Three Mini Reviews

The BookDepository

Mercy (Department Q 1) Translated fron the Danish by Lisa Hartford

Mercy by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Five words from the blurb: Copenhagen, detective, unsolved, crimes, tortured

I decided to read Mercy after Kim gave it a glowing review. Unfortunately I didn’t love it as much as she did, but it was an enjoyable piece of crime fiction.

Mercy is a police procedural that centres on Detective Carl Morck, a moody man who is haunted by the recent death of a colleague. In order to distract him from his problems he is assigned a new job investigating unsolved crimes. His first case involves a woman who disappeared five-years-ago. Everyone thinks she’s dead, but through her narrative, which is given in alternate chapters, the reader discovers that she is imprisoned in an underground bunker.

I initially loved this book – the character development was fantastic and the descriptions of the woman trapped underground were vivid and compelling. Unfortunately everything unraveled as the story continued. I found the pace slowed and the middle section was far too long. The also thought that the ending was a little predictable and there were too many cliches.

Overall it was entertaining, but nothing made it stand out above other good pieces of crime fiction.

Brain On Fire: My Month of Madness

Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan

Five words from the blurb: hospital, memory, unrecognizable, madness, tests

Brain on Fire is a non fiction account of what happened to a New York reporter in the month she was struck down by a rare brain disease (anti-NMDA-receptor autoimmune encephalitis). The details of how her mind was affected were scary to read, but I found myself bored by the large amount of medical data. I think part of my problem with this book comes from the fact I listened to a wonderful Radio 4 interview with the author which summarised the major aspects of this book. This meant I knew the more interesting scenes already and the additional information didn’t add anything to the story I already knew.

The book was written in a compelling, chatty style and I found the beginning, as the first signs of her illness appeared, very good. Unfortunately I found the rest of the book disappointing. The descriptions of each visit to the hospital became repetitive and, although I realise she suffered greatly, I’m afraid that the confusion of doctors and the details of the tests they performed was of little interest to me.

Overall I’m sure this book will be of great benefit to the families of those suffering from encephalitis, but I think the technical details may be too much for the general reader.


The Age of Miracles

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

Five words from the blurb: catastrophe, survival, rotation, Earth, vulnerability

The Age of Miracles has been dividing opinion in the blogging world and I was convinced that I’d hate it, but, although it was a light book with lots of flaws, I found it strangely compelling.

The book is narrated by an eleven-year-old girl living at a time in the near future when the Earth starts to spin more slowly. This means that the days become longer and Mankind begins to suffer from a range of problems, from food shortages to gravitational sickness.

The plot was gripping throughout and, although I questioned many of the scientific details, the basic story of a world in crisis was thought provoking.

The narrator felt much older than her eleven years and I’d have preferred to know about the problems faced by the adult population, but these are personal preferences and it almost seems wrong to bring them up when the book was so compelling that I read it in a single sitting.

Recommended to those looking for a light, entertaining piece of dystopian fiction.

Have you read any of these books?

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  1. Sandy says:

    You cram more into your mini-reviews than I put in my full sized ones! I’ve not read any of these, although I have been circling Brain on Fire for a little while.

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, Perhaps I just have a low tolerance for doctors/hospitals? I’d be interested to know your thoughts on Brain on Fire.

  2. Charlie says:

    I haven’t read any of them, but I really want to read The Age of Miracles. I hadn’t read about the scientific details so that interests me from a discussion point of view.

    1. Jackie says:

      Charlie, There aren’t any scientific details in Age of Miracles – which was part of my problem. The book gave very quick descriptions of what was happening to the Earth, but these didn’t seem realistic to me. Perhaps with a bit more scientific explanation it might have persuaded me otherwise, but I doubt it. Luckily the story was so entertaining I could forgive it.

  3. Jeane says:

    I still want to read Brain on Fire. It sounds fascinating to me, although I’m afraid I might get bogged down in the medical details too.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jeane, It is a fascinating and scary story – perfect for a 15 minute interview. I just don’t think it coped with being spread over a book that takes several hours to read. I’ll be interested to see if you enjoy it more than I did.

  4. Sue Gunnee says:

    I’ve read both Mercy (still to write review) and The Age of Miracles. I’m going to be completely uncontroversial and say I agree with you on both these books. After much of Mercy being minute by minute desriptions the ending was all wrapped up very quickly & neatly.
    I also enjoyed The Age of Miracles but perhaps not as much as you & you’re right that the premise is interesting but doesn’t stand up to too much scrutiny. I really enjoyed The Last Policeman by Ben H Winters which was in a similar vein.

    1. Jackie says:

      Sue, It is good to know I’m not alone in my thoughts on these ones.

      I haven’t heard of The Last Policeman – I’ll look it up. Thanks for the recommendation!

  5. Shan says:

    Interestingly, after the author wrote The Age of Miracles, she gave it to some scientists/professors to correct the scientific stuff and she actually had it pretty right! Or how they believe it would happen if it were to actually occur. I wondered about that as well when I was reading it, then at a blogger lunch with the author she explained the process when asked about her research.

    1. Jackie says:

      Shan, I think the problem with the science is that there is no scientific explanation of events. It may well be true, but there was no evidence to back it up and so I questioned it. I think it also glossed over a lot of the problems and so the reader doesn’t get a full picture of what is happening around the world. It is good to know that the author got experts to look at the book, but I’d prefer to read books with a more technical style of writing.

      1. Shan says:

        That’s a good point. I did find as I was reading it that it did have more of a young adult feel than I was expecting, and that’s either because of the lack of technical science or maybe that is why she didn’t include any of it because she was writing more for that audience?

  6. Kathleen says:

    The Age of Miracles is already on my shelf at home. I’m really looking forward to reading it now.

    1. Jackie says:

      Kathleen, I hope that you enjoy reading it!

  7. Mystica says:

    I’ve read Mercy but did not like it. I wonder whether it was because of the translation that the language seemed very abrupt.

    1. Jackie says:

      Mystica, The writing in Mercy was quite direct, but I think that tone works quite well for a thriller. I don’t think there was anything wrong with the translation (although I haven’t read the original so don’t really know) I guess this series just isn’t for you.

  8. I heard the same interview with Cahalan but was curious how she’d flesh out the story to book length, I think I’d still like to try it (via the library) if only to see how much she was able to use her journalistic skills when the story involves her loved ones and her own healthcare.

    1. Jackie says:

      Alex, It will be interesting to see if you have the same experience after listening to the interview – I wonder if I would have enjoyed the book more if I hadn’t listened to it beforehand. I look forward to comparing notes.

  9. stujallen says:

    not read any Jackie ,the age of mircales is one I had on radar for a while so four stars means I may get it when I see it love idea of longer days and how people cope with it ,all the best stu

    1. Jackie says:

      Stu, I don’t think Age of Miracles is a book you’d enjoy, but I’d love to know your thoughts on it. I hope you enjoy it more than I think you will.

  10. Jenners says:

    A light entertaining dysopia? I’ll have to read that!

  11. I’ve read Brain on Fire and thought it very good. I wasn’t put off by the medical stuff at all. My only complaint was her slightly naive self-questioning.

    I keep hearing about Age of Miracles and though reactions seem to be mostly very good I can’t help being convinced I won’t like it. I’m not sure why I’ve taken against it. I really should just read it and decide for myself!

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