Friday 1 May 2015

REVIEW: Simon R Green - The Dark Side of The Road.

Genre: Urban Fantasy / Mystery / Paranormal
Publisher: Severn House Publishers
Publication Date: 1st May 2015
Pages: 224


I received an advance copy of The Dark Side of the Road from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This book is published by Severn House Publishers.

Simon R Green. Another new one on me. Picked this up after seeing a few friends had enjoyed it and thought I would too. I’m still undecided as to whether I did or not.

Ishmael Jones works for the “Organisation”. His boss/handler is simply known as “The Colonel”. Ishmael takes his jobs from The Colonel. Jobs that involve hunting people down. Jobs that sometimes involve killing these people. He is sort of like the James Bond of the dark world.

The Colonel unexpectedly invites Ishmael to his family home, Belcourt Manor, for Christmas. Ishmael has no idea why. All he knows is the Colonel is scared of some dark horror that has come to Belcourt Manor. He wants Ishmael to seek it out and destroy it.

By the time he arrives The Colonel is missing and Ishmael is surrounded by strangers with secrets. One of them is a killer. Ishmael needs to closely guard his own secrets while trying to figure out who the killer is, and try and stop them before they strike again.

Think Cluedo. Think Miss Marple. Think Poirot. Mix them all in with a bit of supernatural and a lot more blood. Voila, you have The Dark Side of the Road.

I was actually quite disappointed with this one. It started well with the mysterious Ishmael on the long road to see The Colonel in the worst winter storm to hit the UK in years. It had intrigue. It had secrets. It had huge potential to go places and be a gripping story. Sadly, for me, it just didn’t deliver.

Belcourt Manor is a huge country estate. All of the occupants are snowed in and can go nowhere. When the bodies start to pile up is really when it all starts to go wrong for me. Predictable is a term I would use.

The main character of Ishmael is a dark horse. He is obviously not human. He has “powers” that are so much more enhanced than mere humans. Until you find out why, it is quite interesting. When you do find out what he is, I just crumbled. I wanted to put the book down at that point but felt I owed it to whoever to finish it. If it had been a film, I would have switched off then and there.

It’s an old plot. People trapped in a house together, dropping like flies one after the other. No one knows who the killer is and they all start to fall out because of this. They all have secrets and the story ploughs on trying to keep you interested enough to care what they are and get excited to try and figure out who the bad guy is.

I don’t mean to be cruel but I found it boring. The writing did nothing to keep me rooted to my seat. I often found myself drifting off when reading and had to go back over pages only to discover I didn’t miss anything. I can’t even think of anything else to add.

To summarise: Old country manor, old plot. Potential for a level of intrigue and mystery which sadly fell on its face. Predictable in parts. Boring in others. This story had a lot going for it and would have been good if it had something original to make it stand out from others of a similar vain. The something original never arrived. I kept waiting on it. I don’t know why.

General rating:

★★ It held my attention (mostly) but could have been a lot better.

It comes under many banners so can’t really give it a second rating. If I was to try and give it a second rating for the specific genres it would probably average out at a 2 as well.

You can buy The Dark Side of the Road here:

Book Synopsis:

Ishmael Jones is someone who can’t afford to be noticed, someone who lives under the radar, who drives on the dark side of the road. He is employed to search out secrets, investigate mysteries and shine a light in dark places. Sometimes he kills people. Invited by his employer, the enigmatic Colonel, to join him and his family for Christmas, Ishmael arrives at the grand but isolated Belcourt Manor in the midst of a blizzard to find that the Colonel has mysteriously disappeared.

As he questions his fellow guests, Ishmael concludes that at least one of them not least Ishmael himself - is harbouring a dangerous secret, and that beneath the veneer of festive cheer lurk passion, jealousy, resentment and betrayal.

As a storm sets in, sealing off the Manor from the rest of the world, Ishmael must unmask a ruthless murderer they strike again.

Simon Richard Green is a British science fiction and fantasy-author. He holds a degree in Modern English and American Literature from the University of Leicester. His first publication was in 1979.

His Deathstalker series is partly a parody of the usual space-opera of the 1950s, told with sovereign disregard of the rules of probability, while being at the same time extremely bloodthirsty.

You can see more of Simon at his website.

Simon’s author page can be found here.

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