Reviews

August 2021

Will Carver - The Beresford

"Like The Beresford itself, you’ll be sucked in, and you’ll never be able to leave."

Synopsis:
Just outside of the city – any city – is a grand, spacious, but affordable apartment building called The Beresford.

There is a great deal of routine at The Beresford. For Mrs May, every day is the same: a cup of cold, black coffee in the morning, pruning roses, checking on her tenants, wine, prayer and an afternoon nap. She never leaves the building.

Abe Schwartz also lives at The Beresford. His neighbour, Sythe, no longer does. Because Abe has just killed him.

In exactly sixty seconds, Blair Conroy will ring the doorbell to her new home and Abe will answer the door. They will become friends. Perhaps lovers. And, when the time comes for one of them to die, as is always the case at The Beresford, there will be sixty seconds to move the body before the next unknowing soul arrives at the door.

Because nothing changes at The Beresford, until the doorbell rings…

Review:
Will Carver is one of very few writers who I'm exciting about reading whenever a new novel is released, simply because I never know what kind of dark and disturbing world I'm about to be drawn into, and that, for the reader, is the best feeling ever.

Fans of his previous novels which include 'Good Samaritans' and 'Nothing Important Happened Today' will know the strange, unsettling and dangerous worlds he creates and the level of uncomfortable detail he puts into his fiction. 'The Beresford', a standalone novel, is no different, but it's also very different. If you enjoyed 'Rosemary's Baby', you're going to love this.

What I love about Carver's writing is that it stretches right across the spectrum from the ordinary to the fantastical. The Beresford is peopled with regular, everyday characters, who we've all met at some point in our lives – the lonely bookworm, the young woman starting out on her own, the abused housewife wanting to escape her husband. There is nothing exceptional about them, until they arrive at The Beresford which is a character in itself and is far removed from anything in real life.

Mrs May, the seemingly innocent caretaker of the building, is a regular busybody, ingratiating herself in the lives of her tenants. We meet, and like, Abe, Blair, Sythe, Gail and Aubrey, but beneath the surface, something strange, dark, malevolent and utterly captivating is going on.

The first murder is written in a way that is understandable. A complete accident, and a likeable, innocent man is left wondering how to get rid of the body. This is written in glorious technicolour by Carver, but never gratuitously so. There's a fine line between knowledgeable entertainment and gory horror and Carver just manages to rub up against it. His attention to detail is phenomenal. The further into the book we go, the more difficult it is to put down. Like The Beresford itself, you'll be sucked in, and you'll never be able to leave.

Will Carver is a brilliant writer who touches on societal problems including our feeling of worth, the effects of war on mental health, spousal abuse and organised religion, giving us almost angry takes on life in twenty-first century Britain, but wrapped up in this extraordinary story. The Beresford is dark and unflinching, and I loved every word of it.

Reviewed by: M.W.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Vaseem Khan - The Dying Day

"This is such a clever book."

Synopsis:
Persis Wadia, the first female detective in the Bombay police service, is still struggling to achieve recognition in the city despite her previous success in solving a high-profile murder.

She is called to The Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland to investigate the disappearance of a highly valuable early edition of Dante's Divine Comedy. The chief suspect for the theft, John Healy, has also disappeared. Although in the right place and at the right time, he is such a highly respected scholar that the curator of the library finds it difficult to believe. However, Healy has left a clue which sets Persis off on a trail combining her intelligence, literary knowledge and her experience of her father's bookshop. A few well-placed contacts also help unravel the mystery.

With her absolute determination to find the truth Persis uncovers another plot to steal the manuscript. This relates to a well-hidden part of Healy's past and finally explains the many twists and knotty problems that Persis has to face.

Throughout the investigation Persis meets the unrelenting opposition of men to her carrying out her work. Often underestimated, she can put this attitude to good use but the final snub to her achievements unleashes her fury.

Review:
This is such a clever book. At the heart of the story is a series of cryptic clues that depend on a historical and literary knowledge. I loved these. I felt inordinately smug when I managed to decode at least part of one and duly impressed when Persis used all her resources to solve them all. But if that is not your thing, do not be put off, because they are solved by Persis without in any way slowing down the action.

The description of Bombay in newly post-colonial times is wonderfully evocative. The blatant sexist attitude to Persis by many of her male colleagues is infuriating. The insight to Persis' Parsee family is intriguing. The plot is complex and has hidden twists and turns. Altogether this book is many layered, beautifully written and a thoroughly enjoyable read. Another sure-fire hit from Khan.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Robert Goddard - The Fine Art of Invisible Detection

"Without a doubt one of my stand out reads in recent years."

Synopsis:
Umiko Wada has had quite enough excitement in her life. With her husband recently murdered and a mother who seems to want her married again before his body is cold, she just wants to keep her head down.

As a secretary to a private detective, her life is pleasingly uncomplicated, filled with coffee runs, diary management and paperwork. That is, until her boss takes on a new case. A case which turns out to be dangerous enough to get him killed. A case which means Wada will have to leave Japan for the first time and travel to London.

Following the only lead she has, Wada quickly realises that being a detective isn't as easy as the television makes out. And that there's a reason why secrets stay buried for a long time. Because people want them to stay secret. And they're prepared to do very bad things to keep them that way...

Review:
A new book by Robert Goddard is always something to look forward to. When I was sent a review copy of his latest novel, I couldn't wait to get stuck in. And let me tell you, I was not disappointed.

'The Fine Art of Invisible Detection' is a belter of a book. An intelligent thriller with a compelling central character and enough plot twists and turns to make you dizzy, this is a real page-turner. I devoured it in a few hours and felt a real sense of loss when I reached the end.

There are so many things to praise here. The perfection of the prose, the lightness of the writing, the humour and the sheer brilliance of one of the most original protagonists I've had the pleasure of encountering in a very long time.

Die-hard Goddard fans, of whom I am one, have strongly held opinions on which is his best novel. For many of us, that remains his first novel, 'Past Caring'. I think 'The Fine Art of Invisible Detection' may be slightly better. It is a joyous read from start to finish; the work of a novelist at the very top of his game.

There's a hint, at the end, that this might be the first in a new series. If that's the case, I cannot wait to read the next instalment. If it turns out to be a one-off, and this is my last encounter with Umiko Wada, all I can say is I'm grateful for the opportunity. She's a fabulous creation. Without a doubt one of my stand out reads in recent years.

Reviewed by: S.B.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Ragnar Jónasson - The Girl Who Died

"...rapidly becoming the writer I will drop everything in order to read."

Synopsis:
Una is devastated after the suicide of her father. So when she sees an advert seeking a teacher for two girls in Skalar on the storm-battered north coast of Iceland, she sees it as a chance to escape.

But once she arrives, Una quickly realises nothing in city life has prepared for her this. The villagers are unfriendly, the weather is bleak, and, from the creaky attic bedroom in the old house she is living, she's convinced she heard the ghostly sound of singing.

Una worries that she is losing her mind. And then, just before Christmas, there is a death in the village.

Review:
There was a feature in The Times a few months ago which asked the question of whether Ragnar Jónasson is the best crime writer in the world? As someone who has read all six novels in the Dark Iceland series and the Hidden Iceland trilogy, I feel qualified to answer that question, and the answer is absolutely, without a doubt. The six Ari Thor novels are pure class and could have been written during the golden age of crime fiction when Agatha Christie was at the height of her powers. The backwards Hulda trilogy was melancholy and haunting and richly executed. With 'The Girl Who Died', Ragnar's first standalone thriller, he's confirmed that is he a writer of immense talent.

The barren landscape of an isolate village on the northern tip of Iceland, the darkness of the depth of winter, the villagers with everything to hide from a newcomer – these tropes are staples in crime thrillers, but nobody can use them with the originality and fervour as Ragnar Jónasson. In one sentence, he can richly describe a character that would take most writers half a page.

Una is a tragic figure, struggling to cope with her past and facing an uncertain future. She's lost and the pain and torment she is going through leeches from the page as we go on this journey of discovery with her. Her emotions are raw and very real. Anyone who has suffered such personal agony will be able to sympathise with her actions. She's brave yet fragile, wants to be alone but craves company.

'The Girl Who Died' is a haunting read as the grief and loss touch every character. However, it's not a slow read. I devoured it over two nights. This is a gripping thriller that will suck you in with its ethereal prose and characterisation. Ragnar Jónasson is a creative genius. He is rapidly becoming the writer I will drop everything in order to read. Another standalone is released in 2022 and I'm counting down the days already!

Reviewed by: M.W.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Lindsey Davis - A Comedy of Terrors

"Simply superb."

Synopsis:
It is Saturnalia and Rome is gearing up for a time of excess and debauchery. Flavia Albia and her husband Tiberius Manlius have taken on responsibility for the two boys of his deceased sister and are adjusting their household and lifestyle accordingly. Flavia is determined that she will not give up her job as private investigator but the approaching festivities means that no one is really looking for one at the present.

Tiberius Manlius is in the last days of his position as an aedile with responsibility for testing market weights. His main concern is the arrival of a new gang from out of town targeting the trade in nuts which is at its height during Saturnalia. Poor quality merchandise is flooding the market and Tiberius is determined to stamp down on the miscreants before his term of office ends.Flavia becomes involved in some curious family disturbances, and bodies appear from nowhere.

This Saturnalia Emperor Domitian has promised a spectacular entertainment for the people and the finale of the action in which Flavia and Tiberius hunt down the perpetrators of the fraud is set in the midst of the awesome celebrations. Excitement right up to the last page.

Review:
Davis' books have so much to recommend them: a cracking good story line, fascinating characters, an entirely believable authentic historical background and a fastmoving banter that entertains and amuses. 'A Comedy of Terrors' is no exception.

Flavia and Tiberius are moving on as a family whilst we still keep in touch with Davis' previous hero, Flavia's father, Falco. Their development is an opportunity to learn more about Roman family life, not that theirs is in any way typical! I love the description of the slaves and their position in the family. They are very much strong individuals.

Lindsey Davis' impressive list of novels are memorable in that they all provide a reliably enjoyable escape from reality and I look forward to opening each new one with the anticipation of a good few hours of amusement. It is usually hours rather than weeks as I can't put them down. Simply superb.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Laura Dave - The Last Thing He Told Me

"A compelling thriller that made me want to find out what happened."

Synopsis:
Before Owen Michaels disappears, he smuggles a note to his beloved wife of one year: Protect her. Despite her confusion and fear, Hannah Hall knows exactly to whom the note refers - Owen's sixteen-year-old daughter, Bailey. Bailey, who lost her mother tragically as a child. Bailey, who wants absolutely nothing to do with her new stepmother.

As Hannah's increasingly desperate calls to Owen go unanswered, as the FBI arrests Owen's boss, as a US marshal and federal agents arrive at her Sausalito home unannounced, Hannah quickly realizes her husband isn't who he said he was. And that Bailey just may hold the key to figuring out Owen's true identity—and why he really disappeared.

Hannah and Bailey set out to discover the truth. But as they start putting together the pieces of Owen's past, they soon realize they're also building a new future—one neither of them could have anticipated.

Review:
Hannah's biggest problem is trying to engage with a sullen teenager. Hannah and Bailey have to become a team so they can not only find the man they both care about, but also find out who the man is, as the more they find out about him, the more they realise how little they really knew.

Hannah is given a message from Owen when he disappears saying simply 'protect her'. And this is what I saw as the most annoying fault in the plot. Why just write 'protect her'? Why not actually say what or who to protect her from? Other than that small niggle, I enjoyed the stepmother/stepdaughter dynamic, working together to try and solve the mystery.

Dave not only wrote an exciting plot, but also managed to have well-defined characters that were also quite likeable. I also liked the fact the author didn't fall into the trap of making the stereotypical 'bad' characters.

This is the first book I have read by this author and I really enjoyed reading 'The Last Thing He Told Me'. A compelling thriller that made me want to find out what happened.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Tom Bradby - Triple Cross

"...an exciting read that has you guessing all the way through..."

Synopsis:
Kate Henderson had finally left MI6 and is in the South of France with her ex-husband and their two children. Given that Stuart, her ex-husband, was a self- confessed traitor and was not allowed back into the United Kingdom, relations were not perfect but Kate was trying to find a working relationship that would satisfy the children. When the peace is interrupted by the Prime Minister arriving to ask her to come back to deal with an urgent problem, Kate finds herself rapidly surrounded by the intrigue and danger she had wanted to leave behind.

Review:
There are plots from Russia, double crossing from Britain and total uncertainty as to who is telling the truth. Add to that naked ambition from some members of the Secret Service that distorts the total picture for Kate.

If you want an exciting read that has you guessing all the way through, together with a touch of insider knowledge of how the establishment and political powers work, this is for you. There is plenty of fast-moving, exciting action with some rough brutality thrown in and a finale which appears to wrap up some unfinished business makes this a great read. There is not a lot more I can say without spoilers, so my advice is to buy this book today and sit back and enjoy the highly tumultuous journey!

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

John Bude - Death on the Riviera

"Highly enjoyable if a little far-fetched at times..."

Synopsis:
When a counterfeit currency racket comes to light on the French Riviera, Detective Inspector Meredith is sent speeding southwards - out of the London murk to the warmth and glitter of the Mediterranean. Along with Inspector Blampignon - an amiable policeman from Nice - Meredith must trace the whereabouts of Chalky Cobbett, crook and forger. Soon their interest centres on the Villa Paloma, the residence of Nesta Hedderwick, an eccentric Englishwoman, and her bohemian house guests - among them her niece, an artist, and a playboy. Before long, it becomes evident that more than one of the occupants of the Villa Paloma has something to hide, and the stage is set for murder. This classic crime novel from 1952 evokes all the sunlit glamour of life on the Riviera, and combines deft plotting with a dash of humour. This is the first edition to have been published in more than sixty years and follows the rediscovery of Bude's long-neglected detective writing by the British Library.

Review:
This has been out for some time now, so I am a little behind with the Bude novels. I fancied a different locale, and nowhere better than being transported to the Riviera. Even in February, there is sun, sea and sand while the UK continues to be dark and dank! Bude's series character, Inspector Meredith is on the hunt for a crook and forger under the suspect moniker of 'Chalky Cobbett'. Counterfeit notes are being found across the resort and Meredith and Sergeant Strang need to track down and stop this enterprise.

Originally written in 1952, Bude gives the sense of people who have escaped, or trying to escape something or someone. None more so than the inhabitants of the Villa Paloma with its rich owner and those she has sponsored, but not everyone is who they say they are or are what they are supposed to be. Bude introduces quite the vibrant motley crew, which are as colourful as the Riviera resort itself. Most are quite artistic with their eccentricities in order to hide ulterior motives, even Inspector Blampignon appears to resemble a 'Poirot wannabe'! Murder is also on the cards, and in keeping with the book, that is also quite eccentric and dramatic. I did feel that Bude was slightly flying by the seat of his pants towards the end and throwing everything into the pot, but in some way it seemed fitting enough to go with the outrageous theme of everything else. 'Death on the Riviera' was an exciting yarn which I devoured in two sittings. Highly enjoyable if a little far-fetched at times, but that seems to be the norm for the French Riviera!

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Alice Hunter - The Serial Killer's Wife

"...I thoroughly enjoy this book and it kept me guessing until the end. "

Synopsis:
Beth and Tom Hardcastle are the envy of their neighbourhood – they have the perfect marriage, the perfect house, the perfect family.

When the police knock on their door one evening, Beth panics. Tom should be back from work by now – what if he's crashed his car? She fears the worst. But the worst is beyond imagining. As the interrogation begins, Beth will find herself questioning everything she believed about her husband.

Review:
'The Serial Killer's Wife' is the debut novel from Alice Hunter. Hunter spends a lot of time building the characters and at some points I felt this slightly tedious, especially from that of Poppy, the daughter, who apart from helping Beth feel as though she has the perfect life, didn't really add anything to the story.

I did enjoy the story being told from the different perspectives of both Beth and Tom and after a slightly slow start, I became hooked and wanted to know why the police were interviewing Tom, and what evidence they had.

As more characters were introduced the suspicion around each of them and their part in the plot increased, although I was surprised by the ending which is always a good sign for a seasoned crime reader like me.

'The Serial Killer's Wife' to me didn't fit neatly into a particular genre. It was too violent to be a psychological thriller, yet not bloody enough to be a gruesome murder mystery. Even though it took a while to get going, I thoroughly enjoy this book and it kept me guessing until the end.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

M.C. Beaton - Hot To Trot

"...I hope for many more adventures with ‘Aggie’ and friends!"

Synopsis:
Sir Charles Fraith, one time lover of Agatha Raison, is in deep trouble. He has agreed to marry show-jumping mad Mary Brown-Fields, daughter of a millionaire, to solve his financial difficulties in running his country estate. The only problem is, Mary has her own plans for the estate, which were to increase the tenants' rents and turn the estate into some sort of money-making theme park.

Agatha gatecrashes the wedding party, gets into a fight with Mary, and sprays her with mustard and ketchup. Sir Charles, belatedly, and only hours after the ceremony, has seen through Mary and her schemes. Then tragedy strikes. Mary is found in an estate outbuilding, hanging from a wooden beam, obviously dead. Inspector Wilkes appears on the scene, and is convinced that Agatha and Sir Charles were the murderers.

In trying to prove their innocence, Agatha finds herself in Bordeaux, where the smart show-jumping set have congregated, and Agatha starts snooping. Was it snooty show jumper Sheridan Chadwick? Sister and brother Deborah and Jacob Lexington? Or even Claudette, who appears so innocent? And finally, why is Inspector Wilkes so convinced that Agatha and Sir Charles did it, against all the evidence?

Review:
M.C. Beaton, aka Marion Chesney, didn't write this novel. She died on December 30 2019, but before she did she invited her friend Rod Green to write it, with her providing the plot. It was, therefore a joint effort.

Don't expect the usual cursing, bed-hopping and over-dressed Agatha Raison in this book. Thanks to Mr Green, she has matured and become more thoughtful, even though the old Agatha sometimes peeps through. So the writing style differs somewhat from Beaton's style. It is more considered, though it still moves along briskly, with lots of confrontations and action.

The plot, of course, is typical Beaton. Lots of ins and outs, red herrings and being taken up blind alleys, which are always enjoyable. And the solution to the mystery of who murdered her has a sting in its tale that I doubt anyone will see coming. It appears there is at least one more 'Beaton/Green' book in the offing and if Green continues in the same vein as Beaton, then I hope for many more adventures with 'Aggie' and friends!

Reviewed by: J.G.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Steve Cavanagh - The Devil's Advocate

"Cavanagh fans will love this one."

Synopsis:
A DEADLY PROSECUTOR: They call him the King of Death Row. Randal Korn has sent more men to their deaths than any district attorney in the history of the United States.

A TWISTED RITUALISTIC KILLING: When a young woman, Skylar Edwards, is found murdered in Buckstown, Alabama, a corrupt sheriff arrests the last person to see her alive, Andy Dubois. It doesn't seem to matter to anyone that Andy is innocent.

A SMALL TOWN BOILING WITH RAGE: Everyone in Buckstown believes Andy is guilty. He has no hope of a fair trial. And the local defence attorney assigned to represent him has disappeared.

A FORMER CON-ARTIST: Hot shot New York lawyer Eddie Flynn travels south to fight fire with fire. He plans to destroy the prosecutors case, find the real killer and save Andy from the electric chair.

But the murders are just beginning. Is Eddie Flynn next?

Review:
Cavanagh brings back conman-turned-lawyer, Eddie Flynn to fight a case in Alabama. As with any book from Cavanagh, you will be promised a fast-paced story, well-written and exciting court room battles, and of course, lots of tricks from ex-conman, Eddie. Whilst 'The Devil's Advocate' delivered all of this, I felt the plot wasn't as gripping as previous books. It could just be I prefer a good old fashioned serial killer plot to that of organised crime.

Despite my small niggle, I thoroughly enjoyed 'The Devil's Advocate', as I have any Cavanagh book as his characters and writing are second to none. Every book keeps building on the main characters and by the end you have a feeling that you really know them. Despite sometimes sailing close to the wind, Eddie has a clear view of what is right and wrong and will always fight against injustice. With his regular team with him for each battle, they are starting to feel like old friends. Cavanagh fans will love this one.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Karen Hamilton - The Last Wife

"‘The Last Wife’ is easy to read..."

Synopsis:
Two women. A dying wish. And a web of lies that will bring their world crashing down. Nina and Marie were best friends, until Nina was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Before she died, Nina asked Marie to fulfil her final wishes.

But her mistake was in thinking Marie was someone she could trust. What Nina didn't know was that Marie always wanted her beautiful life, and that Marie has an agenda of her own. She'll do anything to get what she wants.

Marie thinks she can keep her promise to her friend's family on her own terms. But what she doesn't know is that Nina was hiding explosive secrets of her own...

Review:
The plot to 'The Last Wife' sounded intriguing - death bed promises, secrets and lies. Having read and loved 'The Perfect Girlfriend', I was sure I was going to be in for a rollercoaster ride. Yet the only thing in common between the two books was that the female protagonists were both mentally unstable and not quite living in reality.

I was expecting cliff-hangers, edge of the seat suspense. However, I got a drama based around a family that had very little intrigue. As with Hamiliton's previous book, the characters were not pleasant or likeable. I also felt most of them lacked definition and purpose, leaving it hard for me to connect with them.

'The Last Wife' is easy to read, but I was expecting more twists and surprises and found this to be much less of a thriller than I was expecting.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Colin Dexter - Service of All The Dead

"This one had a real twist that did flummox me..."

Synopsis:
The sweet countenance of Reason greeted Morse serenely when he woke, and told him that it would be no bad idea to have a quiet look at the problem itself before galloping off to a solution.

Chief Inspector Morse was alone among the congregation in suspecting continued unrest in the quiet parish of St Frideswide's. Most people could still remember the churchwarden's murder. A few could still recall the murderer's suicide. Now even the police had closed the case. Until a chance meeting among the tombstones reveals startling new evidence of a conspiracy to deceive.

Review:
One of the very few Morse cases I haven't got round to reading, something I have been correcting in 2021. 'Service of All The Dead' was awarded the CWA Silver Dagger back in the day before they were considered too much of a consolation prize to the Gold Dagger and so scrapped. Usually, a Morse case focused on one murder, but here the body count gets to an alarming proportion.

There are a few inconsistences, which help the plot along, but I did wonder why a certain character hadn't got in touch with another for some months. I know this was back in 1979 when Internet and owning a mobile was something from a sci-fi movie, but there were telephones, so it wasn't quite the Jane Austen era! Apart from that minor niggle, and the fact that Dexter tends to objectify women through Morse's eyes. He is fond of them and does tend to start with describing a woman's derričre before he gets to the rest of her! Again, this was 1979 and one needs to be thankful that some attitudes in literature have moved on.

Morse as always has no luck with the ladies, especially as they tend to be involved somehow in the case in hand. Morse is wonderfully irascible, mainly with himself when he gets frustrated when the truth eludes him despite the many scenarios he believes is the absolute truth of the case. This one had a real twist that did flummox me for some time and only realised when Morse himself finally grasped the ultimate truth. A highly complex and gripping case for Morse who has definitely owned his place in the Hall of Great Detectives.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

James Patterson and James O. Born - Blindside

"...enjoy the ride."

Synopsis:
Bennett and the mayor have always had a tense relationship, but now the mayor sees in Bennett an exceptional investigator who might be willing to take on a case that needs to be kept under the radar. The two men strike the deal.

Sources lead Bennett to a homicide in the Bronx. The victim has ties to a sophisticated hacking operation - and also to the mayor's missing daughter. But this murder is part of a serial killing spree, one with national security implications. And suddenly Bennett is at the centre of a dangerous triangle anchored by NYPD, FBI and an international crime organization.

Michael Bennett has always been an honourable man, but sometimes honour has to take a back seat. Survival comes first.

Review:
I have loved the Bennett series from the beginning when he debuted in one of my favourite Patterson/Ledwidge books, 'Step On A Crack'. Although Bennett has always been a bit 'gung-ho' when it comes to boundaries and getting the job done, 'Blindside' felt as though Patterson, along with James O. Born, writer of the two previous Bennett's as well as this one, made Bennett a bit more of a mercenary than a cop here. Bennett is from the Jack Reacher mould, but he is still a cop. I am not sure if the 'deal' Bennett has cut with the mayor has made him a desperate man, determined to get his biggest wish. Not that I am going to tell and spoil it for you.

The villain of the piece is clever in the fact he doesn't get his hands dirty himself, but has others to do that work for him. Patterson/Born show how the Internet and those who can use it to their advantage to extort huge sums or even, sway an election?? The other thing I love about this series is the way the lines are blurred. Alice and Janos are assassins. They kill people. Without remorse. Without any emotion! But I was quite sad when they get their comeuppance! Is that wrong of me to cheer on the assassins? But that shows great characterisation. I love mischievous Seamus who I hope stays as immortal as Cross' Nana Mama! I am still not convinced by Bennett's commitment to marrying Mary Catherine. He seems to be putting off the big day and is always talking to his dead wife, Maeve which to me, shows he hasn't quite cut that particular cord just yet. I do have one request from Mr Patterson. A short biog of each of Bennett's children, please. Juliana and Brian have played major roles in recent books, but the others need to be fleshed out in my imagination. Thank you! With 'Blindside', best to suspend belief and just enjoy the ride. Yet again, this is a rollercoaster that Patterson and his team have become so proficient at constructing.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Patricia Highsmith - Ripley's Game

"To Tom Ripley, the game is all that matters."

Synopsis:
Tom Ripley detested murder. Unless it was absolutely necessary. Wherever possible, he preferred someone else to do the dirty work. In this case someone with no criminal record, who would commit 'two simple murders' for a very generous fee. If only it were that simple…

Review:
So, finally I am halfway through the 'Ripliad', and with each book it appears that Highsmith's imagination goes from crazy to the out and out bonkers! Here, Tom has fitted up a guy who wouldn't hurt a fly, to commit not one, but two murders. Who wouldn't as the job description is: 'two simple murders for a generous fee'! Believing he is dying, Jonathan Trevanny is a simple picture framer, married to a kind woman with a small child. Trevanny also has leukaemia which he keeps at bay with blood transfusions. But the transfusions are not having as much effect as they have done. With Tom's persuasion to have something to leave his widow and child, Jonathan begins a nightmare journey that will take him through several levels of Hell… and all because Trevanny fits Ripley's game perfectly.

The whole 'mafia' thing doesn't quite ring true here and I don't think I have never had such a high body count in a Highsmith novel. Highsmith sends Ripley off into another maze of his own devising. Ripley does have some desperately tight corners he appears to make for himself, and then needs to extract himself from. Sometimes, you have to suspend belief, but there are times when Highsmith sends you across Europe and delivers a wonderful travelogue. If Highsmith loved anything, I am sure it was Europe and the sights, sounds and smells that she encountered. As for people, it is well documented that she didn't love them quite so much, her creation included as here, Highsmith pushes Ripley's 'loveable rogue' tag to the limit as at some points Ripley is quite merciless to achieve his goal. There are references to the other two previous books, so for any new reader, it would be prudent to start with 'The Talented Mr Ripley'. By the end of 'Ripley's Game', our favourite sociopath gets clear of his own mess literally by the skin of his teeth, with not much character intact, but to Ripley what other people think does not bother him.To Tom Ripley, the game is all that matters.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Patricia Highsmith - The Boy Who Followed Ripley

"...Highsmith always writes with perfection and her sense of time and place is sublime. "

Synopsis:
When a troubled young runaway arrives on Tom Ripley's French estate, he is drawn into a world he thought he'd left behind: the seedy underworld of Berlin, involving kidnapping plots, lies and deception. Ripley becomes the boy's protector as friendship develops between the young man with a guilty conscience and the older one with no conscience at all.

Review:
Originally published in 1980, this chapter in Tom Ripley's life appears, on general consensus, to be the weakest in Highsmith's 'Ripliad'. These people are hardcore Highsmith fans and not being disrespectful, but I can see their point. Firstly, this appears to be a different kind of Ripley as portrayed in the three previous books. Here, Ripley is not so mercenary. He is more reactive here as it is a situation he has been put in to, rather than one of his own making. So, Tom tends to be more on the back foot than usual. For a woman who didn't like people, (she even dedicated her novel, 'The Glass Cell' to her cat, Spider), Highsmith is adept at writing about people. Frank, the boy in question is a sixteen-year old and has run away from his home in America after a traumatic event. He meets Tom by chance near his home in Villeperce. Frank is unpredictable, changes his mind and emotions like the wind changes direction and is whinny and hugely annoying. And that is how most teenagers are!

As usual, Highsmith takes us on a travelogue of her own, this time to Berlin. The Berlin wall was still up, not to be pulled down for another nine years after Tom's visit. Here is where Tom starts to behave true to form, killing with impunity. His adventures in Berlin, with the aid of the wonderfully drawn Eric and Peter (who should have had their own book in my opinion), Highsmith takes Tom et al. on a trip of Berlin's notorious gay scene. This leads Tom at one point dealing with a gang of crooks in full drag! As I read I am sure I could hear Highsmith, cigarette firmly in mouth, squawking with delight at Tom's latest escapade. Her ending to this book I could see coming, but hoped I would be proved wrong. Sadly, I was not and it kind of deflated the finish of the novel, but then I have had this with Highsmith for thirty years! Most of her stuff I love, and some I have thrown across the room in frustration. Whatever the outcome, Highsmith always writes with perfection and her sense of time and place is sublime.

Reviewed by: C.S.

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