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Stephen King’s ‘Holly’ Is A Journey Into The Dark Heart Of Noir Crime Fiction

Stephen King reached an enviable milestone in his literary career long ago. With over sixty international bestsellers, King is the unparalleled master of horror, boasting an overwhelmingly creative universe and exceptional storytelling abilities.

In 2014, King made a foray into the noir crime genre with Mr. Mercedes, the first book in a trilogy featuring detective Bill Hodges and Holly Gibney, a private investigator who gradually gained prominence in various King books and is now the protagonist of her own story in Holly (Scribner, 2023).

In his foreword to If it Bleeds (Scribner, 2020), a novella that marked Detective Holly Gibney’s first solo flight after the Bill Hodges trilogy, King said, “I just love Holly, and I wish she were a real person… She just walked into the first book she was in, Mr. Mercedes, and she more or less stole the book, and she stole my heart.”

In Holly, Gibney is still the head of Finders Keepers, the private detective agency she inherited from Hodges, focusing mainly on small cases. Young siblings Jerome and Barbara Robinson, well-known to readers of the trilogy, along with their partner Pete, join Holly to solve a peculiar case.

Holly skillfully uncovers a thread that reveals a series of seemingly unrelated disappearances. These long-ignored crimes have a common link: a bizarre, elderly couple. Don’t worry — there are no spoilers here. It’s not a mystery novel, nor a thriller wrapped around a mystery. We know who the bad guys are here. What we don’t know is when they are going to cross paths with Holly, how she’s going to nail them for their crimes, and what they’ll do to Holly in the process. If there is one thing certain about King’s novels, it’s that his characters never emerge unscathed. The book unfolds in two intertwined timelines.

Between 2018 and 2021, we watch these two illustrious professors commit their crimes, the why of their crimes is also revealed. The novel then jumps to the present, when Holly decides to go after the couple. It’s the most procedural part of the book, much like a typical crime novel and packed with intricate details.

Holly’s solo flight carries a certain risk: the danger of becoming a cliché, someone who evokes sympathy due to her particular flaws. However, Holly Gibney defies these concerns and emerges as a well-constructed character.

This novel, along with future stories planned by the author (King has already hinted at some), will ensure her enduring presence in the King universe. It’s evident that King understands the importance of continuity in a genre filled with iconic heroes like Sherlock Holmes, Harry Bosch, John Rebus, Petra Delicado and Tess Monaghan.

Brendan Gleeson and Harry Treadaway in a scene from the 'Mr. Mercedes' television series.

Brendan Gleeson and Harry Treadaway in a scene from the ‘Mr. Mercedes’ television series.

Holly has faced significant losses in her life. Her mentor and friend Bill Hodges passed away from pancreatic cancer. Her cousin Janey was killed by a psychopath, who also drove another cousin to suicide. Brady Hartsfield, the antagonist of the Mr. Mercedes trilogy, was responsible for these tragedies. Holly also had a difficult relationship with her mother, Mrs. Charlotte, who tragically succumbed to Covid-19 at the beginning of this novel (which includes more than a few digs at Donald Trump).

Holly stopped smoking in If it Bleeds, but here she has succumbed once again to her nicotine addiction. She now confidently maintains direct eye contact during interrogations, stands tall with her shoulders back, and confronts problems head-on.

Despite her aversion to violence, she may reluctantly resort to it when required. As a 55-year-old frustrated poet, she has overcome numerous challenges and accomplished a great deal. Holly Gibney is no longer the train wreck we once knew.

One of the secondary plotlines in the book is about young Barbara, an aspiring poet and future Princeton student who is mentored by a legendary author. This storyline adds a fascinating element of love for literature.

It is clear that King understands the importance of integrating each layer of the story into the broader plot. This integration plays a decisive role in maintaining the rhythm and final resolution of the book. King stays within the bounds of reality, while still delivering the horror we have come to expect from supernatural tales like End of Watch and If it Bleeds.

King also explores another key element of crime fiction: social themes. Without being preachy, King weaves in elements like the Black Lives Matter movement, Trump’s erosive impact on social harmony in the United States, and the Covid-19 pandemic. These themes are seamlessly woven into the plot and the characters’ attitudes.

The pandemic is prominently featured in the novel, (King has tweeted extensively in favor of vaccines, science and facemasks, and against conspiracy theorists), and the author’s own attitudes are reflected in the character of Holly. In an afterword, King assures that he would have fairly represented a Covid-denier if he had chosen to include a main character with these views.

“You know, just when you think you’ve seen the worst that human beings have to offer… turns out, you’re wrong. There is no end to evil,” says one of the secondary characters, a phrase that Holly makes her own. The only consolation is that this evil continues to be part of the literary corpus of horror masters like King, and now also in his noir novels.

Bill Hodges once confided in Holly that his literary tastes were limited to Michael Connelly’s stories about detective Harry Bosch, and Ed McBain’s police procedurals set in the 87th Precinct. In his unique style, Stephen King showcases his crime genre prowess with the exceptional Holly, placing him on par with these timeless classics.


Assessing Property Size: What Square Footage Can You Get With The Average UK House Price In Your Area?

Assessing Property Size In The UK

In the United Kingdom, there is a prevailing tendency to gauge the size of residences based on the number of bedrooms rather than square footage. In fact, research indicates that three out of five individuals are unaware of the square footage of their property.

However, a comprehensive analysis conducted by ‘Savills’ reveals significant variations in property sizes throughout the country. For instance, with the average property price standing at £340,837, this amount would typically afford a studio flat spanning 551 square feet in London, according to the prominent estate agency.

Conversely, in the North East region, the same sum would secure a spacious five-bedroom house measuring 1,955 square feet, nearly four times the size of a comparable property in London.

Best value: Heading to the North East of England is where buyers will get the most from their money

In Scotland, the median house price equates to a sizable investment capable of procuring a generous four-bedroom residence spanning 1,743 square feet. Conversely, in Wales, Yorkshire & The Humber, and the North West, this sum affords a slightly smaller four-bedroom dwelling of approximately 1,500 square feet, while in the East and West Midlands, it accommodates a 1,300 square foot home. In stark contrast, within the South West, £340,837 secures a modest 1,000 square foot property, and in the East, an even more confined 928 square feet.

London presents the most challenging market, where this budget offers the least purchasing power. Following closely, the South East allows for 825 square feet of space or a medium-sized two-bedroom dwelling. Lucian Cook, head of residential research at Savills, emphasizes the profound disparity in purchasing potential across Britain, ranging from compact studio flats in London to spacious four or five-bedroom residences in parts of North East England.

While square footage serves as a critical metric, with a significant portion of Britons unfamiliar with their property’s dimensions, the number of bedrooms remains a traditional indicator of size. Personal preferences, such as a preference for larger kitchens, may influence property selection. For those prioritizing ample space, Easington, County Durham, offers a substantial 2,858 square foot, five-bedroom home, while Rhondda, Wales, and Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Scotland, provide 2,625 and 2,551 square feet, respectively. Conversely, in St Albans, Hertfordshire, £340,837 secures a mere 547 square feet, equivalent to a one-bedroom flat.

The disparity continues in central London, where purchasing power diminishes considerably. In Kensington, the budget accommodates a mere 220 square feet, contrasting with the slightly more spacious 236 square feet in Westminster. Conversely, in Dagenham, the same investment translates to 770 square feet. Three properties currently listed on Rightmove exemplify the diversity within this price range across the UK market.

South of the river: This semi-detached house is located near to three different train stations

South of the river: This semi-detached house is located near to three different train stations

2. Lewisham: One-bed house, £345,000

This one-bedroom property in Lewisham, South London, is on the market for £345,000.

The semi-detached house is set over two floors, and has a private patio.

The property is located near to bus links and amenities, as well as Catford train station.

Edinburgh fringe: This three-bed property is located on the edge of the city, near to the town of Musselburgh

Edinburgh fringe: This three-bed property is located on the edge of the city, near to the town of Musselburgh

3. Edinburgh: Three-bed house, £350,000

This three-bedroom detached house in Edinburgh could be yours for £350,000.

The house, which has a two-car driveway, boasts a large kitchen diner, and is within easy reach of Newcriaghall train station.

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Top 10 Florida Cities Dominate The Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

Top 10 Florida Cities And Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

The Voice Of EU | Florida emerges as a hub for entrepreneurial endeavors, with its vibrant business landscape and conducive environment for startups. Renowned for its low corporate tax rates and a high concentration of investors, the Sunshine State beckons aspiring entrepreneurs seeking fertile grounds to launch and grow their businesses.

In a recent report by WalletHub, Florida cities dominate the list of the top 10 best destinations for business startups, showcasing their resilience and economic vitality amidst challenging times.

From Orlando’s thriving market to Miami’s dynamic ecosystem, each city offers unique advantages and opportunities for entrepreneurial success. Let’s delve into the chronologically listed cities that exemplify Florida’s prominence in the business startup arena.

1. Orlando Leads the Way: Orlando emerges as the most attractive market in the U.S. for business startups, with a remarkable surge in small business establishments. WalletHub’s latest report highlights Orlando’s robust ecosystem, fostering the survival and growth of startups, buoyed by a high concentration of investors per capita.

2. Tampa Takes Second Place: Securing the second spot among large cities for business startups, Tampa boasts a favorable business environment attributed to its low corporate tax rates. The city’s ample investor presence further fortifies startups, providing essential resources for navigating the initial years of business operations.

3. Charlotte’s Diverse Industries: Claiming the third position, Charlotte stands out for its diverse industrial landscape and exceptionally low corporate taxes, enticing companies to reinvest capital. This conducive environment propels entrepreneurial endeavors, contributing to sustained economic growth.

4. Jacksonville’s Rising Profile: Jacksonville emerges as a promising destination for startups, bolstered by its favorable business climate. The city’s strategic positioning fosters entrepreneurial ventures, attracting aspiring business owners seeking growth opportunities.

5. Miami’s Entrepreneurial Hub: Miami solidifies its position as a thriving entrepreneurial hub, attracting businesses with its dynamic ecosystem and strategic location. The city’s vibrant startup culture and supportive infrastructure make it an appealing destination for ventures of all sizes.

6. Atlanta’s Economic Momentum: Atlanta’s ascent in the business startup landscape underscores its economic momentum and favorable business conditions. The city’s strategic advantages and conducive policies provide a fertile ground for entrepreneurial ventures to flourish.

7. Fort Worth’s Business-Friendly Environment: Fort Worth emerges as a prime destination for startups, offering a business-friendly environment characterized by low corporate taxes. The city’s supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives facilitate the growth and success of new ventures.

8. Austin’s Innovation Hub: Austin cements its status as an innovation hub, attracting startups with its vibrant entrepreneurial community and progressive policies. The city’s robust infrastructure and access to capital foster a conducive environment for business growth and innovation.

9. Durham’s Emerging Entrepreneurship Scene: Durham’s burgeoning entrepreneurship scene positions it as a promising destination for startups, fueled by its supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives. The city’s collaborative culture and access to resources contribute to the success of new ventures.

10. St. Petersburg’s Thriving Business Community: St. Petersburg rounds off the top 10 with its thriving business community and supportive ecosystem for startups. The city’s strategic advantages and favorable business climate make it an attractive destination for entrepreneurial endeavors.

Despite unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Great Resignation, and high inflation, these top Florida cities remain resilient and well-equipped to overcome obstacles, offering promising opportunities for business owners and entrepreneurs alike.

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European Startup Ecosystems Awash With Gulf Investment – Here Are Some Of The Top Investors

European Startup Ecosystem Getting Flooded With Gulf Investments

The Voice Of EU | In recent years, European entrepreneurs seeking capital infusion have widened their horizons beyond the traditional American investors, increasingly turning their gaze towards the lucrative investment landscape of the Gulf region. With substantial capital reservoirs nestled within sovereign wealth funds and corporate venture capital entities, Gulf nations have emerged as compelling investors for European startups and scaleups.

According to comprehensive data from Dealroom, the influx of investment from Gulf countries into European startups soared to a staggering $3 billion in 2023, marking a remarkable 5x surge from the $627 million recorded in 2018.

This substantial injection of capital, accounting for approximately 5% of the total funding raised in the region, underscores the growing prominence of Gulf investors in European markets.

Particularly noteworthy is the significant support extended to growth-stage companies, with over two-thirds of Gulf investments in 2023 being directed towards funding rounds exceeding $100 million. This influx of capital provides a welcome boost to European companies grappling with the challenge of securing well-capitalized investors locally.

Delving deeper into the landscape, Sifted has identified the most active Gulf investors in European startups over the past two years.

Leading the pack is Aramco Ventures, headquartered in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Bolstered by a substantial commitment, Aramco Ventures boasts a $1.5 billion sustainability fund, alongside an additional $4 billion allocated to its venture capital arm, positioning it as a formidable player with a total investment capacity of $7 billion by 2027. With a notable presence in 17 funding rounds, Aramco Ventures has strategically invested in ventures such as Carbon Clean Solutions and ANYbotics, aligning with its focus on businesses that offer strategic value.

Following closely is Mubadala Capital, headquartered in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with an impressive tally of 13 investments in European startups over the past two years. Backed by the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company, Mubadala Capital’s diverse investment portfolio spans private equity, venture capital, and alternative solutions. Notable investments include Klarna, TIER, and Juni, reflecting its global investment strategy across various sectors.

Ventura Capital, based in Dubai, UAE, secured its position as a key player with nine investments in European startups. With a presence in Dubai, London, and Tokyo, Ventura Capital boasts an international network of limited partners and a sector-agnostic investment approach, contributing to its noteworthy investments in companies such as Coursera and Spotify.

Qatar Investment Authority, headquartered in Doha, Qatar, has made significant inroads into the European startup ecosystem with six notable investments. As the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, QIA’s diversified portfolio spans private and public equity, infrastructure, and real estate, with strategic investments in tech startups across healthcare, consumer, and industrial sectors.

MetaVision Dubai, a newcomer to the scene, has swiftly garnered attention with six investments in European startups. Focusing on seed to Series A startups in the metaverse and Web3 space, MetaVision raised an undisclosed fund in 2022, affirming its commitment to emerging technologies and innovative ventures.

Investcorp, headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, has solidified its presence with six investments in European startups. With a focus on mid-sized B2B businesses, Investcorp’s diverse investment strategies encompass private equity, real estate, infrastructure, and credit management, contributing to its notable investments in companies such as Terra Quantum and TruKKer.

Chimera Capital, based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, rounds off the list with four strategic investments in European startups. As part of a prominent business conglomerate, Chimera Capital leverages its global reach and sector-agnostic approach to drive investments in ventures such as CMR Surgical and Neat Burger.

In conclusion, the burgeoning influx of capital from Gulf investors into European startups underscores the region’s growing appeal as a vibrant hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. With key players such as Aramco Ventures, Mubadala Capital, and Ventura Capital leading the charge, European startups are poised to benefit from the strategic investments and partnerships forged with Gulf investors, propelling them towards sustained growth and success in the global market landscape.

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