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: 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

Book Review: The Big Over Easy

The Big Over Easy is the first in Jasper Fforde’s Nursery Crime series. I previously reviewed The Eyre Affair, the first in Fforde’s Thursday Next series about a literary detective.

The Big Over Easy is a satirical detective novel based on nursery rhymes, fables, and other stories.

When Humpty Dumpty’s body is found by a wall, following a great fall, it is up to the work of Detective Inspector Jack Spratt and his assistant Sergeant Mary Mary to investigate what happened. Did he fall? Did he jump? Was he pushed?

Humpty Dumpty
I, of course, hate using GIFs. However, the friend who lent me The Big Over Easy loves them. This is for you, Sam.

Similar to The Eyre Affair, Fforde’s intertextual references to other works of fiction are brilliant and his writing is full of irony and satirical quips.

It took a little while for the narrative to progress, but once it did, I really liked the application of detective and crime genre conventions to something as trivial as a nursery rhyme story.

In particular, Fforde satirises the blend between crime fiction and crime reports; Spratt’s superiors encourage him to solve the mystery in a way that will create great publishing material. However, Spratt wants to be an honest detective and only deal with facts. This mocks how, especially in the Victorian period, crime fiction such as the beloved Sherlock Holmes stories, and real police reports could be published in the same magazine, meaning at times readers did not know which accounts were fictional, and which were fact.

I enjoyed following the investigation, as Spratt works how Humpty died, but I didn’t especially enjoy the “background” narrative as much – Jack’s daughter begins a flirtation with Prometheus, the legendary Titan said to have created mankind from clay, and Jack’s mother accidentally grows a beanstalk. For me, these aspects of the narrative felt a bit too ridiculous. Which was probably the point.

The novel didn’t end how I expected it to, which was a pleasant surprise. The “whodunnit” narrative kept me guessing throughout, and wasn’t as predictable as I thought it would be.

Personally however, I think Fforde could have made The Big Over Easy even darker; if he had retold the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme as a gritty, realistic, crime thriller, in the style of someone like Peter James, that would have been fantastic.

– Judith