Following his last case in Ireland, criminal profiler Alexander Gregory is called upon by the French police to investigate a spate of murders during Paris Fashion Week. One victim has survived but she’s too traumatised to talk. Without her help, the police are powerless to stop the killer before he strikes again – can Gregory unlock the secrets of her mind, before it’s too late?
L.J. Ross takes readers to Paris in this, the second in the Dr Alexander Gregory series. The descriptions of The City of Light reflect the storyline where the world’s most beautiful people have gathered for fashion week but juxtaposes the brutality of the murders Gregory is investigating. Ross’s descriptions evoked such strong imagery that I could see the action unfolding in my mind’s eye.
It’s difficult not to draw parallels with this novel and what’s going on in the entertainment industry at the moment regarding abuses of power and the #metoo movement. Featuring illegal dealings and murky underworlds, ‘Hysteria‘ pulls the reader in and uncovers the horror that lurks behind the glamour.
The characterisation of Gregory is further explored through his relationship with a mystery woman. He’s a complex character and I’m really looking forward to seeing how he develops as the series continues. The way in which Ross uses Gregory to explain psychological conditions and theories is really well done.
As always, Ross weaves a compelling narrative full of characters with substance. I particularly enjoyed that Ross uses a smattering of French in the book and doesn’t underestimate her readers by then providing translations.
‘Hysteria‘ is a well-written novel with a surprising conclusion. Whether or not you’ve read novels by L.J. Ross before, you won’t want to miss ‘Hysteria‘.
Posted in Books, reviews, Writing
Tagged book, character, characterisation, characters, descriptions, imagery, narrative, novel, psychological, reader, readers, series, storyline
When a young writer accepts a job at a university in the remote countryside, it’s meant to be a fresh start, away from the big city and the scene of a violent assault she’s desperate to forget. But despite the distractions of a new life and single motherhood, her nerves continue to jangle. To make matters worse, a vicious debate about violence against women inflames the tensions and mounting rivalries in her creative writing class.
When a troubled student starts sending in chapters from his novel that blur the lines between fiction and reality, the lecturer recognises herself as the main character in his book – and he has written her a horrific fate.
Will she be able to stop life imitating art before it’s too late?
Starting with an assault on our unnamed pregnant protagonist, ‘The Body Lies‘ drops the reader straight into a world where this woman is almost constantly at the behest of the men around her – from her husband who won’t look for a new job in order to facilitate a move to a place she feels safer in to the head of department who continuously expects her to take on more and more work despite her inexperience and the difficulties she has managing her work-life balance to the students who snipe at one another in her class, overruling her at every point.
By leaving this character nameless, Jo Baker says a lot about her interpretation of the world – and how the character is unable to make herself heard and understood in her male-dominated life. However, don’t think that ‘The Body Lies‘ is a novel that is constantly screaming about inequality – its power lies in the fact that the author has managed to subtly weave the point in to almost every sentence without the reader even being conscious of it. The way the issues are presented is almost ‘normal’, reflecting how insidious sexism and inequality is in our society today. You may not notice it but it is happening.
Jo Baker’s skill for beautiful prose makes ‘The Body Lies‘ a truly stunning literary thriller. The slow-burn tension allows us to empathise with the main character, understanding the pressure she is under and how burdensome it is to be a woman. The imagery Baker creates heightens the tension at key points as well as showing the reader the beauty of the world despite the horrific events that occur in it.
‘The Body Lies‘ is a compelling study on what it is to be a woman, how women are subjugated and taken advantage of in many areas of their lives and how unsafe many of us feel on a daily basis.
I’m genuinely not sure I’ll find a more engaging read this year.
Posted in Books, reviews
Tagged character, Creative Writing, fiction, imagery, literary, motherhood, novel, prose, protagonist, read, reader, tension, thriller, woman, women, writer
A murderer’s confession reveals a story of class, education and the inescapable workings of destiny.
Ah Hock is an ordinary, uneducated man born in a Malaysian fishing village trying to make his way in a country that promises riches and security to everyone, but delivers them only to a chosen few. With Asian society changing around him, he remains trapped in a world of poorly paid jobs that just about allow him to keep his head above water but ultimately lead him to murder a migrant worker from Bangladesh.
Ah Hock’s description of the years building up to this appalling act of violence – told over several days to a local journalist whose life has taken a different course – is a portrait of an outsider like no other.
‘We, The Survivors‘ reminded me of ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist‘ by Mohsin Hamid, possibly because it’s the story of a life-changing event, told in second person.
‘We, The Survivors‘ is a story of class, education and what it is to be an outsider. The idea that Ah is a person who’s excluded from the rapid modernisation of Asian society, despite the dominant narrative being that of everyone can succeed marks him as different even though there are many people that have a similar experience. The struggle to survive in a constantly changing world is almost palpable.
The level of detail that Tash Aw goes into when describing locations and scenarios is astounding, building up tremendously evocative imagery.
Tash Aw’s character study of a man who loses control in the most appalling way makes ‘We, The Survivors‘ an insightful, thought-provoking read.
Posted in Books, reviews
Tagged character, describing, descriptions, idea, imagery, jobs, locations, murderer, read, society, story
Bird Keegan, a lonely farmer, and his two sisters have lived an isolated existence in the same community their whole lives but when Midge O’Connor – a young woman abused by her drunken father – appears, his world is disrupted beyond his wildest imagination. By taking in Midge, Bird is mocked by his sisters and neighbours. Despite bringing one another consolation, the pair’s relationship is thrown into doubt by the influence of others.
Alison Jameson’s prose captures the reader’s attention with this story of love and redemption. The lives of the three siblings are explored with sensitivity. The isolation and misery are represented skillfully. Jameson’s writing features some very powerful imagery as well as excellent descriptions. I could really imagine the setting thanks to the author’s florid language. The multi-layered characters are examined in a thoughtful manner.
Fans of Kate Kerrigan will like ‘This Family of Things‘.