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.





THE GIRL WHO WENT MISSING by Ace Varkey

6 07 2015

Still no time at the moment for reviews (and not nearly enough for reading!) but I’ll try to clear the backlog again with a few quick notes.

First, then, The Girl Who Went Missing is set in Mumbai (Bombay) and is the story of an American girl’s search for her sister, who has disappeared while in India doing research on ancient Hindu temples. The author seems to know India well, and presents us with a very realistic portrayal of the trafficking of simple village girls from the provinces into Mumbai, ostensibly to work as maids in the houses of Bollywood film stars, but in fact destined for the red-light district, and in some cases to be sold to Arab traders for onward trafficking to the Gulf States.

It is basically a police procedural with, as I say, a fascinating setting, and I was very taken with the hero of the piece, Commisoner Oscar d’Costa. However, the style could be a bit zippier and the plot is too dependent on devices such as the two sisters both resolutely refusing to use mobile phones. Of course, the very existence of modern technology renders certain plots obsolete (unless you set your book in the past) but that is a challenge the writer must rise to; presenting the reader with a cop-out which is completely unrealistic is not good enough.





THE TRUTH WILL OUT by Jane Isaac

1 06 2015

Truth Will Out cover

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

Another police procedural from Jane Isaacs, this (earlier) one featuring DCI Helen Lavery, a character I identified and sympathised with much more closely than I did with the hero of her subsequent novel, Before It’s Too Late. As I said in my review of that one, the protagonist was boring and the book needed editing but there was enough about it, especially the character of the victim, to make me willing to give this other story a go.

Two young women driving back from Italy discover that they have been tricked into transporting a consignment of drugs into England. Then, after they arrive home, one of them is murdered and the other, terrified, goes into hiding, leaving the police, who know nothing of all this back-story, with an inexplicable murder on their hands.

Yes, there are still editing problems. In the other review I noted particularly LAY and LAID. Here I might single out PAST and PASSED, as in these examples: “… glancing at the shop fronts she past” and “A Land Rover rattled passed”. Is it incompetent editing or sloppy editing? Or is it no editing at all, and this is how the writer left it?

But that said, I did enjoy the book much more than the other one and look forward to reading more stories featuring DCI Helen Lavering.





BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE by Jane Isaac

25 05 2015

Before Its Too Late cover

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

A fairly standard and straightforward British police procedural set in Stratford on Avon and featuring for the first time Detective Inspector Will Jackman.

A Chinese girl, Min Li, has been abducted while spending a year in England as a student, and it is her we meet close-up-and-personal as it were when the story opens with a dive into the deep end told in the 1st Person and printed in italic. It acts as something like a prologue, but there are further chapters where we return to her in her horrible rat-infested cell scattered through the book.

The bulk of the story, though, focuses on DI Jackman and is told in the 3rd Person.

This works well, but Jackman himself didn’t really interest me. He is too ordinary. Exactly what you might meet at a provincial police station in the UK, no doubt, but fictional detectives need to be a little more extraordinary in some way.

And again, the story is set in Stratford-on-Avon – Shakespeare’s Stratford. Yet the events could just as easily have taken place in any ordinary connotation-free provincial English town, for absolutely no use whatsoever is made of its being set in Stratford.

One more gripe: we all know that many American writers (though never the top-rank ones) have terrible trouble with LIE-LAY-LAIN and LAY-LAID-LAID, but British writers don’t. Or shouldn’t. Yet again and again we find ourselves stumbling over lines like: [Alice (Jackman’s daughter)] laid flat on the floor of her study, eyes clamped together, Bach playing in the background. Alice loved Bach. Whenever she had a research problem, she laid in the dark with her music … (And “eyes clamped together“?)

But all that said, the strong female victim made a nice change and I did enjoy the story: witness the fact that I have just downloaded the author’s earlier The Truth Will Out – which I hope is better edited than this one!





THE HEALER by Christoph Fischer

14 05 2015

Healer - coverSomething very different here.

Erica has pancreatic cancer. She has only weeks to live. In desperation, and on the advice of Hilda, once her secretary (until she had to stop work) and now her friend, she turns to Arpan, who twenty years earlier had been a celebrated natural healer specialising in pancreatic cancer but was discredited as the result of a smear campaign by the pharmaceutical companies and the newspapers.

I don’t want to spoil the story for you, so I won’t tell you what happens when he finally agrees to accept her as a patient. But I must tell you that a certain Julia enters the story at this point. Julia works for an international pharmaceutical company based in Switzerland and her predecessor had been instrumental in bringing about Arpan’s disgrace. Now she homes in on Erica, the first person Arpan has treated in twenty years. Why? Because she wants the formula for the elixir Arpan injects into his patients before treating them by his own more spiritual, rieki-like, method. Finally, Erica finds herself in the middle, the go-between. Arpan insists the elixir is nothing, does nothing, it is the rest of the treatment that works. Julia insists the rest of the treatment is mumbo-jumbo, she wants the formula for the elixir, will pay millions for it.

A fascinating look at the reality behind the cancer industry’s fear of and ruthlessness with apparently successful alternative practitioners, and at those practitioners’ helplessness in the face of multinational giants and of the medical establishment for whom anything not strictly in line with their views is heresy. (Oh, the connotations of that word!)

Believable characters – so believable it comes over sometimes like a news story or a documentary – and a totally unexpected ending, which was, I have to say, a little bit puzzling. I still have to work it out and make it fit the rest of the story.





BLOOD AND ROSES by Mark Dawson

15 04 2015

Blood and RosesAs predicted yesterday (HERE) I read the final volume of this trilogy in one go last night. It doesn’t have the kind of setting I was talking about in that review, but if you’ve enjoyed the first two books this one is essential reading. And there is certainly leeway at the end for yet another spin-off. If it happens, I shall be waiting for it.





IN COLD BLOOD and BLOOD MOON RISING by Mark Dawson

14 04 2015

In Cold Blood

These are the first two books of a trilogy. They are also, I understand, a spin-off from an earlier series by Mark Dawson featuring a certain John Milton. Here, though, Milton is only a name in the background. I haven’t read those other novels so I don’t know whether Beatrix Rose, the protagonist in this trilogy, featured in the previous series. It doesn’t seem to matter.

The great thing about these two books is the setting. The setting of the first, In Cold Blood, is northern Kenya and Somalia – exactly where the horrific massacre of the hundred and fifty Christian students by al-Shabaab at Garissa University took place a week or so ago. And part of the story is actually set in Dabaab refugee camp, the biggest refugee camp in the world and “home” to 300,000 plus refugees from Somalia, which is also in the news: in the wake of the Garissa massacre, the Kenyan government has given the UN High Commission for Refugees just three months to “do something” – at the end of that time they are closing down the camp. All these were simply names to me before I read this book. The description of the sites and the depiction of al-Shabaab in action are vivid, realistic and compelling.

Blood Moon Rising

The second book, Blood Moon Rising, is set in Iraq. The title sounds like a vampire story, doesn’t it, but sadly what takes place in this novel is all too normal and real and perpetrated by “ordinary” people. Again the same vivid description of the reality of life, this time around the oil field at Rumalia, the third biggest in the world, and again the horrifying reality of how the poor, the people caught in the cross-fire, live.

And the protagonist, the heroine? I’m not going to tell you much, just that she is another all-but-invincible superwoman and that she is out for revenge – they killed her husband and took away her three-year-old daughter – but in this case there is an ever-widening crack in the invincibility: she is dying of cancer, has only months to live.

Gruesome but gripping. And mind-opening, too. We readers tend to get a little bit cosy (or at any rate I do) with our murders set in more or less civilised societies, our historical novels set in more or less romantic times gone by, and our fantasy worlds of vampires and zombies and wizards and so on. Welcome to the real world.

(Needless to say, I have downloaded the final book of the trilogy, Blood and Roses, and shall be reading it this evening – and quite likely well into the night!)








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