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Chris High "Chris H" (Wirral, Merseyside,England)

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Scratch Deeper (An Iona Khan Mystery)
Scratch Deeper (An Iona Khan Mystery)
by Chris Simms
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.54

4.0 out of 5 stars More than scratching the surface, 16 Oct. 2013
Chris Simms' first stand alone since Pecking Order is packed full of tension, pace, drama and intensely plotted story telling at it finest, all of which is uplifted by some - literally - in depth research that gives a whole different meaning to the phrase "Going Down into town in Manchester.

Scratch Deeper is an introduction to DC Iona Khan, of the Counter Terrorist Unit; a character so deftly drawn it is impossible not to relate to her on a personal level, particularly in the way she deals with the obstacles Simms thrusts into her path.

Superb too is the author's grip on dialogue, which helps quicken the pace still further and so drives proceedings along a break-neck pace.

A welcome return to one of Britain's finest Crime Fiction authors, Chris Simms' Scratch Deeper is novel that will leave you exhilarated and exultant by its end.

Chris High

Julia's Banjo
Julia's Banjo
Price: £6.98

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Bubbling Beatles Blast of a Book, 22 May 2013
This review is from: Julia's Banjo (Kindle Edition)
When Beatles tour guide Barry Seddon finds a letter written by John Lennon he unearths a clue to solving the greatest mystery in pop music - the whereabouts of Lennon's first musical instrument which has been missing for over 50 years. But Barry's loose tongue alerts Texan dealer Travis Lawson to the priceless relic. In an attempt to get his hands on the letter, Lawson persuades his beautiful wife Cheryl to befriend the hapless tour guide and win his affections. The race for the Holy Grail of pop memorabilia is on.

Just when you think the legends that surround The Beatles are all but dried up, along comes a novel of such wit, vivacity and sheer glittering magic it almost makes you want to stick The White Album on the turntable and listen to the original crackles. Julia's Banjo is such a novel and whether you love or loathe The Fab Four it is all but guaranteed that once you start reading about Barry Seddon's adventures concerning his quest to find the instrument upon which his mother taught him how to play, then you will want to carry on until the end to find out what happens next.

The characters, particularly Barry, Travis and Cheryl, are so finely tuned it is as though they pop round on a regular basis for a cuppa, so recognizable yet so distinct are they. The plot, on the face of it, is pretty simple ... find a relic ... yet it's not so much the quest but the journey - the manner in which proceedings are related - which is so compelling and so deeply entertaining.

In short, this is an eloquently shaped, exquisitely related romp of a novel that will, almost certainly, have readers laughing out loud and willing its protagonists ever onwards.

The Killing Room: (Byrne & Balzano 6)
The Killing Room: (Byrne & Balzano 6)
by Richard Montanari
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.16

10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Killer of a Thriller, 15 Feb. 2012
This seventh out for Philadelphia Detectives Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano is absolutely everything you would expect from a Richard Montanari novel; terrific tension, superb prose, a credible yet manifestly dark plotline and an enthralling, enrapturing pace all add up to what is sure to be one of the crime novels of the year.
In the heart of Philadelphia's badlands, Homicide Detectives Byrne and Balzano are called out to a particularly chilling crime scene. Once the pillar of the neighbourhood, an abandoned church has become a killing room. At first it looks like a random act of violence. But then a second body is found, and a third. Each crime scene more disturbing than the last, each murder more brutal. And it soon becomes horrifyingly clear that a cold, calculating and terrifyingly precise mind is at work.With very few leads, and a mastermind who always seems to be one step ahead, Byrne and Balzano are faced with challenges they could never have imagined.
An author who has earned from critics and peers such as Tess Gerritsen alike, Montanari has once again nailed exactly what it is that encapsulates the great crime fiction novel. Yet it is the two central protagonists who shine above all else, thanks to the fact that cease being players on a printed page and, instead, evolve into three-dimensional, walking, talking people before the reader's mind's eye with such beauty and clarity it is a delight to witness.
It is the subtlety of the author's touch - even when describing the most hideous or heart-wrenching moments, of which there are many in The Killing Room - that truly mark Richard Montanari down as one of the finest exponents currently working in the genre and, thus, encourages the pages to fly over.
A breath taking read that is guaranteed to have those who read it quivering in anticipation of the duo's next outing.
Chris High
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 3, 2012 1:10 AM BST

Treat Me Nice: Elvis, His Music and the Frankenstein Creature
Treat Me Nice: Elvis, His Music and the Frankenstein Creature
by Howard Jackson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nicely treated, 13 Oct. 2011
As a work that is clearly close to Howard Jackson's heart,Treat Me Nice provides an unusual yet thought provoking comparison between Presley as "created" by his own "Mad Professors" (primarily RCA, the movie studios & Colonel Parker) and the disillusionment, isolation and, ultimately, abandonment that ensued as a result, to that created by Mary Shelley for her famed creature. That Presley often rebelled against the control of his "masters" but that, more often than not they prevailed is without doubt, but the question as to whether Presley as a talent worthy of the title King ever truly existed is one that, here, is deftly and interestingly explored with great panache.

As with any academic undertaking, it would be easy to assume that Treat Me Nice would be somewhat dull. However, this is far from the case, as Jackson's style is one that encompasses that which all students devour; a work that is fulfilling, compelling, interesting and, above all, quotable in any essay that surrounds the subject. From media studies to marketing (or how NOT to market a prized asset, in this case), students should find room for Treat Me Nice, if only to understand what it is that makes an academic study stand out from the crowd.

As for those who are simply keen to read something new about a man who's life has been turned over so often it looks like a ploughed field, this gives a refreshing insight into what is, it has to be acknowledged, a global phenomena that ultimately changed the face of popular culture forever. No 1950's Elvis = no Rock 'n' Roll = no Beatles = etc. etc. For providing that pause for thought so adroitly, Howard Jackson should be roundly applauded if nothing else.

A thoroughly enjoyable addition to the pantheon of Elvis literature that is currently available.

The Haunting Of James Hastings
The Haunting Of James Hastings
by Christopher Ransom
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

15 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Horrifyingly Haunting, 4 July 2010
The Haunting of James Hastings is dark, disturbing and deeply absorbing and demands to be read with the lights within reach once you finish it. Following the huge success of Christopher Ransom's debut, The Birthing House, his second outing has a lot to live up to and with a fabulous sense of the surreal, a gritty, well paced plot and characters that are totally credible, the author ticks all the boxes and more.

There is a depth to the piece, also, that outranks many of its peers as it takes on a "life" of its on outside the main story, questioning as it does the right of society to demand that all of its heroes be who and what they appear 24/7, without ever wanting to scratch the surface.

And as for the sense of place the book delivers, well suffice to say you can smell the beeswax amidst the decay for yourselves.

In fact, to put it simply, this is brilliant stuff.

American Devil
American Devil
by Oliver Stark
Edition: Hardcover

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stark's Dazzling Debut, 6 Jun. 2010
This review is from: American Devil (Hardcover)
If this is the future of crime, then bring it on because American Devil is a book loaded with fabulous characters, a brilliant sense of place, credible plotlines, pace, twists, turns, suspense and heartbreak, and is a crime novel that truly has something for everybody.

Detective Tom Harper, one of the New York Police Department's star homicide detectives, is on administrative leave for striking a superior officer when the city is left reeling by a series of brutal murders.
Young socialites are being targeted by one of the most gruesome killers New York has ever seen and the top brass know that Harper is the only detective who has a chance of stopping the newly dubbed `American Devil' before he strikes again.

With Harper already living on the edge, they have no choice but to appoint psychiatrist, and new profiler, Denise Levene, to oversee his return but, as the murders escalate in both number and audacity, Harper and Levene find that they must work together if they are to find the killer.

This is a debut that should be read by anybody who wants to write just to see how it should be done. Taking all the elements of the classic crime authors and mixing them into a potion that is so fresh and new is not the work of a storyteller but rather of an Alchemist, as nothing in American Devil is either clichéd or tired, but is instead fresh, witty, poignant and - above all - crammed full to the brim with suspense.
Ferociously captivating, Oliver Stark's debut novel, American Devil, should catapult him to the very pinnacle of his genre in an instant.

The Edge
The Edge
by Chris Simms
Edition: Paperback

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Edge of the seat stuff, 1 May 2009
This review is from: The Edge (Paperback)
Slick dialogue, vivid descriptions, knowledgeable insight and believable scenarios are Chris Simms' stock in trade and he does not disappoint with what is quite possibly his best Spicer novel yet. On the strength of the acclaimed Hell's Fire, DI Jon Spicer's return to feature in this his fifth case under the stewardship of author, Simms. The Edge has been keenly anticipated and not least for the fact that the writer knows what he's doing.
It's the phone call DI Jon Spicer has long feared - his wild younger brother has been found murdered and horribly mutilated. Aware Dave was involved in drugs, Jon had hoped to steer him away from his doomed and self-destructive fate and full of anger, he heads to the town where Dave's body has been discovered, bent on finding the killer.
Meanwhile, Dave's young girlfriend, Zoe, is trapped in an inner-city hell. Vulnerable, destitute and now alone, she is being hunted by the vicious criminal Dave owed money to. Arriving in the Peak District, Jon finds a community with plenty to hide. With time running out and his distraught family cracking under the strain, Jon realises the truth of his brother's death lies in two places: with a frightened girl trapped somewhere among Manchester's tower-blocks and out on the bleak heights overlooking the secretive rural town.
Taking Spicer out of the office and plunging him into intensely personal situations that go far beyond his career, Chris Simms seems to have invigorated his central character with a fresh energy that can be seen to be leaps and bounds ahead of those who proclaim to be better writers.
Spicer's relationships both inside and outside of his career see him set on a path of self-destruction which further adds to the man's charm, as each reader relates to moments in their own lives when the same can be said of the choices they too have made and regretted. In the hands of this author, however, these storylines are always eminently readable and go some way providing his stories with an extra dimension.
As lightening paced as it gets, Chris Simms' The Edge is a must read novel for all those who enjoy top quality crime fiction and like to think a little about the stories they are given, rather than simply put them down and forget about them when they're done.

Waterloo Sunset
Waterloo Sunset
by Martin Edwards
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.99

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Will Devlin Meet His Waterloo?, 3 Jun. 2008
This review is from: Waterloo Sunset (Hardcover)
No one expects to read their own obituary and Devlin never knew five short lines could be so menacing--someone wants him dead and he has only seven days to find out who. The terse notice of his death is out of place amid the hustle and bustle of Harry's posh office off The Strand, but soon mysterious threats lurk in every familiar corner of Liverpool for the wary lawyer. The city quickly becomes a capital of crime as well as culture, when a mutilated female corpse washes up on the Waterloo Beach and another soon after. A loose serial killer does no good for Harry's already morbidly preoccupied state, but between the elegant coroner Ceri Hussain and the endearing cleaner Gina he finds enough distraction. However, not all distractions in lovely packages are good. Juliet May, ex-wife of gangster Casper May and Harry's former lover, sweeps back into the lawyer's life with unforeseen consequences.
It's been ten years since Martin Edwards last wrote about the Liverpool lawyer, Harry Devlin. In the meantime, the author instead has concentrated on establishing his Hannah Scarlett / Daniel Kind Lake District Mystery series with great success. So, has the wait for Devlin been worth it? Oh yes, as Waterloo Sunset can rank amongst the best of anything the author has created and what is immediately striking about Waterloo Sunset is the tightness and dexterity of the writing. Zinging between Harry's problems and those surrounding a murder hunt with consummate ease and clarity, the pace is relentless though never at the expense of detail or drama.
Then there is Devlin's own laconic humour, which fits so well with the lawyer's Liverpool environment it becomes possible when reading to imagine him propped up at the end of the bar in pubs such as The Slaughterhouse or The Corn Exchange.
With a variety of peripheral characters who succeed in adding yet further depth and intrigue to an already compelling story - and a sense of the unexpected on every page - Waterloo Sunset without doubt sees a welcome return for much loved solicitor and, also, adds further credence to Martin Edwards's already iron-clad reputation as one of the best writers around.

ARSENIC LABYRINTH, THE (Lake District Mysteries)
ARSENIC LABYRINTH, THE (Lake District Mysteries)
by Martin Edwards
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.25

25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine Lace, 3 Jun. 2008
Like fine wine, Martin Edwards's series of novels set in the Lake District improve with age. The Arsenic Labyrinth, the third in the series following the highly acclaimed The Coffin Trail and The Cipher Garden, sees the lives of former historian Daniel Kind and DCI Hannah Scarlett become entwined again in a tale more satisfying than a bottle of vintage Krug.
Historian Daniel Kind is finding the winter months at Brackdale tough, especially so as his relationship with Miranda is also going through a dark time. Far from the bright lights of London and with the renovations behind schedule and over-budget, Miranda has a bad case of itchy feet. The fear that she may just get up and leave isn't far from his thoughts. She wouldn't be the first: years ago a solitary woman called Emma Beswick left her cottage nearby and never came back. Her disappearance went unaccounted for, and the unresolved case always irked DCI Hannah Scarlett.
Someone knows something though; someone who keeps calling the local newspaper and dropping hints about Emma's death. With the case reopened, Hannah and Daniel are drawn together again, and discover that one person will preserve the secrets of the past, whatever the cost.
This, genuinely, is one terrific read. Intriguing, fast-paced and, at times, disturbing, The Arsenic Labyrinth sees the central characters of Kind and Scarlett as more rounded, more genuine individuals who continue to grow with steadfast assuredness.
Edwards's grasp on the descriptive, too, is evermore vivid as the sights and scents of The Lakes become ever more evocative so that one can almost smell the bracken, feel the mist and sense the knives being stabbed into backs by the locals, as gossip and innuendo increases on every page.
The Arsenic Labyrinth is Martin Edwards at his very, very best and is a complex though never confusing thriller that should be read by anyone with a love of excellent writing.

Bloodthirsty: A Lomax & Biggs Mystery
Bloodthirsty: A Lomax & Biggs Mystery
by Marshall Karp
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thirsty for more, 9 May 2008
Reputedly, after a debut success, the second novel is always more difficult to write. Bloodthirsty, Marshall Karp's follow up to the acclaimed The Rabbit Factory, does not bear this theory out, as Lomax and Biggs return in a way that is equally as compelling and, yes, funny, without ever becoming slapstick crime.
Barry Gerber is one of the most powerful - and hated - men in Hollywood. Turning up dead in a garbage can brings him under the eyes of Detectives Mike Lomax and Terry Biggs and Gerber's wasn't a pretty way to go.
Just two days later another despised bad-boy actor is found murdered in the same sadistic manner and Lomax and Biggs know that there's no business like show business.
Wading through a list of suspects as long as the credits of the latest blockbuster and a number of leads to match, they have to race to prevent another Hollywood hot-shot getting the cut.
A book to be read in one-sitting, Bloodthirsty not only ticks all the boxes it adds a few more to the list of what should constitute great entertainment. Stylish, natural dialogue combine with fabulous descriptions that allow the reader to slip across to LA for a few hours and spend some quality time in the company of a bunch of characters who you'd genuinely like to invite to dinner - well, most of them anyway - and add to a storyline that is every bit as credible as it is gripping.
Fast as a Ferrari and as intriguing as a stack of presents beneath the Christmas tree, Bloodthirsty is a book to savour and confirms Lomax and Biggs as the new Dynamic Duo of crime.
Let's just hope it's not too long before Commissioner Karp is reaching for the Batphone again.

Chris High

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