Customer Reviews


79 Reviews
5 star:
 (21)
4 star:
 (28)
3 star:
 (18)
2 star:
 (8)
1 star:
 (4)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


12 of 12 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 10 months ago by Ariadne Aufnaxos

versus
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars In need of pruning
Although familiar with Mark Lawson from TV and radio I had never read any of his books, in fact I don't think I was aware he had written any fiction. The blurb caught my interest but the book failed to live up to its promise. It is giving nothing away to say that you know that murder has been committed right from the outset albeit it isn't clear until near the end of the...
Published 8 months ago by Marand


‹ Previous | 1 28 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

12 of 12 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
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Keeping up with three lots of Jones', 5 Nov 2013
By 
Zola fan "Nana" (Hants, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Deaths (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and could hardly bear to put it down; at the end of each chapter I couldn't wait to know what happened next. The Deaths is a novel about four rich couples living in sumptuous homes in Middlebury, Bucks. They refer to themselves as `The Eight', mixing with each other most weekends and have, in the past, spent expensive weekends abroad together while their nannies stay behind tending the children.

The characters are very believable; each one is quite vile yet intriguing and I really enjoyed Lawson's style of writing and his subtle satire. Life for most of the wives consist of vacuous tasks such as `bidding' to order the latest must-have coffee beans for their very exclusive coffee making systems and ensuring that the nanny doesn't take her day off when it's not convenient to her employer. Husbands work very hard to maintain the luxurious lifestyles they have created for their thin and stylish wives - but get little free time to enjoy it all.

When the credit crunch comes, it is even more important for The Eight to maintain standards; credit cards are maxed out and Lidl groceries are packed into Waitrose bags. Social standing is vital among the group.

I found this novel very entertaining and although the title hints at the tragedy, I wasn't able to guess until the very end which house was going to be the scene of death and mayhem. I have given this a five star rating for the pleasure that reading this book gave me.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars In need of pruning, 19 Dec 2013
By 
Marand (Warwickshire) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Deaths (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Although familiar with Mark Lawson from TV and radio I had never read any of his books, in fact I don't think I was aware he had written any fiction. The blurb caught my interest but the book failed to live up to its promise. It is giving nothing away to say that you know that murder has been committed right from the outset albeit it isn't clear until near the end of the novel just who has been killed nor why. That having been said, I was 99.9% certain which family was killed and why about a third of the way in, and none of the red herrings inserted were sufficient to alter my opinion.

The story is set in an upper middle class milieu and I couldn't help thinking that the 'whodunnit' was playing second fiddle to the social satire. Some of that satire hit the mark, but sometimes it was too blunt an instrument and became a pastiche. The main cast are four neighbouring families, each with their secrets. I have to say that I was a little annoyed by the way the characters were so stereotyped - I know Lawson wanted to make a point but this could have been done in a more nuanced way. As it was, there were too many cheap pot shots: half of middle England would get tarred by the same brush - I had no idea that shopping in Waitrose or using Ocado was such a crime! Some of the detail (and there is a lot of it) just didn't ring true, or was completely unbelieveable, for example in relation to the family sustained by the do-gooding doctor wife whose earnings are implied to be on a par with a QC. I was also really annoyed by the topical references that were shoe-horned in as if the author was using a shopping list: MPs expenses - tick, HS2 - tick, banking crisis - tick, middle classes shopping at Lidl/Aldi - tick, and so on.

I struggled to get into the book at the beginning. In the early part at times it felt like an extended info dump, with more detail than was needed. In my view it would have benefited from some judicious pruning - I reckon it could have been reduced in length by about 25% without any disadvantage to the text. In fact taking away some of the 'flabbiness' would have tightened the story and brought more focus to it. For me the clues inserted along the way as to the identity of the dead family were just too obvious - I carried on reading to make sure I was right (and I was and for the right reason) but it takes something away if you can figure it out so easily. I was annoyed at the end too - the book continued on for far too long after the denouement, trying to tie up ends that didn't seem to need tying.

I've been toying with what rating to give - two or three stars but overall this is only 2 stars.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Novel set in England (the beau monde in Buckinghamshire), 29 July 2014
This review is from: The Deaths (Paperback)
High living in Buckinghamshire. But the facade is fragile and behind the moneyed masses – for some – are stories of despair and disintegration.

Jason, the delivery driver for CapuccinGo (otherwise Nespresso I would guess) is on his rounds delivering the rainbow-coded coffee capsules to his rich punters. But he discovers a murderous rampage at one of the big 4 houses central to the narrative. The house is quiet, the dogs are dead. What further gruesome murders might there there be in one of the “best fuck-off houses in Bucks”?

Going backwards in time this is the story leading up to the murders in this mansion. Four couples – or, a ‘ruck of chums’ – have forged their lives together as a friendship group, based on acquisition of wealth. Everything is possible but the creeping and pernicious disintegration for some within the group has started. This is England in the noughties where the bankers have raked in a fortune but society is teetering – and so are some of the richer echelons. It is no longer Waitrose for some, but Aldi and Lidl and, oh dear, the Pound Shop.

This is indeed very much a social satire of the upper middle classes where the players are an easy target for parody. The Financial Times would have it that we can care about the characters – and I did want to because it is all too easy to hack away at the stereotypes; but I didn’t. As people they were pretty much interchangeable, but perhaps the author intended this with their braying voices and Puffa jackets and scant regard for others. I had real trouble distinguishing between them all for a start and trying to get all my ducks in a row with who said what to whom, was a taxing task (but here’s a quick summary: Jonny is with Libby, Max with Jenno, Simon belongs with Tasha, and Emily (the nice one) is with Tom – once I got a grip on the dynamics, the story began to settle, but it was a struggle!).

So stereotypes aside, the author has a fabulous eye for detail and can string the most random observations together in a reasonably cohesive way. He must spend his life noting the interchanges and dynamics around him in his everyday life; and he does superb job of relaying them to his readers. But this is not a novel for everyone. It relies heavily on in-speak and cultural idioms that keep you on your toes (and leave you flummoxed if you have no idea what he is writing about). From stubble nuts (hmm) to the FT pink ink, or the “FD Stuart thing” to striping and blue-chip chocolate bars with limited Easter and Christmas specials. And what, pray, is a cuddy-wifter (there is no helpful glossary, so perhaps in the next edition that might be a consideration?). Now I know I have taken these examples out of context but even in the context I could feel my brain working overtime to UNDERSTAND. “Jellyfish nipples” now there is an image that is haunting but also just plain weird. And if you are not up to speed on the latest technology, forget it.

This is a very readable book, in the main, for the clever and astute prose, though it can get a little too clever at times. It captures the upper middle classes with their Hugos, Tillys, and Plums (names either of children or dogs, I can’t remember) and the burgeoning fragility behind the wealth, and the brash self regard, all set in fictional Middlebury, Bucks. It is all, however, rather depressing.

In terms of evoking locale it is all rolling landscapes, and winter yomps (with a brief foray to Marrakesh) but you wouldn’t buy it for a real sense of place. You would, however, buy it for a peep inside the British upper middle class. But you might recoil at what you find!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Complex construction, completely current in content., 11 Dec 2013
By 
Mrs. Katharine Kirby "Kate" (HELSTON, Cornwall United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
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 stuck 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!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


13 of 15 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
(TOP 10 REVIEWER)    (No. 1 Hall OF FAME REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Deaths (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stylish novel - not sure about the substance, 16 Sep 2013
By 
Mike Davey (St Georges, Telford) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Deaths (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Eventually very good, 3 Nov 2013
By 
A. Skudder (Crawley, West Sussex) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Deaths (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I found it a bit tough to get going with this book, but I'm glad I persisted because it became more intense as it went on, and by the end I was completely involved and dying to know what happens next.

I think the slow start was at least partly down to the trouble I often have getting to grips with large casts of characters and trying to remember which is which. In this case it was exacerbated by the fact that they are all superficially so similar. Maybe its a class thing but all rich people seem the same to me. In fact it wasn't until after about 100 pages that I was totally confident that I could remember who was married to who. At this point the characters which were previously interchangeable over-privileged symbols of excess started to become more distinct and interesting.

The nature of the story means that I have to be careful not to give too much away and a lot of the things I would really like to say about it would be quite big spoilers. When I started to get into it I was telling my wife all about it, knowing that she would never read it so I wasn't spoiling anything for her, and it is not often I feel compelled to discuss the books I am reading with her. It made me think that this might be a good selection for a book club.

I say that because there is a lot to discuss. For a start there is the structure which starts with the discovery of a dead family. We know they live in one of a group of four houses but we don't know which one. The timeline then jumps back to a few months beforehand and progresses towards the time of the crime with just a few chapters about the police crime investigation. As you begin to suspect the nature of the crime you start to work out which family will be the victims and there are plenty of red herrings thrown in. Beyond that there are also plenty of topics to discuss in relation to the characters and their lifestyles as well as the plot points and the terrific final page.

The book this reminded me most of is Capital by John Lanchester, or at least the chapters that featured the banker, for the way it gives a bit of an insight into how the other half live and even how money doesn't necessarily buy you happiness but just gives you further to fall.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Murder by Recession?, 14 Sep 2013
By 
Lincs Reader (Lincolnshire, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1.0 out of 5 stars Not worth the effort, 10 Aug 2014
This review is from: The Deaths (Paperback)
This book fails on many levels. Is it aiming at caricature and farce, a la Tom Sharpe? It would seem so but it lacks the essentials that such satire requires and is nowhere near as funny as Sharpe was in his day. So should we take it at face value? Hardly, as we are hit over a head by a sledgehammer attempting to scorn middle class mores, chance affluence and how it call all go wrong as families desperately try to keep up with the Joneses and characters clunk around the page. This is all obvious stuff and needs to be more decisive in its genre to hold the attention. Satire, thriller, who dunnit? This is poor mash up of all three. The addition of irritating factual errors (e.g. parochial church councils are not the same as parish councils and yet the terms are used interchangeably - and yes this sort of thing is important if we are supposed to 'believe in the book') gives the impression of a book dashed off in a hurry despite this being Lawson's first for 8 years.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 28 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

The Deaths
The Deaths by Mark Lawson
3.59
Add to wishlist See buying options
Only search this product's reviews