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Twelve Red Herrings
Twelve Red Herrings
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Titillating, 7 May 2013
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On the one hand Archer delivers some twisty and unpredictable yarns most of which keep you hooked if it is just the plot that interests you but I did find some of the characters rather flat, perhaps because they tend to be made up almost solely to serve the yarn.

Of the whole collection,'Trial and Error' stood out as a good revenge plot and the idea of 'subsequently' doing a murder for which Cooper had earlier been falsely sentenced was very cunning.

The other stories had some entertaining twists and turns and on one level it's fair to say the author supplies titillation but I would have liked some more memorable people to populate the stories.


The Sins of the Father (Clifton Chronicles Book 2)
The Sins of the Father (Clifton Chronicles Book 2)
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5.0 out of 5 stars A refreshing twist from Archer, 13 April 2013
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Archer novels speak for themselves in so far as there is much that can be expected to re-appear from one to the other in terms of theme or underlying theme, and yet here again, in Sins of the Father, the author delivers his own hallmarks of pacey style and no-nonsense prose without being predictable.

Yes, we see again, the protagonist being propelled at pace from a relatively humble and innocuous position in life to becoming very successful and yet Archer's straightforward prose gets to the heart of his characters in such a way that each is unique and memorable.

I particularly liked the balance between ambition and, at times, compassion or kindness when I was least expecting it and, for me, Sins of the Father, though perhaps not his very most popular book, is among Archer's best.


Cupboard of Skeletons
Cupboard of Skeletons
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4.0 out of 5 stars Ghost-ly without sight of ghosts, 13 April 2013
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At first, the story headings: "The Hypnotist", Haunted by Amy" and "Hide and Seek" suggested Cupboard of Skeletons was going to be a straight collection of ghost stories, so I hesitated. Some were going to be what I'd call contemporary ghost stories but the first one, "The Hypnotist", refreshingly, didn't seem to be coming up with the bread and butter of apparitions or the far-fetched supernatural of the usual convenient Gothic props.
If ghosts were present, it was the 'ghost-LY' or the 'presence' and the hint of supernatural agency which was woven in, rather than any physical appearance, that made me want to read on. There was enough hint to whet the appetite but, a bit like the famous veiled lady, not too many veils were taken away to spoil the anticipation of the starker reality.
What saved the 'ghostly' from being implausible was the natural feel of the dialogue and sharpness of observation in the build up of the main characters. As others have said, Nickford tends to focus his storyline around the psychology of eccentric or even dysfunctional people in character-driven stories, even when this runs alongside the atmospheric and the hint of the ghost or spirit presence.
The longer novellas, which each have about five to ten chapters, had a more gradual build but, in exchange for the pace I'd found in the shorter stories, there was still the suspense which the author squeezed out of his troubled characters over several chapters, until it was the minute psychology of their quirks which kept me engaged.
A Child from the Wishing Well


The Love of My Life
The Love of My Life
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4.0 out of 5 stars Love after widowhood, 13 April 2013
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I enjoyed this for the the novel slant on the way widow Olivia tries to come to terms with her grief after her loss of the most central person in her heart, Luca. She tries to re-adjust to the life which seems to have frozen over for her and I couldn't help but feel for her. The tension is raised as she begins to find comfort in Luca's surviving brother, Marc, and I couldn't help wondering whether the sibling might or could have enough in him of Luca's personality or charm to suggest that he might be the beginning of a new dream for Olivia. As Marc is married already, the tension mounts and the possibility of further conflict with Luca's family looms again at a time when Olivia most needs to pick up the threads of her life.
The novel moves at a pace even though back story is woven in and sometimes interrupts the pace. On the whole, it was the emotional tension which held my interest rather than any 'action-plot' but then my only regret is that, in places, I had wondered whether Marc would not have shown more reluctance to take the place of his deceased brother in the love life of his sister-in-law, Olivia.


The French House
The French House
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Love and trust, 9 April 2013
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This review is from: The French House (Kindle Edition)
For me this provided a real escape as I identified with the main protagonists who change their urban life for what seems to promise to be a more rural one. CC seems to have her dream before her as she has wanted to leave her job in London and join her boyfriend, Victor, who has started to restore a French farmhouse that has been passed down to him by inheritance.
I liked the way the mood of the novel changes, as does its tension as CC's dream and the relationship with Victor come under the strains firstly of adjusting to the rural French way of life and more particularly of adjusting, if at all possible,to their eerie neighbours.
Perhaps the theme I wanted to read on for was the strained trust between the couple, particularly as CC was so plausible that I could feel for her and for Victor who, though often stubborn and not a little eccentric is interesting right down to his French cheeses.


Twists in the Tale
Twists in the Tale
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5.0 out of 5 stars Uniquely creepy, 9 April 2013
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I'm not generally persuaded by ghost stories and to be fair only three of the stories actually imply some form of the supernatural but the tales are unique in the sense that the author creates a continuous sense of atmosphere and presence without actually getting into bed with ghosts - so to speak.

When widow Emily tries to "reach out" to her dead husband, Berny, in The Parchment Recipes, there is no crude sighting or necessarily even an implication of an apparition, yet there is the overwhelming sense of presence which at times made my flesh creep. There is always the idea that spirits can - through one psychology or another - tenuously connect and the author doesn't seem to need the standard seance or ritual to make the presence chilling. Although the writing is condensed, economical with back story, I agree with Barbara Erskine's comment and, like her, these stories did "make me want to read on".


Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities
Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities
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5.0 out of 5 stars Lived up to my expectations, 9 April 2013
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The opening setting among the marshes of Kent in the mid nineteenth century is full of foreboding and the terrifying meeting up of young Pip and the escaped convict, suitably named Magwitch, is really chilling as Dickens begins to unfolds the story.
Themes of poverty, prison ships and fights ending in fatalities abound and were, I thought, equally gripping.
Although the language style is sometimes a bit long-winded or simply Victorian, this didn't stop me enjoying the great character description for which Dickens is rightly famous.
I could have done without some of the more graphic scenes and yet I suppose they lend to the reality of the times when life among the poor was even more of a struggle for survival than perhaps it is today.


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