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The Chosen – By Arlene Hunt – Crime Scene Book Club Review

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Article by Louise Phillips © 1 May 2012.
Posted in Guest Blogs ().

1st Round of Crime Scene Reader’s Book Club Reviews Are In – !!!!!!

THE CHOSEN by ARLENE HUNT gets the thumbs up!

Well we are certainly off to a great beginning with these reviews: –

Sounds like The Chosen was a Number 1 Hit with Crime Scene Readers!

If you’ve read this book, or if you pick it up over the next while, post your own review Via Comments

Fancy a read – Check the Current Crime Scene Book Club Listing Below –

http://writing.ie/guest-blogs/crime-scene/entry/guest-blogs/the-explosion-of-irish-crime-fiction-.html

Lots more reviews on the way, so keep in touch!

Niamh Boyce

Blog Link http://niamhboyce.blogspot.com

Twitter    @NiamhBoyce

If this was hard to put down; and the cover with its minimalist red and black on white made it easy to pick up. Jessie is a high school teacher and ‘The Chosen’ of the title. That’s to say she’s chosen by our serial killer due of her worthiness as an opponent (in the opening chapter she’s shown overcoming a gun toting student.) It’s refreshing to meet a physically strong female lead character, not that she’s Rambo-esque or anything, it’s much more complex, thankfully, than that. And like all good leads, clean living Jessie, has a past.

I have to say the chapters from the serial killers point of view were my favourite, (should I be worried?) We meet him with the killer line – His given name was Caleb Switch, although it had been so long since he had used it he scarcely thought of himself as such. Switch divides his victims into Category A: those who fight their fate, and Category B: those who accept their fate. We first meet him naked before a full length mirror, six foot two, lean and muscular. Essentially he’s a hunter, and the descriptions of the art of hunting in the story have a satisfying depth and detail to them.

The writing is confident, clean and has a great rhythm. It was a gripping story, a real page turner, with lots of tension. Strangely, or maybe not, one of the strongest images for me was that of Tracey Flowers who dies only a few pages in, with her yellow dress drenched in blood. Highly recommended, but don’t expect to be able to put it down.

Susan Condon

Blog Link http://susancondon.wordpress.com

Twitter    https://twitter.com/#!/SusanCondon

Having read and enjoyed ‘Black Sheep’ some years ago, I was aware that Arlene Hunt was moving her latest novel, ‘The Chosen’, across the water to the States. She wet my appetite at Reader’s Day, when she read an extract from this book, about serial killer Caleb Switch and his meticulous preparation before a kill . . .

I wasn’t disappointed!

With a riveting plot and well-developed characters, you are immediately sucked right in to their lives. From the opening pages, you are introduced to the heroine, Jessie Conway and you immediately feel a bond with this brave, yet vulnerable woman.

Her husband Mike is a strong, solid man but for some reason it is his brother, Ace, who steals the show. When he is first introduced, it is the revealing lines:“Ace shrugged, managing to look more tired and disinterested by the second. Mike took that as a yes and went inside to the back office, happy to be out of the sun and away from a man he had once idolised with every fibre of his being.” that immediately makes the reader wonder at this man’s fall from grace and hope that he can somehow redeem himself.

Jessie’s life appears to be unravelling around her and when Caleb becomes interested in her, feeling that at last he has found a worthy adversary, things can only get worse . . .

‘The Chosen’ is an action-packed book, that promises to keep the reader on the edge of their seat, right to the very last page.

Derek Flynn

Blog Link http://derekflynn.wordpress.com/

Twitter    http://twitter.com/#!/derekf03

Arlene Hunt’s The Chosen is a reinvention of the tried-and-tested tropes of the “serial killer” novel. In this case, we still have our sinister killer, Caleb Switch, but – instead of the hapless, female victims that often populate these novels – the women he “chooses” to prey on are always strong, feisty women, and deliberately so, because our serial killer likes a challenge. He actually categorises the women. If you’re Category A, then you’re looked upon by Switch as being a formidable opponent. Not that it does them much good, as they are still hunted down and killed. In this case, “the chosen” are released into the woods and Switch hunts them with a bow and arrow.

What Hunt does here is tap into a terrifying “What If” scenario. What if you woke up in the middle of the woods with a man hunting you? What would you do? Would you run? Or would you just give up and beg for mercy? Scary stuff.

Jessie Conway is the survivor of a school shooting in which she was forced to kill one of the shooters. Unbeknownst to Jessie, she has piqued the interest of serial killer, Caleb Switch. As Jessie attempts to piece her life back together – whilst being hounded by the local media – she is unaware that Switch is about to tear it apart again in ways she can’t imagine.

This is Hunt’s first novel set outside of Ireland and she does a great job of capturing the flavour of the area and the cadences of its locals. There are some choice lines of dialogue which made me laugh out loud.

The difference between whodunits and serial killer novels is that – in whodunits – the reader is guessing the identity of the killer right up to the last page. With serial killer novels, we already know who did it and we’re pretty sure that they’ll get their just desserts by the end of the book (unless it’s a Hannibal-type character). So, given that, the trick is to keep up the suspense throughout the novel.

And Hunt does this brilliantly. Short chapters (most only four or five pages) keep the pace moving and by the time the novel reaches its third act, this makes it feel as if everything is moving at a breakneck speed.

Interestingly, although Jessie is the main character, we see most of the story unfold through the other characters as much as we do Jessie – her husband, Mike, his brother Ace, Darla, the ruthless newspaper woman out to get a scoop on Jessie. And this works. Jessie is a character who has secrets that she’s done her best to bury. Accordingly, it seems fitting that we should discover these things about her through other sources rather than from Jessie herself.

With The Chosen, Arlene Hunt delivers a pitch-perfect serial killer novel, with brilliantly drawn characters, sharp and witty dialogue, and perfectly-judged suspense.

John Ivory

Blog Link http://www.john-ivory.blogspot.com

Twitter   @JohnIvory

I approached Arlene Hunt’s “The Chosen” with much interest on several fronts. Although I have a keen interest in reading and in crime fiction particularly, for a variety of reasons it has been over a year since I read a book. Hunt is also a new author for me and I was very keen to discover how she would compare with some of my preferred crime fiction producers. Aside from all that, this is the first time I have had to write a book review – definitely breaking some new ground here!

Anyway, enough of the background -What about the book? The story is set in Rockville, North Carolina, where our heroine, Jessie Conway, is a teacher at the local high school. One morning, Jessie finds herself in the midst of a deadly scenario when two disgruntled students carry out a gun attack at the school. In the ensuing mayhem several are killed and wounded but Jessie bravely confronts the assailants. Both attackers end up dead, one killed by Jessie. She herself is badly injured as a result of her interjection.

On the wider level, a community is left devastated by what has happened. However, our story focuses on the struggles faced by Jessie in the aftermath of the attack. Her physical and psychological recovery and re-integration into normal family and community life are challenge enough. These challenges are compounded by the intrusions of a local go-getter reporter, Darla Levine, who hounds Jessie for an exclusive on the school attacks. Out of frustration at Jessie’s reluctance to talk, the reporter discovers and publishes shocking information from Jessie’s past – enough to seemingly tip Jessie over the edge.

Enter our villain – Caleb Switch – a disturbed serial killer whose modus operandi is hunting his human prey through rough terrain with a bow and arrow. He becomes aware of the news in Rockville and sets his sights on Jessie as a worthy challenge for his skills of pursuit, entrapment and, ultimately, killing.

Hunt introduces us early in the story to each of the main players and reveals their characteristics and complexities gradually as the story progresses. As Jessie’s story is unfolding we are already introduced to Caleb Switch and get to know him before his and Jessie’s stories meet to become one. Great realism is portrayed when it comes to the challenges faced by Jessie and her husband, Mike, as they try to cope with all that has happened and the impact it has on their relationship. It is easy to identify with Mike, a reasonably straightforward man, who has to deal with very complex emotions as he tries to make sense of a very extreme set of circumstances. His frustrations, his flaws and ultimately his love for Jessie are excellently portrayed. I found a rather comedic element in the working relationship between the reporter Darla Levine and her assistant but this did not in any way dilute the build up of tension within the story as a whole.

For me, the added dimension in this story is provided by Ace, Mike’s brother. He has a shady past (and probably a fair degree of shade in his present!). He plays an increasingly important role in the efforts to save Jessie’s life. Ultimately, he allays some (though not all!) of the doubts about his integrity.

“The Chosen” is tightly written, has a tense plot which builds, crescendo-like, to a thrilling end and is a wonderfully satisfying read. I reckon this story would transfer very well to the big screen. But for now, it is a book which I believe will (and should) bring Arlene Hunt to even greater prominence in this genre.

Niamh Bonner

Twitter @Niamheyb

I don’t like to read the back of the book before reading it because I like to be entertained and for me that includes all the surprises a book can throw at me. In this instance I asked my husband to pick a couple of books from the list Louise supplied, she had told me in an email that one of the books were mostly written by Irish writers but there was one from the UK and one from America so when I started reading this book I thought oh well I got the one American writer.

I read the book believing that it had been written by an American native, it was believable. The opening scenes were set in a school and the tension building of the school scene was quite gripping. It was difficult not to turn the pages to see what happened next.

The book was an easy read and it was very fast paced with little time to think about why or how we got from one chaotic episode in the story to the next. It incorporated a number of highly topical themes, and allowed us a peak of a number of different characters.

The main villain was despicable and had enough background to be given a purpose and a reason for his behaviour. The main characters husband was likeable and realistically flawed. The journalist was predictably dislikeable and her assistant was nicely useless. However the main character Jessie, whilst attempting to be enigmatic I struggled to like. She did not have any real “pat the dog moment” where I felt I wanted to champion her.

Despite this I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to someone looking for a poolside read or a hospital distraction.


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LOUISE PHILLIPS is the author of four bestselling psychological crime thrillers. Her debut novel RED RIBBONS, and her subsequent novels, THE DOLL’S HOUSE, LAST KISS and THE GAME CHANGER, were each nominated for Best Irish Crime Novel of the Year. She won the award in 2013. Louise’s work has formed part of many literary anthologies, and she has won both the Jonathan Swift Award and the Irish Writers’ Centre Lonely Voice platform, along with being shortlisted for the Molly Keane Memorial Award, Bridport UK, and many others. In 2015, she was awarded a writing residency at Cill Rialaig Artist retreat and she was also a judge on the Irish panel for the EU Literary Award. In 2016, she was longlisted for the prestigious CWA Dagger in the Library Award, and her first two novels, RED RIBBONS and THE DOLL'S HOUSE, were published in the US. She has recently been awarded an Arts Bursary for Literature from the Arts Council of Ireland, and her latest novel, THE HIDING GAME, will be published on September 5th 2019. Louise Phillips is the crime writing mastermind behind writing.ie's Crime Scene blog.