Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Dead at First Sight – Peter James

Crime Fiction – Series
4*s

Well here we are already up to number fifteen in the Roy Grace series. I have followed Roy’s story from the very first book and my patience has been rewarded because following the author’s move to Jersey to live, our little island is a location used within this novel.

The initial crime is one of those where the victim is perhaps is afforded less sympathy, that of the internet romance scam. We’ve all read the stories where a woman or man of advancing years is romanced and before they have a chance to meet in person some awful event unfolds where money is required to be sent to ensure that cupid’s arrow can complete its journey. When the money runs out or the victim becomes suspicious, they then suffer the indignity of realising the romance wasn’t real, and they’ve been fleeced.

I have to admit despite the appearance of Jersey (including a very good scene in a restaurant that I visit) I wasn’t quite as hooked with this book as I have been in the past. Perhaps it was that age old problem I have when the perpetrators are known to the reader – I just don’t get the same kind of enjoyment from novels written this way – or maybe it was the other issue I have with criminal gangs – again this kind of offending doesn’t quite capture my interest in the same way as figuring out an individual’s motivation. Those minor personal preferences aside there is no doubting that there is plenty of action within Dead at First Sight, the romance scam only being the opener for far bigger and more exciting crimes to come!

One of the aspects that I enjoy in this series is seeing Roy Grace’s life outside the office although sadly Cleo was reduced to a bit part within this novel with no important scenes in the mortuary this time. We do have the development of Roy’s sons and there is definitely potential in that arena to keep the personal aspect of the book as interesting in the future as they’ve been in the past.

Peter James has to be commended for his ability to keep the books real without boring the reader stupid with adherence to policy and procedure. Again within this book I got the feeling that the author has really listened to the older and experienced detectives and gives a real flavour of what they find difficult in modern policing without ignoring the reasons why some of the changes were vital. As always this just stays the right side of real especially as our fictional detective is still having problems with his superior Cassian Pewe! Could Roy be becoming jaded with Brighton and Hove? Only time will tell.

So even though this probably was my least favourite of all the Roy Grace novels, I wouldn’t (and couldn’t) have missed it for the world. I love meeting up with the ‘old friends’ on the team, having a credible plot with a thoroughly nice detective at its centre and I therefore begin my countdown to the sixteenth book in the series!

I’d like to say thank you to Pan Macmillan for allowing me to read a copy of Dead at First Sight before publication on 16 May 2019.. This unbiased review is my thanks to them and the talented author Peter James for another entertaining foray into crime fiction in Brighton & Jersey!

First Published UK: 16 May 2019
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
No of Pages: 448
Genre: Crime Fiction – Crime Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Roy Grace Series in order
Dead Simple
Looking Good Dead
Not Dead Enough
Dead Man’s Footsteps
Dead Tomorrow
Dead Like You
Dead Man’s Grip
Not Dead Yet
Dead Man’s Time
Want You Dead
You Are Dead
Love You Dead
Need You Dead
Dead if You Don’t

 

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Death of Mrs Westaway – Ruth Ware

Psychological Thriller
4*s

Well that was a creepy read! It is odd but somehow I always associate the creepy aspect with historical novels, after all we are too aware of the present in modern times to get spooked by an old crumbling house complete with scary housekeeper, aren’t we?

Ruth Ware is one of those writers who really knows how to create an atmosphere and so even though the greater part of this book is set in the present and that in the past only dates back to 1995, I was drawn into a world of the improbable with barely a question.

Hal (Harriet) Westaway is broke. Not the sort of broke that afflicts most twenty-somethings on a regular basis but the sort that means she is in danger of losing the only home she’s ever known, and perhaps not without damage since she’s in hock to a loan shark. She returns home one night to find a letter, one from said loan shark (or one of his mates) and one from a solicitor in Penzance who claims to have a bequest from her Grandmother who has recently died. Only problem is that Hal’s grandmother wasn’t Hester Westaway and she certainly didn’t live at Trepassen House before she died.

Of course we take a trip to Trepassen House for ourselves and find a property that is almost a character in its own right. It’s the full gothic experience complete with barred windows and secret messages and of course the very creepy housekeeper. Not quite what Hal is used to. Ok she may be in dire straits money wise but she plies her trade in reading Tarot cards on Brighton pier and her home is the only one she’s ever known. That’s not to say Ruth Ware doesn’t impress on her readers the difference of this seaside pier in the winter time, having its very own atmosphere. Safe to say she’s slightly out of her depth in this situation. Hal’s mother died and it’s her business Hal has inherited but her mother wasn’t one to mince her words, always reminding Hal:

Don’t fall into the trap of believing your own lies.

This story despite obviously being set in the present, something the author embraces rather than tries to disguise, has an old-fashioned quality to it. The sense of danger is only all too imaginable when you put yourself in the shoes of a young woman with no money even if she is someone who is not an out-and-out innocent. Normally I find myself getting highly irritated by characters who do stupid things – I’m sat tutting and shaking my head saying ‘well what did you think was going to happen?’ but somehow this author had me bought into the storyline so that, under the circumstances, the decisions seemed plausible. There are shades of Daphne Du Maurier and Patricia Highsmith but fear not this story is an original.

I can’t leave this review without stating quite how brilliantly Hal is portrayed. This definitely isn’t a one-dimensional character, she is made of shades of grey with all the complexities that real people have, something she is never more aware of than when she is reading the tarot cards for her eager audiences.

I highly recommend this book which is perhaps more suited to an autumnal evening with the rain lashing down, but fear not, I was chilled despite lying in the sunshine devouring every last word of this masterpiece.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers Random House UK who allowed me to read an advance copy of The Death of Mrs Westaway which is published today. This unbiased review is my thanks to them and of course Ruth Ware for the thoroughly entertaining read.

First Published UK: 28 June 2018
Publisher: Random House UK
No of Pages: 400
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

Dead If You Don’t – Peter James

Crime Fiction
5*s

Well Roy Grace is back for the fourteenth time in Dead If You Don’t which in short is an action packed police procedural that shouldn’t be missed.

I am a huge fan of this series and always look forward to the next book more or less from the time I close the last page and so it may surprise you to hear I had a moment of disquiet when I realised the opening scenes featured a Kip Brown and his teenaged son, Mungo, going to a big game at the Amex Stadium. OK I got that it was an important match with the locals Brighton and Hove Albion against Manchester City no less but I’m no fan of football and out of all crime fiction storylines, bombs rank bottom of the pile. The Head of Security had been warned that a bomb was going to be left in the Amex stadium unless a payment in bitcoin was made before kick-off. Oh dear, was this going to be the one novel in this series I didn’t enjoy because of my dislike of the combination of football and bombs? No, of course it wasn’t because Dead If You Don’t isn’t just about bombs and football, that was just setting the scene for something far more complex.

We have big businessmen, near bankruptcy a bunch of criminals to keep everything spicy and Roy Grace at the match with his son Bruno. Glenn Branson is with security at the stadium keeping an eye out for the promised bomb and then it all kicks off aside from the football!

As always Peter James keeps things real with his thorough research with the police giving this series a real air of authenticity whilst still ensuring that the storytelling isn’t overwhelmed with procedures and policies. I love the team, Norman Potting is still his un-PC self although more subdued than he was at his most annoying. Glenn has also overcome many of his personal problems and is reaching for the next rung on the career ladder but there is little time for the personalities to go wild in this book because Roy Grace is busy co-ordinating a missing boy, a bomb scare, a dead drugs mule and a dismembered body. Quite a lot to take on in a weekend! Dead If You Don’t is almost wall-to-wall action so although we get snippets about Roy’s wife Cleo and his sons Bruno and Noah they are very much in the background, unlike some of the previous books.

This is a scary ride of a book indeed, nearly as scary as Norman Potting’s erratic driving as they race to a potential scene of a crime. It’s a measure of the skill of the writing that I felt I was alongside poor Roy Grace as he urged Norman to go faster than a snail’s pace only to nearly be swung into the path of a van when he complied.

I’m not going to say any more – this was just as good as all the previous books in the series, if anything it felt more action packed with the switch of focus from the police and their families to the criminals and their nastiness and seeming complete lack of morality. And the ending is fantastic – a little bit of a moral to round the whole shebang off!

I’d like to say thank you to Pan Macmillan for allowing me to read a copy of Dead If You Don’t before publication today. This unbiased review is my thanks to them and the talented author Peter James. Roll on episode 15!

First Published UK: 17 May 2018
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
No of Pages: 400
Genre: Crime Fiction – Crime Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Roy Grace Series in order
Dead Simple
Looking Good Dead
Not Dead Enough
Dead Man’s Footsteps
Dead Tomorrow
Dead Like You
Dead Man’s Grip
Not Dead Yet
Dead Man’s Time
Want You Dead
You Are Dead
Love You Dead
Need You Dead

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Brighton Mermaid – Dorothy Koomson

Contemporary Fiction
4*s

Dorothy Koomson treats us to her darkest book yet in this haunting tale of two teenagers who find the body of a young woman washed up on the shore in 1993. Twenty-five years later, Nell is still obsessed by the woman who was never identified.

The scene is set beautifully when a night seemingly full of promise of a party held by sixth-formers which Jude had lied to her parents to attend. The horror of the discovery combined with the fear of her parent’s wrath when she had to be picked up from the police station was palpable. And then there was their treatment at the hands of the police who didn’t know at first whether to treat the girls as eye-witnesses or suspects. The two may have been able to put this behind them if Jude hadn’t subsequently disappeared without a trace.

Dorothy Koomson doesn’t just set the scene but the time so well. Of course in 1993 the girls didn’t have mobile phones so one stayed with the body while the other went to the phone box to report the crime. Then we switch to the present where the internet where Nell investigates the missing links between people using genealogy sites to help others find missing family. It is against this background that she takes a year off work to devote herself to finding out who the young woman was, and what happened to her best friend.

As always Dorothy Koomson uses a number of hard-hitting issues in The Brighton Mermaid but all are deeply woven into the story-line, not one appearing placed for effect alone and the author crucially gives the reader time to absorb and reflect on these rather than telling us what to think, the best kind of writing.

The first half of the book sets the scene and so unsurprisingly moves at a slightly slower paced but nonetheless I found it absorbing, but… you will need to hang onto your seats for the rattling pace of the second half as Nell gets closer to understanding what happened twenty-five years ago and the events that changed, her and her family’s life forever.

I loved the characters in this book, the relationship between Nell and her sister so realistically portrayed with all the shades of love and hate that often are present, brilliantly displayed and woven through the main mystery which delves so deeply into the past. This is a story of actions having far-reaching consequences and the ripples that spread throughout a family forcing them to reconsider their ‘family story.’

I’ve long considered this author one of my favourites and her books cover a whole range of different types of stories within the range that is labelled ‘woman’s fiction’ from the sentimental to this one which edges into the crime fiction genre but what all the books have in common is the way that they immerse you into the story, not letting you go even after the last page has been turned.

I’d like to say a big thank you to the publishers Century who allowed me to read a copy of The Brighton Mermaid prior to publication on 17 May 2018. This unbiased review is my thanks to them and the author Dorothy Koomson.

First Published UK: 17 May 2018
Publisher: Century
No of Pages: 496
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Dorothy Koomson’s previous books:

The Cupid Effect (2003)
The Chocolate Run (2004)
My Best Friend’s Girl (2006)
Marshmallow’s for Breakfast (2007)
Goodnight Beautiful (2008)
The Ice Cream Girls (2010)
The Woman He Loved Before (2011)
The Rose Petal Beach (2012)
The Flavours of Love (2013)
That Girl From Nowhere (2015)
When I Was Invisible (2015)
The Friend (2017)

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Vanishing Box – Elly Griffiths

Historical Crime Fiction
4*s

This series is so refreshing with the murders somehow far more of a puzzle than centre stage – that place belongs to the safe pair of hands which belong to DI Edgar Stephens.

The year is 1953 and the month is December and in those days snow was more or less a certain event and so the detectives have the weather to contend with as they tramp, often on foot, to the crime scene and the police station.

The book opens with the murder of a young woman at a boarding house in Brighton run by the formidable Edna Wright and her somewhat less formidable husband, Norris. Edgar had attended the scene after the latter had opened the door to find the young Lily Burtenshaw’s body arranged as if part of a tableau. Sergeant Bob Willis is also attending in charge of the new piece of equipment, the camera which will document everything rather than relying on memory.

Of course along with Edna and Norris the other occupants of the boarding house have to be interviewed and among them are two young women who are sharing the bill with Max Mephisto at the Brighton Hippodrome. Max is performing magic alongside his daughter Ruby with the finale using a life-size vanishing box. It won’t be long before their magic act moves to television at the behest of their manager Joe Passolini.

With Edgar and Max having served together as the band of Magic Men in World War II along with their collaboration on previous murders he shares some of the details, especially as it seems there may just be a link to the variety show. The show features near naked women (with strategically placed feathers) standing stock still in a tableau. Now I don’t know about you, but I didn’t know that this was a thing! Apparently naked women could appear on stage as long as they didn’t move so these tableaux were presumably popular with the male attendees of the variety shows hopeful of a mis-positioned feather! Anyway back to the story… Edgar along with Bob and his female sergeant Emma Holmes ponder and puzzle over the clues when someone else is found murdered.

These books really are delightful, I preferred the setting firmly back in the theatre rather than our brief foray into television in the last book, and the puzzle is an intriguing one. The tone is light although because of the somewhat tangled personal lives of all our favourites the humour isn’t quite of the level of the first two books. I particularly enjoy the period details which are sprinkled throughout the book without the reader ever feeling as if this is overdone, a tip that many other authors tackling the historic angle could take note of. I also like the length of the book, the pace is fairly swift with the personal lives of our favourites woven into the plot seamlessly so that the book doesn’t feel as if these scenes have been added to pad the book out.

If you want the perfect kind of winter read you could do an awful lot worse than to settle into your seat, albeit slightly frayed, at the Brighton Hippodrome, and prepare to be amazed.

I received an ARC of The Vanishing Box from the publishers Quercus Books. This unbiased review is my thanks to them.

Published UK: 2 November 2017
Publisher: Quercus Books
No of Pages: 368
Genre: Historical Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Max Mephisto & DI Edgar Stephens Series

The Zig-Zag Girl
Smoke and Mirrors
The Blood Card

 

Posted in #20 Books of Summer 2017, Book Review, Books I have read

The Girl From Nowhere – Dorothy Koomson #20booksofsummer

Contemporary Fiction
4*s

A box decorated with butterflies is all that Clemency Smittson has to link her to her birth family and she has carted the box, designed for a baby to sleep in, through all the ups and downs of her life. Now it is packed into a van once more as Clemency makes the move to Brighton following the breakup of a relationship. Unfortunately her new beginning comes with unexpected baggage, her Mother is moving into the perfect flat that Clemency has found to run her business making re-loved jewellery.

A chance meeting sets off a chain of events that causes Clemency to reassess her relationships with her mother her deceased father and her new-found birth family. You can’t help but feel for someone whose life story isn’t quite what they believed it to be and yet Clemency knew she was adopted, after all her parents were white. One of my favourite scenes was when Clemency was young her father who took her to a hairdressers to learn to treat her hair properly while her mother tried to ignore the fact that her daughter had a different heritage. Her mother’s lifelong refusal to acknowledge her heritage has caused a chasm between the two that despite a mass of affection on both sides, only seems to widen.

As much as I felt for Clemency I have to admit my true sympathy was reserved for Clemency’s mother who bravely faces up to the fact that her daughter’s birth family also have something to offer, and I could see why she was genuinely worried about is the price Clemency might have to pay for the privilege.

The setting is brilliant with the quirky shops and seaside café complete with hunky barista. This is a Dorothy Koomson book and there are few writers that manage to play on my emotions with such a deft hand. One minute I’m furiously turning the pages to see what decisions characters are going to make while wondering how I would react in a similar situation and then BAM I’ve got a lump in my throat as another touching, but never mawkish, scene arrives leaving me struggling to swallow my cocktail.

As is often the case with this author’s books there are a number of issues explored but always with the lightest of touches leaving the reader to draw their own conclusions. The intricacy mirrors Clemency’s work to take an old and unworn pieces of jewellery and recreate them into something that the owner will wear. The smaller tales that her customers relate at the start of this process add layers to the story and serve to make the overall story seem realistic. Clemency is a real woman, with values which are challenged in numerous ways by a variety of people and as a result I was totally involved in her story despite on the surface leading a very different life with few of the concealed elements that our protagonist has to contend with.

One of the strengths of this book is that it doesn’t pretend not everything is resolved in the way of a happy-ever-after but after all, real life isn’t like that, people aren’t like that but it does finish in a way that makes you feel that Clemency in some way gets to belong in a fundamental way, something that she’s never felt before.

That Girl From Nowhere is my 7th read of my 20 Books of Summer  Challenge 2017

First Published UK: April 2015
Publisher: Century
No of Pages: 464
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

Need You Dead – Peter James #blogtour

Crime Fiction
5*s

I am particularly delighted to be part of the blog tour for Need You Dead which is the thirteenth in the award-winning DS Roy Grace series by Peter James because this is a series I’ve followed from the very beginning, reading each book in order eager to find out what has happened to my favourite characters whilst knowing that there will be a cracking crime story to keep me entertained.

Today Peter James is sharing some of his research with us:

DS Roy Grace Blog Tour – Day 7
Research behind Dead Man’s Grip

While researching Dead Man’s Grip I was taken around the famous local landmark that is Shoreham Power station. Along with being claustrophobic I have always had an absolute terror of heights, so the research for a key scene in the book, involving a secret tunnel under Shoreham Harbour, where I would be making a 180 feet vertical descent down a ladder in a shaft, was horrifying! A major “oh shit” moment! Fortunately I had two very delightful and caring helpers from Rescue & Emergency Medical Services Ltd who gave me the confidence and help to do it.

Then at the launch of Dead Man’s Grip I was submerged in a van in Shoreham Harbour for a stunt enacting a key scene in the book. I was nervous as hell before this event and I had the whole police dive team prepped to rescue me in case it went wrong!

Peter James has kindly provided original pieces for each day of his blog tour so make sure you catch the rest of the stops!

 

Book Review
Lorna Belling has been found dead in a bath tub in a rented flat in Brighton. Already known to the police because she’s reported her husband for domestic abuse Roy Grace sees the investigation as a good one for Guy Batchelor to be Deputy Senior Investigating Officer for a couple of reasons: one to allow him to learn the ropes and secondly because Roy has to fly to Germany to pick up his son Bruno to bring him back for the funeral of his mother.

Lorna is a hairdresser who works from home, her phone is monitored by her husband and there has been more than one nasty incident with her husband Corin who works for an IT company, but the last attack was particularly nasty. The Domestic Violence caseworker is concerned for Lorna’s safety but so far Lorna has decided to stay put with Corin and the puppies she has bred. But the flat where Lorna was found dead wasn’t her home, so why is she in a cheap rental flat with dodgy electrics?

Of course the investigation isn’t quite as straightforward as first appearances indicated and the reader is in on the action seeing the red-herrings being liberally scattered across Brighton to ensure that the Police are following entirely the wrong scent. In a bold move by the author we even know why the only link missing is who it could be. It goes to show how in experienced hands a small amount of mystery is all that is needed with this book not lacking at all in tension as the team set out to find the killer – or perhaps Lorna committed suicide after all?

There are a number of strands to be pursued by the team and all of them have a good collection of well-drawn characters to keep us fully entertained as they do so!

It is almost refreshing these days to have modern crime fiction told in a straightforward time-line and here we have the chapters headed up by the days of the week starting from the beginning and working to the end – how clever is that? Because there is so much going on there are several chapters for each day, with each looking from a different point of view and in the case of Roy Grace, some are from a different country.

As with the entire series I get as much enjoyment in meeting up with the large and varied cast of characters, particularly with the established team of police, with the author reflecting their most immediate concerns using his extensive contacts with the real crime fighters in Brighton’s Police Force to ensure all the details are bang up to date. A small word of caution, Mr James, please don’t turn Roy Grace into a political figurehead for the Police however much your sources urge you to, less is more as they say!

As always this latest Roy Grace story had me thoroughly entertained. I can also spy some interesting threads which I’m sure we will follow for a few books yet in Roy’s personal life as Bruno settles into life as a big brother to baby Noah and so as always, no sooner did I put the book down, I was eager to have the next instalment from Brighton and Hove.

I am extremely grateful to Macmillan and Midas PR for providing me with a review copy of this book, and for allowing me to be part of this blog tour – the pinnacle of my blogging ambitions! My review of course is unbiased.

First Published UK: 18 May 2017
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
No of Pages:  432
Genre: Crime Fiction – Crime Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Roy Grace Series in order
Dead Simple
Looking Good Dead
Not Dead Enough
Dead Man’s Footsteps
Dead Tomorrow
Dead Like You
Dead Man’s Grip
Not Dead Yet
Dead Man’s Time
Want You Dead
You Are Dead
Love You Dead
Need You Dead

Need You Dead, the thirteenth in the award-winning DS Roy Grace series by Peter James, is out 18th May (Macmillan, £20.00)

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Sweet William – Beryl Bainbridge

Classic Fiction 4*s
Classic Fiction
4*s

Ann is a young woman who works at the BBC in London and when we first meet her she is waving off her fiancé, academic who is flying to America to start a new life. Soon Ann will follow. Ann’s mother is very proud of the new life, less enamoured it would seem of Gerard, the fiancé particularly his carnal desires, in reality than on paper.

I wonder how differently this story would play out if it was set now, and not in the midst of the sexual revolution. Why? Because Ann meets William, a married man who captivates and thrills Ann in a way Gerard never has. William visits Ann’s bed and then cycles off to look after his children while their mother works and has a font of bizarre tales to distract from his frequent absences, the furtive phone calls and crucially his intentions. However William is an important man, he is putting on a play which will tour England, and even though Ann is less than impressed by the play itself, she understands that her role is to support, so out goes the job at the BBC so that she can devote herself to this exceptional man. Oh the irony.

This is not only Ann’s story but in the shadows are other women connected to William, the wife, the mother, her landlady, her cousin and those women who phone up looking for him at odd times of the night and day. It is also the story of Ann’s mother, a woman who lives in Brighton with Ann’s father, a man who seems entirely eclipsed by his indomitable wife, who represents those who lived before the sexual revolution.

Ann felt it was funny that anyone should call Mrs Walton ordinary. It wasn’t an adequate word. She thought of her mother’s piano playing her scheming, her ability to read French, the strength of her convictions, the inflexibility of her dreadful will.

The truth is that when Ann met William, she was woefully unprepared, she’s an unworldly girl who it seems has none of the support that most women today enjoy. Perhaps because the women that knew them both were complicit in covering up William’s fickle ways, his selfishness and his disregard for Ann’s feelings.

She didn’t know enough about men. Her mother said they were brutes, self-absorbed and secretive. But William wasn’t like that: he was open and he loved her and he had forced her to meet his wife.

This love story takes a turn for the worse, as well you might expect but there is plenty of black humour, something that Beryl Bainbridge employs to great effect. To be honest the black humour is made infinitely easier because I don’t think I am the first person to read this book who wants to shake Ann and truly open her eyes to the half-truths she knows. So while I felt a smidgen of sympathy for her plight, I couldn’t believe she couldn’t see what was right in front of her. After all William may have lied but when pushed he really makes the situation very obvious:

‘But Edna needs to look after me. I give her money for the housekeeping… she doesn’t want to be done out of cooking for me. Who am I to deny her that?’
He bent his head humbly. There was a flaw in his argument, she knew, but she couldn’t put it into words. He’d denied Edna everything else; it didn’t’ seem particularly cruel to tell her he didn’t want any food.

The more I read of this author’s work, the more I enjoy it. Beryl Bainbridge is definitely my find of the year with her exceptionally clever writing and yet still immensely readable. This black comedy published in 1975 both conjures up a bygone time and yet, I know that Sweet William still exists, maybe in a slightly different guise, although I suspect this was his true era, when there were plenty of naïve women just waiting to fall for his charms and willing to shake of the older generation’s morals that had protected the majority of previous generations.

I received my copy of Sweet William from the publishers Open Road Integrated Media who are republishing a number of this authors books, this one on 29 November 2016.

First Published UK: 1975
Publisher: Open Road Integrated Media
No of Pages: 192
Genre: Classic Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Reviews of other books by Beryl Bainbridge

Harriet Said
An Awfully Big Adventure

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Blood Card – Elly Griffiths

Historical Crime Fiction 4*s
Historical Crime Fiction
4*s

When Colonel Peter Cartwright, their commander from the war, is found dead with the ace of hearts, the blood card, next to him Max Mephisto and DI Edgar Stephens are summoned to London and put in charge of a secret investigation into his death.

Racing back to his current investigation in Brighton where Edgar is probing the mysterious death of fortune teller Madame Zabini he is soon off on his first aeroplane trip to New York, a fifteen hour journey on the trail of the murderer.

The links to the world of the theatre are really strong in this, the third outing of Stephens and Mephsito and reach back in time. Max and Edgar are tracking down some old-timers from the world of the variety shows which are now beginning to fear their fate with the advent of television. And it is time to be worried with a terrific surge in families buying sets to watch the Queen’s Coronation. Max was unable to take the trip to New York as he has dipped his toe into the world of television and is performing a magic show live for the small screen, a show that will follow the main event of the day. His new agent Joe Passolini has promised that millions will watch Those Were The Days, the greatest variety show to reach into the drawing rooms of the UK.

The two plots, one dealing with deaths of those linked to the theatre and another strand devoted to the gypsy’s who deliver the entertainment on the pier. Stephens and his Sergeants Bob Willis and Emma Holmes are far from convinced that Madame Zabini’s death was suicide, as Bob succinctly put it:

‘You’d think, being psychic, she’d know if someone was going to do her in’

When her son receives a letter asking him to ask Stephens what the Magic Men knew, the operation he was part of with Max during the war, the feeling that something was not quite right just intensifies. The problem is apart from handing over the note the family aren’t terribly forthcoming, having an aversion to the police.

My love of these two crime fighters hasn’t abated one little bit and this proved to be a fun read, all deaths happen ‘off-page’ to cause minimum distress to the reader. The plot has an old-fashioned feel to it, matching the time period perfectly, consisting of cryptic crossword puzzles and a network of characters where even the most shadowy, could be kindly be described as ‘misunderstood’ That’s not to imply there isn’t any action, there is, and the descriptions are brilliant. The portrayal of the build up and ultimately to the day of the coronation itself, one full of excitement as the new Elizabethan age dawned was fantastic I felt I was right there with the people who partied despite the rationing, which was still in place, and shows went on to please the new audience in front of their televisions.

Elly Griffiths manages to sneak plenty of historical facts into this engaging and evocative mystery of an era that doesn’t get as much exposure as the preceding decades. She effortlessly transports us to the time and I’m delighted that her female characters are so strong despite being true to their time. For those who have read the previous books, it is an absolute delight to see the character progression, the bonds that have been forged in times of adversity lending a depth to such a fun read. So it isn’t only long live the Queen but long live Max Mephisto and DI Edgar Stephens!

I was delighted to receive an advance review copy of this book ahead of publication next week and this review is my thanks to the publishers Quercus Books, and of course the fabulous Elly Griffiths.

Published UK: 3 November 2016
Publisher: Quercus Books
No of Pages: 382
Genre: Historical Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Max Mephisto & DI Edgar Stephens Series

The Zig-Zag Girl
Smoke and Mirrors

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Death Comes Knocking – Graham Bartlett with Peter James

Non-Fiction 4*s
Non-Fiction
4*s

Death Comes Knocking is a non-fictional look at policing in Brighton, the place which is where the fictional Roy Grace carries out a similar role to that of the author of this book, Graham Bartlett worked his way up through the ranks to the position of Brighton’s Police Commander and during the course of his career has dealt with crimes and criminals of all shapes and sizes.

Sometimes policemen who turn their hand to writing go for the fictional genre, and can woefully overburden the reader with how different real-life work is to those of the fictional characters we all love. I think what Graham Bartlett along with Peter James, have produced is far more interesting because the real and the fictional feature alongside each other celebrating the similarities but adding a side-serving of realism to the proceedings.

In nineteen chapters the book follows Graham’s life through his career picking out cases which definitely appealed to this reader. The books starts hard when one criminal gang decide to pull the trigger at a fellow Police Officer, but there are also tales of stolen gems, drugs, murder, bent policemen and the strategic policing of events like football games and demonstrations. Many of these tales reference back to episodes in the twelve Roy Grace books written by Peter James.

The stories told are interesting because the authors concentrate on the characters involved as well as the crimes being committed. There is one very touching story about a man who got involved in drugs and other’s where the authors meet up with some of the named criminals and victims years later which provides far more than a list of facts, procedure and policy but gets to the real truth of how these crimes can have consequences many years down the line.

Bravely the author also documents his private life, telling us how, unlike Roy and Sandy Grace, his marriage has stayed strong despite life’s misfortunes and the unpredictability of working hours in the force. Only on a very few occasions, oddly enough when the author was describing some of his colleagues, did the writing style feel a little on the stilted side. It didn’t put me off reading the book but I did wonder if he was aware that they would be eagerly reading the book to see what he’d said about them?

Of course with a career that lasted for thirty years Graham has seen lots of changing in policing. Some of the changes he documents are the obvious ones such as the advent of DNA and the increase in CCTV and later other technology to help in the solving of crimes, but other less obvious to those of us on the outside have also changed over the years.

I am sure that this book will appeal to both those who enjoy ‘true-crime’ but don’t want to dwell on the infamous criminals, which these books usually focus on, and of course to lovers of Peter James’s Roy Grace series. The latter category of readers can hear a little about the real people who inspired, and gave their names too, some of the fictional characters in the books and more description about the actual places detailed in these novels.

Death Comes Knocking has a very informal feel for a non-fiction piece of work in this genre because of the links to the fictional but that was exactly what kept me reading. I was worried that it would be too dry for my taste but far from it, I was eager to hear about a forging operation run out of Brighton as much as I was the poor woman who was the victim of a stalker, the variety alone felt astonishing until you remember how many different crimes Graham must have worked on over his time in the police force.

My copy of Death Comes Knocking was sent to me by Midas PR on behalf of Pan Macmillan, the publishers. This unbiased review is my thank you to them, and the authors.

Publication Date UK: 14 July 2016
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
No of Pages 327
Genre: Non-Fiction
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