Thursday, 3 July 2014

A ‘Did Not Finish’… ‘Touched’ – Joanna Briscoe (Hammer)

There once was a time when I would finish any book that I started, no matter how bad it was. I used to think this was either down to a forlorn hope that the book would improve or my subconscious somehow punishing myself for picking up the book in the first place (it happens). The real reason though was that I had a lot more time to indulge in bad plots, cardboard characters and so on; time that I don’t have at all these days. Even if a book has a great plot and characters full of life, if the book doesn’t work then I’ll be putting it down and moving swiftly on to something else. This is the sad fate that befell Joanna Briscoe’s ‘Touched’ yesterday, ‘sad’ because ‘Touched’ looked really promising at the beginning. Here’s the blurb…

Rowena Crale and her family have moved from London.
They now live in a small English village in a cottage which seems to be resisting all attempts at renovation.
Walls ooze damp, stains come through layers of wallpaper, celings sag.
And strange noises - voices - emanate from empty rooms.
As Rowena struggles with the upheaval of builders while trying to be a dutiful wife and a good mother to her young children, her life starts to disintegrate.
And then, one by one, her daughters go missing ...

I’m a bit of a fan of ghost stories and ‘Touched’ looked like it had all the ingredients to be something pretty special along those lines. And it worked for a bit as well with a slow build up of tension and a few little moments that made me shiver once I realised that something entirely different had just happened. Briscoe has a real gift for making these moments seem really matter of fact, lulling the reader into a false sense of security, and then very gently letting you know that things aren’t right at all…
I really enjoyed that but what I didn’t get on with at all was that the plot was very clearly signposted (at least it was to me). It got to the point where I ended up skipping to the end to confirm suspicions that ended up being well and truly confirmed. There was no point reading on to an ending that I could see coming, not with this book (there wasn’t enough to hold that kind of interest), so I didn’t.

It was a shame as ‘Touched’ really felt like it could be have been something special (it's very well written) but if the story is effectively over before it really gets going then there’s no point in carrying on reading. I know I’ve said that sometimes the journey is more important than the destination but ghost stories really need to have it the other way round. Oh well, on to the next book…

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