Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Darkest SecretThe Darkest Secret by Alex Marwood

The Darkest SecretThe Darkest Secret by Alex Marwood
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Darkest Secret by Alex Marwood starts off with witness statements about a young girl missing, presumed kidnapped. We then go to the events surrounding the girl’s disappearance and the Fathers 50th birthday weekend celebration. The past timeline is interspersed with the present where the Father of the missing girl dies in mysterious circumstances handcuffed to a hotel bed and the majority of the cast prepares for the funeral. The death is not expanded on and he turns out to be a soulless man who deserved much worse than the cards he was dealt in life.

What really happened on the weekend of the disappearance is divulged as a finale and there's a bit of a twist that I saw coming from seventy two and a half miles away, or pretty much the beginning. The character development holds the story together by something like the last strand that's just about to break but to be honest the story bored the pants off me for the first two thirds and was altogether far too predictable with no real shocks or anything that gripped me.

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the LaneThe Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman is an enchanting, almostly adult fairy tale that totally gripped me from start to finish. I listened to the audio narrated by Neil himself and its absolutely fantastic, I was literally hanging on every word and it’s very easy to disappear from life and immerse yourself in his narration.

Now my exposure to Neil Gaiman has been fleeting, I read his novel American Gods a good few years ago and The Sandman graphic novel series more recently but listening to The Ocean and Neverwhere in the past couple of weeks has invigorated a profound appreciation of his work and set me on a bit of a Gaiman quest. I'll be reading and listening to a lot more from Neil himself over the next few months and adding him to my top 5 authors, I think he definitely deserves it.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a man's recollection of a fantastical and breathtakingly engrossing story from his childhood memories. Our nameless narrator, avoiding a funeral finds himself at a house that plays on the fringes of his conscious and when he is invited to sit overlooking the water, wondrous and terrifying memories surface and at the heart of it a girl named Lettie Hempstock.

It's a story set in our world but with a little extra magical spice, add to that a young boy suffering at the hands of a beautiful but monstrous nanny and his only refuge being Lettie, the youngest of three generations of woman living on a farm close by. There's a world that exists outside the knowledge of the many and its left to the few to guard against wayward spirits and demons, there's always a cost though.

Gaiman teases a beautiful and exquisite tale, the audio adds significantly more of his vision, a precious whisper to be absorbed and coveted, something that you would love to hear again and again.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is simply magical.

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The Secret Place

The Secret Place (Dublin Murder Squad, #5)The Secret Place by Tana French
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A boy is found murdered on the grounds of a girl's school. One year later, Holly Mackey drops a photograph into the lap of Stephen Moran, a Cold Case cop in Dublin, indicating someone at St. Kilda's knows who the killer was. He takes the photograph to the Murder Squad and gets paired with Detective Conway. Will this be Moran's big chance at getting on the Murder Squad or will the case tear him apart?

The Secret Place is Tana French's fifth entry in the Dublin Murder Squad books and the last to date. It's also kind of a step back after the events of Broken Harbour. I shall explain eventually.

The Secret Place, while a murder mystery at first glance, is an exploration of the politics of being a teenage girl. Tana French mines deep into Megan Abbott territory in this one. Two groups of girls take center stage in Conway and Moran's investigation. About half of them are actually interesting.

Julia and Joanne, the two ringleaders, were the most interesting characters in the book, not surprising since I found teenage girls pretty alien back when I was a teen. From their cliques to their opposing leadership styles, they painted a vivid picture of what life as a teenage girl must be like. Most of the other girls seemed like set dressing for most of the story.

The relationship between Conway and Moran was very well done and I enjoyed it immensely when Frank Mackey was added to the mix in the later chapters. Being something of a loner, I empathized with Stephen a lot of the time. I felt for Conway, too, gunning for her chance to finally prove herself to the guys on the Murder Squad.

While Tana French was at the top of her game in a technical sense in this outing, I did not like The Secret Place as much as its fore-bearers. For one thing, I disliked the shifting viewpoints, a departure from her previous outings. I understand what she was going for but it felt a little lazy in comparison to previous books. I liked how things unfolded but I would have preferred a different method.

My much bigger gripe was with the supernatural angle introduced around the 35% mark. Combining genres is something I normally enjoy, like mixing chocolate and peanut butter. In this case, it was more like finding a pubic hair in your omelet. It was completely unnecessary and brought me out of the story every time it was referenced.

I was pretty surprised at the big reveal, which was not actually a great shock since Tana French clearly has had my number since In the Woods. Like all of French's books, I was a little sad when the story was over, doubly sad in this case since I'm out of Tana French books. While it wasn't my favorite of hers, Tana French writes one hell of a book. Four out of five stars.

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