Monday, 30 May 2016

British Library Crime Classics marathon - Part 3

Here is the final part of my British Crime Classics marathon. Many thanks to Poisoned Pen Press and NetGalley for once again sending me the advance readers copies in exchange for an honest review.

A Scream in Soho by John G. Brandon

This was a brilliant, post-war thriller which was electric to read. From start to finish, this book was electrifying and well worthy of the 5 stars I gave it. It follows an investigation into a murder in Soho during a blackout. First the body is missing, and then another body is found which must have happened since the investigation began. The case is up to Detective Inspector McCarthy to solve, and his life is on the line. The story takes us all over Soho in the attempt to solve the crime and to save Britain as it becomes known that the crime is somehow connected to the defence of the country.

McCarthy is a clever DI. A bit like a cross between Holmes and Poitot, he is easily likeable while being someone you wouldn't want to upset. And he listens to his hunches, which invariably lead him in the right direction.

Over all, I loved this story. I can honestly say that I couldn't fault the writing, the characters or the plot.

Star rating: 5 from 5
This book will be published on 2nd August 2016

The Female Detective by Andrew Forrester

This book is arguably the first book about a female crime fighter in English. However, as much as I enjoyed the crimes in this book, a collection of shortish stories, the main character has a major flaw which is hard to cope with...consistently, and without fail clearly stating that she is a FEMALE detective rather than a detective. Sure, you have to look at the past situation. At the time, there were no female police officers or detectives in the UK, and I can understand her stating it in the introduction...but in pretty much every story, at least once, saying something like oh yes, I'm a female detective, or one thing that male and female detectives have to do is...obviously, I paraphrase here, but the point is clear.

Aside from this annoyance, I did enjoy the stories. The writing is not bad and the plots quite good too. The main character is fairly resourceful and smart (a trait needed by all good detectives!). Sometimes, you have to overlook the faults to find the diamonds in the rough. In this case, there is a lot of rough, but there are some gems there too.

Star rating: 3 from 5
This book will be published on 2nd August 2016

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Not so Much, Said The Cat by Michael Swanwick

Huge thanks go to the publisher, Tachyon Publications, and NetGalley for allowing me to read this review copy in exchange for an honest review.

After reading 4 detective novels in quick succession, with just one dip into sci-fi in between, I decided to take a short break and read some short story collections. The first of these collections is a series of sci-fi shorts by Hugo award winning writer Michael Swanwick, a new writer for me.

Short story collections are always complicated to review. Some stories you love, some you may hate, but rarely do you love them all. This is true here. I really enjoyed the tale of the house with a jealous personality as well as the black money scam story involving two con artists trying to make a quick fortune while ruining the power hungry of New Orleans. Yet there are some stories which just left me slightly let down. One in particular stated that atheists, of which I count myself, would be happier if they were not atheists...I stand insulted!

Generally, the characters are well written, the plots not too complicated for the short form, and the writing style is really enjoyable. Would I recommend this anthology to friends and family? Most likely. Would I read more by the author? Possibly, if I had the opportunity, time and a smaller backlog of books.

Star rating: 4 from 5, despite the insult.

This book will be released on 9th August 2016

Friday, 20 May 2016

British Library Crime Classics marathon - Part 2

Many thanks go to Poisoned Pen Press for the advanced readers copies of the following books in exchange for an honest review.

Sergeant Cluff Stands Firm by Gil North

I decided to continue my marathon of crime classics with the first of the Sergeant Cluff books by Gil North. The series starts in a reasonably good way. I can't fault the characters or the plot at all. In fact! Cluff has become, quickly, one of those amazingly readable detectives He is irascible and very single-minded when on a case. However, there is just something in the style that I can't quite put my finger on which pushed this book below it's enormous potential.

The plot is quite straightforward. A woman is found dead, apparently by gassing herself in her bedroom, and Caleb Cluff is called in to investigate it. He immediately suspects her husband of killing her, despite no evidence. What follows shows how stubborn Cluff can be when chasing his suspects. Unfortunately, his ways bring danger to his own doorstep.

All in all, a good book.

Star rating: 3.5 from 5
This book will be published on 6th September 2016

The Methods of Sergeant Cluff by Gil North

Following straight on from Sergeant Cluff Stands Firm, we follow our hero in a much more intense crime. The obvious murder of a teenage girl. The main suspect is a young man often seen waiting for her, and everyone in the village believes he is the murderer...except for Cluff. His eyes are on much bigger fish!

I think this story was better than the first as there is so much more tension and drama than the first book in the series. I particularly enjoyed Barker as a counterclaim for Cluff, oozing with enthusiasm. Again, the style misses something, but seems to be better than the first, especially the dramatic scenes.

My main criticism is that these books are too short, but short is sweet, and I would recommend this series to fans of Morse, Sherlock and the like. They are not so much whodunnits as why are where's the evidence.

Star rating: 4 from 5
This book will be published on 6th September 2016

Monday, 16 May 2016

British Library Crime Classics marathon - Part 1

Very recently, Poisoned Pen Press granted me access to 6 upcoming British Library crime classics on NetGalley in exchange for honest reviews. Rather than having 6 separate reviews for these books, I decided to join them together into 2 or 3 easily manageable chunks. Behold part 1!

Murder in the Museum by John Rowland

Well, it looks like I started with a cracker! Murder in the Museum is a fast-paced, thrill ride from start to finish and, although I did manage to guess the murderer well before the big reveal, I really found it hard to put this book down for a second!

It's obvious from the title that the book begins with a murder in the British Museum's reading room (coincidentally owned by the British Library). The cause of death - cyanide. It quickly becomes clear that the murderer must know the victims habits, as well as his family. But with so many possible motives and suspects, it's up to the magnificently written Inspector Shelley to solve the case.

It truly is a high-octane book, one which wouldn't be too far fetched in modern literature. Given that this book was written in the 1930's shows an endurance to this mystery that many modern books lack.

Star rating: 5 from 5

Murder at the Museum is available now!

The Secret of High Eldersham by Miles Burton

I must admit that I am in two minds about this book. It does have an intriguing and certainly very tense plot, but there was something about the beginning, where the detective's ideas leapt about like a fish out of water, that stopped me from loving it. However, as the book progressed, the story came alive and it was heart-stopping in places.

High Eldersham, a small village in the East Anglian coast, is the sight of the murder of a pub landlord. As the investigation opens, the lead investigator, Young, decides that there is something much bigger going on than just a simple murder. The villagers hold a secret that is dark and sinister that ensures no stranger to their village will stay for long. But what could it be? Together with his friend, Merrion (an amateur sleuth of sorts), Young must not only track the murderer, but also the solve the deadly mystery.

The excitement in the second half makes up for the bizarreness of the beginning and, all in all, I did enjoy this book.

Star rating: 4 from 5

The Secret of High Eldersham will be published on 7th June 2016

Saturday, 7 May 2016

The Chronicles of Brother Hermitage by Howard of Warwick - double feature!

Many thanks to the publisher, The Funny Book Company, and Net Galley for sending my these two books in exchange for honest reviews.

I had heard the name Howard of Warwick before, but I had no idea what kind of books he wrote, or even if he was still alive. When these two books came available on NetGalley, I thought I would have a little...investigation.

The Heretics of De'Ath

This is the first book in the Chronicles of Brother Hermitage series, and it showed early on. The writing style seemed a little naive in places and I didn't fully connect with the main character, Hermitage...however, that quickly changed. How to describe him? Think of Baldrick from multiply the stupidity by 100 and you might get close! And the story seems to run in a similar way too. It is so farcical, I loved it!

The story follows Brother Hermitage as he is suspected of murdering a fellow monk in the monastery of De'Ath's Dingle...what a wonderful name that it! If only it were a real place! After an adventurous trip to Lincoln, the nearest city, which takes him 2 days, he returns to his monastery with the King's Investigator (another stupid man called Simon), and Wat the Weaver who is a weaver of, quite simply, 11th Century pornography to try to solve the mystery and save his own neck!

The characters are great fun and grow on you very quickly, the humour is outrageous in places ("as happy as a cardinal in a convent" springs to mind!), and the plot easy to follow if a bit loopy. If you are looking for some good laughs and are not worried about the plot too much, this could be the book for you!

Star rating:4 from 5

Hermitage, Wat and some Druids

This book is the 5th book in the Brother Hermitage series and follows the main heroes of the first book as they are sent on a mission by King William I to find one of his envoys to Wales and his murderers ..oh, and to bring back all the gold the druids have. Meanwhile, the druids are preparing to build a new stone circle and are looking for some very specific sacrifices...surely Hermitage can't fall for their deceptions...can he?

This was a more enjoyable book as it was better written, and the plot easy to follow. Also, there was a sense of helplessness for throughout the story for Hermitage that might have been overly farcical in the first. There was more development of the characters, although more of it happened in books 2-4, which, according to several footnotes, are available from all good bookshops. I would be intrigued to read those later, but I am in no rush. For now, this was a pleasant, light double act to read.

Star rating: 4.5 from 5