In Her Wake by Amanda Jennings – Book Review

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

Posted in book reviews, Books, Cornwall, Crime, Psychological Tagged , , , , ,

The Alchemist’s Secret (Ben Hope, Book 1) – New Cover

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…

Posted in Action, Books, Thriller Tagged , , ,

Benjamin Black on Quirke and Dublin in the 1950’s

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 benjaminblackbooks.com

Posted in Article, Author, Books, Dublin Tagged , , , ,

Fever City by Tim Baker – Book Review

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

Posted in book reviews, Books, Crime, Fiction Tagged , , ,

A chat with Len Tyler

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!

Posted in Author, Books, Crime, Fiction, Interview Tagged , , , ,

Honky Tonk Samurai by Joe R Lansdale – Book Review

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

Posted in Action, book reviews, Books, Crime, Fiction Tagged , , , ,

Cold Justice by Lee Weeks – Book Review

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

Posted in Abuse, book reviews, Books, Cornwall, Crime, Fiction Tagged , , , ,

Nightblind By Ragnar Jónasson – Book review

Siglufjörður: an idyllically quiet fishing village on the northernmost tip of Iceland, accessible only via a small mountain tunnel. Ari Thór Arason: a local policeman, whose tumultuous past and uneasy relationships with the villagers continue to haunt him. The peace of this close-knit community is shattered by the murder of a policeman – shot at point-blank range in the dead of night in a deserted house. With a killer on the loose and the dark arctic winter closing in, it falls to Ari Thór to piece together a puzzle that involves tangled local politics, a compromised new mayor, and a psychiatric ward in Reykjavik, where someone is being held against their will. Then a mysterious young woman moves to the area, on the run from something she dare not reveal, and it becomes all too clear that tragic events from the past are weaving a sinister spell that may threaten them all.

Nightblind By Ragnar Jónasson

Nightblind By Ragnar Jónasson

Icelandic Noir has never fallen from the pages of a thriller so eloquently! Dark and chilling, Nightblind has been written with a beautiful prose and a narrative that just begs to be devoured. It’s almost impossible to put down, one page is quickly followed by another, each chapter morphing effortlessly into the next and the characters fall off the page with a gritty enthusiasm.

Set in a small fishing village, once a renowned herring hot spot, an industry long since forgotten that helped shape the town and her personality, Nightblind is a modern take on an Agatha Christie novel. No great surprise given Ragnar Jónasson’s passion for the writer having translated numerous novels into Icelandic.

No matter how good a foreign language story is, a book relies heavily on a strong translation and Nightblind is no exception. Translated by Quentin Bates – who incidentally lived in Iceland for a decade as a teenager and young adult – he does a splendid job in bringing Ragnar’s words to an English speaking community. As I’ve already mentioned, it reads very well and the flow is arguably one of the best this year, for me at least.

Not only is Nightblind chilling it evokes an insular feeling that never leaves for you are never afforded the opportunity to escape this small community. Ari Thór is undoubtedly the star of the show but he’s anything but perfect. Struggling with his relationship with his live in girlfriend and balancing parenthood with a demanding job, especially after the initial shooting, things don’t always go to plan. But then where would be the fun if they did?

The clues are there allowing the reader to guess the final outcome and it all unravels beautifully in the end, a fitting finale to a terrific book. Frábær!!

Published by Orenda Books.

Posted in book reviews, Books, Crime, Iceland Tagged , , , , ,

Angel Killer by Andrew Mayne – Book Review

Meet Jessica Blackwood, FBI Agent and ex-illusionist.

Called in because of her past to offer expertise on the mysterious ‘Warlock’ case, Jessica must put all her unique knowledge to the test as the FBI try to catch a ruthless killer.

Needing to solve the unsolvable, and with the clock ticking, they’re banking on her being the only one able to see beyond the Warlock’s illusions.

Angel Killer

Angel Killer

Angel Killer is an enjoyable and easy read; a summer read if ever there was one either in paperback or kindle, all you have to do is choose your preference!

Knowing that the author had history as a magician made the read a little bit more tantalising every time a magic trick or an illusion was mentioned. I expected the author to give away dark secrets and although he insinuated and teased at how they were done, nothing is given away – I guess that’s the magician’s code for you! Nonetheless that never detracted from the thrilling story and its characters.

The fact that Jessica Blackwood is a former magician gives the book an extra dimension. Although she’s initially sneered at by her new colleagues she does manage to turn things around to a certain degree. Fame comes a calling but for the wrong reasons, it’s a fame she doesn’t want or need at this particular time in her career but she handles it well.

I really enjoyed the magic element and the tie in with the murders is well thought out and apart from a few slow sections the book really moves along at a good pace, a real page turner. It keeps you interested and entertained and I can see a fair bit of mileage with Jessica Blackwood and her problem solving. She’s not your usual feebie agent or detective, she definitely brings something new to the table. She’s driven, enthusiastic and determined to succeed.

Characterisation was good and it will be interesting to see where certain relationships go in the next instalment as the book ends in a rather open ended fashion leaving the door well and truly open for a sequel. If I had any criticism at all I found the end reveal a little rushed, I would have preferred it a little more drawn out but that’s just a personal preference.

This is the first opportunity I’ve had to read Andrew Mayne’s work but with Jessica Blackwood as a protagonist I can see the franchise going from strength to strength. I definitely want to know what happens next and although I don’t expect any rabbits in hats I do expect another thrilling instalment.

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher:Faber & Faber; Main edition (8 Oct. 2015)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:0571327605
  • ISBN-13:978-0571327607

Posted in book reviews, Books, Crime, Fiction Tagged , , ,

The British Lion by Tony Schumacher – Book Review

The British Lion by Tony SchumacherLondon detective John Rossett joins forces with his Nazi boss to save the commander’s kidnapped daughter as the Germans race to make the first atomic bomb.

With the end of the war, the victorious Germans now occupy a defeated Great Britain. In London, decorated detective John Henry Rossett, now reporting to the Nazi victors, lies in a hospital bed recovering from gunshot wounds. Desperate to avoid blame over the events that led to the shooting, his boss, Ernst Koehler, covers up the incident. But when Koehler’s wife and daughter are kidnapped by American spies, the terrified German turns to the only man he trusts to help him—a shrewd cop who will do whatever is necessary to get the job done: John Rossett.

Surviving his brush with death, Rossett agrees to save his friend’s daughter. But in a chaotic new world ruled by treachery and betrayal, doing the right thing can get a man killed. Caught between the Nazi SS, the violent British resistance, and Americans with very uncertain loyalties, Rossett must secretly make his way out of London and find Ruth Hartz, a Jewish scientist working in Cambridge. Spared from death because of her intellect and expertise, she is forced to work on developing the atom bomb for Germany. Though she knows it could end any hope of freedom in Europe and maybe even the world, Ruth must finish the project—if she, too, wants to survive.

The British Lion is undoubtedly one of THE books of the year, for me at least. It grips you from the very first page and never relinquishes its magical and compelling hold until a gripping finale ends what is a cracking and powerful story. Full of engaging characters, fabulous plotting and a narrative that keeps you turning the pages, Schumacher has followed his first novel with a stunning work of alternate fiction that gives the reader a glimpse into what might have been had Hitler and the Nazi’s won the Second World War. Fortunately for us it never happened and makes reading this fictional work a lot more enjoyable and less frightening!

Even during the quiet and scene building occasions I couldn’t help but want to know what happens next. There was never a dull moment, each character caressing the story along in such a natural way that it made reading effortless. It’s difficult to express how easy this book is to read and it’s one you definitely have to experience for yourself.

Unfortunately I haven’t read Tony’s debut The Darkest Hour and even though I have a fair idea what happened after reading this follow up I’ll definitely make time to visit Schumacher’s introduction of London detective John Rossett.

Talking of Rossett, he’s a terrific protagonist and leads the book well but here’s the thing, he’s not the only protagonist. Running alongside Rossett is Nazi Commander Ernst Koehler and scientist Ruth Hartz who literally has the fate of the world in her hands. The three fill up the pages with great stories, fabulous dialogue and intriguing interaction.

Tony Schumacher isn’t afraid to take risks, no character is safe and this is one book that kept me guessing throughout due to its unpredictable nature. Bodies soon begin to pile up and you never quite know who’s going to survive.

There were a number of scenes that stood out for me but one literally took my breath away. It wasn’t a scene full of bodies or uninterrupted action but a moment of hopeless tenderness and beauty. It was a scene in such raw tenderness and emotion that will remain with me for some time.

So there you have it a story about brotherhood, occupation, control and relationships The British Lion is so much more than a book about one man striving to help a friend in need and in so doing he might just help save the world.

Gripping, entertaining and utterly compelling.

• Paperback: 352 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (31 Dec. 2015)
• Language: English
• ISBN-10: 0062439197
• ISBN-13: 978-0062439192
• Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.9 x 19.7 cm

Posted in book reviews, Books, Cambridge, London, Thriller Tagged , , , , ,

Midnight Sun – Blood on Snow 2 by Jo Nesbo – Book Review

Midnight Sun - Blood on Snow 2

Midnight Sun – Blood on Snow 2

Jon is on the run. He has betrayed Oslo’s biggest crime lord: The Fisherman.

Fleeing to an isolated corner of Norway, to a mountain town so far north that the sun never sets, Jon hopes to find sanctuary amongst a local religious sect.

Hiding out in a shepherd’s cabin in the wilderness, all that stands between him and his fate are Lea, a bereaved mother and her young son, Knut.

But while Lea provides him with a rifle and Knut brings essential supplies, the midnight sun is slowly driving Jon to insanity.

And then he discovers that The Fisherman’s men are getting closer…

Jo Nesbo is back with a new standalone novel called Midnight Sun that will, I’m sure, receive a mixed reaction. There is no Harry Hole, no Snowman but there is violence, drugs and a damaged leading man – Jo Nesbo does this incredibly well!

Of the two standalones, Blood on Snow (reviewed in May this year) remains my clear favourite. There’s something about Olav that kept me turning the pages and despite the fact that he was a hitman there was something rather endearing about him!

Both protagonists have depth but I struggled to like Jon in Midnight Sun, I’m not sure if it was the character or the way Nesbo presented him. My favourite character by far was Lea’s son Knut who is a curious, inquisitive and lovely kid who wants to know everything. He wants to be liked and loved. It was clear to me that Knut was missing a strong male influence in his life and for whatever reason Jon – or Ulf’s – arrival brought him to life. He loves his jokes and he wanted to help Jon, the relationship between the two was incredibly touching. I could have done with many more scenes between the two!

Recovering from the death of his daughter and the guilt of failing to save her, Jon steals money from The Fisherman, a crime boss in Oslo, and runs for his life in Northern Norway where the sun never sets. And so begins a new adventure in his life but one constant, alcohol is never far away.

The majority of the story is set in a hunter’s cabin and it makes for a wonderful and atmospheric setting. You could just imagine walking to the stream and washing, just how nature intended! As I’ve mentioned there is a little violence and a few scenes that made me squirm but this is typical Nesbo!

The book is quite short and finished way too soon for me, I felt as if more of the past and for that matter the present could have been explored to greater depth but it wasn’t. I do think the author missed a trick with this and the ending will be a marmite one. Some will enjoy it, some will hate it and some will be undecided. I’m sitting on the fence, I’m still not sure how I felt about the ending but one thing I am certain of, I wanted it to finish in a different way but without spoilers I can’t go any further with this train of thought! This is very much up to the individual reader! Oh and before I forget, watch out for the twist!

Also reviewed on Raven Crime Reads

  • Hardcover:224 pages
  • Publisher:Harvill Secker (5 Nov. 2015)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:184655859X
  • ISBN-13:978-1846558597

Posted in book reviews, Books, Crime, Fiction, Jo Nesbo, Norway Tagged , , , , ,

Worldwide Young Readers Day

To celebrate the Worldwide Young Readers Day today I thought I’d take a look at a few titles that meant so much to me when I was growing up, titles that still hold a special place in my heart and maybe, just maybe, you’ll recognise some of these titles or want to investigate them further – for whatever reason!

Rupert The Bear 50th Annual

Rupert The Bear 50th Annual

Although this doesn’t classify as a regular book I always remember, once a year around Christmas, getting a Rupert the Bear annual from my parents. I hadn’t really thought much about the bear until this weekend when I came across the 50th annual on one of the bookshelves. Upon perusing the web I’ve discovered that they are still publishing the annuals, well Egmont Publishing are. Celebrating its 80th edition this year Rupert is going strong and it shows no signs of stopping.

The annual, a mixture of wonderful short stories and colourful images, they brightened up my childhood and I remember many a night falling to sleep while my father read them to me. It was a magical time and now looking back on those early days I remember the time I spent with my father priceless. Even at that young age I distinctly remember the look on his face when he read the stories to me, something I’ll never forget. The sneaky grin as the storyteller knew what was coming next and my look of utter bewilderment when a story ended in dramatic fashion. Memories are priceless, the stories and character fortunately live on in glorious print. If dad was here today, I’d sit him down and read to him and I’m sure we’d both get a kick out of that!

Rupert The Bear wasn’t the only bedtime book I remember growing up, there were countless adventures from Enid Blyton’s The Secret Seven, in fact fifteen adventures, all written long before I was a kid but again something my parents introduced me to. Following Peter and Janet, the brother and sister combination, and their friends all trying to solve the most impossible of crimes. Probably why I love crime thrillers to this day!

Aside from the aforementioned books one book that I remember reading by torchlight and under the covers, long after my parents told me the light must go out, school tomorrow, was The Hobbit written in 1937 by J.R.R. Tolkien. The story follows the quest of hobbit Bilbo Baggins who attempts to win a share of treasure guarded by Smaug, a dragon. As Bilbo travels he gains a maturity and new level of wisdom, encountering numerous  creatures along the way to emerge at the end of the book in conflict.

A truly sensational read,  The Hobbit is one of my most read books as a young child. Having never read Lord of the Rings, I’m pleased to say that Tolkien’s The Hobbit left an indelible mark on my childhood. I really should make the time to read the book again and not rely on the Hobbit trilogy released recently on film!

Treasure island

Treasure island

Apart from Tolkien, two Scottish authors played a big part in my school years, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, born in Edinburgh in 1959 and Robert Louis Stevenson also born in Edinburgh in 9 years earlier in 1850. Conan Doyle will forever be associated with Sherlock Holmes and as a kid I never tired of reading the adventures of London’s famous detective both in the day and at night in bed. I won’t go into any detail about Sherlock’s adventures as they’ve been covered time and time again by so many people over the years.

Stevenson’s novels, two of them to be precise, stand out for me namely Treasure Island , and the amazing Kidnapped which follows David Balfour’s  pursuit of his inheritance in Scotland. A wonderful book and another of those childhood memories I really should revisit now I’m a lot older and daresay wiser! I should also mention Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe a book which also spawned an epic black and white television series that I’ll always associate with my childhood along with The amazing adventures of Zorro!

I could go on and list many more titles that hold so many memories for me as a young child and teenager but if I did, this article would serve to send the reader to sleep, just as the greats of the past did to me – but in a good way!

Happy Young Readers Day everyone, and along with sleep start up Casper, this is one day that should be promoted and remembered by both young and old.

Posted in Books, Children Tagged , ,

The Prisoner’s Gold by Chris Kuzneski – Book Review

The Prisoner's Gold

The Prisoner’s Gold

THE HUNTERS
If you seek, they will find…

The travels of Marco Polo are known throughout the world.

But what if his story isn’t complete?

What if his greatest adventure has yet to be discovered?

Guided by a journal believed to have been dictated by Polo himself,
the Hunters set out in search of his final legacy:
the mythical treasure gathered during Polo’s lifetime of exploration.

But as every ancient clue brings them closer to the truth,
each new step puts them in increasing danger….

Damn you Kuzneski, why do you write adventure stories that are impossible to put down? I mean, it would be nice to have a breather every once in a while but with gripping storylines, amazing characters and the obligatory twists and turns, The Prisoner’s Gold is another prime example of superb construction and terrific writing that is frankly impossible to resist!

Incredible stuff, an author who continues to push the boundaries and enhance the action thriller genre, Kuzneski is one of my dependable authors, a man who delivers time and time again and long may it continue.

Characterisation is impressive with Jack Cobb once again leading the merry band of misfits! A motley crew, they act as one, one for all and all for one if you like – now where have I heard that before?! Dependable, highly skilled and determined to find the treasure, very little is allowed to stand in their way but as with all adventures things don’t always go to plan. Forced to think on their feet the crew, now sporting a new member – historian and linguist Maggie – meticulously plan for all eventualities but as this adventures is anything but A to B, things tend to go awry and Cobb shows the leadership skills that are crucial for its success.

With every good guy comes a bad guy, a bit of Ying for your Yang, and in Feng He, the leader of the Righteous and Harmonious Fists, a secret organisation, we have a despicable bad guy! He is ruthless and violent. He sports a determination to keep all Chinese treasures in the country and a hatred of all things Western. There’s one particular scene where he enters a room and hands out – you’ll get that pun once you’ve read the book – his own punishment and boy is it severe. Feng and his second in command are great characters and if it is possible to like a bad guy then he’s your man!

Another character I really enjoy is Josh McNutt – sniper – and his attitude, comedy and one lines are a breath of fresh air. He does have a tendency to be rather uncouth at times but I enjoy him more every time he pushes the boundaries and makes people squirm.

The Hunters is a great series and here’s hoping it goes from strength to strength. Great dynamics, superb writing and intriguing storylines I can’t wait to see what Kuzneski comes up with next. If you’re a fan of Scott Mariani’s then you’ll definitely enjoy this one. Do read them in order to get the most out of the series but each one stands alone for those who don’t have the time to explore the back catalogue – but if you do you’ll definitely be rewarded!

  • Hardcover:384 pages
  • Publisher:Headline (8 Oct. 2015)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:0755386590
  • ISBN-13:978-0755386598

Posted in Action, Adventure, book reviews, Books, Fiction Tagged , , , ,

The Yellow Diamond by Andrew Martin – Book Review

The Yellow Diamond

The Yellow Diamond

Detective Superintendent George Quinn – Mayfair resident and dandy with a razor-sharp brain – has set up a new police unit, dedicated to investigating the super-rich. When he is shot in mysterious circumstances, DI Blake Reynolds is charged with taking over. But Reynolds hadn’t bargained for Quinn’s personal assistant – the flinty Victoria Clifford – who knows more than she’s prepared to reveal…

The trail left by Quinn leads to a jewellery theft, a murderous conspiracy among some of the most glamorous (and richest) Russians in London – and the beautiful Anna, who challenges Reynolds’ professional integrity. Reynolds and Clifford must learn to work together fast – or risk Quinn’s fate.

The Yellow Diamond is a quirky read and although set in the heart of twenty-first-century Mayfair, a world of champagne, Lamborghinis and Savile Row suits, I felt as if it could quite easily have been set in 1970’s London. It doesn’t read as a modern police thriller – to me – it reeks of an old fashioned read with a protagonist who with every page appears to be increasingly out of his depth!

Blake Reynolds is a by the book Detective Inspector whose sole aim in life appears to be to account for every gratuity he receives. Whether that’s a cup of tea, a glass of vintage champagne, a £50 cigar or an expensive suit, he exhorts just about as much effort into balancing the books as he does in finding criminals and escaping life or death situations! I did like his character, he’s quite an unusual protagonist, a protagonist who wrestles with his conscience on an hourly rate! His personality shines throughout the book and gives the story a great deal of depth and colour.

His working relationship with Victoria or Vicky Clifford is intriguing and one I could never quite work out which is always a good thing! There’s no doubt about who wears the trousers in the relationship! With subtle and not so subtle suggestions, Blake Reynolds finds he is guided down a path with consummate ease and manipulation it’s great to read.

The story itself is good, I did find I’d lost my way once or twice, but on the whole it made sense and it all came together nicely at the end with a few unexpected turns. I’m looking forward to another installment of Blake Reynolds and his unique approach to policing, long may he continue investigating the rich and powerful of West London, an area full of embassies, hedge funds and high end living.

  • Hardcover:320 pages
  • Publisher:Faber & Faber; Main edition (5 Nov. 2015)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:0571288200
  • ISBN-13:978-0571288205

Posted in book reviews, Books, Crime, Fiction, London Tagged , , ,