Deceived : A Book Review 



Title : Deceived 

Author : Heena Rathore P. 

Genre : Crime Thriller, Psychological Thriller 

Publisher : Citrus Publishers 
Disclaimer : I got an ARC of the book from the publishers. 

Summary 

Allison Stone, a young writer, wants to carve out an independent life for herself that has a semblance of normalcy. She is trying to recover from the trauma of a murdered mother and brother in her teen years. With her loyal German Shepherd by her side and a doting boyfriend she is moving in with, Allison wants to start over again and put the past behind her. 

Danny, the ambitious journalist, moves to the town of Dewar to investigate the killings of Allison’s family members and many other murders spanning over decades, that disturbingly seem to be falling into a pattern of serial killings. 

And all the while, Allison is trying to settle into a normal life, a psychopath has Allison in his sight, stalking her for a fate more horrendous than she has gone through. 

Review 

This suspenseful thriller explores the darkest of human emotions, the unpredictability of people and the depths that they can stoop to, propelled by their dark motivations. It underlines the fact that sometimes we don’t completely know the people we are close to. 

The characters in the book are diverse. There is a girl struggling to cope with the murders of her mother and her young brother. There is a journalist trying to chase a potential serial killer. These people have strong unforeseeable ties with a 13 year old girl who slaughtered her parents and a psychopath out to take revenge. The details of the lives of the protagonists and the the supporting characters adds flavour to the broth that is being stewed. 

I read this excellent crime thriller on a long train journey. As the landscape flew past, so did I turn the pages; so thrilling is the book. I had a wonderful time reading this debut novel even though at no point did it read like a first book. Heena is a master storyteller, narrating an arresting story spanning decades and families. 

She uses the contrasting PoVs to move the action forward. It is not a chronological telling of the horror that unfolds ; rather the story jumps back and forth and the pieces fall into place, as the action builds up. 

The book talks of the deviants of the society, the sociopaths and the psychopaths, here in the book, living in the woods or on the edge of the town. 

The killer is profiled rather well and his motivations are well researched and credible. 

The book is open ended and a few things are left unanswered although most of the threads are tied up neatly. 

What’s Good 

This is one book which is complete in the horror it induces and yet it has all the makings of a series. 

I do wish that the author decides to pick up the few threads that have been left dangling tantalizingly and write the next part. 

The book starts with a talk about psychopaths and sociopaths. This introduces the reader to what is to come. Michael’s journal entries take these forward by quoting notorious psychopaths and sociopaths. It adds an interesting angle to the story. 

The story unfolds through the Points of View of the characters and through a bunch of journal entries of the mysterious Michael. The quotes of various psychopaths lends a sinister feeling to the initial, normal, happy-in-love scenario. The characters seem to be having ordinary lives, but the horror is just beneath the surface, waiting to erupt. 

Most characters are well developed, a few with much clarity. Allison and Elizabeth are way different from the watch man at the law firm and yet they are all divested with an equal amount of detail. 

Heena’s writing style is very good. It has a great flow. The dialogues are pithy and move the story forward very well. The pacing of the story is excellent and the action builds up to the crescendo of the climax very well. 

The thrill factor of the book is good. Apart from the gruesome murders, there is an element of stalking and mysterious incidents around the protagonist, Allison that build up the suspense and the horror to a well thought out climax. 

What’s Not 

The book is well researched and the story is told extremely well but some characters and situations are a little fuzzy, like the mysterious voodoo practitioner or even Allison’s father, who otherwise is a pivotal character in the story. 

There is Phil, who is mentioned briefly but whom no one seems to want to trace after the double murders, in spite of the fact that he could hold the key to the mystery. 

There is a philandering wife and mother who seems to be having an affair just so that her murder can be explained away till the real murderer is unmasked and that too literally. 

In an attempt to leave a trail of false clues for the reader, a few situations and incidents are hatched that are not explained clearly through. 

Again, I feel these situations and characters can be well developed if there is a sequel. 

The setting of the book is the quiet town of Dewar, an unassuming place with an inefficient police force that has been unable to resolve or even follow the leads in the murders that happen with surprising regularity. This seems a little incredulous. 

Also, the introduction of Steve coming from outside to investigate the murders sounds a little far fetched. His attempts at investigative journalism look a little juvenile. He reaches conclusions without much reasoning and he naively assumes that confronting people who could be prime suspects would help him solve the murders. 

The book has a very contemporary feel. The characters are smart, going through the motions of their routines. There is just too much detail on who eats what and what meetings are lined up for the day. All this does not give a feel of the place, only of the lives of the characters. Though, to be fair, the woods at the edge of the town and the placid lake behind the mansion are excellent settings in their own right. 

There is something about the names of the characters that make the story slightly confusing. Although the characters are fleshed out well, there are pairs of names that are very similar sounding. There are Steve and Stephen, Ellie and Allie for Elizabeth and Allison, Danny and Donny, because of whom I sometimes stumbled a little in the story. 

Verdict 

A perfect psychological thriller, a compulsive page turner, a goose bump inducing racy read, Deceived is deservingly bone chilling. 

I rate this book four stars 🌠🌠🌠🌠 

Scaredy Cat : A Book Review 

Title : Scaredy Cat 

Author : Mark Billingham 

Genre : Mystery, Crime Thriller 

Series : Second book in the Tom Thorne series. 

Summary 

Two women are murdered within hours of one another near the station, but in quite different ways. When a connection is made with two other murders which occurred months before, DI Thorne realizes two serial killers may be at work in a macabre partnership.

Review 

Scaredy Cat is the most unputdownable, brilliant and engaging crime thriller featuring a series of murders that turn out to be done by a pair of serial killers. My assessment for the book may sound clichéd but the novel is far from it. Everything, from the cast of characters who are doing the chase (Team 3) to the murderer (s) to the use of folie a deux (more on that later) are original, confident and credible. 

Even though Scaredy Cat is second in the Tom Thorne series, it can very well be read as a stand alone book. It being a series is a bonus for the reader, for by the time you reach the climax, you would have resolved to read more of this excellent author. 

The Detective Inspector Tom Thorne, a very capable and rather melancholic officer with a reputation (also of disregarding the Powers That Be) is Part of Team 3. He is partenered by a seeming sidekick, Dave Holland, who, in reality can carry a lot of plot on his shoulders as well as the gay pathologist Hendricks, who is really a very good friend. The quartet is completed by Sarah McEvans, hard faced and competent and acting as a pivot for the climax. The other characters, Norman, the media guy and Brigstocke are quirky and well rounded and unpredictable. 

The team has another ally in carrying the story forward and that is London itself. In the books that I have come to love, the location and the setting is mostly elaborate and it plays a large role in moulding the psyche of the characters. So, it is here, the under belly of the city mirroring the mind of the industry affected by the killings, the perpetrators, the victims and the ones chasing the killers. 

Thames, the lifeline of London is dwelt upon lovingly even though all the protagonists could see was the squalid disrepair. I read of the serene beauty of the river banks in Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat and reading of the Thames through the eyes of Thorne and another police officer was a jolt, just like the one you get when you match reality with memories. 

The killer or the killers, as Thorne surmises very soon in the current investigation, are untraditional. The department has been sitting on other cases, of women being murdered some months back. As the investigation deepens, there arises a picture of not one but two serial killers, who strike simultaneously and kill similarly even though both are different. Their psychological profiling shows that one is hesitant and the other ruthless. It is the Modus Operandi that is different and intriguing. There are similarities and then there are deviations. 

In explaining the killers’ mindset, the author has excellently used Folie a deux, a condition of a shared psychosis, a psychiatric syndrome, in which symptoms of a delusional nature are transmitted from one person to another. Needless to say, the relationship between the pair of killers is troubled to say the least delving into the meaning of power and fear harnessed to disastrous conclusions. 

The book cover shows a pair of eyes, with a different expression in each eye. The title conveys something of fear, of teasing, of bullying that is the backdrop of the killings. 

The backstory is well developed and the frequent flashbacks keep the story running back and forth, not that the reader loses interest. These flashbacks introduce newer interest and understanding as the story unfolds; as a pair of murders turn into a series, more happening in different locations and more being rediscovered as part of a pattern. 

As for the gore factor of the killings, it is not very high. It is not the actual act that is disgusting but the way it is carried out. There is an emotional angle to the killings in case the reader is not horrified enough that runs through the mind of Tom Thorne. He milks the brutality over and over again, agonising over the inevitability of the crime and the poignance of the last moments of the victims as captured by the CCTV footage. 

What’s to Like 

In case of crime thrillers, I am more interested in the crime and the criminal and not in the characters solving the case. But here the Team 3 is exceptionally interesting, their dynamics riveting and the office politics intriguing. 

The characters are so well fleshed out that inspite of the angst ridden monologues / thoughts of Thorne, he never becomes tiresome. Even though there is no love interest, nothing to contrast the character with but slowly the interaction with his Alzheimer ridden father brings the compassion out in full. 

The book gives the reader every emotion. The thrill of a chase. Mystery, of course. The horror of murder. Angst in the heart of the most hardened police investigator. Emotional trauma and a few tugs at the heart strings. 

The pace never slackens (almost) and the narrative is tight, entertaining, intriguing. When the investigation is slow, there is tension in other ways. It shows up in the form of an illicit or a falling apart relationship or the paranoia of a drug addict. 

Also the book builds up to an excellent climax, which is every bit as exciting as the building up to it. 

Some of the scenes stand out very well. There is the place where the dreaded, cold blooded killer finally loses control, slapping his wife. There is the unforgettable scene of a coke snorting police woman. There are Thorne’s counseling sessions to his gay friends that stand out. And sometimes it is chilling going back into the past, in the childhood of the killers. 

Scaredy Cat isn’t just about a few horrible crimes nor is it a straight cat and mouse chase. There is plenty of cheese to nibble at ( stretching the metaphor). The plot is nearly flawless. 

What’s Not to Like 

By the time I turned the last page I had all but forgotten the minor irritants in the book. 

There is a frequent change in the Point of View and in the beginning it took me a few paragraphs to understand that something was amiss. I had to backtrack to understand why the story was not running linearly any more. Once I caught on to the POV trick, I wisened up and rather started enjoying the switch in the voices as the scenes changed. 

Thorne is very angst ridden and very melancholic. His thoughts run in circles. He thinks endlessly of the nature of his profession and the hardening of hearts and emotions as time goes by, encountering the crime and the criminals. After a while, his thoughts become predictable and look like fillers covering up a lull in the plot. 

There are a few minor credibity issues with the book. Thorne is in touch with one of the killers on phone. He is supposed to have escaped from custody and yet, Thorne just picks the phone and talks to him. That simple, even when the prisoner broke his nose while trying to get away. There was too much of bonhomie between them. 

The discovery of Karen McMahon’s grave with remarkable ease was another place where things seemed to be coming together all too easy. 

TV Series 

This 2002 bestseller was also made into a successful TV series in 2010. 

About the Author 

Mark Billingham is an English novelist, actor, television screenwriter and comedian whose series of Tom Thorne – crime novels are best-sellers in that particular genre. This is initiative enough to pick this particular book. 

Tom Thorne, the DI, around whom the story revolves, has been imbued with a lot of Billingham’s personal characteristics. The two share a birthday, a locale (London) and musical interests. 

The inspiration for Scaredy Cat came from Billingham’s own brush with crime. He and his writing partner were kidnapped and held hostage in a hotel room. Billingham used that fear as the basis for Scaredy Cat and the motivation of the killers. The hotel killings also appeared as a sub plot in the book. 

Should you read it? 

Most definitely! 

It is a Must-read for crime thriller lovers and for all the other genre readers who like a well fleshed out story and plenty of intrigue. 

Dublin Calling: A Book Review 

Title: Dublin Calling

Author: Robert Sanasi

Genre: Non fiction, Memoir

Publishers: Wallace Publishers

The Story

Giacomo or Jack, who hails from Italy, travels to Dublin, the capital of Ireland in search of employment. In his early 20s, just stepping out of his hometown where life is stable and predictable, he is a shy young man. Determined to be a success and to be independent financially, he works hard in this new country, which is socially and culturally very different from his own.

Soon, he is thrown in the crazy cauldron of the social life of Dublin, which is populated by young people from all over Europe. Many are there for advanced studies and many like him are there because of the rich employment opportunities in the economically booming area.

Giacomo finds independence and unpredictable experiences. The taste of life is so crazy and good that he feels a strong urge to return to Dublin, whenever he decides to step out.

Review

Dublin Calling explores the author’s years in Dublin where life is unpredictable, exuberant, joyful and crazy, all at the same time. He feels strongly for everything- for life and love and sorrow and joy.

I found the book to be a very easy read. The style is casual and there is ‘no plotline or tricks’ as the author points out in the dedication at the beginning of the book. It is a simple and sincere narration of the events as they unfold over the years in Dublin.

For all its simplicity, the book is an exploration of the complexity of exile for the ones uprooted from their country through necessity. It touches upon the accompanying sense of loneliness even in the midst of loyal friends.

The book is about life, about this and that, the little things that we remember for a long time and the big things that change the course of our lives and shape our perceptions and attitude.

It is also about change, about how people come and go in our lives. It touches upon the reality of an uprooted generation for want of better employment opportunities, about their adventure and how they embrace life and diversity in different places.

The book is about places and how they shape us. It is about the lives we live therein and within.

“We keep so many things within, that one city cannot contain them all.”

The book seems populated with his friends, acquaintances and with people of his age group. It is about their energy, ardour and excitability. It deals with his own life but is expansive enough to talk of everyone in his generation.

“We are a restless generation, but not a failing generation.”

The author explores the existential doubt of the purpose of his life, as is normal for any 20- something. And at the same time, he explores the indomitable spirit of his generation, in search of life experiences, finding their truths and their path, setting their own rules and breaking away from the dogmas.

The search for his truth in a foreign land leads him to a bohemian lifestyle and to sexual freedom. He explores physical intimacy to douse the fire of loneliness in a strange land and in the end that intimacy itself becomes the end rather than the means to an end.

Towards the end of the book, he accepts the world for its paradox and for its impermanence.

Verdict

Dublin Calling is about looking for and finding joy and exhilaration. It is drunk on the elixir of life. It is a fresh, joyful, unpredictable and a ‘beautiful mess’ of a story and life.

I rate this book 4 stars 🌠🌠🌠🌠 

I received a copy of the ebook for an honest review. 

Taboo: A Book Review

Title: Taboo

Author: Thomas Piggott

Genre: Non fiction, Memoir. 

Publishers : Wallace Publishers 

Synopsis 

Set in the Midlands during the 1970s, Taboo tells the harrowing true story of the brutal abuse Thomas Piggott suffered and the childhood that was so heartlessly stolen from him as a result. It also follows him into adulthood, highlighting how the pain and the emotional damage caused by these attacks blighted his relationships, his career and his life in general, long after they had stopped. 

Review

Taboo is a book that delves deep into the mind of a child abuse victim and traces the ramifications of that traumatic experience into other areas of his life. It talks candidly of abuse, depression and mental illness. A true story, it can inspire other sufferers to speak out and seek the justice and the care that they deserve. 

Thomas Piggott wrote the book to share his story. He wanted to exorcise the ghosts of his past and come to terms with the negative influences that nearly destroyed his life. He also wanted to lay to rest his painful memories and to encourage other victims to talk about their abuse and to seek help so that they do not have to spend years feeling guilty and humiliated. 

It is a poignant memoir and the sincerity with which Thomas narrates his life’s events makes the reader sympathise with him. The book and the narration of the events is peppered with aphorisms and the learnings that he has culled from his experiences. 

Beginning right from his childhood and leading on to adulthood, Thomas describes the abuse and how the trauma later on leads to depression and mental illness. His marriage falls apart, as does his sanity.

An Acute Psychotic Experience brings forth fully the demons that he has had to battle. It is an eye opener in that it helps the reader to understand the despair and the helplessness of someone who is suffering from mental illness . 

The book is in a conversational style, which means that sometimes in the middle of the scenes, the writer digresses. It also seems like there are journal entries that have been put in the book, making certain events seem disjointed. 

The author’s time at the mental hospital takes up a large part of the book and in talking of his experiences as well as of the people he encounters, it makes for an interesting read. 

When the story ends where it does, there is plenty of hope that the author hands out, yet I wished there was more about his struggle to come to terms with ‘real life’ after spending time at the hospital for mental illness. 

In the end, there is hope and faith and a belief in the human spirit that can overcome all odds. In spite of being on medication, Thomas keeps his chin up and tries to redeem his life and dignity as best as he can. 

Verdict 

The book is a sincere and sensitive portrayal of child abuse and mental illness and the effects it has on the psyche of an individual. In talking of experiences that are considered Taboo by the society, the book attempts to destigmatise them. It exhorts the victims to come forward, talk about their experiences and to seek help so that they can be healed. 

The grammar in the book is jarring at times and the flow of the narrative is punctured by digressions into the author’s viewpoint. 

I rate this book 3 stars. 🌠🌠🌠 

I received a copy of the ebook for an honest review. 

Follow Me Home: A Book Review 

Book title : Follow Me Home 

Author : Jen Benjamin

Genre : Romance, Chick Lit

Synopsis 

When writer Katie Kendall moves to LA to turn her best-selling novel into a film, she is pretty sure it should be the happiest time of her life. But, with an unsupportive husband who suddenly files for divorce, the paparazzi assuming she is having a fling with the leading actor, and her friends left miles away in her old hometown, she begins to think she’s made a big mistake. 

Can her new crowd of friends help her through these times? And could those paparazzi snappers have a point about that leading actor…? 

The author, Jen Benjamin is a newspaper writer and her debut novel, Follow Me Home, is charming. 

The Story 

Katie, the best selling writer moves to California to produce a movie based on her book. Things look good and then they just fall apart. 

Her unsupportive husband files for divorce and Katie is perplexed. Before she can fall into despair, her new found friends in town rally to her support and Katie waltzs effortlessly into the making of the movie. 

She feels an attraction for the male lead, who is a rock sensation and a very unlikely person for her to fall in love with. 

And yet, the love story moves smoothly to its logical conclusion with a few twists thrown in for some hiccups. 

What Is Lovable 

The characters are lovable. The protagonist Katie, is intelligent and sensitive yet socially inept, liable to get nervous, goof up, feel awkward and has the most self deprecating wit that you would like. Jesse, the male lead is wonderful. A singing sensation with millions of swooning fans, he falls in love with the unpretentious Kate. To top it, he is caring, mature, level headed and generous. If that is not adorable, what is? And yes, he has a very loving and caring family as well. 

Julia and Ashley are the perfect girlfriends for Katie, lending an ear, encouraging Katie, supporting Katie and asking her to get to the root of her feelings for Jesse. 

There’s Ivan, the rich lawyer, who is, yes, another understanding character. So, the love interest does not lead to a love triangle. 

Nor does Jesse have an ex – girlfriend so there are no real obstacles to the love between the lead pair. 

Using the pithy journal entries by Katie in the book is something I liked very much. It summarized and tantalised as to what was coming next. It also made the first person narrative interesting and funny. 

The book is set in California, with all the trappings of Hollywood and yet, what I loved best was the music they make for the movie. There is more emotional investment and even passion in the creation of a song than in the making of the movie based on Katie’s best seller. 

What It’s Not

The characters are lovable but all of them are too good and picture perfect. There are just a couple of characters that are supposed to be negative and their character flaws are sort of glossed over. There is no meanness here and it adds to the feel good factor that reading this book generates. 

in the book, plenty of things happen in the span of a few months. But it is a bird’s eye view of the events. We get the highlights ; the important bits that move the story forward. This adds to the breezy feeling that the reader gets. 

There is no over analysis of emotions. There is a lot going on. There is love, first and foremost and friendship, at its cutest level. There is bonding and concern and detachment and indifference and difficult situations but at no point does the book delve deep into the motivations or the angst of the past experiences or the losses. That is why it feels light and not like an emotional drama. 

Verdict 

All in all, a lovable, feel good, light read that can be categorized into romance and chic lit. 

There is no smut, no overt sexual encounters and no objectionable language. 

I liked reading this debut novel so much that I am looking forward to the writer’s next book. 

I rate this book 4 stars. 🌠🌠🌠🌠 

I received a copy of the book for an honest review. 

Phoenixes Groomed as Genesis Doves : Review of a poetry collection 


Title
: Phoenixes Groomed as Genesis Doves 

Author : Jasmine Farrell 

Genre : Poetry 

Synopsis 

Phoenixes Groomed as Genesis Doves is a collection of poetry that draws the reader into the world of personal identity, inner growth and the complexity of human relationships. Ordinary and common images, especially ones found in nature, are used to card poems that appeal to the uncommon, the suppressed and the others. Filled with incredible grace and accessible wisdom, the poems explore a wide range of complex emotional themes. With unexpected metaphors and sparkling similes, the pieces varying in rhythm and theme, making each one like a foul wrapped candy : something to savour, enjoying each new bright colour on the tongue. 

Summary 
Phoenixes Groomed as Genesis Doves is the poet’s second collection of poems to be published. Jasmine Farrell is a writer and a blogger, living in Brooklyn, New York. 

The book chronicles a journey of personal transition over a span of two years, from unwanted dogmas to faith and peace. The angst gives way to questions and affirmations, seeking leads to finding and the various experiences touching upon love, racism, spiritual beliefs ultimately lead to an understanding in the poet’s heart. 

Review 

There are 80+ poems in this poetry collection. There are many themes, moods and emotions and the simpler wonderings in the poems at the beginning give way to complex issues such as love, spirituality and social inequality as we read on. 

This is a journey of the poet from self doubt and bitterness to faith and peace. It touches upon the search for identity, walking the true path and finding the life’s purpose to infatuation, love and betrayal moving on to feminism, racism and her personal idols. The difference in tone for the different themes is striking although there is a constant undertone of personification and of using metaphors and similes to her advantage. 

I’ve always wanted to be a Poet‘ sets out the reasons this volume came into being. She talks of the complete reasons of how an artist chooses the art, how poetry helps her to express her deepest emotions and how she can get others to relate to her experiences. 

Followed by ‘Letter to the Pretentious Poets ‘, the poet makes clear the ways she would not want her poetry to be. And thus follows a stream of poetry that is not bound to a structure. Some of the poems have a stream of consciousness feel and the others sound like affirmations. Many sound like narration, telling a story. 

The struggle from the now to the new comes up again and again in her poems. In ‘There will be Days ‘, 

The war between old, new and true 

reigns heavily within my thoughts on these days. 

There is a joy gushing forth in ‘I’m livin’ (To Zora)’. 

Capturing peace with wild spins and heavy slides. 

I dip to the down beats ’cause joy is hidden there. 

Verdict 

There is a lack of structure in the poems. Sometimes the lines are short and sometimes they are long and complex. It feels like prose packed as a poetic form. 

The metaphors seem mixed up and the contrasts are put in the wrong places and for the wrong reasons. 
There are also a few grammatical errors and editorial slip ups. 

Incoherence shows up in some places. A poem starts on a premise and yet ends on a very different note. Some poems pull multiple threads from many other pieces, making it a mish mash of emotions. 

At the same time, the themes are good and the range of feeling is very broad. There is no pretention in her poetry. It is straight from the heart. 

The emotions are deep felt and come through in ‘black ink’, bleeding on paper. There are gems shining through. There is a marked maturity in the treatment of subjects and in her inner universe from the beginning to the end. From self doubt to celebrating the exuberance of life, it is a fruitful journey. 

Rating 

I rate the book 3 stars. 🌠🌠🌠 

I received an ebook of the poetry collection for an honest review. 

Half Blood Blues – A Book Review 

Title : Half Blood Blues 

Author: Esi Edugyan

Genre: Fiction 

She forgot the definition of “jazz” as well and came to think of it as every beautiful thing she had ever failed to appreciate: the taste of warm rain; the smell of a baby; the din of a swollen river, rushing past her tree and onward to infinity.

– David Sedaris, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary 

Half Blood Blues won the prestigious Scotiabank Giller prize in 2011 and received shortlist honours for both the 2011 Man Booker Prize and the 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction. These awards set the stage for high expectations from the book and the Afro-German story set in the World War II promised an extraordinary reading. 

Summary 

Half Blood Blues plays out in Nazi controlled Berlin and in occupied Paris before and during the Second World War. It follows the fortunes of a band of Afro American and an Afro German jazz players who continue to make music through the dread of the war and the debilitating personal feelings of failure and jealousy. 

Half Blood Blues has a jagged tone like the blues and the story drips with pathos. The storyline and the characters are deeply emotional as all art and artists are understood to be. We encounter mixed race, wild music and plenty of verbal idiosyncracy. 

The Story

The book begins with a lovely preface and is followed by an exciting setting. It mentions the legendary jazz musician, Hieronymous Falk or the Kid who disappears during the second world war. He is part of an Afro American jazz band which is trying to survive the Nazi persecution. The book then moves to America, fifty years on; it is suspected that the kid is alive and there is the promise of a meeting at the end of a journey, that his erstwhile band members Sidney Griffiths and Charles C. Jones undertake. 

Review 

Written as a first person narrative, Half Blood Blues is the voice of the old and the weary. And when the narrative turns back to the past, which seems more real than the present, Half Blood Blues is also the voice of the young and the energetic. The storyline flits between the now and the past. The now is in the early 1990s and the past was in 1939.

Somewhere along the middle of the book, repetition sets in. The pace goes slow and there are no sub plots to break the monotony. The narrator looks to be turning into an unreliable one. The descriptive scenes feel too long. There are hunches and feelings but nothing happens. The settings start to repeat themselves. The band members are stuck in a tiny place, hidden from the rest of the world too many times. The story moves forward in their minds and in the dirty, derelict studios and apartments they are forced to take refuge in. 

Delilah Brown, the singer and a close associate of the influential Jazz musician, Louis Armstrong, is their saviour, of all those men cooped up and tortured by their own talent and by a longing to express their dream of fine music. 

Delilah is the one holding the story together, pushing the action, making things happen, having contacts, having compassion, dispensing love and living with anger, stress and disappointment. And yet, everything about Delilah sounds unreal, from her sudden and unexplained appearances throughout tho book to her looks – slender, bird like, a turbaned head… toughness hidden behind a soft exterior. 

As we read on and when the book is three fourths through, the excitement comes via the unreliable narrator. By this point, there are too many threads and too much unravelling. You don’t wonder how would the ball of yarn be rolled again… It would be, for sure, for the book does have an ending . It is just that the threads seem tangled. At times, there is too much back and forth just to get the story going. Half a century sometimes feels like worlds apart. The words sometimes seem to have been strung together only with wild dreams and with hope.

Along Rue Pigalle and Rue Fontaine only our own echoing footsteps kept time. We grown lean as greyhounds, our bodies all hope and bone. 

The book follows the second world war. It follows the steps of the hallowed jazz musicians. It traces the passion of the artists. It is a story of those men who loved, found their passion, lost and saw suffering. In spite of the cramped, dark feel of the book, the jazz uplifts the soul and the story ends in the vastness of the Polish sky, in dereliction yet again, touching misery, suffering and the immutable hope and compassion. The ending of the book is redemptive of the motives of the players and of the narration that seems fractured and implausible in places. 

There is doubt ; there is failure; there is loss. And there is also a reconciliation to these emotions. 

Maybe I was just finally forgiving myself for it. For failing. Maybe that was the sound of forgiveness I heard in my old axe. Cause that night, swinging by candlelight in that cramped room, everything warring in me settled down.

Verdict 

Half Blood Blues touches your soul, in a mess of wild joyous music surviving passionately the personal misery and the fear that the war brought. 

 I teamed up with Bloggeray to read and review the book at the same time. Do check out his excellent review here.