Sunday, 27 October 2013

The Memory Game by Sharon Sant

Disclaimer: Despite the name of this blog Sharon is of no relation to me. This is an independent, unbiased review.

The Memory Game is the story of a fifteen year-old boy, David, who dies tragically before his time. The ghost of David hangs around and wonders why he hasn't moved on to wherever it is we are supposed to go to when we die. He wanders aimlessly unable to talk to anyone, a visit to his school leads him to discover that lonely, introvert, Bethany can not only see him but also talk to him. The Memory Game is the story of David and Beth's friendship.

I found this novel an enjoyable read. It was told simply, no unnecessarily over descriptiveness or redundant plot lines, so the novel had a wonderful flow to it. The story was tightly edited too, no daft typos or grammatical errors. The characters were interesting and well developed. There was a melancholy atmosphere to The Memory Game but, thankfully, it never crossed the line into bleakness. The blossoming friendship between the two main characters was sweet but never overdone, which gave it credibility. A great read suitable for all ages but that will appeal particularly to young adults.

Friday, 25 October 2013

The Damage by Howard Linskey

I found The Damage to be a thoroughly entertaining novel. The author could have chosen to bring wall-to-wall violence to this gangster tale and it wouldn't have been out of place, he didn't and the story was richer for the suggestion of it. Don’t get me wrong, there is violent action but the most chilling scene in this book had no violence whatsoever. David Blake uses his brain to achieve his goals and was quite a sympathetic character, for a gangster. Howard Linskey has created a three dimensional character in Blake, a solid character who, if he doesn't meet a bloody end, I will enjoy following.

The Damage is quite a convoluted novel with a lot of detail and plenty of character names to follow, but like all good novels, it flows nicely and each revelation leaves you hungry for the next. Linskey concludes his plotlines intelligently and you never feel cheated by a short cut. A great read that has left me hooked and yearning for more of Linskey’s realistic and gritty fiction.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Buddhas of Borneo by Stuart Ayris

Buddhas of Borneo is a lovely and captivating read that fans of the author’s Tollesbury books will really enjoy. I don’t know how he does it, but Stuart’s books have a magical feel to them. He breaks all the rules and doesn’t care. If he wants to slip in a poem, he does it, if he wants to morph two words together for poetic effect then he does and it WORKS.

Buddhas of Borneo is rich in poetic imagery, thoughts and feelings. This book is based on the author’s experiences whilst travelling in the country but he allows his imagination to roam free on one or two flights of fancy. He conveys the depth of his feelings very well when he’s at the war memorial. He shows his sense of wonder at some of the wildlife. His driver and tour guide are brought life with humour and heart.

This was an uplifting read that brought a smile to my lips, I expected nothing less from Stuart Ayris.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Bedlam by B.A. Morton

Bedlam held me in thrall from the very first line. The prose was deliciously descriptive, without being overdone. At times Morton's descriptive prowess gave a magical fairy tale feel to the story, yet Bedlam is a dark story. It creeps up on you, and pulls you in.

Joe McNeil's life is on the rocks. He's one drink away from being an alcoholic. The love of his life, Kit, has disappeared, nearly a year ago and under mysterious circumstances. His colleagues in the police believe she is dead, but Joe can't accept this and his obsession with finding her is destroying his career and life.

B.A. Morton teases the reader, never quite giving up her secrets. This makes for an utterly compelling read that I just couldn't put down. The run down suburb of Bedlam has a mystical feel to it and Morton is so sparse on detail this is clearly deliberate.

Bedlam is quite unlike anything else I have read in recent years. However, one thing I can say with assurance is that it is a brilliant creation. Part fable, fairy tale, and cautionary tale - make up your own mind. A brilliant read.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Welcome Back, Jack! By Liam Sweeney

Note: This review is pre-release. The book goes on sale 31st October

Jack Taggart is a man with a terrible history. The bloody death of his parents at the merciless hands of a serial killer have left him a haunted man. He battles his demons by being the best cop he can be. When a serial killer brings death to New Rhodes Jack finds the past comes back for him with a vengeance.

Welcome Back, Jack! Is a gritty police procedural novel. We follow Jack Taggart as he tries to track down a serial killer. He must battle self-interest and be as objective as he can be as the killer has a connection to his past, a link he cannot ignore. This leads to suspicions from his colleagues in New Rhodes Police Department, the FBI and the Sheriff’s department. When everyone wants Jack off the case he knows that stop hunting this killer could mean disaster for him and all he holds dear.

Liam Sweeney has created a number of excellent characters here. The dialogue is as sharp and realistic as any I’ve read in recent times. It’s also clear that the author has done his research into police procedures and as a Brit I was fascinated by the methodology of US cops and agencies outlined in the book.

Sweeney builds the tension up slowly but as the books nears its dramatic conclusion you realise how much he has sucked you into the plot. I found that it I really cared what happened to Jack. They were no throwaway two dimensional characters here. An excellent read that I enjoyed from start to finish. I hope to see more of Jack Taggart.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

The Fix by Keith Nixon

The Fix caught me totally off guard. I expected something a little more conventional for some reason. What I got was a story that put two fingers up to convention and how refreshing it was. The story structure is quite slow to build up, normally a frustration, but with this novel I didn't care I was enjoying main character Josh's cynical observations on life far too much. The characters and humour were very much strengths of this novel. Nixon delights in putting his characters through the wringer.

Josh Dedman commutes from Margate to London where he works for a large bank. He despises all of his work mates and his boss Hershey Valentine. His relationship with PR consultant Claire is dead in the water. It’s fair to say Josh has a crap life. When Josh has the opportunity to score a few points over his boss he takes it in hilarious style. Nixon gives us plenty of questions to be answered – Who is the mystery blonde Josh meets on the train? Why is new friend Jack going out his way to help him? Meanwhile the bank is having serious problems with embezzlement issues and an unwilling patsy is needed. Is Josh a Dedman walking? 

The Fix was enjoyable for the anti-heroes as much as much as the heroes. Nixon is unafraid to use strong language and toilet humour at times to make a scene more effective. However, he never overdoes it to the point of gratuity. 

An unusual novel, I hesitate to use the term "crime caper" but the comic element was a major part of the book. The plot was well conceived and ultimately satisfying. There were enough red herrings to keep the mystery readers happy. I for one would love to read more of the adventures of Josh Dedman. A top not read that will appeal particularly to the British sense of humour.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Swell by Joe Solo & Kevin Pearson

I don't often do promo posts here but sometimes a project just has to be shouted about.

Swell was written by Joe Solo and illustrated by Scunthorpe based Cartoonist Kevin Pearson.

The book is intended to make both children and adults smile, and attempts to answer the 

question, "When it comes to dinosaurs, why didn't they find the biggest fossils first?'

Proceeds from sales are going direct to The Blue Door, a Crisis Centre for victims of domestic violence and abuse in Scunthorpe The book is aimed at youngsters and intended as a fun bedtime story. It's a fiver including postage and is available from 

The books is £5 including postage and available from:

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Roman Dalton - Werewolf PI

If you like noir then you’ll love this. If you like supernatural fiction you’ll love this. If you like great descriptive prose you’ll love this. Paul D. Brazill has been writing his Roman Dalton werewolf PI stories now for about 3-4 years. I enjoy the pure escapism of it, the author’s imagination roams in the same way that Roman roams the streets of The City.

What this collection of stories brings is a sense of solidity to the city for me. With each little revelation we get another insight into the place the author calls simply The City. I enjoy the fact that anything can, and often does, happen there and it seems there are no boundaries. The descriptiveness is at times heavy and other times a feather’s touch but nothing disturbs the flow of the stories and the style, which is vitally important here. Brazill’s writing is like a watermark and you can tell his work instantly. To me it’s become as comforting as meeting an old friend - you know you’re not going to end up frustrated and unfulfilled.

The relationships between the characters has also been intensified and made more solid. With the release of Roman Dalton PI it feels like the series has reached another higher level. Absolutely top rate.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

Rowling's first foray into the world of adult fiction was an entertaining read. The Casual Vacancy deals with events following the death of Parish Councillor Barry Fairbrother. The little village of Pagford turns out to be a hot bed of political back biting, bigotry and ignorance as the residents squabble over the vacant seat.

Rowling hasn't quite purged Potter from her head as the children of the village play as large, perhaps larger, a role in the novel as the adults. However, excellent characterisation made it an entertaining read as did some very effective social commentary.

Rowling has her detractors but I for one always enjoy the way she spins a tale. My biggest criticism is that it is perhaps a couple of hundred pages too long and don't expect action. This is very much a character driven novel. A worthwhile read that attempts to deal with large social issues in a small village.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Gumshoe by Paul D.Brazill

Gumshoe is the story of part time Private Eye (full time alcoholic) Peter Ord.  Gumshoe is a collection cases artfully woven together with humour as the bedrock. You have to be sharper than a filleting knife to catch all the jokes and puns. Like a child with a pointed stick Paul D. Brazill stands beneath the hornet’s nest that is the noir genre and prods it until something drops out.

Gumshoe sees the author at his most playful as Ord shambles from one interconnected case to the next. I suppose the words “crime caper” spring to mind when thinking of this kind of fiction. There are two things you can be sure of with Paul’s writing: It will make you laugh and it will entertain you. Gumshoe does both of these effortlessly.

A great read that once more had those on the bus looking at me nervously as I laugh out loud. Yet another winner from Paul D. Brazill. I can’t wait for the next one.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Cutter's Deal (Best of British) by Julie Morrigan

Julie Morrigan's addition to the Byker Books Best of British series is a gangster's tale. Gordon Cutter is a gangster whose star is rising. He gets results through brutal methods and ruthlessness. When a rival firm is in trouble Cutter sees an opportunity and his power grows still further.

The story is told from an interesting variety of first person perspectives. We get Cutter's perspective which at times is utterly chilling. People are there to be used, a means to an end. We also get the viewpoint from a brother and sister who are drawn into his spiders web by his charisma and generosity. However, like a spoiled child Gordon Cutter soon tires of his toys and his pets. 

A word of warning - if you want a cosy read look elsewhere. No fancy prose here. This tale is written simply and starkly. Morrigan has never sugar coated her writing and she has always been bold when it comes to telling it like it is. An excellent and compelling read that I read in just two sittings.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Guns of Brixton (Best of British) by Paul D. Brazill

I look forward eagerly to each new release in the Byker Books Best of British series. All the novellas have been among the best work of the authors participating and Guns of Brixton is no exception. Paul D. Brazill's stories are populated by larger than life characters that come bouncing out of the page at you. He has something in common with Tarantino in that the stories he crafts are almost secondary, what makes them interesting are the characters and the dialogue. The wit is razor sharp and the gags come thick and fast. The author packs in so many musical and film references that I guarantee you won't spot them all. What all of this adds up to is a uniquely entertaining style that only he can pull off with such aplomb.

Guns of Brixton is a cleverly woven tapestry of characters that all interact with each other at some point during the story. Big Jim Lawson has an unfortunate accident involving Half-Pint Harry and a shotgun. Richard is sick to death of his wife Camilla's moaning. Lynne and Gorgeous George are bored and hungover at work. Marty and Father Tim are chewing the fat over a fry up. How will their lives intersect? And with what consequences?

So if murderous priests, jewel robbers in drag and has been gangsters are your thing you will love Guns of Brixton. However, pay attention as you read as there are a lot of characters in this novella and you will miss some of the subtler references if you don't keep up with who is doing what to whom. A great read that I highly recommend.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Sinema 3 by Rod Glenn

I've read the Sinema series since it was first released. Each of the three books has a very different flavour. The first book was pure slasher horror thrills and a brave piece of writing that earned the author almost as much criticism as it did acclaim. The second book was equally as bloody but saw Han killing murderous criminals as opposed to innocents.

In this, the third, novel we see Han employed by the shadowy Troy Consortium to kill only selected targets in the interests of national security. However, all is not well within the organisation and Han must face a killer as accomplished as himself. Rod Glenn knows how to write a gripping page turner. I tend to read his novels quickly as they are difficult to put down. Sinema 3 is all action and Han becomes something of a Bruce Willis type action hero as he is forced to face life threatening situations. As usual the banter is excellent and Glenn tests your film knowledge with several references. Han is still haunted by the ghosts of Haydon but will he be able to lay them to rest?

Rod Glenn has brought us another great read that I recommend highly

Saturday, 29 June 2013

So Low So High by Pete Sortwell

So Low So High is the story of drug addict Simon Brewster. Simon is a complex character. He doesn't want your sympathy. He doesn't want your understanding. He just wants money for gear, right now. He is unrepentant for the crimes he commits and he has a wicked sense of humour. He detaches himself emotionally from anything that makes him feel uncomfortable and that he does not want to hear. All of these factors add up to a little bit of a tragic but at times likeable character. You almost see "good" Simon trying to get out and you root for him.

This novel may well make you uncomfortable. There is no flowery prose. The author doesn't dress anything up. It's life warts and all. Where So Low So High succeeds is that it has the stark ring of truth to it. Of course it is fiction but you wouldn't know it. That's how well done it is. It's easy to draw comparisons with Irvine Welsh here but Sortwell's novel speaks truer.

A gripping read that can't help but affect you. Read with an open mind and consider the kind of events that happen daily in modern Britain and you will appreciate So Low So High.

So Low So High is available on paperback or kindle format and published by Caffeine Nights.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Veil of Civility by Ian Graham

With Veil of Civility Ian Graham brings us an all action page turner of a thriller. Following the terrible death of a friend former IRA man Declan McIver finds the peaceful life he has tried to build disintegrate before him. Hunted by the FBI and the police he must try to make sense of the conspiracy that surrounds him. Can Declan avenge his friend and keep his family safe?

There is a depth of descriptive prose not often found in novels of the genre and yet it still flows excellently. The characters are engaging and Graham gives all of their drives and actions purpose that makes clear sense to the reader, there’s no need to jump to wild assumptions. It’s clear that Ian Graham is an author to keep an eye on for fans of action novels. Could Declan McIver be the new Jack Reacher?

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Seven Daze by Charlie Wade

Seven Daze is the story of Jim who has just been released from prison. His former cellmate, lifer Harry, had sold the idea of becoming a contract killer to him and as he stands in an alley waiting to complete his first contract things go badly wrong. His mark has a heart attack. Jim and city worker, Charlotte, who appears out of nowhere help out the target and from there Jim’s nightmare begins. He must make ten grand in seven days or he’ll end up in the Thames wearing concrete leg warmers.

They say the devil is in the detail and that’s how it is with Charlie Wade’s writing. We get to see all aspects of Jim’s life as he struggles to repay the debt to his former employer. What Wade does well is the fine details. He creates a fully rounded and in depth character with Jim. His observations are often funny, wit, sarcastic and cynical sometimes all four at once.

I very much enjoyed the insights given into the character of Jim, as much as I enjoyed the events that unfolded. You can’t help but feel for Jim’s plight and most of those he is robbing won’t miss the money. After their shared experience Jim’s developing relationship with Charlotte has the reader wondering where this will go. Charlie Wade does a great job of keeping the book interesting despite his need to have to repeat some events given the nature of Jim’s task.

Overall a very enjoyable novel. The author writes in a very British way and his observations in the novel would, perhaps, appeal more to a British audience. He seems to play down events in a very British fashion where our friends over the pond might be tempted to make it more visceral. This to me makes it more effective, more realistic and more enjoyable for the honesty. Charlie Wade has made his mark here with his own brand of crime fiction. I hope more follows.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

The Barry Island Murders by Andrew Peters

This is the third book I've read by Andy Peters. His dialogue with the reader remains endearing and the source of much of his humour. In this case Superintendent Williams (The almost legendary Williams of the yard) is recounting some infamous murder cases to a journalist. The murders all take place on Barry Island in the sixties and yes the occasional Welsh gag slips in.

In previous reviews I've made much of the humour but the reason I enjoyed Barry Island Murders is that the author gave a very thorough recount of the murders and how they are solved. A quirky police procedural if you like with the action happening in the sixties and being recounted to a present day journalist. The stories are well constructed and you find yourself wondering not only who did it but how they achieved it.

The first story The Journey To Mars is a perplexing case and had me scratching my head. I must stop that with my dandruff and all. A death at Barry funfair and a killer to apprehend leaves our man struggling for clues. A young is woman murdered whilst on a ghost train ride and there is no sign of a killer.

The Playground the second story sees the death of an elderly gentleman in a strange location. Williams is on the scent faster than a bloodhound after a pork pie.

The final case The Graveyard sees the death of a young woman in a graveyard of steam engines but who is she and why is the dresser at her guest house full of sexy lingerie? Williams must take a closer look but not necessarily at the lingerie.

No doubt The Barry Island Murders will be too sedate for some. Williams of the yard is no Jack Reacher with his chiselled chin and perfect teeth. No guns, bombs and few girls to excite the reader, just three deftly recounted tales with a gentle humour running through them like a vein in a good cheese. Witty, offbeat, funny, quirky but most of all a great and fun read.

Monday, 27 May 2013

B.R. Stateham's Turner Hahn and Frank Morales Are Back!

Homicide detectives Turner Hahn and Frank Morales are back on duty in their new novel,  Guilt of Innocence. The two are investigating a couple of murders which pushes them to the limits of their wits.  One case involves the death of a very successful corporate lawyer.  A high priced corporate lawyer who happens to be married to a woman who heads the largest cosmetics firm in the country.  How the murder took place is perplexing enough.  But as more bodies begin to drop Turner and Frank soon realize they are facing a maniacal mastermind who may very well be smarter than both of them combined.

Twists and turns, dead ends and red herrings . . . with an ending that will truly be surprising.  This case has it all.  And this is only case number one!

Case number two involves the disappearance of a young girl fifteen years earlier.  A Cold Case File.  Except it is not a cold case any longer.  The girl has returned.  And now lies on a cold metal table in the morgue.  Someone has gone out of their way to make the homicide look like a suicide. Apparently a crime syndicate is frantic to make sure neither Turner nor Frank find out the facts surrounding the girl's disappearance fifteen years earlier.  A hit man is in town grimly eliminating everyone who may have known the girl. A hit man with orders to possibly rub out Turner and Frank as well.

And again the real killer is someone whom no one would have ever suspected.

Turner and Frank are at their best.  Dry wit, interesting characters, lots of action, vivid imagery, and two genuine classic mysteries.  All of it can be found in Guilt of Innocence.  Find it anywhere ebooks or sold.

B.R. Stateham is a sixty-four year old curmudgeon who writes genre fiction.  With an antiquarian's body yet with the mind of a fourteen year old boy, the author's imagination still wanders down dark alleys and mean streets looking for a dangerous rendezvous or dons a Federation uniform and straps on his waist a 20 megawatt laser blaster to go out and hunt Martian grave robbers.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Torc of Moonlight by Linda Acaster

Torc of Moonlight is the story of student Nicholas Blaketon and his obsession with pale and introverted Alice Linwood. 

Nick returns to Hull University after the summer break and things are pretty downbeat. His girlfriend has left him. His housemates have nothing in common with him and if his grades don't improve he'll be out of university on his ear. A rugby injury leaves him angry and aggressive and he alienates his few remaining friends. Add to this his increasingly erratic behaviour and it's clear Nick has a problem.
When he spots Alice in a lecture he is immediately drawn to her. Strange other worldly events soon begin to unfold.

Torc of Moonlight is no light snack it's a gourmet meal. Acaster weaves rich descriptive language into the plot. She seasons with diverse and interesting historical detail.
Spice is added with an arrogant and ancient spirit hell bent on revenge.

I've always been fascinated with sacred places and the author compelled me to want to explore these in more depth. It's clear that she knows her subject. She weaves in several plot strands and the characters are interesting and well developed. However, this is no light read. The plot nuances are subtle and you have to give this book your full attention. If all you want is action, violence and explosions then this one is probably not for you. 

An intelligent, interesting and well researched novel that was a pleasure to read.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Hey, That Robot Ate My Baby by Zelmer Pulp

There’s nothing quite like a good old fashioned Sci-fi anthology. However, Zelmer Pulp’s Hey, That Robot Ate My Baby is nothing like a good old fashioned Sci-fi anthology. It’s thoroughly modern, slick and any clichés that dared come near this stunningly original work would frankly be scared off.

Timejack by Chuck Reagan

Clever and fast paced with some great ideas. As those in the future seek to manipulate the past there are dire consequences in the present. Chuck Reagan delivers an in depth tale of a technologically different future where we live our lives virtually and our put is just a meat sack attended to by robots. Social approval via social networks is king here. Chillingly detailed.

Wherever The Light Ends by Ryan Sayles

A chilling story that blends the oddness of a carnival with the interior of an alien spacecraft. Powerful scene building had me right there with the characters. Good old fashioned paranoia and fear abound. As a cop seeks to uncover the facts behind a mysterious double death Ryan Sayles slowly unearths a tale of alien interference.

Geek Squad 20 by Brian Panowich

Panowich asks in bold letters what if hackers could control people? Panowich weaves in some clever twists and turns and takes computer hacking to a whole new and scary level.

This Protean Love by Isaac Kirkman

I'd rate this story highly for the chapter titles alone! Some unique ideas and a strange melancholic, lonely world make this perhaps the story of the collection. So deliciously descriptive as to be poetic at times I was held captive by this story.

The Whores of God by Chris Leek

Chris Leek finishes off this excellent collection with a hilarious romp around a doomed spacecraft. Snappy one liners and violence are the order of the day. This cynical view of the future delivered with tongue firmly in cheek.

A variety of themes and styles here, enough to suit almost any taste. It's clear that the contributors were carefully selected and each of them brings something a little different to the party. An accomplished and riveting read.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Joe Soap by Andrew Peters

Caution: Have a glass of water by your side at all times when reading this novel. The wit is so dry you'll be dehydrated in no time. Andrew Peter's has his tongue so firmly lodged in his cheek it's a wonder it doesn't have to be surgically removed. Joe Soap is the story of a minor thriller writer who is forced to commit unspeakable criminal acts by persons unknown.

Peters has perfected the art of talking "off camera" as it were and he uses this to comic effect time and again. The narrator is literally communicating regularly with the reader directly. You might be forgiven for thinking that the regular comical asides interfere with the story but not a bit of it! The story flows very nicely and I read this novel in just two or three sittings.

A very enjoyable book. On balance I’d say some might find it a tad light hearted and irreverent but the rest us will just enjoy the humour and a story well told.

Genre:  Crime/Humour
Publisher:  Indie
Format:  E-Book & Paperback
Rating:  5/5

Sunday, 5 May 2013

I Woke Up This Morning (Frugality Book 3) by Stuart Ayris

I am sat here trying to write a book review. Normally these are simple short reviews with me saying in my own way what I liked about the book, how it made me feel and gently giving such critique I feel is honest and correct.

I Woke Up This Morning has left me puzzled.  As the author knows I am a huge fan of his work. When I started to read this book and by the time I was a third of the way in I was convinced of one thing: It was an exercise in pure self-indulgence and that he has let himself down.

I sit here having literally just finished and I realise how wrong I was about that.  I think some of the points Stuart is trying to make a little too subtle for a fat, baldy, boorish, ignoramus such as myself.  I’ll try to convey what I thought as succinctly as I can.

Stuart tells a tale of alienation. A tale of fear and how is it wrong sometimes to indulge ourselves in our woes. We should strive to be a better person by whichever means is best for us. I can’t say how much autobiography is in the novel but you get the distinct impression that the character “Stuart Ayris” has a few regrets. Separating fact from fiction for someone who doesn’t know the author closely is like trying to paint using morning mist so I’m not going to attempt it.

With his usual breathtaking brilliance Ayris lays down the positives and leaves his jewels of wisdom for the discerning reader to uncover. When you come across these little treasures you feel better about yourself and better about your day. Stuart’s work is unique in style and structure but my god does it speak to my soul at times. A work of cloudy, confusing genius, yet genius it is.

Genre:  Literary
Publisher:  Indie
Format:  E-Book & Paperback
Rating:  5/5

Friday, 26 April 2013

Inside Straight by Ray Banks

Graham Ellis is a confident and assured individual. Master of his work environment, lord of all he surveys. At least that's the impression he tries to give to the outside world. In fact he is a lost little boy in a world full of grown ups. Throughout the course of this novel we see his weaknesses ruthlessly exploited by those around him and he has no more free will than a snowflake on the wind.

Ray Banks delivers yet another gripping story that you just cannot leave alone. Inside Straight sees Banks up his game. He has a Royal flush with this one. It's more considered and less brutal than some of his other works. There's violence certainly but it's a long time coming. As with all of Banks work this story is defined by strong characters and great dialogue.

The story unfolds in a casino in Salford where Graham is a pit boss. Transferred to this sleepy casino by his spiteful boss Graham soon finds he is made an offer he cannot refuse and he gambles everything on what he believes is the right decision. Banks on top form yet again.

Genre:  Crime
Publisher:  Blasted Heath
Format: E-Book
Rating: 5/5

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Homecoming Blues by Andrew Scorah

Where did the time go? I picked up Homecoming Blues and I’d suddenly lost an hour and a half of my life. I looked around my little reading spot and out of the window bewildered at the position of the sun.

Homecoming Blues I would classify more as an action than a crime novel. The intensity of the action and the speed of events really gripped me and I read the book into two sittings. Scorah delivers everything you would expect from a good action novel: Violence, two sets of bad guys, a girl and of course the comedy sidekick. There were cockney wisecracks galore.

This kind of novel will never win plaudits for emotional depth but for sheer escapism action packed fun it was a top notch read.  Fans of Matt Hilton and Lee Child will love it.

Genre:  Action
Publisher:  Ansco Press
Format:  Paperback & E-book
Rating:  5/5

Saturday, 20 April 2013

The Cops of Manchester by Col Bury

There's something very satisfying about getting to grips with a short story collection. You can see a story through to the end in a relatively short bus journey and be satisfied and ready for the next. I was concerned that the author had pigeon holed himself into a relatively narrow theme but my concern was misplaced. Col Bury has delivered an interesting range of tales told from different perspectives.

The writing was descriptive and cleverly so, I never felt that anything was dragged out, so the stories flowed just as they should. As with any diverse collection there were a couple of stories that didn't really work for ME. I emphasise the me because there was nothing wrong with the writing, I was just unsatisfied with the conclusion.

A nicely rounded collection and the emphasis IS on the action. This is where Bury comes into his own. The action sequences were believable and really sucked me into the story. My favourite? Mopping Up the final story. He saved the best for last! This could easily have been a novella such was the breadth and scope of it. Well worth the money and a real treat for lovers of the crime genre.

Genre: Crime
Publisher: Ganglion Press
Format: E-Book
Rating: 5/5

Friday, 19 April 2013

The One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window & Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

I of course downloaded this story because the title was a story in and of itself. I hoped against hope that the title wasn't a Gimmick and that the story would live up to it otherwise I would feel cheated. The story exceeded my wildest expectations. It was a master class in storytelling but more than that it had a huge heart.  First off the humour was deadpan and relied on absurd situations and it worked wonderfully.

The tale of Allan wandering and getting into adventures was told in such a humane and yet dry way it was an absolute delight. Inspired with the story of the present the author tells the tale of Allan's life from childhood until the present and what a life! We discover Allan's blunderings and chance encounters have affected the entire course of the twentieth century.

It was told in such a wise way.  Through Allan the author teaches us several lessons about simple humanity and that it is sometimes more important than politics or organised religion. This point is reinforced throughout the book. Prejudice, ignorance and bigotry are all tackled in a unique way. Allan is simply nice and calm but that is enough. Despite the many injustices done against him Allan only gets angry once and that is against a fox! This book offers so much to the reader it's difficult to do it justice without writing an essay. A great read worth every penny.

Genre:  Literary / Humour
Publisher:  Hesperus Press
Format:  Paperback & E-book
Rating:  5/5

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Dating In The Dark by Pete Sortwell

Just lately I’ve been reading a variety of deep weighty, multi-layered novels that take a lot of concentration.  To go alongside these and take the pressure off my aching cerebellum I needed something a little lighter. Dating In The Dark provided that light relief.

Pete Sortwell’s humour often made me laugh out loud. I’d perhaps qualify that by saying that humour is a deeply personal thing and the author’s sense of humour won’t necessarily be to everybody’s taste. However, the description of Jason’s hapless attempts to find love had me chuckling over my cornflakes on many a morning.  I also enjoyed the interaction between Jason and his friend Barry who seemed intent on being a git to his buddy!  Oh, and wait till you meet Boris later on. Just whatever you do don’t get a ride in his cab!

Underneath the humour was quite a sad tale of a guy trying just a little too hard to find love. It was a well rounded story overall and it had enough sweet and sad moments to balance out the humour. If you need a laugh and to be uplifted then take the plunge into Pete Sortwell’s madcap world. You won’t want to leave!

Genre:  Humour
Publisher: Indie
Format: E-book & Paperback
Rating: 5/5

Saturday, 13 April 2013

The Kelly Affair by Paul D. Brazill

We see the return of Paul's journo-cum-chancer-cum-biog writer Luke Case. Paul has excelled himself with this one. The tastes and textures of the story really came out at me like the literary equivalent of 3D glasses. As well as cunningly crafted metaphors, sharp wit and wry humour we have Paul's usual cynical observations on life that make his fiction so entertaining to a forty something child of the seventies like me.

When Luke is employed to write a biography for a rather shady character things, of course, go spectacularly wrong for Luke who, as we've come to find out is his own worst enemy. Brazill’s stories featuring Luke are ongoing and this story follows loosely on from prior tales. I’ve enjoyed them all so far and would urge the reader to seek out Red Esperanto and Death on A Hot Afternoon for more of Luke Case.

Genre: Crime/Noir
Publisher: Atlantis (Lite Editions)
Format: E-Book Novelette
Rating: 5/5

Monday, 8 April 2013

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

This is quite a difficult review to write.  The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is a long book and it could be argued that not a great deal happens within its pages. However, sometimes entertainment is a long road and not a short sprint.  Some of the descriptive writing is so breathtakingly, heart achingly adept it cuts like a scalpel through to your heart.

Jacob De Zoet is a naïve man trying to do the right thing. He wears his principles like a jacket and of course the low cunning of the scoundrels around him exploit this weakness.  The story is set on a trading post on a man made atoll called Dejima on the shores of Japan in the late 1700’s.
It was this unique setting with Japan trying to reach out from the stagnation of centuries of closed borders that held my attention. There was unrequited love, beauty, heroics and layers upon layers. Not one for those that like a quick and easy read but if you enjoy depth and detail this will leave you enchanted.

Genre:  Literary
Publisher: Sceptre
Format:  Paperback & E-book
Rating: 4/5

Thursday, 14 March 2013

More Burglar Diaries by Danny King

More Burglar Diaries won't have you pondering the infinite. It won't bring you any answers to the deep philosophical question of life such as: Why is there never a complete pair of socks in my sock drawer? Why does the wife keep moving everything around? Where the feck is the TV remote? And finally it won't tell you why Jeremy Clarkson and Piers Morgan are such a pair of annoying t*ats. What it will do, if you're not careful, is have you spraying the tuna sandwich you were eating across the nearest wall or hapless old lady who just happens to be in front of you on the bus (sorry Ethel).

Bex and his hapless sidekick Ollie blunder from one botched burglary to another creating mayhem as they go. The dialogue is smart and hilarious. In particular Bex's wisecracks guarantee more than a chortle a chapter. The running gags are excellent. On the face of it a lighthearted comical read but King effortlessly weaves in little twists to the various jobs the boys find themselves on. A great mix of recurring characters, witty banter and slapstick humour.

Genre:  Humour
Publisher:  Byker Books
Format:  E-Book & Paperback
Rating:  4/5

Friday, 1 March 2013

Critical Failures by Robert Bevan

Critical Failures is an interesting blend of a novel. The story starts with a group of lads Tim, Cooper, Julian and Dave awaiting the arrival of a new Games Master for their weekly game of Caverns and Creatures, a Dungeons and Dragons style role playing game. As you might expect the author takes every opportunity to poke fun at the stereotype gamer, nerds with absolutely no prospect of ever finding a girlfriend. When the Games Master finally arrives, wearing a cape, they all take the opportunity to have some fun at his expense. Matters go from bad to worse and our "heroes" find themselves magically transported to the Games World with the GM having full control over this environment.

Bevan neatly combines the fantasy and comedy genres with quite a lot of action for the characters but with them of course fully aware of their game characters strengths and weaknesses. The strength of this novel lies in the humour. I found myself laughing out loud a lot but also rooting for our hapless heroes. Fantasy and RPG fans will get the jokes and find this funny. Anyone who is partial to slapstick humour will enjoy this also I'd imagine. It's not a high brow book and the humour isn't subtle but we all need a laugh sometimes and Critical Failures does this effortlessly.

Genre: Fantasy / Humour
Format: Paperback & E-Book
Rating: 5/5

Monday, 25 February 2013

News From Gardenia by Robert Llewellyn

This was one of those novels that I devoured in a day. Llewellyn captivated me from the first page. Gavin is a busy man and he has little time to reflect on his life and little time for his wife. An important man, a busy man. However, when a freak anomaly sees him transported two hundred years into the future he realises the world is a very different place to the one he left behind and time might be all he has.

Llewellyn has created a very different utopia within this novel. The lead character Gavin isn't good at human relationships, the only thing he truly understands is the complex and unemotional world of mechanical engineering. He finds himself in an England very different from our own. Power is free and universally available. There is no monetary system and no form of government. Like a giant commune people muck in and get along, strife is rare. Longevity is common and everyone is fit, healthy and strong.

Of course Gavin cannot accept this simple utopia and starts looking for flaws and cracks. Relationships and the family units are not the same as they once were and Gavin finds that he struggles to get to grips with it. Behind this society is technology beyond Gavin's wildest dreams and his engineer's senses twitch as he starts to delve deeper.

I understands News From Gardenia is to be a trilogy so the author spends a lot of time building up the framework of the world. Llewellyn expertly guides us along using Gavin's sense of exploration and wonder as the vehicle. As well as the outer journey we see Gavin's inner emotional development as he learns to relate to the strangely detached folk from the future.

An intelligent novel that can't help but make you think of our own immediate future and the energy crisis that looms large. A story that is as much about human nature as it is about fantastic technology. A gripping read from start to finish.

Genre: Sci-Fi / Utopian
Publisher: Unbound
Format: All
Rating: 5/5

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Out There Bad by Josh Stallings

Beneath the wild heart of Moses McGuire there lurks a pussy cat. A hero, foolish knight in shining armour. A patsy with a fatal weakness. Josh Stallings has again delivered the goods in this the second novel featuring strip club bouncer Moses McGuire.

As with the first McGuire novel Beautiful, Naked and Dead I just couldn't put this book down. I have to be a little critical because BND was such a perfect work that I couldn't help but compare the two. There were a few editorial rough edges in Out There Bad that weren't present with BND. A recycled line from an old Lethal Weapon movie had me hoping that Stallings sense of irony was up and winking at me in the moment of delivery. I'd stake my bottom dollar on it.

Out There Bad is as bloody as BND and Stallings pulls no punches in delivering a very uncomfortable scene where Moses is forced to commit an unspeakable act. Stallings shows an admirable bravery in his writing and whilst he never preaches he does ask a few subtle questions of the reader. If you enjoyed the first Moses McGuire novel you will without doubt enjoy Out There Bad too.

Stallings introduces even more elements in this novel and we see Moses teaming up with the most unlikely of partners. We see Moses the unstoppable force battling the immovable object that is the Russian mafia. There is growth here as well as some sticking to the formula of the first novel. The saying if it ain't broke don't fix it applies here. It’s more of the same with a few risks taken but yet another entertaining five star read.

Genre: Crime / Gangster
Publisher: Heist Publishing
Format:E-Book & Paperback
Rating: 5/5

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Beautiful, Naked and Dead by Josh Stallings

Moses McGuire is depressed. He's so depressed that he's considering ending it all. However, his delivery of hot lead to his grey matter is rudely interrupted by a call for help from a friend. Moses jumps on his trusty Norton and heads over to the strip joint where he works to rendezvous with his damsel in distress.

Beautiful, Naked and Dead is the literary equivalent of a Tarantino movie. You have all the ingredients needed: Mobsters, wise cracking characters, fast cars, girls and guns. However, Josh Stallings delivers so much more with this novel than a film could. You believe every single line his characters deliver. There is intelligence to the characterisation that transcends novels usually found in this genre. The crowning glory is Moses himself. Stallings has created not only a truly three dimensional character here but some of snappiest dialogue and downbeat wisdom come from McGuire’s stubborn cranium.

This novel was also, perhaps, the best edited e-book I think I've come across. There wasn't a wasted line or word in it. The next time the literati look down their collective noses at this genre I will, with a smug smile, withdraw from behind my back a copy of Beautiful, Naked and Dead and defy them to find fault with it. This ladies and gentleman is quite simply a benchmark to aspire to. Stallings pick up your phone that's Tarantino on the other end with film options.

Genre:  Crime / Gangster
Publisher:  Heist Publishing
Format:  E-Book & Paperback
Rating:  5/5

Sunday, 27 January 2013

In Loco Parentis by Nigel Bird

Life has awkward disjointed moments. One moment you're doing fine, walking along and then suddenly something hits you between the eyes. A surprise, a bolt out of the blue and always, ALWAYS when you least expect it. Those moments, the pivotal points where things go from being ok to a disaster are the best way I can describe the events in this novel.

Joe works as a teacher and whilst we'd hope that he would be a well adjusted person that's not the case. Life has conspired against him. Perhaps it was the loss of his parents? He's trying to work through things in therapy but it seems hopeless. His affair with a married woman isn't helping matters. His lost love up in Preston is another added complication. Joe's life is out of control and his decisions are rash, careless and even dangerous.

Nigel Bird puts power in his words and, to use a cliche, we watch as Joe's life spirals out of control. I found this a gripping read and if I'm honest I can't exactly put my finger on why. It flows, it's well written. There are moments of happiness, of sex and joy but these are brief glimpses. At times Bird's writing is terrifically descriptive and it captures your imagination easily. A dark story that will not be to the tastes of all but if you have any interest in human relationships and the darkness that lies just behind the everyday minutiae then you'll enjoy this novel.

Genre: Crime
Format: E-Book
Rating : 4/5

Monday, 21 January 2013

A Taste of Old Revenge by B.R. Stateham

Frank Morales and Turner Hahn are a couple of hard working homicide detectives. Morales, the family man, is a big ugly lug of a man with a keen intellect and an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Turner Hahn is a single man with an uncanny resemblance to Clark Gable and a love of muscle cars. Wealthy beyond the means of most detectives Turner doesn't need to work but without his job he'd go stir crazy. The story is largely told from Turner's perspective.

What Stateham offers with this novel is a good old fashioned detective yarn. His characters are interesting and he adds to them as the book develops. He describes the snow bound city excellently and I had no trouble picturing this freezing setting.

The author spins a convoluted tale which follows our two detectives on several cases. Are the cases connected? Who is constantly tailing our heroes? Can the FBI, who just happen to be in town, be trusted? These are questions that will be answered within the book. This story looks at old secrets and ancient grudges and what happens when money and power are abused. A tale that goes back to the Second World War.

Stateham's fiction is solid, realistic and totally without pretention or author's ego. He pays attention to detail at all times without making the book hard going. A thoroughly enjoyable read that like one of Dewey's chillis, left me hungry for more.

Genre: Crime / Police Procedural
Published By: Untreed Reads Publishing
Format: E-Book Novel
Rating: 5 / 5