Ghost and Ragman Roll
The fourth book in the Kind Hearts and Martinets series finds DCI Jack Austin on honeymoon with Detective Superintendent Amanda Bruce. However, with a missing gangster back in Blighty and a murder in Paris, Jack sets out to help the local plods (and a rival detective) join up the criminal dots.
I hadn’t read the other books in the series and, while the characters’ previous antics weren’t difficult to keep up with, it would have been sensible to start at the beginning. Pete Adams writes in a style not often seen these days – he seems to have created his characters from a very English set of moulds, blending a nicely-judged sideline in slang with classic slapstick craziness, reminiscent of Norman Wisdom and John Cleese. Though I sometimes had to re-read sections to understand exactly what was going on, I have to admit I did laugh a lot (sometimes even out loud!)
If you like your cop capers a bit on the mad side, this series should satisfy very nicely, thankyou.
The Hostile Game
The third book in this series finds Serena facing her biggest challenge yet – as if being eighteen and pregnant wasn’t enough, she finds out what the mysterious Tile X has in store for her. With tarty Patricia tempting her boyfriend, a load more gory murders on the cards and the police starting to make connections, can Serena keep the psycho slayer in check, or will he get what he wants?
Setting up a bathroom tile as her prime suspect, you might think author Joy Mutter would have found it difficult to come up with a realistic plotline. But no, instead, she puts her foot down in the third instalment of this paranormal thriller series and notches up yet more gruesome killings in wonderfully inventive ways. And it’s not only the murderous Tile X who gets to vent his ceramic spleen – Serena’s character develops very nicely when she discovers she’s not the only one who keeps a homicidal maniac close to her chest.
Though the premise might be slightly ludicrous, and some of the murders a wee bit gory for those of a gentle disposition, Ms Mutter has a knack of writing interesting, believable characters who draw us into their weird world, forcing us to keep reading to find out where the hell we’re going on this crazy, fascinating journey.
If this particular author ever turns her skills to writing about average, homicidal psycho killers, we’ll be in for a rare treat indeed.
Weird: A Henry Ian Darling Oddity
This is the first in a series of stories concerning the title character – Henry Ian Darling – and his adventures. The words ‘quirky’ and imaginative’ sprang to mind as I devoured this witty and distinctive tale. Having said that, when I reached the end, I wasn’t entirely sure what had happened (although I find this is often the case with short stories, so that isn’t necessarily a bad thing). Julie Elizabeth Powell has a unique and thoughtful writing style and a clear, distinctive voice. It’ll be interesting to see where she takes this character and his strange friends.
When Ashley’s husband develops a mysterious and frightening illness, she seeks out the one person who can help. However, Damian Fuentes has problems of his own to contend with, and dredging up deeply disturbing memories is the last thing he wants to do. Nevertheless, if he is to keep his family safe he must not only face reality, but the horror of his own past, and find a way to put an end to the terror that, one way or another, will eventually catch up with him.
Greta Cribbs has written an interesting tale that, though steeped in mystery and ancient magic, manages to avoid the generic elements fantasy writers usually rely on. The plot builds slowly, developing the relationships between the characters and their interwoven histories. The characters of Jenn and Damian are particularly well rounded and their anguish is nicely conveyed without over-egging the emotional custard. I also liked the character of Bob, whose laid-back style added a touch of humour. At times, the pace felt a little too slow and I found myself wanting to skip forward, but overall this is a clever and well thought-out novel that made a pleasant change from the usual clichés we find in this genre.
Once, Megan loved her sister Chloe. But not now. When a long-held secret is revealed, Megan realises something’s gone badly wrong with Chloe. Amid cruel jibes and shocking behaviour, is a jumbled web of lies and deceit that Megan is determined to expose. But with even their mentally ill mother seeming to fall under Chloe’s spell, it looks like the young woman will get everything she wants. Can Megan discover the truth before someone else gets hurt?
Maggie James turns her usual insightful gaze to sibling rivalry in all its tragic glory. With more twisty turns than a twisty-turny thing, her plotting kept me guessing all the way to the end. The multi-layered relationships are well-drawn, with a nicely unsettling ring of truth. My only criticism (and it’s a small one), is the changing point of view, which I always find a mite irritating.
A thoughtful and clever story with plenty to get your psychotic teeth into.
A Voice Beyond Reason
When a young Spaniard is thrown out of his normal, everyday existence by a family tragedy, it forces him to take a good look at life and his own future. From knowing exactly what is expected of him to suddenly having no idea how to move forward, Pablo finds help in the friendship of a mysterious stranger.
It’s not often I read books that don’t have some sort of quest, or escapade at their heart, but in this case, although there is a quest of a sort, it is more of a cerebral one, focusing on finding out who you are and what life is about. The writing is, at times, quite beautiful, with descriptions of the Spanish scenery that bring the story to life in a gentle, thoughtful way. As the young hero struggles to pursue what he believes are his dreams, he finds ideas and inspirations within himself that challenge his whole way of life.
If you’re looking for action and adventure, forget it, but this book might leave you with a lot more to think about than finding the buried treasure.