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Reviews

October 2007

Robert Goddard - Name To A Face

"… well worth unplugging the phone and immersing yourself…"

Synopsis:
Tim Harding is asked to do a favour for a friend. All he has to do is to represent him at an auction to buy an old family ring which had allegedly been stolen by a family member. It couldn't be simpler. Buy the ring that nobody else is interested in and Tim would be back at home in Monte Carlo within a few days. The night before the auction is due, someone steals the ring. Also, during his stay in Penzance, Tim finds rumours that surround his friend from when he used to live in the area. A rumour that he was responsible for a diving accident of a young woman reporter who nearly drowned while diving at the site of an old ship that had capsized 300 years before. She never awoke from the coma she was in.

Soon Tim is caught up with more tragic deaths and a mystery that involves a ship that sunk in 1707 and the ring that was ripped from the finger of the captain of that same vessel, HMS Association. So what is causing all those ripples across the centuries and now threatening people in present day Penzance? Can Tim find out before he is next on the list to be eliminated?

Review:
Name To A Face is the latest riveting mystery thriller from this well-known and respected author. With most of Goddard's novels there is a strong sense of the past tapping people on the shoulder in the present and bringing about great consequences as a result of lies and deceits that have been going on for many years, if not centuries. Goddard is always excellent at getting the ball rolling - and keeps it rolling - so that very soon you have managed to get half way through the novel at a frightening pace.

The writing appears very simple and is easy to read, although Goddard is very descriptive, especially with his characters and, in particular, the places his characters find themselves in. He seems to take great joy in describing the Penzance scenery and it is wonderful to have that sense of feeling you are there as well, as Goddard paints such a vivid picture. The solution to Name To A Face is quite bizarre, but Goddard is good at highlighting the macabre, whilst showing that some people will do anything to keep something they hold close to themselves secret. This is definitely an enjoyable novel - and one that Goddard's legion of fans will lap up like nectar from the God's. It is certainly well worth unplugging the phone and immersing yourself in another Goddard adventure.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Karin Slaughter - Skin Privilege

"… a very good read"

Synopsis:
Lena Adams has spent her life struggling to escape her past. She has only unhappy memories of Reece, the small town that nearly destroyed her. She's made a new life for herself as a police detective in Heartsdale, a hundred miles away - but nothing could prepare her for the violence that explodes when she is forced to return. A vicious murder leaves a young woman incinerated beyond recognition. And Lena is the only suspect.

When Heartsdale police chief, Jeffrey Tolliver, Lena's boss, receives word that his detective has been arrested, he has no choice but to go to Lena's aid - taking with him his wife, medical examiner Sara Linton.

But soon after their arrival, a second victim is found. The town closes ranks and both Jeffrey and Sara find themselves entangled in a horrifying underground world of bigotry and rage - a violent world that shocks even them. A world that puts their lives in jeopardy.

Only Jeffrey and Sara can free Lena from the web of lies, betrayal and brutality that has trapped her. But can they discover the truth before the killer strikes again?

Review:
After reading Slaughter's previous book, Triptych, I was delighted that a new range of characters had been brought in, so I was really looking forward to her latest book. However, I was slightly disappointed to realise that Slaughter had brought back Sara and Jeffrey, as I felt that they had run their course.

Skin Privilege, though, I found to be rather better than her previous Sara/Jeffrey novels, and I do feel that this maybe the final book with these characters as certain events in the story would indicate that this book was tying off loose ends.

Sara, in my opinion, was complaining and a generally unhappy character, as usual, which I find particularly off putting. And Jeffrey seems is a very weak person with no backbone. However, the story is a very good read and I did enjoy this book, even if at the end I was surprised at the outcome - always better than having a predictable storyline!

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Kathy Reichs - Bones to Ashes

"… her writing is unsurpassed."

Synopsis:
In this tenth book about Temperance Brennan the story is set largely in Quebec but begins in Tempe's childhood spent in Carolina and involves a friend who disappeared when aged fourteen. Tempe's relationship with Andrew Ryan is on hold as he tries to become a father to his newly discovered daughter, Lily. As this involves him getting together again with Lily's mother, who's separated husband, Pete, is asking for a divorce, Tempe is ready to throw herself into her work.

The discovery of an unidentified New Brunswick skeleton of a teenage girl provides the opportunity. In her mind Tempe links this skeleton with her childhood friend. Ryan is also busy investigating the deaths and disappearance of seven teenage girls. The story unfolds with a background of pornography and childhood prostitution.

Review:
The authority and professional expertise that Kathy Reichs brings to her writing is unsurpassed. You know that when procedures and investigations are described, they are as authentic and true as you are likely to get. This represents for me the main attraction and enduring allure of Kathy Reichs' books. In addition the storyline is interesting and gripping, and the relationships that Tempe has with Ryan and her family all add a spice to the proceedings.

I prefer her writings when they return to Quebec and Carolina, so this book is a very good example. The style of her prose has changed over time, and a few books ago I felt that it had become a little jerky and colloquial. I am pleased that this does not appear to be the case with this novel. Suffice to say, I really enjoyed this book.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Val McDermid - Beneath The Bleeding

"… another fantastic read from McDermid"

Synopsis:
The city of Bradfield is in mourning. First their star midfielder is murdered. Then an explosion rips through the football stadium, leaving dozens dead and many more injured. Is it a terrorist attack? A personal vendetta against the team? Or something more sinister…

In an investigation which sets them at odds as never before, Dr Tony Hill and his customary ally DCI Jordan, must ask themselves questions they would never have thought possible in order to find a killer they are unable to imagine.

Review:
Reading my first McDermid novel for a couple of years, I easily slipped back into the characters of Jordan and Hill, though I did have problems visualising the characters since both of them have now been portrayed by actors in a TV series. This is compounded by the fact that the author gives very little physical description of the main characters.

This said, Beneath the Bleeding was another fantastic read from McDermid, exploring police procedure and the criminal mind.

McDermid has a great style of writing that makes her books a pleasure to read. The relationship between Jordan and Hill continues with both, as ever, unable to commit. This book also has some background on Tony Hill's life, which demonstrates to some extent explains why he has problems forming relationships.

Another not-to-be-missed book!

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Daniel Silva - The Secret Servant

"… a riveting spy novel."

Synopsis:
Once again the master spy of the Israeli Secret service, Gabriel Allon, is called to undertake a dangerous mission, this time in Amsterdam, despite his being persona non grata in Europe.

A talented art restorer and efficient assassin, Allon travels across boundaries and moves amongst the powerful of the land with amazing ease. On his mission in Amsterdam he uncovers a serious Islamic plot to kidnap the daughter of the US ambassador in London. He arrives too late to prevent the kidnap but is co-opted into American intelligence to work together to release the girl. He works with a former Islamist activist to search for the missing woman and the chase becomes fast and furious.

Review:
This is a riveting spy novel. The excitement and horror is pretty non-stop and the reader is never sure which way the plot will turn next. True to all spy heroes, Allon is amazingly strong, efficient and attractive. His attitude to the accepted rules of right and wrong make him exceedingly powerful and able to dispose of all in his way.

With the plot involving an extreme Islamist group, and the intelligence services of several nations behaving in somewhat cavalier ways, this book is up to date with many of the current issue of the time. The clever trick of the writing is that you feel at the end that the good guy won… but realistically, how honourable is he? A bit like James Bond?!

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Arnaldur Indridason - The Draining Lake

"… involves the reader deeply…"

Synopsis:
In a lake dried out by some seismic movement a long dead body is discovered, weighed down by an old Russian radio transmitter. The Icelandic detectives, Erlendur, Elinborg and Sigurdor Oli, are called in to investigate.

The trail leads to a group of Icelandic students who studied in an East German university in the 1960s. Some of the group became disillusioned with Communism, some continued to work for the cause. Whilst investigating the death, the detectives have their own lives to pursue. Erlendur continues to struggle with his relationships with his dysfunctional children, particularly his drug dependent daughter. Elinborg is enjoying success as a writer of cookbooks, while Sigurdor Oli and his wife try to start a family. Erlendur works through the unlikely scenario of Icelandic spies in the Cold War and finally teases out the solution from the past.

Review:
This book by the winner of the CWA Gold dagger continues with the same lyrical writing of Silence of the Grave. Erlendur is a haunted and lonely man who works through the complex and detailed clues, determined to find the solution.

The atmosphere of Iceland, slightly detached from the world around, is beautifully portrayed, along with some of the fiercely independent and slightly gloomy characters who live there. The relationships between the characters are movingly described, particularly the strained interdependence of Erlendur and his daughter. The atmosphere of excitement and distrust in Communist East Germany is particularly vividly described.

A very good read which involves the reader deeply in the lives and the events of the story.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Adrian Magson - No Tears for the Lost

"The action is exciting and realistic…"

Synopsis:
This is the fourth in a series featuring journalist, Riley Gavin, and ex military policeman, Frank Palmer.

Riley is receiving e-mails about a former British diplomat, Sir Kenneth Myburghe, from an unknown source. Initially she ignores them until she decides that perhaps they are more than just a joke. In the meantime, Frank Palmer has been hired to protect the same diplomat from unwanted press intrusion. When Sir Kenneth receives death threats involving his teenage son, they work together to discover that Sir Kenneth has a dubious past involving Columbian drug gangs. Beneath the proper exterior of an upper class life there are a host of secrets which leave him open to blackmail…

Review:
My attention was caught immediately by the first sentence;

“They'd sent him a severed finger.”

From that point on the story moves on quickly and maintains your attention.

The quick fire exchanges between Riley and Gavin are highly entertaining, and their characters are attractive and interesting. The action is exciting and realistic without too many bloodthirsty details.

This is a pretty straightforward crime story which does exactly what it intends to do -set a problem and solve it in a very entertaining manner.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Margaret Frazer - A Play of Isaac

"The details of the life of the time seem very authentic."

Synopsis:
The story is set in Oxford in 1434 at the time of the Corpus Christi festival. A troupe of itinerant players has arrived to play “Isaac and Abraham”. By happy chance they meet up with a local worthy who offers them bed and board if they will also entertain his family and guests. Joliffe is one of the members of the troupe and he finds himself investigating the death of a stranger whose body is found outside the barn where the players are lodging. He also discovers a link between his playmaster, Basset, and their benefactor, Master Penteney.

This story revolves around the dissident group of Christians known as Lollards who had been active in Oxford some time previously. Another death occurs when Master Fairfield, the Downs Syndrome heir to some good lands, dies in the midst of the festivities. Joliffe applies a mind trained in logic at the university to solve the mysteries and the troupe move on to greater things.

Review:
I have not come across Margaret Frazer's books before and certainly enjoyed my introduction to Joliffe and his troupe of travelling players. Joliffe is a complex character and he does not reveal his true history, only giving glimpses of his past by references to people he knows and his wider knowledge and education. This serves to increase interest and provoke speculation as to his origins.

The character of Master Fairfield, the Down's Syndrome young man, and his relationship to his fiancé, is delicately handled, and the subsequent events make you consider how such matters would have been dealt with in those times. The details of the life of the time seem very authentic.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Agatha Christie - Dead Man’s Folly (AUDIO BOOK)

"...simply glide away with Monsieur Hercule Poirot"

Synopsis:
Hercule Poirot is invited - nay, commanded - to attend the fete at Nasse House by his old friend, Ariadne Oliver. She has been hired to create a murder hunt for the proceedings and Mrs. Oliver is feeling that there is something definitely wrong with the whole set up of the house. She can't quite put her finger on it, but the murder hunt has changed in all but name from her original draft that she prepared before she went to Nasse House. Is Mrs. Oliver being deliberately led - and by whom?

On the day of the fete a young girl who was to play the part of the corpse is found strangled in the boat house. The same day Lady Stubbs is also missing, presumed dead. Soon, Poirot has a cast of suspicious characters on his hands and a number of bodies. As always, it is left to Poirot to arrive at the right conclusion.

Review:
I believe that they should make Agatha Christie available on the National Health Service! Reading her books always seems to send all the aches and pains away and one is always left feeling better, and refreshed, by the time the astounding denouement is reached. There is the satisfying feeling of good overcoming evil, everything being put back in its rightful place and the world being correct once again that leaves readers with an aura of justice having been done. You will feel the same benefits when you listen to the latest dramatisation of this novel brilliantly created by the BBC. With the wonderful John Moffat filling in the role of Poirot and superb actresses like Julia McKenzie as Ariadne Oliver and Rosalind Knight as Mrs. Folliatt, - you know you are in very good, experienced hands.

Dead Man's Folly is told in four half hour episodes and oozes the Christie quality that you find in all her books. Lately, some have tried to stretch her novels and make them something they are not – no names mentioned, ITV! - sacrilege to any full blooded crime reader. With this audio book, they have remained faithful to Christie book and have made it a pleasure to listen to. It is well acted and the dialogue flows well. All the clues have been placed as if Christie herself had written the script herself. For any Christie afficionados, this is certainly the sort of thing you want in your Christmas stocking (I know it's early days - but always good to plan!). Then, while the family are arguing, you can simply glide away with Monsieur Hercule Poirot to solve yet another delicious crime.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

John Hart - King of Lies

"… very well written with a strong plot…"

Synopsis:
A year after his mother's death and his father's mysterious disappearance, Jackson Workman Pickens - known to most as "Work" - is still fighting the fallout from his tortured past. His law practice is a shambles, a far cry from the legal empire that his father, Ezra Pickens, left in his care the day he vanished; his socialite wife, Barbara, is content to spend her days at the country club; and both Work and Barbara ignore the passionless nature of their failing marriage. Work's life is almost pleasantly unfulfilling. The discovery of Ezra's murdered body changes everything.

Values are challenged, assumptions are questioned and when the police learn of the vast fortune left in Ezra's wake, Work is no longer just a victim, he's a prime suspect - and so is his sister, Jean. While Work's life has been shadowed by his powerful, domineering father, Jean's life has been all but destroyed by him. Yet damaged as she may be, is she capable of patricide?

Fearing the worst for Jean, Work launches his own investigation, crossing paths with a power-hungry detective, a string of damning evidence, and the ugly rumours that swirl within this small and moneyed Southern town. As his sister comes undone, and the evidence against Work mounts, his long-standing emotional dam crumbles, and he must fight from beneath the torrent of secrets, lies, and childhood trauma that threatens to drown him.

Desperate for the redemption that has eluded him for so many years and stripped of everything he once valued, he fights to save his sister, clear his name, and regain the love of the woman to whom he gave his heart so many years before.

Review:
With this being billed as a legal thriller, I was expecting a 'Grisham' style novel. However, whilst Work is a lawyer, there is more than an element of mystery/thriller to this book.

Work is a particularly weak person, and therefore it is not always easy to empathise or sympathise with his predicament. However, as the story builds, he does manage to find some backbone which makes the reading entertaining as you simply begin to care what happens more. That said, the book is very well written with a strong plot and, although you are aware that Work's thought process throughout the book is wrong, there is still an excellent twist to keep the reader interested (although this reader found the ending a little 'happy ever after'...).

Nonetheless, I did really enjoy this book and would highly recommend others to read this debut novel.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating: