Wednesday, 27 November 2019

HANDS UP by Stephen Clark #RBRT

4 out of 5 stars

On Amazon UK
On Goodreads

How I discovered this book: it was submitted to Rosie's Book Review Team, of which I am a member.

In a Nutshell: Family/psychological drama dealing with murder: racially motivated or not?  Set in Philadelphia.

An interesting crime novel that's more psychological drama than thriller.  It centres around Ryan Quinn, a police officer who shoots and kills Tyrell Wakefield, a young black man pulled over in a routine traffic enquiry—or is it?  As the story progresses, we become more aware of racial profiling within the police, and especially that of Quinn's partner, Greg.  More sinisterly, this same bigotry is present within the 'civilian' white families we meet in this book.

Also centre stage are Jade, Tyrell's sister, and Kelly, his estranged father.  The story is written from these three points of view; Quinn is written in the first person, which totally worked for me, with Jade and Kelly in the third.  This also worked, I think, better than if Kelly and Jade had been in the first person as well.  They were all three-dimensional; Kelly, in particular, alternated in my head between being a basically decent guy who wanted to make up for some wrong choices in life, and an opportunistic creep. 

I very much liked how the truth about what happened that night, from Quinn's point of view, came out only gradually, and that we saw the emotional effects of the case from all three sides.

When I began to read the book the first thing that struck me was that the author can certainly write; I was drawn in, immediately, though the first ten per cent includes a fair bit of telling-not-showing (when the writer tells the reader how someone is feeling/what their personality is like, rather than showing it in dialogue and actions), and, throughout, there is too much mundane detail—we don't always need, for instance, to know what people were wearing, unless relevant, what they ate in restaurants (ditto), or how someone got from A to B.  I read in the notes at the back that the author is a (most successful) journalist, and this is evident; now and again, I felt as though he needed to be reminded that a novel's flow can be improved by the omission of detail, rather than the inclusion of every fact.

Mostly, the plot kept me interested throughout, though I didn't think the romantic involvement between Quinn and another character towards the end of the book was necessary; a friendship/sympathetic connection would have been enough, and more realistic; that it happened made both characters less credible, to me.  I also felt that Quinn's previous romantic entanglement was too quickly and neatly disposed of.

On the whole, though, I liked this novel, and it has a lot going for it.  The issues of racial prejudice and police corruption were dealt with well, and though none of the characters were likeable, they were all fairly compelling.  I think that if Mr Clark were to learn the art of ruthless pruning during redrafts and observe how other writers create tension, he could produce something most memorable.

Monday, 18 November 2019

MAKE ME KING by Keith C Blackmore @KeithCB1

4.5 out of 5 stars

On Amazon UK

How I discovered this book:  Had read the rest of this series, so Amazon 'told' me when this one was out.

In a Nutshell: Book #5 of a zombie apocalypse series (Canada), but I'd say it stands up fairly well as a stand alone.

I read the first 4 books of this series some time ago and have a pretty lousy memory (I can't remember how book #4 turned out at all), but this was still fine to read on its own—however, I would most certainly recommend reading the first 3 books first, in particular, as they are a stunningly good example of their type, and steer away from many of the genre standards.

In Blackmore's post zombie apocalypse world, several years on, the 'mindless' have faded out... most of them, anyway.  All that's left is an empty world... or not so empty.  Gus, Scott and his friends are living on an island, but supplies must still be found.  Which is where the trouble starts.

I adored the first half of this book, with its sinister alternate chapters from the point of view of some bad guys - later, it features some of the best escape-from-zombies chapters I've read.  I was not so keen on the last 30-40%, which takes place in a bunker inside a mountain, because I could no longer picture it, despite there being much detail; a lot of this-happened-then-that-happened; scenes that would have worked brilliantly on screen but I didn't think translated so well to a book.  However, there were still some great plot developments, and it kept me reading.

If you like the horror end of the post apoc genre, I can't recommend Books #1 and #3 highly enough.