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Rob Kitchin

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Little Girl Lost: A breathtaking crime thriller, that will hook you from the first page (DS Lucy Black Book 1)
Little Girl Lost: A breathtaking crime thriller, that will hook you from the first page (DS Lucy Black Book 1)
Price: £4.74

4.0 out of 5 stars Solid start to new series, 26 July 2015
After five Inspector Devlin books set along the Irish border, Brian McGilloway turned his attention to a new series featuring Detective Sergeant Lucy Black set in Derry. Like the Devlin books, the legacy of the Troubles haunts the tale, as it would for just about story involving the police in Northern Ireland, and McGilloway does a good job of weaving the past with the present. He also does a decent job of balancing the narrative between Lucy Black’s work and personal life, and in so doing ensures two strong hooks: a pair of interwoven police cases (a young girl found wandering in the snow in ancient woodland and a kidnapped teenager), along with the unfolding personal challenges of an engaging lead character. The result is a nicely constructed police procedural with a compelling plot, a good sense of place and time, and a great deal of heart. The only downsides were a little too many coincidences intertwining the professional and personal and an extra twist at the end felt a little forced. Nonetheless, a solid start to what seems set to be a strong series.


Werewolf
Werewolf
by Matthew Pritchard
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

3.0 out of 5 stars quick-paced, tightly written piece of post-war crime fiction, 26 July 2015
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This review is from: Werewolf (Paperback)
In Werewolf Matthew Pritchard joins together a story about the British occupation of the Western Germany and acts of profiteering, revenge, poor management, trying to place order onto a chaotic society and chase down war criminals, with a serial killer tale. At one level, it’s pretty well executed, except towards the end where it becomes a little ragged and a few loose ends are left hanging, on another level the serial killer angle felt like a different kind of story interwoven into an end of war tale; a kind of sensational twist to an already murderous war. There was, to my mind, plenty of interesting avenues to explore concerning the British occupation, Nazi war crimes and ratlines on their own. Nonetheless, the story rattles along at fair clip and its engaging fare, there is some nice contextualisation with respect to the period, and Silas Payne is a strong lead character. Overall, a quick-paced, tightly written piece of post-war crime fiction.


In the Wind
In the Wind
by Barbara Fister
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Politically inflected and thought provoking crime thriller, 19 July 2015
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This review is from: In the Wind (Hardcover)
There is lots to like about Barbara Fister’s In The Wind - a strong, likeable lead character in Anni Koskinen, nice historical contextualisation, its social commentary on policing in the US post 9/11 and tensions around civil rights, and its engaging storyline. This is a novel very much of its time, capturing the social and racial divisions of American society and the divided geographies of a US city. And whilst it’s a crime thriller it takes a different path to most by portraying an alternative perspective from the typical cop or federal agency point of view. The result is a subtle but stinging critique of heavy-handed, strong-arm, politically motivated policing, and series of interesting connections to the civil rights campaigns of the 1960s. From the very start Fister ratchets up the tension and then keeps it taut throughout as Anni pings from one crisis to another, tries to track down clues, and to maintain fraught relationships. Whilst the solution to the puzzle is telegraphed from a very long way out, the tale remains gripping and the pages kept turning. Overall, a thoroughly enjoyable, politically inflected and thought provoking, crime thriller and I’m looking forward to reading the second book in the series, Through the Cracks.


Easy Streets (Harpur and Iles)
Easy Streets (Harpur and Iles)
Price: £3.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Sparkling dialogue, so-so story, 19 July 2015
Easy Streets is the twenty first tale in the Harpur and Iles series. It’s the first one I’ve read and I’m not sure it was the ideal introduction. The start felt like joining an on-going conversation and it took a little time to work my way into the story. In fact, the whole tale felt like an episode of a long running television show; more a snapshot into a much longer narrative than a fully-formed, self-contained story. The tale is told from a handful of perspectives: that of the shady, seedy cops, Iles and Harpur, and the upwardly mobile criminals, Mansel Shale and Panicky Ralph Ember. Where it excels is with respect to the dialogue in which characters can often be talking past one another as they ignore what the other has to say, and it is often darkly comic. Overall, however, whilst interesting, it lacked a strong hook that would shift it from crime soap opera to something more substantial.


The Detective Branch: A Pyke Novel (Pyke Mysteries)
The Detective Branch: A Pyke Novel (Pyke Mysteries)
by Andrew Pepper
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Mayhem and order in 1840s London, 19 July 2015
It took me a little while to get into The Detective Branch. I think it was because there was a lot of work going on to move things into place, provide sufficient backstory, and evoke the time and setting. The tale Andrew Pepper tells is an expansive and convoluted one, weaving together a whole plethora of different threads, crimes, factions and characters. About a third of the way through everything started to slot into place, with the various alliances and rifts delineated and the general thrust of the puzzle clear. As the tale neared its end the story picks up pace, but it also becomes more tricky to keep the various strands in order and questions start to arise. The one that really baffled me was why Pyke was alive as the simplest solution for the conspirators would have been to bump him off, as they were doing with others. Nonetheless, the tale is an entertaining one, with Pyke an interesting, non-conformist copper who administers justice in his own way whilst just about keeping on the right side of the law. And it was a nice change to read a tale where the investigator has to rely on his wits, coercion and connections given the lack of forensics or modern technology.


Dogstar Rising: A Makana Investigation
Dogstar Rising: A Makana Investigation
by Parker Bilal
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mysteries and political and religious tensions in Cairo, 12 July 2015
In this second outing for Makana, a refugee cop turned PI from Sudan, Parker Bilal tackles Christian/Muslim sectarianism, rising Islamic radicalism, and state security corruption in Egypt pre-9/11 head on, whilst keeping the mystery element of the story at its core. Dogstar Rising then is very much a religious/political crime thriller but one played out by relatively minor players in the everyday life of the city. That is, it’s not a political Thriller with a big T. While the case relating to the murdered children adds tension, it is the thread concerning the workings of a dysfunctional travel agency that is most interesting and takes a different path to those well worn by crime fiction tropes. Bilal does a good job of placing the reader into urban and social landscapes of Cairo and in particular its political and religious tensions. The characterisation is nicely observed, in particular the stoic Makana, who often places justice ahead of his own interests. Overall, an engaging read.


Hotel Brasil: The Mystery of the Severed Heads
Hotel Brasil: The Mystery of the Severed Heads
by Frei Betto
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars As much an allegorical tale about the state of Brasil as a country as it is a murder mystery, 29 Jun. 2015
For me, Hotel Brasil was as much an allegorical tale about the state of Brasil as a country as it was a murder mystery. As with Alone in Berlin, where each floor of the house represented a different social group in wartime Germany, each resident in the Hotel Brasil represents a different constituency and varying social ills, and the murder case and travails of Candido, the central character, reveal the ways in which Brazilian society is structured and run. When taken in that context, it’s a fascinating literary tale of social inequalities and divides, corruption, and morality, with a glimmer of hope running throughout. In this sense, it is not a conventional murder mystery and those readers expecting such might find the tale not quite to their taste. I thought the structuring of the text was cleverly done and the prose was engaging and often witty in subtle ways. And despite its literary sensibilities, Betto does keep the reader guessing as to the identity of the murderer until the very end. A book I’ve been thinking about a fair bit since finishing.


The Interrogator
The Interrogator
by Andrew Williams
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting enough tale, 29 Jun. 2015
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The Interrogator is a run of the mill wartime thriller in which the main protagonist, Lieutenant Douglas Lindsay of British Naval Intelligence, seeks to crack a senior U-boat commander to determine if the British naval codes have been broken. Williams’ hook is to make Lindsay half-German, bullish and reckless, and therefore not entirely trustworthy, and to add in a romance to the academic Mary Henderson who has been recruited into the naval tracking room and whose brother works with Lindsay (and needless to say doesn’t like him). The plot consists principally of two, intertwined battle of wits between Lindsay and Jurgen Mohr, the U-boot commander, and Lindsay and his bosses. The ending is pretty well telegraphed and the last part fizzles out and was somewhat unnecessary. Overall, an interesting enough tale, but lacked twists and tension.


The Long Home
The Long Home
by William Gay
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Dark, claustrophobic tale, 29 Jun. 2015
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The Long Home is a literary crime tale set in rural Tennessee in the 1940s that is driven forward mainly through its character development and its sense of foreboding rather than a central hook. Gay creates a somewhat claustrophobic, menacing atmosphere amongst a poor, backwoods community, producing a strong sense of place and time. At times it seems that Gay is more interested in constructing beautiful prose than the story, with many passages feeling overwritten. Nonetheless, as the tale progresses it becomes quite gripping as the young Nathan Winer, advised by the elderly William Tell Oliver, comes of age as he tangles with Hardin, a dangerous racketeer, in pursuit of Amber Rose. The result is a thoughtful, dark, sombre read that just about manages to balance style with substance.


The Sittaford Mystery (Agatha Christie Signature Edition)
The Sittaford Mystery (Agatha Christie Signature Edition)
Price: £2.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic Christie puzzle, 29 Jun. 2015
The Sittaford Mystery is a classic Agatha Christie puzzle. Isolated by a snow storm a small group of people hold a séance in which the death of Captain Trevelyan is announced. At approximately the same time, the Captain meets his demise. So barring the spirits being real, how could someone at the table know this? As Inspector Narracott investigates it becomes clear the residents of Sittaford are not all quite who they seem, but none seem to have a motive to murder the Captain. The pleasure in the story is the rum mix of characters - especially her amateur sleuth Emily Trefusis, most of whom Christie manages to move into the suspect’s frame, and the plotting wherein all the clues are present, but the reveal is still a surprise. The story is told in a light breezy manner and is entertaining fare.


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