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The Hot Country
The Hot Country
Price: £2.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Adventure Thriller, 18 Dec 2014
This review is from: The Hot Country (Kindle Edition)
The Hot Country by Robert Olen Butler is another Christopher Marlow Cobb “thriller” which according to The Washington Post is ‘A thinking person’s historical thriller’ and part of the literary thriller genre. Never have literary thrillers actually been that thrilling and the same can be said of The Hot Country. If this is a thriller then I am up for the Noble Prize in Literature next year. This is a good historical adventure which in places is stodgy but in others a gloriously written adventure.

Christopher Marlow Cobb is a war journalist who is in Vera Cruz, Mexico it is 1914 and Europe is teetering on the edge of war when a German boat drops anchor in the bay not far from a couple of American frigates. It is not the invading American’s that stir Cobb’s curiosity but a German official who comes a shore and is hidden away in the German consulate. Why would a German be interested in Mexico when the storm clouds are gathering over Europe?

To find out more Cobb has to assume the identity of a German so that he able to follow the German to his destination without raising attention to himself. He knows that the German must be heading out to meet the Mexican rebel leader Pancho Villa but what will he be offering, arms or money possibly both? While on the train journey the service is held up by Villa’s bandits who rob the train and Cobb is taken with them when he bumbs in to a double agent he knows.

He manages to earn Pancho Villa’s trust, finds out the German’s plans and decides to get back to America as quickly as possible to write the story of his life. Somehow the story gets spiked but means Cobb has to return Mexico and meet with Villa.

This is an old fashioned adventure story based on historical fact with everything you expect, blood, lust, money and the US of A coming to the rescue. Well written the prose flows on the pages sometimes it over elaborates but that is my personal opinion. This is a good book for all those that enjoy a historical adventure but it is not a thriller. It is still a pleasure to read, even if you cannot overlook the fact that the Americans are the heroes and revolutionary leaders are backwards fools and the Germans are not much better. At times the imagery this book invokes had me thinking of John Wayne and other western heroes of the silver screen.

Mother Shadow: An LA Murder Mystery
Mother Shadow: An LA Murder Mystery
Price: £3.19

4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Introduction to the Conrad - Hill Mysteries, 18 Dec 2014
The Mother Shadow – Brilliant Crime Novella

The Mother Shadow by Melodie Johnson Howe is a wonderful crime novella that introduces us to the female private detective Claire Conrad and Maggie Hill who becomes her assistant. What I like about this novella is that Melodie Johnson How has a writing style that reminds me of the doyen of crime writers Agatha Christie. There are no wasted words or padding, short sweet and straight to the point and the imagery given is so clear. Claire Conrad is a mixture of Miss Marple and Hercule Poroit with more money a couple of servants living in the cottage of a closed hotel.

Maggie Hill is working as a temporary secretary for Ellis Kennilworth at the home he shares with his mother, brother and sister. Maggie has been asked to report an hour earlier and duly turns up to find that Ellis is meeting with an ambulance chasing seedy lawyer. Maggie is required to type up a codicil to his will giving his coin collection worth over $4million to Claire Conrad for services yet to be rendered. Later that day Ellis kills himself then the mystery and twists kick in.

Maggie finds that the codicil is missing; her apartment has been turned over in burglary in search for the codicil and the suicide letter which also has gone missing. It is when Maggie goes to meet Claire Conrad to advise her of the missing codicil things start to get interesting. In the course of the investigation we uncover incest, blackmail, murder and financial double dealing and the hidden love child.

Throughout this thriller the shadow of Eleanor Kennilworth looms large over the story and how she is not only the head of the household but has what seems like unseen powers. It is only when her family is threatened that she reacts and when she does it is devastating. Eleanor Kennilworth is a ball breaking no nonsense matriarch whose will must be observed at all times.

The Mother Shadow is an excellent introduction to Melodie Johnson Howe’s work and her upright and correct private detective Claire Conrad and leads to more Conrad-Hill mysteries which I look forward to reading. This is sleuth writing at its finest and deserves a wider audience.

The Few
The Few
by Nadia Dalbuono
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Debut, 14 Dec 2014
This review is from: The Few (Paperback)
The Few – An Excellent Debut

The Few is the debut crime thriller from Nadia Dalbuono who through her love of the genre as a reader and TV viewer has written an excellent thriller. This is a confident well written crime thriller that hits all the favourite clichés of being a page turner, leaving you on the edge of the seat all the way through the thriller. With a complex plot as in this book it would be easy to get lost and confused but instead everything ties together and this seems like the beginning of a Detective Leone Scamarcio series which would be very welcome.

Scamarcio the son of a mob boss has gone against everything his family has done in the past and joined the police dealt with by suspicion by his colleagues he is gaining a reputation in the Fly Squad of being a lone maverick that delivers. When the Chief of Police, Garramone, summons him and tells him he is investigating a delicate matter that involves the Foreign Minister, the Prime Minister and rent boys.

Trying to investigate the case without getting in the way of his colleagues starts to get harder, especially when one gets shot. He then receives a tip off that tells him he needs to go to Elba and help in the search of a young American girl and in doing so his investigation gets a whole lot more complicated.

The further he digs the more organised crime and politicians seem to be at every turn as he learns that there seems to be a dark heart in the midst of the corrupt Italian political system that is interfering and at times blocking his investigation. At times he wonders if he can really handle the investigation and if the truth really could be a too higher price to pay.

This thriller touches all dark elements of Italian society corruption and conspiracy mixed with child sexual exploitation; it really could not get any darker. We are able to see that Detective Leone Scamarcio is a complex yet dynamic investigator aware that his own background can be a hindrance but not afraid to use those contacts to further his investigation. Not the conventional type of detective as he enjoys smoking cannabis for relaxation.

I really do hope that this is the first of many thrillers that we encounter Leone Scamarcio to see him being developed further along with his complex life. Can he really cope being the son of a dead mob boss in the police? Only time will tell.

A brilliant debut thriller that is complex stunning and breath taking which really asks the question you want the truth? Cannot handle the truth!

Wilfred Owen (Poets of the Great War)
Wilfred Owen (Poets of the Great War)
by Wilfred Owen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.00

5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful Anthology, 13 Dec 2014
This antholgy of poems has been selected by Oxford University’s Jon Stallworth a professor in English, has selected forty-three of Owen’s poems including his famous pair of poems, Anthem for Doomed Youth and Dulce et Decorum Est. He also includes the preface that Owen had written in the hope of publishing his poems after the war.

As I write this in the knowledge of the death of Stallworth who was also one of the world’s leading authorities on Wilfred Owen who in his fifteen page introduction guides us through his choices as well as giving a potted history of Owen and how he also influenced other poets during his short life and since. This was probably Stallworth’s last piece of work before his death and his knowledge of Owen’s poetry shines through and this book and his love for the work easily recognised in his choices.

We all know that if it were not for meeting Siegfried Sassoon in 1917 we may not have the War Poetry of Owen and we would have been denied one of the most famous often quoted war poets of all time. We all know that Sassoon was the first to praise Owen’s work and helped to guide him in his writing.

With the selection of poems we are able to see for ourselves the compassion that Owen had for his fellow soldiers as shown in “Conscious” and “At a Calvary near the Ancre”. That compassion sharpens Owen’s perception of the weapons that killed them.

I have loved Owen’s poetry since I was 13 when my English teacher, a World War Two veteran, used Owen and others to show how poetry clearly displays human’s feelings and despair especially when at war. To me the poetry says everything one wants to say when facing death or no hope when you are in the theatre of war and this antholgy screams that aloud.

This is a beautiful and moving anthology of Owen’s poems that will touch you as you read through them and think of the loss and the hopelessness of those who managed to survive.

Some Desperate Glory: The First World War the Poets Knew
Some Desperate Glory: The First World War the Poets Knew
by Max Egremont
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.00

5.0 out of 5 stars A Brilliant look at the Great War, 11 Dec 2014
Some Desperate Glory – A wonderful mixture of Poetry & Explanation

During the Centenary Year remembering the start of the Great War in 1914 many books are being published in respect of the reasons for war, the first battles of the war and the great soldiers of the war. Many anthologies of the war poets are being brought out as yet another reminder of the war. Max Egremont has joined the canon of books being published about the Great War, but in Some Desperate Glory is different to the others and a very welcome addition.

This is a book of many parts which fits perfectly like a jigsaw where history, biography and poetry are not separated from each other but brought together in this volume. This is in part a biography of eleven war poets, placing some of their poetry in context of the war by using a timeline of events and including a short history of the military events of that particular year.

Historians today are always looking to illustrate their work on the Great War with not just the facts and interpretation but with the thoughts and feelings of the men at the front. So as well as using the military documents of the time and other primary sources the historian also interrogates letters and poetry one of the many ways in which we are able to express are feelings in a readable context.

What I enjoyed about Some Desperate Glory is that Ergemont is not attempting to dress up any of the facts whether it be war statistics or about the poets. One thing that is also very striking about the book is the change in the thinking and poetry from 1914 to that of 1918, when some of these poets were dead. He also shows that the war was breaking away from what had been a traditional war to one that was mechanised, became far harder and horrific.

The poetry highlights what Egremont explains to the reader what happened to the poet on the battlefield and what was happening in their military lives. This is a wonderful book an interesting account of the war that is accessible for any reader and one that can be read and reread and enjoyed every time.

A History of Football in 100 Objects
A History of Football in 100 Objects
by Gavin Mortimer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.94

4.0 out of 5 stars Fun and Informative, 10 Dec 2014
A History of Football in 100 Objects – Fun and Informative

Gavin Mortimer In A History of Football in 100 Objects has written a beautiful, funny insightful history of the beautiful game through various objects which helps to bring the history alive. It mainly is a clever and quirky history that rather than another boring book about football’s history but a unique and interesting account of the games history.

While the history starts in a typical way, at the beginning, from the public school roots of the game with the school bench and a cricket bat through to modern day wad of Euros. Mortimer has taken the timeline of the game and has interpreted it for the reader in a way that they can associate and understand the history. While understanding that history they can retell various parts of that history via the humour and objects in this book.

Object 46 the typewriter took me back to the days when I used to race home from Maine Road (now gone) to get home for the arrival of the Pink Final which had the match report plus all the results of the day. Now we have the internet and it is not just the same, now smell of the ink the bright pink newspaper long gone.

Today when we think of the world cup we think of the money spent the security around the trophy and England’s constant failure since 1966. Who would think that the trophy was once carried to the tournament in a suitcase all the way to the first world cup over in Uruguay? We all know about England not going to that tournament because there is nothing Johnny Foreigner can teach us.

This is a fabulous book for any football fan because we all love our facts and stats to quote at others as if we have a Masters degree in the game. This is a well researched, well thought out incisive history of the beautiful game one that can be read and reread at will.

Fear No Evil
Fear No Evil
Price: £2.62

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spooky, 9 Dec 2014
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This review is from: Fear No Evil (Kindle Edition)
Fear No Evil – Spooky Thriller

Fear No Evil by Debbie Johnson is the latest addition to the Scouse Noir genre bringing together the great scouse names of Lennon and McCartney fortunately we do not have to suffer them singing. This is a mixture of murder and ghouls and a quick lesson in Scouse history. Well written and a tour round the posh bits of Liverpool (I didn’t know there were any) as well as the rough and tumble of living in the city.

Jayne McCartney is a former police detective now a private investigator working out a small office in Liverpool not far from her docklands home, when she is asked to investigate what the police and coroner have deemed a suicide. Joy Middlemass had fallen out of a window at the Student Halls called Hart House and when she read Joy’s diary she found that she was being taunted by ghosts. Like any normal person she is quite sceptical to the idea of ghost and ghouls let alone the type that would commit murder.

She needs help from someone who has experience with dealing with the other side and she finds former Catholic Priest Dan Lennon who specialises in investigating the paranormal. They team up and while they investigate the paranormal demons and ghosts they stumble across and investigate a previous murder of a student in Hart Hall that was made to look like the ghost had sent her to her death.

As the book races across Liverpool trying to find the answers and Jayne’s best friend since school Tish ends up being murdered while investigating a story for her newspaper that crosses the Lennon & McCartney investigation. Jayne besides trying to get to the bottom of her investigation finds that Tish was investigating the Deerborne clan – Liverpool old money.

As Jayne and Dan head towards facing down the paranormal world of Hart Hall they find the answers to Tish’s murder and to that of Geneva Connelly. The Middlemass’ finally get their answers to their questions about Joy’s death and able to let her rest in peace.

This is a fun and interesting thriller that dances through the paranormal which also shines a light in to some of Liverpool’s darker history. The Lennon and McCartney partnership works well and they do not punish us with their singing, and this looks like their first of many outings. We get an interesting addition to the scouse noir genre and this is an interesting and fun addition.

Pride in Travel: A Title-Winning Season Exploring the World of Manchester City
Pride in Travel: A Title-Winning Season Exploring the World of Manchester City
by Darryl Webster
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A City Fan's Journey to Watch The Blue Boys, 7 Dec 2014
Pride In Travel – A City Nuts Journey

You do not have to be mad to be a City fan but it has always helped and I can say that as I have been a season ticket holder at Manchester City for more years than I care to remember, when times were and money was non-existent. I have made it a point at making fun of Manchester United fans being glory hunting tourists and when I first heard of Darryl Webster I thought we had a glory hunter in our midst.

It is not until I met Darryl via the Reddish Branch of Manchester City Supporters Club, I found that he started to follow City when his sister came to God’s own city for love that he started following City. This was in the days when that lot of at the swamp, sorry I mean Old Trafford were sweeping up the trophies and had fans falling out of their ass.

So Darryl had proved himself that he was as nuts as the rest of us but when I heard about the premiss for what is now his book Pride In Travel I thought he was certifiably nuts and most definitely one of our adopted sons.

For the 2013/14 season Darryl embarked on what must seem like a fool’s errand to visit as many Supporter’s Clubs branches around the world, watch a City game with them and record it in his yet to be written book. Some 40,000 miles later, crowd funding sourced said book is now published telling the tales even I get name checked!

Visiting many of the American branches, starting from his own Canadian Branch in Toronto, heading south to those famous footballing hotbeds of Dallas, Washington DC, Chicago and New York. Heading over to places as far flung as Hong Kong, Abu Dhabi and Reddish, Stockport.

He came to Wembley for the League Cup Final which City won, and then saw live and up personal the one thing City fans have always been famous for, no not our sense of humour (which is famous) but our ability to drink like a fish, start about 6am and finish somewhere around midnight be able to watch the game and make coherent sentences for most of that time.

This book is not just a journey to visit all the branches he possibly can in a title winning season but it is also a journey of discovery for Darryl. This is a funny and enlightening journey around supporters clubs by a guy who has proved that he is as nuts about City as those of us who are local. Welcome to the family Darryl I am glad you now understand what you have let yourself in for, now let’s have a drink – preferably in a pitcher.

In Parenthesis: Introduction by T.S.Eliot (Poets of the Great War)
In Parenthesis: Introduction by T.S.Eliot (Poets of the Great War)
by David Jones
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £8.10

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Forgotten Masterpiece, 5 Dec 2014
In Parenthesis – A Forgotten Masterpiece

Faber Faber has re-released the poem that made David Jones a household name in 1937 along with both prefaces that were written by T.S. Elliot. Now as in 1937 it is still hard to categorise In Parenthesis as a poem or as a novel, as it is a mixture of poetry and prose and has been called an example of High Modernism. In the 1961 preface T.S.Elliot compares Jones with himself, Ezra Pound and James Joyce, high praise indeed.

As a historian I have used poetry and prose other than the primary sources to convey the feeling of men at war when one explores their thinking, the feeling of the ordinary soldier in the trenches. In Parenthesis is often forgotten not just by historians but those who teach war history and go for the shorter form of War Poetry. This edition is a timely reminder of why we should remember In Parenthesis for study and an example of the complex feelings of the men fighting in the trenches.

In Parenthesis is based around the events leading up to and including the fighting at Mametz Wood between 7th July and 12th July 1916, the events that took place here would later influence his writings and paintings. It took Jones until 1937 to write and have published In Parenthesis as he struggled for the right words to convey their feelings of those times and the horror of battle.

In Parenthesis, a wonderful mixture of poetry and prose published as a seven part book that has been described as one of the best Great War books ever published. For some unknown reason In Parenthesis seemed to fall out of favour in the 1960s just as teaching War Poetry fell in to fashion, may be they thought it too long to teach or the High Modernism to complicated for students to understand.

Part One “The Many Men So Beautiful” is the narration and introduction of Private John Ball (Jones) as a member of the Royal Welch Fusiliers and the training and movement of the men from England to France in 1915.

Part two, “Chambers Go Off, Corporals Stay” is about the further training that they are undergoing in France with the endless drills but this is also where we get the first indications of the violence that is to come. Part Three, “Starlight Order” is about the final march towards the trenches and the orders they have received. Part four, “King Pellam’s Launde” is about being on the front line and the undertaking of your duties and all the mundane duties for a soldier in forward positions in the Great War.

Part five, “Squat Garlands For White Knights” is about the events leading up to the Somme offensive which began on 1st July 1916. This section deals more characters and is an accurate narrative of what Jones would have faced at that time. Part six, “Pavilions & Captains of Hundreds” in turn deals with all the events and anxieties that led up to the assault on Mametz Wood, something which speaks directly from the heart straight to the reader.

Part seven, “The Five Unmistakable Marks” is Jones recollection and account of the attack on Mametz Wood and the horrors of what he had to do and the area he had to cover. They had to cover 500 yards of no man’s land which then dropped into a small valley before rising again for 400 yards to the edge of the wood making them easy targets to be shot at.

To me this is a beautiful account of one man’s war who took twenty years struggling to find the right words to portray the battle scene. To some the Modernism of the poem may make it seem complex especially from Part Five onwards but that complexity brings out the full force of war and that there is no seemingly right answer to it.

The Dying Place
The Dying Place
by Luca Veste
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brillant Scouse Noir Thriller, 5 Dec 2014
This review is from: The Dying Place (Paperback)
The Dying Place – Brilliant

Unlike muscians who struggle with their second album Luca Veste with his follow up to the debut outing in Dead Gone has scored a winning goal with The Dying Place. There are no Stevie Gerrard slips ups here for us Mancunians to take the mickey out of him. This is a brilliant return for Detective Inspector David Murphy and his side kick Detective Sergant Laura Rossi.

One again Luce Veste has written a crime thriller with the emphasis on thriller wonderfully dark and intense with a nod to crime sprees that have happened around the North West. Veste delves in to the depths of the criminal psyche and gives us something that is original, shocking, at times terrifying but not forgetting wonderfully twisted.

At the outset one could sympathise with the criminals at first, doing the work that the police cannot really do to the local estate scallies other than hand out ASBOs. Every town and city has the identikit scally, tracksuit bottoms, hoodie, trainers, smoking weed and drinking cheap cider, even though the dress could be called standard for a scouser!

DI Murphy has been back at work for a while since being on the sick since the ending in Dead Gone and his CID team have had very little to do in the way of work. Which when covering the northern areas of Liverpool, including West Derby and Norris Green both great places in their day going down hill due to lack of investment and in some instances lack of care. The death of one of the local scallies with his body dumped on the doorstep of a church is not as straightforward as it may seem. As they investigate the death of Goldie they find he has been missing for several months and over that time his body is showing the effects of abuse, which give them a number of lines of enquiry but seemingly nowhere to go.

As they investigate they are led to a farm where there are a number of dead bodies all over the place which really is a honey hole of death and destruction. It dawns on the police that a number of male youths known to the police have been taken from the streets and something unspeakable has happened to them.

The big question is will Murphy and Rossi be able to find the people responsible for what has been going on and whether they will be able to stop them. They need to figure out what they end game could possibly be as the bodies start to pile up dead and injured. Murphy has to move quickly even if he does not know that things will be a lot closer to home than he already knows. Ending with a couple of twists Murphy and Rossi come out on top but this will come at a cost to them both.

The Dying Place is a brilliant follow up to Dead Gone really hits the thriller button as you turn the pages urging Murphy and Rossi on. The only thing that would finish this Scouse Noir Thriller off is for a Mancunian Manchester United fan (rarer than rocking horse s***) to be the baddie! This really is an excellent example of the new Scouse Noir Thriller that grabs you by the throat holds you tight all the way to the end and leaves you at the end gasping for breath. Luca Veste has so much talent with plenty more to come, cannot wait just hope he allows me to recover first!

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