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Rob Kitchin
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Summertime All the Cats are Bored (World Noir)
Summertime All the Cats are Bored (World Noir)
by Philippe Georget
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.68

3.0 out of 5 stars French police procedural, 27 July 2014
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Summertime, All the Cats are Bored is a police procedural set over a few hot weeks of early summer in Southern France and the local police’s attempts to save a young woman who has been kidnapped and two murders. The strength of the story is the sense of place and characterisation. Georget firmly places the reader in the Perpignan region during tourist season and captures the team dynamics and interactions of the investigative team. The narrative mostly focuses on Inspector Gilles Sebag, a cop who’s slipping into a midlife crisis as the case starts - he’s prioritised his family over his career, but now his teenage kids are making their own way in life and his wife is spending increasingly more time with friends and holidaying on her own and he suspects she’s having an affair, and his boss wants him to apply for promotion. His basis of his sense of self seems to be on shifting ground and now he’s trying to deal with a case where the life of a young woman is under threat. The intertwined scenarios of Sebag’s crisis and the perplexing investigation provide a nice hook and plot. However, the telling unfolds at a too leisurely pace, with a little too much unnecessary explication. The cats might be bored, but the reader veers towards that state a little too often until the final third of the book. Overall, an interesting character study and investigative case that too often lacks pace and edge.


The Carrier
The Carrier
Price: £2.03

4.0 out of 5 stars road-trip, noir crime caper, 20 July 2014
This review is from: The Carrier (Kindle Edition)
The Carrier is a road-trip, crime caper that follows the travails of a laidback illicit courier as he travels from Massachusetts to Iowa to pick up a payment for drugs. From the get-go Cyril is in trouble, having met and been held up by a sultry young woman intent on grabbing the money for herself, but who strikes before he’s collected the package. They continue the trip together, but quickly come to realise they’re being tracked by two losers looking for an easy payday. The plot thus unfolds as a cat and mouse game, both for Cyril and his brother, Duane, who is finally coming to realise that his place a little higher up in the drugs gang has become somewhat tenuous. The story rattles along at a nice pace and has some nice noir touches as the caper unfolds into a lethal game of pass the parcel.


Washington Shadow
Washington Shadow
by Aly Monroe
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Chasing shadows, 20 July 2014
This review is from: Washington Shadow (Paperback)
Washington Shadow is the second book in the Peter Cotton series following the exploits of an economics graduate who works as an intelligence officer. Whilst the first book was set in Spain, the second sees Cotton move to Washington DC after his old unit is wound up and he waits to find out if he’s going to be demobbed. Despite winning the war, Britain is on its knees financially and is severely weakened politically with respect to its empire. The nice hook to the story is John Maynard Keynes presence in the city, trying to negotiate a loan from the Americans. The first half of the tale is atmospheric and evocative, and the historical contextualisation concerning the relationship between the US and Britain is interesting. Cotton is a little out of his depth and struggling to work out his role in what seems a fluid situation as the Americans re-organise their intelligence agencies and prepare for a new world order, and he hesitantly starts a relationship, his first serious one since the death of his fiancée to a blitz bomb. However, in the second half the storyline becomes a little disjointed, bitty and opaque, and rather than Cotton being at the centre of the action with respect to the Keynes negotiations, which might have provided a stronger hook, he’s hovering around the edges with an uncertain role. Perhaps Monroe is projecting the uncertainty and haphazardness of the British position onto Cotton, but it means the plot fizzles rather than sparkles. This was a shame as the first half was excellent. Nevertheless, it’s still an interesting read, with an engaging lead character and intriguing context.


Nice Try (Murray Whelan Novels)
Nice Try (Murray Whelan Novels)
Price: £9.22

3.0 out of 5 stars Politics, crime, Olympics, Melbourne ..., 13 July 2014
Nice Try is the third book in the Murray Whelan series of political satires/crime stories. Whelan is a three steps forward, two steps back kind of political operator -- wise to the games, shenanigans and back stabbing, but unable to always capitalise and often out manoeuvred or prey to rotten luck. He also has a habit of walking into explosive situations and those involving dead bodies. This is the case in Nice Try where he is co-opted into helping out a young woman whose former beefy boyfriend is seriously unhinged and roped into trying to shepherd a three person IOC group in Melbourne to assess the city’s bid to host the 1996 Olympics. Whelan is affable, self-depreciating, shambolic lead character and Maloney populates the story with a set of colourful schemers. The story has some nicely observed and amusing political satire and farce, though it’s never quite laugh out loud funny, and the contextualisation with regards the Olympics bid and the previous games held in the city is well done. Whilst the plot is engaging, it does overly rely on a couple of large plot devices mainly to do with the personal intersection of a number of characters that all happen to be in Whelan’s life at the same time. Overall, a tale that is a little too contrived, but is nonetheless a fun read.


Dog On It
Dog On It
by Spencer Quinn
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Chewing on a tasty bone, 13 July 2014
This review is from: Dog On It (Paperback)
Dog On It is told entirely from the point of view of Chet, a well-trained dog with a great sense of smell, an intuitive ability to read humans, who’s loyal and brave, and is easily distracted by food and the prospect of some fun. The narrative voice is engaging and well pitched and anyone who owns a dog will recognize his canine mind at work. The result is the reader is soon rooting for Chet the Jet and Bernie, his world weary, laconic private investigator owner, who can handle himself in a tight corner when needed. Indeed, the book thrives on the equal partnership. There’s a cozy sensibility to the tale, with a gentle humour running throughout, but Quinn doesn’t shy away from tough and dangerous moments, building the tension at a number of points in the story. The plot of tracking down a missing fifteen year old is relatively straightforward, with no major surprises, but it’s interesting enough. The real strength of the book, however, is the characterisation and the relationship between Chet and Bernie. Overall, an entertaining read that will appeal to all dog lovers, or those looking for a mystery with a novel point of view.


Long Way Home (Zigic & Ferreira 1)
Long Way Home (Zigic & Ferreira 1)
by Eva Dolan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a gritty, thoughtful read with a compelling plot, 13 July 2014
Long Way Home is the antithesis of the classic English cozy. Rather than the amateur detective solving a dastardly crime in some middle/upper-class idyll, Dolan presents the rotten underbelly of modern Britain -- everyday racism, anti-social behaviour, poverty, and exploitation -- investigated by a police force under resource constraints and media pressure, who are mistrusted and little respected. The story is set in Peterborough, a place where there is an uneasy relationship between locals and new immigrants, many of whom are indentured to gang bosses, are poorly treated, and are kept in line with the threat of violence. The tale itself focuses on the investigation into the torching of a shed in which an immigrant slept by Detectives Zigic and Ferreira. The former is a second generation immigrant who worries he’s not spending enough time with his wife and two boys, the latter a feisty, headstrong young woman with a chip on her shoulder, who moved to Britain when she was seven. The real strength of the book is the plot, which is a cleverly worked police procedural with a couple of nice twists and turns, and the contextualisation and gritty social realism with respect to working class neighbourhoods and the treatment of some immigrants to Britain. There’s are fine lines between hectoring, moralising tale and searing, gritty social realism, and between lived lives and criminal/immigrant stereotypes and caricatures. Dolan understands the difference, managing to find the right balances and letting the injustice and morals of the tale speak for themselves. Overall, a gritty, thoughtful read with a compelling plot.


The Gigolo Murder: A HOP-CIKI-YAYA Thriller
The Gigolo Murder: A HOP-CIKI-YAYA Thriller
by Mehmet Murat Somer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Fresh contribution to the genre, 6 July 2014
The unusual twist in Somer’s Hop-«iki-Yaya series set in Istanbul, Turkey, is the amateur sleuth: a gay, transvestite drag queen, who is vain, camp, catty, impulsive, dramatic, brave, and wears his heart on his expensively clad sleeve. He’s also a dab hand at Thai boxing and a skilled computer hacker. He leads a colourful life, surrounded by a menagerie of larger than life and quirky characters and a penchant for putting his nose in where it’s not necessarily wanted. The result is an interesting lead character whose boundary challenging exploits are good fun to follow. Indeed, The Gigolo Murder has a streak of light humour running throughout. The plot is appealing enough, charting the investigation in to the death of a man abused as a child and exploited as an adult by his family, and it provides an interesting glimpse of different elements of Istanbul’s subcultures: minibus/taxi drivers, drag queen clubs, rich high society. There’s plenty of twists and turns, though it relies on a couple of plot devices at times. Overall, an entertaining read and a fresh contribution to the genre.


Gently Floating (George Gently)
Gently Floating (George Gently)
by Alan Hunter
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

3.0 out of 5 stars lacks bite and intrigue, 6 July 2014
Gently Floating is a quite traditional police procedural, with the thoughtful, even-tempered Superintendent George Gently interviewing and prodding a handful of suspects, whilst the local inspector jumps to conclusions and wants to resort to more forceful methods. There’s little in the way of melodrama, high tension, violence or action. Rather the story focuses on the investigation and the puzzle concerning the killer’s identity. Hunter makes sure that all the suspect have a plausible reason to want Harry French dead and keeps them all in the frame until the last few pages, though the puzzle is not too challenging. There’s a nice evocation of the Norfolk broads and the close knit community around the boatyard, though the characterisation is fairly light, with the focus more on plot and sense of place. Overall, an enjoyable enough tale, but lacks bite and intrigue.


To Die in Beverly Hills
To Die in Beverly Hills
Price: £2.18

4.0 out of 5 stars battle of wills between a laconic US Treasury Agent and a vain, corrupt cop., 29 Jun. 2014
To Die in Beverly Hills charts the battle of wills between a laconic US Treasury Agent and a vain, corrupt cop. Charlie Carr isn’t interested in career progression or conforming to social expectations, he just wants to catch the bad guys. It’s an attitude that has got him regularly shifted between offices and frustrates his long-term girlfriend. Travis Bailey is a sociopath and social climber who lives beyond his means, uses his job to spot potential targets for his crew of burglars and fences, and treats women as sex objects. Petievich provides an in-depth characterisation of both men as they circle round each other, the former looking to bring the latter to justice. They are each surrounded by a band of engaging secondary characters who are each flawed in some way. Beverly Hills provides an interesting back drop and the plot nicely unfolds as Carr slowly unpicks Bailey’s scheming, scams and crimes, but the key strength of the book is the characterization. Overall, an engaging read about a cop who’ll go to any lengths to protect his position and another whose prepared to match and catch him.


Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye (Midnight Classics)
Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye (Midnight Classics)
Price: £8.63

4.0 out of 5 stars Hardboiled noir classic, 29 Jun. 2014
Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye is considered to be a noir classic, first published in 1948 and made into a movie starring James Cagney in 1950. The story charts the scheming, amoral life of ‘Ralph Cotter’ (one of a set of aliases), who compulsively lies, cheats, steals and, with little prompting, kills or commits violence. The strength of the book is the characterisation and the interplay between the main protagonists, especially Ralph and femme fatale, Holiday, who uses her sexuality to twist men round her little finger. The plot is pure hardboiled noir. Indeed, the tagline of the tale is: 'Love as hot as a blow torch ... crime as vicious as the jungle'. The start of the story is excellent, quickly hooking the reader in. However, after about a third of the way in the style and pace noticeably changes, the action dissipating and the narrative becoming more psychological in orientation. Scenes get a little drawn out, there’s needless repetition of thoughts/dialogue, and the plot loses drive and direction. To my mind it would have been preferable to keep the pace a bit higher and narrative tighter. Nevertheless, the tale is a fascinating account of a man obsessed with being as equally ruthless as Dillinger, but being much cleverer and successful in his criminal pursuits.


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