The Girl on The Bus by N.M. Brown – Review

Book Review:

I’m not gonna lie I read the title to this book and went into the reading of it with little enthusiasm. Not another faded copy of a copy, trying to jump on a bandwagon.

The prologue disabused me of any notion that this fine novel lacked originality within two pages. The prologue, which is exceptional, is strong in emotions and embraces a deep sense of unease. Brown conveys the rising panic of losing a child vividly.  As a result, the reader’s concern is genuine and deep. Very skilfully done.

Written in third-person, past tense throughout, Brown’s novel steps on every expectation you may have from its title. Strong writing unveils unflinching acts of violence that take place in confined settings which should be safe for the characters but aren’t, building the menace the book practically seeps. Descriptive, without being overly-flowery, details of settings and people elevate this work above its peers. Brown has succeeded in writing a wholly immersive plot that punches you in the gut whilst drawing concern, fear and very real emotion from his readers.

Anything but formulaic, the story is well planned and imaginative in its execution. It’s also riddled with believable characters whose actions are in keeping with the challenges and their personalities.  

As is common in the genre, a little too much exposition at times for my tastes, but this is a minor complaint amongst an accomplished piece of fiction.

The finale was very good, but I particularly enjoyed the prologue which was first-rate.

Cheeky, humorous and displaying some superb foreshadowing all in one go, it was an unexpected nod to the readers and a high point in a book that whilst tightly plotted, did not take itself too seriously.

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Book Description:

A retired detective and a young woman are about to face their worst fears. 

Vicki Reiner is emotionally isolated and craves the fleeting happiness she experienced in the years prior to her college graduation. In an attempt to recapture this, she invites her former friend and room-mate, Laurie,  for a break at her deserted beachside home. However, despite booking an online bus ticket, her friend never shows up and seems to have vanished. 

Unable to accept the bizarre circumstances of the disappearance, Vicki approaches the police who dismiss her concerns before enlisting the reluctant help of Leighton Jones – a newly retired detective who is haunted by the death of his teenage daughter. Despite trying to remain detached from the case, Leighton is drawn to Vicki and her search for justice. 

The unlikely pair face numerous obstacles but using a combination of methods he and Vicki track the killers who are working across the dusty freeways of North America. 

Soon Vicki and Leighton find themselves nervously waiting at a remote bus stop expecting the arrival of the bus. 

Will they ever discover what happened to Laurie? 

And can they both escape with their lives? 

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Author Bio:

Norman M. Brown is an author living and working in Scotland.

Having experimented with poetry, scripts and short stories over the years, he finally decided to write sit down and write the type of fiction he would like to read. The result was his crime thriller -The Girl on the Bus. As result, Norman was delighted to be signed to Bloodhound Books at the start of this year. The Girl in the Bus, is his first published novel. He is currently writing a second novel based on its protagonist – detective Leighton Jones.    

Links:

Twitter: @normthewriter

Blog:http://nmbrownfiction.blogspot.co.uk/

The Girl on The Bus is available at Amazon and from Bloodhound Books now

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Firm by Robert Cowan – Review

Firm is Robert Cowan’s fourth work, following on from The Search for Ethan, Daydreams and Devils, and (my personal favourite) For All is Vanity.

 

In Firm we have a much less experimental approach than seen in ‘Vanity’ and what feels like a more melancholy Cowan than perhaps we’ve seen until now. The affection he feels for the lead characters in this work, as well as the locations and the people who inhabit the novel, is palpable and utterly endearing throughout.

Robert has written in third-person, past-tense throughout, a choice which feels right for a story that basks in the glow of old friendships and memories of times past.

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Our main characters are likable, funny, and far from saints, but utterly believable and rather charming. What made this book for me, was Cowan’s skilful use of dialogue through the novel. Where many writers choose clumsy exposition, Cowan, quite literally in print, allows his characters to speak for themselves, stripping away their outside appearance to expose the very real versions of themselves in their deeds and words. Most notably, the boys’ friendship is demonstrated most ably by Cowan’s spot-on dialogue which is at times warm, very funny, scathing and cutting, as reflects the relationship between best friends.

Another step forward and a very, very good work from an ever developing writer who has grown comfortable in his skill and knows how to craft an appealing story.

 

Available now at Amazon

Kill or Die by Ann Evans – Review

This book has been my surprise of the year so far.

A first in the genre from Evans, Kill or Die is nonetheless a fine display of skill and confidence from a seasoned writer who makes smart choices in her prose and choice of narrative. Evans’ immersive and descriptive prose excels in engaging the reader and in stimulating a cascade of very vivid images of the setting and her characters.

Well-crafted, and natural-feeling dialogue, utilising a mixture of long and short sentence structure, augment the already good characterisation. Combined with Evans use of Body language to covey intent and emotion, this elevates the characterisation to another level and places it amongst the most skilled I’ve read in a while.

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A third-person, past-tense narrative throughout suits the plot and propels the characters and their deeds along at a fair old clip. Kill or Die is seeped in suspense, eliciting a deep sense of unease and conflict throughout. The novel is permeated with a measured tension that I really enjoyed. With her choice to place Julia and her daughter front and centre, Evans appears to effortlessly tap into the subconscious fears all parents harbour and suppress and asks her readers to explore their own unease.

How far would you go to protect your child? Answer: As far as you had to.

A great new addition to the publisher’s catalogue and yet another declaration of Bloodhound’s intent to continue to develop quality books and writers.

 

You can find Ann and her books at Bloodhound Books and a Amazon

Witness Statement: author CP Wilson

By far the most fun I’ve ever had doing an interview.

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AliceCrime fiction takes us to the darkest domains of the human condition. It’s a psychologically safe space where inspired writers can explore criminal, social and moral injustice – hooking the audience with a compelling narrative and captivating characters.

‘Ice Cold Alice’ does all this and more. On one level, it’s a rollicking romp of revenge with a violent vigilante who explodes onto the social media scene, punishing the evil, protecting the innocent and challenging the authorities. Peel back the layers and it becomes a deeply personal study of the soul of society – our society, which turns a blind eye to generations of domestic abuse.
Time to ask the author some tough questions, then.

‘Ice Cold Alice’ is a fabulous title. Likewise, Alice’s online alias of ‘Tequila Mockingbird’. Wonderful wordplay which works on several levels. That’s not a question, just a shameless moment of flattery to soften you up…
Thanks…

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After Call Work: Gross Misconduct by Ryan Bracha – Review

This novel is a sequel to After Call Work: Verbal Warning which was one of my favourite books of 2016.
In This follow-up, subtitled ‘Gross Misconduct’, we once again encounter the insipid call centre introduced in Book 1. Rather than simply continue the story, utilising the same characters, and expanding on the previous events, Bracha has chosen to introduce a handful of new characters for his readers to love, as well as build on some familiar players from Book 1.
As is Bracha’s custom, he avoids the easy route and avoids giving his readers a simple sequel to the previous work, choosing instead to tell a story that runs parallel to the events in Book 1, with the plotlines overlapping, converging and diverging. This decision is exactly the type of work ethic and tight plotting that makes Bracha the standout Indie writer on the UK scene.
Bracha continues to grow as a writer, utilising a simple, unflashy, first-person, present-tense narrative, but peppering it with some lovely technical quirks, my favourite of which is the odd occasion where he breaks the fourth wall, slyly making the reader complicit In his character’s choices and self-justifications.
Despite this choice of narrative style, Bracha’s precise characterisation lends each of his players a distinct and unmistakable voice. It’s quite a feat.

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Another step forward in Bracha’s development, and quite simply a fantastically entertaining read.

 

You can find Ryan and his books at Amazon

The Crying Boy by Jane E James – Review

The Crying Boy is an excellent myth on which to base a novel and one that Jane James clearly has some in depth knowledge on. The opening section of the book – in first-person from the painting’s POV- really jolted me, hard. This was an excellent section, wholly immersive, tantalisingly creepy and pitch-perfect in the narrative choice. It also demonstrated a particular strong grasp and use of dialogue by James. All in, The Crying Boy has one of the strongest openings to any book I’ve read. Ever.

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With such an accomplished opening, I had high expectations going into the rest of the book, which for the most part were met.

Utilising a third-person, present-tense throughout, Jane’s prose is accomplished and very descriptive, skilfully immersing the reader in the musty, opaque corridors of the world James exposes them to. I was slightly disappointed by the lack of dialogue present in parts of the book, mostly because the writer demonstrated a high degree of skill in writing the spoken word in the earliest scenes of the book, making me want more… a lot more. As a result of this reduction in dialogue, the prose felt a little exposition-heavy at times for my tastes, but perhaps, where dialogue is concerned, others will find that less is more in this case.

For me personally I’d like to have seen more interactions between the characters similar to those that took place in the prologue. Similarly, I’d have liked to have seen the painting’s ‘character’ pushed to the fore. This was a skilful use of characterisation, and an adept use of alternative viewpoint. For me, the novel would have benefited from a greater presence of this ‘character’. Perhaps even as the main protagonist throughout.

Despite a few minor quibbles, most of which are wholly subjective, I really enjoyed The Crying Boy. James’ novel is a fine example of an eerie, insular, tightly-cornered beast of a story; all threatening corners and complex emotions and characters. To read, it felt like watching an early John Carpenter movie, like The Thing. Seeped in intrigue and threatening presence.  It’s a book I know that I’ll revisit several times, as it is one of those reads in which the reader finds something new to love or fear or recoil from on each visit.

A very accomplished story from a skilled author.

 

You can find Jane E James at Bloodhound Books

The Redemption of Charm by Frank Westworth – Review

The Redemption of Charm by Frank Westworth – Review

 

The Redemption of Charm is the third in a series from Westworth. In a genre I don’t normally read, and rarely enjoy when I do, this book is an excellent piece of writing and a fine demonstration of Westworth’s skill with characters he is clearly well-acquainted with.

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Written in third-person, past-tense throughout, Westworth still manages to give each segment and character their distinctiveness, despite maintain the same POV and tense throughout. He accomplishes this by using clever little quirks to his characters’ dialogue and even the sentence structure during exposition. Short, punchy comments and dialogue, loaded with vitriol and intent are perfectly utilised to convey emotion and pace in the narrative. This is a seasoned writer doing what he knows best.

 

A skilled veteran of the genre, producing a fine contribution that sets the bar for his peers.