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Winterland
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 21 March 2010
This book uses the very fashionable 'present historic' tense, which feels very odd at first but you soon get used to it. It is set in Ireland during the troubles, but is more about organised crime and corruption than terrorism, and about people who are initally only peripherally involved but who get tangled up the tentacles. The theme of succumbing to the temptation to exert illicit power, via underworld figures, and then being confronted with the very unpleasant consequences, has echoes of Mafia storylines from around the world. The writing is clever in that you feel considerable sympathy for the characters, including some ethically very dodgy types, and it has a bit of a Denise Mina feel in the heroine is not necessarily a heroic figure.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 27 December 2009
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Twenty-five years earlier, lives suddenly ended and as a consequence other lives were changed forever - some by accident, some by design. Now in the present day, the events of that night come unexpectedly back to haunt a billionaire property developer who has bankrolled the incoming Irish prime minster and who has huge investments at stake in a towering new office building that dominates the skyline of Dublin, a city struggling to cope with a recession following explosive growth over the past decade.

This is a character-driven political and corporate thriller that maintains a high level of suspense right through to the very end. The element of mystery lies in the past, specifically how four people died and who among the survivors and associates stood to gain by suppressing the truth behind those deaths. The story is in part built around one of the victim's sisters and her pursuit of justice, if not retribution.

Most of the writing is delivered in the present tense, something I am not a fan of, but the standard of writing is very good with excellent pacing, character development and overall suspense. The plot is interesting, grips hard and never lets go. There are one or two prominent side-threads but apart from being a necessary and relevant part of the overall tale anyway, they are equally entertaining. In summary it's an intelligent, well-written part corporate, part emotional thriller with a credible storyline and credible characters....

....with the possible exception of the character right at the centre of it all: property tycoon Paddy Norton. The intimate examinations of his business personality are welcome, together with his shadowy background and his dependency on prescription drugs, but something about his vulnerability and willingness to take rather absurd self-preservatory actions doesn't quite ring true, not with that of a supremely wealthy and high-profile public figure such as he is. It's true that he would normally, in times past, delegate any sinister activity to gangland people who he can detach himself from, notably ex-IRA 'security specialists', and that would make sense. But to pull the trigger himself seems improbable.

I would add that although I enjoyed Winterland while I was reading it, and despite a well-constructed and plausible conclusion, it doesn't feel like a novel that will stand strongly in the memory for years to come. It's very good, of that there is no doubt, but it's not brilliant, and I feel that this is a writer with potential that has yet to be fully realised. He has an ability to draw the reader into an intriguing plot and for many this will be satisfaction enough. I liked it, but I didn't love it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 10 November 2009
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
When Gina Rafferty's nephew Noel is gunned down in the beer garden of a Dublin pub, it has all the hallmarks of a gangland execution. No one is surprised, as young Noel is involved with one of Dublin's notorious gangs. But when Gina's engineer brother, also called Noel, dies hours later in a car accident, she is instantly suspicious. Despite her family's reservations and a lack of interest from the police, Gina begins investigating her brother's death, but what she discovers will awaken a twenty-five year old conspiracy that reaches into the upper realms of the Irish government and international corporations, and put Gina in danger...

This is a fantastic thriller, intelligently written and eloquent with a pacy and page-turning plot. The story is fairly intricate, and some sections need a bit of concentration in order to keep track of all the characters and their involvement with each other. But the book is satisfying and I would liken it to the recent film 'State of Play' and the original British mini-series of the same name, because of the elements of political and corporate conspiracy. The story is packed with colourful characters, ranging from the low-life gangster who puts his former career as an electrician to enterprising use when interrogating rivals, to the American former government-type whose first wife slept with President Kennedy.

Although dealing with a group of people who can be extremely violent and uncompromising, the novel is not overly graphic, allowing the reader to fill in the gaps. This is a compelling story, which I would recommend to those who enjoy an intelligent thriller. I would certainly look for other books by this author.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 7 October 2011
Very well-written, fast-paced political thriller. As with Winterland [this isn't exactly a sequel, but some of the characters first appeared in that book] you get a very strong sense that these are real, believable characters - some of them could have stepped straight from the pages of our broadsheet and/or tabloid newspapers. This book reaches further than Winterland though, in that as well as being exposed to local political intrigue, the reader is confronted with the realpolitik of the US and the plundering of valuable resources in the Congo. Entertaining and very intelligent. Highly recommended.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
The "conspiracy thriller" is a genre with very few excellent examples and very many substandard ones. Bloodland is of the best. Its momentum is provided by the connectivity of some very small and apparently random dots, to the point where a US presidency and global corporate "imperialism" are directly affected. Although clearly written with an eye on the movie, it is none the worse for that.

The main novel opens in Ireland with Jimmy Gilroy, an inexperienced, young and unemployed journalist agreeing to write a book about a "celebrity" (by the modern definition), Susie Monaghan, simply because the advance will allow him to pay the rent for a few more months. He's unhappy about his assignment because his father was a fine journalist and Jimmy wants to follow in his footsteps. Nevertheless, he begins by researching the final chapter, about Susie's death in a helicopter accident.

On the day that Jimmy has an appointment with the dead woman's sister, he receives a call from Phil Sweeney, an old PR contact of his father's, who asks him not to write the book, but won't tell him why. Puzzled, Jimmy meets the sister as arranged - he assumes she will be against the idea of the book, but to his surprise she is very much in favour of it, mainly because she feels that the accident was not properly investigated at the time and she thinks Jimmy's research will reveal the cause. Keen to continue with this line, Jimmy is then offered a much better deal via Sweeney: to write a ghosted autobiography of the recently retired Taioseach, Larry Bolgar.

Despite his liking for the sister, Jimmy does not waste much time ditching the Susie book and going to see Bolgar, who is a man fighting his own demons -- all of Glynn's male characters have traumatic interior lives, fighting insecurity, fathers (or father-figures) and addiction of one sort or another. What a drunk Bolgar reveals to Jimmy during their first interview makes Jimmy's head reel, and makes the reader realise that the book is about something else completely than its ostensible subject.

Another plotline involves Dave Conway, who knew Susie and most of those with her on her final weekend. His company owns Tara Meadows, a massive new development of hotels, shops and apartments that is now abandoned, a home for tramps. Conway is desperately trying to find new investors amid a crashed Irish economy, as his family life disintegrates. He sees a brief item on the TV news about a body that has been found in a wood by a man walking his dog, a report that causes Conway to panic.

The geographical scope of the book expands, leading to Italy, London, the Congo and finally to the United States for the dramatic climax. Jimmy only sees part of the picture, of course: from the start the reader has known about a visit by a US senator to the Congo which ends in tragedy, and witnesses the damage-limitation exercise that follows - with its inevitable weaknesses.

The full extent of the connection between these events, partially but not completely known to the reader, depends on Jimmy. Will he be tenacious and bright enough to follow all his leads through, as they point to ever-more amazing implications? I did doubt it at first, when he, a journalist, is researching an Italian UN official and does not know how easy it is to translate documents instantly on the web, going to various lengths to find someone who can tell him what they mean - but this is the only stumble I came across in a very assured plot-build-up.

Most conspiracy thrillers fail by over-reaching themselves, hence lurching into incredibility. This is certainly not the case here. Much of what is revealed depends on coincidence - certain people cracking up at convenient times, or someone deciding to spill some beans at the exact time the right person is there to hear them, and so on. But this element is not overdone, and indeed is a clever analysis of how apparently small decisions made by low-level people in an organisation for what seem at the time to be perfectly good reasons, in fact come back in spades later on down the line.

Bloodland is an immensely exciting book, which works because the author never forgets the human condition. His portrayal of a mine in the Congo is truly upsetting, not in a gratuitous sense but in the sense of providing a snapshot for the reader to understand how children's lives are completely ruined by the inevitable combination of corruption, greed and exploitation in these sad countries and by those who do business with their leaders.

The novel is told mostly via the device of sharing with the reader the thoughts of the main characters (all male) as their inner worlds, and gradually their outer ones, disintegrate. Will it all come out, or will Jimmy allow himself to be diverted? How will he overcome his lack of resources and his unemployed status to convince anyone of what he knows but cannot prove? Will someone stop him before he can deliver? I can only urge you to read this book to find out.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 25 February 2010
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I initially enjoyed this book. I lived in Dublin for a few years and it was just like being there. But about 50 pages in I just lost interest ... the story felt like it was drifting. I feel bad writing this review because I feel like the author has huge potential.
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on 14 March 2014
I enjoyed this book immensely.

I loved how the seemingly disparate storylines all came together. One thread deals with an out-work reporter, Jimmy Vaughan who has just been commissioned to do a biography on a C-list celebrity actress who had been killed a few years earlier in a helicopter crash. There’s also a retired politician railing against his irrelevance and worried about a terrible secret, an almost bankrupt post-recession Irish property developer and a powerful US chief of industry under pressure to get an illicit Congolese mining operation back on track.

The story touches on issues such as the exploitation of Africa’s natural resources, the disposability of celebrity, the financial crisis and the rise of private military contractors. While this may seem a wide range of unrelated topics, they are so skilfully woven into the story that they all make sense and all work towards the brilliant conclusion. Each of the main characters feel real, the most striking thing about them is their shared trait of desperation whether it’s to remain relevant, to succeed or just to hold on. Even when you know they’ve behaved terribly and as a reader want to see justice done, you still sympathise with them and understand how events can carry a person towards a destination they never intended.

Finally, I know from looking online that some of the characters appeared previously in Winterland and some appear again in Graveland; I intend reading both and I hope if he doesn’t appear in the latter that the supporting character of Szymanski from Bloodland does appear again in some subsequent book.
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WINTERLAND is a brilliant book. A young man is shot in the beer garden of a Dublin pub. His mother Catherine is devastated but most of his family are privately unsurprised, as the victim is a known drug dealer and petty criminal. Gathered at the family's house to support her are Catherine's brother and three sisters, one of them, Gina, much younger than the rest. Gina works for an IT start-up company teetering on the brink of going bust in the collapsed dream of the Irish Tiger economy. Gina chats to her brother, who is 20 years older than her. She feels she does not know him well because of the age gap, but has always liked him and heard many family anecdotes about him while she was growing up. He tells her he has to go and pick up some papers but will be back soon.
I won't write more about the plot as I would not want to spoil any part of this wonderful book for anyone who has not read it. Gina's journey is compelling, and her personality a long way from any stock character of the genre that I've come across. She's brave, tenacious, and portrayed with quite remarkable subtlety.
Another character is Mark Griffin, a young man who imports Italian ceramics. He's a sad person, and as the plot deepens, we slowly find out why. The small, domestic revelations about Mark and his journey of self-discovery are perfectly paced, gathering momentum and force, becoming increasingly shocking and out of control as the events going on elsewhere in the novel escalate.
The shady businessmen, gangsters, politicians and victims portrayed in this book are so well done: one never feels that one is reading a cliche, as each person reacts in unpredictable ways to the new and old truths that are gradually uncovered on a factual level by Gina and an emotional one by Mark (the two characters barely meet but are firmly bonded). There are just so many things to like about this book, which is exciting, gripping and perfectly structured as well as having great emotional depth and insight. If you only read one book for the rest of the year, make it this one.
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Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Winterland is a long and complex modern-day Irish thriller. It has all the staple ingredients - ruthless businessmen; ambitious politicians; aggrieved relatives cast in the roles of naïve, amateur detectives; hitmen; Americans. It's got the lot.

Winterland's strength is in conveying some idea of the inner workings of Dublin's movers and shakers; some insight into the dichotomy between the Celtic tiger and the folksy, matey Ireland of the Bord Failte advertisements. We see a land of change, but one which cannot completely escape the ghosts of the recent past when the rules were different.

The plotting is relatively taut, save for the involvement of Larry Bolger, the aspiring Taoiseach. This is the one strand of the storyline which is never quite explained - why would he be so involved with property developers? But so long as this is glossed over, there is a real web of intrigue which is allowed to develop slowly... oh so slowly. That's the one failing, really. The pacing is just a bit too slow at times; the novel feels a bit longer than it really needed to be. The final "chase", when it eventually arrives, is exciting and does speed things up. The debrief afterwards, though, feels like pages for pages' sake.

The writing is good and atmospheric; some of the characters are a little clichéd - a little two dimensional, but that's not too big a problem. It's difficult to add more without revealing crucial plot twists in what is an entirely plot driven novel. This isn't the best thriller ever written, but it's perfectly passable.
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VINE VOICEon 17 December 2009
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Winterland is set within the beautiful city of Dublin, and features a murder and a death within the opening pages. The sister of one of the dead men, will not accept it's a straightforward accident, and sets about trying to find out what exactly did happen. As she begins to try to establish what his life was like, she discovers that she knew very little about her brother.

The more she probes, the deeper into the quagmire she goes, and others become heavily involved, giving her even more motivation to continue her quest to find the truth about her brother's death.

Gina, who is the main character, soon begins to realize her brother was connected with very powerful and influential figures, and the world of business and politics becomes intertwined into her investigation. But, who can she trust? Who is willing to help her? Is anyone? Or is she just too much in the grieving process to be prepared to accept the formal announcement that her brother's death was accidental?

Gina is a brave woman, who will not rest until she knows the truth, and is determined to go to any lengths, including becoming a criminal, to not just find out the truth, but to make others listen to her.

Throughout the book, there are many twists and turns, but the key character, Gina, does not lose her tenacity to reach her goal.

The book is superbly written by Alan Glynn. The start of the book took a while to read, due to the significant number of people involved and to understand what each role was, and who was connected with whom, but once the plot really started (which was early in the book) it has proven to be very difficult to put down.

I've not read Glynn's first book (this is his second), but I can't wait for his third book to come out if it's as superbly written as this one. I'd recommend this book.
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