Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Write Out! #1 up on YouTube

I've started a new project - it's a short video every now and then, recorded via Zoom. It's live and then I have uploaded it to YouTube.

If you feel like doing some writing, find a quiet space and watch this to get you started!

Monday, February 17, 2020

Book review - "The Last Drop of Blood" by Graham Masterton

The first thing you realise when starting to read this novel is that it’s set very firmly in Ireland with many Irish characters! The dialogue immediately places the reader right in the middle of the setting, as do the descriptions of landmarks. The River Lee plays a big part, as one of the crimes Katie Maguire has to investigate is the Lee Pusher, someone who is pushing people into the river and drowning them. I had to go and do a search on Cork out of curiosity and the Lee definitely looks like a river you’d be hard pressed to survive, even as a good swimmer.

DS Maguire is high up in the police force now, directing a number of other officers, but still manages to be in the thick of things, along with having to cop the blame when the media start complaining about all the unsolved crimes. First up is the murder of a court Justice, burned in his car, then various gang members start picking each other off in an Irish version of the Hatfields and the McCoys. The cold-bloodedness of the gang leaders is chilling and perhaps this is where the book title comes from. 

Between all of this and attempts to derail her career by a jealous superior officer, Katie Maguire has to grit her teeth and keep going, no matter what.
I have read a previous Maguire novel but it’s not necessary to enjoy this one, as it stands alone. The intricate investigation details for all the various crimes and murders are well-woven and I never felt confused or lost track of what was happening. Even minor characters such as the two women involved with the gang leaders are brought to life as rounded and real, which enriches the novel further. It seems this is the last Maguire novel, which is a pity, plus it seems to end rather abruptly, which made me wonder if I had a full copy, or perhaps another one is coming after all …

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Book review - "The Crossing" by Matt Brolly

DI Louise Blackwell has been shifted the backwaters of Weston-super-Mare after a disputed police shooting, and is not doing well away from the big city of Bristol where she was moving up the ranks. Now she’s a small fish in a smaller pond and the body of Veronica Lloyd, found murdered on the beach, is her first case here. A second murder of the old local priest raises questions in her mind about the connections, as both were pierced through their palms and wrists. It’s not until a mysterious monsignor nudges her towards St Bernadette’s church that what seemed like unlikely clues start to form a possible motive.

As the crimes escalate with still no decent suspects discovered, the pressure to take the case off Blackwell increases, most especially in the form of DCI Finch who has been harassing her since their involvement in the shooting. Now he tries to horn in and use his influence to further disrupt her career. Which of her fellow detectives can she trust to help her?

Brolly does a good job of creating a female detective in a position of powerlessness against someone who is out to discredit her. We understand her self-doubt and insecurity in the face of harassment, and the efforts she goes to to keep faith with herself and her investigative skills, without it becoming melodramatic. The fact that she does have male officers and a boss who back her and trust her judgement makes the situation more realistic, not less. Like many crime fiction protagonists, Louise is alone and lonely, but thankfully not jumping out of character into stupid decisions, learning from past mistakes.

My personal preference is for novels that don’t go into the point of view of the killer – I like the detection and the mystery more that way. But Brolly does create a villain whose obsessions are well explored and those chapters don’t give too much away in terms of tension. A good read, and I’ll look out for more his books.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Book review: "The Sound of her Voice" – Nathan Blackwell (Orion)

Blackwell’s experience in the New Zealand police force is front and centre in this engrossing novel set mostly in the north of Auckland, the country’s most populous city. Orewa police station sounds like it should be a one-man operation, but the spread north of the city means the contingent of police and detectives there, which includes our main character, Matt Buchanan, has to take on a huge range of cases.

The discovery of a skeleton, with some parts missing, inside a bag among the mangroves starts the story with a double-edged mystery. Not only can the police not identify her, they also don’t know how she got there or why. Buchanan’s still obsessed with a missing girl case from 20 years ago that he could never solve, and he still meets regularly with her parents. He also, as a new constable, arrived at the scene of a police shooting in 1995 just in time to hold his best mate as she died. Consequently, he’s carrying a lot of baggage over a lot of years and refusing to acknowledge it or seek help.

Instead he holds the trauma damage at bay by sinking himself into his current cases, of which the mystery girl is one. Blackwell is very skillful at building threads and gradually tying them together without making it obvious. He also depicts Buchanan’s gradual descent into, at best, poor judgement and, at worst, the blackest kind of PTSD where denial is a salve butt ultimately dangerous. It’s done in a way that makes us believe he might pull through, that if this one case is solved, he’ll come out the other side unscathed.

If you read a lot of dark crime fiction, the revelations towards the end might not seem so dark, yet in once-innocent New Zealand, they are horrifying and all too real. Blackwell’s references to earlier (real) cases sent me Googling out of interest. My one tiny quibble with the novel is his street-by-street descriptions of journeys by car. I’ve lived in Auckland so could follow them (although they did get a tiny bit tedious) – I wondered what a reader from outside the city would think. But apart from that, the police procedural detail was interesting and not overpowering. Blackwell is a pseudonym as a lot of his police work was in covert operations.
Looking forward to the next book from this writer!