Kitty Blackadder

A Scottish blog about anxiety, minimalism and eyeshadow.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Reading Corner: 'Amethysts' by Frank Delaney

I picked up Amethysts in a charity shop – I actually kinda hauled it, here – and I hadn’t heard of it or anything before, I picked it up because the blurb described it as a thriller, with a bit of a love story running through it, and that’s basically what I love to read, so I’ve read a fair few: how did this compare?

Well, the first thing I’d say, is if you start reading it, don’t be put off by the first few chapters which basically end every paragraph with a cliff hanger. This isn’t an exaggeration, every paragraph, page and chapter ends with something along the lines of; ‘if only I knew then what I know now’, or, ‘it would soon transpire that this wasn’t the case’ or even, ‘things would soon change’, seriously, the first chunk of this book is like a list of cliffhangers being ticked off, one by one. And the most annoying thing? There was no need, I was sucked into the story enough that I was going to keep reading, so this just felt like an endless lines of pre-commercial break teasers to wade through to actually move on with the story.

This does end after a few chapters and outwith that, the quality of the writing is good; it’s that brilliant blend of readability that makes you feel so connected to the story and the characters, but also, there’s a good use of language and structure, so you engaged with the actual writing.

In terms of content, without any spoilers, let’s just say Amethysts tells the story of a young man who, mourning the loss of someone dear to him, is dragged – rather unwillingly – into a world of secrets, history and betrayal – sounds good right? The story creates a fictitious tie in with Nazi Germany; which, to be honest, tries a little too hard to be shocking – I get the idea behind it, but I feel it goes beyond creating a story involving characters it wants you to empathise with, and crosses over into intentional shock tactics, which I felt lowers the tone somehow.

The characters are developed well, and believably, wonderfully absent of a lot of classic literary clich├ęs – it’s the kind of book that when it ends you feel you’ve made a friend and you’ll miss hearing the thoughts of the protagonist you’ve followed along for a while. However, let’s face it, thrillers are all about the ‘Ooooh, did they? Didn’t they?’ and I’m not sure this book did this overly well. Things are on a fairly straight trajectory for most of the novel until the end where things start switching around – which is great – but it’s like the book gets all excited and ahead of itself, so instead of letting you bask in the tension of not knowing whom to trust, it kinds of throws you back and forth so much you end up feeling like you’ve been in a blender, and you kind of stumble out at the end more exhausted than exhilarated by the whole thing.

Overall, I wouldn’t recommend Amethysts as a standout thriller;  it’s a lot of reading for not a lot of twists and turns and, while I did like the ‘non-cookie-cutter’ style of characters it presented,  I didn’t necessarily care for its shock tactics and slight lack or originality in coming up with a ‘bad guy’. I saw the end coming, not necessarily a mile off, but still, it was relatively clear and so that does diminish the enjoyment for me somewhat, but then, like I said, I read a lot of these kinds of books and I do think after a while it maybe becomes easier to figure them out. If you like thrillers and are looking for something to read, or you come across it at a book sale or second hand store then sure, pick it up, there are certainly a lot worse out there, but I wouldn’t recommend people go out of their way to read it either.

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