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Derek Farrell

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Dead Is Better (Charlie & Rose Investigate Book 1)
Dead Is Better (Charlie & Rose Investigate Book 1)
Price: £1.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If Beckett wrote a Gumshoe novel..., 25 Mar. 2016
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Charlie Stone is dead, and his only companion in the most surreal afterlife imaginable is the ghost of an also recently deceased red setter.

So far, so Patrick Swayze, but if you're expecting a Noirish slant on the movie Ghost, you'll be disappointed, because Dead is Better stars a protagonist who professes to be unlovable, lazy and self-indulgent, but who – almost despite himself – is a good man, overcome by the pointless suffering of the world.

Something Nasty is happening in LA between skid row and a local hospital, and it is this mystery – and the race to stop terrible things happening to innocents – that the book focuses on.

It's funny, foul mouthed, almost heartbreakingly sad in the way Charlies impotence in the face of suffering reflects our own, yet, like all the best crime novels, it's satisfying in its denouement, and hope – a fragile, uncertain hope, but hope nonetheless – left me wanting more of my new favourite detecting duo.

Perry’s prose here is blunt, clean, simple and sharp. It's Charlie’s voice, but it's also Philip Marlow, and, at times,the combination of direct language and surreality overlaying worlds unsaid makes this feel like a Noir novel by Sam Beckett.

Which can not be a bad thing.

Recommended for lovers of quirky crime, dark humour, Chandler (Raymond, not Bing) and the afore mentioned Hammett.

Five Stars, no question.

Deadly Election: Flavia Albia 3 (Falco: The New Generation)
Deadly Election: Flavia Albia 3 (Falco: The New Generation)
by Lindsey Davis
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.88

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars romance and great amounts of humour and which culminated with Nemesis (2010), 17 Oct. 2015
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Lindsey Davis first novel was published in 1989, after a historical romance she’d written was rejected. The research she’d done for “The Course of Honour,” the (then) unpublished romance set in the court of Vespasian played on her mind, resulted in her creation of Marcus Didius Falco, informer-at-large, and gave Davis a career and a string of Novels that combined crime, mystery, romance and great amounts of humour and which culminated with Nemesis (2010).

At the time, Davis made no suggestion that Falco was to be retired, but, in hindsight the signs were all there: The book (and particularly its denouement) was one of the darkest in the Falco cannon.

After a standalone novel (“Master and God”), Davis segued her crime series into the Flavia Alba novels. Set a decade after the end of Nemesis, we were introduced to the grown up, widowed single-minded and, in her own way, very British adopted daughter of Falco and Helena.

The character, who narrates in first person, is basically Lindsey Davis, to a certain extent. Her no-nonsense approach to life and to work comes sparklingly to life in a female character.

And so to “Deadly Election.” I try to avoid, in reviews, giving too much detail on plot. The point of reading a book is, surely, to uncover the story as one progresses, but suffice it to say that there are two strands which (obviously) start separately, but very quickly begin to pull together. The story takes place during the canvassing period of a largely pointless (from the point of democracy, if not from the perspective of the greedy candidates) election, the winner of which will, ultimately be chosen by Domitian.

In fact, the plot here is almost incidental. This, I would suggest, is a character novel. Yes, there is crime (at least two murders, some possible domestic abuse, and a city of corrupt officials), and the sense of paranoia is as real as anything Tom Rob Smith conjured up in his novels of Stalinist Russia.

But more importantly, in this novel, there is romance. It’s a love story, basically. Or, to be more precise, without giving away too much plot, it’s several love stories, all of which have different views of Love (as a redeemer, as a force for good and as something which, when it goes bad becomes the most dangerous emotion on earth). And it’s wonderfully told.

What’s not so wonderful is Davis’ choice of character names. By her own admission, there are too many Julias, too many Calistii, and at times the reading becomes more of a hand exercise as one constantly flicks back and forth from the list of characters at the front to the text in a desperate attempt to figure out which one we’re now talking about.

It’s, possibly a fault of this reader rather than of the writing, as Davis is keeping very much in the period by using the cognomen where appropriate, and so this criticism is a small and somewhat moot one.

The humour here is darker, a little more cynical than in previous Albia books, though there is an absolutely hysterical slapstick scene involving a tussle over a huge wooden chest, a bunch of hysterical Romans, and an angry dog, and the foreshadowing for this scene was evident in the preceding short (“The spook who spoke again” 2015).

And the knowledge is here too. One of the great things about a Lindsey Davis novel is the way in which she uses her research. Ever since “The Course of Honour” birthed “The Silver Pigs” the novels have been based on detailed research, and the readers have been provided – almost without their realising it – with more knowledge of the Roman sewer system, the aftermath of the Boudiccan rebellion, the world of Ancient Banking and publishing that they’d get at an OU course on Ancient History – and here, the titbits about Roman elections under the Caesars, is somewhat front loaded, but still enjoyable.

One of the joys of a Series – whether Maupin’s Tales of the City or the Matt Scudder novels of Lawrence Block – is the development of the ancilliary characters. Often the principals can become locked in aspic – having created them, sold them to the audience, married them up (or divorced / widowed them off)- it can become difficult for a writer to make any major changes to their circumstances, lest they lose the audience. One wonders if this was the situation Davis found herself in with Falco, but here, with Flavia Alba, each of the (to date) three novels has seen her relationship with the wonderfully named Manlius Faustus develop apace.

And – even better – it’s given us some wonderful new side characters to fall in love with. I’m particularly fond of Dromo, Faustus’ permanently unhappy slave, as well as Laia Gratiana and Tullius Icillius, both of whom, one suspects, will reappear sooner rather than later, and neither of whose appearance will be good news for our heroine…

All told, however, this novel is the progression of the love story between Albia and Titus, and I, for one, can’t wait to see where the story goes next.

Recommended for anyone who likes: Steven Saylor, David Wishart, “British” crime.

The Girl With the Deep Blue Eyes (Hard Case Crime)
The Girl With the Deep Blue Eyes (Hard Case Crime)
by Lawrence Block
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.88

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hot Sweaty Floridian Ibsen. With anal., 3 Oct. 2015
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Lawrence Block has been writing since God was in his heaven and Kennedy in the White House.

That he’s had an esteemed career goes without saying. He’s written slight pulpy books (After the First Death), Bigger City-wide Blockbusters (the counterintuitively named Small Town, movie scripts (Wong Kar Wai’s Blueberry Nights), and reams of commentary on, instruction for and inspirational words to writers (his Telling Lies For Fun and Profit has been a constant in my life for many years).

And he’s been incredibly flexible. In his Seventies, Block, seeing the changes in the publishing landscape, and recognising that the relationship between publishers, authors and readers was being redefined, began to self publish, to digitally publish, and to actively use his website, eNewsletters, EBay and direct sales to get his books – at prices which allowed him to make some coin on the transactions – into the hands of people who wanted to have them.

Considering he’s just three years off his 80th birthday, this might seem an odd development for an elder statesman, who might be expected to have grown used to sitting on his laurels while the publishers and their marketing department sold the books.

But Lawrence Block – like the late Jackie Collins – comes from a different place. A place which is funky and dimly lit, and very often looked down on by publishing and critics, dismissed as lesser, cheaper, dirtier. A place where Give ‘em what they want, and Get paid first are not dirty words.

Because – before he’s a writer, Lawrence Block is a Pulpiste. He writes books that are fun, but functional. He tells stories that are sometimes shocking, often a little unlikely, occasionally incredible, and always – always – engaging. And he makes characters that, at times in my life, I have loved as much as – if not more than – my own family.

I don’t think I’ve ever read a Block story that didn’t make me feel something. Even when (and there are one or two – especially amongst the earlier shorts) they’re, all told, hokum, there’ll still be something – a character, a plot line or device, hell, even just his narrative voice that you just can’t help falling in love with.

And so to The Girl With The Deep Blue Eyes, his first “New” story in a while (we’ll get to those quote marks in a minute). It’s not Tolstoy, but it’s close to being (if I can mix my narrative fiction and my playwrighting metaphors) a hot sweaty Floridian Ibsen. With anal.

The “New” bit is because, of course, as a Noir, it’s not a new story at all: Morally uncertain man meets dazzlingly beautiful woman with a wealthy, older husband who simply will not die. He falls for her big time, and decides that the husband has to go. Telling more of the plot would, I think, ruin it for you, but suffice it to say that many of the tropes you’d expect are here, except that, as they are being delivered by a master, they’re fresh, self aware and, at times, self-referential; the amount of Noir movies on TCM is a particularly fun touch that as good as cries out I am a Post-Modern Noir Novel. Except, of course, it’s Post-nothing, and not even particularly modern. It takes place today, but could just as easily be happening at any time from the 30s to the 90s.

Lisa, the Girl in question is a real twist for me. She’s supposed – in Noirs – to be a bad girl. A charmer and deceiver of men. Someone who bewitches our hero Doake, and, having used him to dispose of her husband, leaves him to pick the pieces up. Most of this book is spent waiting to see if this will happen, or if – just this once – she’ll turn out to be a good woman…

Likewise Doake Miller, who begins as a bit of a chump – all drearily failed marriage, House by the creek and no aspirations of any note beyond bedding the next chick – is drawn in such a way that, as the book progresses, your sense of him moves through mild disomfort to a point where you realise you might just have spent two hundred pages rooting for a monster.

Because what is “New,’ what does feel fresh is the way in which Block tells the story, until you realise that what you’ve been reading was never really about the execution of a murder, and whether or not they would get away with it, but about the girl and the chump, whether anything pure can survive in a world of corruption, and the question of whether you can ever really know people…

There’s sex here, as the publishers have excitedly trumpeted, some readers have casually observed, and some shocked fans have discovered too late to avert their gaze. And it’s erotic, but it totally passes the pornography test: It’s not prurient, and – despite the kinkiness on display (from maiesiophilia to asphyxiation) - it serves an artistic purpose. It shows Doake as a character that’s apart, on the edge, and battling, it seems, at times, to pull away from the darkness.

Does he succeed? Or does the darkness engulf him? I’m not sure I can answer that one. Why don’t you read it and tell me if you think he does.

A Slow Death
A Slow Death
Price: £1.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Recommended Berlin Noir. Great new Series from one of my New Favourite Authors., 17 Sept. 2015
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This review is from: A Slow Death (Kindle Edition)
I have an admission to make: I love melancholy: that sense of ennui at the human condition, a despair at the inevitable entropy and ending of everything, and – bubbling just under it – the anger at man’s impotence in the face of a world that just won’t be set right.
Which is probably why I love Noir Crime, and definitely why I adored Max Drescher and “A Slow Death.”
There are enough reviewers here giving out hints on the plot; suffice to say that it has more plot twists than the average mystery. Almost every time I thought I’d figured out where we were going, James Craig threw a curveball, and we were off on a direction I hadn’t foreseen. If Amazon gave out “Jaw Dropper” scores, this would be a “Four Jaws on the Floor” book.
The characterisation is perfect: Max is a genuine, believable, sympathetic character, who also just happens to have a knot of (barely) repressed violence bubbling up inside him. His partner Michael is a decent family man, one who manages (sometimes) to keep Max on the straight and narrow, but who is also happy to watch as Drescher does (at times) the things that nobody else would dare.
The supporting characters – from off-the-rails Turkish thugs turned killers, to grieving fathers, cops at multiple points on the Bent-to-straight spectrum and wives, lovers and kids – are well sketched thoroughly believable and make for a world you can fully immerse yourself in.
The villains – there are (as there so often are in Noir books) more than one – are suitably villainous, with a mixture of venality, greed, opportunism and stupidity that, where and when they occur makes their ultimate endings a real pleasure to behold.
The violence is almost never skimped over – whether it’s the execution of a mob accountant or the almost accidental shooting of a Berlin Police officer – and the writing is – as it should be in this type of fiction – visceral.
Berlin – that most schizophrenic of cities – is brilliantly rendered; the bourgeois sitting next to the immigrant, the grimy crumbling bits of the East nosing up against the shiny temples to Mammon. There’s a very 1970s New York feel to Craig’s 1990s Berlin, and that – along with the damaged, downtrodden and all too human Drescher makes this, I think, an absolute must for anyone who loves the Lawrence Block Matt Scudder novels or, indeed, the Benjamin Black Quirke books, which have the same sense of a modern Knight wading through the filth for us, whilst chain-smoking and drinking more than a human liver should endure.
Highly recommended for anyone who likes Noir, Berlin, Gritty crime, snappy dialogue, and characters that you can really relate to.

#SevenThings Publishers Should Know
#SevenThings Publishers Should Know
Price: £0.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Must-Read for anyone who writes - or sells books., 26 May 2015
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Some challenging concepts for Non-Marketers, but ones which are important to understand both for the self-published author and for the traditionally published one who wants to have an active part in selling as many books as possible to as many readers as possible.
Mc Veigh makes no bones of the fact that these articles are somewhat high level and aimed at marketing professionals with an expected level of prior knowledge, but anyone interested should use these pages sa launch pads for further research.
I found the book honest, challenging, scary in the honest way it confronted me with the challenge before me, but ultimately encouraging.
Using digital data to find your audience, to pull them to you, to keep them engaged and to SELL to them CAN be done, people. It just requires creativity, tenacity, empathy, and focus,
All the things, in other words, that authors and publishers already have in spades.
Now, go to it...

The Spook Who Spoke Again: A Flavia Albia Short Story (Kindle Single): A Short Story by Lindsey Davis (Falco: The New Generation)
The Spook Who Spoke Again: A Flavia Albia Short Story (Kindle Single): A Short Story by Lindsey Davis (Falco: The New Generation)
Price: £1.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Yet Another New Voice from the Falco family, 14 May 2015
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Postumous, the adopted son of Falco and Helena, the brother of Flavia Alba tells a story that's more comedy than mystery, and wonderful for it.
Davis' genius is in the way she makes the ancient world and its inhabitants feel almost our contemporaries; she focuses on the commonalities rather than highlighting the differences, and here she's got a wonderful, precocious but naive boy, filled with the wonderful mixture of bravado, empathy (though sometimes confused) and genuine interest in people and the world that marks him out as definitely one of Falco and Helena's children.
The language is just right; Postumous' attachment to Ferret is touching; and the tone all the way through is believable as a bored and lonely buy tries to make sense of the new world he's in, and completely - and, sometimes comically, sometimes tragically - misunderstands it.
The mystery, as I say, is a little flat, but the presence of one of Lindsey Davis' best slapstick scenes ever - including a nervous lion, a bout of accidental arson, a quote from Gilbert & Sullivan and a wonderfully doctored Shakespearean stage direction - more than makes up for it.

Digital and Social Media for Authors: A 60-Minute Masterclass (60-Minute Masterclasses Book 10)
Digital and Social Media for Authors: A 60-Minute Masterclass (60-Minute Masterclasses Book 10)
Price: £3.48

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simple Truths are the Most Powerful, 10 May 2015
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Like all the best self-help books, this one actually reinforces many things the reader already - sort of - knew, but which - in the noise and chaos of the world - are easily overlooked.
Things like: A digital footprint, on it's own, will not sell books.
A twitter feed that consists of "Buy my book. Now"! is not only annoying, but very quickly becomes counterproductive.
Creatives, who think nothing of making worlds and people who live and breathe on paper can often fail to apply the same thought consideration and, oddly, creativity, to figuring out how to market their work; how to build a digital presence that reflects their voice, their interests, their purpose, and are then surprised when their brilliant opus is lost in the noise.
And: My favourite: Networking is scary (and a little counterproductive) if you approach it without soul. There has (I think, and McCrudden stresses) to be a degree of professionalism in all one does here, but there also - at all stages - needs to be an even higher degree of authenticity.
It's a short book - a real 45 minute read - and if you're looking for a step by step list of exactly what to do to increase sales, look elsewhere (spoiler: that book doesn't exist. And if you find it, it'll be BS). But if you're looking for something to inspire, assure you (yes, it's all scary at the start, but it's all doable) and give you a little toolkit to dip into as you move forward on the journey, I can highly recommend it.
And now: back to the editing and onwards to the website content...

Enemies at Home: Flavia Albia 2 (Falco: The New Generation)
Enemies at Home: Flavia Albia 2 (Falco: The New Generation)
by Lindsey Davis
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Another classic Davis Tragedy, 10 Jun. 2014
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I LOVE the Flavia Alba stories, and suspect that LD is also enjoying being able to write as a woman.

While there are lots of similarities between these and the Falco novels, and while the 'voice' is (unsurprisingly) basically the same one (understandable, as Flavia is Falco's daughter, and thus makes no attempt to hide the fact that many of her approaches and mannerisms are inherited from her father), what makes these novels as enjoyable as the Falcos is the slow development of the millieu around Flavia.

Just as, in the beginning of the earlier series, we saw Falco's world expand from himself alone to him and Helena, then bringing in Petro, Falco's family, Anacrites, Flavia herself and onwards, so, with this series, one of the pleasures, for me, is the 'side' characters who you hope will return.

Amongst them is Roscius, a swaggering, and potentially very dangerous gangster-in-training, and Dromo, a somewhat dopey slave that Albia's been saddled with.

The whole story is about slaves, a desperate attempt to save a dozen of them from being executed when their master and mistress are strangled, and any misgivings I may have had about the conceit's similarities to Saylor's Roman Blood were absolutely forgotten by the end, which - in true Davis fashion - is absolutely tragic.

It takes a while to get going, is very dialogue heavy, and (not-really-a-spoiler alert) doesn't have what you could call a feel-good ending, but these are the things I adore Lindsey Davis for, and I can't wait for the next Flavia Albia novel.

Holy Bones and Ava Jones
Holy Bones and Ava Jones
by Norma Curtis
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.84

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If Dan Brown wrote Junior fiction..., 18 May 2014
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This is the sort of story that keeps you awake far later than your parents would like. A real page turner that you just can't put down. What starts as a very personal story - Ava wanting the people she loves to be back together and well - quickly becomes a battle with some very believable - and pretty nasty - bad guys to save much more than Ava's family.

The characters are wonderfully drawn, the tension is ratcheted up slowly but constantly, and the twists are exciting enough to have any junior reader reaching for the torch to could continue reading after lights out.

It's a brilliant read, with a fun premise, and an exciting finale, and the promise (I hope) of more to come from Ava and co. If Dan Brown wrote Junior fiction, this is exactly what he'd be writing.

The Convictions of John Delahunt
The Convictions of John Delahunt
by Andrew Hughes
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant evocative and quite terrifiying., 13 Mar. 2014
A novel that takes a horrible event (the murder of a child) that took place streets from where I grew up, but in 1840, and uses it to explore the corruption - moral, social and cultural - of the time.
There isnt a single 'good' person here, but I still wept for Thomas, John, Helen and their inescapable and horrific fates.

I can't recommend this one enough, and even recalling it is making me tear up again.

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