I’ve been keeping busy over at Crime Fiction Lover over the past few weeks. My most recent reviews have been The Watcher by Ross Armstrong, Sirens by Joseph Knox, Corpus by Rory Clements, and Frailty by Betsy Reavley. All of them very accomplished in their own right. None of them are indie published in the sense of it being just the individual – though Bloodhound Books is a smaller and agile independent publisher.
The Watcher was a debut and very enjoyable too. One thing that did surprise me was that my ARC of The Watcher was cluttered with typos and strewn with other errors. I’ve no doubt they will get picked up in the proof reading process but I noticed that, unusually, one of the reviewers on Goodreads did mention it. I wouldn’t feel comfortable about commenting on it in a review – after all, it’s not likely to be the experience the reader will get. However, they were severe enough that it was starting to seriously hamper reading it in places. My one thought is that an indie publisher would get crucified for sending out an ARC in that state.
Corpus was a notable demonstration of the skills of an experienced historical writer. Clements pulled together an enormous cast of characters into something resembling order by the end of the novel. As this is the first in a series that may calm down as the full company is assembled. Readers of his John Shakespeare novels may be able to comment on this. I was slightly awed by just how well he handled it.
Frailty wasn’t an easy read. Not because it is badly written or unengaging. It’s just that it is very difficult to read through your fingers. I would have hidden behind the sofa if I could. It was a touch on the harrowing side for my taste – the scenes with the 8-year-old Hope were hard. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but kudos to Reavley for writing such an affecting book.
Sirens by Joseph Knox might be my favourite of these four books. I liked the setting and while Knox was clearly drawing on Chandler, Hammett et al for his inspiration he steered clear of the pastiche. Perhaps there was just a little too much crammed in and some of the female characters felt a little one-dimensional. Nonetheless, it is excellent and another debut author to watch out for in the future.