THE BONE FIELD by Simon Kernick

8 01 2017

bone-field-cover

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley
in exchange for an honest review.

A police procedural that quickly morphs into something more like a thriller with a tough ex-special forces hero, now a Detective Sergeant with the Metropolitan Police, but very much of an outsider because of his history and suspended halfway through the story – though he of course goes on investigating unofficially and illegally.

The story is set in London, but starts with a disappearance years earlier in Thailand. Then the body of the young woman who disappeared turns up in England. Can it really be her? And why is the body of a thirteen-year-old girl who disappeared from her home in England at much the same time buried in the same suburban garden?

There is sex-slave-trafficking. There is a serial sexual predator and murderer. There is ritual magic and human sacrifice. There is perhaps the nastiest villain ever to sully the screen of my Kindle Reader – not just nasty, but smelly – yes, downright gross, as well as evil. Horrifying – and certainly the one whose hands I would least like to fall into!

It is a gripping must-read.

However, it does need some serious editing. Not only is not properly formatted for Kindle, but it is full of jarring Americanisms despite the fact that the setting is entirely British and that there are no American characters whatsoever in the story. The Metropolitan Police (the Met) are referred to repeatedly throughout the story as “the Feds”. Homeless down-and-outs are “hobos”. A black Londoner thinks of his mother as a “ho” yet at the same time thinks of “Yankee rock music”. I could go on, but I won’t. American readers might not notice this, I suppose, just as a British reader might not notice similar lapses in a book set in the US and written by a British author. But to a British reader, they end up spoiling an otherwise enthralling story.

 





RIP Richard Adams

29 12 2016

watership-down-cover

We all know, and most of us treasure, Watership Down. I want here to draw attention to three of Richard’s other books that I have particularly enjoyed

‘First then, The Plague Dogs:

plague-dogs-cover

Two dogs escape from an experimental research lab in the Lake District, where they have been horribly tortured and mistreated in the name if science. As they run for their lives on the hard fells they attempt to survive wild and free. But the hunt in on…

Next Shardik

shardik-cover

A gripping tale of war, adventure, morality and slavery, horror and romance, Shardik is a remarkable exploration of mankind’s universal desire for divine incarnation, and the corrosive influence of power. Recently ranked in the top 100 bestsellers over the past 40 years by the Sunday times, Shardik is a book for our age.

And finally, Maia, which is set in the same world as Shardik:

maia-cover

Sold into slavery to the dealer Lalloc by her mother when her stepfather seduces her, the beautiful 15-year-old Maia is almost raped by Genshed, one of Lalloc’s employees but is saved by Occula, a black slave girl. With no-one but Occula at her side, Maia must summon all her courage, strength and intelligence as she navigates the seedy side of the Beklan empire.

I am about to re-read Shardik and Maia. The other one, The Plague Dogs, is just too heart-rending: I can’t go through that again!





FRAMED by Colleen Connally

26 11 2016

framedThis is apparently the second book in a series, but it stands alone just fine. I didn’t realise it was part of a series until I had finished it.

The story opens with a prologue in which a 71-year-old woman with a ne’er-do-well son whose wife has left him and who has come home to live with her is murdered. By the son, we wonder? We already know he had gambling debts and that his mother refused to give him any more of her money.

But we soon realise there is much more to it than that.

At first glance, what we have here is a fairly straight-forward murder mystery with the usual divorced and world-weary cop, Detective John Brophy, and an equally divorced but female PI (an ex-cop) who thinks he needs a woman in his life; and then there is Josh Kincaid, an investigative journalist (our hero) who is working on this murder and simultaneously on the claim that a certain Harrison Taylor had been framed years earlier for a murder which turns out to be connected to the murder we started with; finally there is Riley Ashcroft, an orphaned heiress done out of her inheritance, who is making the waves on behalf of her childhood friend, the convicted murderer Harrison Taylor.

That might seem like a spoiler but actually I am trying to help. The first few chapters are marred by too many changes of scene and character and viewpoint. So much so that I would probably have given up on it, except that when I agreed to review this book I promised to read the whole thing. And it is certainly true that once you get it all sorted out in your mind the story flows well.

It could, however, do with some serious editing. There are misspelt words – I am becoming inured to that with the great dumbing down going on all around us – but there are vocabulary errors that leave one wondering whether English is the author’s second language. (For example: “With his obvious exhalation, Ellis had decided …” Exhilaration, perhaps?) Why is it that writers whose English is not one hundred percent believe that their books do not need the attention of a competent editor? A professional must be a master of the medium he/she works in.





FATAL EXCHANGE by Russell Blake

15 03 2016

Fatal Exchange coverI am a big fan of Russell Blake’s JET series, so I downloaded the first of this other series with high expectations.

It is not the same. It was harder to read (mind you, almost anything would be harder to read than JET) – but especially the first fifty or sixty pages, and this because of the multiple changes of viewpoint. I hate that at the beginning of a story. You get a few pages of one character and setting, then are switched abruptly to another, then – when you could still remember the first – to a third, then a fourth – and when you do finally get back to the first – or was it the second? – you have forgotten what that was all about and have to turn back. (Not easy to do with a Kindle.)

I always give up at that point. Well, not always. I didn’t in this case, but only because he is a favourite author of mine and I was still hoping …

I won’t say it got better. It didn’t. And there were two totally different stories going on, two separate sets of murders and murderers, quite apart from the continuing multiple viewpoints.

But after a while two viewpoints began to stand out from the rest. Teresa (Tess), who turns out to be the link between the the two sets of murders – she is to be the next victim in both! – and Ron, the NYPD Detective that she, the beautiful tattooed and studded rebel, finds herself thrown together with.

Of course, I identified with Tess, and that’s how I came to finish the book. And to have downloaded the sequel, Fatal Deception. You can’t keep a good author down.

I can’t believe I said that. I know several good authors who have been kept down.

Anyway, you can’t keep this good author, Russell Blake, down.





PERSONA NON GRATA by Avery Mann

26 11 2015

Persona Non Grata

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley
in exchange for an honest review

At first sight, just another story of international mayhem and intrigue, with a mysterious ancient artifact thrown in for good measure. But the author wastes no time in letting is know this novel is much more than that. In Chapter 1, we find ourselves in the company of Pope Benedict. (This must be a first! I was hooked immediately.) Ex-Pope Benedict, I should say, the Pope Emeritus, for this is now, he has retired, and Pope Francis holds the reins. Or seems to. In the background, it is obvious that Benedict is still very much in control while Francis is the exoteric front-man, the smiling face the public sees and loves.

The concerns of the highly intellectual Benedict are more esoteric. From him, no secret seems to be hid, whether those of the Vatican itself or the world of global intelligence. And among the cast of the book is President Putin, here a personal friend of the ex-Pope and very much one of the good guys.

But to put you squarely in the picture, let me quote (I can’t resist it) from that first chapter. This is Pope Benedict speaking:

While the West has turned its back on the Christian refugees fleeing from both the madness they unleashed in Iraq and Syria and the mess they have now ignited in Egypt and across North Africa, only Russia’s relationship with the Orthodox Church has given these people reassurance. Our Catholic flocks in these countries only look to Russia now. […] Many of the Syrian Christians fleeing now are Armenian and some of the most intense fighting is in Der Zor. Do you recall its significance? It’s literally built on the bones of Armenians driven from their homeland. They’re starving once again, being driven from their homes once again. And now we learn that even their Genocide Memorial Church, containing the remains of hundreds of thousands of their grandparents, has been blown up by the Islamic State. You know we never answered their pleas and prayers before. The West made promises, but it was Russia that saved them from extinction. […] The Egyptian Copts, the Maronites, the Syriacs, and the Armenians are completely vulnerable. The Syrian Catholics have been telling us for years that Assad is their protector, just as Iraq’s Saddam protected his Christians. You knew that Tarik Aziz, Saddam’s foreign minister, was a Chaldean Christian? […] Christians held prominent positions in Iraq. Many Christian Iraqi women were among the foremost professionals and doctors, but the Americans seemed indifferent to their fate. They are passionate about their friendship with the Saudis, yet claim concern for the rights of women …

Right now, today, the story is stunningly topical and enlightening. We have, in the novel, the Turks as the bad guys wanting to realise their historic “pan-Turkic plan” “to link Turkey with the oil-fields of Baku”, making the Turkmen of Syria – and even those of Turkmenistan – part of Greater Turkey and killing off the remaining Armenians, whom they seem to particularly loathe, and the rebellious Kurds. And in the news today we have Turkey shooting down a Russian plane, claiming it was over Turkish territory when in fact it was flying over the Turkmen area of Syria at the request of the legitimate (recognised by the UN) Syrian Government.

I rarely say DO READ THIS, but do; it is an eye-opener as well as being a story that will keep you up all night and remain engraved on your memory for the rest of your life.





THE KRAMSKI CASE by J. J. Ward

6 09 2015

KramskiA thriller set in England with a Russian and an American as two of the three (or should that be four?) protagonists. Four, I think, because the three men that are there from the outset and form the nucleus of MI7 are soon joined by a young woman, Marcie Brown, who plays a larger and larger part as the story progresses until, it seems, she takes over completely and is the girl from Kandahar in the sequel The Girl from Kandahar. I haven’t read that yet, but definitely will.  There are several other extremely sympathetic characters who might be contenders for other reader’s choice of favourite character, but myself I identified with Marcie all through this first book and am sure I shall continue to do so as her adventures in Kandahar unfold.

Altogether, an excellent start to what could turn out to be an outstanding mystery series.





PRIME TARGET by Ellis Vidler

29 07 2015

Prime TargetPrime Target is the story of a women who witnesses her husband’s murder at the hands of an organised-crime boss and is immediately placed in the care of the FBI under the key witness protection scheme. When it becomes obvious – to her, at least – that one of the FBI agents is leaking her location every time she is moved following yet another attempt on her life she takes off on her own and a fairly ordinary story turns into something special. Unputdownable.