Strike: Lethal White, A Review

Who killed Jasper Chiswell?

Adapted from the novel of the same name, Strike: Lethal White sees Strike (Tom Burke) and Robin (Holliday Grainger, The Capture) a year after the events of Career of Evil, now working alongside each other as partners and investigators. Robin is unhappily married to Matt (Kerr Logan), who still dissaproves of her work, whilst Strike is now in a relationship with dress-maker Lorelei (Natalie Gumede). The case begins when the pair find Billy (Joseph Quinn), a young and unstable man hiding in their office, he confesses that he witnessed the strangulation of a little girl when he was a child but has never came forward.

Strike and Robin begin to look into Billy’s claims but are soon approached by Jasper Chiswell (Robert Glenister), a man who has noticed the sudden interest in Billy and as a result needs their help. Chiswell is being blackmailed on two accounts- on one side by Geraint Winn (Robert Pugh), the husband of Minister for Sport Della Winn (Anna Canningd), and on the other side by Jimmy Knight (Nick Blood)– who is Billy’s older brother. Chiswell asks Strike to dig up dirt on Winn and Knight so he can counteract the blackmail, leading to Robin going undercover in Chiswell’s office.

Once the pair have obtained the dirt, Chiswell schedules for the two to meet him the next day for another potential case. The next day however Robin finds Chiswell dead in his office by apparent suicide. Chisewell’s daughter Izzy (Christina Cole), who Robin has befriended whilst undercover, doesn’t believe her Father would ever kill himself and hires the pair to look into the death. The Chiswell family however are a rich and powerful one and will go to great lengths to ensure their secrets stay hidden. Who really killed Chiswell? And can Strike and Robin figure it out before time runs out?

As I also mentioned in my book review, the plot to Lethal White is certianly a lengthy one. Split across four hour-long episodes, the series does take a while to get going and the actual murder doesn’t take place until the very end of episode 2. Initially, Strike and Robin begin to look into Billy’s claims of the strangled girl but then the blackmail storyline is introduced, putting the investigation onto a completely different path. Having read the book, I knew what was happening and what everything was building to but I feel like non-book readers might have gotten lost or maybe even bored- family members I watched it with did complain of the length.

Strike really has been adapted brilliantly from the original book, it’s definitely been a while since I read Lethal White but watching this has brought all the memories flying back. Things like the wedding scene and the Chiswell estate are exactly as I pictured when reading, even down to the smallest detail. Both Strike and Robin themselves are also portayed perfectly by Burke and Grainger. The two just work so well together and they are almost exactly what I pictured when reading. Book adaptations often make major changes to their original source material but the Strike series has definitely been adapted well and I think any fans of the books would also love the series.

As a fan of the crime genre, the private investigator subcategory is one I normally enjoy, and I think the Strike series offers a darker and grittier version than I am used to. Looking at some of my favourite PI series for example (Agatha Raisin, Shakesphere & Hathaway, etc) these series often use a comedic or softer approach to the private detective. With Strike however we get much darker and more serious cases and the overall tone is just very different. I like this darker aspect because it gives me a variation in what I read and watch and it’s exciting to watch these much more dramatic cases play out.

I really liked how the series approached Robin’s character and her anxiety and panic attacks. Events in Robin’s life have had a serious effect on her mental health and so in doing her job she is prone to attacks, something the series isn’t afraid of shying away from. I like how Grainger portrayed Robin as complex and flawed, it makes her more likeable and more well rounded as a character. Robin has issues but she still strives to be a detective and is working on managing her work/life balance, a character journey that is very interesting to see.

The relationship between Strike and Robin and the will they/won’t aspect is one of the driving forces of the series and I do really enjoy the chemistry between them. I’m not sure whether I’d actually want them to get together- I think it would majorly change the feel of the series if they did- but for now I enjoy the working relationship they share. How they’ve grown closer across the four stories has been great to see and I just think the pair click so well- something that can really been seen in Burke and Grainger’s performances. With Robin having now left Matt for good the potential for a romance is now higher than ever, so I’m eager to read book 5 to see how the relationship progresses.

JK Rowling, the author of the series, has been in the public eye a lot recently for some pretty bad reasons and so I know a lot of fans will feel uneasy about reading or watching any of her new material. It’s something I’ll talk more about in my upcoming review of the fifth Strike book Troubled Blood, but essentially I am choosing to see the art and the artist as two seperate entities. I don’t agree with Rowling’s views at all and I know that reading or watching the Strike series doesn’t change this. I am reading/watching Strike because I enjoy Strike, not because of anything to do with Rowling.

Overall, I enjoyed watching the TV adaptation of Lethal White. I think in general the Strike series has done a fantastic job at adapting the four books in terms of both plot and character, often down to the smallest detail. Lethal White is certianly a lengthy story but the series was able to make every moment count and I enjoyed watching each episode. With book 5 in the series now out, I’m excited for even more Strike and Robin and can’t wait to see what they get up to next.

The Other You, A Review

Is he who you think he is?

From JS Monroe (Forget My Name), The Other You follows Kate, a former super-recogniser who worked alongside the police, spotting hundreds of dangerous criminals on a weekly basis. All of that changed however when Kate was involved in a near fatal car crash, effecting the part of her brain used to recognise others. Whilst she was recovering, Kate met Rob, a tech whiz who nursed her back to health and moved her into his high-tech Cornish home.

Now happy with Rob, Kate spends her days painting and undergoing brain scans to help bring back her superpower. Kate’s new life seems perfect until one day the unthinkable happens. Kate looks at Rob and knows with absolute certianty that he has been replaced by a double. Is Kate right? Is there really an imposter living in her home? Or has her recent crash left her damaged beyond repair?

I really loved reading The Other You, I think even more than Monroe’s previous novel Forget My Name. The initial premise was gripping right from the first page and I loved how the story developed, growing in both size and location. I loved how Monroe explored ideas of super recognisers, doppelgängers and high tech houses- it was all fascinating. Having now read two of Monroe’s novels I have adapted well to his writing style and can’t wait to read even more of his work.

I really liked how Monroe made his protagonist a super-recogniser, super-recognisers are something that I had heard of before but never in so much detail. The idea of someone who could never forget a face and be able to pin point said face from a crowd makes for such an interesting read, I would personally love to have Kate’s powers. Having someone whose main skill is recognition as the lead in a thriller novel really was a genius move, no one but Kate would ever notice the subtle changes in Rob and so I don’t think the idea would word with any other character.

I really liked the idea of doppelgängers in The Other You and how Rob’s fear of his ‘evil twin’ was used as the basis of the novel. Evil twins and body doubles and the idea of somebody taking over your life is all very terrifying and very reminiscant of the Blumhouse horror film Us. Kate’s constant fear that Rob had been replaced was a very real life fear that I’m sure everybody has experienced, the book was completely chilling. The idea of something so creepy that most people wouldn’t even notice, made a great premise for a novel and I loved reading it- a creepy and gripping read.

I enjoyed the high-tech house location throughout The Other You and how technology was used to entrap Kate, making her a prisoner in her own home. Throughout the novel Kate notices small faults in the house that Rob repeatadly brushes off, but Kate soon realises that nothing that happens to her is accidental. High Tech and tech obsessed homes are really beginning to take the thriller genre by storm (The Turn of the Key, The Girl Before, The Assistant, etc) and I just love reading them. It’s amazing to see how far technology has come, and from this how easy it is for tech to be used against us.

Whilst I was reading The Other You I realised that the two detective characters- Silas and Strover- had actually also appeared in Monroe’s previous thriller- Forget My Name. I like this idea of recurring characters throughout an author’s work, even if the two stories themselves aren’t directly linked. I enjoy the two characters and the relationship between them, meaning I’d be open to reading more stories with the two.

I really enjoy how Monroe’s thrillers seem to take on a worldwide approach, with the storylines taking the characters to different countries and different places. The large scale aspect means the mysteries are a lot more exciting and epic than your average read, giving an almost spy thriller feel. These books would seriously make great films.

Something I talked about in my review of Forget My Name was how Monroe tried to do too much with his narratives and I think The Other You also may share this problem. Whilst not as bad as Forget My Name, I think The Other You just toes the line between an exciting and complex plot and just too much happening at once. With Kate being convinced Rob has been replaced, the high tech house of horror, the investigation into Kate’s accident, Silas’ son coming back- there was a lot going on. Whilst everything was linked together brilliantly at the end, I do think Monroe often puts so much into his books, so many ideas that could easily fill books all by themselves. I have really enjoyed the two Monroe thrillers I have read so far, but reading them can definitely be a lot to handle.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading The Other You. The premise was intriuging right from the get go and I liked the themes and ideas throughout. The idea of evil doppelgängers and super recognisers was all very fascinating and frankly a bit spooky at times. Having now read two of Monroe’s thrillers, I have gained a massive fondness for his work and writing style and I am excited to read even more of his books.

Blood & Water, A Review

Everyone holds a secret.

Netflix’s Blood & Water follows Puleng (Amamkele Qamata), a young girl whose entire life has been haunted by the kidnapping of her older sister Phumelele 17 years prior. When Phumelele was only a baby she was taken and ever since Puleng’s parents- Thandeka (Gail Mabalane) and Julius (Getmore Sithole)– have obseesed over finding her. On an off chance, Puleng attends a party with best friend Zama (Cindy Mahlangu) where she meets Fikile (Khosi Ngema), a champion swimmer who bares a striking resemblance to her. What’s more Fikile shares a birthday with Phumelele and closely resembles an aged up sketch of the kidnapped child.

Wanting to finally move out from under her kidnapped sister’s shadow, Puleng transfers to Parkhurst College- where Fikile attends. In an attempt to finally get to the bottom of things, Puleng begins investigating Fikile, hoping to nab some of her DNA to prove she is the missing Phumelele. With the help of new friend Wade (Dillon Windvogel), the two begin their investigation into the past kidnapping. However, proving her theory turns out to be harder than anticipated, especially in the brand new, prestigious environment. Will Puleng be able to stay on track and find her sister or will she be dragged into the drama of high school and remain forever in the dark?

I absolutely loved the premise of Blood & Water, missing persons series are always exciting (eg Little Sister, The Temptation), but this one was 17 years in the making. Netflix actually released two trailers for Blood & Water, a longer and a shorter, and having only watched the short trailer I had no idea about the missing sister. Going in though I was hooked from episode 1 and I loved the idea of Puleng transferring schools to find her sister. Blood & Water may not have any murders or stalkers, but it was still just as exciting and gripping as any other teen mystery series.

Puleng’s investigation into Fikile and whether they really were sisters was the great selling point of the series, and I really enjoyed watching. Puleng made for a great investigator and watching her, and later Wade, look into the kidnapping case was so fun to watch. With her true crime inspired murder board, excellent social media stalking skills and high intellegence, Puleng was a brilliant detective in the making. I loved watching her and Wade figure out the case, making the ending and final reveals all the more satisfying.

As well as the investigation storyline, I really enjoyed the good old fashioned high school drama that was plentiful throughout Blood & Water. The scheming and the cheating and the relationships and the fights were all just so enjoyable to watch, everything was so dramatic and I loved it. Puleng’s main goal may have been to find her sister but she certianly wasn’t opposed to some high school dramatics along the way.

I loved the elite school setting of Blood & Water and the rich vs poor character clash that came with Puleng’s arrival. The series gave me strong Élite or They Wish They Were Us vibes, which was automatically a good sign. Puleng’s arrival certianly brought its fair share of drama, and not just because of the missing sister storyline. With love triangles and some pretty petty scheming, Blood & Water was a strong teen drama with all the beloved tropes plus a few extra suprises.

Blood & Water definitely had its fair share of interesting characters, all varying in likability and intriuge. I think with the elite school setting and teen drama tropes it came naturally that some of these characters were going to make some questionable choices. Even Puleng, who I did love made some harmimg decisions in her investigation, resulting in some pretty explosive fallout. I really enjoyed the diverse cast of Blood & Water, and am really excited as to what happens next. I think I’m particulary hoping to see in season 2 the changed relationship between Puleng and Fikile as well as more of Wade- who I love- and hopefully more of Reece (Greteli Fincham)– who still seems like an under-developed character.

Overall, I really loved Blood & Water. The initial premise was intriuging right from the first episode and I love following Puleng’s investigation throughout. The elite school setting and rich vs poor character clash was fun as always and the series as a whole made for an exciting teen drama. I loved this series and I can’t wait for part 2.

The Woods, A Review

Four went in, none came out.

From Harlan Coben (The Stranger, Safe) The Woods follows prosecutor Paweł Kopiński (Grzegorz Damięcki), a man who is still plauged by the disappearance of his sister Kamila (Martyna Byczkowska) from over 25 years ago. Back in 1994 when Paweł was only a teenager (Hubert Miłkowski), he worked as a camp counsellor alongside his two friends Artur (Adam Wietrzyński) and Daniel (Jakub Gola), as well as love interest Laura (Wiktoria Filus). Whilst at the camp Artur, Daniel, Kamila and other camp member Monika (Kinga Jasik) vanished into the nearby woods, leading to a frantic search. Daniel and Monika’s bodies are soon found but nothing was ever recovered from Artur or Kamila, resulting in their assumed deaths.

Now 25 years later Paweł is a sucessful prosecutor in the midst of a teenage sexual assualt case. Whilst he has never given up hope that Kamila is still alive, Paweł is still shocked when he is called up by Inspector Jork (Arkadiusz Jakubik) who claims a recent murder victim has a connection to him. On viewing the body Paweł declares it to be Artur- meaning he has been alive all this time. Seeing Artur’s body makes Paweł realise that his sister could also still be alive. Reconnecting with Laura (Agnieszka Grochowska), who is now a teacher, the pair vow to work together to finally uncover the truth of what went on in the woods all those years ago. Is Kamila really still alive? And if so where has she been for all of these years?

On paper, The Woods really was the perfect watch for me- an intriuging premise, a summer camp setting and a 25 year mystery- going in it seemed like the perfect series. In reality however, something about The Woods just didn’t quick click with me. Don’t get me wrong I really enjoyed a lot of the show, but I think at times the plot was a bit slow and focussed too much on the present, when in my opinion the storyline in the past was much more interesting. I also think when compared to Coben’s other shows- Safe and The Stranger- The Woods just wasn’t as good and maybe I just went in with too high expectations.

I really enjoyed the 90s camp setting as the basis for the main mystery of the series. I think the summer camp setting has become infamous in the horror and crime genre (AHS, The Last Time I Lied, Slasher, etc) and as such I always enjoy any medium that is set there. There’s just something about the camp setting- the often lack of authority, the isolation, the long summers of freedom- for such an apparent cheerful place, awful things do tend to happen there. In The Woods, Coben uses this camp setting as the basis for the four dissapearances- reflecting how a place that is meant to be safe, turns into a nightmare.

In the same way, the woods setting is effectively used, again making use of another location famous to the horror/crime genre. It’s often in fairytales that children get lost in the woods and meet great misery. Here, Coben has the four characters enter and then not come out again. I think getting lost in the woods is a sort of universal fear and so I loved how Coben merged these two locations for his own murder mystery, it was massively effective.

The sexual assualt case we see Paweł take on in the present way definitely an interesting aspect to the series. To me the case was a representation of many things, it looked at Paweł’s determination to always uncover the truth- showing how far he’d go for his sister. It also looked at how far parents are willing to go for their children- even if said child has done something truly awful- something which cleverly tied in to the final reveal. I enjoyed the progression of the case, I think it gave great insight into Paweł’s character whilst also cleverly linking to the main mystery – it was definitely an interesting addition to the main storyline.

I think overall though, there was just too much going on in The Woods, especially in only 6 episodes. With the main mystery in both the past and present, alongside the assualt case and the charity scandal- there wasn’t enough time to equally cover everything. I know I’ve spoken before about how I normally enjoy the multiple story arc in Coben’s work, but I think this time it was a bit too much. For one thing The Woods had two less episodes than Safe and The Stranger but I also think the focus could have been shifted better. The dissapearance of the four teens was by far the most interesting aspect of the series but I feel like it was focussed on the least. Due to the multiple storylines and shorter episode span, I felt like the ending of The Woods was rushed and I just wished the storyline could have been handled better.

I did enjoy the final reveals of The Woods and thought everything was brought together in a satisfying and clever way. I think the present day sexual assuault case heavily mirrored the original dissapearances, showing how far parents will go for their children (something which does seem to be a recurring theme in Coben’s work). I was able to partially work out who was responsible, something I always see as a sign of good writing, but Coven was still able to insert some intriuging twists as well.

Overall, I did enjoy The Woods. I liked the initial premise and the ongoing mystery but I think that at times there was just too much going on. Maybe if there were more episodes or one less storyline I would of enjoyed the show more, but I think the amount going on meant the endings did feel a bit rushed. Compared to Coben’s previous shows as well, The Woods just wasn’t as good. Overall an average watch with an enjoyable mystery but a bit too much going on in the background.

Jumanji: The Next Level, A Review

Return to the jungle.

Jumanji: The Next Level follows the original four from the first film- Spencer (Alex Wolff), Martha (Morgan Turner), ‘Fridge’ (Ser’Darius Blain) and Bethany (Madison Iseman)– now a year later as they all reunite for winter break. Spencer however is feeling deflated, having broken up with Martha, and missing how he felt when he was playing Jumanji. When Spencer fails to meet up with the group, the three rush over and realise he has returned to the game. Going back in to save him, the game also transports Spencer’s Grandfather Eddie (Danny DeVito) and his rival Milo (Danny Glover) into avatars.

Now back inside the game and back in their avatars- Dr. Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillian, MCU), Professor Oberon (Jack Black) and Franklin “Mouse” Finbar (Kevin Hart)- the group must deal with new levels to defeat and newchallenges to overcome. As well as finding Spencer- now in the new avatar Ming Fleetfoot (Akwafina, Crazy Rich Asians), the team are tasked with returning an ancient jewel to the skies of Jumanji in order to return home. Can the friends rescue Spencer and complete the game once again or will they forever remain in the video game world?

The concept behind the Jumanji series really is brilliant, the video game aspect is such a clever way to modernise the original film, meaning a new generation can enjoy it. I love the idea of the characters being sucked into a video game- it’s a clever spin on the classic action adventure film, meaning the stakes are slightly higher and the characters more fleshed out. I think being sucked into a video game is a weird dream most people have and I love how the films approach the rules of the game- with the character bios, limited lives and multiple avatars.

Speaking of the avatars, I think the idea is a really great way for the cast to show off their acting abilities. Not only are they playing video game personas, but also the real life characters who are playing them too, meaning each character has the multiple layer aspect to it. I think in The Next Level specifically there is a lot more swapping and changing of the avatars, aside from Martha each character is now in a different avatar- and even then Martha does briefly switch. Seeing the main cast play the character inside the avatar is very clever and often hilarious- especially with how different the characters and avatars are. It’s a really fun way to stretch out the cast’s acting and comedic abilities.

The Jumanji series is definitely a funny one that never fails to make me laugh. Aside from the hilarity of the actors playing the character’s avatars- allowing for some brilliant comedy- I also love the wildness of the game itself. Seeing the group react to the frequent attacks and challenges is hilarious and I especially loved how The Next Level added the two older character- their reactions in particular were brilliant. As well as being an action packed adventure, the Jumanji series is a hilarious comedy and I’m excited to see what laughs the third installment will bring with it next.

I liked how the film itself works like a video game, with the characters working through different levels and locations until they eventually come face to face with the ‘big bad’ so to speak. As the film moved forward each location offered more and more challanges, becoming more and more action packed as time went on. Watching has definitely made me want to play a video game version of the film- I think it would be really exciting and challenging thing to do.

Overall, I really enjoyed Jumanji: The Next Level and thought it was a great follow up to the first film. The concept of this series is brilliant and I think the idea allows for a great mix of comedy and adventure acting from the main cast. The Next Level was even more action packed than the first film and I loved the level based approach to the storyline. A fun and enjoyable watch, bring on the third film.

Come Back For Me, A Review

A buried secret. A deadly past.

Heidi Perks’ Come Back For Me follows Stella Harvey, a counsellor whose family history has long remained a mystery to her. When Stella was only 11 years old she and her family fled their island home in the middle of the night, vowing to never return. Before they fled the Harvey family had led a blissful life on Evergreen island, a small community haven that Stella adored. Now 25 years later, Stella still remains in the dark as to why they ever left.

Her questions may soon be answered however when a body is discovered on Evergreen, buried right outside of Stella’s childhood home. Desperate to unearth the truth, Stella decides to return to Evergreen- to find out more about the body as well as why her family left in the first place. Returning home however, Stella discovers that the island community is not as she remembers and nobody is happy to see her. With all of her old friends and neighbours warning Stella to leave, she becomes compelled to finally uncover the truth. But 25 years is a long time to be away, and people will go to any length to protect their secrets. Can Stella uncover the truth or will her family history forever remain a mystery to her?

I really loved Come Back For Me, the premise of the book was perfect for me and I loved how the mystery slowly unravelled. Stella returned home for a dead body but soon began to realise that this was only the tip of the iceberg, Evergreen had so many secrets, some hitting a lot closer to home than she originally thought. The isolated island setting and stormy weather make for a chilling read and I just loved the feel of the book, weirdly enough I would definitely want to visit Evergreen myself.

I actually met Heidi Perks whilst I was attending an author’s table talk, I’d originally gone to meet Lucy Foley (The Hunting Party, The Guest List) but whilst there I just fell in love with the premise of Come Back For Me. Both Perks and Foley actually talked about these isolated locations and how they are used to entrap their protagonists- something I love. I also liked the idea of Stella returning to her home town to figure out why she really left in the first place. Come Back For Me really did have all of my favourite crime aspects in one book- isolated locations, returning to home towns (Don’t Look Back, Briarpatch, etc), a gripping mystery- I absolutely loved it.

I really loved the Evergreen Island setting- with the map at the front of the book and the small community and isolated aspect, I definitely got The Last Anniversary vibes, only slightly more sinister. Initially Evergreen is built up as somewhere I would love to visit or even live, but soon the quaintness turns sour when Stella realises that small towns often mean big secrets. With an island so small, everybody knows each others secrets and with so little space, there’s really nowhere to hide. I really do enjoy small town/island settings and love the moment when they tip from paradise to prisons.

I thought it was interesting how the view of the island changed to Stella from her idolised childhood version to her now adult self. From her childhood, Stella saw Evergreen as perfect and didn’t understand why anybody would ever want to leave. To her the small community was her home, she loved everyone and everyone loved her. Returning as an adult and now an outsider however, Stella begins to see a different side to Evergreen. On returning, Stella is shocked by the negative reception she recieves and begins to realise how closed off Evergreen really was. The island doesn’t take kindly to outsiders and with a brutal storm raging on she becomes trapped in a place where no one wants her.

One of the major themes throughout Come Back For Me was secrets and whether it’s better to know or to not know. Stella uncovers some shocking family history during her investigation and she constantly struggles with whether she reveal all or keep her family in blissful ignorance. The book shows how sometimes revealing a secret can only cause more damage, some things are simply to horrific to reveal.

The mystery and final reveals in Come Back For Me were complex and enjoyable. Initially the book sets up the main mystety as the body in Stella’s garden but the more you read, the more you realise that there’s so much more to the story. As well as the body, Perks explores why Stella’s family were forced to flee as well as why they came to Evergreen in the first place, why anyone comes to Evergreen. The island itself had a dark and intriuging history and I loved how Perks set up said history and how it connected to the dead body, it was such a page turner.

Overall, I really enjoyed Come Back For Me. From meeting Perks previously I was excited to start reading and the book definitely didn’t disappoint. I loved the island setting and the premise of Stella returning home to uncover a family secret. The mystery throughout was gripping and I loved the final reveal and the themes explored. A great read by Perks, I’m excited to explore more of what she has to offer.

Polaroid, A Review

Once you take it, it takes you.

Polaroid follows shy high school student Bird Fitcher (Kathryn Prescott, Tell Me a Story) who is gifted an antique polaroid camera by her coworker Tyler (Davi Santos, Tell Me a Story). Bird snaps a picture of Tyler but quickly leaves after he attempts to kiss her. Later that night Bird is forced into attending a party with her friend Kasey (Samantha Logan, 13 Reasons Why) and couple Devin (Keenan Tracey) and Mina (Priscilla Quintana). At the party Bird begins talking to her crush Connor (Tyler Young), in an attempt to impress him she shows off her new camera and snaps a picture of the group, party host Avery (Katie Stevens, The Bold Type) also uses the camera to take a selfie. The police then arrive at the party to inform Bird that Tyler has been found dead, feeling saddened she returns home. The next day, Kasey frantically tells Bird that Avery has also died.

Looking at the polaroids she had taken, Bird notices a smudge that seems to have moved from Tyler’s picture to Avery’s and then to the group shot. Realising that everybody in the polaroid ends up dead, Bird attempts to first destroy the camera and then the picture itself. Both attempts fail and an entity begins picking off the group one by one. Can Bird figure out how to stop the haunted camera before it’s too late? Or will all of her friends suffer the same horrible fate?

Polaroid was a fun and overall enjoyable film to watch, the premise and idea behind the haunted camera was intriuging and I liked the characters and execution of the story. Bird was a likeable protagonist- it didn’t hurt that I love Kathryn Prescott- and she was able to hold her own against the entity. The backstory to the camera was intetesting and I liked the film’s conclusion, a fun horror to watch on a rainy day.

Horror films with haunted or possesed objects are slowly becoming more and more popular and I liked how Polaroid used the camera as the ‘object of horror’. For the most part people can’t resist joining in on a group picture and that’s exactly why this film works. By taking something that people enjoy doing and making it deadly, well you’ve got yourself a horror film. Whether it be phone apps, games or now cameras, giving ordinary objects the power to kill make for an intriuging and creepy viewing.

I liked how, alongside the haunted camera, the entity itself and those pictured in the polaroids behaved like photographs themselves. The entity being sensitive to heat and light was a clever move, it gave the creature a weakness and a way to defeat it. I also liked how those pictured reacted to any destruction if the polaroid- eg when Devin attenpted to burn the picture, Mina’s arm caught fire. The film had a set of rules it stuck to and I liked how it used photographs in many different ways. The writing was clever and it meant the characters actually had to work out what was going on rather than just get rid of the camera and polaroids.

In a few of my recent horror movie reviews (eg Truth or Dare, Countdown) I’ve talked about how the films leave the endings open for a possible sequel, this is definitely not the case in Polaroid. The film ends with Bird defeating the entity and then throwing the camera into a lake, so that nobody can ever find it again. I liked this very definite ending, in so many horror films the characters often make stupid decisions that leave the plot very open ended, but here Bird ensures that nobody will ever be killed by the camera again. I really liked the logic behind Bird’s decision and the very final ending- it showcased a very smart character not seen in a lot of horrors.

Overall, Polaroid was a fun and enjoyable film. The haunted object genre is slowly becoming more and more popular and I liked how the film played around with the physicalities of the camera and the polaroid. The premise was an interesting one and I enjoyed the characters and the very definite ending, an overall creepy watch.

The Temptation, A Review

Someone knows what happened to him…

Some Particular Evil Review

Vera Morris’ The Temptation follows on from the events of the first novel, with Frank and Laurel having recently set up the Anglian Detective Agency. Having only tackled smaller cases so far, Frank is intriuged when approached by the Pembertons- a husband and wife whose teenage son David has now been missing for over two years. David was a troubled boy, having limited speech abilities and low social skills. The couple explain that David ran away after apparent trouble at school but past police investigations have brought no results. Frank and Laurel agree to take the case on and begin exploring David’s history both at school and at home.

David proves to be an interesting case, with the team managing to dig up a lot of dirt on his surrounding friends and family. David’s school has a suspicious amount of recent deaths and his family life turns out to be anything but happy. On top of this, the team find themselves investigating several other murders in the area- murders which at first all appear to be suicides. Could all these deaths be connected to David’s dissapearance? Where has David gone really? And how far are people willing to go to ensure he is never found?

I really enjoyed reading The Temptation, the initial missing child premise was interesting enough but Morris was able to build on this and craft a complex and dark mystery for the team to solve. As the book went on, more and more dead bodies began to turn up and I began to realise that there was a lot more to David’s disappearance than initially met the eyes. With plenty of death, blackmail and secret plots, The Temptation told of a much dark story than I have been expecting. I know the first novel in the series- Some Particular Evil- had its moments but The Temptation really amped it up to the next level, it was disturning stuff at times. I loved it- I can’t wait to read more.

I really did like the detective agency set up in The Temptation. Detective agencies or private investigators are one of my favourite sub-sections of the crime genre (eg Agatha Raisin, Strike series, etc) and I liked how Morris used the agency to solve the case. I liked how the characters had the daily meetings to discuss the ongoing cases and plan out their next actions, it meant I could keep up with what was going on, making it easier to connect all the dots and work everything out. I also liked how we didn’t just focus on one character and got all three detectives (Frank, Laurel, Stuart) working together on the case. The shared POVs meant the plot didn’t feel repetitive and I liked how each character investigated seperate aspects of the case, eventually bringing it all together in the end.

I think missing persons cases in crime fiction novels always have a slightly different vibe than the classic murder mystery- because there’s always that hope that said missing person is still alive. Especially with missing children, there’s also the mystery of exactly what happened to them. I enjoyed the David POV chapters that were scattered throughout the book- it gave great insight into his mind as well as the people around him, helping build a better picture of the dissapearance.

I liked how in The Temptation to begin with Frank and Laurel were each looking into different cases, meaning readers got to follow along with two narratives. Having Frank and Laurel work seperately meant we got two really interesting storylines that eventually merged into one, when it became clear that all the deaths were linked. I liked this aspect to the story, for one thing it’s realistic to have two detectives looking into different cases and it also meant we weren’t constantly following the same storyline. I like this multiple case aspect and as long as it didn’t get too complicated this would be something I’d like to see more of.

I do enjoy the 1970s setting of The Anglian Murders series– it’s not quite classic crime (eg Agatha Christie, Miss Scarlet) but it’s not modern day crime either (eg In the Dark, Hightown). The characters don’t have access to the modern day technology they would do now and so solving the cases normally takes a lot more old style sluething. The time frame also means attitudes aren’t as modern either, especially towards lgbt issues- which is a big theme in this book. I think some aspects of this story wouldn’t happen in a modern day retelling and so I like reading from this past perspective.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading The Temptation and seeing the continuation of the Anglian Murder series. As a series overall I really like the main characters and the agency set up, I can’t wait to read the next book and next case. The Temptation in particular was quite a dark book, going in a lot of directions I didn’t see coming. I liked how Morris was able to tie everything together at the end and complete a chilling and disturbing story of murder and kidnapping in the 70s.

Safe, A Review

The safer the street, the darker the secrets.

From Harlan Coben (The Stranger), Safe follows widower and surgeon, Tom Delaney (Michael C. Hall) who lives in a gated community with his two daughters Jenny (Amy James-Kelly) and Carrie (Isabelle Allen). Tom struggles to reconnect with Jenny after wife Rachel’s (Katy Carmichael) death, especially since he had been out drinking the night she died. The mystery begins after Jenny fails to return home after a night out, sending Tom into a frenzy looking for her. With help from his best friend Pete (Marc Warren), the pair begin questioning Jenny’s friends who were at the party, discovering that Jenny’s boyfriend Chris (Freddie Thorp) is also missing.

With the police detectives Sophie (Amanda Abbington) and Emma (Hannah Arterton) preocuupied with an alledged student-teacher relationship, Tom decides to look for Jenny himself, tracking her movements to a bar in the city and then back home to the community. As Tom begins to look into what happened that night, more and more secrets begin to come out. After Chris’ body is then pulled from the local lake, the search becomes more official. Is Jenny fleeing from a murder scene? Or is there something else going on? Tom will stop at nothing to find his daughter, but can he really trust those closest to him- because someone knows what happened.

Safe was such an amazing watch, I thought The Stranger was good but watching this has just shown how great of a writer Coben really is. Jenny’s dissapearance and everything that followed was just a constant cycle of shock and intriuge. Every time I thought things couldn’t get any complex, Coben would throw yet another twist into the mix. The writing on this show was just amazing, I loved how Coben was able to craft such a intriuging and well written mystery, making sure everything connected and fit into place at the end- that final episode really was something else. Having now watched two of Coben’s Netflix series I have become a massive fan of his work, I am about to start another of his shows- The Woods- so expect my review for this next week!

I really liked the gated community location of Safe, several characters joked about the gates keeping them locked away from the rest of the world but they did kind of have a point. As well as being a physical barrier, the gated community gave the impression of a safe location and somewhere that was a lot more quaint and pleasent than the rest of the world- how wrong that turned out to be. The crime genre often entraps its characters in the middle of a mystery (eg The Guest List, The Woman in Cabin 10) to make sure they can’t leave and it’s the same here, the gates ensured that the ‘evil’ was trapped inside. I thought it was clever to set a mystery in a gated community- somewhere that by definition is supposed to be safe- the juxtaposition was definitely a nice touch.

The ensemble cast aspect of Safe definitely gave me massive Broadchurch vibes, I really enjoyed what every character brought to the show. Each had their own storyline, some relating to Jenny’s dissapearance and some having nothing to do with it at all- it was our job to work out and distinguish the two. I think all of the characters had a darkness to them, meaning any of them could have been involved. Those who looked guilty initially ended up being perfectly innocent and the innocent ones ended up being the worst of all- the cast and characters on this show really was great, some really top class acting all around.

I liked how the two detective characters- Emma and Sophie- were so different from each other, meaning we got two very different investigation styles. Sophie had grown up in the community and was well known by everyone who lived there, meaning she could be slightly biased in her suspicions- as Emma said several times, it’s a small town thing. Emma on the other hand was a newcomer and so was naturally suspicious of everybody. She didn’t know these people and they didn’t know her, meaning she had no problem in bringing people in or arresting them.

Speaking of Emma, her arrival in the community was certianly no coincedence. She had a reason for being there and initially I wasn’t sure what to make of her. At first Coben framed Emma’s mission as a revenge one (that’s how I took it anyway) and so I didn’t know if she could be trusted to fairly do her job. Once I found out the real reason for her arrival however I warmed to her massively and by episode 8 she may have just been my favourite character.

A major theme in Safe was family and how far we would go for the people we love. Tom went to the ends of the earth in his attempts to find his daughter, showing no ends to a father’s love. In the same way the Marshall family showcased how we are willing to lie and cover up for those we love, even going as far as breaking the law. Safe showcased both the positives and negatives of family love, having several characters got to extreme lengths for their own. In a lot of ways, Safe demonstrates the absolute lengths people are willing to go, leading to some heartfelt moments and some devestating consequences.

The mystery of what happened to Jenny was definitely a gripping one, throughout the series we got snippets of her location and as the story progressed it became unclear whether she was a victim or a villian. Was she running away? Being held captive? Or even fleeing from a murder scene? Jenny’s dissapearance was definitely not a black and white issue and I did start to wonder whether the final episode would see her rescue or her arrest. The final revelation was a very clever one- Safe was able to build up a intriuging backstory and motive for Jenny’s dissapearance, the last episode truly had me on the edge on my seat.

Overall, I really loved Safe. The writing was just so clever and I liked the gated community location and how it trapped its characters. The ensemble cast and multiple storylines kept me on my toes and the overall mystery was complex and well planned out. A brilliant series and another great mystery by Coben.

Valley Girl, A Review

The awesomest love story ever told.

Valley Girl follows Julie Richman (Jessica Rothe, Happy Death Day), an 80s teenager who spends her time shopping in the mall and hanging out with her friends- Karen (Chloe Bennet), Stacey (Jessie Ennis) and Loryn (Ashleigh Murray, Katy Keene)– and boyfriend Mickey (Logan Paul). Julie secretly longs for a life outside of her ‘Valley Girl’ existance but feels pressured to marry early and live as a housewife. One day at the beach however she meets Randy (Josh Whitehouse, The Knight Before Christmas), a Hollywood punk. The two enjoy a moment together but are interrupted by a jealous Mickey, later on Randy and his two friends Jack (Mae Whitman, Good Girls) and Sticky (Mario Revolori) crash a Valley party, and he and Julie meet again and eventually leave together.

Despite their differences, Julie and Randy soon start dating, much to the displeasure of each of their friend groups. The relationship results in both pulling away from their friends and causing rifts within each group. Julie’s parents and friends worry that Randy is not suitable for her and Randy’s band mates worry that Julie is distracting him from the music. When everything comes to a blow at Stacey’s birthday party, Julie is forced to reevaluate what she really wants. Should she stick to the status quo and head back to the valley or stay with Randy and build her own future and happiness?

Valley Girl was a very cringey film, in the best way possible. I just loved the 80s theme- the music, the outfits, the locations- it was all one big retro dream. I’ve not actually watched the original version of this film but I could really feel the 80s spirit strongly in this one. I think combined with the “valley girl” characters, the dialouge did sometimes make me cringe but overall the film was just a lot of fun and I could definitely see myself rewatching if I ever wanted a boost.

I absolutely loved Valley Girl’s musical numbers, they really made the film stand out when compared to other romcoms, and they made watching even more enjoyable. I loved all of the 80s numbers and the mash up and style changes to each song, the entire soundtrack was a complete bop and I will confess I’ve been listening to the songs nonstop for the last few days. I always love a musical (Crazy Ex Girlfriend, Zoey’s Playlist, etc) and I think the right song choice can elevate a film’s quality from average to amazing. Valley Girl’s numbers were all perfectly matched to the style of the film and every single song was catchy and enjoyable.

I’m not quite sure what I thought of the flashforwards featuring an adult Julie (Alicia Silverstone) and her own teenager daughter Ruby (Camila Morrone). On the one hand I do love Alicia Silverstone and I thought her telling the story to her daughter was a nice idea, I did like the chemistry between the two. However I also felt like they distracted from the main film and always took away from the current narrative. These flashforwards also showed straight away that Julie and Randy didn’t stay together, which somewhat shattered the rom com illusion. I think in romance based films (Love Simon, To All the Boys, The Thing About Harry, etc) there’s always a sort of belief that the main couples will stay together forever, however Valley Girls just shatters this instantly. I did like the message that first loves don’t always last but I think overall I just wasn’t a fan of the flashforwards.

Overall, I did enjoy watching Valley Girl. The film was a cute and enjoyable, albeit sometimes cheesy romcom with some really likeable characters. It was however the 80s setting and musical numbers which make Valley Girl stand out, watching was just so much fun.