Saturday, April 24, 2010

Skin by Mo Hayder

Skin by Mo Hayder

DI Jack Caffery and police diver Flea Marley are back to help solve another mystery. Skin takes place less than a week after Hayder's previous Caffery/Marley book Ritual. The two characters are still trying to get over the disturbing things they saw at their last crime scene when they are called to find the missing wife of a celebrity. While Marley does a dive to try and find her body, Caffery gets sidetracked with a suicide that just doesn't feel right. After following up with the medical examiner, Caffery starts treating the case as a murder but questions whether it has anything to do with the case Marley and he were working on earlier in the week.

After not finding the celebrities' wife in the grotto, Marley heads home and is forced to deal with her brother's mess after a drinking and driving incident. There's a real question of right vs wrong and how far Marley can push her moral boundary. I got quickly wrapped up in Marley's story, which I found to move much quicker than the case Caffery was working on.

True to Hayder style, this book was a page turner. While Hayder usually writes stories that make your skin crawl, Skin was tamer than usual and would appeal to a wider audience.

There was a two book phase where Caffery became really weird and I wasn't sure if I liked him anymore or not but he seemed to be back on track this novel. He's a smart guy and isn't the typical 'do-gooder' that other fictional detectives are. Caffery has his flaws and grapples with his history constantly.

All of the previous Caffery novels I've found could stand alone, but the reader would benefit from having read Ritual before reading Skin. The case from Ritual is mentioned and some of the suspects from that case make re-appearances in this novel.

As always, I'm looking forward to Hayder's next novel!

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First Line: "Human skin is an organ."


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Shiny Water by Anna Salter

Shiny Water by Anna Salter

Michael Stone is a psychologist that specializes in helping battered women and children get past their issues and determining if children are being sexually abused. When she (yes, Michael is a female name in this book) determines that the two children in the middle of a custody case are being sexually abused by their father, she doesn't look forward to testifying in court. Unfortunately the case doesn't end the way she would like but soon after both the children are murdered. At first, everyone suspects the mother but things seem to point towards her too easily. Stone gets insight from sadistic inmates that she talks to in prison to help her determine if she missed anything in examination and if not, who exactly killed those two children?

It took me about 40 pages to figure out whether the main character was a female or male and what her name was. In the end, I looked at the back of the book to help me figure it out. Surely this should be one of the most important things a writer needs to communicate at the beginning of a book?

I found that there were parts of this book that was kind of pointless. When Stone was meeting with inmates that were child predators, the knowledge she gained from those conversations and the arguments she had with the people there felt like an afterthought in the book.

This book was an easy read. You could easily figure out who the murderer was. This is the first book in the series and I don't think I would actively look for the next in the series.

First Line: "I don't think most people's reaction to finding a dead body on a dock would be to call their kid to come look at it."



Saturday, April 10, 2010

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Historical Fiction

During the reign of King Henry VIII, there was one very influential figure that played a prominent role in the crowning of Queen Anne Boleyn: Thomas Cromwell. Wolf Hall focuses on Cromwell's background and his time at court during the height of the Boleyn rule. There's a large cast of characters to explain how Cromwell went from being the son of an abusive blacksmith, to a soldier for the French, to a money trader, to an adviser of Cardinal Wolsley, to finally one of the most powerful men in England.

It's hard to tell how much of this novel is from actual accounts and how much is made up, but Mantel does a good job of portraying Cromwell as a brilliant, yet emotionally distant man. Cromwell obviously cares strongly for his family but he finds a way to detach himself from work. You can't help but think that if Cromwell lived in current times he would be one of the guys that gets away with the downfall of a major company like Enron or AIG because of his mischievous ways.

Due to the fact that there are so many characters in this novel, if you have a background in the area (my background was only watching The Tudors and having read another book or two in the same time) you'll find things much easier to remember. Even with some knowledge of the characters, I still found it hard to determine who was speaking to who and what subject they were talking about. For this reason, it took quite a while for me to get into the book.

The book goes up to Thomas More's trial for refusing to take an oath of Boleyn's heirs and that Katherine was no longer Queen. I would have liked it to go up to Cromwell's downfall, and think it could have if it hadn't dwelled on less important points. When I picked this book up I was really looking forward to it but overall found it mildly disappointing.

First Line: "So now get up"



Thursday, April 08, 2010

A Long Way Gone

A Long Way Long by Ishmael Beah

Ishmael is a normal 12 year old boy getting into mischief and learning dances moves to hip hop music. When he travels to a near-by village for a dance competition, the rebels hit his home town. What follows is an extraordinary journey. The boys return home after a harrowing trip to find nothing left and no signs of their parents. They, then start a journey to try and find them.

The boys are looked on very suspiciously as that is how the rebels travel and the rebels destroy everything in their path. It is very hard to find a roof over their heads let alone something to eat. For months Ishmael travels having many close calls with the rebels and eventually losing his brother and other comrades. He ends up in a village controlled by the army and giving the inhabitants a small measure of security.

After losing too many militia to the rebels the army tells the villagers to either join them or leave. Ishamel joins and is soon caught up in the anger and violence of the army and the drugs the army provides to deaden what the boys are required to do.

One day the UN comes to the village and seems to buy some of the boy soldiers. They take them back to Freetown to a compound for rehabilitation. It is a long and drawn out procedure with much patience shown by the UN staff. Ishmael, eventually becomes a human rights advocate for children.

This book was very illuminating. Ishmael has had to endure experiences no child should even come close to. I, too, found the ending abrupt and wished the story had been extended a bit. This is such a powerful story of how one can turn hate and violence into something positive.

First Line: "There are all kinds of stories told about the war that made it sound as if it were happening in a faraway and different land."