Review of The Mermaid’s Scream – 4 Stars

The Mermaid’s Scream by Kate Ellis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Premise: This is book 21 in the DI Wesley Peterson Crime Series. This story centres around the mysterious figure of Wynn Staniland, an enigma of the literary world. After his wife’s unusual death Wynn stopped producing novels and retreated from the literary limelight, now many years later a biographer set to publish Wynn’s story disappears. Bodies begin to stack up in the area with their only commonality being a connection to Staniland.

In the historical timeline, Neil Watson of the County Archaeological Unit is dealing with his own mystery, the death of Mary Field and a gruesome retelling of her story from the nineteenth century which fascinated Victorian taste for grim tales.

I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

Wesley recognised the object in her hand as a driving license.
‘Maybe he found it.’
‘There was money too.’
‘How much?’
‘Thirty pounds. I know he didn’t have that much. Look at the name on the licence: Zac Wilkinson. I went to that talk he gave last week. Remember? Didn’t you say he was missing?’
Wesley caught his breath as she handed him the license. The picture stared out at him. Wynn Staniland’s biographer; the man who’d failed to turn up at Neston Library.
‘I’d better have a word with Michael.’

Viewpoint: The story regularly changes perspectives from a host of characters and includes diary extracts from the nineteenth century. This makes the story feel fresh and fast-paced even during the more police procedural sections when the police are frustrated with a lack of progress/delays.

Character(s): Using the multi-viewpoint approach also allows the author to introduce us to a great breadth of characters. Some bringing more to the novel than others. There is a sub-story to this of a son navigating trials of being a teenager, a story of a long-lost daughter and the story of a sick wife. All these threads are woven together with great skill without too much distraction from the main plot.

Setting: This novel is mainly set in the region of Tradmouth which is, of course, loosely based on Dartmouth. This setting with small towns and remote locations really compliments the community feel of the novel but also highlights the isolation of the rural communities.

Any Negatives: I love this series, it’s one of my favourites. The author has such a talent for drawing me in quickly so that I am eager to turn the page. With this novel, there were a few things holding me back from going for the full five stars. The first was the random entries of Delia, the mother-in-law. I really don’t think it added anything to the main story or even contributed to the daughter’s cancer storyline. It may be the author setting the series up for a future book, but it didn’t seem to work for me in this book.

The main reason I didn’t give that 5 star is how the standalone book works. I appreciate it is incredibly difficult for any author to balance a book as both a series entry and a standalone and normally I haven’t noticed this as an issue at all. It’s been a number of years since I read the previous novels in this series and I was really struggling to recall details of past relationships etc. The author gave small snippets of info but it wasn’t really enough to clarify things for me e.g. Neil’s girlfriend is working away, Gerry’s relationship with Joyce, Gerry’s daughter Rosie is often spoken of as highly sensitive etc. I just felt like a little more detail or backstory to these would have helped this work better as a standalone, or for those of us whose memories are not as they once were – haha.

Overall View: As always a brilliant book by Kate Ellis. She is a truly fantastic writer. A great array of characters. A lot of fast-paced action. The fascinating historical aspects still pull me in and are so intriguing, I love how she intertwines these with the modern storyline.

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Extract from The Mermaid’s Scream

Review of The Case of the Curious Cook by Cathy Ace – 3.5 Stars

The Case of the Curious Cook (WISE Enquiries Agency #3)The Case of the Curious Cook by Cathy Ace

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Review of The Case of the Curious Cook by Cathy Ace – 3.5 Stars

Before you go any further with this book please be aware that it is the third in the series. I picked this up in a store and found the premise intriguing; a book shop that seems to be unknowingly acquiring books, but nowhere on the cover does it mention this apart from the text “A WISE Enquiries Agency Mystery”. Although it is quite an interesting story, I really don’t think this book worked well as a standalone.

As mentioned the premise is really intriguing and in fact it develops nicely to include the story of a brother imprisoned for murdering his sister (both of whom are artists) and a rather questionable old folks home that may be coercing old people to handover their cash to them in their wills. All of this takes place on and around the lovely town of Hay-on-Wye (in Wales), which is a superb setting and well described.

This point probably stems from reading this book as a standalone also, but there just seemed to be far too many characters to keep track of, the duchess, Mavis, Annie, Christine, Carol, the duchess son and daughter, the two book shop owners, the two old folks homes owner, Annie’s love interest (pub landlord), Christine’s love interest (dodgy builder), Carol’s hubby and Son, several old ladies at the old folks’ home, etc, etc (not to mention the pets). For a 197-page book this just seemed so excessive. Perhaps if I had read the first two I would have enjoyed this group of characters more but I found it really confusing and just unnecessary to the story.

However, an important point to make with this book is that the writing is actually really easy to read and flows nicely. I often think it is useful for readers to see a brief extract as they would in a book shop so here is a little passage from the novel:

‘Oh Henry, your face is a picture,’ said the old woman, with a voice he recognized.
The woman pulled her wig from her head to reveal his mother’s neatly-trimmed almost-white hair. She took off the specatcles and he saw her twinkling eyes. The brownish lipstick made her look washed out, and the purple floral dress was – well, it made him feel quite bilious.
‘Ta-daa!’ said his mother with a flourish. ‘You truly had no idea it was me, did you dear?’

I would definitely read other works by this author, especially as a light-hearted mystery (something suitable for a holiday read or something). I hope in future editions they make it obvious on the covers the number of the series each book is. This would help the reader make a better assessment.

So in summary my opinion is; it’s a great setting, easy-to-read, interesting concept. It just doesn’t work well as a standalone with a large cast of characters to keep track off.

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Review of Malevolent by E.H. Reinhard – 4.5 Stars

Malevolent (Lieutenant Kane, #1)Malevolent by E.H. Reinhard

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

A woman arrives at an airport, the next time she is seen is when she is found dead in an alley in a dumpster wearing only green lingerie. Worse she has holes drilled into her head and a powerful drug in her system. Soon the press label the killer psycho surgeon and it’s easy to see why. Can Lieutenant Carl Kane and his partner hunt down this killer before more woman show up?

This book his pretty intense, certainly gory as other readers have pointed out in reviews, so if you’re a bit squeamish there will be a few chapters to skip over. I did get this book for free and although a fan of detective crime fiction was unsure what to expect from this new author in a field that is already pretty full with the likes of Mark Billingham, Ian Rankin, amongst countless others. That said I actually found myself really enjoying this book. It was very well written.
Not going to lie, the book is dark. That just makes you want the good guys to catch the bad guys, even more. Kane himself is quite likeable, with a good spark between him and his partner. Kane lives alone with his cat, he even finds time for a love interest.

The only real negative I would say is there are a few places that there is a lot of descriptions going on that’s purpose seems to be just to fill out the pages a little, especially in comparison to the mostly sharp action-filled pace of writing Reinhard seems to adopt for the majority of the book. Then again, this could be to give the book a bit of a relief from the fast pace.
All in all, a fabulous start to a great new series. Book works perfectly as a standalone novel but there is plenty of room for the character to grow and I expect this will be a long-running series. Not for the faint of heart, perfect for those that enjoy the grittier side of crime drama. Action heavy, fun, fast-paced novel.
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