THE DARK by Emma Haughton 🌟🌟🌟
THE DARK is a locked room mystery
set in the harsh landscape of an Arctic winter, as a group of scientists are
overwintering in a remote research station. Dr Kate North has been sent to
replace the group’s previous doctor, who has been killed in a tragic accident
on the ice – but was it an accident? The more questions Kate asks, the tighter
the group pulls together, locking her out and refusing to discuss the matter –
until Kate is convinced that the doctor’s death may not have been an accident
after all. But with the Arctic winter upon her, there is no way out ....
What I loved:
*) The atmospheric setting in an
Antarctic research station. Some of the descriptions of the harsh landscape and
the Southern lights managed to transport me there.
*) The psychology of a diverse bunch
of people stuck in a claustrophobic setting for a few months was fascinating,
with the harsh winter and darkness confining them even more. I also thought
that the author portrayed really well how difficult it would be for an outsider
(Kate) to be thrown into a group of people who have all been together for a
long period of time and share secrets they want to keep hidden at all cost.
*) The premise of a medical
emergency whilst stuck in a remote place with no outside help available was terrifying
and well presented – if a tiny bit melodramatic.
Not so much:
*) I found it very difficult to bond
with Kate, the main character. Whilst I had empathy for her battle with her
opioid addiction and mourning the death of her fiancé, her constantly terrible
decisions made me wonder how she was ever chosen for her role in the research
*) Some elements of the plot were
too farfetched to seem plausible, i.e. how would an organisation employing
people to live and work in one of the most remote places on earth not implement
simple steps such as drug testing to keep things running smoothly? Almost every
single member of the team was acting very unprofessionally for a group of
experts employed to man a research station – I just didn’t quite buy it!
*) The mystery wasn’t suspenseful
enough to really keep me engaged – I would have loved some more spooky vibes or
messing with my mind, just as the constant darkness would have unsettled the
group of scientists stuck in their remote home with no way out. Early in the
book, the author referenced one of my favourite books, DARK MATTER by Michelle
Paver, which mastered the balance between spooky vibes, unreliable narrator and
psychological thriller as few other books have done since – and that was
exactly what I was looking for!
All in all, THE DARK was a locked
room mystery with a deliciously remote claustrophobic setting, which didn’t
thrill me as much as I had hoped but still provided some great armchair travel
and a decent enough mystery to keep me engaged. If I had been able to better relate
to the main character, I may have rated this a lot higher.
THE ASSISTANT by S.K. Tremayne 🌟🌟🌟
Do you own an Alexa, a Siri or a
Google Assistant? Are you happy to let them take control over some parts of
your life, or even provide you with company of sorts, even if it’s just an
electronic voice answering your questions and demands? Do you really own them,
or do they own you? After reading this book, you may want to unplug them!
To be honest, the thought of an
electronic assistant who has control over things in my home and life in general
has always freaked me out, so it came as no surprise to me when things started
going wrong with this concept in Tremayne’s novel THE ASSISTANT. For Jo, who
has resorted to seeing her electronic helpers as the friendly voices she turns
to when she is lonely, their sudden betrayal probably came as much more of a
shock. Especially since they seem to know her deepest, darkest secret – and
threaten to expose it if she doesn’t give in to their demands. Blackmailed by a
robot – what a perfect premise for a 21st century mystery!
I usually love the concept of an
unreliable character due to some mental illness or memory disorder, which
throws all their actions and memories into doubt. Did they really do this, or
did they just imagine they did? Is the main character just paranoid, or is
there really someone out there trying to hurt them? Jo’s father had
schizophrenia, which first manifested itself by the TV “talking to him”, which
is why Jo is terrified when the electronic assistants first turn against her.
Is she going crazy, too?
Whilst the first part of the novel
perfectly messed with my mind, the later part did go slightly over the top for
me, as I had to suspend a lot of disbelief. I also felt that Jo’s decisions
were often inconsistent with the rest of her character, and she fell too easily
into the role of the victim, when a woman of her experience and profession
would surely have sought professional help or advice rather than let herself
get trapped in a rather far-fetched situation. However, all in all this was a
suspenseful premise that kept me guessing, and an easy, entertaining read that
provided the distraction I was looking for.
THE DEVIL AND THE DARK WATER by
Stuart Turton 🌟🌟🌟1/2
If you have read THE 7 ½ DEATHS OF
EVELYN HARDCASTLE, then you will know that Turton writes unusual stories that
stand out from the rest and are hard to put into any particular genre. This was
also the case with his second book, THE DEVIL AND THE DARK WATER, which at best
I can only describe as a mix between Pirates of the Caribbean, Sherlock Holmes
and Indiana Jones, with the hint of supernatural themes thrown into the mix.
This is a hefty book, rich in descriptions and a massive cast of characters
that at times were difficult to keep track of. Set mostly aboard a ship and the
high seas, it will appeal to any reader who loves a good adventure story.
I’m at a loss how to review a book
that is so complex and straddles a multitude of themes and genres. Adventure,
mystery, action and a demonic threat – you get it all here. THE DEVIL AND THE
DARK WATER was a book to be savoured slowly, partly because my arms got tired
from holding its bulk up whilst reading, and partly to keep all the characters
straight in my mind. Set in 1634, the novel provided that particular mix
between fantasy and historical fiction that offers the ultimate escape. Throw
in a bit of swash-buckling and it’s a perfect distraction from the woes of our
times (with all the slaughter and mayhem going on aboard the Saardam, our lives
look peachy and pampered in comparison).
All in all, THE DEVIL AND THE DARK
WATER is a book that cannot be pigeon-holed into any particular category and
will appeal to a wide variety of readers: action, adventure, detective stories,
historical fiction and a hint of romance. I enjoyed the distraction and entertainment
it provided and am waiting with bated breath what Turton will come up with
THE LAST FLIGHT by Julie Clark 🌟🌟🌟1/2
I am always intrigued by the premise
of people trying to disappear or changing identity, so the idea of two women
trading passports at the airport to escape their own lives immediately got my
attention. And whilst it may sound a bit farfetched, Clark managed to convince
me that even in our times it may be possible to disappear off the radar, if you
have courage and use a bit of imagination.
Claire and Eva both have valid
reasons to run away – Claire from a controlling, violent husband, and Eva from
a dangerous man who has a hold on her for other reasons. A chance encounter at
the airport gives them the chance to switch identities and disappear off the
radar long enough to hopefully make a clean getaway. But of course it could not
be this easy now, could it? From here follows a twisty thriller with lots of
surprises in store, as well as a look back into the lives of the two women
before they decided to run away.
Whilst switching identities isn’t a new
concept, Clark put a new, refreshing spin on the topic and kept me enthralled
with her tale from beginning to end. And whilst I struggled a bit with the
pacing of the story and thought that the ending could have exploited the
premise a bit more to add drama and suspense, THE LAST FLIGHT was a quick,
entertaining read that was a perfect weekend read to chill out with.