Behind Picketwire by M. Day Hampton

Not your usual love story

This book is going to be complicated to review, for the simple fact that it is too easy to give away spoilers. Indeed, especially towards the end, even the tiniest detail is a spoiler!

But I will start with this – as soon as Red had his fall, this was one of the few times that I wanted to skip to the end, to see what happened to him. I resisted the urge and in many ways I’m glad I did, as the ending is too strong and would have spoilt the rest. Instead, I stuck with it, with Red and the dog(s) (minor spoiler), on their journey through the wilderness.

In some ways, this could be classified as Dystopian – a world where people, law, order, the modern world, has all disappeared. It’s like a One Man and His Dog version of The Land Before Time. There’s just the wilderness, with all of nature as it once was and could be again.

So, considering it all, even before starting, we know that Red has to be in some dream-like state. Is it a coma? Is he already dead? Will he wake up? All those questions are hard to tell, as the book trundles slowly on. And yes, I did find it a slow read. I think probably because for the first part of the book, it did move slowly. It makes it hard in that the only dialogue is between Red and his dog, or random into the wilderness, or memories. Yes, there are many flashbacks, that help us understand Red better as he starts to understand himself better, too, from his childhood to more recent memories. He sees his triumphs, but he also sees his faults, and wonders why he couldn’t have been a better person at the moments when it mattered. He knows that he cared in those moments, yet was unable to show it better. Regrets, yet rediscovering the love that he moves forward to refind.

Not everything goes to plan in the wilderness. When he does finally set off, with such certainty of where he has to go, where he will find his wife again, between disasters and durability, he somehow finds his way forward.

Once you get into the final thirty percent of the book, the ending can be seen coming. Yet, somehow, you still hope for more.

So, we know what happens to Red, right at the end, yet what about Jake? And who was his coyote companion, he named Lady?

Another note is that there are Christian elements throughout, but in such a casual way as to not be overbearing. I appreciate a book that can give insights into someone’s religious, or semi-religious life, without trying to preach to you or force it down your throat (unfortunately I’ve had a few of the bad kind of late). This is pretty safe for anyone, no matter their spiritual- or non-beliefs.

On the whole, this is a book that deserves forbearance. When the emotional moments come, they are overpowering. In between is a journey that is far more than it first seems.

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

Dead Silence by Robin Caroll

Christian political suspense

I should have paid more attention when picking this book up, that it was listed as Christian fiction, as I know that I have many problems with that. In fact, this book could also be surmised as “Mother of deaf child works her way back to God through additional trials and tribulations.” Yes, the substory was essentially that, which I felt a little uncomfortable with. It wasn’t too preachy, surprisingly, but as soon as a book goes into that sort of territory, I do hope that it’s not going to go too far.

But the main thing that invited me to read this book was actually the fact that the MC’s son is deaf. Sign language, lip reading, and deafness aren’t huge topics for a mystery suspense, so I liked the idea.

So, anyway, as for the main part of the story itself, we have a single mother, who lost her husband a few years previously, who now loses her difficult mother-in-law. She can sign and lipread, making her great as a court sign-language interpreter. But it also puts her into other difficult territory, when she reads the lips of someone without thinking, who turns out to be planning the murder of her mother-in-law, one of the state senators.

Well, of course, something comes in the way, so she can’t inform anyone, until it’s too late and the FBI are already at her workplace asking her questions. One FBI agent, who’s rude, abrasive, and incompetent. Another who is well meaning, but completely blind to how bad his partner actually is. When a leak puts Elise’s life in danger, all secrets are excruciatingly slowly forced out into the open.

In actual fact, it takes Elise herself, plus the assistance of a reporter who wants to help rather than going for the big money, and her ex-press step-father-in-law and sister-in-law, to crack the case. They somehow, between themselves, manage to uncover things that the FBI hasn’t.

How believable all of that truly is, I’m not quite sure. It was quite a ride, which left me wanting to read further at many points. Although it was pretty frustrating when it was revealed what Liliana (MiL) was actually working on and the penny didn’t even drop as to who the villain actually was. For me, it was blazingly obvious! So with the Christian elements, the FBI incompetence, and the supposedly ‘good sleuthing crew’ missing obvious clues, there were a few head bashing moments.

All of it put together, and it ends up as an OK read instead of a brilliant one. I don’t regret reading it, yet it doesn’t warm me to read any of the author’s other books.

Final rating: ★★★☆☆ – Sort of liked/OK

*I received a free digital ARC via NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Thunder Bay by Douglas Skelton

Darkness on the Sound

This story is based on a fictional Scottish Island, Stoirm, based in one of the Scottish Sounds. Now there are a couple of straits in Scotland with the name “Sound” as far as I can figure out: either “Inner Sound”, close to Skye, or “Sound of Islay”, between the islands of Islay and Jura. I’m not sure which is meant, but there are a couple of islands in either area which could give you that “small island community” feel. Not that I’ve ever been to Scotland, let alone a remote island with one main town where everyone knows each other.

So I took my ideas of what such a small community would feel like based on my very limited experiences of a small village community where, yes, everyone knows each other, and not always in a friendly way.

This small community on Stoirm has its secrets, which no one repeats, and must stay in the past. But that is all about to be stirred up with the return of Roddie Drummond, who was “not proven” of murdering his girlfriend, Mhairi, 15 years previously, and Rebecca Connolly, who not only wants to dig into the past to find out the truth of what happened to Mhairi, but also wants to discover why her father left the island in his youth, and why he never talked about it.

There’s a lot of twists and turns into finding the truth, which not only the islanders, but some dangerous men (such a typical cliché, them being Eastern Europeans) want to keep well hidden.

The trouble is, the truth. Well, the truth is not exciting at all. And the truth of why Rebecca’s father left, it didn’t give the impact expected, either. The most action to be had was in what appeared to be a homophobic attack on two of Rebecca’s new-found friends. That aside, Rebecca defying everyone to get the story she’s looking for, which is just as much her boss as the islanders themselves, is just as cliché as some of the rest.

The best part about this book, apart from the cover (the main reason I picked up the book in the first place), was probably the place descriptions. Thunder Bay was described beautifully, as a place that must be visited, and the scenery on the routes was just as detailed.

It’s a shame, really, as there was so much that could have been good and even better about this. In the end, I’m a little disappointed, with the grip not quite catching me completely.

Final rating: ★★★☆☆ – Sort of liked/OK

*I received a free digital ARC via NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Devils Glen by Matthew Speak

Darkness descends

I took my time getting around to this book, so long in fact that Kindle Scout has now died and gone. But, no matter, I still own a copy of the book, so I have to read and review it at some point, don’t I…?

Anyway, this book was darker than I normally like to get in to. I was lucky that I didn’t have nightmares afterwards! But, I plodded on.

The beginning almost made me want to throw it at the wall, as it was so so boring!! The chapters were disjointed and unrelated. Some of the prologue material was repeated in the first couple of chapters. But then came glimmers of brilliance, that started to make the story interesting, so I persevered further. Plenty of creepy stuff to be had, but the main gore of the story didn’t happen until towards the end, like it came out of nowhere! Suddenly, blatant blood and gore, like the book is catching up or something for missing out on it sooner!

And, as it so happens, just around the point of the major bloody action is when the book was starting to get really interesting and it started pulling all together. Although there are still a heap of unanswered questions. Maybe the next book will resolve that, but I’m tentative as to whether I should pick it up or not.

My rating for this flew between two and five stars, depending on how the book was running, so I think I’ve chosen a fairly nice middle ground.

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

*I received a free copy of this book via the, now defunct, Kindle Scout program, and am voluntarily leaving a review.*