First released as a three part serial ebook, Flashes by Tim O’Rourke has been compiled and is now available in book format. A YA paranormal thriller, Flashes entertains a highly intriguing basis: a medium helping the police solve a murder. Although it has been done before, this premise is still a commodity that draws in fans of supernatural mystery. That the author is a former police officer adds more appeal to the novel, because even though it’s fiction, readers stilll enjoy a level of accuracy.
Located in a small village near the English seaside, readers become acquainted with duel first person narrators, Charley and Tom. Charley is a female teen who has visions of murder, or as the book states, “flashes”. Tom is a young male cop eager to establish himself. Their paths cross as they investigate a death that proves to be more than meets the eye and could bring to light something sinister.
The dialogue at times feels forced, creating a cliché and boxing the characters into a one dimensional farce. This stereotype puts a damper on the needed connection between reader and character. The mellow dramatics deliver a monotone effect until the last 50 pages which abruptly gain momentum.
The many references to popular artists’ songs and trendy electronic gadgets presents itself as a strained attempt on the author’s part to appeal to a young audience. One song that pertains directly to the plot would have sufficed, rather than appear as a clandestine advertisement.
Even though the novel had the makings for a great whodunit twister, it was easy to pinpoint the assailant (within the first quarter of the book). Of course it isn’t truly revealed until the end, but the evidence is too much too soon. This really lets down readers who enjoy their mystery to be a mystery until the last few chapters, thus making it difficult to continue reading after the disappointment.
Overall, the writing wasn’t terrible, and the author had a great idea. Unfortunately, for this reviewer, it never harmonized. The story and environment took on a more gloomy and depressive quality, rather than a spine-tingling puzzle that a reader can feel invested and excited about.
This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Scholastic
Profanity/Language: 24 religious exclamations; 9 mild obscenities; 15 derogatory names; 27 scatological words; 9 anatomical terms. Note: the word “arse” has been tallied as an anatomical term.
Violence/Gore: Non-detailed secondhand report of teenager’s death and character’s parent’s death; character has vision of character being forcibly dragged, threatened with violence, and impending death; character trips, knocking the wind from them; investigation of a suspicious suicide; extended (about a paragraph) gory description of victim who’s been run down by a high-speed vehicle; character is informed parent’s death was a suicide; suspect has an arrest record for assault; character has a vision of a character being threatened with violence and impending death; character is forcibly pushed up against a wall; character has a non-descriptive vision of a character being run over by a high-speed vehicle; characters discuss murder and suicide cases; character is forcibly grabbed and locked in a room; extended scene (about 1 page) character admits to mutilating and killing creatures as a child; character admits to killing another character as a child; character admits to killing spouse; character admits to killing multiple female characters; gory scene character remembers seeing remains of a victim hit by a high-speed vehicle; character is in a car accident, blood and injury mentioned; character is punched, blood and injury mentioned; character is knocked unconscious; character kicks another character; implication that character died by being run over by a high-speeding vehicle.
Sex/Nudity: Father and daughter use sexual references to discuss sex; implied sexual activity; character suspects another character may have kissed female character and tried putting his “hand up her skirt”; kiss on cheek; characters briefly kiss and flirt; investigating police officer asks about the possibility of rape pertaining to a victim; reference to male genitalia; brief kiss on cheek; murderer caresses victim’s cheek 2x; character admits to having an extramarital affair, implication of sex; hug.
Mature Subject Matter:
Violent death, death of (a) loved one(s), murder, suicide, kidnaping, serial killer, paranormal activities, drug and alcohol use.
Alcohol / Drug Use:
Several (more than 10) scenes/mentions/references of alcohol, tobacco and illegal drug use; implication that character’s parent was a neglectful alcoholic.