VINE’S DEBUT DALI-ANCE WITH FICTION HAS ME LOVED AND ENLIGHTENED

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It’s often said that you should never meet your heroes, as you’ll be disappointed. Because when you do, you’ll find their guard is down and their stage persona offline and so you will undoubtedly discover they are just like you and me, spilling things down their front, slurping their tea, picking their nose or teeth in public, etc, etc. I’ve met a few famous people in my time, namely in my work as a film extra in the past. Its rare that I’ve had the opportunity to meet celeb’s in a personal capacity; but the above applies when I have (excluding the nose picking, but you get my point).

Another thing I have never done and is part of a large list, which I keep trying to shorten, especially having hit my half century this year, is visit Glasgow. If I had, I would have probably gone to its main art museum The Kelvingrove to see among other things its pride and joy, a Dali painting. I’ve seen the Caravaggio in Dublin, the Nightwatch in Amsterdam and David in Florence.  While I used to have a poster of Dali’s, The Temptation of St Anthony on my bedroom wall when I was in my teens. Dali’s surrealism and the weird things he did with animals and clocks amused me. This month’s first book review, is centred around the great man’s painting, Christ Of St John Of The Cross. The book is The Diver and The Lover by Jeremy Vine and published by Coronet an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton (www.hodder.co.uk) in September.

Its 1951, Ginny and Meredith, two sisters from Hull, travel to Spain to help Meredith recover from a terrible trauma. They run into the famous American stuntman, Russell Saunders in their hotel. He’s there to work with Local resident and surrealist painter Salvador Dali with his latest project. But, tensions have arisen between the two men and their PR representative, a fiery red headed Irish woman, called Siobhan Lynch is desperate to save this very lucrative arrangement for her bosses back in London and push on with her plan of taking control of the Dali account. With Saunders refusing to work with Dali and time running out, Ginny and Meredith witness what appears to be the suicide of a member of the hotel staff off nearby cliffs, only to discover he’s Adam, a keen diver. The sisters along with Siobhan, hatch a plan to save the deal, wherein  Adam takes Saunders place as a body double for Dali’s masterpiece, with Saunders taking all the credit. Meanwhile, Ginny and Adam have fallen in love, but Siobhan also has feelings for the Canadian. Can the quartet work together, against Dali’s eccentricities and with the backdrop of the ever growing divisions between the locals and Franco and the rumblings of Civil War….

Like most books I accept for these blog tours, I rarely read the blurb on the back and literally like Adam, I dive right in and see where it takes me. I knew nothing of Dali’s Christ Of St. John Of The Cross and that it was hanging in Glasgow or the history behind it’s conception and what Saunders had to endure so Dali could get what he wanted. Along with the outcry which came with the Museums purchase.

Christ Of St. John Of The Cross (Glasgowlive.co.uk)

What I got, was a thoroughly enjoyable read from start to finish. I had seen mixed reviews from other bloggers and my own wife had baulked at reading it when it arrived in the post. Now that I’ve finished, I feel enlightened and delighted to discover the back story of this amazing piece of work.

Vine has a lovely easy going style about his writing, which is similar to his style of radio presentation (something I experience regular listening to him from here in Dublin and on our regular trips to visit family in the UK) which allows him to tell a story with just enough drama, humour and suspense. Not forgetting, adding a healthy and rich mix of romance into the tale too. The four main characters are full bodied and well drawn, while there there is a Rainman-esque sort of relationship between Ginny and Meredith. As for the real characters, Dali and Saunders, there is a lot of research visible by Vine into the artist’s home and character. I had a feeling of Dali’s acting like Willie Wonka as he shows the quartet around his villa in  Port Lligat and down to his subterranean studio. Vine has done a great job to bring out the artists eccentric qualities. While Saunders is a support cast member, he does provide some great heroic interludes, as well as being the inspiration for the story too.

Jeremy Vine (BBC.co.uk)

This is English author, broadcaster and journalist Jeremy Vine’s (@thejeremyvine) first novel, he’s previously published two books of non-fiction ‘Its All News To Me’ (2013) and ‘What I Learnt: What My Listeners Say’ (2017). He currently presents The Jeremy Vine Show on BBC radio 2 and in 2018 took over presenting the UK’s  Channel 5’s The Right Stuff, now called Jeremy Vine. He lives in Chiswick, with his wife and two daughters.

If there was a downside to the book, I thought it was a bit drawn out at the end, but apart from that it was an amazing experience and a fantastic read. With my choice for a book group read coming up in four weeks’ time, I think I may have found another contender. A difficult choice ahead, me thinks.

So if like me, you are fascinated by Dali’s work and the eccentric life of this great painter, but also want to discover more about the history of this little known work, Then you’ll enjoy this story. So download or purchase a hardcopy, throw yourself onto the couch, and with Covid restrictions still in place, visit Spain through Vine’s eyes. Then, like me, plan a trip to Glasgow for next year (fingers crossed).

Reviewed by Adrian Murphy

This review is part of a blog tour Organised by Hodder & Stoughton, to see what the other reviwers thought, visit their sites listed below. Then if you get a copy comeback and tell us what you think, we’d really appreciate the feedback.

BURNING QUESTIONS DEFTLY RESOLVED IN SHINDLER’S DEBUT

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

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

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

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

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

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Will Shindler

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

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

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

 

 

 

Reviewed by : Georgina Murphy

 

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

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