Category Archives: books

find them dead

Find Them Dead (Roy Grace #16) by Peter James

This post may contain spoilers.

This is not a Roy Grace novel! He is in it but very much a secondary character. The main character is Meg. She is a widow with one daughter who is heading off on a back packing trip to South America. The two of them are still grieving the loss of Meg’s husband and son in a car crash five years ago.

Having just taken redundancy from one job and searching for another Meg is selected for jury duty in the trial of a solicitor hiding a life as a major head of a criminal organisation. Meg is selected by an associate of the crime boss to influence the rest of the jury to deliver a “not guilty” verdict. Her daughter Laura is under surveillance in Ecuador and Meg is blackmailed into complying with the criminal gang who have threatened to harm and kill Laura. They break into her home, leave her threatening messages and photos of Laura and gradually escalate the level of pressure to make sure Meg delivers the jury and doesn’t go to the police.

This was a very good idea for a novel but unfortunately the court case itself was dull and boring. The evidence against the crime boss was mostly circumstantial and presented in great detail. The author talks about the jury getting lost in the detail and unfortunately so was I as the reader. Both the defence and prosecution cases were drawn out then repeated in the summing up – totally unnecessary.

MAJOR SPOILER

I also have issues with the ending. It’s as if the author suddenly decided he couldn’t repeat the evidence a third time, threw in a juror that discovers evidence the police missed and suddenly it’s all over. It’s all wrapped up far too nicely for Meg and Laura despite the nasty threats. I find the compassionate treatment of Meg at the end of the wrong verdict out of character for someone who would cook a pet Guinea pig!

My major problem though is the depiction of this as a Roy Grace story. He’s there at the start and through the book but has little to no influence on the story. He has a murder to investigate but turns up barely any evidence and almost discovers the culprit by accident. The author is also still beating to death this terrible storyline of Bruno who seems to be the perfect depiction of a young psychopath and serial killer in training but the hunter of serial killers can’t see it despite actually calling him an anti-christ in this book. I really wish the author would bring this particular story to a conclusion. The relationship between Grace and his superior, Cassian Pewe, is also getting very old. I’d like to see both these storylines wrapped up in the next novel and something fresh introduced.

Unless you are a diehard Grace fan and desperately need to read the entire series I’d probably skip this one. It’s OK but disappointing in general. Definitely feels like the author is cashing in on the fact that this series is now also going to TV.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

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transfer of power

Transfer of Power (Mitch Rapp #3) by Vince Flynn

This post may contain spoilers.

I’ve only just found out that this is the third in a series of novels on the same character. Mitch Rapp is a CIA agent but not fully employed by the CIA – kind of a sub contracted agent. Not much of his back story is given and it now seems that there is more detail in the previous books.

The concept was quite good. Rapp is on the trail of a very intelligent and ruthless Middle Eastern terrorist who then takes over the White House taking hundreds of staff hostage and with the President holed up in an underground bunker. The terrorist has the White House locked down and booby trapped while he provides a list of demands to give him time to break into the bunker and take the President hostage also.

All communications with the White House are blocked so with the President unable to perform his duties the office is transferred to the inept Vice President and his manipulative political aide who handle the negotiations terribly.

Rapp is sent in to try and restore communications and gather intelligence. He is accompanied by an ex-military civilian who has an in depth knowledge of the building and they rescue a young female journalist who is being raped by one of the terrorists. The three of them then work to free the President and prepare the outside forces to rescue the hostages.

Overall it wasn’t a bad book. It started very well and finished well but got bogged down badly in the middle. There wasn’t enough material to keep the interest levels high while inside the White House with all the focus on Rapp and his small team. I also found the characters of the VP and his aide quite unbelievable in their behaviours and how they interacted with the military, FBI and CIA heads as they worked on the solution. My biggest struggle though was with the female journalist. I found the scenario in which she was rescued far too contrived especially as the rest of the terrorists simply gave up on finding her. Her further involvement in the operation was a bit ridiculous.

It’s more likely a 3.5 star rating for this book but if you are interested I would likely recommend going back to the first book in the series and starting there. It will probably fill in the back story at least.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

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soviet comeback

Soviet Comeback by Jamie Smyth

This post may contain spoilers.

I met the author of this book on a hike with the walking club. He was over visiting a relative and joined us as a guest. A few others were talking to him about the book and having gotten the details I was intrigued enough to give it a read. Despite liking the guy and really wanting to like the book I found it pretty weak. However, it is his first published book and it is a starting point.

The concept of the story is quite good. Nikita is the young son of Nigerian refugees that somehow end up living in Communist USSR in the 1980s. The KGB take him from his family and train him as a special agent to carry out espionage and assassinations in America. There is a theme of racism that runs through the whole book as Nikita tries to fit in to a life that doesn’t belong in either the Soviet Union or the US where he eventually ends up.

Overall I found the book disappointing. It was too long with too many locations used before it finally settled down on the main story. The bad guys were almost comic book baddies stopping just short of the maniacal laugh and moustache twirling. The scene plots felt formulaic and predictable and the romantic involvements unrealistic. Overall it felt over edited as if the author went over and over the writing until it was worn out.

My biggest issue was how the racism was dealt with. I’m pretty sure that growing up as a black man in Russia or America in the ’80s would not have been pleasant but it all seemed very OTT and again almost comic book baddie style. I’m not sure it is easy for a white man from the UK to write about racism in a time before he was born and I have absolutely nothing to measure his success against but it didn’t feel right to me.

Overall it wasn’t a bad book but I did find it difficult to stay engaged all the way to the end. If he writes a second I’ll probably give it a go just to see how he develops as an author.

My Rating: ⭐⭐

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rules of civility

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

This post may contain spoilers.

I was a bit reluctant to read this book as it’s about as far out of my usual genres as its possible to go and reading the summary it sounded horribly similar to The Great Gatsby that I was forced to read for my English Inter Cert and detested. However, I’d already read The Lincoln Highway and loved it so I was prepared to give this a go. Guess what, I loved this too!

Katey is the daughter of Russian immigrants who was born and raised in New York and from a very working class background. The preface starts in the late 60s with Katey happily married and living a wealthy and contented life. At an art exhibition she spots two photos of an old friend and lover taken in 1938 and 1939. She is catapulted back to her first meeting with “Tinker” Grey and the events of 1938 that changed her life at 25.

The story focuses very much on Katey’s perspective but also tells the story of the many people she meets and befriends throughout 1938, the sometimes frivolous behaviour of the late 30s and how the paths are set for the rest of their lives.

The quality of the writing is superb and it’s hard to believe this is the author’s first book. I was surprised, not only by how much I enjoyed it, but also by how emotionally invested in the characters I became. This is a book of both highs and lows but I finished it with a sadly sweet nostalgia for a life that wasn’t my own.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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shadow’s edge

Shadow’s Edge (Night Angel #2) by Brent Weeks

This post may contain spoilers.

Kylar and Elene have escaped with Uly and are trying to set up a new life in a nearby country. Elene is trying to break Kylar away from his old murderous life as a “wetboy” assassin. Kylar is desperately trying to become a new person while dealing with the guilt of having killed his master, Durzo, and abandoned his best friend Logan. His inate skills are augmented by the magical ka’kari and he struggles to abandon his former ways for good.

The residents of the Warrens are struggling under the oppression of the conquering armies of Khalidor and revolution is brewing. Led by Kylar’s friends Jarl and Momma K they manage to consolidate their forces and raise an army to oppose the God King. However, they still need a champion and a leader to rally around.

Logan didn’t die in the first book but escaped into the dreaded prison known as the Maw and the Hole. He’s desperately clinging on to life among the dregs of society that have been reduced to worse than animals in a constant battle to survive.

Jarl comes to Kylar with the news that Logan still lives and now he must choose between his love for Elene and his debt to Logan.

Throw in the beautiful and ruthless assassin Vi, who has been offered freedom if she delivers Jarl and Kylar into the hands of the God King, and you have a complicated but gripping story of magic, evil, betrayal and love.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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shadows of sounds

Shadows of Sounds (DCI Lorimer #3) by Alex Gray

This post may contain spoilers.

Definitely the best of the series so far. I really struggled with the first and although the second was better it still didn’t really grip me. This time the story focuses mostly on the detective side of the story and while Lorimer’s bizarre marriage situation is still in play, it complemented rather than detracted from the investigation.

The setting is an unusual one with a murder of the lead violin of Glasgow Royal Concert Orchestra just as a big performance is about to start. The victim has a complicated personal life and it eventually turns out that he’s also been involved in a criminal scheme involving expensive musical instruments. A second murder complicates things and it suddenly appears that the motives for both go way back and are much more personal than anyone could have guessed.

I enjoyed the novelty of the investigation focusing on the stories behind the murder instead of the processes and science of modern investigation. It seemed simpler somehow and reminded me of the one hour type of detective shows I grew up watching on TV – Columbo, Touch of Frost, etc.

I also enjoyed the introduction of Flynn. There was something very endearing about the hardened street boy and the cynical detective connecting and becoming friends. It’s probably totally unrealistic and did very little to move the plot along but it brought a very comforting tone to what otherwise could have been a very grim story.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

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forty words for sorrow

Forty Words for Sorrow (John Cardinal and Lise Delorme Mystery #1) by Giles Blunt

This post may contain spoilers.

This was brilliant! I have recently finished the TV series and was a little apprehensive about reading the books so soon but if anything it enhanced the books. The story was virtually unchanged for the TV production and going by the books was excellently cast. The only real change I noticed was that the senior officer was male in the book and female in the TV show as well as the reason Cardinal was under suspicion by senior officers.

The basis of the story is that John Cardinal has been demoted within the department for irrational focus on the case of a missing child, claiming that it was related to another written off as a runaway and that they were both the work of a serial killer. A body is discovered which appears to be the missing girl and Cardinal is brought back into the fold.

In the background Delorme is brought into the homicide department and partnered with Cardinal with an additional task of investigating him for supplying information to the head of a serious crime organisation. The two of them work together to identify and apprehend the psycho couple kidnapping and torturing victims.

This is one of the best detective stories I’ve read for a long time. The quality of the writing is superb and the characters are hugely interesting. I’m sure it was enhanced by the TV show but I could feel myself immersed completely in the situations being described and able to picture them clearly. The descriptions of the landscape and weather of a Canadian winter were so detailed. It was fab.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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the heretics of de’ath

The Heretics of De’Ath (The Chronicles of Brother Hermitage #1) by Howard of Warwick.

This post may contain spoilers.

This was recommended to me by my best friend who has read of number of the series and really enjoyed them. I really wanted to enjoy it too and tried really hard, especially as he recommended it, but I just couldn’t get it. If it hadn’t been for him I think I would have given up part way through and not have pushed through to the end.

The author has a very good style, reminiscent of Terry Pratchett and his humour. In fact I’ve seen this author compared to TP but there’s absolutely no comparison. TP created a rich world full of diverse characters and detailed storylines. This, unfortunately, was incredibly dull!

Hermitage is a monk in a very weird monastery in medieval England. During a long and pointlessly obscure theological debate another monk apparently drops dead. Suspected of murder, tasked to report to the Bishop and eventually marked for execution Hermitage finds himself embroiled in a bizarre plot of political corruption to swindle money from a building project. Befriended by Wat, a weaver and dealer of pornographic tapestries, they attempt to find the truth.

It sounds interesting but that’s about as deep as the story gets. The writing was humorous at times but infantile on many occasions. The lack of a story created a need for bizarre and incomprehensible situations to move the book along but it was ponderous with. When the cause of death is finally established and the political plot finally exposed it was simply ridiculous and I’ve actually forgotten what it was already.

A book with the potential to be very good and one I tried hard to enjoy but couldn’t. I will try the next one to see if this was just a poor start but I won’t be in any great hurry. There are 23 books in the series and the author has a loyal following so maybe I’m just missing something?

My Rating: ⭐⭐

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dark sacred night

Dark Sacred Night (Harry Bosch #21, Renee Ballard #2) by Michael Connelly

This post may contain spoilers.

Connolly has created a superb character in detective Harry Bosch, supplemented that with his excellent half brother Mickey Haller and recently introduced a very intriguing new character with Renee Ballard. In this novel he brings Bosch and Haller together in one interlinked story.

This is an interesting concept. Bosch is well established as a bit of a lone wolf and with no hesitation about stepping outside of the line when circumstances require it. Ballard is also very much a loner. She is effectively homeless, working the unwanted night shift and with her dog as the only consistent relationship in her life. When we first met her we were given the impression that the “late show” was a punishment for lodging a harassment complaint against her former superior officer but in this book we get the strong message that she likes working it as she doesn’t have to interact with many other colleagues. In fact she’s particularly happy this time as she’s running solo with her partner off on leave. The author blends these two lone wolves together very well.

I particularly liked the way he took the chapters and focused them on one character at a time. Their stories overlap and become more and more entwined as the story progresses but it’s really good to see it told from the individual points of view. It also helps with the momentum of the plot as he brings them together more frequently as it picks up pace towards the end.

On top of all of this the author has created two very interesting cases to be worked. Bosch is working a cold case as a reserve officer with a local police force (San Fernando Valley) but trying to solve an old case of the brutal murder of Daisy Clayton. This has become particularly personal with Daisy’s mother now living in his house as she gets clean from her own battle with drug addiction. Ballard comes across Bosch and eventually takes on the Clayton investigation as a hobby case to work it officially from within LAPD.

This Clayton investigation is the basis of the recent Bosch: Legacy TV show which made this feel very familiar. As a fan of Bosch on TV I can’t help but overlay Titus Welliver’s portrayal on to the book character. Despite the huge variations it doesn’t cause any problems for me and in some ways, enhances the books.

I found the partnering of Bosch and Ballard very enjoyable in this book and it seems there are more to come. I would like to see Ballard getting another book of her own though as she is a brilliant character in her own right.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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daylight

Daylight (Attlee Pine #3) by David Baldacci

This post may contain spoilers.

Not a bad book but just very formulaic and dull. This series is starting to feel like it should have been two maybe three books but has been stretched out to four.

Don’t get me wrong, there are loads of twists and turns and plenty of action with people getting shot, abducted, murdered and buildings blown up, there’s a massive blackmail scheme involving politicians, judges and cops but it’s still dull. I get the feeling that the author has a formula for writing by now but has no passion for it any longer.

To try and spice up the bizarre relationship between Pine and her grandmother style sidekick, Carol Blum, the author brings in the Pullers. John Puller’s investigation crosses Pine’s and they soon figure they need to work together. The second Puller brother, Robert, also gets pulled in and we have a sad scene between John and his father. Despite bringing these guys into the story it can’t seem to raise the excitement levels at all.

In the second book I found the character of Carol Blum to be very unrealistic. If anything she has become even more so in this one, following Pine around like a sad shadow of a mother and seemingly only useful as a sounding board for Pine to work through theories, come to conclusions and move the story ahead to the next step on the author’s plot list.

I will read the last installment but, as my only interest now lies in how they manage to complete Mercy’s story, I’m in no rush.

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My Rating: ⭐⭐

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