Posts Tagged ‘Book Review’

Who’s who in Grunty Fen by Christopher South, a review

Who’s Who in Grunty Fen by Christopher South

I had enjoyed the Guide to Grunty Fen also by Christopher South and thought more of the same would make a useful tonic for me. I was delighted to find a copy in Huntingdon’s wonderful Niche Comics and Books.

This who’s who is a definitive guide to the notable people that have made this overlooked but remarkable area of the Cambridgeshire fens what it is today. The biographies of these inhabitants and former inhabitants are informative, making for fascinating reading. It describes the sheer diversity of talent that has and still continues to occupy this close knit community.

Amongst others we learn of Ron Flash Gordon postman and Pyloneer, Daisy Dockeridge a notable Pharmacist, any number of remarkable clergymen, among them Emmanuel Partington Vosper-Jones. Vosper-Jones, installed a gingerbread house (originally a pantomime stage prop) as a confessional later following a nervous breakdown he left the clergy to become a tobacconist.

Other notables include, inventors, philosophers, parachute knitters, educationalists and an early  equal rights activist Queenie Marsden

Every page is full of interesting facts that shed a light on the lives of those residing in this under discovered corner of Cambridgeshire. I am sure it won’t be long before the casual weekend tourist, anxious to see where Dennis lived and to learn more of this remarkable community,becomes inspired to buy the corrugated iron and reclaimed building materials needed to build their very own shed. Many of them will consider employing the famous Grunty Fen Architect Niven Parr to help with the design and construction.

For those seeking a simpler more sustainable but in many ways an unusual form of life Grunty Fen seems to have a lot to offer.

With an easy bicycle commute to Ely and access to the rail network those tired of city life could do worse than move to Grunty Fen

A Gift Called Hope by Eva Jordan a review.

Jill who is estranged from her husband, has moved to a seaside town to run a mobile, beachside, vegetarian, snack bar.

She is caring for her young grandson, Jack but grieving for her son, Davey, Jack’s father. As Christmas nears; the anniversary of her son’s death, Jill struggles to cope with her conflicting emotions, trying to give Jack the best possible Christmas she can while dealing with the still rawness of her grief.

I am certain this story will stay with me for a very long time. It moved me in a way that surprised me. It is beautifully written, the characters are believable and well-drawn. The end is satisfying, living up to the title

The only other book that has affected me in the same way as A Gift Called Hope; is “The Catcher in the Rye” by J D Salinger.

That I remember so much of The Catcher in the Rye after reading it just once, fifty years ago, speaks volumes.

Like Catcher in the Rye, this story is about loss and the grief that accompanies the loss of a loved one.

Reaching an accommodation with loss is a bumpy road; this book describes that journey with tenderness and humanity.

It is a truly remarkable book.

Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner a review.

Missing Presumed by Susie Steiner

I can’t think of a single occasion when I have visited a book event at Huntingdon’s Commemoration Hall and left empty handed.

The Book Bank and similar book related events are hosted by Niche Comics and Books of Huntingdon, it was at a recent event that I came away with “Missing, Presumed”, written by Susie Steiner.

Angela Mackey, of said Niche Comics told me that the book was set in Huntingdon.

I bore my purchase home and have now finally got around to reading it.

I think knowing the area identifying the streets and places adds a little more to the story, it does for me and I have had similar comments from those readers familiar with Cambridge about my book.

Susie Steiner’s story is of a young woman, whose disappearance, is discovered by her boyfriend. An open door a trail of blood, her clothing and mobile phone left behind in their house, prompts fears for her safety. DS Mannon Bradshaw, DI Harriet Harper and their team struggle to make headway in the search for famous surgeon Sir. Ian Hinds’, daughter Edith.

This is a fascinating story, the plot moves in different directions as new threads are woven into its fabric.

All the time the team are coping with their own problems, within their relationships and families.

 A tale of secrets, fragile lives, deception and families under stress, the end is unexpected and satisfying.

Susie Steiner

I learned from Angela that Susie Steiner was no longer with us having died of brain cancer in July 2022 at the tragically young age of 51.

Thin Air by Ann Cleeves, a review.

Thin Air written by Ann Cleeves

Thin Air is set in The Shetland Isles the story centres on a wedding and a legend of the ghost of a young girl lost to the sea in 1930. When one of the wedding guests, a bridesmaid is reported missing Jimmy Perez and Sandy Wilson are sent to help find her. The discovery of the missing woman’s body in a loch turns a hunt for a missing woman into a murder investigation. Willow Reeves joins Perez and Wilson to lead the investigation.

I read a lot of crime fiction as well as writing some. Thin Air is the first of Ann Cleeves’ Shetland series I have read; I found it a difficult read. The story seemed to take a good while to get into its stride. I had the impression the author started the book stopped then took up the story later fitting bits in as she went. It is an interesting story set in the far North of the British Isles, a part I would like to visit. Although the pictures of the weather, terrain and communities are well drawn there seems to be a tiredness in the telling of the story. The plot is interesting and convoluted, and the characters are believable but it took me a long while to read it.

I don’t know if all the Shetland stories are written in the same way a steady gathering of threads or if this one is less lively than some of the others, I will have to see. Ann Cleeves writes well but I preferred other Ann Cleeves books I have read.

The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah, a review.

The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah

I am grateful to Niche Comics and Book Shop of Huntingdon, in particular to Angela Mackey of the said establishment. Angela regularly organises events in Huntingdon bringing many well-known authors into the town’s Commemoration Hall to discuss their writing and books. The only problem it gives me is trying to sneak the books into our house which I buy at these events without my wife noticing, she thinks that we have far too many books already.

A while back I was at an event where two authors, Alison Bruce and Sophie Hannah; were in discussion with a gentleman whose name escapes me (I’m sorry I should have been taking notes.)

I am familiar with Alison’s work and a great fan, Sophie Hannah was a name I recognised but hadn’t read anything of hers. I enjoyed the evening and came away with a copy of Sophie Hannah’s Monogram Murders; I have copies of all Alison’s novels.

It is a long while since I have read any of Agatha Christie’s books and I must admit I am not a huge fan of hers, so I hesitated and prevaricated about starting to read Ms Hannah’s take on Agatha Christie’s famous Belgium detective.

The story starts when Poirot’s supper is disturbed by a distraught young woman entering the café where he is dining. She is convinced that she is soon be murdered.

Three murders take place at the Bloxham Hotel in London on that very same night. The victim’s bodies are found in separate rooms on different floors. Hercule Poirot assists Catchpool a Scotland Yard detective, who lives at the same lodgings as Poirot; investigate the murders. Before very long Poirot is in charge of the case with Catchpool, the narrator trying to keep up with Poirot’s thought processes.

The plot is engaging; constantly twisting and turning, to wrong-foot the reader.

I prefer Sophie Hannah’s version of a Poirot mystery to any I have read penned by Agatha Christie; I shall read more of Sophie’s books.

The Killing Code by J D Kirk, a review.

The Killing Code by J D Kirk

My daughter knowing of my interest both as a writer and reader of crime fiction gave me a copy of The Killing Code as a birthday present.

I had not read any of J D Kirk’s books before and this was my first encounter with Glasgow’s DCI Jack Logan.

It is always a difficult thing to write a review you want to give a reader a sense of what the book is about but give away as little of the plot as possible.

The story gripped me from the start. After the murder of a nurse, Logan’s desperate search for a brutal killer; kept me metaphorically on the edge of my seat. I raced through the pages, hoping Logan would find the murderer before another death occurred.

I really enjoyed this book it was well written, engaging and credible. I am really grateful to my daughter for introducing me to JD Kirk and DCI Logan; I shall be back to read more books from Mr Kirk.

Killing with Confetti by Peter Lovesey, a review.

Killing with Confetti by Peter Lovesey

I am a big fan of Peter Lovesey and his hero Peter Diamond. Killing with Confetti has been on my; to be read list for a while now and I wish I had been able to get to it sooner.

We are into the action very early on with a plot that moves from a riot at a prison to the forthcoming marriage of a crime baron’s daughter and a senior police officer’s son. DCS Peter Diamond has the unenviable job of managing the security for the wedding at Bath’s Abbey Church and reception at the City’s Roman Baths; he hopes it won’t prove to be a poisoned chalice.

Peter Diamond has to ensure that Joe Irving the bride’s father, a target for any number of assassins is kept safe. Not an easy job, given Irving’s numerous enemies and with the events taking place in Bath’s historic buildings, offering plenty of hiding places for a killer.

Deputy Chief Constable George Brace, the father of the groom is very anxious the day goes well but whatever the outcome, his association through marriage with Bath’s crime Lord is going to be a difficult one to manage, career-wise.

The responsibility for managing Irving’s safety, a successful wedding and reception weigh heavily on Diamond’s shoulders.

A great read, that kept me engrossed from start to finish.

Paranormal City by Stephen Oliver a review

Paranormal City by Stephen Oliver

Paranormal City is unlike any other city or maybe it isn’t, it could be that this city is also here; unseen in the city we inhabit but hiding in plain sight, sharing its existence but in a different way to the one it lives within.

Paranormal City’s inhabitants walk our streets in a form of normality we recognise, rubbing shoulders with the daily commuters, sharing our places and lives but they are in some way different. These are the werewolves, shapeshifters, vampires, cyborgs, demons and creatures which only become strange to us when assuming their other, true hidden identity. 

Paranormal City becomes the battleground of a titanic struggle between strange forces and creatures. It is a fascinating tale and a damn good read.

Hopefully, these creatures are purely a work of fiction.

Great stuff Stephen, more, please.

Stephen’s Paranormal City is available to buy on Amazon

Silent Voices by Ann Cleeves a review.

Silent Voices by Ann Cleeves

This was my first read of a novel featuring Vera; Ann Cleeves’ DCI Vera Stanhope, as seen on TV, as it says on the cover of this edition of the book. Vera is presented to us, warts and all. Brenda Blethyn is a supremely confident actress to be able to portray this woman so accurately.

The plot is dense, convoluted and engaging, drawing me in from the first moment. After her morning swim, Vera finds the body of a young woman in her local health club’s steam room.

The characters are well-drawn, the descriptions of places and people believable. However, what I found was most interesting, that despite being presented on television with a very believable version of Vera, I found a different Vera in the book. A woman who entered my imagination on her own terms. This for me was extraordinary, although the television Vera is good, I preferred the Vera of my imagination.

It was for me a quick read I wanted to know how the story ended and who the murderer was, I hadn’t worked it out.

A thoroughly good read. I am becoming a fan of Ann Cleeves.

Only to Sleep by Lawrence Osborne, a review.

Only to Sleep by Lawrence Osborne

Raymond Chandler’s shoes are very difficult to fill. Philip Marlowe, Chandler’s hero is someone who has inhabited the imagination of all those who have read Chandler’s novels. My Marlowe will be different to everyone else’s Marlowe but our own original has its own presence.

‘Poodle Springs’, Chandler’s unfinished novel was completed by Robert B Parker and worked well for me; I have since discovered that Parker wrote another Marlowe novel, ‘Perchance to Dream.’ This is one I will seek out and read.

Marlowe is engaged by The Pacific Mutual Insurance company to investigate the death by drowning of Donald Zinn; before the million dollar payout is made to his widow.

Donald Zinn is an all too easily recognisable pastiche of a contemporary character, one who it appears has followed a similar career path to Zinn’s.

It was a good idea to base the action in Mexico; the location of Zinn’s demise.

Only to sleep didn’t work well for me, perhaps it was taking Marlowe out of his time and place; California’s, the thirties, forties and fifties or maybe at 73 Marlowe just hadn’t aged well. I didn’t recognise him even as an older version of himself

Other Chandler and Marlowe fans may enjoy this book; it just wasn’t a good read for me.

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