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Raven Crime Reads

Criminally good reads…

Month

January 2013

Elly Griffiths- Dying Fall

Product DetailsRuth’s old friend Dan Golding thinks he has made a discovery that will change archaeology forever – but he needs Ruth’s help. Then, Dan is killed in a fire, leaving Ruth with one clue: the tomb of the Raven King. DCI Nelson is also rediscovering the past. He meets his friend Sandy Macleod, now at Blackpool CID, who tells him there are mysterious circumstances surrounding Dan’s death. A Neo-Nazi group at Dan’s University has been making threats and could be involved. Many of Dan’s colleagues seem fearful and have secrets to hide. Ruth is drawn into the mystery, and where she goes, so does her daughter, Kate. This time, it’s not just Ruth’s life at risk.

 I’m a firm fan of Elly Griffiths’ series featuring the wonderful character of Ruth Galloway and always compare approaching a new book by her as being akin to pulling on those old faithful slippers, grabbing a mug of hot chocolate and stuffing yourself with delicious cake. Although, I admit to being a fan of the more gritty and less mainstream crime noir, there is something I find very appealing about this series. You always know that you will be educated and entertained, as well as being engrossed in a damn good murder mystery and ‘Dying Fall’, the newest in the series, is no exception.

Our favourite forensic archaeologist finds herself embroiled in the seemingly senseless murder of Dan, an ex-university pal who, like Ruth, has forged a successful career in the field of archaeology and may just have stumbled upon the most significant archaeological find ever in Britain. Could Dan have really discovered the final resting place of King Arthur of the Britons, and who is desperate to claim this find as their own and to what sinister end. As Ruth appears to be the final person that Dan made contact with before his death, she ventures North with her daughter Kate, and Kate’s Druidic godfather, Cathbad, in tow to solve the mystery. Cathbad is further drawn into the mystery, with the suicide of one of his oldest friends, and as the plot unfolds,  Ruth and himself find themselves being lured further into danger….

 The essential pull of this series lies within Griffiths’ characterisation of Ruth herself. Ruth is an ‘everywoman’ who consistently succumbs to all those little doubts that most women would recognise within their own characters. She’s in her 40’s, worries about her weight, her choice of clothing, her parenting skills as a single mother, and other people’s perceptions of her both professionally and personally. By the same token, she is an exceptionally attractive character, because of her humanity. She is very perceptive to the thoughts and feelings of others, but interestingly this skill fails to extend to her own personal life as she is blighted by her choice of men and aside from her utter devotion to her daughter, Kate, she has not attained a real sense of harmony in her personal relationships. Her personal life is complicated with regular stalwart,  DCI Nelson being solidly married, but also being the father of Kate’s daughter, and her faltering relationship with the frankly tedious Max brings her no succour either. However, with her natural intelligence and sense of empathy, she makes for a dogged if reluctant investigator into her friend’s death, and this also adds to her overall charm as a character. Supported by Griffiths’ depiction of the eccentric Cathbad, the emerging character of Ruth’s daughter Kate, and the tension of Ruth’s relationship with the inherently likeable DCI Nelson, these characters all work well within the balance of the book, in addition to the characters, Ruth encounters in association with the central murder mystery.

Another point to make about any of Griffiths’ books is the attention to the archaeological and historical strands of the plotting. What I like about the series is how accessible Griffiths’ makes her inclusion of this level of detail as probably most of us only encounter this world through dipping into ‘Time Team’ on the TV! I liked the way that this plot in particular hooked into two of the most seminal mysteries of British history; the existence of King Arthur and the possibility of the discovery of his final resting place, and the recounting of the events surrounding the Pendle witches. By insinuating both of these into the plot, Griffiths, adds another facet of interest to the reader that supports the enjoyment of what, in other hands, could be just a straightforward murder mystery plot. Yes, there are slightly unbelievable plot devices to propel the story onwards, but this in no way detracts from the stronger elements of Griffiths’ writing, and the overall enjoyment to be gained from a well-researched backdrop, and the joy of the interaction between Griffiths’ protagonists. Always a treat…

Elly Griffiths was born in London. She read English at King’s College, London and worked in publishing for many years. Her crime novels are based in Norfolk and feature Dr Ruth Galloway, forensic archaeologist. She lives near Brighton with her husband, an archeologist and their two children. Find out more at www.ellygriffiths.co.uk

THE ‘RUTH GALLOWAY’ SERIES 1-5

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(With thanks to Quercus for the ARC)

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Chris Womersley- The Low Road

Product DetailsA suitcase of stolen cash has brought three criminals together.
One has a bullet in his side.
One has blood on his hands.
One has vengeance on his mind.
Each has run from their past. Each will now fight for their future.

 

Chris Womersley’s previous UK release ‘Bereft’ was easily one of my favourite literary fiction reads of the last year, with its beautiful prose and thought provoking examination of human relationships, so I am delighted that Quercus have released this, originally published in Australia in 2007, to bolster his recognition here in the UK. A prizewinning and stylish noir thriller, ‘The Low Road’, transcends the crime thriller genre and is a sublime example of literary crime fiction,  defined by its lyrical quality and its power to manipulate our empathy towards the three essentially criminal protagonists.

 Opening within the confines of a rundown motel in an unnamed location, Lee is seeking sanctuary after making off with a suitcase stuffed with cash, having received a bullet wound in the course of his actions. Wild, a disgraced medical practitioner with a reliance on drugs is also holed up there, having deserted his marital home, after his malpractice has come to light. Through the machinations of brassy  motel owner, Sylvia, the men enter each others lives, and having found out that Lee is being pursued by the sinister Josef, to recover the contents of the suitcase, the two go on the run together, as Lee tries to reach what he perceives to be the relative safety of his sister’s home. As Lee’s physical condition deteriorates, Wild endeavours to seek out an old medical colleague of his to attend to Lee but fate has more in store for them than they could possibly imagine…

As their journey propels them further into danger, herein lies the mastery of Womersley’s writing, and his innate ability to twist our preconceptions of the character’s criminal activities. As the relationship between Lee and Wild progresses, you find your empathy aroused despite your initial impressions, and as Womersley unveils the layers to their essentially damaged personas, he carefully constructs a poignant and thoughtful examination of a relationship forged by the necessity of escape and redemption. As they overcome their mutual distrust of each other and strengthen their bond, fuelled by the pursuance by Josef, who himself is an incredibly interesting character working at the behest of others,  Womersley draws us into their strengths and failings, through his sublime prose and dialogue that immerses us completely in the very human weaknesses of this triumvirate. Equally, Womersley highlights the sense of survival that can arise in the bleakest of circumstances, and conversely, how this bleakness can extinguish hope in others, as events overtake our three to a heartwrenching denouement.

Womersley is to my mind, an exceptional writer, with comparisons to Jim Crace or Ron Rash, with his fluidity of prose and his use of imagery. Every scene is so easy to conjure up in the reader’s imagination, and he imbues the novel with a sense of unease, through every change of location. The world ticks on around the characters, but the situation they find themselves in is suffocating with tension, despite their efforts to escape and totally immerses the reader in their trials. This is a sublime and perfectly constructed literary crime thriller that I hope many among you will discover for yourselves.

Visit Chris Womersley’s website here: http://www.chriswomersley.com/chriswomersley.com/Home.html

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(With thanks to Quercus for the ARC)

Dick Wolf- The Intercept

Product DetailsFour days before the dedication of the new Freedom Tower at ground zero in New York City, five passengers and a flight attendant bravely foil the hijacking of a commercial jet en route to the city. Thrust into the national spotlight, ‘The Six’ become instant celebrities, hailed for their bravery. But iconoclastic New York Police investigator Jeremy Fisk believes there’s more to this than a simple open-and-shut terrorism case. Fisk -from the department’s Intelligence Division – suspects that in reality this is an early warning signal that another potentially more devastating attack is imminent. Fisk and his team spring into action, but as each promising new lead fizzles to nothing they realise that their opponents are smarter and more dangerous than anyone they’ve faced before. The seemingly invisible enemy is able to exploit every security weakness, anticipating Fisk’s every move. And time is running out until ground zero day…

Hang onto your hats for a rip-roaring, flying by the seat of your pants thriller- perfect for fans of ‘Homeland’ and ‘24‘. Dick Wolf, writer, director and producer (of ‘Law & Order’ fame) has come up trumps with this, his debut thriller, that I read in almost one sitting. Starting with the thwarted attempt of a suspected terrorist to hijack a flight heading for New York, the passengers and air stewardess (‘The Six’) that save the day find themselves dubbed as heroes, propelling them into the glare of the media. However, a humble NYPD investigator, Jeremy Fisk, questions the actions of this lone hijacker, and uncovers the fact that this is merely a distraction in a far wider reaching terrorist plot…

On the surface this could have denigrated to a bog-standard jingoistic thriller as America takes on the sinister activities of of Al-Queda, but the quality of Wolf’s plotting and attention to procedural detail really makes this an intelligent and compelling read. With a nail-biting use of suspense, Wolf unravels the layers behind the work of the U.S. intelligence agencies and the methods employ to track down suspected terrorists, as they plot to implement what could be the most devastating terror attack on U.S. soil since 9/11. I learnt a huge amount about the machinations and interdepartmental cooperation and operations between all branches of the US intelligence services under the umbrella of Homeland Security, and their daily struggle to contain the threat of terrorism.Throughout the course of the book, Wolf focuses on intelligence garnered in the wake of Osama Bin Laden’s death, and the careful study of material left behind which provides valuable clues to the imminence of an attack, whilst carefully laying a trail of red herrings and blind alleys for the reader as to who the bad guys really are and arousing our suspicions throughout. As Fisk and his cohorts endeavour to uncover the truth behind the plot, you can as a reader really feel the tension building to a fever pitch which ratchets up the pace and the need to keep those pages turning.

With the focus being so much on the pace of the plot and the procedural methods employed by Fisk and his colleagues, I was concerned that maybe the characterisation would suffer, but my fears were groundless. Fisk came across as an incredibly realistic and likeable character, and through his interation with his fellow investigator, Krina Gersten, on both a professional and personal level, it added an interesting fission to the main plot. Likewise, Wolf captures perfectly the characters of ‘The Six’ an unlikely band of, for the most part, normal people hurled into the glare of the media, and the personal way in which this affects them all and how they respond to this bewildering attention. There is a good interplay between this disparate group both with each other, and those that seek to keep them protected from the greater threat that their status as American heroes affords them.  I also particularly enjoyed a sub plot involving a female ‘sleeping agent’ and her motivations for her actions, and the overall balance in the narrative of the power of belief in a cause, evident in the actions of those who participate in terrorism and those who seek to defeat the them. To Wolf’s credit the terrorists do not fall victim to the normal thriller stereotyping, and are not portrayed as monsters, but rather as individuals with a firm strength of belief in their route to martyrdom.

This was definitely a smarter-than-average terrorism centred thriller that genuinely kept me hooked throughout. Obviously, with Wolf’s accomplished career in television, the book would translate perfectly to the screen with an incredibly visual quality and perfectly weighted plot, that cries out for either a TV mini-series or a movie. All in all a deft and highly original thriller that is well worth a read and I thoroughly enjoyed this one.

Dick Wolf  an award-winning writer, director and producer is the creator of one of the most successful brands in the history of television- Law & Order, the longest running scripted show in television history. He has won numerous awards, including two Emmys, a Grammy, and an Edgar. ‘The Intercept’ is published by Sphere. Read more from a Wall Street Journal article here: When writing his first novel, TV mogul Dick Wolf obeyed the same commandment imposed on every “Law & Order” script: http://on.wsj.com/XkcWvz

(With thanks to Jade at  http://www.thecrimevault.com/  for the ARC)

Brett Battles- No Return

Product DetailsAn F-18 Navy fighter careens out of the blue sky above the Mojave desert. A TV cameraman, who grew up in a small town just miles away, can see what is going to happen next. Frantically, Wes Stewart races to the downed jet and tries to save the pilot’s life. When the plane explodes, Wes escapes without harm – and plunges into a murderous conspiracy. It’s been fifteen years since Wes has been back to the desolate landscape of his childhood. Now, he finds himself up against the US military, the local police and someone who is tracking his every move. In the moments he spent with the dying pilot, Wes discovered something that could get him killed. But while he tries to untangle a web of lies and secrets surrounding the crash, another danger is stalking him. And this one he will never see coming…
Brett Battles is a new author for me and I’m always keen to discover new thriller writers, so was delighted to receive a copy of this gripping stand alone. Centring on the character of Wes Stewart, who finds himself embroiled in a military conspiracy,  I fairly raced through this one, with its clipped chapters and cleverly measured twists in the plot to keep you thinking just one more chapter, just one more chapter…

I loved the cinematic set-up of the plot, with the story revolving around the desolate and sinister beauty of the Mojave desert, and the initial, seemingly foolhardy, approach by Wes, to the crashed fighter plane is edge of the seat stuff indeed. On his discovery that there is a conspiracy to conceal the pilot’s true identity, Wes not only has to negotiate the threats to him and his fellow film crew, with his refusal to let things lie, but also finds some nasty secrets from his past life come to the surface as he retreads the familiar territory of his youth. The whole plot centres around the themes of trust and loyalty, as Wes hooks up with his former buddy Lars, now a naval officer himself, to uncover the conspiracy, but how far can Lars be trusted and who is seeking retribution on them both? As the net tightens in both strands of the plot, Wes faces some uncomfortable truths about his past as well as finding himself in increasing physical danger. It’s a thrilling ride!

The characters are nicely drawn as the tale brings into juxtaposition the flighty world of Wes’ TV crew and the diva antics of their presenter Monroe Banks, with the discipline and regimentation of the military protagonists. Wes is a likeable character, as a bit of an all action guy with a touch of a soft centre, as we discover through his relationship with make-up girl Anna, and the former actions of his youth which are now coming back to haunt him. There is a natural feel to the dialogue and banter between the film crew, which lightens the tension of the central plot, and the military antagonists are, in true thriller style, sinister enough to garner the reader’s inherent mistrust.

I think the key to this book though is the sheer pace of the storytelling as I mentioned in my intro. It really is a page-turner with an extremely effective use of varying chapter lengths. As the plot revolves around a military conspiracy, there is a good amount of high octane action, tempered by the tension of gaining access and  breaking into military installations to reveal the truth behind the conspiracy. Most of the characters find themselves in some kind of physical danger or threat in the course of the book, and with the great twist in the plot involving Wes’ formative years, there is more than enough going on to keep the thrills and spills coming, and for us as readers to try and work out who the bad guys really are.

I do like a thriller that just carries you along with a good pace of action and credible characters, and on this showing, I would definitely seek out more of Brett Battles’ books. I have already been sussing out his established Jonathan Quinn and Project Eden series on fellow blogger’s sites, which have attracted good reviews, so delighted I have found a new writer with a great backlist.

Find out more about Brett Battles at his website here: http://www.brettbattles.com/

JONATHAN QUINN SERIES:

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PROJECT EDEN SERIES:

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(With thanks to Arrow Books for the ARC)

Chris Carter- The Hunter

Product DetailsMeet Robert Hunter, the youngest Homicide Detective the Los Angeles Police has ever recruited, on his first day. As a rookie, he is given a simple suicide investigation to cut his teeth on. But when he arrives at the scene, he swiftly begins to suspect that something is not quite right.Despite the fact that the door was locked from the inside, and there is no other way out of the apartment, Hunter has a hunch that the victim did not commit suicide. But with a new Captain to impress and the evidence stacked against him, Hunter has a lot to prove if he is to solve the case and keep his place on the team…

If like me you are awaiting the new Chris Carter thriller with bated breath, and you are in possession of an e-reader, then why not treat yourself to this short story featuring the brilliant Robert Hunter. It’s Hunter’s first assignment as one of the youngest detectives ever to be assigned to the LA Robbery and Homicide division, and Hunter is determined to prove that what appears to be a straightforward suicide is anything but. Railing against the preconceptions of his new colleagues and superiors, Hunter strives to solve this locked room mystery, displaying his natural empathy  for the victim so characteristic of his motivation as a detective in the other books.  From this earliest investigation, we recognise in Hunter the early signs of his intuitive feel for a crime scene and his inherent reading of the psychological impulses associated with murder.  With more than a nod to the deductive skills of Sherlock Holmes and Auguste Dupin, this is a compact little story that sets the scene for readers who have not yet discovered the established series by Chris Carter, and those of us that are intrigued by the early beginnings of Robert Hunter’s police career, having read and enjoyed the series to date. A good little gap-filler whilst we count the days to the new book!

Born in Brazil of Italian origin, Chris Carter studied psychology and criminal behaviour at the University of Michigan. As a member of the Michigan State District Attorney’s Criminal Psychology team, he interviewed and studied many criminals, including serial and multiple homicide offenders with life imprisonment convictions. He now lives in London.

Visit his website at: http://www.chriscarterbooks.com/home.htm and read more about Chris here: http://authors.simonandschuster.co.uk/Chris-Carter/65784651/author_revealed

My review of The Death Sculptor Robert Hunter (4)

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(I bought my copy of ‘The Hunter’ in Kindle format from Amazon.co.uk)

Paul Doiron- The Poacher’s Son

Set in the wilds of Maine, this is an explosive tale of an estranged son thrust into the hunt for a murderous fugitive – his own father.Game warden Mike Bowditch returns home one evening to find an alarming voice from the past on his answering machine: his father Jack, a hard-drinking womanizer who makes his living from poaching illegal game. An even more frightening call comes the next morning from the police: they are searching for a cop-killer – and Mike’s father is their prime suspect.Now, alienated from the woman he loves and shunned by colleagues who have no sympathy for the suspected cop killer, Mike must come to terms with his haunted past. He knows firsthand of his father’s brutality, but is he capable of murder? Desperate and alone, the only way for Mike to save his father is to find the real killer – which could mean putting everyone he loves into the line of fire…

Another crime thriller that paves the way for the arrival of a potentially great series featuring the character of Mike Bowditch, a young Maine game warden, thrust into an investigation where the chief suspect is his estranged father. With, at times, lyrical prose and a sense of location that eloquently portrays the natural beauty of backwoods Maine, this novel held my attention throughout and here’s why…

 What this book most movingly conveys is a young man’s struggle, at the beginning of what could be a promising career, to balance the demands of his profession with the demands of family loyalty. Despite his dysfunctional upbringing at the hands of his entirely irresponsible father, the nagging sense of duty Mike experiences to defend his father’s name when implicated in a senseless murder, leads him into an emotional case that could be the undoing of his own career. Mike experiences a maelstrom of emotions that cause him to act very much out of character, but highlight his single minded determination to not only solve the case but attempt to lay to rest the ghosts of his past life.  As Mike disobeys the edicts of his superiors to track down his father on the run through the wild terrain, he takes an uncomfortable journey back to the source of his uneasy relationship with his father to determine his father’s guilt or innocence, with other formerly peripheral figures from his formative years, having their own part to play in his search for the truth. The characterisation is perfectly weighted throughout the book, not only in the central charaters of Mike and his father, but by those who seek to help or hinder this troubled young man in his emotionally difficult case. There are two particularly well-realised female characters in the novel. Mike’s colleague Kathy Frost, understands Mike’s torn loyalties and in her own straight talking manner endeavours to keep him on the right track, recognising the promise in him, and she is set against BJ, a figure from Mike’s past who re-enters his life, skilfully manipulating him and his father, in her role as a kind of backwoods femme fatale. Through the machinations of a great cast of characters, Doiron, weaves a great plot, which not only plays out as a solid murder mystery, but also encapsulates the struggle of life in a community now controlled at the behest of all powerful logging companies, who have tightened their hold, and dictate to a large extent the socio-economic life of this community and highlighting the tensions that arise within.

 What struck me most about this book was the absolute attention paid to location and sense of place. I have read a number of contemporary American fiction writers, who in the naturalistic tradition of American literature, wield their portrayal of landscape as almost another character in their books and Doiron achieves the same effect. His grasp of description and the use of natural images is superlative throughout the book, appealing to the reader’s senses and awakening our imagination to a locale, that many of us will never witness, but feel that we can picture with astonishing clarity. With the destruction of the landscape and communities,  I highlighted earlier, Doiron challenges us to weigh up the demands of big business, against the huge loss of a beautiful wilderness previously unspoilt. This he achieves by the emotional weight he pours into his lyrical depiction of this area and makes for another undercurrent of interest to the central storyline.

 In closing I would say that this novel appealed to me on many levels with the sheer balance achieved between an engaging plot, solid characterisation and the strength of Doiron’s description of both the environment and the conflicts that arise within it. A very satisfying read and an author that I would most certainly recommend.

Bestselling author Paul Doiron has won the Barry Award, the Strand Critics Award, and the Maine Literary Award for crime fiction and has been nominated for the Edgar Award, the Anthony Award, the Macavity Award, and the Thriller Award. He is the editor in chief of Down East and a Registered Maine Guide. Find out more here:http://www.pauldoiron.com/ Follow Paul on Twitter @pauldoiron

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‘The Poacher’s Son’ due to be published in UK hardback 17th January  (Constable & Robinson)

(With thanks to Constable & Robinson for the ARC)

Andrew Nette- Ghost Money

Product DetailsCambodia, 1996, the long-running Khmer Rouge insurgency is fragmenting, competing factions of an unstable coalition government scrambling to gain the upper hand. Missing in the chaos is businessman Charles Avery. Hired to find him is Vietnamese Australian ex-cop Max Quinlan. But Avery has made dangerous enemies and Quinlan is not the only one looking. Teaming up with Heng Sarin, a local journalist, Quinlan’s search takes him from the freewheeling capital Phnom Penh to the battle scarred western borderlands. As the political temperature soars, he is slowly drawn into a mystery that plunges him into the heart of Cambodia’s bloody past…

Drawing on his experience as a journalist in the 1990’s in South East Asia, Nette succeeds in constructing a highly readable thriller against the backdrop of a country, in this instance Cambodia, in its recovery from one of the most heinous periods of world history. Into this melting pot, comes Max Quinlan, a half Vietnamese, half Australian besmirched ex-cop, on the trail of a missing Australian businessman, Charles Avery, whose sister has comissioned Max to track down her errant brother.  On his arrival in Bangkok, a city that bore witness to the end of Max’s police career- Quinlan discovers Avery’s business partner murdered and no sign of the shady gem-dealing shyster that is Charles Avery. Through his less than reputable contacts Quinlan gets wind of Avery hightailing it to Cambodia, and enlisting the help of an ambitious Australian reporter, and his Cambodian translator, Sarin, Quinlan enters a world defined by the socio-political upheaval of its past and into the path of some extrememly mercenary and pretty unpleasant characters as he seeks to discover the whereabouts of the elusive Avery…

I think most of us are familiar with the bloody events that have defined Cambodia’s history through films such as ‘The Killing Fields’ , but throughout the course of this book I learnt a great deal more about the former pervasive grip of the Khmer Rouge, and a country struggling for reunification and peace, after the well documented genocide and the lingering existence of hardline Khmer Rouge foot soldiers. The book is filled with information regarding Cambodia’s years of turmoil which, when being narrated through the experiences of the Cambodian protagonists, is very powerful indeed. Through the character of Sarin and his sister in particular, we gain a huge insight into the tearing apart of Cambodian society and the familial loss that so  many citizens encountered, as the era of persecution set in. Nette also effectively references the efforts made to gather all the documentation and first hand accounts of the atrocities as a lasting testament to the evil that men do in their grasp for power. One of the small criticisms, I have of the book, and perhaps this is influenced by Nette’s journalistic background, is that sometimes there is just too much ‘non-fictional’ input, that for me at times, did interupt the natural flow of the story. However, generally I think the strength of the writing resided in Nette’s ability to conjur up the sense of location and atmosphere that formed the backdrop for the thrust of the story. Nette neatly constructs powerful tableaus to the reader from the grubby world of the seedy ex-patriates, to a no holds barred boxing match, to the relentless grind and poverty of rural Cambodia. His grasp of description adds strength to the assured central plotting so as a reader you really get a sense of the atmosphere and landscape of the region, especially the jungle terrain and rural outposts controlled by the remaining factions of the Khmer Rouge. In the character of Quinlan and his mixed heritage, Nette also gets the chance to sidestep into the world of Vietnam, and how Quinlan’s upbringing in Australia and the natural suspicion of the Cambodians to his half Vietnamese background, has influenced and defined his life and people’s reactions to him. Throughout the book Quinlan is depicted as a tough and resilient man, but imbued with a sense of morality that lays him bare in his defence of others. I enjoyed the gradual trusting relationship that developed across cultural boundaries between him and Cambodian translator Sarin, and thought this realistically portrayed.

The overall plotting was good and the story, with the intermittent hiatus into Cambodian history, was very engaging for the reader,  as Quinlan comes up against and takes on, some very sinister and violent individuals in his search for Avery. The plot does veer off a little at the end into an almost Indiana Jones quest, and I found the ending a tad abrupt,  but neither of these minor criticisms was enough for me to leave the book with a feeling of disatisfaction when viewed in the light of the strength of what had gone before.  I would definitely recommend this thriller to other readers and on this showing, Nette is an author that I would happily seek out again and another welcome addition to the Australian crime stable.

Andrew Nette, is a writer based in Melbourne, Australia, with a fascination for crime fiction and film, obscure pulp novels and all things Asian. He lived in Southeast Asia for six years in the nineties, based in Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. During that time he worked as a journalist, and as a communications consultant for the United Nations and a number of non-government organisations. He has since travelled frequently in Asia and lived in Phnom Penh with his family for a year in 2008, where he wrote for the international news wire, Inter Press Service, and worked on a European television documentary on the international tribunal into the crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge. Find out more about the author here:http://www.pulpcurry.com/  Andrew is also one of the founders of Crime Factory Publications, a Melbourne-based small press specialising in crime fiction, and helps edit Crime Factory, its on-line magazine, which appears four times a year: http://www.thecrimefactory.com/

An interview with Andrew Nette: http://www.crimefictionlover.com/2012/09/interview-andrew-nette/

Check out a great review of ‘Ghost Money’ here: http://houseleaguefiction.com/2013/01/06/review-ghost-money-by-andrew-nette/ and at Fair Dinkum Crime: http://fairdinkumcrime.com/category/author/andrew-nette/

(‘Ghost Money’ is published by Snubnose Press and I read the book in Kindle format)

David Jackson- Marked

In New York’s East Village a young girl is brutally raped, tortured and murdered. Detective Callum Doyle has seen the victim’s remains. He has visited the distraught family. Now he wants justice. Doyle is convinced he knows who the killer is. The problem is he can’t prove it. And the more he pushes his prime suspect, the more he learns that the man is capable of pushing back in ways more devious and twisted than Doyle could ever have imagined. Add to that the appearance of an old adversary who has a mission for Doyle and won’t take no for an answer, and soon Doyle finds himself at risk of losing everything he holds dear. Including his life…

As a seasoned and somewhat cynical crime reader I always have a strange feeling of mild peril when approaching an author’s third outing in a series that has pretty much knocked my metaphorical socks off with the first two books. So here is the third of Jackson’s Detective Callum Doyle’s adventures in downtown New York and how did it do? Yeeeeeeeeees! I can push aside those unfounded feelings of doubt, because I am more than happy to report that Jackson has delivered again. With a somewhat darker feel to the previous two books, what we have here is another full-throttle, and at times violent tale, with Doyle as a modern day caped crusader, albeit with a much better reportoire of pithy one-liners and a never ending propensity to facedown the bad guys and seek justice for the wronged. Doyle is up to his little bent nose in trouble, juggling the demands of hunting down a murdering rapist, running errands for gangsters, navigating the annoyance of a new young and earnest police partner and trying not to totally tee off his long suffering wife. Oh yeah, and it looks like his daughter might be a kleptomaniac.

But seriously, this is an absolute page turner throughout, suffused with the twists and turns so firmly recognisable in Jackson’s style. Doyle goes about his business with little thought to his own physical safety and finds himself one-on-one with one of the most scheming, duplicitous and odious characters ever to grace the pages of a crime book, in the shape of Stan Proust, the demon tatooist. Doyle is convinced that this snake in the grass is responsible for the abduction, rape and murder of two girls, the latest being Megan Hamlyn, and goes all out to prove Proust guilty, setting him against his new partner Tommy LeBlanc and doing nothing to quell the genuinely held suspicion in the squadroom that Doyle is a loose cannon. This is an incredibly dark but well executed thread to the book, as we see Proust turning the screws on Doyle bit by bit, threatening all corners of Doyle’s life. As we observe Doyle’s interaction with Megan’s bereaved parents, in particular, with her mother Nicole (who has a strong presence in the book and an intriguing part to play in the overall plot), we feel the urgency of Doyle to bring this man to justice. But fate has more in store for Stan Proust than just the attentions of Doyle, and with the reappearance of shadowy figures from Doyle’s murky past (in particular the cross-eyed gangster Bartok) this all adds up to Doyle being pulled in all directions in this twisted storyline tightly weaved…

Aside from the tightly controlled plotting in both this and the previous books, Jackson once again demonstrates his gift for characterisation and dialogue, very reminiscent in style to one of his proclaimed writing influences, the late great Ed McBain. Doyle is a wiseass, pure and simple, relying on his own propensity for wit on probably some less than suitable occasions. The violence Doyle encounters is always beautifully counterbalanced with his knack for the ready quip, with more than one of his colleagues being antagonised by his smart mouth, but throughout the book this use of humour enriches the cut and thrust of the precisely drawn dialogue. Doyle’s uneasy relationship with new partner LeBlanc reminded me strongly of the Harry Callaghan school of indoctrinating partners, with probably slightly better odds at surviving, and it was nice to see the revival of Doyle’s fraught former dealings with his Internal Affairs nemesis Paulson in the course of the tale. The characterisation throughout is perfectly pitched and credible, as we bear witness to Doyle’s less than adept social skills and his skill at covering his own back, whilst always admiring his unerring determination to bring the guilty to justice, despite the determination of others to thwart him. The surrounding characters simply work well,  as they are as roundly drawn as the central protagonist, and there is a good symbiosis of action and reaction played throughout them, that fleshes out Doyle’s character and his differing relationships with them.

 So to conclude, fear not if you have not had the pleasure of reading ‘Pariah’ or ‘The Helper (but quite honestly why haven’t you?) as the relevant back story is seamlessly woven in to the tale so you’re not aware of playing catch-up. As with other reviewers, I would issue a slight word of caution, for the more sensitive among you that there is a fair amount of violence, but nothing that will keep you awake at night, unless your other half has a less than healthy relationship with their power tools. Joking aside, apart from a v. minor wobble on the closing page, this is a great read; earthy, compelling and unmissable. Go now out into the world and discover Doyle for yourselves…

 David Jackson is the author of a series of crime thrillers featuring New York detective Callum Doyle. His debut novel, ‘Pariah’, was Highly Commended in the Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger Awards, and translation rights have been sold. Both it and its sequel, ‘The Helper’, have been greeted with rave reviews, including one from the Guardian that reads: ‘Recalls Harlan Coben – though for my money Jackson is the better writer.’ David’s fiction website can be found at: www.davidjacksonbooks.com

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 See my reviews of the first two Callum Doyle titles here: David Jackson- The Helper/Pariah.

Read Keith B Walters’ review of ‘Marked’ here: http://booksandwriters.wordpress.com/

See author Mel Sherratt’s interview with David Jackson here:  Murder They Wrote –  http://wp.me/p2eihP-ed

(With thanks to Macmillan for the ARC)

 

 

 

 

 

 

James Renner- The Man From Primrose Lane

Product DetailsRewind: Once upon a time in Ohio there lived an elderly recluse, ‘the man from Primrose Lane’. He had no friends or family. He wore mittens all year round. And one summers day, he was murdered. Fast-Forward: Bestselling author David Neff is a broken man, lonely, desolate and lost ever since his wife’s suicide. But something about the man from Primrose Lane grabs his attention and he decides to investigate the mystery – only to be dragged back into a world he thought he had left behind forever. Replay: As David gets closer to uncovering the true identity of the man from Primrose Lane, he begins to understand the terrible power of his own obsessions and how they may be connected to the deaths of both the hermit and his beloved wife…
 Now this a book that warrants serious attention from readers and critics alike. James Renner’s debut ‘The Man From Primrose Lane’ is marked by it’s refusal to conform to the normal boundaries of the crime fiction writing genre, and instead plays with the conventions of a linear story, imaginatively taking the reader in a whole new direction. Over the last few years it has not been unusual for renowned fantasy writers such as China Mieville and Tad Williams to circumvent the constraints of their genre by presenting their readers with a crime fiction plot in a fantasy setting, but only after having established their reputations in their chosen genre. With a controlled use of plotting, and having established what appears to be a normal linear crime story, Renner bravely takes the reader into a fantastical flight into the realms of SF and fantasy, whilst never losing sight of the demands of the conventional crime reader, with an assured and utterly engaging touch.

At the start of the book a reclusive old man is found murdered in his home on Primrose Lane in Akron, with no apparent reason for this senseless crime. However, in the eyes of those faceless govenment departments who document our lives in minute detail, he is quite evidently not who appears to be, having assumed the identity of a long dead individual and mysteriously accruing a substantial personal fortune, seemingly only having spent money on a huge collection of mittens and other bizarre and apparently useless items. His killer remains undetected. Grieving widower and true crime writer, David Neff, is approached by his agent to take up the threads of this story, having successfully exposed a heinous miscarriage of justice in his previous bestselling book, and to uncover the secrets and lies that underpin the mysterious death of the anonymous man from Primrose Lane. Neff, is a great character, exhibiting all the signs of a man disappearing into despair following the alleged suicide of his wife, Elizabeth, but bound by his paternal responsibilities to his young son Tanner. We observe a man trying to make sense of what appears to him to be a nonsensical chain of events, put into motion by the loss of his mercurial wife, and how her death and the murder of the old man are so inextricably linked, as strange events and crossed paths, come to light in his reasearch for his new book…

And this is where the story takes the most mysterious of turns, but by my previous reference to the SF and fantasy genres, there is some small clue to the bizarre and intriguing adventure, across different dimensions of time, that you as a reader will encounter with this book.  I was wrongfooted completely by the strange turn of events, having read a proof copy with little in the way of blurb contained within, but this for me certainly, made for a multi-stranded and at times complicated tale. I would certainly recommend that this is not a book to be picked up for a few pages before entering the Land of Nod, as it does require that attention be paid on the part of the reader to navigate the later stages of the book, but I would hasten to say that it doesn’t make the book a difficult read per se but more that you will enjoy the cleverness of it more by keeping your wits about you. Supported by a host of surprising and compelling characters the plot mushrooms into abduction, murder and a thirst for justice amongst the main protagonists. I think the strength of characterisation throughout, particularly good in the female characters of Elizabeth and Katy and that of main protagonist David,  provides a good foil to the unexpected twists and turns in the plot,that cheekily court more than one suspension of belief on the part of the reader. But you know what- Renner gets away with it. The writing is compelling, veering at times closer to contemporary literary American fiction, whilst maintaining a good conventional murder plot to carry the action along. ‘The Man From Primrose Lane’ tests your imagination from start to finish and this makes it all the more special for that. A wonderful read with an ending that may tempt you to turn back to the beginning to decipher the clever myriad of clues that lie within its pages.

James Renner is a reformed muckraker who now writes novels and short fiction. He also occasionally dabbles in film and comedy. At Kent State, Renner founded Last Call Cleveland, a sketch comedy group and for a time, they were the most-watched late-night television program in the dorms–take that Conan! Renner was once voted one of Cleveland’s Most Interesting People by Cleveland Magazine. It was between him and the Norton Furniture Guy. The editors have come to regret that decision. In 2005, Renner directed a short film based on the Stephen King story, All That You Love Will Be Carried Away. King sold him the rights for $1. Renner spends his spare time hunting serial killers and writing about his adventures. One of his true crime stories was published in the Best American Crime Reporting anthology. It was the first nonfiction true crime article to use a dream sequence as a narrative device. Sometimes Renner pretends to smoke cigarettes because he wants to feel relaxed but is too afraid of the harmful effects to actually light it. Find out more here: http://jamesrenner.com/

JSASCRIBES interviewing James Renner, read it here: http://jsascribes.wordpress.com/2012/05/16/author-interview-james-renner/

See another review here: http://www.curiositykilledthebookworm.net/2013/01/the-man-from-primrose-lane.html

‘The Man From Primrose Lane’ is published by Corsair and available in paperback and e-book

(With thanks to Corsair for the ARC)

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