Reading Good Friday I realised how much great crime fiction I’ve missed out on by somehow eschewing Lynda La Plante’s previous books. Indeed it was only the pull of going back to the 1970s that persuaded me to watch the recent TV series Prime Suspect 1973 which I think covers the first book, Tennison: Prime Suspect 1973. Anyway I thoroughly enjoyed the TV series so when I was offered this book, I was delighted to accept and prepared myself for a trip back to 1975 when the IRA were active in the UK.
By the time this, the third in the prequels to the Jane Tennsion series, opens Jane is now a Detective working out of Bow Street in London. She’s feeling a little frustrated at being given the lowly jobs and seeking a way to find a route to a more exciting future. She’s still young, still very much trying to break free from her parent’s expectations but old enough to be tiring of life in the Section house. One morning after she’s climbed up the steps at Covent Garden Station (the lift was out of order otherwise unless you want to have the life sucked out of your lungs on the dizzy climb up the spiral staircase, you don’t attempt that climb, I’ve done it once and said never again!) she sees a woman shouting after a man who has left a rucksack. Sadly the rucksack contains a bomb that goes off and Jane immediately is caught up in the aftermath of tending to the injured.
It is interesting to see that despite being set over forty years ago, the media play a key role in the story. Although Jane is clear that she didn’t get a proper view of the suspected bomber, she goes to a press conference where an e-fit picture is given to the press. Unsurprisingly this puts Jane not only in the firing line of the media attention, but also potentially compromises her own safety.
Through all the mayhem, trauma and fear that follows the bomb explosion, Jane’s new boss in CID is adamant that she should attend the annual CID dinner at St Ermin’s Hotel, so she has a posh dress to find. All of this lends a somewhat congruous edge to the hunt for the bomber as I’m used to reading books where no-one gets leave, certainly time to prepare for a dinner wouldn’t be top priority, and yet in some ways it felt realistic, Jane after all, despite being important as a witness is not part of the main investigation.
As well as the investigation into the bombing we see Jane move away from the Section House into a small flat of her own, complete with disasterous room-mate. We see the stringent rules imposed by the Police Service on its officers at that time, and we also get a glimpse of what life was like for a young woman in the capital during the 1970s. Jane hasn’t yet got the steely edge she will acquire later on, but she does show us some of the tenacity and brilliant thinking which will emerge into the light later in her life. Alongside this there is some ingenious plotting so which had me turning the pages faster than the speed of… well as fast as I could read them!
This was a brilliant read by an author whose work I will be belatedly seeking out during 2018 and I’d like to say a huge thank you to Bonnier Zaffre for sending me a copy of Good Friday, this review is my unbiased thanks to them and to Lynda La Plante for a wonderful read.
First Published UK: 24 August 2017
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre
No. of Pages: 400
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series Amazon UK Amazon US
I really do enjoy this series featuring DS Claire Boyle which is based in Dublin partly because her thrillers are bang up to date with elements that are familiar to us all.
In this, the third book in the series, DS Claire Boyle takes centre stage being right at the heart of an incident in a Doctor’s surgery. The story includes the back story, stretching back through the decades, of Dr Heather Gilmore and her childhood friend Eileen Delaney but Eileen has a grudge against the Doctor. So while a gun is being waved around in the surgery in the present the reader has the far happier memories of two girls who were once so close.
This is the fastest moving of the novels in this series but the author doesn’t neglect what I like so much about her books which is that they are realistic with people absolutely at their heart. Claire’s own personal life is ever-present as she juggles life with her husband and young daughter with her single-minded approach to solving cases within the force. Needless to say, as in many families, this can sometimes be a bumpy ride particularly as Mark’s own business is taking off and scheduling in time to look after their child isn’t always easy or possible when in the middle of a major investigation. There are times that Claire can come across as a bit unfeeling in this area but I do think it’s an incredibly realistic portrayal of the lives of so many couples who are building careers or businesses whilst also managing to bring up a child in a loving home.
We are not even over the sit on the edge of the seat read about the incident in the Doctor’s surgery when are then launched into the hunt for a kidnapper and the kidnapped girl, Leah, Heather Gilmore’s nineteen year old daughter. This needs the police to switch from diffusing a difficult situation to solid police-work, but fear not the pace doesn’t let up one iota Claire and her colleague Philip Flynn, along with the rest of the team set about searching for Leah. Phillip Flynn has been injured so can’t go racing about but that doesn’t stop him following up on hunches but there are no wild guesses that solve the crime, my pet hate, this crime will only ever be solved by following up on leads and finding the one with the perpetrator at the end.
I started this review by saying how much I love the very modern aspect of this series and one theme that runs through this book is the rise of the Celtic Tiger, and sadly its very rapid decline. Dublin has a whole host of people caught up in both the boom and bust and the catastrophes that followed are illustrated within this book with such a moving story which for me was by far the highlight of the book especially. This more reflective element was elegantly handled particularly as a back-drop to what is ultimately a fast-paced action paced read.
I received my copy of One Bad Turn from Amazon Vine and it is currently available for kindle readers, the paperback will be published in 2018.
First Published UK: 1 June 2017
No. of Pages: 352
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series Amazon UK Amazon US
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
This is the eighth in the Jack Dylan series written by a duo who were both involved in the police service jointly for forty-seven years, Carol being a member of the Civilian support staff and Bob retiring as a Detective Superintendent of West Yorkshire Police, so you can be sure what you read within these pages is based on knowledge. That doesn’t mean that we aren’t treated to a mystery, we are, but there are no leaps of faith to get to the answers.
The story starts with, where every good crime drama starts, with a body. This is the body of 14-year-old Patti Heinz a budding gymnast. She was found strangled, at home by her stepfather Elliot Black. Of course he becomes an obvious suspect but the police are also aware that Patti’s mother needs support and so he isn’t hauled off with no evidence but the parents are asked to stay elsewhere and assigned a Family Liaison Officer while the necessary post-mortem and forensic tests are carried out.
The murder investigation couldn’t have come at a worse time for Dylan’s wife Jen as having decided to move house she has viewings booked but no husband to view them with her. It doesn’t take long before she finds the one, an old stationmaster’s house, long abandoned and in need of lots of work.
The plot is tightly woven with the number of suspects soon mounting but without the evidence to link the to the murder the team is stuck so they return to the tried and tested methods of detection, getting to know their victim and retracing her steps through her last days. Will this turn up the clue that will crack the case?
With plenty of likeable characters, apart from the numerous sleazy suspects, of course, the team on the investigation are obviously mutually supportive. Although there is banter, it never crosses the line into cruelty and pleasingly the novel doesn’t go overboard on the underpaid and overworked officers jumping through hoops for those higher up the chain, which although I believe there is far more than a modicum of truth in the reality of policing, less if most definitely more for this reader in the politics of policing.
Unlike many police procedurals the focus isn’t as obviously on the victim’s family, perhaps because the death occurred in their house and they have to be considered suspects we don’t get to see the trauma the aftermath of their daughter’s death with the FLO relaying any pertinent details to the rest of the team, at times their loss is quite remote.
I haven’t all the books in this series, no surprises there, so I can confirm that this works well as a standalone although I may have understood more about the mystery of Dylan’s siblings who are introduced from what I can tell for the first time in this book.
On the whole a solid police procedural without the flights of fancy which lends an air of gravitas as it is clear that some of the side plots are examples of what this dedicated pair of authors met during the time they served in the police force.
I was lucky enough to receive an ARC for When a Killer Strikes from the publishers Caffeine Nights Publishing and this unbiased review is my thanks to them and the authors.
Carol provided a post sharing her favourite childhood books which you can read here.
First Published UK: 29 October 2017
Publisher: Caffeine Nights Publishing
No. of Pages: 256
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series Amazon UK Amazon US
The Patrik Hedstrom and Erica Falck series of which this is book 9, are set in the small fishing town of Fjällbacka are Scandi-noir books which whilst full of murder, fortunately from my point of view on the whole avoid the more stark violence of this genre’s reputation. Camilla Läckberg’s stories tend to link past crimes to a current investigation and The Ice Child is no different in that respect. Whilst Erica is writing another true-crime book about an infamous husband killer, Laila is in prison convicted but has steadfastly refused to talk about the crimes she has committed. Patrik is involved in the re-appearance of a teenage girl who went missing from a nearby riding stables four months ago. Tragically her surprise reappearance does not end well.
I think this is a series that to get the best from it, you need to have read the earlier books. The back-stories of the various police officers in Fjällbacka are ever-present as is that of Erica’s sister Anna who in short is forever facing some trauma or another. Luckily in this episode she is let off rather tamely with a fairly run of the mill relationship issue.
Interspersed between the back story of Erica’s visits to the prison to meet with Laila who frustratingly is still holding back on what happened decades before and the ongoing investigation into missing girls across Sweden are some excerpts of Laila’s thoughts. I do enjoy this kind of device where we the reader, get to know more about the crimes than the investigator. In this case in Camilla Läckberg’s recognisable style these short excerpts openly beg the reader to ask the questions which move the storyline along.
I started this post by saying on the whole the gruesome factor is lower down the scale than many in this genre, be warned though, this is no cosy mystery and there were some descriptions in both timelines that were shocking for the twisted thinking behind the crimes committed. It is no longer enough to simply be stabbed it would seem, now bodies must be mutilated, abuse must be extreme and everyone in the vicinity of a crime must be vigilant in case they are somehow caught up in the murderous spree. The latter certainly is part of what helps to keep the tension high in this book with the reader on the lookout not only for the killer but anxious about anyone who may fit the profile and with many scenes set at the riding stables there are a few to choose from.
I love the myriad of characters in these books, especially the interaction between the police and their trusty receptionist heart-warming, especially as some of them are seriously annoying, mentioning no names – Bertil, but they are a ‘work-family’ which add a lighter side to offset the horror in the past and the present.
It is relatively rarely that I get not only the name of the killer but the whydunit too but I did manage to outsmart the author this time getting full marks for both parts which in no way dented my enthusiasm for the book. As always I’m eagerly awaiting the next episode, The Girl in the Woods, which surely must be out soon?
The Ice Child was my twenty-sixth read in the Mount TBR challenge, having been purchased in November 2016.
First Published UK: 10 March 2016
No. of Pages: 432
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series Amazon UK Amazon US
Tír na nÓg a drop in centre for men is right at the heart of this, the second book in the Sergeant Claire Boyle series. With the realistic Dublin setting as a backdrop the lonely men who visit the centre make for a refreshing change which more than justly follows up on the author’s debut novel Can Anybody Help Me?
The drop in centre is run by Tom who gave Liz Cafferky a job when she was down on her luck and so she is unable to refuse when he wants her to do a TV interview to raise the profile of the drop-in centre with the aim to garner donations. There’s a downside for Liz though, she has become a bit of a media star and now she’s getting unwanted attention.
Meanwhile Claire Boyle is back at work following her maternity leave and feeling that all too familiar feeling of guilt despite her husband Matt staying at home to mind the baby. That’s until one of the drop-in centre’s regulars is murdered then her mind is focussed on the investigation.
I love this author’s work, it should be classed as a police procedural, after all there is an investigation with a solid mystery with the obligatory red-herrings and devilish plotting but we are also treated to a far more in-depth view of those civilians caught up in the investigation. By that I don’t mean a cursory this is how a major crime investigation impacts my life but we are given full insight into Liz Cafferky’s life beforehand too. This gives the book a totally different feel to the more traditional police procedural, a welcome one that gives this book a feeling of weight. Of course this approach wouldn’t work if the other secondary characters weren’t also fully fleshed out and there is something appealing about the care and compassion shown towards the visitors to Tír na nÓg that had me feeling quite sentimental at times. These are real people, not cardboard cut-outs and the interactions between themselves is as equally heart-warming, on the whole, after all this isn’t a book populated by saints!
You could be forgiven for expecting that with so many character-led scenes that the tension dips as we join the men in a game of cards or a chat but it really doesn’t, the feeling of foreboding is lurking at the edges whilst Liz tries to put her dodgy letters to the back of her mind and wonder instead at her new media personality the reader is still pondering a murder and a stalker so there really is a lot going on! I am thoroughly impressed by the author’s skill at keeping the tension high whilst at times, particularly at the end allowing me the release of the odd tear as that is how much I cared about some of the people I met through this book.
If I had one minor criticism it’s that Claire seems a little bit harder and so a little less approachable than when she appeared in Can Anybody Help Me? but then she’s had a baby, and so her slightly more brusque style is understandable.
This was a brilliantly entertaining crime fiction read that I pulled off my bookshelf as I wanted to read something I fancied for a change, not a review copy and not a book to fit into a certain challenge and it proved to be the perfect ‘because I want to read it’ book.
First Published UK: 2 July 2015
No of Pages: 352
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series Amazon UK Amazon US
Set at the time of the solar eclipse in 1927 with a cast of variety hall entertainers we are treated to a splendid mystery of the death of one of their number. Coming close on the tails of two other accidents Kate Shackleton has the job of unravelling the truth.
This is only the second of the Kate Shackleton series I’ve read, this episode being number nine in the series, but so well-drawn are the key characters that I feel I already ‘know’ them well. Kate is a business-like as usual ably supported by former policeman Jim Sykes and her housekeeper cum investigator, Mrs Sugden. Kate is ahead of her times in running her own PI business but not so far out of it that she comes across as unrealistic, there is no doubting that we are in the 1920s.
With show business being the backdrop to this novel we are treated to fabulous singers, ventriloquists, dancers, comics and acrobats all performing under the watchful eye of Trotter Brockett the man in charge of the whole shebang. Being of a cautious nature when Selina the star of the show is invited to watch the eclipse at Giggleswick School in Yorkshire he gives his permission on the proviso that she is back in time for a rest before the evening show. Selina invites her co-entertainer Billy Moffatt to accompany her and asks Kate to arrange transport, by helicopter no less. Selina is from an Italian family who are big in the ice-cream business and is a fantastic singer drawing crowds to the kind of show that is beginning to feel the threat of the moving picture especially as rumours about that soon the pictures will be accompanied by sound. Anyway the helicopter ride to Giggleswick is to follow a party at Selina’s house which is full of showbiz glamour and the trio joined by journalist who are attending to write a piece and to take pictures of the momentous occasion set off. Sadly tragedy strikes and Kate is employed to find out what happened, and of course why.
Although this is definitely at the cosy end of the crime fiction genre, it isn’t all lightness, jokes and fluff. The historical details set this apart with an appearance in this book of soldiers who fought in WWI and the injuries physical and mental that they returned with. But don’t fear not, there is a solid mystery, complete with the obligatory red-herrings to keep the reader entertained as Kate turns down blind-alleys in a bid to find out if the suspicious death that occurred on her watch was murder or not.
With more than a nod to the Golden Age writers the ending is spot-on in its execution with all the panache you’d expect from a showbiz tale which gave this reader no end of satisfaction even though, for once, I’d worked out (or luckily guessed) which of the many colourful characters should be in the hot seat for thorough questioning.
I was very grateful to receive a copy of Death in the Stars from the publishers Little Brown and this review is my unbiased thanks to them and to Frances Brody for thoroughly entertaining me with her latest Kate Shackleton story.
First Published UK: 5 October 2017
Publisher: Little Brown
No of Pages: 400
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series Amazon UK Amazon US
The Kate Shackleton Series
Dying In The Wool: 2009
A Medal For Murder: 2009
Murder In The Afternoon: 2012
A Woman Unknown: 2013
Murder on a Summer’s Day 2013
Death of an Avid Reader 2014
A Death in the Dales 2015 Death at the Seaside 2016
Death in the Stars 2017
Having returned to the Vera series with Silent Voices after far too long a break I welcomed this unattractive, blunt and uncompromising woman into my life not in any small part due to her brilliant detection skills.
The victim in this book is a social worker, found dead in a sauna by our very own Vera, yes an unlikely habitat for our steely detective, but even Vera realises she is mortal and had taken the advice to get some exercise and swimming appealed the most.
Vera is very much hoping that Jenny Lister died of natural causes but it isn’t to be and I chuckled to watch her brazen it out to her colleagues who were called to the scene to investigate the murder, not that they’d let even the merest whisper of surprise escape their lips in front of the formidable Detective Inspector.
Ann Cleeves gives us a puzzle with plenty of suspects, nearly everyone who appears could be viewed with suspicion, whilst managing to be thoroughly entertaining at the same time. With characters to become involved with, not least Vera’s sidekick, Joe Ashworth who finds Vera’s demands are in direct conflict with those of his wife during the course of this book this really does fit the bill as a modern police procedural. The sub-genre is one where I firmly believe the key investigator, in this instance Vera, needs to move the investigation along, despite real-life, this isn’t really a team sport and certainly not easy when the clues seem to point in different directions. Vera is the power behind the investigation without relegating her colleagues to idiots, they are just don’t shine quite as brightly as she does! The other secret of a success in this genre is to ensure the reader is invested in the investigation and the asides to the rest of the team are inserted just often enough to make sure that everything is explained well without ever entering that dangerous whiff of being patronising.
I like my crime books to have some humour and Vera’s very dry variety fits the backdrop of murder incredibly well with the perspective changing from third person to first so that we ‘hear’ Vera’s opinions in the raw so to speak, as well as watch others jump to attention to do her bidding, she really is an imposing character. I’m also a fan of probing the stories behind the headlines and at the time of publication of Silent Voices, there were lots of stories in the UK papers about Social Workers and their perceived failings. The author is thereby allowing the readers to feel they had their finger on the pulse of the debate whilst also encouraging a look at the issues from a number of viewpoints, not distilled into a bald headline which can’t ever take in the complexities of the whole issue.
One of the biggest draws of this particular lead character is her undisguised love of the drama of a murder investigation which really pulls the story forwards and how refreshing to have a Detective inspector who isn’t so hung up on the politics of the force that she is afraid to take risky decisions. The plot is unbelievably tangled with the reader needing to concentrate almost as much as Vera on the minutiae of information to be even within a whisker of a chance of solving the crime, and it is brilliantly executed – no saggy middle for Vera Stanhope, well not in the book although I would imagine stumbling across a dead body in the sauna is probably gives her just the excuse she wants to hang up her swimsuit!
I was delighted to read Silent Voices as my twenty-fifth read in the Mount TBR challenge, especially as I realised that I originally purchased this book way back in May 2012! The bonus is that I am lagging behind having just read number four in the series so have four more to enjoy to catch up!
First Published UK: 4 February 2011
No of Pages: 384
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series Amazon UK Amazon US
Tiltton University is not the quiet place of learning all the staff and students could hope for when the construction workers move in to build a new performing arts centre. And then work stops because there is something buried in the site that ruined everyone’s day.
Kramer walked slowly in the direction Stephens had indicated. Then he stopped short. His face drained of colour and he gulped twice. He could see it clearly — a bone sticking up out of the dirt he’d been preparing to move.
Tilton police detectives Donna Crandall and her partner Ron Zuniga are called to the scene and it isn’t long before the bones are sent off to be dated. The result is that the skeleton is that of a young man, and he died some forty years ago but he didn’t bury himself so it must be murder but how on earth do you go about investigating a crime that old?
Never fear because the detectives have Joel Williams, The Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at Tilton University, a former detective now academic, is only too willing to use his skills to assist. Before long the Police and the campus sleuth have a name; Bryan Roades a twenty year old who went missing in the 70s. Could his determination to emulate his heroes in the investigative journalism world on the campus newspaper have led to someone wanting him out of the way?
This is my first Joel Williams story although this is actually Margot Kinberg’s third book in the series featuring the academic detective and I’m pleased to report Past Tense reads perfectly as a stand-alone novel. The crime aspect was one of my favourite tropes; I love it when those who commit a crime think they are home and dry only for them to be caught years after the fact. This is particularly true in this novel as the article Brian Roades was working on was about women’s lib and of course attitudes have changed dramatically in the past forty years, so I suspect if anything the uncovering of the truth had far more impact than it may have done if he’d been allowed to write his story back then, but that of course is mere speculation on my part!
Margot Kinberg structures the novel well always keeping the mystery in clear line of sight and thankfully her investigative professor is a normal man, without angst and is somewhat self-effacing which gives the book a less aggressive feel than some modern crime novels, not that life as part of the campus staff is without its petty rivalries, this is no cosy mystery! I always imagine life in academia to be somewhat rarefied, however with this book written by someone living that life, I’ve been totally disabused of that opinion but it is an illusion shattered by some great characters and some fabulous dialogue that helped establish the setting, and opinions, for the modern angle of the crime and its discovery as well as giving enough references to take us back twenty years to the heart of the crime.
I have been a long-time reader, and admirer of Margot’s blog, Confessions of a Mystery Novelist… and I have to admit to being slightly apprehensive about read this book – what if I didn’t like it? But not to fear, I thoroughly enjoyed the mystery, the plotting and the writing style, a book without gratuitous violence but not so sanitised that it felt too sugary for this crime loving reader. I will definitely be keeping up with Joel in the future and I’m looking forward to my next visit to Tilton University.
Past Tense was my seventeenth read in the Mount TBR challenge and I’m pleased to announce is my last review of the backlog dating from June!
First Published UK: 1 November 2016
Publisher: Grey Cells Press
No of Pages: 428
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series Amazon UK Amazon US
I’ve got a real treat for you today because Caimh McDonnell is visiting to entertain us all with his guest post. I first hosted Caimh when he published his first novel, A Man With One of Those Faces and his very funny post won him many fans. Since then I’ve also read The Day That Never Comes, the second in the Dublin Trilogy and I was delighted to hear we were turning back the clock to 1999 in Angels in the Moonlight (the prequel) to meet Bunny as a younger man. Without any more ado, I well let Caimh entertain you…
The slacker’s guide to not looking like an idiot
I’ve a terrible confession to make; I am an absolute sucker for a blooper. It is to my eternal shame that I will sit through one of those awful shows entirely dedicated to pointing out things that are wrong in famous films. You know the ones, they spend an hour picking out continuity errors and historical inaccuracies that nobody in their right mind actually notices while watching in the cinema. Still, there’s something satisfying abo
ut seeing other people’s mistakes, whether it be Star Wars (stormtrooper walloping his head on a doorway), Braveheart (Scots wearing tartan 300 years before its conception) or Transformers (somebody actually making that god-awful cacophony of pointless metal punching mayhem).
Thing is though, when you become an author, you quickly realise that you’re the poor fool who has to make sure you’re not dropping clangers left, right and center. With that in mind, I humbly present to you my slacker’s guide to not making yourself look like an idiot:
1/ Avoid reality entirely
It’s not an option open to all of us, but where possible, try and find your version of ‘A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away’ – that way, nobody can come back at you with unhelpful facts like how their Auntie Marge lives on the forest moon of Endor and according to her Ewoks are in fact tall, hairless creatures and not cute and cuddly teddy-bears that will sell really well as merchandise.
2/ Where possible, make your characters idiots
They always say to write what you know, so if you don’t know anything – write that. Where authors get into big trouble is giving their characters a level of expertise that they themselves do not possess. Don’t make your central character a forensic scientist just because you’ve watched two and a half episodes of CSI. Side note: I have actually met a bona fide forensic scientist and apparently, they do not solve all their cases through the use of musical montages. Turns out, you can’t believe everything you see on TV.
3/ Take the path less travelled:
The thing about setting your novel in 19th Century London is that absolutely loads of really clever people have done a ton of research into the minutiae of the life of an every day Londoner at that time. On one hand, that means that gives you a near limitless supply of source material to use for research. On the other hand, I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to read a near limitless supply of source material, but it takes absolutely ages. My advice is to seek out the unpopular and undocumented; the dark ages are a cracking time, Belgium is an excellent place. Nobody knows or cares about either so you can get away with pretty much anything.
4/ The Future:
The great thing about the future, is that it hasn’t happened yet, which makes it very hard to get wrong. It should go without saying though, avoid that tricky beast known as ‘the near future’. The problem with that is, before you know it, it’s ‘now’ and then not long after, it’s ‘back then’. People get really angry when they don’t get the future that you promised them – I speak as a member of the ‘where the hell is my jetpack?!’ generation.
5/ Use your own past:
If you absolutely have to use the past, use a bit you lived through. I set my latest book in Dublin with the action taking place in 1999. The clever trick there is that I left Dublin in 2000. That way, all I have to do is remember what life was like before I moved abroad and I’ve got a reasonable chance of not screwing up. For example – mobile phones. I know back in 1999 we had them but they were fairly rare. That fact is burned into my memory as my boss gave me his so that I could be on-call while he and the wife went away for a ‘dirty weekend’(people still had dirty weekends in 1999 – even with people they were married to). I still vividly remember how I dropped his prized Nokia while running for a bus and then stood there helplessly as it spun on the ground, the bus hurtling towards it. Miraculously, both the phone and I survived this. Side note: his wife is a bona fide forensic scientist, small world.
So, while you can’t avoid being wrong entirely, you can at least try and make your mistakes look like deliberate artistic flourishes. Failing that, just have really big robots endlessly punch each other and readers will be far to engrossed in waiting for the sweet kiss of death, to notice how you’ve put airbags in a car that doesn’t have them. I hope this helped, although if it did, I think you might be in big trouble.
Caimh’s books are marketed as crime fiction combined with humour and this prequel to the first two books in the Dublin Trilogy is no different although I’d say that the humour element is targeted which suited the sadder elements of this book far better. Fear not though, I still laughed plenty of times at the brilliant scenarios and one-liners, even if a tear also managed to escape my beady eye once or twice.
Back in 1999 that comparatively near past, life was different. There were mobile phones but there were bigger worries about planes falling from the skies when the date clicked over into the millennium and Bunny is squeezing his too large body into his too small Porshe. In 1999 Bunny was working with his partner Gringo when they were tasked by DI Fintan O’ Rourke to stake out the local Mr Big who was in charge of the local estate. Bunny and Mr Big had history, in a good way, because Mr Big was rescued from a burning building as a child by Bunny, but times are a changing and with a number of raids on security vans and intelligence indicating a big diamond robbery is in the offing something has to be done.
The crime fiction element of this book felt tighter than in the other two books, perhaps because despite the fact that we have plenty of laughs from Bunny’s one-liners, there seemed to be less reliance on the humour with both elements truly complementing each other and Caimh’s skill as a writer becoming ever more apparent. The background of Dublin is ever-present with the scenes moving from the housing estate to rural outskirts of Dublin with just enough details to paint a picture.
In particular I loved the scenes with Bunny on the pitch with his hurling team who are based at St Judes – little Deccie stealing my heart with his adoration of his coach, if a little off-beam in his efforts to help
“You heard me, Deccie, didn’t I say to him before the match, just stay in the goal? How hard is that?” “He has no understanding of the nuances of the game boss.” “You’re not wrong, Deccie, you’re not wrong” “D’ye want me to tie his leg to one of the posts again, boss?” Bunny gave the child a look. “No, Deccie, remember we talked about this. Ye can’t do that.” “Yes, boss. Sorry, boss.”
With Gringo not only being Bunny’s working partner but also his best friend, we have the sad situation of his marriage falling apart and Gringo himself letting things slip just at the time when Bunny is making headway in his own personal life with a lovely girl called Simone. But this is crime fiction and it may be a while before we can skip to the happy ever after part.
So with a tight plot, a wide range of human emotions and some brilliant secondary characters which include nuns who you really want to meet – this book is, if anything even better than the previous two. By the end you’ll understand a little more about who Bunny really is and if you had doubted it before, that he’s a top bloke!
I’d like to say a big thank you to McFori Ink and Caimh McDonnell for allowing me to take part in this blog tour and for allowing me to read Angels in the Moonlight which made me both laugh and cry, this review is my unbiased thanks to them.
First Published UK: 26 August 2017
Publisher: McFori Ink
No. of Pages: 320
Genre: Crime Fiction Series Amazon UK Amazon US
About the Author
Caimh McDonnell is an award-winning stand-up comedian, author and writer of televisual treats. Born in Limerick and raised in Dublin, he has taken the hop across the water and now calls Manchester his home.
He is a man who wears many hats. As well as being an author, he is an award-winning writer for TV, a stand-up comedian and ‘the voice’ of London Irish rugby club. His debut novel, A Man with One of Those Faces was released in 2016 and it is the first book of the Dublin Trilogy series. The follow-up, The Day That Never Come was published in 2017. Both books are fast-paced crime thrillers set in Caimh’s home town of Dublin and they are laced with distinctly Irish acerbic wit.
Caimh’s TV writing credits include The Sarah Millican Television Programme, A League of Their Own, Mock the Week and Have I Got News for You. He also works as a children’s TV writer and was BAFTA nominated for the animated series ‘Pet Squad’ which he created.
During his time on the British stand-up circuit, Caimh has firmly established himself as the white-haired Irishman whose name nobody can pronounce. He has brought the funny worldwide, doing stand-up tours of the Far East, the Middle East and Near East (Norwich).