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on 11 May 2017
'Weirdo' is an absorbing, page-turning crime thriller that held my attention from start to finish. Sure, it's a slow-burner but that's no bad thing in my book. The attention to detail is truly admirable and a sense of place (the Norfolk coast) comes through very strongly. Cathi Unsworth has a great talent for animating the lonely, alienated, disaffected individuals who tend to populate her novels. There are perhaps a few too many minor characters in 'Weirdo' but the central players, particularly the sadistic dog mutilator Samantha Lamb and the creepy retired copper Len Rivett, simply jump off the page. The two-tier structure of the book (alternate chapters are set in 1983/4 and 2003/4) works very well and the twin story lines both build to satisfying conclusions. Finally, as a devotee of mid-1980s British Indie music, I tip my hat to Ms Unsworth for making me all nostalgic, in a good way, about a rather unhappy time in my life. I'm off to play 'Heaven up Here' again...
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on 24 July 2017
Excellent book, a trip down memory lane for me as I lived in that town for over 30 years.
Don't know why the author disguised the name of the town when she used the all the proper names of roads and shops, anyone who knows it will recognise it immediatly! Never the less, most enjoyable.
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on 4 October 2013
With all the hype revolving around Weirdo, I just could not wait to read it. I so much admire how Cathi has written this psycholgical thriller. The suspense building up drip feeds you bit by bit it just draws you in. The story has a wonderful range of different characters that clearly mess with your mind. Be sure that Weirdo will stay with you long after you have finished reading Weirdo. I certainly recommend Weirdo to all readers that like a psychological thriller. It is superbly interwoven with the past in 1984 and the present time in 2003.
Twenty years ago in an isolated seaside town of Ernemouth, Corinne Woodrow a fifteen year old - young school girl was convicted of murdering one of her classmates. Corinne was sent to a mental unit. The newspapers called her Wicked witch of the east. The local people called her a weirdo and said they had always known she was a wrong un.
In 2003 private investigator Sean Ward is sent to Ernemouth to investigate Corinne Woodrow's murder charge. As now fresh new DNA evidence shows up that someone else was involved that are not known to the police. Retired DCI Len Rivett who was incharge of Corinne case twenty years ago helps Sean Ward find out who that someone else could be that helped Corinne that summer's evening in 1984.
Black magic, witches Goths weirdos and bikers are all here in the story of Weirdo just waiting to be read and enjoyed. Review by ireadnovels.wordpress.com
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Former detective Sean Ward is now a private investigator and reopens a strange case of 20 years ago that involved a teenage schoolgirl being accused, and found guilty, of murdering a classmate. Now incarcerated in a mental home, perpetrator Corinne Woodrow is visited by Ward, who has uncovered new forensic evidence to suggest it wasn't her. With Ward trying to find out what actually happened, reading this made me compare it with `The Wicker Man', in that the close-knit community - and they are more close-knit than you might first think - appear to have something to hide.

When I started to read this book, I assumed it was going to be a crime thriller not realising, that after a mere handful of pages, I would be perusing what amounted to an advertising directory, such was the seemingly liberal use of brand names. Who really cares? I do, and, I suspect, many others. Whilst other authors would be content with describing a car journey in a `dark blue saloon/hatchback/convertible`, etc., Unsworth not only gives us the make but also the model. In addition, a character in other books would probably `stub out his unfinished cigarette' but here we know what brand he smokes and what he used to smoke. Maybe product placement in novels is an untapped market.

Each chapter alternates between the months linking August 83 and June 84, and March 2003, and whilst I'm not really a fan of this type of writing, it neither adds nor detracts from what you read. Set in a mythical seaside town in Norfolk, the mid-teens hang around the amusement arcades, a local pub, clothes and record shops, and do things those of the same age do anywhere. What is visible is Cathi Unsworth's undoubted interest in the `Goth Rock' of groups such as Bauhaus, Sisters of Mercy, and Killing Joke, of which their song titles are referenced as chapter headings. In fact, similar things, what with changing their hairstyles, clothes and looks on a regular basis, also influence the main characters in their formative years within the book. Some may consider them weirdos with Woodrow, a virtual orphan what with her mother being the town bike, the biggest weirdo of them all. Or is she?

With plenty of references to local establishments (I`m assuming the town of Ernemouth, is based on a real location), a sub plot of black magic running through the narrative; a nasty local ex copper who thinks it's still his domain, and a reasonably evocative view of the 80s, I didn't think I'd like this but it was better than I thought. It makes you question who the weirdo really is. Ignoring the blatant commercial props, this is a decent read, albeit with a strange title.
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on 24 July 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Corrine Woodrow has been incarcerated for twenty years after being found guilty of a gruesome satanic murder. When a second person's DNA is identified at the murder scene and it appears that Corrine may not have acted alone, private detective Sean Ward is sent to reopen her case.

"Weirdo" alternates between Sean's present-day investigation and the early 1980s when a teenage Corrine and her friends are forging identities for themselves through bands, fashion, and art. Unsworth brilliantly recreates the lives and preoccupations of these teenagers in their Norfolk seaside town. Ernemouth (based on Great Yarmouth) is a small oppressive place and the book is rich with the sea, fading hotels, amusement arcades, and the fairground which towers over everything.

Unsworth is a compelling writer and I thoroughly enjoyed every word of this exciting and moving book, extending my lunch breaks so I could read on. Parts of "Weirdo" are very bleak and there are some truly horrible characters; but the warmth Unsworth feels for her teenage protagonists is evident and it makes this book a joy to read.
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on 12 January 2015
Cathi Unsworth‘s marvelously atmospheric Weirdo (2012) takes place in an English seaside town, the fictitious Ernemouth. Again two sides of the town are contrasted with bright lights hiding dark and dirty corners. A private detective investigates a 20 year old murder and unearths some nasty secrets. Weirdo cleverly takes place in two time periods (2003 and 1983), is populated with great charters and has a vividly, strong sense of time and place.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 5 November 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Weirdo is a very powerful novel. Set in two time periods, the first in 1983 when a horrible crime is committed and the other 20 years later when a PI, Sean Ward, investigates what really happened. This is a book which starts off very slowly, and the first 50 pages or so are dedicated to setting the scene, introducing characters and lengthy descriptions of the locale. However, from then on tension gradually builds, alternating between each time period until the end when the two explosively collide.

Corinne is a strange girl who has been in a secure mental institution for twenty years, after having been convicted of the violent slaying of a schoolmate. Ward has been hired by a QC to investigate what really occurred in the small fictional seaside town of Ernemouth in East Anglia. Although one has a clear idea as to who the victim of the crime may well have been, this is not clarified until right at the end. This strategy works very well and it keeps you guessing throughout as it is easy to identify the two obvious candidates.

This is a story which works well on a number of levels. Ernemouth is described so well that it is easy to imagine walking the streets of this claustrophobic, run down seaside town. Character development is very good, except for the evil characters who remain rather shady and less well defined and this also is a very purposeful tactic used by the author. The institutional and somewhat incestuous corruption which has plagued the town for many years is particularly well portrayed.

Some will be tempted to abandon this book in the slow, early stages, but this would be a big mistake as it becomes an increasingly absorbing read, and the latter part is definitely of page turning intensity. The name of the book is, in my opinion, rather unfortunate and may also put off some readers unnecessarily. This is the first novel by Cathi Unsworth which I have read, but it is really so good that I plan to seek out her other books.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The over-riding theme of `Weirdo' is injustice. It is a powerful murder thriller that is dark and disturbing in its exposure of cruelty and corruption in the setting of an insular small town with a mentality of intolerance. In addition there are drugs, prostitution and pornography - and a hint of black magic - what more is necessary for a riveting read? Author Cathi Unsworth cleverly employs alternate chapters between the opening of a legal appeal case in 2003 and the build up to a killing and conviction 20 years previous, and within chapters a number of threads are deftly kept in tandem.

Effort is required to keep up with numerous characters - especially as these are randomly referred to by either surname or first name or by nick-names - but it is worth persevering as the story is imaginative and intense. Perhaps too many side issues are introduced yet in spite of its intricate and complex nature the narrative is skilfully constructed and expertly paced with unlikely characters ingeniously offered as convincing - yet it is far-fetched. But hey - it's fiction - and it makes the most of exciting twists and turns throughout to a series of revealing but unexpected conclusions in the final pages. It may be fiction, but `Weirdo' also prompts thoughts on abuse of power, exploitation of minors, dysfunctional families and sex predators. Suspend belief, ignore the illogical and enjoy an atmospheric hard hitting story - and ponder.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is an extremely well written and fantastically atmospheric novel. The plot revolves around the investigation by a private detective of sorts into a horrible crime many years ago in a small Norfolk town, and the narrative moves between the present-day(ish) investigation and events at the time of the crime. It is exceptionally well done: the plot is believable, the characters are very well drawn and plausible, and the setting is so well conjured as to be positively claustrophobic.

The book is pretty unremittingly bleak. The story of the original crime is a grim, gripping tale of teenage angst, insecurity and cruelty, and the investigation story conjures a hostile community closing ranks against an outsider very well. I found it compelling but by no means an easy read, and I felt very unsettled by it quite a lot of the time. This is an excellent thing in a book, but doesn't make it comfortable reading.

Don't expect a conventional crime thriller here. There are many aspects of such a thriller in the book and they make it very engrossing, but this is more of a novel about the psychology of teenage alienation and cruelty and of the ethos of a closed community. It is, however, an excellent novel, beautifully written and constructed with important things to say, and I recommend it very warmly.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 17 October 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
While the publisher's blurb for this book is accurate - a private detective re-opening a twenty year old cold case - it doesn't convey how dark, grim and truly desolate this story is. And yet, somehow, it isn't a depressing read, and is a very gripping one.

If you're the kind of reader who doesn't like the gritty, the grubby, the sordid and the unpleasant then this is definitely one to avoid as, at times, it shows all these things through its characters, without the book itself becoming sleazy. In lots of ways this is both an angry book and a very compassionate one. I don't usually like neat and clean `moral' endings, but I was actually very relieved, given what the characters had been through, that that's what we have here.

So in lots of ways this replicates the conventions of many books in the crime genre: a `cold' case, the stranger in town, the dual-time frame, uncovering dark secrets from the past and so on, and yet they all feel fresh and convincing in Unsworth's hands.

I wasn't sure whether I'd like this - turns out I loved it.
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