Book Review: Perfect Dead by Jackie Baldwin

This is part of a blog tour organised by Love Books Group.

Perfect Dead is a crime novel by Scottish writer Jackie Baldwin. It is the second in her new series.

Perfect Dead follows ex-priest DI Frank Farrell, as he finds himself on the trail of a vicious killer in rural Scotland. It leads to the investigation of Ivy House, which is home to ‘The Collective’, a commune of artists prepared to do anything to keep their secrets hidden.

My Photo [Perfect Dead]

Although Perfect Dead is the sequel to Baldwin’s debut novel, Dead Man’s Prayer – a novel I have not read – this didn’t impede my understanding. Admittedly, it took me a little longer to fully understand Frank Farrell’s background. However, the events from Dead Man’s Prayer were sufficiently alluded to, to make it clear what had happened up until this point.

It was well-written and there was a good, slow-burning hook, which I’m sure will intrigue readers.

I liked the elements of the book that explored the possibility of staged suicides and premeditated murders; these are classic crime genre conventions and they were suitably entertaining to read about. Clearly, Baldwin’s own experience working as a Criminal and Family Law solicitor has informed this novel.

Unfortunately, I found it quite difficult to keep track of characters because they were referred to, sometimes with their surnames only, other times with their first names only. Also, there were a lot of characters. Whilst this might be explained as a reflection of the crowded bustle of a busy police station, and an indication of my newness to Baldwin’s series, I wonder whether this makes the series less accessible for new readers to join in along the way. My advice would be to refer to characters in a consistent way throughout.

Subsequently, a lack of understanding of the characters meant I cared less about the detectives’ private lives. Again, perhaps this is because I’ve joined a series without reading the first book, but I didn’t feel that Frank’s personal live significantly contributed to the overall narrative.

If this sounds overly critical, I apologise. I shall mention some further positives.

Perfect Deadwas a slow-burning suspense that, in style, reminded me other crime thrillers I heavily enjoyed, such as Find Her by Lisa Gardner and The Teacher by Katerina Diamond.

It also had a quick and dramatic ending.

Overall, Perfect Dead was a good read, but I don’t think it was fully the book for me.

Star Rating: 3/5 Stars

Perfect Dead will be available to buy as a paperback on Amazon UK from August 2018.

– Judith

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Book Review: Doctor Perry by Kirsten McKenzie

This is a book review for Rosie’s Book Review Team.

Doctor Perry assures elderly patients at the Rose Haven Retirement Home he can offer warmth, sympathy, and understanding. Doctor Perry is lying.

My Image [Dr Perry]

I greatly enjoyed Kirsten McKenzie’s gothic horror novel, Painted, which you can read my review for here.

The narration and writing style of Doctor Perry is clipped and meticulously detailed, creating a nice parallel for Doctor Perry’s own personality.

At first, I thought this book was like a modern-day Sweeney Todd – a concept I was completely on board with. Doctor Perry doesn’t follow this narrative trajectory however, but it is still suitably unsettling.

Doctor Perry is the best character by far; he’s mysterious, psychopathic and darkly interested in in all kinds of science.

I also liked the twin boys fostered by Doctor Perry’s wife because they’re disturbingly violent and almost ghostlike – like something from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.

Similarly to Painted, there were multiple moments where a character ‘failed to notice’ something. I mentioned this in my review of Painted too; repeatedly informing the reader what the protagonist hasn’t seen. Personally, I don’t think this a dynamic way to convey information and works better in horror films and television dramas then it does in a novel.

I thought the ending was quite abrupt – I would have loved Doctor Perry to be longer, to provide further chances to develop the characters and storyline.

I enjoyed reading Doctor Perry and it was a real shame when it ended! If you like thrillers, dark science-fiction, or McKenzie’s work in general, I’m sure you will enjoy Doctor Perry too.

Star Rating: 4/5 Stars

Doctor Perry is available to buy as a paperback or an e-book from Amazon UK or Amazon.com.

– Judith

 

Book Review: Black Eyed Susans

A small while ago, I was meant to attend a Waterstones event, where Julia Heaberlin would be speaking about her new book, Paper Ghosts, but it was unfortunately cancelled. However, I was given a free copy of one of her other books, Black Eyed Susans.

Black Eyed Susans is a harrowing story.

Aged 16, Tessie Cartwright was found buried in a grave, marked by a patch of black-eyed susans. She was surrounded by bones – the bodies of previous victims. A man was captured and convicted, and sits awaiting his punishment on Death Row. She remembers nothing about what happened to her. 18 years later, Tessa suspects the real killer is still out there, and wonders if the right man was caught.

Firstly, I know they say don’t judge a book by its cover, but I really like these covers; a beautiful floral pattern is a nice change from more conventional thriller and crime cover designs.

My Photo [Black Eyed Susans 1]My Photo [Black Eyed Susans 2]Black Eyed Susans switches frequently between two main perspectives: the teenage Tessie, in therapy recovering from her ordeal, and the adult Tessa, haunted by her past.

I thought Tessie’s childhood perspective was the most fascinating. She discusses with her doctor what she actually remembers and what she thinks she remembers. The narration clearly conveyed Tessie’s inner-thoughts and attitudes; I felt I really understood her character. Because of this, the therapy scenes were my favourite sections of the book.

I also liked the interview segments which were taken from the trial, as Tessie is asked by lawyers to recount what happened. These sections were deviations from the traditional form of prose, but I enjoyed them as they were only small scenes and helped progress the narrative.

However, whilst I mostly enjoyed Heaberlin’s writing, she also uses lot of short sentences.

This creates a blunt tone. Initially I liked this style. It conveyed Tessa’s adult cynicism and sarcasm. Effectively. It could also create tension. Yet it felt overused. By the end of the novel.

Black Eyed Susans is incredibly sinister and dark. I liked all the twists; I tried to guess throughout what had happened, who was responsible, and why it happened. Unsurprisingly, I guessed incorrectly each time.

I strongly recommend this book, and I’d love to read more from Julia Heaberlin.

– Judith