the nightmare stone – finian black

The Nightmare Stone

This was another book that I picked up because I was looking for something to give me a bit of a scare / thrill.

John Harris and his family feel liek they’re really living the dream when their numbers come in on the lottery and they have the opportunity to buy the ultimate fantasy house – a huge, old mansion that seems perfect for them.

However, it’s not long before both John and his young daughter start experiencing things that they can’t explain – dark, sinister things.  And John starts worrying that his past may have caught up with him.

The start of the book really drew me in — the idea that everything had come right for this little family by a turn of fate.  You soon realise though that this house being available for them to buy isn’t exactly a natural circumstance.

The build-up to the ‘action’ is full of suspense, and I had that wonderful slightly scared feeling that I was looking for.  It was full of atmosphere and intrigue.

However, as things started being explained, and the ‘scare factor’ was supposedly stepped up a notch, I felt that the story started losing me.  I wasn’t quite as interested, it didn’t seem quite so malevolant, and I really didn’t feel it any more.

Of course, that could just be me, but I found the last half of the book a disappointment after the brilliant first half.  I would be willing to give the author another go though – the first chapter of his second novel that is included within this one sounded intriguing.

now you see me – s j bolton

Now You See Me

After listening to the fantastic Dead Scared a few months ago without realising it was the second book featurning DC Lacey Flint, I thought I’d go back and listen to the first one.

In this story, we’re properly introduced to young Met Police DC Lacey Flint and her own introduction to DI Mark Joesbury.

Lacey is interviewing a potential witness to a violent crime, when  a woman is stabbed so severely she dies in Lacey’s arms, and it becomes apparent that Lacey must have only missed the actual murder by seconds – almost as if it was performed for her personally.

When another kill is added to this particular murderer’s tally, certain facts come to light that make Lacey wonder if there could be a more deep-set motive that she should be spotting.

This is a fantastic thriller – a complete page turner (although I’m not sure what the equivalent of that is on audiobook!). It has pace, it has interesting characters, it has loads of Jack the Ripper stuff, it has gore, it has depth and it has a riveting climax, which I loved, even though I accidentally listened to the second book first, so knew part of the outcome!

If you like detective thrillers, definitely give this one a go – it’s only £3.93 on Amazon at the moment…and then you can follow up immediately with Dead Scared!  I can’t wait for the next in the series (please let there be a next in the series!)

beyond evil – neil white

Beyond Evil

I have missed a couple of Neil White books (which I will be going back to read at some stage), but this one isn’t part of the DC Laura McGanity series, I spotted that it was only 99p, I needed a good thriller and I love Neil White – I couldn’t go wrong, could I?

Set in York, it starts with the discovery of the mutilated body of one-time lottery-winner Billy Privett.  After his win, Billy had been very much the party-boy, but his namehad been tainted by the death of a teenage girl in his swimming pool a year before – a death that has haunted DI Sheldon Brown ever since.

His lawyer had always been sure of Privett’s innocence in the matter, but it falls to her colleague Charlie Barker and Brown himself to unravel what really happened that night.

If you’ve never read Neil White but like a good detective thriller, you should really give this one a go – especially at 99p, it’s a bargain.

At first, as you are introduced to the main characters, you wonder how the hell they have anything to do with each other and how the story is going to tie-up.  Think Christopher Brookmyre, Carl Hiassen or even Guy Ritchie, and you’ll get what I mean.

They do tie up neatly though – and quite unexpectedly.  Every time I thought I knew what had actually happened, I was proven wrong a couple of pages (clicks) later – and I love that, as long as I don’t feel like I am purposely being led down the wrong path.

Fast-paced, action-packed and clever. It was exactly what I was looking for and I loved it!

the blind goddess – anne holt

The Blind Goddess

I read 1222 some time again, not realising at first that it was the 8th (and currently last) of a series of books starring Hanne Wilhemsen.

I thoroughly enjoyed 1222, so when I saw that this (the first in the series) was in the special offer from Amazon, I thought it would be a good chance to start from the very beginning!

The body of a small-time drug dealer is found beaten to death by Karen Borg, a lawyer out walking her dog.  When a Dutchman is found wandering the streets of Oslo, covered in blood and discovers who found the body, he refuses to speak to anyone but Karen Borg – even though criminal law is not her speciality.

When a slightly dodgy lawyer is then murdered a few days later, noone thinks that the two crimes are related – apart from DI Hanne Wilhelmsen, who is determined to get to the bottom of what has happened – no matter what the consequences!

This is a scandal in the justice system that threatens to go higher than anyone expects.

This was a good, solid detective thriller, but I didn’t find it quite so much a page-turner as I did 1222.  I assume that Holt probably gained her stride with her character.

Also, if I hadn’t have known, I wouldn’t necessarily have pegged Wilhelmsen as the character to be the basis of the series after reading just this one book.  She certainly didn’t feel the most developed or interesting.  I am interested inthe rest of the series, but wont be rushing out to read them all as soon as possible!

the artist – angelo marcos

The Artist

I have no idea what it was that inspired me to get this book, probably a recommendation on Amazon, but there don’t seem to have been many people that have read / reviewed it!

A young actress regains consciousness in a basement in London. The room she is in is dirty and bare, apart from a mirror on the wall opposite her.  She is tightly tied to the chair she is sitting on.  A voice over a loudspeaker informs her that she has 15 minutes to live, and that she’d better make the most of it.

Troubled fourteen year old Kaylin lives on a London estate with her mum who is a struggling actress.  Whilst round a friend’s house, Kaylin learns that there is a serial killer targetting actresses, and she begins to fear for her mum’s life.

I do love me a trashy stabby-thriller-catchy-killer type of book every now and then.  And I have to admit, I really enjoyed this one.

It’s not the most descriptive book, it’s not a clear window into the souls of the characters, but there was something easy and compelling about it.

All the way through I kept convincing myself that I knew what was going to happen next.  I knew how it was going to end, and then I’d change my mind, and know that it was going to end a different way.

I think that one of the reasons I actually look back on this story with a slight smile is because I really didn’t know how it was going to end.  It kept me guessing right to the last few pages / clicks and was in fact more clever than I was expecting.  Kudos to Mr Marcos for this, as there are not many thrillers that I haven’t been able to guess over recent years.

A good easy read, does what it says on the tin 🙂

dead scared – s j bolton

Dead Scared

I picked this up on Audible as part of their sale.

It was narrated by Lisa Coleman (remember nurse Jude from Casualty) whose voice seemed to be a perfect fit for the part. Young-sounding and slightly rough around the edges, it was just how I imagine lead character DC Lacey Flint to sound.

Soon into the book, I realised that this wasn’t the first of Lacey’s stories – this is actually a follow-up to Now You See Me that features her and her boss DI Mark Joesbury. Although there were many hints as to happenings in the first book, I didn’t feel that I needed to have read the first (although I am probably going to go back and read it anyway as I enjoyed this one so much).

We start with Joesbury and Lacey being reunited after a traumatic incident obviously at the end of the previous book. There have been rather a high number of suicides amongst students at Cambridge University and Joesbury wants Lacey to go undercover as a student to see whether she can find out if there is more to this sudden spate than just unhappy youngsters.

There is a line of thought that there could be online activities including forums that may be harboring an environment that encourages particularly vulnerable students to take their own lives. Lacey’s task is to portray herself as such a girl, and see whether anyone tries to exploit her. The only person who knows what she is really at the University for is the student psychologist who believes that there is a pattern to the suicides.

The book actually starts with the final scene – a woman about to jump from the roof of a University building and then flashes back to explain how we got there. It was a real proper thriller. And actually pretty thrilling. I loved it. There were some great descriptions and the action was fast-paced.

There was just enough new information dripped out each time to make you think “Ohhh…” and see things in a different light. Unlike many thrillers I have read, it wasn’t obvious who ‘the baddies’ were until near the end when the author was ready to reveal what was really going on.

It really one of the best thriller / detective stories I’ve read in a while, and I think the audiobook was a huge credit to it.

the silent house – uruguay (2010)

The Silent House

I had never actually heard of this film before, but wasbrowsing the World Cinema section in CEX in Walthamstow a couple of weeks ago and it caught my eye – and for a couple of quid, you can’t really complain!

This is a rather claustrophobic horror story (but only a 15 rating, so not particularly gruesome – more of a thriller than a horror really) set in one location, a small, isolated, ramshackle cottage and the immediate grounds that it nestles in.

(Probably) teenager Laura and her father (Wilson)  have been tasked with tidying up the cottage and garden to get it ready for sale.  The film begins early evening, following them as they walk across the firld to meet the owner (Nestor) who is is Wilson’s friend.  He lets them in, shows them a couple of old chairs they can sleep in for the night and promises to bring them back some food.  He also warns them not to go upstairs as the floor is unstable and he doesn’t want them to have an accident.

The film has barely any colour, grim & grainy and shot on a ‘home-movie’ style handheld, almost shadowing Laura.  You feel like you’re permanently sitting on her shoulder! And she goes around the house with a lamp or torch most of the time, so there is a ring of darkness just to the edge of the shot.

The main reason that this film is unique though is because it appears to have been filmed all in one continuous take, making the film in real time.  There are a couple of moments where I thought “Could that have been edited?” but they definitely site it as a one-take film, which is pretty amazing really – and worth watching even just to see how they did it!  It certainly gives this a completely different feel to your usual horror film.

It was quite engrossing, but as I said, really rather claustrophobic.  I must admit, i enjoyed it quite a bit, BUT it did have times where nothing much seemed to be happening.  There was a lot of time spent with Laura holding up her gas lamp, just looking at various pictures and bric-a-brac in rooms.  I guess this is because of the ‘real time’ and one take aspect of it – they probably needed time to prepare for the more ‘action’ scenes.

I think the one thing that disappointed me though was the ending, I’m not exactly a thickie, but I really didn’t understand it.  I understood what it was trying to say, and what had come before, but how it all actually worked within the confines of the film slightly alluded me.

If anyone nearby wants to borrow the DVD though, it’s worth a look and you’re more than welcome 🙂

My rating 6.5/10

sugar & spice – saffina desforges

Sugar & Spice

It’s every parent’s nightmare.  Not just that their child could be kidnapped and murdered, but that they may suffer any form of abuse as well.

Sugar & Spice (only 69p on Kindle!) tackles this taboo subject head on.  In fact it bulldozes through it, in such a matter-of-fact way – completely non-glorified – that it takes your breath away.

Perhaps this wasn’t my best choice of book while spending a week on a caravan park by the sea where I have been letting The Girl wander off to do what she wants for hours on end!

However, if you’re not squeamish or one of those that can’t even deal with the thought of it, this is an extremely well written, and well researched thriller.

Rebecca is the first girl to turn up dead – her fingernails painted yellow by her killer.  When another couple of girls turn up dead with the same trait, the police know that they are dealing with a serial killer.  And what’s more, he’s even literally left a calling card giving himself his own moniker – Uncle Tom.

All of the indications point towards a previously convicted paedophile – but is this really the right man?  This is what Rebecca’s mum, Claire and her journalist boyfriend Matt are desperate to find out.

This book deals with the subject matter without frills or niceties and seems to really get into the thoughts as to why these men (as they generally are) do what they do.

I found it absolutely fascinating.  In a slightly icky kind of way of course – but fascinating none the less!  One of the best ‘stabby-thriller-catchy-killer’ books (as I call them) that I have read in quite a while!

1222 – anne holt


Back in November, I spent a day driving to various places for work, and so was listening to Radio 4 and there was an interview with Anne Holt who I had never heard of.

She is Norwegian, and they were talking about the sudden popularity of Scandinavian crime books, the fact that she seems pretty scathing about Norwegians in her books and her latest book that had just been translsated and was about to be released in the UK – 1222.

Anne Holt herself used to work for the Oslo Police Department and was in fact Norway’s Minister for Justice back in the 90s.

This is the most recent in her series of books featuring detective Hanne Wilhelmson, of which I believe there have been 8 books since 1993.  She stressed that this story easily stood alone as a story, and I loved the sound of it, so thought i’d give it a go – I added it to my wishlist, and was delighted to get an Amazon reminder of it, informing me that it was available on Kindle for the princely sum of £1.  Result!

1222 refers to how many metres above sea level the highest station on the oslo to Bergen train route is.  The story starts slap bang (no pun intended) in the train crashing just outside the station during a snowstorm.

Only the driver dies in the crash and all of the passengers are rescued and moved to a nearby hotel.  There are just under 200 of them, including Hanne Wilhelmson.  The snowstorm becomes worse, effectively cutting off any chance of rescue, the train being moved, and any communication with the rest of the world.  And then, of course, there is the case of the mysterious ‘extra carriage’ on the train of which speculation is rife!

The passengers and hotel staff settle in for what looks like it could be a long stay, and all of their personalities etc start to come out.  And then, in the morning, one of the most prolific passengers – a prolific  football-loving priest – is found frozen dead outside in the snow and ice.  But it wasn’t the cold that killed him, it was a bullet through the head.  there is a murderer in their midst.

In the interview, Holt said that she wanted to write a story that had elements of the old Agatha Christie whodunnits where the detectives were in an isolated situation and had to use their own detecting skills without any help from technology, databases or a team.

Well, that’s certainly how it worked – it was pretty claustrophobic…the only thing that didn’t really work for me was the fact that there were supposedly a couple of hundred people there.  The story obviously centred in on just a handful (there were probably about 15 main characters), and so there were tens of people supposedly ‘around’ that were completely uninvolved in the story but still in the isolated situation.

Because of the dramatic start, and the very descriptive narrative, the unfamiliar landscape and situation and the hints at what was to come, I felt extremely drawn in from the book right from the first few pages – and it didn’t let up!  i really enjoyed it.

I must admit, there was a complete light bulb moment for me when I felt that I had worked out ‘whodunnit’, but at least you’re kept guessing and don’t have suspicions confirmed until right at the end.  There was just one twist in the tale in the last couple of pages that was a bit superfluous, daft and made me groan – it could have done without that, and it added nothing to the story.

Apart from that – brilliant.  Tense, different and well written.  I’d give another Anne Holt book a go!

them – france / romania (2006)


I picked this little film up for the grand price of one english pound from Computer Exchange.

It takes a lot to make me jump, but jump I did during this film.  It did help of course that i got into the spirit of it – turned all the lights out and watched it on my own.  Although the bloke from British Gas did come around while I was watching, and the doorbell going frightened the life out of me!

The story is of a French couple living in Romania, in their dream home – a large, sprawling old house in the middle of nowhere.  One night, they hear sounds outside, and then their car is stolen.  Soon after this, they realise there is something/one actually in the house, and a night of panic and terror commences.

The suspense through the most part of the film is brilliant, which is why it was quite a relief that it is pretty short – just a 77minute running time I believe!

However, I was quite disappointed by the ending.  In the same way as I was disappointed by the ending of the fantastic Rec.  it felt like the last 5 minutes let the rest of the film down.  I’m not exactly comparing it to Rec (which is a masterpiece throughout…apart from the last 5 minutes), but just the feeling of being let down by an ending that could have been SO much better!

It was a good watch though.  I like jumping!  And who can complain for £1??

My rating 7/10

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