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  • Thorn
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3.8 out of 5 stars
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3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 18 May 2006
For mystery buffs who have missed the excellent Claire Francis' dark and subtly nuanced mystery novels can take heart: Vena Cork seems poised to take over this niche, and quite successfully too if her debut novel, "Thorn" is anything to go by.

Rosa Thorn's life, and those of her two children, Danny and Anna, were irrevocably changed when her artist husband, Rob, was killed in a hit-and-run accident. Now, almost a whole year later, Rosa is coping not only with the pain and grief of losing Rob, but with money problems as well. As Rosa and her children try to adjust to lives without Rob, a new school (for the kids) and a new job (for Rosa), the last thing Rosa needed was to have to contend with Anna becoming the apple of the local derelict's eye. And when a young girl is found murdered nearby, Rosa begins to fear for Anna's safety -- especially since she's beginning to sense that a dark and menacing presence is keeping an eye on her family...

"Thorn" proved to be quite the page turner: it was suspenseful and gripping and full of riveting plot twists. I thought that Vena Cork did a rather masterful job of portraying the grief and sense of loss that Rosa, Danny and Anna felt, making the characters accessible and engaging. The manner in which she layered the suspense, building on the tension with each plot twist was wonderfully done as well. All in all, this was a terrific debut novel, worth sitting up and taking notice of. It was absorbing and compelling and possessed coloured the kind of dark, menacing atmosphere you want your mystery novel to have. Definitely an unputdownable.
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on 12 July 2010
Having looked at the other reviews of this novel, I can only conclude that they all must be personal friends of the author.Probably friends that owe her money. Maybe they want to stay on the right side of her,'cos they borrow her lawnmower now and again. I can think of no other reason why these reviews exist.

I need to know: In what universe could this book compare to a Barbara Vine?, Nicci French,? A Dr Seuss book even? Those authors strive to MAKE SENSE.

This book was chosen by my book group. We dutifully all read it and came back to discuss it...one of the few times in a group that's been going for years when we were all in agreement- it's toe-curlingly bad. We didn't so much as discuss it, but carry out a sort of autopsy. A few of us are certain that the writer created this while intoxicated- drunk while in charge of a laptop. The plot makes very little sense. Strike that- no sense AT ALL. The villain of the piece stopped short of twirling his moustache, brandishing his cloak and tying a girl to the railway tracks (just), he was so deranged, how he succeeded not being discovered when he could clearly not be trusted with a cotton bud was inexplicable. The area the book is set in is well known to us...a place where roaring middle- class mummies get visibly upset if you don't recycle your organic milk carton correctly- symbolic murders would cause much comment at the local farmers market. Trust me. We know. Which Queen's Park is this book set in? And wild life? Really?

Still we have much to thank the author for. Until then, I hadn't realised that you could be embarrassed by a novel that wasn't pornography. We live and learn, eh? This book is so terrible it's become a bench mark for our group. All books ever after eventually invite either the comment 'Blimey that was dreadful...but still better than Thorn'. or 'Well it's great..not Thorn-like at all!'
It's also encouraged other writers among us. After all, if this book could get published how bad could we possibly be?
Read if you want an (unintentional) good laugh.
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on 2 December 2004
I have to say i was a bit wary of this book, new author and all that, but i need not have worried, the story gripped you from start to finish, i couldn't put it down, i had to see what happened to the family, there are a lot of twists in this book, that keeps you guessing, just when you think you know who is behind all the things going wrong with the family, there's a twist which leaves you wondering. i really do reccomend this book, if you are a fan of Nicci French, you will love this book, i can't wait for another book to be writtwen by this author, she is going to be a author to look out for.
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on 18 January 2016
Following her husband's sudden death, Rosa Thorn and her two teenage children Anna and Danny have to go through the grieving process and adjust to their new life. Feeling the financial strain of a single parent, Rosa takes on a temporary teaching job at the local school, the same one her two children now have to attend after leaving their previous private school. To make matters worse, sinister things start happening around them, injured and dead animals on their doorstep, the dead body of a girl in the neighborhood park and Anna possibly being stalked.
I really enjoyed this suspenseful mix of family drama and mystery. Written mostly from Rosa's point of view in a very relaxed, cynical manner, it was easy to empathize with Rosa. There were snippets of other points of view throughout the book, which threw you off course, and when it came to identifying the culprit, I was utterly surprised. There were several possibilities, as everyone seemed to have something to hide, but the ending came as a total shock to me. Absolutely loved it. My only minor nag, there were so many different characters, it wasn't always easy to keep straight who they were and how they were connected to each other. Still, Thorn was a really compelling, dark mystery with the added bonus of some very perceptive psychological insights into family relationships and teenage drama, and I immediately added the author's second book featuring Rosa Thorn to my wish list.
Thanks to Endeavour Press for providing me with a copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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on 27 September 2005
It started a little slow but once it got going, I couldn't put it down. It kept you guessing all the way through and often I got it wrong.
If you are going to buy any book, buy this one. A great read.
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on 1 May 2009
I picked this book out of my friend's attic since I needed something to read. It's an easy read, it took me about two/three days to fly through it.
This is a whodunit with the murder in the middle but that's not even half of it, which is what I quite enjoyed. There's about fives plots all mixed together in this but it is crowded at the same time. These subplots where all answered, at the end of it all the loose ends where tied up all very neatly (except one major thing that if I state I will spoil).
The characters are realistic and all equally suspious which I half liked. I did like how anybody and everybody could possibly be evil (besides from the main character) but I thought the writer put slightly too much emphasis on the little 'this character could be the bad guy' bits. Though, unfortunately, without those bits I doubt I would have thought the enemy could be anybody.
It has all the elements for a mystery but the main fault I found with this book is that I correctly guessed who did it. It's not seen a mile away but once you read a lot of Agatha Christie and know how a mystery book works you can make a good guess and once the writer went through each subplot and said 'this suspious character isn't' (leading up to a brilliantly done climax) you can tell where it's going.
Overall a good book and beside from what I said there were no other faults. Since it took me a couple of days that's a sign it definitely had me wrapped within it. Give it go.
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on 7 July 2009
I'm afraid that I found this a very disappointing read overall. Although neither the prose nor the story itself could be said to be very poor they both failed to really engage me. The greatest problem is the structure of the novel which is incredibly uneven in terms of content and pace. For the first two-thirds of the book very little actually happens. There is some sense of unease created by the presence of Mick O'Brien and the dead animals being left outside the house but this is too flimsy to sustain such a huge chunk of the novel. The prose itself is quite naïve and never really conveys the levels of menace and fear which the story requires.

In addition, because the final revelation is so poorly seeded through the novel I'm afraid I found what should have been a dramatic climax instead completely farcical. We seemed to lurch in a moment from dull and pedestrian to high drama. The novel essentially fails to build towards its climax properly so instead of being swept along on a wave of intrigue, mystery, suspense and tension I felt completely adrift from the action and therefore viewed it with total detachment and disbelief.

The other great weakness in the novel is the characterisation. The author only really seems comfortable portraying a certain social class of character. Some of the depictions of general family life for a mother of two teenagers did ring quite true. By contrast the depictions of the children's new `working class' friends are pretty awful. They are stereotyped by their names (Delroy, Dwaine, Crystal, Athy), by their actions (drugs and extreme bullying) and by their speech (inarticulate with a lot of teeth-sucking by the afro-Caribbean mother). The further supporting cast were equally unconvincing from the hugely important Tom Brice down to Mick the local nutter.
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on 24 March 2012
this book ust did not do anything for me. right from the first i simply could not ' take 'to rosie thorn. i hated the way she jumped to conclusions, without a shred of proof, or any indication even, that the man who befriended her daughter was the ' baddie '. the names she tagged on to collegues and neighours were pathetic. mary the hologram, fax max, singing vic etc for heavens sake. the humour, if this is what was intended, escapes me. not my type of humour, i'm afraid. in fact found it quite tiresome. all teenagers can be stroppy, weird even, but her two were beyond belief and so was the way she dealt with them. she had hardly a good word to say for any other character in the book and saw suspicious actions everywhere. sorry rosie thorn didn't like you at all. the book was very slow, irritating, even until probably two thirds through when it perked up a bit. it started to get interesting then, but the build up towards the ending was too long drawn out for me and i lost interest again
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on 6 June 2011
I read this on the strength of a good review in Time Out but I haven't read such a load of claptrap in a long time. I kept going to the end (it's an easy read, I'll give it that) in the mistaken belief that the denouement couldn't possibly match the unbelievable, cliched dross that preceded it. How wrong I was - the 'twist' is preposterous and the villain's undoing never explained. I feel bad about giving it to a charity shop in case I inflict this cobblers on somebody else. Even the names are ridiculous - Penny Black for god's sake, and the title character herself - Rosa Thorn - geddit!?
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 1 January 2016
One of the giveaways of a debut novel is its derivativeness and this book is crammed full of cliches: the stalker, the dead animals left on a doorstop, the psychopath who has fooled everyone. On top of that, it doesn't know where to stop so we have a mass of other issues crowding the pages: drugs, self-harming, bullying, dodgy neighbours, sinister goings on at the school where the main character works, dead and mutilated girls... A more streamlined plot, more attention to atmosphere and detail, would have improved the book immensely. Only 3 stars, I'm afraid.
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