THERE’S NO BROUHAHA ABOUT O’HANLON’S SECOND BOOK, ITS BROUHILLIANT

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Ireland has long been known as a country of “Saints and Scholars”, with the odd sinner or two thrown in for good measure.  We also believe we have the gift of the gab as a result making out with the Blarney stone, along with every desperate tourist with a whiff of an Irish relative, somewhere in their distant past. Although its widely accepted that our ability to gabble on is inherent in our genes, without even setting foot near the fabled county Cork castle.

Having the gift of the gab, also allows the country to produce is fair share of comedians, without the ability to prattle on for ages in front of an audience, you’d be like a certain French clown. One of the more prominent of well-known Irish comedians in recent times is one Ardal O’Hanlon, who came to prominence in the Channel 4 hit Father Ted. He’s also followed in the footsteps of his co-stars and fellow comedian Graham Norton and comedienne Pauline McGlynn (Mrs Doyle) by turning his hand to writing. This months first book review is Brouhaha by Ardal O’Hanlon and published by Harper Collins ( www.corporate.harpercollins.co.uk ) on the 26th May.

When local artist Dove Connolly takes his own life, his best friend Philip Sharkey returns to their hometown of  Tullyanna, from a self-imposed exile abroad, and starts asking awkward questions about Dove’s death. As well as the strange graphic novel Dove left behind and the more importantly about Sandra Mohan, who mysteriously disappeared a decade ago. Philip quickly discovers there are others in the town still looking into Sandra’s disappearance, including Kevin Healy a local Garda detective, who was retired on medical grounds and a journalist Joanne McCollum, who’s written wild speculatory pieces on the case. But Tullyanna is a town not keen on giving up its secrets and Philip’s return is also drawing attention from the wrong quarters, including those from over the border and a Local political candidate, whose party was linked to a paramilitary force in the past. Can these three unlikely bed fellows work together to decipher the graphic novel and discover the truth about Dove and Sandra, before they become another digit on the body count….

I love getting signed copies of the new books, although it doesn’t always happen, but when it does, and its from someone you admire, its even better. I’ve been a fan of Ardal’s , since his days in father Ted and his other roles in the BBC Comedy My Hero and the drama Death in Paradise. I’ve even seen him live in stand up, too. So when I got the chance to review his new book, I didn’t hesitate.

The book is brilliant, and I loved it from the first page. Its full of weird and wonderful characters, you know the ones every town has. It shows what an acute eye for detail the author has and an inane ability to read the human character, developed from years of putting together great stand-up routines.

Brouhaha is an edgy dark comedy, which does for Crime fiction what Hitch Hikers Guide to The Galaxy, did for science fiction and space exploration. There’s a lot in there both politically and culturally, with Ardal taking a good dig at all in equal measure. While the characters are well developed and more than mere caricatures.

At a smidge over three hundred and forty pages, it wavers slightly in places, but O’Hanlon keeps the reader engaged with bouts of hilarity scattered generously throughout the book. While the mystery at the heart of story holds you till the end, aided by clues guiding our three unlikely heroes, borne out of a graphic novel which comes across as something akin to the marriage of the Book of Kells and piece of Japanese Manga. The political intrigue, which also abounds through book is handled deftly considering the minefield it was back during the tenuous early days following the Good Friday agreement.

Ardal O’Hanlon (The Scotsman)

This is Irish actor, comedian, documentary maker and writer Ardal O’Hanlon’s (@ardalsfolly) second book, his first was Talk of The Town (1998), re-titled Knick, Knack, Paddy Whack – in the US. At the time of writing, he is currently one of the contestants on Channel 4’s Taskmaster, hosted by Greg Davies. Ardal grew up in County Monaghan in Ireland, his father was a TD (MP) in the Irish parliament and a cabinet minister. Ardal now lives in Dublin with his family.

So, if you are looking for a humorous but gripping piece of crime fiction from one of the current leading lights of Irish comedy, then order a copy online or get down to your local bookshop and prepare to be amused by the talented Mr O’Hanlon.

Reviewed by Adrian Murphy

This book is part of a Random Things blog tour, to see what the other reviewers thought, visit in their blogs listed below. Then, if you get a copy, comeback and tell us what you thought. We’d really appreciate the feedback.

CANNON FIRES OFF ANOTHER SUCESS TO HERALD THE START OF SUMMER

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I have noticed that when police identify a murderer its common for his neighbours to exclaim that the person seemed so nice and normal, the phrase ‘very quiet, kept themselves to themselves’ is often used. Despite TV and cinema’s preference for the devious, risk taking, psychopathic serial killer, often it seems individuals become killers due to mental health issues, trauma or fear.  Do we really know those everyday acquantainces and work colleagues as well as we think. Maybe they have  secrets and hidden depths we are unaware of? Which what is examined in this months second book review, its A Tidy Ending by Joanna Cannon and published by The Borough Press ( http://www.boroughpress.co.uk ) on the 28th April.

In the book we meet Linda and Terry whose lives are unsettled from their normal routine by a series of local murders. At first there’s a sense of excitement amongst the locals who flock to the crime scenes as if for entertainment but soon fear takes over, especially as it becomes clear the serial killer might be one of them! Linda has already undergone a childhood trauma and moved to the area to make a new start.  After settling down with Terry she starts to wonder if this is all life holds? She sees the glamourous lifestyles pictured in catalogues and magazines delivered for her house’s previous occupant, Rebecca, and yearns for something more. She decides to try and track down Rebecca but is the grass always greener and why is Terry acting so oddly? 

I read and enjoyed Joanna Cannons previous book, The Trouble with Sheep and Goats and enjoyed the quirky story so much I recommended it as my book club choice shortly after. So I was delighted to be given the chance to review this,  her latest offering is another gentle, slow burn of a narrative but again Joanna really brings her characters to life. In Linda we have, I felt, one of those people who seems to be on the margins of things, that people don’t pay enough attention to, or take advantage of. You feel sorry for her and worry that she’s going to come off badly. This is reinforced by the insertion of a psychiatric hospital-based chapter every so often, which appears to be relating whats happening subsequent to  current plot events, and makes you think the worst has happened.

The thing I like best about Joanna Cannon’s writing is that she builds a feeling or belief that you have everything understood in relation to the story but then adds something which surprises you. Feeling smug and think you know what is happening? Think again! There’s also a fair amount of humour here, especially in some of Linda’s musings on her fellow characters. Plus, a masterclass in human behaviour observation. 

Joanna Cannon (The Times)

This English Author Joanna cannon’s fourth book, her previous novels were The Trouble With Sheep and Goats (2015), Three Things About Elsie (2018) and a memoir titled Breaking & Mending: A Junior Doctor’s Stories Of Compassion and Burnout (2019). She left school at fifteen and worked her way through various jobs, before returning to education in her thirties and qualifying as a doctor in her forties. her work as a Psychiatrist and interest in people on the fringes of society continues to inspire her writing, she lives in the Peak District with her family and four legged companion Lewis, whom she walks the fields with when not baking, watching football or reading.

Another brilliant novel from Joanna Cannon, that may sneak up on you or leap out of a dark corner with its understated cleverness and knock the wind out of you.

Reviewed by Georgina Murphy

This book is part of a Random Things blog tour,

MYSELF AND FLOWER’S ARE DANCING TO A DIFFERENT BEAT WITH THE GREAT AMERICAN BOOGALOO

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The storming of The Capitol Building in Washington DC, in January last year, has been described as a failed coup. Some commentators may have claimed it was the closest America has come to a second revolution, but in truth, the US has been divided for years by race, economics, religion and geography, etc, etc. This has been fertile ground for the various militia’s, a disparate group of mostly ill-educated and brain-washed “rednecks”, who’ve been gathering in the backwaters of America for years, and have been aided in recent times by the rise of social media. This has enabled them to more easily promote their off the wall far-right ideologies, to a wider and more gullible audience. Most of these groups believe that the Republican and Democratic parties are corrupt, if any of these bandits got anywhere near the Oval Office and decision-making power, you’d be foolish to think, that that they’d be all things too all men. They too would act like any dictator who has swept to power around the globe in the past, they’d line their own pockets first and foremost. This months first book review is set in the world of the militia’s, it’s the Great American Boogaloo by Paul Flower and published by Farrago Books ( www.farragobooks.com ) on the 31st March.

From his woodland bunker, Bo ‘Big Bruddah’ Watt’s has assembled an army of gun-totting militia men. When unfounded rum ours start circulating that the Liberal female President of The United States is going to tackle climate change by banning beef, snatching the great American hamburger from the mouths of patriots, he is determined to stop the president with the help of octogenarian Wilbur Tuttle and his private military enterprise, Silver Eagle Security, The plan is to kidnap the president’s daughter and launch a coup in tampa florida and then install a puppet president, then Big Bruddah and Tuttle hope to ignite the log-awaited insurrection militia members call the “Boogaloo”, what could possibly go wrong?

Yes, what could possibly go wrong? Well for me, I couldn’t get into this book. Maybe its because I think these guys are charlatans of the highest order and trying to make them look funnier and even sillier then they already are is unecessary as they don’t need any help. The book is two hundred and ninety-four pages in length, I got to fifty-six, a little over a fifth of the way in.  But I found the characters uninteresting and the whole story very unfunny. This is only my opinion, so please don’t let me take anything away from Flowers writing or the book overall. One man’s unfunny book is another mans “rollicking riot of insanity….”

I always tell people if you’re not feeling the love for a book, don’t prolong the agony, life’s too short… Also I have a rule, as I’ve stated before, if it hasn’t got you by fifty pages in, then it ain’t going to.

It could be just me, maybe if I comeback to it in a couple of months I might find it a likeable and humorous read, at this present time, though, unfortunately not.

Paul Flower

This is American author Paul Flower’s ( @flowerPaul ) third book his others are The Redeeming Power of Brain Surgery (2013) and The Great American Cheese War (2019). He has been writing professionally for over forty years, much of his career was spent in advertising and marketing. He’s also worked in broadcasting for a short time too. His writing has appeared in national and regional magazines. He currently lives in Michigan.

So please don‘t take my word for it, I would advise you to go out order a copy and then see if either you agree or think I’m the one who is literally off their rocker.

Reviewed by Adrian Murphy

This book 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 really appreciate the feedback.

KENT FIGHTS FOR MY ATTENTION IN NO WAY TO DIE

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The title for John Le Carre’s 1974 spy novel “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy..” comes from an old nursery rhyme, that was used for counting, fortune telling or more commonly in recent years for picking the misfortunate person in a game of “Tag”. The English version went Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor, Rich Man, Poor Man, Beggar Man, Thief. While American’s went with, Rich Man, Poor Man, Beggar Man, Thief, Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief.. The famous English nursery rhyme “Rub-a-Dub-Dub” also references three job occupations, The Butcher, The Baker and The Candlestick Maker. But this month’s book review can go one better, especially when it comes to glamourizing the authors past and present occupation – Boxer, Barrister, Thriller Writer. Whichever marketing genius thought of putting that on the front cover, certainly earned their bonus that month. Meanwhile the book itself is No Way To Die by Tony Kent and published by Elliot & Thompson ( www.eandtbooks.com  ) on the 7th April.

When traces of a radioactive material are found with a body in Key West, numerous federal agencies descend on the scene, but it soon becomes clear that a domestic terrorist organisation is intent on bringing the US government to its knees. The threat hits close to home for Agent Joe Dempsey, when he discovers a personal connecvtion to the group. When Joe and his partner, former Secret Service agent Eden Grace’s plan to track down the device falls apart, he is forced to turn to an unlikely ally, an old enemy he thought he had buried in the past. With time running out can Dempsey and Grace stop a madman from unleashing horrifying destruction across the United States.

You got to hand it to Kent, this book is bang up to date, coming out a year after the failed insurrection at the Capitol building, along with the subtle refences to the easing of Covid restriction  America will always been seen as a vast field of dreams where anything can come true, whilst also being the ‘Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave’, but domestic terrorism is an ever-present danger, and going forward will always provide fuel for the thriller writers creative fire.

I personally found it an ok read but having not read any of Tony Kent’s other books (something I plan to correct), I had no real yard stick to base it against. It came to me as a stand-alone, when Dempsey is the main character in several of Kent’s previous books. I was slightly put off by the size of it, at over 500 pages in length, because it’s promoted on the cover as “a pulsating read”, but even with the aid of a time stamp on each chapter. I didn’t get any sense of urgency and even failed to notice the time stamp in the first three chapters. Also, the number of other character interactions I had to go through before Joe and Grace came on the scene, literally one hundred forty pages in, stopped me from really getting a feel for them.

Tony Kent

This is English author, practising criminal barrister and former boxer, Tony Kent’s ( www.tonykent.net ) fourth book. His others are Killer Intent (2017), Marked for Death (2019) and Power Play (2020). Seen as a leader in his field, Tony has prosecuted and defended in some of the most serious trials during his twenty years at the Criminal Bar. His practice has brought him into close professional contact Britain’s GCHQ, the Security Service and the Ministry of Defence. While also working with international law enforcement agencies such as the FBI. He’s also regularly  appears on numerous TV programmes as a criminal justice expert, including Meet, Marry, Murder; My Lover, My Killer and Kill Thy Neighbour. He currently lives outside London with his wife, son, and dog.

With the holiday season eight to ten weeks away, here’s an option to pass a long-haul flight or to relax with while lounging by the pool. So fight your way to the cash till in your local book shop or box clever and order online and pop this into your suitcase in advance or onto your kindle.

Reviewed by Adrian Murphy

This book review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour. To see what the other reviewers thought of it, visit their blogs listed below. Then, if you get a copy, comeback, and tell us what you thought. We’d really appreciate the feedback.

HASHIMI’S AFGHAN DRAMA LEAVES ME STARRY EYED

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In light of the current Russian invasion (or according to Putin, military exercises) in Ukraine, the month’s last book review strikes a chord as it begins with the Russian supported military coup in Afghanistan during the Cold War. Long before the West had heard much about Afghanistan and the Taliban and 9/11, Kabul was a thriving cosmopolitan capital. American and Russia vied for its attention and its resources, offering the construction of dams, roads, and universities to sweeten their cause. In my lifetime, I can’t recall when Afghanistan was a tourist destination with its beautiful landscapes, rich history and situation on the silk road at the crossroads of central and south Asia. Since the 70’s the country is more associated with coups, wars, invasions and of course the hard line political and religious control of the Taliban. The book is of Sparks Like Stars by Nadia Hashimi and published by William Morrow

( http://www.harpercollins.com/collections/william-morrow ) on the 17th March.

The book is told through the eyes of Sitara Zamani, the daughter of a prominent family associated and living in close contact with the country’s president. When the two families are assassinated during the coup, only Sitara survives. She is smuggled from the scene by a soldier called Shair. 

Sitara is adopted by an American diplomate and is moved to America under another name. There, she finishes her education and eventually trains as a surgeon. Thirty years after the night of the coup, her world is rocked again when a patient presents himself for consultation. It is Shair. Seeing him awakens her desire for answers and perhaps revenge? She returns to Kabul, now a battleground between a corrupt government and the fundamentalist Taliban to learn the truth about her family.

I started this book quite late but managed to read it in a few days. It feels like an epic read but it is so interesting and well plotted I was eager to keep going. It covers the whole story of Sitara’s life, describing her childhood, the coup, her escape, and early life in America in some detail. It then jumps forward to the present period of her meeting with Shair and her search for the truth. The jump in period was necessary as otherwise the book would be a massive tome, but it was a little disconcerting, I had been so enjoying the trials and tribulations of Sitara’s escape and arrival in the states, I’d have quite happily read a couple of hundred pages more! This is because Nadia Hamini’s style of writing is so engaging. The characters are beautifully described. I think its very hard to write children and adolescents, believeably if you are also writing about adults too. 

I loved the descriptions of the places too, but it was the warmness and humanity of the majority of the Afghani people who populated this book, that make you wish things were different and you could freely visit their country. 

Nadia Hashimi (32Letter)

Mothers and their relationships with their daughters are also featured here. You could almost feel the motherly love and compassion in some of the passages. This was highlighted by the lack of maternal instinct in Sitara’s first home in the USA.  I particularly liked how the relationship between Antonia and Tilly was described. They sound like the kind of women I’d love to hang out with. 

This American author and Pediatrician Nadia Hashimi’s ( http://www.nadiahashimibooks.com ) fourth book, her others are all international bestsellers – The Pearl that Broke Its Shell (2014), When The Moon Is Low (2015) and A House Without Windows (2016). She’s also written two childrens books. In 2003, she made her first trip to Afghanistan with her parents who had not returned to their homeland since leaving in the 1970s. She continues to serve on boards of organizations committed to educating and nurturing Afghanistan’s most vulnerable children and empowering the female leaders of tomorrow. She is a member of the US-Afghan Women’s Council and an advisor to Kallion, an organization that seeks to elevate leadership through humanities. Locally, she serves as a Montgomery County health care commissioner and organizing committee member of the Gaithersburg Book Festival.

As I say I rushed through this novel a little in my haste to make the blog tour post, but it will be a book I recommend to my bookclub and plan to read again slowly to savour. This would be an ideal Mother’s Day gift so get down to your local bookseller soon. 

Reviewed by Georgina Murphy

This book is part of a Random Things Blog Tour. To see what the other reviwers thought, visit their blogs listed beliow. then, if you get a copy, come back and tell us what you thought. We’d really appreciate the feedback.

CHARMAN’S DEBUT IS MORE A LOOSE FLOCK OF FEATHERY TALES THAN ONE COMPLETE MURMURATION

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The Crow is one member of the Corvus family of medium to large sized birds. Other members are the Rook, Raven, Carrion Crow, and Hooded Crow. They are one of the most intelligent species of birds on the planet, being widely know for using tools and constructing tools. They mate for life, but also gather in large colonies and so when a member of the colony dies, they can hold funerals for the deceased bird and are also known for having long memories and being able to remember faces. The collective name for a group of crows is a murder of crows, also they can take the life of another crow following a crow court, where another bird has entered their territory or has tried to steal food. This brings us to this month’s first book review, which follows the lives of the residents of a small English town in the 1840’s after the discovery of a scandal in the community. It’s called Crow Court by Andy Charman and is published by Unbound ( www.unbound.com ) on the 24th February.

In the Spring of 1840, the Dorset town of Wimbourne Minster is rocked by the discovery of the body of a choirboy, who has drowned himself in the local river. Shortly after the Choirmaster, a belligerent and vicious man, is found murdered. The repercussions and the scandal associated with it will reverberate through the community for years to come.

The premise of this book is very appealing, the blurb on the back sells it as a quaint story of murder, mystery and betrayal in a small rural town on the south coast of England. But when you get into reading it you are met with something completely different. it’s not one complete story, but series a collection of short stories, vignettes even. Set around, loosely in some cases, and connected to the characters and events of the suicide and murder depicted in the first two. I didn’t actually realise what was happening until over half way through the book.

Andy Charman

Charmans’s story telling and writing style is unusual too and this is what led to realise I was reading a collection of short stories. Because it regularly jumps from first to third person narrative. His use of the Dorset dialect is at times earthy, and some people maybe delighted at the inclusion of a glossary at the back of the book, but for me I did wonder if some of the characters were actually supposed to be foreign with the bad English or the over use of  the letter ‘z’ in the dialogue. But I think if this book comes out on Audible down the road, I may get to appreciate the Dorset dialect a bit more when read by a local.

This English author Andy Charman’s ( https://www.crow-court.com/ ) first book. His short stories have appeared in various anthologies and magazines over the years. He grew up in Dorset not far from Wimbourne Minster, but now lives in Surrey.

I enjoyed reading this book and would see it as a nice choice for a book group. So if you feel your group needs to spread its wings a bit, then flit down to your local book shop or order a copy online to wing its way to you physically or digitally.

Reviewed by Adrian Murphy

This book review is part of a Random Things blog tour, to see what the other readers thought, visit their sites listed below. Then, if you get a copy, comeback and tell us what you thought. We’d really appreciate the feedback.

VIDICH’S FIFTH BOOK IS A MATCH MADE IN BERLIN FOR TRADITIONALISTS

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Its almost a hundred years since there was last conflict in Europe, yet, as I write this piece, there is conflict in Europe and what could lead to military action between the East and West, following Russian invasion of Ukraine last week. During the Cold War there were several times when we were close to World War III, the Cuban missile crisis for one and I distinctly remember the eighties tv adverts informing viewers what to do in the event of a nuclear strike. The cold war ended in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin wall and there is the possibility that Kiev or Kyiv as they spell it. Breaded chicken with garlic sauce will never be the same again, and neither will the city of that name, if it becomes the new Berlin. This brings us to this month’s second book review it’s the Matchmaker by Paul Vidich and published by No Exit Press ( www.noexit.co.uk ) on the 17th February.

Its Berlin 1989 and Anne Simpson an American translator for JORC (Joint Operations Refugee Committee) thinks nothing of her seemingly idyllic marriage to her East German Piano Tuner husband Stefan. Until that is, he goes missing on route back from a job in Vienna. When the CIA and West German Intelligence turn up at her door, she informed that she has been targeted by The Matchmaker an East German counter-intelligence officer who runs a network of stazi agents, “Romeo’s”, who target vulnerable women in West Berlin. As Anne comes to terms with the lies surrounding her marriage, the CIA want to use her to smoke out The Matchmaker as he has close ties to the KGB and want tom find out more about his connection with a high-ranking defector. But as the wall falls and the city descends into chaos, Anne wants answers for herself, is Stefan dead? And to catch The Matchmaker and deliver her own type of justice…

What immediately gets you about this book is that it’s only two and fifty pages long, making it an ideal one sitting read, especially if you are on a long train or bus ride or mid length flight. Unlike most of the crop of new and existing thriller writers, who think substance is better then style, Vidich goes with the well worn and successful route of telling the story with enough style and minimal amount of substance, so as not to distract the reader from what they picked up the book for, a good read.

Paul Vidich

The story telling itself harks back to the heydays of the likes of Le Carre, Fleming and Greene. Although it’s set in 1989, there none of the more modern reliance on gadgets and its all down to the old cut and thrust of cold war politics, cross and double cross. Men and women in smoky bars and lounges, walking snow covered streets in high collared coats and trilby’s. This is what true traditionalists seek as an escape from what you can see in any of the numerous small and large screen offerings , and Vidich delivers it style, especially when you realise this isn’t his first foray into this genre.

This is American authors Paul Vidich’s ( www.paulvidich.com ) fifth book. The other include An Honorable Man (2014), The Good Assassin (2016), The Coldest Warrior (2020) and The Mercenary (2021). Vidich has had a distinguished career in music and media. Most recently, he was a special advisor to AOL and Executive Vice President at Warner Music group, in charge of Technology and Global Strategy. He was also a founder and Editor of the Storyville App and currently lives in Lower Manhattan.

So, if you are looking for a well written and traditionalist type of spy thriller, then download a copy or pop into your local bookshop and fall in love with Paul Vidich’s books.

Reviewed by: Adrian Murphy

This book review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour. To see what the other reviewers thought of the book visit their sites listed below, then if you get a copy, comeback and tell us what yoy thought. We’d really appreciate the feedback.

GARDNER’S NEW BOOK REFLECTS THE NEVER ENDING FACINATION WITH MARPLE, POIROT AND CHRISTIE

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There’s a new version of the Agatha Christie film, Death on the Nile in cinemas shortly and I’m looking forward to seeing it. I’m a big fan of a period drama or murder mystery as readers of this blog will know from my previous reviews. Some classics such as other Agatha Christie stories and John Buchan’s, ’The 39 Steps’ have been made into series, films and plays. I saw a theatrical version of the 39 Steps on a couple of occasions and was surprised and enthralled by the fact that the very small cast played multiple roles and the story was presented as a dark comedy. They even managed to present the train chase scene using swaying props, the sound of a train and puppet silhouettes! Despite the laughs, they managed to maintain the sense of impending danger. The constant remaking of these classics again and again does lead one to wonder why producers can’t take a chance on an unknown story of the same vintage and calibre, which brings me to this month’s first review. Its ‘The Mirror Game’ by Guy Gardner and published by The Book Guild Publishing ( https://www.bookguild.co.uk/ ) 28th January.

The book takes the reader back to that familiar Agatha Christie and Downtown Abbey period between the two World Wars, a little later than the setting of The 39 Steps. In London in 1925, Adrian Harcourt a politician and captain the army believed dead with his company on the battlefield of Flanders is sighted looking like he’s been living rough. Harry Lark, a war veteran and journalist, is enlisted by his friend and benefactor, Lady Carlisle to investigate. As he is drawn further into the case and the deaths mount up, he can see that things don’t add up. Where has Adrian been and why can’t he remember parts of his past. As he investigates, Harry’s own past and addiction to laudanum (an opium / alcohol based pain killer) threatens to overwhelm him and he also begins to fall for Freddy Carlisle, Lady Carlisle’s daughter, who was Adrian’s fiancée. Can Harry solve the mystery before it’s too late?

Guy Gardner

I really enjoyed this book from start to finish. It was one of those books you look forward to being able to pick up again. I spent the hours between reads thinking about the story and trying to guess what exactly was going on. It hit my sweet spot with the period setting and cast of characters, which I appreciate may not be to everyone’s taste, but even if a period thriller wouldn’t normally attract you, the plot would stand up well in a more modern setting, avoiding the more twee aspects of Christie.

Harry Lark is a likeable flawed hero of this tale, giving his all to solving the mystery and falling in love at the same time as fighting his own post war PTSD demons. There are some interesting characters in the rest of the cast too and Harry’s journalistic and soldier past allow him to interact with retired policemen, gangsters and the upper classes believably. I enjoyed the love story too. Sometimes this aspect of thrillers seems a little contrived but here its development and associated drama was a crucial part of the story.

This English jazz pianist and author Guy Gardner’s ( http://www.guygardner.co.uk ) debut novel. as a pianist he has played in venues large and small across the UK and Europe, including Pizza Express in Soho and The Royal Albert hall. he earned his degree in music at Darlington Caollege of arts and went on to gain a PGCE in teaching, which he used to teach music in a prison for a time.. he currently lives in Dorset where he combines writing his next book with teaching piano.

I’d hope to find a follow up to this book soon, hopefully with some of the same cast. I could also easily imagine it as a BBC drama series. It would make a welcome change from all those Poirot and Marple reruns. So, if you want to play a part in the next big thing, buy or download a copy of this book now.

Reviewed by Georgina Murphy

This book review is part of a Random Things blog tour. to see what the other recviwers thought, visit their blogs listed below. Then, if you get a copy, comeback and tell us what you thought. We’d really appreciate the feedback.

BLACKWATER BARRELS ONTO THE SHELVES WITH HIS TENSE DEBUT

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If I asked you to name the planet’s natural resources, could you? What about the top five? Well, the five most common natural resources are water, air, coal, natural gas and oil. They say that at the current rate of consumption, the earth’s oil reserves will run out in about 30-40 years. There are an estimated 65,000 oilfields around the globe, with the North Sea said to contain 1.7 to 3.3billon barrels of oil. In 2018 it was recorded that in the North Sea alone, there are 184 “Offshore” platforms.

Life on one of these behemoths is dangerous, but extremely well paid. A Reuters article in 2020, quoted Norwegian Statistics Office records, which stated Norwegian oil workers were earning on average $100,000 a year, including bonuses and overtime. This month’s second book review is set on a North Sea oil rig, its Emergency Drill by Chris Blackwater and published by Dark Edge Press ( http://www.darkedgepress.co.uk ) on the 18th January.

Just as newly qualified medic Danny Vertiy arrives on the Cuillin Alpha north sea oil platform, a feroucious storm damages the satellite system severing all communication with the mainland. Before long he has to do emergency life saving surgery on a crew mate, whose accident he suspects was the work of a saboteur. When his patient dies and a sinister voice claiming to be the Pied Piper makes a threatening announcement over the PA , along with more vital equipment on the platform is damaged. Danny and the crew find themselves trapped on an isolated rig with a killer on the loose, while the north Atlantic sea rages around them. Can he find the culprit before anyone else dies or the whole platform is jepordised as paranoia among the crew leads to anarchy.  

Thrillers set on oil rigs are not new, but one that came to mind while reading this book was the 1980 Roger Moore film ‘North Sea Hijack’, in which an eccentric cat loving counter terrorist expert (Roger Moore) is asked put in place a plan to avert the hijack of oil rigs insured by Lloyds. Then, a couple of months later he must put his plan into operation when two oil rigs are held ransom. 

Writing a book set on an oil rig is like setting it on a space station or dessert island, you are immediately leaving your hero and the the killer or killers trapped in a confined space, which immediately heightens the tension and gives the writer a good firm foundation on which to tell an engrossing story, while the competition has to find ways to build the tension though other means. This is what Blackwater has done for his first foray into novel writing and in doing so delivers a very enjoyable page turner from the outset.

The main character of Danny is believable as are some of his other more experienced contemporaries, Blackwater has learned quickly enough how to make sweat come off a page and make you feel as if you are living and breathing every step with the protagonist. In this case its sweat, salt water and a howling gale, which at times made me want to sit further back in my seat to shelter from the elements. Danny’s English character helps him stand out from the other characters, largely made up of Scottish crew, with a couple of foreign characters thrown in.

Chris Blackwater

While reading the book I had a   yearning to hear the book in audio format, so as to  get the crew’s deep Scottish brogues. I’ve often said, I could go to sleep listening to Nicola Sturgeon reading a thesaurus or a takeaway menu and maybe if she read this to me over the phone, I’d be in my element even more than I was. 

Blackwater also makes sure that the story reflects the fact that the oil rigs are moving with the times and that there is some sort of workplace equality and that there are some hardy women working onboard. represented in this case by the gemma, the no nonsense Scottish Heli-Admin. There’s also topicality, with references to the Piper Alpha disaster in July 1988.

This is English author Chris Blackwater’s  ( @chrisblackwater ) debut Novel. He’s a Chartered Engineer by trade who started writing to relieve boredom while working offshore platforms and shipyards in England all around the world. His short stories have appeared in various publications and anthologies. Nowadays Chris lives on the South Coast of England, where he spends his time kayaking and sailing on the Solent. 

So, if you are looking for a taut and fresh debut from a promising new thriller writer, Slip down to your local bookshop or drill down into the the worldwide web and order a copy online. Then batten down the hatches and prepare to be blown around by this thrilling debut.

Reviewed by Adrian Murphy

This book 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, come back and tell us what you thought. We’d really appreciate the feedback.

GREENAWAY’S DEBUT PROVIDES A MILDLY EXPLOSIVE READ FOR THE NEW YEAR

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Having lived in the Irish Republic for the past forty three years, the Troubles have been a part of my life indirectly for most of it. If I had lived closer to the border, things would’ve been different, but with it being a two hour drive from our front door, most of what went on up there in my lifetime was viewed through a television screen. To this day I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve crossed the border. In that time I have only visited Belfast, Newry and the Giants Causeway, Although having watched Derry Girls on Channel 4, I’d like to go to Derry and walk its walls, but it’s a bit of a hike, being on the very north western edge of the Province. This year’s first book review is set in Derry, just after the start of the Troubles, its The Bomb Man by Andy Greenaway and was self-published in September 2021 and available on amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/BOMB-MAN-wants-other-ideas/dp/B09HFSD93P/

In Northern Ireland in 1973, the Catholics and Protestants are at war. The IRA have unleashed a bloody bombing campaign, indiscriminately killing, civilians as well as policemen and soldiers. Bomb disposal expert Dave Thomson is sent to Derry by the British army.  His job is to dismantle the numerous devices planted across the city on a daily basis. One day, while on a job, he captures a young IRA bomb maker and forces him to dismantle his own bomb, when word gets back to the Republican High Command, they put a price on Thomson’s head. With a month left till his tour finishes, can Dave survive to make it safely home to his family.

One of the first things to strike me about this book and its story, was that I couldn’t at times get my head around the fact that I was reading about what people consider to be history. Even though at that time I was three, and I still feel as if it was only yesterday and some of the descriptions, such as Dave’s wife cooking him a fried breakfast each morning with lard, almost turned my stomach, although my mother probably did the same back then too. 

I did like this book, especially the feeling of viewing the whole thing in my minds eye with a sepia filter, which was brought about by Greenaways writing. Nothing is colourful, it always seems to be raining and  there is a gritty existence portrayed in the lives of the citizens and main characters in the book. The story is based on real events, in this case Greenaway’s dad was in the Army and served as an bomb disposal expert in Northern Ireland.

Overall It’s not as taut or on the edge of your seat as I was expecting, but it is a good read with an excellent depection of the twisted and fraught lives of those involved. Whether they be the warring factions, or their families, and the men and women of the police and armed forces, who are caught in the middle.

Andy Greenaway

Another nice thing about the book, is that it comes across as very educational. If you didn’t know much about the troubles or the background to it, Greenaway gives enough detail about the spark that led to it. As well as enough of an understanding of how the British army found themselves on a steep learning curve trying to deal with or fight a Guerrilla war. For example depicted excellently in the book, is the fact that quite a lot of the modern bomb disposal techniques and equipment used today, were developed for use in Northern Ireland. Things such as the bomb suit, the cumbersome body armour worn by bomb disposal experts, to provide protection if a bomb goes off while they attempting to defuse it. Along with radio jammers, to block remote detonation signals and RPV’s(Remotely Piloted vehicles).

If I had any reservations about this book, its that at times the way the attempts on Dave’s life are thwarted, seem a bit comical. They may have been a Guerilla outfit, but at the heart of it and as seen in other parts of the book, the IRA thugs are cold blooded killers. Who will drink with you one day, but mutilate you the next, without batting an eye lid, because they might suspect  you of being an informant. I was at the start expecting something similar to the 1947 film Odd Man Out starring James Mason, a real cat and mouse story, spread over the remainng days of his tour, but in the end you get a decent enough ‘will they/ won’t they tale, with a bit of drama at the end.  

This is English author Andy Greenaways first novel. Based on the stories his dad told of experiences as an Amunition Technician in Northern Ireland, Andy got his dad to write them down before he passed away. Andy was born to Military parents and thus his formative years were spent in various parts of the world depending on where his father was based. He now lives in Singapore.

So, if you are looking for an educational and interesting tale of danger and intrigue set amongst the early days of The Troubles in Nortrhern Ireland, then get on to amazon and order a copy of Greenaways book.

Reviewed by Adrian Murphy

This book review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour. To see what the other reviwers thought, visit their blogs listed below. Then, if you get a copy, comeback and tell us what youn thought. We’d really appreciate the feedback.