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 na├»ve 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