Book Review: Little Boy Blue, by M.J. Arlidge

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_little_boy_blueLittle Boy Blue is the first M. J. Arlidge book I had read, so despite this being the fifth book she has featured in, the character of DI Helen Grace was not familiar to me. Having said that, the book was a great stand-alone crime novel and I don’t feel not having read the earlier books was a hindrance.

Along the same lines as Ian Rankin’s Rebus and Mark Billingham’s Thorne, DI Grace is a copper who isn’t universally liked by her colleagues. She also has a secret that could threaten to ruin her career.

When a body is found in a nightclub, Grace discovers she had a very personal connection to the victim. She decides to keep this information to herself and work hard to hunt down the killer and get justice for her friend, but will this be her undoing?

The book drags the reader into a world that most will not be familiar with, that of BDSM. Many participants are keen to keep their involvement in the scene a secret, so working out who was at the club on the night of the killing is not going to be easy. No one wants to talk to the police and tracking down the items used in the murder is next to impossible.
When a second body is found, Grace decides to advise a colleague of her connection to both victims – with potentially devastating consequences.

Obviously in one of the earlier books Grace managed to get on the wrong side of journalist Emilia Garanita, and now Garanita is working hard behind the scenes to bring her down. When she finds a witness who lets slip some damning information about Grace, she knows she has a scoop on her hands.

There is tension at the police station, which isn’t helped by two young up-and-coming officers fighting for Grace’s approval. When investigations appear to point in one direction, they both start to wonder whether their boss is more involved with the murders than she’s letting on.

The evidence against Grace appears to be overwhelming and the order is given to arrest her – but she’s not about to let that happen without a fight. The ending is a real cliffhanger and readers will have to wait for the next book, Hide and Seek (released later in 2016) to discover if the killer is caught.

It was no surprise to find that Arlidge has worked in television for the past 15 years, specialising in high-end drama production. He has also produced a number of prime-time crime serials for ITV. The ending of Little Boy Blue is worthy of a television series and I hope the books make it to the screen one day. I’ll certainly be tracking down the other books in the series and I’m now eagerly awaiting the next one.

Reviewed by Faye Lougher

Little Boy Blue
by M.J. Arlidge
Published by Michael Joseph Ltd
ISBN 9780718180836

Book Review: Little Bo Peep and More…, by Donovan Bixley

Available in bookstores nationwide.

Donovan Bixley is an incredible illustrator, in terms of cv_little_bo_peepboth output and talent. He releases around four titles a year at the moment – knowing the time it takes to illustrate a book, this is seriously amazing. At the moment on the Nielsen Bestsellers charts, his take on Old MacDonald’s Farm and The Wheels on the Bus endure, and indeed they were numbers 3 and 4 respectively on the 2014 Overall Nielsen Bestsellers’ chart.

Little Bo Peep and More deserves to hang out with the others in these charts, as this is the freshest take I have seen in illustrating children’s nursery rhymes in a long time.

I dare anybody to say that these are not the most expressive and diverse sheep around. There are so many unimaginative, bland takes on how to illustrate sheep out in the world, so to see some sheep with character is pretty neat.  Donovan’s sheep are playing cricket, making an acrobatic pyramid, dancing ballet (in the case of Mary’s lamb), playing piano (in the case of the back and front covers), and bungy-jumping off bridges. These are action-men, no.8 wire, James Bond sheep (particularly when approaching Little Boy Blue), and I can see the book selling by the thousand into the international market.

It can be difficult to raise the bar to appeal to older readers in the basic nursery rhyme format, but this has also been addressed. My son Dan, who is 4, loved finding the pukeko and mouse hidden on each page. This extended a reasonably simple book into an activity-length project. My only complaint would be that in the front spread, Donovan asks us to count the sheep – Dan and I couldn’t agree on a correct number, and there was nothing to refer to!

I highly recommend this take on Little Bo Peep and her friends who love sheep to anybody at all who enjoys a well-illustrated set of nursery rhymes. Familiar and unique at once, this book is a hit.

By Sarah Forster

Little Bo Peep and More…
by Donovan Bixley
Published by Upstart Press Ltd
ISBN 9781927262085