Book Review

Book Review : Strangers on the 16:02 by Priya Basil.

It’s a hot, crowded train. Helen Summers is on her way to see her sister Jill to tell her an awful secret. Another passenger, Kerm, is on his way back from his grandfather’s funeral.

They are strangers, jammed against each other in a crowded carriage. Noisy school kids fill the train – and three of them are about to cause a whole heap of trouble. In the chaos, Helen and Kerm are thrown together in a way they never expected.

Catching a train? Read Strangers on the 16:02 and you’ll never feel the same way about your fellow passengers again.

For the last few years I have eagerly awaited the announcement of the new set of Quick Reads titles, looking forward to whatever Doctor Who story was going to appear. I was disappointed therefore this year that there was no new Doctor Who title. I spotted a book by a friend’s favourite author though and when I went to buy a copy of it for him the cover to Strangers on the 16:02 caught my eye. I read the blurb on the back and was intrigued enough to buy a copy.

The story focuses on two characters, Helen who is on the way to tell her sister a dreadful secret and Kerm who is going home after his grandfather’s funeral. The book begins by concentrating on their individual stories, filling in a little of their history and explaining why they’re on the train. The incident happens that pulls the two characters together comes a fair way into the book, from this point the book moves to a rapid conclusion.

The Quick Reads structure means that the author has relatively little space to explore the characters, I felt that she did a good job of it – I felt I had a good idea about both Helen and Kerm by the end of the book. I liked Kerm in particular, the descriptions of him and his family were vivid and interesting.

I enjoyed reading the book and in general feel it worked well within the Quick Reads structure. My only disappointment was in how quick and sudden the conclusion came. I liked that the ending was designed to leave the reader thinking, for me it was just a little too rapidly pulled together, it felt quite abrupt.

This was the first book I’ve read by Priya Basil. Based on it I shall certainly be reading her other books.

Strangers on the 16:02 is published in paperback by Black Swan in the UK priced £1.99. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review · Reading Challenges

Book Review : Echoes from the Dead by Johan Theorin.

On the Swedish island of Öland, a little boy has gone missing.

It happened twenty years ago, and although his mother, Julia, and her family searched everywhere, no trace of him was ever found.

Until today, when his shoe arrives in the post. It has been sent to Julia’s father, a retired sea-captain still living on the island.

Soon, he and Julia are piecing together fragments of the past: fragments that point inexorably to Nils Kant, known to delight in the pain of others. But Nils Kant died during the 1960s. So who is the stranger seen wandering across the fields as darkness falls?

It soon becomes clear that someone wants to stop Julia’s search for the truth. And that he is much, much closer than she thinks. . .

I read Echoes from the Dead as my third book for The Great Transworld Crime Caper. I hadn’t heard of Johan Theorin before seeing the book on the list for the challenge, but the synopsis sounded intriguing and the fact that it won the CWA Best First Crime Novel in 2009 encouraged me to make it one of my picks.

The book is set on the Swedish island of Öland, Julia left after the disappearance of Jens, her son, twenty years ago but Gerlof, her father, has remained on the island. When he receives what he thinks is Jens’ shoe Julia returns and the two of them get involved in trying to solve the case. Whilst this is going on there is a secondary plot featuring Nils Kant, Gerlof’s main suspect. This tells the story of how a young boy grows up to become a man feared by the island, capable of murder.

I have to admit I didn’t really like many of the characters in the book. I found them hard to identify with and as a result didn’t really feel invested in their stories. Gerlof in particular infuriated me, his habit of keeping secrets made me want to shake him on a number of occasions. I did find Julia to be a well created character, and maybe if I was a parent I would have been able to identify with her more – I certainly saw similarities between her and a family member who lost a child.

I did really like the way the two story lines wove around one another. Nils’ storyline was probably more interesting, but I did find that I’d predicted virtually the whole last section of his story, along with the main story. As I’ve already said I didn’t find the characters easy to engage with and so I did at times find it hard to keep going with the book.

I’m really sad to have ended my challenge with a book I didn’t enjoy very much. I think it’s probably more to do with the fact that I wasn’t the right audience for the book than anything else.

Echoes of the Dead is published in paperback by Black Swan in the UK priced £7.99. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.