NICHOLAS HAS ME FALLING FOR THIS QUIRKY BUTTERFLY AND HER CUTE FERRET

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I’ve always wanted to go to Mallorca, but the thought of sharing a two hour flight with a group of boozed up twenty somethings, heading for Magaluf, is not my idea of starting or ending a memorable and relaxing holiday.  Mallorca is the largest of the three Balearic Islands, and the seventh largest island in the Mediterranean of 191, ahead of it are Euboea, Crete, Corsica, Cyprus, Sardinia, and Sicily. It’s a popular holiday destination, with its main airport in Palma being one the busiest in Spain, over 14 million passengers passed through it in 2021, with figures in excess of 27 million a year before the pandemic. As for famous residents past and present, even counting part timers, there are some big names. The Irish actor Colm Meaney, famous for playing Chief O’Brien on Star Trek Next generation, is a resident. So is Jeffrey Archer, the novelist, along with Rafa Nadal, the tennis player. While Cynthia Lennon, John Lennon’s first wife and Julian’s Mother, lived there until her death in 2015.  Death and crime are what brings us to this beautiful island for our first book review of 2023, the book is Fallen Butterfly by Anna Nicholas and published by Burro Books ( www.burrobooks.co.uk ) in December 2022.

Plans for a controversial new motorway, that will cut a swathe through the unspoilt Mallorca countryside, cause political tensions to run sky high. Then the transport minister is victim of a ritualistic murder, which sends shockwaves reverberating across the island. This causes the island’s police Chief, Tolo Cabot to seek the assistance of his lover and former Barcelona detective, Isabel Flores Montserrat. The two of them along with Isabel’s pet ferret,  ‘Furo’ are thrust into a perilous race for answers. All while Isabel is also looking into the mysterious near fatal accidents befalling tourists in the mountains surrounding her village, is this the work of environmentalist or is something more sinister afoot.

This is a lovely book to start the new year off on. I like my detectives to have a bit of quirkiness about them that makes them stand out from your bog standard, trench coat wearing gumshoe, and in Isabel Flores, Anna Nicholas goes full off the books quirky, but in a great way. No other detective I know has a ferret for a sidekick (I stand to be corrected). Cats, dogs, horses… But a cute little ferret, that chunters at just the right time, is a heart-warming addition, and he’s almost the reason you’d pick up the book. My wife and co-librarian, Georgina would love this book, she recently started watching the FBI International TV series, just because of the dog in it….

Isabel also drives a canary coloured, vintage, Fiat 500. Which she affectionately calls ‘Pequinito’ – “Little One”, Morse has his red jag, Magnum his Red Ferrari. But Nicholas again adds charm and likeability to this character with the very human touch of giving her most treasured possessions, cute names… But on top of that this girl is flawed, she sucks Chup Chup lollipops like they are going out of fashion (a nod to Telly Savalas and Kojak) and has a love of wine and cream sponges. If this was real life, and set in the UK, she’d be 300 pounds and two steps away from a coronary. But, no she’s, smart, athletic, and one of the more likeable central characters I’ve happened upon in a while.

Anna Nicholas (Charles Marlow)

As for the story, Anna Nicholas doesn’t shy away from the gritty, but marries the hard reality of crime investigation, with the everyday humour of rural village life. There’s a Bergerac feel about it, with a lot of English references and colloquialisms and at times having seen how successful, the likes of Murder in Paradise have been, I could see this taking off as a very good TV adaptation.

This is Mallorca resident and author Anna Nicholas’s ( www.anna-nicholas.com ) eleventh book, her third in the Isabel Flores Mallorcan Mystery series, the others are Haunted Magpie (2020) and Devil’s Horn (2019). She has written six books on her experiences of starting a new life with her family in Mallorca, and her desire to leave the non-stop London PR Life behind, to run a cattery in the sun. They include Peacocks in Paradise (2021), Goats From a Small Island (2009), Cat On A Hot Tiled Roof (2008) and A Lizard In My Luggage (2007). She also wrote Strictly Off The Record : On The Trail of World Records with Norris McWhirter (2010), recanting her experiences working for the Guinness Book of Records. She is currently along with her friend Alison attempting to climb all the island’s 54 peaks over 1000m, before the end of 2023… (wow, I though setting myself the challenge of Climbing Croagh Patrick and Cycling from the Atlantic to the Med, along the foothills of the Pyrenees, in 2023 was challenging.)

So, if you’re now tiring of the long cold winter months and want inspiration for planning the summer holidays. then I recommend you visit your local book shop or order a copy online, along with the other two, while you’re at it. Then join Isabel, Furo, and Pequinito in their hazardous and heart-warming adventures across the Balearic isles.

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.

THERE’S NOTHING SMALL ABOUT ANTILL’S DEBUT ON RUSSIAN HISTORY

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One word dominating social and political spheres these days is Russia. Mr Putin may have thought he was the hand rocking the cradle in the invasion of Ukraine, but eleven months later, the only thing looking unsteady is his tenacious grip on power. Soon the population will tire of his foot soldiers heavy handed treatment of them. With the development of the digital age and social media, it’s hard to keep the wool pulled over your citizens and eventually, they will revolt. The only question is, when, and when they do, we may see a fourth Russian revolution, although probably not. But more of a swift and quiet removal by a party who fears the wrath of the little people. All the great nations of the world have experienced revolution at some time or another and Russia is not different, according to my research, there have been at least three, maybe four in Russia. The first one is the setting for this month’s first book review, its Small Acts of Kindness – A Tale Of The First Russian Revolution by Jennifer Antill and published by Universe ( www.unicornpublishing.org ) in November.

St Petersburg, 1825. Imperial Russia still basks in the glory of victory over Napoleon, but in the army and elsewhere resentment is growing against serfdom and autocracy. Vasily, a pleasure loving, privileged young man, returns home from abroad expecting to embark on a glittering career. Having become entangled in an impossible love affair, he joins a conspiracy to overthrow the government. Threatened by exile to Siberia or death, he is forced to flee the Tsar’s vengeance. Vasily hopes to rebuild his life in a distant provincial town. But he cannot forget his lost love, and now finds himself pursued by a rival who aims to destroy him. Can he escape the past, mend his broken relationships and find a better way to change the world?

I’d like to say I really go into this book, but with the time scale one has for reviewing books, I struggled to make any real dent into this weighty presentation. The first thing to put me off was a three-page list of characters, at the beginning. I do like history but taken in small manageable chunks.

Another reason for my apparent lack of concentration around this book, despite its connection to current world events, is that it was competing with a lot of other external distractions. Such as the World Cup, preparations for my mother’s eightieth, and the general furore that surrounds the build up to Christmas. Maybe if I was in Russia, it might be easier to read at this time of the year, seeing as their Christmas takes place in January.

On a positive side, the book comes across as a version of Les Misérables but set in Russia. Which may pique the interest of Andrew Lloyd-Webber fans.

Jennifer Antill

This is English author Jennifer Antill’s ( http://www.jenniferantill.com ) first book. She studied Russian Language, Literature and Politics, at UCL SSEES, and has travelled widely in the country, often living with Russian families. She gives talks on Russian cultural topics to a wide variety of organisations. In a former life she worked in the City of London as an Investment Analyst and for eleven years served as a local councillor. Jennifer lives in Suffolk, with her husband and two sons.

If you are a lover of history and in particular Russian history, then this is right up your street or a perfect Christmas gift for someone who is. So, don’t delay order a copy online or get down to your local book shop, then wrap it up with a small bottle of vodka and get it in the post.

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 though, we’d really appreciate the feedback.

RIDLEY TALKS THE TALK AND WALKS THE WALK, WITH ANOTHER FAST AND GRITTY JAN MASON BOOK

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British Politics is going through something of a purple patch, or to put it more succinctly, a blue purple patch. Where it was once set out as the standard by which others should follow, now British politics is shedding credibility, thanks mainly to the Conservative led government. Who are on their third Prime Minister in a year!! Other parts of the British establishment, which have often been seen as standard bearers, are the Fourth Estate. They too are going through a massive upheaval, what with the arrival of digital and social media, and finally the law, more specifically the police. They too have been struggling to retain the trust of the population they protect, with several scandals involving serving police officers, in the past couple of months. But what hasn’t changed and is always welcome, is the arrival of a great murder mystery involving all three of the above. A crime story with both the police and media as the main characters is standard fare. But throw into the mix a whiff of politics and you have the potential for a great read, and that’s where we are with this month’s third book review. It’s, Don’t Talk by Ian Ridley and published by V-Books ( www.v-Books.co.uk ) on November 8th.

When investigative reporter Jan mason discovers that a young woman found murdered in Chelsea, is the daughter of a prominent politician, she knows she has a big story on her hands. What Jan doesn’t realise is that a mystery man has just told a stunned AA meeting nearby, that he might have killed someone in a drunken blackout. Even more convenient, is that in attendance was Jan’s old flame, Frank Philips. One of Met’s most senior Counter Terrorism officers and a recovering Alcoholic. Bound by a code of confidentiality, when another attendee at the meeting is subsequently murdered, frank is torn between his duty to the job and the oath all AA members swear by, which reminds members, ‘…When You Leave Here, Let It Stay Here’. Then, when an up-and-coming member of the Labour party is murdered, and Frank is attacked by an unknown assailant too. Jan decides to put her life on the line to help Frank and stay one step ahead of the police. Can she catch the killer and land the front page exclusive…

Wow, what a discovery. I’ve read some great crime stories in my time, but every now and then along comes a standout, true to life character like Jan Mason. A middle-aged woman, trying to keep her head and career above the waterline, while solving serious crime in the process. If Jessica Fletcher had been a journalist, she’d have been something like Jan. Another strong female lead that came to mind was Helen Mirren’s portrayal of DCI jane Tennison in the TV series Prime Suspect. Both characters, albeit working on different sides of the beat, are battling ageism and sexism in their respective fields.

They say there is a lack of strong leading roles for middle aged actresses, the same can be said for the literary characters too and this is where Ridley delivers, with a robust and sassy journalist who lives her life at one speed, very fast. I at times had to take break to catch my breath, when reading about this woman who is fuelled by coffee and can write 700 words on her laptop, while barrelling up the Motorway in the passenger seat of a Bentley. I’m writing this review before flying to Scotland tonight, while trying to juggle my day job, pack a bag, and mind the cats (not that they need that much, although the youngest Edison is a little bit needy)and I feel overwhelmed. Not our Jan.

All the characters in this book are solid as rocks and leave such an impression, you can almost smell the caffeine, sweat, tears and everyday angst which they are dealing with. The subjects dealt with in this book are also very real and may leave their mark on some readers. Especially those with or whose family or friends are dealing with alcoholism. One poignant thread in the story, follows how Jan juggles with her ill mother, who is slowly slipping away in a nursing home up in the north of England. This would be quite jarring for my wife and fellow librarian, Georgina. Whose own dad is receiving palliative care in a nursing home in Nottingham, while we are in Ireland. She, like Jan, can’t be there always, and emotionally it’s tough for both. Ridley’s portrayal of this and the AA scene is what helps to make this book and its characters even more believable.

Ian Ridley

This is English author and journalist Ian Ridley’s (@ianridley1) fifteenth book and his second in the Jan Mason Series, the first one was The Outer Circle (2018) but republished in 2022 as Outer Circle. His most recent book Breathe of Sadness; On Love, Grief and Cricket, is an account of how he coped with the death of his wife, sports journalist Vikki Orvice. He’s the author of 12 previous sports books, including No.1 bestseller Addicted (1998) with former English footballer Tony Adams. The follow up book Sober was published in 2017. In a career spanning over 40 years, Ian has written for The Guardian, Daily Telegraph and Mail on Sunday newspapers. He’s also written for TV, including several episodes of the Sky One drama Dream Team.

Being able to have readers hang on your every word, is the sign of a true master storyteller, and a seasoned sports journalist, who must recreate the frenetic pace of a sporting fixture in print, is someone ideally suited to writing crime fiction. This is proven by Ridley’s well-crafted and deftly written story, and I for one will set out to get a copy of Outer Circle, while also awaiting his next instalment in the Jan Mason series.

So, if you are looking for an edge of your seat, murder mystery series, with a strong and gritty leading lady. Then head down to your local bookshop or order a copy online and curl up with one of London’s leading hacks and buckle up for an engrossing read.

Reviewed by Adrian Murphy

This book 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.

MY CHUNKING PROWESS, STRUGGLES WITH ROBIN’S EXPANISIVE SPACE OPERA DEBUT

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How many Space Operas can you name? … In literary terms… err. In a film and TV context? Ditto.  Well after doing a bit of research (I googled or hollered at Alexa), I assumed that if something is described as an “Opera”, there’s going to be a lot singing, along with large-framed men and women in the cast (Jabba the Hutt is close). But I was quite surprised to see that most of the leading film and TV programmes, set in space, are listed as “Space Operas”.  So that’s, Star Wars, Star Trek, Alien, 2001 a Space Odyssey, which also puts it into the literary “Space Opera” genre. Along with anything fictional written by Isaac Asimov and Frederik Pohl, et al. BarnesandNoble.com has a list of fifty-five essential Space Operas you must read, from the last 70 years.

In Television, there’s Dr. Who, Firefly, Dark Matter, Blake 7, the list goes on. But again, there’s very little singing in any of them. They’re more commonly known for their musical scores, but no real operatic endeavours. So, when this month’s second book review landed on my doorstep with a thump, I was surprised to see it described as a “Space Opera”. The book is The Stars Undying by Emery Robin and published by Orbit Books ( www.orbitbooks.net ) on the 10th November.

The interstellar empire of Ceiao has turned its eye towards the independent planet of Szayet, and its leader Princess Altagracia. After a bloody civil war, her sister has claimed not just Szayet’s crown, but the Pearl of its prophecy, a supercomputer that contains the immortal soul of their god. Just as Altagracia prepares to flee the planet, the Ceiao commander Mattheus Ceirran arrives. Seeing an opportunity to win back all she has lost; Altagracia attempts win over Mattheus and his righthand woman Anita. But getting into the commander’s good graces and his bed, puts her at odds with her machine god who whispers in her ear. For her planet’s sake and her own, Altagracia will have to become more than a leader, but a queen no history has seen before.

I’m a sci fi fan and have been a Trekkie most of my life. But watching space operas, is easier than reading them and the last one I read was Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke, when it was presented to us as a book club choice a number of years ago. Yes, I loved it and devoured it, but again it was about two hundred and fifty pages long. I also read the literary versions of Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back when they were published ahead of the films. But again, they were around three hundred pages long. Emery’s book is five hundred and sixteen pages in length, not a novella by any stretch of the imagination and with time pressures of reading it for review, my most valiant efforts at chunking my way through it were no match for this.

The book is inspired by the roman and Egyptian empires and again some people could draw comparisons to another space opera, that features a princess taking on a large well-armed force, intent on wiping out all resistance. Although you don’t have to go to space to find examples of that. Emery herself describes it as a ‘spectacular queer space opera, recasting the fates of Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, and Mark Anthony’.

Emery Robin

This is American author Emery Robin’s ( www.emeryrobin.carrd.co )  debut novel. She describes herself as a recovering Californian, and sometime student of propaganda and art history. She lives in New York City, where her day job is working as a paralegal.

I didn’t, not enjoy this book. Its just it was quite in-depth in its description of the story, it was akin to the lord of the Rings, but in Space. This maybe something that regular space opera literary aficionados will love and hungrily await her next book, especially with a month of out of sync world cup soccer ahead of us. But for ad hoc sci-readers, not put off by its length. I suggest beam down to your local book shop and grab a copy, otherwise order one online or download a copy and wait for it to magical materialise on your eReader or doorstep.

Reviewed by Adrian Murphy

This review is part of a blog Tour organized by Compulsive Readers. To 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.

SCARROW’S CONTEMPORARIES ARE LEFT IN HIS WAKE WITH XXI EAGLES OF THE EMPIRE INSTALMENT

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I can remember a school visit to the Roman Fort at Vindolanda, which is part of Hadrian’s Wall near Hexham in the UK.  The southern part of the UK is riddled with evidence of the Roman occupation, but the wall reveals that sometimes even the great Roman Army had to call it a day. In more recent times the Druids are only thought of as the hippy like men and women who access Stonehenge at the summer solstice each year.  It was long thought that the ancient Druids built “The Henge”, but it has recently been attributed to earlier ancestors from the Neolithic age. Whilst I remember learning much about the Romans and their inventions and civilisation at school, in a kind of ‘what did the Roman’s ever do for us’ type of scenario, but without the humour. I feel that the Iceni, Druids and Celts were somewhat brushed over. Maybe its because they left less great edifices and art in their wake, plus their lifestyle, social behaviour and histories were lost in time. I do recall hearing about  Boudica or Boadicea, the warrior queen. However, her story was almost lost to us too. Only being unearthed by a cleric during the renaissance, when the idea of a warrior queen was useful in the promotion of Queen Elizabeth I and which received renewed interest during the reign of another female monarch, Queen Victoria. Boudica’s story and that of the Roman invasion of Britain, has led to many books, films and TV series, most recently Britannia a series from Sky TV which mixed history with fantasy, tapping into the enthusiasm created by Game of Thrones. 

This brings us to this month’s first book review, its Death to the Emperor by Simon Scarrow and published Headline Publishing Group ( http://www.headline.co.uk ) on the 10th November.

This is the 21st book in the Eagles of the Empire series. This epic series covers the period from AD 42 to AD 60 and ranges from Britannia to the Eastern parts of the Roman Empire to the Mediterranean before returning to Britannia once more. Simon Scarrow has obviously done a huge amount of research into the period and the plots are historically correct and the descriptions of life, military campaigns, weaponry, and people technically accurate. He has fleshed out the bare narrative of history with real characters and real emotion. 

The reader finds themselves in Britannia in AD60, The Roman Empire’s hold on the province is fragile. Even amongst the tribes who are sworn loyalty, dissent simmers. In distant Rome. Nero is blind to danger.  Prefect Cato is in command of a vast army gathered by the Roman governor, who plans to quell trouble and hostilities in the West. He’d prefer to have his loyal comrade, Centurion Macro by his side but Macro is left in charge of a skeleton force of veteran reservists. With Boudica’s husband, the King of the Iceni dead, his widow is in charge of her people. Will their slow burning anger at their mistreatment by the Romans burst into rebellion? Cato and Macro face deadly battles against enemies who would rather die than succumb to Roman rule and the future of Britannia hangs in the balance. 

I hadn’t read the previous books in this series but I’m happy to report that this book reads well as a a standalone novel. As previously mentioned the key to the success of this story is the fine historical detail. The plot could be transferred to more modern times and still work.  A group of underdogs in an unequal battle for their freedom, corruption, a cast of lead roles who are trying to do the right thing within a massive, unforgiving organisation. But as with other great author’s of historical fiction, such as Hilary Mantell, Bernard Cornwell and Philippa Gregory, it is the attention to historical detail that makes all the difference. When you truly believe that you can see the landscape, smell the smells and feel the weight of the sword,  the author has cracked it. 

Simon Scarrow (amazon.in)

This is English author Simon Scarrow’s ( http://www.simonscarrow.co.uk ) thirty fifth book, although he has written another three with T.J. Andrews and one with Lee Francis. The majority are historical fiction set in the Roman era, as well as a series set in the Wellington and Napoleonic era. Most of them have featured in the top of the Sunday Times bestseller lists. On leaving school he followed his love of history by becoming a teacher, before taking up writing full time. His Roman era Eagles of the Empire series sold over 4 million copies of the books in the UK alone and his work has been translated into 24 languages. He lives in Norfolk.

This book does contain a lot of detail on military kit, how the army was made up, and the methods used in battle. Some may feel it is more of a man’s read because of the battle scene descriptions but I have enjoyed the depictions, felt the tension and learned a few interesting facts about the way the Roman’s fought. It may however be a great introduction to fiction for that man in your life who usually enjoys biographies and non-fiction. 

I would recommend storming your local bookshop to secure your copy as soon as possible. 

Reviewed by Georgina Murphy

This book review is part of a blog tour organised by Ransom PR. To see what the other reviewers thought of the book, visit their blogs listed below. Then if you get a copy, comeback and tell us what you thought. We’d really appreciate the feedback.

GRUMBRIDGE AND RAISON COUCH SURF INTO THE CHRISTMAS GIFT LIST, WITH THEIR HILARIOUS SHIRKERS GUIDE

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When we were all young, or maybe even more recently than that, either your parent or even your boss, may have said in a fit of frustration, something like “Are you going to lie there all day???”; or a similar put down in response to a perceived lack of motivation on your part. Then, in 2019 everything changed. The whole world had to take a proverbial chunk of downtime thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, and as a result people’s view on the rat race and where they were in it, also changed. Instead of running to catch a bus or train and working all the hours in the day to meet a deadline or please the boss, we all reassessed. Many, like me, didn’t return to the office, we enjoyed the new relaxed routine of working from home, and some of us took it all the way to the point of retiring. Some followed their dreams and took on jobs, that gave them more pleasure than financial reward. This month’s second book review is a handy self-help guide for those of you who haven’t quite got the hang of doing nothing and getting on in life. Its “Shirk, Rest and Play – The Ultimate Slackers Bible” by Andrew Grumbridge and Vincent Raison and published Unbound ( www.unbound.com ) in September.

Shirk, Rest and Play, is a comprehensive illustrated handbook for wannabe dropouts, dreamers, drifters and gadabouts. The authors along with their menagerie of wastrel acquaintances, set out to offer the reader the answer to finding the beauty in the ordinary, along with lessons in tactical slacking and detailed advice on how to achieve more by doing less.

That’s it in a nutshell, my work here is done…

No, seriously, the best way to describe this book is, if you are old enough to remember the BBC tv program The Young Ones, then this is the modern version of it. The likes of Vyvyan, Neill , Rick and Mike. Being replaced by “The Dulwich Raider” (Andrew Grumbridge), “Spider”, “Roxy” and “Dirty South” (Vincent Raison), whom like their predecessors will guide you on the best way to follow the path of least resistance and the one less travelled, from birth to death, preferably with a sleeping bag or from the couch.

The Young Ones (British Comedy Guide)

This isn’t a cover to cover read. But like most self-help books, it’s a swimming pool, there to be dipped into. I found it hilarious and a fantastic way to imagine, what life would be like if you could just say ‘Fuck it’ and do nothing. It’s also great to step away from the stresses of everyday life and have a good laugh. Especially with the shortening of the days and the onset of SAD.

The book is a great release and spirit raiser, some of the suggestions inside may even be useful. Above all its an enjoyable read from the publishing house that allows books that are a little outside the box, and that other more mainstream publishers would shy away from, to see the light of day thanks to crowd funding.

Vincent Raison and Andrew Grumbridge

This is English authors Andrew Grumbridge and Vincent Raison’s second book, their first was Today South London, Tomorrow South London (2018). The al-travel book came about because of the success of a lifestyle blog called The Deserter which the authors founded in 2014 ( www.deserter.co.uk ), to pass on their learnings so that future generations could avoid the evils of hard work, ambition and sobriety. They have also gone onto create a deserter podcast too. In the spare time they are a musician and poet, who both live in South London.

With the “C” word just around the corner, and the advertising assault set to be ramped up from Tuesday, this delightful book is an excellent idea for the office or family Chris kindle. An ideal gift for that person, who you have absolutely no idea what to buy. If they don’t get a chuckle out of this, then they are a lost cause.

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 or someone gives you one for an upcoming birthday or Crimbo present. Comeback and tell us what you thought, we’d really appreciate the feedback.

MORRISSEY’S SECOND BOOK, SETS ITS SIGHTS ON REACHER, BOURNE, ETAL

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My better half, Adrian, is a big fan of the Jack Reacher novels and introduced me to them with a signed copy of the first book of the long series when we first met. Whilst we enjoyed the Tom Cruise movies of the novels, Cruise was not what we had in mind when reading descriptions of the hero. The recent series on Prime featured a much more believable lead in the form of the supersized Alan Ritchson and is soon to return in a second season.

This month’s  first  book review, The Atenisti by Aidan K Morrissey and published by The Conrad Press ( http://www.theconradpress.com ) in August, reminded me in style and content of those Jack Reacher stories, in that the lead is a multiskilled and dangerous man, who moves from place to place with few attachments. Travelling under numerous aliases,. Ricci, a member of a secret organisation, finishes a mission in London. Apparently followed, he escapes to Italy. Seeking to avenge the kidnap, rape and murder of a young girl, he is plunged into battle against a worldwide paedophile ring of extraordinary extent and power. This battle leads Ricci from Italy, Through Germany, to India and beyond. Can he take on the might of this criminal network which seems determined to eliminate him?

Whilst Reacher would inadvertently stumble upon a crime wherever he happened to be, giving you the feeling several novels into the series that you should always be somewhere else, rather like seeing Bruce Willis in a white vest at any location, here the main character is sent on missions to eliminate wrongdoers rather than bringing them to justice. He has been trained as an assassin. This form of sentence without trial may not sit easy with readers, so the crimes are so horrendous that the reader feels there is justification. This results in stomach churning descriptions and veiled references to worse.

Aidan K. Morrissey

This is English author Aidan K. Morrissey’s ( http://www.aidankmorrissey-author.com } second book, his first was The Awakening Aten ( 2019). Prior to becoming a full time author he was a lawyer, and lived and worked all over the world, his time in Italy, Germany and India, all of which feature in this book, has given him a deep insight into their culture and everyday way of life. Morrissey was inspired to write ‘The Atenisti’ after
reading daily newspaper accounts of horrific attacks on young Indian women and children. An enthusiastic amateur Egyptologist, avid reader and writer, Aidan now lives in Northumberland.

This book was a exciting page turner and will appeal to thriller readers and spy novel fans alike. The author is well travelled and this is shown in the descriptions of both journeys and locations. My only niggle was the rather heavy-handed avoidance of product placement at the start of the book, for example’ my locally manufactured touring motorbike, named after an American west – coast State’.

The  cast of characters and the ending hint at future adventures for Ricci and I would be keen to read more. I also anticipate a Netflix or Prime series as the content, violence and stunning scenery would appeal to adult viewers.

Overall, a recommendation from this reader, but not for the faint-hearted.

Reviewed by: Georgina Murphy

This review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour, to see what the other reviewers 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.

FIELD CROSSES THE LINE IN THIS DARK AND EDGY MANCUNIAN CRIME DRAMA

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I lived in the Manchester area in the 1990s, during the peak of the Oasis years, when everyone was ‘mad for it’ and the city was the coolest place to be. It was never a city centre I felt comfortable in. I was mainly passing through it from one transport hub to another, but it seemed edgy and dangerous for all its rebuilding and rebranding, so I tended to go out in the smaller cities and towns of Wigan or Stockport. 

This month’s first book review is Andrew Field’s, All Down the Line – published in December 2020 by Boomslang ( http://www.boomslangbooks.org ) , which is set in modern Manchester. Like the city itself it hums with tension, and we find a place run by crime gangs, hiding behind the glamour of bars, restaurants, and movies. 

We meet Cain Bell, who thought he had closure over his daughter’s hit and run death after a man confessed. Twenty years later and his new fiancée has just claimed the man was lying. Before she can say anymore, a savage attack leaves her in a coma. To make sense of the assault, Cain must discover why four friends swore blind to never reveal the tragic truth about the circumstances surrounding the killing of his daughter. He can only succeed if he persuades Manchester’s most terrifying gangster to talk. Can must convince him to tell all, even if it puts his own life on the line.

This book is dark. Certainly, I would class as Crime Noir. Edgier than your average crime thriller. More gruesome and gut wrenching too. Cain is an interesting main character. Struggling with grief and guilt, he talks to an apparition of his daughter on a regular basis, as he sees her near him, judging him . Whilst I felt that as a previous journalist he hadn’t used many investigative skills towards looking at  the people nearest and dearest him and came over as unrealistically naive maybe, the book has you rooting for him to win and survive, as everyone else is pretty grim. The support cast could in some cases be the stuff of nightmares. The connections, twists and turns in the plot keep you guessing and the ending is satisfying enough too.

Andrew Field (Amazon)

This is English author Andrew Field’s (@andrewfield208) fourth book. the others were Wicked Games (2014), Mind Games (2017) and Without Rules (2018). Before becoming a writer Andrew worked in PR and Marketing, he was most notably responsible for the Boddingtons Bitter account, during its “Cream of Manchester” heyday. He now lives in Northumberland.

Those who love stories where gangsters and crime lords are the heroes such as Peaky Blinders and Love Hate will enjoy this read.  For those familiar with Manchester, it will hold an attractions too. But mainly for those who like their stories, dark , dirty and violent, this will definitely hit the spot. 

Reviewed by Georgina Murphy

A FIRST CLASS DELIVERY FOR ENGLISH’S LETTER HOME

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It’s been a tough week for me, an old friend departed these shores for good, when he and his family decided to emigrate to the North-western United States.  Over two hundred years ago there’d have been a “living wake” at docks, before they boarded a ship, safe in the knowledge we’d never see each other again. Times have changed, emigrants to the US from Ireland don’t have to endure a four-week passage in a “Coffin Ship” but hop across the pond in a journey that can take hours. I don’t know when I’ll see him again, but unlike our predecessors, it will be sometime in the future; he’ll return for a holiday, or I’ll head across to see him. It was quite ironic that while this was happening, I was reading this month’s book review which is all about emigration, lost families and researching your past. The book is The Letter Home by Rachael English and is published by Headline ( http://www.headline.co.uk ) on the 21st July 2022.

When journalist Jessie Daly loses everything she holds dear, she heads home to the West of Ireland, and helps a friend researching life during the famine. She soon unearths the heart-breaking story of a brave young mother, Bridget Moloney and her daughter, Norah. Meanwhile in Boston, Kaitlin Wilson is researching her family tree, in doing so she discovers the fascinating story of a young mother on the West Coast of Ireland who made a difficult decision, to either watch her young daughter perish or set out to make a new life in the new world. All revealed through a letter home.  

From the opening page, this book is a thoroughly enjoyable and at times emotional read. I was spellbound by Bridget’s story and both Jessie and Kaitlin’s journey of discovery from either side of the Atlantic to its amazing conclusion.  What English brings to the table is a story of emigration stretching from the famine era right through the troubled eighties, and even includes the spectre of modern emigration and slavery. Her research opened my eyes to misconception that America or Bostonians welcomed the Irish with open arms.

As well as that she has imbued within the story the modern fascination of genealogy, something we’ve dipped our toes into in this household, and like most people found fascinating with the success of programmes like Who Do You Think You Are.

But overall, this 500-page work from an icon of Irish current affairs radio, is a standout read of the summer, which will be, if not already, a staple of book groups over the coming months. Don’t get put off by the page length, it’s needed for English to weave a thoroughly engrossing and heartfelt story, which as it says on the cover, is inspired by real events. Two million people emigrated from Ireland to America as a result of the famine between 1845-1851, so there’s a lot of material to choose from. In an author’s note at the back of the book Rachael outline’s where she did her research and provides information for anyone willing to follow in Jessie and Kaitlin’s footsteps.

Rachael English (Irish Times)

This is Irish author and RTE Journalist Rachael English’s (@Englishrachael ) sixth book, the others are, Going Back (2013), Each and Everyone (2014), The American Girl (2017), The Night of The Party (2018), The Paper Bracelet (2020). She is one of the main presenters on Ireland’s most popular radio programme “Morning Ireland”, during more than twenty years as a journalist, she has worked on most of Ireland’s national broadcaster, RTE’s current affairs programmes.

As I was waking up this morning and thinking of what to say in this piece, Rachael’s dulcet tones came over my alarm clock radio, as they do on a regular basis. Also, my research revealed she was born in Lincolnshire in the UK, where I was married, and my mother-in-law resides. I also worked with her husband, when he was a manager for his family’s chain of Irish retail stores.

So, if you’re stuck for a book club choice, join me in putting it on the list, then write a note to your local book shop to reserve a number of copies, download them, or order online, and settle in for a lovely story of courage and discovery from the pen of one of Ireland’s leading broadcasters.

Reviewed by Adrian Murphy

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

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.