Friday, April 4, 2014

CBR6 #10: The Colony by F. G. Cottam

In 1825, the colony of settlers on New Hope Island--a barren rock just off the coast of Scotland--disappeared. Not a trace was ever found of them or of their charismatic leader, a former British slaver who found God and moved to the island for a chance to freely practice his own form of religion.

In 1934, a crofter named David Shanks moved to the island and built a cabin. He wasn't there long before he took a film that showed something deeply unsettling--he left the island never to return.

Now, in modern day, newspaper mogul Alexander McIntyre is forming a group to investigate the island for a series of exclusive features for his newspaper. He's got a virologist, an anthropologist, a celebrity scientist, and a psychic, as well as reporters and his own pet detective. It's bound to be the story of decade--perhaps the century!--and he sends a small security force to protect the island and keep his scoop safe.

Unfortunately, things at that point start to go wrong. McIntyre doesn't realize what he's gotten himself into, nor does he know that he's about to find out what really happened on "No Hope" Island, and it will turn out that he will wish he'd never asked.

This was a great, atmospheric, spooky book. The characters were well drawn, and I found most of them quite sympathetic, particularly alcoholic detective Lassiter and feisty reporter Lucy Church. I enjoyed the plot for the most part--once again, Cottam has done a great job of pulling together the history of a haunting, forcing the characters to search for the source and reveal it a piece at a time throughout the story. However, there was a point in the middle where I felt it dragged quite a bit. There was a very long section about the team preparing to go to the island, but I felt like they should have arrived earlier and spent more time there.

For the most part, I liked this a lot, and thought it was a very well-done ghost story.

CBR6 #9: Paradise Denied by John L. French

I am going to admit up front that the only reason I decided to read this is that it was available on Kindle for free. I was on the train and out of reading material, and this didn't look entirely terrible. Also: FREE.

I got lucky this time.

Normally, I don't like short stories. Often the medium leaves me frustrated and unfulfilled. The stories end before I'm ready to leave them, or they simply don't capture my attention because they're working too hard to cram in too much. However, this collection of paranormal short stories by former Baltimore CSI John French was about fifty times better than I expected it to be. The stories were all well-written and interesting, and several were also very funny.

French's background in crime scene investigation was often evident in his stories of police or detectives faced with the supernatural, including one in which a confidential informant dies, is resurrected in order to give his testimony...and then manages to escape from the morgue to wander the streets. There's stories of vampires, faeries, and zombies mixed in with tales of detectives trying to solve their cases. When the world's dead rise, what are their legal rights, and who can they turn to to solve their murders? Who is peddling dangerous magical drugs on the streets, and what's their motive? How far should a detective go to unmask a local super-hero, when the motive is pure politics?

The characters in each story were distinctive and interesting, and while each story was satisfying in itself, I definitely would have been happy to follow any of the main characters along into other pieces.

On the whole, this was a fantastic book for a paranormal fan who also has a functional brain.