I love Dublin; the atmosphere; the bars; the history and the people. I’ve visited three times twice in the 90s and once in the last five years. One of the best places for the craic and a few pints of the black stuff which does taste better there! I’ve walked down Grafton Street and Molly’s statue but….
Black Water is a different Dublin! It’s not the Dublin I could have imagined before reading this well written and graphic novel about the darker side of the city. It is as billed like ‘The Wire’ with young broken kids doing the dirty work for the gang bosses. They’re also a young local soccer team led by Shay from the community trying to give them a better time.
I initially got lost with the fast pace: different characters popping up in a few pages. A death early on draws in the Garda to investigate. The circumstances around the windscreen wipers are a starting point for Garda Crowe to unravel the threads! She has a possible leak to the gangs from inside Garda to deal with- who can she trust?
Jig for one has drawn my affection for all his flaws and misguided actions. There’s his mates too – impressionable kids – are they already on the social scrap-heap?
Answer them for yourself- Black Water has to be read!
I love this book it’s gripping; page-turning stuff and I give it five stars! Good strong characters and soundly plotted. Looking forward to the next.
So Mistah Ellington, ‘JT’ to his family and friends is back on the trail again after a long logical break and so it seems has this blogger!
I’ve been busy with life and work so books seem to have taken a back-seat of late so when I was invited to read Restless Coffins by M.P.Wright, to attend the London launch and to blog again, I picked up my digital pencil, so to speak, and here we are on the last but hopefully not least of the Restless Coffins blog tour.
I had missed JT and his exciting adventures and this one is the best so far – they all say that don’t they? Well this one is not to be missed. Five Stars!
The Plot – no spoilers!
The Prologue In the prologue we start with a flashback to Joseph’s childhood in Bim.
He and his sister are going fishing at the beach a fair walk from their home and on their way back they discover something they’d rather not have found.
We then flash forward to JTs present – as usual – 1960s Bristol where racism is still rife as in the rest of the UK. JT receives a telegram – remember those – from his cousin somewhere the other side of the Atlantic ocean containing tragic news which he needs to return to get closure. This stirs him into action and a bloody journey through New York – Harlem and then onto New Orleans with a female companion he finds has an association with his cousin. But if I went on more…….I’d be spoiling the thrills and spills of the book wouldn’t I?
As a slight side-track – during the summer last year I read a book by Raymond Chandler that was later made into a film with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. I’d seen the film a number of times and every line of dialogue spoken by the hero of the story rang in my ears of Bogie saying those lines! Well this is where I come back to the JT book.
A famous – look him up on that movie and TV database – Ben Onwukwe has done the audio books of these stories and he was invited to the launch to read from the book. He read the prologue and brought the Bajan dialect to life in front of us. I heard his voice in all the words as I read. I would also suggest you get the audio book too, to experience this in more dimensions.
The narrative from MP Wright draws you in; I felt as with other books part of the journey, part of the stress and in the settings so wonderfully described by MP Wright. A great story teller and a very clever man.
Again another ***** from me and thanks to Mark and Black & White for allowing me to be part of this book launch and the pleasure of the read!
ps now I need to go an mop up some of the blood and hide the bodies left behind in the mayhem
Based on last year I am not doing very well on reading but I think I have the bug back now.
- I’ve read Nutshell by McEwan;
- re-read The Honourable Schoolboy by JLC;
- The Whitehall Mandarin by Edward Wilson and also
- The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler.
Since I first drafted this piece I’ve now added
- A Very British Ending again by Edward Wilson.
- I then changed direction and read Beloved Poison by E. S. Thomson.
I enjoyed the Nutshell because of it’s unusual narration from the perspective of an unborn child in the lead-female’s womb – commenting the to be committed crime along with her new partner – the brother of her ex-husband. The descriptive passages from the unborn child’s sentience although unborn and unworldly – describing being at the other end of the sexual act to being able to hear his mother listening to audio books. I loved the whole thing and it does have a predictable ending I suppose but still exciting as it builds-up to the final pages.
The Whitehall Mandarin was a typical, factually based framework, good old-fashioned cold-war espionage novel following the main protagonist Catesby on the tail of double-agent; a US special forces agent who turned to fight against his comrades and the daughter of the titular Whitehall Mandarin – the first female minister of defence. The detail which Wilson goes into of the circumstances in North Vietnam doing that conflict obvious belies his past as a special forces agent himself. The story centres around the reason the Chinese were able to get to the H-bomb in a much reduced time compared to the other major global powers and where did the secrets come from. A great read.
I re-read The Honourable Schoolboy because of a repeated JLC interview about the Smiley trilogy and also because of the impending release this autumn of the latest novel from Mr Cornwell about Smiley and crew. A long but enjoyable read about how George and the circus old-hands use the cover-ups perpetrated by Haydon to re-open what he was burying to protect Karla’s network.
The Big Sleep was my first Chandler and as I read it the narrator sounded like Bogart all the way through – the book started very much – chapter and verse to the film but despite the closeness to the ploy throughout, the ending of the film was much more Hollywood than the book. Still a thoroughly enjoyable read.
A Very British Ending is a long and detailed overlap of many of the stories of Catesby’s journey through the cold-war. Its main theme is the belief by MI5 that Harold Wilson was a soviet spy and the threat by some radical military to stage a coup d’etat! A great but scary read.
Latterly, Beloved Poison is a gothic crime story about an apothecary, Jem Flockhart, in the 19th century who is trying to find out who is responsible for some miniature coffins that she and a character called Will have uncovered. The uncovering of the coffins starts a trail of deaths which put Jem in a cell before she is released by someone else’s confession but the story unfolds and leads back to Edinburgh and then establishes the link to London. A very enjoyable read. My current read is a first edition of the next Jem Flockhart – Dark Asylum
I still have lots to read………
To all the writers, bloggers, publishers, authors, agents and fans out there a Happy New Year and thanks for making 2016 so wonderful with books to escape into…
I’ve read 40 books this year – a big achievement.
I attended launches for Mark Wright and Susi Holliday I’ve read all four of their books and thoroughly enjoyed them and I am looking forward to the next in each series – J T Ellington is being read by a friend on holiday in Mexico as I write.
I’ve caught up with Charles Cumming‘s excellent spy novels in both A Colder War and A Divided Spy. I like a Thomas Kell a lot but I’d love a third Alec Milius … heavy hint.
I picked up on one special favourite writer this year, Graham Hurley and read 16 of his crime novels set in either Portsmouth or the West Country. I was also fortunate to meet a very spritely Mr Hurley (in his 70s) when he visited recently to give a talk. Mr Hurley was nagged to bring Paul Winter out of retirement.
I’ve also read Ragnar Jonasson‘s Blackout but still haven’t read Nightblind – I am fan of chronology so dont want to spoil the series.
I was sent the third @ADGarrett and so read Everyone Lies; Believe No One and Truth Will Out and enjoyed them all a lot especially the chemistry between Simms and Fennimore and cant wait for more of those two.
Last but not least I’ve got to the current end of the Quentin Bates series about Gunhilldur at Thin Ice – all good stories and I look forward to more.
I am currently reading Nutshell by Ian McEwan….. I am in the embryonic stages at the moment but so far very good!
On my list for 2017 already are
– Sarah Ward‘s A Deadly Thaw;
– Kati Hiekkapelto‘s The Exiled;
– Steven Hayward‘s Mickey Take;
– Jim Douglas’s Tokyo Nights;
– Ragnar Jonasson‘s Rupture;
– Torquil MacLeod‘s continuing Malmo novels.. Midnight is next
– Graham Hurley‘s Finisterre
– Margaret Atwood‘s Hag-seed
I am sure I have missed someone but before I go I’d like to thank Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books and Linda MacFadyen at Fledgling Books, plus Laura Nichol and Helen Brown for their inspiration in sending books for review – the pile needs to grow if I am to beat last years list.
Once again dont stop writing and editing and creating as I wont stop reading and blogging…….. love for 2017 to you all.
ps I haven’t read a book of less than 4 stars this year – if I don’t like it I won’t continue with it…
Another exciting page in the continuing Portsmouth Procedurals with Faraday and Winter and more Jimmy Suttle.
I read this one, not a mean feat at 500+ pages, in a few days. Whilst this time last year I was struggling to find time and brain space to read I am now still travelling and working away but this now gives me the time to consume books at an increasing rate. In fact I am on no. 24 of 25 of my annual Goodreads challenge. I thought I’d set the bar quite high after only managing 20 at a push in 2015. I think I am reading faster into the bargain.
I read on Graham’s web page that his wife keeps ‘the charts’. I can only imagine these are extensive because the plot in each book always refers backwards to previous episodes.
The book of the blog.
In this one we get a glimpse of how Winter is coping with his life changing event from a previous book but he will never really change his ways. Eadie, Joe’s most recent squeeze is out of the picture in this book, and J.J. doesn’t figure much either, but Joe does almost get involved with another woman with a thread from Angels Passing coming across his bows.
This one isn’t about Bazza Mackenzie, either, for a change. After the previous attempt to bring down his empire, we’ve moved on to a headless body at a bird watching site on the Isle of Wight, where in fact most of the action takes place with Joe as SIO and Willard putting on the pressure.
Meanwhile, working for Cathy Lamb on the crime squad, Paul and Jimmy are after a local business man called Wishart, after nicking a well known defence solicitor for possession and another guy for living on immoral earnings. Paul gets more than he bargained for out of the deal in the book and ends up with a nasty headache but a great new piece of skirt on his hands; she can be a headache too!
Joe is after a former squaddie for the headless dead body but they dont know who it is which makes pinning it down even harder. Helping Joe with this one is Tracey Barber, down on placement from London, she has a background in Special Branch which ties in nicely with the main plot. There are big references in this book to Bosnia which is where the main target has his allegiances and it appears also got a young and vulnerable ‘wife’.
What makes the story spin is the target runs lodgings and a care home on the island where a missing man had an argument with the owner. The missing man, not seen for months, seems to tie in with the body that is bloated and apparently chewed by sea creatures so not easily identifiable especially without a head. He had been visiting his ‘nan’ in the home but she’s unreliable because she has dementia.
It’s a big book as I said but very enjoyable, very easy to read and I am on to the next one already called One Under.
As you know if you read my blogs I dont like to give anything away about the outcomes of books. I love all the local references which make these books very special to me.
I give it 5 stars because it flows, keeps you gripped whilst it leads you all over the place. The climax is good and whilst again a study of some political history with the backstory of UN peacekeeper forces in Bosnia.
I’d recently read, and written a few words about, 1. Western Approaches and 2. Touching Distance the first two Jimmy Suttle books, as an alternative to reading the DI Joe novels by Graham Hurley. It seemed natural after I read DI Joe #5 to swap back and find out what was happening with Jimmy and Lizzie; after two books I have really started to care about them and towards the end of this one I had tears in my eyes.
I stress I don’t counsel this approach to these books although you can read them as stand-alone novels because the back-story is explained enough I would always read in order.
I might have also mentioned that my erstwhile colleague, crime fiction expert, a narrator, and Q&A lead at various book launches and Nordicana events, where I met him, Barry Forshaw had touched only lightly on the work of Graham Hurley in his Brit Noir encyclopedia. I was quite disappointed that he’d only included a reference to two of the Suttle series and no DI Joe, but I guess it’s difficult to get in everything about every author. I was also alarmed by this entry when I read an apparent spoiler about book 3 Sins of the Father that I would rather not have known, but in the event now reading this one I understand it not to be a spoiler as the devastation that Jimmy and his wife Lizzie have experienced isn’t one of the actual whodunnit threads in this great novel that actually happens in between books 2 and 3 and we know the outcome early in the book.
As I think I mentioned in my previous blog on Graham’s first four books about DI Joe, I got spoilers in Western Approaches about the fate of DI Joe and Paul Winter that I’d rather not have known but I am still enjoying that series of books set in Portsmouth. There are in fact other spoilers in this one but I won’t elaborate.
Touching Distance deals with the killing of several apparently unconnected people by what can only have been done by a sniper. (see my Graham Hurley catch-up blog for more on these two books.
Before I move on to the actual review of this book, I would hasten to add that there is a stark and sometimes cruel side to the story lines in these books. The good guys don’t get off easily in life and I do believe that the author has an almost cruel mindset when he plunges our heroes and heroines into horrible and sometimes, in contrast, some pleasurable situations in their private lives that add to the sense of tension and it serves to enhance the thrilling nature of these books.
The book of the blog
As I write am I’ve literally finished the book but it explains that their 4-year-old daughter Grace is no longer alive, having disappeared at the Southsea kite festival the previous August. The book, in parallel, also deals with the savage murder of a local rich old man with a military history in Africa.
The dead-man is rolling in money but confined to his home after a stroke. Two of his adult children, Neil and Hilary, live with him and they are the obvious first suspects, but their alibis for the evening of the murder are apparently very strong. So Jimmy and Luke Golding his partner on the case along with Det. Supt. Nandy as SIO and DI Houghton are engaging lots of CID resources in tracking down a mysterious African who was visiting the dead-man but was gone after the murder was committed.
Lizzie meanwhile has failed to write the novel about the events and her close experiences in the last book, primarily as a result of the loss of her daughter. Whilst we saw that she and Jimmy were patching things up at the end of Touching Distance, the loss of Grace has damaged them and their relationship. Chantry Cottage is now history, Jimmy has moved into a flat in his area and Lizzie is back in Portsmouth with her mother. There are more flashbacks to the DI Joe series in this book, because of what Lizzie is doing with her new project, where she encounters one of Bazza’s acquaintances and business associates.
The way Graham Hurley writes is great for me. The narrative flows, the exchange from one thread to another doesn’t always wait for a new chapter to start. Each new chapter is marked by a date and sometimes the hour giving the passage of time. I don’t want to put these books down and regularly I’ve been reading the same paragraph over and over and realize I should stop and go to sleep.
As I said earlier, in this one we do get a lot of, sometimes, previously unwritten back-story about Jimmy and Lizzie when they’re examining or explaining to someone else the situation and aftermath surrounding the loss of Grace. Even Jimmy’s learned passion for opera gained in an earlier story causes someone from his past to haunt him momentarily. I just love the continuity of these stories, the individual baggage the characters have and if you are reading them in order I would strongly recommend you do, in fact, I think you should read all the DI Joe ones first!
This is another wonderful novel from Mr. Hurley. 5 stars once again.
I have to wait for no 4. to be published so watch this space. I need to know what happens to Jimmy and Lizzie, Luke Golding and all the other characters big and small!
It isn’t about the crimes, is it? It’s about the people. I was the same with the Wallander (Mankell) and Harry Hole (Jo Nesbo) novels – for me, they become part of my life for the time I am reading.
The Order of Things is now available for pre-order and due for release in November. I can’t wait. I have my email confirmation from Amazon.
In the meantime, I will be starting Blood and Honey by, guess who, Graham Hurley in the next installment of the Faraday and Winter series, when I lift my fingers off the keyboard. I am sure I will get more on the Jimmy back-story too! Until next time…….. happy reading!
As a complete aside as I finish this blog I’ve just learned that Blackout by Ragnar Jonasson should arrive next week.