August 2016 Round Up and Raven’s Book of the Month

_DSC0185 (Common Raven)August has been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster for the Raven, what with one thing and another, and some big decisions are now having to be made in the light of recent events. Consequently, my reading and blogging have been seriously impacted, and this has been quite a light month in terms of books read and reviews posted. I normally manage to read at least three books a week, but have been struggling to get through one! So big apologies for my severely depleted output, my sporadic catching up with social media and the acknowledgement of my fellow bloggers’ excellent posts. Am now in a state of ‘catch-up’, and hopefully there will be a much happier Raven back in the zone. Something good has got to happen soon, right?…

BOOKS READ AND REVIEWED:

James Nally- Dance With The Dead

Rod Reynolds- Black Night Falling

Robert Bailey- Between Black and White

Russel D McLean- And When I Die

Craig Russell- The Quiet Death of Thomas Quaid

Raven’s #20BooksofSummer: the first eight…

Chris Abani- Song For Night

Peter Watts- Echopraxia

Paraic O’Donnell- The Maker of Swans

Cynthia Ozick- The Puttermesser Papers

S. E. Craythorne- How You See Me

Robert Edeson- The Weaver Fish

Diana Rosie- Alberto’s Lost Birthday

David Peace- Tokyo Year Zero

Raven’s Book of the Month:

9781780874883With a lengthy hiatus in this excellent series I was delighted that Lennox has now made a more than welcome reappearance. As I said in my review, Russell perfectly evokes the feel of 1950’s Glasgow, with the shabby, downtrodden air of a city recovering in the aftermath of war, and the incessant need for the criminal underclass to keep a foothold in the economic recovery of the city with the opportunity to make an illegal buck or two. Cut through with the dry wit of the laconic Canadian Lennox, the nod to the hard-boiled genre in terms of dialogue and pace, superb plotting and peopled with a colourful cast of supporting characters, Russell has done it again. If you haven’t discovered this series for yourselves yet, I would urge you to seek them out. Excellent.

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Blog Tour- James Nally- Dance With The Dead

BLOG TOUR

 

 

 

 

 

Having been rather taken with Alone With The Dead by James Nally, introducing us to the hapless DC Donal Lynch, I was more than happy to join in the fun of a blog tour for the second book Dance With The Dead, but would the Raven’s black heart be gladdened again?

jnAspiring actress Elizabeth Smart lands her centre stage role: her mutilated body is found dumped in North London’s red light district. Clasped in her hand is a piece of human hair belonging to an unidentified body of a woman murdered two weeks ago. Aspiring actress Elizabeth Smart lands her centre stage role: her mutilated body is found dumped in North London’s red light district. Clasped in her hand is a piece of human hair belonging to an unidentified body of a woman murdered two weeks ago.PC Donal lands himself a place on the murder squad just as his unconventional brother, journalist Finton, unearths the secret double life of Elizabeth. The bodies mount, each clinging to the strands of hair belonging to the previous victim. The police are convinced it’s the act of a serial killer. But how does Donal convince them it’s not? The only people he can trust are the victims he dances with in his dreams…

It is incredibly satisfying to review a second book in a series that is the equal, if not slightly better than the first. As much as I enjoyed Alone With The Dead, Nally has absolutely nailed it with this outing for Donal and Finton Lynch, and lovely to see the re-appearance of the duplicitious Shep, a senior police officer that treads a very fine line between honesty, and well, dishonesty. From the outset Nally captures the marked differences between siblings Donal and Fintan, and yet the natural repartee, gentle joshing, and loyalty that they have to each other lies at the very core of their relationship. Donal is still a good-natured virginal alcoholic experiencing strange visitations from murder victims, and desperate to escape his banishment to the- excuse the pun- funereal confines of the Cold Case Unit. Eager to inveigle himself in a proper murder investigation, and aided by the rumbustious and completely unscrupulous Fintan, Donal gets the chance, but not without some added complications. Donal is a wonderfully empathetic character, with his bumbling gaucheness, undeniable intuition and as Nally reveals more of his knotty relationship with his father who pops up in this one, any reader could not help developing a certain affection for him. Fintan is equally likeable, exhibiting all the subtlety and charm you would expect of a scurrilous journalist, but deep down- deep, deep, down- has a certain nobility to his character, particularly in relation to his fierce defence and support of Donal, not always for his own benefit. In fact, Nally’s characterisation outside of his main protagonists, is spot on with an assorted cast list of prostitutes, erotic dancers, gangsters, hard men, not so hard men, a flirty forensics officer, and dodgy coppers, and his lightness of touch with the characterisation plays wonderfully well against what is a really quite disturbing investigation.

The plot is terrific, with its pinpoint playing out against a setting of the early 1990’s, which Nally consistently and at times just subtly keeps the reader’s awareness of the period, with cultural, social and political references. With the tentative first steps in the Irish peace process in the background, and proving incredibly relevant to a strand of the story involving Donal’s family, this is a gritty, and at times, perfectly gruesome investigation. Nally introduces some intriguing vignettes concerning forensic detection, and a very novel way of disposing of a corpse, in addition to constructing a seedy, sordid, and dark tale of betrayal and murder. I thought the control of plot was much stronger in this book, and the different emotional, and professional situations, that Donal was manipulated and changed by during the course of this exceptionally bleak murder case. The darker details of Donal’s search for a sadistic murderer is tempered by his positively ham-fisted attempts in matters of the heart, and delighted that, once again, the whole book contains a plethora of sharp one-liners, and flippant jokes that lightens the story along the way ( the Bullitt/Driving Miss Daisy line was a favourite). Kudos for making the  Raven guffaw again. Yep, I liked this one very much. Recommended.

 

(With thanks to Avon for the ARC)

 

 

 

October 2015 Round-Up and Raven’s Book of the Month

_DSC0185 (Common Raven)Well wasn’t that just an incredibly frustrating month? Thwarted by an exceptionally busy work month, a heavy reading schedule of fiction,  and my continuing battles with technology- now hopefully fixed by an investment in a new laptop- I only managed to bring you a fairly paltry five reviews. Slapped wrists for me I think. Just glad I managed to squeeze in my blog tours with Luca Veste, David Young, and James Nally on various borrowed devices!

It’s also been a disappointing month with the much-lauded arrival of some new crime dramas on our screens, heralding a sense of extreme dissatisfaction in this feathered one. With a viewing time of one episode for From Darkness (twenty minutes of plot and dialogue punctuated by winsome staring out of a car window, kitchen window, out to sea) , one episode of Unforgotten (predictable fodder), and the heady heights of an episode and a half for River (which was the one I was really looking forward to- Stellan Skarsgard [over]acting weird + ghost) it was all very vexing. Roll on the new series of Luther and the return of The Bridge…

Anyway, on a brighter note, I have a slew of unposted reviews which I will start posting today to try and catch-up, and there’s a few little treats in there for you so keep ’em peeled. Here’s to a more productive November…

Books reviewed this month:

Brian Freeman- Goodbye To The Dead

James Nally- Alone With The Dead

Shawn Kobb- Collection: A Rocket Malone Mystery

David Young- Stasi Child

Antti Tuomainen- Dark As My Heart

Raven’s Book(s) of the Month

StasiChild_firstlook_540Absolutely no contest this month, and a genuinely impossible anttidecision between these two stellar reads! Step forward David Young- Stasi Child, and Antti Tuomainen Dark As My Heart, for two exceptionally compelling reads set in East Berlin and Finland respectively. I can’t choose between you, nor would I want to, so everyone read both! You won’t be disappointed. Promise…

Blog Tour- James Nally- Alone With The Dead- Review

 

Alone-With-The-Dead-e1443376638467Once again the Raven’s black heart is gladdened slightly by the arrival of a distinctive new voice in the realm of crime fiction. Alone With The Dead is the intriguing and unsettling debut that introduces us to rookie copper PC Donal Lynch, finding his way in his tough, new, chosen profession, but not without a few stumbling blocks in his path. Donal has turned his back on his native home of Ireland, after his ex-girlfriend is convicted of murder. Finding himself employed in a seedy Irish pub frequented by equally seedy and slightly dubious coppers, Donal makes a massive career change, and joins the boys in blue. But Lynch is not all he seems, and thanks to his propensity for seeing dead people, akin to the creepy kid in The Sixth Sense, his involvement in a brutal murder investigation, brings something a little different to your normal cut-out copper. Finding himself manipulated by his brother Fintan, an ambitious news reporter, his mercurial superior officer, ‘Shep’, and susceptible to the comely charms of a certain damsel in distress, Lynch more than has his work cut out…

As a police procedural and the depiction of a keen young officer’s need to climb the career ladder, it worked superbly well. The central murder investigation was brilliantly structured, with a few nifty red herrings, and a surprising denouement, and the attention to forensic detail and the natural progression of a police investigation felt very authentic throughout. Likewise, Nally’s characterisation of Donal, Shep and Fintan, and the alternate loyalty and aggravation that colours their relationship was well played out. This was bolstered further by the real stand-out aspect of Nally’s writing- his use of humour. Few books make the Raven guffaw out loud, but this one did. There are some truly wicked, killer one-liners in this book, that brought a real splash of lightness, to what in other hands could have been a laboured and quite dark police procedural. The depiction of wet-behind-the-ears Donal, his weird pyschiatric nurse housemate Aidan (more of him in the next one please), Donal’s brother Fintan, and the Dick Dastardly figure of Donal’s boss Shep, were all underscored by a series of cutting asides and witticisms that consistently worked, adding a nice line in graveyard humour to the whole affair.

CALLHowever, in the spirit of honesty, and appreciating the author’s need to bring something different to a well-trod sub genre, I did find this a little bit a game of two halves. I just didn’t quite buy the whole ‘I see dead people’ thing in relation to Donal’s character. I thought it was an unnecessary distraction at points from what was a perfectly well-crafted, intriguing, and well-characterised crime thriller. The central murder storyline, the echo of past events, his navigation of the office politics in his chosen career, and a side plot showing his involvement with a woman in an abusive relationship, weighted the plot perfectly. As interesting as the details were about the clinical possibilities of Donal’s ‘special gift’ to commune with the dead, I found it frustrating that such a well-constructed story, with all the necessary features to ensure a successful series, had to bring this trope into play. I did feel that that the need to return to the more ‘spooky’ element of the story was to the detriment and balance of the sub plots involving Eve, Donal’s ex-girlfriend and the abused Gabby, and felt it left them a little rushed or partially unresolved. It really didn’t need it, as the strength of Nally’s writing outside of this strange diversion was more than satisfying, and all of his characters resonated brilliantly within the main plot. Overall though, I would be more than happy to read the next in the series, so even allowing for my grumbles, Nally has come up trumps in my book. Recommended.

You can catch up with the rest of the blog tour at these excellent sites:

AWTD Blog tour