The Samurai InheritanceApril 1943 – A Mitsubishi transport plane plunges from the sky over the island of Bougainville. On board is Admiral Isoruku Yamamoto, architect of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. In a document case chained to his wrist is the greatest secret of the Second World War – a revelation with the potential to change the world if it is ever revealed.

December 2011 – Art recovery expert Jamie Saintclair celebrates the return of a Vermeer painting to its rightful owner, and the day turns even better when he’s offered a lucrative commission. Not much can surprise Jamie, but he blinks when mining tycoon Keith Devlin reveals the object he wants him to find. How did the preserved head of a Solomon Island warrior end up in a German museum? And how is he supposed to discover what happened to it in 1945?

The search takes Jamie from Berlin to Tokyo and with every turn the significance of the Bougainville skull becomes ever greater. Soon he realizes he’s become involved in something much more important than finding a lost piece of history. Three thousand miles away, the answer lies in airless jungles that have already swallowed up one terrible conflict and are now being torn by a war the world isn’t meant to know about . . .

Konnichiwa readers! I absolutely loved this book, loved it! Great characters, wonderful locations and a plot that will keep you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end, if you’re like me then you’ll struggle to put this down even for a nanosecond.

I’ve always been a sucker for Japanese history, especially in the 1940’s, and although we only get a snippet of the historic events that occurred, James Douglas has blended fact and fiction incredibly well in the latest Jamie Saintclair adventure. I’ve not had chance to read any of his other books but on the strength of this one alone I have no doubt I will read his back catalogue.

The Island of Bougainville comes alive in so many ways and if you’re looking for a holiday destination that includes dense jungles, shark infested coastlines and idyllic beaches then look no further. I should also add that there are a number of armed men waiting to kill at a moment’s notice and an island full of snakes – surely that’s enough to make you want to go? If not, you can read about the island and her inhabitants from the safety of an armchair and avoid the pitfalls the island offers!

Saintclair is a terrific character and a protagonist you’d happily spend countless hours down the pub listening to his adventures and his knowledge. There’s nothing better than a protagonist that knows who he is and what’s important to him and his family. He’s strong, opinionated and his determination to succeed unrivalled. Add to the mix a vivacious and attractive partner and you have all the bases covered.

That’s about all I’m going to say about The Samurai Inheritance, an adventure this good really doesn’t need any publicity! Brilliant. 鮮やかな

A review can also be found on For Winter Nights Blog.

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Corgi (28 Aug 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0552167932
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552167932
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Created, the Destroyer (eBook): Number 1 in Series

Created, the Destroyer (eBook): Number 1 in Series

Sentenced to death for a crime he didn’t commit, ex-cop Remo Williams is rescued from the electric chair at the eleventh hour and recruited by a secret government organisation named CURE. From this moment, he ceases to officially exist.

From now on, he will be an assassin, targeting criminals who are beyond the law. Remo’s trainer is a grouchy old Korean named Chiun, whose mastery of the terrifyingly powerful martial art of Sinanju makes him the deadliest man alive.

Together Remo and Chiun set forth on their epic, impossible mission to vanquish every enemy of democracy – every bad guy who thinks they can escape justice.

This is a new era in man’s fight against the forces of evil.

This is the time of the Destroyer.

Originally written in the early 70’s Created, The Destroyer – #1 in the Remo Williams series – is a timeless classic and a book that will take you to the past without you actually realising it! Although bereft of mobiles phones, tablets and home computers the book effortlessly stands the test of time and is incredibly easy to devour. In a way it’s rather comforting to know that such a place existed, we are far too attached to smart phones these days and anything that allows a little escapism to decades gone by and flared trousers I’m all for it!

As a protagonist Remo Williams stands tall and proud, a man about to die in an electric chair, he has an air about him that for someone who is about to pay with his life for a crime he didn’t commit, is quite remarkable. Little does he know the entire episode is an ingenious ploy by CURE to allow him to disappear and become an assassin.  In fact the faux execution and the elaborate plan to help him escape was one of my favourite parts of the book. Well thought out, simple yet effective, he disappears into the night and a new adventure beckons.

Clearly the protagonist Remo Williams is joined by Chuin, an old Korean who has seen it all. A Sinanju master, Chiun can deftly avoid bullets and attack with an explosive speed that few can handle, not even Remo. The relationship is timeless and one I hope will develop as the series matures. I certainly want more scenes with Chuin and although an old man I want to see his character develop!

The whole book, perhaps given the era it was written, reminds me of a typical B movie. I can’t quite put my hand on it but that’s the overwhelming feeling I had when reading the book. Sure the plot is a little farfetched in some parts but entertaining it certainly is and is without question worth reading the first few adventures to see where it leads.

Great fun and a quick read, Created, The Destroyer offers a great insight into a well established series that is now available on Kindle for the first time since its inception.

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 699 KB
  • Print Length: 187 pages
  • Publisher: Sphere (21 Aug 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00M0KIR3U

Created, The Destroyer by Warren Murphy is the first title in The Destroyer series, published by Sphere. If you want to know more about the series please go to www.thecrimevault.com/book-series/the-destroyer . You can also sign up to the Destroyer newsletter here: www.thecrimevault.com/exclusives/the-destroyer

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The Lawless Kind: The Ninth Joe Hunter Thriller

The Lawless Kind: The Ninth Joe Hunter Thriller

Ex-counterterrorist soldier Joe Hunter has been called to Mexico to bring an end to a cartel that preys on the people they smuggle across the US border. Once the mission’s ended, however, Joe’s mission leader and mentor, CIA Black Ops director Walter Hayes Conrad, confesses that the bloody mission is not the real reason Joe has been summoned south of the border.

For years, Walter has kept the details of his private life – especially his family – secret from everyone, even his closest friends. But disaster has struck: his great-grandson Benjamin has been abducted, kidnapped by Walter’s sworn enemy, the leader of one of Mexico’s largest drug cartels. Walter will do whatever it takes to get the boy back. And he knows Hunter is the man for the job.

But there’s one complication — the drug boss just happens to be Benjamin’s father.

The great thing about Matt Hilton’s incarnation – Joe Hunter – is that you know exactly what to expect, to coin a well-used phrase – it does what it says on the tin. Joe Hunter is back for his ninth adventure and he’s as determined and stubborn as ever and although he’s starting to creak a little, the bones aren’t as young as they used to be, he can still dance with the best of them.

Interestingly for me, although I’ve read the majority of Matt’s books, on reading the book jacket I struggled to pick this one up and it remained on my to be read shelf for quite some time. You see I’m not a lover of – and this is totally a personal taste issue – Mexican dramas or books based on crossing the border, coyotes and cartels. I have absolutely no idea why, I’ve just never taken to that part of the genre. In the end of course I went for it, purely on the strength and enjoyment I’ve experienced with his previous novels, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this review and I wouldn’t be writing it!

Although not my favourite Joe Hunter adventure, partly due to where the book is set as I’ve explained previously, this is a fun read. The Lawless Kind is one of those books you can pick up and be thoroughly entertained. Like I’ve said, the books follow a similar pattern where we see Hunter  called to help Walter Conrad, a father figure, and dispatch a few baddies into the never never. That part never gets old!

Comparisons between Joe Hunter and Jack Reacher will always be there and I’d be interested to see which protagonist would come out smiling, I daresay both would appreciate each other’s skills but for me Reacher would come out on top! Just!

A very quick read, the action remains at the forefront of the novel and doesn’t let up until the dramatic conclusion. It’s the high octane page turning and explosive confrontations that gives Hunter his longevity. A likeable character who is both moralistic and deadly, a heady combination, Hunter takes no prisoners as he sets about handing out his own brand of justice.

Another entertaining and enjoyable read, I’m glad I pushed my own misgivings to one side to read Hilton’s latest adventure and long may he continue!

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (30 Jan 2014)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 1444784773
  • ISBN-13: 978-1444784770
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16.2 x 3.6 cm
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Fall from Grace: #5: David Raker Novel

Fall from Grace

NO GOODBYE

When Leonard Franks and his wife Ellie leave London for their dream retirement in the seclusion of Dartmoor, everything seems perfect. But then their new life is shattered. Leonard heads outside to fetch firewood from the back of the house – and never returns.

NO TRACE

Nine months later, with the police investigation at a dead end, Leonard’s family turn to David Raker – a missing persons investigator with a gift for finding the lost. But nothing can prepare Raker for what he’s about to uncover.

NOWHERE TO HIDE

Because, at the heart of this disappearance lies a devastating secret. And by the time Raker realises what it is, and how deep the lies go, it’s not just him in danger – it’s everyone he cares about.

If you are looking for an accomplished storyline, complex and a twist and turn around every corner then look no further than Tim Weaver’s Fall From Grace. A solid read, the narrative is powerful and helps keep the book on track from start to finish. Tim Weaver certainly knows how to spin a tale.

David Raker is back and this time he’s employed to find the father of a policewoman – DCI Melanie Craw – he has had numerous run-ins in the past and as I read this book the confrontation is still there, this time it’s muted – after all she’s desperate for his help and no one else can help. As you’d expect things are never what they appear on the surface and one of the great things about this book, you never quite know who to trust and it certainly keeps you guessing throughout.

Raker is a great protagonist and a character who isn’t infallible, he often finds himself in the most precarious of situations and Fall From Grace is no different, it’s just a case of whether he can talk his way out of this one. A character disliked by the boys in blue he is continually facing an uphill battle to find the missing but somehow he achieves it with the help of a few acquaintances.

The plotting is solid and just when you think you know where the book is going, the author changes gear and takes it somewhere else. The imagery is sumptuous; especially that of Bethlehem and the island, it certainly made me look it up on the internet. I wanted to know more about the island and if it really exists – I’ll leave you to discover what’s really out there!

With a descriptive and tension filled narrative, it’s easy to lose yourself in the storyline and there’s a variety of emotive passages waiting to hit you when you least expect it. Weaver’s at the top of his game and I for one can’t wait to see where Raker goes next.

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (14 Aug 2014)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 1405913460
  • ISBN-13: 978-1405913461
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Jack Reacher walks alone. Once a go-to hard man in the US military police, now he’s a drifter of no fixed abode. But the army tracks him down. Because someone has taken a long-range shot at the French president.

Only one man could have done it. And Reacher is the one man who can find him.

This new heart stopping, nail-biting book in Lee Child’s number-one bestselling series takes Reacher across the Atlantic to Paris – and then to London. The stakes have never been higher – because this time, it’s personal.

Personal - Jack Reacher 19

Personal – Jack Reacher 19

From the very opening until its thrilling conclusion, it’s obvious Lee Child is an author at the top of his game and on very steady and well trodden ground with his latest book Personal. Jack Reacher is back for his 19th adventure and few things have changed over the years. He’s still an enigmatic and multi layered character, a loner, a go to man and a problem solver, I doubt these traits will ever disappear – I certainly hope not! Those who get in his way know all about his speed, guile and power – most ignore his stature but they soon discover that he is a powerful weapon in his own right.

Travelling by bus from San Francisco to Oregon he finally ends up in Seattle where he happens upon a personal message in a military newspaper. Given the nature of the message he has no alternative other than to act on its request and make a call to an old friend, fortunately for us that is!

One of the things I absolutely love about Lee Child’s writing is the voice he gives Reacher and the reasoning behind all the problem solving – it’s a little like Sherlock Holmes discussing forensics and angles but with a modern twist! There’s always a reason behind his thought process and he approaches each problem like a mathematician – or so it seems to me! An intelligent giant – both figuratively and physically, with the charisma to match, Reacher is one of the literary giants that has shaped how we all view the action/thriller genre. To say he is ground-breaking is an understatement!

Although a loner, Reacher is forced to join up with Casey Nice a young rookie CIA agent suffering with anxiety. As the pair travel from Paris, France and on to London we delve into Casey’s background and discover what makes her tick, the partnership is strong and the pair well matched.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to read any of Reacher’s nineteen adventures – where have you been? – the great thing about this series is that anyone can pick up a book and not feel lost, you are never penalised for not reading in order.

Full of twists and turns Personal will not disappoint. It will engage the brain from the outset and you’ll never want to leave the safe hands of Reacher. I for one can’t wait for the next adventure; Lee Child has a knack of leaving the reader wanting more! C’est Magnifique monsieur Child!

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam Press (28 Aug 2014)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0593073827
  • ISBN-13: 978-0593073827
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Want You Dead

Want You Dead

IF HE CAN’T HAVE HER, THEN NOBODY CAN . . .

Virtual romance becomes a terrifying obsession in Want You Dead…

Single girl, 29, smouldering redhead, love life that’s crashed and burned. Seeks new flame to rekindle her fire. Fun, friendship and – who knows – maybe more?

When Red Westwood meets handsome, charming and rich Bryce Laurent through an online dating agency, there is an instant attraction. But as their love blossoms, the truth about his past, and his dark side, begins to emerge. Everything he has told Red about himself turns out to be a tissue of lies, and her infatuation with him gradually turns to terror.

Within a year, and under police protection, she evicts him from her flat and her life. But Red’s nightmare is only just beginning. For Bryce is obsessed with her, and he intends to destroy everything and everyone she has ever known and loved – and then her too . . .

What do you get the girl who has everything? A new life? A new home? A restraining order?

You can always depend on Peter James to create a truly unhinged and evil character who spends his days initially contemplating life without Red and then plotting revenge and in his eyes retribution. He can only see life from his point of view, no one else matters and when he begins to tear Red’s life apart step by step no one is safe.

Bryce Laurent is an incredible character and once you’ve read this book he’s pretty hard to forget! A multi layered character, he has so much depth and for me is undoubtedly the star of the show. Sure you’ve got the enigmatic Roy Grace who’s preparing for his wedding but Bryce commands every page he’s on and you never quite know what he and the author will come up with next!

What makes matters worse is that Red Westwood refuses to be beaten and although she’s scared at the prospect of her ex showing up at work and ignoring any restrictions set by the court, she does not hide. The police do everything in their power to make sure she is safe but when faced with an evil genius there’s only so much that the boys in blue can do.

Grace on the other hand is trying to achieve the impossible, run a department charged with catching this psychopath and planning his wedding following the death of his former wife Sandy. As you’d expect things never run smoothly and I’m absolutely positive after reading this that the author spent most of his time trying to put one obstacle after the other in front of our protagonist and see if he comes through smiling at the other end!

Want You Dead is another fine example of an author at the top of his game, Peter James is a class act. An incredibly taut thriller with a spattering of terrific characters and the odd curveball thrown in for good measure, the only thing missing is a packet of fish and chips and perhaps a battered sausage!! Bravo Mr James, bravo!

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The Amazing Test Match Crime (eBook)It is 1938 and England is brimming with excitement as the final Test Match against Imperia draws near. But no corner of the land has the fate of the Ashes closer to its heart than the village of Wattlecombe Ducis, Glebeshire.

It was here at the Manor House that Norman Blood, captain of England, spent his childhood playing cricket with the vicar’s radiant daughter, Monica. And it was she who presented young but poor Joe Prestwick with a belt on the occasion of his first game of cricket, saving his honour for as Sir Timothy Blood remarked, ‘I would rather see the whole village dead at my feet than a man bowling in braces.’

With a short – but sensational – career behind him, Joe just needs to be selected to play at the Oval to win Monica’s heart and her hand in marriage: everything depends on the Test.

But The Bad Men, Europe’s most wanted gang, have no intention of letting the best team win. Sawn-off Carlo, The Professor and Ralph the Disappointment (an Englishman who, knowing the rules of the Game, is eternally damned for not playing by them) plan to strike a blow at the very heart of proud Albion and her Empire.

First published in 1939, The Amazing Test Match Crime by Adrian Alington is as timeless as a timeless Test Match. It helps to have a smattering of an understanding of the great game but it’s not essential for the narrative, humour and sumptuous characters stand the test of time and the closest of scrutiny. Simply put, this is your quintessential summer read that is guaranteed to make you smile and while away the hours gorging in summer’s favourite past time.

It’s clear to me that Adrian Adlington – who died in 1958 – had a fair knowledge of cricket. The book is loosely based on the final timeless Test match that occurred in 1939 between England and South Africa in Durban, a match that ended in a draw when England after toiling for nine days were forced to catch a boat home – a draw declared.

This is of course where similarity ends for this is a story about crime and the dastardly dealings of The Bad Men, a small group of criminals – one a master criminal – hellbent on changing the course of English history and disrupt the running of an Empire.

The humour, subtle at times, is right on the money and clearly written in a time when things were very different, a time that split Gentlemen and Players. I couldn’t help think of the 1932 Bodyline series when two nations were at odds and telegrams and meetings held at the very top of government. With a cameo from the prime minister and humorous exchanges in the Houses of Parliament there’s very little missing in this book.

Characterisation is impressive and I couldn’t help but warm to all of them, even the criminals. I don’t have a favourite, it would be unfair to do so for they are all equally moreish and they all add a little something to the story.

Absolutely wonderful book that had me smiling from the very first page until the last ball. Highly recommended.

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 425 KB
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Reader; 1 edition (28 Sep 2011)
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When a young mother is found murdered in a derelict Eugene neighbourhood—and her terrified young son is discovered hiding beneath the floorboards—Detective Jackson reluctantly takes the case.

Deadly Bonds - LJ Sellers

Deadly Bonds – LJ Sellers

His own life is already in chaos, with his runaway teenage daughter, Katie, still gone and his girlfriend, Kera, facing her own family crisis. Matters get more complicated when the orphaned boy bonds with Jackson, triggering unexpected emotions and compromising his ability to investigate.

Meanwhile, Detective Evans, one of Jackson’s most valuable colleagues, is pulled off the case to look into the death of a University of Oregon football star—leaving the homicide task force shorthanded. As Jackson works to solve the murder and find a home for little Benjie, he soon faces devastating choices that threaten everything he holds dear.

It’s been a while since I last read a Detective Jackson book by Eugene author LJ Sellers, far too long. I remember being blown away – literally – with The Sex Club, a book I hadn’t expected to enjoy but thoroughly did and given the opportunity to read her latest novel – Deadly Bonds – I jumped at the chance. I wasn’t disappointed!

Over the years, Jackson’s character has changed – as you’d expect – and now that the main character is in a steady relationship he has to take a fresh look on life and decide what’s important to him. Estranged from his daughter Katie Jackson has to fight to keep their relationship on par and despite his best efforts and a job that demands most of his time he struggles to make it work.

This is one of the things I really enjoy about the Jackson books, the family angle and how he never appears to have an easy life whether that’s down to his relationships, his daughter, his brother or a number of other variables. One thing you can be certain of – there’s never a dull moment!

I really enjoy the cat and mouse chase in the book where we follow Evans and Jackson on their quest for truth – incidentally the final third flew by and the book was over before I knew it. An effortless read, I do enjoy the author’s writing style.

One thing I didn’t enjoy so much, and I am being hyper critical –this is a guy/bloke thing – was the will they won’t they part of the Evans/Jackson relationship. When we follow Evans’s point of view throughout the book we are often reminded of an unrequited love and a desire to couple up with her colleague. I’ve never been one for romance and although this book is far from romantic I wanted to give a balanced view.

The one thing I absolutely loved about this book – young three year old Benjie. What’s not to love? A little kid who doesn’t like junk food, loves puzzles and has a character of a 20 year old. He brings the book to life in more ways than one and I defy anyone who reads the book not to fall in love with him and want to adopt him! Winner winner, chicken dinner – well done LJ.

A well crafted book, a good plot and a variety of interesting characters – some old, some new – Deadly Bonds is a marvellous addition to the Jackson stable. If you haven’t read any of the others do give them a go, you won’t be disappointed.

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Sheriff Ken Meltzer, from the small town of Whisper, finds the decomposing body of a girl deep in the Georgia forest. Next to her, the skeletal remains of another girl. One victim had been there for sixty days, the other for ten years.

Drugs, theft and reckless speeders are the main worries in Meltzer’s county; homicide is not his speciality. A friend at the Atlanta Police Department recommends a freelancer Meltzer has never heard of – former FBI profiler and private detective Keye Street…

Keye Street is a terrific character, one who appears to have grown in confidence and stature and in her third outing here we are introduced to a driven protagonist who is away from home, out of her comfort zone and fighting against a town who definitely don’t want her medalling in their business.

From the moment she arrives in small town Whisper it’s clear she is on her own, apart from an ally in Sheriff Ken Meltzer, a suave and handsome man, and the two set out to investigate the death of two teenage girls and the disappearance of a third. There’s an immediate attraction between the two and along with a fair dose of guilty flirting, Keye has to fight the urge to give in to temptation given her relationship with Atlanta PD’s Aaron Rauser back home.

From the outset the regular characteristics of a Keye Street novel are clear for all to see and read, the subtle humour, addiction, an intelligent narrative and last but not least – the Krispy Kremes. The novel wouldn’t be complete without those giant glazed balls of fun Street hankers for, a substitute for her alcohol addiction, and in reality an example of one addiction replacing the other. I experienced my first Krispy Kreme just before Christmas and all I can say is I know where Keye is coming from!

As I’ve already mentioned above the narrative is intelligent, strong and well-crafted allowing the story to move along at a rapid pace. For me it never falters and the combination of a good plot helps the book reach the heights it deserves. Nothing is ever straightforward in crime novels and Don’t Talk to Strangers is no exception. Slowly but surely the author introduces sub plots and suspects and you never quite know who’s guilty or innocent and the book will definitely keep you guessing right up to the very end.

As the investigation gains momentum, with a little coercion from Keye, the town gives up her secrets, one by one, and with each revelation we are treated to another possible outcome. The pace towards the back end of the story is relentless and everything comes to head with a fitting finale.

Another strength of Amanda’s writing is her explanation as to why the culprit is finally caught. It’s the small things that matter and the attention to detail in all her books is outstanding.

I thoroughly enjoyed Don’t Talk to Strangers, arguably the strongest book of the three, I could see a certain maturity to the writing and delivery, there’s no flannel, and it works incredibly well. The book, although the third in a series, can be read on its own but you will lose a great backstory so I’d advise beginning with book number one. Highly recommended, my favourite book of the series, this is one not to be missed in 2014. There’s only one thing missing, a Krispy kreme.

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Headline (1 July 2014)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0755384253
  • ISBN-13: 978-0755384259
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Ever since The Burglar on the Prowl climbed the bestseller lists in 2004, fans have been clamouring for a new book featuring the lighthearted and light-fingered Bernie Rhodenbarr. Now everybody’s favourite burglar returns in an eleventh adventure that finds him and his lesbian sidekick Carolyn Kaiser breaking into houses, apartments, and even a museum, in a madcap adventure replete with American Colonial silver, an F. Scott Fitzgerald manuscript, a priceless portrait, and a remarkable array of buttons. And, wouldn’t you know it, there’s a dead body, all stretched out on a Trent Barling carpet

The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons

The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons

I have one admission before I begin this review, not only have I not read Bernie’s previous exploits as a burglar but I’ve not read any of Lawrence Block’s books and with this in mind, Bernie and Carolyn were a completely unexpected and dare I say colourful package. Given that this title represents Bernie’s eleventh adventure I have some serious catchup to do!

On more than one occasion during The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons I was reminded of LC Tyler’s Elsie and Ethelred partnership, a series I’ve taken so much enjoyment from in the past.

Although a crime book, for me, The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons is more of a humorous read, an adventure interspersed with criminal activity, a death and a climactic scene where we discover who the culprit – or culprits – are. I can’t tell you how often I laughed at the dialogue, this book is the epitome of a fun read where you leave all your troubles at the door and simply enjoy the ride.

Bernie is a terrific character and his relationship with Carolyn as solid as they come. Both enjoy each others company and the way Block has written their friendship, you never feel as a reader that you are eavesdropping on something you shouldn’t. You are always, or at least I did, made to feel part of the story and partnership.

As I have already mentioned, given that this is the eleventh time Bernie has funkily strutted his way to solving crimes and enjoyed numerous amorous dalliances, I never once felt as if I had been alienated from past novels. Sure, like all things, I would have gained a knowledge and understanding of what makes our intrepid burglar tick but such is the way the author has crafted this book I found it worked as a standalone rather well.

So there we have it, a crisp and assured read, sumptuously funny but the overriding feeling I’m left with after turning over the final page – gratification. It made me smile throughout and from a book, you can’t ask any more than that. A wonderful and warm read, a great introduction, albeit a late one, to a series that I now have no option other than to begin at the beginning!

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Orion (15 May 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140915355X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1409153559
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 16 x 3.2 cm
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The Bones Beneath - Tom Thorne Novels 12

The Bones Beneath – Tom Thorne Novels 12

The Deal

Tom Thorne is back in charge – but there’s a terrifying price to pay. Stuart Nicklin, the most dangerous psychopath he has ever put behind bars, promises to reveal the whereabouts of a body he buried twenty-five years before. But only if Thorne agrees to escort him.

The Danger

Unable to refuse, Thorne gathers a team and travels to a remote Welsh island, at the mercy of the weather and cut off from the mainland. Thorne is determined to get the job done and return home before Nicklin can outwit them.

The Deaths

But Nicklin knows this island well and has had time to plan ahead. Soon, new bodies are added to the old, and Thorne finds himself facing the toughest decision he has ever had to make…

You know an author’s done his or her job when they set a book on a remote island and the overriding feeling you have when you put the book down for the final time is that you want to visit said island. That’s how I felt about Ynys Enlli – to us Welshmen – or Bardsey Island for the uninitiated! Despite the murderous theme and a serial killer haunting the local inhabitants the peaceful terrain and the blackest of night skies wins in the end. Who wouldn’t want to visit Bardsey after this?!

Mark Billingham is a master of crime fiction and given my bias regarding anything Welsh I was delighted that the majority of the book was set on an island which – according to ancient folklore – is the home to 20,000 saints and the remains of the legendary King Arthur. Whatever one believes setting a crime novel on an island with limited mobile phone signals, few residents and a lack of electricity is pure genius! But the thing is, it’s the kind of thinking you’d expect from Billingham. Thinking outside the box and a couple of miles off the mainland this latest Thorne novel simply delivers on multiple levels.

With notoriously dangerous currents and unpredictable weather, the crossing from Aberdaron is a challenge in itself. In the book you get a real sense of the short trip and the landing on the island and how a day trip can turn into an extended stay should the weather rear its ugly head. Atmospheric and punchy the narrative is typical Billingham. Easy to read and with a story that captures the imagination your journey is over before you know it.

Stuart Nicklin is back and you know that only means one thing to Thorne – bad news and sleepless nights. Ok for the pedantic among us that’s two things but I’m writing this article! Add to the mix a remote island with limited communications and a criminal who isn’t along just for the ride you know something’s about to happen and someone’s going to pay dearly for his temporary freedom from prison.

Following on from The Dying Hours, The Bones Beneath feels like a natural progression in Thorne’s life. Settled in a relationship and the responsibilities it carries, Thorne is determined to recover a body from the island, giving closure to the victim’s mother in the process and return home to enjoy an Indian takeaway. Things don’t quite work out that way and Thorne and his colleagues are forced to extend their stay on Bardsey. The author brings the island to life with a wonderfully evocative and enticing narrative that moves along at a fair rate of knots. Along with the odd twist the story is entertaining and completely satisfying with an ending that leaves the reader wanting more!

Breath-taking in parts, Bardsey Island comes alive thanks to an author at the top of his game.

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown (22 May 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140870479X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408704790
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Final Testimony of Raphael Ignatius Phoenix

Final Testimony of Raphael Ignatius Phoenix

My name is Raphael Ignatius Phoenix and I am a hundred years old – or will be in ten days’ time, in the early hours of January 1st, 2000, when I kill myself.’

Raphael Ignatius Phoenix has had enough. Born at the beginning of the 20th century, he is determined to take his own life as the old millennium ends and the new one begins. But before he ends it all, he wants to get his affairs in order and put the record straight, and that includes making sense of his own long life – a life that spanned the century. He decides to write it all down and, eschewing the more usual method of pen and paper, begins to record his story on the walls of the isolated castle that is his final home. Beginning with a fateful first adventure with Emily, the childhood friend who would become his constant companion, Raphael remembers the multitude of experiences, the myriad encounters and, of course, the ten murders he committed along the way . . .

And so begins one man’s wholly unorthodox account of the twentieth century – or certainly his own riotous, often outrageous, somewhat unreliable and undoubtedly singular interpretation of it.

As soon as I saw the title of this book – The Final Testimony of Raphael Ignatius Phoenix – I knew I wanted to read it, it’s as simple as that really. I can’t tell you why, I just did. Maybe the title reminded me of one of my favourite films – The Princess Bride – and its main character Inigo Montoya who proclaimed that you killed his father, prepare to die. Maybe Raphael reminded me of Johnny Depp’s character in Don Juan de Marco – I have no idea. Whatever the reason, and granted neither of the two aforementioned characters have anything to do with the book, I can’t tell you how delighted I am to have experienced such a magical and distinct voice in Raphael Ignatius Phoenix.

Quite clearly – if you haven’t guessed by now – this is one of my favourite books and main protagonists I’ve had the pleasure in reading for a number of years, this book – and Raphael – will stay with me for some time to come. What made the experience all the more poignant is that I discovered the author, Paul Sussman, died in 2012 aged just 45 of a ruptured aneurysm, a great loss to publishing. I’ve not had the opportunity to read his other books but given that this, his first novel, shows so much strength and character I have no option other than to experience his later work. One thing is certain that with this debut title he leaves an indelible mark on the literary world.

Raphael has decided to kill himself on his 100th birthday. Determined to leave a suicide note he begins to tell his story and slowly works his way back through the decades to his very first murder. It’s a slow but imaginative process, there’s a lot to tell. It’s never rushed, the narrative is both poignant and breath-taking. Sussman clearly knew how to write and what makes this title more fascinating is that it was never published during his lifetime.

Along the way we meet numerous colourful characters and personalities but no one comes close to the power and hold Raphael has over the reader. This is one guy who clearly has his head screwed on – or does he – and from a very early age he is on the move, covering his tracks as best he can. One scrape determines his journey, each murder morphing seamlessly into the next adventure.

I really enjoyed how he told the story, not from beginning to end as I expected, but from Raphael’s final days to his very first breath. Imaginative and well told, this is one story that deserves to be read again and again.

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday (22 May 2014)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0857522183
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857522184
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The Target by David Baldacci

The Target by David Baldacci

The mission is to enter one of the most dangerous countries in the world.

The target is one of the toughest to reach.

The result could be momentous – or it could be Armageddon.

There is no margin for error. US government operatives Will Robie and Jessica Reel have to prove they are still the best team there is. But are they invincible when pitted against an agent whose training has been under conditions where most would perish?

An old man is dying in an Alabama prison hospital, it seems there is one more evil game he has still to play.

And it’s a game which comes close to home for Reel and Robie. But this time the stakes might be way too high.

Although my first David Baldacci novel I had a pretty good idea of what to expect from the outset, it is a thriller after all, and after reading it one thing I can guarantee is that it certainly won’t be my last. A seasoned veteran of the thriller genre, Baldacci knows how to put together an exciting and entertaining story all the while keeping the reader involved from start to finish. The Target represents Will Robie’s third adventure, accompanied by Jessica Reel, but for me this book is more about the development of Chung-Cha, her journey and the ruthless North Korean government and brutal labour camps.

There were a few instances where the story stretched credibility but this is what you get with adventure and thriller stories but what Baldacci does do well is morph the three main story arcs together seamlessly. Like most thrillers you find yourself scratching your head at times wondering what the author has in mind and where he’s going with it all but a third of the way through things start to become a little clearer.

Robie is a great character, as is Reel, and he certainly carries a fair chunk of this book but as I’ve alluded to earlier I couldn’t get Chung-Cha out of my head. A young girl held prisoner in one of North Korea’s labour camps, alongside her family, she is offered a way out by the ruling government. She has to make a devastating – and destructive – decision that will affect the way she lives her life.

From that moment on her life changes rapidly. Although a free woman and living in her own apartment far away from the confines of the labour camp she remains a prisoner of a brutal and tyrannical regime. There is no escaping the hold the Government has over its citizens and although a favourite weapon of the ruler she lives in fear hour by hour. Slowly but surely, with the aid of a young girl companionship, we see a softness creeping in, a softness that struggles against a harsh history of depravation and torture. She becomes a little more engaging and colourful and despite her job you can’t help but feel something for her plight.

It’s all about the journey. I really don’t like using that word, but you can’t escape the fact that this is what it is. The Target is so much more than a little action, a few flying bullets and a couple of protagonists trying to make it through to the end of a book. There is depth here and although I hadn’t expected to, I really enjoyed the North Korean angle more than anything else. That said I definitely wouldn’t want to live there!

An entertaining read this won’t be my last Will Robie adventure.

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan (24 April 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 1447225295
  • ISBN-13: 978-1447225294
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Character development – the early years… 

Sign of the Cross: A Spike Sanguinetti Mystery

Sign of the Cross: A Spike Sanguinetti Mystery

I blame Kingsley Amis. In my early twenties, my favourite novel was ‘Lucky Jim’. Drunken escapades, silent fury towards the fools who fail to appreciate your worth – the classic book for the wannabe writer trapped in a career he doesn’t enjoy. People tell you to write what you know, but I decided to write what I liked. What would happen, I wondered blithely, if I blended the comic style of ‘Lucky Jim’ with the most exciting of genres, the crime-thriller?

Enormous success, I quickly concluded – probable membership of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France, cult status in America, pallet-piles of books in Waterstones. Time to get cracking.

As a trained lawyer, I gave my protagonist the same profession; to give him access to exotic colonial skulduggery, I stuck him in Gibraltar. Balding, down on his luck, cursed by a propensity to drink to the point of oblivion, then lose a vital legal document, Spike Sanguinetti came into being. The novel started promisingly – lots of laughs, veiled hints that the plot was about to kick into thrilling action. But then things began to go awry. I needed excitement, danger, but the character I had created was too useless to handle it. Either he had to blunder accidentally towards victory (a la Big Lebowski), or transform himself suddenly into a savvy and courageous hero. The first route needed a deftness of touch I lacked; the second involved a level of implausibility fatal to the reader’s attention. I worried about it a bit, before deciding to press on and hope for the best.

So I sent the book out to agents; miraculously, one liked it enough to take it on. We had a stab at rewriting, but never quite got there. I asked the agent to send it out anyway (the confidence of youth); he did so, resulting in a cascade of rejection letters.

A little older, but not much wiser, I spotted a competition on the internet: the ‘Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award’. I entered the book, entitled ‘The Hollow Mountain’. The rules required entrants to post the first 5000 words online, then progress via public voting and professional judgments towards victory and a US publishing deal. The book moved through the early stages of the competition, then made it to the semi-final. My bruised ego received a temporary boost. Then came the rub – the need to submit the rest of the manuscript. History repeated itself and once again Spike’s adventures hit the dust.

An intense, late-night discussion with my wife (the years were rolling by) ensued. I needed to make a choice. Either keep the character and change the genre, or change the character and keep the genre. I went for the latter. Spike Sanguinetti needed to have the tools to survive in a world of murder, conspiracy and injustice. Rather than incompetent, he needed to be capable. Rather than bald and hungover, attractive and able to hold his drink. Aspects of his character remained – his career, his homeland, his aged and cantankerous father – but to bring him fully to life, I had to move him away from myself and employ a hitherto underused faculty: imagination.

The first Spike Sanguinetti book, ‘Shadow of the Rock’, was finally published some fifteen years after I’d first started to write about him. People stress the importance of character development on the page, but a character can be born, live and learn from his mistakes years before a book is even plotted, let alone written. The follow-up, ‘Sign of the Cross’, came out last year. And the title of the third novel? ‘Hollow Mountain’. Same name (minus the definite article), completely different book, but one that couldn’t exist without its curious comic predecessor.

 

© Thomas Mogford, 2014

If you’d like to learn more about the author then why not read more wise words on twitter @thomasmogford or visit his website thomasmogford.com.

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