Conrad Williams' Sonata of the Dead was published by Titan Books in July 2016.
Information about Conrad Williams:
Conrad Williams is the author of seven novels, four novellas and a collection of short stories. One was the winner of the August Derleth award for Best Novel (British Fantasy Awards 2010), while The Unblemished won the International Horror Guild Award for Best Novel in 2007 (he beat the shortlisted Stephen King on both occasions). He won the British Fantasy Award for Best Newcomer in 1993, and another British Fantasy Award for Best Novella (The Scalding Rooms) in 2008.
Click here to visit his official website.
Information about Sonata of the Dead:
It’s four months on from the events of Dust and Desire... Joel Sorrell has recovered from the injuries he sustained in his fight with The Four-Year-Old. A body has been found, sealed into the dead space behind a false wall in a flat in Muswell Hill. Beheaded and surrounded by bloodstained pages of typewritten text, it is the third such murder committed by a killer known as The Hack. And it may be linked to his daughter’s disappearance.
A REVIEW OF CONRAD WILLIAMS' SONATA OF THE DEAD
Conrad Williams' Sonata of the Dead is the second novel in the Joel Sorrell series. Just like the previous novel, Dust and Desire, this novel was a pleasant surprise for me. I consider this novel to be an excellent example of well written thriller, crime and PI fiction that has a few elements that border on the line of being horror elements.
Before I write more about this novel, I'll mention that I'm difficult to please when it comes to crime and thriller fiction, because I've been mostly disappointed by many novels. I have high standards when it comes to thriller fiction, and I only read carefully chosen novels. I think it's good to have high standards, because way too many thriller novels tend to be simple and don't have much style or substance. Fortunately, Conrad Williams' Sonata of the Dead is a different kind of a thriller novel, because it has plenty of style and substance and it fully satisfies the needs of a jaded thriller reader who wants to read quality.
One of the most important reasons why Sonata of the Dead is a good novel is due to the fact that Conrad Williams has written horror novels. I've noticed that horror authors often write excellent thriller fiction, because they know how to thrill and surprise readers, and what's best, they don't underestimate the intelligence of their readers. Because of its horror-like elements, this novel will be of interest to speculative fiction readers.
Another reason why Sonata of the Dead is a good novel is that Conrad William is a British author. Just like many other British authors, Conrad Williams has an uncanny skill of writing believably about everyday life and he keeps an eye on what's important. He avoids unnecessary filler material that has nothing to do with the story arc or the atmosphere and concentrates fully on delivering a good story.
Sonata of the Dead is a dark, complex and well written novel that has a few scenes that come pretty close to being horror fiction (especially psychological horror fiction). In my opinion, the author handles the psychologically challenging elements in an excellent way and doesn't resort to using cheap tricks to amuse his readers.
Here's information about the story:
- The events take place shortly after what happened in the previous novel.
- Joel Sorrell has been in the hospital and has recoverd from his wounds. He has received a scar that hasn't faded away yet. Ian Mawker calls him and tells him that a body has been found. He hears from Mawker that photographs of his daughter, Sarah, have been found at a crime scene near the dismembered body. Joel recognises the body as Martin Gower, because his daughter used to know him. During his investigations he finds out that Martin may have been Sarah's boyfriend. Martin's diary indicates that he has had a meeting with The Accelerants. Joel think that The Accelerants may be a rock band, but it turns out to be a writing group, the members of which appear to be anything but normal...
This is the beginning of an exceptionally intriguing story with a touch of grittiness and British elegance.
I seldom use the adjective "absorbing" when I write about this kind of novels, but in this case I'll use it, because it perfectly describes the nature of the story. It's been a while since I've read as good and entertaining a thriller as this.
The characterisation is excellent. Joel is a man who's haunted by the loss of his wife and the disappearance of his daughter. He tries to find his daughter, but is a bit afraid of what will happen when he finds her, because he fears that the reunion may not happy. He's a failed father and grieving widower whose once normal life has turned into a pain-filled existence.
There's aching realism - and also striking honesty - in Joel's search for his lost daughter. The author writes well about Joel's feelings towards his daughter and fluently tells how he tries to find her. Reading about Joel's problems is deeply touching, because the author avoids writing sentimental and melodramatic prose. The realistic account of Joel's search for his daughter has a strong feel of gritty and harsh realism to it.
In my opinion, Joel Sorrell is one of the most believable protagonists in this kind of fiction. The author paints such a realistic picture of him and his problems that you can't help but be impressed by it. In the previous novel, the author already wrote well about Joel, his work and his problems, but now he makes it even better.
It's great that there are plenty of sarcastic and witty remarks in this novel, because theu offer good counterbalance for the crime and PI elements. Joel's comments and observations about many things are satisfyingly sharp.
Joel's investigations concerning the writing group are interesting and they shed light on many intriguing things. He finds it a bit difficult to get into the group, because gaining the trust of its members is not easy. The members of the group are a bit uneasy about what has happened to one of the members.
Conrad Williams has come up with a fascinating vision of a secret writing group and its strange customs. The members of the group use code names to hide their identity, and their meetings places change. Each new member has to undergo an initiation ceremony and has to be committed to being a writer. They have an intense vision of what it takes to write good fiction.
I think it's good to mention that Sonata of the Dead can be read and enjoyed as a standalone novel, but it works better if you're familiar with the previous happenings. I recommend reading Dust and Desire, because it's an excellent novel and reveals what has happened to Joel Sorrell.
Before I write the final words of this review, I'll mention that Joel Sorrell will return in the third novel, Hell is Empty, which will be published in November 2016. I look forward to reading it, because I was impressed by this novel and its predecessor.
It is very rare that I give full five stars (on the scale from one to five stars) for a thriller novel, but now I feel compelled to do so, because I immensely enjoyed Sonata of the Dead. In my opinion, this novel is perfect and compelling thriller fiction. It's every bit as good as Dust and Desire and it'll impress everyone who enjoys well written stories.
Conrad Williams is in top form in Sonata of the Dead and demonstrates that he's a skilled master of his craft. If you want to read good thriller and crime fiction, you can't go wrong by reading this novel, because it's one of the best and most intriguing novels of its kind. It's modern British thriller fiction at its best.
Excellent thriller novel!