Movies of 2017: Ghost in the Shell

In the near future, Major is the first of her kind: A human saved from a terrible crash, who is cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world’s most dangerous criminals.

Ghost in the Shell. 2017, a somewhat disappointing 6.9 stars on IMDb. Starring Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbæk, Takeshi Kitano and directed by Rupert Sanders.

Based on the acclaimed anime of the same name, Ghost in the Shell is visually stunning, a noir-esque mishmash of a daylit Blade Runner cityscape crossed with the action of The Matrix. Scarlett Johansson’s Major is a brain in a cyborg body, put to work combatting terrorism as part of the elite Section 9 but soon delves deeper into the mystery of who she really is, who is the ghost?

So, the action is gloriously choreographed, the special effects are absolutely top-notch, the supporting cast are, with few exceptions (the cockerney member of the team did grate a tad), splendid. Takeshi Kitano simply oozes cool as Aramaki, head of Section 9. Pilou Asbæk (Euron Greyjoy from Game of Thrones – I *knew* I recognised him!) is wonderful as Batou, Major’s sidekick of sorts and Michael Pitt is a convincing villian in Kuze.

Weak point if any is the usually reliable but here woefully underused Juliette Binoche who is called on to do little other than stand by the Major, do some medical mumbo jumbo and look suitably angst-ridden. I was initially amused by how often someone mentions the word ‘ghost’ or, to a lesser extent ‘shell’, which got a bit much in the end.

I saw Ghost in the Shell in 2D, but I could imagine that it would look glorious in full IMAX 3D. I might even be tempted to go find out.

Overall, I give Ghost in the Shell 7 cyborg Scarletts out of ten. Definitely worth checking out on the big screen.

Six Stories – Matt Wesolowski

SIX STORIES BF AW.indd

1997. Scarclaw Fell. The body of teenager Tom Jeffries is found at an outward bound centre. Verdict? Misadventure. But not everyone is convinced. And the truth of what happened in the beautiful but eerie fell is locked in the memories of the tight-knit group of friends who embarked on that fateful trip, and the flimsy testimony of those living nearby.

2017. Enter elusive investigative journalist Scott King, whose podcast examinations of complicated cases have rivalled the success of Serial, with his concealed identity making him a cult internet figure. In a series of six interviews, King attempts to work out how the dynamics of a group of idle teenagers conspired with the sinister legends surrounding the fell to result in Jeffries’ mysterious death. And who’s to blame … As every interview unveils a new revelation, you’ll be forced to work out for yourself how Tom Jeffries died, and who is telling the truth. A chilling, unpredictable and startling thriller, Six Stories is also a classic murder mystery with a modern twist, and a devastating ending.

Recently I went along to the Orenda Roadshow in Leeds where Karen Sullivan had assembled some of her lovely authors (including her co-pilot Thomas Enger) to do readings from their books. I’d already read books by quite a few of them, and had books from one or two more, but one which really grabbed my attention was a guy from Newcastle telling a story about a murder. As you’ve no doubt guessed, that was Matt Wesolowski and he was reading from his debut novel, Six Stories. And he was up against some stiff competition that evening, I can tell you. I knew I had to buy a copy.

Six Stories is unlike anything I’ve read before. Told in the form of six episodes of a Serial-style podcast, we delve into the mysterious events at Scarclaw Fell twenty years ago when a young boy goes missing and is ultimately found dead.

Each episode is an interview with one of the group of friends who were there that evening, and Matt deftly weaves an intricate, multi-layered plot, letting us in on one secret at a time. And there are so many secrets…

It’s an astonishingly confident and compelling novel, all the more impressive for being a debut. Matt manages to capture the distinct voices of the cast of characters perfectly, with all of their teenage angst and worries, the shifting group dynamics and emotions.

Six Stories is dark and disturbing in places, with an unsettling feeling of dread creeping up as you delve further into the story and the events on Scarclaw Fell.

I know it’s only March, but I will call it now – Six Stories will be one of my books of 2017, and I would be very surprised if it’s not very near the top of the list. I highly recommend it.

Six Stories is published by Orenda Books and is available now. You can find Matt on twitter @concretekraken.

 

 

A Dave by any other name…

recently I came across this most glorious thing, courtesy of Dr Seuss.

Too Many Daves
BY THEODOR GEISEL (DR. SEUSS)

Did I ever tell you that Mrs. McCave
Had twenty-three sons and she named them all Dave?
Well, she did. And that wasn’t a smart thing to do.
You see, when she wants one and calls out, “Yoo-Hoo!
Come into the house, Dave!” she doesn’t get one.
All twenty-three Daves of hers come on the run!
This makes things quite difficult at the McCaves’
As you can imagine, with so many Daves.
And often she wishes that, when they were born,
She had named one of them Bodkin Van Horn
And one of them Hoos-Foos. And one of them Snimm.
And one of them Hot-Shot. And one Sunny Jim.
And one of them Shadrack. And one of them Blinkey.
And one of them Stuffy. And one of them Stinkey.
Another one Putt-Putt. Another one Moon Face.
Another one Marvin O’Gravel Balloon Face.
And one of them Ziggy. And one Soggy Muff.
One Buffalo Bill. And one Biffalo Buff.
And one of them Sneepy. And one Weepy Weed.
And one Paris Garters. And one Harris Tweed.
And one of them Sir Michael Carmichael Zutt
And one of them Oliver Boliver Butt
And one of them Zanzibar Buck-Buck McFate …
But she didn’t do it. And now it’s too late.

Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss), “Too Many Daves” from The Sneetches and Other Stories

Henceforth, I wish to be known as Zanzibar Buck-Buck McFate. After all, it’s never too late…

Parallel Lines – Steven Savile

Today I’m delighted to take part in the blog tour for  Parallel Lines, by Steven Savile. Each stop on the tour focuses on a particular character. Today the extract I have for you is all about Sasha Sumner. Sasha ’s love life can best be described as gossip worthy. She’s having a bad day. She has had a lot of them recently…

How far would you go to provide for your child? Adam Shaw is dying, and knows he ll leave his disabled son with nothing. His solution? Rob a bank. It s no surprise that things go wrong. What is surprising is that when another customer is accidentally shot, no one in the bank is in a hurry to hand Adam over to the police. There s the manager who s desperate to avoid an audit, the security guard with a serious grudge, and the woman who knows exactly how bad the victim really was… Eight people, twelve hours, one chance to cover up a murder. But it s not just the police they have to fool. When many lives intersect, the results can be explosive

Sasha Sumner

As usual, the lights were out and the blackened façade offered no glimpses of life beyond the glass. She rang the staff bell and smiled up at the security camera. A few seconds later the door buzzed and she pushed it open. She was surprised to find that she was the last to arrive. The entire staff had gathered on the main floor and there was a soft but insistent buzz of conversation, with Richard Rhodes, the manager, at the center of it. She didn’t like the guy: he was needy and always tried too hard to be liked. She thought for one terrible minute she’d got her days wrong and was late for the staff meeting. She hadn’t and she wasn’t. The reason everyone had gathered around Richard Rhodes was obvious the moment she saw him properly. He looked like shit. The entire left side of his face was covered with purple-black bruising, his forehead was cut up with a mesh of small grazes, and his lips were swollen. The swelling made his voice slur.
“…followed me out of the bank last night. I didn’t notice him at first, then I heard his footsteps right behind me and looked back…” Rhodes looked up uncertainly, as though seeking understanding. His staff hung on his every word. He could have told them how he bumped into Mike Tyson and volunteered to spar a few rounds and they would have nodded and smiled encouragingly. “He was big.” Rhodes rubbed at his chin. “He was an animal, snarling and swinging his fists… I thought he was going to kill me.” Rhodes paused just long enough for that one to sink in. It was the one nightmare they all shared: a bank robbery with violence. “When I fell down he started kicking me, yelling about keys to the bank. I tried to explain that we have a time-lock on the night safe, that even I can’t open it, but he just wouldn’t believe me.”
Sasha looked at her co-workers as they absorbed his bullshit. And it was bullshit. It wasn’t even good bullshit. She’d grown up around liars, both good and bad. Rhodes was at best economical with the truth. She couldn’t understand why they couldn’t see straight through him; he was twitching and shifting, clearly going through a well-rehearsed speech. Worse, he kept looking for affirmation in their eyes. But why was he lying?
“Did you call the police?” she said, looking Rhodes straight in the eye, challenging him to try to brush her words away. “He could be out there now. And if not here, another bank in the city. You were lucky, Richard. Next time he might kill somebody.”
Rhodes looked at her. She smiled as he swallowed and rubbed hard at his right eye as though trying to make the bruise disappear.
“God… yes. Yes… I should. I didn’t even think…” he said sickly. He shook his head, his body language saying no, no, no. “I’ll do that now while you girls open up. Everyone be safe today.” He touched his cheek again, then shuffled away to his office across the lobby. That was another thing, he insisted on calling them “girls.” She really hated that.
They had the routines down, so when the little hand ticked over onto the hour they were ready to open the doors to the world.
The morning dragged on. She wasn’t a clock watcher. That would drive you mad in a place like this. She saw a guy with the twitch shuffling towards her counter.
She didn’t know what was wrong with him, Parkinson’s, maybe. She couldn’t help it; she pitied the guy. She knew she wasn’t supposed to pity people, that demeaned them and their fight, but how could you be human and not? She flashed him her most welcoming smile as he wrapped his left hand around his right elbow. His arm twitched almost like he was battling an uncontrollable urge to do the birdie dance.
Sasha kept on pitying him right up until he pulled out the Beretta 9mm.

Parallel Lines by Steven Savile is published by Titan Books. You can follow more of the blog tour and meet some of the other characters from the book here

The Exiled – Kati Hiekkapelto

The Exiled - Kati Hiekkapelto

Murder. Corruption. Dark secrets. A titanic wave of refugees. Can Anna solve a terrifying case that’s become personal?

Anna Fekete returns to the Balkan village of her birth for a relaxing summer holiday. But when her purse is stolen and the thief is found dead on the banks of the river, Anna is pulled into a murder case. Her investigation leads straight to her own family, to closely guarded secrets concealing a horrendous travesty of justice that threatens them all. As layer after layer of corruption, deceit and guilt are revealed, Anna is caught up in the refugee crisis spreading like wildfire across Europe. How long will it take before everything explodes?

The Exiled is the third of Kati Hiekkapelto’s books featuring detective Anna Fekete. This time she’s headed home to a little Balkan village to visit her family when her bag is snatched whilst on an evening out with her friends. She finds herself ensnared in a mystery which goes much further than a simple robbery.

It feels strange to be part of a blog tour for a Finnish author, but to be reading about the stifling heat of summertime in Kanizsa, a town in northern Serbia.

Anna herself is a fascinating character, adrift in her home town in the summer heat, a long way from Finland. The exiled is a very topical tale as the influx of refugees on their way to Europe makes its mark on the little town, bringing murder and corruption and even on holiday, Anna can’t escape her instincts to find out what’s really going on.

Kati Hiekkapelto has a great knack with characterisation, and the story  flows at a gentle pace, much like the river which plays such a central part of the story. Anna’s investigations take their toll on friendships and family, but you’re always on her side, willing her to uncover the truth, no matter how hard it might be to hear.

You can find Kati Hiekkapelto on twitter @HiekkapeltoKati or at her website, katihiekkapelto.com

Many thanks, as always, to Karen from Orenda Books for the review copy. Opinions are, of course, my own.

finnish-invasion-blog-tour

First Monday Crime – spotlight on Belinda Bauer

Next Monday (November 7th), Goldsboro Books First Monday Crime is taking place at the Library Club in London from 6.30 to 7.30pm. The lineup includes Belinda Bauer, Cathi Unsworth, Jenny Blackhurst, Adam Hamdy and event chair, Barry Forshaw.

Tickets for the event are a bargain at only a fiver. I wish I lived a bit nearer as this sounds like a great night. You can get your tickets here. Sponsored by Headline, it promises to be a brilliant event!

I’ve read and loved Belinda’s previous book, The Facts of Life and Death and her new book The Beautiful Dead is out on 17th November.

the-beautiful-dead

There’s no safety in numbers…

Eve Singer needs death. With her career as a TV crime reporter flagging, she’ll do anything to satisfy her ghoulish audience.

The killer needs death too. He even advertises his macabre public performances, where he hopes to show the whole world the beauty of dying.

When he contacts Eve, she welcomes the chance to be first with the news from every gory scene. Until she realizes that the killer has two obsessions.

One is public murder.

And the other one is her…

First Monday Crime is on November 7th from 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm
LIBRARY, 112 St. Martin’s Lane, London, WC2N 4BD

You can follow First Monday Crime twitter @1stMondayCrime

Deep Down Dead – Steph Broadribb

Deep down dead - steph broadribb

I saw it then. The way he looked at me, it was stone cold. Whatever he might have felt for me before was now gone. I knew the problem wasn’t that I’d shot Tommy, or even that I’d taken away JT’s chance to collect on the bond percentage. It was because I’d broken his rules, every damn one of them. And it seemed he couldn’t forgive me for that.
I pulled away from him, blinking away tears. Whispered, ‘Okay, sure.’
His sigh was barely audible.
I’d never felt more alone.

So, so excited for this book. I’ve been hearing about it for *so* long on Twitter!

Deep Down Dead by Steph Broadribb (@crimethrillgirl) is published on 15th October by Orenda Books. You can find out more on Steph’s website, crimethrillergirl.com

Not long now…