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Reviews

January 2011

Stuart MacBride - Shatter the Bones

"...one of the best 5 books I have read in the last year."

Synopsis:
Mother and daughter, Amanda & Jenny McGregor have made it through to the semi-finals of TV's latest singing contest Britain's Next Big Star. Then they are abducted and the message goes out in all the papers, on TV, on the internet. The public has 14 days to raise a ransom, if they fail, Jenny dies. No amount is specified but the popular duo are the nations latest darlings, and the money starts to come flooding in.

DS Logan McRae is working the case under the pressure of time constraints and the high media profile of the case. The public are roused and want action. Fast. Time is running out, yet McRae and his colleagues have no leads and forensic evidence is non existent. The investigation is going nowhere which makes the price of fame seem that much higher...

Review:
Once again the ever frustrated McRae returns to lead the line for the Aberdeen police force. Surrounded by incompetents and idiots, he has to battle against protocol, self serving opportunists and sexually frustrated tyrants. But enough about his police colleagues, he is up against unknown abductors who leave no discernible clues and are forensically aware enough to stay ahead of the police. Throw in some junkie drug dealers, a crime lord and a long list of sex offenders to add to the mix and you can see why his frustration can boil over when let down by his colleagues.

McRae himself is by no means perfect and does make mistakes as well, but his seems to be the one sane voice in an insane world. As with any established character, the author has to work that little bit harder to keep him interesting. Methinks Stuart MacBride likes hard work, as new depths attributed to McRae and even the wonderfully incorrigible DI Steel emerge, which are wholly in-keeping with where their characters are based. This keeps the characters fresh and further fleshes out their respective identities. I have often waxed lyrical about DI Steel in the past and will refrain from doing so today, other than to say that she is one of the finest support characters in modern crime fiction.

The plot is sumptuous in its elegance and the very thought of kidnapping reality TV stars gives me goose pimples (regular readers of my reviews, will recognise my disdain for such televisual wastelands). From the first line to the last there is a sense of urgency throughout the proceedings that never slows and steadily increases. This is a new string to the author's bow as I cannot recall any of his earlier works being set against such a deadline.

However for me the biggest star of the book was the prose. MacBride's writing is as spartan as a hermit's address book. The prose isn't pared to the bone, it's pared right down to the marrow, there is absolutely no “scaffolding” or extraneous text to be found. He wastes barely a syllable and relies on his own sense of character's voice and the intelligence of the reader to carry the story without unnecessary explanation. On a few occasions he had me laughing aloud with a simple 3 or 4 word sentence and one line in particular is worth twice the books cover price, such is its devastating accuracy against a very well known show.

At times the whole atmosphere is very grim and macabre yet never does it overpower the reader, as DI Steel or a well timed observation can lighten the atmosphere. McRae's deductive reasoning's are coming more to the fore of dialogue and the introduction of the SOCA Superintendant Green was a cunning piece of writing as it allows McRae and his colleague a wee bit of an 'us and them' mentality.

Without a doubt Shatter The Bones is one of the best 5 books I have read in the last year.

Reviewed by: G.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Gregg Hurwitz - You're Next

"...another superb thriller from Hurwitz. "

Synopsis:
'I know you, don't I?'

Five words - that's all it takes to plunge Mike Wingate and his family into mortal danger. Mike doesn't recognise the crippled stranger who approaches him at a party... but the stranger seems to know all about him. What has Mike done? Do they have the wrong man?

Overnight, the threats become attacks, and Mike, his wife, and their young daughter learn they aren't safe anywhere - especially not their own home. He doesn't know who they are. He doesn't know what they want. But there's no time to figure it out - because his enemies have killed before, and he's next.

Review:
This is another superb thriller from Hurwitz. A mix of the generic ordinary guy takes on unknown bad men to save his life and that of his family, with a hint of rags to riches to the plot. However, the two main characters, Mike and Shep, more than make up for the lack of originality in the storyline. And whilst the story kept moving and there was a good level of tension within the book, I was a little disappointed when the reason why Mike was being hunted was finally revealed.

Hurwitz is a master at creating standalone novels and making the characters feeling like friends by the end of the books. Plenty of action, but also with depth of emotion. Another great read.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

J A Kerley - Buried Alive

"Ryder returns in Buried Alive."

Synopsis:
Soon after witnessing the escape of violent psychopath Bobby Crayline from prison, Alabaman detective Carson Ryder takes a rare break in the mountains. But his vacation is interrupted when an anonymous phone call summons him to the scene of a grisly murder. With more savage killings, and the heavy-handed FBI only inflaming the situation, Ryder and local detective Donna Cherry sift through the increasingly bizarre clues. Is there more than one killer on the loose? And how does Carson's clinically insane brother, Jeremy, now on the run, fit into the picture? It is down to Ryder to unearth horrors from the past that others believe should remain buried.

Review:
Ryder returns in Buried Alive. He is supposed to be on holiday, but as with most fictional (and possibly many real life) policemen, he is never off duty and finds himself in the middle of a murder case, with his brother Jeremy seemingly involved.

I find the relationship between brothers both strange and entertaining. On one hand Ryder is a policeman, bound to uphold the law, but when it comes to his brother, despite him being a murderer and wanted by the police, he is unable to turn him into the authorities. The relationship and dialogue between them brings some humour to the book and it is easy to forget Jeremy's capabilities as a sadistic killer.

The case itself has quite a convoluted plot and will keep the reader guessing who the killer is and why they are doing it. There is plenty of action and the book is kept at a fast pace, although I found Ryder's obsession and the constant reference to his dog somewhat irritating at time.

With developing relationships within the book, who knows where Ryder will be seen next? I for one will be welcoming his return as he is an interesting character and with his brother, brings a unique element to the thriller storylines.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Boyd Morrison - The Noah's Ark Quest

"...a melange of Lara Croft, Clive Cussler and Matthew Reilly which races the reader through set pieces like Michael Schumacher."

Synopsis:
Archaeologist Dilara Kenner's father disappeared but before his disappearance he left her clues as to the whereabouts of Noah's Ark. One of the most fabled biblical stories of all time which has possessed mankind for generations. Aided by former army engineer, Tyler Locke, she embarks on a crusade to find the Ark and discover who was behind her father's disappearance.

From oil rigs to plane crashes, to a sinister cult's HQ in the Arizona desert, to mount Ararat the action rages across the globe as the protagonist's, race to uncover hidden truths.

Review:
The Noah's Ark Quest is like The Da Vinci Code on speed. It is a melange of Lara Croft, Clive Cussler and Matthew Reilly which races the reader through set pieces like Michael Schumacher. There is something for everyone in this high octane adventure which sees our daring heros take on the might of a megalomaniac who possesses not only delusion but a weapon that can destroy mankind.

Dilara Kenner is an able character who only realises her limitations when she is teamed with Tyler Locke, the real hero of the show. An interesting back story makes Locke more humane than a lot of his contemparies, although his friend Grant Westfield can easily steal the show from under him.

This is the kind of book where you suspend belief and allow yourself to be carried along for the ride. If you find you pick holes in novels then don't buy this book. If you want to be transported into a fantastic adventure and have your known beliefs questioned as they were by Dan Brown, rush to a book shop now.

I for one, want to read the next Tyler Locke adventure now, but goodness knows how he going to progress from this book.

Reviewed by: G.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

C J West - The End of Marking Time

"Written entirely in the first person the prose is delicate, direct and manipulative at times ..."

Synopsis:
Michael O'Connor is a career criminal who has spent years honing his burglary skills. He has become so skilled at his craft he can enter your home, watching and waiting until you fall asleep. His fence for credit cards turns him in to protect his own skin and Michael is plunged into the justice system. However, changes are afoot and before long the Supreme Court rules that incarceration is no longer the way to deal with criminals and releases 2 million prisoners onto Americas streets.

Crime soars and honest law-abiding citizens have to barricade themselves into their homes for their own safety. The new system isn't working either until Wendell Cummings proposes the idea of re-education. His methods are brutal, inhumane and violate virtually every right of the prisoner. The public are in favour of the new scheme as criminals now have something far more terrifying than jail to fear and crime levels drop to almost unprecedented lows.

O'Connor was comatose when all the changes went through and he is the last felon to be released into the re-education program. The story starts with him standing in front of a one way mirror telling his tale to unseen jurors who have a red and a green button to press. The green button will release him and the red button will seal his fate…

Review:
The End of Marking Time is a deeply thought provoking tome which has excellent insights and a strong central message about the competencies of the prison system. O'Connor goes to jail with the usual fears of rape, beatings and general incarceration. Before he can enter into the jail he winds up in a coma, and upon awakening from the coma he finds that the world and especially the prison system has changed beyond recognition. I am sure that he as a criminal would sooner have the old system as the new is far more brutal than the old system.

Written entirely in the first person the prose is delicate, direct and manipulative at times as you are given the offenders eye view of the re-education program. Emotions are drawn out by West as he forces you to empathise with and like O'Connor. He doesn't seem the worst criminal ever, he doesn't use violence or steal from the poor and his logical processes on the dynamics of his trade make for marvellous reading. He is a character who has the strength to carry the story effortlessly and his self-awareness and personal history are apparent at all times. I suspect he is deliberately clichéd as to be a stereotypical offender of the type do-gooders want to hug and give second to nineteenth chances to. Other characters such as Cummings, Charlotte, the odious Dr Blake, Nick and little Jonathan all add to the story in their own way but make no mistake this book is about Michael O'Connor and the justice system. Everybody else who features is simply a tool or device to make the story work.

I loved this book and the way it made me root for someone who I knew I shouldn't like. The pace is steady as each little scenario is drawn out in turn, never frantic and never plodding, there is enough time to subliminally analyse each chapter with a final realisation coming as the book is laid down for the final time. The debate on the prison system and its effectiveness is neatly sidestepped by simply creating a new world order which will appall and delight readers depending on their personal point of view. If this is CJ West's idea of just punishment, then by crikey I bet his kids do as they are told.

Should this book make it to Hollywood, then I urge West to hold out for an actor as talented as a young De Niro or Pacino to play the lead and then he could sit back and wait for the awards to come flooding in.

Powerful, thought provoking and massively entertaining are the words I would use to best describe this book.

Reviewed by: G.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Bill Vidal - The Aztec

"A barnstorming tale of international espionage..."

Synopsis:
As Franco's Nationalists march on Madrid in 1936 in the early stage of the Spanish Civil War, the government evacuates the country's gold reserves to Russia for safe keeping. However 7,900 crates of bullion leave Cartagna and only 7,800 arrive in Russia. The missing gold would be worth over $200 million in today's market.

In 2004 Jack Hadley - a British professor at the University of Salamanca - his girlfriend Mercedes and the mysterious civil servant Rosa Uribe are arrested on drugs charges after an evening of celebration. Hadley is offered a reprieve by the Spanish Secret Service who enlist him to locate the missing gold. Rather than face disgrace, prison and the ruining of his career Hadley agrees.

Before his arrest he was scheduled to meet with the reclusive revolutionary Jesus Florin who is known to intelligence officers as The Aztec. His undercover operation is to learn what he can about The Aztec's part in the missing 100 crates of gold and, if possible, their whereabouts.

Review:
A barnstorming tale of international espionage sees protagonists old and young, experienced and naïve face off in a multilayered tome which has no clear lines between good and evil with only one morally decent character who acts for nobodies interests except the preservation of the status quo in his life. Action ranges across time, countries and continents as Vidal jumps back and forth continually winding in fiction, fact and historical characters and events as he goes.

This is not strictly speaking Bill Vidal's first novel, but it the first to come to our attention and I feel he deserves a mention as a Fresh Blood author such is the quality of his writing. The prose is wonderfully tight, the plot is believable and marvellously intricate whilst the characters are all depicted in a way that leaves the reader guessing as to whether they are good people, patriotic citizens or evil opportunists. The main characters are Hadley, Mercedes, The Aztec, Rosa and Pinto who is the man to enlist Hadley to his cause. Each one contributes something different to the novel with their differing aims, ideals and morality; although the book is aptly named as The Aztec dominates all proceedings by his very presence alone.

The twists and turns of this book had me walking the thin line between confusion and appreciation of a fine mind flexing its muscles and inspiring others to do the same. I finished firmly in the appreciation camp although I have to say that if you choose to buy and read The Aztec, then prepare some “me” time, You will get far more from it reading in no more than 5 sittings than you would if you keep picking it up and putting it down again. It was on the very last pages before everything came together and the different factions, double agents and mercenary minds were all explained and a fantastic conclusion tied up all the loose ends.

The Aztec will be a huge hit for fans of the modern spymasters such as Alex Berenson and Robert Ludlum as the spy's playground of the European cold war is deftly avoided and instead an alternative is found.

Reviewed by: G.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Tony Park - Silent Predator

"...good old fashioned escapism. "

Synopsis:
Protection Officer Tom Furey has been assigned British Defence Minister Robert Greeves to protect on one of his frequent visits to Africa. He is replacing the missing Nick Roberts, erstwhile friend and now good time high living bachelor.

In South Africa Tom is working with the attractive inspector, Sannie Von Rensberg. When Greeves is abducted, along with his devoted policy advisor, Bernard Joyce, Furey feels responsible and takes off immediately after the abductors. He doesn't find them but does find the beginnings of a trail. The high profile of Greeves means that all available resources are employed including Special Forces and counter intelligence. When a video is discovered showing Greeves' murder and also that of former bodyguard Nick Roberts, Furey is facing dismissal in disgrace.

Helped by Sannie Van Rensberg, Tom pursues the killers relentlessly through dangerous bush country. The suspected band of terrorists stop at nothing to get their way and threaten the lives and happiness of those close to Tom. When the denouement is reached, all proves not to have been as it first seemed.

Review:
This book has a fast moving and racy plot which holds the interest. Set in the warmth of Africa it is a good book for some good old fashioned escapism.

Tony Park obviously enjoys Africa and his enthusiasm is infectious. There is plenty of action and. excitement both from the conflict with the crooks and from the danger found in the bush. I enjoyed the in depth local colour in descriptions of Kruger and Mozambique. I found it a little formulaic in that some of the interaction between Tom and Sannie seemed a little stilted. It is, however, a good holiday read and a bit of escapism in the winter cold.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Dave Zeltzerman - Outsourced

"“Reservoir Geeks”"

Synopsis:
Dan, Shrini, Joel and Gordon are all unemployed software engineers who lost their jobs due to outsourcing. They have no job prospects and no income, but they do have a plan. They are going to protect their middle-class lives by using their computer skills to execute a daring robbery of a bank.

However not even Dan, the systems analyst, can foresee all the eventualities, especially since they have involved two different Mafia groups.

Review:
Dan is the lead character in this bunch of middle age misfits who all want to take part in the heist for varying reasons. Dan is a family man on the verge of bankruptcy; Shrini wants a large payday before returning to India for an arranged marriage so he can set up a good business there. Joel just wants more money and sex-obsessed Gordon wants enough money to buy a wife over the internet.

The unlikely band of blaggers end up hunted by detective Alex Resnick and Petrenko the Russian mobster. Other key characters are Dan's wife Carol, the odious bank manager Craig Brown and local Mafioso boss Raymond Lombardo. Having to deceive his wife gives Dan a massive guilt trip as he knows he stands to lose her and his two children if she gets wind of what he is up to. The reader gets embroiled in his turmoil as he fights to keep the plan together and on track whilst juggling a home life as well. Resnick also has emotional turmoil and this is handled with a very sensitive touch by the author. The prose is blunt and to the point with few flowery phrases. Instead it says what it needs to, and then moves on to the next topic.

The whole plot of the book is very well scripted and the ingenious plan concocted by Dan and Shrini will give any bankers who read this nightmares. As ever though plans that look good on paper rarely work so well when executed and the maelstrom of events which the robbery sets into action are both hilarious and dramatic.

If I was asked to use two words to describe Outsourced they would have to be “Reservoir Geeks”. Zeltserman himself is aware of the similarities and even goes so far as to doff his cap to Tarantino's film. All in all I found Outsourced a thoroughly enjoyable novel which enthralled me.

Reviewed by: G.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

David Hewson - The Blue Demon

"Hewson’s supreme knack is that he makes each situation seem plausible to both character and reader alike..."

Synopsis:
Rome is the victim of terror attacks and Nic Costa and his colleagues are tasked with tracking down the terrorists. The terrorists appear to be a reincarnation of a mysterious group called the Blue Demon who were most prominent 20 years ago.

As the leaders of the G8 descend on Rome for a summit at the Quirinale Palace a politician is discovered after his seemingly ritual murder. A young man dressed as an Etruscan god is found at the crime scene holding a bloody knife.

Rome descends into martial law as the army and police throw a ring of steel around the politicians. Costa and co are personally requested by Italy's President to investigate matters, despite being officially taken off the case by their superiors.

Review:
David Hewson has branched out Nic Costa into another avenue this time as there is much political intrigue and sub-plots running through the novel. Hewson's supreme knack is that he makes each situation seem plausible to both character and reader alike, despite both having doubts about whether it is the correct course of action.

All the usual characters you would expect to find in a Nic Costa book are there with one or two additions such as the Italian President, Dario Sordi and Mirko Oliva. Nic's father Marco also hangs heavy in this tale as he was one of the people who investigated the Blue Demons 20 years ago.

The novel is beautifully constructed in a style which demands that you pay attention and concentrate on the events of each page as the labyrinthine convolutions of Italian politics and international espionage that take place will bewilder the inattentive reader. It is a book for a favoured armchair on a rainy day, not something you would read on the tube or the train. The Blue Demon requires your complete concentration and rewards it by being a crackingly good crime/political thriller written by a master craftsman.

The level of knowledge David Hewson displays for Rome and Italian history must hint at a love affair with the country and its capital or one hell of a lot of research.

Reviewed by: G.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Kevin Lewis - Scent of a Killer

"...very easy to read..."

Synopsis:
The headless corpses of three men are found in a London side street. Their mutilated torsos are witness to an unspeakably agonizing death. It becomes chillingly clear that this discovery is a horrific message to the Metropolitan Police - and to one officer in particular. DI Stacey Collins finds herself on the hunt for a psychopathic killer. But it would seem that this is no ordinary homicide! All the victims had themselves been predators, terrorizing the innocent. Is this a twisted vigilante mission, or something far more sinister?

Meanwhile, Collins must battle her own demons as the MET's Internal Affairs department investigate her past and her connections to London's underworld. Collins faces her toughest challenge yet - torn between justice and revenge.

Review:
Scent of a Killer was the first novel by Kevin Lewis that I had read. Unfortunately I read the title of the book incorrectly which meant that I inadvertently guessed who the killer was (and until I realised what the correct title of the book was, thought that it gave the plot away!) Although I had a lucky guess early on as to who the killer really is, there are few suspects to choose from and no real twist to the plot.

The characters lack any real depth and seemed to me to be somewhat unrealistic (as was the plot). Whilst this review seems to verge on the negative side, I did actually enjoy this book and was keen to know how it finished. I found Lewis's writing style very easy to read and follow and continuation from one chapter to another flowed well. To me, this was almost a paradox of books as it lacked any real substance but was also a great read that I could not put down.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Craig Russell - The Valkyrie Song

"...dark, gritty and enthralling."

Synopsis:
Eighties pop sensation Jake Westland is murdered in Hamburg's red light district. Before he died he passed on a message from his killer to the police - “the angel is back”. Jan Fabel and his team of Murder Commission detectives are tasked with solving the case which almost mirrors killing conducted by an unknown assassin many years previously.

Fabel's team soon learn of more murders as a journalist and a Serbian gangster are added to the growing body count. As they race to apprehend the killers they are drawn into an international web of intrigue from where it emerges that there is more than one killer loose. In the former East Germany, the Stasi had initiated a Cold War program to train teenage girls to become ruthless killers. There were only three who made the grade and Fabel and co have to track down the paymaster as well as the unidentified girls before there is even more of a bloodbath...

Review:
This is an extremely well written novel, the style of prose is tight and punchy, with each passage you are drawn ever further into the story's many twists and turns. His merciless killers are a joy to read about and every aspect of his characters is very cleverly displayed. The Valkyrie Song is dark, gritty and enthralling.

Fabel is a marvellous lead to the story and his endearingly straightforward manner is so perfectly portrayed by the author's descriptive and emotive writing that, although I have never read a Jan Fabel novel, I felt as if I had been reading about him for years. I shall certainly be on the look out for any further Jan Fabel books.

The setting of Hamburg is an unusual choice, yet it works very well as it is not a place like Rome, Venice or Paris which many of us have a preconceived idea or personal experience of. Instead it is a fresh canvas for the author and he gets to explore ideals and philosophies which date back to the cold war as well as modern trends.

The plot, while labyrinthine and convoluted, is not too hard to follow if you can devote sufficient time and attention to it. This is not a book you can easily pick up and read 3 or 4 pages at a time. It demands your full attention and to do it justice you must read it in sizeable blocks to receive the full pleasure it has to offer. Too many little nibbles will leave the reader confused as there is a large population of characters to be kept up with and the plot twists need the same attentive reading. Great for the beach but not so good for short commutes.

Reviewed by: G.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Michael Gregorio - Unholy Awakening

"...literary magic"

Synopsis:
The corpse of a local woman is found at the bottom of a well. Her neck has been punctured and all of her blood has been drained from the pair of holes. Lotingen's procurator Hanno Stiffeniis is called to investigate a case which could be more fearsome than simple murder. Why would a human choose such a gruesome method of murder?

Emma Rimmele has travelled with her deranged father to inter her mother's coffin in the local cemetery. When the corpse is found on the grounds of her home the beautiful newcomer is instantly the source of all local gossip and speculation reaches fever pitch in an instant. When two other similar murders occur fingers are pointed at her along with accusation of being a vampire.

When word travels from a nearby farm that a French Officer has had his throat ripped out and another has bled to death then Colonel Lavedrine from Napoleon's Grand Armee is sent to investigate both matters with Stiffeniis.

Review:
Set in Napoleonic times Unholy Awakening has a real sense of time and place and this is achieved by the co-authors deft touch. Somehow they say very little about the settings, locations and ambience, yet the reader is transported back almost 200 years to a very different world. Quite how they have managed to do this I cannot explain other than to say it must be some kind of literary magic.

Stiffeniis is a finely moral character who has to fight the superstitions and beliefs of the local townspeople as well as tackling a killer who is striking without impunity. Lavedrine is both a help and a hindrance as he assumes the role of lead investigator from the Prussian procurator. Sometimes he uses his influence to gain advantage yet at other times he uses Stiffeniis as a distraction while going his own way. Emma Rimmele is a marvellously depicted character who adds much to the novel.

With the shadow of his own dead child weighing him down Stiffeniis has to dig deep into his own reserves. He must crack this case before complete hysteria overtakes the town of Lotingen. Vampires are quite the in thing in some quarters yet Gregorio manages to avoid the usual clichés and add their own twist to events in a plot which weaves and wends its way through Napoleonic Prussia.

While neither historical or vampire novels are my first choice of reading matter, I found this Unholy Awakening both entertaining and utterly readable.

Reviewed by: G.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Adrian Magson - Death on the Marais

"With rare panache, Magson weaves a complicated tale; simply told and very well written. "

Synopsis:
It is France, 1963. Inspector Lucas Rocco, a dedicated but maverick cop has been reassigned from Paris to the French outback: Poissons-Les-Marais, Picardie through an 'initiative' throughout the police force. Embittered that he has been 'demoted', Rocco begins his sojourn in the small village as he imagines nothing will happen in such a remote area. It is not long before Rocco is proved very wrong.

A young woman is found dead in the local cemetery, clothed in a Nazi uniform. As anti-German feelings still have a voice so soon after the Second World War, Rocco immediately begins his investigation. However, he finds he is under the jurisdiction of his old army CO, Commissaire Massin, who is no more pleased than Rocco to see who the new Inspector is. With the body of the woman spirited away before he can open his investigation, Rocco soon finds out the identity of the woman and that her father holds a lot of sway with the police and politicians. Despite setting his sights on the family of the dead woman, Rocco finds that a lot of ill feeling has been bubbling under the surface for many years in this tiny village – and now it is all about to explode.

Review:
This first instalment of a planned series is a marvellous start. Magson is accomplished enough to set the scene from the start - and also the time period. It is amazing that a policeman would have to wait and bribe his way to get a telephone installed in case of emergencies. But this is 1963 and it appears that what is classed as a priority today was anything but back then! With rare panache, Magson weaves a complicated tale; simply told and very well written.

Inspector Lucas Rocco seems an unlikely 'hero', but with his dark looks and broad shoulders you feel he will be getting the attention of several women in future cases. Magson certainly has done his homework and you can feel he has a love for the area which seeps out from the descriptions of the French countryside. I was transported to France while reading this book and read voraciously until the end. A brilliant beginning and I certainly look forward to Rocco's next case.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Sheila Quigley - Thorn In My Side

"I loved Thorn In My side so much, that I’m now heading off to barricade Sheila Quigley into her office until she gives me the next instalment of Yorke and Smiler... "

Synopsis:
DI Mike Yorke is returning home after three months undercover in London. But he is barely off the train in his native North East before being plunged into his career's most bizarre case.

A sadistically flogged corpse, children going missing all along the A1, new street drugs with horrific effects and a buried secret that affects the whole social climate of the world. Mike has to battle to overcome the odds and solve the crimes in front of him - all the while being urged on by “Smiler”, a psychic street kid brought back from his sojourn to London.

Review:
Sheila Quigley has taken brave steps away from the comfort zone of her Seahills Estate and starts off a new series with Thorn In My Side. If this is what she does away from her comfort zone then I for one say, “never let her get comfortable again!”. She has created a wonderful melange of situations and characters that can only be enjoyed and lauded. It's all here, international conspiracy, local crimes, depraved megalomaniacs, troubled heroes and helpless victims. She steps into territory more frequently trodden by authors such as Mo Hayder and John Connelly, yet she is neither out of place or the poor relative at the table in this esteemed company.

Mike Yorke is an able lead, yet the role of DI has been used so often that authors now really have to come up with some new twist to make them unique. Quigley hasn't worried herself too much about this, Yorke is a decent guy who brooks no nonsense, is single with an eye for the ladies, is properly moralistic and has a troubled past which is hinted at. If this doesn't sound familiar then you can't have read many crime novels. If it does, don't worry, because the clairvoyant street kid known simply as "Smiler" steals more scenes than John Wayne, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino combined. He is an absolutely fabulous creation who is, without doubt, the best new character I have met this year (and bear in mind I read at least 2 books a week!). Aunt May is also a joy to behold and I can already identify people that I know in her, which is surely the mark of a believable character.

The action is frantic yet never forced and the plot encompasses all manner of things which become a mere playground for Quigley to exercise her literary talent. Some parts are grittier than a shale beach, others as tender as a baby's cuddle. Never, though, does she get carried away and wander off subject. The prose is tight and true to the pace of the moment. The plot becomes clearer as the novel progresses, but do not read with complacency as you will get your fingers burnt. The book ends with a wonderful set piece which will leave readers both wanting more - and still guessing.

I loved Thorn In My side so much, that I'm now heading off to barricade Sheila Quigley into her office until she gives me the next instalment of Yorke and Smiler... Is this a new genre? The serial-fan? If so, be afraid...

Reviewed by: G.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Mark Timlin - Stay Another Day

"Thanks to Timlin’s stripped bare writing the plot thumps away, leaving the nonsense out and getting down and dirty without any apologies."

Synopsis:
Nick Sharman has been living in 'exile' on a Caribbean island for some years. He doesn't miss his life back in the UK and has settled nicely into the lazy days the island offers. That is until he gets a phone call from daughter, Judith, who desperately needs his help. Her 'snout' has been killed and she has got the blame. She needs her father to help her out of this mess.

Flying into a freezing cold, pre-Christmas London, Sharman begins his quest to clear Judith's name. Along the way he meets some very shady characters and gets into a heap of trouble. As always, nothing is as crystal clear as Sharman thinks.

Review:
'Stay Another Day' has the hallmark of a good Timlin crime novel. Without hesitation or endless pages of 'waffle', he nails any scenario, any scene or any character to the door with simple but very effective prose. Thanks to Timlin's stripped bare writing the plot thumps away, leaving the nonsense out and getting down and dirty without any apologies. Sharman, even though older and wiser still has cast iron balls and demonstrates this by simply 'getting on with the job in hand'.

Timlin brings back some old faces from Sharman's past and it all appears that all the lads are back in action - but like Sharman, Timlin takes no prisoners and soon there is a lot of blood spilt. I couldn't put this book down – my bed was calling but I had to get to the end – and what an end. There is an explosive climax that will shock you, and as with any brilliant crime novel, it leaves you thinking about it many days later. This novel certainly played with my emotions when I had finished it. 'Stay Another Day' is nothing short of sheer brilliance. Read it.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Jill Paton Walsh - The Attenbury Emeralds

"The leap of imagination that delivers the Wimsey household into a more modern world is brilliant. "

Synopsis:
It is 1951 and Lord Peter Wimsey, now happily married and a proud paterfamilias, is recounting to his wife, novelist Harriet Vane, the story of his first entry into the world of detection. As a young man, returned from the trenches of the First World War and suffering from a degree of shock, he is slowly brought back to normality by investigating the disappearance of the fabulous Attenbury emerald. As an insider in the aristocratic world he has an advantage over the unimaginative Inspector Sugg, but he also employs his great intelligence and sensitivity, as well as his resourceful butler, Bunter, to recover the missing jewel.

Then the new Lord Attenbury, grandson of the original, seeks Wimsey's help in discovering the true owner of the emerald now held in bank vaults. These days this is important in settling massive death duties. Lord Peter traces the history of the jewel since he last saw it in 1921 and in doing so uncovers a complicated web of lies and deceit, with many passionate motives hidden beneath the surface.

Review:
For any lover of Dorothy Sayers' detective, it is sheer pleasure to catch up with Lord Peter as he settles into the new world of the fifties. In many ways he is happy to adapt to the new atmosphere of austerity and lack of automatic respect for the aristocracy. However, he still lives a very comfortable life attended by the inestimable Bunter, aided by Mrs Bunter. Wimsey considers Bunter his friend and respects him hugely, but Bunter is aware that there is still not absolute equality and his clever son, Peter, will have to make his own way in the world based on his merits, albeit with help from his Etonian education.

The portrayal of Lord Peter as an erudite and profoundly knowledgeable chap who wears his learning lightly remains true to Dorothy Sayers creation. The leap of imagination that delivers the Wimsey household into a more modern world is brilliant. The seamless development of the story is beautifully integrated into Wimsey's past cases and makes it very easy to forget that it is not Dorothy L. Sayers writing.

This is an absolute masterpiece and I must go back to the two previous novels by Jill Paton Walsh that I have inexplicably missed.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating: