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The Jonah - James Herbert

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Author: James Herbert / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 13 September 2012 / Genre: Horror / Subcategory: Horror & Ghost Stories General / Publisher: Pan Macmillan / Title: The Jonah / ISBN 13: 9780330522663 / ISBN 10: 0330522663 / Alternative EAN: 9780330376211

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    2 Reviews
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      11.10.2007 17:27
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      A great thriller from the master of horror!

      I believe in Karma. Not in the sense that there is an all powerful thing that is judging you by our acts, but in the real sense that eventually good things happen to those that are nice, whilst bad things happen to those who are not. Imagine having this opinion if you had lived your entire life under the cloud of bad luck. You are so unlucky that people refuse to work with you. You are unable to keep a long-term partner because you worry that something bad will befall them. Welcome to the world of Detective Jim Kelso.

      Kelso is so unlucky at work that he has been given the nickname Jonah as no one will work with him. There have been an unusual amount of cock ups that have occurred in cases in which he was involved. Other police officers have died or been injured just because they were unfortunate enough to be partnered with him. It’s for this reason that Kelso now finds himself undercover, alone, in the back of beyond. He has been sent to investigate a mysterious case were an ordinary family seemed to have been given LSD. With an air base nearby the police can not afford for there to be a major drugs problem in the area. Can Kelso redeem himself by solving the case?

      James Herbert is known as one of the masters of horror and his various books have proven this to be true. However, like all the best authors, Herbert is able to write books that are not quite in his chosen genre, as ‘The Jonah’ proves. Rather than getting the straight horror book I was expecting I instead I was treated to a surprisingly good crime thriller that had elements of the supernatural that could as easily be explained as psychological. Kelso spends the entire book wondering if there is an actual curse that follows him. This is shown by a series of flashbacks that intersperse the contemporary drug case. Through his life people Kelso has known have died mysteriously. He can not be sure, but he thinks that he has seen a shadowy figure near the bodies.

      Although this may seem like horror, Herbert instead keeps the book going as a crime thriller. The bulk of the tale has nothing to do with ghoulies and instead has got to do with real evil – man. What the stigma of being a Jonah gives the character of Kelso is an interesting depth that makes him different from other police heroes. Kelso is a great character, completely flawed, but still a believer in justice. He is never sure if he is cursed, or if it’s nothing. Rather than drugs or alcohol, Kelso has an obsession with his past and depression. I really liked the interesting concept of a person battling with their own rationale.

      Written almost 30 years ago it would be easy for this book to feel extremely dated. If you are reading it intelligently you soon notice that the descriptions of fashions are off and that there is a limit in the amount of technology that is used. However, this book is less about the techniques of catching criminals and more about the different relationships that an angry man has with the world. Through the book Kelso meets numerous people who all react to him and his reputation in different ways. The colleagues he believed that he could trust soon abandon him and when a new female police officer is made his partner things become even more interesting. Herbert tackles the burgeoning relationship between these two characters well as we explore whether Kelso can ignore his fears long enough to risk falling in love.

      The story itself can not quite live up to the central idea of the Jonah as it follows a straight narrative. There is a decent love interest alongside a well written crime thriller, but it lacks the scope of the core premise. The case is particularly good for the first two thirds of the book as we unravel whether there is a drugs issue or not. I had some misgivings about the concluding part of the book as it became a bit too actiony and like Jack Higgins. A softer more intelligent approach would have been more in keeping with the rest of the novel.

      When you sit down to read ‘The Jonah’ you may be upset that there are no overly horrific sections of gore like in many Herbert novels. This would be a shame as this is a 30 year old book that has managed to become a surprisingly non-dated thriller. I would recommend this book to fans of crime thrillers that are looking for something a little different from the numerous copycat books that are out there. I also feel that if long term Herbert fans give it a chance they to will come to like what is an above average thriller.

      Author: James Herbert
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      04.02.2001 18:40
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      Brilliant, another one of his best. This is definitely one of his better works as far as I’m concerned, its not as gory as something like the Rats but the story easily makes up for that. Herbert manages to get a very good thriller integrated into his normal scary material. The story itself revolves around a central character called Kelso and the way in which his life has been blighted by unbelievable bad luck or unexplained incidents. It has got that bad that following the death of a policeman in an incident that Kelso could have avoided his colleagues decide that they no longer want him working with him because he’s regarded as a jinx, a Jonah ! Following an unusual incident in an isolated fishing port his superiors see a chance to get him off the scene and he is subsequently transferred to undercover duties to investigate if there is something untoward happening. Whilst there he is disturbed to find the drugs agency want one of their own involved and send a pretty girl to help him. There then follows the obvious falling for each other, the obvious sex scenes, the obvious capturing by the baddies and then the not so obvious ending. Excuse my apparent sarcasm above, its certainly not meant that way, in fact in between the obvious bits there is a very well told and entertaining story. In fact the story has got a very realistic feeling to it as anybody who has visited any small fishing ports will testify to. The setting is described perfectly and you can almost smell the salty/fishy atmosphere, not to mention the way you can almost picture the local characters Kelso comes across. As I said above the ending is not obvious at all and is made even better by the way Herbert describes all the incidents and links them together. I wont spoil it by saying exactly what happens but it is quite an exciting finale which will keep you glued to the pages.

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