Review of Deadlight Hall by Sarah Rayne (Nell West #5) – 5 Stars

Deadlight Hall (Nell West/Michael Flint #5)Deadlight Hall by Sarah Rayne

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This novel continues as entry #5 in the Nell West series and we catch up with Nell and Michael a little after the events of “The Whispering”. In this story, Michael takes the forefront of the strange circumstances with Nell becoming more of the second character and completing the secondary research investigation role. I really enjoyed the author’s ability to switch back and forth making two strong protagonists, that’s strengths differ and keep the series fresh and alive.

In this novel, Rayne also continues along the war theme, this time it is Nazi Germany that is the focus. To be honest the book blurb captures the essence of this story better than I could word it: Leo Rosendale’s childhood was blighted by a macabre tragedy in the grim Deadlight Hall – twin girls vanished, their fate never discovered. What took place there, one long-ago midnight? Michael and his fiancée Nell are unprepared for the shocking truth.

The historical sections of this novel really stand out, very well researched and enjoyable. The novel takes us through various histories of Deadlight hall from the 1870s, the 1940s war evacuation, and then into modern times. The story from Leo’s childhood being the most dramatic of the three storylines. I absolutely love the description of the old house and the wartime era, rules and superstitions captured in this novel really made the storyline vivid.

I think Rayne has done a great job of developing Michael and Nell’s personal relationship too. For returning readers it is handled very well and the progression can be seen, but it’s also not distracting and confusing for first-time readers. Although I would recommend reading the series in order, I think the users could read out of order without too much of a worry. For those that haven’t discovered the Nell West collection, I would suggest these novels are quite similarly written to Phil Rickman’s work; old story exposed, great characters and slightly eerie.

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Review of The Silence by Sarah Rayne (Nell West #3)– 4 Stars

The SilenceThe Silence by Sarah Rayne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nell West returns in another historical mystery. In this novel Nell is invited to Stilter House to catalogue its contents. Nell takes her daughter Beth along with her as it was Beth’s deceased fathers childhood summer home. Immediately Nell gets entangled in uncovering the past and the truth about the mysterious Isobel Acton.
This story is the third in the Nell West series and differs from the previous Nell West novels in that the historical plot is mostly revealed through the use of old documents, letters, diaries and the odd newspaper cutting. I think this format worked really well and was very intriguing as a reader to follow.
For me, Rayne’s writing really shines during the historical timeline. Edmund and his relationship with his father is brilliantly described and very believable. The characters Jack and Samuel were also really interesting and how each character’s story knitted together was brilliantly tantalising right the way through the story.
As with all Sarah Rayne’s books I have read, the settings and atmosphere are excellently written and the reader can’t help but be absorbed into the dark and mysterious environments.
The only minor downside in this novel was the modern storyline takes a very minimalist approach with Nell only really being there to discover the historic story. I do think Nell and Michael are both really great characters and would have liked a little more of them in this book (particularly Michael who was so interesting in the Sin Eater).
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. As a few others have mentioned it did take a little longer to get into that previous books by Sarah Rayne but I think that was mostly due to the historic storyline being revealed in a different manner. Once you get into it though, it is really intriguing and I must say I really enjoyed the outcome.
For those that haven’t discovered the Nell West collection, I would suggest these novels are quite similarly written to Phil Rickman’s work; old story exposed, great characters and slightly eerie. 
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Review of The Sin Eater by Sarah Rayne – 5 stars

The Sin EaterThe Sin Eater by Sarah Rayne

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the second of the Nell West series by Sarah Rayne (Property of a Lady being the first) and whilst they still have the historical fiction and modern day interlinked storylines that Rayne seems to do brilliantly, they aren’t quite as dark and unnerving as her standalone novels (such as House of the Lost). I did make the mistake of not reading the stories in the correct order and whilst this doesn’t detract too much from the story as it’s quite strong on its own, I do wish I had read them in the correct order as I think the character development of Nell and Michael is such a good minor storyline and would have been better to have read it in the correct order.

In the modern storyline we go with antiques dealer Nell to a Large London house. We meet troubled Benedict Doyle who has inherited the house from his great-grandfather. Benedict finds the house the house disturbing and soon finds himself having troubled dreams featuring the previous occupant, but the events he is dreaming about seem so real. When these dream events are revealed to Michael Flint (Oxford Don who featured in the first novel), his interest is piqued and he starts to research the historical facts behind Benedict’s dreams.

The second storyline for me, made this novel and is why I’ve given it five stars. The story follows Declan and Colm whom move from their Irish home to London city and get caught up in a situation and a world that they never expected to find themselves in.

Other reviewers have complained that Rayne’s writing style has changed with the Nell West series and whilst I agree she has reduced a lot of the darker elements of her writing, I think if anything she has increased the mystery elements of these novels. The storylines are very sharp, intricate and clever, this one surrounds a chess piece yet it is so well written you cannot help but get swept up in the storyline.

I also think Rayne’s characters are evolving, in this novel you really feel sorry for Benedict; his mental condition and how he is suffering as he tries to split what is real from what is imaginary. I actually finished this book a little while ago but the story and characters still feel very vivid and I think that is a sign of how well the story has been told.

For those that haven’t discovered the Nell West collection, I would suggest these novels are quite similarly written to Phil Rickman’s work; old story exposed, great characters and slightly eerie.

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Book Review of The Ritual by Adam Nevill – 4 Stars

The RitualThe Ritual by Adam Nevill

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An atmospheric book about four old university friends who begrudgingly take a trip together to go hiking and camping in the Scandinavian wilderness of the Arctic Circle. The story is told from the viewpoint of Luke, who is looking forward to a trip with his old friend Hutch. Frustratingly Hutch invites two additional friends from the group Phil and Dom onto the trip. Immediately tensions have risen as Luke begins to analyse the friendships and the differences in each of their lives soon coming to the realisation they have little left in common. Eager to get the trip over and with the poor fitness level of Phil and Dom hindering progress, the group soon decide a shortcut is the best solution. Quickly the men are lost, isolated and terrified as the forest begins to unveil its strange secrets to the group.
This novel is very intriguing from the first page, and the old folklore of the forests is quite addictive. Nevill really ramps up the tension throughout and the forest atmosphere and “abandoned” building as a backdrop really help add to this. I did enjoy some of the challenges the group came across more than others but I did enjoy the overall story that was woven together. I think this book has such vivid story-telling it really could be a movie or even a TV series (although a heads up there is an odd gory scene but I do think it adds to the story unlike some other horrors).
Characterisation for me was the foundation of this novel. From the off the main character is a bit selfish, a bit irritating and quite ‘unfriendly’ despite being on holiday with friends. Yet you still feel sympathy for him, and his frustrations and of course his fear. You also sympathise for Hutch, playing peacekeeper of the group. You want the group to get out of the forest safe, yet you also want to find out what is after them.
A really great read that is certainly full of intrigue, horror and the unexpected. As other reviewers have said the first half of the book is so much stronger and scarier than the second, but I wouldn’t let this put you off as the second half of the story is still very good, it’s just that the first half is superb.
Very creepy book, along the lines of something James Herbert would write for those that enjoy his work.
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Secrets – #Writephoto

Rebecca stood alone in the room.

The dirt on the floor, the bare walls and the light streaming through the window faded into the background as images began to play to her.

A woman, like her.

Alone.

secrets-writephoto-image-by-sue-vincent

Secrets photo by Sue Vincent

 

Cowering in the corner of this very room.

Rags covering her frail body.

The window providing the only light in the room.

Yet her eyes shone.

Fear?

Or Madness?

As the images began to fade, Rebecca turned and left the room in search of her husband and the estate agent, she had decided to take the house.

She had to know its secrets.


Originally written in response to Sue Vincents #writephoto – Secrets. I’m a little rusty having missed a few challenges but I hope you enjoy anyway.
Use the image to create a post on your own blog… poetry, prose, humour… by noon (GMT) Wednesday and link back to Sue’s post with a pingback. KL❤

Review of The Guardians by Andrew Pyper – 4 Stars

The GuardiansThe Guardians by Andrew Pyper

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Trevor, Randy and Carl return to the small town they grew up in for the funeral of their friend Ben. They are surprised to find that Ben had become a recluse after they left town and spent most of his time watching over “Thurman House”. The house brings back tortured memories for the boys and they find themselves struggling over whether to confront their past or not, but after another friend goes missing the past can no longer stay hidden.

The story is told from the viewpoint of Trevor and his Dictaphone diary entries with occasional flashbacks to the boys’ childhood. This captures the story really well and Andrew manages to weave a lot of subtler subplots into the story, which really kept the suspense on top form. Trevor is a very likeable character. His journey to discover whether the house is haunted or if it’s all just his imagination brings out the strengths and flaws in his personality, but underlying throughout the difficult situation is his brotherhood “in-it-together-no-matter-what-happens” attitude.

Other reviewers have suggested this is similar to Stephen Kings writing and while at some of the more suspense-driven parts I can see this, for me it wasn’t scary. It wasn’t really a horror, the plot certainly had darker elements but there was very little fear factor. However, I enjoyed the mystery of the novel, and the friendships and relationships throughout.

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I would have preferred this book to be a little scarier (to be put in the same category as a Stephen King/James Herbert style horror) but it was an enjoyable read and I will look out for more works by Andrew Pyper.

A Girl in Every Town

I first saw her on the midway. Her laughter, her wild curly hair, everything about her drew me to her. As her friends started to leave one by one, I took my chance at the hook-a-duck stall. Standing beside her and the couple she was with I reached over and scooped the duck out the water and turned to catch her eye.

“Do you want this?” I said pointing towards the teddy the stallholder had handed me.

“It’s not doing much for my reputation.” She giggled and nodded taking the teddy from me. She indicated that her friends were moving on and I nodded standing awkwardly at the stall.hook-a-duck

“Do you want to come with us?” she asked and my heart fluttered. We spent the next moving from ride to ride. Her couple friend and us making a perfect foursome. My favourite moment being alone on the love train as we entered into the darker tunnel she leaned into me and I caught the scent of raspberry that lingered in her hair. Walking to the gate I asked if I could see her again, she nodded and said we could meet back at the hook-a-duck tomorrow. I smiled and watched her leave, then turned to go to my trailer.

The next day my world sank as I was told this was the last night in town. We were to pack up after the show and move on to the next town. All day I mopped while doing my chores, I couldn’t leave without her. As day turned to night I toured the grounds over and over keeping an eye out for her, hoping I hadn’t misplaced my trust to her. As it got dark I made my way once again to walk passed the hook-a-duck, where my heart skipped as I saw the mass of curls standing at the stall. As I approached, she smiled at me causing my voice to catch in my throat. She held up the little teddy I had given her the night before, she had brought it back.

“I’m so pleased you came back.” She nodded and pointed to the love train. I understood and we made her way arm in arm towards it. In the darkness, I saw her eyes glistening and took the opportunity to kiss her. She was hesitant then kissed back, my whole body filled with warmth. We walked towards my caravan, I told her that I must leave tomorrow, she began to cry saying she didn’t want me to leave her. I nodded to reassure her but I knew she wouldn’t be leaving me.

That night as I helped the team clear the remains of the carnival, I walked towards Jack that ran the hook-a-duck and handed him the teddy. “I’m sorry mate, did this one not work out either?” I nodded sullenly. “Maybe in the next town, lad.” He said reassuringly. “Only if the perfect girl is there.” I said and smiled. That night I slept soundly as the train moved to the next town. Wrapped inside my pillow was a perfect raspberry scented curl.


Originally written using the prompt “I first saw her on the midway” featured on the blog propellant. Check them out for inspirational prompts to keep you writing. My random number is 27.