‘IQ84’ by Mike Dickenson


A terrorist releases a biological weapon attacking anyone unfortunate enough to be smarter than the average bear. Such people are rewarded with an exploding head, which, apart from anything else, makes an awful mess at the mall. When David Dingle (who isn’t all that bright), finds himself targeted as the perpetrator of these activities, he and his flatmate Jerry take to the road in an effort to discover what the hell’s going on. With a supporting cast including a cocktail waitress, a jihadist, a dodgy doctor and an FBI agent named Boring, the chase is never, well, boring.

This is not a book for folks who are easily offended. With language and dialogue likely to upset just about everyone on some level, Mike Dickenson’s satire on American politics and culture is far removed from the politically correct. While it’s by turns deliciously funny, clever and occasionally thought-provoking, it’s also idiotic, farcical and ironic. The plot culminates at the Whitehouse as the main characters (and a few extra ones) turn up for the showdown. I must admit to enjoying the denouement, particularly as I’d had one or two doubts along the way that the whole thing might just tail off.

The madcap humour reminded me a lot of the Spencer Tracy movie ‘It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World’, with an extra dose of Mad. If you love zany, and aren’t too worried about emotional depth, this’ll be right up your terroristic street.

Back to the Blog

‘Goosebumps: Vampire Breath’ RL Stine

Goosebumps: Vampire Breath

Best friends Freddy and Cara think they’re tough, so when they discover a hidden passage in the basement of Freddy’s house, they don’t waste time debating their next move. But the secret room reveals something unexpected – a coffin, and a mysterious bottle…

As with all the best horror stories, Mr Stine doesn’t allow his heroes to hang around, instead he establishes the characters and throws them into a scary situation. Or rather, a situation that could have been scary. Admittedly, I’m an adult, so maybe it takes a bit more than an ageing vampire who’s lost his gnashers to put the jitters up me, but I think Stine missed a trick with this one. Having said that, it’s an easy read and the neat twist at the end was unexpected, so it wouldn’t put me off reading other Goosebumps books.

Back to the Blog

‘After She’s Gone’ by Maggie James

After She’s Gone

Lori Golden’s family has a troubled history, and though she and her sister have had plenty to deal with, both look forward to a hopeful future. But when Jessie is murdered, the past comes back to haunt Lori and her family in ways she’d never imagined.

Struggling to come to terms with the killing, Lori’s suspicions begin to fill her every waking hour. As secrets and lies emerge from the woodwork, it’s hard to know who to trust. With an arsonist and a murderer on the loose, it seems someone is targeting the Golden family…

This is a fascinating story told (for a change) from the point of view of the victims. Maggie James gets right inside the grief and torment of her characters as they strive to deal with their loss. Though there are plenty of false leads along the way, all are completely believable, making it jolly difficult to work out who the killer is. Ms James builds the tension gradually, reflecting the shifting relationships of the family as they reveal their secrets and eventually discover the truth.

I’d have to say that while I thoroughly enjoyed ‘After She’s Gone’, I felt it wasn’t quite as slick as the author’s previous book ‘His Kidnapper’s Shoes‘. Nevertheless, this a well-written and absorbing read, tackling a difficult subject with more than a degree of style. Highly recommended.

Back to the Blog

‘Lolita’ by Vladimir Nabokov


Oddly named intellectual and romantic, Humbert Humbert, falls in love with Dolores Haze, his landlady’s twelve-year-old daughter. To linger in close proximity to the child, he decides to marry her mother, despite several misgivings. The partnership, naturally, does not go as planned for the hopeful lover, and Humbert begins dreaming up ways of ending the marriage by staging a drowning or some such ‘accident’, thereby relieving himself of the clingy housewife. However, events take an unexpected turn and Humbert embarks on an extended trip across America with his recently-acquired daughter…

I feel slightly ashamed that it’s taken me so long to read this book. I saw the film years ago (the Kubrick one), though don’t remember much of it, but the novel is quite another matter. The writing is superb, the style so unusual and original that it was at times hard to believe Nabokov’s native language wasn’t English. Though the subject matter is dodgy (to say the least), the author handles it well, and the (occasional) sex scenes are suggested, rather than described. It’s interesting too, that while Nabokov is obviously not writing from his own point of view, he allows his central character to retain a little dignity in his (Humbert’s) acknowledgment of the facts – that he is somewhat depraved, though not a destroyer of innocence. The author’s descriptions of post-war America are fascinating too, presenting sketches of a country and its culture in the midst of change.

Darkly comic in style, Nabokov’s wit is divine and lovingly crafted. As a novelist myself, I’ve rarely seen a book that impressed me more.

Back to the Blog

‘The Abattoir of Dreams’ by Mark Tilbury

The Abattoir of Dreams

Waking up in hospital, Michael Tate learns he has been in a coma. Worse – he’s paralysed from the waist down and has little memory of a past life. When surly Detective Carver turns up making accusations of murder, a nightmare scenario thrusts Michael into a world where it’s impossible to tell who he really is or what he might have done.

But the nightmare really begins when Michael’s imagination apparently goes into overdrive – an emergency door appears in a wall where no door exists, then invisible hands lift him from his hospital bed and transport him back into his own childhood. Slowly fitting the pieces together, Michael struggles to make sense of it all. With Carver out for blood and only one friend who believes him, can Michael work out the truth before it’s too late?

The first few chapters of this dark, psychological thriller had me totally gripped – I couldn’t guess where the story was going or how the hero could possibly get himself out of the horrendous situation he was in. Even as the story progresses, Mark Tilbury keeps his readers in the dark, with only occasional glimpses into the future. Gradually, the story unfolds, but even as I neared the end, I still couldn’t work out what was going to happen.

This is not a tale for the faint of heart, this is a tale of abuse and torture that is well handled and expertly revealed, without resorting to graphic detail at every turn. A thoroughly engrossing read.

Back to the Blog