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The Lost Child
The Lost Child
by Caryl Phillips
Edition: Paperback

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hard Times.., 4 Mar. 2016
This review is from: The Lost Child (Paperback)
While the opening pages of The Lost Child show Heathcliffe's mother as a former slave and Mr. Earnshaw becoming her patron and the final pages deal with Earnshaw returning home with young Heathcliffe, this novel only tangentially concerns itself with Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights;

The Lost Child is for the most part set in the twentieth century and is first and foremost the story of Monica Johnson who lives in the North of England with her parents and who wins a place at Oxford. There she meets and marries Julius who hails from a West Indian country which is never actually named in the book, and abandons her degree to set up home with him.

Her parents do not approve of the marriage and Monica becomes estranged from them. She very quickly has two children Ben and Tommy but the marriage soon breaks down and Julius leaves Monica who returns to the North of England where she struggles to bring up her two young sons. It is difficult to understand Monica's return to her parents neck of the woods particularly as she had no intention of contacting them.

This is an accomplished well written story which deals with issues of race, alienation, family estrangement, single mothers and searing tragic loss. However, I did wonder about the roots of Monica's lack of motivation and emotion because even though her parents were very conservative they were decent people who loved and were concerned for her. Nor was I convinced her problems were related to her failed marriage. I felt she chose the role of outcast due to some form of lethargy and lack of resolve. Her later mental breakdown is understandable in the light of the terrible tragedy that befalls her but she accepted a psychopath into her home long before that happened.

When I read that Monica "fell in love" with Julius it struck a false note as I never got the impression that Monica really loved Julius and probably only married him to spite her parents - at least in part. Julius' feelings as portrayed in the novel also come across as ambivalent and lukewarm and he very quickly abandons not only Monica but his two young sons.Monica's disintegration here is hard to fathom as in the opening chapters of the book she come across as strong-willed and bright.

While I was most relieved that the author dealt with the most harrowing of the action off stage as it were, Phillips also glossed over many other events in the book such as Julius's abrupt departure, how Monica remained under the spell of a psychopath, the extent to which she neglected Ben and Tommy and the very sketchy account of her lack of any relationship with either of her parents. While this is at times frustrating for the reader, I felt it might be one of the book's strengths to allow the reader to fill in the detail and draw their own conclusions.

It is Monica's dad who in the end brings a little redemption and hope into the otherwise bleak landscape of this story.

One small quibble is the use of "alright"; I know the word has recently been sanctioned by usage but I prefer "all right" which was drummed into me as the correct version. If it had appeared sporadically I would not mention its use but it is the sheer number of times "alright" is used - sometimes appearing 4 times on a single page. As I said this is a personal bugbear and in no way affected my overall rating of The Lost Child.


by Renée Knight
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

56 of 64 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Discontented., 3 Mar. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Disclaimer (Paperback)
When Catherine Ravenscroft discovers a novel entitled The Perfect Stranger on her bedside table she is not quite sure how it got there but suitably intrigued, she starts to read... Very soon she realizes that the story is not, in fact, fiction but a recreation of a part of Catherine's past that she has buried deep and tried to forget. This is a brief outline of the story and it would serve no useful purpose for me to elaborate on the plot - especially as I might inadvertently include spoilers.

The premise is somewhat interesting and the tale unfolds in alternating chapters with Catherine's account in the third person and Stephen Brigstocke, a retired teacher, speaking in the first person.and the narrative moves between the past and the present. As is the case with this type of novel, Catherine's life starts to disintegrate. So far so fine.

I had promised myself I would no longer succumb to any more of the over-hyped books with the dread words "the new Gone Girl" or "if you liked Girl on a Train you will love ..." but I added this to an Amazon order in a moment of weakness and hoped for the best.

I found Disclaimer very disappointing in almost every respect and although it managed to hold my interest at the beginning, my appetite for the story soon waned. The 'DARK SECRET called for a massive suspension of disbelief and the whole plot mechanism would have collapsed had a couple of people just sat down and talked things through 20 years previously. There are so many ridiculous moments that, if I were to list them here I would ruin the plot for prospective readers. Suffice it to say that this is a sordid badly written novel which begs the question - why was it published? But then that is indeed a rhetorical question.

Something else I found irritating and confusing was that several chapters which were headed as being set in the past were in reality set in the present with one of the characters thinking back to the events of 20 years ago for perhaps a mere couple of pages. This was disconcerting to say the least. There was a sleaziness to the denouement that was really rather unnecessary in my view and lent an air of horrible predictability to the entire book. The clincher, if I needed one, - most of the characters were just not appealing in any respect.

I know some people loved this book but definitely not for me.

Witnesses The Complete Season 1 [DVD]
Witnesses The Complete Season 1 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Thierry Lhermitte
Price: £12.99

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars French Noir., 1 Mar. 2016
Following the success of French television thrillers Les Revenants (The Returned) and Engrenages (Spiral), Les Temoins (Witnesses) a the latest French television series to hit our small screens.

Witnesses is a very classy and disturbing 6-part thriller set in Upper Normandy with an original and grisly plot. The series opens in a show house in the coastal town of Le Tréport where 3 bodies have been arranged to look like a family unit. We soon discover that the bodies have been recently exhumed and are not, in fact, related. Moreover, this is a copycat of a crime committed the previous month.

Detective Sandra Winckler is placed in charge of the case along with retired detective Paul Maisonneuve (whose surname ironically translates as "new house") whose photograph very strangely,was found at the scene. Maisonneuve was Winckler's instructor when she joined the police force and both are dealing with personal demons but I will not go into that in detail here.

Witnesses is gripping and atmospheric bringing to mind the stark bleak setting of some recent Scandinavian thrillers such as The Killing and The Bridge. Yet it is the particularly macabre plot that sets Witnesses apart from a lot of ostensibly similar "crime noir" and gives it a striking originality; I was also intrigued by the tricky relationship between Winckler and Maisonneuve and even more by their shared history.

The acting is of a very high calibre and Winckler is a very attractive and troubled detective - both requisites for a fascinating lead character.

Highly recommended to fans of the genre.

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? - 3rd Edition [Interactive DVD]
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? - 3rd Edition [Interactive DVD]
Dvd ~ Who Wants to Be a Millionaire
Offered by ReNew Entertainment
Price: £3.78

2.0 out of 5 stars Flawed Adult Version?, 28 Jan. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
A few years ago I bought my first DVD of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? and it was so much better than the 3rd Edition. The fact that there is perforce a delay between each question and that the game is slow-moving is irksome but acceptable as this is the same in all editions of the popular TV quiz show.

What annoyed me was that even though we chose to play the adult version the "Phone a Friend" lifeline almost invariably had eight and 9 year-old children as 2 of the 3 options. We asked their advice on several occasions, even when we did not need help, merely to prove a point i.e., these kids could not answer a single adult question! How difficult would it have been to have 3 interchangeable adults on hand to offer help in the adult version.

I did not bother to check if the reverse applied in the case of the kids' version but in any event I feel this might be marginally less annoying since adults, particularly parents of younger children would stand a good chance of being familiar with children's TV shows and books.

For this reason I can only award this edition 2 stars.

The Laughing Monsters
The Laughing Monsters
by Denis Johnson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Very Versatile Writer., 28 Jan. 2016
This review is from: The Laughing Monsters (Hardcover)
Denis Johnson's latest novel is set in Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda and is a rather dark take on the war on terrorism. The book is at times confusing, perhaps deliberately so and the atmosphere and tension are so well developed by Johnson that I found myself distrusting all the characters and questioning their every pronouncement.

The book takes its title from some mountains in the Congo which were, so it is claimed, named by the missionary James Hannington who was the first Anglican bishop of East Africa.

Roland Nair is a Danish-American spy who returns to Freetown following an absence of ten years to reunite with with an old pal Michael Adriko, a Congolese self-styled soldier of war in possession of a Ghanian passport. Nair's mission is vague and ill defined apart from an instruction to keep close to Adriko monitor his movements. Adriko ostensibly invited Nair to Sierra Leone so that he could meet his fiancée Davidia, a beautiful young graduate from Colorado. Nair promptly falls for Davidia as the trio set off to visit Adriko's clan near the Uganda-Congo border. Michael by all accountswas a serial womaniser and Roland seems to be very fond of the ladies also. Apart from availing of the local prostitutes, when we meet him he appears to be in a relationship of sorts with Tina - a colleague in Amsterdam. His relationship with Michael is very complicated and we learn early on that Adriko saved Nair's life on a couple of occasions. Even though Roland admires Michael he certainly does not trust him; indeed the level of mistrust between the two men is latent in their every encounter.

I was slightly disappointed that neither Davidia nor Tina are really fleshed out and Davidia comes across as rather spoilt, vain and grasping while with poor Tina, it's a bit like Waiting for Godot as she never makes an appearance; Nerys of Frasier fame also springs to mind.

I found it very difficult to get a handle on or relate to any of the people in the book and it is a measure of Denis Johnson's skill that I was yet engrossed in the story from beginning to end. While there is action at times this is also a story of complicated relationships.

I love Denis Johnson's novels and while I enjoyed this book, for me it fell slightly short of some of his previous efforts. The marvellous Train Dreams would feature on my list of favourite reads.

And Then There Were None [DVD]
And Then There Were None [DVD]
Dvd ~ Aidan Turner
Price: £6.99

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars None Better., 26 Jan. 2016
I have been an avid fan of Agatha Christie's novels since I was presented with Death in the Clouds by my parents when I was eleven years old. As a child and a young teenager my favourite Christie stories were Crooked House and And then There were None but while both were among the darkest of Christie's books, Crooked House at least had some very nice characters and some lighter moments along with perhaps, the most chilling of murderers. And then There were None is a dark tale from start to finish and one would struggle to find a light second!

So when I read that the BBC was screening an adaptation of the bestselling mystery novel of all time I looked forward to some thrilling viewing and was not disappointed. Apart from the comforting familiarity of an Agatha Christie story for Christmas this is a marvellous whodunnit. Sarah Phelps' first-rate adaptation resulted in a high quality drama which also had the benefit of a dream cast. Here I must say I was not too surprised that Aidan Turner of Poldark fame bared his well honed torso at the first opportunity. While this adaptation was "sexed up", not in my opinion a bad thing at all it still managed to be very faithful to the original plot and the characters remained as flawed as in the book.

The entire premise on which the book was based, i.e. ten strangers invited to a big house on an island by an unknown host where they are then bumped off one by one over the course of the story is a very intriguing one and is ingeniously executed by the master strategist Dame Christie.

Christie was not just a hugely inventive and successful crime writer since her novels dealt very much with human psychology and behaviour and she even named one of her novels after the Goddess of retribution, Nemesis. The overriding passion of her books is that justice should be done and seen to be done. When a motley crew of culprits appear to have evaded that very justice, Christie's genius comes into play.

A wonderful adaptation of a deliciously dark and atmospheric novel and highly recommended.

Gracepoint [DVD]
Gracepoint [DVD]
Dvd ~ David Tennant
Price: £4.99

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Only if you missed Broadchurch.., 22 Jan. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Gracepoint [DVD] (DVD)
I think everybody is aware at this point that Gracepoint is the American re-make of the critically acclaimed British TV series, Broadchurch so I feel there is no need to describe the plot other than to say that the story revolves around the discovery of a young boy's body on a beach in a small seaside town in -Dorset in Broad Church and California in Gracepoint,

While Gracepoint is a gripping drama in its own right it is really only entertaining for those who have not already seen the British original. I bought this DVD against my better judgement because having seen the British version I felt Gracepoint would have little new to offer. I changed my mind when I read that the American re-make, while remaining faithful to Broadchurch, diverged from the original halfway through the series and that the ending was different. I welcomed this news as I thought the ending in Broadchurch was the weakest part of an otherwise very good drama.

I felt cheated when I watched Gracepoint as there were no surprises and it was practically identical in every detail to Broadchurch. It is true that here was a slight addition to the original ending but I felt this tinkering only served to make the ending even weaker than the Broadchurch finale.

The acting is generally very good and Tennant and Gunn are excellent as the mismatched cops Carver and Miller. The big gaping hole acting-wise is Michael Pena as Danny Solano's dad since he appears sleepy and wooden throughout, apart from the odd burst of anger and even then he is far from convincing.

As I said, a very watchable drama if you missed Broadchurch.

In a Dark, Dark Wood
In a Dark, Dark Wood
by Ruth Ware
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.92

20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Long Long Slog!, 22 Jan. 2016
This review is from: In a Dark, Dark Wood (Paperback)
My new year resolution is to resist impulse buying in airport book shops. Browsing recently in one such bookshop I came across this novel and decided to buy it because it had a Richard and Judy "recommended" sticker affixed to the front cover and I was even more swayed by the quotes "Mesmerising" GUARDIAN and "Genuinely chilling and totally compulsive" SUNDAY MIRROR.

I had high hopes when I opened the book but the story soon descended into the most predictable mess with characters too thinly drawn to evoke even a smidgen of interest let alone sympathy. In a nutshell the tale revolves around the hen party from hell and suffice it to say there is not a single surprise in its unfolding - at least as far as I was concerned. The "plot" was a contrived rehash of similar previous stories.The characters are dreadful stereotypes and the writing style is cloying and off-putting and the story seemed to go on forever hammering home to the hapless reader a message that was all too transparent from the opening pages. I wonder why this book was even published as there is a plethora of very mediocre books being published ad nauseum today but In a Dark Dark Wood is in a Dark Dark place of its own. I raced to the finish and felt an overwhelming sense of relief when I passed it to the local charity shop as I could not bear to pass it on to friends.

I would love to know who in the Guardian and The Mirror had the gall to praise this novel although, in the case of The Guardian, the word "mesmerising" may well have been plucked from an otherwise unfavourable review as it is most unusual to publicise only one word from a positive review. As for Richard and Judy - well I will be very slow to accept their imprimatur in future.

Caveat Emptor!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 10, 2016 8:25 PM GMT

Burnt Paper Sky
Burnt Paper Sky
by Gilly Macmillan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Trimming Required., 19 Jan. 2016
This review is from: Burnt Paper Sky (Paperback)
ONE POSSIBLE SPOILER. I realize I am going against the flow here but I found this novel disappointing on so many levels. I had to suspend disbelief for most of the story and right from the beginning when 8 year-old Ben was abducted so silently although his mother Rachel was so close by. Even Skittles the dog never yelped when his leg was broken. Throwing in a serious genetic illness like Batten Disease struck me as silly and how could anybody justify keeping such a vital piece of medical history from their sister, especially when she became pregnant. I know the reader was meant to infer that both sisters were free of the defective gene but this is just glossed over and what about "carrier" testing? For an aunt to take the decision to suppress such a huge part of the girls history with the knowledge and agreement of the older sibling - well the mind boggles. Rachel's angry, threatening outburst at the news conference just did not ring true. A parent in her situation is paralysed by fear that her child will be harmed or killed by the abductor and will do anything in an attempt to prevent the worst happening. Persuading whoever has taken the child not to harm him or her entails reassuring the abductor that getting the child back unharmed or at least alive is of paramount importance and that revenge for the abduction is not in the picture. This fact is evidenced by the all too numerous real-life televised appeals from distraught parents whose child has gone missing. Only a lunatic would do what Rachel did.

I will refrain from dissecting the plot any further as I would certainly include too many important spoilers and I am aware that many readers may find this story gripping.

I thought the novel was completely overwritten and far too long while the writing style did not appeal to me. I also found the plot far from original and few if any of the characters resonated with me; in fact as far as I recall all the people in the book were traumatised to a greater or lesser extent by their parents/childhood. What are the odds? I was hoping for some redemption or at least a surprise in the ending but it just played out; still that in itself was probably a good thing.

However, I see most readers here enjoyed Burnt Paper Sky and it has certainly attracted a lot of interest. A friend who read the novel also thought it far too long but said it had received some good reviews.

Doctor Foster Series 1 [DVD] [2015]
Doctor Foster Series 1 [DVD] [2015]
Dvd ~ Suranne Jones
Price: £7.00

10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Doctor in Trouble., 9 Nov. 2015
Doctor Foster is a gripping and fascinating picture of a marriage being slowly poisoned by the suspicion of infidelity. In a nutshell, Gemma Foster and her husband Simon are an apparently happily married middle-class couple with a young son. She is a partner in in a medical practice and he is a property developer. However, it is no surprise to viewers when things start to go wrong, beginning with Gemma's discovery of a long blonde hair on Simon's scarf.

It is, of course, quite a jump to immediately assume a solitary hair amounts to infidelity as there is hardly anyone today who is not familiar with basic forensics i.e., there are countless innocent explanations as to a single strand of hair might attach itself to the woolly surface of someone else's scarf. One would be forgiven for presuming that, as a medical practitioner Dr. Foster would be all too aware of this fact.

I will refrain from saying anything further about the plot for fear of revealing too much to potential viewers. Suranne Jones and Bertie Carvel give their all as the eponymous Dr. Foster and the husband Simon respectively and, while there may be times that call for a suspension of disbelief, this is an enjoyable and somewhat addictive serial and delivers hours of gripping entertainment.

However, I felt it all fell flat at the end and must point out that Doctor Foster is the most unlikely GP I have ever known, encountered or even read about. Her disregard for medical ethics is staggering and doctor/patient confidentiality does not come into the equation as far as she is concerned. She was meant perhaps to portray a woman in free fall due to her husband's infidelity but in fact she appeared very fragile and unreliable from the outset.

Even so, I would still recommend Doctor Foster to all fans of psychological thrillers.

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