November 2010

Martina Cole - The Family

"Cole is elegant, yet brutal at showing the façade of humanity and then ripping it away, showing the beast that lies beneath the skin."

Philip Murphy is a man who believes in family, but only until they cross him. He is utterly devoted to his wife, Christine, and his two young sons. He would do anything for them. All he asks for in return is love and respect from Christine and those closest to them – the family.

Having fallen in love with Philip and the Murphy clan, they appeared a safe haven compared to the controlling mother both Christine and her father had come to despise. But all Eileen ever wanted for her daughter was not to end up in the same place as herself, scraping after every penny and feeling she had married beneath her. But her obsession is her undoing and leads her daughter to take up with and quickly marry Philip Murphy. And so, Eileen herself soon has to step in line, despite the disappointment she feels for her daughter.

As the years roll by and as Christine turns from a young, naïve girl to a woman and mother, she sees the man she fell in love with is no angel – in fact he is a vicious monster who will do anything to maintain his position of power. But this kind of legacy is always handed down from father to son and as the years move on Christine sees her sons move within this violent world. Will she simply stand idly by on the sidelines or is she willing to take up arms and fight to keep them out of prison or even worse: dead?

People ask me why Martina Cole is such a huge bestseller. Normally they haven't read any of her books and my standard reply is to read one and then they will find out why this woman writes such extraordinary books that obviously touch a nerve or manage to tap into a part of the human psyche of the reading public. For me it is her fascinating portrayals of charming men with their good looks and patter that could charm the birds from the trees or woo the girls into their beds. Cole is elegant, yet brutal at showing the façade of humanity and then ripping it away, showing the beast that lies beneath the skin.

As with pretty well all her books Cole always introduces a strong woman who maybe downtrodden and dependent on drugs but can find that spark of determination to battle the beast that threatens her and her young. For me, another brilliant character was Philip Murphy's sister, Breda, who appeared to have bigger balls than most of the blokes in this book. And it was not difficult to read this book in double-quick time - with chapters only a few pages long, some only a single page, you found the story whistling past you like a rocket. I felt this format worked brilliant for this story and hope the author will do the same for subsequent novels.

Possibly because of her Irish/London roots Cole has always been big on family, the good and the bad side being given their equal side of the story. The image of Breda waltzing into Christine's kitchen with her grandchild under one arm and a shotgun under the other is enough to make anyone shiver with astonishment. This juxtaposition of the innocent and the guilty, a new life under one arm, the taker of life under another that for me, is another reason why Cole's writing must be given more credence. She is a chronicler of our times and one who does not mince her words. 'The Family' is a stunning novel. If you have never tried her writing, I urge to to dip into this novel. But tread carefully, or you may feel that Martina herself is pressing the diamond-encrusted stilletto heel of her Manolo Blaniks into your throat!


Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

John le Carre - Our Kind of Traitor

"One of the great delights of Le Carre is the feeling he engenders of being an insider. "

The tale starts in Antigua where Perry Makepiece, an Oxford don with ambitions to do something useful, and his beautiful barrister girlfriend, Gail, are spending a holiday, relaxing in the sun and playing tennis. They encounter Dima, a large Russian bear of a man, who professes a strong desire to pit his skills against Perry on the tennis court. He does, however, have an ulterior motive. He wants Perry and Gail to be his introduction to the British Secret Service, for whom he has an interesting proposal.

Dima is a strange mixture of violence and sentimentality, and his language varies from brutal to mawkish. He is a hugely rich member of the Russian mafia who has achieved his great wealth from being the best international money launderer around. He has fallen out with the big bosses at home and is in danger of losing his life and fortune at their hands. Perry and Gail are dragged into the intrigue with some reluctance, but also with a sneaking desire to get involved.

The story moves from the West Indies to Paris, to Switzerland via London involving British agents, Russian gangsters and the unfortunate family of Dima and the two innocents abroad, Gail and Perry.

One of the great delights of Le Carre is the feeling he engenders of being an insider. The descriptions of the machinations of the Secret Service and the struggle of the old timers against the new politics and influence of the banks all ring true. He has moved his focus from the old cold war politics to the new influences of post Soviet gangster capitalism and the effect the changes have on those who remain in the Service who hold it as dear as family and religion. The old guard are clinging on in the shape of Hector Meredith, but some of the new guard such as Meredith's sidekick, Luke, are still devoted to the Service above all.

Perry is representative of the new 'in' society as he is from an ordinary background and makes good at Oxford. His girlfriend is also not from the top drawer socially but is suitably clever and beautiful. These two are involved in the intrigue almost by accident, but are ambivalent about how much they want to be involved.

Dima is a complex character. He is obviously seriously criminal but has a passionate love for his family that endears him in a strange way to Gail and Perry. His family are extraordinary and it is their attraction that involves Gail in the dangerous actions that ensue.

Le Carre reveals the plot gradually step by step and it takes some time to realise what is happening. To start with I found this intriguing, but I think it did make the beginning a bit slow as it was difficult to see where it was all heading.

There were several references in the book to current news stories such as the Open Tennis final in Paris, won in grand style by Roger Federer, and more intriguingly a meeting on board a luxury yacht owned by a very rich Russian with politicians and influential society members.

There are some exciting descriptions of evading the Russian killers and British agent Ollie is in the best traditions of spy books as he is universally prepared and equipped with everything needed to escape.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

John Grisham - The Confession

"With Grisham, the story always goes to the wire..."

An innocent man is about to be executed.

Only a guilty man can save him.

For every innocent man sent to prison, there is a guilty one left on the outside. He doesn't understand how the police and prosecutors got the wrong man, and he certainly doesn't care. He just can't believe his good luck. Time passes and he realises that the mistake will not be corrected: the authorities believe in their case and are determined to get a conviction. He may even watch the trial of the person wrongly accused of his crime. He is relieved when the verdict is guilty. He laughs when the police and prosecutors congratulate themselves. He is content to allow an innocent person to go to prison, to serve hard time, even to be executed.

Travis Boyette is such a man. In 1998, in the small East Texas city of Sloan, he abducted, raped, and strangled a popular high school cheerleader. He buried her body so that it would never be found, then watched in amazement as police and prosecutors arrested and convicted Donté Drumm, a local football star, and marched him off to death row.

Now nine years have passed. Travis has just been paroled in Kansas for a different crime; Donté is four days away from his execution. Travis suffers from an inoperable brain tumor. For the first time in his miserable life, he decides to do what's right and confess.

But how can a guilty man convince lawyers, judges, and politicians that they're about to execute an innocent man?

Grisham deals with a myriad of issues in The Confession, from the moral dilemma of execution of those found guilty of crimes, corruption within the police and politics, and individuals 'doing the right thing' even if it means they themselves are breaking the law.

Set less in the courroom than some of his previous novels, The Confession loses none of the drama. With Grisham, the story always goes to the wire and as an author who doesnt always go for 'happy ever afters', I was unsure as to whether the man about to be executed for a crime he did not commit would be saved in time with the confession from the real killer. But if you want to know... read the book!

By the end of the book, all loose ends had been neatly tied and all questions but one answered; and that was why Boyette ever decided to confess in the first place to a crime he had got away with for years. His character did not strike me as particularly altruistic nor did he seem to be troubled by a conscience, so why the sudden need to confess? This, in my opinion was never answered.

That said, another great read from Grisham and a welcome return after what seems like a long break.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

James Lee Burke - The Glass Rainbow

" good as anything Burke has ever written and you are quite simply swept up and away in the race to the finish."

When Dave Robicheaux gets the call saying his ex-partner, Clete Purcel, is in jail for felony assault and resisting arrest, bailing him out is instinctive. After all, Clete is the man who saved Dave's life by carrying him down a fire escape with two bullets in his back. But Clete's latest escapade isn't just worrying because it shows his demons are gaining the upper hand; it also brings some of those demons into Dave's life, in the most personal way possible.

The man Clete assaulted, a big-time pimp and meth dealer called Herman Stanga, is a suspect in the murder of a series of young women - but his criminal activities are hidden behind his involvement in the St Jude Project, a charity aimed at getting young women off the streets. As Dave probes the charity further, he finds that its main sponsor is a man called Kermit Abelard, the smooth-talking scion of a wealthy family, and a man whose motives Dave instinctively mistrusts. He also happens to be Dave's daughter Alafair's boyfriend...

It's fair to say that they don't come much better than James Lee Burke. For me a new novel from this wonderful writer is an event worth ticking off in anticipation on my calendar. If he is new to you then boy are you in for a treat; if you are already a fan you'll be more than satisfied by this latest offering.

The usual elements are here for your delectation: the sumptuous descriptions of the Louisiana bayous, the strength of the friendship between Clete Purcel and Robicheaux, some of the sickest bad guys you'll ever meet and a plot that bewitches from the very first page.

In the first half of the book the pace is measured as the author becomes elegiac about the ecological backdrop, regularly comparing it to the Garden of Eden and demonstrating how man is poisoning it.

The last half of the novel becomes more involved with the killer and catching him before he hurts any more young women. Here the actions scenes are as good as anything Burke has ever written and you are quite simply swept up and away in the race to the finish.

What you have here is quite possibly is the darkest Robicheaux novel yet. Not only does his family come under immediate threat, as they have done in the past, but Dave Robicheaux is ageing and feeling it. At several points in the novel he sees a 19th century steam paddle-wheeler emerge from the mists on the Bayou Teche, complete with crew and passengers who signal to him to come on board. This becomes symbolic of Dave's mortality and a clever device that has the reader worried this might be the last we ever see of this fantastic character.

Does Alafair become a victim of a serial killer? Does Dave survive despite his overwhelming feeling that he is about to get lost forever in the mists? You'll just have to read The Glass Rainbow to find out.

Reviewed by: M.M.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Ward Larsen - Fly By Wire

"...there are few real jaw-dropping moments. "

A brand new C-500 aeroplane plummets from 6 miles up and crashes into central France killing both pilots. The C-500 was equipped with new "fly-by-wire" technology and was supposed to be the future of air freighters. There are over a hundred C-500's in use around the world, which means that the authorities have to discover why this one has crashed, and fast.

French officials take over this investigation and they want the best team possible - so the call goes out for Frank "Jammer" Davis. Davis is a retired U.S. Air Force fighter pilot and is now part of the National Transportation Safety Board's "go team." With a reputation for getting things done regardless of the opposition, Jammer begins to dig.

As Davis is just beginning his investigation, the crash moves off the front pages as oil refineries across the globe are targeted by suicide bombers. The knock-on effect of this plunges stock markets and governments into disarray. Davis keeps relentlessly working away at his own investigation, but soon uncovers a connection between the plane crash and the terrorist attacks. This is a conspiracy of unthinkable consequences which Davis may not be able to prevent.

Larsen introduces a new twist to the whole detective novel genre here, simply by bringing us to an area of investigation which we all know about. I, for one, have never heard of a novel where the hero or main character is an air crash investigator for the NTSB, which sounds far more glamourous than a DS in Solihull or even a Captain in LA. Davis is your stereotypical blunt object investigator who rides rough-shod all over the investigation's principal, one Thierry Bastien. Yet Davis does not really want the job; he would rather be at home arguing with his daughter, Jen, over her Prom date.

"Jammer" Davis is joined on the multinational investigation team by Anna Sorenson and Ibrahim Jaber. Jaber was one of the code writers for the "fly-by-wire" software. Each plays a vital part in the search for why the plane crashed but neither is what they seem. On the other side of the coin are the mysterious Caliph and his assistant, come go-between, Fatima, who is a marvellous creation and is the subject of the funniest line in the book.

Do not be fooled though, this is a Jammer Davis book and he railroads his way past, through or over anyone who does not follow his way of thinking. His logical processes are a joy to discover as he explains things as adeptly as Lee Child does with Reacher. Yet he is not the usual hard-drinking bitter cliché he could so easily have been. He is a family man at heart and while he still mourns his wife, he loves his daughter and desperately wants to get back home to her.

The pace of the novel is neither sedate nor overly frantic. It merely gathers you up and carries you to the safety of the last page. The language used to describe intricate systems is never over technical and is easily followed. The whole writing style of the book is first class and often eloquent.

The plot is very cleverly worked out and has enough twists and turns to keep us all guessing although there are few real jaw-dropping moments. Having inside knowledge from his background as a pilot and aircraft investigator has given Ward Larsen an authenticity that many other authors would have struggled to achieve or take months to research properly. I sincerely hope that we see another book about Frank "Jammer" Davis soon as Fly By Wire is a terrific thriller.

Reviewed by: G.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Barbara Erskine - Time's Legacy

"...if you want a change from detectives, DNA and modern day policing then this is your book."

In present-day Cambridge, Abi, a recently ordained priest of the Church of England, is appointed to a notoriously difficult parish. The priest in charge is the charismatic but fundamentalist Kier. He objects to her mysticism; her practice of healing in particular. When she sees a vision of a congregation in an old church, Kier accuses her of witchcraft, but Abi soon sees more visions; an entire Roman family history, dark with betrayal and a promise of bloody revenge. With foreboding forces building up to violence, Abi must battle the approaching terror along with her own personal demons, drawing upon the expertise of Druidry and shamanism from a questionable source.

Erskine has an ability to make history interesting to those who, like myself, tend not to read factual historical text books; bringing to life the past and the people who lived hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago. To me this is her strength. In fact, I find her weakness when she writes in present day as often the female characters are complete opposite to those depicted in the past in that they are weak and irritating! Whereas the females from the past are strong leaders and generally non-stereotypical from those times. Times Legacy is no different.

Abi is yet another character who I failed to like, but, as always, with Erskine, it is with the historical writings that she excels. And this is the part of her books that keeps me coming back for more as I have been hooked after reading her first ever book, Lady of Hay. Every part of the story has been well researched and whilst some of the story that is set in the past is questionable, the fact is it could have happened. That certainly gives the reader food for thought.

This book offers a slightly different slant on the standard murder mystery. But if you want a change from detectives, DNA and modern day policing then this is your book.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Henry Porter - The Dying Light

"...he country is moving towards a dystopia of Orwellian proportions."

When Kate Lockhart attends the inquest into the death of her former lover, David Eyam, she is looking for answers behind the terrorist attack that claimed his life. Can the man who, before his fall from grace, was head of the UK's Joint Intelligence Committee be simply an unfortunate victim of a random attack? Questions soon emerge at David's funeral and Kate is shocked to find that she has been named as David's heir. But a final letter to Kate from David does not appear to be all that it seems. Kate is convinced that he is trying to send her a message from the grave.

Kate, who has her own experience of working for the intelligence services, soon realises she is under surveillance. Her former lover was threatening to reveal a scandal at the heart of government and there are those who will stop at nothing to ensure that all of David Eyam's secrets die with him.

The Dying Light was short-listed for the 'CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger' 2010. Political thrillers can be a difficult genre to write well. Plots can sometimes be either too simplistic or be so convoluted that the reader is left scratching their head in disbelief.

In this new thriller by Henry Porter he manages to avoid the most obvious traps. The plot moves on at a brisk pace, with the events surrounding the terrorist attack shown in retrospect through a coroner's inquest. Moving the narrative between political London and rural Shropshire works well, allowing the tension to rise and fall and showing the extent to which the society has been corrupted.

The plot is set in the near future which is initially confusing. Overseas readers, for example, may be under the impression that this high level of surveillance is indicative of modern day Britain. But as Henry Porter explains in his afterword, he does believe that the country is moving towards a dystopia of Orwellian proportions.

The characterisation is well thought out and the politicians in particular are well portrayed. Despite the relatively happy ending, the book leaves a chilling feeling of the extent to which those in power can assert their authority for their own means. Recommended.

Reviewed by: S.W.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Jeff Abbott - Adrenaline

" of the most aptly named books I have read. "

Sam Capra is living the life of his dreams. A young American in London, he has a perfect flat, a perfect job with the CIA and a perfect wife, Lucy - who is seven months pregnant with their first child.

But one sunny day, it all goes up in flames. Sam receives a call from Lucy while he's at work. She tells him to leave the building immediately, which he does - just before it explodes, killing those inside. Lucy vanishes, and Sam wakes up in a prison cell.

Why did Lucy call him? Was she a loving spouse or an enemy operative? Is Sam's unborn child safe? Adrenaline coursing through his veins, Sam enters a frantic race to save his life and discover the truth about those he thought he knew so well.

Adrenaline is one of the most aptly named books I have read. There is not one page where the pace is slower than break neck speed and the action falters for a moment.

The main character, Sam, is searching for his wife and child after a bombing in his London office, leaving him as the sole survivor and all fingers point to him. As with many of these kinds of plots, Sam needs to find out what is happening and who he is up against. But that is where the similarities end. A mix of espionage, human trafficking, scientific research, spies and people who are double crossing each others for reasons yet to be identified, keep Sam, and indeed the reader on their toes trying to work out who will help him and who is out to get him.

A very cleverly written book that I consider to be his best yet. Despite being quite a long book (400 pages), not one word was wasted.

Definitely not one to be missed. I look forward to meeting Sam in Abbott's future novels in this series. He is a strong character who still has plenty of depths to be discovered.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Michael Dobbs - The Reluctant Hero

"Thought provoking, scary and utterly enjoyable."

Harry Jones is a politician with a history as a tough, resourceful soldier. His wife was rescued from a burning boat by his colleague, Zac Kravitz. This debt remains even after his wife's death six months later. When Harry is informed that Zac is in prison in the republic of Ta'argistan after insulting the President by dallying with his wife, he feels obliged to repay the debt and try to free Zac. He calls in a few favours by asking to be included in a government trip to Ta'argistan. Also on the trip is American Martha Riley, known for her tough talking and actions.

Initially there is mutual distrust, but eventually they work together towards freeing Zac. Martha displays amazing resourcefulness and courage, whilst Harry reverts to type and faces almost impossible odds with cold ruthless efficiency and killer instincts.

The other members of the delegation also have ulterior motives in joining the group, which Harry exploits in order to achieve his ends.

Above all this is a gripping, exciting and totally engrossing read. Harry Jones is in the mold of the hero who can achieve the impossible by virtue of his tough mental and physical strengths. His ruthlessness in pursuit of a goal only adds to the attraction. Added to this is the insider information that Dobbs brings to the workings of MPs and parliament and you have a fascinating, escapist read.

Ta'argistan is a believable and scary creation. The similarity to several existing states is close enough to frighten us. The power of the internet in altering the actions of the state is bang up to date with echoes of the actions of groups of young activists in Iran and Russia.

Thought provoking, scary and utterly enjoyable.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Peter James - Dead Like You

"One of the leading lights of British crime fiction, Peter James delivers the goods once again."

New Years Eve at the Metropole Hotel in Brighton: a woman is brutally raped upon her return to her room. A week later another woman is sexually assaulted. The connection - both had their shoes stolen by their rapist.

Detective Superintendent Roy Grace quickly makes the connection between these cases and a series of unsolved rapes dating back to 1997. The perpetrator known as “The Shoe Man” had raped four women and was suspected in the disappearance of a fifth. Is this a copycat or has The Shoe Man returned?

As more women fall prey to rapists, Grace becomes more convinced than ever that he is chasing a man who has eluded him in the past. Soon Grace and his team are racing against the clock to identify and save the new fifth victim.

Roy Grace is back and his latest adventure is everything you could hope for. There are multiple suspects and James carefully depicts each one's experiences in a way that keeps the reader guessing as to the identity until the very last page. This is achieved with a subtle blend of language, nuance, red herrings, false arrests and a sting in the tail so sharp it draws blood.

As ever with an author of this calibre the prose is perfectly pitched to the scene and the moment. The depiction of events and atmosphere is such that if he describes a cold wind, you give an involuntary shudder. The book has a steady pace throughout before rising to a high-drama finale.

Painstaking research has obviously been done, although I now have a mental picture of him walking round a woman's shoe shop making notes when any other man would be looking at the door with longing. It is this kind of attention to detail that makes his books so very good.

The characters are all very compelling and draw upon the reader's emotions at the author's whim, whether he wants you to be happy for them, sad, afraid or repulsed by their actions - you just are. Roy Grace is as endearing as ever and it is refreshing to see a lead character who not only holds such a high rank but actually has a happy home life, instead of the usual broken marriage, alcohol dependency and despair of many of his contemparies.

Yac was a character I liked and the acerbic and politically incorrect Norman Potting is a joy for any Gene Hunt fan.

One of the leading lights of British crime fiction, Peter James delivers the goods once again.

Reviewed by: G.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Tom Cain - Assassin

"Cain’s greatest achievement is, as ever, his understated knack of making the preposterous not only believable but utterly, inescapably logical. "

A crooked financier dies in a car crash.

A bomb explodes in a busy hotel.

A gangster is poisoned.

The evidence all points to Sam Carver.

The new President of the United States promises to end the global slave trade. The world's most powerful traffickers want him dead and it looks like Carver has been hired to assassinate him. Carver swears he is out of the game. These days his work is in protecting people, not killing them. Somebody is setting him up and he has to find out who is trying to destroy him.

Carver ends up being hunted by the US Secret Service and MI6, he is alone and on the run and the only way he can clear his own name is to find out who his imposter is and stop them from taking a shot whose echo will be heard all around the world.

Tom Cain is an author who is scaling the heights of espionage/action thrillers like a mountaineer with a point to prove. From his first outing with “The Accident Man” right up to the last page of Assassin he drags the reader through wonderful conspiracy theories, all-out action, high drama and a gentle moment when putting emotions to his characters.

His style of writing is a sparse prose which lets the reader determine some facts for themselves as he has a knack of saying a lot with very few words.

Chapters are served up in bite-size chunks and are so moreish that before you know it, you have gorged yourself and the cupboard is as bare as the last page of the book which you have just devoured.

Carver's evolution as a character is an interesting pathway, as his training and experiences give rise to paranoia and mistrust in even the most benign situations. Thor Larsson makes a welcome return and the arch enemy from Carver's past is a fantastic example of what can happen when the army train the wrong people. He is devilishly psychotic and yet has devised a method of assassinating the President; something the real Secret Service will have to now take very seriously.

The plot is the usual helter skelter adventure, ranging across many countries as Carver fights the bad guys whilst on the run from the authorities. There are double agents, spies, red herrings and false clues along the way for Carver to battle and the reader to try and out-guess. Cain's greatest achievement is, as ever, his understated knack of making the preposterous not only believable but utterly, inescapably logical. I still think that his explanation of who was behind Diana's murder was the best piece of conspiracy I have ever read.

Sam Carver will invariably be compared by some to the likes of Jack Reacher, Charlie Fox, Joe Hunter and others. If you are not a Carver fan already and like the aforementioned then it is only a matter of time before Tom Cain also adorns your bookshelves.

Reviewed by: G.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Don Winslow - Savages

"...laced with dark humour, the action is tight, controlled and utterly believable and the dialogue is so hip it feels that Winslow is setting the trend. "

Part-time environmentalist and philanthropist Ben and his ex-mercenary buddy Chon run a Laguna Beach-based marijuana operation, reaping huge profits from their loyal clientele. In the past when their turf was challenged, Chon happily eliminated the threat. But now they may have come up against something that they can't handle - the Mexican Baja Cartel wants in, sending them the message that a 'no' is unacceptable.

When they refuse to back down, the cartel escalates its threat, kidnapping Ophelia, the boys' playmate and confidante. Ophelia's abduction sets off a dizzying array of ingenious negotiations and gripping plot twists.

Don Winslow is quite simply one of the most individual and engaging voices writing in crime fiction today. With this ferocious narrative, Winslow fuses the themes of "The Power of the Dog" (2005), his epic account of the U.S' never-ending war on drugs, with the stylish syntax of his surf-detective novel "The Dawn Patrol" (2008) to produce something exhilarating and new here in Savages.

At a remove the characters may appear one dimensional: Ben, the do-gooder, the pacifist, the son of two psychiatrists with a desire to fix Third World countries all on his own; Chon, the army vet of Iraq and Afghanistan who suffers from PTLOSD ("Post Traumatic Lack of Stress Disorder"); and Ophelia or “O”, the blue-streaked blond they both love who shops constantly to compensate for the lack of attention from her mother.

Then comes the shift in the plot: the Mexicans show they mean business. They kidnap O while she's on a shopping trip at the mall – where else? From then on, the novel gathers pace like a runaway train. Every cliché and idle probability Winslow sets up is then torn apart, as women are shown to be the main provoker, drug thugs double as caring family men and Ben's stoner views on peace and love disintegrate in the face of his desperation to see his friend/ lover safe.

The book is laced with dark humour, the action is tight, controlled and utterly believable and the dialogue is so hip it feels that Winslow is setting the trend. We need to get the word out there; Winslow deserves to be one of the genre's favourite sons. Buy a copy and demand all your friends do so as well.

Reviewed by: M.M.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Brian Freeman - The Bone House

"...just when I thought I had worked out what had happened, Freeman threw another twist into the story."

A teenager murdered. A teacher accused. A secret that won't stay buried.

A year ago, accusations of an affair with a pupil cost Mark Bradley his teaching job. Now the student's sister has been found dead and Mark faces a hostile town convinced of his guilt. Hilary Bradley is determined to protect her husband, but digging into the girl's secrets proves dangerous. Her only ally is a quirky Florida detective named Cab Bolton.

As the facts emerge about the murdered girl's past, Cab's suspicion grows that others are involved in her death. But there are people willing to kill to keep the truth hidden - and to make sure Mark pays the ultimate price for a young girl's murder. Hilary and Cab are both outsiders in a place that doesn't trust strangers and they're running out of time to find out what's buried in the ashes of the past

Freeman is one of those authors that consistently delivers a good read, book after book. With another standalone novel, The Bone House is as good as his previous books and keeps you turning the pages.

With a 6 year old crime opening the plot, the book goes from strength to strength and I found it impossible to work out who the killer was. The characters were in the most part interesting and not the usual run of the mill and had quite a bit of depth to them. At times I did question loyalties and wonder if they were misplaced. And just when I thought I had worked out what had happened, Freeman threw another twist into the story.

Brilliantly written and very fast moving. An eclectic mix of characters and an exciting storyline that will ensure you wont want to put this one down.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Chris Kuzneski - The Secret Crown

"Part action, part mystery, part intrigue and ALL entertainment."

Bavaria 1886: The government declares King Ludwig II to be insane and removes him from the throne. The next day his corpse is found floating by the bank of Lake Starnberg. Rumours abound as to the cause of the tragedy, yet few know why the eccentric king was murdered and the secret he took to his grave.

Germany, The present day: Hidden in a freshly discovered Nazi bunker are crates containing documents stamped with Ludwig's insignia – The Black Swan. At the request of a friend, operatives Jonathon Payne and David Jones fly to Bavaria to protect the documents and are pitched into a fight for survival where they have to uncover Ludwig's secret or face his fate.

Kuzneski's books tend to follow a similar theme. Part action, part mystery, part intrigue and ALL entertainment. Think Rambo meets Indiana Jones meets Lethal Weapon and you're about halfway there.

The wise cracking friends, Payne and Jones, wind each other up in the way that only truly close friends can. Each of these two characters is strong enough to carry a novel themselves, but when they are teamed up they create one of the best literary partnerships in the genre. They are as good together as Hunter & Rink, Fox & Meyer and of course Pitt & Giordino.

Nothing is allowed to halt their dual mission of protecting a friend and solving an ancient mystery. Support in their quest comes from arms dealer Kaiser, historian and archivist Petr Ulster and tour guide Heidi.

Some may say that these characters are little flat and one dimensional, I would say that if you want fast paced action/adventure thrillers, then you cannot have personal angst and emotive moments as well, there has to be compromises between the different genres. In-depth emotion slows down action whilst hard boiled action diminishes the depth of empathy we feel for characters. You may not shed a tear or feel for the characters but I'll bet you turn the pages quicker.

The plot is a finely balanced, with action and explanation in measured quantities. which drives the story forward at a frantic pace. The chosen subject matter is intriguing and almost had this hard-boiled fiction fan wanting to read a (shudder) non-fiction book about King Ludwig. What more can I say than that? Only one thing; if you want a fast, funny and informative story - read Chris Kuzneski.

Reviewed by: G.S.

CrimeSquad Rating: