UNLOCKING THE VAULT REVEALS DAWSON’S LATENT TALENT

Standard

The Vault CoverI was only reading yesterday about the plight of American author Jeanine Cummins, whose new book American Dirt has been nominated as an Oprah’s Book Club choice. As a result, it has brought her to the attention of far right ill-educated armchair activists, who threatened to disrupt a proposed American book tour and thus forced its cancellation. Because they say the author is “Too White” to be able to write a book about south American emigrants trying to get into the United States. In a tweet to Jeanine, I gave her my support and pointed that out if these bigots had put any thought into their arguments they’d realise some of the most successful writers have very little experience of their subject matter and stated that Lee Child was never a military policeman and that Hannah Kent is Australian, but that it never stopped her from writing a successful book on an old Icelandic murder and followed it up with a book on an Irish murder, both decades old. Did the Irish and Icelandic diaspora rise up in arms and protest, no!

So, what is these people’s point? The same can be said of this month’s second book review (Yes! Second and February is only two day’s old), I don’t think the author was ever in East Berlin prior to the fall of the wall .Or I’m assuming, had any dealings with the Stazi, not forgetting killing anyone, for that matter. Yet they have written a book set there and featuring the Stazi, along with British intelligence and trained government assassins. The book is, The Vault ,by Mark Dawson . It was self-published on the 31st January and is available on Amazon.

Its 1989 and MI6 agent Harry Mackintosh and his team have tunneled under the Berlin wall to extract an asset back to the West, but just as they are about to take their man back down the tunnel the rendezvous is interrupted by unit of the dreaded East German secret police, the Stazi.  They are led by its ruthless leader, Karl Heinz-Sommer, who guns down Harry’s French girlfriend Elodie, along with other members of his extraction team. In doing so they also capture the defector. Harry himself just about manages escape back down the tunnel to West Berlin. Back in London, he’s grieving the loss of Elodie and hungry to exact revenge on Stomer ,whilst possibly taking a second chance to get his hands on the defector, if he’s still alive. Mackintosh’s team are depleted and when he asks for replacements, instead of trained soldiers, he gets Jimmy Walker a bank robber from Belfast, whose been given a stark choice of either a long stretch in prison or to help British intelligence on a mission behind the Iron Curtain. The plan is to get into Stomer’s HQ and rescue the defector, but the plans reveal a mythical vault containing, stolen Jewish gold and other valuable pieces of information, which catch Walker’s trained eye. Can the two men overcome their differences to work together and get out of east Germany alive….?

I’ve never met Mark Dawson, but it feels like I’ve known him for years, having been a Facebook friend for a while now, regularly receiving posts on my feed regarding reading his books. But just finding the time to get around to reading them has been the biggest problem, so when the invite to review The Vault popped into my inbox a couple of weeks ago, I jumped at the opportunity. Was I disappointed? No!

Dawson2

Mark Dawson (bestsellerexperiment.com)

 

 

The book maybe be small in size at 275 pages in length, but in those pages is a story that packs a punch, that could’ve dented the wall if it was still standing. What you get from the first page to the last is a story from an author that realizes that if you strip away all the padding found in most modern spy fiction novels, you can still give the reader an enjoyable and gripping read and leave them excitedly wanting to read more his work.

This book could be a one sitting read and highlights the fact that Dawson is not a new kid on the block but has quietly slipped under the radar, all due to being self published and making his work immediately available online. He’s a writer who has been inspired by the greats like Le Carre, Forsythe and Fleming and well and truly taken the baton and brought their style and dominance of this genre into the modern era.

Yes, the characters are stock in trade and the story-line of an Ex-Provo crossing the line to work for the Intelligence services on large international threats isn’t new. But in Mark’s hands the characters and the story are melded together so well, the reader feels introduced to a truly original and exciting premise along with fresh, gritty and well-drawn heroes and villains.

This is English author Mark Dawson’s (www.markjdawson.com) 38th book, most of them self-published. He’s successfully written four series of books about government assassins, The John Milton series, The Beatrix Rose Series and The Isabella Rose Series along with the Group Fifteen series. He’s also written the Soho Noir series of books about gangland London in the 1940’s and three standalone thrillers of which The Vault will now become his fourth. Mark has led a varied career prior to becoming an award-winning, USA Today and Amazon bestselling author. He was a DJ, has sold Icecream door to door, trained as a lawyer,when he worked on high profile cases in the city of London. Nowadays when not writing, Mark can be found regularly vlogging to his fan-base online. I also discovered through research that he’s got a famous father, the late British actor Keith Barron, best known for his roles on the likes of the sitcom “Duty Free” and “Upstairs Downstairs”. Mark currently lives in Wiltshire with his wife and family.

Now that that I’ve read The Vault, I want to immediately add Dawson’s other series in particular the Milton and Breatrix, Isabella Rose series as well as Group 15 to my TBR list. So, I suggest like me you go and order this book online or download it and its predecessors and lock them away for safe keeping and gradually break into the back catalogue of one of the best kept secrets in spy thriller genre in ages. Who knows, when the contract to write the next installments of the James bond series come up, I don’t see why Dawson shouldn’t be a safe bet for the job.

 

Reviewed by : Adrian Murphy

This review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour, to see what the other reviewers thought of the book visit their blogs listed below. Then, if get a copy of the book and read it, come back and tell us what you thought, we’d love the feedback.

The Vault BT Poster

BURNING QUESTIONS DEFTLY RESOLVED IN SHINDLER’S DEBUT

Standard

9781529301694 THE BURNING MEN JACKETI’m a great fan of TV detective drama. The longer, two-hour episodic versions please me most. Currently I’m loving ‘Endeavour’, an ITV production, which is a prequel to the much loved ‘Inspector Morse’. I much prefer them to one-hour series, where everything is neatly wrapped up in a short time. You can very rarely guess ‘whodunnit’ in the longer dramas but in the one-hour stories, things sometimes seem a little contrived or you can guess at the start. It’s a pet hate of mine that I don’t like detective stories where we hear the murderer’s thoughts or worse, are introduced to them at the beginning. I love the reveal, the twist and the wow factor of the final denouement, especially where the odd subtle clue has been there all along!

So this month’s first review, The Burning Men, by Will Schindler and published Hodder and Stoughton (www.hodder.co.uk) on the 6th February had me twitching from its cover. As followers of this blog know, this reviewer doesn’t read the back blurb. However, here the front cover is emblazoned with “They left him to die. Now its their turn to burn”. So, I started to read with a sigh. How vexing! If I thought I was going to be disappointed, however, I was wrong.

The story has a great premise. Five years previously to its opening events, there was a fire at a major London development. A team of firefighters enter the building to rescue a trapped man. However, they leave the building without a body and shortly after they all quit the fire service and plan to never meet again. Now one of them has been set alight at his own wedding. Then, a second member of the team is found, as nothing but a smoking corpse. What happened that night in the burning development? Does someone know what choices they made over duty? Who is the killer?

Detective Inspector Alex Finn is assigned to the case. Very recently bereaved, he wants to immerse himself back into work as a way to cope with his grief. He has been assigned a new Detective Constable, Mattie Paulson, a woman with her own problems. Add in a longstanding and stalled related investigation and its problematic team and things get complicated. Will Alex be able to keep it together while he solves the case? Will Mattie overcome her own issues to forge a new working partnership with Alex?

As with life, what we know about someone is probably the tip of the iceberg in relation to their history, feelings and motivations. So, we join Alex and Mattie at a pivotal time in their lives. You might have the sense that you’d missed a couple of previous Alex Finn novels and had joined a little late in the party but all great detective characters in a crowded market need a sad back story, a problem with substance abuse, an attitude or a vulnerability to make you root for them. This is done to great effect here. I felt like this wasn’t the first book in a series, even though it was, and for once that was good. For a lover of detective fiction, this was a comfortable, satisfying read. There was nothing outlandish. It did exactly what you expected from the outset, except that phrase on the cover seemingly giving away the identity of the killer. I smugly read on, enjoying the story and the assured writing, but feeling I wasn’t suitably distracted by the range of suspects, because I thought I had it all worked out from the promotional headline. I spent most of the book, complaining about that headline saying, it shouldn’t be on the cover but at the end I was surprised by whodunnit and the clues were all there all the time, cleverly woven into the fabric of the story. I was suckered… I was delighted!

Wshindlr2

Will Shindler

This is English author Will Schindler’s (@willshindler) debut novel and the first of a proposed series introducing the characters of DI Alex Finn and his new partner DC Mattie Paulson. Will Schindler has been a broadcast journalist for over twenty-five years and spent a decade working in TV drama as a scriptwriter for popular series like Born and Bred, The Bill and Doctors. He currently combines reading the news on BBC Radio London, with writing.

So, a very warm welcome to DI Alex Finn and DC Paulson. You are definitely on my ‘must get the next in series’ list. I’m keen to learn more about you. This novel and its characters who could easily become a TV series, owing to the author’s experience as a scriptwriter, which is evident though book and would definitely be of the two-hour episode variety.

Please take note! In the meantime, this is a hot recommendation for detective novel enthusiasts, so jump on your “Fire Engine” red bike and race down to your local book shop to buy  it or download  a copy of ‘The Burning Men’ and to blaze through its pages.

 

 

 

Reviewed by : Georgina Murphy

 

This review is part of a Blog Tour, to see what the other reviewers thought visit their blogs listed below. Then if you get a copy of Burning Men, comeback and tell what you thought, we’d really appreciate the feedback.

BurningMen_BlogTour-01

THIS READER IS LEFT HOME ALONE BY STOVELL’S OVER USE OF ITALICS

Standard

The Home CoverThe Italic typeface is a cursive font used to denote someone speaking or highlight a foreign word or phrase. It takes its name from the fact that calligraphy inspired typefaces were first designed in Italy and were invented to replace the old Chancery style of writing.  Nowadays we all usually use the default of Calibri or san Serif, when writing an email or composing a word document, as I do with the drafts of these reviews. It may look nice for presentation purposes to intersperse a piece with Italics, but you can have too much of a good thing, as it seems in this months second book review, which is The Home by Sarah Stovell and published by Orenda Books (www.orendabooks.co.uk).

When the body of a teenager is found in a churchyard on Christmas morning, the community is shocked, but are not surprised, as the victim was a resident of a nearby home for troubled kids. As the police investigation gets underway, the lives of three of the children, Hope, Lara and Annie, along with the staff become intertwined. Very soon, shocking and disturbing revelations come to light – pointing to this being a murder perpetrated for revenge.

I’m going to be blunt, this book didn’t get me and I didn’t really get into the book. The main reason for this was that from the outset, whole chapters are printed in Italics. Hey I like Italics as much as the next person, but when the story is interrupted by these long soliloquies of Italicized text, it breaks the flow of the story which already had me jumping about trying follow the different chapters told through eyes of each of three main characters.

This is the second book I’ve read in the past month that’s been set around Christmas time in England, but unlike Shamus Dust by Janet Roger, which is also a murder mystery, the Home had none of the same appeal. It is set somewhere in around the wilds of Yorkshire but where Shamus Dust allowed the reader to almost breathe in their surroundings and feel truly immersed in the tale set in dark seedy world of post war London, Stovell’s book left me grappling to find a character to connect with or even get excited about “who dunnit”.

Sarah Stovell

Sarah Stovell

This English author Sarah Stovell’s (@sarahlovescrime) second book, her first was Exquisite published in 2017. Having spent most of her life in the home counties, she spent a season working in a remote North Yorkshire youth hostel, which made her realise she was a northerner at heart. When not writing she’s a lecturer in creative writing at Lincoln university and lives in Northumberland with her partner and two children.

As I often say, this is just my opinion and if you want to find out what it’s really like, then go out and purchase a copy at your local bookshop, download it, or even order a copy from the Library.  Sarah will hopefully write other books and with the good grace of Karen and the team at Orenda, I’ll get the chance review them and you never know, they may blow my little cotton socks off. but unfortunately this time around, The Home didn’t…

Reviewed by Adrian Murphy

 

This review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour, to find out what the others thought visit their sites listed below. Then if you get a copy and read it comeback tell us you thought, we’d really appreciate the feedback.

 

The Home BT Poster

PINE, NEEDLES INITIALLY, BEFORE SPELLBINDING THIS READER

Standard

Pine CoverIn my twenties and thirties, I spent pretty much every free moment in Scotland. I was a bit of a Scotland-ophile. I think I knew more about the history and folklore of Scotland than of England. I was therefore surprised not to recognise I was in Scotland during the opening pages of this months second book review, but instead thought the book was set in some remote American state.The book is Pine by Francine Toon and is published by Doubleday (https://www.penguin.co.uk/company/publishers/transworld/doubleday.html) on the 23rd January.

In the story we meet Lauren, the main character, whose mother disappeared almost ten years ago. Father and daughter live alone in a remote highland village surrounded by pine forest. Lauren uses her tarot cards to hopefully find the answer to her mum’s disappearance and the secrets in her dads turbulent mind, while the locals know more than they’ll admit.

When a local teenager goes missing, it’s no longer clear who she can trust. She lives in this isolated Scottish community where everyone seems to be hiding something. Strange things seem to be happening, omens and paranormal activity. Are these all part of the loss and day to day struggles Lauren and her father face? Or this there something more sinister at play?

The realisation that I was reading a book set in Scotland dawned on me with a jolt quite a few pages in. The reference to Moray Firth radio had slipped under my radar amidst the references to pick-ups, trick or treating and Aerosmith. The Scottish names didn’t even seem out of context due to the large Scotland to American emigration of previous centuries. So then I wondered is this an American author? No, wrong again! Francine Toon is a Scot. Maybe I should read the backcover blurb occasionally, you might suggest? But its interesting to avoid doing that and just take your impressions from the story itself. Its illuminating to realise how often the blurb misleads or would have occasionally had led me to dismiss a great book altogether. Its not something I practice religiously, especially having been caught out by great “unfinished” novels before.

Anyway, Pine is complete. No worries there. The book its self is a gem of a find. A satisfying ending concludes a long and twisting journey. It’s difficult to know whether to class it as a thriller, murder mystery, supernatural tale or modern fairy-tale as it encompasses all these genres. There were a few modern references which linked it to recent times but I felt it could have been set in previous decades quite easily as the story seems quite timeless in many respects. The father raising his child alone, a small town full of gossip, bullies, a sense on foreboding with the addition of supernatural phenomena and legend.

Francine Toon Author Picture

Francine Toon

I’ve noticed there seems to be a current, Game of Thrones inspired penchant for all things fairy tale, legend and mythology, or my husband should vary his book choices a bit more. I’ve recently reviewed Fox fire and Wolfskin, a collection of modern feminist fairytales by Sharon Blackie and Lancelot by Giles Kristian about the eponymous mythical Knight. Plus scanning the Goodreads top books for this month alone, I find about a quarter of them could be said to have foundations in myths, fantasy and folklore. However, although this is Francine Toon’s first novel, her previous poetical prowess means her writing is assured and atmospheric. The book is intense and absorbing.  Again, if I’d read the blurb before beginning, I might have been agitated that the disappearance of the teenager it mentions doesn’t actually occur until the book is three quarters over but Toon is building empathy with her main characters and immersing you in their world. I could feel the cold, smell the smells and felt my heart sink as the world spun out of control after the disappearance, when suspicion and rumour started to take hold.

This is Scottish born author Francine Toon’s (www.francinetoon.com) Debut novel. She’s used to having poetry published in The Sunday Times and various anthologies, under the name Francine Elena. Her day job is a commissioning editor for Sceptre Books, while working and living in London.

My only reservation was whether Lauren’s mother would have local suspicions of witchcraft with her new age thinking, crystals, massage and tarot cards in this modern age. I suppose she certainly would have been seen as exotic and odd in a remote community. It was the only thing that jarred slightly. As I’ve mentioned on Library Door before, My mum thinks Yoga is ‘out there’ and hippy so maybe I’m putting my own fairly open minded perceptions about the supernatural into that opinion.

A fairy tale start to the year from Francine Toon. Sinister, gothic and a little bit scary, like all the best stories. I note its already been recommended as the read for January by the Irish Independent. I’m sure it will do well. So, get down to your local book shop and snap up a copy or conjure it up online and start reading it before the stretch in the evenings get longer and the ideal atmosphere for this book is then at midnight under your duvet with a torch.

 

Reviewed by: Georgina Murphy

This review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour, to see what the other reviewers thought, visit their blogs listed below. Then if you get a copy ,comeback and tell us what you thought, we’d love to hear your feedback.

 

Pine BT Poster

ROGER BRINGS IN A NEWMAN TO REVIVE A CLASSIC GENRE

Standard

JRoger_FC(R9iii).inddOver the past few weeks Australians have been praying for rain in their fire ravaged continent, while in the northern hemisphere, we’ve been praying for a white Christmas for the past four weeks or more. Neither party got much of what they wanted.  Although I did find myself wading through snow over Christmas and it was all down to the first book review of the new decade. Its Shamus Dust – Hard Winter, Cold war, Cool Murder by Janet Roger and Published by Matador (https://www.troubador.co.uk/matador/) at the end of October 2019.

On an Early Christmas morning in a snowbound blitz scarred London, insurance fraud investigator Newman is awoken from his slumber by the telephone. The voice on the other end identifies himself as Councillor Drake from the City of London. He needs Newman to go to a church in the city where a body of one of Drake’s tenants has been discovered and from there find the killer. On arrival at the church, along with the body of a young man, he finds the only witness is a nurse on her way to work. Within a matter of hours the suspect list has risen, so to does their occupancy of city morgue over the following couple of days. What initially looks like a vice crime turns into a case of cross and double cross during one of the hardest winters to hit London. Firmly in the midst of it is our American, war veteran hero, who is trying to stay one step ahead of the police and find the killer with help of the curvaceous coroner Dr Elizabeth Swinford. Can they find the killer? Save the Councillors reputation and stop the killing spree in the financial heart of England’s capital?

Another thing we all look forward to around the Christmas period is a large feast and to make it all go smoothly you try to get every ingredient right. Just like writing a book. To produce a well-rounded and satisfying read, one needs all the right ingredients and in Shamus Dust Janet Roger has done that. From the perfect setting, to a memorable and charming central character and the ensemble cast of supporting characters topped off with the right amount of tension and humour, which allow the reader to become thoroughly engrossed in the book.

Janet Roger

Janet Roger

I started reading this book on the Friday before Christmas, it was pre-dawn on a cold crisp morning in a Starbucks near where I work. Yes, the atmosphere was perfect and never before had a book so made me feel more in the moment than this one and its opening pages. The nearest comparison to this is a Christmas Carol by Dickens and Mystery In White by J. Jefferson Farjeon.

What Roger has delivered in Shamus Dust is a truly remarkable seasonal crime thriller, featuring her dry witted detective who is cut from the same cloth as Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe and Mike Hammer. He is a delight to listen to in your head as you read this book and like his contemporaries, is fallible and prone to getting hurt…

The rich and detailed style of Rogers writing gives more life to her main character, the story and its setting, that if I was transported back in time to 1947 now with a copy, I would not feel out of place and could, by the lovingly detailed descriptions of post war London, find my way around the city. The skill in which she has written and described Newman’s surroundings and characters who inhabit it proves, if proof was needed, that this book was written and researched by a storyteller who is one to watch is the future.

This is Janet Roger’s (www.janetroger.com) debut novel and it has already tasted success, having won the 2019Bev hills award Beverly Hills Book Award, as well as Fully Booked’s Book of the Year and made NB magazine’s top ten.  She trained in Archaeology, History and Eng. Lit. and has a special interest in the early Cold War. She currently leads a nomadic existence, admitting to never staying in one place for a minimum of six weeks and at most three months on the rare occasion.

When Raymond Chandler died in 1959 he left an unfinished novel, that book was Poodle Springs. Thirty years later, the well-known crime novelist Robert B. Parker finished the book using Chandlers original notes. In the future we won’t have to wait for more of Chandlers ideas to be discovered, with this original pairing of Roger and Newman.

If there is anything against the book, its that the detailed descriptions that the author has woven into the story, force the reader to almost stop and visually look around, thus taking slightly from the pace its self. It took me well over a week to read this 300 page book, although I’m inclined to put that down to the added distractions of Christmas.

This week my book group chose the rota for the next 12 months and I got November, as a result Shamus Dust is already vying for my pick along with Mystery In White. But to be fair its only January, there’s a lot of reading to be done between now and then.

So dust off your trilby and raincoat and head down to your local book shop and purchase a copy or download it, before the rest of the world latches onto this rising literary star and Mr. Newman.

 

Reviewed by:  Adrian Murphy

NOTHING IMPORTANT COMES FROM CARVER’S EXPERIENCED PENMANSHIP

Standard

Nothing Important CoverWith Christmas less than a month away, we’ll all become more acutely aware of the pressure placed on us by TV and social media, to be of good cheer and surround ourselves with large gatherings of friends and family. But in doing so we overlook the people in society who are more vulnerable, who are left with a greater feeling of loneliness, depression and in some  tragic cases feeling suicidal at this festive time.

This month’s fourth book review is a thriller based around of a number of mass suicides that take place across the globe, it’s Nothing Important happened Today by Will Carver and published by Orenda Books (www.orendabooks.co.uk) on the 14th November

Nine strangers arrive one night on Chelsea bridge in London, then all at once they leap to their deaths. Each of them received a letter in the post that morning, with a pre-written suicide note and a page containing a single sentence, “Nothing Important Happened Today…”. The event is witnessed by passengers on a train, two will be next, then 24 hrs later a dormant social media  page has thousands of followers and there are numerous other mass suicides around the globe.

 

Who are “the People Of Choice” and what links the rapidly increasing membership, with the number of suicides rising, can the police find the leader of this cult and stop the next mass loss of human life.

chelsea-bridge-3_2820182b

Chelsea Bridge at Night (Daily Telegraph)

This is the second of Will Carver’s novels that I’ve had the opportunity to read and review. Having loved ‘Good Samaritans’, I was excited to read this offering. I expected violence, I expected edgy, I expected dark humour. I never expected what I actually got.

This novel’s contents were unexpected in that I wasn’t prepared emotionally, I think, to experience the endless bitter, vitriolic and loathsome ideology that fills this book. I’m not thinking, or I’m at least hoping, it’s not the way Will Carver thinks of his fellow humans. It is instead told primarily through the observations and opinions of the orchestrator of the numerous deaths that populate the story. We hear their intolerance, their lack of respect and empathy, their sneering disapproval and evidence of their own inflated ego. Think of the worst examples of internet trolling you might have come across and you have a feeling for what is contained within the covers of this book.

The story its self is broken into chapters examining briefly the lives and problems faced by each of the suicides. It is mind-numbingly and relentlessly depressing. I struggled to pick it up and carry on reading on numerous occasions. I persevered in the hope of a change of tack. I recalled that the Good Samaritans was a slow burn initially and hoped for a similar turn of events here. I was disappointed.

This is English author Will Carver’s (@will_carver) sixth book, his others include, Girl 4(2011), The Two(2012), Dead Set(2013) all featuring his protagonist Detective Inspector January David. Then there’s a novella in The Killer Inside (2013) followed by his highly acclaimed Guardian, Daily Telegraph and Sunday Express  Book Of The Year, Good Samaritans (2018). A keen rugby player, he turned down a professional contract to study Theatre and Television in Winchester, where he went onto set up a theatre company. Currently he runs a successful fitness and nutrition firm and lives with his family in Reading.

Will Carver2019

Will Carver (Orenda Books)

I loved the dark humour in the previous novel. If there was meant to be any such humour in this novel, it passed me by. It needed something! Jonathon Pye, a satirist, who does short videos pretending to be a news anchorman, caught off camera , ranting about the story he is doing  for his news channel , manages to say the most outrageous things , make a few actual insightful points and be funny , whilst making you think about the issues raised. This novel felt like it was trying to set an agenda sometimes. More often it felt like it was trying to get its readers to jump off something too. Some books are difficult and not enjoyable reading, like, for example, ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’ by Lionel Shriver, but you feel you’ve gained some insight or understanding from doing so. I don’t feel this book enlightened me in any useful way and failed to entertain me also.

Not a book I think I could recommend to anyone I know. A Christmas present for your enemies perhaps? Encouraging the budding sociopath in your circle? Certainly, don’t buy it if you’re feeling low! I’m off to cheer myself up with a crime novel about a serial killer. It’ll be light relief!

 

Reviewed by: Georgina Murphy

 

This review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour, to see what the other reviewers thought of this book visit their sites listed below. Then, if you get a copy and read it, comeback and tell us what you thought, we’d love the feedback.

nothing happened poster 2019