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==Synopsis of the book:==
Gus Tavender is an usual young lady. Her job involves being a photographer for the Devon Fire Brigade. This involves being called out at any time day or night to take pictures of various scenes. On one such call out she discovers a dead body in a hidden cupboard that the Brigade had missed. She is curious to know more about the man, how he got there and if he had been dead before the building was set alight. The day after this while filming on Dartmoor she meets an old but very aloof friend from College, Judith. The lady while still very glamorous is hardly friendly so Gus is very surprised when she calls her a few days later.
However she quickly finds Judith has a reason for contacting her and needs her help. Recently her elderly Aunt was found dead at the bottom of a quarry, in what appeared a tragic accident. Judith does not believe this and is frustrated by the Police's lack of action or interest in what she sees as murder. Gus is very sceptical until she sees some the old diaries and some unusual pictures she has taken. As it appears she was in fear of her life and talked about evil being all around her. Gus agrees as she has some time off due to her and nothing interesting to do to at least try and enquire. But surely the body in the cupboard and this old ladies fall can't be linked or can they?
==My thoughts on this novel:==
I have craved a good piece of crime fiction for quite some time, and sadly this was not a good one. Most stories I find get better and more interesting the longer you read but for me this got worse the longer I read. Indeed I don't know if it was just a poor attitude by me, but I even struggled to find the enthusiasm to complete it. I'm glad I did but it did not change my overall feeling that this was a disappointing piece of fiction.
For me there are reasons why I would never enjoy this story. The first being that this is the début novel by the author Caroline Benton and often in my opinion it takes a writer a few books to develop their style. The second reason is because it was her début novel I had never read anything by her. And again it usually takes me as a reader a while to get to grips, understand and enjoy a writer I am unfamiliar with. I would definitely say a combination of these two factors is key to the lack of interest I ultimately found within this story.
What attracted me initially to this book was quite simply the tittle of the book. I was interested in what the author meant by this as for many it could mean many things. The Second thing that grabbed me was the picture on the cover of a cross gravestone, that looked very traditional and with the title I wondered it gave the book and eerie fear and something that aroused my interest in it. Although having read the book now I am not convinced that the title or the picture are relevant to the story at all.
So I quickly flicked the book over in search of the summary of the story. To my surprise the back cover was empty, which for me is both good and bad. Good in the sense that there was no praise for the author's work in general. As at the time I did not know this was Caroline's début book. But bad because it seemed a wasted space to have a blank rear to the book. I eventually found the summary on this inside cover and this for me was very impressive. It was huge!! A good four paragraphs and it was full of an excellent outline to the story that really made me want to read it. In hindsight it may have been the best thing about the book.
When I started the story again I was impressed. I very quickly learnt about Gus and her work and I liked the way the story was being told. Although I wasn't sure how interested I was in the hidden and charred body hidden in the cupboard. Certainly Gus maybe because she found the body was far more interested in it than I was. So I was quite pleased when she met Judith and for me the mystery of the old Ladies death began.
At this point I was enjoying the story and style the author employed. It was easy to read and I liked a lot of the ideas the author created. Although at this point I did wonder why we had had Gus finding the dead body as it seemed totally unrelated. The only thing at the time I could think of was it was background to her life and showed what type of thing she had to deal with on a very bad day. I liked the ideas to Gus helping Judith and I really approved of what she had to do to help her.
However that was as good as it got for me, as halfway through the story I started to lose interest in the story. For me the author for a long time ran out of ideas and the story meandered along. I found during this lean spell I was bored by the story and it was a real struggle to find any interest in it. Indeed I found I needed to re-read some sections as I found I would read a few pages and I could not remember anything that I had just read. I was even getting confused for the first time who where certain characters in the story and what their relationship was to the plot.
The main thing that kept me going during this section and one of the key features of the book was its setting. It was based in the West Country and a lot of the story was on Dartmoor. The author provided many very good descriptions of the landscape and made the reader feel they were there because of these. Upon investigation and it does not surprise me that Caroline Benton has spent much of her life in this region and from her descriptions it is clearly an area she loves.
I stuck with and against all odds I found the ending of the book was much much better. It was exciting which I haven't found it for a long time and full of suspense. It was a good ending and I found myself enjoying it once again. And while it didn't make up for the boredom I had felt with the book for so long it at least left we with a better feeling about it. Added to which it had not been the conclusion I expected and it seemed well thought out.
For me there was plenty of mystery about the story. The author had various different plots to the story and I wondered if these could be linked and why given that they appeared so different. The main mystery was why Judith's Aunt had been killed and surprisingly there were plenty of suspects for this. The mystery like the suspense was always there but I did struggle with it when half way through the story it all went flat for me, only to be briefly recovered at the end of the story.
The leading character was Gus Tavender who I found a different kind of hero. Yes there was a lot to admire about her and how she went about solving the challenges within the story. Yes you could argue coincidently meetings played too higher role within the story. But in general I liked her even though she seemed to have all the single men she came into contact with eating out of her hand. For me she was easy to relate to because her heart was in the right place and she had problems that made her seem like a normal everyday person. And while I liked the way she was described I struggled to remember too much about the other characters within the story.
In my opinion the book was far longer than it needed to be. As I felt about halfway through the story went very flat. At this point the author could have brought the exciting conclusion to the story. However this would have knocked off between 100 and 150 pages and then the story would have been painfully short. For me the author shows promise and I may read another book she writes as I do like the leading character she has created. It's just the long period in the middle of the story when I felt it was dull and boring she needs to work on.
This is not a crime story I can recommend. While I liked Gus the leading character in the story, I found the story became very dull half way through. Which was in stark contrast with the excellent concepts the story had originally. It just seemed to me that halfways through the author ran out of stream and as a result my interest in it wained, right up until the exciting finish. However I do not feel this made up for all the dull sections that really made me want to give up on the book.
Year first published: 2006
Thanks for reading my review.
This review is published on both Ciao and Dooyoo under my user name.
© CPTDANIELS November 2011