Book Reviews

Book Review – Altered States by Paul J. Newell

I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.


Paul J. Newell writes crime/thrill novels; possibly one of my least favourite flavours. But this particularly book caught my attention, it seemed more focused on the psychological than a straight up “whodunnit” and this intrigued me.

Aaron Braunn has a special skill; he can tell a lot about a person just from a glance.  He can tell when you’re lying. He can help you get what you want. Unfortunately, this is a very useful skill to a certain body of people; how long can the detector remain undetected?

To begin with, I wasn’t disappointed. I felt drawn in; the fluid writing style made for easy reading, with a quirky narrative voice, and I felt I wasn’t quite sure what was happening or where the story was going. I was looking forward to where it would take me.

The narrative is split between Aaron in the first person, and policeman Conner in the third person. It was interesting reading a novel with a narrative split in perspective such as this; it reinforced that Aaron was the main character, that his perspective was the more important one of the story, and it also served to reinforce the character’s abilities to get into other people’s heads – as he is already in yours. Half way through the book I was really beginning to wonder why there was a need to follow Conner’s story, I questioned what his narrative brought to the story as a whole; but Newell successfully brings the voices together in the final resolution and I better appreciated Conner’s role.

I think the book requires more patience as a whole than what I am normally prepared to give a novel. It has layers that build upon each other, sandwiched with fillings that you’re fed piecemeal throughout, which at times is difficult to pick up but by the end is certainly satisfying. The psychology which runs throughout, although sometimes difficult to chew, was fascinating. It’s clear that Newell has done a great deal of research and the theories were presented well in their fictional context and were interesting to read.

And yet despite all this, it wasn’t the kind of book that consumed my thoughts, that I couldn’t wait to pick up. I’d find myself reading a little of it, then becoming distracted and quickly putting it down again. That initial feeling of being unsure what was happening was still with me by the end of part one, but by now it had evolved from a pleasant feeling to one of frustration as I didn’t know what anyone’s motives were or even when the book was set.

I struggled to care about the characters and their conflicts. The interesting aspect of the psychology was tied up in the thoroughly uninteresting world of fashion and counterfeit clothing and gangs selling fake brands. The plot of the book just didn’t grab my attention, it just didn’t excite me. I enjoyed reading the aspects of Aaron’s past and felt that was a better story than the “rug trade”.

In short; an interesting concept wrapped in an uninteresting plot, but I would absolutely recommend for anyone who enjoys
psychological thrillers
government conspiracies
Derren Brown

Altered States is available on Book Depository
Purchasing the book through the above link supports this blog.



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