Scott O’Connor – A Perfect Universe

scott-oconnor-a-perfect-universe
Scott O’Connor – A Perfect Universe

“A Perfect Universe“ is a collection of ten stories all set in California, yet not the Hollywood California of stars and success, but the part where life is a bit sadder and less full of hopes. It’s about a young man buried under a building which had crumbled, a business woman hated by the other clients in a coffee shop, a relationship which ended and does not provide solace anymore, a woman’s preparation for a big day which ends in a disappointment, a girl hearing voices, a class of men trying to control their emotions and others. Scott O’Connor provides a huge variety of topics, yet all taken right from life. His characters are not the rich and famous, not the especially talented or gifted. It’s the average boy and girl or their grown-up version.

As always in collections of stories, you like some more and others less. I cannot really say why this is the case, since it’s neither due to the topic nor the protagonist that I prefer some. The first one, “Hold On” got me immediately. The man waiting to be rescued, finding comfort and hope in the woman’s voice who is reading out their names, thus signalling them that they are not forgotten but searched for. His anger when the mayor decides to give up and the joy of surviving after all – you could easily feel the emotional rollercoaster Robert went through.

“Interstellar Space” also caught me, but this time there isn’t much hope, it’s a really melancholy story of schizophrenia. Her slowly deteriorating condition is sad to read. She seemed to be bright, joyful and lively and suddenly her mind decides to play tricks on her and have her finished in a hospital, locked-up in her body and the world outside shut out.

One which made me ruminate a bit was “The Plagiarist”. I often wonder if there can be indeed something completely new that can be written or if not rather all has already been said somehow. How can today’s works actually be “original”? There are some plot concepts that you can easily recognize, phrases that have been used again and again – so, what is invented and what is rather copied?

Joy Fielding – The Bad Daughter

joy-fielding-the-bad-daughter
Joy Fielding – The Bad Daughter

Many years ago, Robin has left her hometown of Red Bluff and cut all connections with her family. It was when her father married her then best friend and her brother’s fiancée soon after their mother had died of cancer. She simply couldn’t forgive him. In L.A. she started a new life as a therapist and was about to marry Blake. Now, she needs to go back because her father has been fatally wounded, his wife shot dead and the twelve-year-old daughter seriously injured by some gunmen who entered the house at night. Her sister Melanie isn’t very keen on welcoming her back, Robin had always been their mother’s favourite. But now the two have to get along somehow and help the police find the murderer. But they soon figure out that things aren’t that easy and when Melanie’s son and their brother Alec come under suspicion, things are complicated while the real criminal is running free…

Joy Fielding is one of the best-known contemporary thriller writers and “The Bad Daughter” can hold up to the expectations. A cleverly constructed plot, multifaceted characters who do not show their real face immediately and several leads that only lead you to dead ends make a round and sound story.

Setting the story in a dysfunctional family where there are many unsaid things buried under the surface and which can surprise you again and again with the characters’ unexpected yet credible behaviour was definitely a clever step. The fact that you do not really like all the characters just makes them more authentic and the story a lot livelier.

Even though I am not sure if I really find the solution 100 percent convincing, I liked the novel. It is not an absolutely fast-paced and nerve-wrecking thriller, but the looming danger of the perpetrator still being around surely was responsible some goose bumps.