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.
THE FOURTH REICH is the third in the Mitchell Parker series. FBI Agents, with a decided "Australian" feeling about their banter, Parker's team have aTHE FOURTH REICH is the third in the Mitchell Parker series. FBI Agents, with a decided "Australian" feeling about their banter, Parker's team have a fair bit of history which might mean that starting out with the third book is not absolutely ideal. Not that it's not a very readable book in it's own right, and for this reader, the intrigue of the backstory just meant that the earlier books made it onto the must read list immediately.
In thriller style, THE FOURTH REICH starts out at breakneck pace, and that doesn't give up at any point. Combine that with an intriguing plot involving what seems to be a plot to disrupt (or is it call attention to) the launch of the biography of an Auschwitz survivor. The motivation behind a series of bizarre sabotage events requires quite a bit of digging on the part of Parker and his team, who initially are somewhat surprised to be called in on what seems like a simple police matter. Needless to say, reasons for the involvement of an FBI team soon surface and the team of 4 close colleagues soon find themselves at the centre of a major conspiracy.
One of the great strengths of this novel is the working relationship and friendship between the team. They know each other well, they work together seamlessly, and this book goes someway to exploring the development of friendships, and even attractions. There's some references back to past events, and in particular, a departed team member, that obviously indicates things have gone a bit pear-shaped in the past. There's enough of that to give you a feel for what went before, without bogging down the current story.
The banter between the team really works for an Australian reader - the dialogue is crisp and frequently funny, albeit with a slight reservation about the aptness for a team of FBI agents. It's hard to avoid the feeling that they might be a little more dour, certainly less inclined towards the friendly chiding and ribbing than you get here. Astute readers may also just have to accept the locked room mystery investigation that never seemed to think to stay in the room until the reader was breathless with shouting. Having said that, the pace is enough to keep you moving forward, even if there is a slight NO NO NO echoing somewhere in the back of mind.
All in all, even allowing for coming to the series way too late, THE FOURTH REICH was a really enjoyable thriller read. For this Australian reader the team were fabulous characters, the banter funny and crisp, and the dialogue spot on. The plot was strong enough to keep you reading, with just enough ick factor to make you want to see the baddies get it in the neck (and other places). Definitely a series to catch up on and then follow.
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.
GUN STREET GIRL is the fourth book to feature Irish cop Sean Duffy. The Duffy series, has been winning plaudits, praise and awards in all corners of tGUN STREET GIRL is the fourth book to feature Irish cop Sean Duffy. The Duffy series, has been winning plaudits, praise and awards in all corners of the world and hugely deserved they have all been, which meant fans of both the writer and the earlier three books (THE COLD, COLD GROUND, I HEAR THE SIRENS IN THE STREET and IN THE MORNING I'LL BE GONE) were well pleased when the fourth book was announced. Now all we need is more of these and we'll stay happy. (No pressure or anything of course).
Of most interest to this reader was how a fourth book would slot into what had originally been planned, and seemingly executed as a trilogy. Whilst there were storylines that could be extended at the end of IN THE MORNING I'LL BE GONE, there was much that had been explored, prodded, drawn out, and tied off. It was more than gratifying to find much in GUN STREET GIRL that raises the standards of the 3 earlier books even more.
A lot of that is helped by the glorious, understated dry dialogue, observation and writing of this author. There's no padding, no overstatement and none of your shilly shallying about in here. At the same time it's wonderfully descriptive, frequently hilarious, and absolutely skewering.
"But I'm not in charge and that is not what happens. This being an RUC-Gardai-FBI-MI5-Interpol operation we are headed for debacle ... "
"'Farce isn't my cup of tea,' I tell him, wind the window up and pull out of the car park. The me in the rear-view mirror shakes his head. That was a silly remark. Far out here, on the edge of the dying British Empire, farce is the only mode of narrative discourse that makes any sense at all."
Given that the action centres around Belfast in the mid 1980's, during the Troubles and the time of Thatcher's British Government, the social observations and the insider view of policy decisions like the Anglo-Irish Agreement (of 1985 - not to be confused with the Treaty of 1921 or the Trade Agreement in the 1960's...) are as much a factor in what makes these books work as are the strong characters, and the even stronger sense of place.
"'Here the politics are centrifugal, not centrist. Extreme Nationalists and extreme Unionists will condemn the Agreement as a sell-out of their principles and the moderates in the middle who support it will look like fools.'"
Balanced elegantly against that backdrop is a real, and intriguing plot. The murder of a very wealthy couple and the suicide of their son is soon revealed to be something much bigger than the easy solution of murder-suicide. And it is Duffy's copper instincts that tell him something's not right. And it is his copper instincts that keep them digging even when things start to get very grown up and very weird. The lurking presence of the intelligence bods - US and UK, and the possibility of career moves for Duffy all contribute to a bigger picture which gets more and more complicated the deeper Duffy and his colleagues dig.
At the heart of these books, however, is Sean Duffy. He's not perfect, he's not above a bit of pilfering of drug seizures, he's not above the occasional joint or line, and he's certainly not lucky at love. He's determined to stay a Catholic man in the centre of a Protestant area, even when that sometimes means he's got to have a deep and meaningful with the neighbours who keep the tensions at bay. He tries to play fair with everyone he deals with, and he's a very very good cop. He's also in a no-win position in his job. Trapped at his current level, constantly viewed with suspicion by the higher-ups he is absolutely loyal to his team and very supportive, albeit in a slightly haphazard manner at times. It's impossible not to read his stories and not think he deserves more. A happy home life, a job where he's appreciated, people around him who aren't constantly trying to get at him. At the same time you kind of hope that some of that doesn't happen. A happy, contented, comfortable Sean Duffy may not be quite the edgy copper he is right now. Either way, let's hope that GUN STREET GIRL has broken the back of McKinty's trilogy habit and there's a lot more in this series to come.
A perfectly formed piece of glorious over the topness featuring Logan McRae, DCI Steel and the recent Scottish independence referendum. Which of coursA perfectly formed piece of glorious over the topness featuring Logan McRae, DCI Steel and the recent Scottish independence referendum. Which of course isn't going to bode well. I mean it's part of the world that gave us Whisky. And people who drink whisky. When they are happy, sad, or stressed. All of which DCI Steel manages to be during the lead up to, and the night of the count.
Not that McRae particularly cares. As usual he's just trying to get a shift under his belt, and maybe find a missing 'No' campaigner. Which, well, it ends hilariously. And vaguely disturbingly.
As you'd expect. The 45% HANGOVER is a perfectly formed little delivery of hilarity combined with a refreshingly honest viewpoint on the whole independence question. But a word of warning - perhaps don't read the concluding bits on a full stomach. And certainly not if you've had way too many whisky's.