THE PLAYERS

THE PLAYERS
DARREN O’SULLIVAN

Rating: 3 out of 5.

BLURB
A stranger has you cornered.
They call themselves The Host.
You are forced to play their game.
In it one person can live and the other must die.
You are the next player. 
You have a choice to make.This is a game where nobody wins…

REVIEW
The Players has the bones of a good story and succeeds in raising questions in the reader’s mind about just how far one would go to protect one’s family.
DI Karen Holt is an interesting character, in a stable relationship and a welcome change from the tormented alcoholic / guilt ridden main character that pops up all too often in contemporary thrillers.


The author does however, succumb to a few predominant cliches – the officer who is the only competent person who can solve the crime in spite of being forbidden to do so, putting one’s loved ones in danger, loyal and admiring sidekick who hangs on Holt’s every word.
The novel built slowly with an over emphasis on Holt’s therapy, which was endlessly discussed but bore no relevance to the story.
Disappointingly, I found The Host completely unbelievable when his identity was revealed and there was more than one occasion where he could have been apprehended much earlier in the story.
A good premise which unfortunately stutters to an unconvincing end.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

GOOD EGGS

GOOD EGGS
REBECCA HARDIMAN

Rating: 3 out of 5.

BLURB
Meet the Gogartys; cantankerous gran Millie (whose eccentricities include a penchant for petty-theft and reckless driving); bitter downtrodden son Kevin (erstwhile journalist whose stay-at-home parenting is pushing him to the brink); and habitually moody, disaffected teenage daughter Aideen.
When Gran’s arrested yet again for shoplifting, Aideen’s rebelliousness has reached new heights and Kevin’s still not found work, he realises he needs to take action. With the appointment of a home carer for his mother, his daughter sent away to boarding school to focus on her studies and more time for him to reboot his job-hunt, surely everything will work out just fine. But as the story unfolds nothing goes according to plan and as the calm starts to descend into chaos we’re taken on a hilarious multiple-perspective roller-coaster ride that is as relatable as it is far-fetched.

REVIEW
More of a curate’s egg than Good Eggs, really. Rebecca Hardiman has peopled her debut novel with whimsical stock Irish characters – the granny, a bit of a kleptomaniac; the guy having a midlife crisis; the stroppy misunderstood teenager etc. She writes cleanly and the story flows along quite steadily. The problem, for me, was that I’ve read it all before and in stories that were livelier and that captured my imagination. I couldn’t work up any sympathy or liking for the Gogartys and, at times, just longed for the over-written granny to calm it down a bit.
I’d rate Good Eggs as a potboiler, a quick easy read to pass an afternoon but, sadly, lacking the depth and charisma I look for in Irish based novels.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.


THE HOLDOUT

THE HOLDOUT
GRAHAM MOORE

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Maya Seale is on jury duty, charged with deciding whether Bobby Nock, a young black teacher, had killed one of his students. She is the only juror who thinks he is innocent or that, at least, there isn’t enough evidence to bring in a guilty verdict. Over a period of time, sequestered in a hotel, she wins all the other jurors over to her way of thinking, includingRick who she has been having an affair with. So far so “Twelve Angry Men”.
Roll on 10 years and the jury reconvenes in the same hotel, brought together by a television company who have been persuaded by Rick that he has new evidence that proves Bobby Nock’s guilt. After a fierce argument between Maya and Rick she storms out of the hotel only to return and find Rick dead. She is duly arrested for his murder and is released in bail.

Graham Moore is an excellent writer and has spun an extremely complicated plot here which simultaneously follows Maya’s investigations to prove her innocence and explores the happenings of the original trial. The sensible side of my brain recognises that the plot is pretty absurd but the side willing to suspend belief really enjoyed the intricacies of the story. I don’t think any reader will guess the ending because Moore seems to have plucked it out of thin air.
All in all, it’s a pretty good, rollicking read although, now I know the author’s propensity towards the introduction of new evidence so near the end of a book, I’m not entirely sure I’d read another one of his books.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

… AS THE DAY YOU WERE BORN

Naked, that is.
I’m often asked if I feel uncomfortable, or even exploitative, when photographing nude women or men.
I don’t.
We all are naked under our clothes. Theirs are just younger and more beautiful than mine.

Clockwise from top left:
Mischkah. Model: Mischkah
Lady of the Mist: Model: Rosa
I Dream in Pink: Model: Eachelle
Penance: Mason
Nearly Nude. Model: Mischkah

TANYA

I’d never met Tanya before she walked into the studio on a ‘blind booking’. As soon as I saw her, I knew I was going to shoot her in black-and-white and my instincts didn’t let me down. Over three hundred frames and not a single one in colour. Every photograph of her that I entered into Salons was accepted multiple times and The Courtesan was an award winner.

Left: Lost in Thought. Right: The Courtesan.

BLACK WIDOWS

BLACK WIDOWS
CATE QUINN
PUBLICATION DATE 04 FEB

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Blake Nelson is a Latter Day Saint with three wives – Rachel, Emily and Tina. Plural marriages are no longer acceptable in the Mormon religion and Blake buys an isolated piece of land, where they all live, at best barely tolerated by their fellow Mormons and at worst, ostracised by some.
When Blake is found dead, suspicion automatically falls on the three wives and the central plot in the novel is focused on which one of them did it. The chapters are short, some very short, and told in three voices, those of the wives. I had no trouble keeping hold of whose chapter I was in as the wives had very distinctive voices and characteristics.
The story moves along quite smoothly in spite of being fairly complicated as the back stories of the wives are revealed as well as the ongoing investigation into Blake’s murder. The background information on Latter Day Saints is meticulous and woven in so neatly that I never felt like I was being preached at.

The major distraction for me was Rachel’s background story. It was riveting and deserved a story of its own, but in this instance it pulled me away from the main story and didn’t really have any impact on the main plot except to explain Rachel’s attitude to her husband’s death. It lengthened the middle section of the book unnecessarily and slowed things down a bit.
There are quite a few ancillary characters, all of which are portrayed realistically, except for the police officers who, I felt, were less rounded than anyone else and only there to move the story along.
The ending disappointed me because it felt forced and too neatly wrapped up. However, it was one of the most enjoyable books I have read in recent months, not least because of the originality of the plot. I would recommend just suspending belief and just go with the flow on this one.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

FIND YOU FIRST

In this fast-moving, quite complicated thriller, Barclay comes roaring back on form after a couple of lacklustre efforts. I really empathised with Mike, one of the main characters. His frustration at his illness and his determination to 'do the right thing' were portrayed consistently and empathetically. In fact, all the characters were well-rounded, even those with a smaller part to play in the story. It was a quick and easy read and left me longing for just a little more story, but there was still room for a couple of decent twists and a satisfactory ending.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

COVER VERSIONS

A few initial ideas for the cover of Ashes on the Tongue. I lean towards the centre one, followed by the far right, although I grieve for the bits of the painting I had to chop off. The orange text is a big mistake! That will definitely go. The font is Optima which was designed in the 1950s, the era the book is set in.

TIRKANE ROAD, MAHERA, NI

I’m blown away today by the arrival of this image to be used on the cover of Ashes on the Tongue, due for publication around Easter time this year. It is an original painting by Northern Irish artist, George A Gourley, showing a derelict house on the Tirkane Road, Maghera which is near Londonderry. I’m not quite sure how I’m going to use it yet – there are lots of ideas buzzing round in my head. Many thanks to George Gourley for giving me permission to use his painting.

SIXTEEN HORSES

SIXTEEN HORSES
GREG BUCHANAN

Rating: 2 out of 5.

This is a very unsettling book which doesn’t seem to know what it is. Written in an over-literary style in a very disjointed way with short sections hopping about quite randomly, it yet professes to be a mystery / thriller. I struggled to maintain interest in the face of the unrelenting gloom and the visceral content. My overwhelming feeling, which keep intruding on my reading, is that the author is trying too hard to be too many things.
There is an absolute howler in the first chapter which nearly stopped me from reading any

more. The detective is in a muddy field before sunrise, yet flies are buzzing everywhere. Flies need polarised light to guide them visually. I would hope that this is corrected before publication. In conclusion, I would add that the book is very well written and will most likely appeal to those who like their thrillers at the high end of grim and gory, but they will need to be prepared to wade through quite a bit of pretention first.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.


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