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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars If you're already a fan of Faraday and Winter, it's worth five stars ...., 11 Feb. 2012
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This review is from: Happy Days (Di Joe Faraday) (Hardcover)
.... but if you're new to the series, this is not the place to start.

Graham Hurley is surely the most under-rated writer of crime fiction in the UK, but it's difficult to see why this should be so. He's had some excellent commercial reviews - I was hooked years ago by the Sunday Telegraph review quoted on the sleeves of his more recent books: 'There is no-one writing better police procedurals today'. That is certainly true, even though I rarely agree with anything I see in the Sunday Telegraph. Why isn't he up there with the likes of John Harvey, Ian Rankin and Peter Robinson? It seems that even our most vocal traditional critics, the French, appreciate him better than we do - they have dramatised four Faraday and Wilson cases for television.

So, since I rate Graham Hurley so highly, why do I award only three stars? In short, it's because I don't think 'Happy Days' really does the business as a stand-alone novel. This, I think, is not really surprising, and my conclusion implies no criticism of the author. To explain my reasoning, I need to go back to the beginning.

'Happy Days' is the twelfth and final novel in the Faraday and Winter series, which began with 'Turnstone', almost twelve years ago. The series is in many respects extremely realistic; the characters - all of whom are skilfully drawn - act as unpredictably as real people. There are no stereotypes here, except perhaps among those at the high end of the chain of command = and perhaps that's because people in that situation do tend to conform to their sterotypical image, because that's how they achieved their high office.

DI Joe Faraday tries to deal stoically with the tough hand life has dealt him; devastated by the early death of his wife and left to bring up his deaf-mute son, he and his son seek solace in birdwatching, but back at his desk Faraday becomes increasingly disillusioned with the ever-expanding bureaucracy of the job. Behind the face he shows the world, the vicissitudes of his life and his work have left him emotionally vulnerable.

Into his world comes DC Paul Winter, something of a renegade in the ranks. but with an instinctive ability to analyse the situations with which he is confronted, and to find his way to solutions which, though achieving the desired result, are nor always as envisaged by procedural manuals. Faraday and Winter develop a mutual respect, and work successfully together, until (for reasons which I can't reveal without spoiling the pleasure of those who follow the advice below) Winter decides to defect to the dark side, and in the Portsmouth setting of the novels the dark side means Bazza Mackenzie, sometime major drug dealer turned businessman, and by the end of the series pursuing ambitions to become the MP for Portsmouth North.

Characters and situations develop as the series progresses and, perhaps more so than in most other well-known police series, the greatest enjoyment and satisfaction will be extracted from the novels if they are read in the correct order. For the record, the sequence begins with 'Turnstone', as mentioned above, followed by 'The Take', 'Angels Passing', 'Deadlight', 'Cut to Black', 'Blood and Honey', 'One Under', 'The Price of Darkness', 'No Lovelier Death', 'Beyond Reach', 'Borrowed Light' and finally 'Happy Days'. I am hugely impressed by the way the author has woven into 'Happy Days' the resolution of every outstanding loose end in the series - I can't recollect any detail which is not properly disposed of. All this is slotted imperceptably into the main storyline of the book, which follows Mackenzie's efforts to be elected on a 'local boy made good and ready to serve the community' ticket in the 2010 elections. It's gripping, entertaining and unpredictable but, in view of all the other baggage the novel carries in winding up the series, I'm fairly sure that a reader new to Faraday and Winter would mark it considerably lower than the five-star ratings given by those whose reviews have already been posted - but it's clear that all of them are already fans of the series.

By now, I hope you've sussed out my real message - this, like the eleven preceding books in the series, is really a five-star novel, but to appreciate it properly you need to read the other novels first. Believe me, that's no hardship; they're all available in paperback and what could be pleasanter than the prospect of eleven books' worth of top-quality crime fiction? Take my advice, and enjoy!

In conclusion, DC Jimmy Suttle, who has featured increasingly in the more recent novels in the series, is moving to a new job with one of the Major Crime Investigation teams of Devon and Cornwall Constabulary - echoing the author's own move from Portsmouth to the South West. 'Western Approaches', the first novel with Jimmy as lead character, is scheduled for release in December - so you all know what will be at the top of my list for Santa Claus!
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 2 Jun 2012, 18:01:08 BST
Pearsonbrown says:
I don't understand your logic in giving this only three stars.

It is the final part of a twelve volume series. It is advisable to start this series at book one, as is commonly the case. But the book is brilliantly written and deserves five stars.

Posted on 5 Jun 2012, 02:07:24 BST
Last edited by the author on 5 Jun 2012, 02:13:06 BST
Stanwegian says:
In response to Pearson Brown, 2 June 2012

First of all, my apologies for the slight delay in replying.

I think the logic must depend upon your point of view. In reviewing terms, Amazon can be a strange place; the same review guidelines are applied to everything from toys to toner cartridges to televisions, but there is a world of difference between produsts of that kind and 'arts' products such as books, CDs and DVDs. I think that a review which does no more than say that a book is 'a great read' is of no practical value; one man's meat may well be another man's poison. I've even seen reviews from people who admit they haven't yet finished reading the book in question. Thus far, I haven't reviewed anything other than books, and when doing so I ignore the Amazon guidance and try to maintain professionalism by adhering to the rules I was taught many moons ago. Accordingly, I do my best to -

~ address the review to the proverbial passenger on the Clapham Omnibus. This means that as a matter of statistical probability I'm concerned primarily with potential readers who are NOT familiar with earlier books in a series - those who are familiar probably won't rely on reviews in any event.

~ provide brief details of the author. This includes identifying a book as part of a series wherever that is the case, and expressing a view about the advantage, if any, of reading earlier books first.

~ provide brief details of the plot. Normally this doesn't go much beyond the information on the flyleaf.

~ comment on the quality of the writing. This includes editing where appropriate.

~ comment on the quality and integrity of the plotting.

~ express an overall opinion on the book. This, at least to some degree, will necessarily be subjective but I do try to make clear the reasoning which led me to the opinions expressed.

I don't attach a great deal of importance to the star ratings; the assessment of the individual is subsumed in the will of the majority. I do, however, rate for the benefit of my theoretical audience of one. In the case of 'Happy Days' I think I made it absolutely clear that to those who were followers of the series the book was worth five stars. It was a very well constructed finale, tying up all the loose threads, but for that very reason it was signifinantly less effective as a stand-alone novel for a reader with no previous acquaintanceship with Faraday and Winter - hence the three-star rating.

I doubt very much that my rating will impact upon sales of 'Happy Days', but the review as a whole may well encourage new readers to read the earlier novels.

That, then, was my reasoning, but as in all such matters you have every right to choose to differ.
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Location: Tyneside, England

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