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. 

5 Ways to Bid Adieu

Bidding farewell is always hard, unless you are longing to move on from your present circumstances. Usually, the pull of ‘status quo’ is too strong and all we wish is to stay where we are, with people we are used to and with our routines that we have stuck to.
It has happened to me often that I have had to bid adieu to places. For all of my childhood and much of my adulthood, I have hopped from one place to another and in the process had a rich life of new experiences, different cultures and mind expanding circumstances. I am ready to move on, to adapt, to see the new, to view the different all because of the valuable experiences that change brings.

 
Due to a quirk of fate, the past few years saw me moving less and less. Although, I was always ready to leave, one foot in the door, always looking at what lay beyond, I had started putting down roots. But life is nothing but a movement and there is a time when we have to move on.
Even though it is painful to go from places that we invest so much in, it is also important to say goodbyes completely so that we can look back after a few years and remember only the good.
In the process of moving on, here are the things I wish we can do for peace. 

One
, say goodbye to the people that have mattered. Deep and close relationships are the bedrock of a stable and fulfilling life. Even though the world is networked as never before and talking to someone is as easy as the push of the ‘call’ button on the phone, yet to cease sharing the most insignificant details of your life with someone and let the frequent belly laughs subside because you no longer go through the same days can feel bad. So, acknowledge that this is going to happen and that your relationship is going to change. Say thank you to all those who have shared your world. And pledge to stay in touch and have a deeper relationship that defies distance.

Two
, say goodbye to the places as well. It may seem weird but we are as attached to the places we visit frequently. So, say goodbye to the parks you frequent, the restaurants you loved eating in, the theatres and the art galleries you have lingered in and the bends in the road that give you the first glimpse of your favourite landmark.

Three
, take memories with you. Of course, you have been making memories all along. Now, just gather them in your camera, in your scrapbook and as souvenirs. For you and your new friends.

Four
, plan to come back. Never say never. Life, with its unexpected twists and surprises may just bring you back. It has happened to me and with very pleasant results.

Five
, stay Grateful. Say good bye and at the same time, stay grateful for the wonderful memories and the learning. You were meant to be here and you were meant to move on. It is all a part of the Universe’s grandiose plan for you.
I just wish that this time I am ready to let go with grace and love. 

Dear Reader, tell me of the times that you have had to say goodbye to the things that mattered. Tell me how you managed. Tell me how to be accepting and graceful. 

This listicle is part of Friday Listicles, a weekly feature that professes our love for anything that is presented in a numbered or bulleted form, paving the way for a happy weekend. 


3 Lazy Ways to be Happier

I like to be ‘lazy happy’, just as I like to be ‘lazy busy’. The keyword here is ‘lazy’ in both kinds of mental states. It is an attempt to be things we are meant to be, without trying too hard. 

Spiritual guru, Deepak Chopra, in his book, ‘The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success’ emphasizes on spontaneity and an effortless sense of well being. He maintains that success does not come through working hard but by relaxing into who we are and by understanding the principles that govern the entire existence. When we are in harmony with the Natural Law, abundance springs forth easily. 

Looking for Happiness can be easier than working on our behaviour, attitudes and motivations. Most self help literature suggests that to bring about a change in our circumstances, we must drive the change. And yet plenty of recent research suggests that there are ways we can manifest success and happiness in our lives without trying too hard. 

Here are three effortless ways to feel happier and to be more successful. 

1. Like Other People 

Success and Happiness are influenced largely by others, the ones we interact with on a daily basis – in our homes and at our workplaces. Happiness is a state of mind and positive interactions can accelerate the feeling of positivity and bring in trust in relationships. We don’t want to be happy alone. We want the world to celebrate with us. We want to walk in tandem with the people we care for. 

The simplest and the easiest way to improve these relationships is to like people more. Once you train yourself to consistently like and to appreciate people for what they are now, you bring in a positive bias when dealing with them. 

Also, when you assume positive intent from people, it leads to greater cooperation. It would mean that you are more open to feedback from people and every criticism would be construed positively. 

When you like people and are liked in return, it also improves your sphere of influence. 

2. Accumulate micro moments of positivity 

Turning most of your emotions into positive ones and finding pleasure in the little things ensures a greater feeling of well being than even large positive occurances. 

Why wait for a promotion or a vacation or acquiring a new house to feel good and fortunate? Seize the chance to feel good every little while by the small things. Engage in small talk or say a hello to the people you meet everyday. Take a path through the beautiful park on the way to work. Feed the birds in your lunch break. Savour a simple meal. Celebrate your kids ‘ good performance at school. Be generous. Help someone. 

Each day brings in new possibilities which you can turn into joyful encounters. These little moments of positivity accumulate and have a far reaching impact on a feeling of well being. 

3. Share the Joy 

People are the greatest influencers when it comes to life. Surround yourself with people who are happy, positive and who bring a lot of energy and commitment to whatever they do. Their attributes rub off on you. Your network and the people you spend the most time with indicates what you would become. So, get the good people and let them do the job of transforming you. 

Add wonderous joy to your life by sharing positive emotions and experiences with your friends. It is considered to be one of the best ways to foster a sense of connectedness. Watching a movie or a game together, going for a walk, sharing a meal or even sharing a bit of good news is considered to be a great mood booster. 

Savour the good moments in your life and share them with happy, exuberant people. 

And that’s it. You are happier! 

Try the lazy way to greater happiness and share your thoughts in the comments below. 

This listicle is part of Friday Listicles, a weekly feature that professes our love for anything that is presented in a numbered or bulleted form, paving the way for a happy weekend. 

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. 

11 Reasons I Write

Here are the compelling reasons that make me write. 

  1. There are a lot of emotions out there that are the undercurrent of human existence. We don’t explore them enough collectively. Writing is a way to nod and say yes, I feel that way too.
  2. Writing helps me to sort out things for myself. Conflict, despair, misery… I have been able to keep them from overwhelming me in difficult times.
  3. I want to be among the blessed ones, the hallowed ones, the ones who can create beauty and heartbreak through words alone. I have had writers do that to me and I want to emulate them.
  4. Writing gives me a sense of purpose. It is not my bread and butter. Not does it provide tangible benefits. But it gives me direction and happiness and a feeling that life is worth living.
  5. Writing is creating. It may not produce a sculpture. It would not produce a movie. My writing might not even produce a book. There might be blog posts or there might be overflowing journals. But the writing could be a personal experience for some. It might not win accolades but it might resonate with some minds and hearts.
  6. Writing is my way of self expression. It is a heartbeat encapsulated in words. I do not have to keep the unsaid within. In attempting to say what is a swirling mass of emotions in my heart, I say it to the paper for catharsis.
  7. Writing helps me find my way out of life’s conundrums. It helps me find my voice in the doubts and lights up my way through words.
  8. Writing helps me to celebrate the ephemeral and the transient. There are moments and emotions that are fleeting and yet so powerful, just like truth.
  9. Writing brings out the worlds in me, the ones populated by unlikely people, leading extraordinarily interesting lives. Through setting forth improbable combinations in the lives of these imaginary people, there is magic and reality all intermingled to make me feel like a Creator.
  10. Writing helps me explore my own narratives and my influences so that I can understand my viewpoint objectively, once it has been written down. I can choose to evolve my perspective.
  11. Writing helps me face my mortality. It makes me confront the transience of life and the little time I have been left with, in order to write all that I want to.

What are your reasons for writing? Do share. 

This listicle is part of Friday Listicles, a weekly feature that professes our love for anything that is presented in a numbered or bulleted form, paving the way for a happy weekend. 

4 Surprising Tips for Self Editing your Writing 

To write is human, to edit is divine 

– Stephen King

1. Create distance 

Before tackling the difficult task of editing your work, create some distance first – between yourself and your important manuscript. Give it the gift of of time. Step away for a pre designated time from your work. It could be sleeping over your article or putting it aside for a week. For a longer piece of work, a few weeks might be required for you to look at the work with fresh eyes. 

Metaphorically, create a distance by working on another project or piece of writing. Periodically, take a look at your resting manuscript. When you are surprised by what you have written, by the style or the pace or the narration, it is time to take out the editing pens. 

2. Listen to your instincts 

Once you start reading your work and are getting ready to cut out sentences and passages or to rewrite, focus on what you feel is right and how some things do not sound right. It could be a character that you have spent days crafting meticulously but she still does not sound authentic. Some scenes might seem forced and certain parts may feel too drawn out and boring. Make a note of whatever it is that you feel instinctively to be in need of improvement. 

Technically, or going by the book, you might have done well in creating a conflict in the story and in resolving it towards the end. Yet, if it sounds false to your ears, it is time to take a second and a closer look. 

3. Identify the Story 

The story or the underlying premise of your article is the reason you are writing. For a piece of fiction, it is the story that is paramount. The themes, the recurring motifs, the setting, are all secondary to what you have set out to tell. Even if it is a slice of life or a stream of consciousness kind of work, pare it down to its bare bones, strip away the meat and find out if the barest version makes any sense. 

Remember that the first draft is usually telling yourself the story and it is only for you, the writer and the creator. At the next part of editing and rewriting, the ‘other’ or the reader comes in. This is where you examine the story to see if there is coherence underneath the words and the imagery and the setting and the action. 

4. Keep the Joy 

It is easy to get disheartened when you come back to your supposed literary masterpiece after a while. It could look insipid or an uninspired piece of writing and there would be many many things that you can see are wrong. The basic plot may be disjointed, the storyline unoriginal. The characters may seem to be mere caricatures and the pace may be in jerks and starts. This is the time when you can easily get disheartened and abandon your work, thinking that no amount of rewriting can improve it. And yet, it is never a good idea to let go of any writing just because it does not seem imaginative enough or technically sound at that point of time. 

Take a deep breath and think back of the joy that you experienced while creating the first draft. Think of the sense of potential and the plethora of possibilities that you felt while putting down on paper your wildest thoughts and deepest emotions. Will back the joy and you would get your sense of purpose back. 

What things do you keep in mind when you are editing your own work? Please share your tips and tricks. 

This listicle is part of Friday Listicles, a weekly feature that professes our love for anything that is presented in a numbered or bulleted form, paving the way for a happy weekend.