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LS9 #1

Hope Road

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A gripping read... A fascinating study in dark and evil... The stuff of Great British grit and dark, dark humour … Barlow provides plenty of twists and turns before the truth is revealed. But what is most enjoyable about Barlow's writing isn't his story archs or plotting, but his characters, dialogue and sense of place... Beautifully cinematic… far more cinematic than a McDermid or a Rankin.

Barlow throws in plenty of twists before everything is untangled, since of course nothing in the case is exactly what it seems to be, and he spins the yarn in fast-paced, very readable prose. He also does a good job with the setting, the English city of Leeds, and made me feel like I'd been there. HOPE ROAD is a fine novel, the first in a series, and I look forward to reading the others.
Rough Edges

HOPE ROAD: a crime thriller - You can't change your past. But what about your future?

John Ray, son of crime boss Antonio 'Tony' Ray, is the straight one of the family. With a successful business and a lifestyle to match, he wants nothing to do with his father's criminal world. But what does that world want with him?

A young prostitute is found dead in John's car, and Freddy Metcalfe, his best friend and employee, is framed for her death. Freddy denies everything but it's an open and shut case: he's going down for murder. John sets out to find the real killer.

But things get complicated. A stash of counterfeit money was also found in John's car, and the police seem more interested in that than in the dead girl. Then Lanny Bride turns up; one of the north's most ruthless criminals (and an old friend of the Ray family), Lanny is desperate to know who killed the girl. But why? Meanwhile, Freddy is too scared to talk to anyone, even his lawyer.

John's police detective girlfriend, Denise Danson, has been warned off the case by her boss. But she doesn't believe Freddy is guilty, and secretly helps John look for the murderer. The problem, though, is that uncovering the shocking truth about the girl's death will force John to confront his own criminal past and risk destroying his future, as well as losing the only woman he's ever loved.

A novel set in Leeds, this is the first crime-mystery in the LS9 series.

288 pages, Kindle Edition

First published December 13, 2011

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About the author

John Barlow

30 books44 followers
John Barlow's prize-winning fiction and non-fiction has been published by HarperCollins/William Morrow, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 4th Estate and various others in the UK, US, Australia, Russia, Italy, Germany, Spain and Poland.

His current project is the Joe Romano crime thriller series. The first novel, RIGHT TO KILL, is out in the UK with HQ/HarperCollins on June 24th, 2021.


John was born in West Yorkshire, England, in 1967. He worked as a musician before studying English Literature at Cambridge University and language acquisition at Hull University. After teaching English for several years, he moved to Spain to write full-time, and has been there ever since. He is married to Susana, with whom he has two sons. They currently live in the Galician city of A Coruña.

Apart from writing fiction, he also works as a ghost writer and journalist. He has written for the Washington Post, Slate.com, Penthouse, Departures Magazine and The Big Issue, and he is currently a feature writer for the award-winning food magazine Spain Gourmetour.


John's first published work, a novella, won the Paris Review's Discovery (Plimpton) Prize in 2002. He went on to publish a collection of novellas, EATING MAMMALS, the novel INTOXICATED, set in the late nineteenth century, and EVERYTHING BUT THE SQUEAL, a food-travelogue about Spain. He then published the off-beat noir novel WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO JERRY PICCO?, and three novels in the LS9 series, featuring amateur sleuth John Ray.

John has also worked with the conceptual artists goldin+enneby on their ACÉPHALE project, which has so far taken him to Nassau, Bergamo, Oslo and London, and into the company of Bahamian off-shore bankers, defamation layers, prize-winning artists, and Martina Navratilova. His writing for the project has been published variously in English, Italian, Spanish, Swedish and Portuguese, and has featured at numerous art shows/galleries in the UK, the US, Canada, Brazil, Spain, Sweden, Norway and Italy. The novel HEADLESS, based on the project, was release in 2013.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 64 reviews
Profile Image for Lee.
597 reviews98 followers
August 3, 2015
I have had this book on my kindle for quite a while and I am very pleased I finally decided to read it. There are quite a few characters in this book but this just adds to the great story, and they are all quite believable. There are lots of twists and turns, although all is not as it seems as you will discover at the end. The book was gripping, thrilling and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Profile Image for Sarah.
107 reviews20 followers
February 21, 2012
Hope Road is set in the Yorkshire town of Leeds and follows John Ray – son and brother of notorious criminals. John Ray has always been the good boy of the family, turning away from a life of crime. The author clearly knows Leeds well, and he describes the areas and locations excellently,

The book starts with the murder of a prostitute, and twists and turns until we find out who the girl actually is, and the complicated story of how she came to die. There are a number of different things going on in this book, that come together neatly at the end. There’s the car business, the Spanish receptionist with criminal skills, the peculiar hotel with no guests, the two Ukrainians, a counterfeiting operation and a dead girl.

Despite the complexities of the story, John Barlow does a great job of not confusing the reader, and leaving clues along the way as to the identity of the killer and it finishes well, leaving the reader satisfied with the outcome. The added intrigue is that as the son and brother of a notorious criminal family John Ray is dating a police officer; who happens to provide an alibi for the night the girl died.

So, why didn’t I rate this book more highly? I think, ultimately, I was disappointed with how the story ended. [Spoiler alert] I just didn’t believe that John Ray was part of the criminal underworld, his reasons for returning to this part of his life seemed weak, and if I’m truthful, I was disappointed. The other thing was his relationship with the police officer, Den. We know that she left another police officer to be with John Ray and we know what decision she makes at the end of the story in terms of what she learns about her boyfriend, but it all just felt a little unconvincing. There are points in the story where I would have liked to have dug down a little deeper into Den, to understand her motives and to understand her and the relationship she had with John Ray.

That said, I’ll be very interested to see how John Barlow develops his LS9 books; had the twist not happened with John Ray at the end, then I could have seen scope to use this character in the future, but I’m not sure which direction the books will turn to next. Wherever it focuses next, I’m sure it’ll be a good read.
15 reviews
March 25, 2013
I found this book kind of on the boring side. Guess it's just not my favourite style. The gangster type characters were not that well identified and the story line was a little hard to follow. The book revolved around John trying to clear a friend and co-worker of murder. It just didn't hold my interest.
Profile Image for Penny Post.
289 reviews
August 28, 2018
I enjoyed this book, could even relate to characters though most were criminals, prostitutes or police. In fact, the book is written so you get attached to the main character. The honest one in a family of criminals. The story lines takes you along with Den (Denise) officer who is called out on a body found in the trunk of a car owned by her boyfriend, John, the good one! She is immediately removed from the case but keeps letting herself be drawn in by John. While second story line follows the murder victim and her connection to Freddy, John's best and only car salesman. If that isn't enough for you, there are more connections between all the characters and discoveries along the way about them all. The line between good and evil in this books drifts back and forth. I would have rated it a 3 1/2 if there were such on Goodreads. Would definitely be interested in where this story goes in other books.
Profile Image for Donna.
780 reviews3 followers
March 20, 2018
Better Than Goodfellows

A quirky yet enchanting tale of the son who got out of the family business. John Ray spent his life trying to get out from underneath the "cloud" of his family name. When his good friend and protege ends up in jail John will do whatever is necessary to prove his innocence. A well written mystery with fascinating characters. Great plot with a lot of twists and turns.
120 reviews
June 25, 2018
This is a great first book.

I selected this book because reading the description appealed toe. I'm always looking for new authors to read and new characters to learn about and new series to begin. This was a very fast read because it was full of action and the story didn't drag on. I can't wait to read the next two books in the series.
Profile Image for Jack.
2,541 reviews19 followers
June 11, 2020
John is the good man in a bad family, a sort of Yorkshire Michael Corleone. But things go horribly wrong when a young woman dies. Competent crime story.
Profile Image for Ali.
254 reviews1 follower
October 19, 2020
Not quite what I expected and all the better for it. I'd like to read the other two books and continue with John Ray's journey.
Profile Image for Matt Schiariti.
Author 10 books151 followers
February 5, 2013
John Ray: prodigal son of the infamous Tony Ray crime family. He’d always wanted to be cut from a different cloth. He was the one they were most proud of. The straight shooter, the legitimate one. Top honors in school, university degree. He’d left home for over two decades, looking to wipe the grime of the family name off of himself. To take things one step further, he turned his father’s high end used car business into a completely legit and successful operation. John Ray thought he’d separated himself from the old ‘family business’. That is until a dead prostitute is found in the trunk of one his cars along with 50K in counterfeit money and his best friend and employee, Freddie is suspected of the crime. Not only does John take it upon himself to clear his best friend’s name, but he’s also trying to prove that the fake money wasn’t his. It doesn’t help his cause any that his father was well known for running counterfeit money back in his heyday. There’s only one person in the police force who believes him: Denise Denton. When his brother was murdered, she was the only one there for him. Two years later, they’re sleeping together. Life for her isn’t about to get any easier either when she’s the only alibi he’s got. When you’re around John Ray, his past has a habit of rubbing off on you.

This book wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I was actually thinking it was going to be a police procedural, dealing heavily with the case from the police side of the fence, especially since the main love interest, Denise, is a police officer. What it turned out to be, however, was more of an amateur sleuthing novel.

John Ray is the central figure in the story. The majority of it gets told from his perspective. As a result, there isn’t much police procedure involved. In fact, just about all of the investigation is done by John himself. The police only seemed to enter into the equation for an odd interrogation session here and there and when John gives them information he finds as he sniffs around trying to clear his friend of the murder. Denise is totally taken out of the situation because of obvious conflict-of-interest reasons.

Insofar as the characters go, John is fleshed out well enough, being that he’s the central character. Frankly, anybody familiar with The Godfather, especially Michael, should be able to see the parallels here. The one good son in a crime family, trying to make good in spite of his family’s sordid past and name, yet still finding himself thrown into the middle of it. Sins of the father, etc, etc. But, I found the problem to be with the secondary characters. They’re just kind of ‘there’. Denise being a cop doesn’t enter into the story much, and she doesn’t get enough page time for her character to develop. The same can be said for the two lead officers on the case, Baron and Steele. They’re just kind of ‘there’, for lack of a better word. Connie, John’s distant relative and employee at Tony Ray’s motors does benefit from more page time, and as such, is probably the most fleshed out of all the backup players.

While the writing is solid overall, it’s told in the present tense. I won’t say that I dislike present tense but in the interest of full disclosure, I’m not entirely comfortable reading it. That is my own personal preference though and shouldn’t be taken as a knock against the author. To continue with the writing, I found that sometimes it was difficult to tell who the point of view character was in certain scenes. While it wasn’t rampant, the POV did get a loose from time to time in mid-scene and I wasn’t always sure whose eyes I was supposed to be seeing things through.

The plot was solid with a good dash of twists and turns. The whodunit aspect was handled well and the ending was pretty satisfying. There aren’t any fast ones being pulled here and when everything is solved, it makes complete sense. It’s nice not to have any trickery thrown in.

So, all in all a solid read. Did I love it? No, but I enjoyed it more often than not, despite some things that weren’t to my liking. Primarily, I would have liked to have seen more from the police investigative side and more from Den’s perspective.
Profile Image for Kathleen.
1,395 reviews35 followers
May 5, 2012
John Ray never wanted anything to do with his father's criminal activity, and education was his ticket out of that lifestyle. After graduating from Cambridge and going abroad to Spain, John worked as a corporate accountant for two firms in London and Manchester for fifteen years. Two years ago, all that changed when his older brother Joe was gunned down in a gangland murder, and he found himself back in the Yorkshire town of Leeds, bound and determined to turn the family secondhand automobile dealership into a respectable business. He rebuilt the dealership with a young family friend, Owen "Freddy" Metcalfe, and was reaping the benefits of success, when Freddy is accused of murdering a young prostitute in one of John's cars, with counterfeit money found in the spare tire. John is determined to prove that Freddy is innocent, and with the help of his police detective girlfriend, Denise Danson, he becomes a pseudo-crime investigator, while at the same time dodging the stigma of his crime family's past. Can John prove that Freddy is innocent .... or does his own criminal past come back to haunt him?

Hope Road is an intriguing fast-paced British crime thriller that will engage the reader to join in the murder investigation. The storyline is well written and is multi-layered with complex subplots like the underworld crime world, counterfeiting, money laundering, drugs, sex, murder and betrayal. The author weaves a story that is filled with many thrilling twists and turns, it's dizzying pace keeps the reader turning the pages in order to find out what happens next, and engages the reader to figure out the identity of the real killer. The characters are realistic, complex and down right fascinating, each character provides the story with depth and makes it that much more compelling. I loved John Ray, the author provides the reader with a main character that is complex and like a puzzle that engages them to figure out who and what this man really is all about. The attention to detail is fabulous, as an American reading a British novel, I found the British language, the description of the area (Leeds, Yorkshire, etc), and the British criminal police procedure of investigation very interesting. I thought I would have a hard time getting through the story since I am not used to reading a British novel, but I found that the British terminology was easy to figure out, and actually it was a really fascinating read. As a murder mystery suspense thriller fan, I was pleasantly surprised with this British crime thriller, the suspense, intrigue and surprise ending has made me a new John Barlow fan.

Hope Road is the first novel in the LS9 crime series, which will be comprised of nine novels, and will take the author a decade to complete. The first installment in this series set the bar for what is to come down the road, and I look forward to reading the rest of the novels. Crime thriller fans, this novel is a must read. Whether you're into American or British style of writing, this novel is worth looking into, and chances are the rest of the novels in the series will prove to be just as good a read as this one was!

Disclaimer: I received a Kindle edition of the book from the author in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book event.

Virtual Book Event: On Saturday, May 5, 2012, author John Barlow participated in a virtual book event with an Author Interview on Jersey Girl Book Reviews.

Profile Image for A.C. Flory.
Author 13 books16 followers
December 30, 2012
I read somewhere recently that it takes about six or seven exposures to an author's name for that name to register with readers. Well, I'm living proof that theory is correct!

John Barlow, the author of Hope Road, writes the odd post for Indies Unlimited, and I must have enjoyed those posts, because when I stumbled across his name in the Amazon 'readers who bought X also bought Y' list, a little light bulb went off in my head.

Needless to say I bought Hope Road, and read it. What the theory did not predict, however, was that I would fall head over heels in love with the main character, John Ray!

Hope Road is a quasi police procedural, but told through the eyes of John Ray, a character who is definitely not a policeman. Hope Road is also a bit of a thriller, a bit of a mystery, and a lovely character study of John Ray. In short, it is exactly the kind of book I love. And I did love it. :D

The story is set in a seedy part of Leeds, [England] where John Ray, the prodigal son, has returned to take over the second-hand car business belonging to his family. But selling second-hand cars was only ever a front for the real family business, which was crime.

John's father was a local crime-lord until his retirement due to ill-health, and John's brother was murdered in an apparent gangland 'hit'. But John has always been clean. He is the one who left, the one who went to university and became a solid citizen. So why has he returned? And why is he now selling used cars from the old showroom that used to be headquarters for his father's criminal operations?

The natural suspicion surrounding John's return is only exacerbated by the discovery of a dead girl in one of his cars, along with 50,000 pounds in counterfeit bills.

The police know the murderer could not have been John because he has a water-tight alibi - he was in bed with Detective Constable [DC] Denise Danson at the time. However the car was being driven by John's protégé, and employee, Freddy, and the family business used to be in counterfeiting, so John is definitely a person-of-interest. But is he actually guilty of anything?

I was intrigued, to say the least, because right from the beginning, John Ray exudes the kind of charisma that is usually reserved for sexy villains, yet he also seems to be a genuinely caring person who puts himself at risk trying to prove that Freddy was not the murderer.

So how did Barlow create this charismatic character?

John Ray is not stereotypically handsome. He is described as a big man in his forties with a shock of black hair, and a physical 'presence', but he is not a James Bond, although it seems he is good in bed. Nor is he one of those angst-ridden types who introspects ad nauseum.

So what is it about John Ray that makes him so appealing?

I suspect the answer to that question lies in the character's potential to be bad. In a sense, this potential is the mirror image of what makes a villain sexy - the potential to be good. A villain who is all bad generally comes across as boring. Most heroes suffer from the same 2D malaise. Sexy villains and heroes, however, have the potential to be both good and bad, or at least to swing between the two, so we are left wondering how they will end up. That is my theory at any rate.

All theorizing aside, however, the one thing I am quite certain about is that I will be reading more about John Ray, and I hope you do too. Very highly recommended.
Profile Image for TC.
220 reviews14 followers
July 4, 2012
John Ray has spent years trying to escape the connotations of his family name. He's known in Leeds as the son of Tony Ray, notorious crime boss. After almost making a clean break he comes back to take on his Dad's garage, and make it legit. He even has a police officer girlfriend completing the veneer of respectability. That is until a dead girl is found in the boot of a vehicle that traces back to the garage. His employee and friend Freddy looks set to be charged with the murder, and initially disappearing then refusing to talk only makes him look more guilty. The police though are equally interested in the counterfeit money hidden in the boot, and John is under pressure from them and another local bad boy who wants to know who killed the girl. He finds himself doing some sleuthing to try and save himself and Freddy.

This book is the first in the John Ray LS9 series and our early encounters with John set him up as a man who has done well despite the early influences in his life. The story is told from his viewpoint and we find a man who's winning awards and living in a place he loves, with plans to retire early on a yacht somewhere. As the story unfolds the author gradually reveals more and more about him and he turns out to be a very complex character. It was like peeling away the layers on an onion and he became a well defined character with real depth to him. I really liked his assistant Connie, a distant relative who is a source of constant bemusement to John and would love to see more of her in future books. I enjoyed the feeling of dabbling in the underworld and felt the author portrayed a number of characters who might have been reprehensible almost sympathetically.

The plot wasn't overly complicated and I did spot a stand-out clue to where one of the threads was going, but with so many turns taken before the end it didn't feel predictable as I feared it might be. The pacing was good, taking enough time to paint a full picture of what was going on without being too ponderous, and it built to a satisfying finale. I also learnt a whole lot about counterfeiting and other scams, and it's always good to find a new crime series that doesn't feel too glossy and is set in good old Blighty for a change.
Profile Image for Amy H.
561 reviews23 followers
July 3, 2013
this was a great book to read, but in the end i think it dragged out. I mean i could of easly skipped over the last 60 pages to finally to the ending that i was waiting to read. Other than that is was a great crime book.

Tony Ray is a son of a huge crime boss. He on the other hand was on the straight and narrow. Got great grades in high school then moved onto college were he continued his straight a mark. Then one day he watched his brother get shot in the head by a bunch of thugs things started to change.

Tony had taken over his father car business. He even won an award for car salesman of the year. The police officers were watching him because bing the son of a crime boss wasn't the best name to have in town. His best car sales man freddy went missing.

his girlfriend who is a cop had to be called in for a murder. While she was on scene she noticed tony's car. now her boss has her coming down to the station for question and an albi. There was a dead girl found in her boyfriends car that was raped and murdered. On top of that there was 50 thousand dollars in the boot of the car. Den decided it was time to end things with tony because she couldn't loose her job. Den even went out of her way to help tony for little favour thruout the book.

Tony couldn't believe that his car was invloved in a murder. he just bought that car. Freddy was still missing and is now the prime suspect. Tony knows that Freddy couldn't hurt a fly. Tony took matters into his own hands and started to invistagate the murder himself. What he uncovers will shock and amaze you! lol i know that sounded corny, but it is true.

and what is a true crime book without some drama and action? there is tons of near death experiences and great drama. just have to make sure to make it thru the boring parts that keeps dragging and then it gets great!
Profile Image for Charlotte English.
Author 64 books307 followers
January 23, 2012
I don't usually enjoy books written in the present tense, but in the interests of being open-minded I gave this one a try. What comes across as pretentious in some books actually worked well here. It gave the story an interesting feeling of immediacy.

John Ray is a great hero. He's rather charming without being sleazy, he's popular and confident but without being obnoxiously arrogant. His background is interesting: how do you get away from the stigma of being part of a notorious crime family? I really felt John's frustration at having spent a lifetime trying, and still finding himself typecast as a crook.

The murder mystery was absorbing and pleasingly complex. Barlow handles the complicated story well, feeding clues to the reader at a good pace. There's a lot going on here - counterfeiting schemes (multiple), crime gangs, prostitutes and police, mysterious receptionists and wayward sons - but it all fits together beautifully.

On the downside, there's a revelation about John's recent life that disappointed me a little. It was interesting, and certainly a surprise, but it changes him significantly in a way that I didn't altogether like. Additionally, 'Den' the cop girlfriend lacked something; I didn't get a clear idea of who she is, other than an idealistic cop, or why John loves her. Maybe she needed a bit more screen time (so to speak). That said, this is the first in a projected series of nine books, so I imagine we'll be hearing plenty more about both characters in due course.

This is a read for fans of fast-paced crime thrillers with great plots, vivid language and interesting characters. It certainly isn't a cosy mystery though, so be ready for some grime.
Profile Image for Cheryl.
Author 8 books27 followers
June 21, 2013
John Ray is the white sheep of his family. His father, now in a nursing home, was a well-known crime figure in Leeds as was his older brother. Even his mother had her own string of knock-offs going till her death.

John tried to escape. He went to Cambridge and took jobs out of Leeds until his father's stroke brought him home to help his brother decide what to do with the family's used car business on Hope Road, a business that fronts for various criminal activities.

As they discuss options, an unknown killer shoots his brother. A police officer, Denise, shows up and wipes the blood and brains off John's face. This begins their relationship. It also begins John's ownership/running of the car company as a regular business.

A year or so later, when a girl is murdered, her body is found in one of John's cars. Denise's superior, an ex-lover, would love to arrest John, but Denise is his alibi. They were together at a banquet where John got Used Car Dealer of the Year, and in bed afterward. So her boss focuses on John's employee: a young man John's fond of, a man who's more like a partner, a man who could never kill anyone. The police don't agree.

John is going to have to find out who killed the girl and why, or his employee is going to take the rap. Fighting the police, trying not to lose Denise, getting on the bad side of the crime lord who took his father's place, trying to keep his own reputation clean...He barely has time to eat but manages to make us drool with luscious food/wine descriptions.

And all along the way, little hints tell us more is going on than we're being told. Each twist and turn proves John is not the most reliable narrator.

This is a really good read. I plan to look for more John Ray mysteries.

Profile Image for Beth Kemp.
Author 26 books23 followers
March 17, 2012
A lot of the energy of this novel comes from its present tense narrative, which works well at bringing immediacy to the story. It's told in the third person, largely from John's viewpoint. John is a great character: tough and streetwise because of his criminal heritage, but trying desperately to be a good guy and run a legitimate business. It's not hard to sympathise with him as he runs around trying to find out what really happened and to clear Freddy.

Denise and John's relationship adds a further complication to the story and greater interest. Denise's loyalties are torn, as she naturally wants to help John but can't risk getting caught up in anything less than legal. The backstory to their relationship is drip-fed beautifully, satisfying our curiosity without clogging up the action. It's clear that Barlow is a skilled writer (and no surprise that before self-publishing this novel, he has had others commercially published - the quality of this is comparable to traditionally published ebooks).

This is the beginning of a series set in Leeds. It's hard to see where it will go next, but I'm certain it will be worth reading. Overall, I really enjoyed it and found it a relatively fast read, as I was keen to pick it back up and see what was coming next. There were a few twists and several plot developments that I didn't expect, which is always satisfying. A good read will always surprise you, and Hope Road certainly does that.
2,490 reviews41 followers
February 13, 2012
John Barlow has accomplished something with me. Reviews I've read in other places say the same thing. I don't normally favor books in the present tense. But since I do like British crime novels, I decided to give it a try.

I was son lost in the world of John Ray, son of crime boss Tony Ray, and the, I guess you would call him the white sheep of the family. He'd been through college, brilliantly, and had an accountant's degree.

He had come home after his brother was murdered and his father had had a stroke and taken over the family business, a used car dealership transforming it into a legitimate enterprise, even winning an award for being good at it. His girl friend Denise, is a Detective Constable.

Now things were going sour. His friend, and salesman at the business, is missing and accused of murdering a prostitute, her body found in the boot of one of his cars, dumped away from the business. A stash of counterfeit bills is found in the car as well.

John is sure his friend is innocent and finds himself playing cop to find that killer. An old gangster friend of his brother's turns up and wants the killer, whether it be John's friend or someone else, promising death for the killer.

HOPE ROAD is the first in a new series, the LS9 crime series, and I enjoyed it tremendously. I look forward to new entries.

Profile Image for Joyce.
90 reviews
June 30, 2013
John Ray grew up in a mob family but decided to go straight. When he was a kid, he secretly wanted to be a cop. He went to Cambridge, got a degree in accounting and didn't want to go back to his home town of Leeds. His dad and brother worked out of a car dealership, using that as their cover for their "business dealings".

John went back for a visit and while standing in the dealership with his dad and brother, his brother was shot and died. His dad was old and was put into a nursing home. John stayed and turned the dealership into a legitimate business.

Things were going well for awhile until a prostitute was found dead in the trunk (boot) of one of his cars. Because it was one of John's cars and because of his family background, he was the top suspect. When asked where he was on the night of the murder, he did have an alibi, he was sleeping with one of their detectives. Their next suspect, was Freddie Metcalf, John's one and only salesman. John knew that
Freddie couldn't have murdered the girl, so he decided to investigate the murder on his own, giving the cops the information that he found.

The book was good with interesting characters. I will be looking forward to more books from John Barlow.
Profile Image for Tim.
137 reviews3 followers
August 7, 2013
Are we a product of our family, or can we escape our past? This is a central question in the novel "Hope Road." John Ray is the youngest son of Tony Ray, a notorious counterfeiter in Leeds. After 20 years, he has come back to Leeds. When his older brother is killed, he takes over the family car dealership.

One morning, a young woman is found dead in the trunk of a car that tracks back to the dealership, and John's life turns upside down. His friend and employee is nabbed for the murder and John must delve into the seedy underworld he fought to escape to help clear his friend's name.

The characters in the book are well written. It is easy to see how a series can evolve. As a reader, I could feel the suffering John was going through with both his personal life as well as is professional life. Even DI Baron was relatively likable.

I had a hard time getting past this book being written in the present tense, but once I did get into the book, I didn't notice any more. The story moves at a good pace and the author throws in plenty of twists to keep the reader guessing.

I will definitely look for other books in this series and I would recommend this to others.
Profile Image for Mirrani.
483 reviews7 followers
July 22, 2012
Not written in the usual style I'd read, I wasn't sure if I could keep going at the very beginning, but I was easily pulled in to the crime and mystery behind it. Who did the actual deed? Is the main suspect telling the truth? What's he hiding? We ask these questions all the time in these kinds of novels, but we stop asking them as the book goes on, usually because we've figured out what it is that's going on. When reading this book you will be constantly asking the questions, right to the end. The here-and-now style of writing is easier to get in to than it seems.

Note: Though this book was a free gift from the author, the content of my review was in no way influenced by the gifting. The book speaks for itself and my review would have been worded just this way even if I'd gone out and bought it. I also give bonus points for Text To Speech enabling on Kindle format.... but that also wasn't a factor in the above review.
Profile Image for Ellen.
269 reviews20 followers
May 8, 2013
This was a Kindle freebie. It's the first in what the author plans will be a nine-book series. The protagonist is a man named John Ray, the son of a successful master counterfeiter in the north of England. His father has had a series of strokes and his brother, who had been a ruthless criminal in his own right, was murdered. John, an accountant who has stayed out of the family business, has returned and fashioned a legitimate business from what had been his father's front and the hub for his criminal enterprises. Has John really left his family's criminal past? When his friend and employee is arrested for murder, John's activities also come under review. It's a very good first novel, smart and well-written.
Profile Image for Janice Spina.
Author 45 books106 followers
August 2, 2014
This is a first rate crime novel that kept my interest from the first page. The dialogue flows and the storyline is gripping as each new piece of evidence is uncovered. John Ray, the main character, fights to step away from his father and brother's criminal background. He takes over his father's second-hand car business and tries to make it into a legitimate business. But sometimes the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree. It was a thoroughly enjoyable read with a few surprises for the reader.

Since this is book one there will be many more exciting cases to come involving the fascinating character, John Ray.
Profile Image for Carlin.
1,341 reviews8 followers
January 1, 2015
This was a wonderful book, just my kind of mystery. Set in Northern England (Leeds, Yorkshire) it is reminiscent of an Ian Rankin Rebus mystery. The characters were well-developed, not perfect by any means, and the mystery remained just that until close to the end of the book. Because it was told in the third person, most often through the main character, John Ray, there was a sense of immediacy, that I felt I was in the story as it played out. I highly recommend this book and am starting the next one (Father and Son) by John Barlow right now!
Profile Image for Sally Beaudean.
201 reviews1 follower
June 30, 2013
Hope Road tells an interesting story about a man who was born into a family of crime who, despite his best efforts to be legitimate, falls into the family's criminal path. The decided weakness for me is the writer's use of sentence fragments. Drives me crazy. (Yes, I did that purposefully.) I enjoyed the British terminology and some of the powerful descriptions, but I was dissatisfied with the conclusion. It's not a great book, but it's better than any book I'be written.
Profile Image for Cait.
377 reviews8 followers
December 26, 2014
Received a free ebook version to review.

Probably wouldn't have picked this up to read myself.

Really lived the cover; the formatting felt like a proper book and there were only a handful of typos/errors in the text.

Wish John hadn't been involved in criminal activities. I liked the idea of him as a good guy with ties to both the police and the underworld.

It was a gripping story - well put together. I liked the pacing and the way everything was wrapped up.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Rosalyn.
381 reviews1 follower
January 26, 2015
Not a bad crime story with several twists. kept me reading to the end and wanting to see the outcome. As a free kindle download this was brilliant value.
It read easy a few grammatical errors but this is more to do with quality control than errors by the author.
Would recommend this to readers of crime who want a decent story but who do not want to take notes in order to understand what is going on. You get a feel for the characters and can begin to picture them in your mind.
Profile Image for Pam Whitman.
64 reviews5 followers
October 28, 2016
Suspenseful but language barrier caused a little confusion

Who would have thought that an American could be blindsided often throughout a novel due to British slang? It made me wonder how difficult some of our contemporary novels might be for the British to read. I had fun, though, guessing what the slang words and expressions might mean.

Other than that, I found the book to be suspenseful and well written. The characters were believable!e and well developed,
Profile Image for Ruby Barnes.
Author 11 books91 followers
May 1, 2012
Really enjoyed this crime thriller. It kept me in its grip
The fifth star was lost for me by problems I had with believing the interaction between two characters (John and Lanny) and the denouement. Both of the lads seemed to fall out of character on the occasions they confronted each other.
Nevertheless, hioghly recommended and I'll definitely be reading more John Barlow.
Profile Image for Del.
71 reviews
January 1, 2016

Not going to offer a summary of the story. I'll just say it's entertaining and worth a read. A few typos, but overall a readable book.

The story line of Tony Ray and family reminded me somewhat of "The Godfather" movies. John Ray, the prodigal son, coming back home to run a legitimate business drew me in. Connie's character was a good inclusion.
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