"A Touch of Happy" Book Review
Written by Tony Jones
Published by HellBound Books
Written by Andrew Kanago
2019, 290 pages, Fiction
Released on 18th November 2019
Readers frequently come across novels with misleading titles, but Andrew Kanago’s A Touch of Happy really takes the biscuit in the name department. When Mark Peters touches both people and inanimate objects, he enters a trance like state after which he can draw scenes connected to the history of the object or the life of the person he has just touched. Because of this unique ability, Mark wears gloves 24/7 and shuns contact with others except for a few family members and his oldest friend, FBI agent Bill Mallory. He works in IT and lives a life which isolates himself from risks connected to relationships and others getting to know his secret.
The story is peppered with convincing flashback sequences which showcase how this gift has blighted Mark’s troubled existence. When he was a child, he became friendless after his classmates realised he was odd and was ruthlessly bullied when they noticed his tendencies to go into trances or revealed scary secrets about others in his class. Nobody likes a creepy kid and these sections cleverly help the reader connect with the troubled 2016 version of Mark, where most of the story is played out. However, even though we are given considerable context, Mark remains a difficult man to like with his many contradictions being revealed as the story develops. He may well be a fascinating character, but he is also a whiner and is forever feeling sorry for himself, a trait which might irritate some readers.
The opening chapter shows exactly how Mark’s strange ability works and sets the scene for what lies ahead. He has been recruited by his old friend Bill Mallory to help the FBI (off the books) with investigations they struggle to solve, particularly missing persons when there is still a chance the abducted might still be alive. Bill and Mark are in the bedroom of eight-year-old Quinn Hughes, who has been missing for a couple of days, however, whilst going through the little girl’s bedroom, Mark fails to make any positive connection and begins to suspect that the room might have been cleaned or objects switched and immediately suspects her parents. When he eventually touches a necklace genuinely connected to Quinn, he is filled of visions of her death and the abuse she suffered at the hands of her parents. Mark can both feel the moments of her death and reveals where the body is stashed, and her terrifying final moments remain with him like a terrible hangover or depression he cannot shake off. Perhaps I was too harsh calling him a ‘whiner’ in the previous paragraphs, as this is obviously a horrible thing to live with, feeling like it almost happened to himself.
Sections of A Touch of Happy meander away from the main paranormal plot and focus upon the relationships Mark has with Bill, his sister, niece and eventually, a teacher he is attracted to. As their friendship blossoms, he struggles to explain that there can be no physical contact. The early stages of the relationship are nicely played, but there came a point where I began to wonder of the true direction of the novel, as it sags in the middle section before an excellent twist in the final quarter. Mark has helped the FBI with previous cases and carries this intimate knowledge of serial killers and other murderers with him all the time, and the more frequently the FBI use his gift, he becomes slightly more frazzled and takes longer to recover. Although he is ‘retired’ soon, the FBI, once again, comes knocking when an old case comes back to haunt them.
HellBound Books are certainly a more versatile publisher than there name might suggest and release a decent amount of gory horror titles, however, A Touch of Happy shows their fiction also has strong elements of the traditional thriller with a supernatural twist. This is an easy book to read and enjoy, but ultimately it becomes bogged down in the middle section and seems to spend far too long deciding in the final direction. Why was the novel called A Touch of Happy? Initially, I thought it was a rather weak title, but in fact it provides a clue to a crucial part of the plot. You will have to read it yourself to find out.
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