Sunday, May 13, 2012

Review of Where Bodies are Buried by Chris Brookmyre

Note the slight difference in this title. Author is calling himself, Chris, not Christopher. Are we to understand he wants us to use his pet name or is it something else?

No, I think its the fact that this is more a crime novel than his previous tales and he's playing with his readers just as Iain Banks does when he writes sci-fi and includes a middle initial, M.

Anyway, it took me a while to get to reading this, a year or so after publication. Main reason being that I missed out in the initial cut price deal from Amazon and it seemed to be taking forever to come out in paperback which is unusual for Brookmyre when so many of his books were originally published in trade paperback form and didn't make it into hardback.
The paperback was due out in June but I managed to pick up a reasonably priced second hand copy on the Amazon marketplace. Ironically enough this was sent from the US!

Enough background! To the story.
This is a simple bad cops/gangsters and villains/private detective mystery.
Not so simple when you try to remember which gangster is in which gang but at the end of the day this is not hugely important.
Initially, there are 2 strands. One involves DSI Catherine Mcleod, DS Laura thingy who are investigating the killing of a notorious gangland drug dealer. The other has Jasmine and Jim Sharp involving in private investigations in a number of areas. Just after the start though Jim Sharp disappears and Jasmine, despite her PI naivity, tried to find out what has happened to him by looking into is ongoing work. In the course of this she encounters Tron Ingrams who turns out to be a reborn gangland fixer called Glen Fallan. Somewhat mysteriously, he helps her out in lots of ways.
The plot is fairly fast moving and twists and turn a fair amount but not so much that we get completely lost although I did think the author got lost once of twice in the east end of Glasgow.

Why do authors include real places in their books but then make up fictitious neighhourhoods? Here its an area called Gallowshaugh. Is it for fear of being sued by unhappy residents in such an area. Find that a hard one to believe. Or is it then what's there isn't good enough for their story?

Quibble aside, I thoroughly enjoyed this departure from the usual satirical crime that Brookmyre writes and won't be waiting so long to read his latest which is due out next month.

8 out of 10.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Review of Phantom

Review of The Phantom – Jo Nesbo

Been a few weeks but I can’t be inspired by the Barcelona Milan Champions League tie so I thought I’d write a wee review of the latest Jo Nesbo, Harry Hole book.

First up, spoiler alert. To give my opinion there’s certain facts about this fact which will appear in my review. So if you don’t want your reading enjoymemt spoiled, look away now.

All safe now?

Well, this book is quite sad for me. Why? Well unless Nesbo believes in zombies, this is Harry Hole’s final case and given the nature of the case and the facts of the murder this is very sad.

However, that doesn’t detract what is a very well plotted story that cracks along a swift pace and makes you turn the pages and move on quickly. In fact, it only took me a couple of intensive day’s reading to put it to bed.

The book starts with the viewpoint of a rat trying to get past a dead person to feed its babies in its nest which is blocked off by that person. This is a bit strange and ultimately rather pointless.

That aside we encounter Harry returning from his Far East sojourn. We’re not sure why but soon learn that his former lover, Rakel’s son, Oleg is being held for the murder of his drug buddy, Gusto in a drug fuelled shoot out.

There are all manner of subplots involving airline pilots, Russian gangsters, bent policemen, randy big chested politicians and desperate rats!

Most of these are good reading but some ultimately fail the way they kind of fade away.

However, none of this detract from the rattling, good plot and the fact that a lot of flab that made the Leopard a bit tiresome is missing. Although some would say that this could still have been slimmed down.

That said the saddest thing about this story is that Harry is retired off in a very final way making it a book end to what has been a very entertaining, stimulating series.

I read recently that a film versions of The Snowman is in production and that Headhunter is about to be release in this country in the cinema. This is all very good news for those that can’t get enough of Jo Nesbo’s fast paced, riveting writing. I for one look forward to what he has in mind for the future.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Review of Dead Man's Grip by Peter James

Wow, second review in as many weeks! Well, thought it was about time to write something about the addicitive Roy Grace written by Peter James.
I started reading the 'Dead....' series featuring the much harassed, Detective Superintendend, Roy Grace a year or so ago. I was totally gripped by the first volume and soon had it finished in a couple of days. This lead me to seek out the other titles in the series and now finally, I've just finished Dead Man's Grip which is the 7th title in the series. This was just published last year, so I'm guessing we'll have to wait a wee while for the next one because he writes other fiction too.

This story was a bit different to the others, in that its starts off with a road traffic accident when a cyclist is knocked off his bike by white van man into the path of an oncoming artic, ending up losing his leg, innards and dying on the road. This in itself is a nasty thing to happen to anyone but doesn't really make a complex crime novel, such that Mr James is famous for. No, the main guts of the story follow on from this. The most unfortunate aspect of this is that the victim of the accident is an American who is studying in Brighton and just happens to be related to a mafia family in New York. Click! As soon as they hear, a contract is put on the 3 people who were involved in the incident although 2 of them were there by happenstance.
Unfortunately, Carly Chase, who swerved to avoid the bike tests positive for drink from the night before and the truck driver has been driving for too long without a break. Obviously, they caused Mr Revere's death!

So the book is a procedural following Roy Grace, Glenn Branson and the rest of the team who feature heavily in the earlier books, trying to find and catch the contract killer. This guys, Tooth, is a psychotic american vet who takes his job very seriously and ultimately does escape but not without being stoppped mid crime.
For me the tension wasn't really as taut as it could have been and the key event/clue which brings Grace and Branson to the final scene, Shoreham Power Station, is a bit tenuous. But hey that's what happens. Another continuing sub plot, the search for his estranged wife, Sandy, is more developed here and obviously, James will be bringing this to a head possibly in the new book. This is because, Grace's fiancee, Cleo is pregnant and it turns out that Sandy also has a son who just might be Roy's!
It would be good if this was developed for TV and I'm quite surprised it hasn't been...yet!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Review of Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallade

Hello out there readers!
Hope your well. Thought I'd have another go at posting book reviews. This'll be the first for some time so if I'm a bit rusty, sorry!

Alone in Berlin is a recently published, "rediscovered" German novel originally published in 1947. I put rediscovered in parenthesis because it was never really lost, it just wasn't translated into English until now. The story is fictional but based on a true case that occurred in Berlin during the war.

The story concerns an ordinary, working class German family, the Quangels, who are coping with wartime Berlin and the privations of a Nazi led Germany. The husband, Otto, is a carpenter who is foreman in a factory that manufactures coffins. His wife, Anna, is a supportive, caring wife who puts up with Otto's ways. They lives in a tenement building occupied by a mixture of characters who feature at various point through the book.

At the outset, Otto and his wife, while not officially members of the Nazi party, do not have any major problems with the Nazi party machine. However, that all changes when their son, Ottochen is killed in action in France (Book starts in 1940). Otto at this point reassesses what is happening around him and realises that he is very unhappy and would like to do what he can to voice his opinion about the the war, propaganda and anything associated with the Nazi machine.
He decides he will write postcards and leave at various public locations to be found by people.

Over the next couple of years he writes over 200 cards which apparently are mostly handed by the people that find them because they are afraid of being caught with such seditious material in their possession.

Eventually, they are caught by their nemesis, Inspector Escheriche, a Gestapo officer, who despite all cliches written about this organisation, who comes across as a very sympathetic character who is more interested in detection than the Nazi party.

Through this chase, various characters, who are venal, greedy, criminal and nasty drop in and out of the tale and give it a gritty, seamy taste. It is the Quangels who bring a bit of humanity and warmth to the plot.

Overall, this is a very interesting slice of German war lift which is lifted from the banal by an unusual act of rebellion which actually occurred. It is sad, violent and full of pathos. The ending ultimately is one of hope.

The background of the author is also worthy of a book in itself. It seems he had major issues with substance abuse and was institutionalised with mental health problems for parts of his life. He was also a successful novelist. Sadly, he died at a young age before this, his best know book was published.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Hello Again

Hi there

Thought it was about time that I put something out there again on this dormant blog.

A lot has happened in the last year and I haven't made time to go online and blog.
That's going to change. This is but a small blurb which i hope to follow up with photos, lists, reviews

I have tweeted a bit but find this slightly unsatisfying and ephemeral

So that's it for now.

See you soon


Thursday, May 07, 2009

New House!!!!!

It's been a long time coming, but we've finally moved and become established in our new des res in Shotts. Its been a hectic month but we're nearly at a stage that we can be comfortable in the new house and not fall over boxes and each other to get to the remote control! This means that we've finally established a broadband connection (even if we grudgingly went with BT!) and hopefully I'll become a bit more regular with my postings and even a few book reviews or two. We'll see.....

Sunday, February 01, 2009

As you can see from this post, I managed to survive the Tenerife trip and return home last week to chaos at work, but that's another story. Just came online quickly to post some pics of my trip since I don't think I've done this before