Category Archives: Kendall Reviews Books

Behind Her Eyes – Sarah Pinborough (Kendall Review)

Sarah Pinborough is a critically acclaimed, award-winning, adult and YA author of over 20 novels. She is also a screenwriter who has written for the BBC and has several original television projects in development. Her latest adult novel, Behind Her Eyes (HarperCollins), is a Sunday Times best seller, promoted with a strong emphasis on a twist ending that promises to catch you out. #WTFthatending

 

You know when you first heard M. Night Shayamalan’s The Sixth Sense had a twist ending? It wasn’t really something you wanted to hear was it? Your viewing experience would be tainted, it would never be as the Director intended. Well, sadly for me, as well as finding out that the movie had a twist, I was even told, somewhat spitefully, what the twist was! I’ve never forgiven that person! I would never experience the  big reveal, as intended about Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis). I feel exactly the same about books, I wasn’t too keen on being told that Behind Her Eyes had a twist. But strong word of mouth, and the fact I have enjoyed some of the authors earlier work, I picked up the latest novel from Sarah Pinborough, knowing nothing but #WTFthatending. It was me against the author, was the story going to hold up to the hype of the ending? Would she be able to outfox me?

The story’s told from two perspectives, the first is Adele, the beautiful wife of David, a psychiatrist, who have moved to London for a fresh start. The second is Louise, a single mother who meets and kisses a man in a bar. She later discovers, to her horror, that the man will be her  boss in the new job she is about to start. Adele and Louise literally bump into each other one day and develop a friendship. They are so good for each other, this is the friend that Louise so desperately wanted since her marriage broke up. The problem is, Louise has continued her relationship with David, who it turns out is Adeles husband. In being friends with Adele she is now aware of problems in her marriage to David, problems that suggest David is not the man Louise thinks he is.

Saying much more will spoil the delights Sarah Pinborough has laid out for you. The writing is punchy, with short chapters that help towards the ‘just one more’ form of reading. I felt like I was on a hook, being  reeled in towards the books infamous twist, I was totally under Pinboroughs control, the books pacing was spot on. I’m delighted to say that knowing there was a twist didn’t detract from the story at all. In fact I was so engrossed in the story that the twist was almost forgotten due to what was developing on the page. As for the twist, I would be very surprised if anyone guessed the ending,  I thought I was very close at one point, but then Pinborough whipped the rug from under me, but I didn’t feel cheated, it was a proper ending, a fantastic conclusion to a wonderfully dark story of obsession. I was smiling like a lunatic as I closed the book, the ending did match up to the hype for me, Sarah Pinborough really should be applauded for that. Subtle clues litter  the book, but it’s only once finished, you can think back and reflect on how cunning Pinborough has been in creating this twisted story.

One of the best books I have read in a while.

Star Rating (out of 5): 5*****

I eagerly anticipate the next novel from Sarah Pinborough.

 

 

 

 

A few Clive Barker signatures.

As part of my ongoing obsession with all things horror/supernatural, it was inevitable that my path would cross with the mighty Clive Barker. In collecting his work, I have been lucky enough to pick up a few signed items and various rarities over the years.

Most of the personally signed items were given to me whilst I was helping out the then official Clive Barker fan club…Lost Souls

I was given the somewhat grand title of UK correspondent, but seeing as Clive had just relocated to the US my role was somewhat limited. (Just my luck). I was on standby for a while, waiting for a spot of on set reporting for the just announced TV version of Weaveworld, but sadly that didn’t come to anything.

Below is a small sample of my signed Barker collection…

    

  • The Books Of Blood

  • 1993 US Barnes And Noble

  • Beneath The Surface Of Clive Barker’s Abarat

  • 2011 Phil & Sarah Stokes

  • Everville

  • 1994 US Harper Collins First Edition

  • Sacrament

  • 1996 US Harper Collins First Edition

Incarnations

1995 US Harper Collins First Edition

Grimm Woods – D. Melhoff (Kendall Review)

I have been aware of US author D. Melhoff for some time now, with his debut adult novel Come Little Children being recommended to me on several occasions. So in typical fashion, it was his second novel I decided to read first. After all, who could resist a story that promised murder that drew on the ‘grisly, uncensored details of history’s most famous fairy tales‘?

“Every fairy tale has a dark side…”

A remote summer camp becomes a lurid crime scene when the bodies of two teenagers are found in a bloody, real-life rendering of a classic Grimm’s fairy tale. Trapped in the wilderness, the remaining counselors must follow a trail of dark children’s fables to outwit a psychopath and save the dwindling survivors before falling prey to their own gruesome endings.

Camp Crownheart, is a fairy tale themed summer camp for troubled children.  Counselors with a mixture of experience have arrived a day before the camp opens, to get to know each other and to understand how the camp works and it’s rules.  The introductions have this old school vibe, the counselors are all about 19 years old, there is the obvious mix of male, female, race and class. Their focus is more on the first night party with the promise of sex and drugs and not learning how to keep the next busload of kids safe. The men are obviously mostly looking for a good time, and it seems a lot of the girls are  thinking the same. Crownheart, in my mind’s eye is  looking and feeling like Friday The 13’s Camp Crystal, its in woodland, by a lake, you have a bunch of sexually active, drug taking, beer swilling teenagers,  you know murder is obviously on the agenda. I’m a huge fan of the 80’s slasher genre, so the stereo-typical characters in a familiar horror setting didn’t bother me at all. The writing is fast paced, with a style that initially keeps me interested, Melhoff had me in his pocket, I’m now sitting here waiting for the mayhem to start. With the story about to kick off in earnest, the author references something modern, I found that jarring. Hang on, I thought this was the 80’s! This was working perfectly as an homage, everything in my head was ready for ’85. Attitudes were rightly or wrongly different 30 years ago, now those somewhat sleazy comments made about the girls seemed wrong, the drug references move from the classic movie stoner to something darker, it was a shift in tone I didn’t appreciate.

I don’t want to spoil anything about this book, but again in classic 80’s slasher style, the first deaths are inexplicably dismissed,  the camp is kept open, as closing  would ‘hurt the hundreds of kids that are due to arrive’. The indifference to these deaths from all parties seems odd, it makes a large proportion of  the characters unlikable. As the book progresses and more deaths occur, characters are still acting oddly, with one lead still maintaining his workout routine, even though mayhem is going on around him. Finding themselves trapped in a building, conversations are occasionally  light and playful, almost flirtatious. When counselors of the opposite sex are alone together, you expect them to start ripping each others clothes off, there is an omnipresent air of sexual tension, which is bewildering as one such scene occurs in a room often tainted by the smell of rotting flesh! At one point, the announcement of the deaths of two counselors is made in such a flippant way, it’s hardly surprising no-one reacts! I was finding myself being pulled out of the story due to the unbelievable way some of these people were behaving.  This was not helped by a middle section that was incredibly tough to get through, a lot of people were running about, letting off fireworks, flirting, running into woods alone, avoiding death, working out, flirting, playing games, avoiding death, flirting and for two of the leads, they developed sleuthing skills to make Sherlock Holmes jealous! Add to that some annoyingly convenient plotting the transition to the last act was complete.

Had this book been set in the 80’s, it would have been an enjoyable novel with nods to classic horror tropes. Setting this book in modern times, I struggled to feel much for anyone. Behaviour that would have stood out as odd even in Friday The 13th stands out as baffling in 2016, the characters were all acting like exaggerated versions of their 80’s slasher counterparts. The premise for deaths based on the original Grimm fairy tales was a good one, but we mostly discover the aftermath and, for me, there is no suspense in that. When Melhoff actually has a victim trapped and is cranking up the tension it works, sadly there was not enough of this. It’s difficult to have an emotional response to the death of a character who’s only presence in the book was a couple of lines of text 50 pages earlier.

A flawed novel sadly, the main problem, setting aside, once you stop caring about the characters, especially the leads, then it’s never going to be a fairy tale ending.

Star Rating (out of 5): 2**

 

Grimm Woods is published by Bellwoods Publishing

The official D. Melhoff website is found here

Do you have any questions for Adam Nevill?

Coming soon to KendallReviews, a feature on award-winning UK horror writer, Adam Nevill.

With 10 successful books under his belt since 2004, Adam is positioning himself among the UK’s horror elite. His latest book, supernatural thriller, Under A Watchful Eye was released January 12th 2017 through Pan Macmillan.

As well as the feature, I hope to interview Adam in the near future about books, self publishing, movie adaptions, music, his future as well as that of horror.

Are there any questions you’d like to see answered in the interview? Please post your questions in the comments section below, I will then offer my favourites to Adam.

The official Adam Nevill website is found here

 

Clive Barker’s Books Of Blood, Volume 1. (Kendall Review)

In an ongoing series, I thought I would do a feature on some of my favourite short story collections.

I can think of no better place to start, than possibly the most famous set of short stories committed to paper…

Clive Barker’s Books Of Blood

Volume One

The Book Of Blood

65 Tollington Place is a haunted house. The room at the top of the house acts as a crossroads, a doorway between their world and ours. So what happens when a charlatan medium enters the house?

  • The Book Of Blood movie adaptation directed by John Harrison saw a 2008 release. It incorporates the last story from the Books Of Blood volume six, On Jerusalem Street (A Prologue).

The Midnight Meat Train

Brutal murders are happening on the late night New York City subway. Leon Kaufmann quite literally wakes in the middle of another killing spree. As the evening progresses he learns that there is a purpose for these murders, the City Fathers need meat!

  • The Midnight Meat Train movie adaptation directed by Ryuhei Kitmura saw a 2008 release.

  • In 1990, Titan Books published a Chuck Wagner and Fred Burke graphic novel adaptation, with illustrations from Denys Cowan and Michael Davis. (Can be found in the Titan Book release Tapping The Vein, Book 3).

The Yattering and Jack

A minor demon is under orders to drive Jack Polo insane, this comic tale shows the lengths he will go to succeed. Trouble is, Jack’s not cracking.

  • Barker adapted The Yattering And Jack into an episode of the horror anthology TV series Tales From The Darkside (Season 4 – 1987/88, episode 76; broadcast Nov 8, 1987) writing the screenplay.

  • In 1991, Eclipse Books published a Steve Niles graphic novel adaptation of The Yattering And Jack , with illustrations from John Bolton.

Pig Blood Blues

When former police officer Redman starts working at an incredibly strict borstal, he hears rumours of ghosts and of young offenders going missing. Redmans investigations show something is not quite right about Tetherdowne, and then he discovers the pig sty.

  • In 1989, Titan Books published a Chuck Wagner and Fred Burke graphic novel adaptation, with illustrations from Scott Hampton.(Can be found in the Titan Book release Tapping The Vein, Book 1).

Sex, Death And Starshine

Struggling theatre director, Leroy Townsonio is having an affair with his leading lady, Diane Duvall, who is a terrible actress. A mysterious man in a mask ,Mr Lichfield, tells Townsonio that his wife, Constantia, would make a better leading lady. To be fair, Townsonio is only keeping Duvall employed because of her publicity boosting association with a soap opera. The main issue with the mans suggestion is that Constantia is dead! So who will be the leading lady come opening night?

In The Hills, The Cities

Whilst travelling, Mick and Judd find themselves witnessing a ritual. Every ten years, two Eastern European cities, Populac and Podujevo, create giants by binding together the bodies of its citizens. Forty thousand people strapped together as tall as a skyscraper. This is not because the respective populations dislike its other, it’s a tradition. This decade, it’s going to end very differently!

  • In 1989, Titan Books published a Chuck Wagner and Fred Burke graphic novel adaptation, with illustrations from John Bolton.(Can be found in the Titan Book release Tapping The Vein, Book 2).

Kendall Reviews: Conclusion

As a whole, the Books Of Blood is an astounding release. Its stunning to think that this marks Barker’s debut. Volume 1 may not have my favourite stories in, but it sets the stall out perfectly for the next five volumes. Usually consisting of ordinary people in extraordinary situations, faced with occasional unblinking ferocity. The drama is often horrific, outlandishly so at time, but its not schlock. It’s written so beautifully, it flows off the page , it’s poetic. Stephen Kings tagline is understandably dug out every time a Barker review appears, ‘I have seen the future of horror…and his name is Clive Barker’. In the Books Of Blood there is so much more to Barker than just horror,  he is a genre blending genius, who  is a visionary and world-class story-teller

The official Clive Barker website can be found here