Review: The Child by Sebastian Fitzek

The Child is Audible Studios’ first full cast audio dramatisation, based on the novel of the same name by Sebastian Fitzek.

The dramatisation begins with Berlin lawyer, Robert Stern (Rupert Penry-Jones, Spooks) summoned by old love interest, Carina (Emilia Fox, Silent Witness) to meet a new client. That client is terminally ill ten-year-old boy, Simon (Jack Boulter). Simon immediately announces to Stern that he was a serial killer in a previous life, and even leads him to the grotesque, rotten corpse of one of his former victims. The discovery, as well as an eerily anonymous third party, draws Stern into a sinister plot reaching into the very heart of Berlin’s child abuse network. It should be noted that there are some dark themes in this production, as well as some disturbing concepts/scenes.

The cast (at over twenty actors strong) brings Fitzek’s story to life in a slick manner, with murder investigator, Engler (Andy Serkis, The Lord of the Rings) a particular highlight. Serkis so often excels in eccentric and unconventional roles (think Golem and King Kong) and his performance in The Child is no exception to that trend. The sound design is also outstanding, with SFX used in such a way that it only ever compliments Robert Glenister’s superb narration (he was equally as good in JK Rowling’s The Silkworm), and never overpowers it. Use of distance from the microphone is employed effectively, and the urban sounds of Berlin are recreated and laid behind the dialogue nicely.

There is, however, the occasional oddly constructed sentence (The Child was originally a German novel), but these uneasy translations are few and far between. What is far more remarkable is the production’s fascinating exploration of the idea of reincarnation, and of those who study and believe/refute it. The Child’s ending is almost unbearably clever, and a satisfying explanation of the complex events which proceeded it.

Overall, an intense and intellectually-moreish thriller. Hopefully the first Audible dramatisation of many.

The Child is available to pre-order via Audible now.

View a trailer here.

July 26, 2014Leave a comment

Review: The Dragon and the Needle by Hugh Franks

To paraphrase Eleanor Johnson, The Dragon and the Needle’s leading lady: There are plenty of good and bad acupuncturists in the world, just as there are good and bad Western doctors. And this is the notion built upon throughout Hugh Franks’ political, cross-cultural thriller. Indeed, the total legitimacy of acupuncturists is never assumed, yet neither is the profession cast aside as folly.

The reason Eleanor Johnson, a beautiful, capable acupuncturist is drawn into the plot is, to begin with, unclear. Extraordinary Natural Death Syndrome (ENDS) is killing political leaders and other VIPs across the globe, leaving no clue as to its cause and mystifying medical experts. Along with Eleanor, Mike Clifford, a brilliant young doctor, is sucked into an apparent conspiracy of staggering proportions, complicated by party politics, murder and the ever present danger of media-induced hysteria.

In the hands of Hugh Franks (a man of significant military and world experience) the story zips between characters of note at a good pace, coloured by the various factions and peoples surrounding the ENDS fiasco. Whilst there is a slightly grating over-reliance on exclamation marks, the writing is mostly excellent and crucial information is leaked at just the right rate.

The oriental aspect of this story is particularly enjoyable, with juicy historical nuggets and cultural factoids aplenty. This information really gives context to the story, and friction between Western and Oriental approaches to medicine, as well as to life in general, is beautifully communicated.

Overall an intriguing, deliciously oriental political thriller.

The Dragon and the Needle is available via Amazon UK now.

July 20, 2014Leave a comment

Procrastination discontinuation

penxOoo, someone’s switched on the TV! What’s left in the biscuit tin? I wonder if anyone’s posted any new cat pictures on Facebook?!

There are so many things that can distract you from your writing. Life so often gets in the way of finding time to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), and that means you really have to get down to it when you do get the opportunity. To ensure a productive writing session, there is one simple rule I abide by like my life depended on it: NO INTERNET. None.

It’s tough. After all, I’m usually writing on my laptop which means those lol-cat pictures are only the teensiest click away. But I find the no internet whilst writing rule helps so, so much. It keeps you in the flow, in the zone, whatever you want to call it. I know people like a little reward after completing a passage, I make mine a bite of my snack or a look out of the window – not particularly exciting but that’s the way it has to be!

At the time, it is no doubt frustrating. But, when you go to bed, it’s much more satisfying knowing that you’ve written your quota rather than realising you trawled through twenty-eight million BuzzFeed articles instead!

So, what do you think gang? Do you agree? Any more tips?

(New post from me every Sunday)

July 13, 20144 Comments

The Silkworm by JK Rowling/Robert Galbraith

So exciting was the revelation that JK Rowling had released a secret novel under a pseudonym, that media coverage inevitably failed to examine The Cuckoo’s Calling as a piece of literature, favouring instead the tale of its failed concealment. It was, in fact, a very good book. Written in the addictive style so badly missing from The Casual Vacancy (the overly-long and disappointingly dull follow up to the enthralling Harry Potter series), The Cuckoos Calling chronicled Cornish detective, Comoran Strike, as he investigated the supposed suicide of renowned supermodel, Lula Landry.

Eight months after the Landry case and Strike is back. Inundated with rich clients wanting their adulterous spouses tailed, the private detective is relieved to receive a likeable visitor with a quandary actually worth investigating. The wife of not-quite-famous author, Owen Quine, Leonora Quine wants her missing husband found. Comoran takes on the case and quickly finds himself in and amongst London’s squabbling literary circle, caught up in the mess created by Quine upon circulation of his latest manuscript; a libellous book in which he viciously attacks almost everyone he’s ever worked with.

‘Write what you know’ is the age old adage and, where Rowling dipped into her experiences of fame for The Cuckoo’s Calling, The Silkworm deals with a publishing world going through an identity crisis. Traditional publishing, self-publishing and the internet’s influence are all fleetingly examined, and you can’t help but wonder how many of Cormoran’s suspects include portions of the real-life people Rowling encountered during her remarkable rise to superstardom. But then, given the repercussions of Quine’s own manuscript, Bombyx Mori (Latin for silkworm), borrowed traits might well have been too ironic an inclusion for even the most cavalier of writers – an enjoyable conundrum to deliberate whilst reading.

A literary yet accessible crime thriller, The Silkworm is, like its predecessor, an excellent read. The mystery is moreish, the characters well-crafted, and the side plots – particularly the continuing animosity between Strike and his assistant’s fiancé – are genuinely enjoyable. One of the few complaints is that Strike unravels the mystery with a bit of a clunk, and that the quotes at the beginning of every chapter are somewhat pretentious for a trashy (in the very best of ways) crime thriller. Yes, even one with such a literary heart.

Robert Glenister narrates the audiobook superbly, never overdoing accents or female characteristics, and the Cornish grump he puts on for Strike himself is immediately recognisable. As the story approaches its thrilling conclusion, a real highlight is a central character’s descent into a voice not unlike the cruel whisp of Ralph Fienne’s Voldermort. An enjoyable reminder of what came before, and that Rowling is back on form.

The Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silkworm are available through Amazon UK now.

Audiobook versions are available through Audible now.

July 5, 2014Leave a comment