#BlogTour- Gunnar Staalesen- Fallen Angels “I liked the dark brooding tone to this one, with the growing self awareness Veum gains from revisiting his formative years.” @orendabooks

Fallen Angels (Varg Veum)

When Bergen PI Varg Veum finds himself at the funeral of a former classmate on a sleet-grey December afternoon, he’s unexpectedly reunited with his old friend Jakob guitarist of the once-famous 1960s rock band The Harpers and his estranged wife, Rebecca, Veum’s first love. Their rekindled friendship is thrown into jeopardy by the discovery of a horrific murder, and Veum is forced to dig deep into his own adolescence and his darkest memories, to find a motive and a killer…

Few things in life are as satisfying than immersing yourself in a new book by the godfather of Norwegian crime writing, Gunnar Staalesen, and once again Fallen Angels, the latest in the Varg Veum investigations, brings a whole host of new delights, and something different to this long running series…

I am in total admiration of writers who undertake to sustain writing an established series featuring the same central character, and particularly Staalesen who always seems to be able to expose different facets to Veum’s character, which are always plausible and gratifying for the follower of this series. What is noticeable about this book, compared to the previous books, is the more noticeable meditative tone, and the feeling of a greater degree of introspection. There are significantly less of the cynical and wryly humorous asides that this character so often employs, and instead there seems to be a greater degree of digging down into his life and motivations, and an incredibly dark denouement that is both full of pathos and very disturbing. This book gives Veum a chance to ruminate on his life more, as individuals he has known since childhood and his formative years begin to have untimely deaths, forcing Veum to reassess incidents from the past, and how they could have led to these current events.

In one noteworthy passage Veum sums up these exact thoughts, “Childhood is a wound that never heals; your youth a poster someone has tried in vain to tear down. All the years you have lived are here, like dirty footprints in the snow behind you. You have left your own chalk-marks on most of the walls in this town and no charlady has bleach strong enough to wash them off completely. And the child you once were, you will never be again.” Consequently, childhood, life, death, love, friendship, loyalty and betrayal are key themes throughout the book, as Veum attempts to track a determined and vengeful killer, but finds himself immersed in loves lost and betrayals uncovered and exposed in this very personal case. There is a much more sombre tone to this book as a whole, and quite intense examinations of the public vs the private in terms of the character’s lives, and the role of the spiritual and religious as time marches on, and age begins to become a greater concern in Veum’s mind, intensified in the series of murders of his peers, a couple of misjudged entanglements, and also as an important connection is rekindled from the past.

Once again, Staalesen works wonders for the Norwegian tourist board with his precise and descriptive portrayal of Bergen- both the good and the not so good- and its surrounding landscapes, so as he traverses the country in search of vital clues, the visual representation of these locales is always imbued with clarity and atmosphere. Likewise, there is an almost complete bibliography of the Norwegian music scene from the 1960s onwards, which adds an other layer of interest to the book, and perhaps more starkly as he charts the musical journey of the fictional band, The Harpers, shows the highs and lows of life in the spotlight, the drugs, the groupies, and more brutally how some continue to try and hold on to fame beyond the time they should, when the glory years are indeed well behind them. The central investigation is very deeply imbedded in the events from this period of the band’s success, and like water circling a drain, Veum slowly closes in on the disturbing goings-on before their parting of the ways.

As I said, there is a much more meditative tone to Fallen Angels overall, although Staalesen does seem to get an inordinate amount of pleasure from putting Veum through the emotional wringer fairly consistently in the series. I liked the dark brooding tone to this one, with the growing self awareness Veum gains from revisiting his formative years, his appreciation of his own upbringing, and how this has shaped him on a moral and spiritual level, in contrast to the morally dubious and in some cases, really dislikeable figures from his past. Another satisfying addition to this already excellent series and who knows what awaits Varg Veum in his next investigation… Recommended.

(With thanks to Orenda Books for the ARC)

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Ben Creed – City of Ghosts #BlogTour “Perfect for fans of Gorky Park and Child 44, I was incredibly impressed with this chilling and increasingly disturbing thriller.” @welbeckpublish @ed_pr #BenCreed

Leningrad, Russia, 1951. The shadow of war lingers. Revol Rossel – once a virtuoso violinist with a glittering future – is now a humble state militia cop, forced to investigate desperate crimes in this desperate era. But when five frozen corpses are found neatly arranged between railway lines, Rossel is faced with the most puzzling – and most dangerous – case of his career. His hunt for the truth leads him to the dark heart of Leningrad’s musical establishment, and, ultimately, to the highest levels of the Kremlin itself. It’s a world he knows intimately. A world where his dreams were shattered. A world where a killer may now be hiding…

Take a trip with me if you will into the heart of Stalinist Russia in this rich and vivid debut novel, City of Ghosts by Ben Creed. Perfect for fans of Gorky Park, Child 44 and The Holy Thief, I was incredibly impressed with this chilling and increasingly disturbing thriller…

The absolute stand out feature of this novel is the sheer richness and wealth of historical and social detail, without it disrupting the natural flow of the plot itself, and with a real sense of keeping the reader engaged with this extra level of interest. There is a strong sense of historical authenticity running through the book from the outset, and if, like me, your knowledge of this particularly fraught and dangerous period of Soviet history is largely superficial, there is so much to be gleaned. Corruption is rife, abject poverty strongly in evidence but largely ignored by the higher echelons of power, and Creed paints an incredibly convincing picture of a society and city still bearing the wounds of the Second World War. There are numerous references to the debilitating siege of the city, the reverberation of the incredible stress and want that this caused, and yet the fierce sense of survival that arose in the populace to overcome this torrid time.

In a society riven with fear and suspicion, where a single slip of the tongue can lead to a lengthy sojourn in a Siberian gulag, or an instant death sentence, Creed captures this atmosphere perfectly throughout. In the dialogue between characters, there is a hesitation and procrastination, and a sense that no-one can be trusted with relationships, both professional and personal formed with this lingering mistrust. The reader, too, learns quickly that not everyone is as they seem, and this adds to the overarching darkness of the plot itself where a clever and twisted killer goes about their business. 

Revol Rossel, the state militia cop is an incredibly deep and interesting individual, whose moral core and sense of right is put under a huge amount of pressure as the case proceeds. With a flurry of flashbacks and glimpses into his past as an aspiring and talented musician, we again bear witness to the power of the state to suppress its citizens, crushing their hopes and dreams and wreaking violence and fear amongst them. Rossel is sensitive and caring and on the surface seems wholly unsuited to his role as a harbinger of the rules and regulations that so strictly dictate society, and this makes him a compelling and interesting character. As it becomes apparent that the hideous discovery that opens the book, may be in some way related to his previous life, Creed really puts Rossel through the emotional wringer, but never losing sight of the qualities that some of his colleagues regard as ineffectual imbue Rossel with a strength and decency that proves so valuable in this extremely testing investigation. The book is incredibly rich in characterisation from Rossel’s militia cohorts, to figures from his past (in some of the most touching scenes I have read for some while), and those that come under his investigative scrutiny too. 

I have read quite a few books set in this particular period, and can honestly say that Creed does bring something new and fresh to this genre of crime fiction. I loved the deeper cultural richness of this book, as some of it revolves around the world of classical music, with some intriguing clues being woven into this thread of the novel. Peppered with Russian phrases and a brilliant obscenity that I have now formally adopted (behind my mask of course) City of Ghosts felt incredibly authentic from the outset. Bolstered by the skilful weaving in of history and politics, I found this an enthralling and clever thriller, steeped in the feel of the period and the sinister atmosphere of fear and darkness in a totalitarian state. Recommended.  

 (With thanks to Welbeck Publishing for the ARC) 

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(With thanks to Welbeck Publishing for the ARC)

#BlogTour- Agnes Ravatn-The Seven Doors “A taut and precise psychological thriller.” @OrendaBooks

University professor Nina is at a turning point. Her work seems increasingly irrelevant, her doctor husband is never home, relations with her difficult daughter are strained, and their beautiful house is scheduled for demolition. When her daughter decides to move into another house they own, things take a very dark turn. The young woman living there disappears, leaving her son behind, the day after Nina and her daughter pay her a visit. With few clues, the police enquiry soon grinds to a halt, but Nina has an inexplicable sense of guilt. Unable to rest, she begins her own investigation, but as she pulls on the threads of the case, it seems her discoveries may have very grave consequences for her and her family…

Having been completely bowled over by Agnes Ravatn’s previous book The Bird Tribunal I was anticipating another story layered with psychological suspense and dramatic tension. The Seven Doors achieves precisely that and Ravatn does not disappoint.

Although the book involves a seemingly simple premise for a plot,  what Ravatn layers into it, makes this a far from linear tale. Just as The Bird Tribunal encapsulated the psychological suspense of Patricia Highsmith and was powered by a literary allusion throughout, so the author draws on a similar idea here. Consequently, aside from her main character Nina finding herself embroiled and unduly fascinated by the disappearance of her and her husband’s tenant Mari, herself a mysterious and mercurial figure, Ravatn threads into this mystery a number of themes and digressions drawing on psychological schools of thought, folklore, literature and music. I do concede that I was much more drawn to this side of the book, as I unfortunately guessed the perpetrator of Mari’s disappearance from quite early on, but was completely fascinated by the the references to the legend of Bluebeard (which spawns the title of the book) of which I knew nothing, and the other facets of the book mentioned previously with a focus on humanities and the psychological. There is nothing better than finishing a book having discovered something new, particularly when it is so skilfully woven into the plot without feeling forced or contrived.

Another aspect of this book that I enjoyed was Ravatn’s characterisation, particularly of the women, as the male characters, aside from Mari’s estranged husband seemed a little more functional rather than rounded. Nina is a fascinating character, being older, and perhaps with a more heightened awareness of time passing by, with her home on the point of demolition, and the machinations of moving on, and moving out. It seems that in this period of change and uncertainty, her transformation into an aged Nancy Drew could not have come at a better time for her, and perhaps, on a more human level, proves to her that she still has some worth outside of being a lecturer, a wife and a mother. Speaking of which, I loved Ingeborg her daughter whose lack of  tact and diplomacy is an absolute joy to behold. She is resolute, and like a dog with a bone, will pester, cajole and annoy to get what she wants, with little thought for others, leading to some of the lighter moments within the book.

Overall, I enjoyed the linear quality of the main storyline of The Seven Doors, which gave the plot the opportunity to go off on other tangents linked to Nina’s particular field of academic expertise, with music, folklore and literature also being used as tropes within the book. Fluidly translated by Rosie Hedger once again, this is a taut and precise psychological thriller, deceptive in its simplicity but with some interesting diversions, that leads to a satisfying read overall. Recommended.

(With thanks to Orenda Books for the ARC)

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Alan Parks- Bobby March Will Live Forever

The papers want blood. The force wants results. The law must be served, whatever the cost. July 1973. The Glasgow drugs trade is booming and Bobby March, the city’s own rock-star hero, has just overdosed in a central hotel. Alice Kelly is thirteen years old, lonely. And missing.  Meanwhile the niece of detective Harry McCoy’s boss has fallen in with a bad crowd and when she goes AWOL, McCoy is asked – off the books – to find her. McCoy has a hunch. But does he have enough time?

Well, here is a book to gladden the heart in uncertain times, continuing on from the brilliant Bloody January, and February’s Son, both of which reached my top 10 reads of 2018 and 2019 respectively. Harry McCoy is back and with some style it has to be said. There is always a slight sense of trepidation as one book develops into a series as we start to form a connection with, and an affection for the central character. I also appreciate that this tension must be a hundredfold on the author themselves, but I’ll tell you something for nothing, I think this is possibly the strongest out of the trilogy to date. Yes. I should coco. Obviously, Parks has hit on the winning formula of writing an instantly recognisable police procedural set in 1970’s Glasgow, but it’s what the author layers into his books that make them all the more sharp and compelling…

Harry McCoy embodies all that we love in our detectives being both flawed but also a man who works by his own code that does imbue in him a real integrity and honesty. Yes, he’s a wee bit damaged emotionally, but for the most part overcomes this, and goes about his business both on and off the books with a steely focus and determination. Adhering to his own moral code naturally leads him into conflict with some of his colleagues, but it is gratifying to see that his immediate superior does know what a rough, and useful, diamond he has in Harry. Equally, McCoy’s long term friendship with one of the criminal kingpins of Glasgow Stevie Cooper, allows the stories to take an additional frisson, and it was good to see that due to one strange turn of events, Cooper is suddenly placed in a submissive position for part of the book as he succumbs to a particular weakness of the flesh.

As usual, Parks’ characterisation is a tour de force from those that work alongside McCoy, in particular his on-off partner the delightful Wattie and McCoy’s nemesis, Detective Raeburn, and on the other side of tracks Cooper’s band of merry and not-so-merry associates. I particularly like the world weary and sharp-tongued brothel madam Iris, and the truly annoying and potty-mouthed local reporter Mary. The book is also interspersed with the stream of consciousness of the eponymous Bobby March, a musician of some talent on a downward spiral of drug addiction and self destruction, that is both bleak but also profoundly touching.  Parks’ characters are unerringly vividly drawn with a nervy energy, and no matter how small or large a part they play in the overall plot, each contributes a pertinent and necessary contribution, putting a real flesh on the bones as the story progresses.

Obviously, being set in the 1970’s and in a rough and ready Glasgow, the book rejects all of the politically correct nonsense which we are so hyper aware of now, and that is a real tonic. In a nod to the more sensitive reader, Parks balances his depiction of the more sexist treatment of women, with characters such as the previously mentioned Iris and Mary, who are often far more intimidating than the male protagonists. The police are less hands off and more fists out in some cases, but context is everything, and fits perfectly with the zeitgeist of the era. Glasgow is depicted in all its grim glory, but Parks balances this beautifully with moments of pure affection for this city and its inhabitants, giving small chinks of light in its grey, downtrodden environs. I always notice this more in Scottish crime fiction, and it warms the cockles every time I encounter this acceptance and honesty about their chosen locations.

So, with no element of surprise whatsoever, you’ll probably have guessed that in Bobby March Will Live Forever, Parks has once again produced a total winner. With its grim, unflinching plot, punctuated by moments of humour, and the acceptance of both the good and the bad, both in his characters, the period, the cultural references and the location itself, I would totally and completely recommend this, and the entire series to you all. Gritty, witty and an absolute must read. Highly recommended.

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(With thanks to Canongate for the ARC and apologies to the author and Anne Cater of #RandomThingsBlogTours for the delay in reviewing)

 

#BlogTour- David F. Ross- Welcome To The Heady Heights

It’s the year punk rock was born, Concorde entered commercial service and a tiny Romanian gymnast changed the sport forever. Archie Blunt is a man with big ideas. He just needs a break for them to be realised. In a bizarre brush with the light-entertainment business, Archie unwittingly saves the life of the UK’s top showbiz star, Hank ‘Heady’ Hendricks’, and now dreams of hitting the big-time as a Popular Music Impresario. Seizing the initiative, he creates a new singing group with five unruly working-class kids from Glasgow’s East End. Together, they make the finals of a televised Saturday-night talent show, and before they know it, fame and fortune beckon for Archie and The High Five. But there’s a complication; a trail of irate Glaswegian bookies, corrupt politicians and a determined Scottish WPC known as The Tank are all on his tail…

I think it’s fair to say that Welcome To The Heady Heights, got a firm grip on me from the outset, leading to my comment on social media that “It’s all a bit mental. And I like that,” which became a familiar refrain when my curious bookselling colleagues asked me what the hell I was reading, with my poorly suppressed sniggering in the staffroom. What can I say? The book is wickedly funny, earthy, and goes to some very dark places indeed…

Straightaway, I was sucked into this book, in common with Alan Parks brilliant Bloody January which also plunges us into the moral and social cesspool of 1970s Glasgow. As an era defined by its suppression and mistreatment of the working class and the down at heel, whilst trying to gentrify and exploit society in equal measure. Although there is an unrelenting and brutal truthfulness to the city that Ross’ characters traverse, there is also an underlying feel of extreme pride and sympathy gravitating from Ross through his depiction of the city, the era, and his cast of misfortunates. In common with the great Irvine Welsh, life is grim, but there are moments of humour, epiphany and success that underscore the general downtrodden existence of Ross’ characters, and Archie Blunt in particular, most certainly getting closer to the gutter, being on the brink of losing his job, but coerced into the fakery of the world of light entertainment. The book is a real love letter to the 70s, peppered with cultural references, yes, I’m not a fan of Bohemian Rhapsody either, scaramouche my arse, and similarly to Benjamin Myers Turning Blue, homing in the world that came to light with the recent Yew Tree investigations. Equally, Ross shines an unflattering light on the rise of the corrupt businessman in the political world, and how dodgy contracts and oiled palms led to a generation of high rise building, heralded to those misfortunate to live in them as the best thing since sliced bread. This whole dirty whiff of corruption, be it police, financial, sexual,  or otherwise permeates the story, and the threat of violence and retribution is never far from the surface.

Ross has a real talent for characterisation, and I particularly enjoyed the stress and strain that he puts Archie through as the book progresses, revealing a tenacity and strength behind his somewhat timid exterior. As we see Archie getting sucked deeper and deeper into the murky waters of the Glasgow underworld, we are also become privy to a wide and interesting array of characters from both sides of the law. A tenacious female journalist on the trail of a corrupt businessman, Archie’s less than snowy white criminal associates, a group of dodgy lads aiming for the stars, and a resolute, although belittled female police officer palmed off with missing persons cases begins to see a cabal of depravity at work. As I said, the book takes us to some very dark places, but within his cast of characters, Ross balances humour, pathos and retribution beautifully, with the Glasgow vernacular front and centre, and a resigned balance of optimism and pessimism amongst his protagonists, which adds to their realism and our reactions to them as readers. I loved the mordant wit, and the very defined sense of the goodies, the baddies, and the generally confused. Will definitely be tracking back to read Ross’ Disco Days Trilogy, as this book proved to be a wee twisted gem, giving this reader a very warm welcome to the Heady Heights. A thoroughly gritty, uncompromising and entertaining throwback to the 70s and totally recommended.

(With thanks to Orenda Books for the ARC)

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Oscar de Muriel- The Strings of Murder

 

23257047Edinburgh, 1888. A virtuoso violinist is brutally killed in his home. Black magic symbols cover the walls. The dead man’s maid swears she heard three musicians playing before the murder.But with no way in or out of the locked practice room, the puzzle makes no sense…
Fearing a national panic over a copycat Ripper, Scotland Yard sends Inspector Ian Frey to investigate under the cover of a fake department specializing in the occult. However, Frey’s new boss – Detective ‘Nine-Nails’ McGray – actually believes in such nonsense.
McGray’s tragic past has driven him to superstition, but even Frey must admit that this case seems beyond reason. And once someone loses all reason, who knows what they will lose next…

Regular readers of my reviews should be strongly aware that I very rarely read historical crime fiction despite my love of Poe and Conan Doyle. I rarely stray further back than the 1940’s, so sirens should be sounding that this was something special to tempt me out of my historical boundaries. In the first instance, this was recommended to me by a crime author, and then I had the delight of seeing Oscar de Muriel at the CrimeFest crime writing convention in Bristol recently. Feeding off his enthusiasm and passion for the crime fiction genre, and intrigued by how a young author of Mexican heritage would go about writing a Victorian supernatural thriller set in London and Edinburgh, I couldn’t refuse a read of this one…

The author’s love of, and passion for, Victorian crime fiction comes shining through the book, garnered by his childhood reading, growing up in Mexico, of Sherlock Holmes. He recreates with ease all the sights, smells and atmosphere of London and Edinburgh, as the story pivots between the slums and gentrified locales of both cities during this period. Indeed, sometimes the writing is realistic enough of the lowdown dirty streets, to make your nose wrinkle, as our indomitable detectives, Frey and McGray, navigate their way through the filthy highways and byways, and the equally malodorous residents. Equally, de Muriel perfectly captures the snobbery and superiority of the upper classes, as they become inveigled in this testing investigation, which revolves around ghastly murder, and haunted violins…

The plotting is superb throughout, suffused with all the familiar tropes of a traditional locked room mystery, with a good smattering of red herrings and false alleys along the way. I remained in blissful ignorance of how the crimes were committed until close before the end of the book, and enjoyed the air of ghostly goings-on, and twisting plot reveals that drove the action on throughout. My enjoyment of the book was further compounded by the brilliant characterisation of de Muriel’s ill-matched detective duo. He played them off against each other beautifully, pitting the uptight namby-pamby London detective, Frey against the rough, plain-speaking Scottish detective ‘Nine-Nails’ McGray. The ill tempered banter, and rivalry between the two was beautifully played throughout, even extending the north-south divide to their quibbling servants, and the way that they were perceived by the more well-to-do members of the cast in the course of their investigation. With de Muriel’s liberal use of the Scottish vernacular in the case of McGray, compared with the southern nicety of Frey, their voices rang loud in my head as I was reading, and I learnt some wonderfully earthy Scottish insults along the way! By depicting these two so colourfully throughout the book, there can be little doubt that this partnership will run and run, underscored by the resentment but grudging respect that defines their personal and professional relationship.

Being a musician himself, has also added a terrific sense of realism to the plot in the way that the world of music, and more specifically violins, feature in the story. Drawing on real life virtuosos, esteemed makers of musical instruments, and the fantastical stories that have accompanied some of these instruments along the way, there is an added depth and interest to the central plot, at their role within it. Indeed, a friend of mine, an adept violinist himself, was thoroughly intrigued when I mentioned this book, and was quick to verify the veracity of the facts that de Muriel interweaves into the story. So more brownie points for de Muriel…

So all in all a bit of a find this one, threaded with humour, intrigue, colourful characters, and a real sense of time and place. A very impressive debut, and I cannot await the further adventures of Frey and McGray. A cracking good read, and a case that Holmes himself would love to have flexed his detective skills with.

(I bought this copy of The Strings of Murder and it is published in the UK by PenguinRandomHouse)

 

Just for fun I thought I’d post de Muriel’s biography from his website Oscar de Muriel.com here too. One of the most amusing I have read…

“I was born in Mexico City in 1983, in the building that now houses Ripley’s Believe it or Not museum (some people claim to see a connection there…). I had a very happy childhood even though I did not try refried beans until I was six (I refused to eat anything brown and gooey).

My first attempt at writing stories, aged seven, was a tale about a triceratops and a stegosaurus battling a very hungry T-Rex. Their three-page, ten-line long adventure was profusely illustrated by the author. Stegosaurus was extinct millions of years before the first T-Rex hatched, but I still consider it a milestone.

When I was ten, Jurassic Park (the novel) scared the Jesus out of me – reminiscent of that Friends’ episode where Joey Tribiani hides his books in the fridge (I blogged about that here). I’d never thought that written stories could have such a thrilling effect, and as soon as I got JP out of the freezer I decided I wanted to become a writer.

After a few fiascos and blatant steals, I managed to produce a few decent novels in various genres. However, I found myself particularly comfortable writing historical fiction.

I came to the United Kingdom to complete a PhD in Chemistry, working as a free-lance translator to complement my earnings (I was responsible for some cool Johnnie Walker’s ads for Colombia). During this time I produced a handful of academic papers, and the idea of a spooky whodunit started to take roots in my head.

After several visits to Edinburgh, the city struck me as the perfect setting for a crime mystery. The entire concept of Nine-Nails McGray came to my head while eating pizza with a couple of friends [guys, do you remember Cantina Los Perros and the sea monster?]. For years I’d been meaning to write a story about the Devil’s sonata (I am a violin player myself, which I should have probably mentioned earlier…) and it fit perfectly as McGray’s first case – hopefully the first of many.

I went through the literary agent hunt (I will definitely blog about that some day!) until Maggie Hanbury rescued me from the slush pile and lent me her very professional hand. I currently live in Lancashire in a lovely house that overlooks Pendle Hill, a field of limping sheep, and a very creepy-looking manor I aspire to own one day.”

 

 

Peter May- Runaway

RUNAs much as it pains me to draw on the words of Forrest Gump, Peter May’s writing is like a box of chocolates- you never know what you’re going to get. From the brilliant Enzo Files series, to the China thrillers, to, the wonderful Hebridean trilogy, and the haunting standalone Entry Island, May consistently demonstrates his flexibility as a writer, instilling total belief in his characters and locations for us gentle readers. Runaway proves itself an excellent addition to his multifarious back catalogue, and drawing so closely on his own life experiences gives us a delightful insight into the background of one of Britain’s finest crime writers*.

Working with a dual timeline of 1965 and 2015 the story pivots seamlessly between the two as we follow the travails of Jack Mackay, a headstrong seventeen year old in the Sixties, who succumbs to the allure of the bright lights of London, as he and his band (comprising of Maurie, Joe, Luke and my favourite character, Dave) run away from Scotland to seek their fame and fortune. May captures perfectly the impetuousness of youth, and their black and white view of the world, after a series of hapless accidents mar their dreams of fame. Into the mix, May inserts the womanly charms of Rachel, Maurie’s cousin who they liberate from a drug-fuelled abusive relationship along the way, a few interesting brushes with stardom, an encounter with a bizarre hippy therapy group, and a murder where all is not how it appears. With a backdrop of the swinging music scene of the era, and a perfect recreation of London itself, there is much to garner the reader’s interest. Now, zap forward to 2015, and Jack is a disillusioned pensioner lamenting a life where so much more could have happened, However, with the news of a suspicious death linked to his 60’s experience, and spurred on by the terminally ill Maurie, he and the remaining members of his band, up sticks to London with his grandson Ricky, to revisit the past and lay some old ghosts to rest but at what cost? And are some skeletons best to be left nestled in this particular cupboard?

My overarching reaction to this book is one of warmth. I loved the poignancy attached to Jack and his cohorts in their twilight years, haunted by their failed dreams and ambitions, but undercut by a humour and determination of spirit that we so often ignore when we perceive people as old. Likewise, May totally taps into the irascibility and naivety of youth, in the 60’s timeline, and the exploits of this band of hotheads, and their emotional entanglements are powerfully wrought. To my mind, the actual crime element of this book was completely over-ridden by this strong characterisation and the examination of the impetuousness of youth, and the stoicism of age that so dominates the plot. Hence, this was a different reading experience, but one that I thoroughly enjoyed, manipulating my emotions from laughter to sadness, and all points in-between. I liked the utterly authentic recreation of the 1960’s, with its allusions to people, places and fashions, tempered by the relatively anodyne existence of our band of misfits in their later years. A welcome break from the usual crime fiction fare, and highly recommended.

*If like me, you are left wondering how much of May’s experiences are contained in Runaway, have a look at this interview courtesy of Shots, the crime and thriller Ezine, and here at Crime Fiction Lover

Also many thanks to fellow blogger Fiction Fan  for drawing my attention to this musical triumph:

(With thanks to Quercus for the ARC)