Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Plague of Crows

Blasted Heath, that fantastic ebook publishing company, very kindly sent me a review copy of Douglas Lindsay's latest masterpiece.

Here is my review....

A Plague of Crows by Douglas Lindsay. 2013. Kindle Edition. Blasted Heath. EPub. 488kb, 280 Pages

Another resounding success by Douglas Lindsay, this darkly disturbing novel will have you looking at crows in a completely different light. Number 2 in Lindsay’s series to feature DI Hutton; a man who is tortured by his behaviour in Bosnia in times gone by and seems hell bent on punishing himself forever because of it, this book is very different to his series on the hilarious demon barber, Barney Thomson, but is equally excellent.

The start of the story sees DI Hutton returning to work after having been suspended for inappropriate behaviour - attacking a colleague after he was attacked by him for sleeping with his wife. Hutton is initially relaxed and reasonably together, as he has just spent four months living in a tent in the Highlands, but it isn’t long before the pressure of his new case starts to push him towards his old ways. A PLAGUE OF CROWS focuses mostly on Hutton, his private torture and his endless pursuit of women to sleep with, and very little is said about the murderer at all, apart from his modus operandi and the aftermath of when he strikes. The method of murder is particularly brutal and is very likely to disturb you if you think about it too much. I wont spoil it for you here, but crows do play an important part in the operation.

Lindsay has again shown the world what an excellent craftsman he is. This book starts off well and gets better and better with every turn of the page. It is blacker than black and keeps you guessing right until the very end. The book also has that clever way of invading your thoughts during the day when you are not reading it; making you unable to let go and desperate to be able to continue. By half way I was so sucked in that I upset several friends with graphic descriptions of what was happening.

If you like very dark and disturbing fiction, that is superbly written and beautifully addictive, then this one is definitely for you. You don’t have to have read the first DI Hutton book in order to enjoy this one – except you should read it because it is so damn brilliant!

Extremely Highly recommended.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Chessmen

This year has seen the publication of the final section of two fantastic trilogies that I have been enthusiastically following. The first, SANCTUS by Simon Toyne, is reviewed on Eurocrime, with the final book, THE TOWER, being reviewed this week. The second, THE BLACKHOUSE trilogy by Peter May, is also mostly reviewed on Eurocrime. The final instalment, THE CHESSMEN, is reviewed below.....

The Chessmen by Peter May. 2013. Quercus. Hardback £14.99. 383pp. ISBN 978-0-85738-223-8.

Finally. The long-awaited conclusion of The Blackhouse trilogy by this awesome author. Someone else has reviewed it for Eurocrime, so I am adding my thoughts to my own blog instead. Once again, the book is set on the Isle of Lewis and has former policeman Finn MacLeod as its main character. I love this trilogy. My Dad, whose father came from Lewis, and who has been there several times, says he loves the books too and that they portray even the tiniest details of Island life accurately. Praise indeed and well deserved, I think.

In this final installment, Finn is now living with Marsaili, his childhood love, and has a job as head of security for the local laird, who has a bit of a problem with poachers. One of these turns out to be Whistler, one of Finn's old school friends, who takes the odd fish for his own needs and doesn't see why he can't. Finn and Whistler exchange angry words and then end up out on the moor at night together, in a storm. Despite their anger with each other, Whistler saves Finn, who is not properly equipped for the conditions, and they take shelter in a small bothy, near a loch. In the morning, to their horror, the loch has disappeared and the vanishing water has exposed an old airplane. Closer inspection shows it to belong to Roddy, another old school pal, who died some 18 years before when his plane disappeared. And now here it is, complete with a body that must be Roddy. Fin is shocked. The resulting investigations shock him still more and he is pushed to the limit, both in terms of loyalty to friends, past and present, as well as having to face the truths that are finally exposed.

One of the interesting points about the book, as well as the gripping storyline, is the way it is written. Alternate chapters follow a time-shift pattern, between the present and aspects of Finn's past, as he thinks about how things used to be during his time as a roadie for Amran, an extremely popular band that had its beginnings as a group of high school students playing gigs at the weekends on the island. The parts of the story written in the present don't flow in a chronological order either, so you have to keep your wits about you in order to keep up! However, you won't be disappointed.

THE CHESSMEN is a fantastic end to an amazing trilogy. I have been totally enchanted by these books and am keen to read more by Peter May, starting with copying my Dad and reading his China series on my Kindle!

Extremely Highly Recommended.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Higher Duty

No Exit Press very kindly sent me A HIGHER DUTY by Peter Murphy to review.
Here are my thoughts on this most excellent book...

A Higher Duty by Peter Murphy. February 2013. No Exit Press. Paperback. £7.99. 351pp. ISBN 978-1-84243-668-4.

This beautifully written book had me captivated from start to finish. It is chock-full of the language and behaviour that was expected from lawyers, barristers and their families in the 1960s. Peter Murphy is himself highly familiar with the Law, having worked as an advocate for a number of years and being involved as defense council in the Yugoslavian War Crimes tribunal at The Hague. You can sense his years of experience dripping from the pages of his book, adding authenticity and interest to the tale. A HIGHER DUTY is Murphy’s second novel, and the first of his that I have read. I am keen to get my hands on his first one, REMOVAL, now as well!

The story starts in Cambridge in 1960, at a Rugby Club dinner. As usual, too much alcohol is consumed but then the high jinks of the young men lead to the accidental death of a fellow student. In shame the guilty parties are gathered together and arrested, only to have the matter mysteriously quashed and brushed under the carpet. All is not forgotten, however, since Clive Overton, the ringleader, is subsequently sent down from Cambridge in disgrace by his outraged father. He goes to America and is ordered to stay away from England for the rest of his life.

Two years later, we join up with the activities of the successful London Chambers overseen by Bernard Wesley QC. An initially straightforward divorce case is brought forward for representation and it looks as if it will be uneventful, until the barrister given the case, Kenneth Gaskell, stupidly starts an affair with his client, Anne Dougherty, and they are found out. Making the scandal public knowledge will be the ruin of everyone who works in the chambers. Bernard, who thinks of Kenneth as his own son, is shocked beyond belief and takes refuge at home to seek an answer to the issue. Help comes in the form of a random phone call from America and the cunning plan that Bernard devises, based on the code of conduct of certain individuals, will rock the foundations of the very Bar itself.

I loved this book! Everything, from the way it is written, to the way the barristers address each other, had me interested and engaged. I could vividly imagine Bernard Wesley’s chambers and feel the ever-present importance of protocol and correct behaviour. As it says on the cover, you are a fan of TVs Silk, then you are going to just love this book. I couldn’t put it better myself!

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Man and Lewis Man

Here is another guest blog from Man. Following on from enjoying The Blackhouse by Peter May, these are his thoughts on the second book in this trilogy, The Lewis Man....

After having enjoyed The Blackhouse by Peter May, I wanted to return to windswept Lewis, and the lives of its island folk. As I found a Kindle in my Christmas stocking The Lewis Man was my second purchase (after the long-sought Irving Wallace novel, The Man) though it was my first Kindle read. And what a good read it was...

The Lewis Man starts with a corpse being dug out from a peat bog. Fin Macleod, our hero from The Blackhouse, permanently resettled in Lewis (albeit bedding down in a tent) and trying to rekindle his youthful relationship with his old flame Marsaili, launches an unofficial investigation into the mystery of the deceased. In a refreshing change from many crime series, while Fin drives the story on in the present, the narrative focuses upon Marsaili's father, Tormod MacDonald. Tormod is stricken with Alzheimers and haunted by fragments of his childhood in the grim shortage-ridden austerity Britain of the early 50s. Past and present weave together into a dark tale of post-war wrongs reaching down through the years.

I'd recommend curling up with the Lewis Man on a cold'n'gusty winter's night, 4/5.

Once this Man has finished The Man he looks forward to reading The Chessmen, the conclusion to Peter May's atmospheric trilogy.

Thank you again to Amanda for allowing me to blog!

Thanks, Man. You are welcome. Please feel free to review books for us anytime.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

DEITY by Steven Dunne

I was very kindly sent DEITY by its publisher, Headline, some months ago. Here, finally, is my review. This was not a Kindle book, but rather the traditional paper variety.

I loved this book and sincerely hope that the review does it justice!

Deity by Steven Dunne. 2012. Headline. Paperback £6.99. 533pp. ISBN 978-0-7553-8368-9.

This book was simply awesome! Thanks to its extremely disturbing, original, story line and it being very well written, I was hooked right from the start and zipped through it really quickly. I love books that mess with my head and this one certainly did that.

DI Damen Brook is a far from happy man. He lives a lonely life, in a spartan cottage in Derbyshire, with an empty fridge, and lives to work, haunted by his failure to catch a serial killer known as The Reaper and still fragile after his mental breakdown. A body is discovered in a local river and thought to be a jumper until the autopsy reveals a distinct absence of lungs. Brook and his team check with funeral homes and mortuaries to ensure that no bodies have gone missing recently. Then the appearance of a second body in a similar state suggests this is the work of a particularly gruesome killer who likes to mummify his victims. Brook is determined to find the responsible party but is suddenly taken off the case when four college students go missing. Initially this is thought to be quite straightforward; the students’ passports are missing and it looks as if they have gone off on holiday together. However, Brook is not so sure and is convinced there is more to this case than meets the eye. The fact that all of the teenagers come from dysfunctional homes, and are struggling with more than the average amount of teenage angst, makes him fear the worst. Things come to a head when his own daughter, who is visiting for a short while, goes missing, and Brook is in a race against the clock to save her as well as himself.

This book deals very well with the traumas of growing up and discovering that life is not guaranteed to be the plain-sailing “do anything you want, darling” breeze that children are led to believe by well-meaning parents. It also focuses on how people crave their 15 minutes of fame and how some will do just about anything to get it. The twist at the end of DEITY is one of the best I have read for a long time. I thought that I had guessed the ending pretty early on and was simply delighted to be proved wrong. Happily, there are more books featuring DI Damen Brooks and I am really looking forward to getting my hands on them.

Extremely highly recommended.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

In Memoriam

It was a great shock to discover that Maxine Clarke, one of the best known and best loved crime fiction reviewers, had passed away.

Although I never met her in person, she was one of the first to welcome me "on board" when I joined the Eurocrime team and was always extremely encouraging about my reviews. She said she loved to read them - praise indeed from someone who wrote reviews as well as she did and worked for NATURE; that most hallowed scientific journal that every biologist dreams of publishing in.

As you can see, she even commented on my Tombstoning review - the last post on this blog. I shall treasure her warm remark. It was a delight to read and is now all the more precious.

Maxine was so friendly and took time to make you feel welcome. There is now a huge hole in the crime fiction reviewing community. I am sure that every one of us will feel her loss.

Can I extend my thoughts and prayers to her friends and family, who must be missing her most dreadfully. I hope the outpouring of love and best wishes from around the world in response to the sad news will do just a little to warm your hearts in the days ahead.

Amanda xx

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Tombstoning by Doug Johnstone

This latest review of another highly recommended read has been produced with the help of my parrot, Milly. She has been flicking pomegranate juice at me to aid inspiration. Let me assure you that pomegranate juice in the eye stings rather a lot! Little monkey!

Tombstoning by Doug Johnstone. July 2012. Epub £1.71. 256 pages (estimated).

This deliciously disturbing tale was first published by Penguin in 2006. In July of this year it became available in Kindle format and can be purchased in either version from Amazon.

TOMBSTONING is Doug Johnstone’s first novel and is simply fabulous. Although it is less polished than his latest book, HIT AND RUN (still my Eurocrime Number 1 for 2012), it radiates with the talent that Johnstone is chock-full of and I love it. This is another book that messes with your head: a sure fire way to get onto my favourites list.

David Lindsay was born and raised in Arbroath. His best friend falls off a cliff in mysterious circumstances just before his 18th birthday, and David is the last person to see him alive. Churning with more questions than answers, he turns tail and runs, all the way to Edinburgh, where he stays and tries to forget. One day many years later he receives an email, from a certain Nicola Cruikshank, that turns his comfortable, if tedious, life upside down. Nicola has news of a school reunion and David, or Dave, as he now calls himself, is invited. David’s heart does a double flip, as Nicola was the girl at school that he fancied. He nervously replies and ends up meeting Nicola for her to arm-twist him into going to the reunion. Delighted that Nicola is still extremely attractive, he agrees to go and a few Saturdays later finds himself driving northward on a journey that will bring him head on with his childhood traumas. Instead of being a cathartic putting to rest of the past, the trip uncovers a whole hornets’ nest of trouble and once again David finds himself seeing the broken body of a friend, dead at the bottom of the cliffs. Who, or what, is the cause of this latest ‘accident’? Its timing is too good to be a coincidence and, with a finger of suspicion pointing at him, David takes it upon himself to find out the answers.

By far the best part of TOMBSTONING, for me, is Johnstone’s vivid description of David’s feelings towards the school reunion and the subsequent behaviour of his supposed ‘grown up’ school mates, that were nasty back in the day and are still pretty unpleasant people. I love the way the story keeps you guessing and hoping that things turn out OK (that’s the thing with Johnstone – there is no guarantee of a happy ending). The central characters are well developed and likeable and the pace of the story keeps you hanging on, wondering.

I have given this book 4 stars in my Amazon review. While I like it enormously, it isn’t as good as Johnstone’s later offerings, so I can’t give it 5 stars. Having said that, I do think this author is awesome and am delighted to have two more of his books waiting patiently on my ‘to be read’ pile!