Shastrix Books

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Play Dead

Play Dead

20th December 2016

Harlan Coben's first novel, which he tells you in the introduction not to read before his other books as it's old and rough, follows the life of ex-supermodel Laura as she deals with the aftermath of losing her husband.

It's a good, if slightly over-long thriller, filled with intrigue. In some cases though things are a tad too obvious and the hints feel like they should have been more subtle. There are also a few red herrings that are glaringly obvious and could have benefited from being better buried. However a lot of the story is revealed at a good pace and it does well to keep the attention of the reader and keep the story moving.

The characters are a bit generic - we're aligned with various of them but still never get to know them in any real depth. They feel more like characters in a film where you can see them but not see inside them. This is probably emphasised by a deliberate attempt to obscure motivations, which limits the access we have to the inner thoughts of most of the characters.

So overall a mix of reactions. I enjoyed reading it despite the rough edges, and don't think it really deserved the warning that the author had appended.

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Eagle Day

Eagle Day

20th December 2016

The second book in the Henderson's Boys series, which is itself a spinoff from Muchamore's Cherub series, follows immediately on from the first, with a group of characters (adults and children) stranded in France during WW2 and falling into roles as British spies.

While it's a thrilling adventure with a lot of colour, I didn't feel it engaged as strongly as the first book, which painted a shockingly realistic picture of what the invasion would have been like for a group of children. This novel felt like it switched focus more to the adult character and that weakened it - one of the hallmarks of the series is the realistic scenarios that the young protagonists are thrust into, and I didn't feel any of them had sufficient page-time to be explored properly.

The plot is a good one, and the historical setting means that the characters can be cast into real events, which does add an element of authenticity. There are a lot of small moments that add detail, including some that go further than the usual young-adult novel would (as Muchamore often does). I don't know the history as well as perhaps I should, so can't say whether it is accurate, but I suspect that enough research has been done to make it so.

A bit of a mixed bag I suppose then - not as good as the previous book, but a good story nonetheless. I'm looking forward to continuing the series.

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Buy book: UK
Murder in the Museum

Murder in the Museum

20th December 2016

The fourth Fethering Mystery, which I've finally located my copy of after over a year of hunting, returns to the Sussex village's amateur detectives as a body is discovered at a local heritage house. It's not recent, but leads to the usual complicated scenarios that only a pair of plucky amateur sleuths can untangle.

The plot felt a little convoluted, with perhaps a few too many threads weaving around. Some of the suspects are larger than life, which while traditional in this genre, just steps it a touch outside plausibility.

The main characters are where the real richness and enjoyment enters this novel - it's hard to believe that this is only the fourth novel given how detailed their lives have becomes, and I really like stepping in as they investigate and learning more about them and understanding more about how they tick.

An interesting if not quite great entry in the series, and one I'm glad I finally found, and which frees me up to continue enjoying the series.

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Buy book: UK
The Jackal's Trick

The Jackal's Trick

20th December 2016

The second book in John Jackson Miller's Star Trek trilogy, part of the series' 50th anniversary celebration, continues the tale of a Klingon warrior who has surprisingly risen to prominence, as well as several of his compatriots - and the cast of The Next Generation who are once again stuck in a diplomatic struggle rather than out exploring.

As is typical for Star Trek, there are some surprisingly relevant allusions to occurrences in our world, whether intended or not, which makes the reader long even more to find out how things are going to go and how at least one of the worlds they love will end up all right. I did detect a tiny feeling of repetition though, with some novels earlier in the continuity following a plot line with some similarities.

Unlike many trilogies, this middle book doesn't have the feeling of just shuffling things between the end of the beginning book and the start of the concluding book, but instead tells a full story in itself that features a lot of action and a satisfying resolution. There's a lot going on, of course, and many threads still hanging for book three but it certainly stands well alone.

A great Trek novel in a great Trek trilogy. So far my favourite trilogy of the year.

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Buy book: UKUSBuy ebook: UK
The Victoria Vanishes

The Victoria Vanishes

20th December 2016

The sixth Bryant and May novel follows on very swiftly from the fifth, beginning at a wake. Stumbling home, Bryant has an unusual encounter that kicks off one of the most bizarre and puzzling investigations the Peculiar Crimes Unit has faced.

It's an absolutely fascinating plot that certainly makes for one of the best entries in the series. There's one moment that felt a bit unfair to the reader trying to follow along, but the balance of comedy, tragedy, action and mystery is perfect.

One of the things I've just noticed that I'm enjoying in this series is the rotation of character focus. While the whole series is of course about the two title characters, the secondary cast seem to be taking turns under the spotlight to examine their lives and motivations.

Another great story that makes me really glad that I continued reading, and that there are lots more of them lined up ready on my shelf.

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The Son

The Son

18th November 2016

This standalone novel from Jo Nesbo introduces us to 'The Son', who has become a religious figure in his prison, relieving the other prisoners of their guilt through confession, as well as involving himself in various other goings on. Until one day he receives some surprising news, and immediately things change.

This is a fantastic story which I really loved. The narrative gripped me throughout as I was desperate to start pulling together all the threads on my mind and learn what everything meant. Despite that I was still surprised by how things worked out.

One of the best things about this story is the way that the narrative is presented. Throughout the story we are aligned with many different characters, some only for moments, and it's through their eyes that we see the whole story - at no point are we aligned with the Som himself. I thought this was a great way to tell the tale while leaving some things a mystery, and it really goes to show off the creativity of Nesbo's mind.

I found myself completely hooked on this story and would strongly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good mystery or thriller. Have fun.

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Hell's Heart

Hell's Heart

18th November 2016

This is the first book in a new trilogy - the second celebrating the 50th anniversary of Star Trek - focussing on The Next Generation crew and being a part of the continuing adventures told in the novel series. Picard and the crew are dispatched on a diplomatic mission to deliver a Klingon house to a celebration of an old battle, but as usual complications arise.

Despite the main storyline following TNG there is a pretty chunky Original Series act in the story with some star turns by Kirk and Spock, which serves to give some background and set up events in the later era.

It's a great story that uses a bunch of familiar characters really well and sets this up to be an excellent trilogy. The plot is deliciously complex pulling on strings from throughout the Trek canon and unwinding them in new and interesting ways. The new characters are rich and compelling and draw the reader in to their intrigue.

An excellent tribute to the series, and one that leaves me desperate to continue the story with book two.

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The Hall of Heroes

Reading soon

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  3. The Gunslinger
  4. Dèjá Dead
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  9. Girl Missing
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  11. Divergent
  12. Labyrinth
  13. The Left Hand of God
  14. The Murder Bag
  15. Death is Forever
  16. The Maze Runner
  17. Research
  18. The Whole Truth
  19. The Disappearing Spoon
  20. Oh Dear Silvia
  21. Alcatraz Versus the Shattered Lens
  22. Surely You're Joking Mr Feynman
  23. The Listerdale Mystery
  24. The Mystery of the Laughing Shadow
  25. The Wheel of Time Companion
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  27. The Disappearing Floor
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  30. The Skull Throne
  31. Resurrection Men
  32. Wolf's Brother
  33. Foxglove Summer
  34. Jeeves and the Wedding Bells
  35. A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms
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  40. The Atrocity Archives