The String Diaries (book, Stephen Lloyd Jones, 2013)


From SFX #237.

THREE AND A HALF STARS

Author: Stephen Lloyd Jones

Publisher: Headline

Hungarian ghoul-action

Generations of a family is plagued by a Hungarian horror in this gripping, multi-stringed thriller. The Hosszu Eletek – the “long lifes” – are a subspecies of humanity, blessed with great longevity, who possess the power to heal themselves and alter their appearance at will. Unfortunately for Hannah Wilde, the one known as Jakab is insane, and has been stalking and murdering her family since the late 19th century.

Using the old cliché, The String Diaries is a page turner, and will keep you awake late into the night. This is not for its mild horror content, but mainly because the multiple storylines it presents – modern day UK, late 19th century Hungary and points between – are thoroughly engaging – to a point. For here the book also lets us down, as Jakab’s backstory turns out to be simply a chronicle of his budding evil, passing up several opportunities for twists in favour of a predictable throughplot.

The impact is somewhat further lessened by dubious usage of language; in the main the use of words that don’t mean quite what the author thinks they mean. He’s not alone, we’re seeing more malapropisms in finished works these days. Although we did read a proof copy, so this might change, such dodgy wordery shouldn’t get to this late stage. A shame, as Jones’s otherwise solid writing (he’s no Dan Brown) is one of several positive attributes that takes The String Diaries some way to being a standout read.

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