Monday, January 09, 2017

Sonata of the Dead - Conrad Williams

Sent to me by the Publisher in exchange for an honest review

Publisher: Titan Books

Copyright: Conrad Williams, 2016

ISBN: 978-1783295654

Format: Paperback, 343pp

Genre: Crime

Rating: 4/5

Summed up in a few words
Family. Writing. Pain. Pursuit. Adrenaline.

First Impressions
Conrad Williams is on a mission to bring Joel to his knees in the second instalment of this punishing and frenzied series. Joel has been given hope and that is a dangerous thing to have in his situation. CW has taken this series to a new level using bold and interesting plot ideas, characters and elements of horror. If you enjoyed Dust and Desire then you will most certainly get on well with Sonata of the Dead. CW takes the well worn dynamic of cop turned PI scenario and contorts/brutalizes it into a different kind of British crime/noir novel series.

Book Synopsis
Even as he recovers from his near fatal encounter with an unhinged killer, PI Joel Sorrell cannot forget his search for Sarah. He receives a tip that photographs of her have been found at a crime scene, where a young man whom Sarah knew when they were children has been horribly dismembered. Finding a link between the victim and an underground writers' group, Joel follows the thread, but every lead ends in another body. Someone is targeting the group, and it is only a matter of time before Joel's daughter is run to ground.

My Thoughts
Sonata of the Dead builds on what Dust and Desire had achieved but moved the focus towards the chase of the villain and added more in-depth horror elements. Joel has been given hope in the search for Sarah in more ways than one and it is tearing him to pieces. When a school friend of Sarah's is brutally murdered by The Hack, Joel receives news that photos of Sarah have been recovered at the crime scene.

Tracking Sarah and her involvement with the recently deceased, Joel finds himself with a big new lead in the search. Sarah is a possible member of an underground, high stakes, adrenaline seeking writers group. Joel sets out to mine this huge find of all the information he can. Unfortunately he is not the only one who wants a word with them and as the murders continue, Joel is seeing his chances slipping into the abyss. Joel is desperate and has nothing to lose which in this scenario is a good cocktail for success.

Towards the beginning of the book when I found out the main plot was centred around a creative writing group; I was half disappointed and half amused. I was quickly hushed by the unrelenting chaos surrounding the group and as the plot developed I found myself really enjoying the creative writing aspect. It broke up the text and skewed the facts quite well, which helped cultivate the unpredictable tone that CW crafts so well.

The character development in the Joel Sorrell series so far has been hit and miss. I find that CW seems to craft characters to meet the needs of Joel instead of him or others adapting themselves to the situation. This is sort of a complaint as CW's books are seemingly over-populated but CW is an outstanding character builder and this means we consistently get interesting, development and unique characters throughout which makes for great reading.

Ian Mawker is back and the dynamic between him and Sorrell is brilliant as always, they hate each other with a passion, but their regard for their work and finding Sarah continuously drag them together. The main villain in Sonata of the Dead is again hidden in the shadows and for me personally, this is frustrating. I prefer protagonist/antagonist interaction instead of both characters working opposite to each other, so I have to mark down for that. 

CW's work is rooted in two major themes, meaningful character interactions and a punishing, honorific and desperate attempt for reunion. The tone of Sonata of the Dead elevates to a frantic, destructive and seemingly futile level. Joel is inches away from Sarah at all times but can he get to her before The Hack can?

Overall, I have been blown away by elements of this series so far, but I have also been frustrated by them. I do recommend this book to crime/noir/Conrad Williams fans and I can guarantee you will be thrilled by all the chaos that CW packs into every page. I have given this book 4/5 as CW is consistently awesome and I am looking forward to seeing where he will eventually take this series.

Pick up a copy of Sonata of the Dead here: Amazon UK/Amazon US/Goodreads

About the Author: Conrad Williams is the author of nine novels, four novellas and a collection of short stories. One was the winner of the August Derleth award for Best Novel (British Fantasy Awards 2010) while The Unblemished won the International Horror Guild Award for Best Novel in 2007 (he beat the shortlisted Stephen King on both occasions). He won the British Fantasy Award for Best Newcomer in 1993, and another British Fantasy Award for Best Novella (The Scalding Rooms) in 2008.  His first crime novel, and the first Joel Sorrell thriller, Dust and Desire , was published in 2015, with Sonata of the Dead following in 2016. He lives in Manchester.

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