February 6

The Vault – Karen Long

The Vault coverVAULT: A large room or chamber used for storage of valuables, especially an underground one…

In the unrelenting heat of the Toronto summer, a fire at a land-fill site uncovers the remains of a local prostitute. But the post-mortem reveals disturbing details –the body has been preserved and is not who or what it seems.

DI Eleanor Raven is back on duty six months after barely surviving being kidnapped and tortured by a depraved serial killer. Work is her sanctuary but she’s carrying deep scars – mental as well as physical. Where do you go when the place you feel safest is also the place where you are most at risk?
As Eleanor battles her own demons, it looks as though a killer in the city is making a gruesome human collection. And Eleanor’s fight to save the last victim of the Collector becomes a battle to save herself.

 

My thanks to Karen and @crimebookclub for my review copy

 

If you seek out crime novels which are described as ‘dark and disturbing’ then you are in for a treat with Karen Long’s The Vault. Even for a seasoned crime reader, such as myself, there are some decidedly uncomfortable elements to this story which make it stand out as a memorable read.

The Vault features a second outing for DI Eleanor Raven following her debut in Long’s previous novel The Safe Word. Raven is returning to work after a prolonged leave of absence – she had been recuperating from an horrific attack (as depicted in The Safe Word). Her return to duties are seemingly arriving earlier than she may be ready for and there are signs that Raven is not yet fit to resume her role.

Having not read The Safe Word before starting The Vault I wondered if I may have missed key plot points which may explain Raven’s ‘awkward’ return to duties, however, everything I needed to know was addressed in full so I did not feel disadvantaged by skipping book 1. Karen Long does a great job of teasing out the underlying issues surrounding Raven’s fragile state and we are left in no doubt that Eleanor Raven is a wonderfully complex character.

The Vault opens in the less than glamorous setting of a Toronto landfill site. A fire has ravaged an area of the city dump and firefighters uncover skeletal human remains, however, the remains they found are positioned in a very unnatural pose and there can be no question that this is the body of someone who dead before the fire started. Raven is called to the scene to investigate.

Soon we are crossing paths with prostitutes, undertakers, morticians and an extremely disturbed killer that Raven dubs the Collector. The driving motivation behind the Collector is….not nice (and redacted due to spoilers). However, what I very much enjoyed was that the story follows the Collector as well as the investigating team. As a reader we get to see both sides of the story and get an insight into how the criminal conducts himself when he is trying to get on with everyday life and, more alarmingly, how he may identify a potential victim.

I am sure that The Vault will be one that sticks with me for some time. The crimes are morbidly memorable, the central character is damaged and has a dangerous penchant for deviant sexual encounters and I found the book kept me hooked – which is all I want from my crime novels.

My benchmark for shocking crime has always been the works of Michael Slade. Slade has described many nasty and unpleasant deaths yet within his stories the murders are usually sudden and shocking. Karen Long may just have laid down a new standard: a whole novel that made me uncomfortable as I read. (By odd coincidence both Michael Slade and Karen long base their stories in Canada – I may revise my list of potential holiday destinations).

I found The Vault compelling reading. The central characters are well defined and (as I discovered in my Q&A with the author) they will return and be developed further. I liked that Long will take characters and concepts into unfamiliar places picking up on areas which may be considered taboo for some.

Although I missed Eleanor Raven’s debut in The Safe Word I will be rectifying this oversight in the very near future. I want to read more from this author and, specifically, I want to read another Eleanor Raven book. The Vault was sufficiently entertaining, memorable and creepy that I have to award it a review score of 5/5 – I didn’t want it to end.

 

 

 

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February 3

Beyond The Rage – Michael J Malone

Beyond The RageEven though he’s a successful criminal, Glasgow villain Kenny O’Neill is angry. Not only has his high-class escort girlfriend just been attacked, but his father is reaching out to him from the past despite abandoning Kenny as a child after his mother’s suicide. Kenny is now on a dual mission to hunt down his girl’s attacker and find out the truth about his father… but instead he unravels disturbing family secrets and finds that revenge is not always sweet.

An intelligent, violent thriller shot through with dark humour, Beyond the Rage enthralls and disturbs in equal measure. With an intricate plot, all-too-believable characters and perfectly pitched dialogue, this is a masterclass in psychological crime fiction writing.

 

Thanks to Michael for giving me the chance to read his book (and for signing it too).

Some books are hard work to grind through: they are too self-indulgent or have lots of random characters that bog down the plot. Then there are the books which I put down and cannot even recall the lead character’s name – bland and unremarkable. However, there are also the diamonds – the books that are a joy to read. These are slick, they are entertaining and have a captivating story. I am happy to report that Beyond The Rage falls very much into the latter category, I was swallowed up in a great story while a web of lies, deception and danger was spun around me.

Despite being a successful criminal and dangerous bad guy our protagonist, Kenny O’Neill, generally comes across as a nice guy. He is an engaging character and his dubious occupation is easily overlooked as we empathise with the situations he finds himself in. As the story begins we dip back into the past to learn about Kenny’s parents, we hear that his mother died when he was just 12 and (almost immediately afterwards) his father walked out to leave Kenny in the care of his aunt and uncle.

Jump forward to present day and Kenny is a successful player in the Glasgow criminal sub-culture. So when someone attacks his girlfriend Kenny takes it very personally and sets out to uncover who may be responsible and vows to make them pay. His investigations bring him into contact with gangsters, politicians, thugs, the police and a fair few prostitutes yet Kenny takes it all in his stride.

Meanwhile Kenny’s aunt has some news regarding his long-lost father. She has been holding onto a letter that arrived on Kenny’s 18th birthday, could it be possible that his father was still around? Kenny is not sure yet, despite all the time that has passed, he decides he wants to find out more about his absent parent. Ignoring warnings about raking up the past, Kenny enlists the help of his best friend Detective Inspector Ray McBain to learn more about his father. (McBain is the star of two of Malone’s previous books and it is great to see him making a couple of cameo appearances).

Beyond The Rage puts Kenny through emotional and physical turmoil. He finds himself pitted against the adversarial Mason Budge. Budge is responsible for attacking Kenny’s girlfriend and clearly he enjoyed the experience as he is stalking her keen to get the chance to repeat the experience. Budge is a constant threat to Kenny (even if Kenny is not always aware of it) yet we know that Budge is acting under orders and Malone deftly keeps the real reasons that Kenny is being targeted just out of our reach.

The finale provided a few unexpected shocks and, with hand on heart, I can confess I was totally wrong in most of my assumptions as to where the story was heading. Beyond The Rage is a brilliant read…the characters are well realised, expertly utilised and the story is gripping. I have no qualms over scoring it 5/5, it’s an absolute gem.

 

Beyond The Rage is available now from Saraband books. Follow Michael J Malone on Twitter @michaelJmalone1

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February 1

COMPETITION You can become a character in Karen Long’s next book

BlogTourSmall

As part of this week’s blog tour for Karen Long’s fantastic thriller THE VAULT – Karen has given me the opportunity to select one lucky competition winner to have their name used as a character within her next book.

I am thrilled to be able to offer a very unique prize and will try to make competition entry as simple and fair as possible by running entries through Rafflecopter.  Follow the simple steps below and GOOD LUCK.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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January 31

Alf The Workshop Dog- Emma Calin

Once upon a now bannerThe wisdom of the fable through the eyes of modern children. A series of books following traditional pathways of storytelling towards issues and solutions of our times.

Emma Calin has worked with the Philippines based talented anime/manga artist Miko Abellera,
to create this collection of illustrated chapter-book stories for 6-12 year olds.

Emma Calin
Each book features interactive bonus links, via URLs for digital readers (e.g. Kindle, iPad) or by scannable QR codes for paperback readers. The links lead to free downloads of pictures for colouring, as well as photos and video and audio clips to enrich the story and bring the characters to life.

Alf The Workshop Dog

How could a scruffy dog in a bus depot and the call of crows, link back to another world of power and love?
The ancient Kingdom of Zanubia and a stray dog looking for scraps in an inner-city repair garage, hold the secret. A wicked king, a beautiful girl, a young prince and the struggle between right and wrong maintain the fable tradition.

ISBN: 1502479583 Kindle ASIN:B00NWQ96PE Audio book ASIN:B00OBT8RDI GENRE: Children’s Fiction

 

Isabella’s Pink Bicycle

There’s something strange in the woodshed…
A poor little girl in a faraway land dreams of riding a pink bicycle. When she meets a strange animal, her dreams come true. Her happiness turns to sadness when a tragedy occurs in the town and her father doesn’t come home. Maybe her new magic friend can find him?

ISBN: 150323407X Kindle ASIN: B00OFQO0WY Audio book ASIN:B00P1O1XLK GENRE: Children’s Fiction

 

Kool Kid Kruncha and The High Trapeze

Charlie finds it tough when his parents divorce – but Auntie Kate helps him overcome his greatest fear.
When Charlie has to move from the country into the city, he needs new friends. With his small size and red hair, some people aren’t kind to him.
He wonders if he can face another day at school. A trip to the circus gives him the strength to see himself and others in a new way.

ISBN:1503267105 Kindle ASIN: B00OFSNQL8 Audio book ASIN: B00PX8V76K GENRE: Children’s Fiction

 

Alf The Workplace DogThanks to CandleLit for my review copy of Alf The Workshop Dog. I enlisted the help of my 8 year old son to give a parent and child overview of the story.

From a Dad’s viewpoint Alf the Workshop Dog was a great reading experience with my son. The story caught his imagination and the promise of the interactive elements to the book were a great incentive for him to try to prolong his bedtime story each night.

The integration of story and additional content through digital media is a great idea and worked well as a hook to get my son reading a story that he may not normally have considered.

 

My son is keen to muscle in on my blog so I asked him to provide me with his own review of Alf The Workshop Dog. After much consideration we established the following:

“It was great fun to read about Zanubia but I did not like the King very much. I like when I can go to You Tube and watch the videos and things at the end of some of the chapters. My favourite was when we sang the national anthem.”  To interject at this stage – we sang the anthem FREQUENTLY.

Back to the boy: “I liked to read on my Kindle for a change as normally my books are paper or comics” (keeping him off the other apps was a challenge). “The story was good and I read loads when you were at work as I didn’t want to wait for bedtime” (always love when he reads so I cannot complain too much that he was reading ahead). ” I didn’t like the King but I liked how the story ended, it made me feel happy” (at this stage I hear echoes of his teacher trying to explain to me at Parent’s Night how they will tackle Book Reviews for 8/9 year olds – How the story made me feel was right up there)

A hit in our household – Alf The Workshop Dog was read over a few nights and has been revisited already, especially the video of the Zanubian National Anthem. Lots of fun and a nice way to round off the day for us both.

 

January 24

Snowblind – Christopher Golden

snowblind1Twelve years ago the small town of Coventry, Massachusetts was in the grasp of a particularly brutal winter. And then came the Great Storm.

It hit hard. Not everyone saw the spring. Today the families, friends and lovers of the victims are still haunted by the ghosts of those they lost so suddenly. If only they could see them one more time, hold them close, tell them they love them.

It was the deadliest winter in living memory.

Until now.

When a new storm strikes, it doesn’t just bring snow and ice, it brings the people of Coventry exactly what they’ve been wishing for. And the realisation their nightmare is only beginning.

 

Thanks to Headline for my review copy

A long time ago I had a prolonged spell of reading nothing but horror stories. Over time I read fewer and fewer until I recently realised that in the last 12 months I had only read one ‘Ghost’ story (a novella) and the total disaster which was James Herbert’s Ash. This was simply not good enough! You cannot beat a good scary story and with Snowblind promising grief, loss and a nightmare to come it was time to return to a genre I love.

Sometimes a book is enhanced by where or when you read it. I confess that Snowblind was in my TBR pile for a couple of months…it arrived during a balmy autumn and rose to the top of the pile in the cold of January. As a direct result I got to read Snowblind while the snow fell over Scotland and the wind howled over the hills – perfect conditions to enjoy a story where the weather plays such an integral part to the story.

Christopher Golden does a great job of creating an atmospheric winter storm. The residents of Coventry, Massachusetts are no strangers to harsh winters but as Snowblind opens we find that the weather is the least of their problems. Coming out of the storm we are given glimpses of icy figures who are attacking some of the vulnerable Coventry residents. By the time the storm settles there have been accidents, deaths and families are left to rebuild their shattered lives.

I particularly enjoyed how the author managed to introduce several family units in the early stages of the book, each would suffer in some way during the storm. Great writing from Christopher Golden as he establishes and assembles his cast yet still keeps the tension levels running high while the storm settles in. After the storm: the players are in place and the fallout commences.

As the story progresses we jump forward over 10 years, life in Coventry has moved on yet the locals still clearly recall the horror of the big storm which devastated their town. Winter has taken hold and another large storm has been forecast, yet before it arrives there are some unusual changes happening to some of the Coventry residents – all is not as it seems.

As always I am skirting around the edge of the story and trying to avoid revealing too much. I can confirm that Snowblind was brilliantly atmospheric – a very real feeling of being trapped deep in the winter snow came through while I read. The creatures in the snow did seem particularly evil and were used sparingly which helped to maintain their mysterious nature. Nice mix of characters meant that you were rooting for some to escape the peril yet were not too upset when the town’s more nasty elements met their comeuppance.

In short – a good supernatural thriller, perfect reading for a cold winter night. I would score it 3/5 and would gladly read more of Christopher Golden’s work.

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January 21

A Robot In The Garden – Deborah Install

A Robot In The Garden 2A story of the greatest friendship ever assembled.

Ben Chambers wakes up to find something rusty and lost underneath the willow tree in his garden. Refusing to throw it on the skip as his wife Amy advises, he takes it home.

Ben does not want children, or even a job, and now he has found yet another reason for staying in his study and ignoring everyone.

It is only when Amy walks out that Ben realises he has alienated all the human beings in his life. He now has one friend left.

This is the story of a unique relationship, and how one man opens his heart to a past he did not want, and a future he cannot lose.

 

A Robot In The Garden will be published by Doubleday on 23rd April.

 

I approached A Robot In The Garden with a completely blank slate. I did not read the plot synopsis in order to allow me to discover the story for myself – I had initially thought the title sounded fun and I really liked the cover art.

At the end of the book I had enjoyed a story which was nothing like the tale I had expected but it was a story which had made me smile as I read it and kept me entertained throughout. Definite positives.

We follow the story of Ben, he seems to be sleepwalking through life and does not realise that his career and his marriage are slipping away from him. One morning he looks out of his window to see A Robot In The Garden. As the story is set in a world where androids and synthetic life forms are a part of daily life a robot is not an un-natural phenomenon, however, this particular robot is boxy, clunky and quite unique.

After Ben fails in his initial attempts to engage with the Robot (named Tang) Ben’s wife, Amy, decides she has had enough and walks out. With only the quirky robot for company Ben resolves to find where Tang came from and, more importantly find how to repair some of Tang’s ailing components.

This is essentially a story of friendship. Ben has to find a way to manage Tang’s unpredictability and socialise him so that he can be trusted in polite company. Tang, for the most part, behaves with the attention span of a toddler and the ‘sleekit’ cunning of a manipulative child. Parents of young children will be able to relate to some of the awkward situations that Ben finds himself in.

In brief: not my normal type of book but an engaging story. I have seen comparisons to the Paddington Movie – a vulnerable character who is amusingly out of his comfort zone. I also found it similar to last year’s Waiting For Doggo, given how well Doggo fared this should bode well for Tang!

Finally Tang is described throughout the book yet in my mind he always looked (and sounded) like Johnny Five from the 1980’s Short Circuit films. I loved those films!

If you happen to find A Robot In The Garden do the right thing and give it a good home.

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January 21

Golden Son – Pierce Brown

Golden Son‘I’m still playing games. This is just the deadliest yet.

Darrow is a rebel forged by tragedy. For years he and his fellow Reds worked the mines, toiling to make the surface of Mars inhabitable. They were, they believed, mankind’s last hope. Until Darrow discovered that it was all a lie, and that the Red were nothing more than unwitting slaves to an elitist ruling class, the Golds, who had been living on Mars in luxury for generations.

In RED RISING, Darrow infiltrated Gold society, to fight in secret for a better future for his people. Now fully embedded amongst the Gold ruling class, Darrow continues his dangerous work to bring them down from within. It’s a journey that will take him further than he’s ever been before – but is Darrow truly willing to pay the price that rebellion demands?

Hic sunt leones.

 

Thanks to Hodder and Bookbridgr for my review copy

Last year I reviewed Red Rising – the first in Pierce Brown’s Red Rising Trilogy. It was a stand out book for me, one of the best I had read for quite a few years and it made me crave more fantasy novels (a genre I have kept away from in recent years). More specifically, however, Red Rising made me crave a novel called Golden Son –the sequel to Red Rising.

On the plus side, I was quite late to the party for Red Rising so the wait for Golden Son was not too long to bear, the wait for the third novel may seem eternal though. The reason for my impatience is that Golden Son is majestic and finishes with such a climax that there was almost a howl of frustration as I read the last page. Few authors have ever managed to evoke such a sense of anticipation from me.

As Golden Son is the second in a trilogy it is necessary to have read Red Rising. Darrow, Mustang and their allies are back. However, so too are Darrow’s enemies – and there are many of them. The alliances which were established in Red Rising are tested time and again in Golden Son. The stakes have been raised and Darrow cannot be sure who to trust as he battles for his position in the ranks of the Golds and battles for his life as others plot against him.

Having reached an elevated position at the end of Red Rising we rejoin Darrow just as his status is facing its greatest challenge. The privileges he has enjoyed are to be taken away from him when he falls victim to a very public failure. His secret mission (set by the anarchist group Sons of Ares) may become unachievable if he cannot find a way to restore his position, however, Darrow is to find that it is not easy rebuilding a reputation when you fall so far from grace.

If I tried to outline some of the highlights from Golden Son I would be here for days. If I tried to explain some of the plot I would run the risk of revealing spoilers. What I am comfortable revealing is that Golden Son is bigger, louder and more staggering than Red Rising and I absolutely loved it.

Pierce Brown has created a phenomenal story. It is action packed, political, shocking and engaging. A must read masterpiece!

It may only be January but I think I have already read one of my favourite books of the year.

So it was 5/5 for Red Rising and now 5/5 for Golden Son – Pierce Brown is now scoring a perfect 10. Bring on the finale!

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January 15

No Other Darkness – Sarah Hilary

No Other DarknessTwo young boys.
Trapped underground in a bunker.
Unable to understand why they are there.
Desperate for someone to find them.
Slowly realising that no-one will…
Five years later, the boys’ bodies are found and the most difficult case of DI Marnie Rome’s career begins.
Her only focus is the boys. She has to find out who they are and what happened to them.

For Marnie, there is no other darkness than this…

 

Thanks to Sarah Hilary and Elizabeth Masters at Headline for my review copy.

 

Last year Sarah Hilary introduced us to DI Marnie Rome in her debut novel Someone Else’s Skin. I was a big fan of this dark (and frequently disturbing) thriller. It also contained my standout scene of the year – read my review here:

Now Marnie Rome is back and Sarah Hilary has knocked it out of the park for us yet again. Marnie and her colleague DS Noah Jake make their return in No Other Darkness, another story that will entertain and unsettle in equal measure.

The story opens with Marnie and Noah called in to investigate a chilling discovery: the bodies of two young boys which were hidden in a bunker that was concealed under the garden of a suburban housing scheme. There are no clues within the bunker as to the identity of the boys so where does Marnie start? How could two children just disappear without anyone noticing or reporting them missing?

For this reader there was an added element of discomfort in reading the opening pages of No Other Darkness as my own children (also boys) are the same age as the boys in the bunker. It is not often I am unsettled while reading fiction yet for the second book in a row it seems Sarah Hilary has managed to mess with my head!

Marnie’s investigations progress and as she starts to draw closer to identifying the children the readers get to understand why the boys were in the bunker and, crucially, why they were not let back out again. Sarah Hilary is able to keep the story flowing at a great pace and I found that I did not want to stop reading, there was a necessity to see where the story was going.

I previously alluded to Someone Else’s Skin having a standout moment – this was a scene where my understanding of the story turned out to be completely incorrect and everything changed. In No Other Darkness a similar sucker-punch arises where a murder investigation suddenly becomes <REDACTED>. Sorry, but you will have to read for yourself to discover what lies in store.

Having tackled domestic violence in her first book and now the deaths of young children in her second novel I am almost scared to consider what may be next from Sarah Hilary. I could almost believe she has a Big Book of Horrible Things and is working her way through the nastiest of the concepts just to un-nerve her readers. She is doing a great job!

Back to No Other Darkness and outwith the investigations we get to learn a bit more about Marnie and DS Jake. For Marnie there are insights into her history when a former lover appears on the scene. He is a reporter and is offering to share information (on his own terms).

Yet I felt that within No Other Darkness there was more focus on Noah Jake and I believe that we got a better look into his background and some of the problems that he has overcome. I also noticed a greater focus on some of Marnie’s other colleagues, more so than had been present in Someone Else’s Skin. I am hoping that Sarah Hilary is planning much more from Marnie and her team.

A tricky review in that there are several key elements of the plot that I am keen not to discuss so that I can avoid revealing any spoilers. Worry not, however, as this is a brilliant crime thriller and there are twists and scares a-plenty.

For fans of Someone Else’s Skin you can rest assured that No Other Darkness is of an equally high quality. Sarah Hilary writes dark and engrossing stories – everyone needs to read them.

Review scored at 4.5 out of 5 – compelling yet unsettling.

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January 8

Hellbound – David McCaffrey

hellboundHis crimes – unforgivable. His death – inevitable. His suffering – just beginning.

Obadiah Stark aka The Tally Man, is executed at ADX Absolom, his death sentence watched by the world’s media, victim relatives and one investigative reporter, Joe O Connell. Penning an account of Stark’s personal history and subsequent crimes in the hope of determining what elements make the sociopathic mind tick, Joe discovers clues and inconsistencies which cause him to investigate Stark’s execution.

While this is happening in the real world, Obadiah Stark awakens to an afterlife where he has a wife and daughter bound to his childhood hometown. Following his natural predatory instinct, Obadiah proceeds to torment the town, committing multiple murders before being gunned down by the police.

He awakens to find that everything has reset, with no one recalling his murderous spree a reality which offers no escape. As the scenes repeat, he is forced to submit to emotions he has never experienced before…and with it, a poisonous dose of morality.

 

Thank you to the Crime Book Club for giving me the chance to host this leg of the Hellbound Blog Tour and to David McCaffrey for providing a copy of Hellbound for review.

Joe O’Connell is a journalist writing a book about a serial killer – Obadiah Stark. Hellbound opens with Joe attending Stark’s execution. We are left in no doubt that Stark is a cold and unrepentant killer and that nobody will mourn his passing. The execution proceeds (no last minute reprieves) and Stark is gone.

Joe intends for his book to cover Stark’s crimes and he hopes that the families of Stark’s victims will help with his research. He stands a good chance of gaining their support as Joe has made a commitment not to sensationalise the murders committed by Obadiah Stark. It becomes clear that there is a symmetry here with Hellbound; David McCaffrey also chooses not to depict Stark’s crimes (over 20 murders) into a gore-fest tale aimed to shock the reader, instead he adopts a much more clever approach…I shall explain.

The narrative of Hellbound can broadly be broken down into three distinct sections. One section takes the form of clinical notes or reports upon Stark’s movements and interactions (including the killings) which are described in precise and factual detail. I found this unusual approach to be a really effective way of establishing the dispassionate and brutal nature of the killer.

The second narrative stream follows Joe. His quest to get to the heart of the Obadiah Stark story brings him into contact with the family members of Stark’s victims, prison employees and even another writer that wants to assist Joe with his work. Yet the deeper he digs the more he becomes convinced that the execution did not progress quite as it should have.

Now we get to the third of the key narrative streams – that of Obadiah Stark himself. Stark remembers his life, his crimes and even his execution…yet how is this possible if he died?

Stark has awoken in a town he remembers from his childhood yet he is now married, has a child and seems not to have spent the last years of his life in a remote island prison. Confused and angry Stark commits some very public murders and is gunned down by the police. The next day he awakes and finds that everything has been reset as if nothing ever happened. I must confess at this stage of reading that I had no idea what was going on and the words ‘Groundhog Day’ were zooming around my head.

From this point on David McCaffrey takes the readers on a fascinating journey. First the investigation: O’Connell is pursuing a story as he is sure the prison are hiding something following Stark’s execution.   Alongside is the unexplained mystery: Stark seems to be living in a dreamlike world where he is self-aware yet nobody knows he is one of the most infamous killers the world has seen.

I was compelled to keep reading as I simply had to find out what was happening! Fortunately this was no chore: the story progresses at a nice pace (crucially there was never any feeling of plot padding) and there plenty of twists to hold my attention.

Throughout the story you find that the morality of the Death Penalty will arise but the reader has to form their own opinion as to whether it is appropriate punishment for Stark. I can see a reading group having a ball with that one! I believe some readers may start to feel sorry for Stark, others most certainly will not – huge plaudits to Mr McCaffrey for tackling such an emotive issue and pitching it perfectly.

By the end of Hellbound I was willing the story to go on. I hope that I am right in my guess that David McCaffrey has not finished will all the characters he introduced in Hellbound – there was a very real feeling that <REDACTED> was being set up for a sequel.

Hellbound is a book that deserves to be read – a clever thriller, well written and extremely enjoyable.

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January 8

Hellbound Blog Tour – David McCaffrey Q&A

Hellbound Blog Tour

As part of the Hellbound Blog Tour I am delighted to be able to welcome David McCaffrey to Grab This Book.

David very kindly agreed to answer a few of my questions surrounding his debut novel, Hellbound, and has also given me an insight into his own reading preferences.

As I had the opportunity, I also tried to squeeze a little extra information from him regarding what may come next for the Hellbound cast – there is good news on that front as you will see…

So with my profound thanks to David I opened with an ‘easy’ one:

 

Why do you think we (as readers) enjoy serial killer stories given the reality is such a horrific concept?

I think we’re fascinated with the concept of absolute evil and how someone can become so devoid of empathy and remorse. There could be many reasons for this fascination…it is because we feel sorry for the events that lead them to become that way? Is it because we sometimes see aspects of ourselves in their character? It’s acknowledged that you cannot have good without evil, light without darkness.  And because of this, as readers, we find ourselves eager to see what horrific acts characters can get up to and what will be done to defeat them.

After all, are they not the more interesting? We seek to find those moments where we can feel affinity with the shadier side of human nature because, as a contradiction, it also makes us feel safe. We know that evil is simply an excuse for unacceptable behaviour and that, if the surface of it is scratched, like a poorly rendered wall it will crumble away.

I think we’ll always find evil personable because at its core, we need to believe that there is more to it than simply basic desire to cause harm and that such characters are more complex than that. That good and evil are but two sides of the same coin. As Obadiah Stark tells Father Hicks prior to his execution “Evil is simply live spelt backwards.”

 

I am keen to avoid spoilers, however, within Hellbound a group called The Brethren feature on occasion. I loved the premise of The Brethren is there any chance they may feature in a subsequent title?

Absolutely!! I am currently working on a Hellbound novella titled ‘In Extremis’ which deals with the birth of The Brethren and how their journey began utilising a famous character from history (alluded to at the end of Hellbound!!). They initially see themselves as altruistic, but as history has often illustrated, our most famous despots and totalitarian literary creations often start believing they’re righteous in their quest. As to whether they are right or wrong, that’s for the reader to decide!

 

Joe O’Connell is the primary character within Hellbound (other than Stark). Do you see Joe’s Story as having reached a natural conclusion or would you consider bringing him back?

I have a beat sheet for a follow up to Hellbound, and Joe is integral to the plot but not the main character. You rightly point out that his story does reach a natural end point, but as to whether he still has a part to play, that would be telling!

 

Within the story O’Connell is writing a book which reflects the story of Stark without sensationalising his crimes. I felt that Hellbound also took this approach, murders are detailed but not in a tone which may convey ‘schlock horror’ was this an intentional symmetry?

It was. When writing it, I had two rules I made integral to his character. One, he couldn’t do anything sexually violent towards women (or men for that matter) and two, he couldn’t harm children in anyway. My justification for this was simple; as odious and evil a character as I made him, if he broke either of those two rules then the reader would never be able to sympathise with him, no matter the extent of his suffering. At the end I don’t expect the audience to like him, as I made him intensely dislikeable on purpose, but I made him dislikeable within the parameters of his own morality. By doing this, readers can hopefully sympathise with his plight and not feel guilty for feeling sorry for such an evil individual. Because ultimately, Obadiah’s journey throughout Hellbound does suck ever so slightly.

 

Stark’s crimes were split between Ireland and the US? Have you visited the areas depicted (or how did you come to select the regions you used)?

I have been to both countries (my Dad’s family are from Kerry)…I love Ireland and would live there one day if circumstances allow. The reason I chose Ireland for the supermax, ADX Absolom, was because The Blasket Islands are extremely desolate (Ryan’s Daughter was filmed there) and it seemed a haunting and lonely place to build a prison with only Artic Terns for company. I also wanted to play a little with convention and set it somewhere other than the United States. Having Obadiah emigrate there and ultimately return home seemed to lend the narrative a slightly cyclic feel in regards to his rationale for choosing to his victims.

 

On a more personal level, what do you enjoy reading? Who do you consider to be your favourite authors?

I’m pretty eclectic when it comes to reading! I enjoy thrillers, the occasional horror story, biographies, science fiction. I recently read I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes which is one of the best thrillers I have read in a long time. John Grisham, Steve Alten, George R. R. Martin, Stephen King are probably my all-time favourite authors, but I do enjoy Stephen Leather’s Jack Nightingale books and anything by Lee Child (then again, doesn’t most of the world!!). Two of the most exciting books I recently read were The Willow Tree by Bekki Pate and The Element Order by P.S Ferns, two fellow authors whom I know and who have crafted really stunning debut novels…worth checking out!

 

When do you find time to write?

Usually on a night when my children have gone to bed. I’ll spend an hour or so most days at the computer, but often I’ll have a random idea or thought about adding to a chapter and say to Kelly ‘I’m just going to write this up before I forget’ and disappear for a few hours!

 

What comes next for David McCaffrey?

I have the Hellbound prequel drafted and am in the process of editing, I have two beat sheets completed; one for a Hellbound sequel and one for an completely unrelated title about a deadly infection with the working title ‘Pathogenicity’ (working in Infection Control and the currently Ebola concerns, it now seems appropriate!!). I have a few other ideas floating about in drafts that I’m always toying with. At the moment I’m just so pleased people seem to be enjoying Hellbound! I always knew it was a hard sell, but that if people gave it a chance they’ll find it’s something a little different and not quite what they expect…which seems to be the case!!!

 

My thanks to David and to Crime Book Club (@crimebookclub).

The tour concludes tomorrow (Jan 10th) at tigerlilybooks76@blogspot.com

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