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Sararara

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Not as interesting as it sounds

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 30-06-20

Rather a slog but it is interesting to see how PD James inspired Susan Hill’s Simon Serrailler books.
Here our copper is into poetry rather than sketching but the story has a similar emphasis on the people rather than the investigation, with life viewed through a nonchalant upper middle class lens.
This is a slight tale, set in a private museum, which focuses more on the lives of the characters than on weaving an intricate plot.
Far too much extraneous detail and not as interesting as the summary suggests, however the narration by Daniel Weyman is superb.

The story continues

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-06-20

Quite a strange thriller as it was solely concerned with the fallout from events in the first book, Secret Service.
There was enough backstory given to be able to follow what was going on however it was a bit like an extended epilogue.
Given the turn of events, here’s hoping the next book will be a completely fresh story involving some of the established characters (and less time dwelling on the agonies of insomnia).
Criticisms aside, I was glad to see there was more subtle blurring of fact/fiction with a brief mention of ITV News and a real life Trump incident but sadly no appearance by Robert Peston this time.

1 person found this helpful

Confusing missed opportunity

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
2 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 26-05-20

It seems as if the author set out to weave together an apologia for Grandpa Philby’s spying with a contemporary thriller, however this interesting premise turned into a dull confusing muddle.
I’m all for a twisty tale and timely revelations but it’s as if whole passages from chapter 61 onwards were deliberately put in the wrong place to try and build narrative tension. It doesn’t work as the story just falls apart and stops making sense.
Oh and the ‘Greek’ accent was distractingly wafty, sometimes sounding as English as the other narrator.

Midsomer-on-Sea

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
2 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-05-20

When this series started it was a rather charming homage to its real life location but now it’s becoming a bit too ‘Midsomer’ as bodies pile up amidst quaint festivities.
The story focuses on another Whitstable landmark but it’s embellished beyond recognition which leaves me a little disappointed.
And despite a great assortment of potential villains and victims, it is difficult to picture the murders actually taking place. Disbelief definitely suspended.
At its heart the series has a strong central cast and a photogenic location but I miss the almost-reality of the earlier books.

A hint of Murakami

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 28-04-20

This a slight but charming tale, brimming with quiet Japanese restraint, magical realism and sweet sadness, however I kept wishing that it had been written by Haruki Murakami.
His work demonstrates how there is no room for hanging threads in a short story, and so the plot holes here (like the mysterious woman with a book, Hokkaido, and the ambient cafe temperature) should have been elegantly explained or excluded.
Hearing that this started off as a play makes sense as there is a lot of scene setting and stage direction, plus a fair amount of repetition, that really should have been tidied up in the final draft.
Clang dong. This is not Murakami as there is no cat despite the cover.

Skip this one

Overall
1 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
1 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-04-20

Sadly a rather weak instalment.
Until now, these little tales have been getting better and better. But this one was bad from the outset, then heaped cliche on top of snowbound cliche.
I love a country house style murder but a good mystery tale never relies on a last minute, un-guessable revelation.
Hammy unrealistic scenario, 2D cast of characters and way too many unnecessary Americanisms littering the text. One to miss.

Quietly bewitching

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-04-20

A slow burning eerie tale that deserves more of a fanfare. Everything about this story is understated: from dreamy, supernatural encounters and petty school bullying, to death, grief and daily life in the Highlands.
Where other books would have ramped up the drama, here there are measured responses and a quiet acceptance.
At times this is quite frustrating until you sink into the meandering story with its beautifully poetic turns of phrase.
The narration is faultless and helps lull you into a dreamlike state.
It’s quietly bewitching but if I have any criticism is that I would’ve liked more emphasis on Lauren coming of age, more focus on the ramshackle house, and clarity about the recurring smells. But it’s a great read.

1 person found this helpful

Underrated legal thriller

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 16-03-20

I do hope this isn’t the last instalment in this underrated series. Ongoing storylines came to a head alongside a fascinating insight into nefarious practices in Franco’s Spain.
However it’s the court scenes which make these books stand out, with real edge-of-the-seat drama delivered in crisp, understated cross examinations. They’re quite brilliant.
If anything I wish that Benson’s personal story had been simpler, and the resolution less contrived, as the eloquent legal battles were far more interesting.
And Daniel Weyman’s narration was pitch perfect throughout.

2 people found this helpful

Not as clever as it thinks it is

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
1 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-03-20

The idea of Fleabag x Dexter appealed so I really wanted to enjoy this book. But I didn’t.
I liked Rhiannon’s methodical approach to appearing normal but the book had a festering nastiness.
Firstly, the deliberately shocking start seemed to be there to weed out fey readers.
Persevering, there seemed to be a smug glee in being provocative but the language was a crass mimicry of Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
I finished it out of curiosity however it left a nasty taste and I wish I hadn’t bothered.
It’s possibly the only book that I wish I’d never started.

Bitesize treat

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-03-20

These short tales are the ideal palette cleanser between longer books.
The stories are getting more intricate and layered, so I no longer class them as a guilty pleasure. They’re much better than an episode of Midsomer. Cosy yes, twee and insipid no.
Couple of queries though: Sarah seems to have moved house and gained a dog. Did this happen in one of the full length novels?