Stunt Double: Jungle Curse by Tamsin Cooke

The Blurb On The Back:

Fearless stunt double Finn is in Thailand working on the latest Rio Dining blockbuster.  It’s a dream job, but are the whispers around set true?  Is the film really cursed?

When stunts go wrong it’s serious, and on this movie, they could be deadly.  So far, Finn’s survived all sorts of smashes and crashes, even an elephant stampede, but it’s the secrets on set that might finally break him. 

You can order Stunt Double: Jungle Curse by Tamsin Cooke from Amazon USAAmazon UK, Waterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

It’s a few months after STUNT DOUBLE.  14-year-old Finn Gibson is completing a stunt course, which he needs to pass in order to double for Blake Saunders again on the next Rio Dinoni movie, which is due to begin filming in Thailand.  But the film set is already troubled, with a number of strange incidents leading people to wonder if the film is cursed – not least when the actor playing the villain is injured in an accident, meaning that Blake’s father Marcus has to step into the role.

Finn’s got other things to worry about though.  18-year-old Calum Somwan – who graduated top of the stunt school and who likes bullying Finn – has got a job on the movie stunt team and he’s very keen to make Finn look bad.  Not that this is Finn’s only problem.  Marcus’s presence on set and habit of comparing Blake with Finn is creating tension between the two that isn’t helped by the fact that Blake’s mother, Natasha, is also present and she can’t stand having Finn around and when accidents start to happen with Finn’s stunts, he risks injury or even death.  

Finn thinks he knows what’s causing the accidents, the only problem is that no one else can see it and anyone he tells thinks he’s crazy …

The second in Tamsin Cooke’s STUNT DOUBLE SERIES is a fast-paced, YA action fantasy that makes good use of its Thai locations but the female characters are thinly drawn in a book that’s clearly aimed at boy readers, a certain suspension of disbelief is needed to buy into the plot and while the revelation of a secret brings emotional depth, it also seems very soapy. 

I hadn’t read the first book in this series, but Cooke provides enough of a summary for you to work out what happened.  As you’d expect in a film about a teenage stuntman, there’s a lot of action, which I thought Cooke handled well – conveying the urgency and the danger but also the steps taken to try and ensure the stunt person’s safety.  The pacing also works well with Cooke keeping the plot moving and introducing the fantasy element of the Lingphi while tying it in to Finn’s previous adventures and hinting that he has supernatural abilities as a result of the same.  

I was less convinced by the mystery of who had summoned the Lingphi, mainly because the character responsible didn’t have a motive clearly established so it all seemed very after-the-fact. I was also unconvinced by a major revelation half way through the book, which does give Finn some added emotional depth and raises the personal stakes for him (and I should say that I believed in Finn’s reaction to it).  However it all seemed a bit soap opera and obvious (again, this may be because I hadn’t read the previous book) and while it does set up an interesting scenario for the next book in terms of what Finn wants, the predictability was disappointing.

Also disappointing was the minor role that girls play in this book.  Lucy is the only female stunt person on the set and she doesn’t have much to do in the book.  Natasha is the disapproving mother who hates Finn and Charn Chi (a Thai girl whose parents run an elephant sanctuary that’s helping the film) is very thinly drawn to the point that she risks being an exotic caricature.  In part I wonder if this is because the book is aimed at a teen boy audience and there is a perception that boys don’t want to read about girls or whether it’s just a consequence of the way the story developed.

Ultimately I thought that the book was perfectly okay but because you have to suspend a certain amount disbelief to get into the premise (i.e. that a film set would risk hiring a teenager to perform stunts purely because of their resemblance to the leading teen actor), I’m not sure that I’d continue with this series, although I would check out Cooke’s other work.

Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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