Saturday, 26 November 2011

Firefly Rain - Richard Dansky

Jacob Logan left his home in the town of Maryfield in rural Carolina many years ago to build a new life in the big city, hardening his heart to his parent's pleas to come back and make his life in the old place.  It was only now that his parent's were dead that he found himself drawn back there after his business collapsed.  The old house looked very much the same, but was it welcoming him back or trying to drive him away?

The furniture van than was transporting his stuff was in a bad accident, destroying all his possessions and then his car was stolen from the drive and vanished without trace.  Left all alone on the property, Jacob was had no means of leaving and had to rely on food parcels brought by the old caretaker of the property, the uncommunicative, surly Carl.  Strange things start to happen around his new home, with doors opening of their own accord and a box of toy soldiers appearing mysteriously appearing on the porch.  But the thing that really made Jacob's skin crawl was that the fireflies seemed to be totally avoiding his land, and the beautiful, incandescent light of these little beetles stopped abruptly at his boundaries.

Jacob eventually makes it in to town after he is picked up by a good Samaritan called Sam and his dog Asa on a pick-up truck , where he finds himself going head to head with Hanratty, the officer investigating the theft of his car.  He also makes contact with other people from his past such as Mr Hilliard the pharmacist who sold the vanilla cokes he still dreamed of from his childhood, and Reverend Trotter the local preacher.

But as Jacob keeps spotting his car being driven through his property and almost dies after chasing it in the rain, he starts to wonder if Carl or someone is messing with his mind, or is there something supernatural going on.  Determined to find out more about Officer Hanratty, Jacob visits the local library to look through the newspaper archives, only to have a terrifying experience down in the basement.

Is it his parents?  Do they want him to promise to stay in the old house and lead his life as they had?  Was pretty librarian Adrienne a lure and a reward to keep him there?  And why was a sinister dog attacking the house every night, frantically trying to get in and attack him?

As the town crowds in on him, and Jacob starts to feel overwhelmed by their suspicion and disapproval, the only ray of light for him is his no-nonsense friend from the city Jenna, who comes to stay because she is so worried about him.  But after his apparently driver-less car is driven into the side of Adrienne's apartment forcing her to seek refuge with Jacob at the farmhouse, events spiral out of control and Jacob is confronted with the truth about his destiny.  Will he be able to save himself and the two women he is trying to protect in his house, and will somebody or something have to die to set him free?

Firefly Rain by Richard Dansky is a good horror story that keeps you turning the pages to find out how it will unfold.  It makes you want to know if Jacob is going out of his mind, if he is being used by human forces for their own sinister purposes or if the ghosts of his parents are controlling him and compelling him to stay.

Have a big bacon and egg fried sandwich with this one, and a coke float like the ones Jacob used to enjoy as a kid, as you try and work out why the fireflies avoid Jacob's land and what it is that they want him to do.

Under The Dome - Stephen King

I have just crawled out from under the dome! One of the great qualities of Stephen King's epic novels is that you really find yourself living in the world that he has created, and in the case of 'Under The Dome' it is a claustrophobic world that gets smaller and smaller as the book progresses.  Another great talent of King's is his ability to describe in minute detail a perfectly ordinary day, with people going around their business, and to then bring that day crashing down with the sure knowledge that nothing will ever be the same again.

'Under the Dome' is set in Stephen King's familiar stamping ground of Maine, and Chester's Mill is a small town that is not too far from Castle Rock and TR-90.  One beautiful autumn morning of blue skies and sunshine, Dale Barbara is fleeing this small American town following a slight difference of opinion with some local youths in car park.  He is just about to hitch a lift when his world changes forever.  Something has dropped down, seemingly from nowhere, and cuts Chester's Mill off from the rest of the world.  There are some immediate bad consequences such as a flying lesson that is abruptly terminated in the worst possible way, a severed arm and scores of dead birds.  But as the locals explore this new barrier that now stands between them and the rest of the world, they are still mercifully unaware of what tragedy it will bring.

Such challenging circumstances can either bring out the best or the worst in people, but unfortunately for Chester's Mill their second selectman, Jim Rennie is already a bad 'un, who has been running a drug factory at the back of the local church for years and laundering the profits. He has also been quietly appropriating the town's money and resources, such as propane gas, leaving the population even more vulnerable than they believed.  Jim Rennie is also perhaps the only person in town who sees the Dome as an opportunity - an opportunity to take full control and run Chester's Mill like his own private fiefdom. He uses his influence to start expanding the local police force, filling it with untrained youngsters who are only too happy to tout guns and bully the locals.

Dale Barbara, known as 'Barbie' to his friends, is forced to return to the town he was so desperately trying to leave, where he teams up with local newspaper woman Julia Shumway to try and find out what the Dome is, who created it and how they could destroy it.  But Barbie is also a man of secrets, a veteran of the conflict in Iraq, and one of the youths who attacked him is the only son of Jim Rennie, a disturbed teenager who is unknowingly suffering from a brain tumour that is sending his behaviour out of control.  Their destinies will collide when the White House appoints Dale Barbara as their man to take control of Chester's Mill and Jim Rennie and Junior start a campaign to destroy Barbie's reputation so that they can hold onto power and the town.

So can Dale Barbara stay out of prison or even alive long enough to save the good people of Chester's Mill?  With time running out, a small band of people come together in secret to try and find a way to save themselves and their town.  But can a physician's assistant, a department store owner and three determined teenagers find out the truth?  Are the terrifying dreams of exploding pumpkins and pink stars experienced by the town's children portending some dreadful future or just the product of frightened young minds?  How many of the town's residents will allow the horror of their situation let them become puppets of Jim Rennie and his crew, and how many will be able to dig deep within themselves to stand up for what is right and maintain their courage and humanity? And what exactly is the Chef cooking up at the back of the church, and what are his plans for the town?

This is not so much a lunchtime book as a ten course banquet book, and you will need plenty of supplies to keep you going.  Red wine, lots of chocolate and popcorn to help you through the book's terrifying and tragic climax, as you learn whether or not Dale Barbara can save Chester's Mill and the lives of those he cares about and what it will take to destroy the Dome.  The building sense of disaster and impending doom make this one of Stephen King's best long reads, especially the truly horrifying ending. But although it has been compared to 'The Stand', for me 'The Stand' will always be King's best book.  Hand me another glass of red someone!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Awakening - S J Bolton

This is not a book to read if you have a snake phobia!  In Awakening by S J Bolton, Clara Benning is a young woman who has always sought to hide herself away from people after a tragic childhood accident left one side of her face badly scarred.  She moved to a remote cottage in an isolated, rural English village to be on her own as much as possible, working as a vet at the local animal rescue hospital.

Not much happens in this sleepy village, aside from a group of rowdy teenagers making noise late at night and indulging in some petty vandalism.  So the village is shocked when one of the elderly residents is taken into hospital after being bitten by an adder, and Clara is then taken by surprise when she is called out one night to assist in removing snakes that have suddenly appeared in one of the local houses. She initially thought that finding an adder in the cradle of a newborn baby was the worst horror she would have to sort out, but the discovery of a deadly taipan, one of the most venomous snakes in the world dramatically changes the stakes.

Clara takes the deadly snake to renowned young herpetologist Sean North for positive identification, and on finding out that the elderly gentleman who had been bitten had far too high a concentration of snake venom in his bloodstream for a single adder to have been responsible, they have to start considering whether this was actually a murder.

So what part does the creepy old Witcher house have to play?  It is supposedly empty, but dark, shadowy figures have been seen at the windows, and Clara starts to believe that her old acquaintance, Albert Witcher, is not really dead after all.  Then there is the mystery of the church that was burned out in 1958, killing several of the villagers.  Why were the emergency services not called  for several hours after the blaze started and why will no one talk about it?

As more elderly village folk get killed and there are more terrifying incidents with snakes, Clara is trapped in a desperate game to find information on what is really going on in the village before more people get killed.  Most of the villagers are not talking, and several of the shadowy Witcher family have supposedly moved away and dropped out of view. The village is built in an area where there are many natural watercourses, old mine workings and secret tunnels, which our intrepid heroine Clara runs around in the dark of the night, trying to find the evidence she needs.  But all the clues seem to point back to the creepy old Witcher house, and Clara will have to brave the dark and the decay of the old building to find out what is really going on

As the finger of suspicion is pointed firmly at Clara as the murder suspect, she finds support in Matt, a local detective, and from Sean North, the charismatic TV reptile specialist.  But as Clara finds out more about what really happened in the Church, and the torture of an innocent man, the noose begins to tighten and her very life is in danger.  Can she clear her name and save the life of Matt, the first man that she has ever been attracted to?

Very creepy and detailed horror story and you will learn more about snakes, strange Roman execution customs and American charismatic religious leaders, than you perhaps want to know! After reading this you might want to change your locks before you find a taipan in your bed!  Definitely a book to be read under the bedclothes with a torch and a large supply chocolate!