Catching up on my reading so far in 2017

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.

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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.

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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 Рthe 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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I still have lots to read………

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Connor Montrose in The London Cage

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As quite often happens a publisher – in this case Fledgling Press drops me a line and asks me to read and review a book before it’s release.  In this case it is The London Cage by Mark Leggatt. As with all the books I receive my first move is to check if there is one before. I was correct and in this case The Names of the Dead was published previously so being cheeky I asked the publisher for a copy of that book and it duly arrived in the post.

So who is Connor Montrose? Described in some reviews as Bond meets Bourne meets Indiana Jones – there is some truth in this in comparison as the pace of the plots is similar. The real Connor Montrose is a CIA IT Technician who has gone rogue because he was digging where he shouldn’t and found out about aircraft flights that no one should know about when he is trying to find out what has happened to his sister. The irony of this is to keep him out of trouble he is posted to Interpol in Europe, where he gets into more trouble.

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Names of the Dead

The CIA want Connor dead! “Shoot on sight with extreme prejudice” are  words expressed to ensure he cant speak. He gets tangled up in a plot to extract gold and millions of dollars hidden since the second world war. This involves him being permanently on the run.

The London Cage

Connor survives, as one would expect, but only by being one step ahead of the CIA with the help of a new ’employer’ and a side-kick called Kirsty.

We find him in a bar in London with an ear-piece watching proceedings between some Russian guys and some one selling photographs. The ear-piece is allowing him to communicate with Kirsty who is a hacker of the Lisbeth Salander standard.

Kirsty is an interesting character in her own right as you’ll find out she knows the rat-runs and back ways in London. She knows how to spot a Victorian lamppost that isn’t a lamppost at all but carries a bank of CCTV.

Connor and Kirsty are in the middle of a cat and mouse game; the CIA and MI5 are after them and narrowly escaping capture or being shot as in this story MI5 and the metropolitan police are US poodles doing what and when they told.

They are helped by a mysterious character called Pilgrim the brother of a character introduced and who dies in the prologue set 30 years in the past. The circumstances of his demise slowly unravel as the plot unveils a threat of nuclear war and Armageddon in the middle east unfolds with the Russians and Kirsty with her back-office genius Zac in the background competing to decipher codes taken from a photograph of the dead man when his body is recovered at the bottom of an glacier.

The plot comes to the explosive ending when the clues lead them to Whitechapel and the arches, a house with a supposed and disgraced double agent just before he gets killed. They do solve the problem, but Kirsty and Connor have to be chameleons in the watched-world that is 21st century London, with containment zones closing around them they change appearance, clothes and use devious means of transport to get where they need to go.

The London Cage is an excellent follow-up to Names of the Dead from Mark Leggatt and I can highly recommend it if you like a page-turning thriller non-stop tension, jumping from one close-call to another only escaping from each one in sometimes the most unlikely and fluky situations. in the Connor Montrose you never know who is on your side or who you can trust and how much they have to hide.

 The Names of the Dead is on Amazon in ebook format.

The London Cage is publish on June 29th, 2016 on Amazon in paperback.

thanks to:

Mark Leggatt

Linda MacFadyen at Fledgling Press for my review copies.