The Zig Zag Girl (Stephens & Mephisto Mystery, #1) by Elly Griffiths

The Zig Zag Girl Cover

Brighton, 1950.

When the body of a girl is found, cut into three, Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens is reminded of a magic trick, the Zig Zag Girl.

The inventor of the trick, Max Mephisto, is an old friend of Edgar’s. They served together in the war as part of a shadowy unit called the Magic Men.

Max is still on the circuit, touring seaside towns in the company of ventriloquists, sword-swallowers and dancing girls. Changing times mean that variety is not what it once was, yet Max is reluctant to leave this world to help Edgar investigate. But when the dead girl turns out to be known to him, Max changes his mind.

Another death, another magic trick: Edgar and Max become convinced that the answer to the murders lies in their army days. When Edgar receives a letter warning of another ‘trick’, the Wolf Trap, he knows that they are all in danger…

My Review of The Zig Zag Girl

The Zig Zag Girl (Stephens & Mephisto Mystery, #1)The Zig Zag Girl by Elly Griffiths
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A woman is cut into three and left in boxes in a train station. It’s a gruesome murder, and you might think it’s quite shocking, but in this book it seems to have very little impact.

The Zig Zag Girl is set in 1950’s Brighton, and while not quite a ‘cosy’ murder mystery it certainly comes close. The sense of danger or fear is never there, not in the first scenes of the murder, not when the detective has to look at the dead body, and not even near the end when he is coming close to catching the villain.

Edgar Stephens, the detective investigating the crime, doesn’t have much impact either. The magicians and showgirls around him don’t achieve much sparkle for it’s quite a glum book, but they at least have a sense of life. Ed doesn’t have a distinct personality beyond moping over his lost love, and his investigations are ineffectual.

Another big flaw for me is that I didn’t feel the 1950’s atmosphere was captured, it could easily have been set in the present day.

What it does well is to show us the life of a performing magician in the 1950’s. The sequins and showgirls and the magic tricks on stage mixed with the grime of backstage were interesting enough on their own to keep me involved to the end.

Overall though it didn’t live up to the promise of a thrilling read and it left me underwhelmed.

The Zig Zag Girl
Stephens & Mephisto Mystery
Elly Griffiths
Mystery
November 6th 2014
Paperback
325

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl Cover

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears.

Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favours with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge.

Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behaviour.

Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

My Review of Gone Girl

Gone GirlGone Girl by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I hated both of the main characters. Nick is just awful, he wants to always look like ‘the good guy’ and he cares nothing about the people he’s supposed to love, concerning himself only with how they make him feel.

We learn about Amy through her diary entries. Starting just as she meets Nick we see the relationship from her point of view, and it’s completely different to the relationship Nick describes.

Amy starts to get better towards the end, and by better I mean more interesting. I actually kind of admire her. Nick just gets more and more pathetic. I actually wanted him to go to jail, whether he killed his wife or not.

I don’t mind that the characters aren’t nice though, sometimes that makes a story more interesting and it works so well in Gone Girl. I liked the way the lies that both Nick and Amy have told are picked apart and the truth about the relationship and the events on their anniversary are slowly revealed.

As for the story, it’s ok, it’s nothing special but it’s interesting and twisty. The first half is full of tension and I devoured it, but the second half was a bit of a letdown. It ends well though if a bit far fetched.

The strength of the writing and storytelling save this book. Gillian Flynn creates such interesting and complex characters and her stories have layers and layers to them.

I recommend any of her books for your next thriller read.

Gone Girl
Gillian Flynn
Thriller
April 22nd 2014
Paperback
415

A Man of Shadows (John Nyquist #1) by Jeff Noon

A Man of Shadows Cover

The brilliant, mind-bending return to science fiction by one of its most acclaimed visionaries

Below the neon skies of Dayzone – where the lights never go out, and night has been banished – lowly private eye John Nyquist takes on a teenage runaway case. His quest takes him from Dayzone into the permanent dark of Nocturna.

As the vicious, seemingly invisible serial killer known only as Quicksilver haunts the streets, Nyquist starts to suspect that the runaway girl holds within her the key to the city’s fate. In the end, there’s only one place left to search: the shadow-choked zone known as Dusk.

A Man of Shadows (John Nyquist, #1)A Man of Shadows by Jeff Noon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read once that taking away watches and clocks from people and not allowing them to know the time will slowly drive them mad. After reading this book I can believe it.

It starts out as a hard-boiled detective story set in a world that feels like a futuristic version of the 1950’s. The city is split into three different zones, Nocturna that is eternal night, Dusk, a place of fog and monsters where it is always twilight and no-one dare go, and Dayzone, a world of bright neon lights where it never goes dark and the citizens are constantly switching between the hundreds of different timelines.

John Nyquist is hired to find the teenage daughter of one of the richest men in the city. But like any good detective story, nothing is what it seems.

I loved the first half, the atmosphere created and the characters and the sense of place are almost perfectly done. Towards the middle it starts to feel surreal, it’s like a bad dream where Nyquist is losing his sense of time and reality. I struggled with reading this, I’ve never enjoyed dream sequences and this was more confusing than most. It messed with my mind, and it made me feel a bit ill reading it!

It settles down towards the end though and it got a bit easier on my brain.

The writing is brilliant, and it’s full of plot twists that I didn’t predict. The atmosphere and the world building is just right, I could see Dayzone in my mind, and I loved the contrast between the frantic pace of life there and the calm and quiet in Nocturna.

I do struggle sometimes with books that leave you to decide what’s real and what’s not, but if you don’t mind that then I highly recommend this book as it’s very well done, with an interesting story, good characters, and original ideas.

I received a free copy from the publisher in return for an honest review.

A Man of Shadows
John Nyquist
Jeff Noon
Sci-Fi
August 1st 2017
Kindle
384

Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

black-eyed susans

Black-Eyed Susans Blurb

As a sixteen-year-old, Tessa Cartwright was found in a Texas field, barely alive amid a scattering of bones, with only fragments of memory as to how she got there. Ever since, the press has pursued her as the lone surviving “Black-Eyed Susan,” the nickname given to the murder victims because of the yellow carpet of wildflowers that flourished above their shared grave. Tessa’s testimony about those tragic hours put a man on death row.

Now, almost two decades later, Tessa is shocked to discover a freshly planted patch of black-eyed susans just outside her bedroom window. Is a serial killer still roaming free, taunting Tessa with a trail of clues? She has no choice but to confront old ghosts and lingering nightmares to finally discover what really happened that night.

My Review of Black-Eyed Susans

Black-Eyed SusansBlack-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Quick and easy to read. I ended up staying up late to finish it because I had to know who did it.

It switches between the present and main character Tessa’s therapy sessions directly after the attack when she was younger. With the therapy sessions it slowly reveals what happened to Tessa after the attack and when she had to testify in court, but because she has lost her memory we don’t find out much about the abduction itself.

I liked the way it did this because it kept a sense of mystery. Right up until the end secrets were still being revealed and it kept me guessing.

I didn’t get much of a sense of Tessa’s personality. The younger Tessa is much more vivid and real than older Tessa, and I think this was maybe intentional. Older Tessa is quiet and reserved, her daughter Charlie does bring some life to the story, but I found it hard to care about any of the characters.

I’m a bit whatever about the plot. It never goes enough into the past events for me, and the rest of it I found a bit slow, though I did enjoy the end. It doesn’t help that I read Final Girls recently that has a very similar storyline. I might have been more impressed with Black Eyed Susans if I’d read it first. But it’s a quick read, well written and it kept me interested.

Black-Eyed Susans
Julia Heaberlin
Thriller
August 11th 2015
Paperback
354

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

Book Description

Detective Gabi Versado has hunted down many monsters during her eight years in Homicide. But she’s never seen anything like this.

He is a broken man. The ambitions which once drove him are dead. Now he has new dreams – of flesh and bone made disturbingly, beautifully real.

Detroit is the decaying corpse of the American Dream. Motor-city. Murder-city.

And home to a killer opening doors into the dark heart of humanity.

A killer who wants to make you whole again…

My Review of Broken Monsters

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It took me a few days to decide what to write about this one. I was on the fence whether to give it 3 stars or 4.

I enjoyed the serial killer / paranormal thriller storyline. It draws you in straight away with this, and the ongoing investigation held my interest. I thought it ended well without going so far into the paranormal side that the resolution is nonsense.

There are a few different viewpoints that the story keeps switching between, but because the characters are all realistic, unique and well developed I found it easy to keep up and keep them separate.

My main problem with the story was the detective’s teenage daughter Layla. She was self-obsessed and veered between acting old for her age and being very childish. All very true and normal for a teenager, but for me she got in the way of the story and became very irritating very quickly.

But Lauren Beukes’ writing and her skill in creating imperfect but likeable characters are what lifts this book above the norm. I even felt sorry for the murderer at times!

View all my reviews on GoodReads

Broken Monsters
Lauren Beukes
Thriller
August 1st 2014
528

After Atlas (Planetfall #2) by Emma Newman

after atlas book review

After Atlas Description

Acclaimed author Emma Newman returns to the captivating universe she created in Planetfall with a stunning science fiction mystery where one man’s murder is much more than it seems…

Govcorp detective Carlos Moreno was only a baby when Atlas left Earth to seek truth among the stars. But in that moment, the course of Carlos’s entire life changed. Atlas is what took his mother away; what made his father lose hope; what led Alejandro Casales, leader of the religious cult known as the Circle, to his door. And now, on the eve of the fortieth anniversary of Atlas’s departure, it’s got something to do why Casales was found dead in his hotel room—and why Carlos is the man in charge of the investigation.

To figure out who killed one of the most powerful men on Earth, Carlos is supposed to put aside his personal history. But the deeper he delves into the case, the more he realizes that escaping the past is not so easy. There’s more to Casales’s death than meets the eye, and something much more sinister to the legacy of Atlas than anyone realizes…

My Review of After Atlas

After Atlas (Planetfall, #2)After Atlas by Emma Newman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The second in a series, but it tells a different part of a connected story so you can read this one first with no problems or learning curve. The first book Planetfall is about the spaceship that left Earth searching for a new home, After Atlas is about the people that were left behind.

After Atlas mixes two of my favourite things, a not too distant future world setting and a murder mystery. It has a Phillip K Dick vibe to it, but without the relentless depression. As my boyfriend says, it’s like Harrison Ford chasing humans instead of androids!

Anyway, the world Emma Newman has created is familiar yet futuristic and feels real. Food is now printed instead of cooked, cars are automated, your smartphone is now a chip in your head that leaves you always connected and able to access the web in seconds.

The murder mystery is the main focus of the book though. We follow Carlos Moreno as he investigates the murder of a cult leader, found dead in his hotel room. He uses virtual reality to recreate the crime scenes and he has a virtual personal assistant to help him. I loved the way he put it all together and viewed the files and crime scenes in his head!

It’s well written, and is an exciting and suspenseful book. Forget the remake of Blade Runner, they should do this instead!

View all my reviews on GoodReads

After Atlas
Planetfall
Emma Newman
Sci-Fi
November 8th 2016
377

Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow by Peter Høeg

miss smillas feeling for snow

I feel like the first day of winter is a good day to share my review of Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow!

Description

One winter evening the neighbour’s six-year-old boy falls to his death from the apartment roof in Copenhagen. Accidental death, say the police. But Smilla Jaspersen, a resourceful, tenacious and bloody-minded Greenlander, knows the boy well; moreover she has a feeling for snow – and those last footprints tell her a tale… Her investigation starts in Denmark and leads to the Arctic ice cap as Smilla doggedly homes in on her quarry.

My Review

Miss Smilla's Feeling for SnowMiss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow by Peter Høeg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So I’m not sure how I want to rate this one. On one hand I enjoyed reading it, but on the other hand a lot of it left me scratching my head trying to work out what was going on and why people were doing things and reacting the way they were.

I found it kinda complicated and slow going – I had to scan back and forth a lot to pick up bits that I must have missed the first time. The characters did things and it didn’t really explain why they were doing them or what was going on. We spend a lot of time in Smilla’s head, but it still doesn’t explain her actions a lot of the time.

And the ending! I have no idea.

But, I enjoyed reading it. I found the story exciting and the characters interesting, and even though it was complicated I found I was willing to put in the effort to finish it.

Smilla is a great character, complex and unusual, I don’t think she understands herself why she does the things she does. For me she is on par with Lisbeth from the Dragon Tattoo books.

The supporting characters are all well developed and written. They all have very distinct unique personalities. But there are so many of them it’s hard to keep track of them all.

This is the sort of book that would benefit from a re-read, I feel like there’s a lot in it that I’ve missed or just skimmed over. I’m going back and forth between three or four stars, but for how much I enjoyed it and how great Smilla is I think I have to give it four.

Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow
Peter Høeg
Mystery
1992
410