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August 2016

False Nine by Philip Kerr

False NineAfter the events of the previous book, Hand of God, Scott Manson has found himself out of work and looking for a new managerial position. It’s not as easy as he hoped it would be, however, and the promise of a job in Shanghai soon turns out to be fraudulent. Knowing that the press will have a field day over his part in the scam, Scott jumps at the chance of working for Barcelona. The only problem is, it’s not as a manager but as a private detective, hired to locate a missing footballer. As his investigations take him to Paris, Antigua and Guadeloupe, he finds himself embroiled in yet another story that the press would love to get hold of…

This is the third book in the Scott Manson series and while it’s not vital to have read the others, there are hints in this book that may spoil some of the previous plots for anyone who chooses to go back to read the series from the start. False Nine is slightly different from the other books as there is less of an emphasis on football and more about Scott’s investigation. As a football fan who enjoyed reading about the day-to-day workings of London City, I hope that in the fourth instalment, we get to see a managerial return for Scott.

The mystery is an interesting one although I did have an inkling as to what the twist would be quite early on in the book. This did not spoil my enjoyment, however, as it was fascinating to see how Scott dealt with this new information he had discovered. I grew to like Jerome Dumas (the missing footballer) and really hoped that he would be able to tackle his demons and further his career.

I did, however, find myself on several occasions disliking Scott Manson. He has never been a faithful, one-woman man but I found his philandering in this book a bit uncomfortable and had sympathy towards his unwitting girlfriend back home in London.

The ending of False Nine has made the next book a very interesting prospect!

 

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Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner

MissingDS Manon Bradshaw knows that the first 72 hours in a missing persons case are the most important; the only problem is that a large chunk of this time frame has evaporated before anyone realises that Edith Hind is missing. With just a small amount of blood in the kitchen and with her keys and phone being left behind, the police have little to go on. Knowing that this has the potential to be a well-publicised case due to the victim being the daughter of a celebrated surgeon (and close friend of the Home Secretary no less), Manon must work quickly to find the missing woman’s whereabouts. As more and more secrets are revealed about Edith’s tangled personal life, the consequences will be distressing for all involved…

I have wanted to read this book for a while so was pleased to get the opportunity prior to its paperback publication. Unlike most of the crime novels I have read recently, it could not be described as ‘fast-paced’ but instead is a slow-burner of a story that really gathers pace towards the end. This is, by no means, a bad thing as it gives the author a chance to develop the characters and tie together the various storylines.

The characters are extremely well-written and there is a very real element to most of them. I particularly enjoyed reading Manon’s journey throughout the book and was happy with the heartwarming ending which sets up the follow-up novel. It was also good not to know exactly where the plot was leading and whether Edith would be found. The conclusion was not one I predicted and yet was totally plausible and satisfying.

I look forward to reading the next DS Manon book.

With thanks to HarperCollins UK and Net Galley for the advance copy.

The paperback version of Missing, Presumed is available on Amazon from 1st September 2016.

Against the Light by Marjorie Eccles

Against the LightThe year is 1912 and when the body of a man is found in the back of a cab, the police know they have their work cut out when they find that he was known to the notorious Irishman, Danny O’Rourke. With known associates refusing to reveal his whereabouts, Sergeant Inskip must try by all means possible to root him out. The waters are muddied, however, when Lucy, the seven-month-old niece of cabinet minister, Edmund Latimer, disappears, taken whilst on a walk in the park. Could the kidnapping be linked to Latimer’s involvement in the Irish Home Rule Bill currently passing through parliament and is there any connection to the dead man? Latimer’s wife Alice is desperate to uncover the truth, unaware that she is probably not going to be happy with what she discovers…

This is the second book I have read by this author, and like the previous one, Heirs and Assigns, Marjorie Eccles has managed to convey a rich portrait of what life was like for a section of society in the past. In Against the Light, we see a stark contrast between the privileged life of the Latimers and the trials faced by the working class in the east end of London. It was also good to, again, see the character of a strong woman with Alice Latimer’s work as a doctor.

I did have a few reservations before reading this book, knowing that there were going to be references to the Home Rule debate in Ireland. I was concerned that the mystery element of the story would become overshadowed by politics but, thankfully, this was not the case. While the political part of the book is essential to the plot, it is merely a backdrop to all the other aspects of the story. The different sub-plots all link together nicely and there are a few surprise moments. I also liked the way real-life situations were weaved into the plot with, for example, reference to the Titanic disaster.

Another great read from Marjorie Eccles which is available from September 1st 2016.

With thanks to NetGalley and Severn House Publishers.

All Fall Down by Tom Bale

All Fall DownWhile the Turner family are enjoying a family barbecue, the last thing they expect is a dying man arriving at their gate saying, “Help me!” Has he arrived at their house by chance or is there more to it? Soon, the family sense that they are being watched, but put it down to a sense of paranoia after the barbecue incident. Little do they know that they have every right to feel paranoid as, in the days that follow, they experience fear like they have never felt before. Who is causing this misery and will they manage to survive?

From the outset, Tom Bale draws you right into the story, creating an air of mystery with regards to the dying man. You can feel the anguish of the family as they fail to save him and also the fear that maybe, somehow, his turning up at their gate was no accident. You are also aware that there are a lot of secrets running through the family; from early on, in particular, we discover that there is something in the father’s past that he would prefer not to resurface. Other family members have their secrets, however, and the author manages to steer you off in the wrong direction so that the reveal towards the end is a genuine surprise.

Despite their mysterious backgrounds, the Turner family are very real, likeable characters. I particularly enjoyed the character of Georgia who, despite her traumatic earlier life, fights back against the odds. The way she overcomes her fears in order to display huge strength of character was a joy to read. The character of Josh was also well-written – it is easy to see how a young man at university may fall into his predicament!

All Fall Down is, at times, genuinely terrifying and the author builds up the tension in such as way that pages became turned very quickly as I was desperate to find out what happened next. There is, at times, a high level of violence, but this is integral to the plot.  I foresee lots of readers anxiously checking that all windows and doors are locked after reading this book!

Highly recommended!

With thanks to Net Galley and Bookouture for a copy of this book which is available from 1st September 2016 from Amazon.

By Gaslight by Steven Price

GaslightThe year is 1885 and there is a seedy undercurrent running throughout the city of London. Detective William Pinkerton has a lead on the elusive thief Edward Shade but now that lead is dead, her severed head having been discovered in the Thames. Another person has been looking for the same lead but for entirely different reasons: Adam Foole has returned to London in search of his lost love only to discover her fate. When the two men cross paths, both are forced to confront their pasts, dredging up some memories that would be better off forgotten.

In By Gaslight, Steven Price has succeeded in creating an incredibly atmospheric view of Victorian London that is very reminiscent of Arthur Conan Doyle. You can almost hear the sounds of the horses and the smell of the Thames, such is the description. It was no surprise, therefore, to learn that the author is more well-known as a poet. It is not just set in London, however, as the story moves, occasionally, back in time, dealing with the likes of the American Civil War and the South African diamond trade. Although these parts were integral to the plot, I enjoyed them the least, preferring any chapter that was based on Pinkerton’s pursuance of Edward Shade.

Towards the end, when the plot lines all converge, it was hard to put down as I was eager to know the outcomes of all the main characters. I would have, however, liked to have known what became of Molly, Foole’s child accomplice. Despite her being on the wrong side of the law, she was a very likeable character with a harrowing back story.

My only criticism of this book would be the length – at 730 pages long, I felt that some of the text could have been omitted. Another small criticism would be author’s understanding of the value of money in 1885 – twice a messenger was paid £5 to undergo a simple task. In 1885, this would have been a huge amount of money; it would have been unlikely for this amount to have been given!

If you enjoy the Anthony Horowitz Sherlock Holmes novels, then this book is definitely for you.

With thanks to GoodReads and Oneworld Publications for the copy of the book.

Hand of God by Philip Kerr

Hand of GodCompeting in the Champions League should be one of the highlights of a manager’s career. Indeed for Scott Manson, manager of London City, the match against Olympiacos in Athens is one that he will never forget – unfortunately it will be for all the wrong reasons. He certainly hadn’t anticipated one of his star players collapsing and dying during the match and his whole team being told they can’t leave the country. When the body of a prostitute is found and linked to the deceased player, a murder investigation is soon underway. With much of Greece on strike, it is up to Manson, once again to uncover the truth.

Hand of God is the second in the Scott Manson series and is just as good as the first. Again, due to previous experiences, Scott’s mistrust of the police is a big theme – this time, though, it is heightened due to the setting of the crime. As well as Philip Kerr’s ability to weave real-life football stories into the text, his wry look at the troubles in Greece make this a fast-paced and, at times, humorous read. Like the previous book, I found myself comparing characters to actual people in the footballing world, wondering who the author had based them on!

As a football fan, the book grabbed me right away but I can see some readers being put off by the first quarter of the book before the crime aspect really kicked in. My advice would be not to give up – the rest of the story makes the build-up worthwhile. As this was published in 2015, prior to the triumphs of Leicester City Football Club, one quote from the book, with hindsight, made me laugh:

Full of misplaced optimism at being in the Premiership once again, Leicester’s supporters were noisy but hospitable…

If Mr Kerr would like to write a similar comment in his next Scott Manson book in relation to Everton, it would be much appreciated!

 

 

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