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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Song from Dead Lips
This excellent (or should that be 'fab'?) detective novel is set in 1968 Swinging London. The first novel to feature Detective Sergeant Cathal Breen and WPC Helen Tozer - on probation with CID when women are considered unable to even drive police cars, although always called upon to put the kettle on... Breen is an interesting character, not greatly liked by most of his...
Published 19 months ago by S Riaz

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars I did enjoy it but it did feel a little dated
I read this book on holiday. My initial thought was that it did not flow in the middle as extra plots were introduced and ended. Subsequently I read a synopsis about the tv series the book is based on and I realised that some episodes were almost stand alone. This transmits to the book and slows down the story.
I did enjoy it but it did feel a little dated.
Published 10 months ago by Neil


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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Song from Dead Lips, 14 Oct. 2013
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Song from Dead Lips (Breen and Tozer Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
This excellent (or should that be 'fab'?) detective novel is set in 1968 Swinging London. The first novel to feature Detective Sergeant Cathal Breen and WPC Helen Tozer - on probation with CID when women are considered unable to even drive police cars, although always called upon to put the kettle on... Breen is an interesting character, not greatly liked by most of his fellow officers and having created a distance from them by moving out of police accomodation to care for his elderly father, who has since died. The author gets the politically incorrect office banter just right as he recreates a time and place where casual sexism and racism are the norm, as is police corruption (including the infamous Pilcher from the drug squad, who targeted John Lennon and Mick Jagger, among others).

Breen is sent to investigate the murder of a young girl, her naked body discovered in a St John's Wood alley. She has been left by a block of flats backing onto Abbey Road, the recording studio where young girls congregate to wait for the Beatles, and also close by the house of an eminent African surgeon. This atmospheric crime novel will take you from Apple Scruffs, to building sites, through to fund raising for the war in Biafra; to both the city and country, as Breen refuses to accept the obvious suspects as the correct ones. Breen and Tozer are fantastic characters, both with their secrets and demons to deal with. I sincerely hope that they will appear together in future novels, as this was so enjoyable and well written. Lastly, if you enjoy crime novels set in the 1960's you might also like Kiss Me Quick.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The way it was, 24 Aug. 2014
By 
Antenna (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Song from Dead Lips (Breen and Tozer Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
One of the latest in the seemingly inexhaustible series of dysfunctional detectives, Breen has more reason to be so than most - he is recovering from the recent death of his father for whom he has cared during a long decline. Is this sufficient excuse for running from the scene of a robbery on seeing his work colleague Prosser held at knife-point? Breen understandably has to face a good deal of flack from the rest of the team for this, but perhaps less convincingly no formal disciplining. Yet we can see he is an above-average officer from the painstaking attempt to interpret evidence on the murder case of a young woman and his tolerant attitude towards Tozer, the often out-of-line female officer foisted on him in an otherwise solidly male team.

Set in 1968 around Abbey Road at the time of Beatlemania, this story will strike several chords with those who can remember the period. Others may find it hard to credit the sexism, casual racism, ubiquitous chain-smoking, unchallenged bullying at work - in short, general political incorrectness, and it is unsettling to realise how unthinkingly one accepted it at the time.

Beneath a fairly conventional police detective drama there lie some serious issues such as police corruption in the 1960s and the cynical British reaction to the Biafran war, of which I was to my present shame then completely unaware. There is also some quite strong character development behind the stereotyped attitudes of the police officers, and the crude workplace humour and rivalries. After building up to a dramatic climax, the author clearly leaves the ending open for a sequel or two. Apart from a feeling that the subplot relating to Prosser is handled in a rather rushed way, and the quality of the writing, generally good, occasionally slips, I recommend this novel and intend to read the sequel, "A House of Knives".
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hugely enjoyable and authentic read, 30 April 2014
By 
Book Addict Shaun (England, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Song from Dead Lips (Breen and Tozer Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
I've read crime fiction constantly since I was entering my teenage years and so I often look for books which are a bit different to what else is out there. Luckily crime fiction is a huge genre and alongside all the repetitive stuff are a few little gems, one such gem was this book. I read the blurb on Net Galley and requested it immediately. It stood out as something unique and different and for me I couldn't wait to get started with it. I've read it on and off the past few days and enjoyed it massively. I challenge anyone to read the blurb and not want to read this book...

Straightaway just from the writing of the book you really could tell this book was set in 1960's London. The author has done an incredible job of capturing that era. The book felt very authentic and realistic and I definitely felt as if I had gone back in time during this book. A body of a young, naked woman is found by a spoilt child and his nanny. Cathal Breen is the man brought in to investigate and I have to say I really liked this character. He has a bit of a past and some baggage and I definitely enjoyed reading about him. I'd say he reminded me a bit of Tom Thorne (Mark Billingham) in certain ways and he is my favourite fictional detective of all time so we were off to a good start already! Upon finding the body police officers who usually work the beat crowd around and are given jobs to carry out by Breen. Finding a dead body is a bit of a novelty for them when they only usually walk the beat!

Working alongside Breen is Helen Tozer and again I really liked this character. The book is full of sexism and racism which is of course relevant to the time as it was rife back then. A woman police officer joining a force of men doesn't go down well with Breen's colleagues, who already have a vendetta of sorts against him after he abandoned a fellow officer who was being held at knifepoint. I especially liked the scenes between Breen and Tozer, plenty of banter alongside a new friend/partnership. Both are interesting characters and both have history, Breen's comes from moving out of the police home to live with his father in a flat who has now passed away and Tozer's from having a family member bearing stark similarities to the dead girl who has been found. Tozer isn't welcomed to the force by anybody but Breen and it was fascinating just reading the sexism of her fellow colleagues and how unprofessional they came across. Again though all very believable for the time. Women in crime fiction today are of course commonplace.

Of course this wouldn't be a book set in the 60's without a mention of the Beatles, or perhaps a reference to the arrest of one of them? The dumping of the body is also around the corner from the Abbey Road studios and Breen and Tozer visit a Beatles fan club as part of their investigation. However it's when they visit the dead girl's parents that the story really picks up and as always to say any more would be to ruin the story. What I would say is I did work out who the killer was fairly early on, well, not worked out but I picked out who I thought it might be and ended up being right! Overall I seriously loved this book and reccommend it so much to crime fans, fans of Mark Billingham especially. London in the 60's was brought to life in this book and I just loved reading about it. Breen is definitely a character to watch and as this is book one of a trilogy I imagine by the end of it he will have became one of my favourite detectives.

Huge thanks to Quercus for the review copy of this fantastic book.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved it- yeah yeah yeah!, 10 Aug. 2013
By 
Raven (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Song from Dead Lips (Breen and Tozer Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
Prepare to be transported back to the heyday of the swinging Sixties in this thoroughly enjoyable debut by William Shaw. Drawing on the sights and sounds of this iconic era, with a musical soundtrack resonating with references to the age of Beatlemania and the hugely influential Abbey Road studios, Shaw has conjured up a gripping crime thriller infused with period detail. I think to simply draw comparisons with Life On Mars vis-a-vis the police element is fair to an extent- the novel is peppered with references to racism, homophobia, sexism and the more Neanderthal methods of policing, all in what we view now as the non-PC language of the time- but I think this does the novel a bit of a disservice. As the larger, and indeed more global, themes of the novel become apparent, and the strength of the police characters generally have a more intrinsic depth to them, Shaw rises above a mere whimsical trip back to the past and produces something altogether more gritty and compelling.

The main police protagonists, DS Cathal Breen and WPC Helen Tozer are well-drawn and carry the weight of the plot with ease. Breen is a deep and thought provoking character, set apart from his more brutish colleagues in the murder unit, often being at the brunt of their misplaced humour or vitriol. At times he shows a distinctly more human and empathetic approach to both victim and the suspects, and genuine physical responses to the criminal acts he bears witness to. The interplay between him and the ballsy Tozer, the first woman assigned to the murder unit, is beautifully realised combining a mixture of humour, camararderie and emotional involvement, which makes the scenes between these two in particular, one of the most satisfying aspects of the book. Breen is haunted by demons, but Tozer has also experienced a dark event in the past, which has caused her to carve out a career in the police service. The grittier aspects of this investigation has serious effects on, and consequences to both officers that Shaw effortlessly inveigles into the main, and for the most part, intriguing and disturbing plot making reference to the social prejudices of the era and drawing on aspects of the Biafran conflict- a political hotspot of the era.

I had certain pre-conceptions of this book, largely because of the period it was set in, thinking it might just be a run-of-the-mill sixties police procedural, which were confidently expelled by the weight of the issues contained within the book, and the exceptional characterisation throughout. Shaw recreates the sights and the sounds of the era with ease and the prejudices of the time and I found this a most enjoyable and compelling read, drawing on a historical conflict that I personally had little knowledge of. A highly readable debut and I hope to see more in this series.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Of Days Gone By, 2 Aug. 2014
By 
On The Levels (Somerset, Centre of the World.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Song from Dead Lips (Breen and Tozer Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
Set in the 1960's this is a blast from the past and an excellent reminder of days gone by.

DS Breen and TDC Tozer make an interesting and complementary pair based in those days of the rise of the Beatles, the far away Biafran war and the inate instutionalised sexism and racism of those times.. Set in London, but with trips to the West Country, I found this an enjoyable adventure with an intereresting sub-plot which encapsulated the attitiude of many London police officers in those days.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The good old days, 11 Aug. 2014
By 
S. B. Kelly (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Song from Dead Lips (Breen and Tozer Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
Oh, God, I can remember 1968. This felt so real, such a convincing depiction of London in the late 60s: the sexism (plonks aren‘t authorised to drive police cars), the racism, the erecting of grim tower blocks, the daily grind. And the non-stop smoking, even by hospital staff at work.

This is the late 60s as most people experienced them, not the Woodstock minority. It’s an era when a woman out alone after dark was assumed to be a prostitute. Homosexuals might not be criminals any more but the police still feared, hated and despised them; abortion might be legal but women who had them were still treated as scum. Oh, and single women on the Pill were clearly promiscuous.

Rum & blackcurrant: I’d forgotten about that. And taps with rubber nozzles to stop them spurting. And I’m afraid I’d also forgotten about the war in Biafra.

The plot is not that great. The enjoyment of this book revolves around the atmosphere and the vivid characterisation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read and enjoy!, 23 July 2014
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This review is from: A Song from Dead Lips (Breen and Tozer Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
I am currently unwell, and needed some escapist reading - this was a superior feast, a romping yarn with lovely character portrayal and great journalistic attention to detail. As a keen 'student' of things Nigerian I especially appreciated the attention to detail of those aspects of the story.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, 19 May 2015
By 
Elaine Tomasso (Troon. Uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Song from Dead Lips (Breen and Tozer Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
Detective Sergeant Cathal Breen has two unidentified bodies on his hands, one labelled a tramp and the other a prostitute although there is no proof of either assertion. He eventually identifies the "prostitute" who is actually a young runaway called Morwenna. From there it all kicks off with more bodies and plenty of action. I enjoyed the plot and the historical setting. Ok,1968 is not so historical for many but it is in terms of technology and police procedure, never mind women's rights, racism and all the other old fashioned habits we wouldn't tolerate nowadays. It is a well researched, fascinating glimpse into a bygone era which, frankly, I wouldn't want to return to.
Despite the casual racism and sexism which I found authentic but annoying I recommend a Song From Dead Lips as an interesting and rewarding read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful, 13 July 2014
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This review is from: A Song from Dead Lips (Breen and Tozer Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
Great evocation of the late sixties and the almost forgotten Biafran war. Good detective duo, both outsiders, let us hope that Tozer changes her mind and stays for book two if there is one. Well written and a good story. More please
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Plot well constructed with interesting period references to the 1960s ..., 12 July 2014
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This review is from: A Song from Dead Lips (Breen and Tozer Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
Plot well constructed with interesting period references to the 1960s. Be aware that terms which were in common usage in the 60s would now be considered as racist and some readers may find them offensive.
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