Reviews > Published on July 7th, 2014

Bookshots: 'The String Diaries' by Stephen Lloyd Jones

Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review


The String Diaries

Who Wrote It?

Media agency director and first time novelist, Stephen Lloyd Jones (not to be confused with Stephen Graham Jones, who has written more novels than God).

Better than Brown.

Plot in a Box:

A shape-shifting killer chases love across the ages, the current iteration of which is a young girl (weird) named Leah.

Invent a new title for this book:

The Book of Jakab, which I believe is its moniker in some foreign markets. Much more appropriate, considering a dude named Jakab features heavily in the story, and string does not.

Read this if you like: 

Mainstream page-turners, Dan Brown (and I do not mean that in the pejorative sense. This is better than Brown.)

Meet the book’s lead(s):

Hannah, mother of Leah, the underage objet d'obsession of Jakab, an ageless lunatic who's to blame for giving the shape-shifting Hosszu Eletek a bad name.

Said lead(s) would be portrayed in a movie by:

I'm gonna go with Jessica Chastain as the instinctively protective Hannah and, oh, I don't know... someone appropriately European like Mads Mikkelsen, who has the right combination of menace and good looks, for Jakab. Do we really care who plays the kid?

Setting: Would you want to live there?

If I wasn't being hunted by a deranged kind-of-human, then yes. The String Diaries features many beautiful locales, from the English countryside to Hungary to France.

What was your favorite sentence?

His lungs emptied and this time when he took a breath, he found that he could not, found that his lips were numb, that his arms were numb, that his world was darkening, that his, that...

The Verdict:

Mystery? Thriller? Horror novel? In the Venn diagram of genre, The String Diaries rests squarely at the intersection of all three. It's a beach read, an airport novel, a page-turner—none of which is meant as an insult. If you like a fast-paced story full of intrigue and cliff-hanger chapters, this is the book for you. Or one of them, at least.

What stands out most about The String Diaries is its mythology. It centers around the Hosszu Eletek, a group of Hungarians blessed with "long life" and the ability to change their appearance. A cursory internet probe reveals them to be entirely fictional, a fabrication of the author. Still, it's a well-crafted piece of folklore, one that could pass as real. (A real piece of folklore, that is. I'm not implying these people could exist.) I almost wish I hadn't let Google shatter the illusion.

The mythology is broken up with the requisite amount of action, much of which is pretty standard fare. I have to say, it was the characters and their predicament that kept me reading, not the car chases and gunplay. There were also some secondary baddies introduced late in the game, in what seemed like an effort to increase the body count. Still, the final showdown is sufficiently satisfying, although it does contain an element of "cake and eat it too."

Speaking of which, I like to include at least one piece of shameless quote-bait in each review, so I'll leave you with this saccharine simile:

Like a good cake, The String Diaries will leave many readers Hungary for more.

Get it?

(Mulholland, feel free to blurb me on that.)

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About the author

Joshua Chaplinsky is the Managing Editor of LitReactor. He is the author of The Paradox Twins (CLASH Books), the story collection Whispers in the Ear of A Dreaming Ape, and the parody Kanye West—Reanimator. His short fiction has been published by Vice, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Thuglit, Severed Press, Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, Broken River Books, and more. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @jaceycockrobin. More info at and

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