Book Review: The Locksmith, by Barbara Howe

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_locksmithWho is the Locksmith, and what role does he play in this fantasy tale? You will keep this question in mind as you read through the adventures of Lucinda Guillierre, a young girl living with her stepsister Claire and her stepmother, in the magical world of Frankland, ruled by The Office.

The Office was created in historic times by the Great Coven, which established the four offices of Air, Fire, Earth, and Water, and their leaders. Each Office has a Guild, for the study and training of Witches and Wizards of each element.

Unsettled by her lack of magical progress, she resigns herself to a future as a normal person, but agrees to take her sister Claire to challenge the path to meet the Fire Warlock, to have a wish granted. She takes with her, her only true possessions her father left her —two large books of the history of the magic which fills their world. Hold that thought as you read…

Claire wants to use Lucinda to pass the challenge and meet the Warlock, to make her wish, and to have Lucinda work off the exchange for the spell. That’s not quite how things turn out. Lucinda is the one who gets the wish, and in her three years at the Fire Guild serves in the kitchen, between her studies of magic. She takes some time realising that those who see her as a potential Fire Witch are right.

As her studies progress, so do her feelings for the Fire Warlock, and she realises he is the writer of her own two history of magic books. As the story develops, the realm in which they live becomes turbulent with political rumours of the threat of attack from Europa, which surrounds Frankland. Amid the turmoil, we are with Lucinda as she faces rivalry, hostility, and jealousy—and fear.

Lucinda’s story in this book ends most satisfactory, yet with just enough unknowns to make the reader want, as I do, the second in the series. A really great closing, and of all the modern fantasies I have read, this is a definite leader.

Reviewed by Lynne McAnulty-Street

The Locksmith: Book 1 in the ‘Reforging’ series
by Barbara Howe
Published by SQ Mag
ISBN: 9781925496284

 

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Book Review: A Talent For Murder, by Andrew Wilson

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_a_talent_for_murder.jpgThe author has merged so well with Agatha Christie the novel reads as grippingly as any of her works. Meticulously researched, he adopts Ms Christie’s persona in this tale of her famed missing eleven days.

Anxiety and panic attacks fill Mrs Christie as she relates the events of what is readily plausible in that time and in her world of crime novels.

Wilson teases us with characters she meets; we want to keep reading to know them, to know more about them. We are in suspense as we read on and learn more. How each character involves with and revolves around each other, and the plot, is breath-holding – in the sense of building our feelings of foreboding, and character empathy.

This book was so well written I devoted two evenings to completing it. Christie, as character, reads people, actions and settings, and records them in such detail that it is easy to believe this story is truth. She shares her emotions – bereavement, stress, loss, anger, desperation – in reasoned detail. Her voice builds reader empathy

Wilson’s re-creation of Christie’s work is exceptional; and, what good news – he is working on the next Agatha Christie Adventure, A Different Kind of Evil.

Reviewed by Lynne McAnulty-Street

A Talent For Murder
by Andrew Wilson
Published by Simon and Schuster
ISBN: 9781471148224
eBook: 9781471148231

Book Review: Hide and Seek, by M J Arlidge

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_hide_and_seek.jpgArlidge’s style has me determined to get my hands on each novel in the D. I. Helen Grace series of crime stories. His characters – both the police team members, and each title’s new cast members – are well and truly alive on the page – real, and human with their foibles and fancies.

In Hide And Seek, our favourite police officer-no-more is in her worst possible place: the world behind the bars of Holloway. Both the guards and the inmates (some of whom are there because of Helen) have already adjudged her as a rotten copper – before her trial – and as just another crim.

When the inmate of the cell beside Helen’s is found dead in her bed, left by her killer in a bizarre and ghastly state, it is Helen who has to remind the inmates that none of them are safe. Helen is driven to watch both guards and inmates alike in her effort to identify the killer.

She faces suspicion and hostility from both sides. The second and third kill creates a frenzy among the inmates. An understandable error of thinking delays her eventual discovery of the murderer, which she learns the hard way. Seriously, the hard way.
The unwarranted (as in, not official) actions of loyal D. C. Charlie Brookes are what decides the sequel*.

Reviewed by Lynne McAnulty-Street

Hide and Seek
by M J Arlidge
Published 2016, by Michael Joseph, for
Penguin/Random House
Hardbound:  9780718183837
Paperback:  9781405925624

The Series:
Eeny Meeny
Pop Goes the Weasel
The Doll’s House
Liar Liar
Little Boy Blue
Hide And Seek
* Follow My Leader, later in 2017

Book Review: Night School, by Lee Child

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_night_school“In the morning they gave him a medal, and in the afternoon they sent him back to school.”

Night School is Lee Child’s twenty-first novel in the Jack Reacher collection. (It’s debatable about referring to the Reacher books as a series, as they’re not serial in Jack’s timeline. On Mr Child’s website On Mr Child’s website you will find  Jack’s chronological order for reading the titles, below the list of the titles in order of publication.) It is set in 1999. If Mr Child’s wanted to keep Jack Reacher fans happy, then this – his twenty-first Reacher book in the growing collection – has certainly achieved its purpose.

In Night School, Jack is made invisible by sending him to training school – where he finds two other ‘students’. All are invisible to personnel in the Military Police, the FBI and the CIA. The three agents are to work a clandestine investigation into all possible threats, reporting only to the National Security Advisor to the President, through his senior deputy Dr. Marian Sinclair who briefs them: An Iranian (a double agent) living with three Saudis in a safe house in Hamburg, has reported a message carried by a courier “The American wants one hundred million dollars”. Their job: to learn what is being offered, worth that price. There are two rules: Rule number two: talk to no one – except Sinclair. Rule number one: do not burn the Iranian asset. Reacher brings in Sergeant Frances Neagley, and heads to Hamburg to find out what they can.

Soon after arriving, they are called back to McLean, where they are briefed on a possible product – a Trojan virus has just appeared on the black market: it can override the patch coding for ensuring computer systems correctly handle the millennium clock change – the Y2K threat – and stop computer clocks at any moment. The team’s focus now is to track down who could be arranging that Trojan’s sale. Who more likely than a geek? And a convention of coders was held in Hamburg at the time of the message being reported. The team sift through records of Americans attending the convention, turning up one ex-pat American living in Hamburg. News comes in of a Hamburg police report from a witness to an agitated meeting between an American and a “middle-eastern” man. Tracking movements of American military moves, Reacher & Neagley discover three serving in Germany have gone AWOL – one for four months. Reacher & Neagley are ordered back to Hamburg, with pics of all american geeks for that witness to id.

The investigation continues, with Child giving snippets of the actions of other parties in the plot, building up the complexity of the case, and allowing readers to visualise locations and character, and foresee possible events – yet there are still surprises. Action scenes are defined crisply, with realistically timed reading pace matched with movement. Threats on the side build tension, and the engrossed reader will surmise the worst scenario possible; resist the urge.

All in all, a satisfying read, from the opening to the resolution. Reacher fans and new readers alike will become engrossed in this book, being released globally on November 7.

Reviewed by Lynne McAnulty-Street

Night School
by Lee Child
Published by Bantam Press
ISBN: 9780593073902

Book Review: The Rules of Backyard Cricket, by Jock Serong

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_rules_of_backyard_cricketDon’t be deceived by the title…this is not a guide to playing cricket.

Actually, to quote Serong (from an interview with crime writer Sandi Wallace) “It’s a story told in the first person by a guy locked in a car boot, and headed for his own execution.”

From the first passage on the first page, I was drawn into this narrative as into no other. I love a good crime story, yet the structure of this is unusual for the genre. It is a fictional biography of Darren Keefe as he relates his cricket-playing years with his brother Walter, who rises to the top. It’s the tale of him becoming embroiled in a match-fixing scandal as he follows his more talented elder brother through the ranks to national representative level.

The book is entertaining, and a fascinating insight into the workings of the manipulation of players for match-fixing or side gambling. Darren’s fall from grace after a match accident (look for Squiggly) is secondary to his seeming naïvety when choosing friends and what he tells. But he’s content to see Walter rise through the player ranks, remembering how everything they each know about playing they learned together playing in their childhood backyard.

Then, things go seriously wrong, and the finale is awesomely disturbing. I mean, seriously unsettling, disturbing, uncomfortable, and not for the queasy. I loved it.

Reviewed by Lynne McAnulty-Street

The Rules of Backyard Cricket
by Jock Serong
Published by Text Publishing Company
ISBN: 9781925355215

Go…buy…read…enjoy!

Book Review: Killing Time, by Karl Williams

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

‘Dedication: To all the people who have fallen foul of justice systems around the world’

cv_killing_time_karl_williamsThree young Brits enjoying the high life in Dubai—alcohol, women, clubs, a car—and their life flips upside down when a stash of dokha is “found” in their rented white BMW convertible. Under the pretense of making an arrest, police officers take them firstly out into the desert night, where they are beaten and tortured, before being taken to the city and formally charged with drug dealing, a charge which could lead to a twenty-five year prison term or the death penalty.

Bewildered, in pain, scared s**tless—Karl, Harry and Tariq are questioned without legal representation and sent to Port Rashid prison to await their trial. They soon learn the UAE justice system is very unlike that in the UK. In Port Rashid, the prisoners are in charge. And the harder the criminal, the higher his influence on fellow prisoners and guards. Wasta is the unit of power-currency, and those with wasta inside are drug dealers, gang leaders and violent criminals. It is earned through fair means or foul—mostly foul.

The British Embassy fails to assist, and the outlook is grim. With the overhead cloud of the possible penalty, Karl and his friends have to adapt, and their ways of killing time both help them and harm them. Port Rashid is overcrowded, slummocky, the food is disgusting, the prisoners are dangerous. They must adapt to fit into the prisoners’ system of managing life inside, to survive.

The lads’ easy-going street ways are both an asset and a curse—a joking remark can defuse a taut situation and save a touchy situation from becoming violent, or turn someone into a raging maniac. Karl is soon befriended by Mohammed, a drug dealer, who lets Karl work his way up the power ladder, to the point at which he is accepted as being one of Port Rashid’s leaders.

The personality of all three friends change over the months of being in Port Rashid, and the friendship is tested. Through good times and bad—and worse—Karl struggles to hold onto his friends, to cope with missing his wife and baby girl, to hope for a fair trial and release. He is supported by “Reprieve”, an organisation which aids Brits in prison around the world.

He is shifted to the dreaded Central prison – the holding prison for those whose sentence has finally been decided. An epiphany helps Karl decide to avoid his involvement in the criminal activities within prison, and instead to try to help to give other prisoners small comforts

It may seem I have revealed too much. But the story is in the interactions between Karl and his friends, the police, and his fellow prisoners…

I have reviewed many crime stories. This crime is the maltreatment of prisoners in a city we assume to be a sparkling centre of life in the UAE. It is an eye-opener, fascinating, enthralling and appalling in equal measures. Buy it. Read it.

A forty-four minute interview on his experiences is available at http://bit.ly/24rpIMn

dokha – a tobacco product, with ‘extras’; legal in UK; ‘ignored’ in UAE unless…
wasta – influence

Reviewed by Lynne McAnulty-Street

Killing Time—Surviving Dubai’s Most Notorious Prisons
by Karl Williams, written with Justin Penrose
Colour-plate illustrated.
Published by Sidgwick & Jackson
ISBN: 9780238072390

Book Review: Private Paris, by James Patterson and Mark Sullivan

cv_private_parisAvailable now in bookshops nationwide.

A piece of tagging, appearing anywhere and everywhere among the streets of Paris, seems innocuous enough…its meaning obtuse, but not overtly offensive; more a puzzle, really, or a code, with no meaning – yet. Not exactly a top priority for either the Paris La Crim force or the Private, Paris agency.

Jack Morgan arrives in Paris from Berlin, but what was a routine office visit becomes a case involving Kimberley, a missing girl, possibly kidnapped, who may or may not want to be found.

While tracing Kimberley, Jack discovers Paris’s hidden world of crime, murder, cultural clashes, arms trading – all among the idolatry of its cultural icons of the arts, fashion and culinary expertise. The missing girl’s case becomes secondary to a world of pseudo-terrorism, and Kimberley is pivotal to both.

There are many characters for the reader to keep track of as they come and go, but the plot easily meshes together all the elements of an incredible conspiracy. This is the eleventh of the Private series, another I’ll have to pick back up from number one, and was written with Mark Sullivan.

Reviewed by Lynne McAnulty-Street

Private Paris
by James Patterson
Published by Century, for Penguin Random House
ISBN:  9781780892795