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D. J. H. Thorn "davethorn13" (Hull, UK)
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The House of Dolls (Detective Pieter Vos)
The House of Dolls (Detective Pieter Vos)
by David Hewson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.03

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 'Why does Frank send me children?', 11 Mar. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
David Hewson gets around. The other novel of his I've read, 'Villa of Mysteries', is set in Italy. This one is set in Amsterdam. I remember 'Villa' as being a fairly entertaining thriller which stretches the boundaries of plausibility here and there. The same is true of 'House of Dolls', but thrillers tend to be like that.

The story begins with clumsy young cop Laura Bakker trying to persuade former detective Pieter Vos to rejoin the force. These two are quickly established as the heroes in a novel packed with characters who might not be all they seem. In addition to two rival gang bosses and their mercenary sidekicks, there's a shady lawyer, three equally shady politicians, abrasive police officers, neurotic wives and several ladies of dubious virtue. Not surprisingly, the plot is fairly complex, with several strands and numerous troubled personal histories. At the centre of this is the disappearance of the daughter of a politician, but the novel is really a whodunit on a grand scale and that is its strength.

The action is concentrated over four days with a brief epilogue added. Hewson puts in little bursts of short sentences when a character is thinking which not only helps the prose kick on but also varies the pace. My only criticism is that some of the events are a little corny, but compared with other thriller writers it's a mild tendency. The location of Amsterdam and the symbolic use of dolls is reminiscent of Alistair McLean's classic 'Puppet on a Chain'. For me, 'House of Dolls' is a worthy successor.


Lonely Graves: Pieter Posthumus Mystery 1
Lonely Graves: Pieter Posthumus Mystery 1
by Britta Bolt
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Deaths of the forgotten, 4 Mar. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Set in Amsterdam, 'Lonely Graves' centres on Pieter Posthumus, a middle-aged bachelor who works in a department responsible for organising funerals for those with no known next of kin. It's an interesting viewpoint to use and, surprisingly, the department actually exists. Although it's quite entertaining and features some strong characters, I felt that a couple of issues spoiled the novel.

First, Posthumus is basically an amateur detective. He goes beyond his duties, interviewing witnesses and seeking evidence of crimes when this isn't his job. What I don't find credible is that no one who could put him out of a job ever finds out. The police appear to be completely unaware of his activities. Of course, there have been several famous amateur detectives in crime fiction, but in modern fiction it's difficult to make them believable.

I also felt that much of the dialogue and narrative prose was clumsy, to the point of being difficult to follow at times. Despite this, the characters have been well thought out, with their private lives sometimes exposed, and the sense of place effective. The plot, in short, involves two apparently unrelated deaths that Posthumus takes an interest in and an anti-terrorist unit who are trying to thwart Muslim extremists.

Though it has its suspenseful moments, 'Lonely Graves' is not an action thriller and will appeal more to readers who like their crime fiction to develop at a steadier pace.


Weetabix Breakfast Biscuits Apple and Cinnamon 50 g (Pack of 16)
Weetabix Breakfast Biscuits Apple and Cinnamon 50 g (Pack of 16)

3.0 out of 5 stars More cinnamon than apple, 3 Jan. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Having tasted both this product and the milk and cereal version I would say the latter is far better. These biscuits resemble a slimmer version of a digestive in terms of texture, though they are slightly harder. As for the taste, the sharpness of the cinnamon dominates. I could not taste the apple, but there again I don't think it would have improved the biscuit. Not bad, but I won't be seeking out any more.


Weetabix Breakfast Biscuits Milk and Cereals 50 g (Pack of 16)
Weetabix Breakfast Biscuits Milk and Cereals 50 g (Pack of 16)

4.0 out of 5 stars Light and sweet, 3 Jan. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Maybe I'm missing something, but the pack of 16 biscuits advertised turned out to contain 4. No matter. As for the biscuits themselves, they reminded me of a slimmer, lighter version of digestive biscuits with a subtle sweetness. One biscuit doesn't look much, but appearances in this case are deceptive. That said, they are more-ish. For those interested, fat content is only a few grams per 100. Tasty and healthy.


The Fire Witness
The Fire Witness
by Lars Kepler
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another novel about murder, 13 Aug. 2013
This review is from: The Fire Witness (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is the best Lars Kepler novel yet. That, at least, is my wife's opinion, whereas I'm not sure. The couple who write the Kepler novels certainly play for high stakes. It's a no-holds-barred detective story full of action, twists and suspense. The danger with that kind of approach is that credulity is stretched to breaking point. There are enough sensational ideas in this novel to create a few more. Putting them all together may be a little over the top, but that depends on the reader's taste. It hasn't stopped Dan Brown yet.

As usual, the hero is the police inspector, Joona Linna, a man who ignores all advice because he's always right. He's under internal investigation at the start of 'The Fire Witness' and I suspect that in real life he'd be suspended several times over before the end of it. Unusually for modern fiction, his private life remains invisible for most of the novel, as it does in the first two novels.

The introduction of a medium as a character is dangerous in a realist novel, but in this case is interesting because it's handled somewhat ambiguously. What the authors also demonstrate is that a crime novelist can create any number of cunning plots by researching psychological disorders. This book wallows in them, which is not surprising given that the initial crime centres on a home for troubled girls.

The book's structure aids quick reading. It is divided into very short chapters, nearly two hundred of them. Consequently, though the book is physically big, it contains a lot of blank space. The back cover contains comparisons to Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbo. I don't think such comparisons help any author, but they do give a useful indication of the kind of read 'The Fire Witness' is. It is definitely an entertaining one.


The Ashes According to Bumble
The Ashes According to Bumble
by David Lloyd
Edition: Hardcover

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More humour from Accrington, 2 Aug. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Books on cricket, in my limited experience, tend to be much more interesting than those on other sports, partly because they seem to be laced with so much humour. This one is no exception. Moreover, the title and cover illustration emphasise that this is only a half-serious view of England's cricketing rivalry with Australia.

If you have heard David Lloyd commentating on cricket, you will probably, like me, hear his Lancashire accent in every word you read. Even so, the book has been written with the assistance of a journalist, which is why the sloppiness of some of the prose is a surprise. This doesn't, however, detract much from what is an easy and enjoyable read. Lloyd has a few words to say on Ashes series prior to the 1960s, but sticks mainly to first-hand experience. Having played and coached in or witnessed most of the Ashes contests since the 1970s, he is well-placed to offer an insight into the characters and behind-the-scenes detail.

There are frequent digressions, such as anecdotes involving fellow commentators, but most of these enhance the book. The one exception is a lengthy comic monologue about his wife which doesn't really fit in. Most of the humour works, although it seems a bit forced in the early pages. He also has a habit of repeating himself which, in a printed work, is odd. His main strengths, I think, are his character sketches and the clarity of his analysis of the sport itself. It is not the most eloquent book on cricket, but it is certainly fun and insightful.


The Diabolist (The Dominic Grey Series)
The Diabolist (The Dominic Grey Series)
by Layton Green
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.64

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Diabolically ripping, 10 May 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Corny escapes, underground tunnels, panto villains, an unfeasibly gifted master of jujitsu: I loved it. 'The Diabolist' is the third of the 'Dominic Grey' series and reading it is rather like chucking the diet and going for a tub of ice cream. It's a pleasure you need not feel guilty about. It references Dennis Wheatley, whose territory it covers, Aleister Crowley and Dan Brown who the author thankfully doesn't emulate. It is a fast-paced novel, but with plenty of attention to detail.

The plot begins with the murders of the leaders of satanic cults which religious phenomenologist Viktor Radek and the jujitsu expert Grey investigate under the Interpol banner. The police, it might be noted, are left well out of this. Ghosts, out of body manifestations and blood sacrifices abound, although the story is much more earthbound than that suggests. Green also uses a wide array of locations, beginning with San Francisco and Paris, but stretching to York and Whitby, including the former's Golden Fleece pub, one of my favourite haunts.

Many of the scenes in this book stretch one's credulity to breaking point, but who cares? It's a wonderful yarn.


Her Enemy (The Maria Kallio Series)
Her Enemy (The Maria Kallio Series)
by Leena Lehtolainen
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.64

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Slow Finnish, 7 May 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Originally published in 1994 and translated by an American, 'Her Enemy' doesn't read like the average crime novel. Its resolutely pedestrian pace means that there is a lack of suspense until the closing pages. In addition, the story is riddled with digressions about some of the more mundane aspects of living. Of course, background detail and the changing nature of relationships are important in any genre, but in this novel there seems to be a surfeit of them.

The narrator, Maria Kallio, is a police officer turned lawyer who defends the lover of a murder victim, her strategy being to find the real killer. Cue some amateur sleuthing and a great deal of antagonism. Maria's biggest obstacle is the investigating officer, Strom, whose pigheadednes seems almost contrived.

For this English reader, the Finnish names are a problem, as most are not obviously male or female, e.g. Risto and Makke, and a lot of characters are thrown into the text early on, making it difficult to remember who is who. 'Her Enemy' is a pleasant enough read, but for most crime fiction fans I suspect it will not be an entirely satisfying one.


Morgue Drawer for Rent (Morgue Drawer series)
Morgue Drawer for Rent (Morgue Drawer series)
by Erik J. Macki
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.64

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bodies on the move, 30 April 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Written by a German and translated by an American, 'Morgue Drawer for Rent' is a macabre mystery with a supernatural slant. I haven't read the earlier books in the series, which my wife recommends, but this instalment works well on its own.

The narrator, Pascha, is the soul of a man who would be in his twenties were he still alive. He is able to communicate by thought with a pathologist (though described as a coroner) named Martin. Between them, the pair investigate the disappearance and/or mutilation of bodies held at the morgue. They are therefore a variation on Randall & Hopkirk and endure a similarly fractious but comic relationship.

I found the main story a little sluggish at first, but this was compensated for by the humour and it became a more enjoyable read as it progressed. I wasn't totally bowled over by the novel, but it was ultimately a very satisfying and distinctive read.


Echo + A.R.IV.
Echo + A.R.IV.
Offered by Ginger Music - Progressive Rock
Price: £31.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Cosmic echo, 19 Dec. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Echo + A.R.IV. (Audio CD)
Achim Reichel is one of the less likely pioneers of the cosmic, electronic and avant garde music that came out of Germany in the late 1960s and 1970s. He first enjoyed success as a pin up pop star with The Rattles before taking on a solo career at the opposite end of the musical spectrum. This CD brings together his double LP 'Echo' which spills over to the second disc and 'IV'.

Reichel had already made one great album, Die Grüne Reise - The Green Journey which consisted mostly of Reichel, his Stratocaster and an electronic box of tricks, but 'Echo' represents his peak. The first track is the 20-minute instrumental, 'Invitation', which is divided, like the other four tracks, into several sections. This time he worked with a loose aggregation of other musicians who tend to appear in twos and threes. Reichel sketches mellow lines with his guitar throughout, but the magic ingredient is the low-key electronic backgrounds which give the music its wonderfully trippy feel. There is a beautiful, delicate track featuring a string section in the middle, followed by a dreamy stroll centring on sax.

The other four tracks are titled for echoes in different time and tenses and make use of subtle echoing patterns. They also all feature lyrics which carry sexual and sensual metaphors. The final track includes a long section consisting entirely of multiple voices, some of which are provided by legendary producer Conny Plank and electronics wizard Klaus Schulze. This is an echo of another sort, as Reichel had tried something similar on 'Die Grune Reise'. The results on 'Echo' are, however, more impressive.

'IV' suffers here from following 'Echo' and may be better listened to in isolation as it is a fine album in its own right. It is a little more rock mainstream, however, and therefore less distinct. 'Echo' is an example of how subtle effects and distortions can do so much more for a piece of music than drenching it in psychedelic devices. I cannot recommend this double-CD enough.


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