Monday, 31 August 2009

'Salem's Lot - Stephen King

I am one of those people who, if they could, would keep every single book that they had ever read. Unfortunately that is not possible, and you would not believe how many bin liners of books I have taken to charity shops!

Some books are just evergreen to me and I can read them again and again. One such book is Stephen King's vampire classic 'Salem's Lot'. This poignant story of how novelist Ben Mears returns to his home town to reclaim his past and face up to some of the disturbing events of his childhood only to find that he has walked into a living nightmare is one of King's best novels.

Ben Mears returns to Jerusalem's Lot after a personal tragedy to confront his fears about the Marsten House by possibly leasing the property and writing a book. The Marsten House was the scene of some grisly murders and had been talked about and feared ever since. Ben once entered the house for a dare, and saw and experienced things that left him terrified. He finds that the house has been recently occupied after standing empty for many years by a couple of very strange strangers and scary, nasty things have started to happen in this very ordinary, sleepy US town.

It takes Ben some time and a lot of soul searching to realise that there are vampires terrorising the Lot, and he can only persuade a few of the residents to believe him and try to destroy the infestation, which is led by a very old evil.

The scariest thing about the book is how this small town dies gradually, with very few people acknowledging that there is even a problem. Residents fade away and disappear without comment, people tremble with fear behind their curtains but do not voice those fears until one day nothing is open, the schools have no pupils and the town has died. No news of this penetrates the outside world, and only Ben and the boy are left to confront the vampires and strike at the heart of the evil.

The characters as always in a Stephen King novel, make this book and involve you from the very first paragraphs.

If you are among the few who haven't read it yet, you are in for a treat and for those you want to read it again, choose a dark, foggy night around Halloween when the shadows are long and the nights are chill. Have copious amounts of hot chocolate and marshmallows, and be very careful of who you invite into the house!

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

The Killing Hour - Lisa Gardner

The temperature is going up in Virginia and GBI Special Agent Mac McCormack is getting increasingly worried. The serial killer known as the 'Eco-Killer', who murders young girls in pairs during heatwaves in Georgia, had been quiet for several years, but recently Mac has been getting strange calls warning him that he will strike again.

Kimberley Quincy is a new agent at the FBI Academy at Quantico, trying to forge a new career for herself and forget her troubled, violent past. Kimberley and Mac run into each other in the Quantico grounds and are drawn back together when Kimberley discovers the body of a young girl, with the mouth sewn up with black yarn, when out on a training run.

Kimberley risks her fledgling career with the FBI, to help Mac find the murdered girl's friend and catch the killer before he can take another pair of girls. Their search takes them deep into some of the most inhospitable terrain in Virginia's National Parks, pushing them to their physical limits. Will they be able to interpret the clues the killer left behind in time to save the missing girl? Is the killer closer to home than they realise?

Very descriptive, and full of action, the book makes you really feel like you are in the steam bath of a Virgina heatwave. There are several twists in the story, although some of them are very easy to spot. Not one for people with a weak stomach, or people who do not like snake and insects!

Read with an ice-cold pitcher of lemonade and a big bowl of salty crisps!

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Scott Mariani - The Heretic’s Treasure

Ben Hope has left the SAS, and after the tragedy of his wife’s death, has settled down to run a training school for hostage retrieval, leaving his old life behind him. His ordered existence is thrown into disarray when he receives a phone call from a man to whom he owes a great debt; a man who is now calling that debt in.

Ben is torn, but Colonel Harry Paxton had once saved his life in the jungles of Sierra Leone, so he answers the call and is asked to track down the killers of Harry’s scholarly son in Egypt. But is everything as it seems? What was it that Morgan Paxton was looking for in the sands of the Egyptian desert? Was it something worth killing him for?

Ben soon realises that he can trust nobody; and the action moves from Italy, to Egypt, to Scotland and the Sudan. He soon learns that a number of people want the treasure of the heretic pharaoh Akhenaten that Morgan Paxton was seeking and will stop at nothing to get it. Even the woman he loves may not be who she seems to be.

This is a fast moving novel, with plenty of action and a high body count. Lots of severed limbs and heavy duty weapons! Definitely one the lads will enjoy. It is one of a series featuring Ben Hope, so if you enjoy it, you can carry on reading.

Good holiday book – around the pool, on the beach or on the plane. I’d say it would go down well with a pint of lager and a cheese and pickle on brown.

Warning Rant – this is my little rant, but who else is getting fed up with book covers that say ‘fans of Dan Brown will love this’. It’s not like Dan Brown is a particularly good author. He was lucky enough to have one phenomenally best selling book, but I’m sure that not every writer out there is trying to emulate him! We’ll see what his new offering is like when it’s released in the autumn.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Miss Garnet's Angel - Salley Vickers

After the death of her long-time friend and flatmate, Julia Garnet for the first time in her life gives in to impulse and rents a flat in Venice for six months. She was brought up by narrow-minded, religious parents and had escaped into a life of teaching and dabbling with socialism. She had never explored her emotional or spiritual self and had always kept other people at arms length.

The beauty and history of Venice begin to open her up and she makes friends and connections in a way that she has never done before. She becomes especially interested in an old story of a family of Jewish exiles in ancient Nineveh, whose only son Tobias goes travelling to claim a debt long owed to his father. He is unaware that his travelling companion is the Archangel Raphael, and has to face great danger in order to claim his bride and bring her home safely.

As Julia falls in love for the first time with an unsuitable man and has her heart broken, makes friends with the English restorers who are working on an old chapel associated with the artist Raphael, and wanders through the ancient buildings of Venice, she has to absorb new truths and start seeing the world around her in a totally different way.

This is a slow moving book that took me a while to read. The descriptions of Venice and the story of Tobias were fascinating, and it was a refreshing change to have an elderly heroine. Lovers of fast-moving action will not enjoy this, but if you are in the mood to just gently drift along with a book; this one is for you.

Break out the prosecco in honour of Julia Garnet’s favourite drink in Venice and have a dish of olives handy!

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Duma Key - Stephen King

Were you wondering when the king of horror and fantasy writing was going to show up? Well, wonder no more! Duma Key by Stephen King follows the story of Edgar Freemantle after a construction accident causes him to lose his right arm and his marriage. He moves to a remote island off the coast of Florida to heal his physical and emotional wounds on the advice of his therapist.

But in usual King fashion all is not what it seems on this isolated piece of paradise. Edgar discovers a new talent for painting that begins to border on an obsession and finds himself producing works of strange beauty and power. Is the key to the mystery the new friends he makes; the enigmatic Wireman and the elderly Elizabeth Eastlake who knows more than she is capable of saying.

As the shells under his house whisper secrets to him, can Edgar find the strength and the courage to face an ancient evil and bottle it up forever? Or will his family and friends have to face further tragedies and certain death.

A long and highly descriptive book; this one is good for long days on the beach or long haul plane trips. A big jug of homemade lemonade, topped up with ice and a good supply of crisps will keep you going!