runner

runner

I live in Bristol UK horror dark fiction and crime are my books of choice and when not reading I like to run

Review
5 Stars
A sad beautiful biography of what could have been
Forever Young: The Story of Adrian Doherty, Football's Lost Genius - Kay Oliver Lewis

When I was a youth and growing up in the wilds of Northern Ireland most of my contemporaries, if they had the slightest interest in football, were in awe of one team only, Manchester United, and in particular one player: George Best. I mention this because as much as I knew about the life of this precocious talent I knew next to nothing or in fact had never heard of Adrian Doherty. I am sure that I am not alone in that revelation, and it is a tribute to journalist Oliver Kay that he has brought to print the sad, poignant, yet also happy  life of one Adrian Doherty and we and many others will ask the question....what if?

 

This biography is not so much a story about a young man's career (or lack of) at a professional football club, but rather it is the study of a loveable, gentle human being who was never hypnotised by the glamour and potential wealth that his position  as a winger in the great Untied youth team of the early 90's, and hopefully later a member of the main United squad, would undoubtedly bring. Here was a country lad from the homely streets of Strabane set adrift in a big city called here simply by the talent he showed from a very early age as a professional footballer. The one similarity between Doherty and the great Best is that when first called to Manchester to confront their destiny they were both allocated unsatisfactory lodgings. It seems that in the 23+ years that separated their two careers United had learned little in the way of how to make their new prodigies feel wanted and cared for. Here we have two shy Irish lads (not much older than children) fresh from the homeland with no real social skills and expected to fit in immediately with a tough but rewarding training scheme. George soon found help and companionship in the form of alcohol (and we all know how that ended....Where did it all go wrong George?) and Adrian found true love and companionship in his song, and poetry composition, and playing his guitar. This lonely, loveable individual often busked in Manchester city centre preferring his own company to that of the talented United youths who lodged with him; Giggs, Scholes, Neville to name but a few...."he was stuck in Manchester with no money and didn't know what to do. I set off as soon as I could, but when I got there, he was nowhere to be seen"....

 

So surprisingly for a biography of a Manchester United potential there is no accumulation of wealth, there is even no first team appearance.....but oh how close Adrian Doherty came. The cruciate ligament knee injury that he suffered might have benefited more some early intervention but that did not happen and together with the fact that in the early 90's the treatment of a knee injury was crude compared by today's standards meant that the young footballer's hopes and dreams were never to be fulfilled. Yet that is the funny thing, in reading this book I am struck by the fact that Doherty was not really concerned with a career in football, at one of the greatest clubs in Europe, in fact when offered a 5 year contract said he would much rather sign for 3 years....who in their right mind would ever suggest this? Adrian Doherty's talent meant that whether he liked it or not his wonderful footballing skills meant being sought after by top premiership (1st division) clubs. Do not be mislead a young Adrian loved playing football and he was exceptionally good at it but if football had not been present in his life he was more than happy to busk, play his guitar and write poetry and lyrics that the great Bob Dylan would have been proud of. When the knee injury destroyed his career he was content to live the life of a hippy/hobo dwelling for short times in places and cities (his choice of Preston to live was the result of sticking a pin in a map!) And yet there were still wonderful times ahead, the folk scene in New York and surprisingly the city of Galway which was the home of dreamers and would be poets and artists.

 

His death, just like his life, was unconventional and very sad as he slipped or tripped into a canal in Holland rescued but never emerging from a coma. There are those who say that Manchester United let down their young football genius by failing to deliver the home from home environment that was promised but I do not agree. They treated as well as they could given the standard and success or otherwise of knee operations at the time and finally, when the sharp skill and potential he showed never really returned, they reluctantly let him go. United were fast emerging as one of the greatest teams in the world, and Alex Ferguson as their manager had to control and direct this emergence which often meant making hard commercial decisions.

 

This is an exceptionally sad story, and without the research and persistence of Oliver Kay so many would have been unaware of the impact and legacy that Adrian Doherty left in his short time here. Highly recommended

Review
5 Stars
An author with great literary talent
The Disappearance of Adele Bedeau - Graeme Macrae Burnet

A smart, stylish story dissecting the life of one Manfred Baumann a strangely introverted man who works at the bank in Saint-Louis and dines most lunchtimes and evenings at The Restaurant De La Cloche. He regards, in an almost salacious way, a young waitress called Adele Bedeau and when she disappears Manfred becomes the chief suspect and is pursued relentlessly by Inspector Gorski of the Saint-Louis police.

 

This delicious novel is really the study of human behaviour, in all its quirks and oddities, and you the reader have a front row seat to observe and judge. Manfred is a wonderful character, socially inept, reserved, withdrawn, indeed some of his working and socializing colleagues are of the opinion that his preference may be towards a male rather than a female partner. He is fastidious almost a perfectionist in his approach to daily tasks... "He dressed, combed his hair and put on his watch. Back in the kitchen he laid out two croissants in a basket, butter and jam, a plate and a knife. He poured coffee into a large bowl and sat down at the table.".....

 

Inspector Gorski has a troubled marriage. His wife Celine, who manages and runs a fashion boutique in town, views Gorski as socially inferior but still insists that he attends social gatherings in order to "establish the Gorskis as part of the Good Society of the town." The Inspector therefore preferred to spend his day policing, and the pursuit of Manfred Baumann proves a welcome distraction.

 

I loved the unhurried telling of this story the unravelling of the everyday orderliness of Manfred and by doing so expose a dark secret. Can a wise and wily Gorski utilize this secret to expose the truth of Adele's disappearance and by so doing will this set in process a chain of events that may end in disaster? With a very neat and unexpected ending I was delighted, amused and thoroughly entertained by this literary work form a great writer.

Review
4 Stars
Classic horror at its best
The Lost Village - NEIL SPRING, Neil  Spring

Neil Spring is an elegant author of what I would term as classic horror. In his writing just like an artist he paints a picture and relies on the reader to look at that picture and use his imagination to envisage the story. In The Lost Village he again teams two of his favourite ghost hunters Harry Price and his assistant Sarah Grey. They have travelled to the former village of Imber on Salisbury Plain to help understand strange and ghostly sightings including the tragic disfigurement of Sgt Gregory Edwards. I love Spring's writing style and his simple but effective use of language which is a joy to read yet somewhat disturbing and creepy...."The winter sun was sinking beneath the spires of Westminster and casting a pink hue across the London skyline".... "I froze. Around me, the trees seemed to shimmer, as if I were seeing them through a haze. At first, there was absolute silence. The air had become chillingly cold, freezing, and then I thought I heard, faintly.....low whispering"......"Price was standing in the centre of the wrecked mill, next to the battered table and chairs. A length of rope dangled from his right hand. Wearing his black frock coat that fell to his knees, he exuded the sinister presence of a Victorian Executioner".....

 

The Lost Village is really the story of displaced inhabitants attempting to reclaim what the army has stolen. Once a year they are invited back but this will be no ordinary visit as a chain of events sets in motion a terrible reckoning, and a sickening revelation ensuring that Imber will be remembered for all the wrong reasons. I particularly liked the cover of this novel with its dark angry skies and the picture of a man approaching wearing his trademark black coat, all which really adds to the atmospheric, macabre tale. Many thanks to the good people at Quercus publishing for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

Review
5 Stars
Adrenaline rush
Cold Blood: A gripping serial killer thriller that will take your breath away (Detective Erika Foster Book 5) - Robert Bryndza

A suitcase is dragged from the Thames and on opening the body of a man is discovered, head, arms, legs all severed and placed carefully within the confines of the case...."They paused, all staring at the battered naked body, at how neatly the pieces had been packed inside: a leg each side of the torso; the knee joints folded into the top right and bottom left corner; arms crossed over the chest and the decapitated head tucked neatly underneath."..... What a wonderful, gruesome start and introduction to the charismatic, headstrong Detective Chief Inspector Erika Foster. So with the help of her close associate Detective Inspector Kate Moss (not that Kate Moss!) the two police officers need to discover the perpetrator of this gruesome murder made all the more grisly when a second body is discovered in similar circumstances. At the same time a young Nina Hargreaves falls under the charismatic influence of the psychotic Max Kirkham as they embark on a murderous journey

 

Although I loved this fast paced thriller I did find that the characters of Max and Nina reminded me so much of Ian Brady and Myra Hindley ( both are mentioned twice in the novel) First we have the adulation of a young girl influence by her boyfriend and eager to please him whatever the cost. Hindley was infatuated by Brady on first meeting this lonely odd looking young man at Millward's Merchandise Gorton.  Mention is made of Max's love of books.."It took five car loads to get all the books into the flat.."  Ian Brady regarded himself as well read the  Russian writer Dostoevsky, with his explorations of human psychology, was a particular favourite,he highly regarded Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. The use of a van to transport innocent children lured to their destiny by false kindness of an attractive woman, this occurs later in the story. Nina Hargreaves also kept a diary including much detail about their crimes,  Ian Brady infamously kept notes, pictures and even maps of the Moors in his private collection. By referring to this in my review I am not in any way criticizing the author, merely making an assumption based on my reading.

 

To me the mark of a good book is the author's ability to create and project strong characters that have a lasting impact on me the reader. Erika Foster is a wonderful, passionate driven individual with a questionable personal life. Her boyfriend Inspector James Peterson's is on sick leave recovering from a knife wound that Erika feels is entirely her fault...."The blue and green light cast by the television played over his skinny face. His high cheekbones jutted out, and she could see the outline of the bones under his forehead.".....  Superintendent Melanie Hudson is her immediate superior "a tough cookie" but keen to support her officers when asked. Naturally there is an assortment of career minded police officers, Commander Paul Marsh (Erika has a secret admiration for him) and the unapproachable Superintendent Paris worried about the affect of Erika's actions on his political ambitions.

 

This is the type of crime novel that is eminently readable, with a fast driven theme and lively dialogue. It is perhaps not wise to read a series out of order but I am looking forward to reading the first four Erika Forster books in the very near future. Many thanks to the good people at netgalley for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

Review
4 Stars
An intense edgy thriller
Good Me Bad Me - Ali Land

This is a most unusual insightful story into the mind of a 15 year old. Annie's mum had been a killer, a taker of the innocent lives of children. Following the demise of a young boy called Daniel Annie has decided for her own sanity she must ask for help and disclose the evil deeds perpetrated by her mother. But can Annie ever be truly free from the clutches of an evil parent, are family relations so strong that the mind of an innocent child can be warped and twisted  by a misguided and immoral parent...is blood really thicker than water?

 

The story is told from the perspective of Annie and her new beginning as "Milly" under the guardianship of Mike, Saskia and their daughter Phoebe. This opportunity or fostering is to protect Milly and prepare her for the trial of her mother where she will be called as the main witness for the prosecution. But this story is much more than a simple trial, rather it shows the vulnerabilities, manipulation, envy and hatred that together make up the human condition. Phoebe is jealous of having to endure the company of Milly and is incensed that she is no longer the centre of attention so she embarks on a course of action, a war of attrition to humiliate and degrade her, inciting her friends to do the same. Mention is made on a number of occasions to William Golding's Lord of the Flies where the author paints a picture of a civilization consumed by savagery and chaos, the animal instincts of human nature. Indeed I found an uncomfortable familiarity between this classic novel and the predicament of Milly....but who's really manipulating who??

 

Good me Bad me is a very intense, claustrophobic experience, being trapped in the mind of child as she struggles to make sense of her situation. It is this entrapment that gives the dialogue a very edgy delivery creating some uncomfortable moments. Is Milly truly the innocent she attempts to portray or is there within her character an inherent evil that allows her to mould and manipulate those around her for her own gratification.

 

It came as no surprise to learn that the author spent many years working as a mental health nurse with children and adolescents, and she has certainly used this experience to create a novel of great depth and insight. I enjoyed it immensely and in particular the ending which although expected was still shocking when it occurred. Many thanks to the good people at netgalley for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written

Review
5 Stars
Another excellent novel from a great new author
Force of Nature: A Novel - Jane Harper

What makes the writing of Jane Harper so appealing to me is the very balanced and articulate style that flows with so little effort (or so it seems) from her writing. In "Force of Nature" she expertly relates a story in both the present and past timeline drawing them together in a nail biting conclusion and in a sleight of hand exposes the perpetrator.

 

Two teams from BaileyBennets  embark on a weekend of outdoor pursuits and teambuilding along the Mirror Falls trail in the Giralang Ranges outside Melbourne. Alice Russell was supposed to deliver important documents to Federal agent Aaron Falk and his assistant  Carmen Cooper and by so doing exposing malpractice at BB. Regrettably at the end of the weekend of executive bonding one employee, Alice Russell, fails to emerge and there is great fear for her safety and welfare. Her fellow friends and colleagues appear to be shocked and fear she may have walked alone into the unforgiving wooded and bush environment. As the two agents dig deeper all is not as it should be amongst the hikers and slowly they begin to uncover a web of treachery not only prevalent in the BaileyBennets work place but also stretching back many years.

 

For those of you familiar with the writing of Jane Harper and in particular her excellent first novel "The Dry" it is refreshing to see not only the return of Aaron Falk but to learn a little more about his childhood with his late father whom he loved dearly. If we add to this a serial killer known as Marin Kovac who butchered and buried a number of victims in the Giralang Ranges then we have all the ingredients for an ingenious mystery. I can honestly say that Jane Harper once again kept me glued to this thrilling story as the layers of friendship and deceit are uncovered exposing an underbelly of hatred and envy. I had no idea who the killer was until revealed and that surely must be the mark of a master storyteller. As in her first novel Mz Harper uses the harsh and beautiful Australian landscape to great affect..."a curtain of white water. A river tumbled over a cliff edge and into the pool far beneath them."......"The neat trees lining the nature strip looked like plastic models compared with the primal lushness that had lurked over them for the past three days."....."The air was so crisp Jill felt she could almost touch it, and the freshwater spray cooled her cheeks. It was an hypnotic sight, and as she drank it in she almost felt the weight of her pack lift a little from her shoulders.".................

 

Many thanks to Little Brown  Book Group and netgalley for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

Review
2 Stars
A writing style and story not to my liking
The Spider Web Charmer - Lawrence R. Deering

Michael and Michelle Crawford could best be described as an entrepreneurial and adventurous couple who run their own detective agency. Work is fast and furious with most of their time spent trying to discover and apprehend a killer know as "The Mathematician" who inscribes insightful "equations" unto the bodies of his victims. As the body count mounts the FBI is contacted to assist especially when it becomes clear that the serial killer has acquired an unwarranted interest in Michelle Crawford. In addition to managing the busy day to day workload of the agency, and chasing The Mathematician, Michael is also eager to discover the whereabouts of his birth parents who abandoned him to adoptive parents at a young age.

 

This book is best described as a novel with "cool temperament" told in a rather brassy and mocking writing style. It failed to have any impression on me, I found all the characters devoid of any emotion (which may have well been the author's intention) and after only a few chapters I was hoping that The Mathematician would be successful in his attempts to wipe out the Crawfords and rid me of the need to read any further! Many thanks to netgalley for a gratis copy in exchange for and honest and truthful review and that is what I have written.

Review
5 Stars
Wonderful wonderful writing
Angels Flight - Michael Connelly

When Harry Bosch is sent out to investigate the death of accomplished lawyer Howard Elias he could never have anticipated the political minefield he is about to step into. At its heart this is a story of police corruption and the length that some senior officers will go to further their career, and in the process turn a blind eye to the stinking underbelly of so called law enforcement in the city of Los Angeles. The novel is written at a time when the mishandled case of one retired football player, OJ Simpson, and the beating of Rodney King are still fresh in the minds of so many Americans...."Everyone was oblivious to the seething hatred and anger that churned in other parts of the city- beneath the surface like an undiscovered fault line waiting to open up and swallow all above."..... Yet against all of that, one grizzled detective, is prepared to take a noble stand against evil and wrong doing where ever that may occur.

 

I adore the writings of Michael Connelly and his depiction of life, its hardships and cruelties through the eyes of one honest and incorruptible policeman the great antihero Harry Bosch. I sympathize with his pain, and his longing for some inner peace, his search for a partner, a soulmate someone to share his anguish and mop his fevered brow...It is the style of writing and Connelly's ability to get under the skin of Bosch, laying him open to an eager reader, that makes for some wonderful thoughtful observations...."The rich kept you waiting so that you could feel free to admire all that they had."..."Happy is the man who finds refuge in himself."...."He believed in the one shot. He didn't know if he'd had his yet- it wasn't the kind of thing you knew and understood until you looked back over your life as an old man."...."It's about hope, Detective she continued. Most of the people in the minority communities of Los Angeles have no power, have no money, have no voice. They subsist on hope for these things. And Howard Elias was hope for many of them".....

 

Everyone in this book is perfect from the strong storyline to the well drawn and very believable characters, from the sad and deeply troubled ex cop Frankie Sheehan to the political ambitions of Deputy Chief Irvin Irving. I rarely ever read a book by Michael Connelly that is not worthy of at least a 5 star review and this is no exception. Highly Recommended.

Review
3 Stars
Enjoyable until the midway point
Sunblind - Michael McBride

Officer Rivera discovers a body in the vast Sonoran Desert somewhere in the Southern United States. Meanwhile across the Mexican Border 25 desperate souls are trying to escape the hell and poverty of their homeland by the promise and attraction of a new start in the US. I was reading this book late at night in a darkened room with the wind and rain beating against the windows and this greatly added to the chill factor and the atmosphere. The story is narrated in two time lines with a matter of days separating both accounts. As Border Patrol Officer Rivera tries to decipher a message carved into the body of an unaccounted alien further south Mayra Visari and a band of desperados attempt to make their way north under the leadership of a young guide known as Il Bufon..."The Joker" The story is mainly about the journey and encounter with an alien force invisible to the eye but deadly when confronted. In this respect I was reminded of scenes from Predator when our muscled up hero Arnold  Schwarzenegger, whilst attempting to rescue some politicians in Guatemala, is pursued by a brutal creature with superhuman strength that has the ability to disappear into its surroundings.

 

Unfortunately when we reach the midway point the story falls into a continuous game of attack and escape as the aliens attempt to destroy/consume the desperate band of illegal immigrants seeing them only as part of the food chain. This type of action soon becomes tedious and a story that started with great promise soon begins to lose my interest. There were of course some enjoyable moments and in particular a snappy narration and quirky  observations..."Altar, Sonora, was a town of evil, a place where dreams came to die and were buried in unmarked graves in the desert"..... "It was only a matter of time before we started dying"....."Our shadows stretched away from us as though seeking release from the fate to which we had been consigned"......."We were the walking dead, an entire procession of weakness and despair".....

Review
5 Stars
A book that still retains the magic
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - Ken Kesey

Can it really be 50 years since the publication of this book, I remember my first reading in the mid 70's and it has been a great pleasure, and a walk down memory lane, to once again make the acquaintance of the residents of an Oregon Psychiatric Hospital and in particular one Randle P McMurphy. Most people will remember the 1976 movie and the electric  performance of Jack Nicholson as the audacious and colourful "Mack", in a movie that won many awards. The book has lost none of its magic even now reading the it so many years later, and the emotions that it can produce are still very real.

 

McMurphy is moved  to the mental institution from a prison farm where he was serving a sentence for the rape of a 15 year old girl. Although he is not mentally ill, he is hoping to avoid hard labour and serve the rest of his sentence in a relaxed environment. The life of the rest of the inmates is now turned on its head as McMurphy proceeds to wreck havoc in an attempt to control and alter the mundane existence of lethargic and inactive inmates...."We are lunatics from the hospital up the highway, psychoceramics, the cracked pots of mankind."....The only obstacle standing between Mack and his dreams is the formidable figure of the steely strict Nurse Ratched....."Her face is still calm, as though she had a cast made and painted to just the look she wants. Confident, patient, and unruffled."...

 

The story is told in the first person through the eyes of one long term resident Chief Bromden a tall native American believed to be deaf and mute. Through a series of minor misdemeanours and coercion McMurphy is hoping to breakdown the stranglehold of power that Nurse Rached holds over the inmates, who  are dulled and kept under control by the constant and daily consumption of medication. It would therefore appear that the prime function of the institution is to manage, by this use of drugs, the minds and temperaments of the residents,  rather than try to rehabilitate them and reintroducing them back into society where they might once again make a useful contribution. If the use of drugs and stimulants fails to pacify the disturbed mind the institution is willing to apply electroshock therapy and in the most severe cases a lobotomy is performed.

 

This is a book fully entrenched in the methods and institutions of its time. It is also a story of power and authority, those who wheel it and those who would attempt to question it by any means possible. It is a wonderful and colourful narration, strong and memorable characters, essentially funny yet ultimately sad. To me Randle P McMurphy is more than a comic figure, he chooses to question the reality and sense of his surroundings and by doing so set himself on the road to confrontation with the soulless Nurse Ratched and ultimately there can only be one winner, and an ending that is both shocking and captivating. Highly Recommended.

 

Review
5 Stars
Harry Bosch sheer brilliance!
Two Kinds of Truth - Michael Connelly

There are very few events in my reading history that beat the thrill of delving into a new Michael Connelly/Harry Bosch novel. Harry may well be into his mid 60's now but he still has that hunger, that old coyote weariness about him, that first made him a grade one detective some 30 years ago. He's now older, definitely wiser his skills very much in demand by an undermanned LAPD.

 

At the start of "Two Kinds of Truth" Harry is doing what he does best, searching through cold case files in a "drunk tank" somewhere in San Fernando. His suspicions are aroused when detectives arrive to confront him about an investigation many years old. With the advance in forensic medicine the investigation that led to the conviction of Preston Borders, in the trial of Danielle Skyler, is now in danger of collapse. This follows the discovery of semen, belonging to a rapist Lucas John Olmer, since deseased, on some of the victims clothing. So the reality is that Borders could be freed and a wrongful arrest case brought against Harry, the ramifications of this are immense as Bosch's 30 year workload could now be open to scrutiny.  Our hero is furious but has little time to dwell on his feelings and the rights or wrongs of an old case, as the Los Angeles County once again needs his skill when a double murder occurs at a downtown pharmacy "La Farmacia Familia". In spectacular fashion he arrives, he is a happy man once again as he is now one of the lead detectives on a "live" case. The author so vividly portrays the innermost thoughts and workings of this great detective, and has me the reader cheering when once again Harry is back!! I realize that not only will Bosch solve this case but he will be accompanied by you and me dear reader riding as shotgun, and that is something we cannot miss!

 

In the background the historic cold case proceeds and meanwhile Bosch's present assignment sees him becoming involved in the processing and handling of illegal prescriptions involving large quantities of drugs. In the course of this operation we once again meet Harry's old partner Jerry Edgar and it is wonderful to witness the "sparring" that still exists between them. Edgar never felt that Bosch truly trusted him and he now feels a little exhilarated that he is supplying vital information to his ex partner..."Bosch asked the question, jumping at the opportunity to show some expertise to the man who had always doubted him"... Connelly has always painted Bosch as a loner and even though he got results and solved cases he was always viewed as a maverick playing by his own set of rules.

 

The drug scam is quite simple; enlist the poor and desperate in society with a deep and entrenched drug habit. Then with the help of a bogus doctor authorize illegal  prescriptions which are "cashed" in at the Farmacia. Bosch estimates that this is an industry worth more than thirteen million per year. To infiltrate this operation our hero has elected to go undercover, something new in a Connelly novel and adding an extra lair of anticipation and excitement! By going undercover Bosch puts himself in grave danger and all his colleagues and friends begin calling and leaving messages on his cell phone. I have a gripe with Bosch and his two sided standards. He loves dearly his daughter Maddie who is now a student and he implores her to be careful especially at night when she collects her car from a dismal concrete car park adjacent to her college. Yet here he is a 68 year old man about to board a small plane in the company of two Russian thugs...and he notices on takeoff that the back door is wedged open.....and they are about to fly over the sea! He is in mortal danger, what will I the reader do if the unthinkable happens? and more importantly what will young Maddie feel that the one stable person in her life her father who she loves dearly...is no more??..."His life and his world had once again clobbered his daughter. If he vowed to make those who did this pay, didn't that include himself?"....."There was no one in the world Bosch trusted more than his daughter. He told her everything, more detail than he had even told the collective in the mobile command post. He felt the details would mean more to her, and at the same time, he knew he was telling her about the dark side of the world. It was a place she had to know about, he believed no matter where she went with her life.".....

 

I love Michael Connelly. I love the way he has brought the life of H Bosch into my home over many years. His stories are to me about life, love, relationships, the good and bad that happens, and the evil that is prevalent all around us, the choices that we make, the decisions we take and the consequences we must reap. I love the frailties on display through Harry and the bond that exists between him and his daughter the wonderful Maddie and I fear for Harry, I worry what will happen to her if ever the unthinkable were to occur to her father...."People lie, the president lies, corporations lie and cheat.....The world is ugly and not many people are willing to stand up to it anymore"...

 

So the two story threads are brought to a very fitting conclusion amidst  a highly charged courtroom drama involving Bosch's colourful half brother, Los Angeles based attorney Mickey Haller. Yet amongst all this elation Harry is a restless soul, a man who never seems at ease with himself, a nonconformist with a really big heart. I admire the guy, I applaud the way he unearthed $10,000 from his "end of the world emergency fund" to save the drug soul of Elizabeth Clayton, a dope addict he whose life went out of control when her daughter Daisy was killed. Connelly's stories about a Los Angeles detective are as fresh today as when the first book was published some 25 years ago. Harry Bosch may well be in the autumn of his life but he but he still retains magnetism and human qualities that we all recognise. I look forward to his next outing with great anticipation and would like to thank Orion and the good people of netgalley for a gratis copy in return for an honest review and that is what I have written.

 

Review
2 Stars
A few aimless hours?
To Kill the President: The Most Explosive Thriller of the Year - Sam Bourne

An average thriller certainly not worth my time in a detailed review! Sam Costello discovers a plot to assassinate the president (who sounds very like a heavy set man with wavy blonde hair and a model wife!) what should she do? (have him shot I hear you say :) The only character worthy of a mention is the presidents chief strategist Crawford "Mac" McNamara. I only read this book as it was heavily promoted/reduced on "mobi" so passed a few aimless hours acquainting myself with this nonsense. 

Review
5 Stars
Return of a master storyteller
Smile: A Novel - Roddy Doyle

A powerful voice in Irish writing returns  with an evocative novel illustrating once again the misery, pain and ruined lives caused by the sexual abuse scandal prevalent within the Catholic Church from the 1950's. Victor Forde is now a lone single man who spends part of each day in Donnelly's public house. He makes the acquaintance of Fitzpatrick, who he instantly takes a dislike to. There is something strange and unwarranted about this individual, that wakes some very painful memories in the mind of Forde, and in particular the time he spent as a child within the care of the Christian Brothers.

 

What is astounding and memorable about "Smile" is the author's direct, compelling brutal and unforgivable  method of storytelling. This makes me want to revisit classics I read many years ago and in particular The Van and the wonderfully titled Paddy Clarke ha ha. It is so refreshing to read his simple style of prose that forms an instant connection with the reader, and makes him loathe and pity Forde in equal measures. ..." a man of my age going back to some wrinkled version of his childhood. Looking for the girls he'd fancied forty years before"...."I was so bored, so heavy with the physical weight of it, I could have cried"......"Do you want it? No, thanks, I said. It was nice talking to you she said. She died five months later."..."It was the last time I slept in my mother's house and it was the last time I went for pints with the lads. Two of them are dead. I miss them like I miss my father.".....

 

The conclusion of this story was never going to make pleasant reading, it was  unforeseen, sudden and yet an apt and fitting ending to a novel that will remain with my for many weeks and months. A monumental achievement and a welcome return to one of Ireland's most talented of writers. Many thanks to Random House uk and netgalley for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

Review
5 Stars
A work of originality and brilliance
he - Simon Slater, Hodder & Stoughton UK, John Connolly

When I first heard that John Connolly had written a fictional account of the life of Stan Laurel, based on the latter's  correspondence, I was very intrigued to acquire and read the book. I have the greatest admiration for JC but am more familiar with his creation the anti hero and very troubled detective Charlie Parker the series now having reached book No. 15, each one written with a flair and brilliance that has seen Connolly acclaimed both in Europe and the US, and rightly so. "He" a book giving the reader a glimpse into the amazing and often troubled life of a man who achieved fame and adulation in the early days of the "talkies" ...Stan Laurel. The he in the book is of course "him", the author never uses his stage name simply because Stan Laurel did not really exist and the true essence of the man is somewhere between Arthur Jefferson, his birth name, and his stage name. In order to construct and present Stan Laurel's story Connolly has utilized the massive correspondence that Laurel wrote in his lifetime, a correspondence that although give little if any insight into the true mind and workings of this comic genius, nevertheless presented the author with a blueprint for him to construct, mould and shape the life of Laurel and his undoubted love and respect for his comic partner Oliver "babe" Hardy.

 

This is a wonderful story a warm and affectionate analysis of a man whose existence was never dull, often sad (his son Stan Robert Laurel died at only 9 days old) his liberal attitude to alcohol and his many affairs including in total 4 wives. His only daughter Lois, a product of his first marriage, was born in 1927 and who recently died in July 2017. Reading "He" was akin to a walk through the old Hollywood from the popular birth of silent movies to the often painful upheaval that became the world of the talkies. Laurel and Hardy not only accepted this change but so much of their success happened after the talkie transition including such memorable classics as Way out West, and A chump at Oxford all under the guidance of renowned American Film Producer Hal Roach. "He" is centred around the Oceana apts  in Santa Monica California where Laurel lived until his death, with his fourth wife Ida, and from this base SL reminisces on the events good and bad that shaped his life.

 

From reading the press release before the actual book launch John Connolly states that the idea behind this novel was born in 1999.( In the meantime we the reader have been enthralled by the adventures of former policeman Charlie Parker seeking some form of redemption following the murder of his wife and daughter). It is to the author's credit that "he" has been nurtured, developed, researched and planned as the final product is a work of such originality and imagination. It made me feel that I was eavesdropping into a time and place no longer with us and a world where I became privy to the conversations, the genius, the intellect, and the brilliance of the great Stan Laurel. Many thanks to the publisher Hodder and Stoughton for a gratis copy in return for an honest review and that is what I have written.

Review
4 Stars
Karin Slaughter brilliant as always
The Good Daughter - Karin Slaughter

Yet another wonderful, well crafted, and presented story from Karin Slaughter which sees her departing from her regular Atlanta duo Well Trent (Georgia Bureau of Investigation special agent) and Dr Sarah Linton. In this one off novel we are introduced to the Quinns; Rusty, Gamma, and their two daughters Sam and Charlotte (Charlie) The story is told over two timelines, one set 28 years before the other. One afternoon Zack Culpepper and an accomplish invade the Quinn home where a violent and outrageous event occurs, an event that will have long lasting and damaging repercussions. Moving forward in time to the present somewhat unbelievably another brutal killing occurs, at the local school where Charlie Quinn has attended visiting her lover Mason Huckabee a regrettable one night stand.

 

What the author excels at his her deep understanding and betrayal of a family in crisis and their attempt to survive. Sam, although badly damaged from the Culpepper attack has managed to map out a career as a patent lawyer in New York but immediately comes to the aid of her younger sister following the school shootings. Dad Rusty is adored by them both even though his chosen occupation as a defence attorney often sees him defending the most abhorrent members of society and indeed the historical Culpeper incident was a direct result of his chosen career.

 

This is a novel full of mystery, ambition and emotion. It is not so much the storyline that is of importance but rather the depiction of deeply flawed and traumatized characters. At its heart is the love and need of friendship and family and how against all the evil that is present today it is possible not only to survive but to accept the unfolding of life's events however good or bad they may be. Many thanks to the publisher HarperCollins for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

Review
4 Stars
Sad and difficult to read
Goodbye, Dearest Holly: Ten Years On - Kevin Wells

This is an extremely sad and difficult book to read and even though some 15 years have passed since the brutal and callous murder of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman the events still remain fresh in my mind. Who can ever forget that last picture of the two little girls wearing their Manchester United tops the clock behind them showing the time at 17.04. How could loving parents ever guess that within a matter of hours their two beautiful daughters would have their lives taken from them by the evil monster Ian Huntley. Kevin and Nicola were exemplary parents and had instilled in Holly the need to be always vigilant and aware when out on her own. No one could have anticipated that someone employed as a school caretaker and who together with his girlfriend, and teaching assistant, Maxine Carr, could oh so callously murder two such innocents. The sad fact is that it took such an evil event to happen before the laws concerning the vetting of individuals (especially those employed in the company of children) would be drastically overhauled. If the background of Huntley had been known and in particular his history of sexual relationships with minors he would never have found himself in the trusted position of school caretaker and so it follows that the lives of Holly and Jessica would have been spared and their date with destiny avoided on that warm summer evening in 2002.

 

The safeguarding vulnerable groups act 2004 was introduced following the Bichard inquiry into the Soham murders The Act introduced a ‘Vetting and Barring” scheme for people working with children, whereby a new independent safeguarding authority (‘ISA’) must maintain lists of people who are barred from certain kinds of work with children and adults. That list includes those who are convicted of, or admit to, certain specified criminal offences, including various sexual offences, and those involving violence or the mistreatment of children. Once barred, the restrictions on work last from a minimum of 1 to a maximum of 10 years.  One of the greatest failings of the police was their inability to retain, store and pass information to neighbouring forces and colleagues throughout the UK. If only the residents of Soham had been aware that Huntley had in the past been accused of rape and sexual assault ( a charge that was later dropped due to lack of evidence) then the events that unfolded in Soham need never have occurred and the families of Jessica and Holly would not have had their lives altered in such a sad and callous way.

 

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