The Naked Room by Diana Hockley

Let me begin by saying that writing a novel is a terrific achievement. I know, having written two. My hat is off to anyone who can complete a novel.
That said, here is my honest opinion of The Naked Room, a mystery-thriller by Diana Hockley.

This is the story of classical pianist Ally Carpenter, and her harrowing ordeal at the hands of psychotic kidnappers. Diana does a fine job of describing Ally through Ally’s first-person narrative, though physical description beyond red hair about waist-long is wanting. Nevertheless, Diana clearly shows us a vivid picture of a spirited young woman struggling against dire circumstance.

Here, Ally encounters one of her kidnappers:

‘You total bastard!’ I launch myself at him. He tries to push me away; I clamp my teeth onto his finger.

My face explodes.

I’m spread-eagled across the camp stretcher, the metal pipes biting into my back, shocked and blinded by tears. My nose throbs. Warm liquid runs down to my lip, into my mouth and oozes down my throat. The warm coppery taste sends nausea swirling in my stomach. I swipe the back of my hand across my mouth and chin, but it does nothing for the lot I’m forced to swallow. Don’t give him the satisfaction of crying.

Ally is supported by a diverse cast of family, friends, co-workers and police, all desperately searching for her. Diana uses first-person for each of these characters as well, letting us view unfolding events from their multiple perspectives. We also get interesting views of other characters this way, including some physical description.

Here’s lead investigator Detective Senior Sargent Susan Prescott’s first impression of Ally’s alleged boyfriend:

He slouched against the wall, around 195cm of rampant testosterone, with superbly styled, gleaming black hair and designer stubble, enhanced by smooth olive skin. Graceful and model-gorgeous, he was every parent’s nightmare. And who’s going to protect him from me?

‘He’s got more than his fair share of hair,’ muttered follicularly-challenged Evan. I suppressed a smile. But was Briece Mochrie as careless with women’s hearts as his looks might suggest?

The first-person narrative device sheds great clarity on almost all the characters, but Diana draws the line at the kidnappers. For most of the novel, we see them only through Ally’s eyes, a frightening vision.

Plot: When criminals learn a secret about Ally, unknown even to herself, they kidnap her, hoping to cash in. The subsequent investigation reveals the mistakes and secrets of the past, only now coming to their full murderous fruition.

Setting: Most of the action takes place in Brisbane, Australia. While Diana offers enough description to enhance plot and mood — The weather outside looked chilly, the bleakness of the park landscape opposite Pam’s flat enhanced by wind-tossed trees. — she doesn’t provide the travelogue-type description you’d find in, say, an Ian Fleming tale. Brisbane could be any city, for the purposes of The Naked Room.

What really gave me a sense of place was Diana’s liberal use of Australian slang. She didn’t want to be there with us and “chucking a tantie” was a good way of making her exit. (my quotation marks). “Chucking a tantie” is throwing a tantrum, obviously, but does a great job of reminding us where the story is, in colorful fashion.

What I thought could’ve been done better: Not much. Just a few pages in, you realize you’re in the hands of a pro. I would’ve liked touch more physical description of Ally — also, Pam, Jess and other characters.

As I’ve noted with the description of Briece, when Diana wants to, she can and does give marvelous descriptions of characters both major and minor. But I wished there was more of Ally, at least, central as she is.

Also wouldn’t have minded a little travelogue description of the setting. I’m sure Brisbane is familiar, and perhaps ordinary to Diana, but to me, here in Kansas, it’s an exotic location on the other side of the Earth. So, perhaps that’s a minor missed opportunity in this day of global indie publishing.

What I thought was good: I’ll start with the “Aussie-isms.” Chucking a tantie is just one of many. Here are a few of my favorites, set off with my double quotation marks:

My chest heaves for whatever “skerrick” of air I can grasp… (in Kansas, we’d say “a skosh,” long “o.”)

Karen obviously thought I was a bad-tempered “drongo.”

‘Don’t come the “raw prawn” with me, mate.’

These figures of speech give the Australian-based novel some definite authenticity.

One of the reasons these colorful phrases work is that Diana has a good ear for dialogue. Her conversations are crisp and dramatic. They add to characterization as well as plot.

Diana is simply a good writer, using vivid verbs, similies, metaphors and other descriptive devices liberally. She does what a writer is supposed to — helps the reader to know what it’s like to be in the narrative.

Here, Briece and Ally’s father sneak out at night for recon of what they think might be Ally’s location.

A gentle breeze stirred the leaves of the branches like wind chimes, overhanging the pathway; the silky fronds flicked their cheeks. In the distance a dog howled, telling the night air of abandonment. An owl hooted and launched itself from a branch which arched overhead, a great feathered kite gliding on its hunt for prey. Small animals scurried for cover.

The best part of The Naked Room, in my opinion, is Diana’s artful layering of secrets and revelations, seen through the multiple perspectives of many disparate, but well-sketched characters. It’s a complex web, but she manages to keep things simple and clear nevertheless, while maintaining urgency and suspense.

Overall: The Naked Room is a compelling work. As a reader, I simply enjoyed the rich characterization and the many plot surprises. As a fellow writer, I admired Diana’s craftsmanship, including her ability to weave so many perspectives and sub-plots into a coherent, unified story.

I’m not coming a raw prawn with you, mate, when I recommend The Naked Room as a wonderfully entertaining and suspenseful mystery thriller.

Good job, Diana!

Coming up
Annwyn’s Blood by Michael Eging and Steve Arnold
Dragonfriend by Roger Eschbacher

And for sexy superheroine paranormal sci fi romantic adventure thrillers, check out my own novel American Goddesses on Amazon or Smashwords, and the newly published sequel Rogue Goddesses ~ thanks for visiting Honest Indie!


About honestindiebookreviews

Reader, writer, runner, dog dad
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7 Responses to The Naked Room by Diana Hockley

  1. Wow! I was amazed and delighted when Tweeters started RT’ing the link to this splendid review!

    Thank you so much for choosing to read The Naked Room and for your insightful comments. Yes, I probably should have given a little more description of the characters and hope I have done that in the next two books in the Susan Prescott series 🙂

    Best regards,

    Diana Hockley

  2. Janet Baker says:

    Hello! I have published my phi sci fi novel Run myself, and have been unable to get a review. Do you have friends who might do this (I take it from the blog that you choose your own indie books to review, not solicit or accept them, so I’m not asking you)? I saw expensive paid review sites, but my book is a bit inflammatory, I don’t use Amazon for distribution, and Run will never be popular anyway. I don’t even want it to be–if you read it you’d see I offend most demographics. But I need one review at Goodreads, and all my friends and family make encouraging sounds but go back to their zombie apocalypse fixation or whatever niche they enjoy. Philosophical science fiction isn’t it. Here’s the book’s site:

    If you answer this comment, could you tell me, where do you usually find your indie novels identified as such? I would like to take up your invitation to review.

    • dianahockley says:

      Hi Janet
      Your name is familiar to me, not sure why! I don’t read science fiction, but I know quite a number of authors who write and review it. I have someone in mind for your book, so I will email her and see if it’s okay for you to get in touch. I write and read crime/romance mainly and don’t understand the sci fi genre – or werewolves, or vampires et al!

      My email is so you can contact me there 🙂

      • Janet Baker says:

        Hi, Diana, I missed this reply of yours back in 2015! I still need reviews for Run, and I hope the offer you made to get in touch with a reviewer of sci fi still stands. Thank you. I have not promoted the novel at all, yet it remains relevant.

  3. dianahockley says:

    PS I hope you meant for me to reply to this. On reading it again, maybe you meant to send it to the reviewer of N/Room? It came up on my emails, so I assumed the message for me. Sorry, if I have butted into something I wasn’t meant to get.

  4. cleemckenzie says:

    So nice to be able to lose yourself in a story!

  5. Noreen Lace says:

    It so good to read honest book reviews. I wish I had more time. I love reading (as we all here do) but rarely sit down to write a review of it. So appreciative of those who do!

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