Sunday, 7 May 2017

From a Poison Pen Volume II by B.P Smythe Review

Don't judge a book by its cover

This signed copy of From a Poison Pen Volume II was a Goodreads giveaway win. 


I have to admit, this book sat on my shelf for a good couple of months before I actually picked it up to read. I just found the cover uninspiring and dull so when it was time to pick my next read I always chose other books over this one. I know you should never judge a book by its cover (some of the best books I've ever read have had terrible covers) but we all do it and rightly or wrongly I fully expected the contents of this book to be as uninteresting as the cover. 


Inside are eight short stories. I tend to do most of my reading in the evening before bed and found the length of the stories perfect one per night reads.
Contents page

Wanting to be loved

This felt less like a story and more like one of those teaser chapters you find in the back of a book. The story drops you right in the middle of a creepy Frankenstein type scene and leaves you wondering what on earth is going to happen next but gives no explanation as to how the characters got to where they are in the first place. Had this been a teaser chapter in the back of a book I might well have gone and bought it. As a short story it feels unfinished and confusing. 

Roxanne 

This was my least favourite of the eight. A story about a group of terrorists planning a horrendous attack on thousands of innocent people, Roxanne a murderous prostitute and how their paths cross with unfortunate consequences for all. While I found the attack scene terrifying, gruesome and unsettling but at the same time mesmerising and Roxannes final scene extremely satisfying, I still would have preferred one story for the terrorists and one for Roxanne.

Train Spotting

A story about a serial conman, his prey - lonely widowers looking for a second chance at love and the lengths he is prepared to go to to avoid getting caught.
To begin with I found myself rolling my eyes at the predictability of it all. I wanted to shake both Karen and Jean for falling for his charms and allowing themselves to be so easily duped. As it turned out it was me that needed a good shaking. I had been far too quick to judge. From that first a-ha moment when the title of the story started to make sense I was completely hooked. This is a story about the sweet taste of revenge. What goes around comes around. Mwah ha ha haa.


One fine day

This one describes some of the horrors that happened at one of the concentration camps during World War II and how one of the German doctors escaped capture before the camp was liberated. It then cuts to a home for the elderly, the home of two female camp survivors, still suffering from the mental and physical scars of their time during the war. When one of them screams out in terror having recognised 'The beast of Jaworzno' she starts a chain of events that rocks the home and risks exposing the true identity of someone who is determined to stay hidden. 
This was a murder mystery that took pleasure in throwing me off the scent each and every time I thought I had it sussed. The ending however had me well and truly stumped. The characters were confusing. I never quite knew who was who and found myself re reading certain parts multiple times thinking I'd missed a vital clue somewhere along the way. Confusion aside, this was still one of my favourite stories from the collection purely because I loved the mystery element of it. It kept me guessing right till the very end. I'm still puzzling it over in my head now!

Signed by the author
Sleepers

A top secret military programme, designed to brainwash unsuspecting recruits and turn them into sleepers is underway. When the programme is used for personal gain it quickly becomes apparent that no one is safe.
I found the parts describing how sleepers are made and what they are used for the most interesting and would have liked more on that. As for the storyline, I found it a bit too far fetched for my liking. I didn't feel invested in any of the characters so when bad things started to happen I didn't give a hoot. 

Aunt Meg

Alistair is a mortician with a passion for Taxidermy who still lives at home with his suffocating step mother. When he finds Ralph, an aspiring author pouring over his favourite Taxidermy book in the library for research purposes they strike up a conversation. Both men quickly realise they have much in common and make a pact that will solve both of their problems, leaving them free to follow their dreams. 
This story was another of my favourites. The author has done a fantastic job with the characters. I felt that I really got to know Alistair. After hearing a bit of his back story, I was able to look past his oddities and found myself really rooting for him and joining him in his hatred for Clarissa and Aunt Meg. The twist at the end I did not see coming and it left me feeling quite sad. 

Twilight of the dogs 

Lynn and Margaret arrive at Hotel Bon Repos for a relaxing holiday. When Lynn narrowly escapes a mauling from a slavering wild dog by the tennis court she reports it immediately but quickly realises that no one believes her. Or do they? 
I wasn't sure what to make of this one. It took me a while to realise this is a ghost story and to make sense of what was happening. I didn't warm to any of the characters and there is an x rated scene that I didn't think had anything to do with the rest of the story. The scene in the lift made me chuckle though. A point for that. Arf Arf!

Rupert 

Gerald is the care home worker of your worst nightmares. If this story taught me anything it's that when the time comes I need to choose my care home very carefully.
Another well written character. I disliked Gerald right from the start. He is an evil man who needs to be locked up for life. The story then took me back to Geralds childhood at which point felt strangely protective of him. I began to understand how Gerald might have become the twisted man he is today and while I still think he needs locking up I also feel that had he received proper care and attention as a child, maybe it would have been a whole different story.



Overall I enjoyed B.P Smyths collection of short stories. Not every story was to my taste but the ones that were made reading this book worthwhile. I will definitely pick up Volume I at some point in the hope of finding a few more gems. 


I'm giving this book 3/5 stars. 

If you would like to read this book for yourself you will find it over here

J9

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