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onlyolney (UK)

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The House of Mourning (Parish & Richards 9)
The House of Mourning (Parish & Richards 9)
Price: £1.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Too flip and Jokey for the subject matter, 17 Oct 2013
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This would be a really excellent detective story, but it is thoroughly ruined by the flip and arch manner in which Parish, Angie (his wife), Richards (his step-daughter) and Xena talk to their close colleagues or family. The plot is terrific, and the introduction of Jerry Kowalski as a serious player is welcome. Giving Ray Kowalski the Chief's role is difficult to justify, but works well, as does widening the scenario to more than a police procedural.

Having more than one detective partnership is really unnecessary, and I hope does not presage the diminution of Richards and Parish themselves. The running subplot of Parish' parentage is - for me - just plain annoying. I wish Ellis would either hurry up and resolve it or drop it completely. I don't care which, but I fear that its continuance means that there will be a denouement which will end the series, and I would not welcome that.

But - and it's a big but - if the silly dialogue continues on the same path, I shall not read any more of the stories. And that would be a pity because the plots are very good indeed. They are well constructed, a bit different, nicely gruesome, and the characters are interesting. But if Richards says 'huh' or 'as if' once again to Richards teasing and improbable assertions, I'll fling my kindle across the room, which would not do it any good. I'd feel a lot better, though!

I think in summary that Ellis is being self-indulgent in using this arch dialogue, which is obviously intended to distract us from the improbability of his still working with his step-daughter (as if!), and this prevents his books being regarded as serious works of crime fiction, up there with Billingham, Robinson, George et al. Such a shame.


Then We Die (Inspector Carlyle 5)
Then We Die (Inspector Carlyle 5)
Price: £2.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A pacey if far-fetched tale, 16 Sep 2013
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Much more exciting than the last Carlyle, this kept me interested throughout. Carlyle - not a policeman of integrity, but with courage and insight - is developing well, and beginning to seem real. His relationships are well drawn, and believable.

The plot, however, is not. If we must bring the SIS from many countries into it, which I doubt is necessary, then at least drop the blood and body-count. Others (Stephen Leather for one) do it very much better, and Carlyle has enough going for him to keep him as a straightforward police procedural. Killing off Joe was a good idea, and lets others into the story which keeps it fresh.

Never dull, Craig writes well, and balances short and longer sentences expertly, helping to control the story and the suspense.

I am really looking forward to the next one.


No Man's Nightingale: (A Wexford Case)
No Man's Nightingale: (A Wexford Case)
Price: £3.49

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dull - excitement's retired along with Wexford, 16 Sep 2013
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For those of us who grew up loving the wise old Wexford, and enjoyed the depiction of Burden's curmudgeonly character, this book disappoints. Definitely not a page-turner, it meanders along repetitively, mooching around pretty much as Wexford is doing in his retirement.

Maxine, the loquacious cleaning lady looms boringly on the page as in the homes she cleans. An obvious plot device, we could have done with less of her dialogue, and a more interesting character could have had the same effect without making me want to scream at her. She is not even amusing.

The tale is slight, the denouement average, and all in all, Ruth Rendell should leave Wexford in gentle oblivion.

Unless, of course, the next Wexford fizzles with an exciting plot, sends the unpleasant Burden to the outer Hebrides, and beefs up the parts of the lesser police officers. John Harvey did this with his Frank Elder books - we expect nothing less of Ruth Rendell.


Deadly Motive (DS Jack Mackinnon crime series Book 2)
Deadly Motive (DS Jack Mackinnon crime series Book 2)
Price: £1.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Pacy, well crafted police procedural, 17 July 2013
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A good read, an interesting character, and well-plotted, I found the evident scientific basis and detail of the book was not overplayed or burdensome, which I thought it might be, given the author's background. I found the story not original (very like some Morse and PD James novels) but that, I think, is a compliment. Guessing the end was not difficult, but as a run of the mill detective tale it was certainly not a waste of time.

Personally, I prefer stories where the protagonist is high enough up the pecking order to have power, as I find the struggles to be heard and the petty politics amongst the lest lofty tedious, if closer to reality than, say, Quintine Jardine's books. But not being a police officer myself, I could be very wrong!

The only real complaint I have about the story is the boring introduction of the girlfriend and her domestic life with her two un-engaging daughters. The almost instant closeness of Jack to them and their problems is too accelerated to feel real, and anyway the relationships are predictable and dull. It would be much better if Jack's love life had a more exotic base; making his girlfriend some years older than him is simply not enough, and she is so mundane as to disappear!

Would I recommend this book? Well, yes, if you - like me - simply can't find enough British detective stories to feed our addiction, but it's not in the top flight of detective novels, nor - like Jack himself - at the bottom.


Spider's Web: A Collection of All-Action Short Stories
Spider's Web: A Collection of All-Action Short Stories
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spider Enthrals Again, 2 July 2013
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I cannot praise Stephen Leather's stories about Spider Shepherd highly enough, and this small collection is up to his usual standard. The only criticism I have is that there just aren't enough Spider stories for me!

He's a lovely creation - kind, strong, resolute and real 'mensch' - what's not to like for a woman in her latter years to drool over and adore? The tales are well written, strongly characterised and thrilling, with clear resonances to current affairs and all the glamour of sweaty violence tinted with moral certitude that has a human dimension and is certainly left of centre - unusual for SAS type thrillers.

And, of course, he's English, which sits well with me and with many.

Read these, read them all, and enjoy!


Pray for the Dying (Bob Skinner Mystery)
Pray for the Dying (Bob Skinner Mystery)
Price: £3.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best Skinner yet, 2 July 2013
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I admire the hard-to-love Bob Skinner, and have enjoyed his unlikely rise through the ranks of the Edinburgh constabulary. With many others, I wondered how Jardine would keep his saga of violent, clever, witty detectives with larger-than-life personalities going now Skinner has been promoted beyond harm to Chief Constable.

Well done, Mr Jardine, for slinging him sideways and slightly upwards, to become the temporary CC of Glasgow, How he got there combines the best and worst of policing, with a touch of the Secret Service and betrayal thrown in, while keeping the main players' lives and loves in focus to maintain the soap opera element and keep it going in Scotland - and, now, in London too.

But the best thing about this novel is that Jardine has ditched the egregious Aileen; the worst is that he has brought back Sarah, Skinner's second wife, whom I find bland, boring, and with an unforgiveable American accent. She is no bitch, though, and after Aileen, that's a blessed relief.

OK, so much of this tale is recycled, but with many surprises to keep it fresh. When I want to rail against the bluff and competent Skinner, whose macho construction models so much of the worst of powerful men, I find I just chuckle and regain my balance - his naivety is disarming.

So, for all Skinner, policier and British detective story fans, it's good to know Skinner is still alive and well - and living in Glasgow.


The Dying Hours (Tom Thorne Novels Book 11)
The Dying Hours (Tom Thorne Novels Book 11)
Price: £2.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars As brilliant as ever - but please, Mark, let something nice happen to Tom soon!, 17 Jun 2013
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Although I love his writing, and Tom Thorne's and other regulars' characters, this novel is too miserable for my taste. Tom has been shunted sideways, at the same rank but back in uniform, and feeling - as well he might - aggrieved. His new relationship is dull as ditch water, his friendship with Phil fraught, and all his friends and former colleagues are worried about his state of mind. This was the first Tom Thorne novel I found I could put down.

I can understand that marooning Tom in the highly politicised siding of uniformed policing makes sense, in that it enables Mark Billingham to shift the scene, and bring Tom Thorne his due deserts. I do find this shift contrived, though, and his inveigling of his former colleagues into his quest for the truth unlikely. Yes, Dave Holland's self-serving nature is made clearer (we always had our suspicions) and well written, as are all the minor characters', but, Oh dear! The unremitting gloom of the book!

The story is a good one, and the plot well defined and paced. I enjoyed the tale of 60s-style gangsterism and the interesting character of the main villain, and the gory descriptions of the crimes, fun. (But then, I love a bit of grand guignol in my policiers). I found that there were too many repetitions of the same scenarios or events, which were a little tedious, and some set pieces that were hard to believe, such as when Thorne barges into the hostile environment of CID in his new station, and is made to feel a pariah. I also found Thorne's slowness in recognising that he was being used as a stalking horse far-fetched, unless the intention was to show that his natural vulpine instinct had been dulled by his depression.

Tom wins through in the end, of course, but mired us in the ashes of despair along the way. Please, Mark, put Tom back in mufti in the next book, and let's have some humour and robust normality too. I found it hard to like Tom in this one, let alone love him, and so I'm disappointed (although Mark Billingham fans were forewarned).

Still, I await the next book with eagerness and some hope.


Kill My Darling (A Bill Slider Mystery)
Kill My Darling (A Bill Slider Mystery)
Price: £5.59

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent characterisation enhances a terrrific police procedural, 2 Jun 2013
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Why Cynthia Harrod Eagles' name is not bracketed with those other mystery writers as a damn good novelist, in any genre, is simply beyond my understanding. She writes at least as well as P. D. James, Reginald Hill and Elisabeth George, and better, in my opinion, than Peter Robinson and Peter James.

This tale has subtly drawn characters, nuanced and interesting, and a twisted plot that almost fooled me until near the end - just as it should. The tale is about the murder of a young woman, competent and kind, loved by everyone. Why she was killed, as well as who her nemesis was, is the point of the book. The ending, and the intertwining of the various suspects, is clever and well-wrought, and the language is, as ever with CHE, lucid, flowing and with touches of humour and profundity that flash like little comets in the night sky.

Bill Slider, Jim Atherton and their respective women and colleagues, are finely drawn, and believable. The book has pace, and insight, and I cannot recommend it, and CHE's other Bill Slider books, too highly.

I loved it, and hate having to wait for more.


Nightfall (The 1st Jack Nightingale Supernatural Thriller)
Nightfall (The 1st Jack Nightingale Supernatural Thriller)
Price: £1.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Devilishly Unevenly Paced, with some Heavenly Moments, 28 May 2013
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First, the good things - and there are many. Jack is an interesting variation on Spider Shepherd; more humour, less determination, more of a drifter. All the characterisations are good, even where short, as are all the one-to-one encounters and scenes. The conversations are witty (I wish I knew such quipsters in real life) and the descriptions of place near perfect.

So what's not to like? The story. Repetition, uneven pacing, relentless but not detailed references to the occult, and far, far too much death make the book patchy and unbelievable. Yes, I know, Satanism is hardly the stuff of most people's real life, and is not meant to be, any more than the adventures of ex-SAS men are, but there has to be the ring of authenticity, and it's missing here.

I kept putting the book down with a sigh, and I have never done that with a Spider Shepherd thriller. 'Get on with it' I muttered a lot', and then I'd strike a scene, or a conversation, or laugh out loud at a passage, and I'd read some more ... and so on.

I haven't read the others in the series, and I probably won't. I really don't like Jack as a person (though I'm sure he's every woman's dream to look at) and I simply don't believe in Jenny (though her's and Jack's dialogues are excellent). I doubt I'd want to protect and help Jack - I'd be more likely to tell him to fix the problem, strap a pair on, and deal with it once and for all.

Stephen Leather always writes beautifully, and, to point up the difference between Jack and Spider, the sentences here are longer and more flowing, less clipped and austere, and there are more characters, less action. Does the excellent redeem the annoying? I'm not sure it does.


The Times Crossword Book 4: Bk. 4
The Times Crossword Book 4: Bk. 4
by Mike Laws
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.20

5.0 out of 5 stars As usual, flawed but interesting puzzles, 12 May 2013
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The Times Crossword has the reputation of being the best cryptic crossword in the world. So it is, but nevertheless has errors, Unless, of course, I'm not as clever as I think I am, and simply can't see the cleverness where I think there are errors. The books are a handy size - just right for train or plane, or smallest room, and it's great having the solutions, if only to bare one's teeth at when one's brain has given up and turned to mush!


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