been a main character for some time. An amazing revelation, very clever of the author.

There are some elements in the story, especially related to the missing girl, that didn’t make complete sense to me and that weren’t resolved, which was a pity. The reason the girl had disappeared is something that I would never have been able to conjure up – another brilliant, if slightly unlikely, move by the author.

An entertaining, but not totally convincing read.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (good)

Number of pages: 304

First published: 2015

I got this: from the publishers for review, via Netgalley (ebook)

Genre: mystery


Book Review: Blackbird by Tom Wright

Blackbird by Tom WrightBlackbird: What it is about

From amazon: “‘Dr. Deborah Serach Gold died on the cross sometime during a night of freezing rain in late October of my last year at Three. It probably wasn’t the worst thing that happened to her that day, but it had been over two decades in the making . . .’

The day after a terrible storm, electricity still crackling in the air, a woman is found dead on the outskirts of a Texan town. She has been brutally attacked and nailed to a cross.

The victim is Dr Deborah Gold, a psychologist who has taken a lot of people’s secrets to her grave.

Which means a lot of suspects for Detective Jim Beaudry Bonham to investigate. And lately he could use some psychological help himself . . .”

Blackbird: What I thought

The beginning of the description sounded very intriguing. However, the ending of it should have warned me: I’m done with thrillers in which the lead investigator is a flawed character.

I found this man totally uninteresting and didn’t give a *%$@$ about his past and current struggles. The investigation into the murder of Dr Gold was exciting, but the Detective got into the way a bit too much.

I did read to the end, but didn’t really pay good attention from page 100 onwards, when I started to wonder whether I should finish the book.

I think that if you like thrillers, there is no reason not to like this one. It’s pretty clever and intriguing.

It’s not the book, it’s me. Since The Snowman by Jo Nesbo, a good two years ago, I should know not to pick up a thriller featuring yet another detective with yet more personal problems. I guess it’s partially the genre that demands a flawed character solving impossible problems, but I’m so done with it! 🙂

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars (almost OK)

Number of pages: 356

First published: 2014

I got this: won this from Curiosity Killed the Bookworm

Genre: mystery, thriller


Book Review: Lexicon by Max Barry

Lexicon by Max Barry

When Suzanne (bibliosue) asked me whether I’d like her copy of Lexicon, I wasn’t sure what to say. Yes, the book sounds interesting and I read another good novel by this author, but sending it all the way across the world (OK, well, just to the next continent, but even so)… Anyway, my greed prevailed. Previously, I read Jennifer Government by Max Barry, which I enjoyed a lot. It’s a dystopian novel that was awful and good at the same time, if you know what I mean. I expected Lexicon to be dystopian, too, but now that I’ve read it, I would say it’s Speculative Fiction, which is really anything that isn’t standard fiction, I think.

So there I was with this beautiful hard cover with post-it notes from the author! Thank you so much, Suzanne, it’s a beauty.

Lexicon: What it is about

The publisher says: “At an exclusive school somewhere outside of Arlington, Virginia, students aren’t taught history, geography, or mathematicsthey are taught to persuade. Students learn to use language to manipulate minds, wielding words as weapons. The very best graduate as poets, and enter a nameless organization of unknown purpose.

Whip-smart runaway Emily Ruff is making a living from three-card Monte on the streets of San Francisco when she attracts the attention of the organizations recruiters. Drawn in to their strange world, which is populated by people named Brontë and Eliot, she learns their key rule: That every person can be classified by personality type, his mind segmented and ultimately unlocked by the skillful application of words. For this reason, she must never allow another person to truly know her, lest she herself be coerced. Adapting quickly, Emily becomes the school’s most talented prodigy, until she makes a catastrophic mistake: She falls in love.

Meanwhile, a seemingly innocent man named Wil Parke is brutally ambushed by two men in an airport bathroom. They claim he is the key to a secret war he knows nothing about, that he is an outlier, immune to segmentation. Attempting to stay one step ahead of the organization and its mind-bending poets, Wil and his captors seek salvation in the toxically decimated town of Broken Hill, Australia, which, if ancient stories are true, sits above an ancient glyph of frightening power.

A brilliant thriller that traverses very modern questions of privacy, identity, and the rising obsession of data-collection, connecting them to centuries-old ideas about the power of language and coercion, Lexicon is Max Barrys most ambitious and spellbinding novel yet.

Lexicon: What I thought

The story was set out in a confusing way, but luckily it came together in time for me to keep enjoying it. As I suspected rather early on, the story is not told in order. Some of the chapters took place long before the other (earlier) chapters. Also, the people change names, so you’re not always sure who is who. 

Wil, one of the main characters, conveniently lost his memory, so he can’t tell the reader anything they want to know. But once in Broken Hill, he starts to remember things, just in time to save the life of the person he travelled with.

The idea of words being so powerful that they can persuade people to do things they don’t want to do, was very good. In fact, a whole town was killed because of one word! That town is Broken Hill in Australia. As the writer says on one of the post-its: this town really exists. But I knew this already, because of the series The Flying Doctors which was based in Broken Hill, a series that I watched (and loved) many years ago.

I enjoyed every minute of reading the book, but sometimes I wondered what I’d been reading and why it took so many pages to say it in. The ending was very good. You try and fight someone with your eyes closed!

My opinion on who was the baddie and who was ‘good’ changed over the course of the book. I didn’t really feel attached to anyone in particular, but Wil was probably the most likable character. However, I can’t even remember what happened to him in the end.

So, a weird, fun, special book, but with some forgettable moments…

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (good)

Number of pages: 390

First published: 2013

I got this: from Suzanne (bibliosue), just because

Genre: contemporary fiction, speculative fiction, mystery


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