Saturday, 10 January 2015

The Shock Of The Fall by Nathan Filer / Roadrage by M J Johnson / When Will There Be Good News by Kate Atkinson

The Shock of the FallThe Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had heard good things about The Shock Of The Fall and its winning of the Costa book award is also a good recommendation. However, I found it difficult to get into for the first few chapters as the time periods seemed to hop about so much and very little was explained. This approach does make sense with the hindsight of having read later chapters. At about 15% (grrr, no kindle page numbers!) though, I wasn't sure I'd make it to later chapters. Filer seems to me, who doesn't really have any experience of such mental health issues rattling, to have a good understanding of Matthew's world view and of how he comprehends his own reality. The repetition is cleverly done and I did like the effect of the different fonts used and of the pencil drawn images. I would have liked a clearer view of his mother, but child Matthew didn't have sufficient understanding so I guess adult Matthew couldn't either. Without, hopefully, any spoilers I found the dramatic journey towards the end too contrived and its characters unrealistically convenient which was disappointing. The Shock Of The Fall is an interesting debut and I would read Filer's future novels. For me, good but not great.

RoadrageRoadrage by M.J. Johnson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I previously enjoyed M J Johnson's first novel, Niedermayer and Hart, so had good expectations for Roadrage. The two books are very different though and I found it more difficult to tease out the sense of impending doom this time around. There is no supernatural element and, although I did appreciate the lack of that overpersonal motive that seems almost a prerequisite for most crime thrillers, the first person commentary wasn't always convincing.
Roadrage begins on a Christmas day and takes place over the few months that follow so reading it in January was perfect! Our hero suffers some truly horrific experiences in this short space of time and it's amazing that his mind doesn't implode from the stress. Johnson really does know how to pile the pressure onto his characters! He has obviously written places he knows well into his novel which provides a strong vein of realism alongside the (hopefully!) imagined chaos. Perhaps some plot elements are too strongly telegraphed ahead of time and the isolated cottage was a step too far for true credibility, but overall Roadrage is a diverting glimpse into a chillingly possible scenario.

When Will There Be Good News? (Jackson Brodie, #3)When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I think When Will There Be Good News is the first Kate Atkinson book I have read and I didn't realise that it is the third in the Jackson Brodie series until I came to add it on Goodreads. Perhaps having read the previous two novels would have been an advantage because Brodie was one of the characters that failed to gain my sympathies at all and I couldn't really tell, other than some very convenient coincidences, why his storyline was placed so prominently. I enjoyed another of the central plotlines, that of Reggie Chase and her relationships with Dr Hunter and Ms MacDonald, far more. I think that had WWTBGN concentrated on this trio in a single novel rather than trying to force their stories into a continuing series, it would have been a considerably stronger book.

I did like Atkinson's descriptions of places and found it easy to picture the interiors of the differing houses occupied by her protagonists. The train was also particularly vivid. Some of her characters were excellent too. I've already mentioned Reggie and Ms MacDonald; others include wide-boy Neil Hunter, DCI Louise Monroe, and the smaller roles of Gary and also Bridget. It was amazing how many people's lives were marred by the deaths of their close relations in bizarre or unnatural ways.

I know I already have another Kate Atkinson novel, Life After Life, on our joint kindle waiting to be read. Hopefully it is not one of the earlier two Brodie books! Regardless, as it has a Scottish setting, I think I shall put forward WWTBGN as my first book in Peggy Ann's Read Scotland Challenge for 2015.

More about the Read Scotland Challenge ...
Hosted by Peggy Ann on her blog and also via its Goodreads group, this challenge encourages the reading of books that are written by Scottish authors or are set in Scotland. There are different challenge levels from which participants can choose. I have decided to aim for the Highlander which necessitates reading 5-8 Scottish books during 2015. Should I get to 8 with time to spare, I can upgrade as required, but lets see how the Highlander goes first!

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