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col2910 (Bedfordshire,UK)

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A Prospect of Death
A Prospect of Death
Price: £0.77

5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth a look., 20 May 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I was browsing on Amazon about a month ago and if you are familiar with the site, you'll know that when you look at a book, below it there's usually a cache of other books that may be of interest to you. I can't remember what I was looking at, but this little number popped up below. I had a look at the description which seemed intriguing. Scrolled down to see if there were any reviews, which there weren't; popped over to Amazon.com to check there - no reviews. Went onto to Goodreads site to check - no reviews and no ratings there either.

Googled the book, googled the author, clicked the author profile on Amazon.......all drew a blank. Well totally fascinated by the fact that a book which has been available since July of last year, doesn't seem to have provoked a reaction from anyone - friends or family of the author haven't supported it - I did what any self-respecting reader would do........I bought it.

Ok there are formatting issues with how the book is presented. We jump from scene to scene and character to character without any discernable break in the text that indicates chapter ends, switches of POV etc.....but this would be a minor gripe to be honest and once you kind of expect this you can re-adjust your reading compass and quickly re-establish your bearings when it occurs.

Well then what was the verdict? Wow, I'm conflicted by this one. It's a simple tale of a small town in America and how certain of the townsfolk are living their lives. We see the relationships between family members - husbands and wives, mother and daughters and all the emotions that are on display; the hurts caused after casual cruelties both mental and physical are inflicted. We have loneliness and abandonment in some instances and love and nurturing and friendships and loyalty in other relationships.

Part of our cast of characters includes a doctor........I'm still not sure about him to be truthful and a pair of feral twins that terrorise their parents and the townsfolk as a matter of routine.

Our tale unfolds and we learn some of the histories of our cast and we share in their aspirations and dreams for the future, as we slowly meander towards an event that will change everyone's destiny.

The climax to this event and its unfolding both horrified and appalled me. Hence my conflicting reaction.........I'm still unsure what I feel as the author forced me to reconsider my views on how I felt about some of the characters within the book.

Entertaining and interesting, ultimately disturbing and uncomfortable.

I would absolutely love to hear what anyone else feels about this one, I have to assume I'm not the only person who has read this, but you never know!

It's less than a pound on Amazon UK and less than a dollar-fifty on Amazon US, if anyone feels so inclined to give this a shot. (163 pages long) Even if you don't get past the first 10 pages and hate it..... I'd like to hear about it.

5 from 5 ...... had me asking myself questions, I wasn't sure I wanted to know the answer to.


Identity - Part 1
Identity - Part 1

4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and addictive., 16 May 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Identity - Part 1 (Kindle Edition)
Identity – Part 1 is a serialised novel which was released by the author on her blog, a chapter a day over a number of weeks back in the early part of the year. Despite my best intentions of storing up the posts and reading a week’s worth at a time, I ended up saving and printing each episode and studiously ignoring them until Claire popped up a week or so ago and advised Part 2 would be on its way in a month or so.

Well I started in earnest a week or so ago and read the first 5 chapters from a full set of 50-odd one morning. Took a breather for a few days then whilst I was waiting in my car for my daughter to get her nails done the other evening, blasted through from chapters 6 to 35, until nails were duly completed. When I got home, about 7pm, all Hank Marvin – I rushed my tea, eager to get back into things and finish, only to realise that my organisational and filing skills have failed massively. I couldn’t find chapters 36 and 37, so decided to re-visit Claire’s blog to read online, only she’s taken the bugger down with the exception of the first 4 chapters. Annoyed and irritated beyond belief, I sloped off to bed, before trying again the following morning. Fortunately the whole shebang has been added to Amazon UK. So digging deep into my pocket money and duly breaking the book embargo, I stumped up the £1.02 fee and got the remainder read that morning.

Identity is cleverly presented. We have the discovery of a murdered girl. We follow the investigative team of 3 officers, all of whom seem to be keeping secrets from each other. The belief is that whilst we are only investigating one murder, there are other recent disappearances that could be linked. Gradually we are introduced to a bigger cast of characters, some of whose roles are ambiguous…. are they helping the investigation, or are they suspects and perhaps responsible for the murder? Duffy releases little nuggets at a time, some of which enlightened me, some of which muddied the waters and stirred the pot rearranging my thoughts on how I thought things were playing out.

By the time I reached the end, I was a little more enlightened and a bit wiser, without there being a resolution to our case. Certain events and behaviours are still murky and I’m confused over a couple of character motivations, so a more measured reading may be in order……. or alternately Identity Part 2 proves the clincher.

Claire has an addictive, easy style of writing which I’m looking forward to reconnecting with. She has previously released another blog-book called Life is Swede, which I also purchased and am looking forward to at some point.

Interesting and engaging, as well as confusing and frustrating, which in turn made it a bit more enjoyable.

4 from 5

Acquired from Amazon UK, sort of.


The Harbour Master (Kindle Single)
The Harbour Master (Kindle Single)
Price: £0.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Amsterdam crime setting, 16 May 2014
This was my first taste of English author Pembrey’s work, though I do have his novel – The Woman Who Stopped Traffic, sitting on my kindle.

The Harbour Master is a 100-odd page novella set in Amsterdam, somewhere I haven’t yet visited on my reading travelling. Pembrey’s tale was fast-paced and interesting.

We had a 54 year old cop being side-lined and pushed out by his superiors as they seek to concentrate resources on cases that attract decent publicity that plays well in the media for their political masters. Henk is conflicted whether to resist or give in and depart quietly. When he’s sidelined after showing an interest in the body in the harbour case, he decides to resist.

His wife seems to be facing similar difficulties in her chosen profession of journalism. His daughter is at university and a degree of separation and misunderstanding is an element within the family dynamic. This was an interesting tangent to the main drive of the narrative, but it helped put a bit of flesh on the bones, without detracting from the pace of the investigation.

The further Henk delved into the case, the closer his family came into danger.

Amsterdam, canals, Red Light District, prostitutes, pimps, Hungarian gangs, people trafficking, local politicians, corruption, influence, police resources, media, murder, death, tattoos, mis-trust, family, retirement and more.

I’m not going to pretend this was the best book I have ever read, but it did the job and ticked enough boxes to have me looking forward to his longer treatment.

We had enough depth to our main cop character - Henk without getting bogged down with unnecessary fluff. The plot moved quickly and held my interest – I’ve not come across Hungarian gangsters before in either my fictional reading or in following European news in general – so I’m unsure if they are an author invention or a real problem, maybe slightly less bothersome than the Russian mafia. I’m minded enough to find out though.

Our setting, Amsterdam was a first for me in a crime book setting and it was interestingly portrayed. I doubt that I’ll be rushing to pay a visit sometime soon. I think my previous perception of every building being either a brothel, sex shop or a church was only partially borne out as Pembrey didn’t introduce many churches into his narrative!

All in all – quick and satisfying.

4 from 5

I was sent a file-copy of this by the author in return for an honest review,


Dot
Dot
by Araminta Hall
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.62

3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read, but not an author I'm going to re-visit, 17 April 2014
This review is from: Dot (Hardcover)
Dot is a book about family and friendship and growing up with the absence of her father. Only it’s more than an absence; it’s a void and an emptiness that Dot feels, as her mother and grandmother never acknowledge or explain it. As Dot grows older, it’s the proverbial elephant in the room - for Dot anyway as her mother, Alice has little inclination to understand her daughter and how she feels.

Our viewpoint flips from chapter to chapter. Dot describes her friendship with Mavis from an early age to the cusp of adulthood. Her longing to know more about her father, but her unwillingness to tackle her mother or grandmother about him.

We follow Alice. We travel back in time and see how Alice’s mother scorns her dreams and imposes her will on Alice’s future. Alice meets Tony and falls pregnant and plots a life away from the strange environment her own mother Clarice has created for them. Tony with a separation from his own family and “issues” sides with Clarice and thwarts her escape. Until on Dot’s second birthday, deeply unhappy and in love with Silver the local barmaid who he’s been carrying on with, he deserts his family – departing to buy more birthday balloons but never returning. With no contact or explanation from Tony, Alice becomes more withdrawn, functioning but with most of the joy sucked from her life.

We see how Clarice, her mother perceives her daughter and granddaughter. We share in her mannerisms and formalities and peculiarities. Still deeply affected by the long ago death of her brother, the suicide of her mother and the perceived abandonment by her husband who was drowned at sea. These events (and possibly her breeding and a generational-thing) have shaped her and given rise to an environment in which emotion and love and affection is rarely displayed.

Mavis, Dot’s friend has her own family foibles. Sandra her mother is an obsessive, compulsive cleaner. Gerry her father has his own eye for the ladies and there is little in common between the two parents. No jokes, no smiles, no love, no warmth, no affection. We learn and understand about the second odd-ball family in this book; their history and how they arrive where they currently are.

Tony, Dot’s father throws his tuppence-worth into the ring at times, though he’s more of a presence at the climax of the book. Sixteen years on, still with Silver – his soul mate and two young sons. Still longing for and loving Dot, though somewhat pathetically (and IMO unbelievably) incapable of re-establishing contact with his daughter and her long-abandoned mother.

Family, secrets, omissions, deceptions, flirtations, abandonment, ignorance of facts, feelings and the emotions of others, absence, growing up, awkwardness, dreams and fantasies, hurried sex, pregnancies, a car accident, loss, death, longing, bewilderment, fractured friendships, searches, bombs, letters and a resolution.

Verdict – slow and confusing during the first half, which may have been down to me. I did have to re-read a couple of chapters to sort the brain-muddle I was experiencing. Got the gist of who was saying what to whom and when, during the second part of the book. Second half was better and more enjoyable, to coin a football analogy – it was a game of two halves (or a book of, at least)

Slightly contrived ending owing a fair bit to convenience, though at least we were spared a lot of sugar-coated guff. The author wisely avoided a full-on, marshmallowy, fluffy, puppy dog and kittens wrapped up in bows with ribbons and fairy lights, OTT schmaltz-fest of a conclusion. To be fair, you would have had to have a heart of stone, to have not felt something as each of the main players in our drama had an epiphany and came to realise the consequences of their previous actions and the hurts they had often-times unwillingly inflicted on those they professed to love.

Toying between a 3 and a 4. Half tempted to score 4, being unduly influenced by the author’s confession at the back of the book in a Q&A session to loving John Irving and her citing A Prayer for Owen Meany as her favourite book.

First half confusion and the realisation that I’m probably not minded to try her other published book, despite my grudging enjoyment of this has me opting for on balance – 3 from 5.

Bought second-hand recently on either Amazon UK or Abe Books.


Cop Shot
Cop Shot
Price: £1.29

4.0 out of 5 stars Worth a look, 17 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Cop Shot (Kindle Edition)
My reading has slowed of late so I was after something short and snappy to boost my numbers and dig me out of a mini-mini slump. Cop Shot, an author giveaway on Amazon about a year ago seemed to fit the bill – 55 pages long and either a long short story or a shortish novella.

Page 2 or 3, hard to tell when you are reading on a kindle and I outwardly groaned after the 3rd mention of “jersey barriers”…………oh dear – the shape of things to come? Thankfully not. After this irritating repetition the story developed into an entertaining read.

David DeLee

Dead cop, decent cop, IAD cop, bent cop, divorced cop, drunken, weak cop………murder, family, affairs, porn, video, blackmail, revenge, children, mutual suspicion and a resolution.

Decent plot-line, interesting characters, well-written in spite of minor gripe above, a few surprising twists and a satisfying conclusion. All in all, not a bad way to spend an hour or hour and a half of reading time.

If time allowed I’d be interested in seeing something full length from the author. (On the basis that I have more books though than you can shake a stick at, it might be an unlikely occurrence though.)

Overall, after a shaky start 4 from 5

Free download from Amazon UK.


The Cairo Affair
The Cairo Affair
by Olen Steinhauer
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top, top book, 17 April 2014
This review is from: The Cairo Affair (Hardcover)
I have previously read and enjoyed a couple of the author’s earlier books back in the middle of 2011 – The Istanbul Variations and Victory Square, so was looking forward to catching up with his latest offering. Both of those books concerned Eastern Europe in the aftermath of WW2 and the Cold War. The Cairo Affair has a more contemporary feel with events concerning the Arab Spring in 2011, particularly with regard to Libya.

Difficult to decide what to put into a review and what to leave out, without basically re-hashing the synopsis above. The narrative jumps between two timelines; the early 90’s and 2011. The delivery of events is presented from the perspective of several of the main players within the book; an approach which worked for me. I was reminded of a recent read – Penance by Dan O’Shea where a similar construction paid off.

A few bullet points then ………Egypt, Libya, Langley, Budapest, 2011, Yugoslavia, Serbs, Croats, 1991, America, desert, marriage, honeymoon, affair, diplomacy, intelligence services, police – both secret and other, heritage, freedom, loyalty, money, secrets, surveillance, Mubarak, Gaddafi, assassin, death, politics, plans, plots, truth, lies, trust, manipulation, cooperation, relationships, family, betrayal, revenge, poetry and much more.

A few more bullet points and a verdict ……. Interesting, enjoyable, clever, intelligent, stunning, entertaining, educational, informative, eye-opening, satisfying and amazing.

Well-fleshed characters – not all of them likeable and great detail, the plot and the premise for “Stumbler”, makes you wonder whether Steinhauer has his own mole working inside Langley.

Time to dust off his other books.

5 from 5

Accessed via Net Galley. In the UK – The Cairo Affair was released last month.


Penance
Penance
Price: £5.48

5.0 out of 5 stars Top, top read!, 21 Mar 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Penance (Kindle Edition)
My take.....

Penance is my best book of the month so far. Part police procedural and part thriller, with conspiracies and cover-ups and black op. government agencies thrown into the mix, in an explosive novel set in Chicago with alternating timelines of the early 70’s to the present day.

Chicago, corruption, cover-ups, city politics, black radicalism, homosexuality, family, secrets, death, grief, religion, power, sniping, dark acts, fixers, revenge, government, CIA, police, security, hi-tech savvy, computers, surveillance, shadow agency, US army, Vietnam, post-9/11, journalism, moral compass, truth, loyalty.........

Fantastic, tense, exciting, satisfying, interesting, intelligent....but that’s enough about me. Penance is an amazing book with a credible lead in John Lynch. Lynch is back later in the year in a follow-up Greed. Hard to believe that this is the author’s first book, he’s going to have to go some to match this effort.

Rob at the Blue House reviewed this a little bit more coherently than me, back in 2013. He had a couple of minor niggles, which on reflection I could understand, but which I was more than willing to overlook.

5 from 5

I got a copy of this second hand a few months ago on Amazon. The follow up, Greed will hopefully be read next month.

I will be counting this as my Illinois entry in my US State Reading Challenge.


Getting Ugly
Getting Ugly
Price: £1.97

4.0 out of 5 stars Fun read, quick, action-packed, ticks a lot of boxes!, 21 Mar 2014
This review is from: Getting Ugly (Kindle Edition)
150-odd pages………fast, funny, furious and frantic, filled with fantastic fights and frenetic f… err fornication (ok just a bit of the latter then).

Enjoyable, exciting, exhilarating! Not a book you would foist on your granny for her birthday unless of course she likes a bit of wild and a touch of weird. Quite filmic – reminded me of the film, Tropic Thunder……but that might just be me.

FBI, crims, guns, death, loss, humiliation, vengeance, redemption, knives and double-D’s all feature along with a large sex-aid!

An intriguing lead character, well written action scenes, explosive throughout. Happy days!

If you like your crime fiction classic, Golden Age or a touch literary this probably won’t appeal to you. If conversely you want a fun few hours and some action packed escapism, you could do a hell of a lot worse.

The author has a second title available – Remo Went Rogue, which I will be enjoying soon.

4 from 5

My thanks to the author for my copy of this one.

Hat-tip to author Paul D. Brazill for bringing another under the radar author to my attention.


Burying Ben
Burying Ben
Price: £3.34

4.0 out of 5 stars Great mystery., 20 Mar 2014
This review is from: Burying Ben (Kindle Edition)
Another day, another new author, another debut novel, and another belter. Last year, I was fortunate enough to discover books by the likes of Terry Shames, Barry Lancet and John Florio to mention a few and I’m happy to say 2014 seems to have started off in a similarly promising vein. Dan O’Shea, Les Edgerton, John Ball and now Ellen Kirschman.

Not hard-boiled, hard-core or hard work, Burying Ben at 240 pages long was read in the space of about 3 or 4 hours last Sunday. It’s a mystery, but the author has put a fresh twist on things. We encounter cops and police work within the narrative, but our main lady is a slightly insecure, psychologist who lands a counselling role with her local PD; a sop lobbed to her by her ex-husband as an appeasement for throwing Dot over for a younger, fresher model.

Dot encounters the usual macho posturing from a cynical PD staff, in particular Eddie Rimbauer, a jaundiced, long-serving officer. Her first input is to interview and assess a probationer, Ben Gomez. Gomez is struggling to satisfy his training officer Rimbauer’s expectations. Eddie feels Ben is ill-suited to police work. Ben feels there should be scope within the role to allow him to not automatically assume the worst of the public he encounters. Dot tries to broker a peace between the two.

Ben’s issues are more far-reaching than merely work-related…….he’s newly-wed with a horror-show of a pregnant wife, complete with accompanying extended family. Gomez commits suicide and Dot is held to account for her professional conduct, when our rookie blames her in an e-mailed suicide note.

Kirschman writes a compelling story as Dot tries to salvage her reputation and career. We get closer to understanding, Eddie Rimbauer – our veteran officer failing to cope with his own issues and we get more personal involvement with Dot’s ex-husband and new partner. An interesting investigation unfolds as we discover more about all our cast of characters; cops young and old, ex-husbands and love rivals, police chiefs, colleagues and friends within the psychology profession, as well as the disciplinary side of the business, a potential love interest, the victim’s own family and his unsympathetic in-laws.

A fantastic story, well-written and effectively told, with great characters, pace and plot and a satisfying outcome.

4 from 5.

Hopefully there will be more Dot Meyerhoff books to follow in the future.

Author Ellen Kirshman is an award winning police psychologist. In addition to her first novel she has penned several non-fiction books.

She was kind enough to send me a copy of this for review.


By Their Rules
By Their Rules
Price: £5.14

4.0 out of 5 stars Great debut novel., 21 Jan 2014
This review is from: By Their Rules (Kindle Edition)
By their Rules is a debut novel from an author who is a former serving police officer with vast experience running covert operations and undercover units. Price brings his previous life-work experiences to bear in this tale.

We have a retired police officer, John Burrows conscripted by his former boss to head up a secret operational unit designed to bring down organised criminal targets. All this is hush-hush and under the radar, though ultimately sanctioned by government. Burrows is teamed up with Jane Lee, another former civil servant recruited from the ranks of MI5/MI6. Burrows and Lee form an interesting duo, both bringing a diverse range of skills to the party.

The target is Cabilla, a Congolese crime-lord operating in both London and Manchester. Burrows has previously seen Cabilla acquitted of serious charges after one of his informants was got to. After a drug-smuggling sting designed to take Cabilla down fails and results in the massacre of about 8 policemen, the authorities decide to take the gloves off and remove him from the picture.

Undercover cops, corrupt cops, drug smuggling, people smuggling, prostitution, surveillance, CCTV, phone-tapping, firearms, torture, abduction, murder, gangsters, witness intimidation, informants, shadowy govt. figures, criminal gangs, hierarchy, fear, violence, the courts, justice system, the Congo, Turkey, London and Manchester all feature in an interesting and satisfying book.

Enjoyable and entertaining without quite hitting - "Damn that was awesome" heights.

A minor gripe would be a tendency to perhaps over-explain the thinking behind certain operational aspects of Burrows and Lee's "mission," as opposed to allowing the reader to connect up the dots. Nothing that put me off or irritated too much though.

Would I want to read more from the author in the future? Yes, either the same team or if he writes about a fresh set of characters.

Overall 4 from 5 and a decent read.

I was supplied my copy by the author after a positive response to a request I made after seeing Raven's review, over at Raven Crime Reads.


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