Thursday 29 November 2012

Steve Robinson

A new story from Steve featuring his genealogist Jefferson Tayte.  These just keep getting better!

The Last Queen of England   The Last Queen of England

My review -

American genealogist and man of mystery Jefferson Tayte has a rather different and much more personal assignment in this latest book.  Steve Robinson has previously given us a past and a present narrative, woven together with great skill, but this time the action all takes place in present day London.  His friend Marcus Brown has been tracing the families of five people hanged in the reign of Queen Anne and JT and a history professor friend of Marcus Brown’s become embroiled in the spin-off, potentially fatally.  It’s wonderful to get closer to the true feelings of our ‘loner’ hero and to feel his passion for his subject and for his friend Marcus. We also feel him grappling with his own insecurities, his shyness, his social ineptitude, as he warms to a new friend.

Steve Robinson takes a slightly different tack with this new book in that he takes the reader through a historical puzzle which is intriguing and complex.  His story telling abilities are as sharp as ever and JT doesn’t work this job alone.  We are introduced to an intelligent and feisty companion for this story.  We are in the realms of major conspiracy theory here – and I do love a conspiracy theory.  It’s not the sort of puzzle with a pat answer and we have loose threads left at the end which hint of further intrigue to come.  I, for one, can’t wait!

Wednesday 28 November 2012

David Wailing

This short book of two stories and a few 'Drabbles' - ultra shorts, has rather a different feel.  The two main stories are told by youngsters - and very convincingly too!

Fifth Season   Fifth Season

My review -

This is a short book comprised of two (longish) short stories and a few ‘Drabbles’ – one hundred word super-shorts. Fifth Season is the first of these longer stories and is set a little way into the future. It begins with a near-global panic and we follow it through the eyes and the understanding of a 9 year old boy – one with a particular interest and intelligence. Nineteen Seventy-Steve is set in the past. Mostly! Those of us who remember the 1970s will find a sudden smile twitching our faces as we recall television programmes, adverts and the like. The drabbles are especially intriguing. It’s quite a feat getting a ‘story’ into 100 words.

David’s writing is usually unfussy, modern, I might almost say suave. Here it is very different. He accurately speaks in a young boy's voice and persuades us to believe it’s a child telling us the stories. Have you ever listened to a youngster telling you something s/he’s excited about and said ‘Slow down, take a deep breath and tell me again.’? It’s a bit like that. The story comes excitedly, phrases trying to leapfrog over one another, in a convincingly child-like way. All in all, it’s very well done. 

Monday 26 November 2012

Beverley Carter

Beverley usually publishes novellas and I'm quite a fan of her writing.  She has an ability with surprise endings and she's at it again in these short stories.

Tales of Strangeness and Harm  Tales of Strangeness and Harm

My review -

This collection of short stories is prime Beverley Carter in that she can create a situation of which the reader cannot predict the ending. I do love surprises! Each of these stories, some featuring rather unpleasant characters, has a twist in the tail and will leave you smiling, nodding and thinking, 'I didn't see that one coming!' It's always difficult with a collection of stories, to choose a favourite and in this group I have several. I found the story of the Millefiori paperweight quite unexpectedly creepy at the end. The story of the laboratory cat, First Filial, tells of a lab technician who doesn't feel sufficiently stretched in his job and takes on a project of his own. The final tale, A Box of Fudge, also finished with a shiver.

I very much enjoy Beverley's style of writing and these 'tales of the unexpected' didn't disappoint me. You can read a story or two here and there, or do as I did and read straight through for an evening's entertainment. Excellent!

Saturday 24 November 2012

Alex South

Alex South is a writer of short stories and this first collection I've read was seriously good.  The themes were imaginative and unusual and I often didn't know where he was going with them.  I'll read more!

Seven Stories High  Seven Stories High

My review -

This collection of seven short stories is extremely imaginative and very unusual.  The endings of some are quite thought provoking and one or two left me thinking, ‘What happened there, then?’  This in itself is not a bad thing.  I’m not a reader who wants to be spoon-fed a lot of pre-chewed pap.  I am more than happy to re-read a good story.  The first story, possibly my favourite, is Copy and Paste, which asks what would happen if one or more exact copies of you were to appear in your home?  The way the author considers and resolves this is really interesting.  Each of the stories had its own merits and was considered in a fairly unusual way. 

The stories contained here are written in an engaging and mature style and take rather unusual directions.  I have never read anything else of Alex South’s though I understand this is one of a proposed series of short story collections.  I highly recommend this and will look out for more by this author.

Thursday 22 November 2012

Will Macmillan Jones

This second book in The Banned Underground series is a cracker.  I enjoyed it more than the first - and I enjoyed that!

The Mystic Accountants-(Banned Underground)  The Mystic Accountants (The Banned Underground)

My review -

This is the second book in the Banned Underground series.  I found it a better read than the first – and I loved that one.  Maybe the author was getting into his stride – maybe I was getting into his style?  The wonderful multi-species Banned (including bog troll, dwarf – now even a dragon!) are on a mission to acquire a new throne for the King under the mountain.  Then they’ll have the ultimate gig in the hall of the mountain king!  The Mystic Accountant, meanwhile, has big things in his sights, beginning at the Welsh Assembly.  Typical teens Chris and Lynda with their atypical aunt Dot are chasing the sect who kidnapped their uncle while the route of the whole quest is strewn with distressed frogs.  You’ve really got to read it to get the benefit!

This is a ‘must read’ for anyone who loves fantasy, anyone who loves a laugh.  I think Will Macmillan Jones’ default setting is ‘funny’.  The writing style is easy, conversational, accessible and, did I say funny?  We get to see the Banned’s play lists too, and I have to say, I rather fancy attending one of their gigs – especially if they can manage to hold it at a beer festival again.  Many fantasy lovers adore a series, a saga, and are disappointed to find stand-alone books.  If you’re one of these, look no further.  This series, with its trail of distraught frogs, will run and run, I hope.

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Ian Ayris

Ian's latest book, a novella, will not take you long to read but it will stay with you for much longer.


My review -

This book will no doubt lose readers from the start due to its uncompromising use of ‘bad’ language.  I hope they will not be deterred from reading what is a very emotive story.  It sets the scene for a man who is an enforcer, a hit man, for a gang boss. He is tough, not afraid of violence, but almost has a ‘secret life’ in that he is fond of literature and loves Shostakovich.  He has a surprisingly cultured outlook for a thug.  He is also obsessively concerned with buying his daughter Sophie a birthday present.

This is a moving account of a man on the brink of desperation.  If you can take the style of language you will be moved beyond belief by the content.  I found it a totally gripping read.

Sunday 11 November 2012

Marianne Wheelaghan

Marianne's latest novel is very different from The Blue Suitcase. 

Food of Ghosts  Food of Ghosts

My review -

Louisa, a Detective Sergeant, goes to the Gilbert Island of Tarawa as a European Commission trainer.  She was born on the island and lived there till she was eight, when she moved with her family to Edinburgh.    While there, she is face with a murder and a huge amount of frustration.  The police have no radios, there is no SOCO service and the mortuary freezer’s broken, still awaiting a part.  Her frustration is compounded by the archaic views of her male colleagues and the cultural differences between people in her Scottish home and those on the island.  She is faced with bullying, monstrous injustice and some very nasty expatriates.

This is one of the quirkiest detective stories I’ve ever read.  The situations Louise finds herself in are funny, infuriating and completely gripping.  There’s the magic of the island with its family centred culture and the mystery of the increasing body count.  The character of Louisa, with her deep sense of justice, her mild OCD and her extended island family to complicate matters, is surely one we must see again.  Marianne Wheelaghan is a great story teller and she’s created a potential series here.  This is a hugely enjoyable book, complex and engaging, and I hope there will be more of the same to come.

Saturday 3 November 2012

Andrew Barrett

The Third Rule

This is not so much a trilogy as a story in three segments.  At the time of writing, only Part 1 is available but I believe the second and third parts will be published within a day or two.   
This story is utterly gripping and stays in the reader's head.  It's impossible to conceive of reading another book between these.  I have a deep hunger for the second and third parts.  You can find out more on Andrew's website -

The Third Rule Part One: Atrocities   The Third Rule Part One: Atrocities

My review -

Eddie Collins is a Scenes of Crime Officer with problems.  His wife has thrown him out because of his drinking and his young son has died in a hit and run accident.   One of Andrew Barrett’s great gifts is that of being able to get ‘into the head’ of his characters and we know that Eddie feels responsible for his son’s death; he should have been with him at the time but was hung-over.  We get inside his estranged wife Jilly’s mind as she grieves with anger and sorrow for her family life and her young boy.  The government has brought in a new Justice Act which allows for Capital Punishment for murder (The Third Rule).   One of the proponents of this act is covering up for a son who is responsible for 2 hit and run deaths.   There is evidently corruption in high places.

This book is an exciting read:  the author writes very well and tells a complex but convincing story which is nevertheless easy to follow.  There are several strands cleverly woven together and for me, the story never dragged.  Andrew Barrett is an intelligent and articulate author.  He is so good at empathy and we feel with his characters.  I love his writing style.  Down to earth dialogue is interspersed with brilliantly crafted descriptive prose.  I can’t believe a mainstream publisher isn’t paying this man to write books.  The Third Rule is beyond good; it’s excellent!

The Third Rule - Part 2: Running Scared

The Third Rule. Part 2: Running Scared   The Third Rule Part Two: Running Scared

My review -

In this continuing story, SOCO Eddie Collins is the author of much of his own misery. His drinking has alienated his wife and his young son is dead. His wife blames Eddie for this. His drinking pal, failed journalist Mick, is on a final warning with his job and turns up some information which implicates the son of the man who has driven through the new Justice Act – Sir George Deacon. Eddie’s wife offers to take him back into the marital home but he fears being thrown out again within a week. He is given the job, with his work partner Ros, of analysing the car which killed his own son.

This is an exciting story of a man trying to save himself and find the killer of his child. It is also the cleverly woven story of a number of others for whom the family of Deacon are pivotal. Andrew Barrett is a skilled story teller and knows his stuff with police procedurals. He is excellent at building up tension in a story and at making you care about characters who appear to be heading for self destruction. There is an emotional depth and richness here that elevates the book above the common run of crime fiction. I so want it to end well for Eddie yet at times I find him a very unprepossessing ‘hero’. Can he prove who killed his son? Will the corruption at the heart of government be revealed? Andrew Barrett makes you think; he makes you feel. I really look forward to seeing how this trilogy ends.

The final part of this book is a triumph. I'm absolutely up in the air with excitement about it. It's so much more than a crime thriller. It goes deep into human nature, both the good and the bad, and will chime within every reader.

The Third Rule. Part 3: Sacrifices  The Third Rule Part 3: Sacrifices

My review -

In the final part of this intriguing and gripping tale, Eddie Collins and his alcoholic friend, aging journalist Mick, finally make some headway in finding out who killed Eddie’s son in a hit and run accident. Drop-out artist Christian is being framed for the murder of his girlfriend. The justice system is falling apart but no-one will take any hard evidence into consideration. Eddie and Mick find the evidence that Sir George Deacon, Minister for Justice, is guilty of ordering murders to protect himself and his career. Can Eddie make sure justice is done?

This final volume in the Third Rule trilogy is an absolute corker. The writing is masterful and convincing, evidence unwinds before us and the story is involved but coherent. It’s a masterpiece! How I wish I could write like this. I was totally emotionally engaged with this story, especially in this, the final book. Andrew Barrett is a writer of enormous skill and talent and I have thoroughly enjoyed everything of his that I’ve read. You could measure this ending on the Richter scale. This is an awesome book and I totally recommend it.