November Round-Up and Raven’s Book of the Month

Seem to have taken my foot off the gas slightly in November with only half my average number of reviews *hangs head in shame*, but what I lacked in quantity this month is made up for by quality. Phew, think I got away with that- and I will endeavour to bring you as many reviews as possible in December which will be a busy month for me in my ‘proper job’!

Obviously November and December are extremely busy for those of us employed in bookshops, so on that note, I would send all my best wishes to all the dedicated bookstore employees around the world whose important job it is to put the perfect book, in the right hands, for the right person, which is so crucial to not only our customers, but to the long term survival of our beloved bookstores. Hope all you booksellers have an enjoyable and profitable run-up to the big day, and everyone else remember- there is no better present than a book…

Books reviewed on Raven Crime Reads

A globe-trotting selection this month from London, Liverpool and Manchester to Ireland via Washington, Los Angeles and Sicily. An incredibly different mix of styles and genres that I thoroughly enjoyed reading this month…

Roger A. Price- By Their Rules

George Pelecanos– The Double (Spero Lucas 2)

Brian McGilloway- Hurt ( DS Lucy Black 2)

Andrea Camilleri- The Treasure Hunt (Inspector Montalbano 16)

Ed Chatterton– Down Among The Dead Men (DI Frank Keane 2)

Anthony Quinn– Border Angels

I also read:

Cold CouragePekka Hiltunen- Cold Courage-A young woman has been gruesomely killed, her body abandoned in a car boot in the middle of London as a warning to others. The police have no leads and no clues as to the identity of the victim.
It seems that Lia is the only one who refuses to let the murderer go unpunished.A chance encounter with the mysterious Mari gives Lia fresh hope. But just who is she? Can Lia trust her? Can Lia afford not to trust her?

A very engaging thriller as a young Finnish woman Lia, finds herself involved with a secret investigative organisation known as The Studio, spearheaded by the marvellously intriguing fellow Finn Mari. Mari, and her small band of seeming misfits, who all bring their special skills to investigating murder and corruption below the radar of the established forces of law and order, put me very much in mind of the protagonists in Arne Dahl’s Intercrime series, who all struggle with the accepted behaviours of normal life, but who are all extremely skilled in their professional lives and the seeking of justice. With its strong characterisation and gripping storyline, this is another welcome addition to the Scandinavian crime stable, and a great recommendation for fans of this genre. A good read.

And, I will mention this one, although not a crime book, as it’s more than worth bringing to everyone’s attention….

Product DetailsNick Cole- The Waste Land SagaForty years after the destruction of civilization…Man is reduced to salvaging the ruins of a broken world. One man’s most prized possession is Hemingway’s classic ‘The Old Man and the Sea.’ With the words of the novel echoing across the wasteland, a survivor of the Nuclear Holocaust journeys into the unknown to break a curse. What follows is an incredible tale of survival and endurance. One man must survive the desert wilderness and mankind gone savage to discover the truth of Hemingway’s classic tale of man versus nature.

I originally read the first of this trilogy, The Old Man and The Waste Land, as a Kindle debut, and with my love of the spare style of Cormac McCarthy and the genre of post-apocalyptic fiction generally, found that it ticked so many boxes for me. Delighted to see that all three books have been snapped up by a major publisher and published in this edition, which is well worth seeking out with its incredibly powerful characterisation and assured plotting. A vision of a desperate future, imbued with the strength found in the human spirit in the struggle for survival, and a quality of prose that I have seldom seen bettered in this particular genre. A remarkable trilogy.

Raven’s Book of the Month:

Anthony Quinn- Border Angels

Product DetailsThe border between Northern Ireland and the Republic is a rugged place: cold, windswept, and dark. For the girls brought here from Eastern Europe, it may as well be a war zone. Put to work in a farmhouse brothel near Dunmore, the women are forced into a living hell. One night, a pimp takes one of them for a ride. She is just planning her escape when the car explodes. The next morning, there is nothing left but the pimp’s charred body and the woman’s footprints in the snow. As his forensics specialists turn their attention to the burned corpse, Police Inspector Celcius Daly obsesses over the footprints. Where exactly did the woman come from, and where did she go? It is the sort of question asked only in the borderlands—between North and South, between life and death.

Okay, I know you probably guessed that this would be the winner this month- my reputation as a lover of Irish crime fiction goes before me- but this was genuinely my favourite read of the month. A wonderfully understated detective as the main character, a plot that neatly encompassed all the pressing social and economic issues affecting Ireland today, and a perfectly paced storyline that kept my interest from first to last. What more does one need from a good crime read?

Brian McGilloway- Hurt ( DS Lucy Black 2)

Late December. A sixteen-year-old girl is found dead on a train line. Detective Sergeant Lucy Black is called to identify the body. The only clues to the dead teenager’s last movements are stored in her mobile phone and on social media – and it soon becomes clear that her ‘friends’ were not as trustworthy as she thought.

Lucy is no stranger to death: she is still haunted by the memory of the child she failed to save, and the killer she failed to put behind bars. And with a new boss scrutinizing her every move, she is determined that – this time – she will leave no margin for error.

Following the phenomenal success of Little Girl Lost, the first thriller featuring DS Lucy Black, McGilloway returns to her character in his new release Hurt. Despite me being a huge fan if the Inspector Devlin series, I must confess that somehow McGilloway’s alternative series had escaped my radar, so this is my first foray into Lucy Black’s world, and a thoroughly riveting and enjoyable one at that.

There is more than enough reference to the events of the first book for the new reader to be quickly immersed in the harrowing events that Black has experienced, and which have shaped her character, both in a personal and professional sense. What the reader quickly perceives is that Black is an extremely committed and focused police officer, even if she does become slightly too personally involved in her cases at times, but fulfilling the classic edict of all great detective fiction, has a rather unsettled personal life in the wake of a failed relationship. Refreshingly though, she is not aided and abetted by the failings of her personal life by being either sexually promiscuous or befuddled by drink and drugs, but instead immerses herself in an emotive investigation where damaged young girls in the care system are procured for sex, resulting in murder. McGilloway really taps into Black’s increasing bewilderment at the sheer disregard shown for these vulnerable girls, by the men (some of them in positions of trust or power) that use and abuse them, and embarks on a single-minded mission to gain justice on their behalf, drawing Black into extreme personal danger. McGilloway once again demonstrates his superlative skill at pace and plotting, increasing the feeling of danger at a steady pace to a truly nail-biting last few chapters. This, in tandem, with the superb characterisation of both Black herself, and her colleagues, in particular her immediate boss, DI Tom Fleming, who has an interesting story of his own within the plot, and Black’s difficult relationship with his replacement, makes for a powerful and gripping thriller. The reader is immersed throughout in Black’s personal narrative, but in addition McGilloway perfectly conveys the less than pleasant aspects that lurk below respectable society, that powerfully unsettle the reader but which are integral to the overall theme of the book, focusing on the abuse of vulnerable young people in society, and the role of individuals like Black in bringing the perpetrators of such crimes to justice. A striking read with a great female protagonist that kept me hooked throughout.

Brian McGilloway was born in Derry, Northern Ireland, in 1974, and teaches English at St Columb’s College, Derry. He lives near the Irish borderlands with his wife and their four children. He is the author of six previous crime novels: Little Girl Lost, The Rising, Bleed A River Deep, Gallows Lane, Borderlands and The Nameless Dead: www.brianmcgilloway.com

(With thanks to Constable & Robinson for the ARC)

Brian McGilloway- The Rising/The Nameless Dead

When Garda Inspector Benedict Devlin is summoned to a burning barn, he finds inside the charred remains of a man who is quickly identified as a local drug dealer, Martin Kielty. It soon becomes clear that Kielty’s death was no accident, and suspicion falls on a local vigilante group. Former para-militaries, the men call themselves The Rising. Meanwhile, a former colleague’s teenage son has gone missing during a seaside camping trip. Devlin is relieved when the boy’s mother, Caroline Williams, receives a text message from her son’s phone, and so when a body is reported, washed up on a nearby beach, the inspector is baffled. When another drug dealer is killed, Devlin realises that the spate of deaths is more complex than mere vigilantism. But just as it seems he is close to understanding the case, a personal crisis will strike at the heart of Ben’s own family, and he will be forced to confront the compromises his career has forced upon him…

I had originally set out to review the latest book from Brian McGilloway, ‘The Nameless Dead’ but to my delight (slightly tinged with shame) realised that somehow I had missed out on reading ‘The Rising’ despite having devoured the other books in the series, so two reviews for the price of one…

Ostensibly the plot revolves around a community action group ‘The Rising’ who are seeking to eradicate the stranglehold on their neighbourhood of local drug dealers. However, this group is led by a small band of men who have less than savoury pasts and who are actually seeking to strengthen the grip of one major drug dealer, the outwardly respectable businessman Vincent Morrison, by disposing of the competition. Morrison is a nemesis to our moral yet maverick detective Devlin, who soon gets to the root of this conspiracy but also finds himself embroiled on a personal level with Morrison due to the growing relationship between Morrison’s son John and Devlin’s daughter Penny. Penny is approaching the devilish teenage years apace and all the seeds of rebellion are wonderfully sown as Devlin comes into conflict with his daughter over this youthful dalliance ultimately leading to a gripping emotional drama at the conclusion of the book putting Devlin’s familial relationships at the very heart of this novel.

This book also sees the reappearance of Devlin’s former colleague Caroline Williams who has always had a special place in Devlin’s heart in the previous will they, won’t they plot lines. There is heartbreak for Caroline with the senseless death of her teenage son Peter and through the actions of Caroline’s ex-husband we see her pushed to her emotional limits and Devlin has no other option but to become more involved. This story line is particularly well realised and really tugs on the reader’s heartstrings as Caroline is such an empathetic character and depicts the loyalty that Devlin has to those closest to him outside of his police role.

Brian McGilloway’s books are always a wonderful combination of fictional drama blended with an adherence to factual history but I felt this book in particular marked a slight departure in style from the author. Indeed, what struck me most about the book was how emotionally fraught it was in comparison to the rest of the series and how, through the interlinking plot lines, the theme of family was so prevalent, amongst the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ characters which made this book resonate with the reader on a much deeper level. A great read.

 

‘You can’t investigate the baby, Inspector. It’s the law.’ Declan Cleary’s body has never been found, but everyone believes he was killed for informing on a friend over thirty years ago. Now the Commission for Location of Victims’ Remains is following a tip-off that he was buried on the small isle of Islandmore, in the middle of the River Foyle. Instead, the dig uncovers a baby’s skeleton, and it doesn’t look like death by natural causes. But evidence revealed by the Commission’s activities cannot lead to prosecution. Inspector Devlin is torn. He has no desire to resurrect the violent divisions of the recent past. Neither can he let a suspected murderer go unpunished. Now the secret is out, more deaths follow. Devlin must trust his conscience – even when that puts those closest to him at terrible risk . . .

‘The Nameless Dead’ opens with the continuing search for ‘The Disappeared’ ( the undiscovered bodies of those informers etc who have died during ‘The Troubles’) on a small island midway between the North and South and formerly associated with cross border smuggling. Whilst the search revolves around uncovering the body of a certain Declan Cleary, a number of corpses are found linked to a former mother and baby home on the mainland, all displaying signs of physical deformities and having appeared to have died in suspicious circumstances. The story then spirals out further into an investigation of an illegal baby smuggling operation and the link between all these strands to a seemingly respectable property developer whose father had carried out drug trials at the aforementioned mother and baby home with disastrous consequences. One of the major strengths of McGilloway’s writing is his vice-like grip on plot development as all the disparate threads are wound together into a seamless whole, so at no point as a reader are you led to false and unbelievable plot turns. McGilloway always stealthily avoids the over-reliance of some crime writers on the frankly lazy plot device of coincidence, so in conjunction with his strong factual detail and research the plots are always plausible and I always seem to learn something new about Irish history with every book which is an added bonus.

Following on from ‘The Rising’ we are also witness to the trials and tribulations of Devlin’s personal life as Penny continues to wreak havoc with Devlin’s position as a cop and his son Shane starts to show the first signs of rebellion that his daughter is becoming so accomplished at. I really enjoy these very natural portrayals of the family unit which always seem to impact in some way on the central plot but feel unforced and add another level to the novel.

Married to this we again have a good solid depiction of Devlin as a marvellous combination of the moral yet maverick detective getting himself into scrapes again and as one of his colleagues drily remarks, “ He’s not a good cop. He’s a walking disaster. I only hang around with him to see what he’ll do next.” which perfectly sums up Devlin’s uncanny knack to not only always be involved in the thick of it but to also manage to annoy his superiors at every possible turn. However, contrary to his colleague’s tongue in cheek comment, Devlin is a good cop and McGilloway makes us realise this through the skill of his writing and by his solid characterisation of Devlin. A good series that just gets better and better….

Visit Brian McGilloway’s website here: http://www.brianmcgilloway.com/

Petrona’s  review of ‘The Nameless Dead’ can be found here:

  Book review: The Nameless Dead by Brian McGilloway.

(Thanks to Macmillan for supplying a reading copy of ‘The Nameless Dead’)