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LS9 #2

Father and Son

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Someone wants you dead. You don’t know who. Or why...

John Ray is called to the scene of a violent murder. The victim is an old associate of John’s dad, local crime boss Tony Ray. There’s no obvious motive for the crime, but everybody agrees on one thing: don’t tell the police.

John, the Cambridge-educated white sheep of the Ray family, has always refused to be part of his father’s business. But he’s a bit of a maverick, with a foot in both worlds, and he’s not quite as white as he would like: exactly the kind of person you’d want to investigate an underworld murder.

His search for the killer takes him back to events twenty years ago, and to another, even more heinous crime. But he still doesn't really know what he’s looking for. Until it’s too late.

Plus, he’s not the only one looking...

FATHER AND SON is the second crime thriller in the John Ray / LS9 series.


NOTE ON THE TEXT: Chapter 17 of this novel includes a letter written by a child. The letter contains various grammatical errors and spelling mistakes. The are used deliberately by the author.

291 pages, ebook

First published June 1, 2013

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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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5 stars
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42 (32%)
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15 (11%)
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10 (7%)
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Displaying 1 - 24 of 24 reviews
120 reviews
July 3, 2018
The books keep getting better!!!

Another great book by John Barlow!! This book was a little different from the first one. It went more into the dealings of John Rays Father. It reminded me of The Godfather. The father was Don Corleone. His brother was Sonny Corleone who unfortunately suffered the same fate. John was Michael Corleone because he never wanted to be the men that his father and older brother became. He wanted to be a legitimate businessman. I can't wait to see what happens in the next book of the series.
Profile Image for Bernadette Mcgoldrick.
189 reviews3 followers
August 3, 2017
Well written

There's a few little grammar/spelling mistakes, but nothing major. The story itself is compelling and definitely worth the read. This is the second in the series but enjoyable as a stand alone book.
424 reviews4 followers
December 31, 2022
Father and Son

This was a really intense book. A lot of things happened that I wished would be different and I never saw the ending coming. Really good read.
Profile Image for Keith Nixon.
Author 26 books162 followers
August 21, 2013
Roberto Swales is found murdered, tortured then beaten to death, a champagne cork deliberately left at the scene. John Ray, son of local crime boss Tony Ray, is asked to investigate the crime. However, he’s not the only one that wants to know who killed Swales. And why.

This is a solid, well written story which I enjoyed reading. Even though it is the second in a series (the LS9 series about the Ray family) it works well as a stand-alone and it did not matter reading out of order.

The characters are strong and well-drawn. John Ray, the protagonist, describes himself as the white sheep of the family. Cambridge University educated, the last thing he wants to do is join the family business on the wrong side of the law. In fact he’s spent the last couple of years legitimising it, but he can’t help but be drawn back in. There’s Den, his ex-girlfriend detective sergeant who can’t seem to keep away from John despite the risks to her career. Flame-haired Jeanette, the strong willed investigative reporter who’s looking into the terrorist attack, and Baron, the obsessive police inspector investigating the murders, among others.

There’s more than a tinge of melancholy colouring the tale. John’s father is ageing, in a home, and he barely communicates. The world has moved on, others have taken over his empire. John himself struggles with his association with the criminal world. And a terror attack which happened years ago, in which a fourteen day old baby was killed, that the story and characters revolve around.

Through the first half of Father and Son, the author builds a series of story arcs, starting with Roberto’s gruesome murder. John stumbles through, trying to find out who killed his old friend, but finding himself more and more implicated. There’s history between him and Baron too, which doesn’t help his cause. In the latter section the author closes the arcs down one by one and pulls a decent surprise out. The conclusion is fitting.

One point of interest about the style of writing, the narrative occurs in third person, present tense which is unusual. Present tense can be employed to create urgency and speed in the narrative. But in this instance when shifts into past tense occurred during periods of reflection or flashbacks the result was slightly jarring. Did it undermine the book? Maybe a little.

Here’s an example:

But he wishes he wasn’t here. Roberto wouldn’t have wanted this. John realizes that now. Rob would have wanted a booze-up down at the Park Lane, reminiscing about the old days, cigars, bottles of brandy, laughs all round. He’d have wanted to play the part even in death. Because that’s how he died, trapped in a life he couldn’t escape, playing a part he didn’t want.

Nothing technically wrong with the sentence and it’s good writing but perhaps overall I sometimes spent time dealing with the flips in tense rather than concentrating on the story.

However, that was a minor aspect. Father and Son was compelling, I found myself keen to plough through the story and reach the conclusion. I’d certainly read John Barlow’s work again.

*Originally reviewed for Books & Pals blog. May have received free review copy.**
Profile Image for A.C. Flory.
Author 13 books16 followers
June 19, 2013
Let me start by saying that John Barlow is fast becoming one of my favourite authors, indie or otherwise, and he doesn't write science fiction! What he writes is the thinking [wo]man's crime.

Long before I ever read my first science fiction novel, I read a psychological 'crime' thriller by the famous Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky. The book was called 'Crime and Punishment' and has been my benchmark for character development ever since. Decades later I read Ian Rankin [Rebus] and Robert Wilson [Blindman of Seville], and added them to my pantheon. Now I am adding John Barlow as well. He really is that good.

If you follow my reviews you will know that I loved John Barlow's first book - Hope Road. In it, Barlow introduces us to a wonderfully flawed character by the name of John Ray, but we are only given hints as to why the character is so flawed. In Father and Son we find out.

As the title suggests, the relationship between father and son is at the heart of the character's ambivalence towards his life, and the mess he has made of it. He always wanted to be the white sheep of the family, the one who got away from the culture of crime, the one who could make it without lying or cheating or stealing or killing. But escape from a family of successful criminals is never just a case of doing something else.

How can you sever ties with your family when so many of your childhood memories are good? And you still love them?

That is a question we all have to answer to some degree because we are all products of our environments, cultures, and most especially, families. Learning to see all those elements for what they really are is an integral part of growing up. Making conscious decisions is not enough. To truly come of age, we have to shed the comforting illusions of childhood as well.

For John Ray, this coming of age does not happen until his forties. Despite his background and obvious intelligence, he is still strangely naive, seeing his father as a good man at heart. Yet the fact remains that his father built a highly successful criminal empire that only ended with his stroke. Can anyone 'do the crime', and still retain some basic integrity?

To me, that is the core question of the novel, for both father and son. To discover the answer, we have to follow John Ray on a brutal journey that begins in the past, with a bomb and a dead baby, and ends in the present, with a series of gruesome murders. Along the way, this child of crime discovers that the sins of the fathers really do pass down from one generation to the next. But can that cycle ever be broken?

I have my own ideas about redemption, but they may be different to yours, so all I will say is that 'Father and Son' is even better than 'Hope Road'. In fact, if you'll allow me to make a foodie analogy, 'Father and Son' is the main course to Hope Road's appetizer. I really can't recommend this novel enough, and I sincerely hope there is a dessert in the pipeline.

2,490 reviews41 followers
June 17, 2013
It's a welcome return to the world of John Ray, son of a retired mobster, the white sheep of the family. He has no desire for that life, but keeps getting drawn back in. He'd been standing beside his brother when the shots took his life. He'd help find the real killer when a friend had been accused. Lanny Bride, who now ran his father's old business, the real business, also wanted the killer found.

His Father, Tony, the victim of several hear attacks, lives in a retirement home.

John gets called out of his bed, delightfully filled with a gorgeous redhead, and asked to find another killer by Bride. The victim is an older man, Roberto Swales, an ex-boxer who'd worked for his father and now presumably for Bride. He was Duct-taped to a chair with bullets in each leg and one arm. What had killed him, though, was the beating his head had taken from a champagne bottle, enough blows to shatter the skull. John remembers Swales from when he was a boy.

He begins his investigation and soon gets a connection to a twenty year old bombing, when the young John was on the other side of the world, New Zealand, pursuing a young woman. A bombing that haunted to this day for the scene of a young father bringing his two week old son out of the building, dead in his arms.

We have an ex-Irish terrorist killed first, then Swales. What did they have in common? Both had been interviewed by the redheaded bed mate of John's mentioned earlier. She was a writer doing a book on John's father Tony.

John soon has the cops interested in him once again. They'd never believed he was straight, even when Baron, the lead cop on John's early investigation, got all the credit for what John had uncovered.

Quite liked this one. Again told in present tense, I found myself engrossed again in the story. Ready for more John Ray.

Strongly recommended, both this one and the first, HOPE ROAD.
Profile Image for Brenda Todd.
36 reviews
April 1, 2014
Crime novels, of the mafia style, typically are not something I choose to read. But I’m glad I picked this one up. This is the second book in the John Ray series and I haven’t read the first. However, I had no difficulty following the events or characters as they story played out.

John Ray, the only remaining son in the Tony Ray family, spent most of his life trying to escape the ‘family’. But escape seems to be impossible when an old friend, Roberto, is murdered. Lanny Bride, his father’s protégé, has called him in to find the murderer and keep the police at bay. John has too many fond memories of Roberto from his childhood and cannot refuse the request. He realizes he will need help and calls on his ex-girlfriend, Den, to help him out. Den works as a Detective Sergeant for the Manchester CID and being close to John has placed her in precarious situations in the past. He also has to contend with Jeanette, the investigative reporter, he has been seeing for the past couple of weeks as she prepares to write his father’s biography.

As John investigates he finds his father may not have been the man he thought. For John this is almost unacceptable. He knew of the shady business deals, the counterfeiting, and such but connections to the Leeds bombing are just out of the question. John is forced to face the past as he looks for the murderer and must come to terms with the life his family has led. The story takes several twists and turns until you arrive at a somewhat unexpected ending.

Barlow’s writing style may be a little different but I find it draws you in as a reader to make you feel a part of the story, seeing events through your own eyes. Some may find the style difficult, but I enjoyed it. I look forward to reading more from John Barlow.
Profile Image for Bert.
151 reviews7 followers
March 2, 2014
This is one of nine John Ray crime mystery novels. I like mysteries set in the British Isles, especially when they're authored by a male who's got a Ph.D. in language arts. This author has also been a ghost writer for others with less talent bet whose names are more catchy. Our protagonist is the youngest son of a Spanish immigrant to England, who like many immigrants does what it takes to succeed. Initially that meant dealing in counterfeit purfumes, then forged £20 bank notes. John decided to be the white sheep of the family, breaking away to get a Cambridge degree. His past associations still haunt him, however. His brother's murderer is unapprehended, and his girlfriend who's a career police professional leaves him after she covers for him after he solves a crime for the police, where he also switches evidence to protect himself from his only adult criminal indiscretion. Then a series of 3 murders take place, somehow tied to a gang in Leeds, where his father's past becomes an issue. 20 years ago, a 2 week old baby is killed in a terrorist bombing. The plot thickens, as the man who took over his father's criminal enterprise has an employee turn up tortured and very dead. John needs to redemption, so he insists on wading in to investigate. Lots of nifty hard to predict twists and turns, the plot becomes realistic, and the characters are all developed nicely. Hard to put this one down.
Profile Image for Cheryl.
Author 8 books27 followers
July 18, 2013
I wanted to give this three and a half stars but since I couldn't, I rounded it up to four.

The story is gripping. John Ray is the white sheep of a criminal family. His brother died violently, his former crime lord father is in a nursing home, and John tries hard to stay on the right side of the law. But events always conspire against him.

When a man John remembers fondly from childhood, a crony of his now elderly father, is tortured and murdered, John agrees with the others on the scene the cops aren't needed. But the current mobster who took over for John's father, insists John find out who killed the man. Seems he may have blabbed stuff the mobster doesn't want to come to light.

John is eventually fingered by the cops and has to run. His ex-girlfriend, a cop banished to another city because of her relationship with him, tries to help. It takes sifting back through his childhood memories and those of his forgetful father to discover the truth. And John's past, without his knowledge, is tied into the reason for the murder.

As I said, the story is gripping, with unexpected twists and turns that seem to be the author's trademark. If the editing had been better (things like breaking for braking, point of view shifts that left me confused for a moment, and other editing problems), this would have been a solid four star read.
Profile Image for Joyce.
90 reviews
July 16, 2013
John Ray tries really hard to stay out of trouble. He is the white sheep of his mob family and again finds himself as a suspect in a murder(s). As he tries to figure out the connection of each of the victims he makes some disturbing discoveries.

John again teams up with Den, his detective ex-girlfriend, who he hasn't seen for a year. Den has gone to another police department after their last case. (You can read all about that in Hope Road). Although reluctant, she agrees to help John. Together they uncover the facts and help the police department uncover who the murderer is.

John Barlow has again written a book which keeps the reader wanting more. I anxiously await the next installment to the John Ray Series.
196 reviews2 followers
October 11, 2013
John Ray is the son of a known criminal family who does not want to be a part of the family business, but is pulled into it anyway. Add an ex girlfriend who is a cop, an investigative reported, a childhood nemesis and a cop who hates the Ray family and you come up with a book that's a real “page turner” The book begs the question can anyone really escape their past.
While the book is not a true story, it certainly could be. It was quite easy to forget I was reading fiction. The IRA is/was real and the bombings did happen. It is a book that I don't think is suitable for younger people but yet is a story they should hear.
It is a book I will read again.
Profile Image for Carlin.
1,344 reviews8 followers
January 3, 2015
This is the second book in the John Ray series of mysteries by John Barlow and I loved it as much as the first (Hope Road). Barlow has captured a part of the Yorkshire (England) underworld intersecting with the police in this novel about a series of murders that relate back to a 20 year old crime. The women characters are strong and intelligent. The main male characters are flawed in ways that are connected with relationships from their teen years. According to the notes about the author the series is planned to comprise nine in total. I can't wait to read more!
432 reviews
December 29, 2014
I received an advance review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. John Ray is the son of a gangster. He is trying to live a life apart from the family business. A string of murders linked to his father and to old crimes with red herrings leads John reconnect with a detective, his former lover, and to the killer and the truth. John Barlow has written a fast paced and exciting book that I found very hard to put down and I look forward to reading more books by this author.
Profile Image for Del.
71 reviews
January 1, 2016
I enjoyed the second book, Father and Son, in the John Ray series. It was good to once again catch up with John Ray, Denise, Lanny Bride and the other characters from the first book.

John Ray sets out to find the connection between the murder of a journalist, his dad Tony Ray's old criminal associates. Many twits and turns leads to the revelation of their connection and why they were murdered.

I enjoyed reading his book and would recommend it, as well as the first book, Hope Road.
Profile Image for Elaine.
37 reviews1 follower
December 16, 2013
This sequel to Hope Road gives us more of John Ray, and we learn more about his attempts to go straight. The pacing of this book and the plot twists are much better than the first book, and I didn't want to put it down until I was finished. There are a few areas where some proofreading would have helped, but it's not bad enough to be distracting. Now I am looking forward to more of these books!
February 8, 2016
When you need a good page turner

A good follow on from the first Johnny Ray novel. Fast moving and well developed, John becomes a bit of a cliche but it works for me. I did on occasion think he should "get a grip" _ maybe in the next, there will surely be another follow up _ he will. I for one will look forward to it.
53 reviews
April 20, 2014
Father and Son

I read Hope Road several years ago and thought it terrific. Father and Son, I found even better. Admittedly, I do have a crush on John Ray. The novel is well written and draws you in - never letting go.
Profile Image for Jo.
179 reviews3 followers
February 8, 2016
I loved the story but found some of the self loathing a bit repetitive and annoying, also because I had read the first book I found that I didn't enjoy rea rereading these parts either hence the 3 stars
47 reviews
March 11, 2015
I like John Barlow's writing. This book is rather more violent than I usually care for; however the main character John Ray is an engaging almost good-guy, the almost not-involved son of an old crime boss in Leeds, UK. This is #2 in the series. Hope Road is the first novel.
13 reviews
January 3, 2015
Great read! Loved getting to know the characters again, and a much more conclusive ending this time. Fab!
Profile Image for Rosalyn.
382 reviews1 follower
February 2, 2015
loved this just as much as the first one. fast paced and with twists that i did not guess. I hope there will be more books to follow.
Displaying 1 - 24 of 24 reviews

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