Season Of The Witch

season of the witch

In her award-winning novel, Mostert blends alchemy, the art of memory, high magic and murder to create a highly original psychological thriller.

Gabriel Blackstone is a cool, hip, thoroughly twenty-first century Londoner with an unusual talent. A computer hacker by trade, he is also a remote viewer: able to ‘slam a ride’ through the minds of others.

But he uses his gift only reluctantly ― until he is contacted by an ex-lover who begs him to find her step-son, last seen months earlier in the company of two sisters.

And so Gabriel visits Monk House, a place where time seems to stand still, and where the rooms are dominated by the coded symbol of a cross and circle.

As winter closes in, Gabriel becomes increasingly bewitched by the house, and by its owners, the beautiful and mysterious Monk sisters. But even as he falls in love, he knows that one of them is a killer.

Towards the end of last year I came across this author on Netgalley with her most recent book Dark Prayer (also reviewed on my blog) and I loved it. It was definitely one of my books of the year. Wanting to read some more I picked Season of the Witch which I didn’t know until after I had read it has won The Book To Talk About: World Book Day Award. I have to say that it more than deserves its award.

It is a long time since I read it but this book reminded me of The Magus by John Fowles but with none of the confusion of that book.

The story is about Gabriel Blackstone a computer hacker, or as he says himself, a thief. He steals secrets and sells them to the competition. An extremely lucrative business. But Gabriel has another talent; he is a remote viewer, he can see into other people’s minds.

After a visit from his ex-girlfriend, Gabriel is reluctantly drawn into the search for her missing stepson Robert Whittington. This leads him to Monk House and the mysterious Monk sisters, Morrighan and Minnaloushe. They are very different sisters; one is full of physicality the other cerebral, one has black hair the other a redhead, one writes a diary the other is a murderer.

Gabriel is drawn further and further into the world of Monk House just as Robert Whittington was before him, he believes he is strong enough to keep his own mind but then makes a discovery about the sisters and realises that he may end up losing it..and more.

Natasha Mostert is a wonderful, intelligent writer. She takes what could easily come across as a dense complex story and turns it into an immensely readable thriller which includes; murder, mystery, magic, alchemy, memory and romance and what’s more every page of it works.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys intelligent writing with a brilliant storyline and beautiful prose. You will sink into this book and not want to come up.

Natasha Mostert is fast becoming one of my favourite authors and I am really looking forward to reading more.
*****

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The Perfect Lie

the perfect lie

The Perfect Lie
by Emily Barr

For Lucy Riddick, Venice has always been the dream destination. A dream inspired by the pretty picture pinned to her mother’s kitchen wall. To Lucy, Venice seems the ideal place to lose herself. And now she needs to do just that. The secret she’s been keeping from her boyfriend and her friends has finally caught up with her and Lucy needs to disappear – and fast. There’s no better time to pack her bags and head for Italy. But what if, when she sets foot in Venice, Lucy finds that the one thing she has been running from, the one thing she has been trying to escape, is already there, lying in wait for her? Time to run away again? Or time to end the chase, once and for all?

I have read most of Emily Barr’s books and enjoyed them all. I like her easy writing style and she usually has a few unexpected twists and turns in her stories to keep you engaged.

In The Perfect Lie, Lucy Riddick is living in Falmouth with her boyfriend Seth but she is living a lie and is just waiting for the past to catch up with her. When that finally happens she has to escape and she makes her way to Venice to try to start a new life, leaving everyone behind her wondering just exactly what happened.

Lucy’s past life from childhood to present day is presented to us in alternate chapters. It is a sordid story and at times more than a little unbelievable. That any mother would ask her two young teenage children to do what this mother asked hers to do is beyond the pale.

The part of the story where Lucy (now Lucia) is in Venice feels too much like filler. The situation that she gets herself involved in has nothing to do with the actual story and has no merit whatsoever. The denouement when it finally comes feels a little rushed.

Whilst I finished this book and enjoyed parts of it, it is my least favourite Emily Barr and ultimately a disappointment. If I had read this one first I probably wouldn’t have bothered to read any more. I will give it 2 and half stars.

Dance With The Enemy

dance with the enemy

Dance With The Enemy
by Rob Sinclair

Carl Logan was the perfect agent. A loner. No real friends or family. Trained to deal with any situation with cold efficiency, devoid of emotion.

But Logan isn’t the man he used to be, or the asset he once was. Five months ago his life changed forever when he was captured, tortured and left for dead by Youssef Selim, one of the world’s most violent terrorists.

When Selim mysteriously reappears in Paris, linked to the kidnapping of America’s Attorney General, Logan smells his chance for revenge.

Pursuing his man relentlessly, oblivious to the growing trail of destruction that he leaves in his wake, Logan delves increasingly deep into the web of lies and deceit surrounding the kidnapping.

Finally, he comes to learn just what it means to Dance with the Enemy.

This is not my normal type of thriller, this is more of a James Bond type all action adventure story. The hero, Carl Logan, is a special agent sent in to deal with the bad guys off the record, using whatever means it takes to get the job done. The problem is he is still in recuperation from a previous assignment and nobody thinks he is ready for a return to the frontline; except for his boss, Mackie.

US Attorney general Frank Modena has been kidnapped from the streets of Paris and Logan is tasked with finding him. When he finds out his nemesis Youseff Selim, the man who almost killed him 5 months ago, is purported to be behind the kidnapping, Logan sees his chance for revenge.

Logan is supposed to be undercover; leaving no trace. He’s not very good at that. Wherever he goes he leaves more wreckage behind him than a spoilt toddler in a toy shop branishing a plastic sword. Not so much a ghost as a poltergeist.

I was grateful at the entrance of Angela Grainger. I felt the novel needed a female voice, the all-male action packed start was wearing a little thin; for me anyway. We started to learn more of Logan’s back story through their relationship and he became a more sympathetic character.

As I said, this is not my normal choice of book, the all-conquering-one-man-against-the-world action sequences are just a little too far-fetched for me. But I think if you like your James Bond you will no doubt enjoy this offering.
***
Thanks to the author for sending me a copy

The Girl On The Train

girl on train

The Girl On The Train
by Paula Hawkins

A debut psychological thriller that will forever change the way you look at other people’s lives.

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

A compulsively readable, emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller that draws comparisons to Gone Girl, The Silent Wife, or Before I Go to Sleep, this is an electrifying debut embraced by readers across markets and categories.

I was wary of this book, or rather I was wary of the hype surrounding it. After the disastrous Apple Tree Yard (separate review on my blog) which I looked forward to but found hugely disappointing, I bore no expectations for The Girl On The Train, infact, if I’m honest, was probably ready to dislike it.

The book has at its heart three female characters:
The main protagonist is Rachel, whose life is at an all time low. Her marriage has broken down, she has lost her job, she is very lonely and to compensate she drinks; heavily.
I really empathised with Rachel, I am sure a lot of people will see her as weak and foolish but to me she just came across as human; flawed but with a good heart.

Next there is Megan, who also has had a troubled life but has now found happiness with husband Scott…or so Rachel thinks.

Then there is Anna, who is the Goldilocks in Rachel’s life. She lives in her house, sleeps in her bed and no doubt eats porridge in her kitchen. All with her ex-husband and the baby daughter they have had together.

Rachel travels into London everyday on the train. The train stops regularly at a set of signals and she gets used to seeing a couple on their terrace. She makes up blissful lives for them, giving them names, Jason and Jess, and careers. She looks on enviously until one day she sees something that casts everything into doubt. Rachel feels that she needs to help out, it gives her life some purpose, but also leads to trouble.

It is difficult to say anymore without giving the plot away.

So does the book live up to the hype? For me, a big fat yes. Paula Hawkins has written a compelling, suspenseful book in which I thought the characters were very human. It makes you look at relationships and realise sometimes nothing is what it seems and people really do weave tangled webs for themselves. I thoroughly enjoyed it and will look forward to future books from this author.
****