It's a such a simple idea when you think of it, take a standard noir setting, with added muscle cars, old cars, fast cars and gorgeous cars, and repla
It's a such a simple idea when you think of it, take a standard noir setting, with added muscle cars, old cars, fast cars and gorgeous cars, and replace the male characters with female ones. It makes enormous sense to me, especially as I grew up in a country town where girls driving hotted up cars, and hanging around hotted up cars was pretty common. Granted there was a bit of dating of boys driving hotted up cars as well - but really we could have just had all those cars to ourselves.
Evangeline Jennings does a good job of building up her dark and dangerous settings and scenarios. In a series of unconnected (apart from the girls and the cars thing) short stories, a series of plot's are played out that come straight from the noir theme park. The dialogue is crisp and clever, the settings are frequently dry and dusty or mean and nasty, although there's some in the story 911 that could have come straight from the Scandi-tourism bods.
The twisting of expectation is done so elegantly and seamlessly that there's nothing here at all that screams "setup". That idea of women on the edge is so convincingly delivered, so believable that there's not a speed bump in sight when it comes to accepting either plot or motivation. Everything in these short stories is as it should be when it comes to dark, twisted and desperate. The sex is explicitly love, lust and control; the drinking is hard; the language is profane and profound; and the cars, of course, are fast and dangerous. Anybody who has read the other short story collection, CARS & GIRLS will recognise the last story - CROWN VICTORIA from that so there's a good opportunity for a re-read right there.
Fans of noir stylings, of pointed, sharp and unexpected storytelling that pulls no punches, holds no bars and gets right up in your face really should be doing themselves a favour and reading both of these collections.
The second book in the DS Allie Shenton series, FOLLOW THE LEADER is not impeded in any way by not having read the earlier novel.
Whilst many fans of cThe second book in the DS Allie Shenton series, FOLLOW THE LEADER is not impeded in any way by not having read the earlier novel.
Whilst many fans of crime fiction will take one look at the blurb and groan "not another serial killer", this one deserves a second look. This serial killer kind of makes sense - in a decidedly uncomfortable manner.
In another possibly groan inducing moment, readers will also find themselves spending time in the head of this killer. A viewpoint that's used here to illuminate the killings, their circumstances, and more importantly, the motivation. Even the hardest heart is going to find it hard not to feel a modicum of compassion for this killer - even if his actions are utterly without justification.
Whilst you're squirming a little feeling that sense of compassion, you're presented with a number of other well drawn characters that might be more comfortable for you - sympathetic or not. DS Shenton and her colleagues, many of whom have some school connections with these victims, through to the self-obsessed, pain in the neck live in girlfriend of another school friend, these people feel real. They are flawed, they have personal and professional lives, and they have problems and highlights that they have to balance with the day to day.
Whilst the plot and the killings progress rapidly, obviously heading on a timeline firmly in the killer's mind, there is some backwards timeline shifting going on - especially in the killer's viewpoint - all of which is handled well. There's also school-yard nicknames, married names, changed names to keep track of and the connections from the past and present, which sounds like a lot. Fortunately any chance of confusion is minimised as some of the characters reiterate the confusing aspects, sort it through in their minds, helping the reader to do the same. And the idea of all those connections coming into life in a place as small as Stoke on Trent (in comparison to a major city small) made perfect sense.
Having a strong, central female cop protagonist with a happy, but not nauseatingly perfect home life is a particularly nice change, although there's obviously something from the earlier book that's leaked forward into this one. Shenton's sister is the victim of a vicious rape and assault which has left her in a nursing home, and desperately unwell. That idea that Shenton's life isn't picture postcard perfect or an absolute train wreck is both well done and refreshing, as are the honest occasional flashes of annoyance or difficulty in dealing with her sister's health situation. There's something more to be done in this thread as a very personal threat to Shenton appears in the middle of the current investigation (possibly the only clanger in the whole book as the obvious intent of that rape and attack seemed to muddle the current investigation waters for no good reason).
It looks very much like FOLLOW THE LEADER is heading off into series territory and it shows considerable promise in that. Certainly enough to put the first book firmly on my reading list. Nothing like being prepared when book 3 surfaces.
KING OF THE ROAD is Sydney based author Nigel Bartlett's debut novel. Gritty, complicated and fast-paced it takes the reader into the uncomfortable woKING OF THE ROAD is Sydney based author Nigel Bartlett's debut novel. Gritty, complicated and fast-paced it takes the reader into the uncomfortable world of abduction of young boys and paedophile rings. From the moment that young Andrew disappears from David Kingsgrove's home there's a sinking sense of despair. Firstly because of the police's obsession with Kingsgrove as the only suspect, and secondly because a young boy going missing like that instantly makes you think the absolute worse.
With only one friend prepared to believe in him, Kingsgrove is in a no win position, especially when his own family seem to suspect the worse. Going on the run could possibly telegraph guilt to others, but it seems to be the only way to find Andrew most importantly, and clear his name in the process.
Needless to say, the subject matter in this novel is going to worry some readers, and whilst there's nothing explicit or overt, it's impossible not to know what it is that cohorts of men like this do. Not helped by the sorts of character's that Kingsgrove eventually uncovers. It's sobering to think that people like this could really exist. It's even more sobering to think that the systems that they use to organise and communicate are so cleverly done.
The action centres around David Kingsgrove, and because his search for Andrew is a combination of Facebook investigation, and following every lead no matter how minor, he has to be a believable character. Not just believable, it's possible to have enormous sympathy for this man. A loving uncle, who incidental to his care and concern for his nephew is a gay man, he's resourceful, fit, brave and very determined. It's testament to his believability that at no stage is the reader left wondering how he could possibly be discovering things the police don't seem to be able to see. He also provides a very good lesson on how to hide in full view for quite a while which was most illuminating. But the best part about Kingsgrove is that determination. In the face of personal danger, confronted by some awful human beings, he stays true to the task of finding Andrew.
There are twists and turns in the search for Andrew that are going to surprise, there are some really awful people to be uncovered and some surprises in store, even when you think there can't possibly be any more. Whilst there's much about KING OF THE ROAD that's flat out a wild, tense, fast paced ride, there's also plenty of touching moments, and some glimpses of good, and some strong characters. An unusual book in many ways, KING OF THE ROAD is well worth reading, even if the subject matter is a no go zone for you.
Written for fans of cosy styled, more light-hearted mystery stories, THE AGATHA CHRISTIE BOOK CLUB will ring many bells in any readers who are also deWritten for fans of cosy styled, more light-hearted mystery stories, THE AGATHA CHRISTIE BOOK CLUB will ring many bells in any readers who are also dedicated Agatha Christie readers. Set in Sydney, the ACBC is formed by Alicia Finlay when she finally has to throw in the towel on a more formal (aka stuffy) literature based book club (personal note - if you TRIED to hold off the wine and cheese at our book club meetings you'd be laughed out the door!).
Those dedicated fans of Agatha Christie will recognise many of the scenarios, clues and hints dotted throughout this mystery. To the point where you may find yourself shouting at the book club members, who for fans, seem to have missed quite a few of the books / much of Christie's personal story, and therefore a whole heap of "well duh" moments. Much of THE AGATHA CHRISTIE BOOK CLUB is based on entertainment, rather than hard core mystery / crime fiction - right down to the almost mandatory requirement of the victim being a pretty nasty character. With plenty of people that might want him dead.
Leading the charge, Alicia Finlay is ably assisted by her cooking up a storm sister, and members of the bookclub who all take various investigation threads. There are a few lightly poached red herrings dotted around, and a bit of business with some direct links to Ms Christie's own disappearance. The police are there, possibly less than motivated when the crime is only the disappearance of a middle aged woman, not so laid back when the crime turns to murder.
Needless to say this is definitely on the lighter than air side of crime fiction. There's a hefty dose of romantic longing, quite a lot of gossiping, some fashion, a lot of chatter about home decor, and some "revelations" which you will probably see coming pages and pages earlier. Of course it makes no pretence of being anything else, and if you are a fan of the lighter side than it's well worth a look. As long as you can let the obvious clues go by. Fans of Ms Christie's writing might find the bookclub's inability to recognise some of those, especially when they stand up and scream "I'm an important clue for goodness sake", a tad frustrating.