Click a logo below for more information...
 
 

Reviews

March 2009

Karen Campbell - After The Fire

"Both the beautifully observed details and the sensitive understanding of relationships are outstanding. "

Synopsis:
Jamie Worth has just qualified as a firearms officer and is called out on his first shout to a domestic disturbance where it is thought that someone might have a gun. Without strong supervision, Jamie ends up shooting dead a young girl. He is devastated and the subsequent court case and his imprisonment take him, his wife and family, and friends into a very dark place indeed.

His ex-lover Anna Cameron is away in the United States on a course which she hopes will lead to a more permanent job stateside, when she hears of Jamie's arrest. She still holds fond memories of him and this attachment affects her new relationship.

Jamie's wife, Kath, is struggling to hold her family together as well as dealing with the aftermath of Jamie's fling with Anna. When Jamie is finally convicted of murder he is sent to Barlinnie prison where he has to deal with the treatment meted out to ex-policemen as well as his own distress on shooting the innocent girl. He comes to believe that the incompetence of his superior has been covered up to save his career - despite the calamitous effect on Jamie.

Review:
The vivid descriptions in this book are so powerful that the pictures remain with the reader long after finishing the book. The horror of Jamie's incarceration and his dealing with both the demons within and the monsters without are so clearly described that it has an immediate emotional impact. The manner in which Jamie grows to the point where he realises that he is stronger mentally than the inmates who persecute him is very revealing.

Jamie grows up during this story and comes to realise the strength of those relationships which matter to him, and the weakness of those friendships that only survive in easy times. Anna is a loyal friend to Jamie and uses her determination and skill to help him. At the same time she begins to explore and understand in part her own emotional make up. Both the beautifully observed details and the sensitive understanding of relationships are outstanding.

This is not a comfortable read. The subject matter is very violent, but it is a most satisfying book that uses the crime genre to explore relationships and life in a most revealing way.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Alex Gray - Glasgow Kiss

"DCI Lorimer is that rare thing, a happily married detective hero."

Synopsis:
Glasgow Detective Chief Inspector William Lorimer is concerned over a missing toddler snatched in broad daylight. This is always a worrying event, but when another girl, this time a teenager, disappears, Lorimer is stretched to the limit.

Accusations have been made that the missing teenage girl, Julie Donaldson, has been raped by one of her teachers, the gentle and popular Eric Chalmers. The Press latch on to the fact that he is the RE teacher at the school, and the staff at the school are divided in their support for him. Lorimer's wife, Maggie, is a teacher at the school and cannot believe Chalmers is guilty, but even she has the occasional niggle. Pressure grows to find out the whereabouts of the girls...

Review:
The background to this story is extremely well researched and completely authentic. As an exiled Scot and ex secondary school teacher, this reader, for one, was there. I completely loved the detail of school life, staffroom interactions and the description of Glasgow folk. The young man who changed into the vernacular when he spoke to different people was a small touch that just rang true.

DCI Lorimer is that rare thing, a happily married detective hero. In this book, his wife becomes a more important player as the teacher of Julie Donaldson and close colleague of Eric Chalmers. The relationship between them is interesting as they work out how their support for each other works alongside their professional integrity. It is a pleasure that they manage to do this.

The plot itself is interesting and completely up to date, with resonances of the disappearance of Madelaine McCann and the impact of the influx of European students and workers. The problem of mental health issues in the community is also raised.

All told this was a very enjoyable, contemporary and thought provoking book.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Jo Nesbo - The Redeemer

"Another exciting and fascinating read from one of our Fresh Blood authors."

Synopsis:
A dramatic shooting of a Salvation Army Officer at a Christmas concert in Oslo is allocated to Harry Hole's team to investigate. Harry is feeling somewhat isolated as his boss and sometime defender, Bjarne Moller, is retiring from the force.

Although Harry has been instrumental in unearthing a gun running corruption racket within the police force, he is not flavour of the month with many of his colleagues. He is still struggling with his drink problem and is no longer with his girlfriend, although he still keeps in touch with her son, Oleg.

There are currents of unease within the ranks of the Salvation Army, as a violent death is discovered amidst the drug takers they work with and there is a strange connection to a contract killer from the Balkans. Relationships and characters are not always as they seem. Harry finds himself in danger as the plot unfolds. He develops a respect for his new boss, and the final surprising twist of the story involves his old boss...

Review:
Harry Hole is a determined and focused cop for whom the apprehension of the villains is paramount. At the same time he is a troubled individual who lives hard and drives himself so much that his private life suffers. In this he is like many of the favourite detectives of crime fiction - Rebus, Morse, Wallander and many others. However, Hole has an additional problem in that he has also been fighting crime within his own force. This emphasises his loneliness and isolation. His vulnerability is what makes him an attractive character and engages our sympathy. You want to know what happens to him, whilst despairing sometimes at his actions.

As well as the character of Harry Hole, Jo Nesbo throws a light onto the underworld of Oslo and the tensions existing in the fictional group of the Salvation Army. A psychological slant on motives and actions is also explored.

Another exciting and fascinating read from one of our Fresh Blood authors.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Robert Wilson - The Ignorance of Blood

"This is a sensitive and satisfying exploration of the way Javier moves on. "

Synopsis:
This is the last book in the Inspector Javier quartet, set in Seville. Inspector Jefe Javier Falcon is called in when a suitcase containing millions of Euros is discovered in a car involved in a massive crash. Both drivers are dead and suspicions of Russian Mafia connections make big waves in the establishment.

A vicious and violent war for ascendancy develops between different factions of the Mafia. A bomb attack in Seville involving religious conspiracy, a brutal murder of one of Javier's contacts, connections with a long time friend turned spy and the kidnapping of someone close to Falcon are all inter-related and push him into making some difficult and life changing decisions.

Review:
Inspector Javier is an introspective detective who has experienced psychological problems in the past and is now reviewing and re-evaluating his life as a detective. He has a sensitive understanding of people and is committed to deep and satisfying relationships both romantically and as a friend. These come under strain as a result of his deep involvement in his work and ultimately he has to choose which life he wants to pursue. This is a sensitive and satisfying exploration of the way Javier moves on.

There are some graphic and horrific descriptions of the violence with which Inspector Javier lives and the plot moves on at a pace and demands attention. Set against the background of romantic and day-to-day Seville, which is described in beautiful and evocative prose, this is an excellent read.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Stieg Larsson - The Girl Who Played With Fire

"...enthralling until the end."

Synopsis:
Lisbeth Salander has adopted a new persona. With new surgical implants in her breasts and a multi million dollar bank account she is keen to forget her past and enjoy the benefits of her newly affluent lifestyle. But her past is not so easily disposed of. Her official guardian, the psychotic Nils Bjurman is seeking revenge for her treatment of him, in particular the crude tattoo he now has on his body. In addition, the original owners of the money that she has appropriated want it back.

Everything comes to a head when she becomes the sole suspect in a triple murder inquiry. Forced to go into hiding, only the investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist believes her innocence. But Blomkvist unearths some unsettling facts about Lisbeth that forces him to reassess his belief in her innocence. Has she been dragged unwillingly into these murders or has her search for vengeance culminated in violence and death?

Review:
In this sequel to the award-winning Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Larsson picks up the story of Lisbeth Salander and her violent past. The character of Salander, although fleshed out in the first novel, is given more depth here. We find out the reason behind her mistrust of people and her obsessive behaviour. What's more, she becomes a more ambivalent figure than in the first book. Whereas her initial behaviour towards her guardian can be seen as meting out rough justice in response to her abuse, in this novel some of her actions are less easy to condone. Mikael Blomkvist's character, however, remains consistent. Although his private life continues to be complicated he maintains a touching belief in Lisbeth's innocence even after everyone else has given up on her.

The pace of the novel is at times patchy and is extremely slow at the beginning. However, after the killings the pace picks up and is enthralling until the end. The conclusion of the novel stretches the credulity of the reader further than anything that I have read recently. However this is still an enjoyable read and highly recommended.

Reviewed by: S.W.

CrimeSquad Rating: