Review of The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse – 3 Stars

The Winter GhostsThe Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Most people will like Kate Mosse from her novel Labyrinth and whilst I loved that novel I must admit this one didn’t wow me. For a start the majority of people that see ghost in a book title and the tagline “Do you believe in ghosts?” will possibly feel a little cheated. So, this is your warning, the ghost element of this book is pretty lacking. There is certainly no fear factor and limited ‘ghostly’ atmosphere (in my opinion).

However, the story isn’t bad. Young guy, grieving, previous mental breakdown, crashes in a snowstorm in the Pyrenees mountains. Gets rescued and taken to an isolated village where everything is not quite as it seems. Not to mention mysterious caves in the mountains that haven’t been accessed for a number of years. Sounds good right?

The Winter Ghosts - cover

The cover from my copy

So, trying to figure out why I didn’t love this story, I think there were a couple of reasons:

  • The writing was very slow. It felt like the reader had to wade through several pages to mine a nugget of story out. In fact, the book could probably have been a fair bit shorter and would have been much better for it.
  • The novel was full of melancholy and there were very few areas of light to be found in the pages.
  • There was no wow factor. I kept waiting for something unpredictable, some kind of plot twist, something I’d overlooked to come back to light, but it never arrived. That very thing that keeps you reading just never happened so it left me feeling a little deflated and unrewarded as I had ploughed my way through the book to the end.

I didn’t give this a 1 star, so here is what I liked about the book.

  • The time hop between 14th century period with Cathars/fear and the 20th century with the after-effects of the world war/grief storyline was nicely handled between the two periods.

 

  • The location was brilliantly described and intriguing. Isolated villages, snow-covered mountain and unexplored caves. It’s really made me want to visit the region.
  • The story behind The Winter Ghosts is really insightful and describes what inspired Mosse. I am quite intrigued by a couple of un-reads on her suggested reading list.The Winter Ghosts - suggested reading

Overall, not great but not bad either.
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The Winter Ghosts behind the scenes

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Review of Dolly by Susan Hill – 3 stars

DollyDolly by Susan Hill

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am a big fan of Susan Hill. Her horror stories are incredible. Her story “Black Sheep” (which is not a horror story) is probably one of the best novellas I have ever read. In that vein, it probably seems like I am giving this book a poor score and it’s not that, it’s just so many of her other books are so much better…that this one felt a little flat and a little disappointing.

Firstly, this book is a real slow burner. Susan Hill’s writing is great but the pace in this novel is just so painfully slow. Stuff just takes a long time to happen. When it gets going there are creepy moments that Hill does best, it just takes its time to build up. Here is a sneaky little extract:

“The doll cried for a fourth night and this time he climbed up to the shelf and took it down. It lay in its box, stiff and still, looking like a body in a coffin. And realising that, he knew what he should do.”

The story primarily follows Edward, an orphaned little boy sent to live with his elderly aunt. His spoilt cousin Leonora also stays at the house. Edward spends most of his time torn between wishing to play with his intimidating cousin and staying out of her way in case she is in one of her moods. Then his cousin gets a gift of a doll, when the doll is not the beautiful doll she dreams of Leonora’s attitude goes from bad to worse. At the same time, strange things happen around the house. When Edward returns as an adult following his aunt’s death he is reminded of several things he had tried to forget.

This book really does have all the ingredients for a great horror story; creepy house in the middle of nowhere, elderly isolated aunt, orphan unwanted child and of course the doll. Whilst there where some really enjoyable moments like the quote above the overall effect of the story just didn’t leave me thrilled.

If you have read Susan Hill’s other works this probably isn’t going to be a great read for you. However, if you are new to Susan Hill you will probably enjoy this introduction to her writing.

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Review of Hiss & Hers by M.C. Beaton – 3 Stars

Hiss and Hers (Agatha Raisin, #23)Hiss and Hers by M.C. Beaton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Agatha is a little too keen on gardener George (as are many of the woman in the village) but when his body is discovered in a compost heap with a bag over his head that has recently contained a poisonous snake, it is a little too late for the romance to kindle. Instead Agatha and her team through their efforts together to help track the killer.
I am always unsure whether to leave a neutral/negative review of a book or not. My reading interests are quite far and wide and often enjoyment of a book is down to personal taste but I thought I should leave this review for others as I feel as a fan of MC Beaton a little let down. I adore her Hamish series and although never quite as fond of the Agatha series they are normally still an enjoyable light read.

So…onto the negative(s)
The murderer was pretty obvious (to me) from the beginning and there was very little in the way of the usual plot twists and misdirects. It left me feeling a little flat instead of that usual intrigue to get to the end.
The actual writing/language within this book was often quite plain and boring, not as dynamic as it has been in the Hamish series or even earlier Agatha R books. I didn’t really feel as though I got swept up in the characters and their misdemeanours as I normally would.

However… there are still positives.
Some sections of the book are very humorous and very enjoyable.
The use of Agatha’s colleagues (Toni, Simon, Phil and Patrick) and their concern for her (and the trouble she gets herself into) is a lovely dynamic and it’s nice that these characters have featured a little bit more, especially the use of Toni’s sleuthing skills.

For those that haven’t read any MC Beaton, think a jollier version of Agatha Christie’s work. The Hamish series is far better, so I’d recommend you start there. But overall this book was enjoyable, just not as good as the others.

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Review of The Last Sherlock Holmes Story by Michael Dibdin – 3 Stars

The Last Sherlock Holmes StoryThe Last Sherlock Holmes Story by Michael Dibdin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hmmm… I am not sure what to make of this book – I have read other reviews and well they are very mixed and that is my opinion of this book – mixed.

There was parts I thought were great. Holmes as narrator was particularly well written and I actually enjoyed the locations and the time period. I actually really liked the concept of this book with Sherlock on the hunt for Jack the Ripper and trying to decipher if Jack was actually arch-nemesis Moriarty.

Onto the bad, I did feel the detective’s classic sleuthing was glanced over. I missed the dry sarcasm that is associated with Holmes, apart from one paragraph criticising Doyle’s interpretation of a Holmes case at the beginning this wit was missing during the book. Towards the end I must admit I did stop enjoying the plot of the novel to some extent, it’s difficult to go into details without giving away the plot but I was a little disappointed.

It was a short-novel and quite easy to read in one or two sittings. The writing was good, the characters were mostly kept true to form, the time-period was really well adhered to and the concept was excellent. A good attempt at a classic. Good for a short quick read, not the book for a die-hard Holmes fan.

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Review of Rush of Blood by Mark Billingham

Rush of BloodRush of Blood by Mark Billingham
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

While on vacation a young girl goes missing and later turns up murdered. Three couples who met while on holiday all appear to have nothing to hide and nothing to do with the crime. But as each person is questioned, gaps in their stories appear. Could one of them have committed the unthinkable? If so, which one.
The concept of this book was great and I thought it would be a great read. I like Mark Billingham’s writing style, it is quick paced and adapts well to each characters side of the story. Although I couldn’t decide if it was deliberate choice of the writer or not, but none of the characters in this book were likeable and although I kept reading to the end it was out of determination more than enjoyment. I got to the point where I really didn’t care which of them it was!
I couldn’t help thinking this could have been a much more interesting story. It had a solid foundation and a lot of quirky little details that could have really brought it terrifyingly to life, any one of these people could be your neighbour, co-worker or even friend. However it started to feel dull and repetitive, it took quite a long time for any interesting details to be revealed, in fact throughout most of the middle of the story not a lot really happened.
This story had a great concept and I think it could have been excellent – Linwood Barclay has written similar storylines that have worked out very well. However the characters weren’t great with no-one to really champion or care about.
Bit of a disappointment (from a Mark Billingham fan). All round okay read but could have been great!

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Review of Three Twisted Stories by Karin Slaughter

Three Twisted Stories: Go Deep, Necessary Women, Remmy Rothstein Toes the LineThree Twisted Stories: Go Deep, Necessary Women, Remmy Rothstein Toes the Line by Karin Slaughter

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This ebook does what it says on the tin, it tells three (very) twisted stories. As a big fan of the Grant County & Atlanta series of novels Slaughter writes I was very much looking forward to this collection. However, buyer beware these stories are nothing like the Atlanta/Grant County crime series
These books are incredibly well written, they are faced paced, character dialogue is great and the settings fit superbly with the stories. The characters are also quite interesting and intriguing.
For me these tales were just a little too weird and not what I was expecting from a Slaughter Book. They weren’t awful, far from it, just not as good as the Atlanta/Grant County crime series.

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