Book Review ‘The Others’ Mark Brandi

Image © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

A boy gets a diary for his 11th birthday, to help with his writing practice. What begins as an innocent account of a child’s daily life quickly becomes for the reader something much darker.

We see the world through the eyes of a child, written with masterful naivety by Mark Brandi that few authors manage to capture. The boy tells us about his daily routine, his schoolwork, the farm work he and his father do, and the names of his favourite sheep. He tells us about his father’s ‘gold tooth’ – the way he knows his father’s smile is genuine, and how he misses seeing it more because the rain hasn’t come. He tells us how he’s learnt ‘being taught something’ is different to ‘being taught a lesson’. Through our story-teller, we begin to cotton on that life on the farm is anything but normal. Our main character has only ever known this world; we know better.

The stick against the tree trunk © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

The story is written in a way that drags you in and pulls you along, unwillingly at times as the brutality of nature is so vividly portrayed (and sketched) by our young protagonist. His father, stern and scarce with his affection, runs through the narrative with an enigmatic, threatening presence – the reader gets to see more than our protagonist does, which adds to the tension. We understand; his son does not.

The cast is light-on. The father and son are central, we have some animal characters, and four people mostly alluded too – his mother, and three Others. The beauty of The Others is that we don’t need anyone else; the sense of Tasmanian isolation and the terror that comes with it really makes the story.

Images © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

As plots go, there isn’t the traditional rollercoaster ride of some thrillers. Instead, there is a slow rolling on of dread which grows with each secret our protagonist keeps from his father – a note, voices heard in the dead of night, a strange noise in the trees – that finally comes to a traumatic head in the final chapters. The resolution is swift, underwhelming; it leaves more questions than it answers. We puzzle together the last terrible clues and are left with a sense that life could never be the same again.

© Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

Only one thing let the book down for me – the voice of our protagonist changed. In the final act he goes from using the childish descriptions of a boy to a very deliberate ‘lyrical’ style of the author. Descriptions took priority and it felt jarringly unnatural from our protagonist to be spouting self-reflective prose. However, for the most part, the ‘voice’ of our main character stayed the same, without ever compromising on storytelling.

The most interesting thing for me was that names were never used. Our main character’s name – Jacob – was never said by his father; only once in a letter, on basically the last page. His father’s name was never given at all. The only character named in full was Jacob’s mother. It was a surprise for me that a story could flow so well without ever really giving itself away – we never quite find out all the details. The mystery is left open for our interpretation, and in the end, that’s the scariest part of all.

I would give The Others 4/5 stars because nothing is perfect but this gets pretty dang close.

Gretchen Bernet-Wardin collaboration with Dot Bernet.

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AUTHOR PROFILE

Mark Brandi’s bestselling novel, Wimmera, won the coveted British Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger, and was named Best Debut at the 2018 Australian Indie Book Awards. It was also shortlisted for the Australian Book Industry Awards Literary Fiction Book of the Year, and the Matt Richell Award for New Writer of the Year. His second novel, The Rip, was published to critical acclaim by Hachette Australia in March 2019. Mark published The Others in 2021.

Mark had shorter works appear in The Guardian, The Age, the Big Issue, and in journals both here and overseas. His writing is also sometimes heard on ABC Radio National.

Mark graduated with a criminal justice degree and worked extensively in the justice system, before changing direction and deciding to write. Originally from Italy, he grew up in rural Victoria, and now lives in Melbourne and is creating his next work of fiction.

PRAISE FOR THE OTHERS

“Spare yet emotionally sumptuous… laced with page-turning suspense, and a creeping sense of dread that turns into something excruciatingly claustrophobic as it builds to its heart-pounding crescendo”

SIMON MCDONALD, POTTS POINT BOOKSHOP AND WORDPRESS BLOGGER

Lucy V Hay ‘Criminally Good’ Advice

After reading Lucy V Hay’s two informative books “Writing and Selling Thriller Screenplays” and “How NOT to Write Female Characters” the next logical step was to subscribe to her website and learn more.

The first thing I noticed was that Lucy is very active and her site holds a plethora of information. Then I was delighted to receive a free copy of The Lynmouth Stories, three of Lucy’s short stories titled “In Plain Sight”, “Killing Me Softly” and “Hell and High Water”, twisters which certainly pack a psychological punch.

Here’s what it says on her website—

Lucy is an author and script editor, living in Devon with her husband, three children and six cats. She is the associate producer of Brit Thrillers Deviation (2012) and Assassin (2015) both starring Danny Dyer. See Lucy’s IMDB page HERE and other movies and short films she’s been involved in, HERE.

In addition to script reading and writing her own novels, Lucy also blogs about the writing process, screenwriting, genre, careers and motivation and much more at her blog Bang2write, one of the most-hit writing sites in the UK. Sign up for updates from B2W and receive a free 28 page ebook (PDF) on how NOT to write female characters, HERE or click the pic on her website.

For more scriptchat, leads and links, join Lucy’s online writing group, Bang2writers. It’s something I am going to explore further!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

ADDENDUM—For a free copy of The Lynmouth Stories and more, join Lucy’s EMAIL LIST—My post heading comes from the title of Lucy’s email CRIMINALLY GOOD where she interviews fellow crime writers and asks them five questions.  She says “It’s fascinating to read their answers, especially as they are all so different!”  Today I have the choice of Ian Rankin, Sophie Hannah or Peter James. GBW. 

Louise Candlish ‘Our House’ Book Review

Quote “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying he was psychopathically charismatic or anything like that.  He didn’t set out to use his powers for evil.  More likely his powers were no match for the evil he chanced upon.” Chapter 34, Fi’s Story >1:59:07

That quotation from Bram Lawson’s wife Fiona appears to be a fair assessment of her husband’s character but is it accurate?  Bram made one faulty decision which started the ball rolling over and over until it rolled into a brick wall, and the wall started to topple.

The unforced yet headlong pace of this novel has to be read to be understood.  It is full-on right from the opening line: “London, 12.30 p.m. She must be mistaken, but it looks exactly as if someone is moving into her house.”

London Terrace Houses 03
Author Louise Candlish has the knack of subverting expectations, making her characters do things I hadn’t anticipated, and making them believable.  Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong in a progression of events at 91 Trinity Avenue in the London suburb of Alder Rise where property values are in the millions.

In this transfixing drama of house fraud and so much more, the main players are Bram and Fiona; their two young sons; would-be homeowners David and Lucy Vaughan; neighbour Merle; Mike and Wendy; the website of crime podcast The Victim.

London Terrace Houses 05

Told by Fiona (Fi) and Bram, their retrospective sides of the story nearly overlap yet never quite converge, building a strong sense of unease.  With foreboding I followed their newly separated, and prickly, domestic rituals with bird’s nest custody arrangements.  I almost shouted at the book a couple of times—I can’t reveal why—as deception and indiscretion insinuated themselves into the story.

Woven through the redolent London background are family moments, some more heart-wrenching than others, before a nasty turn of events and the final dénouement.  While the catastrophic narrative honour goes to Bram, the overarching theme is home ownership and who legally owns the house.  Apparently it is, or was, a possibility that this kind of deed transfer could happen.

“Our House” is the best crime book I’ve read this year, well crafted and written with an ending which sends out shock waves.  If you like incomparable award-winning psychological thrillers, I urge you to read this one.

Five Star Rating Star Fish 02Star Fish 02Star Fish 02Star Fish 02Star Fish 02

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


About the Author:

Louise Candlish UK Author 2019Louise Candlish is the author of eleven previous novels, including “The Sudden Departure of the Frasers”, “The Swimming Pool” and the international bestseller “Since I Don’t Have You”.  Louise studied English at University College London and worked as an advertising copywriter and art book editor before writing fiction.  She lives in South London with her husband and teenage daughter.  “Those People” is her next book.
Author website http://www.louisecandlish.com/

I also recommend author and WordPress reviewer Rachel McLean
https://rachelmclean.com/book-review-our-house-by-louise-candlish-a-gripping-psychological-thriller/

There are perceptive book club questions in a Reader’s Guide at the end of “Our House”.