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A Passion For Horror

Book Review: Shrike by Joe Donnelly


Shrike by Joe Donnelly (Book Review)


By Joe Donnelly

Shrike, like most of Joe Donnelly's books, is set in Scotland. The main character is a policeman called jack Fallon. After a sťance goes wrong something evil is unleashed into the town of Levenford. Something with claws and teeth that likes the dark and high places. That is where the story begins and Jack is in charge of the investigation into the death of the old woman who chaired the sťance.

The crime scene furnishes more questions for Jack than answers and Jack's next case is just as perplexing—the disappearance of a baby from its pram. Then more children go missing and, on top of that, Jack has to also investigate a sudden string of murders and suicides. All work and no play might very well make Jack a dull boy, but in a situation like this what can he do? He works around the clock.

The killer might like high places, but Jack does not. He hates heights and I was filled with admiration for the way Jack plodded on onwards and upwards whenever he needed to do so and did not let his fear control him. I am not a lover of heights myself and the book contains a few scenes that I found quite uncomfortable to read because they scared me so much. All of these scenes involved a tall chimney and they were very descriptive and well written. As I read the scenes I almost felt like I was the one climbing up to the top of the chimney and it is the first time that I have ever felt dizzy just from reading the written word. In fact, in the past, I have watched movies about mountain climbers, or berserk roller coasters, and never once felt the terror that I felt when reading Shrike.

The 'high points' of Shrike, as you can probably tell, suceeded in making a big impression on me, but a few chapters failed to hold my attention and my mind started to wander.

Jack is an interesting main character, who lost his wife, and their daughter, in an accident and is still trying to come to terms with his loss. Mostly by throwing himself into his work so that he is too busy to think about the accident, but he also has a great love for his sister and young nephew who, between them, seem to have helped him through the worst of it.

Jack isn't the only interesting character in Shrike; there are plenty of others. Young Librarian, Lorna Breck, is one of them. Lorna is new to Levenford and, although she has always been a little psychically gifted, her gift suddenly becomes an overpowering nightmare for her as she is forced to witness, in her mind's-eye, the terrible atrocities that are being carried out in the town.

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Whenever I write a book review I often mention which guy or gal in the story I loved to hate. In Shrike that person is one of Jack's superiors, Ronald Cowie. Ronald Cowie is a knob, but not the kind of knob anyone would want to stick on a door. He is the kind of knob who seems preordained to have his head put through a door, sooner or later. He makes Jack's life hard at every opportunity and would have made a better politician than policeman.

I enjoyed reading Shrike, but I think that I might have enjoyed it even more if it the story had been condensed a bit to quicken the pace and, of course, if Ronald Cowie had met the door he so richly deserved.


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