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)

Stuart Neville- Ratlines

“Right at the end of the war, some Nazis saw it coming. They knew that even if they escaped, hundreds of others wouldn’t. They needed to set up routes, channels, ways out for their friends. Ratlines.” Ireland, 1963. As the Irish people prepare to welcome President John F. Kennedy to the land of his ancestors, a German is murdered in a seaside guesthouse. He is the third foreign national to die within a few days, and Minister for Justice Charles Haughey is desperate to protect a shameful secret: the dead men were all former Nazis granted asylum by the Irish government. A note from the killers is found on the corpse, addressed to Colonel Otto Skorzeny, Hitler’s favourite WWII commando, once called the most dangerous man in Europe. It says simply: ‘We are coming for you. Await our call.’ Lieutenant Albert Ryan, Directorate of Intelligence, is ordered to investigate the crimes. But as he infiltrates Ireland’s secret network of former Nazis and collaborators, Ryan must choose between country and conscience. Why must he protect the very people he fought against twenty years before? And who are the killers seeking revenge for the horrors of the Second World War?

Stuart Neville more than proves his versatility as a writer with his new historical standalone novel, ‘Ratlines’. By carefully blending a mix of authentic historical characters along with fictional protagonists, Neville brings to life a dark period of Irish history that has been rarely addressed in fiction before, and weaves a tale of political duplicity, betrayal and murder that grips the reader from outset.

 Set in 1960‘s Ireland with a visit from President Kennedy on the horizon, there comes to light a series of murders of individuals tainted by their former lives as Nazis or as Nazi collaborators who have sought sanctuary in Ireland, either as permanent residence or as a stop off point in their fleeing to South America. Using the ‘ratlines’, a network of escape routes, their flight to Ireland has remained largely unaffected until their identities become known and the systematic killing begins. Otto Skorzeny, a former shining light in the Nazi regime, finds himself in the spotlight of the killers, but drawing on his close affiliation with Justice Minister, Charles Haughey, and Skorzeny’s integral part in the ratlines, seeks to evade their clutches. Enter our hero Lieutenant Albert Drake of the Directorate of Intelligence, assigned to uncover the killers and to protect and defend this representative of a pernicious regime, that Ryan himself had fought against as one of the 100,000 or so, Irishmen that fought for Britain in World War II. Ryan, whose own parents are persecuted for the perceived nationalistic betrayal of his fighting for the British, uncovers a shadowy world of dubious morality, ultimately fuelled by a no more complex motivation than greed. As the plot progesses, Ryan finds himself drawn into his own moral maze, an unwitting pawn working at the behest of powerful politicos and manipulated by those seemingly seeking retribution for crimes of the past.

 The plotting is absolutely first class throughout and with the attention to historical detail, this book opened up to me a dark period of Irish history that I was entirely unfamiliar with, as well as referencing the role of individuals from Breton during the war and their collaboration with the Nazis in their determined seeking of independence from France, which in turn leads to their forced flight to the sanctuary of Ireland. Through Ryan, we observe the ambivalent response to ‘The Emergency’ as Ireland named World War II, and the continuing persecution of those Irishmen who defied the genrally held consensus of opinion that Irish citizens should not have fought on the side of the British. Using the theme of the ratlines, it becomes clear how some of the most evil figures of the Nazi regime had escaped justice and how individuals like the scheming, Skorzeny inveigled their way into the favour of some less than moralistic political figures in Ireland. Add into the mix, an assured and pacy plotline that carries the reader along effortlessly as these treacherous games of betrayal and murder unfold, and what we have is a novel that quickly holds the reader’s attention.

Other reviewers have queried a perceived lack of deep characterisation in this novel, but I would take issue with this, observing that the main protagonists are perfectly well-drawn and that their essential human qualities, and morals, or conversely lack of, moral stature are in evidence throughout. This is the not the type of book that needs a complex exploration of the human condition, as their motivations for their own behaviours and their manipulation of others, flows easily from the the central narrative and the direction of the plotting. Indeed, the characterisation was to me, perfectly executed giving no qualms to me as a reader as to my own responses to the array of, at times, morally dubious characters on display. I liked the way that Neville manipulates the reader slightly by making some characters that every fibre of your being is telling you to hate, seem almost charming in their own way, but not blurring the boundaries enough that you won’t fail to relish the prospect of their come-uppence. Ryan is an empathetic hero of the piece, and Neville slowly reveals layers to him, as professional soldier, and essentially moral individual and a different side to him in a nice little romantic development in the plot, that fits in well with the overall arc of the story.

There is always a slight danger when established authors branch out into a standalone,  and whilst bearing in mind the strength of Neville’s previous series and seeing some less successful standalones from other well known series writers, I did have fears, but trust me, my fears were assuaged very quickly, by being so immediately drawn into this thrilling and enthralling plot. My first read of the year and I’m pleased to say a very enjoyable one at that.

 Stuart Neville’s first novel, The Twelve, was one of the most critically acclaimed crime debuts of recent years. It was selected as one of the top crime novels of the year by the New York Times and it won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for best thriller. His next novels, Collusion and Stolen Souls, garnered widespread praise and confirmed his position as one of the most exciting new crime authors writing today. Visit his website at:http://www.stuartneville.com/ . Follow this link to read Ratlines:the first two chapters .

Who would Neville cast as in a film adaptation of ‘Ratlines’? Find out here: http://www.crimefictionlover.com/2013/01/interview-stuart-neville/

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 (I read ‘Ratlines’ in Kindle format downloaded from www.netgalley.com as a digital galley)