Book Review: Rattle by Fiona Cummins (@FionaAnnCummins; @panmacmillan)

27968809 The Official Book Blurb

A psychopath more frightening than Hannibal Lecter.

He has planned well. He leads two lives. In one he’s just like anyone else. But in the other he is the caretaker of his family’s macabre museum.

Now the time has come to add to his collection. He is ready to feed his obsession, and he is on the hunt.

Jakey Frith and Clara Foyle have something in common. They have what he needs.

What begins is a terrifying cat-and-mouse game between the sinister collector, Jakey’s father and Etta Fitzroy, a troubled detective investigating a spate of abductions.

Set in London’s Blackheath, Rattle by Fiona Cummins explores the seam of darkness that runs through us all; the struggle between light and shadow, redemption and revenge.

It is a glimpse into the mind of a sinister psychopath. And it’s also a story about not giving up hope when it seems that all hope is already lost.

So. How to start with summing up this book? Well, if I’m honest then I’m going to start with a pretty big warning and a disclaimer. This isn’t a fuzzy book full of hope. This is a crime drama with more than a hint of the macabre about it. If you dislike books involving crimes against children, then you may wish to steer clear. Don’t get me wrong, there is no sexual element to this book and most of the ‘violent’ scenes are implied rather than described but it is very clear what has occurred and what is about to happen, and it is not a story that everyone will be able to stomach for the very reason that the children in question, Clara and Jakey are very young.

Now, with that out of the way, let’s talk about the book. I have deliberately avoided doing my usual trick of rewriting the blurb as this book doesn’t need it. The beauty of this text is in discovering every twisted and tense page for yourself and if you take the blurb and my warning you will have a good idea of what to expect as you turn each page. I have seen this billed as a horror novel, or at least as one having an element of horror about it. I suppose in some respects that is true and it does take a step closer to the dark side than your average thriller, hovering around in the shadows and rarely stepping into the light. It’s not quite what I would describe as horror, but then I love a real good scare, and have probably been desensitised to most horror books over the years having been obsessed with the genre since I was about three. That said, the theme of the book, the central obsession of the antagonist, is pretty grotesque.

The blurb draws comparison to Hannibal Lecter from The Silence of the Lambs and he does have  certain kind of dark and evil intelligence, and a canny way of hiding in plain sight. His appearance is creepy but one which is easily overlooked and yet in the nature of his atrocities I’d personally say he’s somewhat more akin to Lecter’s patient Jame Gumb, or even Marcus Andrews in a certain book by Jeffery Deaver. If you know which one I mean, you’ll know where this book is going. So even though it may not have scared me witless, it damned well had me hooked.

Fiona Cummins has created a perfect dysfunctional detective in Etta Fitzroy. Obsessed with the case of missing Clara Foyle she is still haunted by a case from the year before when another child had gone missing and she made a grievous error in dealing with one of the suspects. Her marriage is strained and desperate for a family of her own she is avoiding seeing her sister with her newborn baby. She has every possible distraction going on at home to add enough personal conflict to the story, without letting it drown things out. She is a strong character and yet she is ultimately vulnerable and in truth, through focusing on nothing but the case, she is a bit of a blooy mess. She has great empathy for the families affected by her investigations, perhaps a shade too much for a police office who needs to maintain a certain distance, but it humanises her. Makes her engaging and I really liked her.

Written from multiple points of view, Cummins has captured the essence of each character beautifully. As the grief and acceptance of their daughter’s disappearance starts to take hold, you feel the tiny fissures in the Foyle’s marriage slowly widen until they become gaping chasms. As for Jakey Frith’s parents, they have already suffered unbelievable stress over their marriage and yet their reactions, their memories of the happier times in the early days of their marriage, serve to heighten the sense of loss and the fear they feel as the story progresses. All of them are written so sympathetically, with so many facets to their character that I felt every moment of their pain. And the children… Their innocence emanates from the page as does their fear. It is the passages told in their voice which are likely to affect you the most.

And then there is our antagonist. He is a character so dark and twisted and yet he is what his family have made him. In his eyes he is carrying on a centuries old tradition, even if it is one which is so sick that no rational person could begin to understand it. He is a collector of the macabre, the unusual, and he has been waiting his entire life to complete is collection. One of his victims is the ultimate prize. One of his victims leaves him feeling conflicted. And he is a truly conflicted character as you cannot understand how a man who is driven by such a dark passion could feel the love that he describes towards his family, even if now it is with a certain degree of detachment. You don’t learn who he is until later in the novel, discovering his identity at the same time as Fitzroy, but his presence throughout is threatening, his intent clear, and his rationality in the face of inexplicable evil the most chilling aspect of all. He is not the scariest character I have ever read, but there is something sinister and chilling about him, from his appearance to his delight at what is to come. And he likes beetles. Not the band, the bugs. I hate bugs.

Now this book fully pulled me in and kept me hooked. The pacing is perfect, the flow between the different points of view flawless, keeping the narrative moving onward and me as a reader engrossed. It is hard to believe that the whole book took place over the space of a few days as there is just so much going on. If I hadn’t had to go to work, I’m sure I would have blasted through this is a day. As it was, it only took me a couple of evenings to finish as I was so invested in the story and finding out the fates of the children. I needed them to be okay, for Fitzroy to find them before the unthinkable could happen, but you’ll have to read for yourself to find out if I was left satisfied or gutted. It was a bloody creepy and action packed ending, that’s for sure. I think my mind is still whirring.

What did leave me satisfied was the quality of the writing, the ability of the author to engage me, to write a story of people who are suffering from a form of disability, approaching the subject with great sympathy without focusing too much on the disability itself. It was also her ability to chill and intrigue. To create a character so inherently evil and reprehensible and yet one I couldn’t turn away from. To capture the devastating impact of loss upon a family without letting it overwhelm the text and for creating characters with a strength and fortitude driven by uncompromising love that only a parent can have for their child. To sum it up – she wrote a damn good book and I look forward to reading whatever comes next.

A macabre and twisted 5 stars from me.

5

My thanks to publishers Pan Macmillan and Netgalley for providing an ARC of Rattle. The book is available to purchase at the following sites:

Amazon UK

Kobo

Amazon.com

9 thoughts on “Book Review: Rattle by Fiona Cummins (@FionaAnnCummins; @panmacmillan)

  1. Fantastic review! This book should definitely be on my Spooktober list, I’m a real wimp so too dark stories are perfect to make me pretend I can read horror for Halloween 🙂

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    1. I must admit I was unsure because of the billing likening to Hannibal Lecter which are big shoes to fill for sure and quite specific. When people said it was dark I was still undecided but am so glad I did as I loved it. Not the scariest thing I’ve read but beautifully crafted and definitely darker than a lot of modern crime novels.

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