Dexter in the Dark by Jeff Lindsay Review

The third book in the Dexter series misses the mark

cover of Dexter in the Dark

I have already reviewed the first and second books in the Dexter series so check them out first.

Miami’s part angel part demon sociopath Dexter Morgan battles an evil more powerful than he can imagine in his third outing.

Miami homicide is flummoxed by the ritualistic murders of two young women. Their bodies have been decapitated, burnt, and neatly laid out with their heads being replaced with ceramic bulls’ heads.

Sgt. Deborah Morgan, Dexter’s sister, follows the forensic evidence and arrests professor Jerry Halpern. Yet while the professor languishes in jail the murders continue.

This case clearly calls for the specialised talents of my favourite forensic technician who moonlight in his own time as judge jury and executioner of Miami’s underworld.

Unlike his first two outings however Dexter is on the back foot. This time around the familiar dark spirit that spurs Dexter on in his bloody deeds has left, leaving Dexter all alone.

Dexter’s evil spirit has been driven from his body by other spirits, a scary feeling I’m sure. And of course it couldn’t have come at a worst time for Dexter who’d just begun to bond with his fiancé’s children, Aston and Cody, who seem to have the makings of apprentice serial killers themselves.

This struggle between Dexter and his new demons is a little dull and predictable, certainly in comparison to the first two books.

That beautifully sharp wit of Dexter is still very much present but having to face a future without his dark companion means that the third book is filled with introspection and contemplation, it’s not bad but it’s not great either.

Rating…

Rating: 5.5 out of 10.

Dearly Devoted Dexter Review

You can find my review of the first book in the series, Darkly Dreaming Dexter here.

This second instalment in Jeff Lindsay’s hugely popular Dexter series see’s our horrible yet loveable serial killer become a family man, while still trying desperately to bring his own brand of justice to two mysterious murders.

Dearly Devoted Dexter see’s my favourite murderous blood spatter analyst search for Reiker, an accomplice of a paedophile Dexter’s already had his wicked way with. Not only only that, he must work with his detective sister Deb and federal agent Kyle Chutsky to investigate and find a torturer with ties to El Salvador. All while under the watchful gaze of Sergeant Doakes, a colleague who senses the darkness within Dexter.

Dexter is a wonderfully self aware character who examines his own lack of humanity with the reader with some very funny dark humour, he’s quite charming if truth be told, if you ignore the frequent murdering anyway.

And that’s the biggest selling point for this novel, the likeability of Dexter and his wise cracking narration is easily the best part, at least for me, if you don’t like that kind of thing I’d steer clear of this series.

Dexter likes to tell you he’s a monster, that his dark passenger is really his only personality trait, yet Lindsay writes him with a little more depth and complexity than that. This is shown most evidently in his bond with his sister and step children Astor and Cody.

Lindsay’s reliance on Dexter is however a weakness too. Because his primary protagonist is so compelling he becomes lazy when it comes to the plot. The story here is surface level at best, it’s not overly compelling and is certainly thin at points with Dexter’s snarky narration lending it the thin veneer of competency.

Overall this is a nice fun murderous tale, if you enjoy blood soaked pages interlaced with dark humour then you’ll be pleased here. It’s nothing ground-breaking but it’s still a nice twist on the usual serial killer novels you’ll read.

Rating:

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

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11.22.63 by Stephen King Review

If you could go back in time and change the course of human history would you do it? Even if it meant sacrificing so much of your own life in the process?

Well that’s the premise of Stephen Kings 54th fiction book, 11.22.63.

King gives us a new protagonist in the form of Jake Epping, a high school English teacher from Lisbon Falls Maine, because of course he is. It doesn’t take long for King to uproot our heroes life and sent him hurting back through time to the world of 1958 small town America.

Gone are the cell phones and tablet computers, now Jake finds himself in a world filled with Elvis, Plymouth cars, a beautiful librarian called Sadie Dunhill, and of course a troubled loner called Lee Harvey Oswald, a man who slowly comes to dominate Jake’s life.

11.22.63 is Stephen King at something resembling his best. His prowess with weaving together political, social and popular culture into this version of baby-boom America is exquisite. The suspense is palpable across most of its many pages, not to mention its many trips through time.

King is best known for his out and out horror novels, and while this certainly isn’t a horror book it does have enough existential and psychological dread to keep the heart pounding and the mind racing.

The complexities and ethical dilemmas of time travel are well explored in 11.22.63, what will altering the past do to the future? What will it mean for Jake personally? Will he really be creating a better world or is that some naïve hope he must cling to to see his mission fulfilled?

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You see no matter how long Jake spends in the past when he returns to his own time only two minutes will have elapsed, this allows him the chance to go back in time over and over again to the same point and keep trying to change the past and the future. If something doesn’t work out to his liking, and quite often it doesn’t, he can try again, but something, perhaps the past itself, really doesn’t like being changed. The closer Jake gets to his goal the more something out their in the universe wants him to fail.

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While this was a good read, with many interesting questions to ponder, it does get bogged down a little during the middle section. Across many of the middle chapters the suspense and tension we had come to love waned slightly, never disappearing but certainly lessening its grip upon you. During this part King focuses on the romance between Jake and Sadie, which while interesting was certainly a good deal longer than it needed to be, about two hundred pages longer if I’m honest.

Once we get into the final third of the book though the action picks up once again and King does a good job at answering most of the questions he posed at the beginning. It’s a mostly satisfying conclusion which wasn’t quite worth the lengthy wait but rounded out the story nicely enough.

All in all this was a good read that I’d recommend for fans of King or time travel stories in general. Just be warned it is a long slog and the ending isn’t quite worth the time invested. King is great at creating his characters, and Jake is no exception, he’s a down on his luck teacher striving to find purpose in the mess that his life has become, he’s no larger than life hero, he’s simply a man doing what he believes is right. But not amount of interesting characters will improve the poor pacing on offer here.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

11.22.63 is available from Amazon.

Spellbreaker by Charlie N. Holmbury Review

Spellbreaker is the first book book in a brand new two book series written by bestselling author Charlie N. Holmberg. This series will be set in an alternate Victorian-era England where magic is common, and where those who can wield it are the powerful and wealthy elite.

The books heroine, Elsie Camden, is a lowly orphan who also happens to be an unregistered spellbreaker and member of the clandestine group, The Cowls, who undertake missions to protect the common people from the abuse of the magical elite.

During one of these, for lack of a better word, goodwill assignments, her spellbreaking abilities are discovered by another wizard, Bacchus Kelsey, and she must make a deal with him if she wants to escape prison.

As Elsie struggles under her various allegiances she becomes enraged and her true loyalties are tested like never before.

This is not your typical fantasy novel. It takes place in a small area of the overarching world and has a small cast of characters. This is a book about relationships more than anything else. There’s no high stakes end of the world stuff here, this is good old fashioned character development at the front and centre.

There’s not much to be found here though for fantasy readers who love a darker and gritter look at the magical worlds. There’s little challenging or unpredictable here, its quite simple and straightforward if truth be told.

Yet there are likeable characters that are well written and fleshed out to the point that I can recall their mannerisms and quirks long after I finished reading.

Elsie for instance is a charming and loveable heroine who takes on the Robin Hood mantle for this novel. She strikes back at the haughty elite in defence of the downtrodden.

She is overly naïve at points, and we as a reader are way ahead her for most of the story, which is frustrating to read, and we spend more time shouting at her to hurry up to her inevitable realisation, than we do enjoying the story.

The plot is convenient and simple, it never surprises or astounds you. Elsie is a simple but charming character who never does anything out of the ordinary, she is also predictable and boring. She is however, loveable, and willing to sacrifice everything for those around her, making her one of the most likeable protagonists I’ve met for a while.

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But Elsie is not the only protagonist of this novel. Bacchus is a secondary hero who has his own point-of-view chapters. These chapters are great at launching his character and fleshing out his desires and objectives.

Bacchus is a wizard on the verge of attaining his mastery but he has sympathise for Elsie and her motives thanks to his own backstories. Bacchus struggles to fit into the English magical elite thanks to his lowdown status, giving him an innate connection with Elsie.

The romance between Elsie and Bacchus feels quite forced if I’m honest, its nice and the payoff is good but it doesn’t feel at all natural. There’s no chemistry between the two and the beginning of their relationship is filled with blackmail, distrust and resentment. There is little in the way of authentic evolution here to ever see them as genuine lovers.

Their relationship may feel satisfying on the face of it but when you think about it it’s a little shallow and disappointing.

The plot of the novel is simple and straightforward but it’s still satisfying to read and enjoy. The villain is easy to determine but the journey of our heroes to their realisation is satisfying regardless.

There are a number of plot threads left hanging for us to keep us intrigued for the next book, a book I myself will be looking out for, but one I don’t expect much from.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

Spellbreaker is available from Amazon.

Richard Osman becomes first debut author to be Christmas No 1

Richard Osman’s mystery novel about a group of elderly wannabe detectives, The Thursday Murder Club, has just become the first ever debut novel to become the Christmas number 1 after selling a staggering 134,514 copies in just one week.

The Pointless presenter has beat out the likes of Barack Obama’s memoir A Promised Land and JK Rowling’s The Ickabog to the coverted number 1 spot.

Osman’s novel has been flying out of bookstores all over the UK since it was first published in September and has sold more than twice the number of copies of Obama’s memoirs in the past week.

A Promised Land managed to sell 66,531 copies in the week to 19 December, which isn’t quite enough for the former US president to match the feat of his wife Michelle when she took the number 1 spot two years ago.

Osman also managed to beat David Walliams whose popular children books have been number 1 for three of the last four years. His latest offering, Code Name Bananas, managed to sell 55,129 copies bringing it firmly into 3rd place.

“Congratulations to Richard Osman on scoring the Christmas No 1 crown,” said Hazel Kenyon, Nielsen Book Research director. “I very much look forward to seeing him now appear as an answer on Pointless to a question on Christmas No 1 bestsellers.”

The top list has been released as bookshops in tier 4 areas have been forced to close just days before Christmas. The Bookseller magazine said that the last week of Christmas shopping is typically worth between £60-90m in sales and that this year we could have reached £100m had shops not been forced to close.

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UK Top 10 bestsellers, week ending 19 December 2020

1. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman 134,514
2. A Promised Land by Barack Obama 66,531
3. Code Name Bananas by David Walliams 55,129
4. Pinch of Nom: Quick & Easy by Kay Featherstone and Kate Allinson 52,955
5. The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charlie Mackesy 52,099
6. Guinness World Records 2021 35,229
7. Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart 31,218
8. The Ickabog by JK Rowling 31,159
9. A Del of a Life by David Jason 23,973
10. A Life on Our Planet by David Attenborough 23,686

Eyes of Sleeping Children by D.A. Butcher Review

D.A. Butcher comes out swinging hard with this stunning debut novel. Eyes of Sleeping Children is a psychological thriller set in the 1930’s and takes place in a depression hit Kansas that is about to bare the brunt of a giant dust storm.

The focus of this story falls squarely upon the Lockhart family, and specifically upon the father Louis. As the storm begins to attack their small family farm the Lockhart’s seek shelter in their cellar.

Eyes of Sleeping Children Cover

Yet the storm is but the beginning of this families tragedies, after awakening from a troubled night of sleep Louis finds that his son, Jesse, is missing, yet there is neither a sign of forced entry or that the young boy has left the house.

Who, or possibly what, is to blame? While Louis looks for an answer within the reality he understands, his wife begins to break down and lay the blame squarely upon a figure from the realm of nightmares, The Sandman.

Louis must work quickly if he has any hope of ever seeing his son again, he sets out on a journey that will delve into the past, and into secrets long since lost to time.

But that’s enough about the book’s plot, I really would not want to ruin this one for you.

This is a daring, but well executed, debut novel that takes a number of different genres and themes and makes them all coalesce brilliantly as the story comes to its climax.

At times this feels like a locked room thriller, while at other times it delves wonderfully into some psychological twisted world that sends shivers racing up and down your spine. And yet through all of that it somehow manages to blend and balance it very nicely with a depression era set family and their day to day struggles and drama.

The story is told through the eyes and mind of Louis Lockhart, and for the most part he is an engaging and interesting character that we as outside readers can easily empathise with. And while there are a supporting cast of mostly interesting characters it is with Louis that we are firmly embedded, both narratively and emotionally.

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As Louis frantically begins his hunt to find his missing son the book ratchets up a notch and becomes a zealous race to unravel the mysteries and discover the truth lurking in the shadows. Over time though it is Louis himself who begins to unravel and whose mind deteriorates, while this gives for some excellent character focus and really brings Louis alive and fleshes out his characterisations, it also slows down the pace of the book at points to little more than a crawl. While this is not a major issue it does make the book feel imbalanced.

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Author Spotlight: D. A. Butcher discusses his life, his struggles, and his love for writing

Author Spotlight is our series that aims to give writers a platform to talk about the artform we all love, writing. This time around D. A. Butcher joins us to talk about his life, his struggles, and his passion for writing. Check out this excellent article. I grew up in London. My mother is Italian … Continue reading “Author Spotlight: D. A. Butcher discusses his life, his struggles, and his love for writing”

However, as the story enters its final acts it rekindles the fire that had burned so brightly at its opening. In fact by the final pages this book had burnt not only itself out but me as well, there are some disturbing scenes throughout this novel that have stayed with me long after the final word has fluttered its way through my mind.

The twists and turns that lead up to the grand finale are mind bindingly well conceived and that climax, boy was that a treat to behold. Throughout most of the novel I thought I knew the truth, I thought I was an all knowing reader, but I was very much mistaken, Butcher had more than a few tricks up his sleeve to leave me feeling the fool.

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Indeed so much of this book has stayed so vividly with me that while writing this review I feel like I have only just put it down when in reality I finished this book week ago, and have read many others since then.

Not only is the story well conceived it is also very well written, Butcher has the skills and talents of a much more seasoned writer.

There are a couple of negative points though, as with any book. I think there are a few pacing errors that make the book feel unbalanced, it almost feels like there are two books wearing the trench coat of one sometimes. The dialogue can at times feel a little stilted, and I would say there are a few too many metaphors and similes used which can slow down the pace of the book somewhat, but this is me being overly pedantic and attempting to find something to balance this review.

Overall this is easily one of the best debut novels I have ever read, indeed it is one of the best psychological thrillers I have ever read period, and I will no doubt be diving back into again soon, and I sincerely implore all of you to do the same.

Rating

Rating: 10 out of 10.

If you’d like to check out Eyes of Sleeping Children for yourself, and I highly recommend you do, you can find it over on Amazon.

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Dearly Devoted Dexter by Jeff Lindsay Review

This is our review of the second book in the Dexter series. Check out our review of Darkly Dreaming Dexter before continuing.

This second instalment of Jeff Lindsay’s hugely popular Dexter series sees the charming serial killer become a loving family man who must track down two mysterious murderers to satisfy his dark passenger.

Dearly Devoted Dexter sees the titular character hunt down Reiker, the accomplice of a paedophile serial killer whom Dexter has already disposed of. While at his job as a blood splatter analyst for the Miami-Dade police department he must help his detective sister Deb hunt down a torturer with ties to El Salvador. He must do this all while under the watchful eye of Sergeant Doakes, a colleague who senses something is amiss with our favourite serial killer.

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Dexter is a self aware villain and examines himself and society as a whole with his usual dark charming wit. A large part of the enjoyment of this book relies upon Dexter’s likeability, if you don’t like dark humour or wise cracking narration then this probably isn’t the book or series for you.

While Dexter is charming he’s also undeniably a villain, a monster as he calls himself. Yet Lindsay balances out this monstrous side of Dexter with deep and complex relationships with his sister and with his step children Astor and Cody.

Overall Dearly Devoted Dexter is a pleasant murderous tale, the reader gets all the blood and dark humour they could wish for. If you like a serial killer romp and want something a little different this could be the series for you.

Darkly Dreaming Dexter Review

Darkly Dreaming Dexter is one of the most unique and bizarre serial killer novels you will ever find.

Our protagonist, can’t quite call him our hero, is a sociopathic murderer with a twist, he has a conscience, or at least a moral code. He will only kill the guilty, the people who have escaped justice.

This is a greatly entertaining novel with a surprisingly charming character in Dexter.

By day Dexter is a blood-spatter analyst for the Miami police, a great place to find his next victims, and to keep an eye on the police investigations into his own sordid night time escapades. There’s never any real danger of that though, Dexter is always one step ahead.

However, that all changes when a copycat killer shows up on Dexter’s turf using his own method of killing against him. Dexter must know choose between helping catch the man to help his police-officer sister or getting the satisfaction of the kill for himself. Events spiral in this book and drag Dexter along with them, this is not how he usually likes to live his life.

Jeff Lindsay is a master at giving this old tired genre a new lease of life. His exploration of a charming and elegant serial killer going out to deal his own brand of justice is intriguing and I hope that in later instalments it is addressed and fleshed out more fully.

And while I like the character of Dexter his false charm grates thin and there is not enough wit within his narration for him to effectively carry the entire novel on his back. He also needs more redeemable features if I am to come back and read the rest of the novels, he’s good for a one trip outing but if I’m going to get invested then I need to not just like him as a character but as a person too.

The plot is basic but with a nice twist at the end that really makes the whole uninspiring journey worth it. I am looking forward to getting stuck into the next one and I hope it can improve upon a solid foundation.

Rating

Rating: 7 out of 10.

You can grab yourself a copy of Dexter’s first outing on Amazon.

Find Me by Anne Fraiser Review

Infamous serial killer Benjamin Fisher has finally agreed to lead detective Daniel Ellis to the graves of his victims. There’s just one catch, he’ll only do it if his estranged daughter, former FBI profiler Reni Fisher, joins them.

Reni can’t say no, she feels complicit in those bloody crimes. Her father would use her to lure unsuspecting women to their untimely deaths. Reni wants closure, for herself, and for the families of her fathers victims.

But for Reni and Daniel this is not the end of a nightmare, it’s merely the beginning.

This is an interesting read and the opening few chapters are compelling. Sadly the spell doesn’t last and I found myself getting a little bored as the story progressed.

The book gets bogged down in describing the scenery over and over again, and the same scenery I might add. A lot of the book takes place in a desert, I know what that looks like so you can stop describing it to me and get on with the story.

This fascination with scenery slows the pace of the book down to a boring crawl. It also makes it really strange that there’s not much description anywhere else. I liked the characters and the premise is enticing but the book takes far too long to actually deliver on anything it promises.

When you do finally reach the end it’s a bit crazy and unusual. Not quite what I had expected and not really in a good way.

If you like slow burning reads this might be worth adding to your reading list. But if like me you like a story to get to the point I’d avoid this one.

The Stranger Review

This thriller may miss the mark but it’s still worth a look.

Harlan Coben churns out suspenseful thrillers at an impressive pace, and while that might continue bringing him in the big bucks it does mean more than a few of his novels miss the mark.

The Stranger is one such tale that fails to live up to Coben at his nail-biting best, though it is clever enough to be entertaining.

Adam Price, his wife Corinne, and their sons Ryan and Thomas live the idyllic suburban dream in Cedarfield, N.J. This picture perfect life comes crashing to a halt however one night at a bar when a man known only as the stranger reveals to Adam a scret that his wife has kept hidden, a secret that shatters Adam’s world and causes his wife to vanish.

The strange imparts secrets like that on various individuals across the country, including a middle-aged woman and a medical student. Price decides he must hunt down the stranger if he is to find his wife.

Sadly Adam is not the most compelling lead I’ve ever read, he’s naive and befuddled in his attempts to find his wife and track down the stranger. He’s a prominent lawyer and yet the way he goes about his investigations are more akin to a toddler, and all of that makes for more of an exhausting read. We want Adam to succeed, we want him to find out the answers, and yet he’s so frustratingly useless at times I just wanted him to give up and go home so I could stop reading.

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Worse though is the stranger. His attempt to rationalise his actions of outing peoples secrets simply to ‘rid the world of lies’ is questionable at best and just plain bad storytelling at worst. It’s almost as if Coben wanted us to feel for the stranger, to feel he was a good guy but his self-righteous piety and desire to ruin peoples lives simply to out secrets is disgusting at its very base level. This is not a character we should be persuaded to have any sympathy for.

But it’s not all bad, it really isn’t, this is still a fun read with plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing up until the end. I can’t recommend this book for any new Coben readers but if you’ve enjoyed him in the past I think you’ll find enough here to be worth a read if you have some spare time and nothing else to fill it with.

Rating

Rating: 6 out of 10.

If you’d like to check out The Stranger for yourself you can find it on Amazon.

Silent Scream Review

Procedural crime novels are not really my forte, don’t get me wrong I don’t mind the genre at all, it’s not the kind of novel I find myself picking up in the shop. When you’re running a literary review site though you kind of have to push your boundaries a little, so I checked through goodreads and picked up a recommended crime novel to see if this one could grab my interest.

Silent Scream by Angela Marsons is the first novel in series of serial killer tales. While reading the books opening I was a little disappointed, it didn’t seem to offer anything new from the multitude of other serial killer outings available, but thankfully Marsons was playing the long game, there are more than a few surprises to be found within Silent Scream.

We are first introduced to a group of five adults standing on the edge of a freshly dug grave. They make a pact, nobody will speak of this again, after all the body residing in the soil is not someone who will be missed, and as long as they all keep quiet their secret will be buried with the body.

Of course this doesn’t quite go to plan. A decade later head teacher Teresa Wyatt is found dead, forcibly drowned in her own bath tub. The stories hero DI Kim Stone must now start digging deep into the teachers past.

Kim is a strong central character, she’s a tough loner who has risen through the ranks of the police force despite a head strong attitude that has lead to more than one broken rule being left in her hurricane like wake. Kim and her partner DS Bryant, a good cop to Kim’s bad cop routine, discover that Teresa was investigating a fire that had burnt down a girls orphanage a decade before.

The cops set out on a quest to discover Teresa’s connection to this orphanage.

This is a personal case to Kim, she spent her early life in and out of various foster homes and orphanages. When the police discover three bodies of young girls around the orphanages former site she makes it her personal mission to make people notice the poor victims.

As she digs deeper into the case Kim begins to learn more about the orphanage. Teresa used to work there, as had a number of other individuals who had all died in suspect circumstances.

Stone must now discover the truth of these crimes. And that is really all I can say without spoiling the entire thing.

This may have been Marsons debut novel but it certainly doesn’t read like one, this is written with a well crafted hand that knows the nuances of novel balancing.

It’s perfectly plotted while being complex enough to keep the suspense and mystery going until the final pages. It is also able to bring a fresh new take to the serial killer sub-genre which I for one am very glad of.

It does resort to more than a few cliché moments however, the dialogue is the sort that you find copy and pasted across many a crime novel or movie. This is a very well trodden area and you’ll be able to find many of these characters depicted in any holiday crime novel. But if you’re a big crime novel fan then this should be on your to-read-list.

Was it a good enough book for me to read crime novels more frequently? No probably not, but it was good enough for me to read more of the Kim Stone series.

Rating

Rating: 8 out of 10.

You can check out Silent Scream for yourself on Amazon.