Book Review: Bonfire by Krysten Ritter

Genre: Crime, Thriller, Mystery
Pub Date: 9 Nov. 2017
Publisher: Hutchinson
Length: 288 pages
Hardback: £12.99

Synopsis

Abby Williams returns to the small town where she grew up. Now working as a successful environmental lawyer in Chicago, she has been tasked with investigating Optimal Plastics, the town’s economic heart. Abby begins to find strange connections to a decade-old scandal involving the popular Kaycee Mitchell and her friends—just before Kaycee disappeared for good.

As Abby attempts to find out what happened to Kaycee, troubling memories begin to resurface and she begins to doubt her own observations.”

Krysten Ritter, star of American TV shows such as Jessica Jones and Don’t Trust The B**** in Apartment 23, has published her début novel, Bonfire. I have to admit I had mixed emotions; unsure whether this actor, who I have been a fan of for some years, would be skilled enough to pull off a novel ( I think it was J G Ballard who said one shouldn’t not write a full length novel for a first outing). Bonfire has been described as being ‘dark, disturbing and compulsively readable’ amongst the blurb.


I found the writing to be mature, I don’t know why I was surprised, but I was. Ritter keeps the writing tight and moving along at a fair pace. The protagonist, Abby Williams, is deftly portrayed, she has a strong voice and reminded me a little of a cross between the two characters Ritter has played in the aforementioned shows; intelligent, forthright and possibly a little bit sexy. Other characters are portrayed well with sparse use of adjectives, yet we get to see them clearly.

Abby has tried hard to move away from the memories of her home-town. Memories dominated by the popular girl Kaycee Mitchell, memories of her bullying, of becoming her friend, of Kaycee’s clique of hangers on, like the appalling Misha, and ultimately the illness that gripped Kaycee and the others. To Abby, there is a connection between the illnesses and Optimal Plastics and she sets out to prove it.

Bonfire is dark and compulsive reading, but the disturbing not so much for me. I found myself thinking of The Virgin Suicides (1993), Mean Girls and a little Twin Peaks. So, not hugely original or with a shocking or surprising outcome. Maybe because I am British, but I found it quite difficult to relate to many of the characters; do high school students really behave like that in USA?! And I simply could not get my head around the idea that school-age Abby wanted to be friends with such a bitch! But maybe I’m not the target audience.

Although there are a couple of close moments between the protagonist and other character, there is no reason why this cannot be read by those aged 16 years.

I’m giving Bonfire 3 stars

Little StarLittle StarLittle Star

Book Review – The Sleeping Doll by Jeffery Deaver

The Sleeping Doll by Jeffery Deaver

Published : 2007, Hodder & Stoughton.
Genre: Thriller

TheSleepingDoll
The Sleeping Doll by Jeffery Deaver

 

 

YOU CAN TELL A LIAR BY HIS EYES.

Special Agent Kathryn Dance reads people the way other investigators read crime scenes.
But she’s never seen eyes like Daniel Pell’s.
Back cover blurb.

 

I have been a fan of crime fiction; and non-fiction, since my late teens. My habit was to read a book and if I enjoyed it I would then acquire and devour everything published by this author. My only surprise, to myself, is that I have neglected my crime reading in recent years, returning to it this year with Jeffery Deaver’s The Empty Chair. Also, I realised I had never written a review of a crime novel. So here goes.

Even if you have never read one of Deaver’s books, you may be familiar with his work as many have been turned into films:
Dead Silence (1997) starring James Garner.
The Bone Collector (1999) starring Denzil Washington and Angelina Jolie.
The Devils Teardrop (2010) starring Tom Everett Scott and Natasha Henstridge.

Bone_collector_poster
Movie poster for The Bone Collector

The Sleeping Doll introduces a new detective; Agent Kathryn Dance, a widow with two young children who works for the Californian Bureau of Investigation, “Like an FBI for the state.” Dance is a specialist in interrogation and reading body language, so we get, not only her analysis of a criminal but of some of those around her in her working and private life. In this way, Deaver uses this as a tool for the reader to have a window onto the minds of other characters without having to head hop and it works really well, as not only do we get this inkling into another characters possible feelings, but we spend over half the book in the mind of Kathryn Dance – and considering the line of work she does, it is not an unpleasant place to be. For the rest of it, we enter the thoughts of Daniel Pell…

The Sleeping Doll of the title refers to a little girl (who is a teenager when the story begins), who survived a murderous assault on her family because she was asleep amongst her toys; hidden. The perpetrator of the crime, Daniel Pell, is currently serving time in a Correctional Facility. Dance has come to interview Pell regarding a newly uncovered crime. Pell has never spoken about his involvement in the ‘sleeping doll’ murders, and neither has the surviving child.

Dance recognises a Svengali type personality in Pell, who’s chilling blue eyes are equally taking the measure of Agent Dance as she does his.
Dance is smart, capable and strong, she is going to need to be on peak form when Pell escapes, leaving a bloody trail in his wake.

Deaver is a great storyteller who engages his readers without any superfluous text. He gets straight down to business; much in the manner of Kathryn Dance, and keeps us hoping and guessing all the way through. He nearly always adds a twist in the end of his tales, and The Sleeping Doll is no exception. I’m a great one for trying to second guess who did what, to whom and many times I’m pretty close.

Not this time.

I’m In Love With Japan

Japanese-customs

Japan; the one country in the world that I have longed, longed, to visit for decades. I cannot put my finger on the moment when I first wanted to visit Japan; childhood I think.

I was given a set of books by my grandfather, one of which was about Japan; its otherness absolutely fascinated me. My father used to talk of the horrors committed by Japanese soldiers in WW2; they had a fearsome reputation, but I was somehow convinced that they couldn’t have been the only ‘bad guys’. Over the years, I have dipped in and out of my love affair with this distant land; Books, Films, Manga/Anime, Sushi, Textiles, Crafts, Comics etc.

But what of modern-day Japan?

It is a country of contradictions, fascinating customs, beauty and respect. Japan arrived relatively late to the ‘Westernisation party’. They had had connections with the Dutch and English since the 16th century, however, it was the Americans (Commodore Perry), who literally forced Japan to open its doors; to trade; join us, or suffer the consequences was the implicit message from Perry’s massive fleet.( I equally loath and thank the man)

An island nation of 127 million, Japan is notorious for its ultra-strict work culture, and for being so safe even its Yakuza gangsters do not carry guns – much. The murder rate is the third lowest in the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), with fewer than one thousand homicides in 2015. In that same time period, the US – a country with a population less than three times the size of Japan’s – recorded fifteen times that many. Japan is one of the safest countries in Asia, and its murder rate of less than one per 100,000 is the lowest among industrial nations (* compare with South Africa – The murder rate since 2011 stayed at around 32 per 100,000 but the number of murders has increased with increases in population. South Africa also has one of the highest rates of rape in the world.)

yakuza
No hiding place…

And it just keeps on getting safer. 2015 saw the lowest rate for every single type of crime since 1945. Tokyo is ranked as the safest city in the world. Osaka is ranked as the 3rd safest. Greater Tokyo is the second largest urban habitation on the planet, so that’s one heck of a verdict.

japan

Street crime is practically non-existent there, and drug use is low. This is largely attributed to the culture of Japan, as being known to use illegal drugs or being sentence to prison would be considered of bad character.

According to the United Nations, in their report called UN Chronicle: The Atlas of Heart Disease & Stroke – Japan has one of the lowest rates of coronary heart disease in the world.

Japan life-expectancy

Japan is well known for its politeness and good manners. Not only that, but Japanese culture is also extremely efficient. Japan is a busy country but is well organised.

•Ä‘哝—Ì—ˆ“ú^—¼•Ã‰º‚É‚ ‚¢‚³‚‚·‚éƒIƒoƒ}•Ä‘哝—Ì

The Japanese take hygiene seriously. You will hardly see any rubbish on the roadsides – even the trains are clean!! In Japan, not only they are clean, everything is in perfect order and neat as well – well trimmed trees, for example.

Temple bells, the stone gardens, the bamboo, and the torii gates instill a sense of peace and serenity. And teenagers can be seen paying tribute at shrines as often as older generations. Respect for tradition and culture runs deep.

 

It has been reported to me many times by family and friends, that Asian countries always have much better hotel service than in the West, but, I read repeatedly, Japan takes it to another level. Bags are brought to your room. Towels brought up just because you might need extra. Hotel owners wave you good-bye. Everything is done with a bow. Everyone is helpful.

r-GIFT-GIVING-large570
Giving gifts is a huge part of Japanese life.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dumb; Japan has its down sides, doesn’t everywhere. But  I cannot help but be drawn to this place that is 9,406 km away. And the recent mini-series of TV shows by BBC 4 made me pine for it even more.

samurai sword
They make the curve how?!!

I think in the age of the ‘self’, the individual, me, me, me; we might learn a thing or two from the Japanese.

Sayonara

 

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p054qbtb

https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/may/26/what-is-safest-city-in-the-world-crime-immigration-tokyo-amsterdam-new-york-bogota

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/01/06/national/media-national/even-gangsters-live-in-fear-of-japans-gun-laws/#.WXHYDxXyvIU

https://www.insidejapantours.com/blog/2012/03/12/10-reasons-why-japan-is-so-great/

http://www.thecoolist.com/japanese-anime-for-everyone/

http://www.rmc.edu/docs/default-source/asian-studies/the-opening-closing-and-re-opening-of-japan-japanese-foreign-relations-before-during-and-after-the-tokugawa-shogunate-%281600-1868%29-%28pdf%29.pdf?sfvrsn=0

http://www.slate.com/blogs/quora/2013/12/31/japan_s_19th_century_modernization_why_did_the_country_end_its_isolation.html