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Rob Kitchin
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Cripple Creek
Cripple Creek
by James Sallis
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars flawed diamond, 3 Aug 2013
This review is from: Cripple Creek (Paperback)
Cripple Creek is the second book in the John Turner trilogy and although best read in sequence can be read as a standalone. The three standout qualities of Sallis writing, in general, and which are all evident in this story, are his prose, his characterisation, and his atmospherics. Sallis is a poet and his storytelling has a wonderful cadence, his style is all tell and no show. The reader is dropped into Turner's world of rural America and its inhabitants, its sense of place and social life. Sallis has a keen eye for the human condition and the ways in which life unfolds. He paints a picture of Turner as an enigmatic man who cyclically creates moments of contentment that unravel through his own follies; a man reflexive of his own propensity to reinvent and self-destruct almost without effort. It's a compelling mix. On the other hand, the plot seems merely a vehicle for these explorations, and whilst interesting has gaping holes in it, especially with respect to police procedures: Turner is seemingly inured against the legal consequences of his actions and in Cripple Creek manages to kill a couple of people without anyone else batting an eyelid or even filling out a form. If the plot was as skilfully composed as the rest of the tale, the book would be a knockout. As it is, it's somewhat of a flawed diamond.


Go Go Girls of the Apocalypse
Go Go Girls of the Apocalypse
by Victor Gischler
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.61

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars apocalyptic noir, 29 July 2013
The Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse is best taken for what it is, a slice of fun, often cartoonish and violent, apocalyptic noir. Think of it as a summer action movie, not an art-house film. The plot just about hangs together, although it sometimes uneven and teeters on the edge of collapse, the prose is workmanlike and the characterisation a little thin, but the pace and energy keeps the tale moving forward through a series of trials for Mortimer Tate, his sidekick, Buffalo Bill, and tag-along stripper, Sheila. Moreover, Gischler does conjure up a reasonably coherent vision of a post-apocalyptic society that is part Mad Max and part Wild West. Taken on those terms, the book is an entertaining and enjoyable escapist yarn.


Laidlaw (Laidlaw 1) (Laidlaw Trilogy)
Laidlaw (Laidlaw 1) (Laidlaw Trilogy)
by William McIlvanney
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

5.0 out of 5 stars as much about the human condition as it is a crime story, 27 July 2013
Laidlaw is the first book in what many consider a classic crime trilogy. First published in 1977, the book set out the blueprint for a generation of Scottish crime fiction detectives, both on print and TV: independent, contrary, hard, compassionate, world-weary, committed, reflexive and with a disastrous home-life; always a gamut of paradoxical traits. It's easy to understand the book's reputation. It's a very engaging tale spun by a wordsmith and there's very little to fault. The style is all tell and no show, with nice prose and excellent dialogue. The characterisation is keenly observed, with even very minor characters vividly drawn in just a few words. The plot has a strong hook and a nice blend of action, feints, twists and dashes of philosophical reflection. And McIlvanney spins a strong sense of place, time and social context. Overall, an excellent read that is as much about the human condition as it is a crime story.


The Maze of Cadiz: A Peter Cotton Book
The Maze of Cadiz: A Peter Cotton Book
by Aly Monroe
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.91

3.0 out of 5 stars nice atmospherics and prose, so-so story, 23 July 2013
The first of the Peter Cotton series, The Maze of Cadiz is a spy tale in the Alan Furst mode - understated realism as opposed to a capital T thriller. Peter Cotton is a young ex-soldier sent to Cadiz on his first mission as a British agent. He's somewhat naive, yet oddly worldly; independent and self-sufficient but a little lost in a foreign landscape haunted by civil war politics and conscious of the larger war going on around them and their fragile diplomatic position. Monroe does a good job of creating an atmosphere of sweltering heat, slow pace of life, and underlying political tensions and poverty, in the process evoking a well realised sense of place. The prose is nicely written and evocative. However, whilst the first third of the story is engaging, the unfolding of the plot is overly linear and lacks tension and intrigue, and it's not clear why Cotton has been sent on a mission that is clearly more suited to someone with more in-field experience and knowledge of Spain, or a small team. Moreover, the characterisation is quite thin beyond Cotton and Raminez, the local cop, who adds a bit of colour. The result is a tale of where the reader is firmly placed in Cadiz, but does not quite fully believe what is happening there. Nonetheless, it's an enjoyable read, due mostly to its atmospherics and prose.


Dead Man's Time (Ds Roy Grace 9)
Dead Man's Time (Ds Roy Grace 9)
by Peter James
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 9.00

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars reasonably entertaining tale but somewhat uneven in its telling, 23 July 2013
It's been quite a while since I read a Peter James novel, so I was quite happy to receive an ARC of Dead Man's Time, the ninth in the Roy Grace series. On the plus side, it's an enjoyable enough read, with a fairly complex plot that weaves an interesting tale. James clearly knows his police procedures and the cop side of the story has the feel of authenticity. The family and criminal sides of the story, however, felt uneven and overly contrived. The whole Amis Smallbone subplot, for example, was unconvincing. Whereas Grace, his partner and some of his colleagues were three-dimensional and engaging, many of the characters were flat and caricaturish. The tale is told through workmanlike prose, and despite each chapter only being a couple of pages long there were too many redundant passages and repetition. Overall, then, a reasonably entertaining tale, with a nice twist at the end, but somewhat uneven in its telling.


Graveland
Graveland
by Alan Glynn
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.54

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars enjoyable, cerebral, contemporary thriller, 15 July 2013
This review is from: Graveland (Paperback)
Graveland is the third book in a loose trilogy that all feature the well connected, aging and secretive, James Vaughan and the tentacles of Oberon Capital Group, and a handful of other overlapping characters. As with Winterland and Bloodland, Glynn has written a well plotted, nuanced and layered political/financial thriller - this time weaving together radical politics and Wall Street greed. And although there are several intersecting plotlines and subplots, Glynn guides the reader effortlessly through them. The telling feels polished, the prose and narrative thoughtfully crafted, and the style is all tell and no-show. The characterisation is nicely realised, with each of the principal characters vivid, complex and three-dimensional. Overall, a fitting end to the trilogy, that also closes off Glynn's first book, The Dark Fields - an enjoyable, cerebral, contemporary thriller.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 3, 2014 11:24 PM BST


Irregulars: A Sean O'Keefe Novel
Irregulars: A Sean O'Keefe Novel
by Kevin McCarthy
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.70

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars strong sense of place and history, excellent prose and dialogue, and an engaging, page-turning plot, 8 July 2013
Irregulars is the second Sean O'Keefe story, set a couple of years after Peeler, during the Irish civil war. Like Peeler, the story is multi-layered and nuanced, capturing the convoluted national politics and family allegiances of the time. And by demobbing O'Keefe and having him search for a politically-motivated and adventure-seeking teenager, the plot allows McCarthy to portray the vast social differences between the well-to-do and the slums, as well take a relative impartial path through the politics and skirmishes between pro- and anti-treaty forces. In so doing, he creates a very strong sense of place and time. Indeed, the contextual history is very much front stage in the telling, with McCarthy demonstrating and imparting a detailed knowledge of Dublin and the civil war in the early 1920s. This does work to slow the story a little, and at times veers the book towards a history lesson rather than crime tale, but it is generally fascinating stuff. Where the telling does falter, however, is in the inclusion of a number of passages which are superfluous or overly long and little progress the story and the narrative would have benefitted from them being omitted or tightened. This is countered by the generally strong characterisation, especially Sean O'Keefe, Nora Flynn, the agent employed to track him, and Just Albert, the brothel strong-arm, and some really wonderful dialogue. Overall, Irregulars is a very good read, with a strong sense of place and history, excellent prose and dialogue, and an engaging, page-turning plot.


Little Criminals
Little Criminals
by Gene Kerrigan
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.56

5.0 out of 5 stars an excellent tale, very well told, 7 July 2013
This review is from: Little Criminals (Paperback)
Little Criminals is a cracking read and a lesson in how write all tell and no show, using tight, sparse, expressive prose. There isn't a single sentence that doesn't propel the story forward. Rather than following one person, Kerrigan shifts the point of view, telling different elements of the story from the perspective of a handful of characters, principally the main criminal Frankie Crowe, his reluctant sidekick, Martin Paxton, kidnap victim Angela Kennedy, and copper John Grace. The characterisation is excellent, with each character's back story, neatly and efficiently set out, with a series of wonderful scenes and realistic dialogue. The plot is tight and gripping. There is no real mystery element to the story, nor unlikely coincidences or melodrama, instead it simply charts how the Crowe's attempt at making the big time unfolds, which in and of itself is highly compelling. The whole book is wonderfully evocative of Dublin before the crash, colliding together the worlds of criminal gangs and the corporate elite. Overall, an excellent tale, very well told. Highly recommended.


Zugzwang
Zugzwang
by Ronan Bennett
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.61

3.0 out of 5 stars enjoyable but melodramatic and over-contrived at times, 7 July 2013
This review is from: Zugzwang (Paperback)
Zugzwang moves along at quick clip, the story laced with intrigue and twists. The historical context of St Petersburg in 1914, and its various conspiracies and revolutionary plots, forms a nice backdrop to the story without dominating the narrative. The characterisation is well realised, if a little clichéd at times, and whilst the writing is engaging and plot intricate, the tale felt a little over-contrived, with various, complex inter-relations between several characters and interweaving subplots. This is partly a result of Bennett seemingly trying to position every major character in a position of Zugzwang (a position in chess in which a player is obliged to move, but every move available will only make his position worse). One nice touch is the inclusion of a chess game (including a picture of the board, the positions of the pieces and the moves) between Spethmann and his friend, Kopelzon, that mirrors Spethmann's movement through the plot. Overall, an enjoyable, if melodramatic, page-turner with an interesting backdrop.


Exposed
Exposed
by Liza Marklund
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.26

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars investigative journalist procedural set in Stockholm, 29 Jun 2013
This review is from: Exposed (Paperback)
Exposed is a very readable investigative journalist procedural set in Stockholm. It follows the travails of rookie reporter Annika Bengtzon as she investigates the death of a local sex club worker and seeks to secure a permanent post with a tabloid newspaper. Annika is a well realised, complex character who is determined to succeed, but has a habit of undermining her own efforts through instinctive, but poorly judged actions. The story rattles along at a quick clip and the central plot is engaging, with Marklund threading the story with a number of subplots and rivalries and alliances between characters. The telling is a little melodramatic at times and there are two twists at the end, one concerning Annika, the other another central character, neither of which were needed nor rang true. Nevertheless, Exposed is an entertaining read that introduces a character whose life is as messed up as those on whom she reports for the tabloid press.


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