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Patrick Mahon (Aylesbury, UK)

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Dead In Deep Water (Archer and Baines Book 2)
Dead In Deep Water (Archer and Baines Book 2)
Price: £1.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great second police procedural featuring detectives Archer and Baines, 17 Jan. 2015
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'Dead in Deep Water' is Dave Sivers' second crime novel to feature Archer and Baines, a pair of British police detectives based in Buckinghamshire. In this novel, a teenage girl's body is found at the bottom of a water-filled quarry. Is it a tragic accident, or murder? As Archer and Baines try to piece the clues together, they develop a long list of possible suspects. However, when the local MP shows interest in the case, they're suddenly under pressure to come up with an arrest by yesterday. Will they get it right?

This is a great follow up to 'The Scars Beneath the Soul', demonstrating that Dave Sivers has a real flair for developing a set of series characters that the reader will want to get to know better. Both Archer and Baines have tragic back stories which are developed further during this novel to great effect. The storyline itself is fast-paced and keeps you turning the pages, while the authenticity of the setting, based on the county where the author (and this reviewer) lives, provides an additional level of realism to the book.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys character-driven police procedurals.


Thera: Pompeii of the Ancient Aegean (New Aspects of Antiquity)
Thera: Pompeii of the Ancient Aegean (New Aspects of Antiquity)
by Christos Doumas
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars A comprehensive exploration of the Akrotiri ruins on Thera, 20 Oct. 2014
We went on holiday to Thera/Santorini this August, and I was extremely pleased to find that the archaeological site at Akrotiri (which dates back to the volcanic eruption of 1500BC) is once again open to the public, after several years of being closed following a fatal roof collapse. Having returned to the UK, this book has enabled me to review and understand in extensive detail what I saw at Akrotiri, as well as the beautiful wall frescoes that are now preserved in the Museum of Prehistoric Thera in the capital, Fira.

It is written by Professor Doumas, who took over leading the Akrotiri excavations from their originator, Professor Marinatos, when he died in 1974 - so the author knows what he's talking about. There is a wealth of detailed text, wonderfully supplemented by extensive site and building maps, diagrams, figures and both colour and black & white photographs. If you want a comprehensive insight into the state of knowledge of this important archaeological site as at 1983 (when it was published), I strongly urge you to get hold of this book.


The Scars Beneath the Soul (Archer and Baines Book 1)
The Scars Beneath the Soul (Archer and Baines Book 1)
Price: £1.19

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great debut crime novel in an unusual setting, 5 July 2014
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'The Scars Beneath the Soul' is an interesting and enjoyable debut crime novel set in the heart of England's home counties. It introduces an excellent pairing of leads in DI Lizzie Archer - physically scarred in the line of duty - and DS Dan Baines - mentally scarred when violent crime blew his own family life apart. Watching these two get to know each other as they struggle to catch a serial killer in the unusual setting of rural Buckinghamshire is great fun. The plot is intriguing, and Sivers keeps the pace up throughout the book.

If you're looking for a police procedural with sympathetic characters, a strong plot and a novel setting, you've come to the right place. I'm looking forward to encountering Archer and Baines again in the sequel.


Death Surge (A DI Andy Horton Mystery)
Death Surge (A DI Andy Horton Mystery)
by Pauline Rowson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great police procedural from Pauline Rowson, 22 Mar. 2014
'Death Surge' is the tenth in Pauline Rowson's series of Portsmouth-based police procedurals featuring Detective Inspector Andy Horton. This time, the focus of the story is very close to home: Johnnie Oslow, the 23 year old nephew of Horton's colleague Sergeant Cantelli, has gone missing. Horton helped Johnnie out seven years earlier, when he got in trouble with the Police over a stupid teenage prank that turned into arson. He got Johnnie into sailing, to get him away from the bad crowd he'd fallen in with, and Johnnie never looked back. He's supposed to be sailing at Cowes week on the nearby Isle of Wight, but hasn't turned up. Cantelli is worried sick, but at first no-one else is concerned. After all, Johnnie is a healthy young man. The presumption is that he's gone off with a new girlfriend and forgotten to tell anyone.

However, when a charred body turns up nearby, Johnnie's disappearance suddenly seems more serious. Is it Johnnie? And if not, who is it - and why were they killed? Horton needs to pull out the stops to solve the mystery before Cantelli's nephew turns up dead.

I really enjoyed 'Death Surge'. Rowson brings a high level of emotional realism to the portrayal of Cantelli, as someone who has reported a close relative missing, and to Horton's feelings, as Cantelli's friend and Johnnie's one-time mentor. She is also a dab hand at showing up the contrasts between the well-to-do sailing set and the grim lives of some of the south coast's poorer residents.

Andy Horton is a strong hero, but he is also flawed. He isn't always sure what to do next, and some of his decisions turn out to be wrong, sometimes with tragic consequences. This could make him seem weak, but Rowson steers a clear path, giving us a protagonist that we want to cheer on even when he makes a mistake.

All of Rowson's novels are set around the south coast of the UK, and the sea is an integral character in this story, particularly given the focus on sailing. I found the setting brought the story to life in a really interesting way, giving it both atmosphere and drama.

This is one of the best Andy Horton novels I've read. I'm very much looking forward to the next one in the series, 'Shroud of Evil'.


The Eye of Argon
The Eye of Argon
by Jim Theis
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for all SFF convention attendees, 5 Jan. 2014
This review is from: The Eye of Argon (Paperback)
I'll be very clear up front: the short fantasy story called 'The Eye of Argon' which is included in this small book is awful, taken as a serious piece of fantasy fiction. But as other reviewers, along with countless SFF convention attendees have found out over the decades, it is genuinely so bad (in terms of spelling, grammar and style) that it's a hilarious read.

However, the reason for giving this book five stars is the introductory essay, 'In Search of Jim Theis', by Lee Weinstein (previously published in the New York Review of SF in 2004 and 2005). Weinstein starts from the position of being unsure whether 'The Eye of Argon' is a genuine piece of poorly written fan fiction by a real person called Jim Theis, or an elaborate hoax, written for a laugh by a professional SFF author under a pseudonym. He eventually concludes that it is the former, and his search leads him to verify that Jim Theis was a real SFF fan (sadly now deceased), and then to find a pristine copy of the fanzine in which Theis' story was published (Osfan 10, published by the Ozark SF Association in August 1970) in a university library, allowing him to publish here the entire story, includes the final page, frequently missing from the photocopied versions circulated at SFF conventions.

So if you've ever been to a reading of 'The Eye of Argon' at a convention, and want to know the story behind this unintentionally funny short story, do buy this book, both for Weinstein's introduction, and so that you can find out how Grignr's tale ends. Your funny bone will thank you.


Murder by the Book (A Langham and Dupre Mystery)
Murder by the Book (A Langham and Dupre Mystery)
by Eric Brown
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic crime fiction from an unexpected source, 25 Oct. 2013
When I heard that Eric Brown was planning to write a crime novel, I must admit that I was surprised. He has written a lot of science fiction novels, most of which I have read, and greatly enjoyed, over the years. Given the volume of work he has produced in that genre, I had presumed that science fiction was his only interest, from a writing perspective.

I was wrong. And the good news is, though this crime novel may be a radical departure for Brown, it is just as enjoyable as his SF works.

The story is set in England in the mid-1950s, and it immediately brings to mind the world of the Agatha Christie novel. Not just because of the setting, though. The main character, Donald Langham, is a crime writer like Christie. And when people around him start dying for real, the strange manner of their various deaths bring to mind some of Christie's most fearsome plots.

At the centre of this novel is the gently evolving romantic relationship between Donald Langham and his literary agent's right-hand woman, Maria Dupre. The way these two shy characters dance around each other's feelings is a joy to behold, while the justaposition of romance and mystery provides the characters and their story with real depth and complexity.

If you've read and enjoyed any of Brown's science fiction, take a punt on 'Murder by the Book'. I'm sure you won't regret it. And if you've never read anything by Eric Brown before, but enjoy classic crime fiction, then you're in for a real treat.

Highly recommended.


The Rough Guide to Crete
The Rough Guide to Crete
by Geoff Garvey
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.48

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive guide to a wonderful island, 11 Oct. 2013
Having recently returned from our first holiday on Crete, I can honestly say that I found the Rough Guide to Crete invaluable. There was more detail in it than in any guide book I've previously used, and a huge number of insights into the island, its people and its history. I was very interested in visiting the many archaeological sites on the island, and found the detailed guides to them enormously helpful for planning purposes in advance of each visit. Indeed, in several cases the maps and information in the Rough Guide were significantly clearer and easier to understand than those in the guides available at the sites.

I would wholeheartedly recommend this to anyone who hasn't been to Crete before. You will get a lot more out of your holiday if you invest some time in reading this guide before you get there.


Doctor Who: Harvest of Time
Doctor Who: Harvest of Time
by Alastair Reynolds
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.88

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Doctor Who and Al Reynolds - a great combination, 14 July 2013
I've been waiting for this novel to be published for what seems like a very long time, ever since Al Reynolds announced the deal on his website. Thankfully, the wait has been more than worth it.

This novel is set in the era of the Third Doctor, played by the wonderful Jon Pertwee. This is the Doctor that Reynolds grew up with, and it shows: the style of the Third Doctor himself, and the 1970s setting (including companion Jo Grant and the UNIT team), are both evoked with accuracy and evident fondness.

The story is dominated by the presence of The Master, and he is a revelation here. Many of his trademarks are present: he's suave, elegant, polite and murderous, all at the same time. But there are also moments of self-reflection that make the character so much more than a pantomime villain. I loved the way Reynolds handled this iconic character.

The novel is fast-paced, highly enjoyable and difficult to put down. It is very well-written, as you would expect from a highly accomplished writer like Reynolds. But there is one aspect of the writing that I was particularly impressed by, and that is the way that Reynolds has made science the bedrock of the story. Doctor Who is always going to be at the soft end of the science fiction spectrum, given the number of paradoxes that time travel tends to create. However, whereas the last few years of the TV reboot of Doctor Who have tried to deal with these difficulties by completely ignoring them, resorting to deeply unconvincing waffle at the first sign of trouble, Reynolds does just the opposite. His explanations of what's going on are couched in the language of science, but more than that, there is a real attempt to make them sound plausible. As someone who, like Reynolds, became interested in science at least partially because of the SF shows on TV when I was growing up, I love the fact that he has tried hard to reintroduce some level of scientific plausibility into the Doctor Who universe, at least for the duration of this novel.

If you've read any of Alastair Reynolds' previous novels, you should enjoy this book for the character arcs, the plotting and the clear, confident prose. If you like reading Doctor Who novels, this is a great example of a classic Who story by a consummate SF writer. If you like Al Reynolds AND Doctor Who, then you should go out and buy this immediately. Highly recommended.


The Eye With Which The Universe Beholds Itself (Apollo Quartet)
The Eye With Which The Universe Beholds Itself (Apollo Quartet)
by Ian Sales
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sales does it again - another impressive hard SF alternate history of the US Space Programme, 5 May 2013
`The Eye With Which The Universe Beholds Itself' is the second volume in Ian Sales' `Apollo Quartet' of alternate history SF novellas. The first volume, `Adrift on the Sea of Rains', won the BSFA Award for Best Short Fiction earlier this year, recognition that I think is thoroughly deserved. It does, however, mean that this second volume has a lot to live up to.

It's worth making clear up front that the storyline in this novella is completely unrelated to that in the first volume. I initially made the incorrect assumption that the two volumes would share the same alternate history timeline; they do not. They each represent different takes on how the American space programme might have developed. If you realise this from the start, you won't suffer any of the confusion I felt on my first reading of the story.

The story follows US Air Force astronaut Bradley Elliott as he travels from Earth to the habitable exoplanet nicknamed `Earth Two'. This lies fifteen light years from home in the Gliese 876 star system. There is a human research base operating on Earth Two, but this has recently gone silent. Elliott's mission is to travel to the base on a converted asteroid that has been fitted with a faster-than-light quantum spacedrive and find out what has happened.

During the journey, Elliott thinks back two decades to the high point of his space career, when in 1979 he became the first human to walk on Mars. While he was there he found an alien artefact, the information from which directly led to the development of the FTL drive that allowed America to travel to Earth Two. He dwells on the fact that his wife almost left him during the Mars mission, unable to cope with the uncertainty and danger to her husband. Twenty years on, his decision to travel to a different star system is more than she can take. She has walked out on him, seemingly for good, and he wonders what he has to come home to now. However, he first needs to find out what's happened on Earth Two.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable novella that bears repeated re-readings. As with its predecessor, there is a lot of technical detail included. Those with a bent for hard SF should enjoy the level of technical realism that this delivers. However, Sales marries this to incisive characterisation, both of the world-weary Elliott and the other astronauts he deals with, most of whom wonder rather cynically why this semi-retired celebrity astronaut has been given such an important mission. There are also some lovely passages of description, bringing us close to the experience of being on Mars and on Earth Two.

The only criticism I would make of this book is the same one I made of its predecessor. When a story is so clearly signposted as being hard science fiction, not just through the level of technical detail included in the story but also through the inclusion of a list of abbreviations, technical glossary, bibliography and list of online sources, any element that smacks of handwavium has the potential to disturb the reader's willing suspension of disbelief. For me, the addition of a faster-than-light spacedrive, seemingly developed by the US military within a mere five years of finding an alien artefact on Mars, stretches credibility near to breaking point. However, since this is vital to the story, I think we just have to swallow it and move on.

I bought the limited edition numbered and signed hardcover of the novella. It is a very nicely finished little hardback with a great cover image and makes for a lovely collector's item.

Ian Sales has done it again. `The Eye With Which The Universe Beholds Itself' is an intelligent and thought-provoking novella that gives us another intricately detailed alternate history of the US Space Programme. It is a worthy successor to `Adrift on the Sea of Rains' and deserves to receive a similar level of critical success. I look forward to the second half of the Apollo Quartet with great anticipation.


Writing a Marketable Book (A Seriously Useful Author's Guide)
Writing a Marketable Book (A Seriously Useful Author's Guide)
by Charlie Wilson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A helpful and comprehensive guide for serious writers, 7 April 2013
Charlie Wilson is an author, but she is also an editor. She has seen the publishing trade from both sides, and her expertise shines out from every chapter of this book. I got hold of it because I wanted to see what she meant by 'marketable'. I wasn't disappointed. This is not just another book about writing, but starts from the perspective that all writers - unless they are particularly perverse - would like more people to read their book, rather than fewer. On that basis, Ms Wilson spends a lot of the early part of the book asking the reader why they want to write, what they want to write, and what they would count as a successful outcome of the writing process.

The book is well-written, with confident, friendly text that encourages you to keep turning the pages. However, Charlie doesn't pull her punches, particularly for those who think that churning out a first draft and then throwing it straight onto Amazon is a foolproof route to instant riches (as some tabloid stories might make you think).

The book is split into five parts, covering the initial planning period, the writing of a non-fiction book, the writing of a novel, the technicalities of writing (language, grammar, proofreading etc.) and finally publication and marketing. The structure is logical and works well.

I have read a lot of 'How To' guides to writing over the years. This is one of the best I've come across. If you are a writer who is serious about producing the best novel or non-fiction book that you can, and then working with professionals to bring it to market so that people other than your Mum will want to buy it, this is a very good book to read - and to act upon. I have learned a lot from it, and look forward to putting it into effect as I write my next novel.


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