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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A complete change of genre and a real return to form
It's been a while since I've read anything by Tony Parsons. Loved Man and Boy And One for my Baby but then found the subsequent books became repetitive,cloying and just versions of the same story even if there was always that smart turn of phrase or cultural reference that Parsons does better than most - not too surprising for a guy who was at the hippest end of the NME...
Published 11 months ago by tpryan

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Vaguely interesting plot, mediocre characters and genuinely dreadful writing.
The plot is (quite) interesting. It's set up with that genre staple of the 'prologue in which a crime occurs but no characters are named to allow for mystery later', but although cliched this does create some intrigue and a desire to find out what is going on. Arguably the prologue gives a little too much away since it makes the killer's motive blindingly obvious to the...
Published 2 months ago by Jake


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Vaguely interesting plot, mediocre characters and genuinely dreadful writing., 17 April 2015
This review is from: The Murder Bag (Paperback)
The plot is (quite) interesting. It's set up with that genre staple of the 'prologue in which a crime occurs but no characters are named to allow for mystery later', but although cliched this does create some intrigue and a desire to find out what is going on. Arguably the prologue gives a little too much away since it makes the killer's motive blindingly obvious to the reader (but not the characters, of course) and it also makes the small plot twist at the end incredibly predictable, but again only to the reader who has information that Max Wolfe does not. Things sag a bit in the first third with an unecessarily protracted hunt for a knife which seems little more than an excuse for the author to reveal that he has once visited the Black Museum, but there's certainly no shortage of action if you're prepared to switch your brain off a bit and if (like the author, I suspect) you have no real experience of how murder investigations work.
This lack believability is a serious problem to be honest. Whether it's the anti-terrorist operation that hinges on a choice between 'shoot him in the head with a sniper' or 'let him go', the PC with six years on the job who doesn't understand the rank of a Detective Constable, the head of a murder investigation who goes on a jolly to the black museum because that is apparently the best way to work out what kind of a weapon caused certain injuries, or any of a number of other inaccuracies; they jar and detract from the plot and the credibility of the author.

The nature of the plot allows for a rich cast of characters, and some of the gang of victims have the potential to be relatively interesting. However, each is treated with so little depth before their inevitable demise that we don't get much sense of what they are like or what might have caused each of them to take such diverse routes through life. Wolfe himself is given another genre-staple back-story, with a daughter and a dog who appear in lengthy passages that slow down the plot without adding nearly as much depth to the character as the author probably thinks.

The writing is the worst part of the book, which is a little unexpected from an apparently established author. I lost count of the moments where character A explains in laborious detail to character B some point which character B either should, or indeed does already know. Any good author knows that if a passage of dialogue starts with 'as you know', you need to seriously question whether it should be included, yet I lost count of the appearances of this phrase in the book. Part of the trouble is that the author is clearly a bit too impressed with what he does know about the police, and is therefore desperate for his characters to explain points such as that a Detective Constable does not outrank a Police Constable or that fingerprints sometimes go through gloves. While that may be fascinating to the author, and even moderately interesting to particularly ill-informed readers, it's utterly bizzare being mansplained through the voice of one of his characters.

Overall, a disappointing and irritating book, and not one which will encourage me to read any others in the series.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A complete change of genre and a real return to form, 21 July 2014
This review is from: The Murder Bag (Hardcover)
It's been a while since I've read anything by Tony Parsons. Loved Man and Boy And One for my Baby but then found the subsequent books became repetitive,cloying and just versions of the same story even if there was always that smart turn of phrase or cultural reference that Parsons does better than most - not too surprising for a guy who was at the hippest end of the NME school of journalism.

This is completely different. It's a shift to crime genre and Parsons does this well. For a first foray into the genre he brings something genuinely new. There are references to police work, procedures and premises that are different to other books. And the lead character is of course a flawed copper. But again Parsons does this a bit differently by casting Max as a male single parent.

This all adds to the book and there are quite a few twists along the way. You kind of work out where it's going but it's still entertaining and gripping enough. The final twist is a master stroke. I did find the cover of the book a bit less than its' contents: the strap line 'do some people deserve to die' is neither particularly compelling nor a theme - thankfully - that's much pursued in the book. And 'cutting the throats of the rich and powerful' is misleading too: these aren't random killings and the second victim is living on the streets. Another example of the story being rather better than the blurb.

The last page tells us Max will be back in 2015. That's good news as this has the makings of a genuinely different addition to the London crime scene genre.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Meh., 29 May 2014
By 
Patricia Hill "triciahill" (Hanwell, London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Murder Bag (Kindle Edition)
I finished it, but only just. And the much-touted twist at the end? What was the point? Is Max going to do anything about it?

The body count is high, but several of the deaths are fairly pointless (especially the guy who commits suicide. Twice.) The major motivating factor behind the murders is, by this point, a total cliche.

The bait and switch with the wife irritated me and, again, what was the point? Was it an attempt to make Max more interesting? Max attends several funerals, which are an excellent excuse for larding the book with vast chunks of prose from rather better writers. And the Peggy Sue wish fulfilment with the character Max ends up with? Ugh.

In the end, I didn't care about any of the characters and the plot wasn't interesting enough to make up for that.

But the most irritating factor was Max's car - he has a BMW X5, you know. Well, if you didn't after the first time it's mentioned, you soon will. "I lowered the window of the X5", "My X5 was parked further down the street", "I picked up the keys for my X5", and so on and on and on. By the end, I was convinced that BMW were sponsoring the book. Was it really not possible just to say, "I got into my car"? Just once? Please?
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Managed to get through most of it befor I gave it up as a bad job. Poorly written unbelievable characters and a story ..., 26 Jun. 2014
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This review is from: The Murder Bag (Kindle Edition)
I bought the book because it was written by Tony Parsons and wish I had not . Managed to get through most of it befor I gave it up as a bad job . Poorly written unbelievable characters and a story line that was totally daft .what happened Tony ?
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Gave up, 10 Jun. 2014
This review is from: The Murder Bag (Hardcover)
Tony Parsons can be a very effective writer, but not here.

Clearly Parsons has decided to get in on the police franchise act, stepping onto the kind of territory in which we might find Mo Hayder or Peter James.

The trouble is, in doing so, Parsons leaves no cliche unturned: troubled cop with authority issues, check; tabloid journalist who is willing to be used as human bait, check; loner pretending to be a serial killer and the police falling for it, check and so on.

Also, Parsons does like to over tell the reader various facts. Our hero drives a BMW X5 and we are reminded of this every time he parks his car, for example. His description of the Palace of Westminster is like something out of a primary school textbook.

The Murder Bag will probably be a bestseller. It doesn't deserve to be.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars If the rest of the book had concentrated on the crime it would have made a much better book. Tony Parsons usual fare is based on, 5 April 2015
By 
Sandra Foy "Sandra" (Manchester) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Murder Bag (Hardcover)
Hugo Buck, an investment banker, is found with his throat cut open in gruesome fashion. Then a homeless man, Adam Jones, is murdered in the same way. At first it looks as if they have nothing in common until the same photograph of seven students at an exclusive private school turns up in each of the men’s possessions. As the other students in the photograph are being picked off and murdered Detective Max Wolfe has to find the killer..and soon.

This book started off so well with the prologue depicting the murder of a young woman which is both shocking and disturbing. If the rest of the book had concentrated on the crime it would have made a much better book. Tony Parsons usual fare is based on relationships, so I suppose it’s fairly natural for him to want to include a lot of his detective’s relationships in this book. Unfortunately the relationships are wholly sentimental and do not work in the midst of a crime book. Whole chapters devoted to his daughter and their dog. Picking a fight with a man because he’s laughing at his dog. It was really wearing. I like some background on the protagonists, you need to get to know them but this was just mawkish sentimentality.

I also had a large problem with one aspect of his relationship with his wife. I don’t want to give any spoilers away but we are given information at the start of the book that strongly suggests one thing and your feelings are in accordance with what has been suggested. Then later on in the book it turns out that it is something else entirely and I was not impressed. I love twists and turns in a book but this was neither; I felt this was dishonest and the character was deceitful for no reason whatsoever. The issue had nothing to do with the crime and could easily have been set out honestly from the start. I lost any empathy I had and really couldn’t be bothered with Wolfe’s domestic situation after that. It may have bothered me more than it should but that’s the way it is.

I did enjoy the crime story. There was decent plotting and lots of real twists and turns that were well done. There was lots of research into police procedurals, which really didn’t all have to be transferred to the page: trying to find the knife used in the attacks was long-winded. The detail about The Black Museum, an actual museum of criminal artifacts in London, was really interesting.

Overall, the crime story was enjoyable but be aware there is a lot of background sentimentality and if you can cope with that it’s not a bad read.
I give it three stars but it’s probably nearer two and a half for me.
***
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for sending me the copy.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Rvenge is best served cold, 29 May 2014
By 
Mrs. C. A. Troops (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Murder Bag (Hardcover)
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The book starts with a young girl who has been assaulted and raped by a group of youths. She escapes by gouging the eye out of one of them but is caught again and murdered. So all along the reader knows something that the police don't.
DC Max Wolfe is one of the investigating team who seems to break all the rules and gets away with it. Single parent of a small daughter, Scout, ex wife having left and remarried. he has only recently transferred to homicide.
Men are being murdered by having their throats cut, a single cut nearly decapitating them. After three deaths a serial killer is being sought. The victims are friends of over twenty years, all having been pupils at Potter's Field a select private boarding school.
Not a bad read but it kept going into different and irrelevant directions, do we need to know about his dog walking, his eating in a café and his boxing? May be a small reference but not in the detail covered.
I felt that it didn't have the depth of a good crime novel in the likes of P D James, Elizabeth George, Peter James, Ian Rankin or Michael Connelly. It felt as if insufficient research had been done into the way the police operate.
Not a bad book but definitely not great.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Glad to finish it., 17 July 2014
By 
Lily (Sheffield UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Murder Bag (Hardcover)
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This could have been such a good book - the story itself is a good one. I was put off by the fact that it was obviously written by a middle class writer. Overall it came across as a tacky American detective story. The name 'Max Wolf' says it all! He was sensitive but tough. Why does the writer need to dress this up in such a cliched way?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth a look. Not a difficult read but not a thrilling page-turner throughout., 19 Jun. 2014
By 
Pallus (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Murder Bag (Hardcover)
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Physically, the book is bigger than needed as its text has a broad border. It could either be made smaller for portability or the text could be enlarged for easier reading. The cover is fine.

This novel is a bit front end loaded. Toploaded, you might say..

The thing is, it opens in a thrilling flurry of action after which the character introduction and backgound seem dull.

Furthermore, there's some tiresome unnecessary technical detail descriptions which may impresst those in the specific field but just bore the rest of us.

And some of the sub-plots are an unwelcome diversion from the main whodunnit story -which , in itself, is very good.

So, the main meat of the book is a good, gripping read. But with the detective's backstory and personal problems it all seems a bit formulaic. I'd also say that the detective's character seems to be made TOO appealing -being a responsible and sensitive parent and dog owner (yawn).

Maybe this work life/home life contrast is an accepted formula and I should accept it as a given in this genre but it seems a bit contrived to me and interrupts what I want to follow.. the investigation!

Even the detective's name -Max Wolfe- seems a bit contrived. Why can't he have a less conspicuous name.. like Tony Parsons!!

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[My ref: Detective mystery with Mr Max Wolfe. June 14]
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not so thrilling, 7 July 2014
By 
C. A. Austin "chezza99" (England, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Murder Bag (Hardcover)
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Tony Parsons writes in a conversational style - undemanding language, relaxed pace, random bits of domestic detail. It's easy to imagine him as a Sunday lunchtime raconteur, shooting the breeze over a lazy pint or three. Unfortunately, this doesn't suit a thriller. His pace is too slow and his story's too full of holes. Giving the overall effect of an easy-going chat around child abuse and violent revenge, he fails to impart horror or intrigue but shares more than enough information about all the characters' pet dogs.

There are almost as many dogs in "The Murder Bag" as there are clichés; both take up far too much space without adding to the plot. Officers of the Metropolitan Police have lovely homes in the more expensive parts of London - quite an achievement on their salary - and eat Korean food at dinky Soho restaurants. Detectives are surprisingly well-read but completely miss enormous clues. They don't even solve the mystery.

Not recommended for: thrills, tension, emotional engagement or mental stimulation.
Might be good as: easy holiday reading for dog lovers.
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The Murder Bag
The Murder Bag by Tony Parsons
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