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
3 Stars
Original and thought provoking
Frankenstein in Baghdad: A Novel - Ahmed Saadawi

What drew me to this novel was the intriguing title. When I think of Frankenstein I am immediately drawn to the depiction of this "monster" in the writing of Mary Shelley. Was this grotesque creature someone who attracted our sympathy or loathing; the answer is probably both. Frankenstein in Baghdad gives a modern twist to the story taking place in a war ravaged community. Hadi is a scavenger who makes a living by collecting junk and resalable items from the US occupied streets of Bagdad. This rather oddball figure also acquires human body parts and by stitching them together creates his own freak referred to as Whatsitsname, who has also inherited the soul of Hasib Mohamed Jaafar a dead security guard at the Novotel Hotel..."Because I'm made up of body parts of people from diverse backgrounds-ethnicities, tribes, races and social classes.".....The purpose of this creation and the heart of "Frankenstein in Baghdad" is to showcase war as a futile exercise where the greed and ambition of a few adds to the misery, desolation and despair of the masses..."to bring about justice in this world which has been totally ravaged by greed, ambition, megalomania, and insatiable bloodlust."

 

The novel is told through the eyes of a number of Baghdad residents in particular Elishva an elderly widow, in mourning for her son Daniel, who believes that Whatsitsname is his reincarnation, Mahmoud al-Sawadi a young ambitious journalist and Brigadier Majid head of the Tracking and Pursuit Department. It is a story that brought alive the smells and constant danger of a city and community at war and the inevitable casualties and heartache that an innocent population must inevitably pay. 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
A rediscovered, beautifully written, horror classic
Hell Hound - Grady Hendrix, Ken Greenhall, Jessica Hamilton

Ken? Ken who? I thought, as I observed and read about this "brought back to print" horror edition from the amazingly brilliant Valancourt books. Reading the preamble to Hell Hound  (rather alarmingly a google search states that Ken Greenhall was born in Detroit in 1928 and is now aged 89. This is inaccurate as he died in 2014 or perhaps this being a horror publication there is a hidden message here.......) Hell Hound was published in 1977 and formed a very limited output by the said author over the next 11 years. At a time when horror paperbacks where beginning to assert and influence an ever increasing reader base Greenhall could find no publisher willing to support him in his venture until a long forgotten Zebra Books produced a limited run with a cheap and nasty front cover (when horror books were often judged by their outlandish, intricate and colourful covers)

 

HH is a neat, short, original story of a small community seen through the eyes of a number of residents in particular "Baxter" a bull terrier.." a head like a hatchet. Malevolent blue eyes, too small and misplaced."... with some rather worrying antisocial behaviours. When we first encounter him he is the much loved pet of the unassuming Mrs Eileen Prescott. Baxter soon becomes tired of this relationship as "there is never laughter in this house, only the dull sounds of age and weakness."....The sweet little old lady meets an untimely death following a close encounter with a staircase and the friendly pressure of a loving bull terrier.... Nancy and John a young modern couple are "gifted" Baxter whose demeanour and character changes when it is announced that Nancy is pregnant. Naturally Baxter is worried that the relationship with his new owner will be dramatically altered when a child is born and endeavours to recapture their affections by what he sees as a little act of kindness!.....Jason and Sara Fine are worried about their son Carl, his unpredictable sometimes withdrawn nature, and his obsession with Nazi Germany. Would the companionship of a dog help Carl feel more comfortable and accepting of his adolescence?

 

This is a highly original and understated publication that really should have been showcased many many years ago. It is criminal to think that such a neatly observed, satirical work of outstanding quality lay silent before this new edition was finally announced. Grady Hendrix, in his introduction, pays a fitting tribute to  the author Ken Greenhall..."He didn't aim to terrify, he wanted to undermine your sense of comfort. It's a harder trick , but it last longer.".... So here in the in writing of a newly rediscovered, and hopefully not to be forgotten  author are some delightful observations..."And never let a dog lick you. A dog uses its tongue as toilet paper."......"Then I lie on the sofa and think of the couple. I wait to hear the faint, peculiar sounds they make in the darkness."....."he deposited on the intricately patterned old rug a small rivulet of urine."......"They're like snails, he thought. They need the shells of their houses and automobiles. Not so much for shelter as for reassurance."....."Most humans have few virtues. But, of course, they have many disadvantages to overcome. Their peculiar bodies, for example. Tall creatures that walk on two legs must be in a constant state of anxiety."...

 

This exceptional piece of gentle, unassuming horror has only been made possible due to the great work of Valancourt Books, whose mission is quite simply to discover and publish rare neglected and out of print fiction. Many thanks to them for sending me a copy of Hell Hound in exchange for an honest review, and that is what I have written. Highly Recommended.

Review
1 Stars
How very disappointing
Infestation - William Meikle

This is probably one of the worst novellas that I have had the displeasure to read in a very long time. A gun hoe group lead by Capt John Banks is sent to investigate the plight of a Russian ship in Canadian Waters (think Predator with Schwarzenegger and Carl Weathers) There they encounter "isopods" (a type of large blue glowing giant cannibalistic turtle, or as the author prefers carnivorous bottom feeders!) which have emerged from the ocean after some heavy drilling by the said Russian ship. Throw into this mix an alluring (and possibly Russian spy) the sultry Svetlanova and add in the equivalent of Jim Taggart (Scottish detective) in the form of "Mac" with a deep Glaswegian accent...."Listen to the lass, Cap, Mac said weakly..She kens what she's on about."..... then you have a story that is truly abysmal.

 

This novella pays homage and tries to emulate the work of such well known horror writers as James Herbert (The Rats an outstanding fun story of a community plagued by blood thirsty mutant vermin) or indeed anything by Guy N Smith ( my own particular favourites being The Origin of the Crabs and Spawn of the Slime Beast) Infestation is a formulaic, clichéd story, told badly, that really does not deserve to be in print, and I had the misfortune to purchase for £3. Best avoided...........

Review
5 Stars
A thought provoking and highly accomplished SF thriller
Obscura - Megan Hart

One of the most memorable images I store from my childhood is the idea of the teleporter. You know the program; Capt James Kirk daring to go where no one had gone before and in order to do this he uses the magical services of what was affectionately known on Star Trek as a transporter or teleportation machine. The transporter converted a person into an energy pattern (dematerialization ) then beamed to a target (place) where it was converted back to matter (rematerialization) I tell you this because "Obscura" the excellent new novel by Joe Hart uses this idea as a central theme.

 

Doctor Gillian Ryan is a recognized expert into research concerning a dementia type illness known as Losian's disease. She has lost her partner Kent to the condition and disturbingly her daughter Carrie is now showing signs that she may also suffer from this life threatening affliction. Research for a cure is expensive and with funds running low she is approached by an old friend Carson who has a proposition for her that may be her salvation offering unlimited funds for her research program if only she will repay his kindness in the following way...Ander's transport is a teleportation system which causes  atoms that make up a human body to be first frozen solid then vaporized before emerging at a secondary location as a solid human mass once again (think Star trek) However the users of Ander's transport appear to have been stricken with symptoms similar to Losian's namely memory loss, trances, and violent uncontrollable impulses. If Gillian will help NASA find a cure, travel to the space station via shuttle, then they in their turn promise unlimited funds with research into Losian's disease, and with time running out for her daughter she has little alternative but to accept. However she soon finds herself caught up in a web of deceit and lies, a nightmare three month journey to Mars, a conspiracy that feeds into her own paranoia, with real fears that she will never see her home or her precious daughter again.

 

I love this type of SF based story where the human race is concerned not only with the decaying state it's planet (melting of the ice caps etc) but also with the need to reach out and discover other solar systems, other civilizations, potential areas that we can populate and yes..."to boldly go where no man has gone before" Joe Hart has written an intelligent thought provoking novel raising question and ideas that are pertinent to society today. I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend. Many thanks to the good people at netgalley and the publisher Thomas & Mercer for a gratis copy in return for an honest review and that is what I have written.

 

Review
4 Stars
Enjoyable read
The Word is Murder - Anthony Horowitz

For fans of Ruth Rendell and Agatha Christie "The Word is Murder" is a very clever detective story which places the author as one of the central characters. Hawthorne is a retired detective and wishes to use his sharp analytical mind to help solve the death of wealthy woman Diana Cowper who is murdered six hours after she arranges her own funeral. He enlists the help of a reluctant author and it is hoped that both will not only solve the crime but also create a bestselling novel.  What gives this story an almost comic edge is the relationship between "Tony" the author and the irascible detective Daniel Hawthorne.

 

The novel proceeds and the usual suspects are introduced and portrayed before the reader, the hope always being that the murderer can be identified from the clues presented. To me the real pleasure of reading this story was the comical and descriptive writing on display by an established and respected author;....."Again, I found myself wondering what it must be like to work there, sitting in a room with those miniature urns, a constant reminder that everything you were and everything you'd achieved would one day fit inside."......."For him, politeness was a surgical mask, something he slipped on before he took out his scalpel."...."There was a sense of something in the air that might have been damp but was actually just misery."...."wearing a suit that could have come out of a charity shop- or should have been on the way to one."...."You never realize how fragile everything is until it breaks."..."It was as if she had been locked up in a lunatic asylum for so long that she had forgotten she was actually mad."....

 

So with a cunning and clever plot, mysterious and intricate characters  all presented in an entertaining dialect "The Word is Murder" is a highly enjoyable and recommended read.

Review
3 Stars
A fine piece of writing
The Neighborhood - Kelli Owen

Welcome to Neillsville small town America where nothing is quite what it seems and secrets lie hidden waiting to be uncovered. Kelli Owen takes us on a little trip behind the curtains where a bloodied finger will be discovered in a pair of jeans, a pool of blood in a long abandoned house, missing children, untimely death, and a bus driver that the children long suspected hides evil secrets. The story contains some fine descriptive prose all adding to the creeping feeling of uneasiness..."The sensation of wetness lining the pocket hit her just as her fingers found something soft."........"the nice looking but apparently unremarkable home-empty since Jeff and his family moved away two summers before."..... "slid across and toppled into a puddle of what appeared to be blood."...."first the finger, then the blood, then"....(to insert a name here would spoil the fun for you dear reader) Many thanks to the author for supplying me with a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review on a fine piece of writing that has much to offer.

Review
5 Stars
A story of control, abuse and the aftermath
The Walls - Hollie Overton

Kristy Tucker is a single mum who works as a public information officer for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. It is her job to act as a go between to the prisoners on death row and the interest of the local media and press. Her work is relentless and as a single parent to Ryan and a carer for her dad "Pops" she has little free time. When Ryan has difficulties at school he receives encouragement and support from Lance Dobson his martial arts instructor. When Kristy is introduced to Lance she begins to believe that this strong handsome man may indeed become a future partner and a much needed stabilizing influence to Ryan. The relationship with Lance soon develops into one of terror, abuse and violence as this supposedly charming individual tries to influence and control every facet of Kristy's life.

 

This is superbly written story that attempts to show the reader what daily life is like in an abusive relationship. To everyone, apart from Kristy, Lance Dobson is charming and graceful but only she knows the truth and the question is what if anything can she do? The prisoners and inmates feel trapped behind "The Walls" and soon Kristy will come to realize that she, by meeting Lance, has unexpectedly built her own walls from which there appears no escape. Hollie Overton presents difficult issues in a fast and flowing writing style making a very addictive read and one that I completed in two sittings. Highly Recommended.

Review
4 Stars
Great little horror story but................
Insomniac: A Horror Thriller - Bryan Michaels

When Mason Stone is wakened to the sounds of a neighbours party he notices that his wife Natalie is missing and all that is left is her crumpled red sleeping shirt under her pillow. What follows is the ramblings of an insomniac as he tries to discover the fate of his wife but he is soon to be faced with an horrific reality. This was a fast short read that I really enjoyed and as the book proceeded, the lines between reality and sanity became merged as Mason slipped more and more into his nightmare of paranoia. I do however wish that the author had paid more attention to the atrocious grammar that littered what was otherwise a very addictive read and I list a few examples, with the missing word or wrong word enclosed in brackets...."letting everyone (know) that she didn't come home"...." but this woman was driving a Dodge and was wore (wearing) jeans"....."as Peroni began took (taking) pictures of Mason"...."who were will (willing) to listen"...."I just would like some time alone. You can came (come) back tomorrow"...."He would know it isn't is (his)

 

There is no excuse for such sloppiness. I read and review many books on netgalley and I expect (unfortunately) mistakes as I am reading an advance/unproofed/uncorrected copy. However Insomniac is "sold" to readers who will hopefully enjoy and review positively, yet the author seems happy to present his work littered with simple grammatical errors. Having said that I decided to review this story on its content rather than poor use of the English Language.....

Review
5 Stars
An edge of the seat thriller
Betrayal - Stewart Binns

Jim Dowd and Maureen O'Brien are sent to the notorious location of the Ardoyne a republican enclave in a divided and secular Belfast of the 1980's...."Several streets have disappeared altogether leaving large tracts of waste ground covered in the rubble of demolition. The scene resembles the shattered landscapes of Britain's cities in the aftermath of German bombing during the Second World War."... Their mission is to settle, infiltrate and befriend a deeply suspicious mainly Catholic population. Their occupation is that of school teachers, cast adrift in a world full of dangerous men, and they must use all their training and skill to avoid being outed as infiltrators and spies. Once accepted in the community they patiently await further instructions from their handlers in London. As time passes Jim becomes attracted to Kathleen McKee the daughter of Jimmy McKee, quartermaster of the Ardoyne branch of the IRA. This is a dangerous situation made even worse when orders are received to assassinate Sean Murphy the Ardoyne OC (Officer Commanding) Has Jim become too involved and understanding of the plight of the catholic population to carry out his orders? Can Maureen convince him how perilous their situation is fast becoming imploring him to do as ordered?

 

I have to confess that I have a keen knowledge of the politics of Northern Ireland at the time. I lived in Belfast during this period and knew firsthand what it felt like living in a country close to the brink of civil war. The constant bombings and tensions between a proud and stubborn people were a day to day occurrence creating a very nervous and uneasy environment in which to live. Stewart Binns has written a wonderful book that oozes fear and suspicion from the very first chapter creating a tour de force that is impossible to put down. His use of dialogue to build a picture of a society in meltdown creates some of the most memorable prose I have read this year....."We must have victory, victory at all costs, however long the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival."........."On the other hand, the opposite side of his head explodes. Blood and brain matter are sprayed everywhere making a shocking splash as they cascade across the inside of the windscreen. His short life is over in an instant."....."We're like so many others- civilians and military, guilty and innocent. We're all pawns in a game. So many have died; there's been so much pain, so much hurt."..........

 

You, dear reader, will have to read this book for yourself to discover if Jim and Maureen can escape before their true identity becomes know to the local IRA.

As always in politics life is complicated and every organization be it MI5, MI6, Special Branch etc have hidden agendas and are equally as ruthless in their ability to carry out killings..."There's a rogue unit at large; right wing, disaffected. They're on our tails and feeding intel back to the RUC which, in turn, may be leaking it to the IRA and its ASU in England."... Over the years I have read a number of books concerning "The Troubles" and Betrayal by Stewart Binns is undoubtedly one of the best. Many thanks to the good people at netgalley and Penguin UK-Michael Joseph for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written. Highly Recommended.

Review
2 Stars
Uninspiring
Locked In - Kerry Wilkinson

This is the first book in a series featuring DS Jessica Daniel. It's an average police thriller with an uninspiring plot. Four bodies are waiting to be discovered and at each location it is noted that all doors are locked so how did the killer enter? What if it was possible to acquire a duplicate key? As I do not want to spoil your enjoyment I will take this train of thought no further. The author does a nice job of introducing Jessica, a career minded detective, who shares a flat with her best friend Caroline. Caroline has a new boyfriend called Randy and wants her flat mate Jessica to make up a foursome with Ryan, Randy's friend. The reason I mention this is on their first meeting Jessica did not really fancy Ryan but jumps into bed with him almost immediately. I thought this a ridiculous premise an articulate and organised DS throwing all caution to the wind for a quick sh*g. As the body count mounts DS Daniel comes under pressure for a quick resolve.

 

The real problem I have with this story is the following. Most readers of crime (including myself) are keen to play amateur detective and try to solve if possible who might be the killer. It is obvious that an author will always try to keep the ID of any killer a mystery until the final pages. The real skill is presenting him in a small part, as an unassuming boring character, and then revealing him as the killer in the final pages, when hopefully the reader will be delightfully surprised and somewhat disappointed that he was unable to discover the truth for himself. In "Locked In", I knew immediately who the killer was as soon as he was introduced. This is the first book in a long running series by Kerry Wilkinson and I suppose we should grant some latitude in the hope that later books in the series improve. I have since read "Nothing but Trouble" and really enjoyed, so it is probably fair to say that Mr Wilkinson is improving his technique as the series progresses. Nevertheless "Locked In" remains a poor read and certainly not one that I will recall with any real enjoyment.

Review
2 Stars
Laborious story with some good moments
The Intruder - Ray Hogan

The central character in The Intruder is William Heming and it is probably best to describe him as a type of psychopath. He is uncaring, irresponsible, over confident, selfish and quite content to become physical if the situation demands. His show of self importance and lack of understanding for others also labels him as a narcissist. Heming works as an estate agent and views it quite acceptable that he should possess his own personal duplicate key to each property within his portfolio. He does not question his odd behaviour, no harm occurs and any personal items he removes will surely not be missed by the owner. Douglas Sharp, a local resident, allows his dog to foul on the pavement immediately adjacent to Heming's house. Sharp, his wife and mistress Abigail soon become the focus of the estate agent with disastrous consequences.

 

The story is narrated in the first person and through the eyes and ears of Heming we learn how his childhood was a precursor to his somewhat worrying adult behaviour. Rather than remain in full time education he preferred to seek employment with a local estate agent Mower & Mower, acquiring the business when the present owner retired. Thus he finds himself in an ideal position to fulfil his fantasies and spy on all his clients. On first reading I found Heming's mindset entertaining but this soon give way to frustration as his narcissistic and psychotic personality established itself as the norm and showed little sign of being curtailed. The style of writing was at times successful in creating a somewhat creepy and uneasy atmosphere but the constant smarmy meanderings of this loathsome individual resulted in me losing interest rapidly. There were some accurate will chosen observations..."On the outside is your everyday life of going out to work and going on holiday. Then there is the life you wish you had- the life that keeps you awake at night with hope, ambition, plans, frustration, resentment, envy, regret"........"emerging towelled and pink from the steamy bathroom. There she was on the bed slowly painting her perfect toenails, a tear on her cheek. Everything I ever wanted was there. It was a perfect summit of wishes, all I had struggled for."....

 

In the final analysis I must confess I did not really enjoy this book or the claustrophobic style of narration. I would however like to thank the good people at netgalley and publisher Random House for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

Review
5 Stars
The way horror should be written
The Happy Man - Eric Higgs

What a great pleasure to read this re published story some 30 years after the initial print run . In some ways I had become weary with the horror genre and was hoping that something fresh could grab my attention and rekindle my enthusiasm. The Happy Man is a classic edgy horror story that follows the fortunes of one suburban San Diego resident Charles Ripley. His everyday life is about to change when newcomer Ruskin Marsh and alluring wife Sybil move into the recently sold property next door. Charles is drawn unexpectedly to the charismatic lawyer Marsh a happy gregarious character not only an expert on art but also insatiable in his pursuit of young delectable females. The writings of the Marquis de Sade feature predominately in the world of Marsh and Charles offers himself as an eager scholar keen to understand and indeed partake in violent sexual acts depicted by De Sade.

 

What I particularly loved about this story was the build-up from a seemingly sedate middle class development to a world with no barriers where murder and sexual deviation are accepted as the norm. Was Charles Ripley prepared to sacrifice his home, job and wife in pursuit of excitement to feed his ever increasing need for gratification under the auspices of Ruskin Marsh? This is a great example of how horror can be used to structure the every ordinary day into a place of evil and pleasure with no responsibility nor limit. Many thanks to the good people at Valancourt Books for providing me with a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review. This small independent company specialize in rare neglected and out of print fiction promoting authors and works that might otherwise remain unknown. Recommended.

 

Review
4 Stars
Irresistible nonsense
The One - John Marrs

I really wanted to dislike this book but found myself racing through the text and you know what I enjoyed! The plot is absurd and reads as follows; It has been discovered that within each one of us there a "match" gene. The secret of a successful relationship is to find your future partner who will have exactly the same "match" gene, and once you find each other future happiness is assured. To do this all that is required is a simple DNA swab  which will be entered into an online database and then wait patiently for a confirmation email that you future partner has been found...hurrah! The entrepreneurial founder Ellie (also chasing a life partner) is fast becoming a very rich lady. It is not difficult to berate this premise, for in order for this "imatch" to be successful every human being on the planet must donate their DNA working on the assumption that there is only "one" life partner.

 

We follow the story through four main characters; Ellie, Jade, Mandy and Nick nicely presented in alternate and clear chapters. The reader never loses interest as the separate adventures for all four is quite different but as will be discovered not everyone's intentions are honourable. Now if you add to this mix a deranged serial killer then we have all the ingredients for an additive read or a tale of nonsense depending on your viewpoint. John Marrs is the kind of author I like to delve into periodically when I simply want some entertainment. He doesn't take himself too seriously, presenting a fun read with little concentration needed. I'm not saying I am about to dash out and acquire his latest book but just like a cup of hot chocolate, nice to drink occasionally.

Review
2 Stars
Disappointing
Devil's Day - Andrew Michael Hurley

Having enjoyed immensely The Loney with the quiet and isolated Lancastrian coast, I was hoping to be equally enthralled by Devil's Day where John Pentecost returns to the place of his childhood, the rural farming community of the Briardale Valley known as the Endlands. On this trip he is accompanied by his wife Katherine who is heavily pregnant with their first child. The reason for the journey is to attend his grandfather's funeral affectionately known to everyone as Gaffer.

 

Whereas The Loney had a great story to tell with a very unsettling conclusion, I found Devil's Day a rather laborious exercise and almost give up at the half way point. It is really a story of rituals, local folklore and introverted hillside sheep farmers. Legend has it that once a year the Devil returns to the valley in an attempt to unsettle the community and cause mischief amongst the sheep. By telling tales, regurgitating stories from the past, and redrawing the boundary lines it is hoped that the Devil can be kept isolated and the people of Endlands kept safe for another year. Endlands is that rare thing a place separate from the intrusion of the modern age entrenched in tradition and a population willing to fight for independence to maintain their link with the past. John Pentecost is drawn to the beauty and harshness, his wife Kat feels very uneasy as she is seen as an outsider and viewed with suspicion; tolerated more than accepted. There is however one acceptation, Grace Dyer, a young and rather consused teenager who with her odd power of prediction forms a very disquieting attraction towards a pregnant Kat.

 

The story is somewhat confusing and at times hard to follow as we view Endlands both in the present and the past. The narration is through the eyes of John Pentecost and we meet him in the present, in the company of his son Adam, trying to instil him the ways of his ancestors then, without warning we are immediately in the past again with a pregnant and suspicious Kat. Whereas The Loney used the landscape to great affect creating a wonderful modern horror story Devil's Day has some good ideas and moments played out through the characters of John, Kat, Adam, Grace and Dadda but essentially little seems to happen and ultimately leading to a somewhat predictable conclusion. Many thanks to netgalley and the publisher John Murray for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

Review
5 Stars
Simply sublime
The Dark Gray Blanket - Robert Burns

In the winter of 76 and 77 in the area of Oakland in the county of Michigan four children aged between the ages of 10 and 12 were abducted, held for days before finally being brutally murdered their bodies being left either naked or partially clothed in the frozen landscape. The babysitter killer, as he came to be known, was never apprehended and The Dark Gray Blanket is a fictional novel about this event.

 

Frank Pellegrini, an experienced detective, works with the Child Victims Investigative Unit of the Detroit Police Department. He is tolerated by his boss Captain McDougal who knows that Frank has the best wishes of the greater community at heart even though at times his methods are somewhat unorthodox. He lives a lonely bachelor life having been greatly affected by events in his childhood disclosed later in the novel. His days are days of routine usually complemented with a visit to his favourite watering hole "O'Malleys"..."Frank's evening up until now had been predictable the medicinal shots of Wild Turkey 101 at O'Malleys, his favourite meal, two hours of mulling over his cases at his desk while dressed only in his underwear, and the final dose of Wild Turkey launching him into a deep, worry-free sleep." When the naked body of a child is found partly buried in snow Frank, together with his new partner Jimmy Wilson, is tasked with the job of bringing the killer to justice. As the body count rises, and the word serial killer is uttered, the good citizens of a frightened community are demanding answers exerting justifiable pressure on an overworked Detroit Police Dept.

 

The writing of The Dark Gray Blanket is sublime narrated in unhurried deeply descriptive prose. We learn a little of the history of the area made famous by the automobile industry in particular Henry Ford and also two renowned musicians; Vincent Damon Furnier and Robert Clark Seger better known as Alice Cooper and Bob Seger. The cold frosty snowbound Michigan winters of 76 and 77 add a frosty and chilly feeling to the developing nightmare...."The dark black night sky was being punctuated with the soft, fluffy, white falling snow, and the huge boughs, stretching in every direction from the gigantic Douglas firs, were gently swaying under their white burden and the gently blowing wind."....

 

Pellegrini's personal mission to solve a difficult case, his dogged unflinching determination and the relationship with his new young partner Jimmy Wilson create a spell bounding work of genius and a story that I found once started was very difficult to leave until completed. Throughout is a lingering uneasiness and a sense of morbid anticipation as we wait for the killer to strike again..."He still could not believe his eyes. In all his years, he had never viewed a scene quite like this-the solemn, cold, naked isolation of the frailest among us, having endured the most unimaginable horrors form something so evil."....

 

I always wonder when reading a detective novel if the author will have the ability to create a unique conclusion something that will be totally unexpected. The final chapters produced a sequence of events that thrilled me in their audacity and inventiveness, naturally I cannot disclose them to you (dear reader of my review!) for to do so would spoil your enjoyment of a novel that I rate as totally unique, and possibly the best book I have read this year. Many thanks to the good people of netgalley and publisher Howard Schrack for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written. Highly, highly recommended.

Review
4 Stars
Wily old fox
Even Dogs in the Wild - Ian Rankin

After so many years it is still great to read about that wonderful creation from Ian Rankin, that wily old fox who even in retirement can never let go; John Rebus. "Even Dogs in the Wild" is once again written to a very high standard and inevitably sees Rebus not so much confronting but consulting with his great adversary Big Ger Cafferty. As the years have passed they have developed perhaps not a fondness but a grudging respect for each other. The plot revolves around the murder of a well known MP and his association with "Acorn House" a care home for children. Given the amount of news coverage attributed to sexual abuse and in particular sexual abuse of minors it comes as no surprise the direction and shape this story takes. To me the bolder than life characters are more important than the theme and in this Rankin excels with shady underworld connections in the guise of Darryl Christie and Morris Cafferty and the robust old fashioned policing, nor forgetting the deadpan humour, of Detective Inspector John Rebus (retired) Rebus is everything you would expect a detective, whose routes lie in the past, to be. His methods are more suited to dogged hands on police work rather than as I am sure he would describe...fancy computers. He has no interest in the comforts of this world preferring to drive an old Saab, listen to bygone bands on his record player (The Steve Miller band and the amazing Rory Gallagher) and relaxing at the end of the day in his favourite watering hole The Oxford Bar with a pint of IPA close by.

 

Those readers acquainted with the style and wit of Ian Rankin will devour this story, just like stepping into a comfy pair of slippers. The only sadness is knowing that in the not too distant future John Rebus must surely finish leaving the reader to ponder if he will finally be stopped... his own decision? ill health? or perhaps have his life ended suddenly by an old acquaintance or underworld operator!

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