The Karma of King Harald
A Canine Cozy
Conger Road Press, 2012
King Harald is a ginger dog of dubious breed. Free to roam (escape) about New Bergen at his leisure he has the nasty habit of dragging his owner Andy Skyberg into crime scene after crime scene. Someone in New Bergen wants the town’s latest addition to go right back where she came from and take her new age crystals with her. But they haven’t reckoned on Harald spoiling their fun.
I have to confess, I didn’t make a good start on this book. The first chapter had me recoiling in horror as a dog owner of 25 years. I just couldn’t imagine, no matter how hard I tried, that any dog would think or orchestrate his life in quite the same manner as King Harald. But I persevered simply because I believe that all books deserve to be read in their entirety before casting a critical eye. I’m happy that I did and even went as far as to reread that off putting first chapter to make sure I hadn’t been mistaken.
The end result is a book that I enjoyed simply because it was an innocent return to the crime and the mystery novels I read as a child. Don’t get me wrong, there are murders aplenty, arson attacks and malicious rumours, but there was little blood and gore, swearing or sex scenes that have become par for the course in modern day crime tomes. I’ll also admit that I had to look up the term ‘cozy’ since I’d never seen that on a book cover before but when I did, it helped explain the overall layout of the book and its plot.
This title was a nice break from the usual crime titles I normally read and it was full of small town charm, with a little murder thrown in of course. The plot was good, well thought out and easy enough to follow. A few red herrings here and there and an eccentric aunt and all is well so far. For those who like their crime with a little more grit and violence then this is not the book for you. It’s a polite, cleaned up story involving murder and menace with enough detail to keep the reader interested until the end. Think of it more like an Agatha Christie rather than a John Connolly or Ian Rankin, but still, a nice easy read to help pass a Sunday afternoon. I would however, clean up that opening chapter as some of the writing is a bit ‘flowery’ when describing a dog and their thought patterns otherwise it could end up putting readers off before they’ve given the book a chance. Keeping it simple would have worked much better as it did for later chapters written from Harald’s point of view. For fans of cozy mysteries I’d say this will keep them happy. Recommended.
Reviewed by Laura McLaughlin, January 2013.
Macmillan Publishers Ltd., August 2012
Also available in the US
Tor, December 2012
David Ash, a world renowned parapsychologist based in London has seen his fair share of unexplained phenomena. He also has his fair share of demons that dog his life, his work and his dreams. Now, he must investigate a strange castle, nestled in a secret location in Scotland and owned by an even more secretive organization. What are the secrets being help captive there? Who are the people being held captive there? And will Ash make it out alive?
The first thing that attracted me to this book was the promise of a ghost story with a difference. Someone has been viciously attacked by an unknown and unseen entity. A secret organization with more power and influence that you can shake a stick at are having huge problems keeping their wealthy ‘patrons’ safe and only one man has a chance of alleviating the problem. Enter David Ash, parapsychologist extraordinaire. This character fits perfectly into a character mould that I see very frequently in a lot of books. A troubled man, often quite brilliant at something or other and very much a loner, but one who could be quite transformed by the love of a good woman. Sound familiar? While this is a set formula, I still liked the character. What I didn’t like though was how quickly the book descended into fantasy. I was genuinely chilled and intrigued by the first few chapters and after a particularly hairy flight, I felt the chilly flicker of fear down my neck at the line ‘they know you’re coming’. However, after this point the story became more and more farcical. While the supporting characters were interesting, there were certain elements that bordered on the ridiculous and which consequently were off putting. The overall premise of the book was initially appealing and had much potential to be a gripping read but I think some characters and their back story just became too much. Having one or two potentially explosive characters would have been fine, but the book suffered for having them crawl out of the woodwork at every chapter. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any more unbelievable, out would pop another one to throw their contribution into the mix. There were some truly stomach turning and chill inducing sections in the book and maybe if the author had focused more on those then it would have been a better read.
Ultimately, this book has potential. Less controversy and more paranormal activity and Ash would have been a brilliant book. As it is, it ended up bordering on the ridiculous, which made it seem more ‘trashy’ than it should be. However, the writing is strong enough that I will give the author another go and try one of his other titles before I would consign him to the avoid pile.
Reviewed by Laura McLaughlin, January 2013.