Book Review: “Daddy Darkest” by Ellery Kane

Title: Daddy Darkest
Author: Ellery Kane
Genre:
Psychological thriller
Date Read: 0/03/2018 – /03/2018
Rating:
 ★★★

Review:

This thriller started off very strong, and the writing was strong the whole way through. I definitely found it gripping, but as I went on, I did find myself a bit confused by some of the choices one character in particular made, which resulted in an ultimately lower rating.

When Sam’s best friend, Ginny, disappears in an airport bathroom while wearing Sam’s letterman jacket, it soon becomes clear that the kidnapper intended to take Sam. As she struggles to find Ginny, she starts to question whether everything she’s ever known is a lie…

The book alternates between chapters in Sam’s first-person POV and her mother, Clare’s, bacak in 1996, when she worked as a prison psychiatrist. I enjoyed Sam’s chapters, I thought her voice was really authentic. Even if it did sometimes stray into YA tropes such as kissing the hot guy you’ve known for two days, despite the fact he seems to be pretty shady.

Clare’s chapters were well-written and unraveled the details of Clare’s past at a good pace. It was Clare herself I couldn’t figure out. I couldn’t work out whether her messed up upbringing could be blamed  for her bad decisions, or whether she was just completely irresponsible. While the author was going for the former, I expect, the more I thought about it, the more it felt like the latter to me.

There were a few aspects of the plot that I had predicted, but it wasn’t completely predictable overall. It was interesting to see how all the characters were tied to one another, not just in obvious ways. The ending was intriguing, but I felt it fitted the events of the book. I think it is just an ambiguous ending, and that there will be no follow-up, but it works that way.


Thank you to NetGalley and the Publishers for a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.

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Book Review: “Keep Her Safe” by Richard Jay Parker

Title: Keep Her Safe
Author: Richard Jay Parker
Genre:
Psychological thriller
Date Read: 09/02/2018 – 10/02/2019
Rating:
 ★★

Review:

I’ve been having a bit of a bad run with thrillers. After listening to a disappointing one that opens with a stranger in the protagonist’s house, I had hoped that this one would be better. Unfortunately, I found the writing in this one quite lacking, and while it did improve for a while, it never really impressed me.

Since I am about to go on to say a lot of negative things, I will start with something positive. As you can see from the dates above, I did read this quite quickly. Even as I was questioning some of the things that happened or why characters were doing certain things, the writing was overall quite readable. There was a chunk in the middle (from about 20% through to 65%) that I read in one sitting. The tension was good, and I did admittedly want to see how everything panned out.

The theme of this book was “How far would you go for your child?” but I feel like the author had very little experience of parenthood, and mothers of young children in particular. Some of the dialogue between the two mothers felt strange; I think they were explaining things for the benefit of the reader that one mother would not need to explain to another. There was also a reference to Maggie being an “older mother” at age 34 (32 is hardly an unusual age to be giving birth anymore).

I had other issues with the writing as well, like the fact that the mastermind behind everything has an actual villain monologue… not only that, said monologue goes on for a chapter and a half. There are other ways to explain a character’s motivations, rather than just a huge info-dump. Speaking of the villain, I couldn’t quite work out why he decided to send the two women on a wild goose chase when the initial murder he’d intended didn’t work out. I don’t know why he would have decided to reveal himself (eventually) and then the way everything wrapped up seemed a bit too easy.

I have to agree with the other reviews of this that say that the almost constant action scenes were at the expense of character development. Apart from “I’d do anything for my child”, there was really nothing else I knew about either of the main characters for most of the book. Some information was dropped in the last third which I think was meant to make me sympathise more with them, but I just didn’t have enough interest by that stage. When a bombshell was dropped about one of them, it had very little effect on me.

This was my first read by this author and while I can see his books are very popular, I don’t think I will be revisiting.


Thank you to NetGalley and the Publishers for a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.

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“He’s not human; he’s an empty space disguised as a human.” // Review of “The Collector” by John Fowles

Title: The Collector
Author: John Fowles
Genre: Thriller
Audio book narrator: James Wilby
Date Read:
31/08/2016 – 03/04/2016
Rating: ★★★

Review:

This book came up in conversation at work, and while I’m not usually good at getting into classics, even modern ones, I thought this one sounded nice and dark and right up my alley. It was  all of those things, though in hindsight, I’m not sure it was the best choice of book to read while my partner was away and I was home alone for a week.

Lonely, uneducated butterfly collector Frederick Clegg fixates on Miranda Grey, a middle-class art student who lives nearby. When he wins a huge fortune in the football pools and his only living relatives go to visit siblings in Australia, he uses the money to buy an isolated house and fit out the cellar, then kidnaps Miranda in the hopes that she will fall in love with him. While he thinks that his plan his working, Miranda is slowly being driven made by her imprisonment, and the diary she writes and keeps tucked under her mattress is the only thing that keeps her from tipping over the edge.

If this book had been entirely from Frederick’s point of view, it probably would have got five stars. His narrative voice is so flat and matter-of-fact that it’s chilling. And yet, at the same time there’s a real earnestness about him. He cannot see what he is doing is wrong, and becomes petulant when Miranda does things he doesn’t like, such as breaking his china or trying to escape. But for all that, somehow you still feel a little bit sorry for the bastard. (Only a very little bit, though).

Part 2 takes the form of Miranda’s diary entries over the course of her imprisonment. In some ways, it was interesting hearing her side of the story of her imprisonment, but so much of this section is taken up with her preoccupation with an artist she calls by his intitials G. P., with whom she had a difficult relationship when she first moved to London to go to art school. While it makes sense that the diary of someone in her predicament would contain repetition (mostly of the “I must escape!”) variety, this made the story lose some of its momentum. I kept wishing I was back in Frederick’s head. Which, you know, is saying something.

The story ends almost abruptly, but in a creepy way that fills you with dread. I was spoiled for the ending during the conversation at work where I first heard of the book, but I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone else. It might not be the ending you expect, but it is an ending that makes a lot of sense. As I said, I listened to this book while my partner was overseas (he comes home tomorrow, yay!) and it did make me wary about venturing outside after dark. Hell, even the empty house made me warier than usual. I kept thinking about how I would act in Miranda’s situation, and have come to the conclusion I would do no better than she does, which is terrifying. This is a book that will get into your head, and is definitely not for the faint of heart.


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“I taught you everything you know, but not everything I know.” // Review of “Blood of My Blood” by Barry Lyga

Title: Blood of My Blood (Jasper Dent #3)
Author: Barry Lyga
Genre: YA/Psychological thriller
Date Read: 09/07/2016 – 10/07/2016
Rating: ★★★

Review:

Hmm. Well, that was a bit disappointing. After such a strong series opener and a really good follow-up, I felt that this book was a bit of a mess. Maybe it’s just that I’m terrible at keeping track of details, but there seemed to be so much going on, and so many POVs, that I ended up lost. It’s never a good sign when you’re glancing down at the page numbers to see how many you’ve got to go, but that started happening with this book.

Jazz is on the run in New York City, suspected of at least two murders and a myriad of other crimes. Meanwhile, Connie and Howie are also both in danger, but both of them realise they will still do whatever it takes to protect Jazz. Eventually, everything converges on Lobo’s Nod again, where a final showdown is about to commence.

This book made a return to the first book’s tendency to focus on Jazz’s angst regarding his upbringing, and whether he might be a serial killer in waiting. While it’s completely logical that Jazz would wonder this, even obsess over it, it gets repetitive for the reader, especially when these thought processes have no evolution or resolution and don’t lead anywhere. Not only this, we also had Connie and Howie going through similar periods of angst. And it took a long time to get to a point in the book where these characters were doing constructive things, rather than just lying in hospital  or in Jazz’s case, road-tripping home.

On top of this, we had scenes from the POV of not only Jazz but Connie, Howie, Detective Hughes of the NYPD, Sherrif Tanner, and a couple of serial killers at times. It felt very busy, maybe even an attempt to make it appear more was going on than what actually was. On top of this was the strange backstory to Billy Dent’s career, and his position within an established serial killer pecking order. It didn’t make a huge amount of sense to me, and it didn’t help that by this point in the series, Billy Dent was starting to become something of a comical villain, rather than the chilling voice in Jazz’s head he started out as.

While I have read series closers that were more disappointing than this one (coughTheRavenKingcough), there is still that “…heh” feeling at the end. Despite that, though, I still recommend this series if you have the stomach for it. Even if this final novel isn’t quite as good, you are still in for a good ride!


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“You won’t even know you’ve crossed the line until it’s way back in your rearview mirror.” // Review of “I Hunt Killers” by Barry Lyga

Title: I Hunt Killers (Jasper Dent #1)
Author: Barry Lyga
Genre: YA/Psychological thrillers
Date Read: 15/06/2016 – 17/06/2016
Rating: ★★★★☆

Review:

This book was very intense. While it was very hard to put down, there was a time when I had to, because its chilling content was causing a disturbing churning in my stomach, but then the second night I was reading it, I accidentally stayed up past midnight with it. The reason that I knocked a half-star off my rating is that this chill factor did wear off about halfway through, which, while a relief, was also a bit disappointing,

Jasper “Jazz” Dent is the son of one of the 21st Century’s most notorious serial killers, Butcher Billy, whose body count is over 100. As you can imagine, Jazz didn’t grow up in the most normal of environments. He is terrified of turning into his father, and when a copycat murderer shows up in his hometown, he decides to help the police with their investigation, in the hopes of at least proving to them that he should not be their main suspect, and proving to himself that he is better than his father.

Jazz is a really unique character among YA protagonists. Lyga has clearly done his research because the effects of Billy Dent’s brainwashing on Jazz are clear, as are other parts of Jasper’s psychology, such as his occasional moments of sociopathy. He is a charmer, he can manipulate people to his will, and if he forgets to remind himself that all people are real and deserving of a life, he does start viewing them as expendable. He also has some repressed memories starting to rear their ugly heads, and isn’t entirely sure what to make of them.

The book is structured in such a way that Jazz’ flashbacks to his father’s bragging after kills, and other awful memories are woven seamlessly into the main murder plot. Billy Dent is terrifying; it was one of these flashbacks that made me have to close the book for the night because I was feeling spooked. It also deals with some of the other harsh realities of being the son of such an infamous figure, such as parents of Billy’s murder victims tracking him down and wanting to talk to him to find some kind of closure.

Jazz is accompanied by some really great side characters, particularly Connie, his girlfriend, and Howie, his best friend. Both of them supported him despite knowing who his father was, and keep him grounded when he starts going off the rails.

Overall, this is an incredibly strong series opener, which I recommend, though it is definitely not for the faint of heart!


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