Vivoactive HR Activities

Vivoactive HR Activities

I have to admit I hadn’t planned on writing a review of the new Garmin Vivoactive HR but so many people have asked me my thoughts I decided to write a mini review. I’ve had the watch for a month now and overall I’m very happy with it. Like all new items of technology there are a few issues with the watch but for me this is a huge step up from Fitbit’s Surge (I had to send that back twice due to poor battery life). I charged the watch up to 100% on day of receipt and a week later the watch was showing 39% left – incredible considering I used it for runs utilising GPS and swimming sessions.

In fact battery life is incredible. I can go 10 days without fear of the battery giving up the ghost, I think it might have been as low as 25% and I charged it up so 12 days battery life isn’t out of the question. This beats Fitbit’s Surge hands down in my opinion where I was lucky to get 4 or 5 days.

Vivoactive HR - Sunlight Reading

Vivoactive HR – Sunlight Reading

The size is good and comfortable on the arm. Although it is completely waterproof I do take it off for showers just to give my arm a small rest (not that it’s needed!) a lot smaller than the Surge. Design is great and using IQ you can upload numerous watch faces to make it look different day on day or hour on hour!

Apps are good and I’m sure more will come soon but the best fun I’ve had with it this week is the weather app. Predicting rain in 69 minutes garnered a laugh from colleagues and when it did rain they were all impressed! I do have a couple of issues with the watch however. The screen isn’t bright indoors and you have to get the angle right to read the information clearly so this needs to be improved. The screen is trans reflective which means it uses the ambient light and because of this it will sometimes appear dim particularly indoors. Garmin have now updated the system software to Version 2.40 and you can increase the backlight to level 9 and that has definitely helped.

Vivoactive HR - Predicting Rain

Vivoactive HR – Predicting Rain

When I first had the watch – probably for the first week or so – automatic recognition of activities wasn’t working for me. However the watch now recognises the activities and they show up in your calendar.

I have completed 3 swimming sessions with it and the tests have been great. The screen swipes worked effortlessly in and out of the water, the wet screen causing no problems at all. In fact I saw no lag or difficulty in using the watch wet. The Vivoactive HR measures strokes and swim distance and you can also have laps so you know if you’ve had a break or not. If you are using indoors then make sure you go to settings and select the size of your pool, a number of people have commented unusual distances but selecting the correct pool length is key for indoor swimming.

As you can use the watch both indoors (treadmill) and out calibrating the watch is important. When I first had the watch I ran on the treadmill without calibrating and the results were terrible but I discovered my error and following a couple of runs outdoors and the initial 15 minute calibrating walk the treadmill results have improved. The GPS appears to be very accurate, quite often you find when analysing the maps that the tracking doesn’t quite run down the street on the map but on the runs I’ve done, including intricate and small road runs the gps has handles it perfectly.

So far so good, thoroughly enjoying this watch – certainly the best wearable I’ve owned.

For those looking for a guide on what size band to order please find the measurements below. The regular band (the one I have) has a lot of give and I have 7 holes left over so plenty of room for scope!

Regular Band for a wrist circumference between 5.39 –7.68” / 137–195 mm
X-Large Band for a wrist circumference between 6.38–8.86” / 162–225 mm

There are four coloured replacement bands available and once I manage to actually get my hands on one or two I’ll report back on how easy they are to replace, how much they cost and the colours available. I’m struggling to find them available in the UK at the moment, no one wants to sell them! Not good!!

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The Hanging Club

The Hanging Club

A band of vigilante executioners roam London’s hot summer nights, abducting evil men and hanging them by the neck until dead.

– The gang member who’s abused vulnerable girls.
– The wealthy drunk driver who’s mowed down a child.
– The hate preacher calling for the murder of British soldiers.

As the bodies pile up and riots explode across the sweltering city, DC Max Wolfe hunts a gang of killers who many believe to be heroes.

And discovers that the lust for revenge starts very close to home …

A thoroughly entertaining read, the book flows well from beginning to end, full of intrigue and murder, DC Wolfe returns for another challenging case in The Hanging Club.

A very simple but clever concept – no idea why this hasn’t been done before – it doesn’t take long for this this book to scream into life. Videos suddenly begin appearing online, not your average youtube video mind you, there’s no Michael Buble or cover artist in site. Someone’s hanging people and posting them for others to enjoy what turns out to be a gratifying revenge kill. One hanging follows another and it becomes apparent very quickly that the victims who turn up in Tyburn aren’t that nice.

The victims have a dark and unsavoury past and once this becomes apparent to a public hypnotised by the killings the police are fighting a loosing battle, especially with the press corp who appear to be supporting the group of vigilantes responsible. DC Max Wolf certainly has his work cut out for himself and only time will tell if he can get through to the end safely and find those responsible.

With each kill comes additional information and subtle clues. The police can’t find the kill zone and have no idea where these hangings are occurring. What they do discover rather quickly is roughly where the bodies will pop up – but that really doesn’t help their cause initially.

This is the first Max Wolfe book I’ve read and although it would be better for continuity purposes if I’d read the previous adventures I didn’t feel as if this fact hindered my enjoyment at all. Max is a great character and a determined one at that. He has his fair share of scrapes in The Hanging club, that’s what protagonists are fore aren’t they?!

The pace is good and the introduction of numerous supporting characters is well thought out, not once did I feel that a character was introduced just for the sake of it. I can’t wait to read the next DC Max Wolfe, he’s found a new fan in this reader that’s for sure.

Hardcover: 416 pages

  • Publisher: Century (19 May 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1780892373
  • ISBN-13: 978-1780892375
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Die of Shame by Mark Billingham

Die of Shame by Mark Billingham

Every Monday evening, six people gather in a smart North London house to talk about addiction. There they share their deepest secrets: stories of lies, regret, and above all, shame.

Then one of them is killed – and it’s clear one of the circle was responsible.

Detective Inspector Nicola Tanner quickly finds her investigation hampered by the strict confidentiality that binds these people and their therapist together. So what could be shameful enough to cost someone their life?

And how do you find the truth when denial and deception are second nature to all of your suspects?

From the maker of Tom Thorne comes a standalone, ladies and gentlemen I introduce Mark Billingham’s Die of Shame. The book has a totally different feel from his Tom Thorne series, I’d be interested to know more but for me – as I read the book – I just had a feeling the author has tested himself with this book. I can’t quite put my finger on it!

A complex story centred around a group of addicts – who meet once a week – the book flits between Then and Now. It’s a complex start but once you get your head around the time shifts and numerous characters the story develops incredibly quickly and fluently.

One thing you can always depend on with Mark Billingham is the narrative and his ability to sell a story, Die of shame has both in spades and then some. We have Mark’s one liners, his humour and his talent for weaving a story from seemingly nothing into something incredible. The story is told from two perspectives, a murder investigation with DI Nicola Tanner and the eclectic group of addicts, both very different viewpoints but they morph together well and because of this following the murder investigation in real time is a delight.

As I mentioned above the start is complex and because of it the first few chapters are a little slow but once things start to fall in place there’s no holding this story back! Plotting is strong and the slow release of information from the Monday night group brilliant. The balance between giving away too much or too little has never been a problem for Mark in any of his books and once again he’s hit the nail on the head with this one.

The characters are powerful, their backstories enlightening and for the first time in quite a while no one completely stole the show for me which is quite unusual. You’ll suspect everyone at one stage, it’ll take a while before you know who’s been murdered and even longer for it to all make sense but make sense it does. I’d like to see Nicola Tanner developed at a future date but for Die of Shame she works very well.

A fascinating read with powerful stories of addiction yet at the same time, a yin to the yang I guess, weakness is as an overriding and invisible force throughout and something that everyone in the group has in possesses. Another great read from Mr Billingham.

  • Hardcover:448 pages
  • Publisher:Little, Brown (5 May 2016)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:1408704838
  • ISBN-13:978-1408704837
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A Time of Torment: A Charlie Parker Thriller: 14

A Time of Torment: A Charlie Parker Thriller: 14

Jerome Burnel was once a hero. He intervened to prevent multiple killings and in doing so damned himself. His life was torn apart. He was imprisoned, brutalized.

But in his final days, with the hunters circling, he tells his story to private detective Charlie Parker. He speaks of the girl who was marked for death but was saved, of the ones who tormented him, and an entity that hides in a ruined stockade.

Parker is not like other men. He died, and was reborn. He is ready to wage war.

Now he will descend upon a strange, isolated community called the Cut, and face down a force of men who rule by terror, intimidation, and murder.

All in the name of the being they serve.

All in the name of the Dead King.

Magnificent, magisterial and masterful – three words that could easily describe both John Connolly’s writing and his creation Charlie Parker. It’s great to have Charlie Parker back, life certainly wouldn’t be the same without an adventure from the private detective, a private detective who’s baggage increases with each outing. There’s no shortage of depth in this novel either, thanks mainly to Parker. It’s the depth of his character that’s so good, Connolly effortlessly allowing the reader an insight into his feelings and an opportunity to share his immeasurable pain born from past experiences.

There’s very little to say that hasn’t been said in the past but John Connolly improves with each novel, there’s no fear of an author resting on his laurels here, Connolly knows what works and sticks with the format time after time but like a good bottle of wine, with maturity comes excellence.

Charlie Parker is one of those characters you’d want on your side. Imagine the scene in school as a kid, you’re faced with a decision that could affect the rest of your days in school, the dreaded pick your team scenario. With Parker it’s a case of do I pick him first or second, Jack Reacher or Charlie Parker (two very different protagonists), two veritable champions, because there’s never the option of not choosing him! Not having him on your team would be a huge mistake and many a bad person have paid the price in the past and will no doubt suffer in the future!

The narrative is as strong as ever and the plotting is both complex and inspired, how Connolly brings this together in the end is crazy! Amazing writing. The tempo increases towards the end of the book, so much so that you feel as if you’re holding your breath on numerous occasions. There are a few shocks in store, Connolly is never one to shy away from violence and there’s definitely no shortage of that in A Time of Torment, this is in parts quite brutal!

Characterisation is good and we get to have another outing with Angel and Louis, two great characters that were introduced to us in Every Dead Thing in 1999, the year that Charlie Parker himself, a former NYPD detective, was introduced to the world. The sidekicks are great value and the books would certainly be lighter without the duo creating havoc and mayhem. Don’t worry, there’s more than enough bad guys to satisfy all readers here!

Another wonderful read, A Time of Torment stands alone well but as with any long standing series, the more you’ve read the more you take from the books. So get reading the back catalogue, you won’t be sorry! Bravo Mr Connolly!

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (7 April 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1444751573
  • ISBN-13: 978-1444751574
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The Promise (DC Goodhew 6) by Alison Bruce

The Promise (DC Goodhew 6) by Alison Bruce

In a single night, Kyle Davidson’s life is derailed. His relationship is over, he is denied access to his young son and everything important to him is at risk.

His thoughts stumble between fear and revenge. Kyle Davidson has a choice to make.

Meanwhile, after the tragic end to a previous case, DC Gary Goodhew finds himself questioning his reasons for returning to work until the badly beaten body of a homeless man is found on Market Hill. Having known the homeless man for several years Goodhew feels compelled to be part of the investigation – but routine lines of enquiry soon take a dark and unexpected turn.

Suddenly the Cambridge back streets hold deadly secrets for Goodhew and the only person who has the answers is planning one final, desperate act.

Alison Bruce is back, or rather I should say Cambridge’s favourite son DC Gary Goodhew is back, finally returning to duty after a prolonged absence.

In The Promise Alison’s writing is as sharp as ever, her storytelling is well developed and plotted magnificently, something you take for granted now in a series that has solidified her reputation in the crime fiction world. Cambridge once again comes to life with her enthusiastic narrative. I always enjoy reading these books for I feel as if I get to know a little more of Cambridge with each novel. I’ve never been to Cambridge but with every Bruce novel I do feel as if I now know it like the back of my hand! Kudos to the writer for allowing us in to her Cambridge.

The book starts off with quite the shock, for me at least, I really hadn’t expected it for the author kills off a character I was very sorry to see go. You know you’re hooked when, with each turn of the page, something or someone is going to say “fooled you” he’s not really dead, I just wanted to read your reaction” but alas the character, and one of my favourites of past stories has been killed off. I won’t spoil it and say who it is, you’ll find out for yourselves but if you’ve read the previous titles in Alison’s back catalogue then you’re in for a big surprise!

Gary Goodhew is back as I mentioned above and although it takes a little to convince himself to return to work he does so despite his lengthy recuperation. The gang are back together, Marks is on the verge of retiring, Sue Gully is poking her nose into an old case that has a direct connection with Gary and Kincaide’s relationship with Gary show no signs of improving any time soon! Let’s face it they are never going to be best mates are they. If this series had been set in the Wild West I’m sure one High Noon scene would have ended it once and for all!

That’s the thing with Alison’s books, without fail they’ve made me angry! I should actually explain myself! It’s Gary’s relationship or lack thereof with Kincaide that always riles me! I’m always on Gary’s side but whenever Kincaide begins to crank up the insults and put downs I get slightly annoyed! I know I shouldn’t but that’s the thing with this series and this writer, you connect with the characters and you feel as if you have a vested interest into their lives.

A serial killer is on the loose in Cambridge and Goodhew is determined to solve the riddle. Only time will tell if he does but let’s face it there’s a very good chance he will! Another cracking read, Bruce continues to go from strength to strength, as does Gary’s character but I’ll sign off this review in the hope that one day soon Gary will get the opportunity to deck Kincaide. We all live in hope!! If you haven’t had the chance to read the back catalogue then I urge you to do so, Cambridge wouldn’t be the same without Goodhew and Bruce!

Hardcover: 288 pages

Publisher: Constable (4th Feb. 2016)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1472112261

ISBN-13: 978-1472112262

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Thin Ice (Gunnhildur Mystery)

Thin Ice (Gunnhildur Mystery)

Snowed in with a couple of psychopaths for the winter…

When two small-time crooks rob Reykjavik’s premier drugs dealer, hoping for a quick escape to the sun, their plans start to unravel after their getaway driver fails to show. Tensions mount between the pair and the two women they have grabbed as hostages when they find themselves holed upcountry in an isolated hotel that has been mothballed for the season.

Back in the capital, Gunnhildur, Eiríkur and Helgi find themselves at a dead end investigating what appear to be the unrelated disappearance of a mother, her daughter and their car during a day’s shopping, and the death of a thief in a house fire.

Gunna and her team are faced with a set of riddles but as more people are quizzed it begins to emerge that all these unrelated incidents are in fact linked. And at the same time, two increasingly desperate lowlifes have no choice but to make some big decisions on how to get rid of their accidental hostages..

The following is an extract from Quentin’s Thin Ice

Tinna Lind lifted herself up and crossed her legs again, letting her hair fall about her shoulders before roughly bunching it into a bun behind her head.

‘I have a proposition for you.’
‘You want to have my babies and live happily ever after?’
‘That might come later, who knows?’ she said, and her voice

dropped. She reached out and walked her fingers up Magni’s chest, ending up with one finger on his chin. ‘How much money does your friend in the bridal suite have?’

‘Something around two hundred thousand euros, I think,’ he an- swered and found himself becoming slightly breathless at the thought.

She leaned forward and looked into his eyes.

‘So how about you and me? We ease your friend out of the part- nership, drop him somewhere with a long walk to civilization, then we drop my mother next at a bus stop somewhere.’

‘And?’ Magni’s mouth was dry.

‘And we disappear. Just like you and Össur were going to do. Think about it. We could live well with that much money if we could get to somewhere warm.’

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Where I work by Rachel Abbott

On February 27, 2016, in Article, Author, Books, Fiction, by Milo

I am lucky enough to live in one of the most beautiful parts of world – Alderney, in the Channel Islands – and in a stunning property, a restored Victorian fort. I only live in one part of it as it’s divided into a number of apartments, but it is unique and has great character.

Apart from the magnificent building, the views themselves are breathtaking, and my sitting room and bedroom both look out over a beautiful bay. I am able to watch the sea and all its moods, from a calm, limpid blue, to a maelstrom of white-crested waves crashing onto the rocks below my window.

Alderney Bay

Alderney Bay

I used to work in my sitting room, but then a room adjoining the apartment became available and we had it gutted and refurbished so it makes a fabulous office, separate from, but adjoining my home.

The image below shows the entrance to my apartment on the left, but the door straight ahead at the bottom of the stairs leads into my office. It couldn’t be more perfect.

The Courtyard

The Courtyard

Inside the office it’s a bit shambolic at the moment. There is just so much to do as we prepare for the launch of Kill Me Again. I would prefer to show a photo from the opposite end of the room, because then you would see all the lovely bookcases. But sadly you would also see all the cardboard boxes waiting to go to recycling, and the pile of stuff that has to be started once my book launch is complete. I tend to just keep copies of my own books in the office so they’re accessible if we need to send any out. And I have a full selection of all the foreign language translations too – I love seeing them on the shelves.

The Terrace

The Terrace

I have two homes – although I am in Alderney for most of the time, we also have a small farmhouse in the Le Marche region of Italy onto the courtyard.

For about two months of each year, I take myself off to Italy, where I continue to write, but usually on the terrace of our home there. My days in Italy are less strict. I still get up at around 7, but take more time over breakfast and often take a nap in a hammock after lunch. Despite working fewer hours when I’m there, I am actually very productive.

It’s peaceful, and life is slightly less frenetic than it is here in Alderney, where – despite its size – there is a huge amount going on. In Italy, we tend to go out for the occasional meal, or invite friends round, but for the most part we just relax and enjoy it. There seems to be something about sitting looking out at the view that inspires me to write, and it is there that I wrote my first novel – Only the Innocent – so it’s special from that point of view.

I consider myself to be very luck to have such lovely places to work, and I’m sure they contribute to any inspiration that I may have.

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In Her Wake by Amanda Jennings

In Her Wake by Amanda Jennings

A perfect life … until she discovered it wasn’t her own

A tragic family event reveals devastating news that rips apart Bella’s comfortable existence. Embarking on a personal journey to uncover the truth, she faces a series of traumatic discoveries that take her to the ruggedly beautiful Cornish coast, where hidden truths, past betrayals and a 25-year-old mystery threaten not just her identity, but also her life. Chilling, complex and profoundly moving, In Her Wake is a gripping psychological thriller that questions the nature of family – and reminds us that sometimes the most shocking crimes are committed closest to home.

Hauntingly captivating, In Her Wake is a pure example of a book that is powerful in its simplicity. There’s no escaping its hold, there are no car chases, no unnecessary shoot outs and no over the top action sequences. This is no police procedural and no crime thriller – this is one hell of a psychological thriller and one that once it grabs you, it will never let you go. The overriding emotional pull is quite incredible; it’s as if at any moment you can expect to read the book with one eye closed and a sharp intake of breath necessary to continue, just to turn the page.

I remember reading the initial pages and experiencing a wave of emotion that I really hadn’t anticipated. When Bella arrives at her family home with her husband, her grieving father meeting her at the door, it was something as simple as a jumper not done up correctly, her father lost without his wife, that took me back to losing my own father years ago. When a book and an author who has no connection with the reader can achieve that then you are half way to succeeding. You know you can’t stop reading at that point.

That wasn’t the only example, the book forced me to look back at my past both with fondness and sadness and I remember wincing on more than one occasion. The narrative, so wonderfully written, is beautiful in its desperation. The characters are lost and only time will tell if they ever become found again. Relationships, both past and present, are at the heart of this book and at times it made for uncomfortable reading as it forced a colourful array of emotions for this particular reader.

Bella as a protagonist is as complex as you would expect and as the story matures you are allowed to delve a little deeper into her psyche. She blossoms into an amazing woman, free of captivity, both figuratively and emotionally but that’s not the end of the story. Amanda Jennings gives her a voice, one that has been denied her for years. Her development has been stunted but moving to Cornwall to investigate her secret past allows development to progress in spades.

There’s not much more to say to be honest, In Her Wake is a beautifully written book, one that is both powerful and disturbing in equal measures, a book that you wish you’d written. Exceptional.

  • Paperback: 340 pages
  • Publisher: Orenda Books (1 April 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1910633291
  • ISBN-13: 978-1910633298
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Ben Hope lives on the edge. A former élite member of the SAS, Ben is tortured by a tragedy from his past and now devotes his life to finding kidnapped children.

When Ben is recruited to locate an ancient manuscript which could save a dying child, he embarks on the deadliest quest of his life.

The Alchemist's Secret

The Alchemist’s Secret

The document is alleged to contain the formula for the elixir of life, discovered by the brilliant alchemist Fulcanelli decades before. But it soon becomes apparent that others are hunting this most precious of treasures – for far more evil ends.

When the secrets of alchemy hidden within the pages remain impenetrable, Ben teams up with beautiful American scientist Dr Roberta Ryder to crack the code.

It seems that everyone – from the Nazis during WW2 and powerful Catholic organisation Gladius Domini – wants to unearth the secrets of immortality.

The trail leads Ben and Roberta from Paris to the ancient Cathar strongholds of the Languedoc, where an astonishing secret has lain hidden for centuries…

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Even the Dead by Benjamin Black

Even the Dead by Benjamin Black

When I began to write my Quirke stories, first as a television mini-series back around the year 2000—yes, Christine Falls, the first Quirke novel, was adapted from a script that was never going to be filmed—I did not realise how fortunate I was to be able to remember Dublin in the 1950s, and use it as a background. Indeed, the city is more than background, it’s one of the main characters in these books.

In the 1950s, the 8th of December, Feast day of the Immaculate Conception, no less, was a holy day and a public holiday, and the day when people from the country came to town to do their Christmas shopping. It also happened to be my birthday—I doubt mine was an immaculate conception—and every year on the 8th I was brought to Dublin from Wexford, my home town, as a birthday treat.

I vividly remember those trips. I would board the train with my mother in a freezing, pre-dawn hour—I can still smell the smoke from the engine, for this was in the days of steam trains—and wait sleepily for the pink light of morning to come creeping across the frost-white fields as we trundled northwards. We would alight at Westland Row station, and I would feel that I had arrived at the Gare du Nord.

Dublin in that time was dark, dank and Dickensian: it looked, and smelled, like a city of the 1850s rather than the 1950s. Yet I was thrilled by it: even yet, there are moments when a whiff of diesel fumes from the back-end of a double-decker bus will transport me straight back to those December days of long ago. We had no double-deckers in Wexford . . .

Of course, the magical city, as I imagined it to be, was entirely a façade, where a veneer of devout respectability covered all manner of crimes and misdemeanours that never got reported in the newspapers. While I was happily tucking into a Knickerbocker Glory ice cream in the Palm Beach Café on O’Connell Street, the city’s main thoroughfare, around the corner children were starving in some of the worst slums in Europe. For most Dubliners, the only relief from poverty—financial and spiritual—was alcohol. The place reeked of porter, cigarette smoke and horse dung. What more could one ask, setting out to write noir fiction?

Later on, in the 1960s, I lived with an aunt in her flat in a decaying Georgian pile in Upper Mount Street, one of the loveliest thoroughfares in the world, and still untouched by the hand of the developer. Quirke lives in that house, number 39, hard by St Andrew’s Church, known fondly as the Pepper Canister, and near the canal, the banks of which are his favourite haunt. When my novel The Sea was filmed, by coincidence the last day of shooting took place directly opposite number 39. Life has its eerie moments.

Even the Dead is published on the 28th January, 2016.

Visit Benjamin Black on his website at

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Fever City by Tim Baker

Fever City by Tim Baker

Nick Alston, a Los Angeles private investigator, is hired to find the kidnapped son of America’s richest and most hated man.

Hastings, a mob hitman in search of redemption, is also on the trail. But both men soon become ensnared by a sinister cabal that spreads from the White House all the way to Dealey Plaza.

Decades later in Dallas, Alston’s son stumbles across evidence from JFK conspiracy buffs that just might link his father to the shot heard round the world.

Hotly tipped to be one of the must reads of 2016, Fever City is one those books you’ll find irresistible to put down. Before you know it you’re immediately immersed in the Mad Men era of the 1960’s where we meet Detective Nick Alston in 1960 and Hastings, a killer who appears in numerous years of that decade. Bringing up the rear and 21st century is Nick Alston’s son, Alston Jr in 2014.

The book moves around a lot and it does get a little confusing at times with numerous time switches but stick with it for you’ll be rewarded with a complex but intelligent storyline with numerous clever sub plots and twists. It certainly won’t leave you wanting that’s for sure.

I’ve never been a fan of the sixties, I can’t watch a drama on television set in that period and I very rarely listen to the 60’s music but despite this mental baggage I wanted to give Fever City a go as I do have an interest in history and as soon as I discovered the connection with JFK I was hooked – before I’d even opened the book. One thing Tim Baker did was make me enjoy the 1960’s and that’s one thing I never expected to take from this book!

It’s not only JFK that Tim Baker references, Rex “Old Man” Bannister’s son has disappeared, a powerful man who not only has connections with the aforementioned Kennedy but FBI supremo J Edgar Hoover and Howard Hughes who to this day remains an enigma and eccentric! Bannister’s relationship with Ronnie is questionable to say the least and I’m certain he couldn’t care less about whether he returns or not. With a bounty of one million dollars placed on his head, who knows how the situation will unfold, you’ll just have to read it!

One of the most intriguing aspects of the book for me is Hasting’s role in it. A killer who becomes embroiled in a plot to assassinate John F Kennedy because the President isn’t playing ball with those who want to control him, JFK is no puppet president. Hastings has no alternative than go along with the plot or face being silenced himself. After years of supposition and conspiracy over JFK’s death it was great to read another take on the president and another author’s viewpoint. I really enjoyed it and Tim Baker has done a cracking job of bringing that era and history alive.

Finally we have the modern era where Alston Jr, a newspaper man in Dallas, talks to conspiracy theorists who claim to know what really happened to JFK. Alston is shocked to discover his father may have played a part in the assassination.

One element I did find interesting – and this will come as no surprise to anyone here – was the lack of technology in the 1960’s narrative compared to the 21st century and it somehow seemed to sit a lot more comfortably with me, despite being a self confessed techno geek! I didn’t miss the world of mobile phones and internet that’s for certain.

A terrific read with a healthy sprinkling of fact, fiction and history, Tim Baker has created a violent and powerful narrative to flow from one page to another effortlessly. This is a must read for 2016.

  • Hardcover:432 pages
  • Publisher:Faber & Faber; Main edition (21 Jan. 2016)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:0571323847
  • ISBN-13:978-0571323845
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A chat with Len Tyler

On January 13, 2016, in Author, Books, Crime, Fiction, Interview, by Milo
A Masterpiece of Corruption

A Masterpiece of Corruption

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and why do you write?

As I get my narrator to say in my very first book, The Herring Seller’s Apprentice, I have always been a writer. I can’t really remember a time when that wasn’t what I wanted to do, though it then took me a few decades to actually produce a publishable full length novel. What keeps me writing is people saying that they enjoy reading the books. If they ever stopped doing that, then I’d find something sensible to do with my time.

What kind of relationship do you have with your protagonists?

Ethelred and John Grey couldn’t be any different could they?!! Ethelred is a rather conservative, pessimistic, middle aged, mid-list author. He wishes it was 1957. John Grey is young and idealistic. He’s happy with modernity, though modernity to him is of course 1657. I think it’s difficult to write any character, or any main character, who isn’t, deep down, a little bit like you; otherwise, how can you understand what they do? But you draw on different aspects of your own personality for each one. Personally, I’d be quite happy living in 1957 or 1657.

How would you describe yourself in one sentence?

The sort of person that it takes at least two sentences to describe.

A Cruel Necessity

A Cruel Necessity

How long did it take you to write A Masterpiece of Corruption and did you find it different from writing your first historical novel A Cruel Necessity?

About a year. Books always seem to take about a year. The first book in a historical series tends to be fairly research-incentive. You’re constantly having to check whether petticoat breeches were in fashion in the 1650s or what people ate for breakfast or indeed whether they ate breakfast at all. And you want to show people you’ve done your research – you make sure you describe petticoat breeches in detail. You never stop researching of course, but later you feel you have to put less of it in the actual book. You and the reader now know stuff like that.

If you could send one person to a remote desert Island with no internet access, mobile phones or email who would it be and why?

Me. I might get some work done.

What do you wish you’d known when you started writing?

I wish I’d understood that you need to keep in mind both the plot of the book you’re writing and the story arc of the series. It’s all too easy to create problems for yourself two or three books down the line. Of course I had no idea that the first book would develop into a series so, even if I’d understood all that, I wouldn’t necessarily have done anything different.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

P G Woodhouse. How to make your prose sound effortless, even when it clearly isn’t!

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in writing A Masterpiece of Corruption?

Until I started to read up on it, I’d been unaware that there was a theory that Cromwell had been murdered. A Masterpiece of Corruption centres around the attempt to foil just such a plot. Obviously, it’s not much of a spoiler if I admit that Cromwell dies eventually, because a quick look at Wikipedia will confirm that he is dead and has been for quite a while. But was it malaria, as was announced at the time, or something more sinister?

How different is your approach to writing the Herring series and the historical fiction series?

With any historical series, you are working to some extent with actual historical events. So key points in the plot are already mapped out for you. I suppose therefore that I have a better idea of the outline of the book when I start. The Ethelred and Elsie books could go pretty much anywhere they want. I also don’t have Elsie’s sarcastic commentary on events with the John Grey series, though Aminta (John’s sidekick) is beginning to develop her own line in helpful criticism of John’s methods.

Which fictional character would you most like to meet in real life?

Philip Marlowe.

What makes you keep picking up and reading books?

Because there are so many great books being written. We’re living through something of a Golden Age.

How has being a published author changed your life?

You no longer get that sense of dread on Sunday afternoon that it is Monday tomorrow.

If you could quote a line or paragraph from your work what would it be and why?  

It is early on Tuesday and I am not yet dead (Masterpiece of Corruption)

Friday night in the Tyler home, you get to invite three people to dinner, past or present. Who would they be and why?

Samuel Pepys, Aphra Behn, Lady Castlemaine. They’d have all the seventeenth century gossip …

My thanks go to Len for the chat. If you’d like to discover more about Len and his books then please take the time to visit his website – LC Tyler or catch him on twitter!

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Honky Tonk Samurai by Joe R Lansdale

Honky Tonk Samurai by Joe R Lansdale

Hap and Leonard are not your typical private eyes. But what they lack in experience they make up with perseverance.

Hap, a former 60s activist and self-proclaimed white trash rebel, and Leonard, a tough black, gay Vietnam vet, have finally decided to make their detective work official. Their first client: a mean old woman looking for her missing granddaughter.

The girl used to work for a car dealership in town… but it seems like cars weren’t the only things on offer. The mystery thickens to include blackmail, revenge, and an inbred family of hillbilly assassins who eliminate any threats to the operation.

Only Hap and Leonard could turn a simple missing person case into a life-threatening showdown, and only Joe Lansdale could tell this story. Filled with hilarious dialogue, relentless pacing, and unorthodox characters, Honky Tonk Samurai is a rambunctious thrill ride by one hell of a writer.

I can’t remember laughing so much in the first thirty pages of a book for quite some time, if ever, the humorous dialogue and enigmatic characters help move the book along at a formidable rate of chuckle knots! The humour remains throughout the book, the snide comments, the put me downs, the micky taking and the hilarity, even during the awkward and poignant moments it’s there to help lighten the mood for the reader. I thoroughly enjoyed the approach and Hap and Leonard’s personalities shone like a beacon from start to end.

Honky Tonk Samurai isn’t your typical book, good thing I guess that both Hap and Leonard aren’t your typical private eyes as the book blurb – above – informs us.

While on a routine surveillance operation the ageing pair discovers their boss has just become the chief of police and Hap and Leonard are faced with the news that they have to start a new private eye business – Enter Hap’s girlfriend BETH? I guess she’s the glue that helps bind the two characters together and keeps them on the straight and narrow – as far as that is possible!

Although the book reads well from the outset there was a distinct change of gear and emotion for me when the author introduces a new character – Chance. I’m not going to give anything away so the review remains spoiler free but when Chance enters the frame it just gives the story a new dynamic, nothing too drastic but for me it was noticeable and rounded off a very good plot. Hopefully you’ll know what I mean when you read the book, unless it was just my imagination getting the better of me, because it definitely adds a little something extra to an already gripping storyline.

Hap and Leonard are a tour de force and utterly irresistible, you won’t want to miss this one!

  • Hardcover:352 pages
  • Publisher:Mulholland Books (2 Feb. 2016)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:0316329401
  • ISBN-13:978-0316329408
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Cold Justice

Cold Justice

A killer seeking revenge. A community protecting its own. The most explosive case yet for DC Willis and DI Carter.

Cornwall, 2000. Jenna wakes up after a drug-laced party to the realization that she has been raped. And it looks like it involved her new boyfriend, who has come down from London for the summer. But the case is assigned to a corrupt local police sergeant, who knows he can extort money from the boy’s father, prominent London MP Jeremy Forbes-Wright, in return for his silence.

Fifteen years later and Jeremy Forbes-Wright is found dead under highly suspicious circumstances. On the same day, his two-year-old grandson Samuel is kidnapped on a London street and DC Ebony Willis and DI Dan Carter are called in to find the missing boy. They soon realize all roads lead to Cornwall and to find the little boy they must finally get justice for Jenna. But someone is murdering the people they need to speak to and time is running out …

It’s been a while since I was first introduced to Lee Weeks when I read Dead of Winter (Carter/Willis 1), I remember wanting to move into that cottage and live the simple life. It never quite happened and three years later I’ve had the opportunity to read the fourth instalment in the Carter/Willis series. As with her first novel the narrative is sharp and atmospheric and storylines graphic and intelligently crafted, I’d expect nothing less as the first novel left quite a mark on me. Another complex plot, as with Dead of Winter, this time around I followed the ups and downs effortlessly such is the quality of the narrative.

Within a few pages you’re drawn into a storyline and location that never allows you to leave, not for a second, a little close for comfort given the underlying theme in this book. The book has a little of everything, police corruption, murder, rape, a sinister paedophile ring just for starters! I struggled to put the book down for as soon as I’d bought into the characters and village I felt as if I had a vested interest in the outcome.

We all want to see the goodies prevail and the baddies get their comeuppance but it doesn’t always happen. There’s so much going on in this book with characters coming in and out of the story throughout but as with her first book the author ties the book up neatly and you’re not left wondering what will happen. There’s just enough to tease you and leave you looking forward to book number five but there’s nothing quite like finishing things neatly and the ending satisfies on many levels.

Characteristically Weeks is as strong as ever and as the book develops we discover the small seaside village has more than its fair share of villains and nasty people. In fact, when Carter and Willis start to mix things up from the moment they arrive to investigate Samuel’s kidnapping, characters grow and their development is incredibly well paced. Never a case of too much too soon – apart from Raymonds – Weeks teases with a little evil here, a little evil there, until you’re left in no doubt who the ring leaders are and the historic crimes the village and her residents have been hiding for so many years.

I mentioned Raymonds briefly above, I won’t go into too much detail but suffice to say I had a bad feeling about him from the outset and that never left! You never quite know who’s guilty of the kidnapping until the kidnapper is revealed, along with numerous other crimes that surface. It’s all done rather well I must say, a very very satisfying read but one thing is clear, I’ll never think of Cornwall in the same way again!

Very dark, equally sinister and graphically compelling, another excellent read.

  • Paperback:480 pages
  • Publisher:Simon & Schuster UK; Paperback Original edition (5 Nov. 2015)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:147113363X
  • ISBN-13:978-1471133633
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