Click a logo below for more information...
 
 

Reviews

October 2006

C.J. Sansom - Sovereign

"This is a magnificent piece of work providing a rich tapestry of Tudor life…"

Synopsis:
Set in 1541 this is the third book about the lawyer Matthew Shardlake. It describes his attendance and involvement in the great Progress of Henry VIII and his court to York, designed to establish the king's authority in the North after the discovery of a plot against him. Matthew and his companion Jack Barak, are there on a mission for Archbishop Cranmer, but everything becomes more complicated following the murder of a local glazier.

There are many plots here and even more people vying for power. The tension between the old and the new religion is never far from the surface. Some followers of both sides are devout and honest whilst many others are looking for advancement.

Shardlake is both an honest man and aware of the many pitfalls into which he could fall, but even he doesn't foresee the final trouble he meets. After an exciting taste of Tudor justice he finally emerges to fight another day.

Review:
This is a magnificent piece of work providing a rich tapestry of Tudor life and an insight into the political power struggles taking place during the reign of Henry VIII.

The descriptions of everyday life are so vivid the reader can almost smell and taste them. The plot is intriguing and has a rewarding and unexpected twist at the end. Matthew Shardlake remains a sympathetic and likeable hero while Jack Barak provides some light relief.

This is a lively and fantastic read that no serious reader should miss.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

James Sheehan - The Mayor of Lexington Avenue

"For those that enjoy Grisham and Meltzer, Sheehan will be an instant hit."

Synopsis:
Jack Tobin is a trial lawyer with a searing-hot reputation in Miami, far removed from his scrappy youth on the streets of New York. When a young Florida man is railroaded into a murder conviction in the tiny Florida backwater of Bass Creek, Tobin is driven to pay back a debt to his best friend, the boy who once dubbed him 'The Mayor of Lexington Avenue'.

In his efforts to get the death penalty overturned Tobin moves back to South Florida where he finds himself up against the small-town legal establishment. Here favours are routinely traded at the expense of truth, and police corruption has become an art form.

Review:
For those that enjoy Grisham and Meltzer, Sheehan will be an instant hit. Spanning over four decades, a compelling plot and with an array of strong characters, The Mayor of Lexington Avenue is a book that is impossible to put down.

With the customary good versus bad seen in most novels, this book has the added twists that good does not always prevail, leaving the reader unsure about what will happen next.

At first I was uncertain as to where and when all the story lines and characters would fit together, but Sheehan moulds them perfectly, thankfully leaving out any unnecessary forensics, legal jargon or technical descriptions which are found all too often in other books.

I was extremely impressed with this debut novel by James Sheehan and look forward to the sequel.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Michael Connelly - Echo Park

"This has to be my favourite Michael Connelly book so far."

Synopsis:
In 1993 Marie Gesto disappeared after walking out of a supermarket in Hollywood. Fearing the worst, the case was elevated by LAPD commanders from the missing persons squad to the Homicide Division, where Harry Bosch was assigned the case. But the 22-year-old woman never turned up - dead or alive - and it was a case Bosch couldn't crack.

Thirteen years later Bosch is in the Open-Unsolved Unit when he gets a call from the DA's office. A man accused of two heinous killings is willing to come clean in regard to several other murders in a deal to avoid the death penalty. One of those murders, he says, is the killing of Marie Gesto. Bosch is now assigned to take Raynard Waits' confession and to make sure that the killer is not scamming authorities simply to avoid a date with death.

In confirming the confession Bosch must get close to the man he has sought for thirteen years. Bosch's whole being as a cop begins to crack when he comes to realise that he and his partner missed a vital clue back in 1993 that could have led them to Waits - and would have stopped the nine murders that followed the killing of Marie Gesto.

Review:
Connelly returns with old favourite Harry Bosch who has been brought out of retirement to work on the Unsolved-Cold Unit. Bosch is a somewhat maverick character, and readers might see him as an American version of Billingham's Tom Thorne – complete with his slight disregard for authority to ensure a case gets solved, his hopelessness with romance and his seemingly unsociable persona.

Connelly draws all the characters incredibly well, together with the story lines, giving enough information to the reader to think they know where the story is going whilst he manages to leave himself enough room at the end for a truly surprising twist.

This has to be my favourite Connelly book so far. Although I have always enjoyed previous books, this book wasn't at the top of my long list of ones to read. How wrong I was… this is a crime novelist at the top of his game.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

P. J. Tracy - Snow Blind

"…another sure-fire winner…"

Synopsis:
Nothing is bleaker than Minneapolis during the winter, the season that, to some long time residents, lasts eleven months of the year. So, what better way to bring a little cheer to the good people of the city than by sponsoring an old-fashioned snowman-building contest? In a matter of hours, a local park is filled with the innocent laughter of children and their frosty creations. But things take an awful turn when the dead bodies of Minneapolis police officers are discovered inside two of the snowmen - sending the MPD and Detectives Magozzi and Rolseth onto high alert.

The next day Iris Rikker, the newly minted sheriff of rural Dundas County, comes across another dead cop. Fearing that Rikker's inexperience will hamper the investigation, Magozzi and Rolseth head north in a blizzard to hunt for clues. As Grace MacBride and her crack computer jocks at Monkeewrench comb cyber-murder websites for connections a terrifying link emerges connecting the dead cops, Magozzi, Rolseth, and Monkeewrench - a link that must be broken, before it's too late.

Review:
This latest novel from PJ Tracy moves away slightly from the Monkewrench team, and focuses more on Magozzi and Rolseth working to solve a crime, with help from Monkeewrench. The book is exceptionally fast paced with plot lines and characters being thrown at the reader at every opportunity, keeping you guessing as to who carried out the crime. As the book progresses the reader begins to realise the motives behind the crimes and is left torn between wanting to know who the culprit is - and that Magozzi and Rolselth solve the case - whilst also hoping that the killer is not caught as the original victims appear to be getting their just desserts!

I believe that PJ Tracy has realised that the Monkeewrech angle needed to be sidelined slightly. The story concentrates more on the police aspect rather than the computer side - but the original 'cast' are all still present. In Snow Blind they manage to develop and progress existing relationships from the three previous books. Snow Blind is another sure-fire winner from PJ Tracy.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Ruth Downie - Medicus and the Disappearing Dancing Girls

"This is a rollicking good story which engages your interest from the very beginning."

Synopsis:
Gaius Petrius Ruso is a doctor with the Twentieth Legion based in Deva (Chester) at the beginning of the reign of the new emperor Publius Aelius and his general Hadrianus. Ruso is also new to his job and is adjusting to the discomforts of a wet and cold Britain. He reluctantly acquires a reputation for investigating¬ unusual deaths and his battle experience often enables him to determine what has happened to the unfortunate victims.

Permanently short of money, largely because of the extravagances of his widowed stepmother, he consequently takes on some dangerous and foolhardy tasks and becomes involved in the affairs of the local disreputable bar. He also acquires a slave girl whom he has rescued from a violent and unsavoury owner. The Administrator, who is more concerned with finances and order than with the provision of good health care, causes Ruso many headaches but, ultimately, Ruso has the upper hand.

Review:
This is a rollicking good story which engages your interest from the very beginning.

Ruso and his colleagues are sympathetic characters and the plot details are intricate. The current interest in all things Roman is satisfied with the added twist of an insight into Roman life in Britain.

Followers of Lindsay Davies' Falco should also enjoy the investigations of Ruso and his slave girl Tilla.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Jonathan Kellerman - Gone

"Gone is definitely a really good read."

Synopsis:
When Dr Alex Delaware is asked to assess the mental state of an aspiring actress who is accused of faking her own abduction, he assumes that she is an attention seeker now paying the price for a stunt gone wrong. However, weeks later she is found brutally murdered with her boyfriend, an accomplice in the fake abduction, missing.

As Alex Delaware and his LAPD colleague search for clues, it appears that events are bound up with a mysterious drama school, which may be responsible for a spate of disappearances.

Review:
Jonathan Kellerman is an experienced writer who always produces well-crafted and excellently written books. 'Gone' is no exception. This is a classic Kellerman mystery set in the heart of LA, this time dealing with the acting underworld.

Like his previous novel 'Rage' much of the book is not concerned with the 'mystery' element of the story. By the second half of the book it is increasingly clear who is the perpetrator of the crime. But it is the hunt for the solution to the mystery that Kellerman excels at and the mounting tension as the investigators move in on the killer.

Fans of the Alex Delaware series will be pleased to hear that it looks like Alex's love life is finally reaching a conclusion, which makes for an interesting sub-plot. Gone is definitely a really good read. Perhaps not Kellerman at absolute best, but I am sure it will keep his fans happy during the coming winter afternoons.

Reviewed by: S.W.

CrimeSquad Rating:

James Patterson - Cross

"Cross is Patterson at his brilliant best."

Synopsis:
Alex Cross was a rising star in the Washington D.C. Police Department when an unknown shooter gunned down his wife, Maria, in front of him. The killer was never found, and the case turned cold, filed among the unsolved drive-bys in D.C.'s rough neighbourhoods.

Years later, still haunted by his wife's death, Cross is making a bold move in his life. Now a free agent from the police and the FBI, he hass set up practice as a psychologist once again. His life with Nana Mama, Damon, Jannie, and little Alex is finally getting in order. He even has a chance at a new love.

Then Cross's former partner, John Sampson, calls in a favour. He is tracking a serial rapist in Georgetown, one whose brutal modus operandi recalls a case Sampson and Cross worked on together years earlier. When the case reveals a connection to Maria's death, Cross quickly latches on for the most urgent and terrifying ride of his life.

Review:
Patterson returns with his latest Cross novel - with Alex returning to the past to try and find the killer of his wife. This is a solution many of Patterson's readers have been demanding for some time.

As ever, Patterson keeps the book fast paced, the killings are brutal and the murderers are savage. Indeed, this book was so compelling and the writing in Patterson's inimitable style (short powerful chapters), that I read it cover to cover in a day! Whilst Cross excels in his field of work, true to form, he is never quite so successful in his personal life.

After flitting from private practice, to the police to the FBI and now back to private practice, I am not sure where Cross can go from here. However, I am sure this won't be the last that we have seen of him.

Patterson's novels written without his assorted co-writers, especially those featuring Cross, are indeed the amazing Patterson of old, and Cross is no exception. Cross is Patterson at his brilliant best.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Judith Cutler - The Chinese Takeout

"…fresh, alive and very readable."

Synopsis:
Set in a quiet village in England the heroine here is Josie Welford, a wealthy widow whose husband had spent years locked up and made considerable sums of money from some shady deals. Josie now runs the village pub where she helps to prepare some delicious food.

During morning service at a nearby church a filthy young Chinese man rushes in to claim sanctuary. Josie supports Father Tim when he tries to help the young man and many of the congregation also rally round. Not everyone feels the same. The young man is an illegal immigrant running away from the gangs who helped him into the country.

Josie enlists support from the Rural Dean, Andy Braithwaite, and her friend and lodger, Nick Thomas, an inspector for the Food Standards Agency. After some very unpleasant and violent happenings Josie, using some techniques learnt from her late husband, tackles the violent criminals at the heart of the scheme and prevents a final execution.

Review:
This is a good story well told. This book grabs your attention from the beginning right to the very end.

Josie is a heroine about whom you do not worry as she is well able to look after herself - usually giving as good as she gets. This is a very modern and up to date tale, which, naturally, keeps you wondering what will happen next.

The style of the writing is lively and amusing, which keeps the story fresh, alive and very readable.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Katy Gardner - Hidden

"The build up of tension is highly infectious."

Synopsis:
At the beginning of the story Mel Stenning is a single mother with a young daughter, Poppy, who is the centre of her life. In the course of her job in an Estate Agency she meets she meets Simon, falls in love, marries him and moves to a dilapidated warehouse in Kent which they are renovating.

Neither talks much about the past and after a time strange things start happening. Simon, in particular, begins to behave very strangely. Poppy disappears at the same time as Si leaves the building and it is assumed that he has taken her.

Mel goes over in her mind the course of their relationship whilst dealing with the police involvement, her new son Jo and with help from a near neighbour Trish. The tension rapidly builds up and the finale proves to be quite a surprise.

Review:
The atmosphere of desperation and panic experienced by the heroine here is incredibly well described. The ups and downs of her emotional life involve the reader more and more as the story unfolds.

The build up of tension is highly infectious. Although it took a while to get into the story, I enjoyed this book more and more as I got into it. By the end I simply could not put it down.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Karin Alvtegen - Shame

"…a strong psychological thriller in the style of Barbara Vine."

Synopsis:
Monika is a successful doctor living in Sweden who has just met the man of her dreams. Maj-Britt is monstrously overweight, living in an apartment whose only contact with the outside world are her home visits from a nursing agency.

Despite their seemingly disparate lives both Monika and Maj-Britt have a secret buried deep in their past. When they are thrown together as the result of a devastating fluke accident, both are forced to confront their past lives - with shocking results.

Review:
This is a strong psychological thriller in the style of Barbara Vine. Both Monika and Maj-Britt are movingly portrayed as women on the verge of a breakdown, Monika because of her complicity in her brother's death and Maj-Britt through her repressed upbringing.

Like Barbara Vine, Alvtegen effectively shows how events can spiral out of control to the extent that none of the participants in the tragedy can do anything to extract themselves from their situation. While I found it sometimes difficult to relate to the two characters, the strength of the writing really came through to produce a taut thriller.

Reviewed by: S.W.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Christian Jungerson - The Exception

"This is a strong psychological thriller…"

Synopsis:
When two women at the Danish Centre for Genocide receive death threats, they are convinced that it is the work of Mirko Zigic, a Serbian war criminal on the run and rumoured to be in Denmark. However, in the atmosphere of suspicion and fear that develops at the Genocide centre, the women begin to turn on their co-workers.

Soon everyone comes under suspicion and the bullying and terror that the centre works to eradicate in other countries begins to permeate their work there. Who is responsible for the death threats?

Review:
This is a strong psychological thriller which portrays how a seemingly well-functioning office can turn on itself when individuals come under threat.

Some of the characters are more developed than others and the book leaves some plot lines tantalisingly unanswered. However, the book's focus on how a war crimes unit operates is very interesting - as is its portrayal on how people's obsession with their work can impact on others. The book is particularly good when dealing with what happens when your deepest fears turn into reality. Although, in the end, the plot might stretch readers' imaginations too far. An absorbing novel.

Reviewed by: S.W.

CrimeSquad Rating: