Book Review: Billy Summers by Stephen King

Name:  Billy Summers
Author:  
Stephen King
Number of Pages: 
448 (Paperback)
Published: 
June 9th 2022 by Hodder Paperbacks
Genre: Thriller, Mystery

Goodreads

Billy Summers is a man in a room with a gun. He’s a killer for hire and the best in the business. But he’ll do the job only if the target is a truly bad guy. And now Billy wants out. But first there is one last hit. Billy is among the best snipers in the world, a decorated Iraq war vet, a Houdini when it comes to vanishing after the job is done. So what could possibly go wrong?
How about everything.

My Rating:

4ddiamonds

My Thoughts:

Billy Summers is the latest offering from Stephen King and quite unlike many of the other books you might associate with him. There’s no horror as such, although some quite horrific things do happen throughout the story.

It’s the story of an assassin tempted into one last job by a massive payout, tempted even though as time goes on he starts to think there’s something not right about the whole set up.
It’s also the story of a man finding pleasure in writing, in telling his story even though he’s not sure that anyone will ever actually get to read it, and whether that even matters.

The beginning of this plays out at a leisurely pace as Billy takes on an assumed identity as David Lockridge, a man working on a book. The idea is to wait for his target to arrive at a certain place as going after him would be impossible. While he waits Billy has to become someone else, blending in with the local community, both at a work location (and site for the real job he’s been employed to do), and at a new home.
It’s in the everyday I find King has a way of drawing you in, to the situation, and with the characters that Billy meets. Watching him become a friend to these people, knowing what the outcome must inevitably be, it made me wonder whether he’d actually go through with the hit or attempt to find a way out of it and continue in the life he crafts for himself.

There’s a story within the story as Billy takes his cover to heart and does actually begin to write. At first it’s to avoid suspicion and questions, but as he recalls his own childhood, and later his years as a sniper, he finds that the story needs to be told, all the way through, and that he’s writing for himself, rather than to simply provide a cover story.

And then there’s Alice. Billy meets Alice under traumatic circumstances and with her entrance the tale goes off in another unexpected direction. I don’t want to give too much away so won’t say more, but there are quite a few different threads included in the story of Billy Summers.

The characters make the story, starting with Billy. He’s a man knowingly doing bad things for bad people, but has a certain code. He’ll only take on jobs targeting bad people, and this last target certainly meets the bill on the surface, but there seems to be more to it too, things that no one wants to get into. There’s also his reaction to the way Alice is treated, and the way he cannot let it go regardless that at that point so many people are looking for Billy it would probably be the safer option.

The people Billy encounters along the way, from his agent Bucky, to Alice, to all his neighbours in his new home, some of whom do seem to become genuine friends to Billy, all bring the story to life, and it was a shame to leave the everyday behind.

The second half of the story is faster paced, as Billy decides to set certain things right, both for himself and those he cares about. There is action and violence as the man who only targets bad people sets his sights on a number of very bad characters and the truth behind his original assignment comes to light.

I enjoyed Billy Summers. Time spent with some great characters in some awful situations left me wanting a happy ending for some of them. Did I get it? I couldn’t possibly say, but I enjoyed finding out.

Advertisement

Book Review: The Midnight Man (Slayton Thrillers #1) by Caroline Mitchell

Name:  The Midnight Man (Slayton Thrillers #1)
Author:  
Caroline Mitchell
Number of Pages: 
311 (Kindle)
Published:
October 13th 2021 by Embla Books
Genre: Thriller, Mystery

Goodreads

If you open your door to the Midnight Man, hide with a candle wherever you can. Try not to scream as he draws near, because one of you won’t be leaving here…
On Halloween night in Slayton, five girls go to Blackhall Manor to play the Midnight Game. They write their names on a piece of paper and prick their fingers to soak it in blood. At exactly midnight they knock on the door twenty-two times – they have invited the Midnight Man in.
It was supposed to be a game, but only four girls come home.
Detective Sarah Noble has just returned to the force, and no one knows more about Blackhall Manor than her. It’s a case that will take Sarah back to everything she’s been running from, and shake her to the core.
Will she be ready to meet the Midnight Man?

My Rating:

4ddiamonds

My Thoughts:

The Midnight Man is an eerie thriller of a tale which begins when five school friends each receive the invitation to play the infamous Midnight Game. They’re willing participants, believing at first that the leader of their group, Angelica, has arranged the whole thing for some Halloween fun. Only, after a late night venture to Blackhall Manor, scene of a shocking crime 25 years prior, Angelica doesn’t come home.

The opening to this was really atmospheric and spooky, and it has a fantastically eerie location in Blackhall Manor, the now abandoned derelict manor house, isolated on a hilltop and surrounded by woodland. As the girls brave a night in this old house with it’s creaky floors and rotting facades, it’s clear that there’s something lurking, and fuels the idea that there may be a little more to the old story of the Midnight Game.

It’s all very mysterious from the outset as we meet the central characters.
Sarah is a woman returning to her job with the police after a year’s absence brought about by some scandal which we’re not privy to at first. The idea is she eases herself back into the job on restricted duties, only that doesn’t play out when she comes across people with possible links to the Midnight Game and the disappearance of Angelica.
Then there’s Maggie and her young son Elliot. Elliot is troubled by dreams, only they tend to have eerie relevance to things that actually happen in real life, and Maggie doesn’t quite know what to do about it. Elliot was at the heart of this story; as his experiences gradually become more involved and more frightening for him, he may have insights that could save a life.
Slayton also plays host to a whole range of people who could be either potential victims of the Midnight Man or be involved in the deaths and disappearances occurring, and watching Sarah and her colleagues try to piece it all together was engrossing.

This was a fast-paced read that threw in many unexpected elements towards the conclusion. I honestly thought I had it all worked out at least twice and then, well, I’ll just say I was no where near the big reveal, and I like to be surprised.

This is the first Slayton book and I believe there’s another one out now called The Night Whispers which I may be tempted to read some time to find out what happens next in this town that seems touched by some sort of darkness.

Book Review: The Hollows by Mark Edwards

Name:  The Hollows
Author:  
Mark Edwards
Number of Pages: 
335 (Kindle)
Published:
July 8th 2021 by Thomas & Mercer
Genre: Thriller, Mystery

Goodreads

With his marriage over and his career in freefall, journalist Tom decides to reconnect with his fourteen-year-old daughter, Frankie. Desperate to spend precious time together now that they live an ocean apart, he brings her to Hollow Falls, a cabin resort deep in the woods of Maine.
From the outset there’s something a little eerie about the place—strange whispers in the trees, windchimes echoing through the forest—but when Tom meets true-crime podcasters David and Connie, he receives a chilling warning. Hollow Falls has a gruesome history: twenty years ago this week, a double slaying shut down the resort. The crime was never solved, and now the woods are overrun with murder-obsessed tourists looking to mark the grim anniversary.
It’s clear that there’s something deeply disturbing going on at Hollow Falls. And as Tom’s dream trip turns into a nightmare, he and Frankie are faced with a choice: uncover the truth, or get out while they still can.

My Rating:

4ddiamonds

My Thoughts:

A holiday in a cabin in the woods, what could possibly go wrong?! Plenty, as it turns out, and that made The Hollows an engrossing and unputdownable read.

Tom and Frankie book a holiday at Hollow Falls resort. It sounds idyllic, a new resort, cabins surrounded by woodland and a lake, and no end of things to do.
What this father and daughter pair didn’t realise was that this site, now so charming was, 20 years previously, the site of an unsolved double murder. Rumours and myths have grown surrounding what happened 20 years ago and who was responsible. Added to this the main suspect was never caught. Unsettling news, and then strange things begin to happen and suddenly the perfect getaway becomes something more sinister.

I really enjoyed The Hollows. It was one of those books I was reluctant to put down, always wanting to find time for one more chapter. The viewpoints switch mostly between fourteen year old Frankie and her father Tom, and the chapters were fairly short, so I felt compelled to read on, especially as the peril and threat became more apparent.

The setting is great, by turns perfect then vaguely ominous – the trees and woodland, so dense, so old, so much history, and the idea that the place itself can affect people.  All this added atmosphere, and the way events from the past tie in with the present kept me reading. And there’s the town of Penance nearby, a place that seems a little strange in itself, with the eerie sound of wind chimes from some unknown location, the junkyard nearby, and some fairly unnerving inhabitants.

The air of tension and threat starts subtle and builds gradually, and is creepy and atmospheric rather than overly scary. It’s little things that at first would be easy to pass off as nothing, or coincidence, but as each of these things start mounting up, and the stories of days gone by are told, it becomes clear that there may be danger close by.

The characters are an interesting mix, from Tom and his daughter, to their neighbours at the resort, true crime podcasters Connie and David and their son Ryan, who becomes a friend to Frankie. Connie and David known all about what happened 20 years ago, and it’s left to them to tell Tom all about it, unable to believe he had no idea.
The staff at the resort range from friendly and helpful to slightly unsettling, as do the other people who appear throughout the story.

The Hollows reveals its secrets gradually, building up in an eerie atmospheric way until suddenly the danger is revealed and there’s a fast-paced race to get out of this idyllic holiday location alive. Entertaining and exciting, and one to read if you fancy a slightly spooky thriller.

Book Review: Murder by the Seaside by Cecily Gayford

Name:  Murder by the Seaside
Author:  
Cecily Gayford (Editor)
Number of Pages: 
223 (Kindle)
Published:
May 12th 2022 by Profile books
Genre: Mystery, Crime

Goodreads

It’s the height of summer. As the heat shimmers on the streets and ice cream melts onto sticky fingers, tempers begin to rise and old grudges surface. From Cornish beaches to the French Riviera, it’s not just a holiday that’s on people’s minds … it’s murder.
In these ten classic stories from writers such as Dorothy L. Sayers, Cyril Hare and Margery Allingham, you’ll find mayhem and mysteries aplenty. So grab the suncream and head down to the beach – if you dare.

My Rating:

3diamonds

My Thoughts:

Murder by the Seaside is a collection of short stories edited by Cecily Gayford. The stories included are:

The Boscombe Valley Mystery – Arthur Conan Doyle
Weight and See – Cyril Hare
Error at Daybreak – John Dickson Carr (Carter Dickson)
The Absence of Mr Glass – G. K. Chesterton
Razor Edge – Anthony Berkeley
The Furies – Michael Innes
Daisy Bell – Gladys Mitchell
A Mystery of the Sand-hills – R. Austin Freeman
Superintendent Wilson’s Holiday – G. D. H. & M. Cole
Man Overboard – Edmund Crispin

As you can probably guess, all the stories have some link to a seaside/coastal setting, and each has some sort of crime at it’s centre just waiting for the right kind of detective to come along and make sense of it all. Be it life and death, or some kind of deception for as-yet unknown reasons, there’s a variety here to keep you entertained and guessing throughout.

This collection introduced me to authors I’ve never read before, and threw in some old familiars too, such as Arthur Conan Doyle, which reminds me that it’s a very long time since I read a Sherlock Holmes story.

Each story was quite different. There were many twists and turns throughout, and even by the end I was no closer to working out whodunnit in most cases.

I usually choose really long books, so it was something of a novelty to be able to pick this up and read a whole story in one sitting. It was quite refreshing and I enjoyed that, and also experiencing so many new-to-me authors. I’ve been reading a lot of Agatha Christie lately so it was nice to have a variety of takes on a similar theme from different authors. That said, I am looking forward to getting back to another Poirot book.

Murder by the Seaside is an entertaining collection for a warm afternoon when you want a bit of a mystery to read in one sitting.

Book Review: Death Comes as the End by Agatha Christie

Name:  Death Comes as the End
Author:  
Agatha Christie
Number of Pages: 
336 (Kindle)
Published:
February 27th 2010 (first published October 1944)
Genre: Mystery, Crime, Historical

Goodreads

In this startling historical mystery, unique in the author’s canon, Agatha Christie presents the puzzle of a deadly mystery at the heart of a dissonant family in ancient Egypt. Imhotep, wealthy landowner and priest of Thebes, has outraged his sons and daughters by bringing a beautiful concubine into their fold. And the manipulative Nofret has already set about a plan to usurp her rivals’ rightful legacies. When her lifeless body is discovered at the foot of a cliff, Imhotep’s own flesh and blood become the apparent conspirators in her shocking murder. But vengeance and greed may not be the only motives…

My Rating:

3halfdiamonds

My Thoughts:

Following my recent read of Death on the Nile I decided to pick up another Agatha Christie mystery set in Egypt, Death Comes as the End.

The story revolves around the family of Imhotep, and sets a scene of domestic disharmony which is made many times worse upon the arrival of a young woman, Nofret, who has a talent for troublemaking. She knows she has a degree of power, and is confident enough in her position to go about causing discord and unease amongst the siblings and their families without regard for the consequences.
If things were unsettled before Nofret arrived, they were certainly worse afterwards, and more so when head of the family Imhotep goes away on business and leaves Nofret behind, ordering his family to look after her.
The simmering tension and animosity has a violent outcome, and from there the tale takes on an unexpected very slight hint of the supernatural, and one death follows another as someone or something develops a taste for murder.

Renisenb is Imhotep’s daughter. She is recently widowed, has returned home to her family, and is the main viewpoint throughout the story. She goes from suspicion to disbelief to horror as it is suggested that someone amongst her own family might actually be responsible for the awful occurrences. She ponders on characters and personalities, and how what lies within and drives a person may be very different from their outer appearance.

The characters drive this story, from eldest son Yahmose and his strong-willed wife Satipy, to trusted family friend Hori and the newly arrived Kameni. I also really liked Esa, the oldest member of the family, and possibly the most observant. She watches as trouble of various kinds unfolds within the family home and eventually develops some theories of her own as to what is going on.

Death Comes as the End has the familiar feel of a Christie story – a murder steeped in mystery, a number of suspects, an investigation of sorts, although not in the more typical format of a detective’s involvement. In this case it is Renisenb and her thoughts that propel us through the twists and turns.

There’s also something quite different in this story which made it enjoyable. The ancient Egypt setting gives it something of an historical air, and the characters and their lives are quite unique to many that I’ve encountered in my Christie reading so far. Definitely one to consider if you’re looking for something a little different in your Agatha Christie murder mystery reading.

Book Review: Death on the Nile (Hercule Poirot #17) by Agatha Christie

Name:  Death on the Nile (Hercule Poirot #17)
Author:  
Agatha Christie
Number of Pages: 
320 (Kindle)
Published: 
July 5th 2005 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published November 1st 1937)
Genre: Mystery, Crime

Goodreads

Beloved detective Hercule Poirot embarks on a journey to Egypt in one of Agatha Christie’s most famous mysteries.
The tranquility of a luxury cruise along the Nile was shattered by the discovery that Linnet Ridgeway had been shot through the head. She was young, stylish, and beautiful. A girl who had everything . . . until she lost her life.
Hercule Poirot recalled an earlier outburst by a fellow passenger: “I’d like to put my dear little pistol against her head and just press the trigger.” Yet under the searing heat of the Egyptian sun, nothing is ever quite what it seems.
A sweeping mystery of love, jealousy, and betrayal, Death on the Nile is one of Christie’s most legendary and timeless works.

My Rating:

5diamonds

My Thoughts:

All aboard the S. S. Karnak for murder and mystery with Hercule Poirot. All he really wanted was a holiday, but somehow the great detective manages to find himself onboard a steamer on the Nile accompanied by murderers and more. There’s no rest for this detective, not at this point anyway.

Plot-wise we have many tried-and-tested ingredients. Take one famous detective. Add one extremely wealthy heiress, her new husband, and her former friend. Sprinkle in hints of betrayal, jealousy and resentment. Blend with a varied group of travelling companions and a number of concealed secrets and allow to simmer under the heat of the sun on a river cruise along the Nile.
The result? A perfect portion of Death on the Nile.

Initially this is a leisurely paced story. It was about a quarter of the way through before the group boarded the Karnak. Instead, the scene is set at a hotel in Egypt where various parties gather and spend their days, living their own dramas and observing their companions do the same. There’s also the build-up to Linnet’s marriage, which comes as something of a surprise to more than one person. More shocks are in store as Linnet and her new husband Simon set out to enjoy their honeymoon, much to the annoyance of her former friend Jacqueline, who has a strange knack of turning up in whichever location the would-be happy couple visit next.
This leisurely scene-setting allows for some sightseeing for the reader too, which brings me on to…

The setting, which was rich and immersive. I thought you could tell from the descriptions that it was a place Christie had experienced and enjoyed and she captured a real air of it in these pages. The vastness of the place provided a great contrast with the setting of the Karnak. Even in such an idyllic setting it’s possible to feel trapped and closed in, on board a boat with a group of people who may wish you ill, as Linnet comes to believe as the journey progresses.

The pace picks up after the central event, as Poirot sets to work trying to identify the killer, and as always there are plenty of tangled threads to unpick, and a number of red herrings to throw the reader off the scent. There’s a great air of mystery surrounding so many people on this boat, and plenty of intrigue amongst the clues.

I liked Poirot a lot in this novel, and the way he interacted with various passengers, especially the central trio, Linnet and Simon Doyle, and Jacqueline de Bellefort. All three of these characters were intriguing, as were many of their travel companions, some of whom know the newlyweds, some of whom happen to be onboard the Karnak by chance. There’s a vulnerability to some of them that ignites Poirot’s sympathy and compassion, and I liked this side of the character.

The central mystery surrounds who killed Linnet Doyle, but there are many other things going on aboard the boat as well. Imagine all those various people, so many things they would rather remain unknown, all gathered together in one place, at the time of a murder, and in the presence of the great Hercule Poirot. What are the chances?! And how many have something to fear from the presence of the detective and his ‘little grey cells’? It made for some very entertaining reading as I tried to work out who had done what, who was concealing something, and whether everyone was as they initially appeared to be. Many of them had motive for something, but was it for murder?
I wish I could go into this more but it would spoil it (if spoiling such a well-known and well-adapted story can be possible). I knew little of the story going on beyond the obvious ‘death on the Nile’, so was pleasantly surprised.

Reading Death on the Nile was some great escapism and very entertaining. I enjoyed this just as much as Murder on the Orient Express. I hope that whichever Poirot story I choose next (and there remain plenty that I haven’t read yet) I enjoy it as much as this one.

Book Review: The Room in the Attic by Louise Douglas

Name:  The Room in the Attic
Author:  
Louise Douglas
Number of Pages: 
388 (Kindle)
Published: 
October 12th 2021 by Boldwood Books
Genre: Historical, Mystery

Goodreads

A child who does not know her name…
In 1903 fishermen find a wrecked boat containing a woman, who has been badly beaten, and a young girl. An ambulance is sent for, and the two survivors are taken to All Hallows, the imposing asylum, hidden deep on Dartmoor. The woman remains in a coma, but the little girl, who the staff name Harriet, awakens and is taken to an attic room, far away from the noise of the asylum, and is put in the care of Nurse Emma Everdeen.
Two motherless boys banished to boarding school…
In 1993, All Hallows is now a boarding school. Following his mother’s death and his father’s hasty remarriage, Lewis Tyler is banished to Dartmoor, stripped of his fashionable clothes, shorn of his long hair, and left feeling more alone than ever. There he meets Isak, another lost soul, and whilst refurbishment of the dormitories is taking place, the boys are marooned up in the attic, in an old wing of the school.
Cries and calls from the past that can no longer be ignored…
All Hallows is a building full of memories, whispers, cries from the past. As Lewis and Isak learn more about the fate of Harriet, and Nurse Emma’s desperate fight to keep the little girl safe, it soon becomes clear there are ghosts who are still restless.
Are they ghosts the boys hear at night in the room above, are they the unquiet souls from the asylum still caught between the walls? And can Lewis and Isak bring peace to All Hallows before the past breaks them first…

My Rating:

4halfdiamonds

My Thoughts:

The Room in the Attic is a tale told over three timelines – 2021, 1993 and 1903. The majority of the story is spread over the latter two timelines, but begins when Lewis Tyler, working for a firm of architects, is sent to take details on All Hallows, a property acquired by a client and due for renovation.
All Hallows is a former hospital/asylum, repurposed in more recent years as a boarding school, of which Lewis was a former pupil.

The tales unfold and complement each other, adding to the narrative in revelations and mysteries as we learn about All Hallows in 1903, and the arrival of a woman and young girl in mysterious circumstances. Found floating at sea, injured and left for dead, the two are taken to All Hallows, where the girl is placed in the care of Nurse Emma Everdeen. The pair are given rooms in the attic, away from the other patients and general goings-on in the hospital, and gradually begin to form a friendship.

In 1993, young Lewis is sent away to boarding school at the behest of his father and stepmother. Mourning the death of his mother in a tragic accident, missing his friends and his old life, Lewis has to find his place in this new environment.
Flooding damage makes the dorm rooms uninhabitable so Lewis finds himself rooming in another part of the school with a boy named Isak, who has family issues of his own, and, after some slightly eerie goings-on, the two of them soon become involved in the mystery of what happened years ago when All Hallows was an asylum.

This has a marvellous setting in All Hallows, which manages to exude an air of creepiness across all timelines.
In the present day it is dilapidated, damaged and neglected, a ruin.
In the school days it retains echoes of happenings of years ago, from the repurposed wards where the young and imaginative Lewis imagines the residents of long ago (and where pupils are sent when they’re on report), to the ill-lit corridors, the strange noises and smells, the echoes of the past.
In the hospital setting we’re mostly with Emma and Harriet as they pass their time in the room in the attic, waiting for Harriet’s mother to regain consciousness. Emma receives updates about daily life in the hospital from her friend and colleague Maria Smith.

Lewis in his youth is a wonderfully imaginative character, imagining himself as a prisoner launching a daring escape as he explores the grounds, going beyond the boundaries set by his teachers. He has a very creative imagination, and imagines the plight of former residents of the asylum. Once he discovers the story of Nurse Everdeen he’s determined to find out what happened many years ago.

The way the revelations drip through from one era to the next is teasingly done. Things are suggested, then a scene will show something to the contrary, or you’re left wondering how on earth such a thing could be possible when the evidence speaks to almost the opposite. It’s hard to detail what I mean without going into spoiler territory and I really don’t want to do that because the mystery kept me turning the pages, needing to know more.

The chapters are short, and the timelines alternate, which kept me thinking ‘just one more chapter’, and so I found myself reading long after I’d decided I should put the book down for a while. I just had to find out what had really happened

The Room in the Attic is a dual-timeline mystery with a subtly spooky air. It’s my first Louise Douglas book but I doubt it will be my last.

Book Review: The Wind Through the Keyhole (The Dark Tower #4.5) by Stephen King

Name:  The Wind Through the Keyhole
Author:  
Stephen King
Number of Pages: 
321 (Kindle)
Published: 
April 24th 2012 by Hodder & Stoughton
Genre: Fantasy

Goodreads

For readers new to The Dark Tower, THE WIND THROUGH THE KEYHOLE is a stand-alone novel, and a wonderful introduction to the series. It is a story within a story, which features both the younger and older gunslinger Roland on his quest to find the Dark Tower. Fans of the existing seven books in the series will also delight in discovering what happened to Roland and his ka tet between the time they leave the Emerald City and arrive at the outskirts of Calla Bryn Sturgis.
This Russian Doll of a novel, a story within a story, within a story, visits Mid-World’s last gunslinger, Roland Deschain, and his ka-tet as a ferocious storm halts their progress along the Path of the Beam. (The novel can be placed between Dark Tower IV and Dark Tower V.) Roland tells a tale from his early days as a gunslinger, in the guilt ridden year following his mother’s death. Sent by his father to investigate evidence of a murderous shape shifter, a ‘skin man,’ Roland takes charge of Bill Streeter, a brave but terrified boy who is the sole surviving witness to the beast’s most recent slaughter. Roland, himself only a teenager, calms the boy by reciting a story from the Magic Tales of the Eld that his mother used to read to him at bedtime, ‘The Wind through the Keyhole’. ‘A person’s never too old for stories,’ he says to Bill. ‘Man and boy, girl and woman, we live for them.’ And stories like these, they live for us

My Rating:

5diamonds

My Thoughts:

The Wind Through the Keyhole is a late edition to the Dark Tower series as it was written after the series had been completed, and in reading order is placed between Wizard and Glass and Wolves of the Calla. As I’m rereading the whole series I thought I’d read it in place this time around.

Although the book doesn’t really further the quest of Roland and his ka-tet, it’s a wonderful addition to the series and I’m glad I reread it before moving on to Wolves of the Calla. It is a story within a story within a story, which begins shortly after the group leave behind the strange city that concluded Wizard and Glass. A deadly storm is about to blow in, and the ka-tet seek shelter in which to wait it out, passing the time with Roland’s tales of times gone by.

Roland begins relating one of his youthful adventures with another of his friends. Alas, it is not Cuthbert who gets sent on this mission with Roland, for I would have loved another appearance from that particular character with his wit and wisdom and cheerful outlook. This time we meet Jamie, another of Roland’s contemporaries in his younger years, as the duo go off in search of a rumoured skin-man, a shape-shifter who is terrorising the local populace and leaving a trail of destruction with each visitation. At the scene of such an attack Roland encounters Young Bill, the lone survivor, and as the pair lay a trap to catch the villain, the story within this story begins.

And this is the true heart of this novel, The Wind Through the Keyhole, the title of the overall book. It’s a tale Roland’s mother told to him, and one that stayed with him. A fantasy quest of a tale involving a young boy from the village of Tree who, under perilous circumstances encounters a (familiar) figure dressed all in black, who shows him some awful truths and winds him up to the point that he leaves the village in search of Maerlyn, a wizard who may only exist in myth, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and Tim’s journey takes him through danger and wonder.
I enjoyed every moment of this tale, and could read just this section again as a standalone story. It had a bit of everything – adventure, peril, heroes, villains (and not just that certain person dressed in black), and a whole load of magic.

The Wind Through the Keyhole is a nice addition to the Dark Tower series. I hadn’t read the whole series by the time this came out, but I imagine fans would have been pleased to have more of Roland, the ka-tet, and another chance for further adventures in the weird world of the Dark Tower.

Book Review: Murder is Easy (Superintendent Battle #4) by Agatha Christie

Name:  Murder is Easy (Superintendent Battle #4)
Author:  
Agatha Christie
Number of Pages: 
274 (Kindle)
Published: 
January 2020 (first published June 5th 1939)
Genre:  Mystery, Crime

Goodreads

Luke Fitzwilliam could not believe Miss Pinkerton’s wild allegation that a multiple murderer was at work in the quiet English village of Wychwood – or her speculation that the local doctor was next in line.
But within hours, Miss Pinkerton had been killed in a hit-and-run car accident. Mere coincidence? Luke was inclined to think so – until he read in The Times of the unexpected demise of Dr Humbleby…

My Rating:

4ddiamonds

My Thoughts:

Every so often I like to sample another Agatha Christie murder mystery, and Murder is Easy is the latest in my explorations of Christie’s many books. This one is included in the Superintendent Battle series, and I’ve never read any of the other books or come across this character before, but I found that didn’t matter as the story really belongs to Luke Fitzwilliam. Battle only makes a very brief appearance right at the very end of the story.

Luke goes to Wychwood after hearing a tale from a lady on a train that a serial killer may be residing in the village. Luke listens politely but thinks little else of it until he reads that the very same lady has been killed, apparently in an accident. He concocts a tale about writing a book and ventures off to Wychwood to see what he can find out.

Luke has a potential shortlist of suspects, and manages to find motive and means in many of the cases, but reasons it all out to himself in such a way that actually any of the people he suspects could indeed have committed the murders and still be wandering around the village, planning their next crime, a serial killer amongst a sleepy village. All these deaths come about in such subtle ways, things that can be passed off easily as accident, or coincidence.

I liked the countryside village setting, a place that may seem welcoming and cosy but may actually be the home of a serial killer.
The cast of characters, and the way they are revealed through Luke’s questioning and investigations, through chat and gossip among the locals, and the various scandals that abound in this small community also added to the overall mystery. There’s even a little romance in the midst of the murders.

I tried to keep up with the various threads and Luke’s many suppositions, and thought I might have worked out who the killer was but alas, I was proved wrong in the end. I’m glad I picked Murder is Easy as my latest Christie, it was an enjoyable mystery.

Book Review: Buried (DC Jack Warr #1) by Lynda La Plante

Name:  Buried (DC Jack Warr #1)
Author:  
Lynda La Plante
Number of Pages: 
352 (Kindle)
Published: 
April 7th 2020 by Zaffre
Genre: Crime

Goodreads

DC Jack Warr and his girlfriend Maggie have just moved to London to start a new life together. Though charming, Jack can’t seem to find his place in the world – until he’s drawn into an investigation that turns his life upside down.
In the aftermath of a fire at an isolated cottage, a badly charred body is discovered, along with the burnt remains of millions of stolen, untraceable bank notes.
Jack’s search leads him deep into a murky criminal underworld – a world he finds himself surprisingly good at navigating. But as the line of the law becomes blurred, how far will Jack go to find the answers – and what will it cost him?
In BURIED, it’s time to meet DC Jack Warr as he digs up the deadly secrets of the past . . .

My Rating:

3halfdiamonds

My Thoughts:

Buried is the first of the Jack Warr books and introduces us to this detective at a point in his career when he’s fairly uninspired, until a case comes along that really captures his attention and all that changes.

The case Jack’s team becomes involved in starts with a body found in a burnt out cottage in the middle of nowhere. Evidence found at the scene creates potential links to a number of other cases spanning previous decades; a renowned train robbery in the 90s, and even further back, to a diamond theft. The opportunity to link and possibly solve some of these famous cases proves a real challenge, something Jack can finally give his all to, much to the initial delight of his boss, who has been pushing Jack to apply for a promotion.

Jack Warr has the potential to become an interesting main character. After being initially uninspired by his work he commits fully, throwing himself into solving the interconnected crimes. Over the course of the investigation he becomes acquainted with the group of women at the centre of at least one of the crimes, or maybe more, and these acquaintances mean Jack doesn’t see the present day situation as straightforward, acknowledging that at this time there may be other threats.
This view becomes more focussed more as Jack looks into his own past. Adopted at a young age, Jack has had a calm, regular family upbringing, but he is driven to seek out his biological parents, particularly his father. Revelations along the way change him, and his viewpoint of both himself and his career, and going forward this could become interesting. It’s really hard to talk about why without giving spoilers so I’ll leave it there.

The story has some really well developed characters, from Jack himself to the group of women potentially at the centre of the investigation. They have a list of past crimes between them that covers a wide range, but apparently they united to create a children’s home, a safe place, and to move on with their lives. Of course, things didn’t turn out that way, and the women went their separate ways. Jack encounters each of them and has to work out what really happened years ago and whether any or all of them were involved, and if so, what will he do about it?
We’re also introduced to Jack’s colleagues who in some cases are vying for recognition, either professionally or personally, and a boss who at some points is very focused on taking the investigation down a totally different route to what Jack suspects is the truth.

When it became apparent what was going on and who was really at the centre of the plot I became intrigued as it how it would all play out, especially given Jack’s evolving viewpoint, so it was a fast-paced read to the final revelations. I don’t tend to read that much crime, but I would be tempted to pick up the next of the Jack Warr books, Judas Horse.