Friday, 8 April 2016

Fellside by M.R. Carey

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Fellside by M. R. Carey (Read Jan 2016)
Source: Publisher - Little Brown Book Group (proof copy)

Genre: Horror, Thriller, Supernatural
Pages 550

Warning: Possible Spoiler Alert

A haunting and heart-breaking new thriller from the author of the word-of-mouth bestseller The Girl With All the Gifts Fellside is a maximum security prison on the edge of the Yorkshire moors. It's not the kind of place you'd want to end up. But it's where Jess Moulson could be spending the rest of her life. It's a place where even the walls whisper. And one voice belongs to a little boy with a message for Jess. Will she listen?

Discover M. R. Carey's powerful new novel - a chillingly atmospheric tale filled with tension, action and emotion that's set to take the world by storm.

Praise for M. R. Carey:
'Original, thrilling and powerful' - Guardian
'Haunting, heartbreaking' - Vogue
'A great read that takes hold of you and doesn't let go' - John Ajvide Lindqvist, author of Let the Right One In
'Scary, tense and fast-paced...but with a heartwarming tenderness' - Marie Claire
'A dark, intriguing read' - Martina Cole
'As brilliant as it is dark and devious' Jonathan Maberry
Source: Waterstones website
What I Thought:
Jess Moulson has been severely disfigured as a result of a fire and she is also suffering from amnesia. She has been sentenced for the manslaughter of a child and finds herself at Fellside a maximum security prison in the middle of nowhere.  During her incarceration Jess has visits which she believes are from the child she killed, and he tells her that he doesn't remember much about who he was or how he came to be at Fellside. All he can recall is that a lady hurt him very badly.  Jess, feeling guilty and wanting forgiveness, promises to help him try to remember who the lady was and what happened to him.

Running parallel to the main storyline are several sub plots, one of which is of the inmates and the frightening often brutal world of manipulative and coercive relationships between the prisoners themselves and staff, and of the hierarchical system in which they find themselves.

When I received my proof copy of Fellside by M.R. Carey, I couldn't contain my excitement and delved right into the book the moment it was unwrapped.

The pace is sharp, intelligent, fast and exceedingly well written.  I was hooked immediately and tore through the first 400 pages in next to no time, however a niggle or two had started to creep into my consciousness and the last third of the story just became a stretch too far. I skimmed the last third of the book leading to the final court appeal drama which included a couple of twists (both of which I saw coming), and in my opinion an unforgivable plot hole involving a mobile phone. Fellside is an Interesting premise but it didn't fully convince me with the mounting ethereal dream sequences and real world implausibilities. So when the otherworldly happenings increased in a 'way too weird' way and because of the plot hole reveal, Fellside lost all credibility for me and I was unable to suspend my belief any further.

The setting too felt off. Fellside is a fictional private prison situated on the edge of the Yorkshire moors but the writing style, depictions of the prison environment and general atmosphere had an American feel which didn't feel authentic to me.

So after a great start and right through to the last third of the book I'd definitely have given a 4 star rating, but finally settled on 3.5. A little disappointed, I was, but maybe expectations were high after the success of The Girl With All The Gifts ... or maybe if I had been aware of Carey's background in writing graphic novels I may have been more likely to have 'got it' and known that a pretty high level of 'belief suspension' would be needed to fully appreciate it.

Had I known too that Carey had spoken to former inmates of private prison institutions  in the UK, I would also have found some scenarios a little more believable. However these assumptions are all with the benefit of hindsight, and even though it makes me feel bad about my views, I can only say what I actually thought whilst reading. You can read an interesting review with M.R. Carey here at, Liz Loves Books blog

It's hard to have missed all the, by all accounts justified, 'hype' over Carey's debut novel, The Girl With All The Gifts, and despite my view of Fellside I am still looking forward to reading it.

Disclaimer: A complimentary proof copy of Fellside by M.R. Carey was provided by the publisher in exchange for my unbiased review.

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