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Reviews

December 2008

Andy McNab - Brute Force

"...a masterpiece of the genre."

Synopsis:
Andy McNab brings full on action to his legions of fans in the new book Brute Force.

Twenty years ago Nick Stone took part in an SAS operation on a ship smuggling arms to the PIRA and the objective was to stop the explosives getting there. But when one of Nick's friends from the operation is found shot through the head after being tortured with a Black and Decker drill things start to turn serious and Nick is the next on the mysterious and anonymous killers list. He hunts to find the only other man who might know what on earth was going on, Colonel Lynn. They both realise then that the same person is chasing both of them down and, ironically, the hunters become the hunted.

Whoever this mysterious person is just wont let go and follows them throughout the countryside of Northern Ireland, into the streets of London and then to Italy. Soon Nick faces choices he would never have thought of making...

Review:
The book is full of so many twists and turns it can sometimes be hard to keep up with the plot. However, the sheer action-packed pace of it is truly amazing. The fact that we travel to so many places in such a short space of time is truly thrilling. Indeed, the detailed storyline and expert plotting make this a masterpiece of the genre.

With so many different plotlines and more than the required number of shoot-outs, chases and fights to be won the book leaves you breathless to the very end.

I recommend this book to all thriller fans and especially to readers of Jack Reacher novels and the like.

Reviewed by: H.Y.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Ruth Rendell - Portobello

"... there is always that hint of menace that makes you turn the pages."

Synopsis:
Eugene Wren is a man who is prone to addictions, whether it be alcohol or cigarettes. Now he has a new addiction which makes the other two seem like passing phases. His new addiction is for sugar free sweets – Chocorange. Never being able to get enough of the things he continues to buy them and with great fear of being found out about his new failing, he hides them about the house so that his fiancée won't know about the thing that possesses his mind at all hours of the day or night.

One day Eugene finds money in the street and pinning a note to a lamppost, asks for the owner to retrieve his find. Soon after, two people enter his life. One is the rightful owner of the money, the other a man trying his luck. Both men will force their way in to Eugene's life as his addiction for the sweets begins to cripple him and possibly destroy the life he wants to lead.

Review:
Portobello is the latest psychological novel from the Rendell cannon. As with most of Rendell's books, she takes the most miniscule difficulty - like the penchant for sweets - and turns it into a reason for drama. Her skill is in pushing her protagonists to the edge over the simplest of things in daily life. Sometimes these characters can seem exaggerated, but that is what Rendell is marvellous at creating. She takes the ordinary and pulls it out of all proportion. But this only makes the reader continue to read. In most of her novels, Rendell's characters are not particularly likeable beings, but in her writing there is always that hint of menace that makes you turn the pages.

Rendell has stated that she loves the area known as Portobello and that affection comes across quite clearly in this book. Through her detailed descriptions the Portobello market comes alive and she is always willing to show the seedier parts of London as well as the grand, orchestrating the social classes clashing against one another.

There is murder in Portobello, but Rendell must be getting sentimental as there is a happy ending to this book. It is not her finest work but there are certainly enough of the classic Rendell ingredients here to satisfy any fan like me.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Alex Kava - Exposed

"... an explosive book."

Synopsis:
Agent Maggie O'Dell believes she is responding to a threat, but instead walks into a trap. The killer's weapon is a deadly virus, virtually invisible and totally unexpected.

Maggie truly knows and understands dangerous minds, from hauntingly peverse child predators to cunningly twisted serial killers. Now she faces a new opponent from inside an isolation ward. Maggie must find clues to catch the killer - whilst waiting to see if the lethal strain is already multiplying in her body.

With every new exposure there is the potential for an epidemic. And Maggie knows she may not live long enough to stop the nightmare scenario becoming a devastating reality.

Review:
Exposed is an excellent thriller that you will probably want to finish in one read. It is a slightly different format to the usual murder mystery as the killer is using a lethal virus rather than a traditional knife or gun, but don't let that put you off as it is certainly no less exciting.

Kava's characters are all very realistic and interact well with each other. The reader has a definite sense of empathy with them and there is a real sense that you want them to survive or succeed.

Some clues are given to enable the reader to guess who is behind the crimes, but there are also plenty of false leads so you will need to keep reading to the end to find out who - and why.

It is great to have Kava back with such an explosive book.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Ed by Paul Gravett - The Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comics

"This would make a perfect Christmas present for a crime fan with a penchant for the days of the noir thriller writers."

Synopsis:
Collected in this volume are comic stories from the likes of Alan Moore, Dashiell Hammett, Ed McBain, Mickey Spillane and Will Eisner. Artwork is by a number of celebrated artists, the most famous being Jack Kirby who invented so many Marvel characters like The Fantastic Four.

The book collects stories involving the 87th Precinct, Secret Agent X-9 and Ms. Tree. Most of the strips are from the 40's and 50's with gangsters and con artists galore with a few contemporary stories from the 80's and 90's.

Review:
With such luminaries as these gentlemen you would be hard pushed to resist this collection. There are excellent stories here involving murder and con artists from every walk of life. My favourites had to be the 87th Precinct which is a bizarre story. Although the author is classes as unknown, it has to be from the amazing imagination of McBain himself. Ms. Tree's story is violent and well told. But my favourite has to be the Kirby story, The Money-Making Machine Swindlers is a wonderful story of its time and extremely funny at explaining how some people can be taken for a ride by their own greed.

This would make a perfect Christmas present for a crime fan with a penchant for the days of the noir thriller writers. With all the big names in this book, this is a guaranteed winner.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Matthew Klein - Conned

"The plot just keeps twisting and turning..."

Synopsis:
Kip Largo, a veteran of Silicon Valley, has recently emerged from a jail term for security fraud. He used to be a master con-man, but now he's trying to go straight, working in a dry cleaners while running an internet vitamin business on the side. But when Lauren Napier, the wife of a big Las Vegas businessman, comes to him with a proposition to steal $20 million of her husband, Ed Napier's money, Kip can't resist the prospect of an artful con.

He recruits some friends: Jessica, a stripper turned porn producer, his wayward son, Toby and Peter, a brilliant college hacker. They convince Napier that they've developed software that predicts stock prices, and with the smell of so much money in the air, Napier can't wait to invest. But things don't go to plan - it quickly emerges that someone on the inside is feeding information to another party. The con's in tatters and Kip must fight to keep himself - and his son - alive.

Review:
The title and synopsis of this book did not really greatly entice me to want to read it. However, once I had read no more than a few pages I was unable to put the book down. It is packed with a great storyline, colourful characters and plenty of humour.

Kip Largo, the lead character, is quite a sad person. He has little to show for his 57 years of life, only a rented apartment, an ex-wife and a poor relationship with his son. Which is why, like any gambler, he is looking for the big win to 'make everything better'. All of the characters, whilst some more believable than others, have been brilliantly brought to life and Klein has created great empathy between the reader and those he writes about.

The plot just keeps twisting and turning until the very last page and it is impossible to guess who is being Conned by whom.

An excellent read that is thrilling and fun. Don't miss this one.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating: