The Devil in the White City – A Review

For as long as I can remember I’ve always had a macabre fascination with serial killers, especially ones from the past. I went through a phase of reading anything and everything I could about Jack the Ripper and still find the whole subject surrounding, probably the most infamous murderer of all time, fascinating.

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So when I stumbled across the name H.H.Holmes and did some digging I was super intrigued. A charismatic doctor who moved to Chicago and built a hotel as a way to lure women to him and kill them. I managed to pick up the copy of this book fairly cheap (I got it second hand off Amazon) The book flits between the story of Daniel Burnham (a man given the task to oversee the building of the World’s Fair Exposition in Chicago) and H.H.Holmes a charming and smooth talking doctor with amazing powers of manipulation and someone who was also incredibly dangerous and sick.

As I went to Chicago last year, I actually enjoyed reading about the building of the fair and learning more about it’s history, some of the most well known things came about there (Shredded Wheat and the Ferris Wheel to name a couple) When it got to the chapters talking about the crimes Holmes executed in his strangely built hotel, it made the hairs on my arm stand on end. The ease with which he would like to neighbours and family members asking about their missing daughters (who he had murdered and disposed of) makes for some unsettling reading.

However as the book progressed, I couldn’t help but think that I would have liked to have heard more about the crimes in depth, more about Holmes’ time incarcerated as well as more about his victims. Whilst the parts of the book following Daniel Burnham and the World’s Fair appealed to the history buff in me (and the lover of Chicago) I felt that it took away from the whom the book was actually about, America’s First Serial Killer.
That being said, Erik Larson wrote it in a way that the information wasn’t too heavy and you can tell he’s really done his research and has a true passion for the subject, and that came across in his writing. I got through it fairly quickly, but I would have liked the ending to have been as detailed as the rest of the book.

Star Rating out of 5: 4.5

Happy reading.

G.
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The Sleepwalker – A Review

The Sleepwalker is the third in the Aidan Waits series of books by Joseph Knox. You may have seen that I have posted about Joseph Knox and his incredibly captivating protagonist in previous posts, a character who has so much hidden in his past but we know very little about. He makes you want to go back for more.

The Sleepwalker

And this book is no exception.  I honestly have to say that the way the book starts, very much sets the whole tone for the rest of the book. There’s a sense of tension building throughout, a feeling that whilst reading, settles in the stomach and makes you on edge about what is to come. Aidan is once again catapulted into an investigation that is complex and has connections to some old familiar faces.  The relationship between Aidan and his new partner, Naomi Black, could have easily have fallen flat but somehow Joseph manages to introduce enough intrigue and tension that makes the dynamic between the two believable. In this book we find Aidan very much looking over his shoulder at enemies from his past, work colleagues, suspects and his new partner.

It’s hard to talk about the plot line of this book without giving away too much but it is much grittier than Knox’s previous work, and dare I say, his best one yet. Once again we see softer aspects to the otherwise mysterious Waits and the way Knox highlights the issue of the Spice epidemic in Manchester and its impact upon homeless people and those incarcerated is particularly hard to read, but incredibly important. It is the moments that take place within Strangeways and an inmate there that made me particularly emotional.  Once again Joseph has penned a masterpiece in Crime Fiction/Crime Noir.  Giving us plenty of drama, intrigue, twists and turns and also moments that will make you wince. This book is not for the faint hearted and the best thing is how he ends it. There’s no way of knowing what will come next, and that is why you should read it.

A rip roaring, page turner and one I highly recommend to those who love a good detective novel, trust me, there are things you will not see coming and they will leave you reeling.

Star Rating out of 5: 5

I’d love to hear your thoughts if you have read it, so comment below. Happy reading!

G.
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Splinter – A Review

I’m slowly getting back into blogging again, apologies I’ve been a little quiet, I lost my reading funk for a while, but I’ve got it back now, thankfully.

Splinter by Sebastian Fitzek.

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In theory this book sounded great, almost like a more intense and ‘gripping’ version of the 2004 film ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ sadly it didn’t deliver and live up to the hype.

It follows the story of Marc Lucas who has been wracked with grief since the car accident that killed his wife and unborn child. He’s approached one day by a Dr from a clinic who claims that they have the answer to his problems, the ability to permanently erase painful memories. Intrigued Marc goes to the clinic to find out more, only to leave and go home and find his wife alive and the locks to his apartment changed. Like I said, intriguing and a potentially a gripping storyline, however the writing style and characters never felt fully formed for me. I didn’t feel any kind of empathy with Marc as he struggled to find out what had happened and why his wife was alive.

In fact I’d go as far as to say, that although I could see what the author wanted to achieve there were entire sections of the book that felt incredibly convoluted and by the end I felt more confused and relieved than anything else. Not ‘gripping’ just lots of unnecessary running around and not even half formed characters, the only saving grace was that the chapters are quite short so it’s easy to pick up and put down without losing where you’re up to.

Star Rating out of 5: 1.5

Has anyone else out there read it? Please feel free to leave your thoughts/comments below.

Happy reading!

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Heart Shaped Box – A Review

I’m a proud member of Manchester Women’s Institute and actually run the sub-group for reading. We’re called ‘The Bookish Broads’ and once a month we meet for tea/coffee and cake and discuss the book selected from the previous month’s meeting. This month we’ll be discussing the book that was selected as part of the Halloween/Horror theme for the October meeting.

Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill.

Heart Shaped Box Joe Hill

I read Horns by Joe Hill last year and loved it. It was dark, humorous, tragic and kinda weird, which I liked. As soon as I posted that I was reading it on Facebook I had so many people telling me I just had to read Heart Shaped Box, so l went out, bought a copy, put the book on the shelf and never gave it another thought (ominous considering one of the chapters of the books only consists of the words ‘He put the box on the shelf, in the back of his closet and decided to stop thinking about it.’ Until recently that is, I put it forward as my suggestion and the lovely ladies of the Manchester WI selected it. I think we were all relived that it seemed less of a chore to read than Life after Life by Kate Atkinson.

I settled down one evening and was gripped from the word go. I’m something of a novice to the horror genre, with the exception of a couple of horror related novels, it’s not a genre I’m overly familiar with. But with Joe Hill being the son of horror writing legacy Stephen King, I should have known that this would be a cracking book, and I wasn’t disappointed. This isn’t something I have divulged in any previous blog posts but I have always had a fear of a certain type of ghost. The idea of ghosts in general don’t really bother me but anything that involves creepy old men in old suits or women in old fashioned black dresses really sends me reeling. Which is funny considering that I have read the book Woman in Black, seen the film and the theatrical adaptation, why do I do it to myself? I don’t know but I suppose that I like to feel ‘something’ I like to experience an emotion when I read something or watch something, and I can tell you Heart Shaped Box delivered plenty of those moments for me.

Judas Coyne is an ageing rock star who collects macabre things, when he is told that there is a haunted suit for sale on the internet he asks his assistant Danny to buy it. Little does he know that the suit is haunted by the ghost of a man named Craddock who is set on destroying Judas’ life, the reason? He blames Judas for the death of his step-daughter. The storyline is interesting enough but it’s the haunting imagery that Joe penned that really struck a chord with me.

‘In the moments that followed, Jude felt it was a matter of life and death not to make eye contact with the old man, to give no sign that he saw him.’

Moments like this, for me, perfectly capture the cold fear we all feel at some point. When I was a little girl I used to wake sometimes in the evening and would need to build up the courage to go to the bathroom in the dark, I’d be as quick as I could walking back to my room and would always have the sensation that someone was watching me, like Judas in this sentence, I always felt that it was always much safer if I never looked back and just climbed under the covers and squeezed my eyes shut. It’s that inexplicable fear that something just doesn’t feel right.

‘He smiled at Jude, showing crooked and stained teeth and his black tongue.’

As the book progresses the dead man, Craddock, grows more and more violent and controlling of Jude and his girlfriend Georgia. When the pair decide to get away from the house things get even creepier and weirder and it’s soon revealed that Craddock was a controlling and abusive man in life too. There’s a very human element to the story that deals with abuse and estranged relationships between families, which stops this book from falling short of being a little too cheesy at times, and adds some much needed realism. That being said there were aspects towards the latter part of the book that just seemed to not make any sense to me as the actions didn’t seem to fit in with the story as whole. Saying that it was an enjoyable read and full of imagery that had me genuinely shuddering at times, another great novel from Joe Hill.

Star Rating out of 5: 4

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‘He could see himself there, and the dead man standing beside him, hunched over, whispering in his ear.’

Happy reading fellow bookworms, let me know your thoughts if you have read this, or even if you plan to read it.

Georgina.

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