on 27 September 2010
Well,this is my first ever review of anything but having had a quiet weekend with my wife and teenage kids away, I saw this in the shop on friday and started reading it on friday night and finished it on sunday morning.!!I have every one of his other books in my bookcase,even though some have been very well thumbed by my wife,family and friends as I have endeavoured to spread the word.
R J Ellory is a very talented writer with an interesting personal history which ,I think, does come across in his books.He is always probing the relationship between acts of others on the main character and how this drives them on in pursuit of resolution...either good or bad..often when most of us would have given up.
His narrative is so beautifully written and engaging and I often re-read paragraphs and thought about my relationship with my own father who died two years ago. There is a haunting quality to all his books and I really do wonder where he thinks up some of the plot...it is quite tough going in places and I literally had to go and make myself a drink before turning the next page or chapter.
This book has three seperate elements to the story
-crime in New York in the 60's and 70's as relayed to 'psycho-the rapist'
-a serial killer on the loose and will he catch him,legally or not
-the personal battle of the main character with himself and his relationships with his dead dad and his living but estranged family
The plot develops in a very different direction than you would think initially and it is a subtle transition which I only fully appreciated when I turned the last page.I think I was a little frustrated at my inability to see the main 'perp' get his full comeuppance,which I was looking forward to delighting in!!
However,I thoroughly enjoyed this read and it has made me think a lot since on how I view things personally.I did not think it was quite as good as 'Quit Belief' or 'Simple Act' but they were just sooo good it is unreal. I am a little depressed now as I realise it will be a while before I can read the next one...but I may go back and read them all again as they are all so complex.
I am going to still give it 5 star though as this author deserves it for consistently producing the most high class fiction I have read over recent years.
on 15 October 2010
What makes us us? What drives us? What guides our reactions to spontaneous decisions in the heat of the moment when there isn't time for thought? Three very tough questions, which there are no real answers, but they are answers in which Roger Ellory tries to discover in his latest book, the Saints of New York.
Having written reviews of his previous two novels, and even earlier about my first Ellory discovery, the wonderful "Quiet Belief in Angels", it appears to have become somewhat of an annual tradition!
We are introduced to Ellory's latest protagonist, homicide detective Frank Parrish amidst a literal blood bath as he attempts to save the life of a girl who has been attacked by her boyfriend, but things, as always don't go according to plan. Parrish, down on his luck, it seems things aren't going his way. As the novel unfolds and we are introduced to the main story line we learn more about him, more importantly, his past and the ghost of his father, New York police legend, John Parrish, one of the original "Saints of New York".
What people don't know, but what Frank does, is the truth. He knows the real John Parrish and the seemingly sinister motivation behind his actions. Once again, as is the case with all of Ellory's books, we learn the back story at the same time that the main narrative races forward at a relentless pace. This time told in gripping dialogue with Parrish's counsellor, who was assigned to him after Internal Affairs called him to book for a transgression too many.
All the while, a homicide investigation is going on, a drug dealer turns up dead, but so too does his sister. She's not the only one, there are more and we follow Frank's journey to unravel the pieces and follow the clues. Detective work doesn't strike me as a pleasant occupation, you see the lowest, and the lowest of the low. Frank has seen it all, but this really gets under his skin.
As a reader, it's not pleasant. Ellory digs into some dark places and you are reminded that this is real, it's happening on a day by day basis. Fictitious accounts of non-fictional events. Some readers may not like it, nothing here is glamorised or dressed up. Vermin are vermin and as soon as we acknowledge their existence the sooner we can do something about it.
In context, you take the sum of this novels parts and you'd be thinking it reads as slightly clichéd, particularly as a "crime thriller". You take a New York homicide detective, hard drinker, broken marriage, married to the job, a typical "who-dunnit", but as with all of his previous works Ellory takes a token formulae and adds some of his magical fairy dust and takes what has been written time and time again into another direction.
I can't think of many other crime thrillers that would have left me thinking about the three answers to the three questions I asked earlier, but once again, my whole enjoyment of these books that continue to be released on a yearly basis is that they transcend the genre. Gritty, realistic dialogue, characters that are believable and fully dimensional, the crime aspect is merely a distraction as we try and understand the person and what drives them.
Although, ultimately another wonderful piece of literature by Ellory, my main reason for it's success was what makes reading a book so special, the right one always seems to come at the right time. It may just be me, maybe it's entirely coincidental, but certain events in my own life and having to learn for myself about "where we come from" and the "meaning of life", it seems that I'm being thrown different answers of varying importance about this topic wherever I turn!
I'll always hold A Quiet Belief in Angels, and A Quiet Vendetta in such high regard, so there is a little bit of pressure from me onto the author to surpass that, I'm not expecting a Magnum Opus once every twelve months and would be incredibly rude (and impossible) of me to request that! Each of his readers will have their own personal favourites, and they are what his future work will be measured by. But he has a fan here, and if one more fan comes as a result of these annual reviews then all the better for it, as it will hopefully mean more books for me to read!
on 24 October 2010
This is a superbly written thriller that proves Ellory is now a class apart from even the best selling authors working in the genre. But this also works on a much deeper, more emotive level than the novels of Stieg Larsson and Michael Connelly: this is far more engaging, quite shaking in places and ultimately deeply emotional. It's been ten days since I read the last pages and it just won't leave me alone. Damn you, Ellory, damn you.
This is nominally a story of father and son but even more affecting for me were the fathers and daughters, and a shocking betrayal of trust and a sudden burst of all-too-realistic violence made me gasp out loud. This has proven to be a novel I just can't seem to let go of even though I actually finished it a week or so ago. Maybe it's having a seventeen-year-old daughter of my own that makes this resonate so much , but judging from the other reviews here on Amazon I'm not alone - this novel rocks you and disturbs.
And taking centre stage of this spellbinding journey is one of the bravest fictional creations of recent times: Frank Parrish, an alcoholic NY cop teetering on the very edge. He's horribly, perhaps fataly flawed but all-too-believable.
Sit back and enjoy. Absolutely stunning.
on 16 October 2010
R.J. Ellory recently (and deservedly) won the Theakston Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year Award for his novel, A Simple Act of Violence.
Saints of New York goes to show what an extraordinary writer he is. He manages to intertwine the harrowing tale of teenage abductions, alcoholic cops, people living on the edge of sanity and reason whilst at the same time carrying you into the thought processes, worries and anger of the main character - Detective Frank Parrish.
Parrish fights not only "the bad guys" but also his personal insecurities, hangups and inability to handle the most basic of inter-personal relationship. It is the manner in which Ellory writes the unfolding tale that absorbs the reader in an ever more complex and harrowing tale in which your every fibre is screaming out to help Frank Parrish get through another day without "screwing up" in his usual manner.
This is a gripping and somewhat darker tale than other Ellory novels. Having read all of his other books, I was anxious to get my hands on Saints of New York as soon as it came out. It definitely came up with "the goods". As with previous books, this one is a stand-alone novel containing many interesting characters, plots and scenes of the worst forms of crime imaginable. We follow Parrish on his path towards some form of redemption - Can he catch the killer; Will he reconcile himself with his late father's actions; Can he heal the rifts with his family and friends.
Once you have picked up this book, you won't want to put it down. R.J. Ellory just keeps on getting better and better. Buy it, read it, feel it. This is a great book.
Welcome to the world of Frank Parrish, NYPD Homicide Detective. Too much whiskey, too few friends. Too many dead bodies; it's a world of darkness. Somewhere, a light shines....but only Frank Parrish can see it.
Ellory's eighth novel - a standalone like all of its predecessors - is built around a few weeks in the life of NYPD Detective Frank Parrish, whose late father was one of the legendary Saints of New York, a hero within the police department. The case that Parrish investigates concerns the abduction and murder of an ever-growing number of teenage girls in the Brooklyn area over the previous couple of years, mostly cold cases until now classified as merely 'missing', and while his new and younger partner wants to work absolutely within legal boundaries, Frank Parrish develops a gut-feeling for a particular suspect and takes career-threatening risks to find out if his instincts are right. This is set against a number of different relationships within Parrish's past and present life, not least his father, in whose shadow he has lived most of his career, and in the present his recently-appointed therapist Dr Marie Griffin, his twenty-something children and his ex-wife, and in a way his relationship with hard liquor. Parrish appears on nearly every page of the story, so this is one that is very much an examination of a hard-drinking detective with no real friends and whose life is made up of work and very little else.
One of the beauties of this novel is that once again the author takes on issues and character types that have been penned by many writers in the past but simply does it better. A lot better. Ostensibly Frank Parrish is a parody within the genre, at least at first, but before the middle of the story - never mind the end - the reader knows that this is character-drawing of the highest class. It's always an Ellory strength; he takes relatively meanstream personalities and makes the reader care about them. There's nothing particularly remarkable about Detective Frank Parrish, but what is remarkable from a reader-enjoyment perspective is how well we get to know him, how we get under his skin and inside his mind. This story has real depth and like all other Ellory novels it is one to savour and remember. The detailing is exquisite, the pacing perfect and the sense of atmosphere spot-on. The story itself - the murder investigations - is gripping and admirably representative of real-life police procedurals. Nothing glamourous for the sake of it, from beginning to end it is utterly realistic and probably a snapshot of how murder investigations work in the real world. It's clear that a lot of research has been done by the author and his team to make sure that all aspects of the procedures are accurate and not sexed-up in any way. And despite a depressing undertone - the exploitation and killing of young girls - it's not a depressing story, because the focus is mainly on the positives of preventing the perpetrators continuing their sickening activities and bringing them to justice. That Frank Parrish takes on something of a maverick role in making this happen might seem a familiar take on a serial killer tale, but such is the difficulty in finding any way of securing justice by the rules or by any other legitimate means that the reader will urge Parrish on in his solitary and dangerous quest because it's clear that no other method will work, at least not before another young life is violently taken.
My first thought upon closing the final page was "What next? How do you follow that?" because this is an outstanding piece of crime fiction, with a standard of writing that you just don't find every day. It will presumably be another twelve months before we see Ellory No.9 and in between I for one will find it difficult to muster up the enthusiasm for buying anything else in this crowded genre. That's because THIS is how it should be done, this is how to write real stories with credible if not magnetic characters, and this is how to entertain a reader from first page to last with not a paragraph of padding in between. I would hesitate from calling it a masterpiece or a classic, but what I would say is that it is absolutely up to Ellory's very high standard and compared to some other new releases by leading crime fiction authors this year, well frankly this is as good as if not better than any of them. Enthusiastically recommended.
on 9 May 2012
This is the second Ellory book I've read. The other - A Quiet Belief in Angels - I found a rather extraordinary and emotionally exhausting read. The Saints of New York feels somewhat of a lesser book all round, but then it had a lot to live up to. The story is still a bit of an emotional ride as it tracks Parrish's fragile state of mind and psychological transformation and the unfortunate lives of young girls being grabbed for snuff movies, but it doesn't quite plumb the depths of the A Quiet Belief in Angels. And given the subject matter I'm not going to say it was an enjoyable read. It was certainly engaging in parts, but the more the book progressed the more ambivalent I became. The story felt stretched out and from a long way it out it was clear as to how the narrative would unfold - this is after all a story of a fall from grace and redemption. Parrish is the archetypal solo, me-against-the-world, drinks to forget cop, who breaks every rule and pisses all his colleagues and family off, and constantly teeters on the edge of being drummed out of the force, all in the name of justice. There is no denying, however, the quality of the writing. Ellory can certainly string sentences together and produce a multi-layered read. The start is as gripping as they come. For those who like a psychological inflected police procedural, The Saints of New York will be a welcome tonic.
on 15 February 2012
Saints of New York is the story of a washed up cop called Frank. In therapy, banned from driving, an alcholic divorcee and clinging to the remnants of what was once a promising career, things don't look good for Frank Parrish.
The book's opening is graphic, a little too much so for my taste, and though the episode is referenced briefly later, it does leave you feel a little too obviously manipulated. I felt this especially, as this scene aside, the opening chapters are brilliant. The washed up cop is cliche, sure, but Frank is really well written and the pace is excellent. The double murder that starts the whole thing off is just subtle enough to get your interest. And the backstory gives Ellory the chance to show off the research that he has put in - it's genuinely gripping.
That said the book falls away for me at about half way through. And you can see the ending from some way off. You hope for a subtle twist - well, you hope for one. Let's leave it at that.
The book's best feature is it's protagonist. Frank Parrish, is a well developed character, and the conversations with his therapist Frank, reluctantly laying himself bare: his relationship with his father, his veteran cop morality, his place in New York policing history - all are skillfully explored, and for me, these chapters are the best in the book.
It is a shame that the minor characters seem a bit shallow in comparison. His Partner, Radick, seems to have no discernable personality. The ex-wife really doesn't have a lot going for her. The prime suspect is, frankly, a little dull. Perhaps that is the point, but as a reader I was hoping for more.
All this seems a bit mean, and it is. Saints of New York is a really good book. What makes it so is not the characterisation but the writing itself. Ellory is supremely skilled at moving a plot forward, at giving just enough detail, just the right level of dialogue, so that the reader is never bored. You always want to know what will happen next.
The sense of place is superb. Maybe real New Yorkers would disagree. I really don't care. Ellory's fictional New York makes a superbly cool and seedy backdrop to his murderous and seedy plot. It is simply amazing to think that this isook the work of a writer from the Midlands. This book feels right, and there is no greater compliment than that.
Saints of New York is really good read. It's gripping, exciting and dangerous. While the characterisation is thin and not entirely convincing, Ellory does place and plot superbly. It's a good book.
Would I read Ellory again? Yes, but perhaps not right away.
The novel opens with NYPD Detective Frank Parrish trying desperately to talk a man out of a murder-suicide. Although he fails, it is clear that Parrish lacks neither courage nor determination: he cares, and wants to do the right thing. Unfortunately, Frank Parrish has his own demons and obsessions and is close to losing his career and further estranging his family. In short, Frank Parrish is a deeply troubled man who is undergoing enforced counselling following the death of his previous partner.
The murder of a heroin dealer's teenage sister doesn't make sense, and while it becomes clear to Frank Parrish that there is a disturbing pattern emerging between this and other murders of young teenaged females, it takes time for him to convince others. As Parrish's investigation proceeds, with the assistance of his new partner, his counselling sessions lead us through the story of his past.
Frank Parrish is the son of a celebrated New York detective, John Parrish, one of the officers credited with extraordinary success in combating the mafia. This unit became known as the Saints of New York. But Frank Parrish knows better: he knows that his father was corrupt. Frank Parrish will learn that there is more than one way to be a saint.
A number of aspects save this novel from being about yet another angst-ridden police officer. The strengths and flaws of Frank Parrish are covered sensitively, and the case he is working on has some twists and turns of its own before the truth is known. This is a dark novel: flawed characters battling both internal and external demons; in a world where corruption seems widespread and redemption is not always possible.
`Sometimes people just stopped looking.'
I enjoyed this novel. The juxtaposition of Frank Parrish's personal battles with his investigation into the murders made the novel work for me, by making Parrish's quest more desperate and more urgent. Will he win, or will he lose? Does he have enough time to solve the case before his own problems overwhelm him? This is the second R J Ellory novel I have read, and I'm looking forward to reading the others.
on 4 April 2011
The book begins with NYPD Detective Frank Parrish (the main character) trying to talk down a young man who has stabbed his girlfriend and is about to commit suicide but despite his best efforts they both die and so begins a book with bleak desperation running throughout it. The book has two main stories; Frank's struggle to understand his past and his relationship with his father and the search for a serial killer of teenage girls. I thoroughly enjoyed the story of the teenage girls - I read a lot of crime and this was high quality detective fiction. However, the exploration of his past that Frank does via a series of meetings with the departmental counsellor I found harder to relate to. Never having been to New York or knowing anything about the history of the Unions and the Mafia I found these sections of the book much slower and less enjoyable. However, one of my book group members comes from New York state and found these sections realistic and atmospheric.
In the notes from the author he says that one of the reasons he wanted to write this book was to get away from the `central character who always seems to get it right, make guesses and giant leaps of assumption, and always to be vindicated in their hunches' however, Frank seems to do just that when solving the crime focusing on one individual following a chance conversation who ends up being guilty. This sudden ending of the book came too quickly for me and another 20 pages or so would have helped make the ending seem more realistic and less contrived.
I have never read any R J Ellory books before and having read this one I felt sure that his other books would be earlier Frank Parrish stories - I wanted to find out more about how his partner had died and how he had go to his current position and was really surprised to find out that he writes stand alone novels. I obviously enjoyed the book as having finished it I went straight to my local library (while it still exists!) to find more of his books. I took out A Quiet Belief in Angels and The Anniversary Man. I've read the first one and was entranced by it - barely able to put it down but again the end came too suddenly for me. From a 30+ year investigation into a series of murders of young girls the perpetrator was discovered in about 5 pages. I'm currently in the middle of the second book which again is set in New York and has an interesting serial killer theme of murders committed on the anniversary of famous serial killers in their particular style. I'll certainly read more R J Ellory books.
on 12 February 2011
Initially, I found a particular storytelling technique (the consultations with the "shrink") to be off-putting, and really believed it was there just to move the story along - until I realised it was telling another story, and the two parts would actually have made two different - and engaging - books.
I like to have the minute details explained. Not because I can't figure it out for myself, but because I want every fact in front of me, and in this book Ellory manages to deliver the details without them becoming tedious. The story itself makes for rather quick reading, as the pace of the tale captures you and draws you along. Is it a "Can't Put Down"? No, but it is a "Pick Up Again As Soon As Possible" i.e. I was eager to return to it after work, but not so eager to take it to work with me. The action seems to unfold in a film or TV drama style. I chuckled at the reference to "Law & Order" because it does feel a little like that when you're in the middle of this story.
The scenery around the story is quite well painted. We all know what a police station looks like inside, but there was a fair bit of detailing so you do feel like you know Frank's station in particular.
We're used to flawed lead characters - it's the done thing these days - and one occasionally feels as though the flaws are there to add interest. But Frank Parrish needs these flaws to show the outcomes of the back story. Lesser characters are also well fleshed-out, even those referred to in "flashback".
The subject matter of the crimes is not pleasant, but I felt that the writing was sensitive enough to keep it readable without diluting it to the point of insignificance. The graphic parts of the crimes described were necessary rather than gratuitous.
If you're a fan of Police Procedurals than this book is recommended as a good example of the genre. If this is a type of book you've never read before, then try it - you might just like it. I did, and I'm confident to give it 4 stars. Why not 5? I'm not quite sure, but something stopped me a little short. I think it was the first 30 pages or so. Persevere... it's worth it.