This debut novel by Jane Goldman (Jonathan Ross' wife for anyone who's interested, not that it should make any difference in your enjoyment of this story) is a gripping but ultimately shallow read.
The story is set in a Florida theme park called Dreamworld which is similar to the Disney parks. The main character is Sylvia Avery, a female park detective who is sent to investigate the death of two employees in an apparent murder-suicide. A further death in the Orlando area occurs shortly after and Avery soon ends up discovering more than she bargained for.
The book starts fairly slowly but soon gathers pace and there are some really excellent plot twists. Parts of the story are full of nail-biting suspense and you can't wait to find out what will happen, but even the least exciting parts are fast-paced and push the story forward at a rate of knots.
Whilst the main twist in the story was fairly predictable, for most of the book the reader is kept guessing as the truth is revealed bit by bit. I did feel that the motives of the villain were set up to be really elaborate but ultimately ended up being disappointingly simplistic.
The character of Sylvia Avery is complex but likeable and the supporting characters are all interesting. I did feel, however, that more could be made of the hints of painful events in Avery's childhood. It felt like the author had dropped these in with the intention of making them into a bigger part of the story but then decided against it, in a similar way to her treatment of the motives of the villain.
I especially enjoyed the descriptions of the inner workings of the theme park which seemed well researched. Throughout Avery's investigation she is charged with keeping the crimes secret so as not to disturb the family-friendly image of Dreamworld. I haven't ever visited any of the Disney theme parks but have always, perhaps irrationally, been slightly suspicious of them so this element of the story caught my interest.
This is an exciting and totally gripping book and I really enjoyed reading it. However, I felt it could have been improved if the author had done more to flesh out her heroine and villain in the manner she perhaps originally intended.
Have you ever felt that behind the fun, smiles and glitz of a theme park, something more sinister may lie?
Dreamworld is a fictional theme park in Florida, and the scene of a grisly double murder. The parks favourite mascot, Kit-E-Cat is discovered, with it's unfortunate human wearer, Lisa Schaffer, stabbed to death underneath. Along side her lies a man presumed to be her boyfriend.
Sylia Avery, or just Avery to her friends, is part of the security team. Loyal and devoted to Dreamworld, a place that holds her one happy childhood memory and now her home with colleagues replacing her family, she is called upon to investigate the murder, and insure that the news doesn't get out. This is one attraction Dreamworld don't want the public knowing about.
However, as Avery's investigations turn up some worrying secrets about the top secret research complex where new techniques into virtual entertainment are explored, she becomes disillusioned. There's something more sinister ensuring that Dreamworld is the happy, family place where you leave your troubles at the door. And some people will stop at nothing to ensure that it stays that way, that Dreamworld are the pioneers in virtual reality entertainment and that it's reputation remains untarnished.
Who exactly was Lisa Schaffer and what did she know?
I came about this book after joining book swapping website ReadItSwapIt. As a new member I was keen as mustard to complete as many swaps as I could, and often when a request was made for one of my books, I would accept a book from the other persons list pretty much for the sake of it, rather than it being something I actually wanted to read.
However opening the book, I was immediately dragged in. The book starts with the actual murder of Lisa, while she is dressed as the park mascot, behind a ride called the 'Global Village Cruise' complete with it's own highly irritating sickly sweet tune. I immediately could see 'Small world' at Disney, infact there's little doubt that Dreamworld is based on Disneyworld, and I have found Disney Parks to be quite sinister places at times especially the afore mentioned Small World, with it's millions of dancing dolls and nauseating song! So from the beginning the scene was set for me, and was wrote in such a descriptive way I instantly could relate to the sights, sounds and feelings of the place.
Avery at first is slightly annoying. An absolute jobsworth, and also sleeping with the Chief exec's blue eyed boy, head of Dreamworlds Technicians Hayes Ober. She's obviously smitten with him, and willing to do whatever he wants to begin. A bit of Avery's history tells us why she's so devoted to Dreamworld. Hayes is manipulative but does seem to care for Avery. She does come into her own very quickly and proves that she isn't so naive and isn't prepared to cover up against her own principles. She becomes very likeable, gutsy and independent whilst gaining the readers respect. Other characters are equally well developed, the trustworthy mentor Perdue, the mad scientist Daetwyler and the adorable new love interest, Clowe's. While all a little clichéd, they are believable (and all are addressed by their second name for some reason)
The author keeps the story running at a really fast pace, with lots of twists and turns. I found it to be really well written, that I could easily imagine the places, the characters and the sinister undertones. Always eager to find out more, the author keeps you guessing as to the true nature of the secret labs, and it's employee's work there.
However it's not all perfect. The ending is somewhat predictable. It's disappointing after all the hard work put in by the author to keep you guessing, she opts for an obvious and contrived ending that stretches the limits of believable.
This is quite a large book, bigger than an average paperback, and has 306 pages. However it's not a difficult book and I found I raced through it rather quickly and breath takingly.
Overall, I did really enjoy this book, quite surprisingly as it wasn't a book I really wanted to read. I think seasoned crime readers might find it lacking in detail at times, and may also find it predictable. I would say this book is targeted towards a young adult market, but definitely not children as sex, violence, drug taking and swearing do feature heavily within the book. I would recommend this as an easy read thriller, with all the right ingredients which is well written and a pretty good read. I'd also recommend it to anyone who has been to Disneyworld and come away with even the tiniest bit of cynicism.
Dreamworld By Jane Goldman
Published in 2000 by Harper Collins
RRP £9.99 Amazon £2.99 (Bargain!)