Book Review: The Spectacular Vision of Oskar Dunkelblick by Hattie Holden-Edmonds

This is part of a blog tour with Red Door Publishing.

The Spectacular Vision of Oskar Dunkelblick is the second novel written by Hattie Holden-Edmonds.

Oskar is the ultimate teenage loner who thrives on painting other people’s misery. However, after a ‘not-so-routine’ eye test, his bleak perspective is transformed after trying on a pair of very unusual lenses. The world he sees is filled with beautiful colours, happiness, and wonder – not what Oskar wants at all.

The story is original and interesting, and I enjoyed the wry tone Hattie uses.

As the title would suggest, the book centres on Oskar Dunkelblick. Hattie does a great job at making him the focus of the novel, as his character is incredibly interesting and detailed.

Oskar is quite a remarkable person; he enjoys tragedies, misery, is fascinated by diseases and is generally an oddball. He reminded me of Alex from Anthony Burgess’ novel A Clockwork Orange, and though he might be cruel at times, I couldn’t help but be drawn to Oskar’s personality.

The magical and psychological elements of the narrative were okay, if a little lost on me, and personally, the idea of seeing the continuous beauty within life came across slightly little wishy-washy, but that’s personal preference.

my-photo-oskar
Image via www.hattieholdenedmonds.com

I thought the front cover is creative and fun, and its focus on the eyes may be another unintentional stylistic similarity to A Clockwork Orange.  

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Image via www.penguinsciencefiction.org

I really enjoyed the flashbacks to Oskar’s past – they were well integrated into the narrative and the scenes recounting how he controlled and altered the life of his ex-friend Franz were some of my favourite parts. The flashbacks helped demonstrate how Oskar’s prickly personality has been formed by a tragic upbringing and past relationships.

However, despite these sadder scenes, The Spectacular Vision of Oskar Dunkelblick is definitely less bleak than A Clockwork Orange. The ending was surprisingly happy, and Hattie even includes a small, sweet, love story.

I’m curious to learn why the book was set in Germany with German characters – it certainly made a change from typical young adult fiction which always tends to take place in an English or American setting. If you know why it was set in Germany, do let me know!

Star Rating: 4/5 stars

The Spectacular Vision of Oskar Dunkelblick is available to buy as a paperback from Amazon UK.

– Judith

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Book Review: Chasing Monsters by Paul Harrison

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

Chasing Monsters is the debut crime thriller novel by writer Paul Harrison. Harrison has spent much of his career working within the criminal justice system in the UK as a police officer, and has gained a remarkable insight into some shockingly violent criminals.

Chasing Monsters is set in a quiet suburb of Bridlington, where nothing much happens. However, after a mutilated body is discovered, the Eastborough Police Force is forced into action. As the number of murder victims begins to increase rapidly, DI Will Scott is put in charge of the investigation in a race against the clock to catch the killer responsible.

As a quick first impression, the genre of Chasing Monsters surprised me because of its use of supernatural language and imagery both in the title and book cover. You could be forgiven for thinking the book was a new fantasy / horror. The plot did have a small supernatural / religious undertone however, which may be foregrounded in later books and would explain this style of branding.

I also think it could be worth the author having another proofread of Chasing Monsters, as there were a few phrases that weren’t entirely clear, as well as some spelling / grammar oddities, which can be easy to miss!

Nonetheless, Harrison has written a good debut novel.

First of all, it’s set in Yorkshire – the perfect way to my heart, as a West Yorkshire lass myself!

It’s also evident he knows a lot about the subject matter; crime scenes, police protocol and murder victims’ bodies are always described with clear detail. In particular, the graphic descriptions of the mutilated bodies were always fantastically gruesome and I was left quite astounded that someone could think up such creative … murder methods.

As a reader, I could definitely feel the pressure building for DI Will Scott, as he desperately wants to stop the murder spree but can’t find new leads quick enough before the next body turns up, which I’m sure echoes the stressful nature of police work in real life.

Chasing Monsters gives nothing away early; the culprit is only revealed at the very end of the book, so if you enjoy a long, suspenseful wait then this would be a good book for you.

Personally, I think the book could have benefited from a few more hints at the murderer’s identity – dropped in subtly, of course.

In my ever so humble opinion, Paul Harrison has transitioned well from writing about true crimes to fictional ones, and Chasing Monsters was an enjoyable debut novel that I’m sure others will enjoy too.

Star Rating: 3/5 Stars

Chasing Monsters is available to buy as a paperback or an e-book from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.

– Judith

Book Review: Perfect Dead by Jackie Baldwin

This is part of a blog tour organised by Love Books Group and Killer Reads Publishing.

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