Cold Hands Paperback – 21 Nov 2013
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"Gripping and disturbing" (Liz Smith My Weekly)
"Brilliantly written, Cold Hands is that rarest of things – a gripping thriller with real depth. An intense, exhilarating adrenaline rush, I found myself staying up all night to finish it in one sitting. Wonderful." (S. J. Watson, author of 'Before I Go to Sleep')
"I finished it a sprint, almost shaking. Ridiculously, disturbingly compelling" (Observer)
"A gut-wrenching debut...This thriller announces the arrival of a tremendous new talent...It drives the breath from your body with its pace, suspense and enveloping horror...Terrifying and mysterious. Superbly told and achingly sad, this book grabs your heart strings and threatens to tear them out." (Daily Mail)
"Perhaps the most cleverly constructed and incendiary thriller I've ever read. The great books in this genre take you on an emotional roller-coaster, but the best, like this one, also have you trampling through a moral minefield." (Irvine Welsh)
From the author of the highly-acclaimed KILL YOUR FRIENDS, a terrifying, evocative and gut-wrenching thriller.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
I found that it had a good storyline and did live up to its gripping thriller status. It's one of those compelling books that grabs you from the very beginning and keeps you turning those pages deep into the night. I do like this author's style of writing and understand he has written around eight books to date, so it seems like I have some catching up to do...
I didn't enjoy this book. It starts well, but then the pace slows and it seems to be going nowhere. At the halfway mark I was on the point of giving up on it when suddenly it sprung into action. However it very quickly turns into a totally improbable and very unpleasant bloodfest. There's only minimal tension throughout as it's pretty obvious who will be behind what's happening and we know from the prologue that Donnie will survive. In the place of tension we get very graphic violence instead. I also didn't think the shifts between the past and present - and later between alternative perspectives - really worked. There was the makings of a good thriller here, but unfortunately the author doesn't quite pull it off.
The basic plot concerns itself with the lead male character. Through his recollections we learn that he was involved in a brutal incident in the past. It soon becomes obvious that he escaped that incident but; is the past now reaching out to take it's revenge against him?. Set between two different time frames, and two seperate locations, 1980s Glasgow and present day Canada, Niven manages the plot movement extremely well however; the first half of the novel is far better than the second.
By half way Niven has to reach too far to fit all of the pieces together and creates something of a jumble, loses the tension. I'd also point out what appear to be plot errors occurring by this point. They should have been edited out:-
* Bad weather = telephone lines are down - so how can you call a neighbour?.
* What parent would cook flambe duck breasts soaked in wine for an 8 year old child?
* If you're going to make a point of your main character giving up drink don't place him in the kitchen glugging down a bottle of wine.
* After great efforts to point out the weight loss and fitness levels of a character why would you say they're unrecognisable because they're carrying an extra 20lbs?.
By two thirds through the novel Niven introduces an outrageously silly plot line involving a character who is totally unbelievable. He involves them in scenes of graphic, unnecessary torture and brutality - I'm not sure anyone would carry a huge rat around in a glass jar just in case they needed to torture someone with it!!!! It's at this point I began to realise how desperate Niven was to reach a conclusion, how lost he was in the plot, and from there on it just goes on becoming less and less believable as he loses all plot credibility by reaching so far to find it.
The first half of Cold Hands gripped me and drew me in. Although it's brutal the plot's fast paced and I raced through it. Enjoyed all of the Glaswegian flashbacks. Found the parts of the book set in Canada extremely weak and the "villain" totally ridiculous in both personality and behaviour however; there is a good twist to the plot which I didn't expect. I'm 50/50 about Cold Hands I'd read Niven again, he has promise but there's work to do.
The book is a shocker. Be warned by that quote from Shakespeare before it even starts. The aim is to unsettle the reader, which the author does. Skilfully emerge the first signs something is very wrong indeed, events gradually to spiral completely out of control.
Does it work? Opinions will be divided, some finding the final sequences prolonged and decidedly OTT. More convincing (and disturbing) are the revelations of atrocities when a child. Many thoughts are provoked. Victims are not simply those who have died, sometimes in the most appalling circumstances. What about those left bereft after losing one so dear? What about the whole concept of revenge. Can it be justified? If so, what form should it take?
The book gripped, but was it liked? There is much to admire in the first half and in those chilling flashbacks, but overall impact cheapened by later excesses.
The final third - a Misery-style confrontation - was perhaps a bit too drawn out for my liking, but this seems to be a trend in Hollywood movies, and ironically that may prove to be an asset when this book is turned into a film - which it surely will be.
Overall, maybe not as stunning a read as Kill Your Friends, but as good a thriller as I've read this year, and thoroughly enjoyable. Will certainly buy more from John Niven, with or without the "J".
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Cold Hands is very different to the usual fare in that it's a straight-up...Read more
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