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For my money, Keanu Reeves is one of those actors who it is impossible to dislike. People may say he can’t act (I disagree with this) but I never hear anyone say that they don’t like him. Personally I’m interested in seeing pretty much any of his films – he’s always entertaining, picks interesting roles – and okay; on a shallow basis he’s lovely to look at.

So it’s almost disconcerting to see him playing a cold hearted serial killer here. He’s charismatic and charming, but evil to the core. James Spader is Joel Campbell, the FBI agent, who haunted by his inability to catch the man who has been killing young women in LA, moves to Chicago, where frankly he becomes a mess. Semi conscious half the time, on all kinds of medication and suffering from guilt induced migraines, his purpose is restored when Reeves’s David Griffin follows him to Chicago and continues his killing spree. The two have a symbiotic relationship – Griffin needs Campbell to notice him, and Campbell lives to catch Griffin.

The director of the film is apparently a music video director and it shows. The stylised flashbacks, the slow mo effects – they’re all here. The script too does not really contain anything groundbreaking or shocking, but nonetheless the action moves on at a decent pace, and kept me interested.

If you like thrillers, give this one a try – as long as you go in expecting an hour and a half of decent entertainment and nothing too mind-glowingly brilliant, I think you might enjoy it.

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Year of release: 200

Director: Joe Charbanic

Writers: Darcy Meyers, David Elliot, Clay Ayers

Main cast: James Spader, Keanu Reeves, Marisa Tomei, Chris Ellis

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Genre: Thriller

Highlights: The delectable Keanu Reeves, always

Lowlights: Slightly over stylised

Overall: A pretty decent thriller and a good way to pass 90 minutes of your time

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In this first book in the series set in Southampton, and featuring DI Helen Grace, a sadistic killer is on the loose – one who gets her victims to do the dirty work for her. Two people are kidnapped, and trapped in a remote location with no chance of escape. There is a gun – and a deadly choice. One of them will have to either kill the other or kill themselves, and whoever survives is released. Grace and her team are on a race against time to find the connection between the victims and the person behind them all.

I listened to this as an audiobook, and it did keep me fairly hooked throughout. I thought the narrator Elizabeth Gower did an excellent job – one of the best narrators out of all the audiobooks I have listened to so far. Under close examination, the story itself is quite preposterous – the level of planning that would have had to be done to effect some of the kidnappings would be virtually impossible, and I am honestly not sure how long someone could get away with it the amount of times that the perpetrator here did. Nonetheless as a piece of sheer entertainment, it certainly did it’s job.

I am unsure what I think about Helen Grace – she is not an easy character to warm to, but I think that that is probably deliberate. Her team respect her, but don’t necessarily like her, and the things that make her hard for her colleagues to like are the same things that make it hard for the reader/listener to like. She is interesting though, which is my main requirement for a lead character. Out of the rest of her team, only two are really fleshed out but maybe we will get to know others better later in the series.

I would certainly listen to more books in this series; having said that, this book took the reader/listener to some dark places and I do feel that I need to cleanse my palate with something a bit lighter first.

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12 year old Steven Lamb doesn’t have a lot to be happy about.  He, his brother Davey and their mother Lettie, live with Steven’s Nan.  His mother clearly favours Davey, and his nan is haunted by the loss of her own son Billy almost two decades earlier.  Billy was believed to have been a victim of serial killer Arnold Avery, who is now in prison.  Billy’s body was never found, and Steven has spent a huge amount of time digging to try and find it on Exmoor (where oher victims of Avery were buried). 

Steven thinks that if he can just find Billy’s body, his family can obtain closure and may be able to be happy again.  When his digging yields no result, he decides to write to Avery and ask where Billy is buried.  And so begins a terrifying game of cat and mouse…

This book was very gripping and hard to put down.  The narration was pacy, and switched from Steven’s point of view to that of Avery.  The chapters told from Avery’s viewpoint were disturbing, which is only to be expected as he was a paedophile and child murderer.  These parts worked particularly well in casting in creating a dark and sinister atmosphere in which the story took place.

For me, the chapters told from Steven’s point of view worked slightly less well.  I found some of his thought processes to be somewhat unrealistic for a 12 year old boy, and thought that for a child who was clearly very naive in some respects, he seemed to reason things out in a way that I would not have expected.

However, the story held my attention throughout and while I had to suspend my disbelief on occasion, I did find the book extremely readable.  The writing flowed well and drew me in completely.  My favourite parts, and the sections that were most believeable, were the scenes with Steven and his family.  These parts were upseting because they portrayed such a realistic view of a family heading towards meltdown.  Lettie has been let down by men all of her life – her childrens’ father is out of the picture, and her children are used to seeing a succession of ‘uncles’ – and she seems to love her younger son more than she loves Steven.  His nan spends all of her days looking out of the window waiting for the return of a son who is never coming back.  Steven himself is either picked on or completely ignored at school, and his one friend Lewis, takes advantage of him constantly.  It was no surprise to me to read the author’s note where she said that the book was originally going to be about a boy and his family, and the impact which a 20 year old murder had had on them, rather than a psychological thriller involving a serial killer.

Despite the minor niggles, I would certainly recommend the book, although the subject matters means that it might not appeal to everybody.  I will also be looking out for other books by this author.

I would like to thank Transworld Publishers for sending me this book to review.  Transworld Publishers’ website can be found here.)

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Set in Philadelphia, construction worker Sean, whose main interests in life are drinking with his friend Jason and flirting with women, finds himself caught up in a nightmare, when a serial killer starts terrorising people who Sean and Jason went to school with. Sean decides that he has to find and stop the killer before more lives – possibly including those of Sean and Jason – are lost. Initially, Jason agrees to accompany him, but events take their toll on him, and Sean finds himself largely alone.  As he finds himself drawing closer to the truth, he can only hope that he will get there before the killer gets to him…

I have mixed feelings about this book.  On the positive side, the storyline is interesting and fast paced enough to keep the reader from losing interest.  I was also wrong-footed on both of my guesses about who was committing the murders, and I always like to be surprised.  I also liked the fact that Sean was not a stereotypical hero – he seemed to drink probably much too much, could be dismissive of others, and showed little respect for authority at times.  I find this more believeable than having a ‘picture perfect’ hero, who could do no wrong.

However, at times I did have to suspend my disbelief.  Sean seemed to figure out the connection between the victims pretty quickly, while the Police were still struggling to make the obvious connection.  I found it difficult to believe that it wouldn’t have been one of the first things they had realised.  There was also one particular part of the storyline which seemed far too convenient and unlikely, which spoiled my enjoyment somewhat.

My main quibble with the book though, was the lack of grammar and good spelling. However, I should point out that the copy I was reading may have been an unedited proof, which might explain this.  Nonetheless, it did make it difficult reading at times – and one character’s name changed completely during the course of the story!

In short, I definitely think that there is an interesting story here, but it would benefit from a strong edit.

(I would like to thank the author for sending me this book to review.  Ben Gibbins’ website can be found here.)

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