Friday, 23 March 2018

Average Bloodthirsty thriller

Lee Hunter 14 years old lives at home with his mum, his dad having departed. Mum works long hours as a nurse to compensate for the drop in income. This offers Lee the opportunity to go adventuring with his best friend Charlie Finch. One afternoon they decide to go exploring crossing a nearby river in a flimsy rubber dingy. The following morning the boat has vanished and the boys have no choice but to swim for home. A disaster occurs and Lee sinks to the bottom of the river where an out of body experience see him transported back in time some 30 years.

In this bygone era Lee has been transformed into a teenager known as Paul Collins and has his first painful experience of meeting a young very evil Daryl Finch, Charlie Finch's father. The elder Finch sets about tormenting, and finally destroying the Paul's family because they refused to give him money to set up his own business which in his twisted mind they should have done as he is married to Susan, Paul Collins sister. (I hope you are following this dear readers as it is a little confusing!) The purpose of this transition in time is to instil in Lee how important it is to understand the evil that is Daryl Finch and to eradicate that evil when he once again travels forward to the present. Daryl Finch is truly depraved, anyone or anything who obstructs him he will wipe out. His wife Susan is being systematically  destroyed, and tortured by him and events soon reach a bloody conclusion when Lee and Charlie are apprehended  by Finch. Can Lee fulfill his destiny and stop the destructive Finch thereby restoring some normality to his young 14 year old life.

What an odd story that seems to spend most of its narrative describing in great detail the gory, plundering murdering rampage that is Daryl Finch. Although this is a novel set in the UK it has a strange American feel both in its language (always referring to policemen as Cops) and location which resembles a rural southern USA. The time travel aspect helped in the overall atmosphere but even that at times was confusing. Quite an enjoyable read showing a world where evil is always present but balanced against this is the importance of friendships and family, with always the hope that goodness will prevail. Many thanks to the good people at netgalley, and the publisher Bloodhound books, for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Hang on for the ride!

The great thing about being a member of netgalley is the opportunity it offers to the avid reader to explore genres and authors that would have otherwise have passed him by. Equally it gives new authors the chance to reach out to a much greater audience when hopefully their books will receive a warm welcome. I thought The Cyclist was an excellent example of an exciting story that kept me captivated from first page to last and all in one sitting! Not bad for an author whose writing I had only just what's it about?

Judd almost became a navy seal, his friend and mentor Burt "cleaver" worries about him following an incident with live ammo during a field training exercise..."Whatever made him think he was a SEAL material, God only knew".... Judd in his own mind is a washed out failure spending his time cycling and surfing the net in the hope?..........Cat is the answer to his dreams an online companion who finds him funny outgoing and personable, the fact that she lives in Glasgow and he in Minnesota is but a small problem. Judd makes the decision to take out his meagre life savings and make the long journey to Scotland hopeful and confident that Catrina is the love of his life. What follows is an exciting thrill a minute tour de force as Judd tries to comprehend the complex Cat as they journey and cycle north of Inverness in the harsh yet beautiful Scottish countryside. To disclose more would spoil the delights and gruesome pleasures that await you dear reader of my review! I will only add that "Cleaver" shows the meaning of true friendship, and Cat will need to explain to an infatuated Judd just what her relationship with Alistair is?

Many thanks to the good people of netgalley for sending me a gratis copy of The Cyclist in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written. Highly Recommended.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

A world of heartache and pain

A sad deeply moving short story from one of my fav authors Kealan Patrick Burke. Stephen Brannigan and his wife Lexi are mourning the tragic loss of their daughter Robin. Unable to comprehend this life changing event both parents have resolved to live apart and deal with the grief in their own particular way. Stephen is tormented by dreams and visions and finds comfort with an old blanket that used to adorn Robins cot. Lexi living with her parents reaches out again to Stephen and the two once again find comfort in each other's arms.

An unforeseen event occurs that throws the healing process into confusion and Stephen in his utter despair seeks out the market trader who sold Lexi the baby blanket as he is convinced this is the route of all evil and the cause of his despair. But is Stephen suffering a mental breakdown? Can we believe his narrative? Stephen purports to love and worship his wife and daughter but can we trust his mental state?..."I may have lost my mind for a time, but grief makes everyone crazy. Losing someone makes you lose yourself, makes you yearn for the impossible"....

A beautiful, uneasy and difficult to read short novel by Kealan Patrick Burke. As with so much of his writing the emotion and sadness is laid bare for all to see.... " you must try to get on with things or the grief will destroy you. You must put away the reminders of loss to have any hope of surviving."......"I feared that when Robin died, Lexi buried me right alongside her."...."The seasons were changing and the house was old attuned like arthritic bones to alterations in temperature."..... The ending expertly complimented the themes of loss and heartache and it would appear that nothing could save the Brannigan family as they..."went to lay with the Goddess of Grief. Recommended.

Harry has an off day

Harry Bosch is called to the scene of a murder on the "Overlook" a high location in LA which offers stunning views of the city of angels. It soon becomes apparent that renowned physicist Dr. Stanley Kent was shot twice in the back of the head, all the marks of a professional killing. Very quickly the FBI are involved  in the form of Bosch's on/off lover Rachel Walling. It would appear that not only is this a murder scene but a hazardous  radioactive element "cesium" remains unaccounted for presumably stolen when the physicist  was executed. What at first was thought to be a simple homicide has evolved into a serious security issue and both the FBI and the LAPD must rush to contain an emerging national emergency. If there is one thing that angers Bosch it is having to share an investigation with other government agencies. As a maverick investigator he views with suspicion the actions of others and questions why not only the FBI but Homeland Security should "muscle" in on his turf!

As a long time admirer of the writings of Michael Connelly I must admit to be disappointed in this the 13th outing of our irascible hero Harry Bosch. He is much more comfortable (and so is the reader) when he is examining incidents peculiar to LA. Once the FBI and Homeland Security takes charge of this possible major chemical contamination, Harry is always playing catch up. Nevertheless, and almost unbelievably, it is Harry who from a single piece of evidence is able to resolve the matter by simply acting on his own intuition. What is the significance of Dr. Kent's wife? Why has a small yet potentially dangerous amount of the chemical been stolen? Is there an ulterior motive behind the theft?

This is a relatively short novel and even though I never felt comfortable with the storyline Connelly's writing, descriptions and his knowledge of this diverse colourful city always makes for enjoyable reading. There are some great secondary characters; Harry's new partner Ignacio (Iggy) Ferras who Harry refuses to call by his preferred name..."See you there, Ignacio Bosch said. Harry, Ferras said, I told you. Call me Iggy. Everybody does" Then there is the comical figure of Captain Don Hadley, affectionately know to his fellow cops as Captain Done Badly, who sees himself as a type of John Wayne figurehead.."The rest of you warriors mount up! We're going in." And lets not forget those wonderful descriptions...."Past the dam the city spread out in a blanket of a million lights, which shimmered in the cool evening air like floating dreams."........"The gray had not yet chased all of the brown out of his hair but it was getting close to victory."....."We are all circling the drain, he thought. Some are closer to the black hole than others; some will see it coming and some will have no clue when the undertow grabs them and pulls them down into the darkness forever."....

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Outstanding Nordic noir

Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdottir is very close to retirement and she is not sure if this idea makes her feel good. When she is called to the office of her immediate superior Magnus because "We need to have a little chat about your situation" she is not sure what to expect. It seems her noble boss is eager for her to leave so that her replacement "a real high achiever" can take over her job and a deadline is set for two weeks. In fact the arrogant Magnus is eager for her to depart immediately but .."On full pay, of course" Refusing to be intimidated and not wishing to retire early she eagerly grasps at a throwaway comment made by Magnus..."But you, well, you could always look into a cold case, I suppose. Anything that takes your fancy. How does that grab you?."....The pompous Magnus will live to regret his decision and as Hulda revisits again the unsolved case of refugee Elena "She had come to a foreign country in search of refuge and only found a watery grave. And nobody cared."....she will unravel a murder that was never properly managed, and in the process question the original investigation.

The primary officer in the case Alexander did not suspect murder and closed his findings on a suicide verdict. But DI Hulda questions why a young refugee would take her own life when she had just discovered that very morning her asylum application had been approved. Clearly something had been missed. Magnus had hoped that this old case had been put to rest and he is most unhappy that Hulda is "making waves" and causing problems when she should be retired. We learn of Hulda's traumatic childhood, the tragic events surrounding her daughter Dimma, and the truth concerning her much loved husband, Jon, who died suddenly from heart failure some years ago. Against all this trauma and the approach of a lonely retirement looming ever closer "Retirement was something Hulda had never mentally prepared for.".....she meet Petur a retired doctor and the hope for future friendship, even love, now seems a possibility. Very soon DI Hulda puts herself in mortal danger as the net on the murderer closes and the events that unfold will stay in the memory of the Icelandic police force for many years to come.

This was an astounding tale beautifully told and  has made me appreciate the great contribution that nordic crime has made over the last few years. Ragnar Jonasson is a very proficient story teller making a simple tale sparkle against the cold Icelandic landscape..."full of hidden volcanic craters and clouds of steam, scarred by the violent forces at work beneath the earth's crust here where Iceland straddled the divide between two continental plates".... I so hoped that Hulda could now find the contentment she so deserved especially as Petur held forth the hand of warmth and friendship. The conclusion of this story was totally unexpected yet brilliantly executed, to reveal more would spoil the enjoyment that awaits you dear reader of my review! Many thanks to the publisher penguin and netgalley for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written. A fantastic piece of storytelling brilliantly told and highly highly recommended.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Intimate and soul searching

The mood of the book Midwinter Break and the content actually had the effect of making me question the longevity and even the purpose of marriage. Is it for companionship? Is it for love? What happens when that love loses through time its spontaneity, its freshness, and those little traits you once adored in your partner now appear as an irritation, an annoyance rather than a pleasure.

Gerry and Stella have embarked on a short break to the city of Amsterdam. This is a place that on the one hand is steeped in architectural magnificence and yet is more renowned even recognized for it's tolerance of escorts and prostitutes who brazenly advertise their trade in "rosse buurt" but better known to tourists as the red light district.

Gerry and Stella approaching the twilight of their years present to the readers as a loving couple comfortable in each other's company enjoying the good and bad of this colourful capital. As a retired architect Gerry has an immediate connection with Amsterdam and both can certainly appreciate the history and horror, the open wound that is The House of Anne Frank. Gerry possesses an alcoholic's desires and need to be constantly refueling with Ireland's most famous export; Jamesons blended whiskey. Stella has begrudgingly accepted this weakness viewing this as part of her husband's failings, but is this trip to Amsterdam Stella's opportunity to break free and discover within herself some inner peace and contentment before her body and mind succumbs to the ravages of time. A type of religious community, an order of women living "useful and happy independent lives"... appears to offer the redemption and release she craves, but would they accept her?

At the airport waiting for the flight home Stella tells Gerry that she does not wish to remain in their marriage any longer and on returning home to Scotland the flat will be sold. We learn of a traumatic incident that happened to Stella many years ago and her staunch support of the catholic church which Gerry views as..."Inflexible, narrow, capable of doing terrible damage by her adherence to rules and systems."..... Yet Stella views her relationship with the  church as a support helping her cope in those dark times..."Mass is the most precious thing in my life. It's the storyboard of how to get through."..

This is a very powerful, soulful, intimate tale showing the effects and damage that a long term relationship can have on the parties involved. In some ways this book presents itself as a depressing read, yet cannot it also offer hope? Relationships, and love within a marriage change, people need to be aware that as we grow older the way that we interact with our surroundings and the people we love the most never remains or indeed cannot remain the same...."What was love but a lifetime of conversations. And silences. Knowing when to be silent. Above all, knowing when to laugh".... Midwinter Break is informative, enjoyable and highly recommended

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Brutal and powerful in its execution

The mid 70's to early 80's was a time fraught with danger in Northern Ireland. As an expat living and working in England I am well versed to understand the mindset of the various embattled groups that continued to carry on a war of attrition not only against the so called enemy (police and army) but equally against each other and if you happened to be of the wrong religion residing in the perceived wrong locality intimidation was an everyday occurrence.

Cal McCluskey and his dad were a catholic family living in a predominately protestant locality...."he could not bear to look up and see the flutter of Union Jacks, and now the red and white cross of the Ulster flag with it red hand.".... Cal was often the target of insults, taunting, and intimidation, but he tried to ignore, picking up his Giro on a regular basis and hanging around street corners, ripe pickings for paramilitary scouts. So he helped with the "cause" and when needed would act as a driver for his fellow republicans Crilly and Skeffington. With so much free time, and little hope of a job in this divided land, he was often to be seen perusing books and cassettes in the local library where one day he notices a new woman behind the counter. What follows is a beautifully written  story of a love affair that is doomed to failure from the start. Cal holds a secret that if revealed to Marcella would end their relationship as he is torn between loyalties to his friends and honesty to his lover.

The language and descriptive prose of the author reminded me of the many years I lived in a country riddled with hypocrisy and bigotry....."the weight and darkness of Protestant Ulster, with its neat stifled Sabbath towns.".... "people were dying everyday, men and women were being crippled and turned into vegetables in the name of Ireland. An Ireland which never was and never would be."....."I like the look of Donegal where nothing grows. Beaches, bogs and mountains."......"The parade led by Evangelists screaming about sin and death and damnation."....

The ending when it happens is unexpected and sudden in its execution and brutality but I felt that it suited so well the time and events in such a deeply divided community. Highly Recommended.