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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very readabale mix of thriller / contemporary dark comedy of manners.
Very readable, well observed, satirically presented middle England social landscape, opened up by the act of violence which provides the plot. The 'depth' is in the social observation, highlighted by satirical distortion which sometimes verges on the absurd to portray the superficial and temporal nature of the comfortable affluence of a small cocoon in the Home Counties...
Published 20 months ago by Ariadne Aufnaxos

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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stylish novel - not sure about the substance
I have long been an admirer of much of Mark Lawson's work, including his incisive interviewing on TV. However, I found this novel ultimately disappointing, which is a shame because so much effort has clearly gone into creating it.

The deaths are made known to us in the first sentence, which also makes reference to `the country's sudden obsession with coffee',...
Published 20 months ago by Mike Davey


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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very readabale mix of thriller / contemporary dark comedy of manners., 4 Oct. 2013
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This review is from: The Deaths (Kindle Edition)
Very readable, well observed, satirically presented middle England social landscape, opened up by the act of violence which provides the plot. The 'depth' is in the social observation, highlighted by satirical distortion which sometimes verges on the absurd to portray the superficial and temporal nature of the comfortable affluence of a small cocoon in the Home Counties. This is not a Scandinavian thriller - the characters are caricatures as indeed is the social and economic context - but it pivots around the crime to provoke some (unanswered) questions about the 'something rotten' in contemporary times and mores. It is perhaps slightly longer than it should be but the story moves fast enough to want to get to the end.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Complex construction, completely current in content., 11 Dec. 2013
By 
Katharine Kirby "Kate" (HELSTON, Cornwall United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Deaths (Kindle Edition)
The Deaths by Mark Lawson

First! In a genuine attempt to be helpful I am going to offer up a cast list for you - something that is missing from the book and very sorely needed. (I got a quarter of the way in without untangling these awfully similar folk.) This list can be found in the comments section below, as I don't want to publish any spoilers or irritate readers who prefer to find out for themselves.

As to the story, well I assure you it is worth the effort of being introduced to the large cast. Totally up to the minute observations, preoccupations and attitudes. Twitter, Blackberry, iphone, mac books, posh coffee, flu pandemics fear, group pre Christmas shopping trips to Marrakesh, lady vicars, it's all in here.

There is a whiff of `A Casual Vacancy' blowing through it, as this follows similar themes of keeping up pretences, minor aspirations to be more like others around you than is possible, and insincere friendships, associations.

I was horribly gripped by the story, and carried my kindle around until it was done and dusted. It was helpful to keep a notepad to hand. Predicting who would do what and when became a puzzle worthy of a crossword compiler.

Embarrassingly, I thoroughly enjoyed the ghastly `Shaudenfraude' element. I recognised the characters, who are perhaps caricatures, but still struck me as familiar. And, the true test of a good book, all the hours that we were separated, I was wistfully yearning to get back to `The Deaths'...

Great work, Mark Lawson, shame about some of the typos and mistakes but it raced along with me chasing behind. I shall be more observant of the people who use First Class rail travel!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Way We Live Now, 12 Nov. 2013
By 
Eugene Onegin (Lincoln England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Deaths (Hardcover)
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Rural Buckinghamshire in the British winter of 2011-2012. A driver making a delivery of exotic and expensive coffee pellets discovers a family who have been shot in cold blood. From this simple if dramatic opening, Mark Lawson fashions a hugely enjoyable exploration of the lives of the super affluent in modern Britain in all their arrogance. The book focuses on the life of four couples, all apparently hugely wealthy who consider a Land Rover Discovery with more than 10,000 miles on the clock worn out and would never dream of traveling second class in their morning Virgin Pendolino into London. One of the great strengths of this book is that really Lawson really knows his quarry: from their I Phone-derived English to their supermarket snobbery. There are many memorable scenes where the curious obsessions of the modern Briton of a certain type are wonderfully exposed my personal favourite when they go to the theatre to see a play which is then discussed in terms of which TV series the main actors have appeared in-a very sharp take on a thousand conversations you can hear in foyers up and down the country. As the novel unfolds we learn more and more of the complex and often illusory lives of the supposedly super happy eight and Lawson cleverly shifts the mood of the book from black comedy to an increasingly serious examination of how money and a craving for status can destroy lives. It is quite late in the book before we learn the identity of the dead family so the book can read like a thriller, but this is not really that kind of piece being a serious meditation of the state of Britain today post recession and with 24 hour media reporting every detail of the tragedy blow by blow.Strongly recommended.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Murder by Recession?, 14 Sept. 2013
By 
Lincs Reader (Lincolnshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Deaths (Hardcover)
The setting is a beautiful Berkshire village, a commuter village, on the London trainline. The characters are 'The Eight'; four couples who live with their assorted children and dogs in four wonderful houses. Houses that were built originally for the old aristocracy and have now been renovated and modernised to be occupied by the new elite. Bankers, financiers, doctors, lawyers, successful business people - these are the people that are reaping the rewards of the boom years. Seats in the first-class carriages on the daily commute, short breaks to Marrakesh and designer coffee - these are the important things in their lives. But things are changing in Britain, businesses are crumbling, the recession is hitting hard, how long can The Eight keep up their lifestyles, how long can they hide their problems from each other?

A terrible act of violence happens within the first few pages. One of the families is wiped out, a murder-suicide - the father kills his entire family. The mystery that the reader is faced with is which one of The Eight is no more? Mark Lawson has created an extremely clever, fairly complicated story here, but a story that is so compelling that despite the obnoxious characters, who I will admit that I hated from page one, it becomes one of those 'can't put down' books as the emotional fragilities and hidden secrets of each family is uncovered.

The world of designer coffee is central to this story. The reader is introduced to Jason, a delivery driver for CappuccinGo - an up-market drinks company who deliver their special coffee capsules to the new aristocracy. Jason has his own views about The Eight - they provide his living and he's grateful, but to him, this upper-class obsession with posh hot drinks is a real sign of the times. The coffee theme continues as the reader learns more about each of the families. Who managed to get the special limited-edition capsules this week? The reader is also introduced to the world of supermarket snobbery, and the temptations that arise when faced with the trusting 'scan your own' groceries.

This is a novel about the new rich, and also about how the new rich are becoming the new poor. The husbands in this book do not come out well, not at all. They are an assortment of characters, with different careers and very different bank balances, but their common bond is that they are all pretty vile. Their wives don't fare much better, on the whole they do a lot of doing nothing. Only Tom and Emily seem to have any redeeming features, she's a GP, he's ex military and they do seem to realise that life in the village is based on what people have instead of what people are. Despite this, they don't do anything to discourage the lifestyle and seem happy enough to be part of the elite.

The Deaths is very current, it deals with current situations and Mark Lawson has based his characters on people that he has come across in real life. For me, living in a small market town in the depths of Lincolnshire which is most definitely not on the commuter line, it was a revelation. I do not come across people like this, ever. Yes, I know they exist, one only has to read the newspapers to realise that. I'm pretty pleased that I don't have to endure families like this, I find them fascinating, but they would drive me mad!

Despite the obnoxious characters and their luxury lifestyles, I did get very emotional towards the end of the story. Mark Lawson exposes their vulnerabilities and their failings so well, that I shed a tear. Not for the characters really, but for the waste. The waste of their potential and the fact that their stubbornness and way of life prevented them from being honest, with themselves and with their friends.

This is a novel that raised so many questions for me. Despite having finished it over 6 weeks ago, the characters have remained in my head. I was very much looking forward to our Panel Discussion, which was lively and quite fascinating. Meeting the author was a bonus, and we were able to ask questions and get answers that only reinforced my feelings about the story.

I think that The Deaths will be a very important novel in years to come. It is a story of it's time, a social history for generations to come.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Deaths, 15 Oct. 2013
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Deaths (Hardcover)
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This novel begins with the discovery of a series of deaths in one of four houses in a small village, called Middlebury. The four houses are mirror images of each other - highly luxurious, each set on a hill surrounded by land, they proclaim their superiority and status by location and design. In a way, the four couples who live in these houses are also mirror images; they have a similar number of children, most of whom attend the same school, they copy each other's lifestyles even to the breeds of dogs they own and they socialise together as members of 'The Eight'. The men travel into town together, to accomplish successful careers as a QC, security consultant, director of PR and as the MD of a family firm. The women number a doctor, owner of a catering company and a justice of the peace among them. They do voluntary work, walk their dogs, go to the gym together, belong to the same book group and holiday together. On the outside, it looks ideal - happy marriages, great lifestyle, comfortable and affluent. Of course, life is simply not that simple and, once you look beyond the surface, there are concerns and problems which are hidden from prying eyes.

It is not until you are near the end of this book that you discover who has died and, I have to admit, it took some self will not to peek and read the ending first. As the story unfolds, you read about the couples and their life - Jonny Crossan and wife Libby, Max Dunster and Jenno, Tom Rutherford and Emily, Simon Lonsdale and Tasha and, also, Nicky Mortimer and wife, Monifa, who are on the periphery of the group and observers of events. The couples are not all likeable by any means, and often appear self centred and arrogant, but, by the end, you feel deep sympathy for some of them - espcially among the wives. This is an uncomfortable portrait of a certain lifestyle and attitudes, but you can't help but be riveted by it. If I had any real criticism, it was a little slow in places and the ending a little abrupt, but there was much that gave you pause for thought; particularly the detective and her own discomfort about a lack of sympathy for the wealthy, plus the compromises individuals make in life to maintain the status quo. This would certainly make an excellent read for a reading group, with lots to discuss. Overall, I am glad that I read it and found it both entertaining and thought provoking.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Class and Coin..., 27 Sept. 2013
By 
Jill Meyer (United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Deaths (Hardcover)
Let me start my review by definitively stating that British author Mark Lawson's novel, "The Deaths", is about, oh, 75 pages too long. Weighing in at 465 pages, Lawson's "tome" could have been/should have been shorter. He could have told his story in fewer pages. BUT, his story - about 4 "golden" couples (and one other couple) living north of London in the winter of 2011-2012 - is such a good one that the reader notices the length of the book only because the content becomes "overly abundant" at times. It's a tricky thing to describe as a reviewer.

"The Deaths" opens up with the discovery by the deaths of one of the families in the "group". The local cops are called after the man from a "Cappuchino" home delivery service finds two dead dogs on the family's lawn. The cops find the bodies of four family members - mother and three children - in the house and, eventually, the body of the father on another place. The reader doesn't know which family has been murdered til almost the end of the book. However, Lawson gives plenty of clues as he writes about the four families - all with kids and dogs - during that last, dark winter.

"Class and coin" is the basis of Lawson's story. It's not a "comedy of manners" because it isn't particularly "comic". Lawson writes about five couples of the upper middle class, most of whom have made their coin by hard work. (I'm not totally sure, but possibly Duchess of Cambridge Kate's parents - the Middletons - could be included in this group - working their way up the economic ladder by hard work and invention and sending the next generation on to be further polished in private schools.) But getting to the upper middle class and staying there during a dodgy economic time are not the same thing. At least two of the four couples are enduring and hiding losses in their personal wealth. "Don't let the outside world know what we're going through" is the motto of this group's members, even has they hang on to their secrets. Other secrets include porn addiction, shoplifting, incipient alcoholism, as well as "cooking the books" at work.

The six adults are not bad people. No one in the book is a bad person. They almost all find themselves - either as individuals or as part of a married couple - in places where "situational ethics" come into play. How to keep up the good life they've either worked hard to achieve or - in one case - inherited? Huge homes with stables and tennis courts, long weekends in Marrakesh and specially-brewed coffee are just a few of life's goodies that are hard to give up, once experienced. Mark Lawson writes very nuanced portrayals of his characters - old and young - going through some difficult times. I just wish the book was a bit shorter. It's too long, but definitely worth reading.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good social reportage but a less good novel, 5 Aug. 2013
By 
Sid Nuncius (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Deaths (Hardcover)
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I was hoping for great things from this book. I think Mark Lawson is an excellent journalist and broadcaster and a brilliant cultural critic, and he has also written some of the best radio plays I have ever heard. Some of that comes through in this book, but as a whole novel I do have reservations about it.

Mark Lawson creates believable characters and has an exceptionally good ear for the way people use language. The book examines the minutiae of the lives of four rich families in Buckinghamshire, with some detail of the lives of others and a small amount of police investigation, which is actually very well done but is a very minor part of the book, and this is certainly not a crime novel. It is, as others have said, a piece of social observation of our time. It's often very well done with plenty of sharp insight and nice little one-liners like "...[he] blames Top Gear for the fact that so many British men now regard conversation as violently belittling banter." We get a decent portrait of the lives and attitudes of the wealthy, with their competitive one-upmanship and so on, but Lawson also throws in the points of view of a lot of other people and vignettes about disgraced but still greedy bank CEOs, MPs expenses, various kinds of on-line behaviour and a huge number of other modern social phenomena. He also takes incidental swipes at a lot of his own modern irritations like textspeak, the book group member who doesn't like a book because she wouldn't want any of the characters for a friend, the shallowness of a lot of theatre audiences...and so on and so on.

There is so much social detail that the book sometimes feels as though it's drowning in it all. The problem for it as a novel is that this almost completely swamps any real interaction or development in any of the characters. We see them mainly in a sequence of set pieces: on a pre-Christmas shopping trip to Marrakesh, on the train, at a Christmas party, at the Christmas morning service, shooting on a Sunday, walking the dogs... and so on and so on. (And I confess that I got to the stage where I was saying, "Oh, not blooming Waitrose again," although "blooming" isn't the exact word I used.) It's social reportage rather than a novel, and, although the reportage is very good, I found 500 pages of it is far too much to wade through.

The last hundred pages or so did pick up and were rather touching in places, and there's enough other good stuff here for me to (just) round up 3.5 stars to 4, but it's a long slog in places and, however much I admire Mark Lawson's other work, I can only give this a very qualified recommendation.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stylish novel - not sure about the substance, 16 Sept. 2013
By 
Mike Davey (St Georges, Telford) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Deaths (Hardcover)
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I have long been an admirer of much of Mark Lawson's work, including his incisive interviewing on TV. However, I found this novel ultimately disappointing, which is a shame because so much effort has clearly gone into creating it.

The deaths are made known to us in the first sentence, which also makes reference to `the country's sudden obsession with coffee', in this case that being delivered to a wealthy household, who inhabit a Georgian building, near 3 others occupied also by other wealthy people. The 4 families all interact together, sharing social occasions and often, in the case of the men, the commute to work.

Throughout there are well drawn episodes relating to the police investigation, one which appears to be quite static, since there is no apparent mystery concerning who is responsible. This is not really giving anything away because the ultimate intention seems to be to show that the 8 adults really do not know as much about each other as they may have thought. The deaths are a device on which the author hangs the narrative and the rather sharp social comments.

The author makes some well observed points relating to a part of modern life but I just do not like the narrative style, which is often placed around set pieces e.g. a holiday abroad and finally a funeral. Unless my copy is flawed, there is at least one point where the narrative segues into another completely different episode.

There are many amusing rhyming phrases e.g. Annoy Tannoy but again, this is all about style over substance. For me, the main problem is that I just did not care about any of the characters, none of whom are memorable - and certainly not likeable, with perhaps one exception.

Overall, some sharp comments about modern life as lived by one sector of the population but not an engaging narrative and characters that will not remain with me.

On an incidental note, when I first picked this up I thought that I had been sent a copy of Julian Barnes `Love, Etc' because the covers are so similar.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Grows on you, but could do with some editing, 24 Jan. 2014
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This review is from: The Deaths (Kindle Edition)
This was a slow burner for me. It took me a while to get to know the characters - none of whom are particularly likeable - but I eventually drifted into their virtual world and wanted to find out what happened to them. Some interesting observations of upper middle class life but some of the prose was rambling in style and could have done with some decent editing. Eventually enjoyed it overall.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Teetering on the edge, 22 July 2014
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There's a mystery massacre, a load of suspects, and lots of suspense. But the real joy of this book is that it's an acutely observed social satire. Mark Lawson has captured the tastes, aspirations, insecurities and obsessions of various gradations of rich, suburban middle class. With an unerring ear for accent and dialogue, he has great fun with the linguistic contortions and affectations of his characters - from the nouveau cockney banker with his schoolboy nicknames for body parts to the spoint "whatever" teenagers and the anxious new young wife of the local magnate. Great fun for a holiday read, and terrifically well paced and well sustained.
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The Deaths
The Deaths by Mark Lawson (Hardcover - 12 Sept. 2013)
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