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Reviews

May 2007

Alex Gray - The Riverman

"… a very modern story about the tensions brought by power and big money…"

Synopsis:
The River Clyde is at the heart of the big exciting city of Glasgow, now revitalised by new business initiatives and its selection as European City of Culture. The Riverman is responsible for keeping the river clear.

On this occasion he picks up the body of a middle-aged man and it seems to be a clear case of accidental death. Yet, when DCI William Lorimer of the Glasgow Police takes on the case, he begins to suspect that it is not so straightforward. The victim is a well-respected member of a large firm of accountants which is expanding rapidly from the original family firm. Investigations uncover dark secrets behind the partners of the firm, taking the action into the USA. Relationships between the members of the firm are also not straightforward. The city of Glasgow, formerly rich from trade and shipbuilding and now developing in financial and architectural terms, is an exciting background for the story.

Review:
This is a very modern story about the tensions brought by power and big money and their influences on those aspiring to them. There is a conflict between achieving huge success and behaving in accordance with moral values. Ancient plots are also reflected, as love plays its part in influencing behaviour.

I enjoyed the portrayal of modern Glasgow with its new architecture contrasted against the old Glasgow revolving around the powerful River Clyde. There are several sympathetic characters with their own sub-plots, including the wife of the first murder victim and Malcolm Adams, one of the firm's partners, who is suffering from terminal cancer. The young and ambitious Michael Turner contributes his own exciting story after a kidnapping on his arrival in New York.

DCI William Lorimer is also a sympathetic character. The description of his personal relationships is not overwhelming, but provides a little background to the story. Well worth a read, and I hope there will be more of DCI Lorimer.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Martin O'Brien - Jacquot and the Master

"Martin O’Brien’s books featuring Chief Inspector Jacquot are fast becoming detective classics."

Synopsis:
At Le Grand Monastere, an expensive and exclusive hotel in Provence, a young woman escort on a short holiday with her client goes missing. Due to the client's high profile in the local community, Chief Inspector Jacquot is called in to make discreet enquiries over the escort's disappearance, without disturbing the other rich and famous guests. Many of the guests are at the hotel to try and meet the famous painter Auguste Vilotte, also known as 'the Master'. This elderly and cantankerous artist is not only still painting but also is fabled to have a cache of drawings from Picasso and other famous painters that he has collected over the years. Many of the guests would give anything for these paintings - even commit murder. Soon Jacquot is drawn into an investigation where bodies begin to emerge at an alarming rate.

Review:
Martin O'Brien's books featuring Chief Inspector Jacquot are fast becoming detective classics. The character of Jacquot is so strongly and appealingly written that I was becoming impatient for his appearance, which doesn't occur until part 2 of the book. However, O'Brien is keen to build the plot slowly. The first section of the book gradually draws all of the main protagonists together, detailing their reasons for travelling to the luxurious hotel and their relationship with the 'Master'. Not all of the characters work equally well. For example, I was slightly confused by the identities of the group of American painters on a study trip at the hotel.

However, overall the novel is charmingly written, and the suggestion of a new romance for Jacquot is very beguiling and entrances the reader. Like the very best detective novels, the setting is exquisitely portrayed, in this case the heat and storms of the Provencal countryside making you want to join Jacquot for a glass of Pastis as he investigates the case…

Reviewed by: S. W.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Marcus Sakey - The Blade Itself

"… a real page-turner…"

Synopsis:
Evan and Danny were as close as brothers, but when a robbery on a pawnshop goes wrong, Evan is caught and jailed. Shocked into clarity, Danny, his accomplice, flees the scene....

Seven years later and Danny has turned his life around. He's also turned his back on crime and is now the manager of a successful construction company. Then Evan is released, and he wants the debt for his silence repaid. He wants Danny to join him on one last job....

Brutalised and desperate, Evan holds all the cards. At every turn, Danny tried to do the right thing, but with terrible inevitability, every decision seems to push him ever deeper into trouble. Until, with no one to turn to, Danny fears for all he holds dear - and his life...

Review:
Marcus Sakey is an exciting new author. The Blade is his debut novel. I found the style very easy to read, and he was very informative with his descriptions of both characters and places without being too wordy.

I did feel that the characters were, perhaps, a little predictable. We see the 'bad guy from prison'; the 'street kid trying to turn his life around'; 'girlfriend standing by her man' et al. I also found the situations to be a little tame and predictable too. That said, it was a real page-turner and the story was sound and very well written.

I look forward to the next book by this talented new author.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Harlan Coben - The Woods

"… all the suspense and mystery one has come to expect from this brilliant author."

Synopsis:
Twenty years ago, four teenagers at summer camp walked into the woods at night. Two were found murdered, and the others were never seen again. Four families had their lives changed forever. Now, two decades later, they are about to change again.

For Paul Copeland, the county prosecutor of Essex, New Jersey, mourning the loss of his sister has only recently begun to subside. Cope, as he is known, is now dealing with raising his six-year-old daughter as a single father after his wife has died from cancer. Balancing family life and a rapidly ascending career as a prosecutor distracts him temporarily from his past traumas, but only for so long. When a homicide victim is found with evidence linking him to Cope, the well-buried secrets of the prosecutor's family are threatened.

Is this murder victim one of the campers who disappeared with his sister? Could his sister be alive? Cope has to confront so much he left behind that summer twenty years ago. His first love, Lucy, his mother, who abandoned the family, and the secrets that his Russian parents might have been hiding - even from their own children. Cope must decide what is better left hidden in the dark and what truths can be brought to the light.

Review:
As always, I was completely unable to put down Coben's latest book. Preferring his stand-alone novels, such as The Woods, to those featuring Myron Bolitar, this book contains all the suspense and mystery one has come to expect from this brilliant author.

Coben is able to grab the reader from page one and rarely can you guess what has happened or where the story is leading, although I do think this book didn't quite have the edge that a couple of his previous books did. Nonetheless, it is still a gripping read.

The Woods was made more enjoyable with two stories running parallel throughout the book, each completely different to the other, yet leaving the reading wanting to know what the outcomes are.

For hardened Coben fans, and crime fans everywhere, this is decidedly yet another hit.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Thomas Perry - Nightlife

"…lingers in the memory and haunts the reader long after it has ended."

Synopsis:
This is a story that pits two women against each other; one a beautiful, highly manipulative serial killer, the other the detective who is determined to stop her.

The murderer changes her appearance and identity with every kill, moving from Portland to San Francisco, LA and Las Vegas, with Catherine Hobbes, Portland homicide detective, always just one step behind. As Catherine follows the evidence, she finds herself in a deadly contest with a murderer who kills on impulse and with ease, and who becomes more efficient and elusive with every crime. Frequenting bars, preying on the nightlife that inhabits them, the killer knows just how to pick the most malleable, prosperous, lonely guy out of a crowd.

Catherine must use every instinct she has as a woman -and as a detective - to stop her. She must learn how to read the murderer's mind. And she is up against a killer who turns to stalking her…

Review:
After a rather confusing second chapter which threw me slightly, the book returned to the expected storyline. Perry had a good mix of characters, gradually introducing new ones, whilst continuing to develop the existing profiles and relationships.

The story moved extremely quickly with plenty of victims soon being added to the body count. I was somewhat disappointed that although there are allusions as to the reasons why the killer was acting in this way, the true reasons or the catalyst for her behaviour is never fully explained. There was also no mention of earlier victims - or when she started to kill - which I also felt needed to be explained.

With the lack of any explanation of her past, empathy for the killer was hard to build up and, throughout the book, the reader is left simply wanting her to be caught. Often, regardless of their crime, a part of the reader wants a killer to escape but, in this case, I did not feel this at all.

Nightlife lingers in the memory and haunts the reader long after it has ended.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Andrew Nugent - Second Burial

"… a very enjoyable read."

Synopsis:
A young African man is brutally injured and staggers to the nearest house in the Dublin Mountains. He dies later in hospital. Inspector Quilligan and Sergeant Molly Power of the Irish Police Force launch a murder investigation that leads them to the community of Africans living and working in Dublin. When the victim's younger brother, newly arrived from Nigeria, tries to find out the truth, his investigations lead him into real danger. The story relates to the community of Little Africa and to racism within the wider community, but the murderer is driven by even darker and more twisted motives. The excitement and suspense continue to the last page.

Review:
As with Andrew Nugent's first book, The Four Courts Murder, this story reflects the experience and knowledge of the writer. His nine years in Nigeria have given him an understanding of the mindset and traditions of the Nigerian people, and of their interpretation of life in Ireland. His love for the people shines through the story and provides very sympathetic heroes in Jude, the younger brother of the victim, and, especially, Pita, the young boy who attaches himself to Jude.

Molly Power remains an engaging and likeable police officer and Inspector Quilligan is always entertaining, if at times a little unconvincing, (as when he speaks his mind at an international conference on the protection of children and hits the headlines).

The gentle humour of the first book remains and it is a very enjoyable read.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Sam North - The Velvet Rooms

"An impressive, if disturbing, read!"

Synopsis:
Habitués of the chat room site 'The Velvet Rooms' come together online in their respective disguises to flirt, dance and interact in cyberspace. Two of them, a disaffected American housewife named 'Fat Armed wife', and 'Call Girl' a cross-dresser from North-East England make plans for a new life together. However, the flirtatious 'Call Girl' has one last online fling with the psychopathic 'Thruster', a disastrous encounter which ends in kidnapping and murder...

Review:
This is a disturbing and highly unusual novel from Sam North.

Some of the chapters are written in internet-style chat with accompanying icons and emoticons. This works very well, by both keeping the plot moving and allowing the reader into the minds of online chat environment. There is a very disturbing chat-room sex scene which eerily foreshadows the violent events to come.

Of the two principal characters it is 'Fat Armed Wife' who most engages the reader. 'Call Girl', while initially the most interesting in the chat room becomes a more shadowy figure after the kidnapping.

An impressive, if disturbing, read!

Reviewed by: S.W.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Jeff Abbott - Fear

"The story just kept running at full throttle… "

Synopsis:
Miles Kendrick is a federal witness hiding from the mob. He is haunted by the horrifying memories of his best friend's death. While helping his psychiatrist with a mysterious favour, Miles stumbles into a murder - and an illegal medical research program that could free him, and millions of others with post-traumatic stress disorder, from crippling fears. Utterly in the wrong place at the wrong time, Miles ends up in the path of Dennis Groote, an ex-FBI agent, now turned hit man. Groote is determined to find a cure for his traumatised daughter - and equally determined to gain control of a secret drug formula worth billions on the open market. A formula that he believes Miles possesses.

Pursued by both Groote and government agents, Miles runs for his life. He draws on his old skills as a mobster's spy to survive a deadly duel of strike and counter-strike with the unrelenting and brutal Groote. Miles finds two unlikely allies: a mentally broken ex-soldier and a reclusive woman whose life was destroyed by violence. To save them all - and with one last chance to be the man he once was - Miles takes the battle back to the powerful, murderous forces who want to silence this one troubled man before he can get his life back...

Review:
This was certainly a different sort of book. Written from the perspective of someone who was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after killing his best friend and who is also now in Witness Protection after a Police sting has gone horribly wrong.

With the help of other patients and his therapist, Michael/Miles is on the run to find the truth about what happened to him before he went into Witness Protection and to save his own life and that of his new found friends.

The subject matter here was certainly strange and I found it a little far fetched at times, yet I did enjoy the humour of the book. The characters, both real and imagined (!), were well thought out and multi dimensional. The story just kept running at full throttle all the way from start to finish, with allegiances changing with every page and a really good surprise twist at the end.

A fast paced novel and well worth a read.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Chris Mooney - The Missing

"… contained plenty of surprises."

Synopsis:
This is the story of a woman who has been missing for five years, the crime scene investigator who finds her and the serial killer who wants them both dead.

When Boston CSI Darby McCormick finds a raving and emaciated woman hiding at the scene of a violent kidnap, the runs a DNA search to identify the Jane Doe. The result confirms she was abducted five years earlier and has somehow managed to escape from the dungeon in which she's been caged ever since.

With a teenage couple also missing and Jane Doe seriously ill, the clock is ticking for Darby as she hunts for the dungeon before anyone else disappears - or dies. When the FBI takes over the investigation, it becomes clear that a sadistic serial killer has been on the prowl for decades - and is poised to strike again at any moment. Could this be a killer with links to horrors that Darby has tried desperately to bury in her past?

Review:
Darby McCormick is Mooney's latest character, one who will be making appearances in future novels. With a personal reason for wanting to be a Crime Scene Investigator, Darby finds links between the case she is working on and her very reason for making this decision.

Whilst I found some of the interwoven plots perhaps a little too convoluted, it was nonetheless a book I was unable to put down. The overall storyline and final twist contained plenty of surprises.

I enjoyed the style of writing and am hoping with future books in this series that the characters and their relationships will be built up further. With this book, the author certainly left me wanting to read more of his books and to explore previously ones.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating: