18 November 2013

Review: Volcano Watch by Toni Dwiggins

Volcano Watch is the second book in the Forensic Geology series by Toni Dwiggins. Being a bit *ahem* of a science geek I thoroughly enjoyed the first book is the series Bad Water and was eager to get my hands on Volcano Watch. It did not disappoint.

Volcano Watch follows Cassie Oldfield as she returns to her home town of Mammoth Lakes which is situated on a giant Caldera. After years of the volcano being dormant, the rumblings begin - the volcano has awakened. To add to the town’s panic the mayor has disappeared, leaving only a cryptic note saying No Way Out. Cassie is sure that the note relates to the plans for an eruption, and decides to find out what the mayor meant before it is too late.

Volcano Watch has a nice cosy feel to it; the author creates characters that, in the most part, are well developed and memorable. The sense of small town America that Dwiggins weaves was easy to identify with, even for a big-city raised Brit. This focus on the characters and their back-story inevitably comes with a slower plot line at the start, while the scene is set and characters are introduced – there is still tension, but muted. Later on the pace picks up and you are pulled along in the fear and panic of the characters as the towns worst fears are realised. The only character that didn’t grab me was Krom – who felt a bit too stereotypical and cardboard for my liking. As with Badwater, there is the use of unusual spellings to convey accents such as “o-kigh” which was jarring for me as a reader, but is part of Dwiggins’ writing style. rt of a book like this, and where real world examples were used, these were true and precise. The only time believably wavered for me was in the actions of Krom, the emergency planner, who seemed to have his own agenda.

Overall, a almost-unique science-thriller, which will especially appeal to those with a interest in volcanology or disaster novels. It is available from Amazon UK for 77p and from Amazon US for 99c.

11 November 2013

Review: The Bones of Paris by Laurie R. King

I first came across Laurie R. King as a teenager when I read her Katie Martinelli books, which became the first series I ever followed. I hadn’t read the Mary Russell series as historical fiction is not really my thing, but when I saw that King had written a new thriller I couldn’t pass up the chance to read and review it.

The Bones of Paris is an historical (1920s) novel following PI Harris Stuyvesant as he searches for missing American Philippa Crosby, a girl with whom he has previously had an ‘encounter’ with. As he follows her movements he comes across something darker than just a missing girl.

As I’ve said, I’m not a fan of historical fiction but King’s descriptions of old Paris drew me it. It was a little strange having so many famous people encountered or namedropped such as Cole Porter and Man Rey, and whilst these people were part of the artistes’ scene of the day in Paris, it did seem a tad overdone and each time drew me slightly out of the flow of the novel. I have to admit that King has tried to blend them in seamlessly with the fictional characters but for me it didn’t quite work.

The plot itself is slow to start but builds well and is full of intrigue and suspense. There is a dark, disturbing side to The Bones of Paris that I don’t remember being in the Kate Martinelli books, but it added to the reading experience; as did the weird and wonderful characters Stuyvesant encounters.

I had not read the previous Stuyvesant novel Touchstone, and at times, particularly in the first few chapters I did feel like I was missing something, but overall it did not impact my enjoyment of the book. I would however recommend reading Touchstone before moving onto The Bones of Paris.

Overall a good solid read that I really enjoyed. The Bones of Paris will delight fans of historical fiction and thrillers alike. You can get it from Amazon.co.uk for £19.99 and from Amazon.com for $15.60. 

4 November 2013

Review: Indecent Behavior by Caryl Rivers

Indecent Behavior is a re-release of a 1990 thriller by Caryl Rivers. It follows two investigative journalists who stumble upon a secret human experiment which has deadly consequences.

For me Indecent Behavior shows its age, and this really drags the book down. There is a huge focus on class and background, with ethnic slurs like spic, nigger and yankee used so liberally that they lose any real impact. The two lead characters seem obsessed with their class/ethnicity and those of others, and this gets boring really fast. Unlike most more contemporary books, there is nothing sophisticated or sarcastic about the use of ethnic stereotypes here, and this makes the characters seem wooden and, at times, made me as a reader feel uncomfortable.

The idea of using electric stimulation of the brain to control behaviour was an interesting one, but unfortunately this plot takes a backseat to the ethnic self-wrangling and rampant sex between the two main characters, and so you are often going pages and pages with nothing to advance the plot. Nearer the end of the book, there is an increase in the focus on the main plot and the action, but even the best of these scenes, for example when our lead characters break into an apartment to try to find evidence of the experiments, is then ruined by a shift of focus onto how aroused one of the characters is by the other one pretending to sunbathe.

Overall I did not enjoy Indecent Behavior. There just wasn’t enough actual thriller plot there for me, and I really did not like the dated use of ethnic slurs or focus on class. The reason that I gave this book two stars instead of one is that the actual writing is not flawed, and the concept behind the sci-med plot was good, even if it did not fulfil its potential. 

Indecent Behavior is available from Amazon.co.uk for £2.02 and from Amazon.com for $3.16.

[A review copy was provided through NetGalley]

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