Bond Alive and Well: Trigger Mortis

I can’t resist a James Bond film; who can?

Equally, I can’t profess to having read all of Sir Ian Fleming’s work, but I have dabbled with a few of the James Bond books: they’re a fun read though admittedly a little backward in their views on society. This latest addition to the collection is no exception, as although it was helped along by the fantastic Anthony Horowitz, there are traces of Sir Ian Fleming’s unpublished work.

What I most enjoyed about this book wasn’t necessarily the story, it was no revelation to the action adventure genre, but I liked that it kept in sequence with its predecessors. Us Brits have a number of traditions that we don’t like people messing with, and James Bond is one of them. I could never imagine catching a twenty first century man asking for Martinis – maybe that says a lot more about me than our culture –  but if somebody came along and thought about changing Mr Bond’s favourite tipple, there would be petitions signed and uproar in the streets. We like our Bond the way he is.

Trigger Mortis is a step into 1950s secret service and briefly into the world of motorcar racing, which is a fun escape from reality. As a stereotypical young woman, I can’t pretend I’m particularly interested in car specs, so the beginning quarter did drag a little. However, when we got stuck into the action itself, I soon forgave the slow start.

Bond is Bond, but we like him because of this. I appreciate that maybe some of the chauvinistic, sexist, xenophobic associations of the past make the literary character outdated, however if we change him to fit into our modern world, we would lose the very essence of Sir Ian Fleming’s work. I appreciate the difficulties Mr Horowitz would have to bring continuity to the series, without alienating his readers, and I think he balances this well.

Trigger Mortis is for people who like Bond, flaws and all. If you enjoy spending a Saturday afternoon, curled up on the sofa, as Bond takes to far flung lands to ensure the world remains a safer place, then I reckon you’d probably quite like this book too.

Trigger Mortis: Anthony Horowitz

Read of the Tube: Girl on the Train

It’s funny, with the release of Girl on the Train at cinemas on Friday, I looked around my tube carriage to see copy after copy of this bestseller. People were doing as I was: cramming before the film shattered the mystery and intrigue.

It is easy to see why Girl on the Train had everybody talking as it is suspenseful, gripping and thrilling until the end. As a lot of great literary pieces do, Girl on the Train is presented to the reader by a flawed narrator. With her issues of alcoholism and heartbreak blurring the story, we are left unsure of the facts until the final reveal.

It was easy to spot echoes of Gone Girl in this piece as it had a similar sinister spin on matrimony, though it is different enough to be distinguishable. Jumping between past and present, the reader was left to carefully tie together the strings, as pieces of information were drip fed. I must admit that I found the diary entry style of dates a little too bland to distinguish between at first; though maybe I was being a little slow on the uptake this time.

There weren’t too many characters to question in this whodunnit but there was no obvious motive to spoil the thrill of the chase.

I think the film will be exciting and an all round blockbuster, but it may lose some of the intricacies of the text. Hopefully we will see a true reflection of this mystery on the screen. However I do urge you to join in your fellow commuters and absorb the story before you buy your cinema ticket, as you will be missing out on one of the best thrillers of the year.

Girl on the Train: Paula Hawkins

Second Place for Second Life

Before I start my review for SJ Watson’s follow up to Before I Go To Sleep, I want to emphasise how skilled a writer I think he is. Before I Go To Sleep was poorly adapted into film but the novel was one of the best I had read in 2015. It was suspenseful, tense and the definition of a page-turner.

Flick forward one year and I have just completed his second novel; Second Life. Rather than the mysterious atmosphere created in his debut, Watson seemed to get caught up in minor details that felt heavy and irrelevant. I felt as though I was wading through a secondary plot to find clues to the main story, which seemed to have been forgotten. I was also frustrated by the protagonist, who seemingly fell into an affair without any sort of consideration for the consequences – hey maybe I’m too much of a goody two shoes!

Second Life had an interesting subplot, though I suspect it was supposed to be the main attraction. The element of murder mystery was what kept me hooked rather than the love affair on the surface. It would have been interesting if the other characters had been more developed as I felt disconnected to her family and her friends and as a result felt little remorse to the mistakes they made.

It wasn’t a chore to read this book, but I wouldn’t recommend it to a friend. It will be a book I forget, unlike Before I Go To Sleep, which ironically is principally based around the loss of memories. Second Life won’t get a second chance from me.

Second Life: SJ Watson

Trust Breakdown: Behind Closed Doors

As a young child, I was captivated by fairy tales, especially anything that Disney was involved with. I loved the coming together of two people who shared their happy ever after. As a teenager, romantic comedies dominated my bookshelves, as I continued to be swept away with these perfect scenarios.

Jump ten years forward and I’ve now read a book that questions everything “baby me” believed. Behind Closed Doors explores the concept of imprisonment and domestic abuse, which are obviously hot topics at this time.

Grace falls in love in the most perfect fashion with the flawless Jack. Little does she know that she’s married a monster who keeps her locked behind closed doors. This book describes her seemingly endless ordeal to try and escape, and how she is made to look deranged each time she succeeds. This keeps the reader engaged as we too try to escape from her jailer. It also explores the way the public can often dismiss abusive relationships and to not be afraid to open the door to these conversations.

This is a perfect holiday read that, with some dedication, could easily be read in a day. The story is compelling and the structure simple. It has also highlighted that it’s not always a happy ever after.

Behind Closed Doors: B A Paris

Keep Your Wits About You: The Axeman’s Jazz

I am particularly fond of this genre of literature at the moment. It was during my A Level English Literature study of Brighton Rock that I found myself drawn to the mystery and intrigue that comes from crime thrillers. And as the winner of the Crime Thriller Awards, I had high hopes for this debut.

Firstly, this is incredibly well conceived and developed as a story. The reader follows a number of trails as the murder is slowly solved. Our usual detective is split in three and comes in the form of a former corrupt policeman, the now highly ranked man who jailed him, and the ambitious female Sherlock enthusiast. Although this provides a unique method of piecing together the conclusion, I found the many perspectives at times a little confusing. I like to believe I am good with names, though I found myself trying to recall a number of individuals as name after name was introduced. Maybe I read The Axeman too slowly and its design is for quick reading.

The conclusion though was exciting as it stormed towards the finale. The pace increased and the tension reached a crescendo. I was willing the detectives to uncover the mystery as they risked it all to bring justice to New Orleans. Unlike many crime novels, the big reveal really was left until the final moments, which was a great way to leave the reader questioning.

I would be wary to recommend this book to a slow reader, or someone who lacks the determination to follow it through, however I did find this an enthralling story. Like the jazz the Axeman is named after, the story is non-syncopated and unpredictable, which somehow creates a wonderful euphony.

The Axeman’s Jazz: Ray Celestin

Tension Builder: Bird Box

To give a sense of how I felt reading the climatic Bird Box, I want you to close your eyes and listen. What are those sounds that you can hear? Do you feel yourself listening for the unknown?

Bird Box is a classic cat and mouse tale, where humans are prey to a mysterious force that if seen turns a person insane. The protagonist, unable to open her eyes, too afraid to glimpse the beast, must guide herself and her children to safety. And the reader is invited to join them on this terrifying journey into unknown territory. We cannot comprehend what will come of the characters as we flick from page to page.

Bird Box is an easy read and therefore perfect for this time of year when you don’t want to find yourself too challenged from the comfort of your sun lounger. There is a slight disappointment for me in its lack of conclusion; though I guess some things are best left unknown.

I must keep my review short and sweet, as part of its magic and intrigue comes from the lack of knowledge from the reader.

Although I both loved and enjoyed Bird Box, I must admit to having an urgency to reach its conclusion. I was nervous that if I turned out the light too soon, without having finished the book, I would fall prey to the creature myself.

Bird Box: Josh Malerman

Suspenseful: Station Eleven

I love that feeling when you’re in a bookshop and one of the store assistants wanders over when you have a book in your hand, deliberating on the purchase, and nods in approval. This is what happened when I picked up Station Eleven in Waterstones in Piccadilly Circus.

When I wander into the sci-fi and fantasy areas of the bookshop I sometimes wonder if I’ll emerge with my street cred in tatters. Yet I would happily risk this to recommend this book to you.

This book is more than your average zombie apocalypse story; for one thing there’s no zombies. But there is plenty of apocalypse. I found myself panicking and my heart racing as I turned each page, wondering what I would do if a deadly strain of virus had picked off the majority of this world’s population. Would I lock myself away? Head for the countryside? Seek comfort with others and risk infection?

I now act as an ambassador for Station Eleven, and when I see a deliberator in Waterstones in Piccadilly Circus, I’ll be there nodding in approval.

Station Eleven: Emily St John Mandel