Do you know where the X2 is, the Sky Scream, Steel Dragon 2000 or the Cu Chulainn? Do you know what they are even? No. They are various Rollercoasters, The Cu Chulainn is the one nearest me, and that is in Tayto Park in Co. Meath, Ireland. The others are in America, Germany and Japan, and supposedly are the top three scariest rides around the world according Google.  As for riding them, Noooo!!!! I’m a card-carrying coward when it comes to that sort of thing, I think the last one I rode was in my early teens. Although after this past year, the above should be a walk in the amusement park. As for the relativity to this month’s book, the lead character’s name is Rod Coaster and this month’s second book review is Rollercoaster by James Essinger and published by Conrad Press ( 8th February.

When would be hippie, Rod Coaster ups and leaves his rented flat in London and heads out to “Scrape The Tarmac” in search of warmer weather in the South Of France, little does he know what lies ahead? A short distance outside Calais, he hops into the back of an unlocked lorry at a service station and discovers a dying man. Then he finds Silja, a beautiful Finnish girl, pointing gun at him. Now Rod is mixed up in a plot to kill a group of Russian dignitaries at a German hotel.  Can he use his superior charm to dissuade this young girl from fulfilling her horribly disfigured parent’s murderous plot.

The front cover of this book describes it as “1970’s comedy thriller for the 21st Century”… This is my second comedy thriller this month, they’re like literary buses. The first one – Jonathan Pinnocks  Bad Day In Minsk, had me laughing out loudly at regular intervals. Rollercoaster, barely got me smirking, when it did it was probably down to Essingers off the wall character names, such as Pickling Fox Foetus, his secretary Miss Fallopian, his assistant and lover Eustachia Vixen, Mr Charles Terrapin and his employer Dr Tortoise…. (Sounds more Beatrix Potter, than Agatha Christie).

At two hundred and thirty pages in length, the story in itself is a decent murder mystery thriller and at that a definite one sitting read, but where the apt title comes in, is that it is rather bonkers and therefore one needs timeout every now and then to process what’s going on in the story. It comes across as a sort of Hitchhikers Guide to Murder, something Douglas Adams would have loved. But if you think you are in for a straight up gripping whodunnit, Essinger’s weirdly wired and creative imagination takes you through a series of high speed twists and turns that at times left me thinking  “WTF”.

As for the characters, Rod is cross between Austin Powers and a fairground worker, dressed in jeans and a leopard print waistcoat and beads. With a superhuman libido, a way with the women and a weird vocabulary. that includes “Dabs” which are girls, “throbs” are blokes and he regularly refers to his manhood as his “Splicer”, let alone trying to figure out “Yawning The Mud” and what a ”Grund” means – Thank god, he put a glossary in the back of the book.  I was a child of the 70’s in England and even I can’t remember using words like that in my formative years growing up in Buckinghamshire (although, it was Buckinghamshire).

James Essinger

The other main characters, Fox Foetus and Ms Vixen, seem to be something akin to what a relationship between Mrs Trunchbull and an adult Pinocchio would be like. But these are real anti-heroes and come across more depraved than the real villains the Finns, Silja and her parents. Although in fairness the parents are the overall masterminds, but placed side by side next Fox Foetus and his malevolent lover, they’re real pussy cats.

This is English author James Essinger’s ( tenth Book. He has written three other works of Fiction, The Mating Game(2016) with Jovanka Houska, Lost City Of Cantia (2019), The Ada Lovelace Project(2013) with Jovanka Houska – published 2014 in the US as Ada’s Algorithm: how Lord Byron’s daughter launched the digital age. Along with six works of non-fiction including, Jacquard’s Web: how a hand loom led to the birth of the information age (2004), Spellbound: the improbable story of English spelling (2005), Charles and Ada: the computer’s most passionate partnership (2019). As well as that he wrote the music and lyrics for the Ada Lovelace musical. He read English at Cambridge and has been a professional writer since 1988. He currently lives and works in Canterbury where in 2015 he founded the publishing company The Conrad Press.

I didn’t not like this book, but just found it a bit outside the box and off the wall for me, but if off the wall humour is your thing, then carefully head down to your local bookshop and get a copy or click and collect it, while observing all the current Covid regulations and settle in for a whacky ride with Rod and Essinger.

Reviewed by Adrian Murphy

This Book is part of 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 would really appreciate the feedback.



What do you know about Belarus? I’m guessing like me, just enough to fill a post-it. If we wrote the facts out in large print. You probably had an idea that it was somewhere in eastern Europe (its wedged in between Ukraine, Russia, Lithuania and Poland). According to Wiki, it’s the thirteenth largest country in Europe. Potatoes form a large part of its national dishes, and its most famous export is the tennis player and former world number one Victoria Azarenka, which is a damn site better than its neighbour Ukraine, whose most famous export is radiation from Chernobyl.

The Belarus capital is Minsk, and when I looked to see what one would do if you fancied a city break there when we eventually can travel internationally again, there wasn’t much. Apart from maybe walking around the city with a portable Geiger counter watching it click incessantly – seeing as the city is less than two hundred miles from the site of the afore mentioned nuclear plant. Which is why this month’s second book review is aptly titled. The book is “Bad Day in Minsk” by Jonathan Pinnock and published by Farrago Books (  on the 8th April.

Tom Winscombe is a junior PR executive, who, a couple of weeks ago shared a train carriage with the auto-biographer of a couple of deceased mathematicians, the Vavasor twins, who died in mysterious circumstances a number of years ago. Following the other chap’s untimely death later that night, Tom is left with a locked case containing papers belonging to the twins. Since then, he and his girlfriend Dorothy have found themselves thrust unwittingly into the murky world of international terrorism. While breaking into the offices of a dodgy “Think Tank” in London one night, Tom is kidnapped by a covert government agency run by a shadowy female figure called Matheson (they’ve had run-ins in the previous books), who sends malicious what’s-app messages to Dorothy claiming Tom’s been unfaithful and then forces our hero to impersonate a British mathematician, who is selling his skills to members of the Belarus Mafia. Matheson wants to find out who the buyer is. From the moment he lands in Minsk, Tom is kidnapped by another mafia family, his passport taken and is whisked off to the Ukrainian border. Can he get help from anyone back home? No!! Matheson has threatened deniability and Dorothy isn’t talking to him. Now he finds himself caught in the crossfire as the two main mafia groups battle for power, in one of the city’s luxury hotels, where he’s stranded on the top floor. Will he get the information for Matheson, get out of Belarus with his life and can he patch things up with Dorothy?

It recently came up at our monthly book group, that the members are struggling to get in right frame of mind to read as a result of the negative influence of the pandemic. It had only been discussed by myself and Georgina (my wife and fellow Librarian), that the recent book choices in the group were uninspiring and hard going.

Ronnie Corbett in Sorry!(BBC)

But I at least had this book to review and from outset got a great laugh from reading about the trials and tribulations of Tom Winscombe. It’s been a while since a book has made me laugh out loud, but this did from the outset and right the way through. Some of the situations he finds himself in are ludicrous, but there is clear proof that when Pinnock lets his imagination off the leash, he gives it full reign, and this delivers the laugh out loud and spirit lifting experience to the reader.

The story moves along at a cracking pace. I could have read this two-hundred-and-ninety-page bundle of joy in one sitting. It reads like the plot of great British comedy from the past – helped in no small part by Tom’s self-deprecation. If you are old enough to remember Ronnie Corbett in his TV series “Sorry!!”, his Character Timothy, is who I envisaged Tom Winscombe being like. Corbett’s character was a librarian in a suburban English town, who got into all types of bother locally and had various mishaps in his love life. While having to deal with an array of weird and wonderful characters, including his parents. Tom also has to deal with a menagerie of weird and wonderful characters.

Jonathan Pinnock

There is a slight downside to my experience of this book and that has nothing to do with Pinnock or his story telling abilities. It is down to this book being part of a series, so I was trying most of the way through to gather what I’d missed in the previous three, although fair play to Jonathan, he does his best to bring the reader up to speed, without detracting from the narrative too much, but it is advised to have read the previous instalments first.

This is English author Jonathan Pinnocks ( fourth book in the Mathematical Mystery Series featuring lowly PR executive Tom Winscombe. The other are The Truth About Archie and Pye (2018), A Question of Trust (2019), and The Riddle of the Fractal Monks (2020). He’s previously written seven other books they include, the novel Mrs Darcy Versus the Aliens (2011), The short story collection – Dot Dash (2012), a bio-historical memoir Take It Cool (2014) and a poetry collection Love and Loss and Other Important Stuff (2017). He grew up in Bedford and studied Mathematics at Cambridge, before working as a software developer. Currently he lives with his family in Somerset.

So, if like me you need a little light-hearted, if also totally madcap, reading to escape the doom and gloom of pandemic restrictions. Download or Click and Collect the four books in this series from your local book shop and start from the beginning, then see if a Bad Day in Minsk can make yours a good one.

Reviewed by  Adrian 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 of the book, comeback and tell us what you thought. We’d really appreciate the feedback.