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on 25 June 2017
Thoroughly enjoyed this book. Well written and kept me interested all through. Would definitely recommend it to friends. Art crime?
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on 14 January 2009
Evil ValleyThe Death Pictures
What a surprise to see Simon Hall actually in my local Waterstones signing his books! I am so glad i have discovered this author and rate him as entertaining and spell-binding as my other two favourites - Patricia Cornwell and Michael Connolly.
Reading about the intertwining lives and careers of Dan (the journalist) and Adam (the detective) will keep you engrossed page after page - i could not put the books down! Simon offers an intimate insight into the daily routines of journalism and police work. You will find yourself so tense wondering if you can take anymore suspense when you are gifted with light relief of the wonderful Rutherford and the colourful 'Loud'. Reading about my own area added another quality to the stories - so much so you will want to trek along the moors and find the areas Simon decribes so vividly. Can't wait for the third novel due out in September!
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on 16 March 2009
I bought this book on the strength of the fantastic reviews it got on Amazon. Yes, I know you have to be wary of reviews (one man's meat, and all that ...), but this had eighteen, sixteen of which awarded 5-stars and the other two 4-stars; how could I go wrong? Quite easily, it would appear, this book is just awful. Call me an old cynic, but is it just coincidence that at least eleven of the reviewers live in the West Country, as does Mr Hall?
I read a lot of crime novels (William Lashner is my current favourite), and Simon Hall is not a 4-star writer, let alone a 5-star one: his plotting is simplistic, his storyline is ludicrous, and his characterisation is lamentable. Our dashing hero, Dan the TV journalist, has an unfeasible relationship with Adam, the Detective Inspector in charge of serious crimes in these parts. Dan is constantly updated on the current state of enquiries by Adam, and is even invited to sit in on police meetings, interrogations and crime scenes. Strangely, he doesn't take much advantage of this unprecedented access to proceedings; rather he runs around from one outside broadcast to another, constantly looking at his watch and telling us it's such and such a time, but really it's about ten minutes later because his watch runs slow. At first you wonder if this fact is going to be ingeniously interwoven into the plot as a clever denouement device. Eventually you realise this is just one of his little `quirks' --- he wears a cheap watch!
Dan is a tedious character who's a bit too pleased with himself, but Adam scales the rock-face of blandness to reach a peak of vapidness rarely achieved in literature. Don't expect him to use his deductive powers to go chasing after leads; things just fall into place around him, while poor Adam mopes about worrying about his relationship with his wife, who we barely get to know. This is another aspect of Simon Hall's characterisation --- he doesn't do women: Dan's love-interest is Claire, a beautiful young policewoman, and she gets about half a dozen lines and two short phone texts in the whole book.
Misleading as the reviews for this book are, they did at least get two things right: it's described as a page-turner and I've rarely turned pages faster to get to the end of a stupid book. It's also praised for the surprise ending --- I began to suspect how the pieces might fall together, well before the end, but I just couldn't believe we were really heading for such a crass finale. Big surprise .... we were.
Please don't fall for the rapturous acclaim surrounding this book. It really is bad.
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on 5 October 2014
I fell for the cover image. I thought, from the image of a victim reflected in the lens of a camera that Death Pictures was going to be about a serial killer who liked to photograph his victims final moments. Sadly the title promises more that it delivers. That said there is the nub of a decent writer in Simon Hall and with some careful editing this book could have been a solid three-star read.

The lead character, a TV journalist, is both likeable and has integrity. He has a confused, chaotic personal life (and a watch that is 10 minutes slow. I mention it here just in case you don't get it from the dozen or so times it is mentioned in the story...) but is good at his job and his decent character is refreshing given that journos are usually painted as lowlife scum who love nothing more than hounding people.

My problem with the book is that the two main events do not seem to mesh in any meaningful way and this leads to an unsatisfying outcome. The plots develop terribly slowly (much too slowly for my liking) and there are several conceits used which are simply gratingly repetitive: his boss constantly grinding her heels into the carpet, the number of times he admits he wants to solve the riddle of the death pictures and that damn slow-running watch.

With some paring back this could have been a great read but I can only wonder what someone like Christopher Brookmyre would have done with this tale.

Incidentally, the unstinting praise here on Amazon makes me wonder if there is not a little bit of publisher's jiggery pokery going on as the reviews all use the same terminology which hardly inspires my confidence.
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on 26 June 2008
Believable characters with foibles and traits you can relate to, irony, humour, pathos, beautifully crafted descriptive passages and punchy dialogue. What a triumph from a reporter/writer using his local knowledge to lead the reader through Devon and Cornwall, utilising his considerable knowledge of crime and the justice system to build tension and intrigue. I eagerly await the release of the next book (Evil Coombe) to once again enter Dan and Adam's (and hopefully Dirty El's) world of newspaper deadlines, scoops and the thrill of the chase. Well done, Simon!
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VINE VOICEon 24 February 2009
I actually read the next in the series first ("Evil Valley") and this prompted me to read "The Death Pictures". It was certainly the better of the two but frankly, it did not ring my bells. It is a good story, there is no denying that, but I start to lost interest when it gets caught up in the TV jargon. The author is a TV journalist so it is not surprising that his hero, Dan, is likewise.
I will not go into the plot as it will spoil it for the reader but it centres around a riddle in the form of a message contained in ten paintings. A brilliant idea. There is also a second plot surrounding a serial rapist.
I am not sure if the book needed two plots and the paintings on their own would have sufficed and sadly diverting to the second issue waned the attention from the really exciting thread.
Mr Hall, however, it would appear feels very strongly about certain prevalent issues in today's society and no doubt this would explain why he feels the need to put them into his books - all credit to him.
Overall, it was a good read and the tension built up nicely towards the end, however, I found the solution and ending bizarre and somewhat of an anti-climax.
However, do not be put off as you will likely enjoy it.
LOVE HIS DOG! - a great angle that.
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on 17 December 2008
This is a brilliant read, with a gripping plot. You will want to try to solve the puzzle of the death pictures before the hero and must pick your way through the red herrings to find the important clues.

This is the first of Simon Hall's books that I have read and he will now feature in my list of must read crime authors alongside Ian Rankin, Peter Robinson and Peter James.
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on 8 March 2014
I enjoyed the first book in the series and bought this without really finding out anything about it as I was in a hurry and needed some holiday reading. The book begins with the thoughts etc of a rapist, followed by the attack. It went downhill (for me) from there. The suicide/murder of the famous artist and the riddle he leaves for anyone to solve is the main theme of the book. I skipped the description of the paintings left by the artist. When Dan goes off somewhere believing he has solved part of the riddle - again I skipped it. Both of these seemed to me padding. The constant reference to his watch and the 10 minute difference is irksome - just buy another watch. I wouldn't recognise a Rolex (fake or otherwise) and it wouldn't impress me anyway. In the same way, the repetition of the behaviour of his boss is not necessary. The plane crash episode struck me as just another bit of padding. Dan solves the riddles and the rapist is caught. I will probably try another in the series and hope that a) he buys a good watch and b) he gets a cleaner.
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on 18 July 2011
I had not read this author before, nor known his background. I found the book entertaining to start with and I liked his west country setting, but as the story went on I found myself becoming increasingly irritated by the characters, especially Dan, the journalist 'hero', with his wretched watch which didn't keep time. Heavens, if he had the money for all that beer he could surely afford a decent watch, especially in his job.
I found the subplot of the 'competition', reminiscent of that hidden treasure book of years ago, even in view of the book's ending, totally resistible and boring and failed to see why Dan was wasting so much time on it. Apart from that we have dodgy coppers, dodgy journalists, simplistic views of women (and men, for that matter), and very nearly a dreadful miscarriage of justice, only avoided by a belated brainwave of the beer-sodden hero. Then we had the artist!
I finished it, it was readable, though in the end I was shouting at it. Can only hope this is not really the way things are done in the west country.
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on 3 June 2013
Wow, I thought a book based in Plymouth. How wonderful to have it set in a city I know well, it could add to the story right? It started well, I recognised the road that the first victim lived in....in fact I have a friend that still lives in that road, it added to the sense of unease. That's where my excitement ended. Like the other reviewers the constant watch and shoe references wore very thin. What does it matter if her shoes are 3 or 4 inch? Did it add to the tale...no! Who cares if his watch is 10 minutes slow? Was it cleverly interwoven into the story, saving a victim in the nick of time? You guessed it no. The rape case I felt was under written and was a poor secondary plot that maybe was supposed to be first? For me, there were a lot of holes left in the plot when the book ended. The death pictures filled a night of insomnia for me but I will not be returning to Simon Hall. This book is a bit like Dan's fake Rolex: looks good from afar but doesn't deliver.
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