ITS A RED-EYE FOR HOLLIDAY’S FIRST CLASS THRILLER, RATHER THAN A SLEEPER

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Violet JacketI never had a gap year. Where I grew up, if you were lucky enough and smart enough you went from college to university, or like me, directly to a job with an apprenticeship and a professional  qualification at the end. The rest of my year went on the ‘dole’ or into youth employment schemes. I suppose it was the era before gap years really became trendy. I can certainly see the benefits of a little worldly experience before you settle down to work and study.

I now work with final year university students in my job. Its unsettling how childlike and unprepared for the world some of them are. Super smart but lacking in the most basic common sense and life skills in the worst cases. Whilst a gap year, travelling, working and visiting the more far flung areas of the world is an educational experience, recent widely publicised accidental deaths and murders of young people travelling alone, make me wonder how I would have fared. I like to recall myself as a fairly savvy and streetwise youngster. I know we get increasing more risk averse as we get older and see potential dangers more clearly but the places visited and activities undertaken, as reported by the media in those recent deaths have made me wonder what possessed them to think it was a good idea?

My sense of anxiety was in no way alleviated by reading this month’s third book review, its Violet by SJI Holliday and published by Orenda Books (www.orendabooks.co.uk) on the 14th November.

 

The titular character is a young woman travelling alone due to the fact that she has broken up with her boyfriend. She wants to travel on the Trans Siberian express to Moscow. In the process of trying to get a ticket for the train, she meets another single woman, Carrie. Carrie is on her own after her friend and planned travelling companion, broke her leg just before they were due to depart. She offers her friend’s ticket to Violet and the pair unite to make the journey Carrie has planned, stopping in Mongolia and again in Russia, before reaching Moscow.

We hear the story through the voice of Violet and from emails between Carrie and her missing friend Laura. The book starts with a traumatic event which involves one of the two women, but we don’t know who. Throughout the book we are given insights into Violet’s thoughts, feelings and motivations. There is a sense of impending doom and you are just waiting for something terrible to happen to one or both girls. Violet isn’t who she at first appears to be but there are a few moments which make you wonder about Carrie too. What is her true story? What is she hiding?

The sense of something bad coming your way as a reader was an unpleasant sensation. I had a few anxiety dreams during the days I as reading this, something I’d not experienced since reading Stephen King novels many years ago. I would have actually preferred not to have read the revealing prologue and had the events unfold without pre knowledge. The whole story was a series of ‘this is not going to end well’ moments. Hearing Violets thoughts and motivations expressed gave a steady trickle of bad feelings and allowed the tension to continually build. I thought the twists and turns at the end were a great way to round of the story.

Susi Holliday

Susi Holliday (Daily Record)

This is Scottish author S.J.I. (Susi) Holliday’s (www.susiholliday.com) 6th book, her previous five include the “Banktoun Trilogy” made up of Blackwood (2012), Willow Walk 2016) and The Damsenfly (2017), along with her festive thriller Deaths Of December (2017) and her gothic thriller The Lingering (2018). Inspiration for Violet comes from her love of travel and a journey along the infamous Trans-Siberian, she took ten years ago. S.J.I. currently divides her time between Edinburgh and London.

It’s a very modern thriller. I liked the email segments and the reference to social media. What can be learned about you from your devices and social media accounts is truly scary. The risks taken by both women in relation to alcohol, drugs, sex and personal safety seemed fantastic to me. Were they just symptoms of the personalities involved or the norm for young people in far flung places?

So take the train to your local book store or download a copy (both are green options), but be warned, this is not a book I’d recommend to anyone who’s daughter is about to jet off on their gap year, but a great read for anyone wanting to live dangerously, from the safety of their armchair of course! Just prepare for a few sleepless nights!

 

Reviewed by:  Georgina Murphy

 

This book review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour, to see what the other reviewers thought, visit it their sites listed below. Then if you get a copy of the book, come back and tell us what you thought, we’d love the feedback.

violet 2019

OLGUIN’S ON THE RIGHT TRACK WITH A HIGH SPEED STORY FROM BUENOS AIRES

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The Fragility of Bodies CoverThe adage goes about regular gamblers, ‘that they’d bet on two flies walking up a wall…”. Years ago, betting shops where the only way to place a bet, primarily on horses and dogs. Also back then, they were predominantly a male preserve. Dark and seedy places, that gave off a totally uninviting image. Nowadays, you can watch live races while drinking freshly made coffee and, owing to the removal of the boards which covered the windows of their predecessors, they are now light and airy places that want to entice customers of any age or sex.

However, with the development of the internet and social media, the modern betting shop is on the decline and the ability to gamble is easier today than at any time in the past. But despite this there is still a dark side to gambling where, shady back street bookies and fronts for criminal organizations can launder dirty money while taking bets on any manner of weird activity. Although your perception of weird and mine may differ, but if you have the money, there will always be someone willing to bet against you on any activity you maybe watching or engaged in. Whether it be, dog fighting, hare coursing, a cockerel fight or people playing chicken with a moving vehicle.

The final example is the premise for this months second book review, it’s the Fragility Of Bodies by Segio Olguin, published by Bitter Lemon press on the 11th July 2019 (www.bitterlemonpress.com).

Veronica Rosenthal is a young Argentinian journalist with a leading weekly magazine in Buenos Aires. She decides to follow up what seem likes a straight forward crime piece on a train driver who has committed suicide, leaving a note saying he was sorry for the deaths of the four boys. What she initially thinks is the confession of a serial killer, leads her to investigate the unusually high number of suicides on the Buenos Aires railway network, which seem to all involve young boys. Talking to colleagues of the driver who committed suicide, she discovers that at the time of the incidents, there are reports of witnesses to the apparent suicides. Her investigation awakens her promiscuous streak and she starts up a relationship with the married friend and colleague of the driver, who has also been involved in a number of these supposed suicides. As things progress it turns out there is some sort of weird game being played here that the underworld is gambling on. Her investigation in turn brings her into direct conflict with the games organizers and this has implications for both her, her family and the families of the boys involved. Can Veronica stay one step ahead of the criminal gangs organizing this sordid game of chicken and in doing so complete her expose and save other boys from being needlessly killed and break the criminal network involved?

The first thing that gets you about this book, is that its lead character is not shy, especially in the bedroom department. Veronica Rosenthal has the morals of a tom cat and would give 007 a run for his money in the womanizing/man eating stakes. In this book alone, Veronica beds more than one man, including a priest…  So, she comes across as more of a nymphomaniac than a crusading journalist. Yes, I like my characters to be complicated and to have busy lives or interesting hobbies, but at times her insatiable sexual appetite ends up being more of a distraction.

Sergi Olguin

Sergio Olguin (Alchetron.com)

As for the main plotline this is a refreshing and totally believable storyline, People have been playing the dangerous game of chicken on railway lines for years. Figures from Network Rail in the UK for 2016 showed there were 8000 reported incidents of people on the tracks. Of that 555 were children and half of those killed on train tracks were under 25 years of age.

That this book is also set in a country with great divides of wealth and poverty and where the criminal fraternity thrive with their brothels and underground gambling dens, which allow punters to gamble freely on any sort of activity, while also praying on the weak and needy (in the book the participants are paid 20 Pesos for taking part and 100 pesos if they win). The Fragility Of Bodies is a page turner that had me intrigued from the first to the three hundredth and eightieth page, but again at times I did think it was a bit long.

Of the characters, Veronica and the two boys she ends up  trying to save are the onlyChicken with train interesting ones. The criminal and gangland figures are stereotypical and after that, there are many others who only serve to complicate and overcrowd an already busy storyline.

This is Argentinian author Sergio Olguin’s (@olguinserg)  first novel to be translated into English. He’s a successful writer in Argentina where his previous books have already been translated into German, Italian and French. In Argentina, he’s also a scriptwriter and editor of cultural publications. The Fragility Of Bodies is the first of a crime trilogy featuring the journalist Veronica Rosenthal.

So, if you are looking for fresh new story and heroine, set in the overcrowded and warm streets of the Argentinian capital, then you could do no wrong by getting in with Veronica Rosenthal. Then afterwards await the next installment of this series.

 

Reviewed by :  Adrian Murphy

 

This book is part of a Random Things Blog Tour. To see what the other reviewers thought, visit their sites listed  below and then after you’ve read the book, comeback and tell us what you thought. We’d love to hear your feedback.

The Fragility of Bodies BT Poster

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN IS A NON-STOP EXPRESS THRILLER WITH HAWKINS FIRMLY IN CONTROL AND PROMISING PLENTY MORE DOWN THE LINE

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Grl on train cvrTrains and romance have always gone hand in hand and so have trains and mystery. Take the Orient Express, Midnight express, the Great Train Robbery and the Railway Children for example. Then there’s train journeys in general which, just by the mere thought of them, spark ones imagination, the Rocky Mountaineer railway, the Trans-Siberian, even the Eurostar. Commuter trains are no exception, although the daily trip on the DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) which links the city centre with the north and south coastal towns and counties, that I’ve taken for the past 20 years or so, doesn’t really have the same inspirational spark as the London underground,  the Metro in Paris or the New York Subway. Although, there are people in those countries who would disagree and would probably give their eye teeth to have the view over Killiney Bay twice a day, instead of the dark ominous brickwork of a tunnel,  I usually have my head stuck in a book. This brings us on to this month’s book.  It’s the current talk of the literary world, and has being suggested as this years “Gone Girl”, it’s The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins.

Rachel Watson takes the same train into London every morning and the same train home again every evening. It stops at the same signal each way and over time she gets to know the routines of the people in the houses that she over looks as the train idles there before moving on. So engrossed in the lives of one couple in particular is she, that she has even given them names Jason and Jess. One day she sees “Jess” in her back garden embracing a man not “Jason”. But the coincidental stopping of the train at that  point is not the only reason for Rachel’s interest in those particular houses, she used to live a couple of doors down, before her marriage broke down and now two years on, she’s struggling to get over the break up, which isn’t helped by her alcoholism. One evening she gets off at the nearest station and in a drunken stupor causes a scene at her old home. Coincidentally Megan Hipwell, the neighbour whom Rachel has Christened “Jess” goes missing goes that night – in the aftermath Rachel can’t remember what happened. Just hazy flash backs, which include her ex-husband Tom, his new wife Anna, a man with red hair, as well as waking up next morning bloodied and bruised. Thinking she has vital evidence she decides to go to the police and with her life spiraling into alcoholic oblivion Rachel blunders further into the investigation, when Megan’s body turns up a couple of weeks later. Is Rachel the killer or has she met them and is she about to be their next victim?

The word on the grapevine was that this was a great book to read and I have to say, it was correct. From the get go, Paula Hawkins builds the tension up superbly in the style of the great British thriller writers of the past. Agatha Christie and the recently departed Ruth Rendell would be very proud. The book is told primarily through the eyes of Rachel, but also from the point of view of Megan Hipwell and Anna Watson, the new wife of Rachel’s ex Tom.  At no point can you tell who the killer is until the very last minute. Every one of the main Characters is a viable suspect; it’s been years since I’ve read a book that has left me guessing till the last couple of pages. Also the initial premise of the story, that of what you see in peoples houses when you stare in fleetingly from a passing train, is not something new to any of us. We’re all “Nosey-Parkers”  deep down and we’ve probably see some strange things going on in peoples houses and often wondered what those people are doing, who lives in a house like that or why did they do that to their house or garden?

Its also been a while since I’ve come across such a flawed main character, her alcoholism is so nicely woven into the story-line that you really do feel for Rachel and almost want to step into the pages and take her by the hand and lead her to an AA meeting or pump her full of Coffee. As well as destroying her marriage, it’s also cost her a lucrative PR job in the city, but she still takes the train every day so that her flatmate Cathy thinks she still has a job. It’s Cathy who is her real and only support, despite being the recipient of all the general detritus associated with Rachel’s condition, although her patience is tested and  a sainthood is lurking somewhere in the ether.

Paula Hawkins

Paula Hawkins

Zimbabwean born Hawkins (www.paulahawkinsbooks.com) has been working and living in the UK since 1989. She’s a former journalist who credits reading Agatha Christie as a child as her inspiration, but that it was Donna Tarrt’s Secret History which was the real eye opener to the possibilities of psychological thrillers. This is her first book, but in a recent interview with Penguin Canada she admitted she has hundreds of pieces of fiction stored on hard drives, some a few pages long others tens of thousands of words long.

There are loads of similarities to other works set on a train in this 450 frm paddnton cvrbook but the closest is Agatha Christie’s The 4:50 From Paddington. The plot is scarily similar, two trains pull along side each other and a woman travelling alone in her carriage witnesses another woman being murdered in the other train, the only person who can help her is that wiley old sleuth Ms Marple.

So the next time you stare out the train window into houses along the way or another train, be careful what you see, you never know you could be witness to a crime. But in general just smile and wave, even if nobody returns the gesture. Then if you haven’t already, been prompted by this review to get a copy, then jump off at the next available station and pick up this book.