‘How the Wired Weep’ by Ian Patrick

****

Welcome to my stop on the Blog Tour for How the Wired Weep by Ian Patrick. Thanks to Emma at Damppebbles Blog Tours for including me.

Book Blurb

The Wire crosses the pond.

Ed is a detective who handles informants. He recruits Ben, a young man, who is treading a dangerous path into the criminal underworld.

Ben’s unsure of where his loyalties lie. They have to find a way to work together despite their differences.

Both men are drawn into the world of Troy, a ruthless and brutal leader of an Organised Criminal Network.

Ben is torn between two worlds as he tries to walk the impossible line between criminality and helping Ed combat crime.

He lives in fear of discovery.

When your life is thrown upside down who do you turn to in order to survive?

Set against the backdrop of the 2012 Olympic Games, How the Wired Weep is a fast paced urban thriller where time is against both men as they attempt to serve their own agendas.

My Review
Covert ops detective Ed needs a network of informants. Recruiting Ben, a young man recently released from prison, he must find a way for them to work together. However, vicious gang leader Troy soon drops them into a difficult situation, putting them both at risk. Battling their individual loyalties, can the two men fight crime without compromising their allegiances or their lives?

Written by a former Met police officer, this book has a realism to it that a lot of crime thrillers don’t. The day-to-day antics of the cops has a level of detail that brings the story to life without becoming boring or routine. Switching back and forth between the two main characters is a nice idea, giving both sides of the story, while maintaining a pacey plot. Having said that, I didn’t get into the story as much as I’d have liked and never really felt that I cared very much about the characters. Though the dialogue is snappy and quite amusing at times, there were also a few punctuation issues which jarred against an otherwise well-written book.

An interesting and clever book that will appeal to lovers of realistic crime stories.

About Ian Patrick
Ian spent twenty-seven years in the Metropolitan police the majority as a Detective Sergeant within the Specialist Operations Command. He specialised in Child Protection and was part of a Major Investigation Team that targeted abusers and investigated the murder of children.

His last seven years were spent in the Covert Policing Command where he managed a specialist covert unit dedicated to the detection and disruption of organised criminal networks across London and the UK.

Rubicon, Stoned Love, and Fools Gold are published by Fahrenheit Press.

How the Wired Weep is a standalone novel.

Rubicon is in development with the BBC for a six part TV series.

He appeared at Bloody Scotland in 2018 as a spotlight author on the opening night with Val McDermid and Denise Mina.

Ian’s undertaken a mentorship with Write4Film Scotland and is developing a script for a short film. He’s also an ambassador for Muscular Dystrophy Scotland. He lives in Scotland where he divides his time between family, writing, reading and photography.

You can follow Ian on his website (see links below) where you can subscribe to his newsletter and get updates on blogs, events and books.

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Publishing Information
Published in paperback and digital formats on 30th June 2020.

‘Back Side of a Blue Moon’ by Caleb Pirtle


*****

In the East Texas town of Ashland, the Great Depression means times are hard. With money and jobs scarce, anyone with any sense is leaving town. For red-head Eudora Durant, something needs to change and when her violent and whoring husband disappears, townsfolk soon begin making assumptions. But then a stranger comes to town with a tin-box machine he claims can find oil, Eudora sees him weaving a spell that throws up all sorts of possibilities for the small community. Though all her senses proclaim him to be nothing more than a flim-flam con man, there’s something about the stranger in the straw boater that keeps her sitting on the fence. When he persuades her to let him dig an oil well on her land, she gets caught up in a tangle of lies and half-truths.

Back Side of a Blue Moon is the first in the Boom Town Saga series, and the first I’ve read by Caleb Pirtle. My overall impression puts the book in what I’d call the ‘slow burner’ category. By that, I mean it starts off at a gentle pace, introducing a cast of disparate characters and sketching out their relationships, before gradually building a story around them, a story that kept me glued to every page. The author’s writing style is captivating – he has a way with words that is by turns witty, charming and totally original and while I could never quite work out how things would end, I was happy to see that most of the characters get their just desserts.

Caleb Pirtle’s gift is in the creation of characters who step right off the page, grabbing the reader and clinging on until the bitter end. A thoroughly enjoyable book that left me with a rather nice warm feeling inside.


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Mr Picky Reader (Critical, Fussy or Just Plain Choosy?)

Alright, alright, I admit it – I’m a picky reader.

To be clear, I’m not talking about the term ‘picky reader’ as applied to kids who can be hard to please bookwise or those who really don’t want to open a book in the first place. No. What I mean is the change I’ve noticed in myself in the way I read and respond to books.

As an author, I’m aware that my writing style has changed over the last few years (for changed, read improved massively) and those changes have encompassed the usual things you’d expect for someone who spends a lot of time writing. They include better spelling, punctuation, smarter sentence structure and so on. In short, better writing.

And this of course means when I read books by other authors, I demand a similar standard of prose.

Whenever I’ve looked back at books I read as a teenager, I’m often horrified at the standard of grammar, dialogue and general storytelling skills. A good example of this is the Hardy Boys adventure The Wailing Siren Mystery, where my criticism wasn’t just about the quality of the writing but inconsistencies in the plot. But it’s usually more common issues that irritate me.

That Was (the Week That Was)
‘Was’ is a word that has begun to irritate me more than any other. It’s a word we all use, but some of us use it more than most. Some writers use it in almost every sentence and don’t realise how so much repetition can pull the reader out of the story. It’s like when you notice someone has sticky-out ears – once you’ve seen them, you can’t not look at them.

Repetition can be a useful tool – ask any political speech writer. But repeating words simply because you can’t think of a better one is lazy, and again it’s an easy way to pull the reader out of the narrative.

Apart for the overuse of exclamation marks, which never fails to ‘get my goat’ (as my dad used to say), one other habit assists authors in driving readers away from their work.

Dialogue Tags

There are some schools of thought that believe using alternatives to ‘said’ spices up your writing, making it more interesting. It doesn’t. Maybe using the odd one or two variations here and there might make the author feel they’re being imaginative, but examples like those below should be avoided unless you’re using them ironically (like in a faux-1940s story):

‘That’s right,’ he affirmed.
‘I don’t care,’ she exclaimed.
‘Tell me the truth,’ he demanded.
‘Go screw yourself,’ he spat.
‘It might be possible,’ she theorized.

Don’t add a tag simply because someone is speaking. If two characters are talking and it’s obvious who is speaking, you only need add a tag for clarity. Novelists like the marvellous Mark Billingham manage to avoid using dialogue tags except when necessary, which makes the writing more immediate.

Poor writing, however, doesn’t necessarily lead to no book sales. If in doubt, remember that best-selling authors often produce books crammed with clumsy and pointless dialogue tags. As Dean Koontz says, ‘Not all published writers are good writers.’

As some other famous person once said, ‘So many books, so little time,’ which should explain why most of the books I review get either four or five stars. If I inadvertently start reading something that’s a bit crap, I’ll stop reading and won’t review, because after all, why should I read something just because millions of people think it’s fantastic? If it’s crap, it’s crap.

As Sergeant Phil Esterhaus might’ve said, ‘Hey, hey, hey. Let’s be careful out there and avoid those dialogue tags.’

‘Anything for a Quiet Life’ by Jack Hawkins


*****

Jack Hawkins has always been one of my favourite actors, so it was a real treat to read this self-penned account of his early life, his theatre work, movies and his battle with cancer. Though initially only interested in theatre, Hawkins eventually made it onto the big screen and from 1953, his film work seems to have overtaken his stage career. Actors often view their successes very differently to their fans, so it was no surprise to learn that epic movies like Land of the Pharaohs didn’t hit the mark from his point of view. My own favourites are the excellent The Cruel Sea (the break-through movie in respect of his film career), The League of Gentlemen (see below) and of course Zulu, which Hawkins has plenty to say about.

Much is made of the throat problems that dogged him later in life and which doctors eventually identified as cancer. The descriptions of the various treatments he underwent are pretty nasty, but never seemed to put him off pursuing his career. One of the odd things about this book is the final section, written by his wife Dee after his death, which again, focuses on the medical challenges of Jack’s final months. It’s strange that she goes into such great detail, recounting the many incidents where her husband suffered terrible bleeding from his throat. In some ways I’d have preferred not to have read this last section, and instead remembered the many great roles Jack Hawkins is famous for.

An interesting read that’ll appeal to fans of this great British actor.

 

 

‘In Harm’s Way’ by Owen Mullen


*****

After an idyllic first year of marriage, Mackenzie realises she’s made a mistake. Her controlling husband Derek dominates her life, refusing to let her see friends and restricting contact with her family. But Mackenzie’s drinking is getting out of control and when she tells her siblings about a stalker, they don’t believe her. When she is seen getting into a stranger’s car, everyone thinks she is having an affair, so when she leaves the house and doesn’t return, no-one bothers to go looking for her. When the police are eventually informed, DS Geddes thinks it’s merely a domestic dispute, until someone spots the mysterious stranger…

As always with this author, the plot is never straightforward. What we are told isn’t necessarily what’s really happening and as the story unfolds, we discover the underlying tensions in Mackenzie’s family and their various theories to explain her disappearance. Delving into the family’s tangled relationships, Mr Mullen sets the scene for complications, and as secrets emerge, the plot changes direction.

Having recently read the sequel to this book (Deadly Harm), I was keen to see how it all started for Mackenzie and co. I’m happy to report that this is another cracking good read that kept me flicking the pages to discover the truth. I had a few theories of my own, but as usual the author’s twisty-turny web of secrets and lies hits the mark and confirms Owen Mullen’s continued reign as the Big Mannie of Tartan Noir.


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‘The Quality of Mercy’ by Malia Zaidi


****

Returning home to London, Lady Evelyn plans to start her own detective agency and having done so, soon finds herself with a dead body on her hands. With her forthcoming marriage to Daniel also on the cards, Lady E must also consider what she wants out of life. In the meantime, she has to hunt down a murderer before he or she strikes again.

This is book 5 in the Lady Evelyn Mystery series, and the first I’ve read by Malia Zaidi. The author’s books have been compared to those of Agatha Christie, although I’d say there’s very little similarity between them other than the times in which they are set—if anything, they’re closer to Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher books (with less panache). The plot is of the usual lady-detective type and the heroine is an affable young woman who knows her own mind. The other characters too, were interesting enough to keep me reading, but I did find a couple of niggles which distracted me from the story. The author’s writing style is of the long-winded variety – that is, she takes a long time to say anything. Consequently, the plot rumbles along at walking pace, rather than the pacier tempo that crime novels usually favour. There’s also an awful lot of exclamation marks which really aren’t necessary, as the meaning is clear without them.

Aside from that, and although it’s a rather longer read than it needs to be, this is an enjoyable period crime novel with an appealing main character.

NB The original version of this post first appeared as part of a Damppebbles Blog Tour.

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‘The Shrine of Jeffrey Dahmer’ by Brian Masters


*****

A severed head in the refrigerator, two more in the freezer, skulls and a skeleton in a filing cabinet. These are among the items found in Jeffrey Dahmer’s apartment when he was arrested in 1991. But Dahmer didn’t merely kill people – he also used their body parts for sexual gratification and as pieces of a bizarre shrine.

Charting the life and upbringing of one of America’s most notorious killers, this book goes deeper than a simple run-down of his crimes. Detailing the murders of 17 men and boys over a period of 13 years, the author delves into Dahmer’s state of mind and the motives for his killing spree. During the trial, the jury were faced with many conflicting opinions on what motivated the murders. Brian Masters cuts through the theories, unravelling and exploring each point of view to get to the heart of what drove Dahmer to kill.

A fascinating, if gory, account. Not for the fainthearted.

‘Deadly Harm’ by Owen Mullen


*****

Five years after being abducted and held captive, Mackenzie Darroch is making a difference in the world. Running a refuge for abused women, things are going well. Then she’s thrown into a bizarre situation when she saves the life of a car-crash victim. But offering the woman a place to stay, has consequences – consequences that could put both their lives in danger. And then there’s that nosy reporter who thinks Mackenzie isn’t telling the truth about a mysterious death.

Meanwhile, Detective Inspector Andrew Geddes seeks Mackenzie’s help to persuade young single mother Kirsty McBride to leave her violent partner, Malkie Boyle. However, Boyle isn’t happy with other folk poking their noses into his business and sets out to take revenge. With one murder under his belt, a few more won’t make any difference…

One of the things that irritates me about reading several books by the same author, is that sometimes the author loses their hold on the characters, the plot or even their ability to actually tell a decent story (you know who I’m talking about, Jeffery Deaver). Owen Mullen isn’t one of those authors. Instead, he’s the sort whose writing improves in leaps and bounds with each new book, telling ever-more imaginative and heart-thumping tales with each one.

Rather stupidly, I forgot I haven’t yet read ‘In Harm’s Way’, which introduces the character of Mackenzie Darroch, making ‘Deadly Harm’ that book’s sequel, sort of. However, this one works very well as a standalone, so you don’t need to read the first one to make sense of it (though I have just ordered it!)

Bringing in some of the characters from his Charlie Cameron series, Mullen focuses on a women’s refuge, revealing a talent for sensitive and thoughtful storytelling that has become increasingly apparent with his recent books. The quality of the writing is a sheer delight and the plot nothing short of brilliant, keeping me on edge the whole way through as Mr Mullen ramped up the tension, throwing his heroes into ever-greater peril. I read the second half of this book in one go, unable to put it down, and the ending left me speechless, which can’t be bad.

A thrilling, heart-thumping, twisty-turning stonker of a book.

‘Saint Justice’ by Mike Grist


*****

When former CIA agent Christopher Wren picks a fight in a biker bar in Utah, the gang beat him up and steal his truck. But Wren likes to help people and having stolen one of the biker’s wallets, he sets off to pump the guy for information—information that will give him a chance to take revenge on the gang and maybe do some good into the bargain. Thing is, there’s something going on that Wren doesn’t know about and that something is about to throw him into a whole heap of trouble.

This is the first book in the Christopher Wren Vigilante series, and it gets off to a cracking start. With a protagonist who is part Jack Reacher, part anti-hero (with a penchant for rehabilitating offenders), he even has his own cult of former delinquents he can call on for help. The story zips along at a good rate, with lots of shooting, punching and generally sorting out the bad guys, which is nice. However, there is a slightly unreal quality to the hero in that he appears to be pretty much indestructible. While this may be fine for the likes of Captain Scarlet, it’s harder to believe with an actual human being—how Wren doesn’t die several times over is little short of amazing. Having said that, I loved the story and the whole set up with Wren’s Foundation is clever and original, the gradually unfolding backstory letting us into how the guy ended up this way.

A fast-moving thriller with a curiously interesting protagonist.

About Mike Grist

Mike Grist is the British/American author of the Christopher Wren thriller series. For 11 years Mike lived in Tokyo, Japan, exploring and photographing the dark side of the city and the country: gangs, cults and abandonedplaces. Now he writes from London, UK, about rogue DELTA operator Christopher Wren – an anti-hero vigilante who uses his off-book team of ex-cons to bring brutal payback for dark crimes.

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NB This post first appeared as part of a Damppebbles Blog Tour

Author Spotlight – Jennifer Lee Thomson

Welcome to my stop on the Blog Tour for ‘Cannibal City’ (Detective in a Coma #2) by Jennifer Lee Thomson. Thanks to Emma at Damppebbles Blog Tours for including me.

Book Blurb:
A killer is stalking his victims on Glasgow’s streets.

Men are being abducted, kept tied up for weeks and force-fed, then strangled and their livers are being removed.

Detective Inspector Duncan Waddell has enough problems not least of all that his best friend and colleague Stevie who’s meant to be comatose is talking to him and only him. Now he faces his most bizarre case yet.

This time he has help in the shape of FBI profiler Odessa Thorne who arrives as part of a new Police Scotland initiative.

When a career criminal comes forward to say he was targeted by the killer but somehow managed to get away, Waddell hopes it’s the breakthrough they need. But can they trust this witness who’s known to be a habitual liar?

As they close in on their ruthless killer Waddell must look into a heart of darkness to get his killer.

About Jennifer Lee Thomson:
Jennifer is an award-winning crime writer (she won the Scottish Association of Writers Award for crime thriller Vile City, the first book in the Detective in a Coma series) and is a member of the Crime Writers’ Association. She studied creative writing at Strathclyde University. She’s also a feature writer whose work has appeared in The Guardian, The Times and Scotland On Sunday.

She wrote the Detective in a Coma (so called because the detective in the title is in a coma and only the lead character in the series DI Waddell can hear him) and the Die Hard for Girls series of books.

A human and animal rights advocate, she wrote Living Cruelty Free – Live a More Compassionate Life which focuses on how we can be kinder to animals and each other.

In her spare time, she loves going for walks with my rescue greyhound Harley and plotting the perfect murder.

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Publishing Information:
Published in paperback and digital formats by Caffeine Nights Publishing on 16th April 2020

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