Thursday, August 29, 2019

Book Reviews Reloaded: Eeny Meeny

This article first appeared on East Niagara Post on October 13, 2015. It is repeated here as I work to put all my book reviews in one place. They will be posted on Thursdays or Fridays and only be altered from the original in that I will add publisher information and pages. Hopefully, by revisiting these reviews, other people might find a book they'd like to pick up for their own enjoyment.

Eeny Meeny - M.J. Arlidge
Penguin Publishing
432 Pages

This week’s review concerns a novel that is a psychological thriller that makes the reader wonder “What would you do? What decision would you make?” Not all choices are easy, and this book will make the hardest ones even harder.  Eeny Meeny by M.J. Arlidge is one of those books that keeps you turning pages while you bite your nails wondering what choice the characters will make.

Imagine being trapped with your loved one or best friend with no chance of escape. The two of you have been kidnapped and locked away by an unknown assailant. This person gives you one avenue for escape. There is a gun and one of you must die for the other to gain their freedom. How long without food and water would you last before succumbing to those needs and killing that one important person in your life?

When people start appearing in an emaciated and dehydrated state in the English countryside with incredible stories of confinement and murder, a massive investigation is  launched. Enter Inspector Helen Grace. Like many damaged central characters, Grace utilizes her troubled background to take the lead on tracking down this vicarious serial killer.

The question arises whether the surviving twin is actually guilty of murder, or innocent based on circumstance. The surviving victims , suffering from PTSD and guilt struggle with the sidelong glances and nightmares that come every night. Meanwhile, Grace and her team race to discover the connection between the seemingly unrelated abductions and murders. The lynchpin to the whole ordeal will surprise the characters as well as the readers.

This book is built around a series of quick, short chapters that keep up a rapid pace for the reader. These short snippets are flashes of intense action and investigation. There is little time for the reader to rest. We move from scene to scene with relentless abandon. Because of this, the book was nearly impossible to put down.

The cast of characters seems to be very large for a relatively short book. Most of the characters we meet are simply quick snippets placed in the story to progress the plot. Sometimes, I find that can distract from the narrative, but these characters were meant to blink in and out of the story, building a case for Grace to follow.

Inspector Grace seemingly has as many secrets as the mastermind behind the kidnappings. Pieces of her past are slowly brought to the fore as a plot device to study the relationship between the abductor, the victims, and the investigative team. Her dark past makes her a flawed character who thinks outside the typical status quo of the other investigators. This can sometimes give her a step up on the rest of the team.

Frankly, this book was frightening. Innocent people are put into no-win situations that could result in their deaths. The most frightening part of this book is the idea that there could be real people out there who would like to copycat the actions in this novel. Arlidge writes this novel with horrifying realistic action by the protagonist and antagonist. The pace of this book adds to the terror. You can’t help but be a little scared by this premise.

M.J. Arlidge has written a spectacular and terrifying crime thriller with Eeny Meeny and the introduction of Inspector Helen Grace. His fast pace and character development will keep even the most casual reader engaged. Researching his Amazon page, I have discovered that there are two other books to the Helen Grace series. I’m hoping that the library system has it in their catalog. This book definitely hooked me on this new character and this new writer.

Craig Bacon has many choices to make. Most of them involve beer.