Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Gift of Illusion by Richard Brown: Review by Anachronist

Mini review: The Gift of Illusion by Richard Brown

This book was provided by Melissa who got it from the author in return for my honest review. Honest it will be. First the short summary, though.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

An ancient evil has returned to continue the study it began over a century ago, and it's looking for volunteers. Isaac Winters is the perfect test subject. He's a detective with a damaged past, and something to prove.

On the night of his wife's murder sixteen years ago, which left him a single father, Isaac thought he had seen the worst mankind had to offer.

Until now.

It moves like a virus from person to person, carefully selecting its next host, and leaving a trail of incinerated bodies in its wake. There are no witnesses and no evidence except for a small statue of some unknown figure. Accompanied by a partner short on experience, Isaac must uncover and defeat this faceless villain before it takes from him the greatest reminder of his dead wife.Their daughter.

What I liked:

It is a paranormal thriller along the likes of Stephen King and Dean Koontz. I admit the author has a gift for description and the opening scenes are a good example of that - the apparent murder of a young girl by fire, and the subsequent death of her mother and her father send Detective Isaac Winters and his reluctant partner Daniel Simmons into a world of confusion and doubt. The whole premise makes me wonder how twisted of a mind the writer that wrote this book must have. I know, I know, not my problem. I did like the way the climax of the story broke out of the pattern I'd been expecting.

What I didn’t like:

I had a lot of trouble getting into this book. While I found the idea interesting it was basically another case of a good novel ruined by poor editing. There is more to telling a good story than having a good idea. The book is definitely copy edited only - free from typos, misspelled words and grammar mistakes, but with some major issues outside of that.

For example the main character, although presented as an experienced investigator, makes assumptions without evidence and then shares those with a witness; he also pockets evidence from a crime scene as a kind of souvenir, and repeatedly puts his completely bare hands all over a crime scene before they've been investigated by the forensics team. I guess in a normal world he would be sacked instantly for messing up the crime scene and hindering the investigation. Any cop would say you that much. Apart from that I must say I didn't like Isaac. This is a bigger deal for me than it sounds; I'm a very character-driven reader, and a main character I really like will get me over a lot of other difficulties. Isaac was simply not the right guy.

What’s more…there are a few instances of foul language which made me squirm but nothing too extreme or very annoying. The largest issue of this novel, in my very humble opinion, is the use of the narrative voice. In the first two chapters there are at least three different points of view used. It hardly makes the reading easy; usually a writer would pick one style and stick with it for the clarity’s sake. I suppose the book would have worked best in a close third person narrative.

The main villain of the story left me wanting more. I do like well-fleshed baddies and it is clear Richard Brown created just a rough sketch of a really evil psychopath with potential. I really could have done more with the bigger picture, adding some more explanations, back story and depth instead of gory detail. Also the ending was a little rushed for me – it was definitely too abrupt and open-ended.

Finally the book is written to an adult reader but I would want to warn you that this novel is not something for people with a weak stomach. There are scenes so graphic and gruesome inside I had to skim the text because I really thought I might be as sick as a dog. These include macabre descriptions of carving human bodies and even some scenes of necrophilia (I did manage to avoid reading them in full after glimpsing the idea). Brown has created a villain so depraved that it literally churns the stomach. The question is whether you want to know about him at all.

Final verdict:

I wasn't blown away by this one, although it had some good moments. I never quite understood exactly what "The Gift" really was about. Even the ending left me feeling flat if not slightly disgusted. Perhaps I lack imagination for such things.


  1. The shoddy forensic protocol would drive me insane! I would lose all interest in the book. Getting BIG details like that wrong is a deal breaker for me.

  2. Slightly, ok *writes down not to read the book* I really can't stomach that

  3. I cannot handle necrophilia. It's one of those things that just grosses me out to the complete core and I've never been able to stomach that one. Me thinks this is one I'm going to pass over.

  4. StephanieD - I completely agree. I've never worked as a police officer but still reading this and that I knew it was wrong.

    Nina, Blodeuedd - I wouldn't read this book for the second time myself.

    Jen - a very healthy approach. Some deviations are better left in the shadows.

  5. Oh too bad you didn't get into it ! It happens sometimes. The necrophilia thing is really weird... Thanks for the review

  6. You are welcome, Melliane. Sometimes a book doesn't work for you.

  7. Thanks for the honest review. The synopsis makes it sound like more of something I would like to read, obviously it isn't.

  8. Um... I don't think this one is for me. Not really my genre, and i've been having a hard time getting into books lately, I keep pushing, but slow starts. :) Thank you for the great review.

  9. Thanks for the review! I loved the idea of a virus. Those things creeped me out!

  10. AimeeKay, Melissa, Savannah - thanks for your comments!

  11. I hate it when they don't wear gloves at the crime scene!

  12. WTH? It always curious to me why a writer would choice to get that graphic with something like necrophilia. Just mentioning the word, and most people would get the picture without it having to be painted with words.


Thanks for commenting! I ❤ comments!