ADENLE PULLS A RABBIT OUT THE HAT IN THIS STYLISH THRILLER.

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The Beautiful Side of the Moon CoverI think part of my development stopped somewhere at teenager. My husband is no longer surprised when I announce that the latest dinosaur movie, combined with a trip to an American style burger bar is my ideal birthday treat. He merely rolls his eyes when I’m enraptured by an episode of Dr Who which has dinosaurs on a spaceship. He defies attempts to introduce him to the Discworld fantasies of Terry Pratchett, where magic is real and Death speaks in capitals and rides a white horse called Binky… I was well past the target audience for Harry Potter but like many adults, I read and loved the books anyway.

Somewhat at odds with this, is a lifelong disinterest in magicians and stage show magic acts. Maybe I don’t like the knowledge its all a trick and I’m being conned or misdirected in some way. I can admire their skill and theatricality, but I think I just would prefer there to be a little bit of real magic in the world. This leads me to this month’s first book review its The Beautiful Side of the Moon by Leye Adenle and published by Hoatzin Books (www.hardingbookpublishingcompany.com)  on the 21st February.    .

Oseratin, the central character, is living a modest life as an IT guy in Lagos. One day he receives a mysterious letter informing him that he is the son of a famous magician and that a friend of his late father plans to instruct him in said magic. He thinks it is a joke but then a number of strange events start to happen. He meets the beautiful Adesua and can’t believe his luck that she seems to find him attractive. Adesua introduces to him to her Brother Moses, his father’s friend. Shortly afterwards there is a strange storm which effects the Earths electrical equipment. Soon Oseratin, is in a race against time to save the earth and the women he loves from powerful magicians, intent on dominating the human race.

Mixing magic, aliens, extra sensory perception, time travel and space travel this story is an out of this world experience. The cover blurb says the author has used age old African story telling traditions combined with science fiction and contemporary thriller writing.  I’m not familiar with African story telling but I guess there are worldwide similarities in what attract readers to a story. Elements such as mystery, some romance, a dilemma, a fight, an underdog who finds they have special powers and becomes hero, are to name but a few. All have been used to good effect by many authors and directors.

This novel, despite being a mish mash of genres still felt fresh and exciting. Sometimes, I felt  Adenle was giving a nod to other contemporary science fiction fantasy such as the Men in Black arriving to detain Oseratin , the notification of the main character’s secret lineage and potential via letter, the reliving of events to correct mistakes. These didn’t feel cliched but somehow anchored the reader to the story.

Leye-Adenle

Leye Adenle (Daily Trust)

The plot was fast paced and occasionally momentarily confusing to me. I got a bit lost on the moon for example! Oseratin himself, questions events and statements in the book, to provide explanations and to make the reader consider the philosophical conundrums offered here. Who is Oseratin? Is he a part of a greater plan? Who is moving the pieces in this game?

This is the third novel by Nigerian writer Leye Adenle. His other books are Easy Motion Tourist (2016) and When Trouble Sleeps (2018). His short stories have been included in a number of anthologies including Lagos Noir and Sunshine Noir. He lives and works in London and comes from a long line of African writers and storytellers, the most famous being his great grandfather Oba Adeleye Adenle I , who was King of a south western region of Nigeria.

This is a great book for those who have enjoyed fiction such as Dr Who, The Matrix , Westworld and Inception. I read it over a couple of days. I felt initially that reading it more slowly would make it confusing, However, I will be giving it a second reading as I think it’s a book you can get a better understanding of with each re reading. Maybe I have matured after all?  LOL

Reviewed by Georgina Murphy

 

This book is part of a Random Things Blog Tour. If you wanted to see what the other reviewers thought, stop by their blogs listed below and if you get a copy yourself, comeback and tell us what you thought. We all love feedback.

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WINSPEAR AND DOBBS CONTINUE TO BLITZ THE HISTORICAL THRILLER GENRE

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american agent proof coverIt is often said “That fools rush in where angels fear to tread..”(Alexander Pope) and considering the day that’s in it, it seems quite apt. But in the thriller  or crime genres, the hero or heroine needs to be a little fool hardy and to take risks, in order to solve the mystery or save the day. Foolhardiness also played a big part in real life times of crisis, such as during the two world wars with numerous accounts of heroic acts which in normal day to day life any self respecting angel would have balked at the notion.

The era of World War Two has spawned many novels, films and artistic works. Some are true stories, some are ‘faction’ and some are romanticized versions of events. The War provides a colourful backdrop to any story or romance or intrigue. It is still within living memory but our ‘memories’ are coloured by the righteousness of victory and a belief that those of us on the winning side all pulled together in a noble way. However, wartime is also a period when crime rates soar. No more so than in Jacqueline Winspear numerous novels. This months first book review is her latest novel,  The American Agent published by Allison & Busby (www.allisonandbusby.com) on the 26th March

When a young american woman is found dead in her London flat. The brutal murder of the journalist is concealed by the British Authorities, initially keen to avoid a problem with the US but also because the victim Catherine Saxon has political connections. She has been working towards becoming a member of Murrow’s boys, a group of American reporters who are based in London and writing human interest stories with the aim of encouraging US sympathies towards supporting the Allies. Maisie Dobbs is asked to work in conjunction with an American Agent, Mark Scott to solve the crime. Dobbs and Scott have met before, he helped her escape the clutches of the third Reich in  Munich a couple of years previously. Can Maisie and her American friend get to the bottom of this murder while the Luftwaffe rain ordinance down on top of the British capital, threatening not just their investigation but the lives of those they love?

The American Agent is set during the time we now know as the Blitz, a period of intense bombing of British cities, which occurred during months from the autumn of 1940 to the beginning of summer in 1941. This was a truly evocative time in British people’s psyche. Those of us who were brought up in Britain, would have an ingrained understanding of what London during the Blitz was like, even though we have never personally experienced it. This was also a period when the British were working hard diplomatically to induce America to join the War. This propaganda offensive is also a feature of Winspear’s story, providing a side story to the murder mystery at its centre.

Jacqueline-Winspear #1

Jacqueline Winspear

This isn’t Winspear’s first novel featuring Maisie Dobbs, a psychologist and investigator but it is the first I have had the pleasure to read. A situation soon to be corrected! Maisie has had an interesting life to date. She was a maid in an Aristocratic house at thirteen, where she received the patronage and support of both her suffragette employer and of Maurice Blanche an investigator. Inspired, she gains entry to Girton College, only to have her studies cut short by the start of the Great War, during which she works as a nurse on the Front. She subsequently becomes an investigator in her own right and as we join her here, has experienced love and loss and is currently in the process of trying to adopt a refugee child. A widow to a titled gentleman, she doesn’t routinely use her title but one can imagine it makes some things possible for a woman in 1940 that wouldn’t be otherwise.

English born American author Jaqueline Winspear has to date written 15 books, fourteen have featured her heroine Maisie Dobbs. The others include Maisie Dobbs (2003), Birds Of A Feather (2004), An Incomplete Revenge (2008), The Mapping Of Love And Death (2010), A Dangerous Place (2015) and In This Grave Hour (2017). The only book not featuring the enigmatic Ms Dobbs is The Care And Management Of Lies (2014). Born in Kent, Winspear emigrated to the United States in 1990 . It is her grandfather’s experiences and injuries at the battle of the Somme which inspired her to write historical fiction based in war time.

In The American Agent, Maisie has a pool of suspects, a wealth of motives and a victim

with a mysterious past. She also has her doubts about Mark Scott’s involvement. Is the investigation a blind for something else? Is he involved? She is drawn to him romantically, but does he feel the same way? Maisie is trying to juggle her work as an investigator with working as ambulance crew during the blitzes and maintaining a relationship with her refugee child, who is in the countryside under the care of her parents.

This was very much Sunday night TV in terms of style. And I say that with utmost respect. It reminded me of  Foyle’s War, Call the Midwife or Heartbeat . One of those well-made, characterful dramas, that when you see it in the listings, you know you are in for an enjoyable time. A lover of Agatha Christie since my childhood, this was very much up my street.  The characters are well drawn, the setting is absolutely spot on and the denouement satisfying in its intricacy.  There was none of the gore and shock factors of modern crime thrillers. This read was very authentic. If someone told me it was written in the immediate post war period, I wouldn’t be surprised as it had a similar style to some vintage crime stories I’ve enjoyed. However Maisie is an inspiring very modern heroine. This should be an extra bonus in advertising this new novel and the other Maisie Dobbs novels on both sides of the Atlantic, in the current pro women in lead roles climate.

I for one, can’t wait to join the Maisie Dobbs revolution and catch up with the rest of the series! Neither should you, so hop on your bike to your local bookshop or download a copy and get behind a worthy new heroine.

Reviewed by Georgina Murphy

This book is part of a Random Things Blog tour, to see what the other reviewers think go visit their blogs listed below. Then if you pick up a copy of The American Agent, comeback to this or the other blogs and tell us whether you agree or disagree.

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TUDOR CONTINUES TAKING THE WORLD BY THORNE WITH HER SECOND BOOK

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Annie Thorne CvrI’m of the opinion that the smaller the community, the larger the secrets. Look at Emmerdale , but seriously, if something mysterious or seedy happens in a small village or town, it becomes public knowledge very quickly. Okay, so it’s not normally shouted out by the town crier but usually talked about in hushed tones behind closed doors, in pubs and over coffees while accompanied by a furtive glance over one’s shoulder. Why the furtive glance I’ll never know, because you know damn well everyone else knows, but just won’t admit it. In a large town or city, secrets large and small get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the rat race and also hundreds of other, larger, more heinous goings on. That’s why murder mysteries and horror stories work so well in rural settings or small communities. This month’s book review is no exception. Its set in an old mining village in rural Nottinghamshire in the East Midlands of England. The book is ,’The Taking Of Annie Thorne‘ by C.J. Tudor and is published by Penguin (www.penguin.co.uk) on the 21st February 2019.

Joe Thorne is a teacher with a few unpaid gambling debts hanging over his head, which have left their mark thanks to the handywork of a rather cold but attractive female enforcer called Gloria. He returns to his home town of Arnhill to take up a post in his old alma mater, where a couple of months previously another member of the teaching staff Julia Morton brutally murdered her son Ben and took her own life, after leaving the words “Not My Son” scrawled in blood over the child’s bed.

Joe rents Julia’s cottage where the murder took place, but on his first day on job he has a run in the with the school bully, Jeremy Hurst. Joe knows the Hursts, he went to school with the bully’s dad Stephen, who was also a bully and is still a bully with power on the local council. But Joe isn’t here to reconnect with his childhood friends.  No, he’s here because Ben Morton went missing a short while before he was bludgeoned to death by his mother and when he returned a day or so later everyone said his personality had changed.  Ben isn’t the first child to go missing, Joe’s younger sister Annie went missing for forty eight hours twenty years ago and when she returned she wasn’t the same either. What do the Hursts, both father and son, their terminally ill wife and mother Marie, have to do with the missing children and the disused mine that overshadows the village. Can Joe get to the bottom of things while clearing his debts and turning his life around?

When I picked up this book I got the feeling it was going to be dark and that was just from the cover. But what I expected and what I got where two totally different things. I envisaged a murder mystery, or even the hunt for a kidnapped girl told through the eyes of a private eye or police detective. What lay beyond the covers was an in your face horror mystery. Something straight out of the James Herbert or Stephen king guide on how to write a perfectly well plotted and edge of your seat read.

CJTudor

C.J.Tudor

This is what one encounters from the opening pages. with the discovery of the Morton’s in their blood splattered cottage and then enter our hero, or in this case an originally drawn and depicted antihero, who smokes and drinks his way to the conclusion and  who is made even more memorable  by the addition of a limp and walking stick. Then throw in a thick repertoire of dark humour and at times I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry with fear.

This book is engrossing and while reading it in a silent house on Sunday night, I was conscious of every other noise in the house and frequently went to the bathroom to check for an infestation of beetles, which regularly appear, chittering their way through the book. So if you have a fear of creepy-crawlies then reading this in the dark will not be good for you.

This English Author C.J. Tudor’s second book. Her first, ‘The Chalkman‘ was published in 2018 and her next book is  due out in 2020 and is titled, ‘Other People‘. I haven’t read Tudor’s previous book, but a friend I spoke to last weekend had and raved about it. So, I will try to get to it over the next couple of months. Tudor was born in Salisbury, she grew up in Nottingham where she still lives.

By the time I’d finished this book, I had a hankering for Rigoletto, there were so many twists in this pacey and chilling plot, which again can only add to the success of this book and show what an amazing talent this new entrant into this genre is. So pop down to your local bookshop or download a copy and go and stalk the small winding streets of Arnhill to discover the truth behind the Taking of Annie Thorne.

 

This book is part of a blog tour to see what the other reviewers thought, visit there sites listed below and if you get a copy of the book, comeback after you’ve read it and let us know if you agree.

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PASTOR’S SPANISH MYSTERY IS ON SONG MOST OF THE TIME.

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The Horseman's Song CoverEvery year particularly around the D-Day anniversary in June and Armistice in November, hundreds of friends and relatives and remaining few survivors make the pilgrimage to the world war battle field sites scattered across northern France and Belgium. I know friends who have done it, but it’s something I’ve never done and would like to do, especially the to the Civil War battle sites in America.  One thing you never hear about though, is people going to visit the Spanish Civil War battle sites ( apart from probably the Spanish of course).  Although a quick google does bring up guided tours of their sites. It’s strange I haven’t heard more about the Spanish Civil War, especially in Ireland, considering the couple of thousand Irish men who went over to fight on both sides of the war. This month’s second book review and blog tour is set during the Spanish Civil War, it’s  The Horseman’s Song by Ben Pastor and published by Bitter Lemon Press (www.bitterlemonpress.com) on the 14th February.

Spain 1937, in the midst of the bloody Spanish Civil we find German  Officer and Detective, Martin Von Bora assigned to the Sierras of Aragon in South Western Spain. Where he’s fighting with the Spanish Foreign Legion. There he discovers the body of Federico Garcia Lorca , the brilliant Spanish poet and playwright, as he begins what will be a perilous investigation into the murder, he discovers Walton his opposite number in  the International Brigades is also looking into Lorca’s death, as he was a friend of the victim. Soon Bora and Walton join forces and their joint investigation culminates in a thrilling chase after writers  killer.

This is the sixth novel in Ben Pastor’s historical detective series featuring Martin Von Bora but my first occasion to make his acquaintance.  Researching the other novels prior to writing this I was surprised to find that this is a prequel, being set during the Spanish Civil War. Reading the book, I was intrigued to wonder how Pastor would continue the series, with Von Bora, A Wehrmacht Officer, as a sympathetic lead character as he progressed into the era of World War Two. I anticipated waiting for the next novel to be released but it seems I just need to return to the first and read on from there.

I found this an engrossing read. It is certainly a slow burn. Pastor is known for her accurate wartime settings and this is the case here. However, she doesn’t give us an overall history lesson. She focuses attention on one death and on the lives of two groups of antagonists. The opposing forces occupying two elevated positions above the sierra. They spend their time surviving the heat, deprivation and boredom while they await news of the next offensive. Von Bora himself , has just taken command of the nationalist post after the previous lieutenant was shot. He is a German officer, taking orders from the Nationalist army but carrying out his own intelligence gathering for his German superiors. His counterpart on the Internationalist post is Phillip (Felipe) Walton, who is an American volunteer. Felipe has survived world war one but was unable to settle back into civilian life and left his life and marriage to fight in the Spanish civil war, bringing his secrets and fears along.

Two things emerge to unite Walton’s and Von Bora’s interest and energies. The body of  Frederico Garcia Lorca, a famous poet  discovered in the valley between the two camps. This is one point when Pastor strays from fact. No one is sure what happened to Lorca. The history books tell us he was shot by Franco’s troops at the beginning of the Civil War but no one knows where his body is buried. Pastor has created her own fictional account of his death within these pages, cleverly referring to false rumours of his earlier demise.

When Von Bora comes across the body and is immediately interested in how the unknown man died. He reports on the body to his Colonel, who recognises the identity of the victim from Von Bora’s description and tries to keep it a secret, but when they go to fetch the body it is gone, removed by the Internationalists.  Both sides immediately blame the other and a long game of cat and mouse ensues with the body being moved and reinterred and each man making his own investigation. For some it is a matter of personal sorrow, for others propaganda and for Von Bora a puzzle to be solved.

Ben Pastor

Ben Pastor (Clinque Colonne Magazine)

The second character is a Bruja or witch who lives alone at the top of a neighbouring craggy peak. Both Walton and Von Bora visit her. She enchants them with her free spirit and mystical approach and with her lovemaking skills. The character seems surreal and you are left wondering if she is a figment of their imaginations. There is a great deal of philosophical discussion in the book. I like things a bit more literal and less deep I’m afraid, but I wondered if she was meant to be a metaphor?

Ben Pastor (www.benpastor.com) is the pseudonym of Italian born American author Maria Verbena Volpi. After studying Archaeology in Rome, she moved to the United States to teach in the the Mid-West and Vermont. Her previous five Martin Bora Novels include: Lumen (1999); Liar Moon (2001); A Dark Song Of Blood (2002); Master of One Hundred Bones (2011). She’s also written a detective series centered around a Roman soldier  in the fourth century  and two books featuring a pair of detectives in Prague on the eve of world war one. She has written fourteen books to date, but this is the first time The Horseman’s Song has been published the UK. It was originally published in 2003.

The cover blurb talks about a thrilling chase to catch the killer. I didn’t find that in the story. What I did feel was a slow build of tension and heat. Like a kettle building to the boil.  There was a lot of time when nothing really happened, but I still felt the tension increasing. I was looking forward to a great reveal and grand finale but despite the clever denouement and not seeing the answer in advance, I did feel a little disappointed after all my hard work reading this rather chunky tome. However, overall the reading experience was satisfying because of the excellent writing.

So if you love Historical fiction, then get down to your local bookshop or download a copy and get into the Martin Von Bora series. Not forgetting any of Pastors other historical mysteries.

 

Reviewed By Georgina Murphy

 

This book was reviewed as part of a Random Things Blog Tour, to see what the other reviewers thought, visit their blogs listed below. Then if you read this book, come back and leave a message telling us what you thought.

 

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SIMMONDS GOES ALL FEATURES GREAT AND SMALL IN THE VALLEYS

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Jakes Progress CoverAs of 2018 there were 71 countries on the Global Peace Index, generated annually by the Institute for Economics & Peace, who are seen as being peaceful. The United Kingdom ranks near the lower end of that number, being seen as moderately peaceful, Wales would be higher up the 71 if it weren’t lumped in with England.

The Welsh aren’t really known for being a very aggressive race. Who could have any really beef with a people who really just sing very well, eat leeks like they are going out of fashion and whose main export after coal has been great actors, singers and a footballer?  There have been calls for independence from England in the past. This political ideology has mainly been proffered by the small Welsh Nationalist parties, Plaid Cymru and Yes Cymru. This month’s first book review and blog tour follows a young English journalist as he takes his first steps into a career in journalism in a small Welsh newspaper. The book is Jake’s Progress by David Simmonds published by Bethannie Books in 2018.

Jake Nash has left behind his home in London and his deteriorating relationship with Amanda his girlfriend, to take up a job as a trainee journalist with a small group of newspapers in the valleys of south Wales. His first story, a human-interest piece on a local homeless man, gets him noticed by more than just his work colleagues. He is then sent a press release inviting him to witness a so-called military exercise by a local half-baked Welsh Independence faction, which ends up damaging the local main rail link to Cardiff. Before long, he finds himself in the middle of an attempted kidnapping and unknowingly at the centre of an assassination attempt by a local deranged priest , which threatens the life of his ex-girlfriend.

At a little over 230 pages, barely the width of a proud Welsh leek, this is a short book. But if there’s one thing that springs to mind when reading this book, its that if James Herriot had been a journalist instead of a vet , this is the book he would have written.

With that, you get the sense that this is the start of Herriot-esque romp through the welsh valleys seen through the eyes of a young English hack, doing for Wales and its weird and wonderful characters, what the a fore mentioned Scottish vet did for Yorkshire and its animal lovers.

 

The book is an interesting read for anyone studying journalism who wants to get a feel for how life was, far removed from the bright lights of London and the ways of the alcohol fueled lives of the Fleet Street scribes. Even thought alcohol plays a part in the day to day lives of the Welsh journalists on the local paper, you do really get the feel that life has a more sedate pace down among the collieries and valleys of south Wales. You also have to consider the book is set in the late sixties, a million light years from the digitally driven  24/7 news we get shoveled into us these days.

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David Simmonds

As for the characters, they do come to life from the pages and I could really get the Welsh accent from Simmonds writing. Again, I get the feeling we haven’t really got to know them as well as we would in a stand-alone story, hence the feeling that this is the start of a series. If so, then I’ll definitely look forward to the others. Especially when you consider there is a developing romance between Jake and his colleague called Lotte, which would have been brought to some sort of conclusion if it were a one off story.

This English author David Simmonds first book. After leaving school he considered becoming a teacher , studying at the University of North Wales. He lasted six weeks then went to north America for a year before returning home to train as a journalist on local newspapers in south Wales, before working for most of his life as a reporter for BBC Wales. He now lives in Penarth, just outside Cardiff with his wife and their irascible cat “Mrs Grumpy”. When not running around after his three grandsons he can be found rowing the local river Taff.

Is the book as funny as it claims on the outside? Its humorous as well as an easy and enjoyable read. No, it’s not as laugh out loud funny as ‘All Creatures Great and Small’, but animals and their owners will always provide better material. So, if you are looking for a light and darkly comical journey through life of a young journalist in nineteen sixties Wales, download a copy or order it from your local bookshop.

Reviewed by Adrian Murphy

 

This book is part of a Random Things Blog Tour, to see what the other reviewers thought of it see poster below and go visit their sites. Then if you pick up a copy of the book, comeback and tell us what you thought after you’ve read it. We’d really appreciate the feed back.

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THERE IS NOTHING SOMBRE ABOUT FLINTS MIDLAND GATHERING

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midland cover imageIt’s only the end of January and you’ve probably already had your fill of family get togethers. Unless that is, you’re me. We missed out on our annual Christmas family get together this year as the arrival of my sister’s third baby got in the way but we do have another eleven months to correct that, to include: regular Sunday lunch at Mum’s and each of our houses, a Christening for my new nephew and a family wedding in London. I will hopefully try to get to see my wife’s parents, all four of them, at some stage of the year either in Lincolnshire or Nottinghamshire, The Sherwooder’s might come to Ireland too. As for a family a get together for all of them. it’s complicated as they say, but aren’t all families in some respect?

The author, Robert Brault, once said, ‘what greater blessing to give thanks for at a family gathering, than the family and the gathering...’ He’s obviously never been to a gathering of the family in this month’s third book review. The book is Midland by James Flint and published by Unbound (www.unbound.com) on the 24th January.

Alex Wold is a hard-nosed City of London stock trader, who sees the ‘soft’ Britain of 1918-1978 (from the end of the First World War to the rise of Thatcher) as ‘an anomaly’. Nevertheless, the book opens with Alex, perhaps dis-oriented by the imminent birth of his second child, plunging into the Thames to try to help a beached whale to find its way to sea. We soon learn that his extremely expensive suit was ruined in vain, and his reassurances to his son prove hollow, when the whale dies. Shortly after he hears of the death of his mother’s ex-husband Tony Nolan from a heart  attack.

Alex must now prepare to face both sides of the family, as the Nolans and the Wolds have had a difficult few years behind them, but maybe this is the ideal opportunity Alex has been looking for to lay the ghosts of the past.

The book centres on a ‘home-coming’ of two families who had grown up side-by-side. Now adults, they had been linked in many and complex ways but had been scattered for even more complex reasons. Tony was the father of one of the grown-up families. He is also the former husband of Margaret Wold, whose ‘children’ from her second marriage come home to give her some moral support. Tony has attracted some admirers from both families, and repelled others, with his dodgy but successful dealings in financial derivatives and his domineering personality.

Outdoor shot of funeral

Reuniting in their home town allows for the gradual re-emergence of old grudges, suppressed passions, friendships and suspicions. As readers, we are gradually let into some of the backstories of the two families

As the funeral comes closer, the plots multiply. We follow Tony’s hippie runaway son bumming his way around Caribbean beaches, until he gets enticed into a drug ring which is bigger than he can handle. But why did he leave in the first place?

We share the frustrations of another member of the Nolan clan, who sees herself as a serious journalist but is constantly put on trivial celebrity-watch. We feel her anger as she is undermined and bullied out of her job by her ambitious new assistant. There are also hints of a complex web of love affairs between the ‘children’ of the two families in the past, including a deep and sincere but incestuous relationship between half-siblings.

For me, these little sub-plots make the book worth-while and give flesh to the only slightly intriguing who-slept-with-who? mystery which drives the story towards the end.

Some of the sub-plots are not much more than throw-aways. One little half-page insight into the daily life of a trader concerns one of Alex Wold’s early experiences. He was worried by a news item about a possible Chinese invasion of Taiwan, where he has invested heavily in steel futures. An older hand says: ‘don’t worry, just check what rice is doing’. Alex checks, and finds ‘no movement’. The old hand replies ‘exactly – no war’. The logic was that Chinese leaders would know that an invasion of Taiwan would lead to foreign sanctions. If they planned to go to war, they would therefore be buying up and stockpiling foreign rice, leading to a rise in prices.

As the story goes on, the younger generation begin to learn the secrets of each other’s love-lives, mostly with each other.  What they find more shocking are the hints emerging about their parents’ love lives. As someone said of the 1960s: ‘every generation thinks they have invented sex and are disturbed when they find that their parents got there before them’.

The characters cover a wide range of English Midlands middle-class life. They are well rounded and avoid too many obvious stereotypes.

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James Flint

This is English author James Flints fourth book. His others are Habituis (1998), 52 Ways To Magic America (2002) and The book of Ash (2004) . Flint wrote Midland in installments and performed a chapter each year at the Port Eliot festival in St Germans in Cornwall. He started his working life as an apprenticeship  on the Times of India Newspaper in New Delhi, before going on to study Philosophy in Oxford.

Midland is a well-crafted tapestry of little vignettes, if I can mix my metaphors as freely as Flint mixes his story-lines. James Flint is a superb story-teller with a good eye for character.  One to watch. So get down to your local bookshop and order a copy, or download it to your e-reader.

 

Reviewed by Robin Hanan

 

This book review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour, below you’ll find a list of the other bloggers who reviewed it. Go visit their sites and see what they thought. Then once you’ve read the the book, go back and see if you agree and even you don’t leave a message saying why.

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6 LOVES, ONE QUESTION, DO I LOVE OR LOATHE BILLY BINNS

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billy binns coverI recently came across a television programme on Channel 4 in Britain called, ‘My Family Secrets Revealed’. It’s a kind of genealogical antiques roadshow, where people who have questions about their ancestry or have reached a roadblock in their own research meet with a team of experts to find out the information. Obviously, the show highlights the most colourful or surprising of stories but its fascinating how intriguing some of the lives of those we would consider ordinary might be.

With this in mind, I was looking forward to reading this months second book review, it’s  The Six Loves of Billy Binns, by Richard Lumsden. Published by Tinder Press (www.tinderpress.co.uk) on the 24th January.

The titular character Billy has lived for well over a century. He is now residing in an old people’s home in London. He decides to write down his memories and give them to his son. He feels he has been in love several times and would like to experience the feeling of love one last time before he dies. He starts to reminisce about the women he has loved in the past and through these memories we are taken on a journey through the history of the 20th century.

Born into a poor working-class family in London in 1900.  The story of his birth provides a mystery which carries through most of the book. We pass through his childhood and teenage years, getting to know him. Still underage to enlist, Billy never the less joins the army at the beginning of the Great War. We know this horrendous experience adversely affected a  generation of young men, and Billy’s experience, I felt defined him. The war and losses of friends clearly and unsurprisingly affect him. After his return home he adjusts the facts of the events to show himself in a better light and tries to move on with his life. Not a problem I thought, confession and breast beating would help no one. He meets a girl, a very fortuitous match, and falls in love. However, he then makes a series of choices that will affect the rest of his life.

I did struggle with this book, as I find it hard to read a story where I feel no sympathy or empathy with the main character and no more so than with Mr. Billy Binns. However, I pressed on, hoping that he would redeem himself and I could root for him once more. I shall not give away any further details of the plot and leave it to other readers to decide how they feel about Billy at the end of the story.

There is good and bad in all of us. I was left feeling that Billy is a flawed human who has experienced tragedy and bad luck, but that this is sometimes caused by his own stupidity and selfishness. Your interpretation and leanings to hero or villain will depend on your own internal compass. Its easy to be righteous from the comfort of your armchair. I’m sure most of our lives wouldn’t bear such scrutiny.

richard lumsden author picture

Richard Lumsden

This English actor, writer and composer Richard Lumsden’s (www.richardlumsden.com) first novel. He has worked in film, TV and theatre for over 30 years and has appeared in films such as Sense and Sensibility (1995), Sightseers (2012), Downhill (2014) and most recently Darkest Hour with Gary Oldman (2017). He was previously married to Emma Thompson’s sister the actress Sophie Thompson.

The Six Loves of Billy Binns was a moving and thought provoking read.  What will we do to preserve ourselves and for love? Life is full of what ifs? I found myself imagining different plot turns if Billy had chosen different options. I felt quite exasperated with him at some moments!

A man as old as the century was a good plot device. The historical references were well researched and I felt the love stories were anchored beautifully in each time. I had previously read, ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ by Rachel Joyce and ‘The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared’ by Jonas Jonasson and this I found was a similar style of read.

This is a book I’ll be recommending to friends and will reread. Persist and enjoy until the end. It stays in your head and it’s worth it. So head down to your local book shop, library or download a copy or an audio book and see whether you will stand with or against Mr Binns.

Reviewed by Georgina Murphy

 

This book review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour, to see what the other reviewers thought, go to their sites listed below. Then once you’ve read the book comeback and leave a comment stating whether you agree or disagree.

six lives of billy binns blog tour poster