The String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones
|The String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: If you read the start of this book alone, after dark you only have yourself to blame. A supernatural thriller that will excite, scare and defy you to put it down. Yes, it's 6 out of 5 from me.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 416||Date: July 2013|
Hannah Wilde flees into the Welsh mountains with daughter Leah and husband Nate whose life blood slowly seeps out of him. They run to escape the evil that has relentlessly haunted Hannah's family for generations. Some people see it as a Hungarian legend but to the Wildes it's real and insatiable and won't forget them. They know what to do: verify everyone, trust no one and, if in any doubt, RUN! Although one day that may not be enough.
Unlike sticks and stones, words may never hurt but, in the hands of a master manipulator, they can scare the willies out of us. Debut author Stephen Lloyd Jones is such a master, easily as excellent as Justin Cronin of The Passage Trilogy fame or Stephen King at his best. Indeed, The String Diaries is edge-of-the-seat-turn-on-all-the-lights-lock-the-doors-and-cancel-all-appointments brilliant. It would also be best to feed the children before you start reading as they'll be waiting 416 pages for their next meal.
The diaries of the title are a family heirloom of string-tied journals recounting Hannah's ancestors' fight against the cold, deadly nemesis that haunts them. We don't need to read the diaries for ourselves; gradually we're filled in on all the detail as we skip between easily understood alternating chapters. They keep us updated on Hannah's current plight, take us back to meet a 1970s Oxford Professor and his area of research and then further back still to a 19th century Hungarian love story. Slowly the connections between the three threads combine and twists are formed that cause the odd gasp and one occasion of yelling 'Nooo!' at the pages (just me?). You can actually see one of the twists forming ahead of time but that doesn't lessen the impact when its dénouement occurs; a neat trick Mr Jones!
There is blood and violence but it's fairly easily to predict its arrival so the mildly squeamish can avert their gaze before the carnage appears, remaining able to enjoy the white knuckle read.
There are minor plot holes that didn't matter at all to me but just in case they do to you… Firstly how can they afford to live like this and secondly, horse riding: why didn't she just say no?! However if we allow little things like that to stop us we’d miss something extra special and so cinematic one can almost hear film companies getting out their chequebooks.
Another exciting feature is that it doesn't sacrifice character for action. There is much action and yet we also come to know and care about Hannah and her forebears as we learn more about their Damocles-like lifestyles. For the length of the novel the author has ensured that we don’t just share their story, we share their paranoia.
What is this evil? What can follow and brutally destroy generations across borders of both geography and chronology? I'm not going to tell you and suggest you avoid anyone who tries. Speaking as one who peeled herself off the ceiling after the first few chapters, fear of the unknown is a powerful emotion; as powerful as the hope that one day Stephen Lloyd Jones will write a second novel.
If this appeals we also recommend NOS-4R2 by Joe Hill, son of Stephen King (a chip off the old block by all accounts).
You can read more book reviews or buy The String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy The String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones at Amazon.com.
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