Book Review: The Alienist by Caleb Carr

The blurb

Some things never change.

New York City, 1896. Hypocrisy in high places is rife, police corruption commonplace, and a brutal killer is terrorising young male prostitutes. Unfortunately for Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt, the psychological profiling of murderers is a practice still in its infancy, struggling to make headway against the prejudices of those who prefer the mentally ill – and the ‘alienists’ who treat them – to be out of sight as well as out of mind. But as the body count rises, Roosevelt swallows his doubts and turns to the eminent alienist Dr Laszlo Kreizler to put a stop to the bloody murders – giving Kreizler a chance to take him further into the dark heart of criminality, and one step closer to death.

 

 

My thoughts

Here’s another book that I bought on a 99p Kindle deal and really had my money’s worth!

Although the beginning is very heavy on the psycho babble, which did put me off somewhat, this is like the mother of all psychological thrillers!  It’s very dark and disturbing and certainly not for the faint-hearted as they’re graphic images of child murders which will not be to everyone’s taste.  Once I got past all the psychiatry stuff it’s a gripping and race against time murder mystery!

I loved the setting, the period in which it was set and Sara’s character and her dogged determination to the first woman working in the New York police department.

If you need any more convincing to read (or watch) this, a modern day equivalent would be The Mentalist but soooo much darker!

Since reading the book I have watched the Netflix adaptation which is very good too and apart from the ending stays very true to the book, loved the cast selection!

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Small print for info
Source: Purchased
No of pages: 544
Publisher: Sphere

Book Review: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

The blurb

Souls cross ages like clouds cross skies . . .

Six interlocking lives – one amazing adventure. In a narrative that circles the globe and reaches from the 19th century to a post-apocalyptic future, Cloud Atlas erases the boundaries of time, genre and language to offer an enthralling vision of humanity’s will to power, and where it will lead us.

My thoughts

This book had been on my TBR for years, not quite sure how many, but more than 4! I’d been chatting about it with my brother so I thought I should just pick it up and give it a go.  I’d heard that it was a challenging read so I must admit I was intimidated it which is probably why I’d put it off for so long.

Well it took me just under 2 weeks to read.  This was due to the time I had available and not the book, but I really don’t why I felt so intimidated.  It wasn’t what I expected and I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought it would.  I’ve summarised the stories included below and my thoughts on them:

The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing – I found this story to be the most challenging which wasn’t due to the subject matter because that was very good but because of its language, which as it’s the first story in the book, can seem rather off-putting.

Letters from Zedelghem – bit of a 1930s humourous romp told as a series of letters.  I love letter-writing in books!

Half-Lives – The First Luisa Rey Mystery – my favourite of all the stories.  This I estimated to be set mid-late 1970s and was a tense murder mystery conspiracy thriller.  Would have loved a whole book based on this short story.

The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish – reads like a Monty Python sketch, really rather amusing and laugh-out-loud!

An Orison of Somni-451 – futuristic, sci-fi.  I pictured i-Robot on trial.

Sloosha’s Crossin’ an’ Ev’rythin After – vicious and tribal but hopeful.  Also has some odd language which needs deciphering!

These stories then develop in the next round as we make our way back to Adam Ewing.  Now, as I said, I enjoyed this book very much and thought it has great entertainment value but I can appreciate how other readers might think well what’s the point of it, yes each of the 6 have a link to the others/previous in some way but what else are we to take from this book – empathy, acceptance, what it is to be human or just a great piece of writing with an incredible amount of sticky notes to keep track! 😉

With these short stories, it really is a cross-genre book and one therefore sparks various emotions for the characters within.  If you haven’t read it and have been put off by what you’ve heard, give it a try, it really is worth the read!

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Author links: Twitter | Website

Small print for info
Source: Purchased
No of pages: 529
Publisher: Sceptre

Example of language in Sloosha!

Book Review: Lullaby by Leila Slimani

What’s it about?

The baby is dead. It only took a few seconds.

When Myriam, a French-Moroccan lawyer, decides to return to work after having children, she and her husband look for the perfect caretaker for their two young children. They never dreamed they would find Louise: a quiet, polite and devoted woman who sings to their children, cleans the family’s chic apartment in Paris’s upscale tenth arrondissement, stays late without complaint and is able to host enviable birthday parties.

The couple and nanny become more dependent on each other. But as jealousy, resentment and suspicions increase, Myriam and Paul’s idyllic tableau is shattered…

 

 

My thoughts

There are no secrets here, you know from the outset, from the blurb, that a baby is going to be killed.  It’s quite shockingly detailed so if this kind of thing upsets you, don’t read it.

Strangely, the ending of the story is the beginning and I was hoping that the rest of the plot would live up to that, and for the most part I thought it did, I was gripped throughout just wondering when and why she would finally snap and do it!  The book is very well written and contrary to the turn of phrase, nothing is lost in translation.

Essentially it’s a social commentary of a nanny’s role and integration into family life.  Having been a nanny, I know how hard the job is: how much a family can depend on you, how you can be pushed to breaking point but fortunately most of us know where the line is!  I think a lot of us do have a morbid curiosity into why people kill and particularly when it’s women and children.

I didn’t know, before reading this book, that it’s based on the true story of a nanny who murdered siblings in New York in 2012.  Upon doing some very brief research it looks like the author has changed basic details but the bare bones of the story are the same but unfortunately, for me, I felt it had disappointing ending with no definitive conclusion unlike the real events.

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Small print for info
Source: Library
No of pages: 224
Publisher: Faber & Faber

Blog Blast: Inhuman Resources by Pierre Lemaitre

I’m very much a fan of Pierre Lemaitre’s books, and in particular Alex and Blood Wedding, so was delighted to be approved to receive an advanced reader copy of his new book Inhuman Resources and to be asked to take part in this blog blast.  I’m sharing with you chapter 2 of Inhuman Resources but if you’d like to pop over to Always Trust In Books first, who is sharing chapter 1, you can then come back for chapter 2 to whet your appetite a little more!

Chapter 2

Initially, I took the morning job at Pharmaceutical Logistics as a way of keeping myself occupied. At least that’s what I told Nicole, but neither she nor the girls fell for it. At my age, you don’t wake up at 4.00 a.m. for 45% of the minimum wage just to get your endorphins going. It’s all a bit more complicated. Well, actually it’s not that complicated. At first, we didn’t need the money – now we do.

I have been unemployed for four years. Four years in May (May 24, to be exact).

This job doesn’t really make ends meet, so I do a few other bits and bobs too. For a couple of hours here and there, I lug crates, bubble-wrap things, hand out fliers. A spot of night-time industrial cleaning in offices. A few seasonal jobs, too. For the past two years, I’ve been Father Christmas at a discount store specialising in household appliances. I don’t always give Nicole the full picture of my activities, since it would only upset her. I use a range of excuses to justify my absences. As this is harder for the night jobs, I have magicked up a group of unemployed friends with whom I supposedly play poker. I tell Nicole that it relaxes me.

Before, I was H.R. manager at a company with almost two hundred employees. I was in charge of staff and training, overseeing salaries and representing the management at the works council. I worked at Bercaud, which sold costume jewellery. Seventeen years casting pearls before swine. That was everyone’s favourite gag. There was a whole load of extremely witty jokes that went around about pearls, family jewels, etc. Corporate banter, if you like. The laughter stopped in March, when it was announced that Bercaud had been bought out by the Belgians. I might have been in with a shout against the Belgian H.R. manager, but when I found out that he was thirty-eight, I mentally started to clear my desk. I say “mentally” because, deep down, I know I wasn’t at all ready to do it for real. But that was what I had to do – they didn’t hang about. The takeover was announced on March 4. The first round of redundancies took place six weeks later, and I was part of the second. In the space of four years, as my income evaporated, I passed from incredulity to doubt, then to guilt, and finally to a sense of injustice. Now, I feel anger. It’s not a very positive emotion, anger. When I arrive at Logistics, and I see Mehmet’s bushy eyebrows and Charles’ long, rickety silhouette, and I think about everything I’ve had to endure, a terrible rage thunders inside me. Most of all, I have to avoid thinking about the years I have left, about the pension payments I’ll never receive, about the allowances that are withering away, or about the despair that sometimes grips Nicole and me. I have to avoid those thoughts because – in spite of my sciatica – they put me in the mood for terrorism.

In the four years we have known each other, I have come to count my job centre adviser as one of my closest friends. Not long ago, he told me, with a degree of admiration in his voice, that I was an example. What he means is that I might have given up on the idea of finding a job, but I haven’t given up looking for one. He thinks that shows strength of character. I don’t want to tell him he’s wrong; he is thirty-seven and he needs to hang on to his illusions for as long as possible. The truth is I’ve actually surrendered to a sort of innate reflex. Looking for work is like working, and since that is all I have done my whole life, it is ingrained in my nervous system; something that drives me out of necessity, but without direction. I look for work like a dog sniffs a lamp post. No illusions, but I can’t help it.

And so it was that I responded to an advertisement a few days ago. A headhunting firm looking to recruit an H.R. assistant for a big company. The role involves hiring staff at executive level, formulating job descriptions, carrying out assessments, writing up appraisals, processing social audits, etc., which is all right up my street, exactly what I did for years at Bercaud. “Versatile, methodical and rigorous, the candidate will be equipped with excellent interpersonal skills.” My professional profile in a nutshell.

The moment I read it, I compiled my documents and attached my C.V. Needless to say, it all hangs on whether they are willing to take on a man of my age. The answer to which is perfectly obvious: it’ll be a “no”. So what? I sent off my application anyway. I wonder whether it was just a way of honouring my job centre adviser’s admiration.

When Mehmet kicked me in the arse, I let out a yelp. Everyone turned around. First Romain, then Charles, who did so with greater difficulty as he was already a couple of sheets to the wind. I straightened up like a young man. That’s when I realised that I was almost a head taller than Mehmet. Up to now, he had been the big boss. I’d never really noticed his size. Mehmet himself was struggling to come to terms with kicking me in the arse. His anger seemed to have abated entirely, I could see his lips trembling and he was blinking as he tried to find the words, I’m not sure in which language. That was when I did something for the first time in my life: I tilted my head back, very slowly, as though I were admiring the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and then whipped it forward with a sharp motion. Just like I’d seen on television. A head-butt, they call it. Charles, being homeless, gets beaten up a lot, and knows all about it. “Nice technique,” he told me. For a first-timer, it seemed a very decent effort.

My forehead broke Mehmet’s nose. Before feeling the impact on my skull, I heard a sinister crack. Mehmet howled (in Turkish this time, no doubt about it), but I couldn’t ram home my advantage because he immediately took his head in his hands and sank to his knees. If I had been in a film, I almost certainly would have taken a run-up and laid him out with an almighty kick in the face, but my skull was aching so much that I also took my head in my hands and fell to the ground. Both of us were on our knees, facing each other, heads in hands. Tragedy in the workplace. A dramatic scene worthy of an Old Master.

Romain started flapping around, no idea what to do with himself. Mehmet was bleeding everywhere. The ambulance arrived within a few minutes. We gave statements. Romain told me that he’d seen Mehmet kick me in the arse, that he would be a witness and that I had nothing to worry about. I kept silent, but my experience led me to believe that it definitely wouldn’t be as simple as all that. I wanted to be sick. I went to the toilets, but in vain.

Actually no, not in vain: in the mirror, I saw that I had a gash and a large bruise across my forehead. I was deathly pale and all over the place. Pitiful. For a moment, I thought I was starting to look like Charles.

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

I hope that sharing this chapter with you will encourage you to pick up a copy of Inhuman Resources!

Many thanks to Ella at Quercus Books for inviting me to take part in this blog blast today!

Book Review: The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz

What’s it about?

SHE PLANNED HER OWN FUNERAL. BUT DID SHE ARRANGE HER OWN MURDER?

A woman is strangled six hours after organising her own funeral.

Did she know she was going to die? Did she recognise her killer?

Daniel Hawthorne, a recalcitrant detective with secrets of his own, is on the case, together with his reluctant side-kick – a man completely unaccustomed to the world of crime.

But even Hawthorne isn’t prepared for the twists and turns in store – as unexpected as they are bloody…

 

 

My thoughts

This book was recommended to me by a fellow book blogger and lucky for me I bought it when it was on Kindle offer for 99p and it was money well spent.

This was my first Horowitz experience and I was hooked from the start – a woman goes into a funeral parlour and later she’s found dead.  How can you not be taken in by that?

One of the stand out differences this book has, which I noticed in the very early chapters, is that the author has cast himself as one of the main characters – every good detective needs his/her sidekick which is what Horowitz is here.  It’s told in the first person by the author which I thought to be an original and very different way of telling the story.  In the opening chapters I did wonder if I was reading the author’s notes rather than the actual book! 🙂

I read the book on holiday which was great because I couldn’t put it down which meant I’d read it in 24 hours which is really good going for me.

There’s a whole cast of characters to take your pick from in this really clever murder mystery whodunnit so you won’t be short of suspects.  I hate it when the murderer is thrown in at the last minute so you have no chance of working it out, or having a good guess at least.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend if you like Robert Bryndza’s Erika Foster or Tony Parsons’ Max Wolfe.  I will definitely read more from this author!

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Author links: Twitter | Website

Small print for info
Source: Purchased
No of pages: 374
Publisher: Arrow