Saturday, 20 April 2019

A shaggy dog story

Kate wants to change her daily routine of casual drink and drug use whilst writing the odd article for numerous lifestyle magazines. She lives with her partner Charlie in a fashionable part of London (but not so fashionable flat) and their relationship could be best described as tolerable. Into her life comes Wolfy a cross lurcher with shaggy dog features loveable and needy, the perfect companion for Kate to turn all her affections "what an unequalled joy it was to love and be loved with no conditions, even by a dumb animal" One day whilst leaving Wolfy in the watchful hands of her brother, Wolfy it would appear, decides he has no further need for his affectionate yet annoying(my opinion) owner and does a runner. The remainder of this "shaggy dog story involves Kate's 9 day search for her loveable pooch and the will she or wont she find him dilemma that ensues. There are some good characters introduced along the way most notable being the midnight runner (likes to train at night when the streets are empty) and Anna Twinney (the founder of reach out to horses...and it would also appear dogs) who for a price will make some "out of this world" contact with the missing pooch the hope being that Wolfy can be found. The excitement builds, the emotions are running high as the reader and Kate stumble from false sighting to false sighting...will she ever find him? You will need to read the story to find out. A pleasant enjoyable read with some tidy life observations...."Love isn't just neurotransmitters, is it? It's not just dependency. It is our route to something beautiful, mysterious and transcendent. Without it, life is a hollow set of functions and, frankly, pointless"....Many thanks to the good people at netgalley for a gratis copy in return for an honest review and that is what I have written.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

A cracking little thriller

It is not often that I read a book by a new author and! that was a thrilling ride.November Road by Lou Berney simply crackles along with strong characters, clear precise prose,and a really enjoyable story. Frank Guidry "former fixer extraordinaire for the Marcello organization is a hunted man. His employers are uncomfortable that he knows a little too much about the perpetrators behind the assassination of JF Kennedy in Dallas and need to terminate his employment on a permanent basis. As a separate story we learn that a beautiful young housewife Charlotte has escaped the clutches of her controlling drunken husband Dooley and is on route to the west coast with her two daughters Rosemary and Joan. As luck (or possibly not) would have it she crosses path with Guidry and this newly combined family attempt to stay ahead of those who would do them harm.

 As an avid reader and reviewer I often try to anticipate the direction a story is heading and how the adventure will conclude. I was pleasantly surprised with the ending of November Road as the author presents an unexpected conclusion to a cracking little crime thriller. Many thanks to the good people at netgalley for a gratis copy of November Road in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Cold atmospheric Scandi noir

The Island" falls into a category of books loosely referred to as Scandinavian noir. Set in Iceland the volcanic landscape and frozen polar conditions adds an eerie silent and unpredictable element to the events as they unfold...."What the scenery lacked in drama it made up for in its all encompassing tranquility, its sense of space and emptiness. The only accents of colour in the treeless landscape were provided by patches of bilberry and crowberry plants and the calm blue waters of the fjord below....."

Some 10 years ago a young girl was murdered in Ellidaey, a small island located south of Iceland. A culprit is identified, apprehended and the case is seemingly closed. Moving forward to the present and four young friends are holidaying on the same desolate location. Before the vacation concludes one of the four lies dead at the bottom of a steep cliff and murder is suspected. Is there a connection between the two brutal acts? Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdóttir is assigned the case. Hindered by the interference of a previous superior Lydur and struggling with her own personal tragedies she must use all her skills to navigate both the past and the present incidents in an attempt to identify the killer/s The character of Hulda Hermannsdóttir is a tough and resilient antihero. Living alone in this isolated barren part of the world she demands the structure and discipline that comes with her job as a police inspector. She presents a picture of a loner, there to be pitied by a sympathetic reader and for the most part this is successful

Underneath the main crime investigation a secondary mystery unfolds. Hulda is trying to trace the whereabouts of her real father. She knows he was an American GI and on impulse travels to the US only to be faced with disappointment. Ragnar Jonasson uses this opportunity to tease the reader and in the closing pages an unexpected detail is revealed adding a delightful ending that is sure to be explored in future books. The stark and bare landscape is used to great affect by the author to add tension and unpredictability to his writing. Hulda Hermannsdóttir is a sad highly intelligent police officer performing her daily workload to the best of her undoubted ability. I felt however that the story itself was somewhat unoriginal (four friends camping, one is killed, who is the murderer amongst them) yet having said that The Island was a fine example of Scandi noir. Many thanks to the good people at netgalley for a gratis copy of The Island in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written

Friday, 9 November 2018

Cancel the Milkman

As a native of Northern  Ireland and indeed spending a greater part of my teens in battle ridden Belfast I am well versed with the people and the country to appreciate or not Milkman by Anna Burns. I have to admit at first blush indeed for the first few chapters I was intrigued  by her intensive and somewhat claustrophobic style.  Here was a society built on gossip, a suspicious people hardened by a bitter indoctrination an unnerving belief in the supremacy of the catholic church or the teachings of such inflammatory demagogues as the most Reverent Ian Paisley, Jerry Adams or indeed intimation by the various sectarian groups UDA, IRA who viewed Belfast as their very own battle ground.

The best way to describe her style of writing is to think of a book and all the words that make up a story....take those words throw them high into the air and upon retrieval start reading....The experience is not quite right it's a jumbled and confusing picture that is painted which quite neatly sums up Milkman. This is a story where no one has a name and is narrated by middle sister who attempts to keep her mother and family ignorant of her maybe boyfriend and her rumoured affair with the Milkman. It is a story and language that tries to copy and show the small minded approach of a hypocritical populace where to be the wrong religion was a sentence of death, and where a strong opinion would leave you open to persecution by the shadowy renouncers. It didn't work for me with few chapters a total lack and use of paragraphs the whole experience was  muddled and confused. If the intent of the author was to get inside the mindset of the politically deranged "Ulsterman" it failed miserably and was a  great disappointment to me personally.

Friday, 19 October 2018

A dreary and meandering story

A story set in Yorkshire around the towns of Whitby, Bridlington and the village of Kettleness with coastal cliffs, hidden coves and unexplored tunnels. Into this setting enters Jared a troubled young man with an acute back injury resulting in an addiction to painkillers, Becca leaving her university course for an uncertain life, and fostered periodically by the recently widowed Kay struggling to come to terms with life after the death of her beloved Matt. I was hoping that both the setting, and the somewhat damaged characters, would be the basis for an exciting adventure especially after the discovery of a body hidden deep underground and the emergence of some shady characters most notably Greaseball Harry affectionately known as GBH. Unfortunately my initial enthusiasm was not realized as the story quickly developed into an unremarkable meandering and at best mediocre tale. I was not impressed with the author and her style of writing, not even the untamed bleak Yorkshire coastal landscape could save this sorry tale. Many thanks to the good people at netgalley for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written

Friday, 12 October 2018

Overcomplicated plot

Now let's agree on something at the start of this review, I love the writing of Robert Galbraith. This is the fourth outing for PI Cormoran Strike and his now partner in crime the effervescent Robin Ellacott. At just under 650 pages Lethal White is not for the faint hearted, dip in and out, casual browser, it requires some serious concentration and reading time. It is not really the length of the book that is the problem to me, the first 3 in the series are all around the 600 page mark and the authors style of interactive, descriptive writing lends itself to a heavy page count. The real issue I have with Lethal White is an over complicated plot and a story that at times seems to run around in ever repeating circles (thank goodness for those lighter moments involving Strike, Robin and Mathew) We have a murder, a possible historical murder, blackmail, complicated family structures and a seemingly endless list of well heeled yuppies (upper class twits to you and me) who do not speak in the vernacular but rather their own adapted version of the English Language (think ya instead of yes and you get the idea!) and with an ever flourishing list of gold collar names....Kinvara, Izzy, Fizzy, Venetia, Raff, Torquil, Jasper, Tegan. This scenario creates an endless list of possible perpetrators that would be the envy of a hardened Agatha Christie devotee.

However the real enjoyment from this series is the interplay and relationship, if any, between Robin and Cormoran now that the former has married her childhood sweetheart and controlling boyfriend Matthew. Strike is a damaged Afghanistan war veteran who lost a leg when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device (IED) As a PI in modern day London he must perform his job with the additional handicap of a prosthetic lower right leg. We the reader feel the grief and agony as our damaged antihero must battle not only evil, but the constant pain and suffering from an unforgiving and over used body. The best book in the Strike series is No 3 Career of Evil when a gruesome amputated limb is received at the PI's London office. Book 3 is a gritty affair relying a lot more on action and plot rather than endless "upper-class" dialogue the downfall of Lethal White. I accept that the Strike series is not an arena for serial killers but equally it should not be the playground of an Oxford/Cambridge debating society so let's hope for a much more gritty detective in outing No 5. A worthy but essentially disappointing read.

Monday, 8 October 2018

Hauntingly beautiful

Waking up on a cold winter's morning, after a snowfall, and the streets are eerily quiet. Snowfall always seems to create an uneasy, sometimes sombre atmosphere, invading our structured world and our cosy existence. White snowy  panoramic pictures have been used to great effect in the past in such bestsellers as The Shining by Stephen King, The Snowman by Jo Nesbo, Snowblind by Ragnar Jonasson (although all Nordic crime could probably be included) and not forgetting the excellent Snowblind by Michael McBride and the hauntingly alluring Travelling in a Strange Land by Irish author David Park.

The title "The Silent Land" by Graham Joyce instantly creates for the reader a bare and deserted landscape..."There wasn't a track anywhere to be seen in the light, powdery snow. The grey pregnant clouds loured above them, but there were blue smudges in the sky. A transforming power had breathed over the land and turned it into a perfect wedding cake"..... Into this wintry scene steps Zoe and Jake enjoying themselves on a skiing holiday in the French Pyrenees when an avalanche, the dread of all skiers and climbers, strikes without warning and buries our two adventurers. They survive but on returning back to the ski village they discover a place devoid of any human contact, seemingly deserted, and each time they attempt to walk/ski out, strangely, they always return back to the same starting point. As time passes, and the hope of any rescue seems to fade, both are troubled by visions and dreams and soon they come to the realization that perhaps no one actually survived the avalanche.

Graham Joyce has written a beautifully balanced tale of two lovers facing an uncertain future knowing that having cheated death they do in fact remain in a very precarious position. The author has ample time to explore the lives of Zoe and Jake and in particular I enjoyed the scene with Jake's father Peter suffering from bone cancer and cruelly beginning to lose his mind..."And yet now that he saw his father lying on the hospital bed he wanted to hug him. This father who suddenly, inexplicably and contrary to a lifetime of restraint had started swearing"......This short novel contains many surprises which thankfully I have not disclosed, a story that could and should be read in one sitting, preferably on a cold winters night with all doors securely locked and only a roaring log fire and a tumbler of hot whisky for company!....highly recommended