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Five Stars

Review - A Room With No Natural Light by Douglas Lindsay

It’s a long, hot summer in the south of England and Pitt’s small vineyard is in crisis. The bank’s chasing debts and government inspectors are snooping around. Yet Pitt is drawn further and further into Yuan Ju’s dark and disturbing world. How far is he prepared to go to help her?

Pitt’s wife looks on, nervous and insecure, impotent with fear, while her mother watches everything, biding her time. She will be not fearful, but vengeful.

And walking through the vines in near silence, Pitt must address the most perplexing question of all. Where are the birds? Just a few dead at first, but soon the skies are empty.

In A Room With No Natural Light Lindsay succeeds again in creating a world and characters that are just off centre. The characters are full of angst and fascinating as a result. There’s Pitt, a man seemingly devoid of emotion, but singular in his focus, Yuan Ju who never says a word but communicates in volumes to Pitt, Daisy who’s Pitt’s wife and you’d think the worst woman in the world but she pales into insignificance next to her mother (simply called Mrs Cromwell). Last but not least is Hardyman, Pitt’s only friend and confidante, a polar opposite and interesting foil.

The setting is unusual – a vineyard steadily losing money and where birds suddenly start falling out of the trees, dead. But beneath it all Lindsay draws on an all too familiar set of sad tales of exploitation and loss which Pitt cuts through to make life better for himself.

Nobody writes quite like Douglas Lindsay and here he proves it yet again.

Originally reviewed for Books & Pals.

Rating: Five Stars

 

Review - The Point by Gerard Brennan

Paul Morgan, small time crook, crosses crime boss Mad Mickey one time too many. He’s given a week to get out of Belfast or suffer the consequences. Deciding it’s wisest to start again, Paul drags his brother Brian along to a backwater called Warrenpoint (which gives the story it’s title).

But before he departs forever, Paul steals and burns a van belonging to Mickey who can’t ignore the insult. As the brothers settle into their new life, Brian going straight, Paul finding new and increasingly serious ways to break the law, Mickey hunts them down.

I devoured this offering from Gerard Brennan. The style is pacy, direct and hard as nails. There’s an underlying sense of humour throughout that doesn’t sensationalise the criminal acts that come thick and fast.

The characters are excellently drawn, the dialogue snappy and the setting bleak. The Morgans are similar, yet different. Paul is totally incapable of changing his ways. He knows he’s in trouble from pretty much the first page, but he can’t help himself, despite the consequences this has for his brother. Brian, deep down, doesn’t particularly enjoy the seedier side of life, recognizing the consequences of his actions where Paul does not. For example he apologises to a girl the pair had scared during a robbery by putting a postcard through her door, pretending to be from the IRA and a case of mistaken identity. Misguided but actually amusing in the fashion it’s written.

Paul relishes the move to The Point where he meets another strong and defining character, Rachel O’Hare. When we first meet her, she’s exacting revenge in a rather painful manner on an imminently ex-boyfriend. Then we learn she’s receiving counseling for assaulting a fourteen year old boy who’d tried to rob her at knife point. This girl doesn’t mess around.

Unfortunately, Paul’s continued bad behavior attracts the attention of Mad Mickey’s men, forcing the trio to make a decision – stay and fight or run and start again. The resulting ending was masterful and quite a surprise.

An example of the no-nonsense prose, when the boys are out committing the burglary.

”So which one?” Brian asked.

“This one.” Paul stopped dead in his tracks and turned to his right. He walked up to the front door of number 45 and grabbed the knocker. Then he pummeled the door as if it had spilled his pint.

An excellent story cleverly told by a masterful writer.

Originally reviewed for Books & Pals blog.

Rating: Five Stars