Monday, 29 June 2015
The Abrupt Physics of Dying isn't the sort of book I'd be drawn to if I saw it in a bookshop so when I received my copy from new publishers Orenda Books it took me a little while to start reading it. However, when I finally did pick it up I was reminded yet again not to judge a book by its cover!
There is no gradual building of tension in this story, the reader is immediately thrust into a nail biting thriller as the main protagonist, a South African former soldier called Claymore Straker has been kidnapped by Islamic terrorists along with his driver, Abdulkader in Yemen. Straker now works as an engineer for an oil company who unsurprisingly have some dodgy morals. Until now Straker while unaware of the worst excesses of the company he works for, has been complicit in their shady dealings and has been responsible for offering dozens of bribes to local officials to facilitate business. However, what is first a reluctant investigation into the sickness afflicting the village of Al Urush, carried out at the behest of his kidnapper in return for Abdulkader's life eventually becomes something more personal, a desperate race to expose the truth and to stay alive.
The Abrupt Physics of Dying has been described as an eco thriller as it exposes the dark side of the oil business where money is all and children poisoned by polluted water are seen as acceptable collateral damage in the quest for wealth and power. What I thought was going to be a forgettable page turner actually turned out to be something far more thoughtful, both on a wider scale and at a more personal level as the story examines the dehumanising effect of conflict on Straker. The writing is beautifully descriptive, Yemen is vividly and evocatively brought to life yet alongside this the action is often unflinchingly and brutally violent. It's not without its flaws, as seems typical with this sort of thriller it did at times seem as if Straker had almost super powers, such was his ability to keep going despite suffering horrific injuries. And despite my praise for the descriptive language I did occasionally feel it became a little too wordy, it's a long book that perhaps could have been a little shorter without losing any of the thrust of the story.
However, despite these small reservations it was a book I enjoyed very much, an intelligent and contemporary thriller with plenty of twists, Straker is an interesting character with much potential for future books and his love interest, a journalist called Rania is strong and likable and importantly more than just window dressing, I suspect there is more to be revealed when it comes to her character. The front cover compares the book to Bond and Bourne and I can easily imagine it as a movie, I believe it would transfer well to the big screen. I look forward to the next instalment having learned my lesson!
Thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for my copy sent in return for my honest review.
Friday, 12 June 2015
You know how sometimes you come across a book you fall in love with? Then you search out previous works by the writer, devour them and are then left to tap your fingers waiting for their next book to be released? After reading The Many Lives of Samuel Beauchamp (one of my best books of 2013), Michael Siemsen became one of those writers for me and so I've been impatiently anticipating the publication of Return, the third book in his Matt Turner series.
For those not yet acquainted with Turner, he is a highly sensitive psychometrist; he has the ability to discover facts about people or events by touching inanimate objects.
As with the previous two books, Turner's talent is in demand and he is sent a request to read historical objects in order to find out what has been kept secret. Naturally the person wanting his help isn't asking for altruistic reasons and Turner's involvement is likely to put him in danger. The Matt Turner we meet in Return however, is very different from the man first introduced in The Dig and then follow again in The Opal. He has matured, has come to terms with his extraordinary gift and learned more about controlling it. This story alone is an exciting and often tense thriller but what really sets the book and indeed series apart is that we are treated to a second story, as we learn about the imprints Matt reads from the object. In this case he has a keystone from the Great Library of Alexandria and so we also follow the exploits of Patra, a female steward desperate to protect the scrolls held in the Library knowing an invasion from Rome presents a terrible danger to the citizens of Alexandria and the wealth of knowledge held there. What could be confusing works perfectly, the story switches from present to past and across the continents but the pace never lets up and any slight disappointment as the action moves away from a particularly tense moment soon dissipates as the reader is caught up in the next stage of the story.
There is always a worry when you love an author's books that this one will be the one you don't love. Happily this is not true for Return, it's an intelligent and exciting adventure that not only kept me turning the pages but also inspired me to read more about Ancient Egypt and some of the events and people portrayed in the book. If you haven't yet discovered Michael Siemsen and Matt Turner then I recommend you start with The Dig but rest assured Return is a treat to look forward to.
Meanwhile I'll be tapping my fingers again...!
Return is published by Fantome.