Friday, 31 October 2014

Cafe Insomniac by Mark Capell

Quick blurb:

Twenty-five-year-old insomniac Justin Brooks opens an all-night café. But soon after opening, one of his customers is murdered.

The fallout from the murder makes his insomnia worse -- much worse. He completely loses the ability to sleep.

Strange things start to happen in Justin's world, things that are hard to explain.

About Mark Capell:

For my sins, I used to be a television director. And I was lucky enough to win a Royal Television Society Award.

During that time, I met all sorts of weird and wonderful people, including a gangster who offered to kill anybody who upset me. But instead of taking up his offer, I decided to join the exciting digital revolution and take my storytelling skills to the world of fiction.

My first novel, a crime thriller called Run, Run, Run, reached number one on the Amazon UK crime and thriller chart.

My aim as a writer is to tell exciting stories that haven't been told before, and to introduce readers to intriguing characters they haven't met in other books. In that way I want to be an explorer.

My take on the novel:

In a word, muffled.

It had an interesting start. Justin Brooks, an insomniac, very quietly opens a night café and quietly his clientele starts picking up. A patron is quietly murdered around the corner. Justin quietly reacts to this, and to the strange man who seems to be quietly threatening him and his family.

All very quietly, as if seen through fog. Muffled noises, muted emotions. No, not through fog… as though it’s a dream. Some parts are heard in detail, and some parts brushed over, as though inconsequential or as though they didn’t happen at all.

The Edward Hopper work, Nighthawks, was at the forefront of my mind. The whole atmosphere of the painting; the stillness, the quiet, the frozen scene in the heart of a bustling city, the lack of any kind of relationship between the characters… this was perfectly personified in the pages of Capell’s story. It was entrancing. I’ve always loved Nighthawks, and it was like I had jumped right into the scene.

I read on, waiting for the Technicolor to explode. Waiting for the event to happen that would kick the dream world where impossibly strange people turned up and did unexplainable things to the curb. I was looking forward to seeing how Justin would cope with this new world. The real one.

The event did take place, but it was muffled. Justin coped very well. So reasonably. So logically.


The muted emotions continued. I wasn’t right in all my predictions about the dream world, but I was close enough to find the “reveal” not as surprising as I’d imagine it was intended.

I have a few frustrations to air. The muted feel of the story is okay for a while, especially if the pace changes about a third of the way in - but not for an entire book. Capell is verbose. Many conversations are relayed word for word, adding length to an otherwise simple yet compelling story. The description of insomnia was repetitive. The characters were neutral. I didn’t like them or dislike them, I simply didn’t get a handle on them at all. All down to that muffled writing. They were too simple. The most interesting one was the father, but his character at the end is not believable.

However, I also have some high praise.

The muffled writing is absolutely perfect for this character. Justin goes through his days / nights in a daze, because of his tiredness. The style of writing perfectly mimics this feel of being half-in and half-out of a dream world at all times. It captures perfectly what it would be like to be constantly tired. Nighthawks again. A perfect pairing.

And although I wanted him to snap out of it towards the end, when the climax takes place and forces a reality check (plus he’s had some sleep), he doesn’t. I didn’t like this because I wanted more, more, more… something. More realness. And this too is appropriate, because although the man has slept, he’s still… well, you’ll have to read it and find out. I’ve given away far too much as it is.

Ooo and I love the covers. I have seen two, and they are both good.

Not particularly fast-paced, and a little long-winded for me. But you will like this book if you enjoy gentle suspense, gentle psychological thrillers, gentle who-dunnits where you get given all the clues from page one and can enjoy finding out if you were right.

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