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Book Club: No.6

Happy Friday folks! I hope you all have some wonderful plans to keep you busy (or chilled out) over the coming weekend. I've got some grown up things to do like house viewings and mortgage meetings (I know) but I also want to make some time for colouring in and reading this weekend too. It's been a little while since the last book club post so I thought I'd share with you two books I've read recently that were varyind degrees of success in my eyes.

Dance of Death by Edward Marston
The first book we need to talk about was a bit of a disappointment - but keep reading because it wasn't all bad. I've never read any Edward Marston books and I have never read any from this "Home Front Detective" series but the cover promised me that he was a bestselling author of a "Railway Detective" series and lovely buttercup yellow cover and the old-fashioned, tattoo-style illustrations of the early 1900s initially drew me in. Reading the blurb on the back, I discovered that this book was about a Detective Inspector Harvey Marmion and his Sergeant, Joe Keedy, who were trying to find out why a renowned ballroom dancer had been found butchered in an alleyway. Instantly I thought I would like this - its a classic gruesome murder crime story and as it's set in 1916 and hinted at the topic of the First World War, I was intrigued.

The story actually follows a whole host of characters to the point that the assumed main character, Detective Marmion, isn't really that much of a central figure. You follow Marmion, his Sergeant, Marmion's son, his daughter, his wife, his neighbours, the murder suspects... It didn't really have a focus character which to be honest, worked quite well and despite a lot of characters being so heavily involved in the storyline, it was really easy to follow and know who was who. A great thing about this book was that the author got the "stiff upper lip" of a late Victorian English gentleman vibe across to the reader incredibly well. The story is the kind of thing you'd imagine ITV1 would make into a feature-length one off TV special and echoed some nostalgia of the TV show Poirot that I used to watch every weekend with my gran. But, we need to talk about why it let me down.

The actual story is fine. It's almost cluedo-esque in the set up, but oh my god, the ending. I love books that can keep me guessing and crime/thrillers that have multiple characters and therefore multiple suspects need to keep you guessing. Dance of Death *did* do that quite well, throughout I kept changing my mind for who was responsible for the dancer's murder but the ending was so abrupt I was genuinely taken aback how - frankly - rubbish it was. It seemed that the ending was just stumbled on suddenly, lasted about 5 pages then that was that. It didn't really feel like the writer had thought it out and it honestly seemed to me as a reader that it was either rushed, the writer had lost interest, or they didn't want to go over a word/page limit. As I haven't read any of Marston's other books, I can't say if this is just an anomaly or if it is in fact the author's style and I just happen to not enjoy it, but it did make me really scrutinise what I had thought I had enjoyed about Dance of Death up until that point and realised I was probably being generous. Overall it was an okay read but it's not something I would shout from the rooftops that people need to read immediately. You can pick up Dance of Death here.

The Watchers by Neil Spring
Now for a complete 180 turn-a-round, we need to have a quiet moment of praise for this next one. I picked up The Watchers at the same time as Dance of Death and again, it was a completely random purchase that drew me in with it's cover, it's blurb and this time, the genre or let's say the topic it covered. This isn't the first book by Neil Spring but the lovely cover and the fact that it said "You can run from your past but you cannot escape The Watchers" across the front cover completely hooked me in. Turning over to the blurb, I realised that the story is actually based on true events that happened in The Havens in Wales during 1977. Recently, the BBC produced an article talking about the anniversary of the true events of this incident (which I will talk all about in just a moment) so definitely check that out if you want to know what actually happened in The Havens 40 years ago and yep, you've guessed it, it was all to do with aliens *turns into that guy with the crazy hair*.

The Watchers follows a character named Robert Wilding who's parents died when he was a young child and as a result, he had to go and live with his grandfather who is described as being a bit of a religious nut to put it politely. Robert eventually leaves to go and live and work in the Ministry of Defence in London to try and work out what happened to his mother (read it to find out what that's all about,) but is then asked to go back to Broad Haven to find out what is going on there as people are claiming to have seen ghostly figures, strange lights, and giant objects appearing in the sky and following them. Although this book is based on actual events in The Havens, the author makes a point of saying that it's only loosely and that he has gone to town with what he has fabricated and embellished in the story so a lot of it is untrue. However Spring did go and live in The Havens in order to speak to actual witnesses and people who can remember the things that did happen in 1977 so there is an element of truth running throughout the story which I'm keen to research and read about now due to this book.

So I've got to be honest with you guys now - I've never been hooked into a book so easily and so quickly as I was with this one. After reading just the prologue and the first chapter, I had goosebumps, my heart rate was actually running high and I couldn't put the book down. That's pretty impressive for only 25 pages into a novel, right? As a believer of other life in the universe, I maybe found this story so easy to get into whereas sceptics might find it more difficult, but its such a great psychological mind fuck that I've genuinely felt a bit on edge after reading it if I've read it late at night or if I've just really lost myself in it whilst on the commute to work etc. The book has everything I typically like in fiction - the occult, religion, cult groups, the paranormal, UFOs, general weirdness, murder... It's got it all. The suspense throughout the story is unreal. It has a crime thriller element to it in the fact every character Robert Wilding comes into contact with seems a bit suspicious and you never know who is telling the truth or who is genuine, and even by the end of the story, there's so characters you're still left wondering about. Because Spring really goes to town on the design of the "aliens" and the military spin behind those "characters" it makes the story extremely unique and unlike anything else I've ever read. In case you can't tell, I bloody loved this book and I will be picking up Spring's bestseller, The Ghost Hunters, as soon as possible because his writing style is just fantastic and kept me on edge the whole time I was reading it. Even when I picked the book up again after not reading it for a day or two, I instantly had a rush of adrenaline as if my brain instantaneously switched on and thought "oh yeah! I forgot this was happening! Oh my god what's going to happen next?!". If you want a book that's not some wild conspiracy theory but it plays on that a little and it prevents you from putting it down (that also has a very dramatic over the top ending which is fab) you need to get this book. You can buy The Watchers here.

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