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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent romping read, 10 Mar. 2008
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C (London, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: White Riot (Paperback)
I was disappointed to get to the end. It was a bit slow to start with it soon picked up. I haven't read any others in the Donovan series but I soon befriended the characters and never felt that I'd missed out.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars All the ingredients there but just lacking 'something', 30 Jan. 2008
This review is from: White Riot (Paperback)
Martin Waites started his career writing excellent, stripped down books featuring Geordie investigative journalist Stephen Larkin. Larkin lost his wife and child to a maniac angry at one of Larkins articles. After years of self destructive behaviour he's sobered up and returned home to the North East. Waites then wrote two far more mature works 'Born under punches' and 'the White room' then almost seems to be reworking the Larkin novels with the Donovan series.

Like Larkin, Donovan is an ex-journalist who lost his son, drunk his marriage away, sobered up and returned to the North East where he works as an 'information broker' (basically a PI). The Donovan series are chunkier reads than the Larkins with a better, more developed set of supporting characters. As with Edinburgh in Ian Rankins 'Rebus' series or Nottingham in John Harvey's 'Resnicks' it could be argued that the main character in all his books is the city of Newcastle itself. I used to live in Fenham (a crime ridden run down part of the west end of the city) and Waites describes it as only someone who also lived there could. When I read his books I can smell & feel my old haunts.

His two previous Donovan books 'The mercy seat' and 'bone machine' have been superb, taut thrillers with several plots all woven together into really top notch thrillers. 'White riot' has all the same ingredients but somehow it just doesn't taste the same. I'm not sure if the plot was just a little too complicated, if there were too many different characters diluting the personalities of the established ones or if there just wasn't enough suspense. Either way it just didn't engage the way it should have. Certainly there was virtually no character development in this novel- I know no more about Joe Donovan, Peta Knight or Jamal than I did at the end of Bone Machine. This is a real shame because Waites is a very talented guy: unlike several best selling crime authors he can feature multiple personalities in his novels. He doesn't have one developed detective and a photo-fit series of 1D characters to use and discard when needed.

I suspect most of the blame should fall on the big publishing houses. Publishers are taking on fewer new authors each year, instead awarding 'one book a year' contracts to writers with an established fan base. While this is doubtless great for the author when he needs a new morgage it puts a deadline on each new work and some books are going into print before they've been properly rewritten. Established series simply become a series of chapters in a soap opera and authors who have sold a million copies of their first novel are now turning out pulp that would never be in print if submitted by an unknown artist.

I have a nasty habit of only reviewing books that have slightly disapointed me and my reviews sound like hatchet jobs. Yet again I have to apologise for maybe being unfair to the author... 'White Riot' will almost certainly be one of the ten best crime novels of this year. Its simply that I expected a little more from it than I got. On the plus side after apparently ending happily 'White Riot' suddenly ends with a vicious twist and a real cliffhanger which should get 2009's book 'Murdered sons' off to an explosive start.
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White Riot (Joe Donovan Book 3)
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