The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson (Book Review)

12/08/2013 § Leave a comment

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Stimulated by the systematic delivery to academics of a cryptic book, Jon Ronson investigates the business of madness. Encountering belligerent Scientologists, psychopaths and disgraced and acclaimed psychologists alike, Ronson finds himself empowered with the ultimate psychopath spotting gismo; the Psychopath Test. Ronson’s most engaging anecdotes are regurgitations of the work of others (the Rosenhan experiment being the best example), but he does enlighten the reader to the madness that is inherent in some systems of psychology, as well as its subjects. The Psychopath Test is an entertaining and didactic documentary collection of case studies that will both shock and amuse.

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (Book Review)

23/07/2013 § Leave a comment

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Sulky drop-out Raskolnikov commits the harrowing murder of an elderly shopkeeper. Ostensibly to spare his virtuous sister the obligation to marry for money, Raskolnikov’s motives are grounded in ego and ennui. Dostoevsky’s tale is spun via the construct of conversation, which dismembers the narrative just as Raskolnikov’s mind unravels with self-doubt. The inconsistency of the murderer’s psyche gives the impression of multi-layering, which is buffered by manifold stories and the illusion of guilt over brooding. Watch as the arachnid character is funnelled into his own web, and wonder whether Raskolnikov believes his tangled yarn to involve either crime or punishment.

Mystery Man by Colin Bateman (Book Review)

19/12/2012 § Leave a comment

Mystery man by colin bateman cover

An acerbic hypochondriac and reluctant purveyor of crime fiction finds himself, compelled by the prospect of reward and glory, filling the shoes of a missing private detective. But what begins as a harmless hobby soon transcends into a dangerous murder investigation, with Nazi conspiracies a go-go (albeit suffused with the feminine wiles of self-appointed sidekick, Alison). This novel doubles up as a cynically hilarious parody and genuinely enthralling mystery. The ‘mystery man’ is fantastic to get to know as he begrudgingly overcomes his reticence, and Bateman’s disclaimer about second edition revisions hints at a not-so-fictional basis for a sinister plot, veiled with humour.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (Book Review)

31/08/2012 § 2 Comments

Six characters, whose lives traverse aeons, geographies and genres, are linked by disparate windows into one another’s worlds. This is not just another book jumping onto the multi-storyline bandwagon. Mitchell produces both quality and quantity by delivering an extravaganza of extraordinarily distinct narratives that are unified by cohesive themes. This novel reads like an all you can eat buffet; with generous helpings of humour, atmosphere, tension and philosophy. Readers will mourn the loss of one account only to fall in love with the next. Their richness will leave you pondering Cloud Atlas’ intricacies long after you’ve gobbled up the final words.

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey (Book Review)

09/03/2012 § Leave a comment

This adult fairy-tale tells of a barren couple who, in an attempt to escape the misery of reality, build a solitary homestead in the bleak forest of 1920’s Alaska. Struck by fleeting frivolity they build a girl from snow, which is replaced in the morning by the child, wild and mysterious, that they have always wanted. Narrative devices skilfully play with the reader’s ability to discern fact from fiction and a consistent notion of the sinister makes this novel a haunting read. However, the extent of surrealism coupled with the detached solemnity of the narrative make the plot hard to embrace and not altogether enjoyable.

Before I go to sleep by SJ Watson (Book Review)

09/03/2012 § Leave a comment

Chrissie is unable to hold onto her memories as she sleeps. She is forced to trust the devoted stranger she wakes up to every morning, who tells of a terrible accident that robbed her of her history. That is, until Chrissie begins to keep a secret journal, the truths of which slowly unravel her fragile and transient existence, seeming to reveal everyone as dishonest and unfamiliar, including herself. An intriguing concept is subsumed by the necessarily repetitive narrative, which Watson fails to overcome. The anticipatory nature of the plot is dampened by consistent predictability making this a rather bland and feeble read.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (Book Review)

29/01/2012 § 1 Comment

Sixteen year old Jacob has long ceased believing his manic Grandfather’s farfetched tales about a childhood spent with ‘peculiar children’ and hunted by monstrous beings. But a traumatic experience has Jacob questioning his own sanity, and whether there was in fact some truth behind the old man’s fictions. Punctuated with genuine, thought provoking photographs, this novel has a unique pulling power. Unfortunately the story’s substance fails to equal the eerie intrigue or excitement that its images suggest, with an inconsistent narrative voice hindering the characterisation of its central figure. Peculiar children is an overly ambitious children’s novel, which unfortunately fails to translate for an adult audience.

Sherlock Holmes – The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz (Book Review)

05/01/2012 § 1 Comment

Watson, after the death of his beloved companion Sherlock Holmes, sets out to recount one of his early ventures with the most famous of detectives; one too monstrous to be released to a contemporaneous audience. It’s abundantly clear why The House of Silk was officially approved by the Conan Doyle estate. Horowitz has succeeded in capturing the essence of Homes and the narrative style of Watson to create an entirely original adventure. Horowitz satisfies modern bloodlust with controversy unthinkable to Conan Doyle, but remains faithful to the original characters and style. This novel is impeccably researched and a cracking mystery.

The Book of Lost Fragrances by M.J. Rose (Book Review)

13/12/2011 § Leave a comment

Jac is struggling to supress mental health problems and save her ancestral perfumery from bankruptcy. But when her brother uncovers a familial artefact that may be the saviour of controversial Tibetan beliefs in reincarnation, Jac’s precarious sanity is put to the test by cryptic clues, murder and a reunion with a long lost love. The bizarre plot is not adequately addressed by even the supposedly sceptical characters. However, the mysteries that the reincarnation catalyst ignites are entertaining; enhanced throughout by Jac’s bittersweet romance.  The Book of Lost Fragrances whiffs of intoxicating insanity comparable to Süskind’s Perfume: The Story of a Murderer.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (Book Review)

26/10/2011 § 2 Comments

Allow the perplexing associates of the Night Circus to guide you on a journey to uncover its many mysteries. Fuelled by a bizarre and sinister competition between two formidable magicians, Le Cirque de Rêves is swathed in curiosities and impossibilities. This novel boasts moments of brilliance, where the reader is dazzled by an intricate secret world. However, the overly ambitious plot overwhelms the characterisation and, at times, basic narrative skill. The repetition of words and narrative formulae leave the novel feeling rushed and unedited. Tragically unpolished with an air of an intriguing film pitch rather than a novel, The Night Circus is not quite brilliant.

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