Instructions for a heat wave

One summer morning of 1976, Robert Riordan has walked out of the house under the pretense of buying a newspaper only to not retudownloadrn home. The Riordian children – Michael Francis, Monica and Aoife return home trying to find any slightest clue that could throw some light on the motive/reason for this disappearing act or where to start looking for him. As the story progresses, we get to know about the family dynamics, the personal lives of each Riordian, the past and the secrets it holds…..

Michael Francis’ marriage with Claire is currently going through a rough patch. After being a doting mother to his kids and a devoted wife to him, Claire has begun the process of rediscovering herself and a step towards it she has decided to complete her degree. To say that Michael is not-so-pleased and confused with all the transformation in his household is an understatement – bewildered / clueless would be a better word for it.Nowadays, he is coming to a house in disarray with his wife who has locked herself up in the room with her books with instructions to be called only “in a matter of life or death “. He and his kids (specially) do not have her entire time and attention nowadays – the new Claire has too many demands on her time. The kids are getting used to the idea but Michael cannot easily do so. He suspects that the reason for Claire’s new direction in life is sort of a rebellion against him or maybe there is more to it than some new found enthusiasm for academia and social life…..

Farrell beautifully describes the crisis Michael finds himself in – What he finds hardest about family life is that, just when you think you have a handle on what’s going on, everything changes it.

Monica, Gretta’s favorite has her own domestic hassles which she is trying to right it out but does not seem to succeed at it very well. She is currently living with an antiques dealer and is trying to gel with his two daughters but is clueless as to how to clear the animosity they feel towards her and to win them over. She is determined to live a picture-perfect life and is determined to rough it out …

Aoife, the black sheep of the family has moved to America to lead a normal life like others free from the judging looks of the family. She is a functional illiterate (the descriptions fit the symptoms of dyslexia perfectly!)  working as an assistant to one of the photographers who is expected to manage the financial stuff too .But how could she confide to her employer about her problem? She has learned to manage the cheques by shoving them in a file and putting it out of sight. For her struggle with the written word, she has a stock of reasonable sounding excuses or casual phrases that help her out easily. Even her boyfriend has never come to suspect her. But, how long can she keep up the charade? Won’t it be better for her to ask for help atleast now?

We see that each of them have their own secrets (including the eccentric matriarch of the family), their private struggles in the course of the book. The characters evolve through reminiscences about each other and their shared past and we get to know their past and pivotal incidents that might have shaped the family history. What I absolutely loved about this book was its beautiful language, evoking a vivid picture of the summer long gone. The narrative is fluid despite alternating between past and present. The narrative is interesting with several techniques employed tactfully – memory, perspectives, bird’s eye view of domestic scenes and city life… For me, there were a few instances which I had encountered in my own life and which the author had described perfectly in relation to one of the characters

Along with the Riordan children we get to know a shocking family secret and how they deal with it forms the crux of the story…..

One minor theme that struck a chord with me is that some of us might judge our friends/family quite harshly for their conduct in certain circumstances while our own behavior under similar circumstances might not be very honorable. Yet, we have excuses for ourselves but would vehemently deny others their excuses. Farrell explores several such interesting aspects of relationships and families and it’s a treat to let the story unfold at its own pace. Here are few excerpts from the book that bear testimony to Farrell’s superb narrative

“Strange weather brings out strange behavior. […] so a heatwave will act upon people. It lays them bare,it wears down their guard. They start behaving not unusually but unguardedly. They act not so much out of character but deep within it

She’d whispered, ‘Make it deep,’ to him, before realizing that she’d heard those words before, in similar circumstances. Always strange, to catch yourself echoing your parents’ words, to find experiences coming round again. The same yet different.

Melodrama is her specialty, like the time Aoife returned home from school to discover her mother had been to visit a funeral parlor after finding a lump in her throat. She knew she was dying, she knew this was it, she could feel it in her bones, and wanted a ‘ good send-off’ at the ‘right sort ‘ of funeral home , with plenty of early afternoon slots, so that there was time for a Mass to be said beforehand and time for a wake back at the house afterwards. It was the least she could do for them all. Aoife requested to see the lump, examined the place beside her mother’s collarbone and told her it was an insect bite. […] the first time Gretta had a proper crisis to grapple with, she seems to shrink in the face of it, to abandon all of her usual tricks.

His father minus his mother is an unsolvable equation. His silence is leavened by her loquaciousness, his order and impassivity the counterpoint to her chaos and drama.

For some of the most beautiful quotes on parenthood –

The air for Gretta, still rings with their cries, their squabbles, their triumphs, their small griefs. She cannot believe that time of life is over. For her, it all happened and is still happening and will happen forever. The very bricks, mortar and plaster of this house are saturated with the lives of her three children. She cannot believe they have gone. And that they are back.

[Michael on the passing of infant hood of his children]

[..] he mourned it’s passing too: the sense of the children’s intense, zealous need of you, their overwhelming urge to be near you, to study you,to watch you as you peel an orange, wrote a shopping list, tied your shoes, the feeling that you were their study in how to be human.[..] yes, it’s gone, but life holds other things, when everything changed again.

There were a few narrative threads like Monica’s future which seemed to be an abrupt conclusion which raised too many questions. That is my only complaint with Farrell’s book. It is hinted that the man who went to get newspaper and disappeared finally made his appearance at the last page of the book!!It is a beautiful read and I would urge my readers strongly to pick up the book.

Do share your thoughts on the post or the book in the comments section below.Until the next post then…

 

 

BELIEVE ME -A review

I have finished J P Delaney’s latest just now – BELIEVE ME . I went into the book with some expectation based on his debut novel THE GIRL BEFORE . But , truth to be said , this has become yet another hastily-cooked-up-second-release-after-a promising-debut book .

Plot summary : 

Claire Wright likes to play other people. For Claire every day events play out like a movie scene in which she is an actor . She is also constantly on the lookout for gestures and nuances – both in others and herself which would be “ gold dust “ for her future roles . Picking up nuances is something that Claire does as everybody breathes , yet consciously she commits these nuances to memory to use them later in the appropriate circumstances – reel or real . An undocumented British drama student , she is employed by a firm of divorce lawyers to get incriminating evidence on straying husbands whose wives are the clients of the firm . Claire ’ s narrative is juxtaposed with movie scene script snippets which is an interesting twist to the regular narratives. She throws up words like jump cuts, montage scenes, acting styles…. – in short , a hardcore passionate student of theater who got her big break not in theater but in assisting the NYPD in unmasking a  killer .

When Stella Fogler is  found murdered in her hotel suite ,  Claire comes under police radar as she was one of the two people who last saw Stella alive .  As we all know , when a married woman is found murdered , its always the husband who becomes  the de facto suspect in the investigation and Patrick Fogler is no different . Patrick is incidentally the only husband who had rebuffed her advances when Claire  has put up her easy pick-up act . When a forensic profiler comes up with what she believes substantial evidence against Patrick Folgate ,  in not one ,  but several gruesome murders , Claire is asked by the police to entice Patrick into revealing his darker side ( is there one first ?? ) .

As Claire begins to forge an intimate relationship with Patrick  and the more she gets to know him , she begins to doubt the police theory and eventually the police force itself . How could such a faithful husband (despite his wife ‘ s doubts ) be a cold – blooded killer? Is there more to this whole ” operation ” as the forensic profiler terms it than what she has been told??

Does she know the actual picture ?

Or

The real Patrick ?

Review :

There are a few elements to the plot which however made the phrases ” No…not again ” , “ seen this before ”  circle my brain while I was reading this book too often . Frankly , this mix always goes for a very predictable ending – the unreliable narrator , the limited number of suspects , the very obvious motive(s) in some cases . It’s no surprise considering that there had been very few jigsaw puzzle pieces and the narrator had to play it up several ways deliberately before putting together the pieces  of the puzzle in the right place .

To begin with, the unreliable narrator trope – it has become something of a rage  staple for almost every ” psychological ” thriller that is being published nowadays . Maybe it goes the other way round too I guess – Get an unreliable narrator for your story and you have a psychological thriller .

It would be really good if our modern day suspense writers try to get the tone of the characters right to set a strong foundation for a psychological premise of the story  instead of relying solely on  the narrator . While Claire seemed to be characterized pretty well , the author hasn’t got the tone right for Patrick .

The book packs good number of twists to keep the reader continuing but the ending became very predictable and few elements were downright stupid . A random character pops up with obsessive tendencies ( however similar it may be to the  profile of the killer ) and attempts a murder . The plot just gets too obvious that I need to get to the final pages for a dramatic ending with the killer and this is just a decoy . If you actually want the reader to fall for your red herring atleast make it sound convincing . Sans motive , sans good number of pages / appearances the red herring becomes laughable .  And red herrings are meant to make the suspense game intense – not defuse the tension .

In all , I am in the mood for a good old fashioned detective story or a regular psychological thriller where the police are in the ground looking for clues and being just in time to foil the killer ‘ s plans for another murder or to simply haul him up reinforcing our faith that justice prevails ( atleast in fiction ) .  The unreliable narrators in the books I have read this year have made me wary of them for some time in the future definitely – the mere idea of yet another makes me run away from whodunits .

Rating :3 / 5

Guys , you can definitely pick up The Girl Before  by the same author . You can read the review here

The Girl Before – A review

Epigraphs

Like all addicts signature killers work from a script , engaging in repetitive behavior to the point of obsessiveness .

Robert D. Keppel and William J. Birnes , Signature Killers

We may say that the patient does not remember anything of what he has forgotten or repressed , but acts it out . He reproduces it not as a memory but as an action ; he repeats it , without , of course , knowing that he is repeating it .

Sigmund Freud , Remembering , Repeating and Working – Through

______________________________________________

The Girl Before has been literally a (page) – tearing read . The copy had almost every alternate page stuck to the next page  and I was actually prising the pages apart and very often I ended up with torn pages . You can imagine how frustrating it is when you want to race through the pages but you are sitting and carefully prising open the pages stuck together – some way to read a suspense novel … I would not have minded if  it was any other genre.  I guess that ‘ s enough of a rant about the reading woes .

The story alternates between first person accounts from Emma – the Girl Before and Jane – the Girl Next . I picked up this book after Bring Me Back  and found that the same Then and Now style of narrative has been followed here too . There is yet another trope too that has become one of the go-to for suspense writers . Let me give a hint – Gone Girl took full advantage of this trope ( maybe I should say actually popularized this trope ) . Well , you need to pick up the book if you want to find it out – I have a strictly no spoilers policy !!

Plot summary  :

Jane gets a chance to occupy an aesthetic minimalist house . Now , One Folgate Street is a house where you have rules to be followed and any violation of the rules mean termination of the tenancy . The rules are laid out by the architect of the house – a man for whom perfectionism and minimalism are almost an obsession and  One Folgate Street is a reflection of his ideas and aspirations .  Jane discovers that her predecessor Emma  died under mysterious circumstances and starts putting together Emma’s life to  find an answer to the question – What happened with Emma ? Who is actually behind her death ?  Meanwhile we have Emma ‘ s parallel  account of her life at One Folgate Street and the readers get to know the truth behind her death . Jane ‘ s experiences  can be best described as reruns of Emma ‘s . But would Jane stumble upon the truth on time to save herself from the killer ?  Or does the same fate await her ?

JP Delaney has given a  neat psychological thriller – nothing more to say . What I loved about this book was the writing which shows that the topics have been  researched meticulously .  It was really interesting how cultural references took the narrative as well as the plot further .  The author packs a twist in every chapter and  you would be thinking about yet another angle within few chapters almost every time .  The characters , the setting of the story – basically The House and  narrative style have all been handled beautifully . Special mention about The House definitely – it is sure to pique the readers’ interest about minimalism . The reader engagement and the guess-it-who quotient is always maintained . An engaging read from first to last although I found the climax a bit too seen-it-before in other psychological thrillers . But you wouldn’t guess who until Emma finally reveals her killer. The narrators themselves have their own secrets … So , this book actually packs in a lot …

Rating : 4 .25/5

I highly recommend this book for all the suspense / thrillers buffs out there . Along the lines of The Girl in the Window this is another psychological thriller set to hit the screens soon –  You had better hurry up !!

The author ‘ s latest book has  Believe Me has got released recently . I will be reviewing it shortly . Click on the below links to check out the books at Amazon ( for Indian readers ) –

Believe Me

The Girl Before

Other readers can check out the below links  at Amazon –

The Girl Before

Believe Me

 

 

it’s always the husband – A Review

download (1)Kate,Aubrey and Jenny are inseparable at college- friends who promised they’d be there for each other.But twenty years later , their friendship is about to take a deadly turn.

Kate married the gorgeous party boy,Aubrey married up and Jenny married the boy next door,but when one of the friends dies in shocking circumstances,will everyone assume it’s always the husband?OR COULD IT BE THE BEST FRIEND?

———————————————————————————————

Michele Campbell’s debut its always the husband is quite a refreshing take on the famous suspense trope of the husband being the murderer in case of a married woman . I promise there would be no spoilers and let me dive right in —

Plot summary :

Kate – the fast one.

Jenny –the ambitious one.

Aubrey – she wants the best of both Jenny’s and Kate’s worlds despite struggling to strike the right balance. But she is determined to make the best of the exposure to the elite society and opportunities that an Ivy Leaguer is accorded. Two decades down the line, the three are married and settled down. And then one of them dies… Not surprisingly, there seem to be too many plausible motives – betrayal, passion, revenge…. The newest addition to this cocktail is even more dangerous which threatens the friends too… Which of the following motives proved to be the strongest that it resulted in murder – Or is it murder in the first place?

My reading experience :

The college years of the girlfriends has been dealt in great detail and is an engaging read.It contributes greatly to the development of the central characters-Aubrey , Kate and Jenny .While much thought has been given for the character development of the three, the other characters aren’t so well developed.When the moving finger picks out the next suspect , it seems a bit not easy to believe even if the motives attributed to them are perfectly sound.The host of secondary characters come and go only in relation with the central characters and are not very familiar to the readers .  If you are actually going to accuse somebody , first give them enough space in the story .

Given Michelle’s in-depth account of the college life in the Ivy League campus   ( given that she herself is a graduate from one ) , it would have been better if the second part of the story which is where the guessing game starts , too had enough details .  Although it was a really great narrative , it missed out the compelling factor simply because few of the angles which had been touched upon (like the murder or suicide question )  didn’t have enough weight to actually keep the readers guessing .  The victim simply hasn’t been characterized  seriously as being traumatized or showing signs of extreme stress ( or much stress whatsoever)  to actually take her own life .  The psyche of the characters could have been better explored .

Despite these shortfalls , Michele scores strongly with the ” show – only – one -side ” of the narrative which finally  starts to build the tension . The last 60 pages or so turned the regular whodunit into  one heck of the  story that leaves the reader shocked with the terrific twist at the end . Yes , the last few pages actually made all the impact that has people touting it as the next Gone Girl .

So , how would I rate the book? For me , the story has to strike the right chord with suspense element and  getting the readers actually agree with your  surmise of the moment which was clearly missing with it’s always the husband .  Perhaps , a few more pages  giving a good picture of the secondary characters and exploring the characters’ psyche in a little more depth would have made this book even more worthy of all the praise its raking right now .  I guess  ” the next Gone Girl ” is the highest form of praise right now .  The wonder is there are too many books like that 😛

Rating : 3.5 / 5 ( The sheer brilliance with the narrative style  and one jaw-dropping shocker is not going to make all the difference ) .

Picking up the book ? Would strongly recommend you to  check it  out  (if only ) for the narrative . All you had worked out in your brain wouldn’t help much because you haven’t been shown the full picture . And when you finally get to see it guaranteed it would leave you stunned .

If you had picked up the book , how did you feel about it?  Or are you planning to pick up it up now?? Drop in a word or two in the comments section  .

 

 

 

Beyond the Gossamer Veil – A Review

Mr.Holland Astonbury has acquired a singularly sinister reputation in Mr.Fox’s village.
The village rumors made every other delivery guy quake in his boots when the Post Master came looking for volunteers for an urgent delivery to Astonbury Hall.  Fox knew ( or thought he knew ) better than to take into account these tales – this assignment could turn to be the trump card he would play to move up the ranks as there was no other man willing to even step forward despite the handsome sum it promised . So,our Fantastic Mr.Fox starts for Astonbury Hall with the package – how does the assignment go?? Read a first hand account from Fox himself about his expedition – Yeah, all those tall tales had made a journey to a mansion in his own village an expedition!!

Martin had had a really bad week. First, it was his breakup with his altogether too demanding girlfriend . He was too occupied to give much thought to trivial things like breakups . But , in the coming days , the market downslide and the declining profits gave him something to worry about seriously the rest of the week . Come Friday , he was on his way for a much needed weekend getaway but it looked like his disastrous week didn’t end with the boardroom  and the bedroom (strictly Martin’s opinion about his relationship(s) ) .The latest one was his Cadillac Escapade’s run in with a Toyota Corolla . Now watch out  his weekend getaway plans take a turn for something else.

Beyond The Gossamer Veil –  Eldritch Tales of the Supernatural by Todd William is the book you need to pick up if  I have managed to pique your interest with the above snippets from his collection of stories . The stories were gripping from the first page with me wanting to finish atleast the story which I had started in one sitting (even if I could not sit through the entire book in one day) . All credits to his superb story telling – he knows how to shock people with the violence or scare them when he takes the readers to eerie places or if he wants you to see the nature’s beauty in his settings, you can get to see some breath-taking beauty of the landscape. It just depends on Todd’s plot to take you to  interesting places and watch the drama unfold albeit a bit slowly . Sometimes , I found it difficult to pace my reading to savor his language without plodding through a gripping start.

Every setting for his story is different and his character sketches were  really good . A suspense / thriller fan subconsciously picks up the deerstalker hat to play the what’s -gonna – happen – next guessing game I guess when he or she comes across stories that offer such scope . I actually guessed the direction the story was proceeding for a few correctly – 3 out of 7 to be precise . A few seemed to wander into  familiar turfs but Todd managed to spring a surprise at the end . Humor , pathos , a crime shrouded in something more than regular mystery – Todd’s package offers a rich variety and he manages to engage the reader early on in his stories  –  I envy Todd’s rich vocabulary . But as with his narrative style which sets the pacing slow , a few words just seemed to be used just for the sake of getting a different word . For non-native speakers , just a quick question – How many of you know the meaning of the word macadam?

Yeah, the reading experience itself was very interesting one for this book –  I was of  two minds  whether I should race through the stories without pacing my reading to actually soak in the beauty of the language and the vivid imagery it evoked or to turn the pages slowly because Todd gets you hooked in the first few pages and thereafter there seems to be no option but to sit through the entire story . The tales are quite tall and that’s what made it difficult to finish a story sometimes in one sitting once I got started with one .

So , having written about my reading experience and a quick review of the book , I can assure you that Beyond The Gossamer Veil turned out to be a rewarding read in several aspects . Pick it up if you want to get an idea about how to tell a story . Sometimes , the sheer mastery over the art of storytelling it what it all matters!!!

Rating – 3.75 / 5

For people who picked up the book , I would love to hear about your reading experience and thoughts about the book .