Reviewed by: Keith Nixon
Approximate word count: 40-45,000 words
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Peter grew up and lives in Scotland. He’s a musician, conservationist and author of three novels.
You can learn more about Peter on his website.
Steve Welch has had enough. The inconsiderate behavior of the people around him has finally got to him and he, along with his best friend Garry, decides to teach some of them a lesson. However, there’s also a vigilante on the loose, targeting the same people Steve does, but with much bigger consequences. When Steve realises that he could be held responsible for torture and even murder he knows he must find the killer quickly.
Inside Stark Contrasts is a better book waiting to get out. Don’t get me wrong, this is a good story, but for several (correctable, I believe) issues it doesn’t rate as highly as it should. On the plus side it kept me intrigued and interested, it was a real page turner. The characters were quite strong and the dialogue decent.
Onto the elements that need fixing. The biggest of the issues is ‘show’ vs. ‘tell’. Unfortunately, I feel Stark Contrasts doesn’t reveal enough clues, of which there are multiple examples. The opening chapter is meant to explain Welch’s motivation but I felt some of the subsequent inconsiderate behaviours were just too weak to drive him to action. I later learnt that Steve’s job is key in this thought process, however, this is not revealed until about halfway through. It’s a shame as it’s a very good twist and should have been brought out sooner. The same can be said of Steve’s best friend Garry, he’s a shade initially but has a fairly major part to play later. Even Steve and Garry’s surname’s aren’t given until the majority of the way in.
The killer’s motivation also isn’t clear until the very end, okay there’s a desire to create mystery, but when the person is unmasked the question remains partially as to why? In addition this person has to have a couple of skills which are barely touched upon in the set up and isn’t enough of a clue. Finally, two married characters have different surnames, why? It’s not explained. Okay it happens in life but it’s an anomaly for me because so much of the mystery rests on this aspect.
Steve is also involved in an extra-curricular activity, again a key motivation for the killer and a great opportunity for (early) tension. But it’s not revealed until something like 80% in and, as far as I can remember, not hinted at in the slightest in the run up.
There was a bit of an issue with sense of place, I wasn’t quite sure where the action was occurring. Sometimes Stark Contrasts has an American rather than London feel - one character was described as a mob boss, another an ex-NBA player. I don’t mind where it is, just be consistent.
Finally were the many format / layout and punctuation errors. Indents disappeared for whole chapters then reappeared and the paragraph spacing was inconsistent. I put up with these and the punctuation issues because of the story, but this is basic stuff that shouldn’t be present. The overall impression is of something rushed out, which is a pity.
In conclusion, with some editing Stark Contrasts would be a very good book and I’d certainly look at Carroll’s others.
Some adult language.
Multiple format / layout and punctuation issues.
Rating: *** Three Stars