Changeling

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I usually try to summarise the plot of the novels I read in my own words but I was amused by the Amazon outline because of the wee bit at the end (embolding is mine)

Elusive online journalist Scott King investigates the disappearance of seven-year-old Alfie in an intensely dark, deeply chilling and searingly thought-provoking thriller … for fans of Serial

because I am becoming increasingly aware of the habit some online retailers have in trying to link one thing to another thing which is not quite the same – at least this time it’s not in the title as has happened in the past 😀 – this sort of marketing drives me a tad crazy. No criticism of Matt Wesolwski at all, of course.

Rant over.

So Changeling is the third in the Six Stories series, which is based around fictional podcaster Scott King who investigates events, usually involving murder or disappearances, over six episodes, each one having a different point of view. He is clear that he isn’t trying to provide a definitive solution to any of these mysteries but that he is leaving it up to his listeners to decide what happened in each case. The structure of each book is podcast episode transcripts, often interspersed with other material such as Scott’s own audio log.

I loved the previous two in the series and as soon as I saw this was coming out I snapped it up and read it almost immediately.

So as Amazon tried to tell us, Changeling covers the disappearance of Alfie, a young boy whose parents have separated, He is being taken by his doting father away from his alcoholic mother when, after his father stops the car to deal with a noise from the engine Alfie disappears into local woods. These woods have a reputation for sinister and potentially supernatural happenings, so the investigation is about whether Alfie was (literally) spirited away or if something else happened. And I’ll stop there, because the pleasure in the book is watching how things unfold.

I will put my hand up here and say that I was pretty sure I knew where the story was going to end up and I was more or less right, though not how it happened. But to be honest it didn’t bother me that I could see the end point; the writing, and in particular Scott’s distinctive voice, makes the unravelling of the mystery so enjoyable.

If you tend toward creepy mysteries with strong characters then you will enjoy Changeling, but be warned that it deals with issues relating to abusive behaviour; the author has a very helpful note at the end of the book explaining why he decided to tackle this distressing topic.

I really enjoyed this and hope that it’s not the last we hear of Scott King.

Bird Box

a5f8363bd1c3503ed0b4004cda9803feA creepy take on the post-apocalyptic survival genre, I bought Bird Box ages ago but decided to read it now because a film version starring Sandra Bullock is coming soon to Netflix and/or cinemas (if it isn’t there already!)

So, Malorie lives alone in a house with her two children, known only as Boy and Girl. We know something awful has happened but at this stage not what, except that it requires avoiding looking outside and wearing tight blindfolds whenever leaving the house.

As the story develops we learn that around several years previously there were reports of people seeing something which immediately drove them to carry out extreme acts of violence. It started in Russia and then spread across the world (presumably); certainly to the USA. In flashbacks we learn the impact of these events on Malorie and the group that she took refuge with, how she came to be alone with the children, and her plans to finally head for safety.

I enjoyed the structure of the book which flips backwards and forwards between (I think) three timelines. I would have loved to have had lots of detail about the threat that everyone is hiding from, because I relish the build up to the end of the world in the same way that I love hard SF – I like to know how things work, what can I say. But having said that, the lack of detail actually works really well in building up tension – for example, is this actually real or some kind of global hallucination – and giving the sense that the reader knows as little about what’s happening as Malorie does. The particular details of how she ended up alone are both sad and horrifying.

What didn’t work quite so well for me was the ending. There is a clear conclusion to Malorie’s story but it left me with questions and a mild sense of dissatisfaction. However, the bulk of the book is well written and I have already got my hands on more of Josh Malerman’s books.

I am intrigued about how this is going to work as a movie, and I also now want to see A Quiet Place which seems to have a similar premise, though focussing on hearing rather than sight.