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.

 

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THE PRODIGAL SON by Kate Sedley

6 01 2017

A Roger the Chapman Mystery

Bristol and Wells, 1480

prodigal-son-coverThere was a brief silence, during which astonishment was gradually replaced by outrage on the faces of Audrea Bellknapp and her younger son.

[…]

‘How dare you countermand my orders like that?You absent yourself for eight years – eight years, mark you! – without a word as to your whereabouts, leaving us uncertain as to whether you are alive or dead. You return home with no advance warning to disrupt all our lives, and then immediately assume you can usurp the authority which I hold in trust for your brother. Not only that, but you also have the gall to foist your disreputable friend on us’ – I realised with a shock that she meant me – ‘and then expect us to treat him with the same courtesy as we should use towards one of our guests.’

Dame Audrea paused to take breath, but Anthony gave her no chance to proceed further. In a voice as coldly furious as her own, he reminded her again that he was now the master of Croxcombe Manor. ‘And so that there should be no doubt on that head, on my way here, I took the precaution of calling on lawyer Slocombe and confirming the contents of my father’s will. Croxcombe is left to me provided I claim my inheritancebefore Simon reaches the age of eighteen.’ He gave a malicious smile. ‘And as I remember that I was already past my tenth birthday when he was born, and as I am now twenty-five […] I am therefore the master here, my dear mother, and anything I choose to do must, I’m afraid, be acceptable to you and Simon or you can arrange to make your home elsewhere.’  

I like Roger the Chapman and his dog Hercules – especially when they get the chance to do what they both like best: leave the house and the noisy children and the city behind and head out into the country with a pack of odds and ends to sell to the peasants in isolated hamlets, to charcoal burners in the forest, and even to “the great and good” in their manor houses. (You can find a review of another in the series here.)

This time, Roger is making his way towards the country home of the great but definitely not good Bellknapp family in order to find out why Dame Bellknapp has identified an apparently innocent man in Bristol as the person who committed robbery and murder in her home six years earlier.

At a wayside inn, he falls in with the heir to the Bellknapp estates and fortune, Dame Bellknapp’s elder son Anthony, the prodigal son of the title, returning home to claim his inheritance after years away in the eastern counties. How welcome will this young man be after all this time?

An apparently simple tale of jealousy that quickly becomes more and more complex, just as a medieval mystery should. And as always with Kate Sedley’s books, extremely well written – and with fascinating details of Roger’s background that I for one had not come across before.

But a complaint to the publishers, Severn House. The blurb on the back cover is for a quite different book, The Burgundian’s Tale. (I”ll post a review of that story tomorrow, promise.)  This is the first time I’ve come across this particular example of almost criminal publisher negligence. Anyone not knowing Kate Sedley’s work who picks the book up in a bookshop and buys it on the strength of the blurb (which is all about Richard of Gloucester, later Richard III, who does not figure in the book at all) is hardly likely to buy another of her books. In any other profession the person responsible for such an error (persons responsible, for no doubt someone was supposed to check the cover) would be dismissed out of hand: publishers, though, don’t give a damn. And after all, when the only full day you do is on Wednesday (leave early on Thursday afternoon for the long weekend, arrive back late Tuesday morning) that doesn’t leave much time for actual work.





The JET Series by Russell Blake

11 10 2013

I happened on this the other day and I must say that it seems to me the most arrogant piece of nonsense I have ever come across. It is Sue Grafton speaking:

To me, it seems disrespectful… that a ‘wannabe’ assumes it’s all so easy s/he can put out a ‘published novel’ without bothering to read, study, or do the research. … Self-publishing is a short cut and I don’t believe in short cuts when it comes to the arts. I compare self-publishing to a student managing to conquer Five Easy Pieces on the piano and then wondering if s/he’s ready to be booked into Carnegie Hall.

You can find the article I read HERE – do read it, it’s great stuff.

Sue Grafton is the author of the “A is for Alibi”, “B is for Burglar” series of murder mysteries featuring Kinsey Millhone. I read a couple of them years ago but was not moved to seek out any of the other twenty-four. (Are there twenty-four yet?)

JET-Header

By contrast, Russell Blake’s series featuring the ex-Mossad agent known as Jet is self-published, and downloadable from Amazon as an ebook. Exactly the kind of thing Grafton is sneering at. It is faultlessly edited (anyone who is a regular reader of this blog will know that I can be hypercritical!) and so gripping that I read all five stories straight off within a week.

How did that happen? It’s quite simple, and in itself proof that the Amazon Kindle sytem of Free Book Days works.

I saw that Jet was on offer free that day and, curious, I downloaded and read it. And immediately ordered Jet II and Jet III, and read them during the next three nights. Each book stops with unanswered questions – you want to read on. You need to read on. I downloaded Jet IV and Jet V. And would have ordered Jet VI had there been one. (I’m waiting, Russell!)

And that’s how I come to be writing a review of (or at least an introduction to) not just one but five books here today.

Jet is, as I say, ex-Mossad. Well, not exactly ex-Mossad, because the group she was once a key member of are ultra-secret super-specialists whose very existence is apparently unknown to the Mossad.

Jet1When the first book, Jet, opens, Jet is living a quiet life in Trinidad, running a small internet-café. Only tonight is not quiet because it is Carnival Night. And because as she is shutting up shop, a little early as that evening with all the excitement there will be no more customers, a garotte is looped over her head. In less time than it takes to tell, her attacker is dead, and within minutes so is the back-up. Jet, we see, is deadly – and virtually indestructible. And a woman with whom I for one, and I am sure thousands of others, identify immediately.

But who had sent the hit team? No one knew about her new identity. No one?

She cannot stay on the island – too many dead bodies around for a start, and anyway her cover is blown – so she sets off on a journey of revenge, a quest which inevitably leads straight on to another, and then another, in Russia, Miramar (Burma), Thailand, Argentina, and various parts of Europe and the US.

What can I say? Don’t read the first book of this series – or even the first couple of chapters of the first book – unless you want to be up all night for a week.

And please don’t, anybody, generalise about self-published books. Many of them are as good as or better than anything the big publishers are bringing out these days. And don’t generalise about “published” novels either: some of them are so carelessly written and edited that one simply does not know who to blame.  (You want an example? I don’t review crappily produced books here, but have a look at my previous post, The Begotten, and – this one is far worse and only here because it is by one of my very favourite authors – Paul Doherty’s Bloodstone . What happened, Paul?)

Jet5