Thursday, 31 March 2011


I've now read my very first Kindle book! Author, Steve Emmett, wrote to me to ask if I would care to read and review his debut book, Diavolino. I was about to write back to say that I couldn't because I was, sadly, Kindle-less, when another exact same request arrived. That put a stop to my dilly-dallying over whether or not to get one so I took the plunge and am now a fully paid up member of Clueless Owners of New Technology. Anyway, Steve's book was my first foray into actually reading a book on it.

Tom Lupton is a London based architect, married to Elspeth; they have a five year old daughter, Alice. They are all quite happy and settled in the capital. Then one of Tom's most important clients offers him a chance to build a dream house on a mysterious island on an Italian Lake. Tom and Elspeth are not sure about such a life-changing move but are eventually persuaded by the prospect of a few years in beautiful Italy.

What they find when they get there is a stunningly beautiful setting but a few locals who are not exactly thrilled to see them. Foreigners, it appears, are not welcomed by all. And then little Alice starts 'seeing' things around their temporary home on the island - strange monkish apparitions. No one quite believes the child although both her parents are also experiencing odd happenings.

Things come to a head when Tom and his assitant, Sima, are out excavating around the new build site. It's covered in weird creepers which clutch at you. Tom's attention is distracted and when he turns around Sima is disappearing into the ground and all he can see is her feet. Frantic, he tries to dig her out but the ground is hard and unyielding. What's happened to her? And what is the history of the island which the locals, and especially the mayor, are trying to hide from them? They eventually discover a macabre story which is centuries old... but what has that got to do with Sima's disappearance? They are soon to find out.

There's a really strong sense of place in this story and for me those are the best kind of books. I suppose it's the armchair traveller in me speaking, but if I can be transported by a story to somewhere I have never been and can imagine that place almost as though I had actually been there, then that's good writing. Here's Lake Trasimeno where the book is set:

It's clearly very beautiful indeed - I gather the author lived in the area for quite a while and for me that shows over and over. I really appreciate an author using that kind of local knowledge to full effect.

The story itself... well, it probably wouldn't be for everyone but I enjoyed it. Modern horror is not, to be honest, my forté - I prefer Victorian or Edwardian ghost yarns as there's something about gaslit stories of the macabre that I find utterly thrilling. But I'll give anything a go and this tale with its centuries old background gripped me from the start. I read it in a couple of days and I can't decide whether this was to do with Steve's very readable writing style or the ease of reading on a Kindle where you can choose exactly the font size you need. Both I suspect. Whatever, I found myself racing through it, wanting to find out what happens next as it really is 'edge of the seat' stuff.

My final point is something I'm not quite sure how to phrase. Erm... I find it, shall we say, 'refreshing', when male authors write about men as they really *are*. If you've been married a very long time, as I have, you tend to know these things but it's surprising how many female authors, writing men, don't seem to get it. The reverse is true too of course, many male authors don't write realistic women either, but that's not the point here. Steve's male characters rang very true and 'were' definitely blokes... not watered down versions of the reality.

All in all a good debut novel - creepy, suspenseful, atmospheric and, for me anyway, a lot of fun. And also a nice start to my Kindle reading experience - I'm thrilled with my new toy to be honest and love how pleasant it was to read a book on it. I'm sure it won't replace my proper books but as an additional reading tool it's brilliant.


Steve Emmett said...

Huge sigh of relief! I'm always on tenterhooks to see what comes out of a review request. Thank you, Cath. You made my day.

DesLily said...

well this sounds interesting! And glad you enjoyed it. I am curious to know if the author gets the same amount for each Ebook as he does for a paper version? hmmm. I hope so!

Nikki-ann said...

Sounds like a brilliant read! I may just have to add this on to my wishlist :)

animewookie said...

Wow! A Kindle...I haven't taken the plunge yet, but I bought my daughter a Nook for her college books and she loves it :D
This wouldn't ordinarily be my type of book, but your description of it has got me intrigued. I might just have to pick this one up. Great review.

Anonymous said...

What a compelling review; for the book and the Kindle. I haven't read much horror of late and perhaps will give it a go sometime soon with "Diavalino". '

Jianne Carlo said...

Steve's work is compelling. I enjoyed Diavolino, though I was glad to have read it in daylight. And yes, I watch horror movies with the sound off.


Steve Emmett said...

You are all very kind. anime, if you have a Nook you can read Diavolino on it. If you buy direct from my publisher you get a file with all the versions in it or you can get it from Barnes and Noble. If you have Kindle, a purchase from Amazon downloads direct to your Kindle.
And DesLily - we get more from ebooks than paper books and this is why I'd be happy for you all to by the ebook!
Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Cath, I knew you would love reading on your Kindle. I'm so happy that I can switch back and forth between regular books and e-books, but I am getting rather partial to my font size on my Kindle. Old eyes, sigh!

This book sounds like one I would like a lot. I'm off to see about getting it.

Cath said...

Steve: My pleasure. And thank *you* for asking me to read and review your book. And thanks too for answering Deslily's question because I hadn't a clue about that.

Hey Pat! I'm glad to hear authors get as more for e. books... and so they should with no printing costs involved.

Nikki-ann, if you do that I hope you enjoy it.

animewookie: It took me a while to take the plunge and get a Kindle too but I'm glad I did. I was just at the opticians using it to read and was approached by one of the opticians who said his son had just taken one to Katmandhu with all his med school stuff on it. I had heard they were conversation starters. Seems it's true. :-)

Lifeonthecutoff: I don't read huge amounts of horror to be honest and tend to save it for Carl's RIP challenge, in the autumn, when I do.

Jianne Carlo: Yeah... I didn't have it as my bedtime read either. lol. I can read horror, no problem, but am not keen on horror movies. Saying that, one of my all-time favourite films is The Fog.

Cath said...

Kay: Yes, I have to say that the font size is one of the most attractive things about a Kindle. To be able to set it to suit your own eyesight is wonderful. I could get *very* used to it. A couple of times over the last week I've wanted books and was disappointed to find them not on Kindle yet.