2 Mini Book Reviews: THE QUAKER and THE DEATH KNOCK

THE QUAKER - Liam McIlvanney
Published: June 2018 - HarperCollins.
Genres: Adult / thriller / contemporary
Pages: 400.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Adult themes / strong language / violence / sexual content / gruesome descriptions
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Jonathan Ball SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Glasgow, 1969. In the grip of the worst winter for years, the city is brought to its knees by a killer whose name fills the streets with fear: The Quaker. He’s taken his next victim — the third woman from the same nightclub — and dumped her in the street like rubbish. The police are left chasing a ghost, with no new leads and no hope of catching their prey. After six months, DI Duncan McCormack, a talented young detective from the Highlands, is ordered to join the investigation — with a view to shutting it down for good.
His arrival is met with anger from a group of officers on the brink of despair. Soon he learns just how difficult life can be for an outsider, for McCormack is an outcast in more ways than one. When another woman is found murdered in a tenement flat, it’s clear the case is by no means over. From ruined backstreets to the dark heart of Glasgow, McCormack follows a trail of secrets that will change the city — and his life — forever . . .

This book is superbly written with impeccable sentence rhythm. The author is a master. The dialogue crackles and races, the atmosphere is rich and haunting, and the setting is a character in itself - the smoky, grimy streets throb with macabre undertones, and the pubs and casinoes crawl with a dark energy.
I also love that this isn't a contemporary; I think the era is perfectly suited to the story, and it works with the crime so well.

The story is dark. Very dark. There are many gruesome descriptions, fleshing out horrific crimes and painting a terrifying image of a nefarious psychopath. The crimes are brutal, and the story's twisted. It's uncomfortable. It's also very clever
The plot is slow. I think that's my one major problem with the book overall. It isn't boring, but ideally with a thriller you want to feel the urgency, the tension as it builds, and you want to stay in the book's clutches for the one sitting you can't help but take to finish. But with this story, it isn't like that; yes, it's exceptionally well written, but it's not gripping until the very end. That disappointed me.

The characters leave something to be desired. I expected more relationship dynamics and tensions, considering that the premise says McCormack faces hostility in his new work environment, but I don't think the author taps deeply enough into that potential. The relationships aren't as strong as they could be, and neither are the characters. They're kinda half-done.

Despite some aspects letting me down, I'd highly recommend this smart, haunting thriller.

THE DEATH KNOCK - Elodie Harper.
Published: June 2018 - Mulholland Books.
Genres:  Adult / thriller / contemporary
Pages: 336.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Mild sexual innuendo / mild violence / strong language / adult themes
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Thank you so much to Jonathan Ball SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Three women have been found dead in East Anglia. The police deny a connection. TV news reporter Frankie smells a story... Ava knows that the threat is real. She's been kidnapped by someone claiming to be the killer: a stranger who seems to know everything about her. As Frankie follows the case, she enters a terrifying online world where men's rage against women may be turning murderous - and where her persistence might just make her a target.
And Ava must struggle not only to stay alive... but to stay sane.

This feels like a missed opportunity, and I hate to say it because the premise is so fascinating. Unfortunately, it disappointed me.

The writing is unexceptional. The leading ladies don't have much personality, and Ava, especially, simply tells her emotions, instead of showing us how she's feeling. The secondary characters are also easily forgettable, and I didn't feel connected to anyone.

But on the positive side, the book is incredibly unique. I love how the author's chosen to tell the story from the perspective of a journalist, instead of a detective, and it does make for some interesting insights. However, I think Frankie's role could've been been bigger and better executed. There're a lot of missed opportunities for great scenes and conflicts, yet the author plays it safe and rather mediocre.

It's not a bad story, but the execution is poor.

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