Category Archives: Crime

The Lie

The Lieby C L Taylor

Captivating and engaging with a plot that moves at just the right pace: slow enough to give the reader a chance to reflect and the events, but quick enough to keep the reader’s interest. Like a number of books I have read recently, The Lie relies on a dual narrative, weaving the story’s twin timelines with precision. Nothing from the present gives you too much insight into the events of five years previous. If anything, they are a teaser.

Jane Hughes has, on the face of it, a very settled and happy life. She loves her job and her new boyfriend, but there is a secret behind the mask she wears. Then an anonymous letter threatens to shatter her happiness and the life she has built for herself in rural Wales. Five years earlier she had set out on what was to be the trip of a lifetime with three of her closest friends, but it very soon turned into a nightmare that would haunt her for the rest of her life.

Jane’ past and present are all based on lies some bigger and more dangerous than others. There are certainly times when hiding the truth is a necessary evil, but some lies can only lead to disaster. For the four friends, the web of lies and deceptions that have held them together begin to bubble to the surface and threaten their very lives.

As the story weaves seamlessly between the parallel timelines, Jane proves to herself and those around her just how strong and resilient she can be. The character is well defined and provides a very believable vehicle for the plot.

I really enjoyed the story, the style and the characters. A great modern thriller. 

 

Lost In A Good Book

Lost In A Good Bookby Jasper Fforde

I sometimes find myself wondering what is going through an author’s mind when they plat and write a novel. In Jasper Fforde’s case, it is probably best we don’t know.

For the second in his Thursday Next series, Fforde takes us even further into the strange and wonderful world where characters can move between stories and a police force exists to keep the stories in good order. This is also a world where Mammoths roam the English countryside, Dodos are popular household pets and the very idea of supersonic flight is, well, just plain daft.

Thursday Next is our guide for this journey through a world almost as batty as our own. Thursday is a Literary Detective working for SpecOps-27. Her previous success in saving Jane Eyre (see The Eyre Affaire) has made her something of a celebrity, thrusting her into a seemingly endless round of interviews and meet-and-greets. But if she thought that killing the evil Hades was an end to her adventures inside books.

But what is bad news for Thursday is good news for us. If things had ended there then Lost IN A Good book would have just become me of those forgotten stories languishing in the Well of Lost Plots (this will make sense if you read the book).

The story follows on immediately after the equally madcap “The Eyre Affaire”. Thursday herself is trying to balance her newfound celebrity status with her day job solving crimes against literature. And she seems to be managing OK. That is until she and her partner are sent to investigate a claim that a previously unknown Shakespeare play has been discovered in a private collection. IN her role as a Literary Detective such claims are bread and butter cases, but when it turns out to be true, events begin to take some rather unexpected turns. Add to this the fact that she seems to have become the target of agents from Goliath, the country’s largest and most sinister conglomerate, and also fro, the Hades family, Thursday’s life has just got very complicated indeed. 

Lost In A Good Book is a comic adventure that manages to combine the best elements of traditional crime fiction with one of the most twisted and hilarious plots I have read for a long time. To fully appreciate Jasper Fforde’s humour you need to be prepared to suspend belief and be prepared to follow whichever twisted path the plot decides to take. And I can assure you it is well worth the effort.

Admittedly, this kind of surreal nonsense is not everyone’s cup of tea, but if, like me, you enjoy the rather crazy worlds created by Tom Holt and Terry Pratchett, then Jasper Fforde is right up your street.

 

 

Nutshell

Nutshellby Ian McEwan

Trudy is separated from her husband, John, and is living in the matrimonial home with his brother Claude, carrying John’s baby, as they plot to murder said husband, John.

It would be a love triangle, but with the narrator of this particular tale being the unborn baby, it gets a little complicated – more of a love rectangle!

Nutshell is an original concept, although the plot itself is extremely simple. In fact, the story is little more than an outline. It is the narration by the un-named unborn child that pushes the book within a whisker of 200 pages.

There is plenty of humour and just a touch of suspense. Will they or won’t they go through with the planned homicide of Trudy’s estranged husband? Can a pair of drunks really manage the perfect murder? Will the unborn narrator be born at Her Majesty’s Pleasure? Will he ever know his father? 

I found the whole thing a little strange and I’m still undecided about whether I enjoyed it or not. It is at times very funny and is an easy read. The plot does not challenge in any way and there are very few characters to keep a track of. But for me there was far too much waffle and not enough substance. 

The Herring Seller’s Apprentice (Elsie and Ethelred Mystery #1)

by L C Tyler

The Herring Seller's Apprentice

Sometimes, when browsing the shelves of a bookshop, a title leaps out and demands attention. This may seem a rather random way of selecting a book, but it has worked for me so many times that I am not going to give up on it just yet. “The Herring Seller’s Apprentice” is one of those titles that could go either of two ways: it was either going to be a deeply worthy piece of literature about the east coast fishing industry, or not. In this case, it is very much the latter.

The ‘herring seller’ referred to in the title is not a young man from Grimsby, but a crime writer called Ethelred Tressider. The phrase was coined by his ex-wife, Geraldine, due to the number of red herrings he puts into his Sergeant Fairfax series. 

His apprentice is a chocoholic, literature hating agent Elsie Thirkettle.

In what is a very amusing and well-written crime story, Ethelred and Elsie become amateur sleuths as they piece together the events leading up to the disappearance of Geraldine. And it seems that there is no shortage of suspects.

Geraldine was a force of nature and, as it turns out, a dab hand in the red herring market. As Ethelred and Elsie begin to unravel Geraldine’s mixed up personal and professional lives, Elsie begins to suspect that there is more to the mystery than meets the eye and that Ethelred knows more than he is letting on.

The Herring Seller’s Apprentice is a wonderfully amusing story. The main characters of Ethelred and Elsie are wonderfully portrayed, each telling their version of events in believable and very different styles. I felt drawn to the characters and their separate voices. This is the first book for some time that has left me chuckling out loud. 

An excellent debut novel. 

The Lake District Murder

the lake district murderby John Bude

Originally published in 1935, this edition, released as part of the British Library’s Crime Classics series, is making a well-deserved reappearance.

The book opens with the discovery of a body in a remote Lake District garage. First impressions are that the victim, garage co-owner Jack Clayton, has committed suicide, but Inspector Meredith seems to think otherwise. As he begins to investigate the circumstances surrounding Clayton’s death, the more puzzling the case becomes.

Set against the backdrop of the beautiful north Lake District around Keswick and Penrith, John Bude’s novel has more twists and dead ends than a modern housing estate. The Lake District Murder may not be one of the best of its genre, but it does have plenty of clues to follow, even if the Inspector himself seems to miss a few until the very end. The book has an easy style with a plot that is simple to follow. The clues are there to be found and I enjoyed working them out as I went along. 

An enjoyable bit of summer escapism, but more for the crime enthusiast. 

A Big Big Boy Did It And Ran Away

by Christopher Brookmyre

A Big Boy Did It and Ran AwayWhether you like his books or not (and why wouldn’t you?) you have to admit that Christopher Brookmyre certainly knows how to give a book a title!

And if you are one of those who don’t find the title amusing then probably won’t like the book either.

A Big Did It And Ran Away is a reference to that old childhood ploy of passing the blame onto someone else, and that is, in a way, what drives the plot of this book. Basically it is a thriller with a twist. Warned of a terrorist threat to the UK, the police are on full alter and on the lookout for anything unusual that might offer a lead to where and when the attack might take place.

Meanwhile, feeling his life drifting away from him and struggling to cope with the combination of a new child and new job, Raymond Ash finds himself at the centre of some very unusual events.

Christopher Brookmeyer’s talent as a storyteller is indisputable. The plot is as relentless as anything written by le-Carre of Forsyth, the witty snipping at modern life as anything written by Tom Sharpe. It is a unique blend of thriller and comedy that makes this such a good book.

The plot is solid, the characters interesting and flawed, and the politics realistically absurd. A wonderful combination that makes this a really great read.

The Jonah

by James Herbert

The JonahJames Herbert has been a permanent feature of the bestsellers lists since “The rats” was first published in 1974. Often considered, mainly by those who haven’t read his books, to be a horror writer, his books and actually generally thrillers, all-be-it often with a supernatural twist. In facrt, his most famous series – Rats, Lair and Domain – are closer to science fiction.

“The Jonah” is a detective story with a touch of the supernatural. Jim Kelso is a detective with the Drugs Squad in London. He is good at his job but he has the unenviable reputation for bringing bad luck to those around him. The death of a fellow officer on a drugs bust is the last straw for his boss and Kelps finds himself working undercover in a remote Sussex fishing village.

Playing the part of an ornithologist undertaking research for a bird charity, Kelso is alone so he can’t hurt anyone, or so it seems at first. With frequent flashbacks we begin to uncover the dark secret behind the inexplicable events in Kelso’s life.  

Investigating the mysterious events that led to an otherwise unassuming family falling foul of the effect of LSD. The police are baffled as to how a quiet family like the Preeces have come into contact with illegal drugs. And is there any connection with the death of a USAF pilot, also under the influence of LSD?

On the verge of giving up the investigation he is joined by HM Customs investigator Ellie Sheppard. Despite his reservations about working with her, the pair soon begin to uncover the truth the lies beneath the surface of the small community. But for Kelso, it is the revelation of the secrets of his own past that bring the greatest danger.

James Herbert is a great story teller, whatever the genre. One of the things I love about his books is the care he takes with his characters, even those who barely live longer than two pages. As disaster strikes the village, we are introduced to a number of locals and, in Herbert’s trademark style, we get to know a lot more about them than is necessary. That is not a negative by the way, I love the way he builds up his incidental characters. “The Jonah” is typical James Herbert. Not necessarily one of his best (that would be “Magic Cottage”), but well worth the read and a reminder for me of why I got hooked on his books in the first place. I began reading his books when I was a teenager, but the Jonah is one of several I missed at the time. I think now that I need to catch up a bit.

The Eyre Affair

by Jasper Fforde

The Eyre AffairImagine, if you will, a world in which England (not the UK) is still fighting the Crimean War and facing birder skirmishes with the People’s Republic of Wales; where airships are still ambling across the ski ways; where re-engineered Dodos are the favourite family pet; and where special government departments police literature and time. And just as your head begins to ache, imagine a world where no one bats an eye when the hero introduces herself as Thursday Next!

If you find these things unimaginable then “The Eyre Affair” is probably best avoided. But, if you can get your head around these ideas then grab yourself a copy and step into one of the most bizarre, entertaining and original books I have read for some time.

The afore mentioned Thursday Next is an agent for the Literary Detective Agency of the Special Operations Network, or SpecOps 27 for short. Her job is to police the lucrative literacy market that has been infiltrated by criminal gangs. Not a role that normally involves car chases, gun fights, kidnappings and murder, but with a new “Mr Big” on the scene things begin to take a more sinister turn. And it is Thursday’s job to bring him down.

In this alternative version of 1985, England is virtually controlled by the Goliath Corporation whose influence in every aspect of government and the media make them as bad as the villains themselves.

Told mainly in the first person, Thursday’s adventures are full of the kind of twists, turns and betrayals you would expect of a good detective story, but Jasper Fforde is no ordinary writer, and Thursday Next is no ordinary detective.

The world Jasper has created is full of wonderful characters and the alternative history he has created is oddly believable. I found the book difficult to put down, and not because it had been glued to my hands! The style is somewhat reminiscent of early Tom Holt, with great characters you can have some empathy for and a plot that is difficult to explain to anyone who hasn’t already read the book. Bizarre, funny, imaginative and great fun.

“The Eyre Affaire” is the first in a series of books following the adventures of Thursday Next. I for one will be on the lookout for the next instalment.

Cold Is The Grave

by Peter Robinson

Cold Is The GraveAnother Inspector Banks story and, like the others I have read, there is as much here about his messed up private life as there is about the crimes he investigates.

I have not been reading these books in any kind of order. Rather, I have been dipping in and out of Alan Banks’ career like a confused time traveller.

In Cold Is The Grave, Banks has no make sense of several murders, a runaway teenager and his own failing love life. Bit for once it seems that others’ lives are more confused and dysfunctional than his own.
Drawn unwittingly into the private life of his nemesis and boss, Chief Superintendent “Jimmy” Riddle, Banks is forced to face some truths about his own emotions and to face up to the realities of his own life.

A great read. Plenty of twists, good characters and well written.

No Safe House

by Linwood Barclay

No Safe HouseIt is seven years since the events of “No Time For Goodbye”, when Cynthia Archer came to face to face with her past, triggering a series of events that almost cost her the lives of her family. Although the family have managed to rebuild their lives, Cynthia finds it almost impossible to give her fourteen year old daughter Grace the freedom she craves.

But when Grace and her new boyfriend break into a strange house, she finds herself at the centre of a chain of events that once again threaten the lives of the family.

On the face of it, the Archer’s are just an average, all American family, but looks can be deceptive. Circumstances conspire to put them at the centre of another mystery, but this time the body count is starting to get seriously worrying.

We all like to feel that we are safe in our own homes. It is our sanctuary from the violence and traumas of the world outside, our refuge. In “No Safe House”, that sanctity is violated, but in an unusual way.

From its violent opening chapter, “No Safe House” keeps up the pace, and the body count, until it’s unexpected and equally violent conclusion. The book is everything you would expect from Linwood Barclay. I did question why he brought back the Archer family, but once you get into the story it makes sense as their backstory makes them the right kind of family to face this particular ordeal.

I do enjoy Linwood Barclay’s books. His stories are centred around people who on the face of it are nothing special, just ordinary people who find themselves in extraordinary situations. I suppose part of the attraction of his stories is the feeling that these things could happen to any of us. Although, I sincerely hope not.

Like all his previous books, this is a well structured story that keeps you gripped right from the very beginning. It has pace, great characters and just enough twists to keep you guessing without getting lost.

The only thing I will say is that I am seeing a pattern in his books, something that has put me off other writers in the past.

For anyone who has not read his work before, I would recommend at least reading “No Time For Goodbye” just so you get the background to the family.