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Reviews

October 2010

R.J. Ellory - Saints of New York

"Dark and intense, Saints of New York opens, quite literally with a blood bath and from there you are in the master’s hands and he’s not letting go until that last satisfying page is turned."

Synopsis:
The death of a young heroin dealer causes no great concern for NYPD Detective Frank Parrish. Danny Lange is just another casualty of the drug war. But when Danny's teenage sister is also found murdered, questions are raised that have no clear answers.

Parrish, already under investigation by Internal Affairs for repeatedly challenging his superiors, is committed to daily interviews with a Police Department counsellor. As the homicides continue - and a disturbing pattern emerges - Frank tries desperately to make some sense of the deaths, while battling with his own demons.

To complicate matters he is trying to live up to the reputation of his father, John - not only a legendary NYPD detective, but also one of the original 'Saints of New York' - the men charged with the responsibility of ridding New York of the final vestiges of Mafia control in the 1980s. Parrish struggles to come to terms with the broken pieces of his own life. But, as the murders escalate, he must discover the truth behind them before there are further innocent victims.

Review:
The freshly announced winner of the Theakston Award for A Simple Act of Violence, RJ Ellory keeps the momentum (and the quality) going with this, his latest offering.

Dark and intense, Saints of New York opens, quite literally with a blood bath and from there you are in the master's hands and he's not letting go until that last satisfying page is turned.

My reaction to the main character and how well I am drawn to his journey is always a measure as to how successful the author has been - and few work this as well as RJ Ellory. Frank Parrish is your archetypal New York detective; committed and flawed in equal measures. But Ellory injects a freshness to this by the simple expedient of drawing his character so well. Parrish is a conflicted man; haunted by the belief his father is not who the world thinks he ism but compelled to be the best policeman he can be. If that means he circumvents what he sees as a deeply flawed system then so be it. Catching the bad guy is all.

As usual in an Ellory novel the research is on the button and perfectly pitched to help propel the story along. In this case the research is being used to highlight the plight of female teenage runaways and the nefarious ends that the corrupt have for them.

Saints of New York is a novel of corruption and salvation, of the unshakable persistence needed to uncover the truth and of one man's pursuit for meaning hidden among the phantoms of his psyche.

Reviewed by: M.M.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Michael Connelly - The Reversal

"Connolly can flit from legal to police with little effort, and the courtroom drama of The Reversal will not disappoint."

Synopsis:
When Mickey Haller is invited by the Los Angeles County District Attorney to prosecute a case, he suspects he is being set up. Why should the hottest defense lawyers in the business agree to switch sides for one trial? Especially since the DA's determination to re-try Jason Jessup, a convicted child-killer who spent almost 25 years on death rown before DNA evidence freed him, seems doomed to failure.

Despite the risks, Mickey finds it is an offer he cannot refuse. Not only will the trial generate a media blitz, but as he and his lead investigator, Detetive Harry Bosch, learn more about the death of twelve year old Melissa Landy all those years ago they become convinced that Jessup is guilty - and once freed he will kill again.

With the odds stacked against him - including a defense attoryney adept at portraying Jessup as the innocent victim of a corrupt justice system and a key witness who risks having her life torn apart on the stand - Mickey knows that if this is the only case he ever prosecutes, it is one he cannot afford to lose.

Review:
Connolly seems to have Bosch and Haller working in collaboration in his books - rather than one legal, one detective - and I think this works really well. You get two very strong characters that go well together and a good mix of courtroom drama and good old police/detective work. Mix that with Connelly's brilliant plots and you have a book that you wont want to put down once you start it.

As Haller is working a case for the prosecution rather than the defense, he knows all the tricks of the trade, but there is still the question in the reader's mind as to whether the right person is being tried, and also who will win the case.

Connolly can flit from legal to police with little effort, and the courtroom drama of The Reversal will not disappoint.

Rachel Walling makes a brief appearance although I felt this was almost superfluous as she did not seem to add any value to the story and I could not really understand why she needed to be brought in. I originally thought there may have been some unexpected turn the plot took but was disappointed when this went nowhere.

This would have received a 5-star rating, but for the fact that I was very disappointed with the open ending and almost felt cheated at the end as I had so many unanswered questions...

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Peter Robinson - Bad Boy

"The beauty of Banks is that he is a very human creation..."

Synopsis:
DCI Banks is on holiday when an old friend comes to the police station looking for his help. She has discovered a firearm in her daughter's bedroom. Annie Cabot sends round a team to investigate and things go very wrong. Tracy Banks is a flatmate of the daughter and gets involved with the girl's boyfriend, Jaff.

When Annie Cabot turns up at Banks's house to water the plants, she disturbs Tracy and the boyfriend, resulting in her ending up in hospital and Tracy and Jaff fleeing through the Yorkshire countryside. Banks returns to work to find a very dangerous situation indeed.

Review:
This time Banks is confronted with some very personal and terrifying situations. As always, he is his own man, looking always to solve the crime in the most pragmatic and sensible way, with little time for those anxious to pursue their own advancement. This leads him into conflict with those anxious to make a good impression, but in the end his success at tying up the crimes leaves him in control.

His personal life is very much to the forefront in this book as he has to confront his relationship with his daughter and with Annie Cabot, both of whom find themselves in great danger. The beauty of Banks is that he is a very human creation who deals with his problems in a very human and realistic way, not always in the most sensible and sensitive manner. He is a very rounded character, with his likes and dislikes, his good points and bad.

The story is very exciting and the pace winds up right to the end. I look forward to each new Peter Robinson as I know I am in for a very good read, and this was no exception.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

David Hosp - Among Thieves

"From the first sentence you know you are in the hands of an expert..."

Synopsis:
On the night of the St Patrick celebrations in 1990, some of the world's most famous and valuable paintings were stolen from Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. They were never found, and there were no clues as to their where they had been taken – until now.

When Boston attorney, Scott Finn, takes on infamous thief, Devon Malley, as a client he gets much more than he anticipated. Not only is he asked to look after for Devon's teenage daughter, Sally, while Devon awaits bail, but his investigations into what he believed was a case of petty theft, lead him to the underworld of Boston's organized crime gangs, links with the IRA and the realisation that he may be close to solving the puzzle of the stolen paintings all those years ago.

But an Irishman who, at nine years old, saw his entire family murdered before his eyes is determined to avenge their death. He needs to bring the Northern Ireland conflict back to life and he sees the missing paintings as the perfect source of funds. His commitment to the cause is frightening and unrelenting, and he will never give up until the job is finished.

One by one he tracks down, tortures and kills the men involved in the theft all those years ago until only Devon Malley remains. But to get to Malley he has to go through Scott Finn - and he doesn't care who he uses or harms in order to get the paintings.

Review:
On the evidence of this book, David Hosp is a name to watch out for.

Among Thieves is tense, fascinating and relentless.

Hosp has brought together an intriguing blend of characters to perform on the stage of his novel. They are all believable and drawn in three dimensions, with Hosp skilfully drawing out their personalities with a well-chosen observation here and there, while never allowing the pace of the novel to dip.

Scott Finn is a character I want to see more of. He is from the wrong side of the tracks and Hosp manages to enhance this well-worn device with quick-fire dialogue and a plot that unfolds with precision and pace.

Boston is so well described that it becomes another character in the novel and Hosp has added other strong flavours with historical detail and the inclusion of the IRA and their connection to a real-life art theft.

From the first sentence you know you are in the hands of an expert and I would heartily recommend you check this out.

Reviewed by: M.M.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Shona McLean - A Game of Sorrows

"Shona McLean has returned with another high quality novel."

Synopsis:
Alexander Seaton has settled down as a university teacher in Aberdeen and is debating whether he should get married to a woman he rescued from disgrace following the birth of her illegitimate child. However his settled existence is broken by the arrival of a stranger who bears a striking resemblance to Alexander, but lacks his moral restraint. The man reveals himself to be his cousin from Ulster, a country that Alexander's mother willingly left to marry his father.

Sean O'Neill FitzGarrett needs his cousin's help to lift a curse that has been placed on his family, deadly elements of which have begun to come true. But Alexander's mother left Ulster in disgrace and while the younger generation may have forgiven old sins, other family members will never willingly accept Alexander into the family. Alexander is soon to regret his hasty decision to return to the country his mother was so glad to give up.

Review:
After the excellent Redemption of Alexander Seaton, Shona McLean has returned with another high quality novel. Moving the action to seventeenth century Ulster has allowed the author to show the close links between Ireland and Scotland and demonstrate her excellent grasp of the society and customs of both countries. It is fascinating to read about the power struggles that exist both within and between prominent families. Family feuds are nothing new in crime novel and yet here we do see how honour and pride can bring about a whole clan's downfall.

The character of Alexander Seaton is more defined in this book. We see his human frailties more clearly but also the moral backbone of the person. As he seeks to understand the life that his mother left behind Seaton is forced to recognise his own shortcomings and make decisions about his own future. There is plenty of life left in the character yet for future novels and I hope Alexender Seaton will be making a return soon.

Reviewed by: S.W.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Richard Jay Parker - Stop Me

"...is this the Internet’s version of Pandora’s Box? "

Synopsis:
When Leo's wife, Laura, disappears during drinks in their favourite bar his life comes to an abrupt halt. Not knowing what happened to his wife means Leo is obsessed with only one thing - Laura. At the time of her disappearance there were a series of murders who were all victims of the 'Vacation Killer'. Was Laura one of his victims? If so, why wasn't the same MO followed as with the other women?

Leo begins an email conversation with a Bookwalter in America who boasts that he is the Vacation Killer. With only cyber breadcrumbs to work with, Bookwalter baits Leo with suggestions that Laura is with him. Is it true or is Bookwalter another freak looking for his moment as a celebrity. As Leo becomes more involved with this mystery man who invites him to the States, events take another scary twist.

Review:
Stop Me is a gripping tale with a different angle. Having read this book it has made me think twice about the credibility of what I read on the web. For all the good the Internet has brought to the world, it has also unleashed a darker side - is this the Internet's version of Pandora's Box? The web has given a platform to many freaks and Parker has used that in this story.

I really enjoyed this novel and with a steady hand Parker leads us by the nose to a surprising ending. The communication between Bookwalter and Leo brings an added quality and menace to the plot, although I did feel the story did slump a little during Leo's visit to America. However, Parker ends his tale with a full-on finale wrapping up a very assured debut.

Stop Me is definitely worth putting on your book list.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Jeffery Deaver - The Burning Wire

"Deaver remains at the peak of his game."

Synopsis:
Lincoln Rhyme is back, on the trail of a killer whose weapon of choice cripples New York City with fear.

The weapon is invisible and omnipresent. Without it, modern society grinds to a halt. It is the electrical grid. The killer harnesses and steers huge arc flashes with voltage so high, and heat so searing, that steel melts and his victims are set afire, or subtly reconnects a few wires in one's house or office so that the bathtub, the sink, the computer keyboard, the simple desk lamp can kill.

When the first horrific attack occurs in broad daylight, reducing a city bus to a pile of molten, shrapnel-riddled metal, officials fear terrorism. Rhyme, a world-class forensic criminologist known for his successful apprehension of the most devious criminals, is immediately tapped for the investigation. Long a quadriplegic, he assembles NYPD detective Amelia Sachs and officer Ron Pulaski as his eyes and ears and legs on crime sites, and FBI agent Fred Dellray as his undercover man on the street. As the attacks continue across the city at a sickening pace, and terrifying demand letters begin appearing, the team works desperately against time and with maddeningly little forensic evidence to try to find the killer. Or is it killers....?

Meanwhile, Rhyme is consulting on another high-profile investigation in Mexico with a most coveted quarry in his cross-hairs: the hired killer known as the Watchmaker, one of the few criminals to have eluded Rhyme's net.

Juggling two massive investigations against a cruel ticking clock takes a toll on Rhyme's health. Soon Rhyme is fighting on yet another front - and his determination to work despite his physical limitations threatens to drive away his closest allies when he needs them most

Review:
Only Deaver can make something so apparently mundane and everyday as electricity into something quite so terrifying. Unlike other Deaver novels featuring Rhyme, The Burning Wire did take a little while to get going, in that there was quite a bit of technical information to wade through, but once over this hurdle the pace was non-stop.

The team of Rhyme and Sachs are back, along with their regular side kicks to solve another seemingly unsolveable crime. The relationship between Rhyme and Sachs is very much understated, but also very much a large part of the storyline as it defines the two main characters. Rhyme's health is also an issue in the Burning Wire and I do think this will be playing a larger part in subsequent plots.

The clues keep coming and this time I was sure I had guessed who was behind the attacks on New York, even if I wasn't completely sure about the motive. But as always, Deaver is one step ahead and manages to throw the reader off the scent with a few well placed red herrings to subtly lead you where he wants you to go.

A true master in the thriller genre, Deaver remains at the peak of his game.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Sean O'Brien - Afterlife

"This first novel from poet Sean O’Brien has a lyrical quality to it that demonstrates the author’s ability to create a world of tension and loss. "

Synopsis:
In the 1970s during one long hot summer, a group of four friends rent a house in the English countryside following their graduation from university. Of the four, only Susie is wise enough to realise that she cannot make a living through her art. Instead she finds a job teaching at the local college, while the other three write poetry and while away their summer in a haze of drink and marijuana. But amongst the three there is a real talent. Jane, the unassuming girlfriend of the egoistical Alex, writes poetry that has begun to be recognised by the literary establishment. This creates a dangerous tension between her and her boyfriend.

When a glamorous American filmmaker enters the group the dynamics suddenly change. Martin, the narrator of the novel watches in dismay as first friendships disintegrate and relationships implode, and finally as the group descends into violence.

Review:
This first novel from poet Sean O'Brien has a lyrical quality to it that demonstrates the author's ability to create a world of tension and loss.

The opening and closing of the book is written in the present day, so the reader knows right from the start that an act of violence will be the climax of the book. Yet O'Brien still manages to create tension as he leads us around the lives of Alex, Jane, Martin and Susie.

Much of the first half of the book deals with the group as a single entity which works well to portray the relationships that develop within its confines. However, the arrival of the glamorous Diane acts as a catalyst to magnify the existing tensions. The figure of Diane is the most problematic in terms of characterisation but also perhaps the most interesting. She is both femme fatal and a tragic victim of her own excesses.The enigmatic Jane is more clearly drawn but we never really find out why she commits her fateful act. But the repercussions of this event are shown right through to the present day and leave the reader with a sense of lost talent and wasted youth.

An excellent read.

Reviewed by: S.W.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Roger Smith - Wake Up Dead

"It simply doesn’t get more “noir” than this."

Synopsis:
It's a hot, dry night in Cape Town when gun-runner Joe Palmer and his ex-model, American wife Roxy are car-jacked, leaving Joe lying in a pool of blood. As the thieves, meths addict Disco and his sidekick Godwyn, make their getaway, Roxy makes a split-second decision that changes her life forever.

This decision brings her on a collision course with Billy Afrika, a mercenary to whom Joe owes money, Disco's prison-loving gangster “husband” Piper, a would-be African insurgent leader, and a dirty cop determined to use Roxy to escape his dangerous Cape Flats beat.

As these lives collide, old debts are settled and underscored in blood and Roxy is caught in a wave of increasing violence in this beautiful and uncompromising city.

Review:
It simply doesn't get more “noir” than this. This is easily the most violent book I've read this year, with a degree of carnage that could almost push this book into the horror genre. However, it is a violence that is germane to the characters and springs from the author's understanding of the people he is writing about, rather than violence just for the sake of it.

In Piper we have one of the most loathsome and fearsome characters I've come across in crime fiction, but he is a clearly a product of his brutal upbringing. The gang is his family; the jungle of the prison provides his life lessons. Could he have turned out any other way?

Like almost everyone else in this novel Piper is locked into a mindset of poverty, intolerance and ignorance; a mindset that could be argued is the bastard child of apartheid and an outlook that the author demonstrates continues to trouble the inhabitants of this beautiful country.

Indeed, it is this honest portrayal of the city and its inhabitants that offers some form of mitigation for the violence mentioned earlier. Each character, even the ones on the right side of the law, straddle the line between good and bad and each is vividly described giving the reader a strong sense of the physical. Roxy is a beautiful ex-model and the frivolously named Disco is described as a startlingly handsome man, but in this dark fable being endowed with good looks is no blessing and becomes the launch-point to each of these characters' troubles.


With his neat prose and breakneck pace, Roger Smith has conjured an excellent read. I'm guessing that this is not a book that the South African tourist board will be touting; it is undoubtedly a book that will place this country's thriller writers in the forefront of a world readership.

Reviewed by: M.M.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Lee Child - Worth Dying For

"...assuredly the best book Child has written for the last 5 years, if not his best ever. "

Synopsis:
Jack Reacher's last outing in 61 Hours ended with him trapped in a situation where it seemed that - even for him - escape was impossible. But Reacher has pulled off the seemingly impossible before...

In Nebraska a lone man sits drunk in a bar. Then the phone rings and a woman who has been badly beaten asks for his help. Seven men are dining in a steakhouse nearby when a stranger shows up and one man is left unconscious while another has his nose badly broken. Eldridge Tyler is a patient man who receives a call regarding the troublesome stranger. He prepares himself for a long wait with a longer gun.

Reacher is bruised, battered and hurting. He doesn't plan to stay long, but the locals he encounters want him more than gone. They want him dead. All Reacher wants to know is: what in this frightened and subdued rural community is worth dying for?

Review:
Reacher's back. Thank the Lord, Buddha, Allah, Superman - or whoever you worship. Internet forums have been ablaze with speculation about whether Reacher survived the end of 61 Hours and if he did how he survived? I know and I have to say that the reason given was as plausible and logical as you would expect from Lee Child.

Picking up a day or two after 61 hours, Reacher is back doing what he does best, namely helping innocents and righting wrongs the only way he knows how. Hard, fast and brutal attacks on an unsuspecting enemy. He does really want this fight, he's hurting and has a fixed destination in mind for once. But, as usual, he cannot help himself from getting involved when he senses an injustice. The locals are held under the power of a single family and Reacher cannot abide bullies, so sets about rebalancing the status quo.

Worth Dying For is the assuredly the best book Child has written for the last 5 years, if not his best ever. I almost had the sense that 61 Hours was only written to provide a reason for Reacher's pain at the start of this book, but to suggest so would be unfair on 61 hours as it left us with a fantastic cliff-hanger. Action comes with the regularity of the tides and as quickly as often as a wave in a storm. Mariners say that every 7th wave is a big one; they should try sailing through a storm with Jack Reacher at the helm.

No new ground is broken regarding Reacher's state of mind or emotions, although the scene is set for that to emerge in the next instalment. The Duncan family make for reasonable baddies until the very last pages and then their true wickedness is exposed. The supporting cast of the doctor, his wife and a couple of others are all well portrayed and filled their roles amply without ever stealing any thunder from Reacher. The plot works and the myriad of thugs and enforcers who are lined up against Reacher stack the odds against him even further than usual until office politics play their part. A mysterious delivery overshadows the book and keeps you guessing as to it's content.

The big standout for me when I read Worth Dying for was the way that Lee Child has suddenly upped his game to a whole new level. The trademark logic, love of numbers, devastating violence and utter fearlessness are all there as usual, but they are much better than usual. It is almost as if Lee Child has looked over his shoulder and taken serious heed of the competition for his niche of the market. Matt Hilton, Zoë Sharp and others have been closing in on him lately. He has just re-opened the gap between them and himself and if they can raise their game the way he has then the biggest winners have got to be us readers.

Worth Dying For takes a grip of you like a new born baby grips your finger, and you'll love the book almost as much as you'll love the child.

Reviewed by: G.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Kate Atkinson - Started Early, Took My Dog

"Kate Atkinson could write out the phone book and I’d revel in it."

Synopsis:
It's a day like any other for security chief Tracy Waterhouse, until she makes a purchase she hadn't ever planned making. One moment of madness is all it takes for Tracy's humdrum world to be turned upside down, the tedium of everyday life replaced by fear and danger at every turn.

Witnesses to Tracy's Faustian exchange in the Merrion Centre in Leeds are Tilly, an elderly actress teetering on the brink of her own disaster, and Jackson Brodie who has returned to his home county in search of someone else's roots. All three characters learn that the past is never history and that no good deed goes unpunished.

Review:
Kate Atkinson is fast earning a reputation as the crime novelist for those readers who like splashes of eccentricity with their murderous characters.

This novel weaves between the three unconnected characters; Jackson Brodie, Tracey and Tilly and an unsolved crime reaching back into the 1970's. Each character has a major part to play in the denouement, but as you read you can't imagine how it is all going to come together. And then with a quiet flourish Atkinson parcels it all up as neatly as the gift wrapping service in a smart department store.

The novel has a central theme of belonging and finding your place in society; Jackson is a perennial wanderer, Tracey has ever been the outcast, the archetypal woman in a man's world and Tilly who has spent a long career acting as other people veers towards senility and a crisis that has been building her entire life. Of the characters on display Tilly is perhaps the one who is most carefully and sympathetically drawn, but the one whose validity you find yourself questioning. But of course, being an Atkinson character she has a part to play, which isn't apparent until the very end.

Kate Atkinson could write out the phone book and I'd revel in it. Her prose is playful and insightful and this never has a detrimental effect on her novel's pace. She has a style with words that is completely her own and continues to inject a sensibility and breath into her characters that never fails to delight.

Reviewed by: M.M.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Stephen Leather - Rough Justice

"Stephen Leather at his very best."

Synopsis:
Vigilante London cops are beating and killing villains. Crime stats are falling, but the powers that be want Dan “Spider” Shepherd to bring the rough justice to an end.

Shepherd hates investigating cops but his bosses at in the Serious Organised Crime Agency leave him with no choice. He goes undercover with an elite team of officers at the sharp end of policing. They risk their lives daily on the capitals meanest streets. His family come under threat and force him into making some very tough choices.

Review:
Rough Justice is Stephen Leather at his very best. The whole vigilante theme of the novel is one which many have strong views on and Shepherd's own thoughts and morals are perfectly depicted as he battles his conscience. He doesn't necessarily agree with what the vigilantes are doing but he does admire the results of their actions.

Circumstances force Spider to choose between vigilante action and the legal process when his family is threatened. His solution is one that will divide opinion equally between applause and condemnation. The tone of the novel has you thinking about what is right and wrong and just how far you would personally go to avenge an injustice or attack on a loved one. I would have had a few moments of quiet reflection if I hadn't been so enthralled by such a marvellous tale.

The prose is sparkling throughout and often adds to the gritty situations to make them more believable. The vigilantes don't mind their manners and neither do the scum they attack. The plot is tight with no discernible holes through which the reader is left staring. Events confront the reader at just the right pace as the story unfolds and the major conflict within Shepherd is skilfully portrayed by an author who can mix it with the best of them. Other characters are all well depicted but it is often Spider's colleague Sharpe who steals the scene in his exchanges with their boss Charlie Button. The friendly camaraderie of the tightly knit group Shepherd has to infiltrate is wonderful and is very true to life.

Rough Justice makes you choose as to which side of the debate on vigilantism you fall. Me? I'm with Spider.

Reviewed by: G.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Zoe Sharp - Fourth Day

"The prose sparkles like a diamond under a spotlight..."

Synopsis:
A cult who call themselves Fourth Day are well funded and fiercely private. Five years ago Thomas Witney joined the cult. He sought evidence that the leader of the cult Randall Bane was responsible for the death of his son Liam. Thomas never came back.

Ex Special Forces soldier turned bodyguard Charlie Fox and her partner Sean Meyer have been sent to retrieve Whitney, whether he wants to come or not. Five years is a long time to be inside a cult and the man who they snatch is not the same man as entered Fourth Day. Whitney now claims Bane is innocent. This raises more concerns as Charlie and Meyer have to discover why Whitney wasn't snatched after six months as originally planned. Who did cause Liam's death - and why?

Spurred on by the demands of Whitney's ex-wife, Charlie goes into Fourth Day's California stronghold undercover. With her training and mindset she is in no real danger but she has her own secrets she not even shared with Meyer and Bane has an uncanny ability of cutting right through her defences and pinpointing what is troubling her most.

Review:
This was the first book of Zoë Sharp's that I have read and, as a new reader, I was entranced from the first page to the last. The pace is tremendous and never allows the reader to draw breath as Charlie is plunged from one situation to the next, be they action, emotion or confrontation scenes you are hurtled along on the runaway train that is Charlie Fox. She is a renegade, a killing machine, a person of high moral values, a person who will stand by their moral convictions regardless of the consequences, but most of all she is a delight to spend time with.

The characters are all extremely well drawn but Charlie is a joy to behold. Suffice to say, if she met Jack Reacher she would either end up marrying him or giving him the biggest and best fight he's ever had. She is not the usual girly character found in action/crime thriller's, she is not the ball busting detective who proves she's as good as the men by out-swearing and out drinking them. She is an ex soldier who happens to be female. Think Rambette not Rambo. Where her male contemparies are all macho and brooding Fox is introspective and shows her womanly side at times as Sharp draws out her feelings and fears.

The plot is assembled beautifully as there are various forces struggling for the upper hand for varying reasons all of which make sense as explained by their champions. The prose sparkles like a diamond under a spotlight and the mood can change dramatically with one of Sharp's serene sentences. I don't know where the next adventure will take Charlie Fox but there will be fallout from this one to discover.

After reading Fourth Day I was left with two unanswered questions. Why has it taken me so long to read any of Zoë Sharp's books and how soon can I get my hands on the next one?

Reviewed by: G.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

James Green - Stealing God

"James Green had invented and given his readers a character I felt was unique, stood out in the crowd of ‘detective rogues’..."

Synopsis:
Jimmy Costello, ex police sergeant, hard man and widower is now trying to amend his ways. Finding a placement in Duns College, Rome Jimmy begins to think (not necessarily feel) that he may become the sort of man that his dead wife, Bernie may have been proud of. However, there are dark forces pulling strings behind the scenes that will ensure that Jimmy the ex-copper is not allowed to be laid to rest, but must yet again come out fighting.

When Jimmy is chosen to investigate the possible mysterious death of a visiting Chinese Archbishop two years ago, Jimmy is not happy. He is made even less happy when he is partnered with a local policeman, Inspector Ricci. Trying to work within the machination of the Catholic church, Jimmy begins to see that there could be a bigger picture, one with huge implications that leave the death of an Archbishop look suspiciously like small fry…

Review:
When I picked up the first in this series, Bad Catholics, I was immediately pulled in, enraptured by the taut writing and the marvellous array of characters who were so well fleshed out in very precise, and yet simple prose. I loved it. James Green had invented and given his readers a character I felt was unique, stood out in the crowd of 'detective rogues' and was someone to keep an eye out for. Reading Stealing God re-introduces us with Jimmy Costello who even though seeking to make Priest, still isn't the most approachable of human beings. And I love this side of his nature. I don't think Jimmy is as described in Stealing God, a psychopath – a man with two halves. There are definitely 'sides' to Jimmy, isn't there with all of us? I enjoy him because he is grouchy and yet loyal to himself when he feels there is an injustice.

As for the plot of Stealing God, I felt that even the author was getting slightly crushed by the sheer weight of it. A number of times I had to flick back and forth to make sure I had got the right end of the stick and some of the explanations could be very convoluted. The premise of Stealing God is more 'spy' based than crime – and I felt that when in Rome do as the Romans do, which is obviously have long discussions about God. Mr. Green obviously has a few issues to get off his chest via Jimmy Costello's mouth. I felt that any 'issues' were handled better and more deftly in the previous novel than here. That said, it was good to see Jimmy again and I hope that his next case will be worthy of his powers of observation and sheer grit – with a dash of his loveable obnoxiousness throw in to the bargain.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Ruth Rendell - Tigerlily's Orchids

"Rendell’s novels always transcend the mere ‘crime’ novel."

Synopsis:
The newest tenant of Lichfield House, Stuart Font has decided to throw a house-warming party and invited all the people in the building and some across the road. He has also grudgingly invited his girlfriend, Claudia, but not her cuckolded husband. The night will be one that all the local residents will remember for a very long time – and for all the wrong reasons.

After the disastrous party, the self-obsessed Stuart picks up his shattered ego and begins a fantasy with the young Asian woman across the road who speaks little to no English and is chaperoned by someone who Stuart believes is her 'wicked Uncle'. As his vanity begins to make Stuart believe that he can begin life with this girl he knows next to nothing about, events take a serious and deadly twist. It is only then that the true nature of 'Tigerlily' and her co-habitants are realised.

Review:
With every new Ruth Rendell novel you don't really know what you are going to get - and that can only be a good thing. After over forty years of writing novels, this prolific writer can come up with another triumphant story that grips until the very end. I am not saying that all her efforts have been worthy - The Rottweiler still makes me nauseous. But with Tigerlily's Orchids, Rendell is back on solid ground that she knows is her 'metier'; a group of people living literally on top of one another, trying to lead their own existence but that existence always encroaching on other people's lives. She did this perfectly in A Demon in My View. It is this 'overlapping' that Rendell does so well and with such studied craft.

Rendell's novels always transcend the mere 'crime' novel. She gives people lives, fleshes them out and makes some caricatures and others people you can identify with. Olwen who wants to simply drink herself to death is a marvellous creation – her sad decline is never pitiful and yet is almost totally planned by Olwen herself. You can feel that Rendell herself enjoys dishing out a come-uppance or two on her own creations – and some of them definitely deserve it.

I wouldn't say this is totally vintage Rendell – I still believe this author reached her zenith in the eighties/early nineties with The Killing Doll and Asta's Book, but this is definitely a strong novel. I heard the entire novel on CD which was brought to life by the marvellous actor, Nickolas Grace, who I believe supplied an extra depth to the story with his seductive narrative.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating: