Profile for Dr. Sn Cottam > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Dr. Sn Cottam
Top Reviewer Ranking: 194,301
Helpful Votes: 956

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Dr. Sn Cottam "Steve the medic" (Preston, England)
(REAL NAME)   

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4
pixel
Want You Dead (Roy Grace series Book 10)
Want You Dead (Roy Grace series Book 10)
Price: £3.59

4.0 out of 5 stars more Brighton noir, 15 Jun. 2014
another outing for Peter James and Detective Superintendent Roy Grace into the very darkest back streets of both the human mind and the city of Brighton and Hove.
as always incredibly well and deftly paced with twists and turns, just when you think you know what's going on James springs another shock that will have you reeling. and some of the loose ends from previous episodes are brought together, with some left to be resolved...
James writes with humanity and clarity, incredibly respectful and supportive to the police, ordinary people doing an extraordinary job for all of us
perhaps there is a minor problem with plausibility - would Red really act as she did and not seek closer protection? also there are a couple of minor inaccuracies - sodium chlorate has been banned from sale since 2009 and Paxil is American for the antidepressant paroxetine (UK trade name is Seroxat).
but somehow this doesn't matter as the pace, energy, detail and sheer storytelling are so gripping
we await Dead Simple in 2015 with eager anticipation


Happy Days (Di Joe Faraday)
Happy Days (Di Joe Faraday)
by Graham Hurley
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fitting ending to a great series of British police procedurals, 12 Feb. 2012
The twelve book Joe Faraday/Paul Winter series comes to a highly satisfying conclusion in this excellent police procedural set in Portsmouth.

I would agree with other reviewers that it is best to read the series in order (start with Turnstone) or at least the previous novel (Borrowed Light) to gain maximum benefit from Happy Days (another ironic Graham Hurley title if ever there was one).

Reviewing the novel isn't easy without giving out spoilers, but suffice to say drug lord Bazza Mackenzie's hubris has escalated out of control, Paul Winter has finally realised what a Faustian pact he has made and wants out and Hantspol bosses decide to mount another attempt to bring Mackenzie to book for his crimes. The scene is set for a devastating clash and as previously Mr Hurley doesn't disappoint.

With a fast and strong narrative drive, great well-portrayed characters, realistic portraits of a police service and personnel under massive pressure, sharply drawn contemporary allusions and an all too believable Portsmouth backdrop, this is a fitting end to an excellent British police series.

One very minor complaint...for those of us who don't know our Cosham from Copnor or Fratton from Farlington, an end-piece sketch map of the city of Portsmouth and environs would perhaps have been helpful.

But geographical unfamiliarity won't interfere with your enjoyment of this superior series of novels.

And there's more to come - D/S Jimmy Suttle, fed up of Pompey, has migrated to the West Country to reappear in Western Approaches, out later this year.


Sea Dog Bamse: World War II Canine Hero
Sea Dog Bamse: World War II Canine Hero
by Jilly Cooper
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars a hero and mascot, 28 Jun. 2009
Sea Dog Bamse tells the story of the titular Bamse, a 14 stone St Bernard dog, who was uprooted from his peaceful life as a family pet to accompany his master, a Norwegian sea captain, to the Second World War in 1940. A distinctive and characterful dog, he quickly established himself in the affections of both the sailors of the Free Royal Norwegian Navy and the people of Dundee and Montrose. In dark times we need inspirations, and Bamse became a mascot and a symbol to the entire Free Norwegian Forces fighting as part of the Allies to liberate their homeland from the German tyranny.

Local authors Angus Whitson and Andrew Orr have produced a moving, but not sentimental, account of Bamse's career, enlivened by eye-witness anecdotes of colourful canine activities. It's a really good and enjoyable read, but more than that, it's also a reminder of what we all owe to the courage and resourcefulness of those (not all human) who stood and did their duty and ultimately triumphed against the seemingly invincible German military machine.

And interest in Bamse has not faded over the years. In 2006 a statue of Bamse was unveiled by Prince Andrew, amid considerable interest, on the old waterfront at Montrose. And just in the last couple of weeks, a replica statue was unveiled on the waterfront in Honnigsvag in northern Norway, from where Bamse set off to fight his war nearly 70 years ago.


The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher
The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher
by Kate Summerscale
Edition: Paperback

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars murder as social and cultural history, 1 Jan. 2009
This excellent, readable book explores a number of fascinating strands of mid-Victorian social and cultural history through the story of a real-life child murder. In 1860 a four year old boy, Saville Kent, disappears from his nursery at his father's country house in Road, Wiltshire (now Rode, Somerset) and after a search is found murdered in an outside privy. It didn't need Sherlock Holmes or Fabian of the Yard to work out that the killer was a member of the household. And, as Kate Summerscale so ably demonstrates, Mr Kent's household was not the conventional Victorian happy home and there were any number of emotional and psychological undercurrents. The local police having proved themselves spectacularly incompetant, a detective was sent for from London to try and clear up the case. This was Jonathan Whicher, a member of the newly formed Detective Office at Scotland Yard. Using a strikingly modern approach (looking at means, motive and opportunity plus material evidence) he makes a case and arrests a suspect but provides insufficient evidence to enable the case to proceed to trial. And there the matter seems to end; Whicher leaves the force (with what sounds like depression). But in a striking denouement, 5 years later an individual comes forward with a confession, and a subsequent guilty plea at trial...

Kate Summerscale has re-examined this famous case in detail and used the tragedy as a launchpad to explore many fascinating byways of mid-Victorian life, from daily life to the development of the police service. In addition, the media interest was (inevitably) frenzied and as Kate Summerscale demonstrates, interest triggered the first forays of English writers into detective and crime fiction. Initially represented by Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White and The Moonstone, the genre continued through the Victorian period culminating with the fantasy figure of Sherlock Holmes, the detective as reasoning machine.

Kate Summerscale rounds off by considering theories of what really did happen that night in Road in 1860. The confession satisfied the legal process, but questions still remain. A theory is discussed that seems to answer these questions but of course we will never know for certain. Which makes the tragic mystery both of continuing interest and worthy of the retelling.

The style flows really smoothly and I read the book over a couple of days. The period detail is excellent and well-explained and many of the descriptions (especially about William Kent's scientific work) are vivid and strong. William's pet fern owls sound particularly delightful.

If you are at all interested in Victorian social history, the development of policing in this country, the origins of detective fiction or historical murder mysteries with details tantalisingly unexplained, read and enjoy this book.


Necropolis: London and Its Dead
Necropolis: London and Its Dead
by Catharine Arnold
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars necropolis now, 6 Nov. 2008
This could have been a very good book indeed. after all, death and its accompaniments are endlessly fascinating and a cultural history of death in the world's most vibrant and interesting city could be a particularly good read. unfortunately, this whistle-stop tour of several millenia of the disposal of London's dead (with a prolonged halt in the Victorian period and an unnecessary diversion to Princess Diana's death and funeral) just doesn't come up to expectations.

Catherine Arnold is very good at the Victorians, their organised and dignified cemeteries a response to the unspeakably revolting conditions of burial grounds in the early nineteenth century. She covers Victorian burial and mourning culture extremely well. However the remainder of the book covers simply too much ground in too little detail with too many irrelevancies (from ghost stories from the Tower of London to yet another rehash of the extraordinary events around the death and funeral of Princess Diana). And around the irrelevancies are too many generalisations, misleading statements and errors. to take just three examples - plague is not due to a virus; the place where Christopher Marlowe was murdered was not an inn; overall life expectancy was short in previous centuries because of massive infant and child mortality - in fact if you survived childhood your chances of achieving a respectable age were actually quite reasonable.

Perhaps most disappointing of all, the book could have been so much better just with decent map/s and a gazetter of important London cemeteries (location, how to get there, main features, interesting sights, who is buried therein). And the few illustrations are generally of poor quality.

So, worth reading for the chapters on Victoriana, skim the rest.


Love Over Scotland (44 Scotland Street 3)
Love Over Scotland (44 Scotland Street 3)
by Alexander McCall Smith
Edition: Hardcover

39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars more Edinburgh delight, 1 Sept. 2006
Professor McCall Smith continues his 44 Scotland Street series with a new novel that finds his cast of quirky but endearing characters embarking on new directions in their lives. Matthew is coming to terms with his new found wealth and trying to find his own way in life - and love. Pat too is finding her way forward although her university course in art history, to say nothing of one of her fellow students, are strangely unsettling. Domenica is away from Scotland doing anthropological research among pirates in Malacca, her flat temporarily occupied by historical novelist Antonia whom artist Angus is trying to help (and impress). Pushy insufferable Irene finds she has bitten off just a little more than she can chew enrolling precocious Bertie into a Teenage Orchestra, while her mild and overawed husband Stuart finds a touch of steel to help out a troubled friend of the gang. And best character of all, gold-toothed, coffee and beer drinking canine Cyril is off on an adventure of his own, although not one he would choose...

As with the rest of McCall Smith,s prolific fictional output, this novel is pure pleasure. If some of the events or characters are a tad unrealistic at times or the novel comes within a hairsbreadth of becoming twee, it simply doesn,t matter. McCall Smith writes with verve, a light touch, and a delightful ironic humor while musing about some real and serious contemporary issues. This is an enjoyable and life-enhancing read. Now, where,s the next episode from Scotland Street...


Kristallnacht: Prelude to Destruction (Making History)
Kristallnacht: Prelude to Destruction (Making History)
by Martin Gilbert
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars another magisterial combination of narrative and analysis from Sir Martin Gilbert, 22 Jun. 2006
prolific historian Sir Martin Gilbert has produced another of the works on 20th century history that he does so well, combining narrative and analytical history with well-chosen vivid contemporary accounts of the relevant events. many of these accounts have clearly been gathered by Sir Martin in his own interviews and correspondance with eye-witnesses.

Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass, was a dreadful event. On 10th November 1938, in response to the murder of a German diplomat in Paris by a Jewish man, the Nazi high command launched an officially sanctioned wave of hooliganism and crime directed against the German Jewish community. thousands of Jewish businesses and homes were trashed, synagogues (many centuries old) were burned, 93 people were murdered, many more were beaten or arrested and enough glass was smashed to account for the whole output of the Belgian glass industry for a year (hence the name of the event). as the series editors point out in their excellent introduction, Kristallnacht was a defining moment that marked the transition of Naziism from a rough populism to systematic criminality and set Nazi Germany on a downward trajectory away from any legitimacy and towards the horrors of the Second World War and the Holocaust.

Sir Martin's short account is clear and vivid, his use of eye-witness accounts masterly. the horror of the events are dramatically brought home. Sir Martin also discusses the aftermath of Kristallnacht, again illustrated with personal stories, which led to 70 % of German and Austrian Jews leaving the Reich, many to safety in Britain and the United States, many, sadly to other European countries where they would be victimised after the German conquest in 1940.

there are minor criticisms of course. Martin Luther's inflammatory comments of 1538, referred to in the introduction, are symptomatic of thought at that time and don't really seem to relate to the events of 400 years later. By the 1930s Germany's Jews were some of the most integrated in the world and as Sir Martin points out the community had served their country with distinction in many spheres, not least during the First World War. And the quantum leap between the sanctioned hooliganism and criminality of Kristallnacht and the cold blooded, systematic, industrial killing of the Holocaust is not always clear although Sir Martin's closing thoughts that evil is a process is one that the world continues to needs to learn.

But there is hope. On the anniversary of Kristallnacht in 1989 the Berlin Wall, symbol of another tyranny, finally fell and a free and united modern Germany was able to take her place among civilized nations.


The Dream of Rome
The Dream of Rome
by Boris Johnson
Edition: Hardcover

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars light hearted and irreverent look at the Roman Empire, 1 Jun. 2006
This review is from: The Dream of Rome (Hardcover)
Boris Johnson, well known Tory MP, columnist, journalist and editor increases his reputation as an engaging and entertaining writer with this light-hearted and enjoyable romp through Roman history. In turn Boris covers the emperor cult, the origin of the Empire, citizenship, the relationship with Greece, elite culture, economics, popular culture (illustrated by the universality of the disgusting sounding garum - fish sauce - eaten all over the Empire), religion, the army, currency, the games and the end of the whole shebang. Boris illustrates these by reference to his own travels and meetings with experts (including one who tried to make garum for himself) and his punchy, irreverant and entertaining style is extremely readable. His asides are wonderful and apt - comparing Latin poets moaning about the loss of the 'good old days' to 'the politicians and journalists of today's Britain who lambast Tesco for forcing down the prices pain to farmers and then whip round it in half an hour on Saturday when they do their weekly shopping', and his comparison of the Augustus emperor cult and the rise of Christianity is thought-provoking if nothing else. And the book is scattered with interesting and pleasing anecdotes - the very un-Romance word cerveza (Celtic for beer) is still used in Spain for the same liquid.

Perhaps the comparisons to the contemporary European Union are a bit overdone (and it's difficult to say where Boris himself stands on the EU issue) but as he points out himself it's essential to know where we come from if only to avoid the mistakes of the past. And some of the prints illustrating the beginning of each chapter are so dark as to be barely discernable. But Boris' enthusiasm for the ancient world is infectious and exhilarating, providing more than an effective counter-blast to the dismal utilitarian approach to education propounded by some of his political opponents.

Enjoy!!


The Strange Death of Tory England
The Strange Death of Tory England
by Geoffrey Wheatcroft
Edition: Hardcover

26 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars political history and comment at its brighest and best, 8 Aug. 2005
This is a splendid book. Journalist Geoffrey Wheatcroft explores the reasons behind the slow decline of the British Conservative (Tory) Party, once the undisputed mistress of the British political scene, now reduced to a rump of quarrelsome, factional schisms, disunited, directionless and with no sense of being able to return to power. It's a wonderful read and I recommend that anyone interested in politics, contemporary history or ploitical thought packs this thoroughly enjoyable tale of a fall into the political wilderness in their holiday reading.
The tale is told by a canter through Tory party history; although the book was completed prior to Tony Blair's historic third Labour Party win in May 2005, the writing is clearly on the wall. Wheatcroft ably describes the twists and turns of policy and personalities in recent British history and his evocation of ideas and individuals, often with a few carefully chosen sentences, is superb. He (correctly in my view) identifies and dissects the reasons for the fall of the Tory party - disunity, the stealing of Thatcherism's thunder by Tony Blair and above all a total change in social outlook and mores to which point a recent Daily Telegraph correspondent could state 'we are all social democrats now'.
And the tale is told with admirable clarity and a wonderful acerbic humour. Here is Geoffrey on the Referendum Party - 'in many ways it was a risible affair, noisily supported at one glitzy gathering after another by such notabilities as...and altogether a fine cross-section of rich white trash; there has been nothing like it since the flapper in 'Vile Bodies' complained, 'The Independent Labour Party? Why haven't I been asked?'. And on the hapless William Hague - 'In an age of appearances his own did not help, part foetus and part death's head, apparantly without having gone through the usual intervening phase of human life'. And on the Countryside Alliance march - 'To watch that parade of the rural classes and what was left of the landed gentry was like peering at something from a nature reserve'. His comment on puritanism that 'whether taking religious or secular form, Puritanism is a minority taste; most people want to build the just city less than they want their cakes and ale, particularly the ale' deserves an immediate place in any book of political quotations.
Of course there must be quibbles despite Geoffrey's generally sound analysis and his acute judgement. Although most of his glancing sideswipes hit their target, some are heavily off beam. To describe the liberation of a friendly, harmless small nation from the clutches of a psychopathic dictator and his appalling bullies as 'raising more questions than it answered' (his comments on the First Gulf War) raises some difficult moral and political questions of its own. And Geoffrey's opposition to ID cards seems more rooted in a 1950s schoolboy libertarianism than a recognition of current world realities. But on the main issues, Geoffrey is sharp and sound and even if one disagrees with him, there's plenty to engage with and mull over.
Perhaps the book's one great weakness is that Geoffrey can never quite pin down the essential nature or philosophy of the Tory Party. To many of us outside, it represents little more than an attempt to conserve the lifestyle and views of a priviliged and affluent minority, disguised as a political party. Once this is appreciated, the decline and fall becomes inevitable. And the party seems utterly unable to learn. Just a couple of weeks ago a group of Right wing Tory MPs, no doubt to the delight of the party's incrasingly elderly and reactionary membership, launched a platform for a new direction based on an American style religious conservatism that has not, nor ever has had, any market in Britain. A suitable subtitle for this acute and worthwhile read (and the Tories themselves) would have been 'They just don't get it'.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 13, 2014 3:48 PM GMT


Deadlight (Detective Inspector Joe Faraday)
Deadlight (Detective Inspector Joe Faraday)
by Graham Hurley
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Portsmouth noir, 14 Jan. 2005
A taut, gritty and superbly told contemporary British police procedural.
A prison officer with a unsavoury past is brutally murdered in Portsmouth. Of course this crime generates massive police efforts to solve it and the investigation takes the dogged but flawed Inspector Joe Faraday from London to Devon via Gibraltar looking for the killer. Set against the backdrop of a frentically busy police department and a chillingly realistic depiction of modern Portsmouth, Faraday must look back 20 years to the Falklands War and the deceased's naval service for the answers to the murder. Brilliantly juxtaposing the background Falklands conflict with the contemporary 2002 World Cup England v Argentina match, Graham Hurley catches the mood of a country, a city, a police investigation, an individual superbly. The twists and turns of the investigation, the blind alleys, the false leads, the personality clashes, the distractions are all really well evoked. This accomplished novel was the first Graham Hurley I've read - I'm looking forward to tackling the rest now. If you enjoy British crime fiction (or even if you don't) and haven't already made the acquanitance of Mr Hurley and Inspector Faraday already, do so - otherwise you're really missing something.
And isn't it good to see a quality modern crime novel, indeed any British novel, not set in London...


Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4