Holly Hell, It’s been a while since I’ve read such a terrible book. Convoluted plot, cardboard characters and a story which was peppered with Romanian Characters from A-Z. Being Romanian myself, I found it odd that someone would put their time and effort into making a story about Romania and only put some vague descriptions here and there of the people. It felt like a story the author heard and then he decided to retell from his POV even though he didn’t participate in the original one..
Let me explain the plot shortly. A couple goes on an international trip from one part of the continent to the other. When going from Budapest to Sighisoara in Romania, they get robbed in the train while sleeping (who the hell falls asleep and lets their backpacks unprotected?). They met another couple on the train and the girl comes to their aid speaking Romanian with the border patrol but in the end all three of them get thrown off the train in a remote station. This is where I first started having my doubts about the quality of the plot. Customs officers would not let any undocumented people off a train. They would be sent back to the country of origin or taken to the nearest embassy…
OK, I let it slide – as well as the fact that they had no idea where they were (there are names on any train station you go to) and the fact that they went to the nearest village on foot.. So what happens is that Alina – the goth chick they met on the train – disappears in the forest and when these two plonks find a boot of hers and hear a scream they race towards the village scared like two one-day chicks. I mean, what if the girl was in danger and they just left her there…
In the village they are met with what looks to them as disdain and hostility from a policeman – when Romanians, especially in the villages, are the nicest people you can ever meet.. They hear about a murder having been committed in a house and they run from the station (… like really how can you run from a Police station without anyone asking where you’re going) and the story continues a few years later in England.
This couple is suffering from PTSD still for having been traumatised in Romania (umm.. overreacting much?) and they split up suddenly with her leaving him to move with some friends of hers. And then planning to live in Australia. And then feeling depressed that she can never escape her past wherever she went. He is upset..
Strange things keep happening and the guy gets robbed and then all of his stuff re-appears in his apartment. When installing security cameras, he sees that it’s a man and a woman who keep breaking in (he didn’t change the locks after the break-in) and they are searching something in his apartment. He goes to the police once but then he doesn’t go there again (not sure why?) and he keeps thinking it’s some sort of a spooky conspiracy linked to what they did in Romania.
At this point I was really annoyed and I started flipping through the pages at a faster pace. Here he meets a Romanian girl called Camelia. She gives him a hand job after coming to his apartment and then leaves. He feels regret. Calls his ex, has drunken sex with her. They get attacked more often and one of their friends dies by jumping off a bridge. The suspense wasn’t killing me.. at all.. I was kinda hoping they all crash and burn and die horribly so I would be spared this horror of a book.
She pushed him. She looked at her own hands. Looked over the edge of the bridge, saw his body lying on the road. Not hers. Too cowardly to join him, and unable to bear the sight of what she’d done, she turned and jumped down from the ledge onto the pavement. She was a killer. A coward, a liar, and now a murderer. The skin that had grown back was not the old skin. This was her new body and there was no wall of silk to hide behind. And he’ll never tell , she thought. Nobody will ever know the real you .
There is a kidnapping, a return to Romania, a kid used as a ploy and it felt as I was reading that the characters kept merging into each other as they were so fuzzily defined.
The writing is 10th grade level as well, the descriptions are lacking, the settings are jittery, the characters are described by their smell rather than their looks/actions. 40% of the sentences are structured like “I + verb + object. After the first twist I wanted to bang my head against something sharp. The author kept revealing twists and turns, but because I didn’t like any of the main characters, I didn’t give a shit. The reveals where merely annoying stumbles along to completion.
Laura stared out at the motorway. Since leaving London they had driven in what was pretty much a straight line, through Essex, the devil sticking to the fast lane whenever he could, the speedometer nudging 100 mph. Then they hit traffic and the devil hissed and cursed, rhythmically rapping the steering wheel with his knuckles as the car crawled forward.
Oscar, thank God, was asleep, his face against her chest, occasionally making a little snuffling noise that broke her heart. He had cried himself to sleep as they left London, the devil growing increasingly irritated. Laura had rocked and shushed the baby, telling the devil the baby needed milk, that he was hungry.
‘There’ll be milk when we get there,’ he said.
‘He’s breast-fed,’ she dared to say. ‘He won’t drink formula.’
The devil snorted. ‘He’ll soon drink it if he’s hungry.’ He turned and looked through the gap in the seats, staring blatantly at her chest, making her skin creep. ‘He wouldn’t get much of a meal from those. Good hips though. Healthy, physically at least. Your tits will grow when the time comes.’
Alina sat in silence through all of this, staring straight ahead. Like she really was a ghost, an apparition. Laura could smell her though. Stale sweat. The stink of fear coming from her pores. Not a ghost. Real. And if Alina was real flesh and blood, it followed that the old man driving the car out and punch the car in front. Finally, they started moving again. Laura counted the cat’s eyes in the road to calm herself down. When she was a child she would play a game where she would count white cars and red cars on family trips. If red cars outnumbered white, something bad would happen: she would fall ill, one of the girls who bullied her at school would be extra vicious. If white won, something good would occur: her mum would leave her alone for a day, Beatrice would visit her.
There was no point counting cars today. The worst had happened. She had resigned herself to it. Her only hope now was that she could protect Oscar. If she could somehow persuade this old man to return him to Erin and Rob, she would do whatever the devil asked. She would accept her punishment.
This is good for the burn pile 🙂
PS: Most annoying bits!
Tolkien invented a whole new language and this guy couldn’t even muster a few Romanian sentences to at least make it more believable… And the names!!
‘I pushed him from that bridge. I knew you had told him about the forest, about what happened to me. I was watching you. I was going to kill you next. Gabor, then you, then Laura. You left me in that place, left me to die. I came here for revenge. I am Mirela.’ I couldn’t speak. Mirela? What the fuck was she talking about?
‘What’s happening?’ I said, following behind. ‘Alina?’ She didn’t reply, just continued to pour forth a stream of Romanian .
She smiled generously and laid her hand on my arm. I swallowed.
‘So where are you from really?’
‘Romania. But don’t worry, I’m not a vampire.’
She tilted her head. ‘You want me to be a vampire?’
‘No. Sorry, I was just . . . It doesn’t matter.’ I paused. Her being from Romania had flustered me. It was stupid. London was full of people of every nationality and Romania was part of the European Union so its citizens could come work here whenever they liked. I could hardly go into a meltdown every time I met someone from the country where my life had changed. ‘Your English is excellent.