Today’s book review of a novel is brought to you by yours truly, Morgen Bailey. If you’d like your book reviewed or to send me a book review of another author’s book, see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.
Cold Bloodied by Matt Cairns
Synopsis: Suffering brutal nightmares, and with little memory of how and why he came to be back in his hometown, Jade will finally learn the dark truth of his clouded past. What was the agenda behind his sudden disappearance while fighting in the Middle-East, and the bloody events leading to his return? And why had his father, a war veteran, never spoken of his tour in Vietnam more than thirty years ago?
Together with Rebecca Leigh, a local cop with her own tragic history, Jade will face a steady stream of inhuman assassins, courtesy of the malevolent Louis Faulkner, a powerful figure with sinister ties to Jade’s father.
Review (of the eBook using Mrs Kindle’s text-to-speech function)
The novel start with a short (as they should be) prologue about a retired army colonel committing suicide – a punchy opening.
Chapter 1 then introduces us to the main character, Thomas ‘Tom’ Jade, who is travelling on a bus, having been put on there by someone else – intriguing – but demands the driver drop him off in the middle of nowhere.
The second chapter features Rebecca Leigh who starts by killing idea at close range so we think she’s cold blooded but we learn that she’s putting it out of its misery. She is then presented with a semi dead cow thanks to the obnoxious Dean Featherston so does the same to that animal.
When Rebecca is told of Thomas’ existence, we know their paths will cross soon or later.
The early mention of cabbage trays and flax bushes hints at the setting (the publisher, Bay Road Media, is based in New Zealand) and the start of chapter four confirms we are three hours north of Auckland. Settings often make a novel and the wilderness in winter makes for a great location.
The supernatural part between the colonel and Faulkner lost me a bit but we soon resume reality where Rebecca and Tom meet, albeit briefly.
Characters are the most important aspect of any story and there is a great mix here, most with their troubles and agendas day and makes a good antagonist although he was cut off (too often in my opinion), usually when swearing, but I love that Rebecca is feisty.
And now for some tips for writers…
Clichés in this novel included ‘red raw’, ‘did a double-take’, ‘weighed a ton’, ‘skidded to a halt, ‘in a flash’, and ‘her voice like silk’.
There are often words that can go and here we had ‘total absence’ (where absence would be enough), ‘totally gutted’, ‘completely deserted’ / ‘completely soundproof’ (all for the same reason), ‘shrugged his shoulders’ (we don’t shrug with any other part of our anatomy), and ‘began shaking her head’ / ‘began firing’ where to begin to / start to aren’t needed unless interrupted, I started to move, almost entirely subsided.
Regular readers of these reviews will know that I am a stickler for sentences that start ‘Well,’ and doing a search of this novel revealed 102, and six furrowed brows.
There were a fair number of adverbs and while some were fine, there were others that could have been chopped e.g. ‘tightly gripping’ where gripping already indicates tight and glared sharply where ‘glared’ would have been enough.
Apart from some sections the novel is written in past tense and occasionally refers to previous times as ago which is fine in present tense but we are already in the past so ago should be before e.g. three months before earlier is also used which is correct.
There were some phrases that jarred with me including ‘his body locked in a state of high tension’ where ‘his body tensed’ would have been simpler (as would ‘Martin Harker’s living room’ instead of ‘in the living room of Martin Harker’) and ‘his vision sparkled’, ‘he’s already gone below’ (as in died) and ‘stars flashed in her vision’ (when Rebecca was attacked’. With ‘Jesus Christ he almost shouted’ it was unclear whether the almost meant that he had spoken quieter than a shout or not said it at all i.e. ‘almost spoken’. Hopefully if you read it again you’ll see how it could be confused. This is then followed by ‘and crumbled to the deck’ which should have been a crumpled; biscuits crumble. There were several phrases I liked including ‘it was as if two or three vices was simultaneously being closed around his skull with a dozen more on the inside trying to force their way out through the sockets of both eyes’, ‘a nose broken so many times it’s no longer resembled a nose’, and ‘every Tom Dick and yuppie’.
An easy mistake to make with pronouns (a character’s name, he, she) is that when they follow a noun they have to relate to each other e.g. ‘both vehicles were perfectly aligned in opposite directions their faces barely a foot from each other. They lowered their windows.’ I know the faces refer to the drivers but the noun prior to ‘their faces’ is the vehicles so we could think it’s the vehicles that face each other and that the vehicles rather than the occupants who wind down their own windows – this is something I often pick up when editing other writers novels.
Names are so important in fiction and having a character especially the main protagonist or antagonist who surname could also be a woman’s first name (I know a couple of Jades and The Mentalist’s Patrick Jane got away with it), is risky and it threw me at the start.
There are also some characters who names started with the same first initial e.g. Aubrey / Auburn, Featherston / Faulkner / Frank / Fletcher, Rebecca Ratana / Rapa / Rufus, Sonny / Shirl (which reminded me of Sonny and Cher) / Sparkes / Stalin / Suzy / Scott, Gin / Gabby, which (with the exception of Aubrey / Auburn) look different enough on the page but run the risk of the reader confusing them as we remember the first letters of names more than any others, especially when they appear in the same chapter as some of these do.
There were a tad too many characters and the details for my liking but other than the picks above (for which it loses a star), it’s well written, especially for a debut.
It loses another point for the supernatural aspect of which I’m not a fan but that’s just personal choice and having spent several hours listening to the book, I stopped halfway, something I don’t often do but it was at another point where the supernatural element confused me. I’m sure readers of this genre of book would have enjoyed it and continued to the end but sadly, I struggled with it in places and decided when Rebecca and Tom still hadn’t met properly by halfway through, that it just wasn’t for me (but the writing was very good so hasn’t put me off reading more by this author).
Rating: 3 out of 5
Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a prolific blogger, podcaster, editor / critiquer, Chair of NWG (which runs the annual H.E. Bates Short Story Competition), Head Judge for the NLG Flash Fiction Competition and creative writing tutor for her local county council. She is also a freelance author of numerous ‘dark and light’ short stories, novels, articles, and very occasional dabbler of poetry. Like her, her blog, https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com, is consumed by all things literary. She is also active on Twitter, Facebook along with many others (listed on her blog’s Contact page). She also recently created five online writing groups and an interview-only blog.
Her debut novel is the chick lit eBook The Serial Dater’s Shopping List ($0.99 / £0.77) and she has six others (mostly crime) in the works. She also has eight collections of short stories available (also $0.99 / £0.77 each) – detailed on https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/books-mine/short-stories.
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If you would like to send me a book review of another author’s books or like your book reviewed (short stories, contemporary crime / women’s novels or writing guides), see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog. And I post writing exercises every weekday on four online writing groups.