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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars .
As the first Inspector Barnaby novel for five years, this is a veritable literary event. No wonder they take so long to write, so rich and detailed are they in their characterisations and plotting. 2004 is turning out to be a brilliant year for crime fiction in terms of long-awaited “events”. There is this, in Feb there was Reginald Hill’s “Good...
Published on 5 May 2004 by RachelWalker

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This was torture - and not medieval either...
I was expecting something like Midsomer Murders for obvious reasons. How wrong I was.

This is a long and slow book. The best slow books are like someone walking you through a museum they love and commenting on the exhibits and you are both excited together. This was like listening to a dull relative going on and on about different people they knew and...
Published on 26 Jan 2012 by thegoodbook


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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ., 5 May 2004
By 
RachelWalker "RachelW" (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: A Ghost in the Machine (Hardcover)
As the first Inspector Barnaby novel for five years, this is a veritable literary event. No wonder they take so long to write, so rich and detailed are they in their characterisations and plotting. 2004 is turning out to be a brilliant year for crime fiction in terms of long-awaited “events”. There is this, in Feb there was Reginald Hill’s “Good Morning, Midnight”, Boris Starling has just released his four-years-in-the-writing “Vodka” (I am reading it now; it is BRILLIANT) and coming in May we have Mo Hayder’s probably wonderful “Tokyo”. So, yes, a very very good year.
These, yes, are village mysteries, but they are a lot more than that. Graham’s books are big satisfying chunks of story, full of drama and eccentrics with a foundation in a great, wise intelligence. Through her enclosed, isolated village settings, she also uses that device to say some fascinating things about human nature, not just in villages, but in all societies. Her villages are intricately detailed societal microcosms of the wider world, rather than just the walls of a murder-mystery cross-word puzzle. This is what makes her stand out. This is what lifts her above a genre writer. Oh, and the quality of the writing.
The Lawsons are going to live in the country. The village of Forbes Abbot, to be precise. Mallory Lawson’s elderly aunt has passed away, leaving her house to her beloved nephew. There, Mallory and his wife hope to satisfy a life-long dream: set up a business. A small, independent publisher of select, quality fiction. However, the quiet life they expect to meet does not automatically present itself. Shortly before the move, a resident dies in a horrible accident.
Dennis Brinkley, whose hobby of collecting replicas of old war-weapons (trebuchets, etc) was a point of great discussion around the village, meets an ironic end when he is crushed to death by one of his own machines. His body is found by his elderly friend Benny, companion of Lawson’s late aunt, and the only person who refuses to accept that Dennis’s death was an accident. She is adamant it was murder.
This scenario does not present itself until a good hundred-pages into the novel, in wonderful Graham tradition. She builds her plots excellently, putting character first and allowing them to carry it along. Gradually, she explores the story as she builds her characters, and when the scene is fully set at last, the plot really explodes. There is something so marvellous about her approach to detective fiction. Her books are intricate, detailed, fascinating, and every character is fully-formed. Not a stroke is left unpainted. And her mysteries are so…well, clever and complex and absolutely unfathomable. The story just sigh happily with a deep, satisfying fulsomeness, in an almost Dickensian way.
She also has an absolutely brilliant sense of drama. But she would, having such a background in theatre. This has been clear right from the start of her career. For example, when, in Death of A Hollow Man one of the victims met his end during a production of Amadeus, slitting his throat for real on-stage with a doctored razor. Here we have the aforesaid man crushed to death with war machines, and a “psychic” who is killed after she claims she will reveal the culprits identity at her next séance, when she gets a chance to speak again with Mr Brinkley. (It is no spoiler to reveal that he was indeed murdered; if he wasn’t, there would be no plot.) It’s all such melodramatic, entertaining fun.
And of course there is Barnaby and Troy. I have to say, I’ve never liked them much in the books (as compared to the TV series) and here we don’t, in reality, see a great deal of them, which pleased me. They are merely instruments through which she eventually lays her intricate plot bare (It must be taken note of, though, that that plot is not designed for people who like action, who like fast and pacy books; this is not one of those). Instead our characters are the villagers: Mallory and Kate and their detestable daughter Polly; Andrew Latham, Brinkley’s financial partner, and his odious wife Gilda; Ava Garret, the “psychic” and her charming daughter Karen; Doris, all-round village gossip, yet kindly; and even Brinkley himself. This is our detailed, eccentric, almost-freak-show of cast.
Graham’s books are a joy. They are big and full and luscious and marvellously theatrical. They are books you can sink into like plush, elaborate cushions. And if, as some of the hints dropped towards the end seem testament to, this IS the last time we will be seeing Barnaby, it will be a sad loss indeed.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This was torture - and not medieval either..., 26 Jan 2012
By 
This review is from: A Ghost in the Machine (Paperback)
I was expecting something like Midsomer Murders for obvious reasons. How wrong I was.

This is a long and slow book. The best slow books are like someone walking you through a museum they love and commenting on the exhibits and you are both excited together. This was like listening to a dull relative going on and on about different people they knew and wasting your time.

The audio book has 16 discs - sixteen! By the end of disc 3, there was still no murder - just me wanting to kill myself, or the author. She literally goes into detail about what everyone drinks, eats, pays for things... You could argue that it sets the scene - but 3 discs of it?

Read something gripping, not this.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sadly the last Barnaby book, 16 Jan 2011
By 
Jill Besterman (Jersey, Channel Islands United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A Ghost in the Machine (Paperback)
I have finally read this boook which has turned out,sadly,to be the last book featuring DI Barnaby and DS Troy, but it was worth the wait. Caroline Graham's books did not make the best storylines for the TV series as they cannot be told in a 2 hour episode. The plots are multi-layered, the characters fully and richly described and the twists and turns keep one guessing until the end. In "Ghost in the Machine! Barnaby and Troy have to wait for a long time before they make their entry whilst we learn about Mallory and Kate's inheritance and their removal to Midsomer country. It comes just as Mallory nearly has a breakdown because of stress at work and suddenly their dreams look like coming true. However there is a fly in the ointment, in the person of their student daughter Polly, who could have taught Goneril and Regan a thing or two about family loyalty and self-centered scheming. Other characters wind their way through the story, Bennie the simple old woman who had cared for Mallory's aunt; the neighbours, Ashley, the handsome invalid, and Judith, his jealously protective wife: Dennis, the introspective lawyer who owned the machine in the title; Andrew, Denis' useless partner and Gilda, his awful wife. When murder finally occurs all these people find that life will never be the same again.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Come on, Barnaby!, 16 May 2010
By 
Steen Lykke Laursen "Fortes Fortuna Juvat" (Oksboel, Denmark) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A Ghost in the Machine (Paperback)
Mysterious plot, fine characters etc. - all of the Graham trademarks are there in plenty.
Why only four stars this time then?
Well, first of all it takes too long before somebody is murdered! Should you lay off whodunits for a while when you are anxiously waiting for someone to get killed? Anyway, you'll have to worm your way through to page 120 before it happens, which means it takes even longer for Barnaby to "spring" into action. It says "A Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby Novel" on the cover (I checked more than once), and, in spite of his love for gardening, he's my hero and the one I want to read about. And what's this terrifying nonsense of Barnaby being six months short of retirement!!!???
Okay, the ins and outs of the Lawson family aren't exactly boring, and you do expect the spoiled daughter to meet her maker, the neighbour to kill her womanizer of a husband, or the unhappy lawyer to do his patronizing wife in, whenever you turn one of the first 120 pages. But as usual you're in for a few surprises.
I don't think this one has been "televised" yet, and I consider that a good thing, but I'm inclined to believe that the spiritualist church and the psychic medium have been used in "Things that Go Bump in the Night" (36), and the strange man building siege engines for a hobby found his way into "Hidden Depths" (41).
There are some very good and kind people living in Forbes Abbott, some of whom take very good and loving care of a sad little girl after her rather eccentric mother dies as a result of methanol poisoning. The girl turns out to have a remarkable "talent". A very touching story within the story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not Bad At All, 23 April 2009
By 
T. Milnthorpe "pipkiin3" (W-S-M) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A Ghost in the Machine (Paperback)
I don't normally read crime fiction, so I have no prior experience to judge how well this has been written etc, but I must admit to liking it very much.
As a big fan of the Midsomer Murders tv series I decided to give these a go.
At first I was a bit lost and confused as to where Barnaby would come into the story as he only makes a brief appearance 150 pages in and makes no regular appearance until the third part of the novel. I'm more used to the structure of the TV show than I am the books (An adaptation of THIS novel has never been made as far as I know, but I think it should be!)
The characters are lively and memorable, although the only flaw that I can see is that there is only one or two people who are malicious enough to have done the murder, and so the list of suspects (compared to the entire list of characters present) is relatively small.
But the plotting can't really be faulted and is certainly better than recent episodes of the TV show.
At 500 pages, you won't be finishing it that quickly, so the value for money is there.
On the bad side, it does take a while to get going, as there are so many characters to set up. You get the feeling some sections could have been shaved down a bit here and there.
Pacing issues aside, this is a good read and I think it will make for an interesting adaptation if they wished to do it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Well Written, 19 April 2014
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Caroline Graham is a great murder detective writer, her books keep you interested throughout and this one is no different, a very good read, if you enjoy the Barnaby cases you will like this.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Ghost in the Machine., 1 Feb 2014
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What a truly engrossing read this was. An accidental death soon proves to be a murder and Barnaby and Troy are on the case.It seems an impossible task, with the victim long since cremated and the crime scene cleaned up.The death of a medium,however,throws up some startling leads.
Very well written. It kept me guessing.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping, entertaining, delightful, 4 Nov 2013
This review is from: A Ghost in the Machine (Paperback)
A young woman, an old woman and three married couples are the main suspects, and the source of Graham's gripping storytelling. There are several more suspects and, in fact, an unusually large number of people introduced. It's worth taking the trouble to know them. Even without the bizarre first murder amid a collection of medieval death machines, this novel would still delight me. The zany characters and their problems enticed my avid interest.
However, there has to be a whodunit for Barnaby to solve and this one is brilliantly plotted (by killer and author both). I liked the end twist, too. After the killer is exposed, there is a bonus mystery to extend the puzzle, plus some entertaining passages on spiritualism.
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5.0 out of 5 stars ANDREWS VIEW., 5 July 2013
By 
Andrew C. Fraser (KENT ENGLAND) - See all my reviews
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I DID ENJOY THIS STORY,DCI BARNABY AND SARGEANT TROY ARE ALWAYS BROUGHT INTO PRINT AS REAL AND BELEAVABLE CHARACTERS.KEEP WRITING.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Slow plot, 23 April 2013
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The plot was slow and ponderous, found myself not caring what happened to any of the characters, didn't finish it.
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A GHOST IN THE MACHINE
A GHOST IN THE MACHINE by CAROLINE GRAHAM (Audio Cassette - 2004)
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