Monthly Archives: July 2014

The Take

by Martina Cole

The TakeMartina Cole has a reputation for writing gritty, down to earth novels set in the seedier side of London. I have read only one of her books before but she is a firm favourite of a relative who has passed a couple onto me recently, including this one.

The Take is the story of one family, the Jackson’s. At the centre of the story are Cousins Freddie and Jimmy. Fresh out of prison, Freddie is determined to make a name for himself using the contacts he made on the inside. Ten years Freddie’s junior, Jimmy looks up to his older cousin and stands beside him as their reputation grows.

Despite their close bond, Freddie and Jimmy are two very different characters. Even their wives, sisters Jackie and Maggie, are poles apart in both temperament and ambition. But like many families, there are tensions behind closed doors, But even as Freddy’s increasingly violent ways become more difficult to tolerate, it is his feelings towards his wife’s sister that will eventually be the undoing of them all.

They say that families should stick together, but in this case, things only get better when they don’t. 

Centred around the criminal underworld of East London. The Take is as much a story of family ties and breakdown as it is about gangland killings and drug deals. Certainly, these have their place and are at the heart of the story, but it is the strained relationships and dealing with the consequence of their actions towards each other that form the main thrust of this compelling story.

The characters are good and remain consistent throughout the book. The plot is simple which suites the narrative which kept me hooked throughout. Violence and sex are always there, but not in a gratuitous way. There are a couple of briefly graphic scenes, but they are short relevant. The book concentrates on the emotions and consequences rather than the acts themselves. The story has a good pace and like the reality it is try to convey, events often take unexpected turns. 

Although she will not be to everyone’s taste, Martina Cole is good at what she does and I for one find her work easy to read and entertaining, in a gruesome way. I found myself drawn into the world the characters inhabited and felt a great affinity for some of them, particularly Jimmy and Maggie, who’s lives are almost torn completely apart by the one man who should have been there to support them.

Intense, but worth a read.

Atonement

by Ian McEwan

AtonementI am not familiar with McEwan’s work, but I did see the film several years ago so thought it was worth a punt.

Now, normally when you read the book after seeing the film you get much more in the way of plot and characterisation. To be fair to film makers, you can’t normally fit the entire content of a novel into a 2 hour film. Something generally has to give, in this case, I can say that rather than base the film on the book, they turned the book into a film! As I read the book I could see the events in the film very clearly, with nothing left out or added. 

The story begins in the summer 1934 when the Tallis family are preparing for the return of the eldest son. But for the two sisters, Briony and Cecelia, the events of this day are set tpo change their lives, and that of family friend Robbie Turner, forever.

The youngest of three, Briony has been indulged and spoilt by her older brother and sister and their mother. They have all encouraged then young girl’s active imagination. But on this day, when she is introduced to the complexities of the adult world, her imagination leads her to commit a crime that will break her family apart.

As the story moves on to 1941 and the horrors of the second world war, Briony faces the reality of her past mistakes and sets out to seek atonement from her estranged sister.

It is a captivating story that takes us from the innocence of the pre-war home counties to London in 1999. I found the story engrossing and was left in no doubt of the depth of feeling between the characters. My only criticism is that some of the passages on the book were a little over long. Whilst I like to know about the characters and their deeper feelings, I felt that at times this could have done a lot more succinctly. 

Having said that, I enjoyed the book immensely. McEwan is a great story teller, taking the reader with him every inch of the way. The characters are well defined and believable, the prose are strong and deliver all the emotion and horror of the events he portrays. The descriptions of the experiences of Robbie as he makes his way to Dunkirk, and Briony as she deals with victims of that great exodus, are detailed and instructive, but never gratuitous. 

I loved the book and will have to add Ian McEwan to my wish list. I may also have to seek out the film again, any excuse to watch Keira Knightly!

Juggernaut (Outpost #0.5)

by Adam Baker

JuggernautAlthough it is not unusual for a prequel to be come after the start of a series, it is not so common for them to come so close together or without demands from fans (such as Asimov’s Foundation series). Not that reading the books in the wrong order makes are real difference as they are both self-contained, with no linking characters or plot, other than the pandemic’s victims.

What is it about zombies and vampires these days? The horror/fantasy/sci-fi section of book stores seem to be awash with them. I am not fan of zombie stories and am beginning to find them tedious and boring and generally avoid them. However, in Adam Baker’s case I will make an exception. 

Yes, there are hordes of mindless zombies trying to eat and infect everyone they can get their hands on. And yes, the heroes have to fight them off and try to escape to safety. But in both Outpost and Juggernaut the stories are set in remote locations where the environment itself poses as much of a threat as the pandemic being unleashed.

Set in the Iraqi desert in 2005, a group of mercenaries set out in search of a truck load of gold, only to find themselves in the middle of a covert operation that threatens not only their lives, but the whole population of planet earth. 

It was supposed to be one last adventure that would earn them the money to retire. But what Lucy and her team of mercenaries find in the remote Western Desert of Iraq leaves them fighting for their lives in a way they could is never have imagined. And it is not just the zombies they need to watch out for as there are other people involved who have agendas that do not rely on Lucy and her team getting out alive.

Juggernaut is more of an action story with the zombies thrown in as a bonus. The characters are excellent and consistent and the story is exciting and well-paced. There is a lot of detail in the descriptions of the military hardware and it seems to accurately portray the middle east of 2005. 
There are numerous flashbacks to events leading up to the central story with allows the reader to piece together the background to the characters and the plot. Adam Baker is an excellent story teller. The pace of the book remains constant throughout and although not quite as good as his first, it kept me enthraller right to the end, with plenty of twists and an unexpected end. The only disappointing think about the book was that I don’t yet have the next to read. That is on order!

You don’t need to have ready “Outpost” to enjoy this book, but I would recommend reading them both.