Audiobook Review: The Hidden by Melanie Golding

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

The Hidden by Melanie Golding

Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 5 of 5 stars

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Paranormal

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Dreamscape Media, LLC (November 9, 2021)

Length: 12 hrs and 13 mins

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Melanie Golding became an author to watch after her haunting debut Little Darlings kept me up for nights; it was so unnerving. The book was the exactly the type of mystery thriller I like to read—suspense laced with a touch of the paranormal, just enough to make you wonder. When I learned that her next novel The Hidden would also strike a similar kind of balance, I became very excited to read it, and I’m pleased to say it did not disappoint. In many ways, I might have liked it even more.

The story opens on an intriguing scene: it’s the middle of winter, on a cold dark night. A local shopkeeper at a small seaside town notices a little girl wandering around by herself and calls the authorities. Not long afterwards, a frantic woman arrives, claiming to be the child’s mother, saying that her daughter had run off on her while she wasn’t looking. Both police and social services watch on as the toddler embraces the relieved woman, looking genuinely happy to see her. Satisfied with the explanation, they decide to release the pair with just a stern warning. After all, it is a familiar enough situation—curious kids manage to get away from their distracted parents all the time.

Meanwhile, in a nearby town, DS Joanna Harper is none too pleased to be summoned to a bloody crime scene on Christmas Eve, though if she’s honest with herself, a part of her is somewhat glad for the distraction. Her personal life is a bit of a mess right now, and one way she deals with it is by throwing herself into her work, and this sure to be a case to keep her busy. A man was found in his flat lying in a bathtub bleeding out, but miraculously, he’s still alive, albeit in a deep coma. Interviewing the neighbors, Joanna finds out from one of them that there might have been a child living with the victim, even though records showed that the man lived alone. A search of the apartment turns up a few toys, however, confirming that suspicion, but then that leaves the question, where might that child be now?

The story then kind of switches tack, revealing a portion of it in flashback, going back several months to follow Ruby, a kind-hearted but naïve young woman who had just moved out to be on her own. She ends up at a quaint little apartment complex where she becomes drawn to a neighbor named Gregor who is handsome, charming, and perfect boyfriend-material—except for the fact that he still lives with his agoraphobic and mentally unstable ex and their young daughter. That’s too much baggage for Ruby, who decides to be just friends, helping Gregor care for his little girl Leonie and her mother Constance. As the weeks pass, Ruby begins to see what Gregor means. Constance seems to believe herself to be a kind of sea creature, claiming to be a part of a selkie clan, and that she can’t return to her home in the sea anymore because Gregor has her sealskin coat. Still, as crazy as it all sounds to Ruby, she can’t deny there are things that seem off about Gregor, and as she grows closer to Constance and Leonie, she also can’t help but notice the strange dynamic in the household, or the ever-present atmosphere of fear.

While the above might seem confusing or disjointed, I promise all of it will eventually make sense in the end. Admittedly, I was thrown off very early on by the flashbacks, finding it disorienting with the frequent transitions, but as the story progresses and the timelines eventually converge, following it became easier.

Also, I think it’s worth mentioning that this isn’t DC Joanna Harper’s appearance. If you’ve read Little Darlings, you might recall she was a major character, even though The Hidden doesn’t appear to be a traditional follow-up and neither does this feel like it’s shaping up to be a traditional kind of series. To be clear though, you absolutely do not have to read Little Darlings to pick up The Hidden, and quite honestly, I didn’t even make the connection with Joanna until about halfway through.

Still, I believe readers who enjoyed Little Darlings will appreciate on a deeper level this fantastic opportunity to get to know her on a more personal level as well as discover more about her home life. First, we find out early on that Joanna and Ruby are related, and in a most complicated manner. Though in truth they are mother and daughter, the two were raised as sisters since Joanna had Ruby as a young teen. Joanna’s mother, an alcoholic, made their lives growing up together very difficult, so that by the time The Hidden starts, the three women are barely speaking to each other.

Needless to say, even though the main story is a mystery, the side arcs exploring Joanna and Ruby’s relationship also gets a lot of attention, making this book a tale of family ties and hardships as well, delving into topics related to estrangement, alcoholism, emotional abuse, and mental illness. And you know what? I loved The Hidden all the more for it. As much as I enjoyed the thriller and mystery aspects, I thought the family themes gave the story much greater significance and richness.

If a thrill was what you came for though, do not fret—the final sections of the book will keep you on edge for sure. Thanks to Golding prose, which was just so tense and on point, I found my attention utterly riveted to the events playing out before me and could not stop tear myself away until the very last word.

A final shoutout also goes to the narrator of the audiobook, which I had the unbelievable pleasure and privilege to listen to. I’ve been an audiobook listener for years, and have heard incredible performances by many readers, but only a handful have ever blown me away the way Penelope Rawlins did. Many narrators read the lyrics or verses to songs in books, for example, but not Rawlins, who actually sang all the parts. And what a beautiful voice she has—clear, ringing, and haunting—bringing to life all the Celtic tunes and lullabies that were a big part of the story, and so meaningful as well because the character of Ruby is also a violinist, with music being a huge part of her life. Overall, Rawlins delivered a fantastic performance as a reader, with pitch-perfect accents and voices, making The Hidden one of the best audiobooks I’ve ever listened to.

Bookshelf Roundup: 11/13/21: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads

Bookshelf Roundup is a feature I do every weekend which fills the role of several blog memes, like Stacking the Shelves where I talk about the new books I’ve added to my library or received for review, as well as It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? where I summarize what I’ve finished reading in the last week and what I’m planning to read soon. Mostly it also serves as a recap post, so sometimes I’ll throw in stuff like reading challenge progress reports, book lists, and other random bookish thoughts or announcements.

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Received for Review

My thanks to the publishers and authors for the following review copies received, and be sure to click the links to their Goodreads pages for more details and full descriptions!

A huge thanks to Orbit Books for a couple surprises in my mailbox this week! First came this ARC of Engines of Empire by R.S. Ford, the first book of The Age of Uprising series. I’ve definitely got my eye on this one, so its arrival was definitely a welcome one. And then came this curious ARC without a final cover, which turned out to be The Justice of Kings by Richard Swan. Another one I’m interested in, so looks like my early 2022 will be packed with some exciting epic fantasy.

You might recall that a couple months ago I featured The Hawthorne School by Sylvie Perry on one of my Waiting on Wednesdays, so when I saw the audiobook for request at NetGalley, I just couldn’t resist. I love me a story with a creepy school setting and Gothic vibes! With thanks to Dreamscape Media for the listening copy.

And with thanks to HarperAudio for an ALC of Nanny Dearest by Flora Collins. I still very much find myself in the mood for thrillers these days, and was craving a bit of the domestic suspense variety. The synopsis to this one just caught my eye!

Reviews

These Silent Woods by Kimi Cunningham Grant (5 of 5 stars)
The Body Scout by Lincoln Michel (4 of 5 stars)
Hyde by Craig Russell (2 of 5 stars)

Roundup Highlights:

What I’ve Been Reading

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Have you heard of or read any of the books featured this week? What caught your eye? Any new discoveries? I hope you found something interesting for a future read!

#SciFiMonth Friday Face-Off: “Star” in the Title

Welcome to The Friday Face-Off, a weekly meme created by Books by Proxy! Each Friday, we will pit cover against cover while also taking the opportunity to showcase gorgeous artwork and feature some of our favorite book covers. If you want to join the fun, simply choose a book each Friday that fits that week’s predetermined theme, post and compare two or more different covers available for that book, then name your favorite. A list of future weeks’ themes are available at Lynn’s Book Blog.

This week’s theme is:

~ a cover of a book with “STAR” IN THE TITLE

The Stars Now Unclaimed by Drew Williams

The Stars Now Unclaimed is a book that wastes no time in dumping readers into a story embroiled in secrets, intrigue, and action. Jane, our protagonist who starts off unnamed until her purposes are revealed around halfway through the book, is an agent for the Justified, an organization dedicated to locating and retrieving gifted young people scattered throughout the galaxy. Years ago, when the mysterious Pulse happened, whole worlds were changed when they lost all their technology due to the radiation, but one of its side effects also caused children to be born with strange, incredible powers. The Justified believe that these special children are the key to fixing the damage caused by the Pulse, which is why Jane has been dispatched to a wild and untamed planet to find one of them now, a teenager named Esa. But almost immediately, Jane is ambushed by the Pax, an army of aggressive conquering zealots who were largely unaffected by the Pulse and believe that gives them the right to rule the entire galaxy. The retrieval job quickly devolves into a rescue mission as Jane desperately tries to get Esa off-world to some place safe, recruiting the help of some new and old allies, including her ship’s AI, a sentient robot named Preacher, a Justified information broker, as well as her roguish ex-lover Javi.

Let’s take a look at the covers:

From left to right:
Tor Books (2018) – Simon & Schuster UK (2018)

Simon & Schuster UK (2019) – German Edition (2020)

Winner:

It’s simplistic, but I just love the Simon & Schuster 2018 UK edition with its representation of the planets’ orbits, and in particular the delightful typeface they’ve chosen that goes so perfectly with art style. It wasn’t even close, that one’s my favorite this week.

But what do you think? Which one is your favorite?

Thriller Thursday Audio: These Silent Woods by Kimi Cunningham Grant

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

These Silent Woods by Kimi Cunningham Grant

Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 5 of 5 stars

Genre: Thriller, Mystery

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Macmillan Audio (November 16, 2021)

Length: 8 hrs and 22 mins

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Narrator: Bronson Pinchot

I challenge anyone to read These Silent Woods without falling to pieces. No, seriously, I was an emotional mess after this one, even with prior knowledge that this wasn’t going to your typical sensational thriller. For context though, this is a story about a man and his young daughter living in isolation in a cabin in the northern Appalachians. The father is secretive and careful about keeping to themselves, barely venturing out beyond their patch of forest, relying on a trusted source on the outside to bring them supplies. He’s even nervous about using his real name, going by the alias Cooper instead, while his little girl is given the nickname Finch.

Later, we discover that the two of them have been living like this for a while, ever since Finch was a baby. Out here in the remote wilderness though, with no running water, no electricity, and no contact with the outside world, how long can Cooper hope to keep raising his child under such conditions? Already, Finch has been asking difficult questions, and showing increasing defiance in the face of his strict rules. At eight years old, her precocious mind is craving knowledge as well as social interaction, and Cooper knows what he can provide is not enough, though neither can he bring himself to tell Finch the truth of why they must live this way or how they got here. He’s still haunted by those past events, and he’s afraid of slipping up even just a little bit, because it would mean losing his daughter forever.

Only two people in the world know they exist. One is a local hermit named Scotland whom Cooper barely trusts, but the old man seems amenable to keeping his secrets for now, and he is also kind to Finch. The other is Cooper’s old Army buddy Jake, who actually owns the property and had arranged for them to hide out in his cabin. Every winter, Jake is also the one who brings them their much-needed supplies before the snows set in. But this year, Jake misses his visit, making Cooper very worried for his friend as well as what he must now do to survive. He and his daughter will need food, making a trip into civilization all but unavoidable, and if that wasn’t bad enough, for days, Cooper has been noticing signs that their once safe haven has been breached. A trespasser has been in their woods, that much is clear, but what are their motivations? And how will Cooper keep Finch’s curiosity from putting them at risk?

Sometimes you go into a book with expectations, but then get something you weren’t prepared for, something that makes you think and feel in ways that surprise you. I love it when that happens, and These Silent Woods was that kind of novel. Yes, it’s a thriller, but calling it that feels inadequate and risks selling it short. It is also a family drama, a story about genuine characters just doing all they can to try and stay together and survive. Cooper is many things—a widower, a war veteran, a man in hiding—but above everything else he is a loving father who wants to do right by his daughter. He knows he’ll have to explain everything to her at some point, but he can’t quite bring himself to do it just yet because…well, it’s complicated.

And so, the plot gradually sheds its layers of secrets, revealing to readers, little by little, the events in Cooper’s life that have led him and Finch to this point. Along the way we are also treated to some pretty intense situations, like for instance, with their too-curious neighbor Scotland who always seems to be poking his nose into their business, and who may or may not have ulterior motives for keeping such a close eye on them. Then there are all the too-close encounters in town, where every friendly citizen stopping to engage in small talk with Cooper suddenly becomes a high-stress edge-of-your-seat scenario that threatens to expose him. All this tension culminates eventually in a moment of truth as an unexpected ally shows up at the cabin, and Finch spies a lone stranger with a camera taking pictures of the woods around where they live.

As for the rest, you’re going to have to find out for yourselves by picking up this book, because I’m not going to reveal anything more about the plot past this point except to say that the story just gets better and better. As for how my emotions got completely destroyed, well, that came later in the novel, in the climax and denouement sections of the ending, and all I can say about that is…wow. Just wow.

Needless to say, I highly recommend These Silent Woods by Kimi Cunningham Grant, and looks like I’m going to have to look into what else she’s written, because now I want to read more! I also want to praise the audiobook and give a shoutout to Bronson Pinchot, who did most of the narration. This isn’t the first audiobook I’ve heard him read, but by far it’s his most memorable performance and one of my favorites. He was absolutely perfect as Cooper, his voice conveying all the strength and emotional weight required for this beautiful tale to come alive.

#SciFiMonth Waiting on Wednesday 11/10/21

Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that first originated at Breaking the Spine but has since linked up with “Can’t Wait Wednesday” at Wishful Endings now that the original creator is unable to host it anymore. Either way, this fun feature is a chance to showcase the upcoming releases that we can’t wait to get our hands on!

Mogsy’s Pick

Rosebud by Paul Cornell (April 26, 2022 by Tor.com)

In honor of Sci-Fi Month, I’m featuring sci-fi picks for my Waiting on Wednesday posts for the whole of November! This week, the spotlight is on this upcoming novella by Paul Cornell. Sure, I may prefer longer novels, but this one had me at the locked-room premise. How can I resist that?

“A multilayered, locked-room science fiction novella from Paul Cornell in which five digital beings unravel their existences to discover the truth of their humanity.

“The crew of the Rosebud are, currently, and by force of law, a balloon, a goth with a swagger stick, some sort of science aristocrat possibly, a ball of hands, and a swarm of insects.”

When five sentient digital beings—condemned for over three hundred years to crew the small survey ship by the all-powerful Company—encounter a mysterious black sphere, their course of action is clear: obtain the object, inform the Company, earn lots of praise.

But the ship malfunctions, and the crew has no choice but to approach the sphere and survey it themselves. They have no idea that this object—and the transcendent truth hidden within—will change the fate of all existence, the Company, and themselves.”

#SciFiMonth Excerpt & US Giveaway: Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline

***The giveaway is now over, thank you to everyone who entered!***

As part of Sci-Fi Month, I’m excited to celebrate the highly anticipated paperback edition of Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline, which officially releases today with a gorgeous new cover! Back in 2011, the author’s debut Ready Player One took the world by storm with its depiction of virtual worlds and 80s nostalgia. Now in the sequel, protagonist Wade Watts returns with another action-packed adventure. The BiblioSanctum is pleased to be working with the publisher to feature an excerpt and giveaway for the book, so we hope you’ll check it out and also see the end of the post for more information on how you can win a copy!

Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline

An unexpected quest. Two worlds at stake. Are you ready?

Days after Oasis founder James Halliday’s contest, Wade Watts makes a discovery that changes everything.

Hidden within Halliday’s vault, waiting for his heir to find, lies a technological advancement that will once again change the world and make the Oasis a thousand times more wondrous, and addictive, than even Wade dreamed possible. With it comes a new riddle and a new quest. A last Easter egg from Halliday, hinting at a mysterious prize.

And an unexpected, impossibly powerful, and dangerous new rival awaits, one who will kill millions to get what he wants. Wade’s life and the future of the Oasis are again at stake, but this time the fate of humanity also hangs in the balance.

Excerpted from Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline. Copyright © 2020 by Ernest Cline. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Cutscene

After I won Halliday’s contest, I remained offline for nine straight days—­a new personal record.When I finally logged back in to my OASIS account, I was sitting in my new corner office on the top floor of the GSS skyscraper in downtown Columbus, Ohio, preparing to start my gig as one of the company’s new owners. The other three were still scattered across the globe: Shoto had flown back home to Japan to take over operations at GSS’s Hokkaido division. Aech was enjoying an extended vacation in Senegal, a country she’d dreamed of visiting her whole life, because her ancestors had come from there. And Samantha had flown back to Vancouver to pack up her belongings and say goodbye to her grandmother, Evelyn. She wasn’t due to arrive here in Columbus for another four days, which seemed like an eternity. I needed to distract myself until our reunion, so I decided to log back in to the OASIS and try out a few more of the superuser abilities my avatar now possessed.

I climbed into my brand-­new top-­of-­the-­line OASIS immersion rig, a Habashaw OIR-­9400, then put on my visor and haptic gloves and initiated the login sequence. My avatar reappeared where I’d last logged out, on the planet Chthonia, standing outside the gates of Castle Anorak. As I’d anticipated, there were thousands of other avatars already gathered there, all waiting patiently for me to make an appearance. According to the newsfeed headlines, some of them had been camped out there all week—­ever since I’d resurrected them in the aftermath of our epic battle against the Sixers.

In my first official act as one of GSS’s new owners, just a few hours after the fight ended, I’d authorized our admins to restore all the items, credits, and power levels those heroic users had lost, along with their avatars. I thought it was the least we could do to repay them for their help, and Samantha, Aech, and Shoto had agreed. It was the first decision we’d voted on as the company’s new co-­owners.

As soon as the avatars in my vicinity spotted me, they began to run in my direction, closing in on me from all sides at once. To avoid getting mobbed, I teleported inside the castle, into Anorak’s study—­a room in the highest tower that I alone could enter, thanks to the Robes of Anorak I now wore. The obsidian-­black garment endowed my avatar with the godlike powers Halliday’s own avatar had once possessed.

I glanced around the cluttered study. Here, just over a week ago, Anorak had declared me the winner of Halliday’s contest and changed my life forever.

My eyes fell upon the painting of a black dragon that hung on the wall. Beneath it stood an ornate crystal pedestal with a jewel-­encrusted chalice resting on top of it. And cradled within the chalice was the object I’d spent so many years searching for: Halliday’s silver Easter egg.

I walked over to admire it, and that was when I noticed something strange—­an inscription on the egg’s otherwise pristine surface. One that definitely hadn’t been there when I’d last seen it, nine days earlier.

No other avatars could enter this room. No one could’ve tampered with the egg. So there was only one way that inscription could’ve gotten there. Halliday himself must have programmed it to appear on the egg’s surface. It could have appeared right after Anorak gave me his robes, and I’d just been too distracted to notice.

I bent down to read the inscription: GSS—­13th Floor—­Vault #42–­8675309.

About the Author

Ernest Cline is a #1 New York Times bestselling novelist, screenwriter, father, and full-time geek. He is the author of the novels Ready Player One and Armada and co-screenwriter of the film adaptation of Ready Player One, directed by Steven Spielberg. His books have been published in over fifty countries and have spent more than 150 weeks on The New York Times bestsellers list. He lives in Austin, Texas, with his family, a time-traveling DeLorean, and a large collection of classic video games.

Ready Player Two Giveaway

And now it’s time for the giveaway! With thanks to Random House, we have three copies of the Ready Player Two paperbacks up for grabs. With apologies to our international readers, due to geographical restrictions, this giveaway is only available to addresses/residents in the US only.

As to how you can enter, this part’s super easy. All you have to do is fill out the form below with your name and email address. Winners will be randomly selected and noticed by email once the giveaway entry period ends in one week. All information will only be used for the purposes of contacting the winner and sending them their prize.

So what are you waiting for? Enter now for your chance to win! Good luck!

#SciFiMonth Review: The Body Scout by Lincoln Michel

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

The Body Scout by Lincoln Michel

Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Science Fiction, Mystery

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Orbit (September 21, 2021)

Length: 291 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

I’m always trying to read more cyberpunk, which can be a problem sometimes because the genre doesn’t always agree with me. Most of what we think of as more traditional cyberpunk tends to on the darker side and too bleak for my tastes, or the technological aspects might be far too complex and overwhelming for me to handle. So you can imagine what a pleasant surprise it was when I came across Lincoln Michel’s The Body Scout, and found a perfect balance of cyberpunk noir, futuristic sci-fi, and easy, wonderful readability.

As you’d expect, the world of The Body Scout is one where its citizens prize cybernetics and other body modifications, and the use of such enhancements has changed virtually every aspect of human life, including sports. Our protagonist Kobo is a talent scout for the professional baseball league, now controlled by the pharmaceutical companies, making his living traveling around the world recruiting new people for his bosses and hunting for the latest mods to improve performance. A former bionic athlete himself, Kobo used to play for the now defunct Cyber League but is now strapped with huge amounts of debt while trying to make ends meet in a cutthroat industry.

Meanwhile though, his best friend and adoptive brother Zunz is making a name for himself as a rising star playing professionally for the Monsanta Mets, and Kobo couldn’t be prouder and happier for him. But then one day, in the middle of a playoff game in front of millions watching, Zunz suddenly drops dead on the field. Everyone is calling it a tragic accident, pointing to either a mysterious illness or some other issue related to his mods. However, Kobo isn’t buying it. He suspects it may be murder, and the plot thickens as he is next hired by the owner of the Monsanto Mets to investigate Zunz’s death, with the promise of a large reward if he can somehow implicate the team’s rivals. Seizing this opportunity to seek answers to his own questions, Kobo begins his twisted journey into the dark and unforgiving world of sports and corporate politics where everyone has a stake.

First of all, I was pretty impressed that The Body Scout is a debut. This novel was very well put together, with intriguing characters and a compulsive storyline. The premise behind the mystery plot was established fairly early, which proved to be an excellent decision by the author as the bombshell of Zunz’s death pretty much set the tone and pace for the rest of the book, which was quick and punchy. Thing is, I couldn’t even give a crap about baseball, yet I was drawn completely into this story which says a lot about Michel’s writing. For one, it was fascinating the way cybernetics and enhancements were married into the world of sports, and I found all those ideas refreshing and unique in spite of their esoteric nature.

Plus, everyone knows I love a good whodunit. Of course, cyberpunk and crime noir often go hand in hand, but also it takes something special to create an engaging mystery, and The Body Scout has it. Nothing is what it seems, and as we follow Kobo into his strange and unfamiliar world, I was glad that the narrative kept us focused on the key elements while others may have been tempted to go offtrack exploring other facets of the world. God knows there were enough distractions with the near-future setting, the population’s obsession with the staggering variety of technological enhancements, or even all that potential material when it came to baseball. Oh yeah, and there were Neanderthals, which have been brought back through cloning. The point is though, Michel always brought the attention back to what was important—our protagonist’s motivation to find who killed his beloved friend and brother.

I think it was this point that brought something very personal and relatable to the mix. It’s something a lot of cyberpunk books lack, I find, which is this nice warm message about found families and powerful friendships. Sure, things didn’t ultimately turn out too well for our protagonist and his brother, but Kobo’s reactions went on to make him extremely sympathetic to me. Flashbacks to his childhood, brief as they were, of playing with Zunz in the bleak spaces beneath the flooded city of New York were some of my favorites because they somehow made the baseball star’s death even more egregious and horrifying. After all, someone had robbed that boy in his memories of his big dream, and Kobo isn’t going to rest until he finds out why. His long lists of flaws aside, I definitely liked him initially because of his devotion and tenacity, and eventually, it became more about the way the investigation changes him.

So, if you’re hankering for something cyberpunky that’s also accessible and won’t overwhelm you too much with bleakness and sci-fi lingo, look no further—The Body Scout is what you need. While I can see how the heavy focus on baseball might be off-putting to some, I think the story’s unique premise is what will come out on top, not to mention the plot moves so fast you probably won’t even notice. Overall, simply a brilliant and enjoyable debut from Lincoln Michel, with strong characterization and superb storytelling.

Audiobook Review: Hyde by Craig Russell

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

Hyde by Craig Russell

Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 2 of 5 stars

Genre: Horror, Mystery

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Random House Audio (September 28, 2021)

Length: 14 hrs and 12 min

Author Information: Website

Narrator: James Cosmo

It’s hard to say exactly why Hyde didn’t really work for me, though I did enjoy the author’s last novel The Devil Aspect and somehow I just didn’t feel this one held the same fascination or appeal.

Our story begins in Victorian Edinburgh where Captain Edward Henry Hyde holds the post of chief detective, and as such it is his job to uphold the law and lead the investigation into any serious crimes in the city. And so, when he wakes up one day at the scene of a grisly murder, he is immediately alarmed. For you see, Hyde suffers from a particularly worrying form of epilepsy that causes him to lose time. These amnesic occurrences can come on very suddenly, and every time he finally comes to, he can never remember anything that happened.

In this case, his awakening so near to the crime scene inevitably leads him to wonder whether he had any connection to the murder. To make things worse, the victim was killed in an especially brutal manner called the Threefold Death, linked to an ancient Celtic ritual involving the spirts and sacrifice. As the chief detective though, Hyde has no choice but to keep his condition and suspicions a secret, even as his investigation takes him to some dark places, both literally and figuratively.

First let me just say my issues with this novel are entirely subjective. Craig Russell is an excellent writer, as I found out with The Devil Aspect, and his prose was just as delectable here in Hyde, as was the overall style which was pure immersion and atmosphere. However, it was the story itself that failed to engage me. Due to the circumstances surrounding our protagonist, there was a disjointed feel to the plot that didn’t quite do it for me, not to mention the entire book felt simply too drawn out.

In some ways, I think my indifference might also have been the result of the author doing his job too well. Had my interest been greater in the time period or the ultra-gothic vibes, the book might have resonated with me more. An obvious example of this was the Hyde’s internal exposition detailing his thoughts, emotions and memories, which was heavy-handed to the point of driving all life from the writing. To a lesser extent, this over-telling was also happening with the dialogue, resulting in conversations that felt awkward and contrived.

Ultimately, it became very difficult to care about the story or the characters. This made reading Hyde a struggle for much of my time with it, and it didn’t help that the narrator for the audiobook had a relatively flat, droning kind of voice. Despite zoning out on the audiobook frequently, I also found I was missing very little because of how slowly the plot progressed. Credit where it’s due though, when all was revealed, the final resolution to the mystery was enjoyable, though probably not enough to make up for everything else. I wish we’d gotten more of the mythological side of things too, but instead the story decided to go in another direction. In hindsight, I can understand why, but in the end that did little to help spark my enthusiasm.

Bottom line: you win some, you lose some. I’d looked forward to Hyde ever since having such a great time with The Devil Aspect, so of course I’m heartbroken that this turned out to be a disappointment. My previous positive experience with Craig Russell makes me want to chalk this up to one of those “it’s not this book, it’s me” situations though, so your mileage may vary, and I’m probably going to keep checking out the author’s projects and hope that his next one will be more my speed.

Bookshelf Roundup: 11/06/21: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads

Bookshelf Roundup is a feature I do every weekend which fills the role of several blog memes, like Stacking the Shelves where I talk about the new books I’ve added to my library or received for review, as well as It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? where I summarize what I’ve finished reading in the last week and what I’m planning to read soon. Mostly it also serves as a recap post, so sometimes I’ll throw in stuff like reading challenge progress reports, book lists, and other random bookish thoughts or announcements.

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Received for Review

My thanks to the publishers and authors for the following review copies received, and be sure to click the links to their Goodreads pages for more details and full descriptions!

Another quick update this week, but it’s also the beginning of the month so there are a few audiobooks additions, and there were also a couple new arrivals in the mailbox. Huge thank to Tor Books for an ARC of The Starless Crown by James Rollins. I’ve only known Rollins as a thriller and mystery author, but apparently he started out with fantasy, so it’s quite exciting that he’s starting this new series called Moon Fall.

Also big thanks to Minotaur Books for this surprise arrival of The Return of the Pharaoh by Nicholas Meyer. For obvious reasons the title caught my attention right away, but then there was also the tagline of “From the reminiscences of John H. Watson, M.D.” I found out this is actually the fifth book of a series, but I really hope it can be read as a standalone!

 

Gimme the thrillers! With thanks to Simon & Schuster Audio for a listening copy of Everything We Didn’t Say by Nicole Baart, as well as Macmillan Audio for The Golden Couple by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen. Also thank you to Tantor Audio for a listening copy of Noor by Nnedi Okorafor, which is pretty timely seeing as it’s Sci-Fi Month.

Reviews

ReDawn by Brandon Sanderson and Janci Patterson (4 of 5 stars)
The Corpse Flower by Anne Mette Hancock (3 of 5 stars)

What I’ve Been Reading

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Have you heard of or read any of the books featured this week? What caught your eye? Any new discoveries? I hope you found something interesting for a future read!

#SciFiMonth Friday Face-Off: First Sci-Fi I Reviewed

Welcome to The Friday Face-Off, a weekly meme created by Books by Proxy! Each Friday, we will pit cover against cover while also taking the opportunity to showcase gorgeous artwork and feature some of our favorite book covers. If you want to join the fun, simply choose a book each Friday that fits that week’s predetermined theme, post and compare two or more different covers available for that book, then name your favorite. A list of future weeks’ themes are available at Lynn’s Book Blog.

This week’s theme is:

~ a cover of an EARLY SCI-FI READ/FIRST SCI-FI REVIEWED

The Darwin Elevator by Jason M. Hough

This week, we’re going back to one of the first sci-fi books I received for review. This was around the time I discovered NetGalley, and well, as they say the rest is history.

From left to right:
Del Rey (2013) – Titan (2013)

German Edition (2016) – Czech Edition (2014)

Winner:

All these covers have a very generic “commercial” feel, which is a shame because this was a great book. Out of these I’ll probably go with the Titan edition because it’s the most dramatic, and the fact it reminds me of Independence Day.

But what do you think? Which one is your favorite?