Yesterday, this happened …
Hopefully, that video speaks for itself, but in a nutshell, advance copies of my next novel, ONE EYE OPEN, arrived at our pad, which was something of an unexpected pleasure. It will also give me the opportunity to read a couple of choice snippets for you all … which I’m going to do very shortly in this post.
Before we get onto that, I should also mention that today I’ll also be reviewing and discussing the claustrophobically chilling (and all-round excellent) psycho-thriller, THE RESIDENT, by David Jackson.
As always with my book reviews, you’ll be able to find that at the lower end of today’s post. But if you don’t like reading reviews before you’ve read the books yourself, I still urge you to get hold of this one. Jackson is a high-quality thriller writer, and THE RESIDENT is knife-edge stuff all the way through. As I say, my full review is at the bottom end of today’s post, in the Thrillers, Chillers section.
However, if you’ve got a bit of spare time first, why not check out …
One Eye Open
As you’re probably sick of me saying by now, ONE EYE OPEN is my first book for Orion, and it’s a stand alone crime thriller, which pitches an Essex Traffic officer into a world of robbery, double-dealing and murder.
As promised, I’ll shortly be reading a couple of clips from the finished book.
But before then, for your delectation (and my complete and shameless self-aggrandisement), here is the back-cover blurb, followed by a short handful of quotes from the 25 NetGalley reviewers to thus far give it the big thumbs-up.
YOU CAN RUN
A high-speed crash leaves a man and woman clinging to life.
Neither of them carries ID. Their car has fake number plates.
In their luggage: a huge amount of cash.
Who are they? What are they hiding?
And what were they running from?
YOU CAN HIDE
DS Lynda Hagen, once a brilliant detective, gave it all up to raise her family.
But something about this case reignites a spark in her...
BUT YOU'LL ALWAYS SLEEP WITH ...
What begins as an investigation soon becomes an obsession.
And it will lead her to a secret so dangerous that soon there will be nowhere left to hide.
ONE EYE OPEN
‘I absolutely loved this stand alone masterpiece’. – Beverley S.
‘Fast paced action, dramatic shootouts and an overwhelming sense of threat’. – Jen L.
‘A rich police thriller from an author who always gives a great insight to the world of criminals and the police who go after them’. – Pat C.
‘Breathtaking, shocking and dark!’ – Samantha L.
And now, while my head shrinks back to its normal size, here are a couple of short(ish) readings from the book, provided by yours truly.
In this first one, it’s a cold winter’s day as DS Lynda Hagen pursues a potential witness to a crime into an abandoned holiday park …
In this second one, ex-racing driver, Elliot Wade, finds himself in a fast car with two shady characters, and a lot to prove …
Okay, hope you guys enjoyed those. As I say, ONE EYE OPEN is available for purchase from August 20 in all your usual outlets. Hope you’re interested enough to take a punt.
THRILLERS, CHILLERS, SHOCKERS AND KILLERS …
An ongoing series of reviews of dark fiction (crime, thriller, horror and sci-fi) – both old and new – that I have recently read and enjoyed. I’ll endeavour to keep the SPOILERS to a minimum; there will certainly be no given-away denouements or exposed twists-in-the-tail, but by the definition of the word ‘review’, I’m going to be talking about these books in more than just thumbnail detail, extolling the aspects that I particularly enjoyed (I’ll outline the plot first, and follow it with my opinions) … so I guess if you’d rather not know anything at all about these pieces of work in advance of reading them yourself, then these particular posts will not be your thing.
THE RESIDENT by David Jackson (2020)
Schizophrenic serial killer, Brogan, his hands still red with the blood of his latest victims, is on the run from the police in the heart of an urban sprawl. But when all avenues of escape seem to be closed to him, he seeks refuge in the empty end-house of a rather run-down terraced row. Unexpectedly, this doesn’t just give him the ability to lie low, because when he investigates the property thoroughly, forcing his way up into the loft, he finds that the dividing wall between this and the next property is incomplete, along with the next dividing wall after that, and the next one and so on.
In short, Brogan finds that he can access all the houses on this side of the street without the official occupants even knowing that he is there … so long as they don’t come up into their attics.
With a jolt of intoxicating pleasure, it slowly dawns on the killer, who never plans very far ahead, that this empty house can be much more than just a useful hiding place.
The problem is that his mind is divided neatly in two, one half more conciliatory but still unstable, callous and inclined to a sexual enjoyment of violence, the other half clever, scheming and sadistic. Occasionally, these two distinct personalities, who occupy Brogan’s head both at the same time, fall out with each other, but mostly they exist in a state of symbiosis, and they are completely in sync when it comes to the way that Brogan should be spending the next few days. Because not only can he creep down into the houses when their owners are out, feed himself and rummage around among private possessions in order to steal, he can also learn all there is about his new hosts, and start to play games with them, alternately antagonising them, making fun of them, frightening them, setting them against each other, the outcomes of which he can watch from the safety of the loft space overhead.
And it’s not as if there isn’t plenty of material for him to work with. Eighty-year-old Elsie is one occupant, an elderly lady who lives alone and is now suffering from mild dementia. Carers visit from time to time, but mostly she is vulnerable and very easily played with.
Then there is Jack and Pam, a middle-aged couple who clearly love each other even though they squabble like cat and dog, and blame each other whenever anything goes wrong (and are out a lot of the time, their property left ripe for plundering); they too make easy targets for manipulation.
Last but very far from least, there is Collette and Martyn. This pair are of particular interest to Brogan, because they are only in their twenties, Collette beautiful and sweet and, Brogan suspects, a little sad.
What fun he is going to have with her in particular.
This is certainly one of the shortest synopses I’ve ever written for one of my online book reviews, quite simply because you’ve already got the crux of it, and to say more might give away vital spoilers.
Suffice to say that Brogan, the new unknown resident in the terraced row, is going to enjoy himself a great deal at the expense of his various unwitting hosts. But it isn’t going to go all his way. Anything can happen in the next few days, things he won’t be expecting at all, and while the situation is unlikely to end well for those who officially live here, it could easily go badly for him too …
The Resident is certainly not the first ‘hider in the house’ scenario I’ve encountered in crime and thriller fiction. I’m pretty sure there was even a movie called Hider in the House once. However, there is no idea these days that is original, and in any case, this is without doubt the most intense, dramatic, best-plotted and most enjoyable version of the grand old theme that I have ever read. It’s not a massive tome, coming in at just over 300 pages, but it literally flipped by because almost every one of its short, concise chapters ends on a cliff-hanger as taut as piano wire.
Brogan himself is a fascinating antagonist. We only get to learn about his many terrible crimes through the bizarre conversations that occur inside his head, which we hear in full, and which as well as being subtly informative both about him and his grotesque track-record, are also chilling in their depiction of criminal insanity, and at times wildly if darkly funny.
Yes, there are some comedic elements in this grim tale, but it’s not for the faint-hearted. I even had to stifle a snigger or two at the thought of Brogan, a mad killer, happily making himself at home in others people’s houses, cooking beans, buttering toast, stirring tea, while the actual occupants are out at work, though God knows, it would be an unspeakable invasion of privacy if it were to happen in real life.
You probably wouldn’t care as much for the characters wrapped up in this horror if you didn’t gradually come to see them so clearly, and this is another neat touch by David Jackson. When the killer first arrives in his improvised refuge, neither he nor we know anything at all about the population of this terraced row, but that’s okay, because we learn about them as Brogan does and at exactly the same pace, by listening to their interactions through trapdoors or watching them through peepholes in the ceiling.
While Jack and Pam are perhaps a little bit stock, Elsie is a wonderful creation. I can imagine that a veteran actress would have a lot of fun with this part in any screen adaptation. Her tragic situation, which you might expect to cast her as one of life’s forgotten victims and maybe a constant mope, is enlivened by the return of her maternal instincts (long buried, but always there) and the feistiness with which she treats her carers when she starts to suspect they are humouring her about the ‘return of her deceased son’.
The other stars of the show, though, are the final couple in the terraced row, Collette and Martyn, though Collette is the more important of the two, at least where Brogan is concerned.
In classic ‘beauty and the beast’ fashion, Brogan doesn’t just desire her physically; the more he gets to know about her, the more he subconsciously likes her, and the more he starts to think of her as a potential companion rather than a victim. In concert with this, the more he starts to distrust and finally hate her husband, Martyn, which developing ménage à trois gives us some of the most intense and emotionally dramatic sequences in the book.
But all the thrills and chills aside, in a relatively quickfire piece of writing, David Jackson has created several such exceptional dynamics, which crank the readability of The Resident up to top notch. You really feel for everyone, and really need to know what’s going to happen next.
Of course, getting back to Brogan and the terrible situation he has engineered and soon ends up trapped in – and this is the real heart of the story, the part that works so well for me – he may increasingly take Collette and Elsie’s side, he may view them both (but mainly Collette) as lost, abused and neglected, as a twosome who deserve so much more than life has dealt them, so it’s no wonder he sees himself reflected there. But this isn’t going to be reciprocated, because to the likes of Collette, Brogan will always be a monster. That’s the underlying darkness in this tale, and its cleverness. Though you live inside his head with him and get to know him well, though you even start to empathise a little … you never forget that Brogan is a monster.
Read The Resident. It’s a superb, fast-paced thriller, weaving multi-layered characters into a scenario from Hell that will have you both shuddering and snickering all the way through.
As always, I’m now going to try and cast this saga. Just a bit of fun – who would ask me? – but here are the main actors I would choose, were I putting this cracker on the screen:
Brogan – Max Irons
Collette – Lupita Nyong’o
Elsie – Gemma JonesMartyn – Samuel Anderson