Reviews

Well, here’s a novel rather more extraordinary than most.

Reviewed by David Coles

An Earth some millions of years in the future after the Sun has prematurely entered its red giant stage and, as the action starts, is about to shrink to a white dwarf. Three heroes – a somewhat world weary “magician” who considers himself to be a better engineer than sorcerer, another who lives only for the moment and a new apprentice who finds everything fresh and exciting – set out to find the original machinery which moved the planet out of the red giant’s reach so it can be used to steer the world back to the inner solar system over the coming millennia.

The Earth is hardly recognizable to our era: life is confined to the old dried up sea floors, the airless continental heights are forever out of reach; certain insects have developed to large sizes and pose threats as well as giving grudging aid to the humans. Perhaps, though, the greatest threats come from the scattered communities of human beings which each believe that theirs is the only society of any worth and all others are primitive or decadent.

We visit a village where the inhabitants live their lives in the false scenes projected by a “magic” lantern and another where the laws seem to be pure whimsy. We meet a rather delightfully naive, unexplained alien; a mechanical god and a robot built from junk-yard bits – largely by itself.

A thoroughly enjoyable book with laugh-out-loud bits and thoroughly recommended to readers of science fiction through to steam punk fantasy. Hopefully, the first of many from this new author.

The Colour of Her Eyes by Conan Kennedy

Reviewed by Peter Lihou

The opening pages of The Colour of Her Eyes transported me directly into the world of another famous and talented Irish scribe, the world of Roddy Doyle.

Conan’s psychological insights explore the depths of his characters and together with their unrestrained, rambling thoughts, he paints them so thoroughly you can feel their breath on your face.  The fact that the author is also a poet oozes from this story like wine from a press. His staccato dialogue, spoken and narrated, and his use of form to enhance the atmosphere or increase tension along with a number of techniques borrowed more from the song of poetry than the grammar of prose, weave a compelling texture of emotion, description and story telling. 

There are a number of editorial errors, typos, and such, and I felt rather too much use of the ‘f’ word was used to place the characters in their world, their class, their role in the story. This ran the risk of stereotyping those who were otherwise portrayed as unique individuals. Did Harris need to be a TV cop out of an episode of Minder or The Sweeny ? But all this added to a rawness that I often suspected was a deliberate ploy by the author to stick two fingers up at ‘correctness’ in order to own the work with a passion equalled by his actors.

I felt uneasy about the relationship between Sandra and John. I’m sure it wasn’t an attempt to introduce titillation by the author,  and the fact of a relationship was core to the central plot. But my radar twitches when I know I’m approaching a subject that is taboo because it may be interpreted as an excuse for inappropriate behaviour, normalised by our involvement with the characters. Strangely perhaps, I felt less concerned with ‘time of the month’ sexual episode that evocatively conveyed John’s desire to both consume his passion for Ruth, and at the same time prove his love to her beyond doubt at a time she was feeling especially vulnerable.

I struggle with the concept of genres and classifications. Is this a thriller, a crime novel, or what? So many books transgress these artificial boundaries. I know it’s been referred to as a brilliant crime novel, but for me it was first and foremost a love story – an unusual triangle. I’m not drawn to ‘policeman interviews suspect and cleverly unravels the truth’ kind of stories and, although on one level, this is what happens. It would not remotely do The Colour of Her Eyes justice to be described this way.

When the sequel comes, I will anticipate the return of the characters wrapped and imbibed by Conan’s inimitable style, much more than the machinations of what is after all, a straightforward plot. Not that this should be seen as a criticism, the best of novels frequently employ this technique, and this is definitely up there, shoulder to shoulder, with the best.

You can purchase The Colour of Her Eyes at the Acclaimed Books shop on the following link > http://acclaimedbooks.com/wordpress/thrillers/

There is also an interview with Conan Kennedy on Acclaimed Books!

Sugar & Spice by Saffina Desforges

Reviewed by Michael Parker

 

I downloaded the Kindle version of S & S because of the amount of sales the e version has sold and wanted to satisfy my curiosity.

At first I thought I was on to a distinctive, psychological thriller, not that I like to read too much about the horror inflicted on children by paedophiles and serial killers. But I’m a writer myself and unfortunately I tend to pick open the structure of a story rather than absorb it as a reader should. For that reason I believe Desforges has led the reader into believing that there is a high quality thread running through the book that lays out the clues that are necessary to identify the killer and his or her motives. Far from it; too many avenues that opened up led into blind alleys, leaving me wondering when they were going to reveal another clue.

I found the book was swamped with an inordinate amount of information that really did not move the narrative on. For example, how many people wish to know the detailed knowledge of previous serial killers, paedophiles and psychoanalysts of world renown? And how many want to plough through thesis upon thesis of human profiling? And where would you find a boy of fourteen with more than enough knowledge of serial killers and their psyche to challenge that of a professor who lectures in the subject?

For a thriller to work, for me, everything should be used to have an influence on moving the story on, and a lecture on Freud doesn’t do that. And to not include any clue about the killer until the last pages is letting the reader down. Perhaps this is a trick to keep the reader’s interest going. I have to admit that the story is well written, well researched and, obviously, sells well. But I wonder how many people who downloaded the book out of curiosity actually finished it?

The denouement was an absolute let down and required a complete suspension of belief. But hats off to Saffina Desforges; he, she or they have cracked the market.

Michael Parker (September 2011)

Nailed by Joseph Flynn

 

Reviewed by Michael Parker

Two ex, LAPD cops out cruising come across a black preacher nailed to a dead tree.

The crime, inexplicable and horrifying as it is, leads to a polarisation of racist and bigamist elements in the town as the men, Deputy Chief Oliver Gosden, and Chief Ron Ketchum become something of a focal point because of their skin colour and wrongly, assumed prejudices. Gosden is black, Ketchum is white. Ketchum has a history that he is trying hard to live down. Gosden has no reason to concern himself about the colour of his skin in the town of Goldstrike. But all that is to change as the bigots emerge and challenge the authorities to come up with the right answers.

It becomes black against white. But in the mix comes a renegade, mountain lion, intent on attacking the people of Goldstrike. It’s a problem that Chief Ketchum can do without, and is ably supported by the tough, ex Hollywood actor and Mayor of the town, Clay Redman as he battles to confront old demons and new ones.

This is a thriller that fans of Joseph Flynn will soak up with enormous pleasure. For newcomers to Flynn’s work, it may take a while. Flynn is a good writer. His detail and characterisation is excellent, and his plot difficult to work out. The clues are there and I suspect some of the more ardent detectives among the thriller readers will pick up them up. There are a couple of weak ‘get-outs’ that some might groan at, but overall this is a sterling piece of writing and I recommend it.

Iron House by John Hart

 Reviewed by Jack Everett

There are few writers I have read who I have found can confound and annoy me so much as John Hart- though not necessarily in equal measures. His plotting is clever, his characters both memorable and devious. His storyline fast and flowing, fuelled with unputdownability. His prose excellent, description at times sublime but in Iron House his description can be a little excessive, especially when it comes to torture where I feel it is sufficient to know it is taking place without having the minutiae described.

Having said all that if it is thrillers you like then you must give it a try. It is the story of two brothers Michael and Julian who, having been placed in a home-the Iron House of the title- face bullying and abuse. Michael, the strongest, feels it necessary to defend his brother against the other boys until one day Julian pushed to his limit reacts. Michael feels obliged to take the blame for his sibling’s actions and soon Julian is adopted.

Leaving the home Michael resorts to living on the streets of Spanish Harlem, fighting for everything much as before. On one particular day a fight he is in is witnessed by one Otto Kaitlin, a crime lord, who recognizes in Michael a kindred spirit and takes him home intent on making him his protégé.

Our hero finally falls in love and shows to his beloved the same kind of love he once did for his brother.

The fact that this is a rags to riches tale, or destitute makes good, like so many before it does not distract from its readability. It is easy to see why John Hart is a multiple Edgar award winner.

Advance Praise for IRON HOUSE:

“If you crave thrillers that are vividly beautiful, graphic, will make you bleed, try John Hart.” ˜ Patricia Cornwell

“Lean, hard and absolutely riveting, Iron House is a tour de force. With his best book yet, John Hart has clearly joined the top rank of thriller writers.” ˜ Vince Flynn

A Sudden Vengeance Waits by Nik Morton

  Reviewed by Michael Parker

 

I’ve just finished ‘A SUDDEN VENGEANCE WAITS’ by Nik Morton. I’ve known Nik a long time now. He’s a writer, editor, publisher and illustrator. He has written in many genres including Thriller, Erotica, Western, Short Stories and magazine articles.

The novel revolves around a family and the locality in which they live, where criminals are getting away with the crimes they have committed because of the soft approach of the judicial process. It’s for this reason that one of the locals take it upon himself to exact vengeance in the form of a masked vigilante who leaves his calling card at the scene of his ‘just’ punishments. On the card is the legend ‘The Black Knight’.

What makes this novel unusual is that it is almost parochial in its narrative, using a local Press announcement of the death of an elderly woman after being frightened by a burglar. The criminal is acquitted of the crime. It is this that turns a normal, everyday man into an avenger: The Black Knight. But during the story, as one Press announcement follows another, the moral question is posed about the rights or wrongs of taking the law into your own hands, and how addictive it can be.

How many of us have been sickened by a crime only to be disgusted at the leniency of the law? Oh how we would want to dish out our own form of punishment. But where do you stop? And how long before you go over the line and commit murder in the name of justice?

This is a thought provoking story. I found myself being drawn into it gradually, just like the avenger is drawn into the compulsion to continue exacting revenge. Nik Morton’s story will demand that you stay with it and discover how far The Black Knight will go. Will he go beyond the line and will he ever stop?

The Fallen Blade by Jon Courtenay Grimwood

  Reviewed by David Coles

 

I first came across Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s work with his Arabesk trilogy; set in the almost-fictitious El Iskandryia. I say “almost” because, surely, this is Alexandria seen through the lens Grimwood’s imagination. Since then, I have pounced on each of his books as they came off the press although for me, none have lived up to those first three novels until  I read this one:  “The Fallen Blade” set in a Venice which never existed in our universe.

 

In “The Fallen Blade” we see a world in which Tamburlaine conquered China. And now, astonishingly, a Mamluk, a Turk, has become one of the Council of Ten in control of the city of Venice. This is a Venice ruled by the descendants of Marco Polo and a Venice – like our Renaissance city of the same name – where trade is all important to keep the city’s lifeblood flowing.

 

The City is stalked by the shape-changing krieghund and rule is enforced by the Assassini led by Atilo surprised by beautiful Tycho,  a sort-of-vampire boy struggling to remember his past – agile enough to outrun any pursuit and fast enough to evade a plunging dagger. For Atilo, the perfect candidate to become his apprentice Assassin.

 

But what a backdrop against which to paint this tale. A Venice as dark as anything Grimwood has ever written and as sweetly tempting as a succubus; it draws the reader onward until the weird seems normal and the normal merely banal. We willingly suspend disbelief. Were the Renaissance centuries as careless of human life as this? Were lives as casually tossed aside as this? Were children used so? Did those born to high position consider they were so far above the ordinary man?

 

“The Fallen Blade” would certainly have us believe so and I fancy too, that he is correct. One only has to compare his writing with the cruelty still rife in the 21st Century  to feel that it could only have been worse. I felt the sun had never risen above the horizon from start to finish – in his universe or in mine.

 

Beautifully done.

 

You will want to know what happened to Tycho. You think I will tell you? Oh no, you must read the book and ultimately, the second and third in the trilogy.

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