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on 5 April 2015
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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on 21 July 2014
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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on 29 May 2014
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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VINE VOICEon 17 July 2014
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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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DC Wolfe, newly promoted to murder investigation, is part of a team looking into the death of Hugo Buck. It soon becomes apparent that Hugo and his school friends from Potter's Field school are under threat.

I had problems with this read. I loved the opening chapters, with the dramatic scene of attack on the girl and the introduction to Wolfe. However it all went down-hill from there. I found the scenes with Wolfe's daughter and the dog unnecessary and overly sentimental. The plot was pretty average and predictable. It was obvious that the writer had put a great deal of effort into research. I liked the Black Museum references and the ones relating to real life crimes. Overall I felt this was a fair attempt at a crime novel, but for me it sadly didn't work. I wouldn't recommend it.
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on 5 February 2015
Frankly,to amass this number of five star reviews, Parsons must have friends and relatives to burn.
The Murder Bag is a big piece of nonsense that joins the lower ranks of the police procedural by numbers.
The central character is completely unbelievable - a DC driving a BMW X5 with a central London loft apartment - give me a break.
Furthermore the plot is weak and the whole thing is badly written.
This genre is now so crowded that you have to be truly new, different and better to break through. What we have here is old, the same and worse.
Buy J.K.Rowling's new series or Stuart Neville. Don't waste your time on this. Life is too short!
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on 28 June 2014
Tony Parsons just hasn't got what it takes for this genre. Also his facts are not always correct, as in what happens at a Crematorium. Also since when would a Detective Constable work a case alone, without a Partner? Constables are barely more than tea boys!
Sorry he should stick to being a journalist.
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on 17 April 2015
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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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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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on 20 June 2016
I don't normally read heavy gory stuff so I'd avoided this author. However after the first trial I read all 3 back to back & whilst Parsons doesn't hold back its actually more thriller than shocker / slasher. Some great insights into London. I think some of Max's recoveries are almost superhero but the stories are great! Do try them - there's a moral thread through them! Also you'd wish you had a child minder like Mrs Murphey!! Good reads & genuinely gripping! Enjoy.
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