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Reviews

April 2010

Brian McGilloway - The Rising

"In my opinion, it is his ability to get to the heart of this family man/ detective that raises Brian McGilloway’s writing above the pack. "

Synopsis:
When Garda Inspector Benedict Devlin is called out into the middle of the night to a burning barn, he finds inside the remains of a man who is soon identified as a local drug dealer, Martin Kielty. It quickly becomes clear that Kielty's death was no accident, and suspicion falls on a local vigilante group. These men were former paramilitaries, and they call themselves The Rising.

Meanwhile, Devlin's former colleague's teenage son has gone missing during a seaside camping trip. Devlin is relieved when the boy's mother, Caroline Williams, receives a text message from her son's phone, and so when a body is reported, washed up on a nearby beach, the inspector is confused.

When another drug dealer is killed, Devlin realises that the spate of deaths is more complex than simply an act of vigilantism. But just as it seems he is close to understanding events, a personal crisis will strike at the heart of Ben's own family, and he will be forced to confront the compromises his career has forced upon him.

Review:
This is the fourth book to feature Benedict Devlin and is sure to cement Brian McGilloway' s reputation in the annals of crime writing.

Never one to simply concoct a murder and apply a puzzle, McGilloway turns his keen eye to how Ireland has moved on from the troubles and if this isn't enough he pushes Devlin to the limit, stretching his family connections to breaking point.

In my opinion, it is his ability to get to the heart of this family man/ detective that raises Brian McGilloway's writing above the pack. And in The Rising, Devlin becomes a driven man as he fights to keep his family intact while tracking down a murderer. Not only does McGilloway up the emotional content he does so while managing to keep the story zipping along at a fair lick.

Guaranteed to satisfy his current fans and to garner him many more, The Rising is well worth your hard-earned.

Reviewed by: M.M.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Sara Paretsky - Hardball

"...a prime example of how quality crime can be written well and with yet contain a social message on the state of urban America."

Synopsis:
When VI Warshawski is asked to find a teenager who went missing during the civil rights riots in 1967, her first instinct is to refuse the case. Not only has too much time elapsed since the disappearance but the mother and aunt of the boy remain tight lipped about the circumstances of the vanishing. Was Lamont Gadsden a member of the infamous Anacondas gang for example? As usual, however, the case piques Warshawski's interest and she begins to peel away it's layers.

There are people who have never forgotten the young Lamont and are willing to hand over the little information that they have. However, attacks on her life and the death of an elderly nun soon convince her that there are people still alive today with a vested interest in keeping secret the truth about Lamont's disappearance.

When Petra, her glamorous cousin from Kansas, arrives in Chicago as a political intern secrets begin to emerge about Warshawski's family that she finds hard to credit. Can her moral policeman father really have been the bent cop that others are making him out to be? Determined to restore her father's reputation and find the elusive Petra, Warshawski is also forced to confront the buried grief for the loss of her mother who died when she was a teenager.

Review:
Sara Paretsky is a writer whose novels have developed and grown over the years. Whilst her early books were well written slices of Chicago criminality, over the years she has developed a keen sense of social justice and her novels have portrayed the issues of poverty, drug abuse and political corruption that allow the low life of Chicago to flourish. But it is all done with an air of intelligence so that the reader never feels preached at or deliberately educated on the subject.

The character of VI Warshawski does not apparently age in the books which is a mixed blessing. On one hand it allows the detective to go about her investigations with her trademark swagger and energy which would be hard to believe in an older detective. However, for Paretsky's loyal readers, we are beginning to overtake Warshawski in age and I don't think it would detract from the books to let her wonderful detective begin to feel her age a little too!

This is a substantial, well written book from one of America's leading crime writers. Even those new to Sara Paretsky could start with this novel as it is a prime example of how quality crime can be written well and with yet contain a social message on the state of urban America.

Reviewed by: S.W.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Alan Glynn - Winterland

"Winterland is engrossing, topical and highly memorable."

Synopsis:
It's a cold night in Dublin. A night in which two men with the same name, from the same family are killed. One death has all the hallmarks of a gangland murder; the other is apparently a road accident. The official line is that it all a horrible and tragic coincidence for the Rafferty family. But then a member of the extended family starts asking questions.

Gina Rafferty is devastated. Her grief, however, is tempered by anger. An anger which drives her on to ask more questions and the more people try to re-assure her that it was only a coincidence the less she is prepared to accept it.

The younger dead man was part of a Dublin gang; the older a prominent businessman in Ireland's burgeoning economy and the more that Gina digs the more she is convinced that somebody is hiding something.

Determined to get to the truth she approaches men who have connections with both of the deceased - on both sides of the law - and ends up pushing some very powerful and dangerous people to their limits.

Review:
The cover information for a book that mentions big business and gangs is one that would normally have me pass on it, so it was with less than positive expectations that I actually picked this one up. I couldn't have been more wrong. From the first line I was hooked.

Glynn's prose is engaging and evokes an atmosphere and characters that draw you effortlessly into the world of Winterland. This book is unusual in that you know from page 44 who the killer is and why, but in the author's skilled hands this does not detract from your reading experience; it simply racks up the tension.

Gina Rafferty is a wonderfully sympathetic character. Clever and intuitive, she quickly picks up on the contradictions of the situation. Initially, Gina is helpless and hapless in the face of all of these powerful men, but she refuses to give in. Her challenge and her growth into it are beautifully drawn by the author; her chutzpah and vulnerability pull you on side and act as the driver to push you hungrily through the story. Another author I urge you to watch out for.

Winterland is engrossing, topical and highly memorable.

Reviewed by: M.M.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Mark Billingham - Bloodline

"...Billingham is at the top of his game..."

Synopsis:
Billingham returns to familiar territory with Tom Thorne and his companions after a brief hiatus where he wrote the standalone thriller, Death Message.

DI Tom Thorne returns to what looks like an uncomplicated domestic murder. However upon finding an X-ray fragment in the victim's hand, the case takes a more sinister tone.

Thorne's investigation uncovers the fact that the victim's mother was murdered by a serial killer, Raymond Garvey, 15 years previously. The body count rises and Thorne is faced with the task of tracking down the killer before he manages to kill any more of Raymond Garvey's victim's children.

The killer turns out to be one of the most deranged that Thorne has ever had to face.

Review:
Mark Billingham is one of the UK's leading crime writers and he is on sparkling form here with one of the best crime thrillers of the year. The Tom Thorne novels are always gritty, touching, humourous and impossible to put down. Once again Billingham reaches the high standards set by his previous novels and this latest outing for Thorne is equally as good as any of it's predecessors.

Thorne has a personal tragedy hanging over him as he tackles this case, yet he does not allow himself to be distracted by a sense of grief that he does not know how to express.

All of the usual characters prominent in the Thorne books are present including Hendricks, Yvonne Kitson, DCI Brigstocke and Superintendent Trevor Jesmond who is on hand to frustrate and annoy Thorne with his career-minded strategies.

As you would expect from Mark Billingham all of the characters are beautifully depicted. even the killer's newsagent whose name we never learn! Thorne's emotions are the perfect playground for Billingham's talent as he raises strong emotions which will strike a chord with many a reader.

The plot is fairly straightforward without being simplistic and the book's greatest strength is the way it is character driven, rather than a series of bewildering high octane set pieces loosely threaded together. Do not expect to predict the end though, as there are still a few moments that leave you wondering “why didn't I see that coming” when you have all of the same information Thorne does.

Mark Billingham is at the top of his game with Bloodline. If anyone I cared about was murdered I would want Tom Thorne on the case.

Reviewed by: G.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Alafair Burke - City of Lies

"...a contemporary thriller..."

Synopsis:
Ellie Hatcher is the young, bright and beautiful detective who, along with her sharp dressing, upfront partner, J.J. Rogan, is called to a murder in the classy apartment of one of New York's big businessmen. She manages to upset him and this comes back to haunt her. She then becomes involved with the vicious murder of New York student Megan Gunther.

Gunther has been the subject of abuse on an internet site which appears to be able to spread malicious and dangerous gossip without comeback. When another young woman is discovered murdered, and there are phone connections to Megan's apartment, Ellie suspects a connection. This becomes an urgent problem when Megan's flatmate goes missing.

Things become even more convoluted when the businessman whose flat had been a murder site and a respected judge also are connected to the victims. Ellie has to work fast and with great courage to try to prevent further deaths.

Review:
Ellie Hatcher and J.J.Rogan are exciting and sympathetic heroes. Ellie is bright and uses her experience and intuition to second guess the bad guys.

This is a contemporary thriller with echoes of the wilder side of the internet fuelling the plot. Alafair Burke calls on her experience of criminal procedure and university life to give an authentic and exciting story a touch of class.

Written in a racy and fast moving style, the story relies heavily on the slang and shorthand of the New York Police department. This all contributes to the authenticity of the atmosphere and background, but it takes time for a reader on this side of the pond to tune in. I enjoyed Angel's Tip, the previous Ellie Hatcher story, but I enjoyed this even more as I felt the plot moved along quickly and was compulsive reading.

Yes, I am hooked and look forward to the next one.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Sam Hayes - Tell Tale

"...will be adding Sam Hayes to my 'must read' list."

Synopsis:
Tell Tale is a story of three strangers bound together by a shocking secret.

A woman stands on a bridge, the water rushing below. In a few seconds she will jump, plunging more than two hundred feet to her death. Who is she? And what has driven her to take her own life?

Nina Kennedy, a wife and mother, is afraid. A man is following her, threatening her family, toying with her sanity. What does he want? And how long will it be before he strikes?

Eight-year-old Ava is waiting for her daddy. But, just like the others in the children's home, her father never comes. The home is a place of whispers and shadows. But no one dare tell the truth. Until now…

Review:
Not ever having read a book by Sam Hayes before I had no expectations. I also did not read the synopsis so when the book was started I was unsure what was happening and how all the storylines and characters knitted together. I was therefore pleasantly surprised to find myself in a book that was impossible to put down.

Tell Tale will really put the mind in overdrive as you try to work out what is going on, who is guilty and who can be trusted

Although one part of the conclusion was a little predictable, in the main I had no idea what was going to happen and was so surprised I had to reread the passage as I thought I was mistaken. There was one inconsistency which was either left unexplained or was included to throw the reader off the scent but this is a small critcism for an otherwise cleverly written and well executed plot.

I am always excited when I 'discover' a new author whose books I enjoy and will be adding Sam Hayes to my 'must read' list.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Glenn Cooper - The Tenth Chamber

"Cooper...has shown a sublime skill in creating a story which reflects one of mankind’s greatest desires."

Synopsis:
A script from medieval times is found hidden behind a monastery bookcase. When it is sent to Paris for restoration by literary historian Hugo Pineau he discovers a startling tale dating back to the 14th century.

The tale tells of a hidden cave with painted walls somewhere close to the abbey. Pineau enlist archaeologist Luc Simard and the duo set off to discover the cave. They discover the cave which in turn leads to 9 other chambers, each decorated with ancient drawings. As chronicled in the manuscript there lies an extraordinary cave at the heart of the cave network.

Simard returns with a team of archaeologists to decipher and study the drawings. However dark forces are at work and one member of the team dies after another. Simard and co must get to the bottom of who is causing these deaths as they uncover the amazing secret held upon the cave's walls.

Review:
This is a particularly enjoyable novel from Cooper that has the reader surfing through time from the present day to the middle ages and beyond.

The characters involved in the novel are all beautifully crafted, as is the atmosphere of the various ages. There is a steady pace to the narrative which is neither breakneck nor plodding but moves seamlessly along throughout the different periods of history.

The basic premise varies greatly from previous novels yet he has shown a sublime skill in creating a story which reflects one of mankind's greatest desires. This is done in a respectful manner with obvious aforethought to the consequences of the dream becoming a reality.

The secret of the cave is known by a select few and Simard's struggle against these people and the groups they represent gives the story a real boost and makes it the wonderfully entertaining novel it is.

Reviewed by: G.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

John Macken - Control

"There is everything a crime fan could ask for here..."

Synopsis:
Two murder victims are found within two days of each other; both have had their fingertips brutally removed with a hacksaw before their deaths.

Dr Reuben Maitland returns to GeneCrime to lead the investigation into the “Fingertip Killer”. DNA and forensic evidence comes in and Maitland with the aid of his team set about trying to identify the killer.

However, the killer has other ideas and his next move is to kidnap Maitland's 2 year old son. The killer calmly calls Maitland and tells him to divert the investigation or his son will be the killer's next victim...

Review:
Forensic scientist Reuben Maitland's return to GeneCrime in this fourth instalment is a thoroughly thought provoking tome. What would any of us do in his position? Would we throw the case and let the killer murder at will, in the hope of getting our child back unharmed or would we have the courage to fight against the killer in the knowledge that we were condemning a child who has yet to really experience life.

The way that Macken handles such a thorny issue is a magnificent example of a skilled writer making a terrible predicament both believable and enjoyable. The old edict “We don't deal with terrorists” is the central theme but what would any father do? Personally I would hope that I have the courage to make the same choices as Maitland does.

The mains characters of Maitland, his estranged wife Lucy and Detective Veno (who is leading the search for the kidnapped Joshua) are very well depicted as are all of their emotions, especially the intense animosity between Maitland and Veno. There is everything a crime fan could ask for here; a brutal killer, a damaged hero, a twisting plot with false leads , superiors who force the hero outside the rules and of course a bloody finale.

Reviewed by: G.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Marek Krajewski - The End of the World in Breslau

"...more than a whiff of decadent pre-war Berlin..."

Synopsis:
Criminal Councillor Eberhard Mock's marriage is disintegrating. His beautiful wife, Sophie, is sick of being mistreated and has embarked on a series of sexual adventures with her friend Elisabeth. Mock is reluctant to admit to the end of his marriage so asks one of his subordinates to spy on the pair as they go about their adventures.

Mock, meanwhile, has more pressing matters. Throughout the city of Breslau a series of seemingly unconnected murders has been taking place. One man has been found bound and sealed alive within a wall, another quartered with his fingers severed. The only apparent connection between the two is that a page of a calendar is found beside each body with the day of the death marked in blood.

Following the final humiliation of Sophie, she flees her marriage and heads to Wiesbaden. There her situation worsens but everything is done to keep Mock in the dark until his investigation complete. Only then can he decide whether to patch up his failing marriage.

Review:
Once more Marek Krajewshi plunges us into the world of 1930s Breslau. The city has more than a whiff of decadent pre-war Berlin about it. Sexual experimentation and corruption combine to provide an explosive backdrop to the murder inquiry.

By far the most interesting part of the book is the disintegration of Mock's marriage. Mock is a completely unsympathetic figure. He beats his wife, shows remorse and then beats her again. The final act of violence is horrific and the reader - without a doubt - will side with the promiscuous Sophie.

Like his previous book the story is told in flashback and this works well in terms of overall plot. It is clear from the beginning that the marriage between Sophie and Mock doesn't survive and the reader is therefore free to concentrate on the murder investigation. This part of the story takes a while to warm up but becomes more interesting as the book progresses.

A good, if unusual, read.

Reviewed by: S.W.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Matthew Reilly - The Five Greatest Warriors

"Jack West Jnr is a marvellous character who is part Indiana Jones, part Robert Langdon and part Rambo."

Synopsis:
A race against time and other coalitions sees Captain Jack West Jnr battle to save the world from a global catastrophe as predicted and safe guarded against by ancient civilisations. To do this six diamond bricks must be placed into the slots on six inverted bronze pyramids by a certain date - or planet Earth will be destroyed.

The six bricks are hidden around the world - as are the six pyramids. West and his team have to uncover the clues that lead them to the diamond bricks and the pyramids whilst battling hostile forces which comprise alternatively of Jack's father, a member of the British royal family, a Japanese professor and a Russian spymaster among others.

Allegiances shift back and forward as each group try to win the race to each pyramid as each places brick imbues a special ability into the person who places it into the pyramid. If anyone can save the earth then whoever does so will almost certainly inherit it.

The book starts where its predecessor Six Secret stones ended with Jack and his fathers opposing forces battling at the site of the second pyramid.

Review:
This is a strap yourself into your seat, rollercoaster-ride of a book which admittedly has little real crime investigation but boasts an inordinate amount of puzzles. For example, where are the next sites or stones to be found, whose loyalty can be trusted, what booby traps are in place at each location?

I have read most of Matthew Reilly's books over the years and there are few other authors who can write a story which moves so quickly. Jack West Jnr is a marvellous character who is part Indiana Jones, part Robert Langdon and part Rambo. He has a great supporting cast with his loyal team and some wonderfully despicable foes, but he himself carries this story over his shoulder like a wounded colleague.

The action pieces come thick and fast with the right balance of description and room for the reader's imagination. This book is cleverly put together and Reilly's taut prose does not give you much time to catch your breath before the adventures start again.

Not a book for many hardened crime fans but an excellent foray for the rest of us who like a bit of adventure with our crime mysteries. If this book was a Hollywood film it would be like a Bond or Bourne movie where the action was as important as any other part and far more important than some.

Reviewed by: G.S.

CrimeSquad Rating: