Friday, May 7, 2010

Blood Harvest by S.J. Bolton

I don't normally post book reviews here, but I read a new book yesterday which deserves to be an exception.  Even so, this, and all my reviews will be posted on GoodReads.

BLOOD HARVEST (Susp-Rev. Harry Laycock/Dr. Evi Oliver/Ensemble-England-Cont) - Ex
Bolton, S.J. – Standalone – 3rd book
Bantam Press, ©2010, UK Hardcover – ISBN:  9780593064115   

First Sentence:  “She’s been watching us for a while now.”   

Reverend Harry Laycock has come to his new parish which includes Heptoncough in the Yorkshire Pennines.  Here there is an old church, a very old church a village which still carries out the old traditions and where young girls have disappeared or died.  One of the girls died in a house fire, but her mother, Gillian, never accepted her death and constantly roams the moors at night.  Psychiatrist Evi Oliver is trying to help her put her life back together.   Tom Fletcher and family have moved to the village having bought the only new house built in many years.  It was built on the old Church’s land, next to the graveyard.  They all learn that events of the past are still part of the present.

Although I really liked Ms. Bolton’s first two books, this one knocked my socks off.  Everything about it was so well done, it’s hard to know where to start.  Even from the page before the prologue, I was captivated. 

I am not a particular fan of prologues, but this one really worked.  However, I think the book would have been more suspenseful had the information in the prologue been in the correct chronological space within the story; about Chapter 50. 

I was introduced to a number of the significant characters who immediately jumped off the page and made me want to know more about them.  I am also not usually a fan of ensemble casts.  Again, this worked.  Although Harry, the antithesis of a stuffy vicar and for whom I would have provided a different surname, and Evi, the physically impaired, intelligent and independent psychiatrist, are the pivotal characters, all characters were alive and their interactions realistic.  

Dialogue is such an important element of a story.  Ms. Bolton has a skill with dialogue that echoes in cadence the speech of the characters.  As well as establishing a strong sense of place, she incorporates the history and traditions of the area. 

Combined with all these ingredients, what caused me to read this 421 page book in eight straight hours was the authors voice and the plot.  The first half of the book is an amazingly skillful balance of humor…”I haven’t had this much success with a woman since I got drunk at my cousin’s wedding and threw up over the main of honour.”… and underlying, delightfully creepy menace.  There is a real sense of “things that go bump in the night” which made me happy I was reading the book during the day.  The second half of the book moved to police and forensic investigation, and a race-against-time fear.   The climax was filled with an increasingly ratcheted tension and surprises right up to the very end. 

One observation is that Ms. Bolton does have a penchant for her female protagonists to be somehow physically impaired.  While the overcoming of the particular impairment shows the character’s strength and resolve, it can also become formulaic or even cliché over time.  However, as this is a general observation and not a criticism of this particular book, it does not impact my rating at all.  In this case, it greatly added to the suspense.  This really was an exceptional, “wow” book and one I shan’t soon forget. I cannot wait for Ms. Bolton's next book

3 comments:

  1. I think you should go and write recomments here. I mean you do not have to do it for all the books you are reading (not doing it myself), but for those books you loved, been impressed a lot you should do it. With other words your favourite books.

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  2. Thanks, Jenny. I probably shall. Only about 10% of the books I read each year are ones I rate as "excellent," and only a few of those are ones which inspire me to gush. Those are probably the ones I'll post here.

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  3. I was really interested to read this, since Bolton has also made a big impression on me after reading her first two books, SACRIFICE and AWAKENING. I have this one waiting on the table next to my reading chair. I know I'll get to it very soon. -- Dianne Day

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