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

 

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Book Review: Ghosts of Manor House by Matt Powers

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

“Old houses are never truly quiet.”

Ghosts of Manor House is Powers’ debut thriller and horror novel, about Edmund and Mary Wilder, a married couple shattered by the loss of their young son. Mary receives an invitation for the family to become guests at Manor House, an apparently quaint hotel, but Edmund soon realises all is not as it seems.

My Photo [Ghosts of Manor House]

In his author’s note, Powers explains he “wanted a story that fits with my memories of watching The Haunting, The Changeling and The Shining.

This horror genre is definitely conveyed; the opening of Ghosts of Manor House was enjoyable and suitably unsettling – I won’t give any spoilers away – but it peaked my interest in the story.

I really like haunted house stories; this book delivered all the conventions that you may expect from one – mysterious voices, creaky floorboards, and an ominous housekeeper.

Mary and Edmund’s grief at the tragic death of their son, and their desire to bring him back, to me, echoed Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, a horror novel about a burial site that holds the power of life, even after death. Admittedly, I read Ghosts of Manor House not long after finishing Pet Sematary, so King’s story was still fresh in my mind. This this may not have been an intentional echo, it may have been my own interpretation.

Although a fictional story, Powers does his best to keep his characters and situations realistic. For the most part, this is effective. However, I don’t think Edmund or Mary were developed as well as they could have been, though this may be the constraint of writing a shorter book.

The use of the present tense to narrate the story throughout was an… interesting choice. To me, this made some of the writing feel clunky and amateurish because I didn’t know what purpose this served. The use of flashbacks to reveal what truly happened to the family was a good technique, but until these started, I at times got lost in the various narrative strands – it was very difficult to place where the characters were, though this may have been Powers’ intention.

Edmund’s over-personifying of Manor House frustrated me as well; I liked the concept of a haunted house coming to life, but if every description of the house is personified, it loses the subtlety great horror has.

On the whole, Ghosts of Manor House is a quick read and a reasonably enjoyable haunted house story.

Star Rating: 3/5 Stars

Ghosts of Manor House is available to buy as an e-book, paperback, or audiobook from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

– Judith

Film Review: Hush

A deaf writer who retreated into the woods to live a solitary life must fight for her life in silence when a masked killer appears at her window.

Hush’s protagonist, Maddie Young (Kate Siegel), is a writer who is both deaf and has vocal paralysis – the after-effects of having meningitis as a teenager. As a result, Maddie’s perspective is one I’ve certainly not seen in film before and poses new problems within this horror scenario: she can’t cry* for help and she can’t hear her attacker approaching. So what does she do?

*A lack of screaming worked strongly in Hush’s favour; it was so refreshing not to have to watch another boring “helpless woman runs through the forest frantically screaming” film.

Maddie is a strong female who, despite a few silly moments**, mostly used logic and common sense to defend herself, avoid her attacker and plan her survival.

**I was screaming at my screen: “Why would you do that?” “No!” “Don’t go there!”

My Photo [Hush 1]

This was most evident in the scene where she has a dialogue with herself, allowing the audience to understand Maddie’s chain of thought even though she is mute. Again, this is a refreshing change from the helpless victim status women in horrors are often awarded.

“If you can’t run, hide, or wait, what does that leave?”

I thought the character of Maddie was developed well; we learn that she has a sense of humour as well as clever, caring and independent  in just a few opening scenes. I found myself genuinely caring about the survival of Maddie and genuinely fearing the murderer who stalked her. This is another positive about Hush; the protagonist feels like a real character, unlike another stereotyped, standard issue horror victim.

A minor spoiler: there is blood and there is gore in this film  – more than I had expected of a film rated 15 – and so I had to hide my face or cover my ears at certain points because of my squeamish nature.

My Photo [Hush 2]

However, the real horror “feel” in Hush was not generated by gore or by screams, but by creating and maintaining tension throughout. The dark colour palette of the film mirrors the dark tone of the story*** and the sound design – a mix of sound and silence to show both what the killer can hear and what Maddie can’t – was well done, and reminded me of Danny’s tricycle from Kubrik’s The Shining. Another intertextual reference was how the killer’s mask echoed Jason’s from the Friday the 13th franchise, and this made for a chilling entrance.

***Although, this darkness creates atmosphere for a horror film, it also makes things quite difficult to see!

Of course, there were a few jumpscares that anyone familiar with the horror genre could have predicted, but even these were well-executed and used few and far between.

I had some problems with Hush however. The Apple product placements were obvious and tedious, future weapons were clumsily foreshadowed at the beginning of the film, and  there were unnecessary close-ups of items (a book blurb, for example) to provide characterising information about Maddie – information we were already given a few scenes prior.

However, despite my grumbles, I really enjoyed watching Hush. Even after the resolution of the film, I still wanted more of the story because I was simply not ready for it to end.

 

– Judith