Book Review: The Author by T.J. Blake

20612139Title: The Author

Author: T.J. Blake

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Age Group: Adult

Rating: 2 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Review copy provided by Storycartel in exchange for an honest review.

Four years after his wife and children disappeared, Ryan Milligan decides it’s time to let go of the past and move to a new home on Mulberry Lane. Ryan hoped his new house and peaceful neighbourhood would help him to cope better with the pain of losing his family and to continue his search. Whilst settling in and writing his new novel, ‘Killing For Your Love’, he realises things are not what they seem…

“My new house is only a mile away from the home I used to live in with Tan and the kids, but now I feel like I’m in a different world. I can’t help but feel like I’ve been here before and done this before. There’s a presence here, I can feel it. There are things happening in this house that aren’t normal. I’m threatened by the lack of control I have over them.
There’s one room where I feel it most, and as I stare at the door leading down into the basement, it begins to creak open.”

In The Author, Ryan Milligan purchases a modest home on Mulberry Lane, a stark constrast to the well-protected, gigantic mansion he lived in before his wife and kids disappeared. He tries to cope with the past, with his wife leaving him – voluntary or not – and with the pain haunting his heart. He wants to continue work on the novel he started about his family’s disappearance, the police’s inquiry into his private life, and how eventually he came a suspect.

But the more time Ryan spends on Mulberry Lane, the more he thinks something is wrong. Very, very wrong. A local recluse behaves very peculiar toward him. Objects in his house start moving, items aren’t where he thought he left them, and the cellar door creeps open in the dead of night. His manuscript starts changing all on its own, as if someone else is doing the typing. A serial killer stalks the neighborhood, targeting young women.

What’s the connection? And can Ryan find out before it’s too late?

I understand what “The Author” was trying to do. I mean, the plot starts out pretty creepy, and the readers get the feeling they’re in the middle of a horror novel. Doors opening up at night, objects moving on their own accord. The plot screamed horror to me. It was also in the horror section on Storycartel.

Unfortunately it isn’t horror at all.

It’s a psychological thriller. I feel kind of cheated about the whole set up as a horror novel, only to have it turn out to be a psychological thriller then. And what a complicated thriller it is – so complicated there are some gaping plot holes. Or maybe just things that could’ve explained better. And in the end, the story barely makes any sense.

Without spoiling it for anyone, here are the burning questions I was left with at the end. Why go through all that trouble for something so stupid? Who the heck would set up such a scheme if it could’ve been a lot simpler? And who killed those young women and WHY? And would anyone really kill so many people for such a stupid goal?

I felt more frustrated than anything else by reading this novel. It’s like, the author started off with a good plot idea, but then got all of these side ideas, set up a puzzle that’s barely understandable, way too elaborate and quite frankly, doesn’t make any sense, and then couldn’t see the forest through the trees anymore. The plot ideas were okay, but mixed together, they didn’t match. Nobody would go through so much trouble for such a stupid goal. There were plenty of other ways to achieve their goal (and with their, I’m talking about the antagonists) that didn’t involve such an elaborate, complicated ruse.

The writing was okay, the characters were somewhat all right – although I could’ve gone without the insta-love between the protagonist and a married woman – but the plot was too complicated to be enjoyable. I usually don’t mind complicated plots, but they have to make sense. And they need to be explained. Here? Motives are highly questionable, character behavior seems over the top, lots of things are left unexplained, and it barely makes sense.

Book Review: The Four Last Things by Andrew Taylor

1257531Title: The Four Last Things (The Roth Trilogy #1)
Author: Andrew Taylor
Genre: Thriller, Psychological Thriller
Age Group: Adult (18+)
Rating: 4,5 stars
Purchase: Amazon, B&N, Goodreads

Little Lucy Appleyard is snatched from her child minder’s on a cold winter afternoon, and the nightmare begins. When Eddie takes her home to beautiful, child-loving Angel, he knows he’s done the right thing. But Lucy’s not like their other visitors, and unwittingly she strikes through Angel’s defences to something both vulnerable and volatile at the core.

To the outside world Lucy has disappeared into a black hole with no clues to her whereabouts… until the first grisly discovery in a London graveyard. More such finds are to follow, all at religious sites, and, in a city haunted by religion, what do these offerings signify?

All that stands now between Lucy and the final sacrifice are a CID sergeant on the verge of disgrace and a woman cleric – Lucy’s parents – but how can they hope to halt the evil forces that are gathering around their innocent daughter?

Set in the late 1990s, THE FOUR LAST THINGS explores the terrible vulnerability of children.

I have contradictory feelings toward this book. On the one hand, I enjoyed it, especially the passages where we could get into Eddie’s mind. Eddie is a disturbed individual, but the woman he lives with, Angel, who manipulates him and everyone around her, is a lot worse. It’s basically like getting to choose between two evils. I liked the set-up of that, although some passages made me want to throw up. Either way, plot-wise, this book was great. Character-wise, not that much. I’ll get into further detail later on in the review, but I’ll start by quickly sketching the plot.

Lucy’s parents don’t really get along. They barely communicate, and all of that gets a lot worse when Lucy vanishes from her caretaker’s home and the police discovers a trail of body parts belonging to young children around Lucy’s age. Lucy’s mom, Revered Sally Applegate, is one of the main characters in this novel. Her husband wanted her to quit her job the moment Lucy was born – which made me instantly dislike him – and has never quite forgiven her that she didn’t do that (in which case, I’d tell him, quit your own job and stop nagging). Either way, Sally feels guilty about abandoning Lucy, especially after the kidnapping. When the body parts found are all linked to something religious, Sally’s guilt grows overwhelming. A lot of people are set against her, being a woman cleric, and she feels this may be an act of vengeance on her personally.

Then there’s Michael, Lucy’s dad, and well, I didn’t like him from the start. He keeps secrets from Sally, secrets that could very well destroy their relationship. He nags about everything under the sun, even though he has zero reason to do so. All in all, he’s plain annoying and I wanted to slap him across the head on more than one occassion.

A lot more interesting than Sally and Michael’s ordeal however was the relationship between Eddie and Angel, and the passages told from Eddie’s POV. More interesting because, at least to me, they came across as quite unique. I’ve read a bazillion novels about couples arguing after their children disappear, and trying to find their lost child. Nothing new there. But this is the first time I’ve read a book told half from the POV of the victims and half from the POV of the villains. It was interesting to see into Eddie’s mind, to find out how his attraction toward children grew, and how he met the woman who’d become his downfall.

The end of the book was a bit disappointing. Felt like deus ex machina to me. On top of that, there are a lot of things left unsolved that I’d like to get solved, especially about Angel. She was by far the most intriguing character, albeit in a disturbing way. I hope the next book in the trilogy focuses on her as well – and I hope I can find it somewhere soon. I want to read more and find out what happens next.

Book Review: Carved in Darkness by Maegan Beaumont

16129434Title: Carved in Darkness
Author: Maegan Beaumont
Genre: Thriller, Suspense
Age Group: Adult (18+)
Rating: 4 stars
Purchase: Goodreads, Amazon (Paperback), Amazon (Kindle)
Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for honest review.

Past horrors bleed into a present day nightmare

Fifteen years ago, a psychotic killer abducted seventeen year old Melissa Walker. For 83 days she was raped and tortured before being left for dead in a deserted church yard… But she was still alive.

Melissa begins a new life as homicide inspector, Sabrina Vaughn. With a new face and a new name, it’s her job to hunt down murderers and it’s a job she does very well.

When Michael O’Shea, a childhood acquaintance with a suspicious past, suddenly finds her, he brings to life the nightmare Sabrina has long since buried.

Believing that his sister was recently murdered by the same monster who attacked Sabrina, Michael is dead set on getting his revenge–using Sabrina as bait.

Carved in Darkness is one of the most chilling thrillers I’ve read in a long while. Melissa Walker was kidnapped by a madman when she was barely seventeen years old. The madman kept her for several months, raping her, stabbing her, nearly killing her. One day he thinks he’s killed her, leaving her in a churchyard to die. But Melissa survived, saved by the priest, and she started her life again; changing her name and identity. Now Sabrina Vaughn, a homicide inspector, still struggles every year with the memory of what the madman did to her. Around september, she starts to withdraw, reliving the tragedy.

But unknown to Sabrina, the madman is still at large, doing the same things he did to her to other innocent girls, leaving a trail of bodies behind. Michael’s sister got murdered by this demented serial killer and he’s focused on taking vengeance. He works for a special team and intends to use all his resources into tracking down the murderer. But in doing so, he wants to use Sabrina as bait, convinced that she’s the victim the killer has been dreaming for his entire life.

Word gets out in Sabrina’s old town that she’s still alive, and the serial killer finds out about her new identity. Leaving behind a trail of bodies, he tracks her down, intend on enslaving her once more, bringing her back to the darkness.

As you can see from the synopsis I just told you, this book is drenched in darkness from page one until the end. It’s a true thriller, suspenseful and menacing. I loved Melissa/Sabrina. Her character evolution was amazing, her emotional strength boundless. She constantly lived in fear but tried to fight it day and night, and I was impressed by her posture, even as things began to close in around her. I also liked Michael, although considerably less. At first I thought he was a bit of a jerk, especially when he wanted to use Sabrina as bait. I got he wanted vengeance, but not at the cost of another human being, especially someone who’s already suffered so much. He also saw Sabrina as the cause for why his sister died, which I thought was downright crazy – she had no idea the madman would do this again.

The story itself was amazing. I loved how the victim, who managed to survive, played the main part here. I feel nothing but respect for Sabrina and nothing but disgust for the killer. The writing was great, fast-paced and suspenseful. An excellent novel – just don’t read it with the lights out.