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The Widow's House: Book 4 of the Dagger and the Coin
The Widow's House: Book 4 of the Dagger and the Coin
Price: £5.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars JUST GETS BETTER AND BETTER, 10 Sept. 2014
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I've read some good books lately, including several in this genre, but as soon as I began The Widow's House I recognised the step change from good to great. Each of the three previous books in this series has improved upon the previous novel, with the characters becoming even more fleshed out, the pace of the plot accelerating and, very gradually, the reason for the series title of 'The Dagger and the Coin' becoming apparent. I love all of these books and I thought that I had it all worked out now and could see where it is heading but, even here, there are twists and revelations that I just hadn't foreseen.

All of the favourite characters play parts in this book and I guess that the title, 'The Widow's House', is appropriate because Clara is such a major figure in this book. It's weird to refer to a fantasy novel as 'believable', but, if such a thing is possible, then this does it superbly. I love the expression of the macho hero, Marcus Wester, weakening as time and effort take their toll on him and, all of the way through, there are thoughtful little details of 'reality', especially in the sections describing how an army passes through a region.

And then there's the dragon. This isn't like any dragon that I've ever come across in a fantasy book before and the complexities of Inys' character, status and, indeed, vulnerabilities, make for a fully rounded character in his own right. I can't describe more without spoiling some of the fun for those who haven't read this yet but, trust me, this dragon is much more interesting that anything you've read before; George RR Martin eat your heart out!

What is so unusual about these books, apart from the fantastic craft in their creation, is that, just when you're comfortably buried in your small scale fantasy story, it takes a twist and you see that you've been dealing with the huge issues of life all along. It questions the meaning of love and honour but then so have other books of this nature, but this one delves into the meaning of war, trade, peace, religious belief, bigotry and even the meaning of what it is to be human. This is helped by having three dimensional characters who aren't entirely 'bad' or 'good'; the feminine heroine is a drunkard, the main villain is a man for whom we have huge sympathy and he really does want to do the right thing, the brutish dragon is, actually, dextrous and massively intelligent...and so on.

I knew when I read the first in this series that it was a cut above the rest and it has just raised its game with every new book in the series. As with the previous books, Widow's House ends poised for a landslide run to the finish and I just can't wait.

The Redeemer: A Harry Hole thriller (Oslo Sequence 4)
The Redeemer: A Harry Hole thriller (Oslo Sequence 4)
Price: £3.66

4.0 out of 5 stars NOT THE BEST, 30 Aug. 2014
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Somehow, The Redeemer is less satisfying than the other Jo Nesbo novels that I've rad but it's difficult to put my finger on why. Having read, and loved, The Son, I began to read all of the other Nesbos in chronological order. My own feelings differ a little from those of some other reviewers in that they seem to consider the first two books as inferior while I think that the first books were among the best I've read. The later books, up to The Devil's Star, can be a bit patchy and my other reviews have covered that. Don't get me wrong; I have enjoyed every one of them, it's just that some are better than others.

The world of Harry Hole is bleak, grey and without much cheer and this is especially so for those stories set in Oslo. This depression is, of course, just what Mr Nesbo intended and is part of allure; Harry can rise above the adversity. In The Redeemer, that monotone bleakness reaches new depths and I'm running out of sympathy for Harry's sheer self destructiveness. I had commented, previously, on a somewhat repetitious story line in all of these books and I'm pleased to see that The Redeemer has escaped form most of that. Although, having said that, being Harry's partner does seem to be as dangerous as sitting next to Miss Marple in a train as it approaches a tunnel.

So why did I find this novel less engaging than the others? Well, for a start, unlike the other novels, in which the story flowed and each surprise or revelation came naturally, in The Redeemer it felt as though Mr Nesbo had jotted down a number of events and connections, then some contrived twists and had then clothed them in a thin story. It was far too convoluted and contrived for its own good. Then there is a device not used before. In the other books, on the whole (no pun intended) the reader discovers clues at the same time as Harry and you are challenged to work out the solution just as Harry does. Here, vital information and clues turn up and, although the reader knows that they have arrived, you are not privy to their secrets. So a character will receive a mystery phone call, or a written note or will see something and the reader is told this, but not what it is that has been revealed. At the end, when it is revealed, I felt a sense of "Well, I would worked it out too if I'd known that!". To me, it was cheating. However, the revelation of the identity one of the 'Kings' behind 'The Prince' did take me by surprise even though I kicked myself afterwards for not spotting it. Even that was another step into gloomy despair!

There was one element that I enjoyed greatly and that was the nature of the assassin. Hollywood has schooled us to believe that every international assassin is suave, hugely wealthy and has vast resources available to him all over the world. This time, the assassin is just about the total opposite and is so thrifty that he buys his clothes at charity shops. The imperfections in the main villain are vital to the story but I enjoyed them in their own right.

So, although this was still a really good read, it was just too manufactured and manipulated to be as enjoyable as others. It's like comparing a manufactured boy band to a great, natural, singing talent. In the week that Kate Bush returned to the stage, it's like comparing her to The Monkeys. Both were good, but only one was great.

But this won't stop me from reading the next in line, The Snowman because, even on a bad day, Jo Nesbo beats most other crime writers hands down. And this is still worth a solid four stars.

King of Thorns (The Broken Empire, Book 2)
King of Thorns (The Broken Empire, Book 2)
Price: £4.49

4.0 out of 5 stars easily, good enough to prompt me to try the ..., 20 Aug. 2014
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I wasn't 100% convinced in the quality of 'The Prince of Thorns' but it was, easily, good enough to prompt me to try the next in line; 'The King of Thorns'. I'm glad that I did because this second outing for Jorg is an improvement on what was, already, a pretty good foundation. I can't imagine that many folk would choose to start reading a trilogy with the book set in the middle so I'll assume that you're reading this because you've already read the first book, 'The Prince of Thorns'. If so, then you already know all about the slightly quirky twist to these books in that the hero, Jorg, is an utterly ruthless character who wades, hip deep, through blood to get his way. Such a character shouldn't be a hero yet it's impossible not to like Jorg and to root for him a every turn. The other factor is the delight of a hero who really is capable of doing literally anything, even completely mad and illogical actions, giving the plot line a delicious instability and a sense of jeopardy not evident in other books.

'King of Thorns', then, is just the same but with more of it. If you liked 'Prince of Thorns', then you won't be disappointed by the 'King'. This time, Jorg is a bit more mature and thoughtful in his actions but is still as ruthless and carless of the life of others and himself. Mark Lawrence still has a penchant for killing off major characters but that just adds to the sense of jeopardy; something rare in the second book in a trilogy (well, you know that he survives to the final book don't you?).

Like the first book, the story is told in a split timeframe with some chapters set in the 'now' and some in the 'four years earlier' timeframe. This can be very slightly confusing but I do like it as a narrative device. There are some new characters here and, as in the first book, some of them are very interesting indeed; no bland characters here!

My only criticism is that the level of 'magic' is ramped up in this book, to a level that I don't like. I enjoy fantasy novels in which the magic is fairy subtle and follows some rules because, once you reach the 'anything is possible' point, the hero simply can't fail as, however dire his predicament, he'll just magic his way out of it. I try not to write spoilers in my reviews but, for an example of what I mean, read the section in which Jorg gets out of a locked cell. The level of magic in this novel is quite a bit greater than in the first book and, for me, it added little to the enjoyment of the story. Similarly, Jorg manages to procure a gun from a 'ghost of the machine' who doesn't really exist; how does that work then? (no spoiler as it's telegraphed way in advance).

On the other hand, the mythical world in which this is set is fleshed out a lot more, which I liked. The fact that this world is, actually, Earth but set thousands of years in the future and after a nuclear holocaust is fascinating.

Amazon is bursting at the seams with fantasy novels like this and it's difficult for any author to rise above the tide. But Mark Lawrence does that and, through good writing and some quirky character twists, delivers a fantasy novel of the first quality. If you're faced with a choice between a few such books, go with this one.

The trilogy was set up with Jorg as a Prince and with a burning desire to be the Emperor at any cost. It is, therefore, no surprise to find that the Prince of Thorns of the first book has become the King of Thorns in the second book and that Jorg is set to challenge to become the Emperor of Thorns in the final act. I'm hooked now myself and I can't wait to get stuck into 'The Emperor of Thorns'.

The Skin Collector: Lincoln Rhyme Book 11 (Lincoln Rhyme thrillers)
The Skin Collector: Lincoln Rhyme Book 11 (Lincoln Rhyme thrillers)
Price: £4.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A TREAT FOR DEAVER DIVAS, 11 Aug. 2014
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As an avid JD fan I know that not everything that he has written is of the same quality and some of his work over recent years has been suspect at best. So it was with wriggling delight that I found that The Skin Collector is a storming back to literary heights for Mr D. All of our favourite characters from the Rhymme series are assembled here and, by the end of the book, one of them is left with a potentially crippling ailment (other than LR of course).

There are two traits that set a good Jeffery Deaver story above almost all others. The first of those is the labyrinth of plot twists that just keeps on going such that, just when you think that you've got to the heart of the real plot, it turns again. 'Goodies' are revealed as 'baddies' and vice versa. What really makes this work is the second trait; the use of language to manipulate. The words, sentences, paragraphs and phrases that are so, apparently, carelessly strewn across the page to set out the story are, actually, extremely carefully crafted to paint a picture in the mind of the reader that can, often turn out to be false. When a plot twist hits you like a slap in the face, you automatically think "That's not right, it said (insert thoughts of your choice) a few chapters ago" and, sometimes with indignation, you scroll back to re-read the offending section. That's when you discover that it didn't actually say what you thought that it did; you've just been manipulated into creating a false 'mind picture' by a very clever use of words; you have ASSUMED something not written and that has lead you astray. A common ruse is to have a character say something which you, as the reader, take as truth when, some time later, it is revealed that either the character was wrong or, it turns out, is a 'baddie' who was lying. I've read just about everything that JD has written and, even though I know his style and what to look out for, it still catches me out every single time. The Skin Collector is a masterclass in this style of deception.

If I must find fault it is with the sheer perfection in everything that Lincoln and Amelia do; it is impossible to fool them or trap them and they spot every pitfall, however fiendishly well crafted the trap is. I'd like to cite an example but it's difficult to do so without revealing a spoiler, but there is one point at which Amelia spots something, across a dark and dingy area, that is so small that it can hardly be seen by the naked eye even when close up. In this novel, Lincoln and Amelia are just that bit too infallible. There are also a couple of surprising technical glitches in the plot, such as the story relying on the fact that a newly 'needled' tattoo would appear exactly the same as an old tattoo instead of red, swollen and blotchy. But these complaints are like receiving a cheque for a large lottery win and complaining that the paper of the cheque is a bit thin.

Most of the peripheral characters in a JD novel are unsympathetic creations but, every now and then, a strong and likeable character turns up. Sometimes, such as with Kathryn Dance, these characters go on to be developed into the main hero of their own novel. The Skin Collector includes a couple of interesting characters that I'd like to see more of although quite how that would work beats me.

For me, this isn't the best novel that JD has written but it is right up there among the top contenders. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Prince of Thorns (The Broken Empire, Book 1)
Prince of Thorns (The Broken Empire, Book 1)
Price: £2.49

4.0 out of 5 stars A BIT DIFFERENT, 2 Aug. 2014
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As the 'fantasy / sword & sorcery' genre has become more popular and grown exponentially, Amazon is stuffed with new books in the same vein. It's not that most of these are poor in any way, indeed, most of those that I've read are engrossing and well written, it's just that there are now lots of these books that are very similar indeed and cutting out an exceptional one from the herd becomes more and more difficult. As a result, several authors have, deliberately it seems, tried to find a 'hook' to make their offering stand out from the crowd. Some of these, like Daniel Abraham and Anthony Ryan have make the distinction by the depth, intricacy and cleverness of their 'worlds' and the story line, setting their novels above the norm. Some, like Joe Abercrombie, have a loyal following, gained over years of turning out reliably great novels. So what has Mark Lawrence done? Well, I chose 'Prince of Thorns' after reading 'Prince of Fools' and, I must say, that although I enjoyed 'Prince of Fools', I found 'Prince of Thorns' a little different and quite a lot better.

For me, two things here stand out from the crowd. Firstly, the sheer brutality of the book in general and the main hero, Jorg, in particular, goes beyond what most authors would offer. There is a fairly weak explanation of Jorg's utter ruthlessness two thirds of the way through but the device of having a hero that, genuinely, knows no limits to his actions adds a freshness for the reader as, unlike most novels in which you expect the hero to act 'within reason', here you just don't know what Jorg will do as he is entirely capable of taking a course of action which is so stupid / ill advised / utterly mad that the reader didn't envision it. In a couple of instances this places Jorg in a position that he really can't get out of plausibly and Mr Lawrence then has some action that is a bit of a 'cheat', but I'll forgive that in a story this radical.

The second device is the world in which this is set. I understand that more is revealed of this in the second in this trilogy, 'King of Thorns' (and yet more in the final 'Emperor of Thorns') but, already it is clear that this is, actually, Earth at some time far into the future and following some apocalyptic event that has wiped out our own civilisation. It feels slightly odd that the characters refer to 'the Builders' and that's us!

The explanation of how an eleven year old boy can get a band of cutthroats working for him, not to mention the ease with which this child cuts down grown men, has some explanation part way through but it isn't the most convincing. Still, I found it easy to forgive this type of 'plot wriggle' in the sweep and scale of the story. There are a few other continuity glitches, like our heroes escaping from somewhere with literally only the rags that they stand in and yet having money to buy ale at the tavern they stumble upon. But, again, it seems churlish to note these.

At the end of this novel Jorg is far more self aware and in control of himself and that makes the 'Jorg' of the second in the trilogy a different and more mature character than the 'Jorg' of this first book, a feature that appeals to me. Unlike 'Prince of Fools', in which the characters have a series of adventure but there is no growth or character progression, all of the characters in 'Prince of Thorns' change and grow and the story, events and years progress, making for a much more interesting story. Add to this Mr Lawrence's propensity for summarily killing off major characters and the reader is kept off balance sufficiently to keep going back to the book eager to see what happens next. Although the end point of the story; Jorg secures a crown, is no surprise at all, the manner in which this happens is a constant stream of surprises.

All in all I found this to be a thoroughly engrossing story and I will, certainly, try the second in this trilogy.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 3, 2014 12:52 AM BST

The Oslo Trilogy: The Redbreast, Nemesis and The Devil's Star
The Oslo Trilogy: The Redbreast, Nemesis and The Devil's Star
Price: £9.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ALL DIFFERENT YET ALL THE SAME, 20 July 2014
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I'm fairly new to Jo Nesbo and, having been extremely impressed with 'The Son', I decided to read through all of the Nesbo books in chronological order. Other reviewers seem to feel that the earlier books; 'The Bat' and 'Cockroaches' were inferior to the later works but I thoroughly enjoyed both, so I looked forward to getting into the next three books set out in 'The Oslo Trilogy'.

I can see why these three books are set as a trilogy as they do, indeed, follow a common thread through them all, with one of the main villains only getting his just rewards at the end of the last book, 'The Devil's Star'.

'The Redbreast' is unlike any other Jo Nesbo that I've read so far in that the story switches, constantly, between modern day Oslo and the Eastern front of 1944, and a very effective device this is too. All of the characters have highly complex and interlocking stories and features and the plot line is as convoluted and complex as any Jeffery Deaver novel. Speaking of other authors, the late James A. Mitchener used a device of 'resonance' in his stories frequently, to echo the same plot line in different time periods. Nesbo does that here too as, in both time periods, there are women, mother and daughter, forced into sexual compromise by powerful bosses. The 'reveal' is excellent as it seems that Harry has, indeed, been hunting a genuinely dead man who is now going around killing people. And if you want to solve that riddle, you'll have to read the book! Some of the niggles that I've had with the other Nesbo books are here too. For example, Harry's love affair with Rakel is a bit far fetched (powerful, strong and 'damaged' woman, sworn off men and highly protective of her only child, falls for the alcoholic, vomit reeking, policeman). And then there's the guns again. As with the earlier books, the choice of weapons, so clinically described in great technical detail, jars in its incongruity. In this novel, the apparent assassin moves heaven and earth to obtain 'the best assassin's rifle in the world' and, indeed, this gun becomes almost like a character in its own right. The problem is that the gun in question is a Marklin rifle, a gun that is very rare because it was obsolete even when it was first created. The Marklin was a victim of history, being a 'falling block' weapon at a time when that mechanism was being replaced by far superior mechanisms. It only accepted a huge 16mm cartridge that is almost impossible to find and is massively expensive (£90 every time you pull the trigger). And finally, why would an assassin use an inferior weapon that is almost certain to get him noticed when there are far better rifles that would allow him to maintain his anonymity? Niggles aside, I found this to be a totally engrossing and well written novel and a great lead into the next in the trilogy.

The second in the trilogy, 'Nemesis' is just as convoluted as the first and is equally good. Once again, there is a genuine surprise in the 'reveal' yet it all makes sense. Yet again, guns play a major part in this story (one of the trilogy threads is about illegal importation of guns into Oslo) and, by now, Jo Nesbo seems to be trying harder to get it right but still falls short. Mr Nesbo seems to think that quoting the exact reference for a weapon makes it authoritative when, in fact, it is usually just confusing. In this case a Beretta M92F is described as a 'highly unusual gun' when, in fact, as the standard issue for many military personnel throughout the world, including every American soldier, it is one of the most commonly seen handguns around. Then, a villainous thug, portrayed as a little on the stupid side, selects, as his weapon of choice, a Taurus PT92C pistol which is an excellent weapon; a stupid thug in backwater Brazil gets a fantastic weapon? An improvement on the weapons front, Mr Nesbo, but a long way to go yet.

The final part of the trilogy, 'The Devil's Star' concludes the threads well and, once again, the 'reveal' is quite spectacular in its complexity and surprise. Unlike the other books, there are a couple of plot devices that stretch credulity to the limit, such as the hiding place for one of the bodies and a few of the other gory facts too, but I can't comment further without a spoiler. And, hurray, Mr Nesbo gets the weaponry just right for the characters!

Having read the first five books now, a few common threads are emerging from Mr Nesbo's work. On the positive side, each book is brilliant in its intricately constructed plot and has a 'reveal' that I defy any reader to foresee. They are all populated with well rounded and plausible characters and the flow of the story is faultlessly well paced. Read as a stand alone novel, each is a compellingly brilliant read. Each story is different. Yet each is the same! In every story:-

The graphic detail of Harry's alcohol addiction is presented again and again.
Harry meets and develops a relationship with an implausibly attractive woman, despite his many flaws.
That woman either dies or is placed in extreme jeopardy (it's not healthy to be Harry Hole's girlfriend!).
Harry has help from an impossibly gifted colleague (master cyber hacker or who can recognise every face ever seen).
The reader is guided to an apparent end when the villain is, apparently, revealed.
Just before the end, it is revealed that the apparent villain isn't the real villain at all and Harry has to battle for justice.
There is a confrontation between Harry and the villain as a result of which the villain is killed.
Harry is promoted by some bureaucratic quirk.

I love these stories but I do hope that the next one, 'The Redeemer' doesn't follow this formulaic process.

1,339 QI Facts To Make Your Jaw Drop
1,339 QI Facts To Make Your Jaw Drop
Price: £4.79

5.0 out of 5 stars CRIMINALLY ADICTIVE, 20 July 2014
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As I've always been a big fan of the TV version of QI and an avid enthusiast of the books, it's no surprise that I wriggled with delight reading this. As always, I kept thinking "Oh, I must remember that one" and then promptly forgot it as the next fascinating snippet came along.

The percentage read figure at the bottom of the Kindle page is deceptive as , actually, the index to the book is bigger than the book itself; no, honest!

I try to ration the reading of these books out, limiting myself to a limited number of pages at each sitting but, as always, I failed this time and read this whole book in just two sittings; I just couldn't stop. If you like QI, you'll love this.

Tefal Gv9461 Protect Autoclean Steam Generator
Tefal Gv9461 Protect Autoclean Steam Generator
Offered by Southern Electric
Price: £176.99

5.0 out of 5 stars STILL EXCELLENT, 18 July 2014
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This iron was bought as a replacement for a very similar model that has done sterling service so it is no surprise that this new iron performs just as well.

Prince of Fools (Red Queen's War, Book 1) (Red Queen's War)
Prince of Fools (Red Queen's War, Book 1) (Red Queen's War)
Price: £2.99

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars GOOD BUT NOT GRR MARTIN, 29 Jun. 2014
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I haven't read any other offerings from Mark Lawrence but was influenced by the great reviews and the frequent references comparing this to George RR Martin's work. Perhaps it was because of those high expectations that I'm not sure what to make of this, my first foray into Mr Lawrence's world. It certainly isn't in the same league as GRR Martin; not by a long chalk, but, without those weighty responsibilities, it is still a good story.

The main characters, Jal and Snorri, are quite well fleshed out even if they are a bit 'cartoon' and extreme. Jal's prime character trait is his cowardice which, of course, secretly hides his true heroism and this is an engaging story 'hook', but I did get a little tired of how often Jal reminds the reader that he is a thoroughly despicable character. Snorri is a giant warrior Viking with a noble heart and, even though this is a bit of a pastiche, you just can't avoid loving Snorri.

There was just that bit too much sorcery in this book for my particular tastes and other writers treat this much more sensitively (The Winter King series from Bernard Cornwell is the epitome of this where Merlin's magic is so subtle that it might not be magic at all). Faced with utterly invincible creatures, forged from magic, our heroes seem to have no problem in overcoming them again and again and, when it's possible to resurrect characters from death or instantly heal killing wounds, some of the jeopardy is worn away. The women in this story are very two dimensional and ancillary to the plot and are all there, really, to demonstrate Jal's laddish 'depravity'; the starlets in Hammer House of Horror movies had more depth. My final gripe is with the names. The map of this fantasy world is very like modern day Europe and Mark Lawrence tries to inject some humour (at least I imagine that that was his intent) by choosing names for his fictional places that are remarkably similar in spelling or pronunciation to real places. I found this a bit grating and, when a Viking ship is named 'Ikea', it was the straw that broke the camel's back for me; the humour is just too clumsy. I understand that Mark Lawrence's earlier books have used a fantasy world that is vaguely based on a post-apocalyptic modern day Earth and includes Christianity etc. The world in 'Prince of Fools' is neither one thing nor the other as it isn't, convincingly, a post-disaster world that we should recognise even though all of the references to the accoutrements of Norsemen are impressively accurate. But nor is it an entirely different fantasy world either. I have seen other reviewers commenting that more should be made of a truly post-apocalyptic Earth and I must agree with them.

So, with all of that criticism, how come I gave it four stars? Well, because, despite all of the flaws, I still enjoyed reading this as a bit of escapist nonsense. The story rattles along and is hugely engaging. And the proof of the pudding I that I have now bought the first book in 'The Broken Empire' series to see what they are like. In the end, erudite pronouncements are fine but, hey, if it's a good read then it's a good read! I enjoyed this enough to spend some hard cash on another of Mr Lawrence's efforts so, for me, that says it all.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 24, 2014 4:07 PM BST

Cockroaches: An early Harry Hole case
Cockroaches: An early Harry Hole case
Price: £3.80

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars OK, I'M CONVERTED, 8 Jun. 2014
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This is my third Jo Nesbo book (I started with 'The Son' and then began the Harry Hole series with 'The Bat') and now I'm hooked. This was, actually, the second book that Joe Nesbo published (in Norway) and some reviewers have commented that he hadn't hit his full stride by then. Well, if this isn't his best effort, then I look forward to the next in the series (The Redbreast) 'cos 'Cockroaches' is brilliant.

The story is immensely convoluted with a rich cast of characters that all have real depth. Bangcock itself is a character with it's steaming heat, humidity, traffic and teeming humanity and JN makes the most of this seedily exotic setting. I love Jeffery Deaver novels (well, most of them anyway) for their plot twists and misdirection and, although Jo Nesbo's style is slightly different, the effect is the same. The result is that, once you finish a story, you want to re-read it, but this time knowing what's really going on. I really thrive on clever writing and labyrinthine plots and Mr Nesbo is a master, keeping it all, just, within tolerable levels of credulity.

'The Bat' ends with a climax within which Harry has misjudged his opponent and has to race to save the damsel. In 'Cockroaches', it's the same scenario. The endings to both books are different, and both make good reading, but I hope that this formula is not repeated in the next book.

There is a discernible difference between the writing style of 'The Bat' and 'Cockroaches' and the later book is, quite clearly, more controlled, better edited and more assured; the marks of an improving author but improving from a damn good original standard.

I have two, incredibly pedantic, grumbles. The first is that the identity of the real villain is supposed to be the subject of a big 'reveal' very late in the plot, but Mr Nesbo's clumsy handling two thirds of the way through, telegraphs the identity of the real 'nasty' too soon. That didn't spoil things too much for me as there was part of me thinking in double bluff - "surely JN wouldn't make it so obvious so it must be a red herring" - it isn't!

My second grumble is true geeky pedantry I'm afraid. The detail of the handguns used by villains and heroes alike is revealed to be unusually important to the end of the story. It's a bit of a cheat as most readers won't know the vital salient fact that makes the ending work and it isn't hinted at earlier in the story, but I like the fact that the reader isn't lead by the hand (I don't subscribe to the notion that an author must set out all of the facts so that a reader can solve the crime; life isn't like that). The problem is that there are two guns supposedly chosen as the weapon of choice by two, tough and highly experienced, heroes and, in reality, they would be poor choices. The ending makes clear why one of these choices was made, but it is, nevertheless, a poor choice. More glaringly, the main female hero, Liz Crumley, is a big, tough, bald 'bad-ass' woman who is, at least, a match for any of the male characters. Yet she, supposedly, chooses as her sidearm a gun that fires .22 calibre rimfire ammunition. This gun is notorious for being underpowered, unreliable and, as an aside, the ammunition is rare and expensive. Would our highly experienced heroine really choose this? To me, it seems that Mr Nesbo did a bit of internet searching and didn't spend enough time considering his choices. That would have been OK if the guns weren't such a central part of the story but, Mr Nesbo, the Ruger should have been a Smith & Wesson (that's what a highly skilled and experienced 'special ops' operator would have chosen)!

OK, I know that my geek's rant has now discredited my whole review, but, hey, I enjoyed it! Cockroaches is still a great book so, if you're reading this review prior to making a decision, just buy it; you won't be sorry.

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