Saturday, March 14, 2015

"Poppet" by Mo Hayder

A.J. LeGrande is the senior nurse at the Beechway High Secure Unit, which houses mentally ill patients. There have been power cuts that have coincided with the deaths of patients. Staff are frequently calling in sick. Patients and staff alike fear the legend of "The Maude", the ghost of a dwarf nurse who sits on their chests. He must figure out who or what is really behind these sightings, and ultimately calls upon Detective Inspector Jack Caffery to help investigate.

Holy heck, what a pile of absolute shit this is.

I have no idea why I keep persisting with Mo Hayder's work. "Birdman" was impressive, and "The Treatment" remains one of the best, most terrifying thrillers I have ever read. I really should have stopped after the dreadful "Hanging Hill", but just couldn't seem to help myself. I keep thinking of how good "The Treatment" was and wonder if she'll magically deliver a good thriller again.


I read "Gone" and this back-to-back, and what a dreary task it was. The Jack Caffery series has become nothing more than a soap opera involving the case of Misty Kitson. She was killed by Flea Marley's brother way back in "Ritual" when he ran into her while driving Flea's car. Flea covered the whole thing up. Jack knows what Flea did and has reopened the case of the disappearance in the hopes she'll come to her senses and help him close the case. He also has unresolved feelings for her.

I have to confess I don't know why Flea keeps roadblocking him, because frankly I just completely skipped any chapter that featured the stupid bitch. This absolutely fucking stupid Misty Kitson subplot has been going on for FOUR BOOKS NOW. It's waaaaaaaaaay past time to drop it.

The plot surrounding this, involving The Maude, is dead in the water. Despite being set in a mental institution, Hayder is completely unable to generate a sense of unease or creepiness, which you would think would be pretty fucking easy when IT'S A MENTAL HOSPITAL. There are no real twists and turns, with the focus mostly on the developing relationship between A.J. and the unit director Melanie Arrow. Because every other chapter jumps back into the completely pointless Misty Kitson case, it doesn't leave time to build many characters, so it's pretty obvious who the culprit is.

Because I read the two books back to back, I was able to pick up a big inconsistency - in "Gone", Jack is 38. "Poppet" is set nine months later, and he's suddenly 42.

And what was up with all the bloody dream sequences? They're endless.

I really hated this book. I'm both amazed and ashamed that I finished it. It is plotless, aimless, boring and stupid. And the worst thing is, I'll probably end up reading "Wolf", the next one, since it's only $7 on Amazon Kindle.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Point Horror relaunch already dead?

Back in 2013, I was quite excited by the announcement that there would be a new generation of Point Horror titles released. Point Horror basically got me reading when I was primary school and high school. I've got a very heavy Nostalgia Fondness for them. I have collected just about every teen horror book from 1986 to 1996, so I like to consider myself something of an expert on the genre, even if I still have over 100 (!) I haven't read yet. (Seriously, the publishing companies really churned them out. I'm still conducting internet searches for any that may have possibly slipped through the cracks).

So yes, the Point Horror relaunch had me bouncing off the walls as if I was 12 again. (I'm now 35). The titles published would be:

"Identity Theft" by Anna Davies
"Followers" by Anna Davies
"Wickedpedia" by Chris Van Etten
"Defriended" by Ruth Baron

As it turned out, they were all riffs on current popular technologies. Ironically, this will date them even more than the 80s and 90s entries.

The problems were quickly apparent. Once you read the actual book (or e-book), you discovered that half the events described in the book description were not actually in the book! Did the publishers write the plot summary before the writer wrote the book? Seriously bad publicity there. The "Wickedpedia" description even got one of the main character's names wrong!

The first one I read was "Identity Theft". It was shit. My review is on this blog. The next one I read was "Followers". It was shit. Possibly worse than "Identity Theft". If Point Horror is indeed dead in the water again, much of the blame should go to Anna Davies, who is a terrible writer.

"Wickedpedia" was quite decent, but with the usual problems - villain is ridiculously easy to figure out, main character spends inordinate amount of time pining over a girl who's clearly not worth it, etc. But it did manage to capture just a little of the spirit of the original thrillers. I haven't read "Defriended" yet.

The other problem - for me personally - was the use of first person in all three that I read. First person was used in the Point Horror titles occasionally, but third person was the norm. I think this reflects the style that is used in young adult fiction nowadays. They're all first person. And usually dystopian.

The first couple of books in the relaunch came in 2013. The next two came in 2014. I haven't seen any signs of more to come in 2015. So is Point Horror dead again? Thanks, Anna Davies.

Fear Street has also been relaunched! But if the inane and simplistic "Party Games" is anything to go by, I don't see that lasting very long either. Sigh. I'll wait until I read "Don't Stay Up Late" before I make any final assessments.

Most annoying genre tropes - secondary cop characters On The Case

And another one.

This doesn't apply to your typical police procedural. Those ones are all about the police characters investigating the crimes. And are usually really boring.

This applies to a thriller in which the detectives/police are not the central characters, and much of the action is happening to another main character. That main character is telling us, the reader, everything that is going on - what happened in the past, why it's happening, what might happen in the future. They're usually aware of some/most of the events surrounding the murder/crime and their relation to it. We primarily follow them as they try to solve it, or find a way out of their predicament.

However, we'll also get the odd chapter from the police officer/detective investigating the same murder/crime. They'll find clues, and they'll share theories with co-workers about what they think has happened.

The problem is, the reader already knows. The main character has already told us. But we still get pages and pages of the secondary cops On The Case chasing around clues and delivering theories. I suppose it's to get us to understand how they arrive at the right conclusion and help to save the day, but it's basically just repetition to bolster the word count.

This happens ALL THE TIME in Lisa Gardner's books. She may be one of my favourite writers, but sheesh! The books are always divided between a main (usually) female character caught up in a terrible situation, and the (usually) female detective investigating the terrible situation. In the past, the detective has usually been D.D. Warren. She is always five steps behind the other main character in figuring out what is going on. Why do I need D.D. Warren telling me what she thinks is going on, when the main character has already told me what is actually going on?

Lisa Gardner's lastest - "Crash And Burn" - thankfully managed to subvert this trope by having the main character not even really know who she was. So we, the reader, were as much in the dark as everybody else was. Unfortunately, it was one of her weaker efforts. The first 40% was literally just an investigation into a motor vehicle accident. A bit too much Research On The Page there.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Most annoying genre trope - the person who discovers a dead body

What's the most annoying crime/thriller/mystery/romance/suspense trope?

It's hard to make a list, but I thought I would list one of my pet peeves. For me, it's the entire chapter devoted to the life of a character who happens to discover a dead body that our main character (cop, medical examiner, etc) is eventually tasked with solving their murder.

9 times out of 10, they discover the body, have an interview with the police, and are never heard from again. Except we get a whole chapter about what's happening in their life, how they feel about their current circumstances, and all sorts of other information about them that is completely useless - because they disappear from the rest of the book! Why is this being included? It's not necessary! I suspect the big reason is to boost the word count. Secondly, the author may want the reader to think that this character will become important later on down the road. But, as I've said, 90% of the time this is not the case, and we're left with 15-20 pages that contribute nothing to the plot.

I see it in nearly every crime book I read and it drives me nuts.