The 4th and latest in the series of the DI Ben Kitto series of novels, I was very much looking forward to reading it, but I have to say, although the book was well crafted and written, somehow to me it just lacked the panache and spark that the earlier Ben Kitto books had and I found it somewhat disappointing.
When training for an annual swimathon, Kitto and his team come across a body hanging from Pulpit Rock, dressed in a bridal gown. A serial killer is on the loose and soon enough another victim is attacked. Kitto sets up his investigation to find the culprit, but the murderer is always one step ahead it seems and no-one is safe.
It is always difficult when you have just finished reading a book that you had very much enjoyed and maybe anything would have been anti-climatic, but somehow I did not find it particularly inspiring. It will not prevent me however wanting to read the next in the series or anything else by this author come to that, and maybe I will go back to Pulpit Rock and try again sometime.
Next Up: "Lockdown" by Peter May.
Master storyteller Ken Follett returns with this prequel to his best selling epic “The Pillars of the Earth” and trust me, you will not be disappointed.
Set around the turn of the 1st Millennium towards the end of the Dark Ages, England is under attack from the Welsh in the West and the Vikings in the East. King Ethelred the Unready (Misled) is on the throne holding a fragile grip on the country and in a lawless society, chaos reigns.
The story revolves around 3 characters. A young boat builder with dreams of a better life and future, a young noblewoman from Normandy who travels across the Channel to marry the man she loves and a monk who dreams of transforming his abbey into a seat of learning to be admired across Europe. All three find conflict with a ruthless bishop who has little regard for anyone bar himself and will stop at nothing to reach his goals of wealth and power.
I love the way Ken Follett manages to weave a story around numerous characters and events, bringing it to an exciting and thrilling climax. Written in an easy reading style and totally unputdownable, this work is an absolute triumph in every sense. I have always considered “The Pillars of the Earth” to be my favourite book of all, “The Evening and the Morning” comes very close to rivalling this opinion.
My sincere thanks go to publisher Pan Macmillan and NetGalley for granting my wish to read this truly wonderful novel.
Next up: Pulpit Rock, by Kate Rhodes
Well researched and graphically detailed.
In the 1920s and 30s, there were many rival gangs regularly blackmailing bookmakers at English racecourses. Failure to pay up often resulted in severe punishment, creating something of a racetrack protection racket. During that period most racecourses were plagued by these violent gangs armed with weapons, ready to bully bookies for a percentage of their takings.
This account details such vicious gangs as the Italian Mob (ran by the Sabini brothers), Billy Kimber’s Brummagen Hammers, the Titanics and the Nile Mob (amongst others) and their partnerships, fallings out, and rifts, cataloguing their internal and external fighting. Indeed the problem became such a threat to public order that the Flying Squad was brought in try and eradicate.
Well researched and somewhat graphically detailed at times, anyone with an interest in early 20th century gang warfare and/or racing /betting history will find this a fascinating read.
My thanks go to NetGalley and publishers Pen and Sword for granting my wish to read.
“The Evening and the Morning” by Ken Follett.
Thought provoking and somewhat amusing at times.
Best remembered as the lead singer and guitarist of punk band The Stranglers, Hugh Cornwell is also a successful writer having written about his time spent in prison for drug offences, a guide of the entire Stranglers catalogue, an auto-biography and is also the author of 2 previous novels. Here he returns to print after an absence of a few years with what is described as “a crime novel of near-future dystopia.”
I have to say that this is not the style of novel that I would usually choose to read. Listed under the categories of crime and thriller (with which I am comfortable with), and sci-fi and fantasy (which I am very much not), I considered knowing who the author is and being a fan of his music, I would give it a try. As it is, I was pleasantly surprised and very pleased that I did.
The plot revolves around the Government who has decided to fight against obesity by hiking a tax on anyone who is overweight. Meanwhile a doctor in Florida helps out an overweight client and suddenly finds he has become the chosen medic of an organised crime syndicate. But as he becomes more embroiled in fraud, drug offences and even murder; his crimes are discovered by a robot and he sees an opportunity to get away – or does he?
When I initially read the book synopsis I thought to myself, am I actually going to understand any of this? My reading habits are pretty staid at the best of times and I generally stick to what I consider the tried and trusted or with what I am pretty sure I will enjoy. In effect, is it really worth my while taking the time to read and will this go flying over my head in a puff of smoke? The answer in the first instance is yes and in the second, a resounding no, and I have to say I very much enjoyed the read which I found quite thought provoking and even somewhat amusing at times.
My thanks go to both NetGalley and to the publisher Cameron Publicity & Marketing Ltd for granting my wish to receive an ARC.
The Racetrack Gangs by Dick Kirby
Difficult to get into.
Veteran Irish novelist John Banville is best remembered as the winner of the Booker Prize in 2005 for his reflective journal “The Sea” and he also writes successful crime novels under the pen name Benjamin Black.
DI St John Strafford is called from Dublin to investigate the murder of a popular parish priest at Ballyglass House, the County Wexford seat of the Osborne family. Like the family, Strafford is also of a posh, aristocratic upbringing, albeit Protestant, which brings about tension from the locals during the investigation. But Strafford continues doggedly in his pursuit of the truth and while the snow continues to fall, the Ballyglass local residents continue to keep tight lipped.
Although written in an easy readable style and is wonderfully descriptive, I found this book very difficult to get into and quite slow if not plodding at times. I am sure there are many who will love the murder mystery aspect of the novel and no-one can deny that John Banville is a master of his trade, but this one really wasn’t for me I’m afraid.
My thanks to NetGalley and Faber and Faber Ltd for the ARC
Future Tense by Hugh Cornwell
The longlist for this years Booker Prize has been announced. The prize, which has been going since 1969, was last year won jointly by Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo and this year features no less than 8 debut novels.
The 2020 Booker Prize longlist in full:
Diane Cook - The New Wilderness
Tsitsi Dangarembga - This Mournable Body
Avni Doshi - Burnt Suga
Gabriel Krauze - Who They Was
Hilary Mantel - The Mirror & The Light
Colum McCann - Apeirogon
Maaza Mengiste - The Shadow King
Kiley Reid - Such a Fun Age
Brandon Taylor - Real Life
Anne Tyler - Redhead by The Side of The Road
Douglas Stuart - Shuggie Bain
Sophie Ward - Love and Other Thought Experiments
C Pam Zhang - How Much of These Hills is Gold
I have to own up to not having read any of these titles and consequently none have been reviewed here.
The shortlist of six books will be announced on 15 September, with the £50,000-prize winning author being revealed in November.
Not my favourite Denise Mina novel, but an enjoyable read all the same.
Described as an author of Tartan Noir, Scottish crime writer Denise Mina is best known for writing the Garnethill Trilogy, the Paddy Meehan novels and the Alex Morrow series.
She first of all came to my attention when writing the magnificent “The Long Drop” - a semi-fictionalised account of the Peter Manuel story.
Remembered as “the Beast of Burkenshaw”, Manuel was convicted of murdering 7 people in Lanarkshire between the years of 1956 and 1958 and is believed to have killed at least 2 more. He was executed by hanging in 1958. If you have not had the opportunity to read this account of the Manuel story, I can thoroughly recommend it.
“The Less Dead” is a standalone novel not attached to any of the author’s previous series. To anyone, including myself, who were adopted at a very young age and hold a desire in seeking out and meeting their birth family, I would say that this book would very much appeal. TV’s “Long Lost Family” more often than not make out their stories as happy ever after tales where everyone is so pleased to be reunited, but surely this is not always the case when birth relations come together?
When Dr Margo Dunlop goes searching for her birth mother, she meets her Aunt Nikki instead. She finds out that back in the day, both Nikki and Margo’s mother Susan Brodie were sex workers, and that Susan was murdered shortly after Margo was adopted, one of a number of prostitutes killed at the time. The killer was never found.
Since then, Nikki has continued to receive threatening letters from the killer so she asks Margo for her help in trying to find him. But when Margo also starts receiving menacing letters and becomes convinced that someone is following and watching her, who can she trust?
Easy to read and culminating in an exciting climax, I enjoyed reading this psychological thriller although I would have to say it is not up there with my favourite Denise Mina novels. I was not totally convinced by Margo as a character – Mina’s leading females are usually somewhat more sassy and generally seem to have much more about them. However the idea and premise of the story worked quite well I thought and it is one of those books that when you start reading, it is difficult to put down.
Well worth reading when released on August 20th.
My sincere thanks go to Random House UK, Vintage and NetGalley for the advance copy.
"Snow" by John Banville,
"The Racetrack Gangs" by Dick Kirby,
"Future Tense" by Hugh Cornwell.
A thoroughly enjoyable read.
I have not read anything by Ruth Ware before, but after thoroughly enjoying this new novel, I will be making a point of searching out some of her previous work.
I originally heard of this book via social media when Lisa Jewell tweeted that she had just finished reading and how good it was. Being a fan of Ms Jewell’s writing I put in a request to NetGalley and the publisher Random House UK, Vintage Publishing for a pre-release copy and was pleased to hear their positive response a day or so later. My thanks go to them both for the ARC.
The story revolves around a group of senior management and the owners of a social media outfit called Snoop who are on a break at a luxury ski chalet to discuss the future of the company. The Snoop app offers its patrons the opportunity to snoop on the personal music playlists of other members within and has become very popular. On the table is a multi-million dollar buyout which could make certain members of the ski holiday party very rich indeed.
But when an avalanche cuts the chalet off from the outside world and a member of the party goes missing, presumed dead in the snow, the question is asked was it a tragic accident or is someone actually prepared to resort to murder to get the result they want?
I very much enjoyed the fast pace of the story and the final climax is one of the most exciting ends to a novel I have read in a while. Written in what seems to be an effortless, uncomplicated style, I would say it is one of the easiest reads I have recently undertaken.
Due for publication in November, it is well worth waiting for.
"The Less Dead" by Denise Mina
"Snow" by John Banville.
A Top Class Debut Novel
In general I read and review books by tried and trusted authors, however occasionally it is refreshing to read a debut novel by a new author. My favourite book of 2019 came into this description being the wonderful debut work by Alex Michaelides entitled “The Silent Patient”. In my humble opinion Rebecca Kelly’s “Monstrous Souls” is something of a similar ilk and is nothing short of a triumph. Indeed it has already climbed its way to the top of my current favourites for 2020.
Back in 2001, teenager Heidi underwent a brutal attack being left for dead while at the same time her best friend Nina was killed and her younger sister Anna went missing. 15 years later Heidi remembers none of this having no recollection whatsoever of the crime, but this is beginning to change as her memory is starting to return. But there is someone who does not want Heidi to remember and is quite prepared to kill if need be to keep the truth hidden.
“Monstrous Souls” is as disturbing as it is gripping, as emotional as it is dark and the characters and dialogue are totally believable. The author deserves a commendation for tackling a subject as sensitive as child abuse with such dignity and respect. I am generally not over keen on books with numerous flashbacks, but in this case the way it moves effortlessly from 2001 to 2016 and back is pivotal to Heidi’s memory slowly returning and the story growing.
Fast paced, exquisitely written and highly descriptive, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Apparently the author is not averse to accepting writing tips from her trusty black Labrador. It is a true page-turner which will have many readers up late into the night awaiting its pulsating climax.
My great thanks to NetGalley and Agora Books for supplying me with an advance copy for review.
"One By One" by Ruth Ware.
A good follow-up!
Before I go any further I have to admit to being a massive fan of Tom Bradby’s writing with “Shadow Dancer” being one of my favourite books of all time.
“Double Agent” is the 2nd book since his return to writing after a number of years as Political Editor at ITN followed by being, and continuing to be, the main anchor of ITV’s “News at 10.” Being the follow-on from the previously excellent “Secret Service”, I would say it may well be advisable perhaps to read the first in the series (“Secret Service”), if only to get a grip on the characters and the previous storyline, but not absolutely essential.
Kate Henderson is a senior MI6 officer, estranged from her husband who had been previously outed as a Russian spy. Whilst on a family holiday in Venice, giving Kate’s children the opportunity to spend some time with their traitor father, she is abducted by a Russian defector who claims to have evidence that the British Prime Minister is working undercover for Moscow. In exchange for this evidence he is demanding UK residency and freedom of movement for both himself and his father.
With the MI6 hierarchy sceptical of the evidence being offered, Kate embarks on a treacherous mission across Eastern Europe to meet up with a contact which she hopes will help her to find the truth.
Bradby is an amazingly talented novelist and is possibly the No.1 espionage thriller writer working today. However, as much as I enjoyed reading the novel, it did seem to take its time to get going, but once it did, it flew along at a terrific pace. The conclusion to the story is well worth the wait and the twist at the end will leave you reeling.
A good follow-up though maybe not quite up to its predecessor. I believe a 3rd in the series is planned for release in 2021.
My thanks to NetGalley and Bantam Press for the ARC.
Next up: Monstrous Souls by Rebecca Kelly.