Friday 28 December 2012

Ross Thomas Chinaman's Chance Review

There's always a welter of newspaper articles about best book of the year around now - for me the best new book I've read is Ami McKay's Virgin Cure but there has been a huge amount of dross. Unless you like heaving bosoms and badly written mild porn (50 Shades Of Cliché), pickings have been poor.

So then, let's return to an old master, Ross Thomas. I've recently reread a few of his, including Chinaman's Chance.

Monday 24 December 2012

Merry Christmas, One And All

Wishing everyone who's kind enough to read this blog a happy Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous new year.

I hope Santa is good to you and brings lots of book tokens and gift vouchers. I know it took me decades to train my mother in what to give, and I have the beige jumpers to show for it.

Friday 14 December 2012

I'm running the village now, part 4

I am not pleased! I go to Brussels for a few days - for vital EU business, not for a bit of pre-Christmas duty free shopping, as a few have churlishly commented. Sam may well pick up some Ferrero Rocher at the airport but that's none of your damn business. I don't send people to count the mince pies in your shopping bag (well, I do if you're on benefits but that's by the by).

Saturday 24 November 2012

Ami McKay: The Virgin Cure Review

A major departure from the usual books reviewed here - but a book that I'm delighted I read and that I'm happy to recommend to you.

The second novel by a very promising Ami McKay, this is a tale of the fight for survival by a 12 year old girl in the poorest parts of 19th century New York. It's a sad but uplifting tale, it's sympathetic without being over-emotional or cloying -- read it and see.

Thursday 25 October 2012

I'm running the village now, part 3

Greetings, fellow Chippers, and time for me to write again with good news. Economic prosperity is here again! I doubt if many of you would understand the national figuures but we can clearly see growth in our little village, "Hooray" I say.

Mr Dwight Botherkoch III in the village store has increased the hours of Mrs Dobbins (who used to own the shop). She'll need that extra to pay for the large plasma screen telly she probably has, what with a husband permanently on the sick. I must remind her though, we don't want to see latchkey children in our village. Just a word to the wise.

Thursday 20 September 2012

Ami McKay

Not many newer authors have impressed me lately and it was a distinct flyer when I responded to's offer of an advance copy of a book by someone I'd never heard of, in return for a review. They accepted my begging letter, sent me a copy and, I have to say, I struck gold. In only her second novel, Ami McKay has produced a wonderful book (review to follow shortly).

I do like to depart from the detective fiction now and again and you can't get much farther away than The Virgin Cure - a tale of a 12 year old girl living in a New York slum in the nineteeth century, groomed for prostitution to a rich pervert. Difficult subject matter, difficult period. Was I going to get something mawkish, at best a cross between Pretty Baby and Angela's Ashes? Nope, I got a fine novel, one that is winning prize after prize and deservedly so.

Monday 3 September 2012

G4S Gets Cabinet Contract From Conservatives

Eyebrows were raised today when Conservative Central Office announced that G4S has been awarded a contract to manage the forthcoming Cabinet shuffle. The value of the contract has not been announced but shares in G4S leapt 10% when the news broke.

A smiling David Cameron said, "this is a great opportunity for Britain. We're limiting the programme to ministers initially but it could be extended to the whole of the house. It's an ideal way to streamline the process and save money."

Friday 24 August 2012

Michael Connelly: Void Moon Review

An interesting change of focus by Connelly - Void Moon's hero is a crook and a female crook at that. Cassie Black is on probation after serving part of a sentence for robbery and felony murder. She and her now-dead partner Max used to specialise in stealing the winnings from high-rollers in Las Vegas, until their last caper ended in Max falling a couple of hundred feet through an interior window.

Cassie was pregnant at the time, else she'd have been the one trapped in a hotel room. Convicted and imprisoned, bereft of lover Max, depressed, she gives her baby up for adoption but keeps track of her. She wangles a probation in the child's home city and watches from afar - a glimpse at the school gates just feeding the ache. Now the adoptive family is planning a move abroad.

Tuesday 31 July 2012

Shame On Mitt Romney

Some of you will know that I do occasionally stray from book reviews as and when politicians annoy me. I normally try for a bit of humour but today's subject doesn't inspire many of the better or lighter emotions.

Ladies and gentlemen, please be upstanding for the man who was second choice to Sarah Palin a few years ago, asset stripper and all-round forgetter of facts, Mr Mitt Romney.

Sunday 22 July 2012

Paul Doherty: The House Of Shadows Reviewed

Five Kentish knights gather annually at the Night in Jerusalem tavern in Southwark, a reunion of old soldiers. Good food, good drink, a doxy or two to hasten the blood, then back to their families. This year, though, is different, as one by one the knights are found dead, in mysterious and misleading circumstances.

Other murders occur, muddying the waters to be investigated by Sir John Cranston, Coroner of the City of London, and his scrivener Brother Athelstan. Underlying all is the tale of a stolen fortune, the Lombard treasure. Borrowed to pay for a war, gone missing with its escort on the night it was sent to a waiting fleet, many want the treasure - not least the Machiavellian Regent, John of Gaunt.

Tuesday 17 July 2012

Michael Connelly: The Fifth Witness Review

Perhaps the best yet from Michael Connelly, with lawyer Mickey Haller defending his client from a charge of murder.

Haller has changed his clientele, working mainly fot those caught in the maelstrom of bad mortgage lending and ensuing foreclosures. It's not exciting, it's not pretty, but it pays his mortgage. It does get more interesting when someone puts a hammer through the skull of a bank official and one of Haller's clients, Lisa Trammel, is accused. Haller's adrenaline starts flowing as he prepares for a difficult case.

Wednesday 11 July 2012

I'm running the village now: part 2

I am appalled. Appalled and disappointed. Appalled, disappointed and angry. Since I took over the village of Chopping Wallop, I have worked tirelessly for the good of its inhabitants. Now I am kicked in the teeth by a bunch of backstabbing malcontents!

I will explain to you, in words of one syllable, the events behind this night of calumny and drama. Old people. Our village rejoices in a fine 24 hour walk-in Old Folks facility. Everything is top notch, as indeed it should be for those who fought to keep our great country free from the black hordes [note to PR: cue martial music, DC to look stern but fatherly]. As I was saying, we're rightly proud of the way we treat our old age pensioners in this village but there are problems.

Friday 29 June 2012

Paul Doherty: Murder Most Holy Review

Another very good tale of murder and mystery in early 15th Century London. Dominicans are disappearing or being found dead in Blackfriars; Brother Athelstan and Coroner Sir John Cranston are called in. Under the sceptical and beady eye of two Inquisitors they have to prove murder, find corpses and solve the crimes.

In the meantime, Athelstan has his own skeleton to worry about, found under the church during renovation work. Sir John adds to the list of troubles: Regent John Of Gaunt has trapped him into taking a wager of 1,000 crowns, money he does not have. Solve a locked room puzzle or rely on the Regent to cover the debt - and thus become one of his creatures.

Tuesday 26 June 2012

I'm running the village now

Right, listen up you people. It's two months since SamCam and I moved into this village and frankly, it's a shambles. I went to a Parish Council meeting the other day and there were people wearing cardigans, for God's sake. Some of them women. Well, that's all got to stop.

I have decided to take over the running of the village. I will control the finances of the whole area and education will be in the hands of little Mike Gove - I'm sure some of you remember the shop he used to have selling pictures of himself and the Queen. Well, I know him from school and he's a sound chap, good exam results though a bit of a tick on the games field. I've asked George to step down from his role as landlord of the village pub (more of this anon) and he'll keep hold of the tin in which the PC stores the rates money. I'll keep hold of foreign affairs myself - I have some experience here with our Filipino nanny (I think she's Filipino - there's a touch of the tar brush anyway).

Sunday 24 June 2012

Paul Doherty: The Field Of Blood Review

There's a fine variety of murders in this Doherty novel, a historical whodunit that fairly gallops along. Three corpses in Brother Athelstan's parish, more buried in "the field of blood" and an unlikely murderess on the road to the gallows.

An itinerant preacher and a doxy enter an abandoned house, looking for a trysting place. They find a man standing over a corpse and he's not happy to be interrupted.

A serving maid stabs a drunken lecher; in her defence she raises greater crimes by the respected widow who runs the Paradise Tree, a prosperous tavern bordering the Thames. The evidence is stacked against the widow, she makes little effort to aid Athelstan or coroner Sir John Cranston as they investigate the accusation against her.

Tuesday 19 June 2012

Paul Doherty: The Nightingale Gallery Review

First of the Athelstan books, where a Dominican friar and a hard-drinking city coroner investigate murder and corruption in 14th Century London.

It's 1397, John Of Gaunt has just become Regent on the death of Edward The Confessor, the future King Henry VII being too young to be made king. The Machiavellian Gaunt has close ties with rich merchants, one of whom is found dead in his bedchamber. All the evidence points to his manservant who has conveniently committed suicide, supposedly in remorse for the murder.

Thursday 14 June 2012

Paul Doherty

The last author I blogged on gave us two for the price of one - mother and daughter writing as PJ Tracy, today's author gives us even more, for Paul Doherty is prolific under that name and several others.

Doherty is a historian, writer of historical fiction and school headmaster. The first contributes to the second as he has produced a large body of enjoyable and historically accurate novels under his various noms de plume. The third hasn't as yet led to any books - I'm sure though that there'll be something one day.

Monday 4 June 2012

Harmonising The Dead

Today is the anniversary of the massacre of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Chinese people by its own government's troops. To this day, nobody except the authorities knows how many were killed, wounded or arrested on that awful day.

For nearly seven weeks up to half a million people had gathered in Tiananmen Square to protest harsh economic measures, loss of freedoms and corruption in the ruling classes. The government initially tried to appease demonstrators but then, as with the Russians in earlier years, arrogance and brutality won and the tanks rolled in. Troops had orders to clear the Square - they did so with live bullets.

Sunday 3 June 2012

PJ Tracy: Dead Run Reviewed

A swimming hole for local teens: one boy diving to retrieve a six pack finds a body. Police divers pull up more, apparently executed simultaneously by a blast from an automatic weapon. FBI agents swoop on the bodies and impose strict secrecy on the local law, just about doable in rural America.

A quiet little town on a summer's day. Bodies start dropping, people, a dog.

Wednesday 23 May 2012

P.J. Tracy: Live Bait Reviewed

The second crime novel from the mother/daughter partnership and it echoes the pace of the first, Want To Play?. Maury, a man in his eighties, a community saint, shot by a pro in his plant nursery. Another old man shot at home, then dragged to a train track and bound in place, to die of a heart attack before a train could finish the job.

Two more bodies follow, man and woman, very old, both shot to death. Now there's a link, three of the four have the awful tattoo of Auschwitz on their wrists.

Sunday 20 May 2012

The Meal Is The Message

McDonalds, purveyors of fat and salt to the world, are "sponsoring" bloggers. Write nice things about chicken nuggets and they invite you to all-expenses-paid parties and give you free gifts. This is happening in the States and is apparently on its way to the UK.

They've obviously learned some lessons from their sad essay into Twitter land - "#McDStories When u make something w/pride, people can taste it". That got a wonderful reception, with many people pointing out all the things you can taste in a McMeal - including a finger if you're lucky. Better to get some seasoned bloggers (spot the joke) to step up to the plate as Jamie Oliver delivers another stinging pitch. Alas, many people will believe an unknown blogger before they'll credit an expert like Oliver, and so the dumbing-down and fattening-up can continue unchecked.

Monday 14 May 2012

P.J. Tracy Want To Play? Review

An elderly pair of religious bigots shot and mutilated in a church in rural Wisconsin. Two murders in Minneapolis. A motley crew of software developers feels an icy wind and wonders how to tell the police that they wrote the blueprint for the Minneapolis killings. Especially as it seems they've been running from the police for a decade.

In the meantime, the body count rises...

Thursday 10 May 2012

P.J. Tracy

I've been told I don't write about women authors so here we have two for the price of one: PJ Tracy is actually a mother/daughter partnership and a jolly good one too.

Mother Patricia (P.J.) and daughter Traci Lambrecht have produced a set of crime novels which are way better than I'd have expected. Given they claim to have only some freelance writing and a little romantic fiction behind them, their writing is assured, their characters are good and their plotting is of a similarly high standard.

Thursday 3 May 2012

Robert Crais: Indigo Slam Review

A rain-drenched nightime evacuation: man and children being moved by US Marshals. Ambush, Marshal down, van escapes in panic.

Three years on. Find a missing man - nothing unusual for Cole and Pike, except that the clients are the man's children, the eldest Teri at fifteen. Cole has turned down the job but girlfriend Lucy's maternal instincts persuade him to change his mind. With some annoyance at Craig Haines' behaviour but no great expectations, Elvis begins the hunt.

Saturday 28 April 2012

Robert Crais: Sunset Express Review

A woman bludgeoned to death, her body dumped on a rubbish tip. The weapon, a ball peen hammer, found outside the house she shared with husband Teddy. Husband's defence: she had been kidnapped. Husband's believability: zero.

However, Teddy has one advantage: he's worth about $150 million. That buys a lot of defence, beginning with superstar lawyer Jonathan Green and the funding of The Big Green Defense Machine - an army of lawyers, investigators and more to scrutinise every aspect of the case, to get Teddy the best justice money can buy.

Monday 9 April 2012

The Toby Young People Like Us Free School Newsletter

Our headparent hard at work
Dear Parents,  I'm delighted to say that our Free School has been up and running for some time now and is a roaring success on all counts.  We have nearly as many pupils as there are Free Schools (20) and anticipate recruiting more (the memsahib and I are hard at it).

We may be looking to revise our teacher recruitment policies in the coming months. As you know, we took full advantage of our Government's leave to recruit a few teachers who would supply what we need: discipline, sound academic values, willing to work for less than a trained teacher. That has worked well in some cases: Madame Pompadour is enormously popular with the boys and, I believe, shows a healthy appetite for the world of work by exploring a second career in interpretive dance, offering private lessons to tired businessmen. It's that kind of thinking that made Britain great!

Friday 30 March 2012

Jo Nesbo: Nemesis Review

Nemesis tells the tale of the hunt for a bank robber, a super-efficient robber who nevertheless cold-bloodedly kills when apparently he doesn't need to.

Harry Hole is a member of the team investigating the robbery, as is a young Beata Lønn (who goes on to feature strongly as a forensics expert in later novels). The two are asked by senior police to form an unofficial investigation team as a rigid Inspector Iversson leads the main team nowhere.

Friday 23 March 2012

Crime fiction for moms

I do try , when I'm reviewing, to say if a book is suitable for my mother or for the vicar. I assume everyone understands that "for my mother" means not too violent, little swearing and none of those sex scenes that, if they come on TV whilst you're watching with your mother, make your toes curl. "For the vicar" means gross violence and pederasty (I jest!)

"All well and good," says an older friend of mine who has recently rediscovered reading, "but I've read all the Ross Thomas you've reviewed and I don't like Michael Connelly. What else would your mother read?"

Tuesday 13 March 2012

The Rebekah Brooks Diary Part 6

Oh, Dear Diary.  Oh Dear, Diary. 

The rest of this diary entry has been redacted.

Monday 12 March 2012

NewBarnConversionBuy: Cameron Unites Country

Proof again, if proof were needed, that Dave Cam is the man for us, the man who has united the country in ways that nobody foresaw. Little did townies, urban folk and ecologists know they had so much in common on the subject of trees until Dave tried to flog them off to paper manufacturers at a fraction of their worth. Little did hospital porters unions, nurses and the Royal College Of Surgeons have in common until Dave tried to flog off the NHS through a scheme that was so poorly thought out that he didn't understand it (though a good few private vultures have been cicling with drool dripping on the ground below).

Tuesday 6 March 2012

Stuart MacBride: Shatter The Bones Reviewed

Modern television collides with Detective Sergeant Logan McRae's Aberdeen in the latest of the McRae books. Somebody has kidnapped Allison and Jenny MacGregor - mother and six year old daughter, singing duo and darling of British TV's latest talent show. Not only is the nation glued to the news but the kidnappers have started sending body parts through the post.

Monday 27 February 2012

Stuart MacBride: Dark Blood Review

Detective Sergeant Logan McRae is stuck in rank and stuck in Aberdeen. His mood is further blackened when he's landed with a babysitting job - except the baby is a weasely pervert with a penchant for raping senile old men.

Richard Knox has served his time, found God and returned to his grandparents' house in Aberdeen. He's accompanied by a very large DI Danby from Northumbria, a DI who doesn't like giving out details and who doesn't like McRae's insubordinations.

Wednesday 8 February 2012

Jo Nesbo: The Devil's Star Review

Detective Harry Hole is after another serial killer in something of a change of style for Nesbo. Less of the explicit violence and gore, more psychological movings, more Hitchcock than Grand Guignol.

Someone is abducting young women from the daylit streets of Oslo. Bodies are found, characterised by a chopped-off finger and a blood red diamond secreted on the corpse. The case is given to Harry's arch rival, the man he suspects of being a smuggler and a murderer, Inspector Tom Waaler. The two are due a showdown ...

Saturday 28 January 2012

How do I love thee?

With Valentine's Day approaching I thought I'd try a change of genre and review a love story. Not my usual field but surely, out of the thousands of books that I've read there must be a tale of a great love. Not perhaps in the crime genre, where relationships tend more to one night stands, hookers and divorce (not necessarily in that order).

My teen years were spent largely with sci fi and Lovecraft, even less promising. It wsn't until George Lucas arrived on the scene that sci fi discovered romance and I can't really imagine the great Cthulhu getting his end away with some slimy lesser great one.

Friday 27 January 2012

Robert B. Parker: Night Passage Reviewed

 Night Passage is the first in the Jesse Stone series, seeing Stone move from Los Angeles to Paradise on the Massachusetts coast to take up a position as Chief to the small Paradise Police Department. A good opportunity for a respected LAPD homicide detective, except the alcoholic Stone has just been fired by the LAPD.

Monday 16 January 2012

If you get a white page on this blog ...

My apologies to IE users who are seeing some white pages on Blogger blogs. Google has made significant upgrades to Blogger but didn't apparently test on Internet Explorer. I'm sure this was sloppiness rather than an attempt to push Chrome!

Google engineers have been informed and will fix the problem when they've finished playing Fussball. In the meantime, please view using Chrome or Firefox.

Sunday 15 January 2012

Give Queen new yacht for diamond jubilee, says Gove

Her Blessed Majesty, richest woman in the world, should be given a £60 million yacht, says Michael Gove. "Jolly nice of him," I thought, "why?" For staying alive a long time and hence reaching a diamond jubilee. Not particularly difficult to do when the likeliest thing to kill you is apoplexy from Phil's latest gaffe but never mind. It's very generous of one of the rich Tories to give such a generous gift.