“The haunting of Haelstrom Cottage” by Tabatha Cross

Do you remember, as an adolescent,  hearing ghost stories around the campfire? The kind where those around the fire took turns with a flashlight beneath their chin? Well… this is such a story!

“When places are deprived of sunlight, evil things take shelter there.”

Just a few short miles from Salisbury, England lies Crickernock Forest. Within Crickernock Forest, in the shadow of Wickerbatch Hill, sits Haelstrom Cottage. An abode which never has the benefit of sunlight, no matter what time of day due to the thickness of the dense forest that surrounds it. Years ago a young salesman, his wife and baby son lived within its walls.  A sudden and bitter betrayal led the young father to gruesomely murder his wife and son.

Fast forward to the present.  Emma Gale is a nurse who has moved from London to Salisbury. Unable to garner a regular shift at the local hospital, she has signed on as a ‘carer’, willing to travel to those housebound patients who are in need of nursing care. She is desperate for work, so agrees to care for an old, crippled, mute lady named Lisa Garret who lives alone, a few miles out of town in Haelstrom Cottage. Not living in the area for long, Emma is unaware of the reputation of the cottage. – the way the locals give it a wide berth…

Two days after accepting the job with the old lady, Emma is found knocking back whiskey at a Salisbury pub. After one too many drinks, she has a meltdown, and reveals her experiences at Haelstrom Cottage to the two men who will listen…

Since Halloween is fast approaching, I felt in dire need of a spooky read and this novella delivered. However, I must warn you that this is NOT great writing, it is just a simple haunted house story written to titillate the reader. Nevertheless, if it is just a short ghost story to get you in the mood for Halloween you want, then look no further.

I purchased this short novel for free via my Kindle Unlimited account.

From Amazon.com
Tabatha Cross is a very young British author, with an interesting and ancient bloodline. The only remaining child of Academic parents, she lives alone just over the loch from Crinan Wood. She has been educated in the finest girls institutions Britain has to offer, and reaps story lines based on her years of harrowing encounters there. She prefers to be left alone, only seeking out the company of her jet-black stallion, Diablo, and her crimson-eyed pit-bull bitch, Cruella.

Advertisements
Posted in Book Reviews, ghost stories, Horror, Novellas | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Pleased and delighted! #BestBookBlog2017 @TheWriterAwards

I was pleased and delighted to get an email from The Writer Awards.

In the email they stated:

We had a team review THOUSANDS of recommended book blogs and write short reviews of the best ones they found! Congratulations!  Out of the 1k+ blogs we reviewed, we put you at #9.

You can see the full list of winners HERE

# 9  Yipee!!!!

Here is what they have to say about my blog:

What makes the award mean even more, is that I share it with some super book bloggers, some of whom I’ve been following for quite some time now:

Noelle at Crime Book Junkie

Jen at Jen Med’s Book Reviews

Nicole at Feed your Fiction Addiction

Abby at Crime by the Book

Zoe at What’s Better Than Books

I am honored to be a part of a fantastic and supportive community of bookbloggers.

Congratulations to all the winners. Blogs are hard work, but most times they are a labor of love…. I know mine is.

Posted in Fictionophile report | Tagged , | 31 Comments

“The house sitter” by Jill Barry

Suzanne and Eddie Deacon aren’t getting any younger. They have been very content in “The Sugar House”, their comfortable, renovated house in mid Wales. However, they have decided that the time to downsize, and move on, has come. They find that winters in their remote home are long, and they miss their children and grandchildren. They make the decision to move back to England to be closer to their family.

“Somehow, they must be made to pay.
This was her future they were tossing out like a bundle of rags.”

Ruth, their neighbour, is distraught at their decision to relocate.  She is quite close to the couple and occasionally house-sits and dog sits for them when they travel. She had assumed that they would come to depend on her more and more as the years passed. Being fifteen years their junior, she wanted to act as their caretaker and move in to the Sugar House.  A house she covets. Shortly after  she learns of their decision to move, she hatches several devious plans to thwart the sale of house, thus making their move impossible.  For instance, she enlists the help of a neighbouring farmer to block the driveway so that prospective buyers cannot enter the lane. At first we think it is just a lonely woman resorting to drastic measures to ensure company and a way to be needed. Then, we learn that she has history of such behavior and that she once went by a different name… She is clearly unstable – but to what lengths will she go?

“The more she contemplated Suzanne and Eddie’s casual disregard of her feelings, the fiercer her indignation stung.”

The story moves forward, with an increasing sense of menace, when Ruth is entrusted to look after the Sugar House when Suzanne and Eddie go away. Ruth’s character seems more and more creepy as she dons disguises and different personas to manipulate events to her own agenda.

Meanwhile, Bethan Harley, the estate agent, wonders what, or who, is behind the events that are sabotaging the sale of The Sugar House.  It is a gem of a property and is generating a lot of interest. Every time she schedules a viewing by prospective buyers – something goes awry. One interested party, Ray Kirby, is undaunted by the odd events that seem to be plaguing Bethan. Eventually an unlikely romance blossoms between Bethan and Ray as together they try to discover who is behind the sabotage and prevent the cunning, guilty party from proceeding further.

“Luxury. Security. Companionship. Control.
All these things were seductive. Addictive.”

Ruth continues with her cunning plans. She is revealed to be a very lonely and delusional woman. Orphaned at a young age, and without any support system, she has built herself a fantasy world. Even though we begin to understand Ruth – she remains an unsympathetic character.

I found the cover of this novel to be very misleading. It makes you think it might be a ghost story or have other paranormal features.  Nothing could be further from the truth. This novel was part ‘cozy’ mystery, part chaste romantic suspense. It was a ‘light’ enjoyable read. The premise held a lot of promise, but the weak ending let down the rest of the book. All in all, not great, but an okay read…

I gratefully received a digital copy of this novel from Crooked Cat Publishers via NetGalley. I was only too happy to provide this honest review.

Jill Barry was born in a Welsh seaside town from which she has taken her pseudonym. Jill used her secretarial skills as a springboard to jobs in the hotel and leisure industry, including stints as airline receptionist and air stewardess.

After marrying, she settled in Wiltshire where she and her late husband bought a former Victorian school and ran a guesthouse. Her first writing success was a ghost story broadcast on local radio. After moving to Mid Wales in the year 2000, she applied to study for a degree in Creative Writing.

Jill writes contemporary and historical romance novels and occasional short stories and has one psychological suspense novel “The house sitter”. She runs on line creative writing workshops for students at a virtual high school and enjoys giving library talks.

Posted in Book Reviews, Mystery fiction, NetGalley, romantic suspense | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Throwback Thursday: an old favorite recommended

Renee at It’s Book Talk began this meme as a way to share old favorites.

This week I’ve chosen “The Wacky Man” by Lyn G. Farrell for my Throwback Thursday post. It was first published in May of 2016 and was, for me, a 5* read.


First reviewed on Fictionophile May 13, 2016

A heartbreaking novel that packs a visceral punch!

wacky man

The Wacky Man” is a compulsively readable debut novel that expounds upon the life of Amanda May.  Amanda is fifteen when we meet her and she is a scarily intelligent and seriously mentally ill girl.  Her illness stems from a lifetime of both physical and emotional abuse.  She has retreated – both mentally and physically.  She has detached herself from a world that is just too painful for her to endure.  She has become a recluse and has spent the past year in her bedroom.  Not even venturing out to eat.  Her mother timidly leaves her food just outside the bedroom door.  She pulls out her hair (literally) until she has a bald strip down the middle of her head which she terms a ‘reverse Mohawk’.  She injures herself in other ways as well.  She cuts herself with a broken mirror, She is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  She has NO self-esteem and considers herself fat, ugly and deformed.  Her shrink tells her she has ‘extreme anxiety’, but she says her introverted behavior is a result of her not wanting to bring notice upon herself.

broken mirror

The reader also has a chance to learn more of Amanda May’s mother, Barbara, and her abusive hard-drinking Irish father, Seamus.  We learn of the time when they were first married – before and after the birth of their three children, the twins, Jamie & Tommo, and Amanda.

We learn of Barbara’s slow surrendering to her dismal circumstances.  Of her prescription haze that gets her through her traumatic days.  Her home (or rather Seamus’ house) is a battlefield from which she can find no refuge.  Despondent and afraid for her children, she feels impotent, trapped, and condemned to live a life of despair.  Eventually she is so battered down by her life that she becomes apathetic and does not intervene when her children need her most.

From Amanda’s memory we learn of the horrendous abuses Seamus inflicted upon all three of his children.  A master of Irish charm and smiles to the outside world, when he enters the door he vents all of his frustrations and inferiority complex on his defenseless children.

abuse

When Amanda wacks off school (slang for truancy), she calls the truant officer the Wacky Man.  Then when her father literally whacks her for ‘wacking it’, the name transfers to her father.  A man whom the family moves around like crabs, sideways on so that they can always see him…

We learn of Amanda’s fierce intelligence and lack of schooling.  Her intellect makes her aware of the bad and evil in everything she sees and reads about.  She can no longer recognize that there is any goodness in anything.  We weep for her.  We read with a lump just below our throats.

The Wacky Man” is sad, disturbing, and so real that the reader fears that the author must have some first hand knowledge of this kind of pain…  It is a novel that depicts the result of severe family dysfunction.  Set in Lancashire, but it could be anywhere.  Anywhere where there are abusive fathers and abused children.  Difficult to read – but so compelling and well-rendered that it SHOULD be read.  It takes strength to read this brutal and harsh look into a life of suffering…  But if you do it will leave Amanda May unforgettable – and you – changed.

F 5 star

This astounding debut is the winner of the 2015 Luke Bitmead Bursarythe United Kingdom’s biggest prize for unpublished authors.

Lyn G. Farrell grew up in Lancashire where she would have gone to school if life had been different. She spent most of her teenage years reading anything she could get her hands on.
She studied Psychology at the University of Leeds and now works in the School of Education at Leeds Beckett University.

Posted in Book Reviews, debut novels, Throwback Thursday | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

Where are they now? – Part 2: Alison Taylor

Alison Taylor is the author of the mystery series featuring protagonist DC Michael McKenna. Set in Wales, this police procedural series was one I enjoyed.

 

The novels in this series include:

#1 Simeon’s bride#2 In guilty night

#3 The house of women

#4 Unsafe convictions

#5 Child’s play

Most all of these are available in

 

 

 

The last of these novels was written in 2002.

She seems to have dropped off the literary radar and her website has not been updated since 2013.

Is Alison Taylor still writing?  If anyone knows any information about this author I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Alison G. Taylor never intended to be a crime writer. In 1986 she was working as a senior social worker for the former Gwynedd County Council. Increasingly disturbed by reports of the alleged abuse of children in care, she took her concerns to the police. As a result she was fired. What her actions have helped to expose is one of Britain’s worst scandals of institutionalised physical and sexual abuse in children’s homes in North Wales. Because of the extent and nature of the allegations, in 1996 the government took the rare step of ordering a Tribunal of Inquiry, which began hearing evidence in January 1997, and is due to report this year. Alison Taylor won two national awards for her selfless work in this area; the first Community Care Readers Award, and the Campaign for Freedom of Information Award in 1996. Disillusioned by the prospect of returning to social work, Alison concentrated on writing. Her first novel Simeon’s Bride evolved from a short story written for a national competition and was published in 1995. It won her outstanding critical acclaim and comparisons to PD James and Ruth Rendell. Her second novel In Guilty Night was a compelling story containing the controversial issue of child abuse. And most recently, The House of Women was published in 1998, again to widespread acclaim from the media. A television series featuring Superintendent Michael McKenna is currently under negotiation.

Alison Taylor has a son and a daughter, and has lived in north Wales for many years. Her interests include baroque and classical music, art and riding.

You might be interested in reading this article about how Alison Taylor blew the whistle on abuse when she worked as a social worker.

Posted in Authors, Mystery fiction, Where are they now? | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Cover Love: part 39 – Cemeteries

The covers of novels entice the reader to enter a different world. Covers are, after all, the way the publisher hooks the reader into choosing one book over countless others.

In my thirty-ninth installment of ‘Cover Love‘, I’d like to show you books that feature cemeteries on their covers.

Cemeteries lend themselves well to cover art. They are perfect to give an ominous feel to mysteries, thrillers, and horror titles.

And it IS October after all…


Some of the following books I’ve already read, some are on my ‘to read’ list,
and some I chose only for their covers.

Some, perhaps, will now be on your TBR!

Just click on the cover to read the book’s synopsis from  Goodreads.

You might just find your next favorite book!

 Are you tempted by any of these covers?

If you have a few minutes visit any of the previous installments of

Cover Love – some of which I’ve updated recently

Posted in Cover Love series, Dustjackets | Tagged | 9 Comments

“Bradstreet Gate” by Robin Kirman

The novel’s title, “Bradstreet Gate,” refers to a Harvard Yard gate that commemorates the Puritan poet Anne Bradstreet and the 25th anniversary of women living in the Yard.

Bradstreet Gate opened to Harvard’s Science Center

In 1997 Julie Patel, a Harvard student, is murdered. “Bradstreet Gate” is about how this murder affects the lives of three of her fellow students and one of the Harvard professors.

Georgia Calvin is the blonde and beautiful daughter of a renowned photographer. Everyone lusts after her. Professor Storrow, Charlie, and even Alice.

Alice Kovac – Statuesque and striking looking but socially inept, Alice is the daughter of Serbian immigrants and Georgia’s best friend.

Charlie Flournoy – The youngest son of two boys, he is fond of poetry and things academic which is directly at odds with his father and elder brother who have more ‘manly’ pursuits. When he arrives at Harvard, Charlie tries to emulate Storrow in manner and attitude. Besotted with Georgia, he settles for being just her friend…

Professor Rufus Storrow comes across as a bit of a ‘prig’. A fastidious dresser, he is a result of his military West Point education. His reputation is his highest priority, Highly admired by the faculty and students, he entertains some of his favored students at dinner parties in his home.

When he begins an affair with the lovely Georgia, he insists that their relationship remain a secret so as not to jeopardize his career and cause a scandal at the prestigious university.

When Julia Patel  is murdered, the murder seemed to have less impact on the three main characters than it should have. There seemed to be a disconnect. Also, we as readers don’t ever get to know Julie, so as a result we care less about what happened to her…

For a brief period at the beginning of the book we meet Georgia on the tenth anniversary of Julie’s murder. The grown-up Georgia was a much more interesting character than her younger university student self. Now she has a young baby and a husband who is dying of cancer. When she is interviewed by a university journalist about the anniversary of Julie’s death, it seems like a huge imposition on her time and her psyche.

The main characters in this novel are all carrying heavy baggage of one sort or another. They make the most unlikely friends. Although we get to know each of them, we don’t REALLY know them.  It is a superficial acquaintance.

Many other readers have compared this novel to Donna Tartt’s “The Secret History”. I cannot compare them because I haven’t read “The Secret History”, but I must say that I hope Tartt’s novel has a more satisfying ending than this one.  Many genres lend themselves to an open-ending, but a novel touted as a murder mystery should at least allude to ‘whodunit’. Sadly, the murderer in this story was never divulged which left me feeling puzzled and manipulated. Don’t misunderstand me, this novel is quite well-written – but however elegant the prose, the story must have some sort of cohesion for me to enjoy it. “Bradstreet Gate” did not – which made it quite a disappointing read for me.

Readers who are looking for a college story and a character study will be pleased by this novel, all others should probably pick up another book.Thanks to Crown Publishing who provided me with a free digital copy of this novel at my request via NetGalley.

 

ROBIN KIRMAN earned a BA in philosophy from Yale College and an MFA in fiction from Columbia University, where she served as a writing instructor in the English department. Robin lives in New York City and Tel Aviv.

Posted in Book Reviews, debut novels, NetGalley | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Bedtime stories for grown-ups (Guest post by Andrew Joyce)

Bedtime Stories for Grown-Ups is a jumble of genres—seven hundred pages of fiction and nonfiction … some stories included against the author’s better judgment. If he had known that one day they’d be published, he might not have been as honest when describing his past. Here is a tome of true stories about the author’s criminal and misspent youth, historical accounts of the United States when She was young, and tales of imagination encompassing every conceivable variety—all presented as though the author is sitting next to you at a bar and you’re buying the drinks as long as he keeps coming up with captivating stories to hold your interest.

Comprised of 218,000 words, you’ll have plenty to read for the foreseeable future. This is a book to have on your night table, to sample a story each night before extinguishing the lights and drifting off to a restful sleep.

Mr. Joyce sincerely hopes that you will enjoy his stories because, as he has stated,
“It took a lot of living to come up with the material for some of them.”

Hello, my name is Andrew Joyce. I have a new book out entitled Bedtime Stories for Grown-Ups. It came about because my editor hounded me for two years to put all my short stories into one collection. Actually, it was supposed to be a two-volume set because there was so much material. I fended her off for as long as possible. I didn’t want to do the work of editing all the stories. There were a lot them. But she finally wore me down. Instead of two volumes, I put all the stories into a single book because I wanted to get the whole thing over with. I had other books to write.

Bedtime Stories is made up of fiction and nonfiction stories and some of ’em are about my criminal youth. I must tell you, I never thought any of these stories would see the light of day. I wrote them for myself and then forgot about them. By the way, there are all sort of genres within its pages, from westerns to detective stories to love stories and just about anything else that you can imagine.

Now, before we get to the promo part of this post, Lynne and I thought it might be a good idea for me to address why it’s valuable for adult readers to immerse themselves in the lives of others by reading memoirs and autobiographical fiction. And answer the question: Are children being robbed of one of the treasures of childhood, because technology is often usurping the traditional bedtime story?

Okay, the first one first. Let me start by saying that I don’t know anything. I mean, I think I know a lot, but I’m hesitant to divulge my “wisdom” to others—unless I’ve had a few drinks. Having said that, here’s my take on the subject.

I believe it’s valuable for people to read … period. You learn so much without even knowing you’re learning stuff. All good authors do a ton of research for their novels. Believe me, it takes a lot of time. I spend as much time doing research as I do writing.

To me, a biography of someone who has led a remarkable life is more interesting than any novel I’ve ever read. Because it’s real.

As to the second question: Childhood changes from era to era. Was I robbed when I was a kid in the 1950s because television had supplanted radio? Now I had pictures to go with the story. But my father had to use his imagination to see things as the story unfolded. So who had it better?

I’m an old fart. I can’t do anything on my smart phone except receive phone calls. But when I see kids immersed in their phones, oblivious to the world around them, do I think it would be better for them to be watching the Howdy Doody Show on a black-and-white television set that’s getting lousy reception? No, I do not. We can never live even one second in the past. We cannot live even one second into the future. We can only live in the moment of now. So I say, go with the flow and make the best of it.

Now I’m gonna try to sell a few books. Here’s one of the shorter fiction stories from the book.


Good-Bye Miami

For the first time in my life, I’m in love. And I think she feels the same about me. That’s the good news. The bad news is that we may have to break up … sort of. Shit happens. Allow me to explain.

Her name is Jill; we met early on a Sunday morning. I was jogging along the beach at the water’s edge one minute, and the next I was splayed out in the sand. I had tripped over a woman’s recumbent body.

After the requisite apologies, we started talking. One thing led to another and we ended up having lunch together. That was eight months ago and we’ve barely been out of each other’s sight since.

Today is another Sunday much like the one when Jill and I met, but things are a little different now.

I’m an FBI agent assigned to the Miami Field Office. I was awakened at five o’clock this morning by an urgent phone call to report in immediately. There was a terrorist threat. Hell, this was the granddaddy of all threats. At 4:00 a.m., a local television station received a call stating that there was a nuclear bomb planted within the city, and at exactly 4:00 p.m., it would be detonated unless certain demands were met. The caller said there was a package sitting in the parking lot of the North Miami office of the FBI that would authenticate the threat.

It turned out to be a small nuclear bomb, which is also known as a suitcase bomb. An attached note informed us it was exactly like the one planted in downtown Miami. It also stated that if there was any effort to evacuate the populace, the bomb would definitely go off the instant word hit the media.

Every law enforcement officer—city, state, and federal—was called in. We were given gadgets that register radiation, and all personnel were assigned grids. Each person would drive his or her grid. If the meter went off, a team would be dispatched with equipment to pinpoint the emanations. Then the eggheads would dismantle the bomb.

That was the plan.

We were ordered to tell no one of the threat, but there were many surreptitious phone calls made that morning, telling family members to drive to West Palm Beach for the day. I made my own call, telling Jill that I had planned a romantic day for the two of us and asked if she would meet me in Boca Raton. I gave her the name of the hotel where I had made a reservation before calling her, and said I’d be there in the early afternoon. She readily agreed, and now I know that she is safe.

So here it is nearing four o’clock and we’ll soon see if it was a hoax or not. The clock on the dashboard reads 3:59 … 4:00 … 4:01 … 4:02. Nothing! I’ll be damned, the whole thing was a …

Andrew Joyce

Andrew Joyce left high school at seventeen to hitchhike throughout the US, Canada, and Mexico. He wouldn’t return from his journey until years later when he decided to become a writer. Joyce has written five books. His first novel, Redemption: The Further Adventures of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, was awarded the Editors’ Choice Award for Best Western of 2013. A subsequent novel, Yellow Hair, received the Book of the Year award from Just Reviews and Best Historical Fiction of 2016 from Colleen’s Book Reviews.
Joyce now lives aboard a boat in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with his dog, Danny, where he is busy working on his next book, tentatively entitled, Mahoney: An American Story.

Posted in Authors, Guest post, Short stories | Tagged , | 4 Comments

I love to read – but I’m in a slump

There I’ve admitted it.  This is the first time since I began blogging that I find myself in a terrible reading slump.  I didn’t realize how bad it was until I saw this today on Goodreads:

GULP!!!!

I find that I want to bake, watch television, plan what I want to read, and blog about reading, I just don’t feel like actually reading.

Sincerely hope this ends really soon.

Posted in Fictionophile report, ramblings & miscellanea, Reading | Tagged , | 75 Comments

Precious time (and Fictionophile ratings)

Time is a precious commodity.

Whether you are a student, a working single, a working parent, or even when you are retired like I am, there never seems to be enough time to do the things you really enjoy – like reading.

So it is that I want to explain my rating system.

I’ve had emails asking me why I rate many books with high scores. It has been suggested that book bloggers score books highly to get more digital ARCs!  These comments are hurtful.  If I rate a book with a high score it is because I chose the title thinking I would like it and I REALLY enjoyed reading it.  The time I spent reading it was enjoyable.

Fictionophile’s Rating System

Reading time that I treasured. Absolutely just the right book for me at the right time. A book I’d highly recommend.


Reading time well spent. I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it.


Reading time not begrudged.  This book had many good points, but it was not entirely to my taste. I would recommend this book with a few reservations.


Reading time wasted. This book was not to my taste and I would not recommend it.


Reading time I’ll never get back. I probably did not finish this book. Ugh!

booksleaningbar

Of course, occasionally I give a title half stars.  You’ll just have to figure my feelings for those are somewhere between the stars above.

STARS mean different things on different sites.  Goodreads star ratings don’t mean quite the same thing as Amazon ratings. NetGalley stars don’t mean the same thing as Goodreads stars, and so on, and so on.

All bookbloggers know that it is hard to rate books that are vastly different.  For instance a prize-winning work of literary or classic fiction is hard to compare to the latest cozy mystery or best-selling romantic suspense.

It is for that reason that I try to rate by genre.

You cannot compare apples and oranges, so why would you compare romances to thrillers?

I compare thrillers with other thrillers that I’ve read and enjoyed and rate accordingly.  I compare historical fiction to other works of historical fiction that I have read and enjoyed and rate accordingly. Cozy mysteries with other cozy mysteries. And so on, and so on….

If a cozy mystery gets a 5 star rating from me, it means that for a cozy mystery it is absolutely top notch.  It does not mean that I think it is as good as award-winning literary fiction, only that for its own genre, it excels, and is an example of the best the genre has to offer.

For me, it is all about the time spent reading.

Posted in Fictionophile report, ramblings & miscellanea | Tagged , | 25 Comments

Throwback Thursday (an old favorite recommended)

Renee at It’s Book Talk began this meme as a way to share old favorites.

I haven’t posted for the last two Thursdays, so I hope that you will appreciate my pick for this week. I’ve chosen “Walt” by Russell Wangersky for my Throwback Thursday post. It was first published in 2014 and was, for me, a 5* read.


First reviewed on Fictionophile on March 28, 2015

My review:

Take a reading journey to Newfoundland – or to what we in Atlantic Canada affectionately call “The Rock”.   Set in modern day St. John’s,  Newfoundland’s capital city, the novel features a solitary, fifty-something grocery store janitor named “Walt“.    "Walt" by Russell Wangersky

Walt is one of the invisible members of society.  Quietly and unobtrusively pushing his broom, cleaning up other people’s messes. Dressed in a uniform which people tend to ignore – until they need his cleaning services and then they don’t look him in the eye…

He lives alone in a house on McKay Street in east end St. John’s.  A house that he once shared with his wife Mary – though now she is gone…  Theirs was a volatile and childless marriage.  Mary left him?  Moved back to her parents? Went out West? Died? – we don’t know.  All we know is that she isn’t there anymore.  Now Walt lives a solitary existence, moving from his house to the grocery store where he works and taking long walks around his home city.  He loves to fish and deems fishing to be an almost religious experience.

Google maps view of McKay St., St. John's.

Google maps view of McKay St., St. John’s.

Walt has a very keen interest in human nature.  He is a rapt observer of everyone who enters his store.  In fact in everyone he encounters.  This is in part due to his loneliness.  He feels stifled by his insular life, but can not see his way to make the changes necessary to lift him from his routines.

Told almost all from the point of view of Walt, with the odd short chapter told from the point of view of two members of the RNC (the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary), the novel describes Walt’s daily life and his obsession with the grocery lists that the customers from his store discard with abandon.  He collects these lists.  In fact he has bankers’ boxes full of them.  Why? you might ask.  Because they reveal SO much about the writers.  Also, many are written on used envelopes, business stationery, etc. – so in addition to speculation about the writer from the content of the list, Walt often also culls more pertinent information about them… like their home addresses.  Walt has made the study of others habits his doctoral thesis.   He sees his lists as puzzle pieces of a puzzle only he can complete.  His abundance of free time and his dogged determination to discover things about his ‘targets’, make him ideally situated to succeed in his mission.  Is he a stalker? Yes most certainly.  Is he guilty of more serious crimes?  We don’t know…

A week or so after Mary ‘left’, Walt reported her missing.  Now, years later, two members of a ‘cold case’ squad of the RNC have taken up the task of tracing her whereabouts and closing the case.   They suspect Walt of foul play, but there is absolutely nothing to base this suspicion upon.  They have searched his home so many times that Walt actually has a box of ‘search warrants’ in addition to his myriad boxes of grocery lists.

Yes Walt is ‘different’.  But is this why the police suspect him?  Because he is not ‘like’ everybody else, he is misunderstood.  He admits he is peculiar.  He recognizes this about himself.  He doesn’t react to events in the same way that others do.   The police find him unfathomable.  But is he guilty?

Told in the simple yet strangely astute voice of Walt, the novel will keep most reader’s guessing until the last chapter.  A simple, yet deceptively deep psychological thriller that will remain in the reader’s memory.   Once you meet Walt, you are unlikely to forget him.  Highly recommended!

ISBN 9781770894679    Publisher: Spiderline (imprint of House of Anansi Press)

Russell Wangersky

 

Russell Wangersky is an award-winning writer of fiction and non-fiction. Based in St. John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador, he is the author of several books and the news editor of the St. John’s Telegram.

Posted in Book Reviews, Canadian fiction, Psychological thrillers, Throwback Thursday | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Cover Love: part 38 – Locks

The covers of novels entice the reader to enter a different world. Covers are, after all, the way the publisher hooks the reader into choosing one book over countless others.

In my thirty-eighth installment of ‘Cover Love‘, I’d like to show you books that feature locks on their covers.

Locks lend themselves well to dustjacket art. Locks can keep secrets IN, or keep secrets OUT.  All books contain secrets of one kind or another…


Some of the following books I’ve already read, some are on my ‘to read’ list,
and some I chose only for their covers.

Some, perhaps, will now be on your TBR!

Just click on the cover to read the book’s synopsis from  Goodreads.

You might just find your next favorite book!

 Are you tempted by any of these covers?

Stay tuned for Cover Love Part 39:
Cemeteries

or… revisit any of the previous installments of

Cover Love – some of which I’ve updated recently

Posted in Cover Love series, Dustjackets | Tagged | 11 Comments

“The Alphabet House” by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Confession time…. this novel has been on my TBR a long time.  It is the title that has been on my NetGalley shelf the longest. The reason I requested it was solely on the basis of the author as I thoroughly enjoyed his “Dept Q” series of mysteries. This stand-alone is a WWII historical mystery and the author’s first novel!

Why did I wait so long???? Well, the book is very long, (over 500 pages), and I was waiting to get in the mood for a WWII novel.  With all the sadness and chaos in the world, it seems that lately I’ve been more in the mood for something a little less intense.

About the book:

The Alphabet House (1997) – During World War II, two British pilots, James and Bryan, are shot down over Germany. They know death will be waiting for them if captured. With an enemy patrol in pursuit, they manage to jump aboard a train reserved for senior SS soldiers wounded on the Eastern Front.

In a moment of desperation, they throw two patients off the train and take their places, hoping to escape later. Instead, they end up in the Alphabet House, a mental hospital located far behind enemy lines, where German doctors subject their patients to daily rounds of shock treatments and experimental drugs. Their only hope of survival is to fake insanity until the war ends. But soon James and Bryan realize they are not the only ones in the Alphabet House feigning madness.

The first half of the novel is set during World War II and the second half takes place thirty years later.

“Captivity was preferable to death”

Friends from childhood, British RAF pilots James Teasdale and Bryan Young are shot down while attempting to conduct a special photo-reconnaissance mission in Germany.  They parachute out of their plane and run, eventually hopping aboard a German ambulance train. They toss two German patients out of the train car and assume their identities. Eventually, the train deposits the men far behind enemy lines at a German military hospital for the mentally ill. The nurses dub it “The Alphabet House” due to the way the patients, and their diagnosis, are referred to as letters of the alphabet.

James and Bryan, both in their early twenties, were tested to the limits of psychological endurance. So much so that it strained credulity on more than one occasion. They are treated with frequent electroshock ‘therapy’ and daily doses of dangerous anti-psychotic drugs that makes them almost catatonic.

“The days ahead might take years to live through”.

The reader glimpses the horrifying and extremely disturbing way the mentally ill were treated, and how the German Nazis treated their sick soldiers. Remember the phrase ‘survival of the fittest?’.

James and Bryan discover that they are not the only ones on the ward feigning mental illness. At least three of the Germans are part of “Operation Insanity”, a devious plot perpetrated by avarice. When one ‘malingerer’ is discovered, he is taken to the yard and shot.

This was a suspenseful war thriller, but personally I think it would have made a better movie than a book. Although the author’s pacing is spot-on, and he did engender tension in the reader, this wasn’t enough for me – especially in the first half of the book which was set for the most part in one hospital ward with the protagonists lying in bed feigning madness.  I didn’t really connect with the protagonists – partly I think because we didn’t really get to know them well before their ‘Alphabet House’ ordeal began. Partly too because their experiences were so outside of anything I can imagine. Maybe it would appeal more to male readers? I don’t know… Anyway, I found the book was over-long, and dragged in spots, especially in the first half of the book. I found myself skimming, which I hate to do, and hate to admit to doing.

The second part of the book which features Bryan Young, now a physician, I expected to like more. However, that really didn’t happen for me.  It was overly violent, and portrayed evil men doing evil things. Over, and over, and over again.

I wanted to like this book, really I did. It had a great and interesting beginning, a somewhat tedious middle, and an almost unrealistic ending.

Although I really love the Dept. Q series, sadly I found that this book just wasn’t for me.

Watch the book trailer for “Alphabet House”.

I received a digital copy of this novel free, at my request, from Dutton/Penguin Group via NetGalley, and I provided this voluntary review.

 

 

Jussi Adler-Olsen (born 2 August 1950) is a Danish writer of crime fiction, as well as a publisher, editor and entrepreneur.

Jussi Adler-Olsen made his debut as a fiction writer in 1997 when “The Alphabet House” was first published. Since then he has gone on to write the highly acclaimed mystery series featuring the police detectives of “Dept. Q”

Posted in Book Reviews, debut novels, Historical fiction, NetGalley, Scandinavian, war stories | Tagged , | 12 Comments

Feeling SO grateful – Happy Thanksgiving Canada!

Reflecting on all the hardships in the world, with the devastation of hurricanes and demented shooters….

I am SO very grateful that I live in Canada!

I am SO very grateful for my husband, children, and other family members.

I am SO very grateful for our health.

I am SO very grateful for the little things that make life enjoyable…

the company of loved ones and friends,

my home and cottage,

good food and red wine,

a cup of tea on a rainy afternoon,

being happily retired,

reading…

And… when I logged on this morning, I had a wonderful surprise!
This blog, my labor of love, has reached a new milestone!

I want to thank each and every one of my followers for their support via ‘likes‘, ‘comments‘, and ‘shares‘.  Thanks for making my retirement ‘hobby’ so very gratifying.

Posted in Fictionophile report | Tagged , | 26 Comments

Book themed art of artist Deborah DeWit

Well folks I found another wonderful artist! While browsing Pinterest I stumbled on just one of these awesome paintings and knew that I had to find more. So… after Googling the artists name, “Deborah DeWit” I found her website.  She is very prolific, so I had a very hard time choosing which ones to share with you in this post. I love them all!

“Basic necessities”

“Library”

“Rainy day consolations”

“Reading the moon”

“the colors of morning”

“Messenger”

“Dreams”

“Nina and Tom”

“Thoughts and dreams”

“The hall table”

“Wisdom and wildness”

“The reader”

“Time stands still in winter’s light”

If you visit her website, you will be able to view over a hundred of her paintings!

About the artist (from her website)

Deborah DeWit was born March 28th, 1956 in Portland, Oregon to naturalized Americans. Her mother, father and infant brother arrived by ship in 1950 in San Pedro, California, via South America from Holland.

One side of her father’s family were etchers, illustrators and painters stretching back several generations in The Hague and grain handlers on the other.

On her mother’s side of the family were Dutch plantation owners and British traders in the Dutch East Indies, also for several generations. Her father’s career in the grain business took her and her family to live in many parts of the U.S. as well as around the world. This varied and somewhat exotic background had a strong influence on Deborah’s professional yearnings.

Although entering Cornell University as an Agronomy major, the artistic pull of her father’s blood and the adventurous streak in her mother’s, combined to lead her away from University and set her on a journey to discover her own interests and talents. At the age of fifteen she found that the camera suited her quest and in her twenties set about discovering the world with young eyes recording her travels with image and word. Her photographs received immediate praise and she began the life of a working artist in 1976.

“Deborah DeWit at her easel”

Her wonderful work is available for purchase as prints or on notes and cards. I don’t know about you, but I would love any of the above works to grace my walls.

My 3 favorites from the above paintings are:

  1. Rainy day consolations
  2. Basic necessitiess
  3. The reader
Posted in Art with book themes | Tagged | 15 Comments