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Prairie Pal (Winnipeg, Canada)

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Prayer
Prayer
by Philip Kerr
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.91

5 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A strange religious tract, not a mystery, 1 Nov 2013
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This review is from: Prayer (Hardcover)
Philip Kerr is a superb writer. His Bernie Guenther series which began with "Berlin Noir" deserves all the praise it has been given because of its ability to mix historical reality with a good mystery. In Guenther we have a man who tries to be good in the midst of unspeakable evil, to serve justice while working for the Gestapo. Wry and cynical observations, three-dimensional characterization and a wonderful ear for dialogue make Kerr a writer you want to come back to. To be sure, he has a few annoying quirks; there is a kind of mean-spirited anti-Americanism that crops up in the strangest places. And perhaps that is one of the reasons that this new novel "Prayer" is such a conspicuous failure. It seems that he can sympathetically portray Germans and the British but he has a blind spot when it comes to the USA.

For it is in the heart of Bible-belt USA that "Prayer" takes place, particularly the mega-churches of southern Texas. Our protagonist (for he is not particularly anyone's idea of a hero) is FBI agent Gil Martins investigating the deaths of a number of prominent atheists or opponents of evangelical Christianity. In the course of his inquiries Martins turns from being an atheist himself to joining a seminary for the Catholic priesthood because of a newly-acquired belief in an evil and vengeful God. And that's pretty much the whole story. Why write such a flimsy, unsympathetic and vacuous tale? Well, apparently because that is the sort of deity Mr Kerr has come to believe in and he provides 3 pages of fear-filled Bible quotations to back up his case. This is a god-hater's manifesto and I regret paying money for this tract. Hopefully there is more in it all than I've seen and the unsolved mysteries of decent people (left unresolved) in "Prayer" will prompt a second book than can redeem Kerr's failure here.


Summon Up the Blood (Silas Quinn)
Summon Up the Blood (Silas Quinn)
by R. N. Morris
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.50

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars So disappointing, 30 Sep 2012
R. N. Morris established himself as a strong voice in the historical mystery genre with four masterful novels set in Tsarist St Petersburg: "A Gentle Axe", "A Vengeful Longing", "A Razor Wrapped in Silk" and "The Cleansing Flames". Choosing as his protagonist Porfiry Petrovich, the detective introduced by Fyodor Dostoevsky in "Crime and Punishment", Morris achieved the psychological depth of his 19th-century predecessor and immersed his readers in the seedy world beneath the glittering capital city. It was an entirely enjoyable kind of Russian noir and I was looking forward to more books in the series.

In "Summon Up the Blood", Norris boldly chose to switch to early 20th-century London and gives us a new detective, Silas Quinn. Head of the "Special Crimes" squad at Scotland Yard, Quinn is assigned to track down the villain who utterly exsanguinates the bodies of his homosexual rent-boy victims and leaves enigmatic clues in silver cigarette cases. In the first few pages we are told that our hero is known as "Quick-Fire Quinn" with a reputation for killing suspects in the course of his investigations, a record that discomfits the higher-ups of the Metropolitan Police. This is quite the change from the gentle and portly Petrovich and such a flawed hero might well have made an interesting character around which to build a novel. Instead Quinn turns out to be the post-Victorian version of a Sensitive New Age Guy, cautioning his men against harsh attitudes toward homosexuals, smoking opium cigarettes and reading gay porn. He chides his thuggish homophobe sergeant in a way that resembles the manner of a politically correct diversity coordinator of 2012 rather than a ruthless copper of 1914. There is also altogether too much egalitarian back-chat toward superiors which officers of that time were unlikely to have tolerated. Quinn and his world do not convince.

In his Acknowledgements Morris thanks his editor "for letting me write the book I wanted, the way I wanted." His fans might have wished for a stronger editorial hand.


The Fall of Rome: And the End of Civilization
The Fall of Rome: And the End of Civilization
by Bryan Ward-Perkins
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.69

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Postmodern bashing of the finest, 4 July 2009
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This little book is not going to catalogue all of the barbarian invasions or exhaustively explore the many reasons for the fall of the western Roman Empire but it is going to answer the question: what was the effect of the century-long collapse of civilization? The sensitive New Age Guy historiography of the 1990s that saw the invasions as a kind of semi-consensual rough wooing and which downplayed the older accounts of devastation and ruin have now been authoritatively blown out of the water. Ward-Perkins shows that the barbarian incursions did, in fact, lead to the destruction of comfort, leisure, law and civilization and he has done so by meticulous demonstration of material evidence. The postmodernists who claim that exposing the truth of barbarian barbarity is merely a kind of lingering racism or "othering" the Outsider should be embarrassed by the intellectual clarity and courage of this book.


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