PARRY’S STORY OF MEDICINE, MURDER AND ANAESTHESIA WON’T PUT YOU TO SLEEP!

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The Way of All FleshIts odd how things work out sometimes. My husband receives a steady selection of books to review for this literary blog and I browse the titles and the back-cover blurb, then if the book takes my fancy I volunteer my services as reader and reviewer. Simples…

With the fairly recent addition of blog tours, we have found some scheduling pressures, usually to do with fitting in our own personal reads along with book club commitments and therefore occasionally I am handed a book to review to be sure of meeting a deadline. Such was the case with this month’s first review for the Way Of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry published by Canon Gate (www.canongate.co.uk) on the 2nd May.

I didn’t read the accompanying press release but went straight into the story. A historical murder mystery, just my thing! As you might know from my previous reviews. The added twist here is that the history in this novel is that of surgery, midwifery and the use of anaesthetics. Anaesthesia is a special interest of mine, as I work as senior nurse in the anaesthesia department of University College Dublin’s Veterinary Teaching and Referral Hospital.

When I first started working as a Veterinary Nurse in the UK in the mid-eighties, the practice I trained and qualified in was undergoing transition from a mixed practice, covering the care of all species from domestic pets to farm animals to purely companion animal work. This was as a result of the retirement of the two senior partners, who were in their seventies at this stage. Being of a similar ilk to James Alfred Wright, who wrote the James Herriot novels, the practice was a treasure trove of antique equipment, chemist’s drawers, labelled with Latin names, apothecary jars and no end of ancient instruments which looked like they’d come from a torturer’s chamber. All sadly thrown away during refurbishments! When I watch salvage shows on TV I wince! Amongst these items, was a bottle of Ether and a Boyles bottle. I can remember being fascinated in how these worked and was duly impressed by our ‘modern’ anaesthetic machine and vaporiser.

The Way of All Flesh introduces us to Will Raven, a medical student who is starting an apprenticeship to the renowned Dr James Simpson. Will has his own secrets and problems, having endured poverty and hardship in a humble background he is trying hard to hide, even before finding the body of his friend, a prostitute, who has died under mysterious circumstances in her room. She had asked him for a loan shortly before her death and Will is now in serious debt to a moneylender. Not a happy predicament now, let alone in that era. His new employer’s parlour maid, Sarah, is initially suspicious of him .Sarah works in the doctors in house clinic and has an interest in medicine but she is frustrated in her ambition to use her capable brain by the  restrictions to both her sex and her station imposed in the Victorian period. When more bodies are found, Will and Sarah work together to find out who is responsible for the gruesome deaths, putting their positions and their lives in jeopardy.

The really interesting aspect of this book for me, was use the use of real case studies and historical figures. The descriptions of births and surgical procedures are sometimes stomach churning, such is the attention to medical detail, but fascinating. The story of the research into anaesthetic agents would seem at times absurd in its methodology, sniffing chemicals as after dinner entertainment to assess their efficacy and safety! Also the objections, both religious and ‘scientific’ to their use to ease patients distress, aid procedures and improve patient mortality statistics had echoes of the ‘anti-vaxxer’ propaganda seen both in Edward Jenners small pox vaccine introduction and in the Measles resurgence we are facing now.

Another important theme in this book, I felt was the subjugation of women and the lower classes. Sarah was a strong and sympathetic female lead here. There were to me, reminders of the film Mary Reilly, where we see the story of Jekyll and Hyde through the eyes of their maid, or to Albert Nobbs, where Glenn close has to disguise herself as a man to work as a butler at the Morrison Hotel in 19th century Dublin.

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Ambrose Parry (Chris Brookmyre & Marisa Haetzman)

This novel combines the expertise of Scottish author, Chris Brookmyre, and his wife, consultant anaesthetist Marisa Haetzman under the pseudonym Ambrose Parry. Chris is a multi-award winning novelist, his previous books include Quite Ugly One Morning (1996), Black Widow (2016) and Want You Gone (2017). They are based around investigative journalist, Jack Parlabane and counter terrorism officer, Angelique de Xavia. His books have won plaudits for their comedy, social comment, politics and strong narrative and earned him the slightly dubious appellation of ‘Tartan Noir’. It was Marisa’s research for her Master’s Degree in the History of Medicine, which uncovered much of the material on which The Way Of All The Flesh is based.

The story has plenty of twists and turns and despite the detailed descriptive passages, keeps up a good pace to a breathless climax and reveal. The description of Victorian life in medical circles, fine houses and the gritty alleyways is well drawn. Will and Sarah are an interesting duo and I look forward to the follow up novel, The Art Of Dying, due to be released later this year. I’m dying to read it, you could say…

Reviewed by Georgina Murphy

 

This book 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 and read it, please come back and tell us what you thought, we’d love to hear your feedback.

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RUBIN’S DEBUT IS A LIBERATION FROM OTHER FAR FETCHED ALT. HISTORY BOOKS

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Liberation SquareThis week, the Crystal Palace and Welsh International goalkeeper Wayne Hennessy was accused by a Football Association hearing of “lamentable” ignorance towards Fascism and Adolf Hitler. This came after he used the excuse that he didn’t know what a Nazi salute was. This thirty-year-old highly paid premier league footballer’s appearance before the tribunal came after images of him emerged last year, at a Crystal Palace team dinner, making what was construed as a Nazi salute.

There have been enough movies and video games made, as well as books published in the past three decades,(Schindler’s List, The Boy in The Stripped Pyjamas, Inglorious Bastards and Call Of Duty) to leave only someone living in a cultural vacum or a hermitage, in this position. Following the decision of the Football association conduct hearing which cleared the player, he was sent informative material by The Auschwitz Memorial about Fascism.

Mr Hennessy, like quite a large number of people in the UK and across Europe, lives a good life owing to the sacrifices made by their grandparents and hopefully will never experience the constraints of Fascism or even Socialism, except in the realms of video games or as alternative history story lines in TV programmes and books. One of those books is this month’s second review, its Liberation Square by Gareth Rubin, published by Michael Joseph (www.penguin.co.uk/company/publishers/michael-joseph.html) on the 18th April .

Its 1952, in a divided European country following the end of the second world war. But instead of hearing German accents as you travel around this place they are English … Yes, the D-Day landings failed and England is divided following a German invasion. The Democratic United Kingdom controlled by the Allies lies beyond a border stretching from Bristol to the Norfolk coast. Beneath that line, is the Soviet controlled Republic of Great Britain and inside it is London a city divided in two by a large wall.

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The Berlin Wall (StMU History Media)

In the Soviet controlled sector of the city Jane Cawson, a school teacher, suspects her doctor husband Nick is having an affair with his first wife, Lorelei an actress and star of numerous propaganda films. Jane goes to Lorelei’s house in the hope of confronting the two of them, but finds the former Mrs Cawson murdered in her bath. Nick is arrested on suspicion of murder and held by the brutal Secret Police.

Jane then starts trying to prove her husband’s innocence to get him released, she starts probing Nicks relationship with his former wife, why are there coded messages hidden in a book in Lorelei’s house. All the while trying to protect her step-daughter, as well as not arousing suspicion from the authorities and nosy neighbours  who are all too eager to tow the party line and curry favours. With the help of Tibbot, a middle-aged East End bobby, Jane starts to piece together the identity of Lorelei’s murderer and hopefully prove Nick’s innocence. But is he innocent? Was Lorelei consorting with the Allies and what does it have to do with her recent miscarriage…?

As alternative history driven plot lines go, this in the current climate is not too far from the truth. With Brexit looming over the United Kingdom, the country is divided and becoming even more fractured by the day.

Rubin’s book is superbly crafted and drives the imagination from the first page to its conclusion, with its Sliding Doors – “What If” scenario. Along the way it asks the reader to imagine what might have happened if the course of history had changed.

The description of the remnants of war-torn London and the citizens trying get by under a brutal socialist regime are thought provoking and envelopes the reader into the story with every turn of the page. The historical nuances are superb, especially when you have Jane coming up against the likes of Burgess and Blunt and other members of the Cambridge five spy ring, who in this story have been exalted into running the country for their soviet bosses, as a reward for their cowardice and betrayal.

As for the characters, Jane is an excellent heroine, whose simplicity allows her to be believable and sets her apart from the all too often, highly skilled, super spy protagonist you expect to find in these types of books. She’s a school teacher, in well over her head, but allowed to follow the course of her investigations by the assistance of some other remarkably drawn characters, such as Tibbot the police officer working up to his retirement and the cagey and mysterious Charles, Nicks practice manager. Not forgetting the other host of run of the mill cockney characters and party hangers on and apparatchiks who help drive the story forward, as well as making it as wholly believable as it.

This is English Author Gareth Rubin’s (http://gr8502.wixsite.com) first

Gareth Rubin

Gareth Rubin

novel, he’s written one previous book, an anthology of mistakes which have changed the course of British history, called The Great Cat Massacre A History of Britain in One Hundred Mistakes (2014). He’s journalist also a covering social affair, travel and the arts for various newspapers. In 2013 he directed a documentary about therapeutic art at The Royal Bethlehem Hospital in London, otherwise known as ‘Bedlam’.

Liberation Square asks the unthinkable; what if for example Alan Turing and his secret team at Bletchley hadn’t broken the Enigma machine or Churchill’s government hadn’t found enough little boats to Sail twelve miles across the channel to rescue the Allies from Dunkirk? It makes the reader realize how much of what happened during that time in history is down to coincidences and a stroke of luck, as well as how easily things could have gone awry. If things had happened as in this book, where would the likes of Wayne Hennessy be now? Would they have been even born?

So if you are looking for deeply engrossing debut thriller, to read over the Easter break, which will make you think twice about how good your life is now, then get down to your local book shop or download a copy.

Reviewed by Adrian Murphy

 

This book part of a Penguin Books blog tour, to see what the other reviewers thought. Visit their blogs listed below and if you pick up a copy, comeback and tell us what you thought. We’d love the 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.

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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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YOU’LL BE DYING TO READ TUOMAINEN’S LATEST AND WILL LAY IT TO REST WITH SMILE ON YOUR FACE

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The Man Who Died CvrAccording to the poet James Shirley, “There is no armour against fate….”  It’s only really in science fiction series like Dr. Who, for example, as we witnessed again over the festive period, can the main character regenerate. Certain religions such as Buddhists, Sikh’s and Hindu’s believe in re-incarnation. In reality most of us feel that death is the final act and as I write this piece there are people in hospital wards or at home for whom that final act is quite close, or who have been told that is a lot closer than they might have hoped.  This brings us on to  the second this month, its The Man Who Died by Antti Tuomainen, published by Orenda Books (www.orendabooks.co.uk )  in November 2017.

Jaako Kaunisma is a successful businessman who along with his wife Tainia runs a leading Finnish Mushroom export company. That is, until one day, his doctor tells the 37-year-old he is dying. He is being poisoned to be exact, by a naturally occurring substance. What would most people, me included do in situation like this? Probably become inconsolable and a blubbering mess. Not our Jaako. He immediately sets out to find the perpetrator and soon the list starts to grow, beginning with his wife who he discovers is having an affair with one of the company’s young pickers. Then a second mushroom export company sets up shop just down the street, run by three nefarious brothers, with strangely brand-new top of the range equipment and connections with Jaako’s Japanese customers. When the brothers catch Jaako on CCTV wandering around their factory and subsequently a prized samurai sword goes missing, the police get involved. Jaako suddenly finds himself trying to stay one step ahead the police along with the three heavy handed brothers, while all the while attempting to track down his killer and deal with the side effects of the poison in his system. Will he save his marriage and or find the killer before the grim reaper comes calling?

When the main character of the book is told in the first chapter that he is terminally ill, you don’t really expect much from them. Utter shock maybe followed by a melancholy review of his life. What you get from Antti Tuomainen’s book is curve ball straight out of left field, that smacks you right between the eyes and takes you on one of the better reads of the year. As well as a lead character in Jaako who is atypical to the normal reaction to this type of event.

Tuomainen walks a fine line in this book, showing respect in trying to deal with the very difficult subject of death and blowing the normal out of the water with a humorous feel good read. It is packed with dark and irreverent humour that laughs in the face of death. At times it did feel slightly farcical, but Antti keeps it on the right side of believable humour, as well as maintaining a deeply engrossing thriller.

I loved the skilled way in which he places hero Jaako in tricky if not sometimes deadly situations while on his one man quest to discover the identity of his poisoner and has him get out of the various scrapes by some weird twist of fate, which usually leaves someone else far worse off. No more so, than when coming up against the three brothers who mysteriously set up in competition to him a couple of doors away on the same road in the same small town. Also the dinner scene near the end when his wife and her lover get their comeuppance is hilarious for its descriptive style alone.

As well as that considering some of Jaako’s eating habits, in an attempt to keep his failing

Jason statham -Crank

Jason Statham – Crank

body stocked full of energy and the things he did to stay alive, brought back memories of Jason Statham’s ‘Crank’ series of films. Statham’s character has an hour to  get his heart back from drug lords, while it has been replaced by a commercial battery,  he must keep it charged up to give  him energy as he fights his way across LA. This involves  connecting himself to a car battery and getting amorous with total strangers.

This is Finnish Author Antti Tuomainen’s (www.anttituomainen.com) fourth book and in doing so is a departure from his previous three deeply dark thrillers which include. The Healer (2013), Dark As My Heart (2013) and The Mine (2016). He was a successful copywriter when he started writing in 2007 and has won numerous awards both in his homeland and Internationally for his writing.

The only real down side, is the ending and the discovery of the killer, the reason for the poisoning is a rather damp squib, considering what Jaako has been through to find out their identity.

Antti Toumainen

Antti Toumainen

So if you are looking for a an engaging and light-hearted thriller to brighten up the dark winter evenings over the Christmas period or into the early days of 2018, get on your bike to the local book shop or download it.

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This is our last post of 2017, I’d like to take this opportunity from everyone at The Library Door to wish all our followers a Happy and Prosperous New Year and hope you have enjoyed our reviews this year. Thanks again to the Authors and Publishers (especially Karen O’Sullivan at Orenda) who supplied us with books and we look forward to more in the new year.

If you are an author or publisher and would like to send us an Advance Review Copy, please don’t hesitate to contact us through the site or on twitter at @apaulmurphy .

Adrian Murphy – Bray, Ireland, December  2017

DON’T BE LEFT IN THE DARK BY MISSING BOOTH’S 17TH COOPER & FRY BOOK.

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dead in drk cvrBorn in Loscoe, Derbyshire, I was raised as an inner city child in Nottingham. Like my ancestors did, I escaped the noise and grime of industrial city life to the fresh air and space of the Peak District national park regularly. Initially on family days out and caravan holidays to the ‘White peak’ and later in my teens on camping and hiking weekends to the northern end of the park, known as the Dark Peak.

The White and Dark refer to differences in the geology of the regions but the author of this months book  casts a dark shadow over the county, even to those of us who might be lulled into a false sense of security by childhood memories, its Dead In The Dark by Stephen Booth, published by Sphere (www.littlebrown.co.uk/sphere) in July 2017.

‘Dead in the Dark’ is the latest novel featuring Ben Cooper and Diane Fry and the seventeenth in Booth’s series, which includes ‘Dancing With The Virgins’  (which won the CWA Gold Dagger in 2001) , ‘Blood On The Tongue’, ‘Scared To Live’, ‘Lost River’ and the 16th was ‘Secrets of Death’ in (2016). ‘Dead In The Dark’ was this reviewers introduction to his work and whilst I was able to enjoy it as stand alone story, it has inspired me to go back to the beginning with ‘Black Dog’ and start to read my way through the long list between their debut and the current story.

Stephen Booth

Stephen Booth

Stephen Booth (www.stephen-booth.com) was born in Lancashire, lived in Yorkshire and now in Nottinghamshire but although he worked on a Derbyshire newspaper, apparently never lived in Derbyshire. Despite this the locations are accurate and perfectly described. I had presumed he lived there and had a farming background. I loved the descriptions of the countryside and was more on Cooper’s side than Diane’s in relation to the attractions of rural life. Stephen Booth has worked as journalist on various midland newspapers, on the Farming Guardian and as a specialist rugby writer on national papers. He also developed an interest in farming, breeding goats. All these aspects of his experience come together in the books. They say you should write about what you know and Stephen certainly knows his stuff.

 
The two main characters in this and his other novels are an interesting duo. Ben Cooper is a local man. His dad was a policeman before him and his brother farms the family farm. Diane Fry is an urbanite, raised in foster care, she moved to Derbyshire to improve her chances of promotion and escape traumatic memories. In most detective novels, detective partnerships the two participants are unevenly matched, in that one is the lead and the other is the one who can’t put the clues together but is loyal and comes to the aid of the lead when required. The duo get on well, the senior explaining things (to the readers benefit) to the junior. Often, I’ve found there’s a difficult relationship with staff higher up the chain of command to allow the duo to challenge authority. Well, while this may be the pattern for many of the most successful crime dramas it’s not the case here! Cooper and Fry are vastly different in their approach and outlook but are often forced to join forces and solve crimes together. From the outset they seem to misunderstand and dislike each other. Fry is logic and protocol driven, whilst Cooper understands people and their motivations. He will often equate a person he meets in the line of enquiries to someone he knows. As Miss Marple pointed out, if you know the people in your village, you know people everywhere.

 
In ‘Dead in the Dark’, Cooper and Fry are more separate. Diane Fry has moved up to the Major Crime unit, whilst Detective Inspector Cooper remains in Bakewell and their paths cross less often. However, Diane Fry is called to Chesterfield to a death which might have links to an operation looking into slave trafficking and Ben Cooper is juggling a cold case and a series of robberies. They meet and exchange cold pleasantries. One of them has a body but no suspects and the other has a suspect but no body. Will the paths of their investigations cross again?
I will say that the only negative comment I have in relation to the books are that so far in my experience there seems to be a brutal animal scene in each book. In some instances, I haven’t felt this adds anything to the plot or to my understanding of characters. It would prevent me recommending them wholeheartedly to some friends. Maybe I’m a little squeamish but I have read that where authors have animal cruelty in their books it loses them readers so maybe it’s not just me?

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A TV series based on the novels has been commissioned and is in development. I hope it is filmed in the glorious Peak District. As I plan to read the rest of the books before watching it. I won’t let the darkness of the novels put me off. I still feel safe and at home walking the hills and introducing the wonders of the National Park to my husband.

Reviewed by:  Georgina Murphy

GOING OFF SCRIPT PROVES THE BIGGEST FLAW IN WESOLOWSKI’S STORIES

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Sixstry CvrThe British Isles and Ireland are pockmarked with moorland and bogs, from as far south as Dartmoor to the Yorkshire Dales, Rannoch Moor in Scotland and The Burren in the West of Ireland. All through history, as well as in literature, these vast tracts of desolate land have fascinated us. Whether it’s as the roaming area of the fabled Hound of the Baskervilles in Sherlock Holmes, the setting for a doomed love affair between Cathy and Heathcliff on the Yorkshire moors, the hunting grounds of the reputed beasts of Bodmin Moor or as burial grounds for the Saddleworth Moors victims,the moorlands of Britain and Ireland are notorious for their role in the darker side of life and literature. So they are a great setting for this month’s book. Its “Six Stories” by Matt Wesolowski, published by Orenda Books (www.orendabooks.com) at the end of March.

The book follows a collection of interviews between Scott King, a mysterious investigative journalist, who regularly posts examinations of complicated cases online via Podcasts. This series is called “Six Stories” – in it Scott is looking back over the events surrounding the discovery of a body on Scarclaw Fell in 1997. The body is that of Tom Jeffers, who disappeared from an outdoor adventure centre on the Fell while on a weekend away with an inner-city youth group. No one was ever found guilty of his murder in a court of law but the media had a good go at pinning the blame on various people. The interviews are with members of the youth group and locals who he’s managed to track down ten years later and, who are willing to talk. As the tagline on the cover states, one death six stories, which one is true…

From the front cover to the blurb on the back, everything about this book shouts, Read Me!!! Along with promising a great thriller inside but then you open the book and basically you realise you are reading the transcript of a radio documentary / podcast.

Being a confident public speaker and actor who has trodden the boards in amateur drama, I was able to get over this obstacle by reading aloud and putting my own accents and inflections into the characters, although – this limited me to places I could read the book, thus reading while I was commuting was a no-no.

Alistair Cooke speaks at taping of his 2000th program 'Letter From America' at the British Broadcasting Company's Manhattan studio

Alastair Cooke

I love radio documentaries, In Ireland there is the “Doc on One” which is broadcast weekly on RTE radio – Ireland’s national broadcaster – and has won numerous awards, both in Ireland and abroad. The idea for the Six Stories was inspired by the real-life podcast phenomena “Serial”.  But could I see myself reading the transcripts of either of these shows… No, why?!

Now I grew up listening to Alistair Cooke’s “Letter from America” which was broadcast on BBC Radio Four from 1946 up until his death in 2004. Cooke wasn’t just a radio journalist but also a print journalist and author of over twenty books. Eleven were his “Letter from America” ,which were the transcripts of said broadcast. The difference between Six Stories and Alistair Cooke’s The Americans’, was that they weren’t broadcast like a radio show, but like a letter or a newspaper column, hence the ease with which I took to Cooke’s books.

This doesn’t take away from Six Stories, despite the style of writing which may put some people off… The mystery at the heart of the story intrigues the reader and keeps you turning the pages until the very end when the killer punch surrounding the mystery is delivered.

This is Newcastle – Upon – Tyne native Matt Wesolowski’s first novel, but not his first

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Alex Wesolowski

book. His first novella The Black Land, a murder mystery set on the Northumberland coast was published in 2013 and his second novella set in Sweden will be published shortly. He started writing horror stories for various publications and anthologies, then in 2015 he won the Pitch Perfect Bloody Scotland competition. He is currently working on his second novel Ashes.

 

This book has been hailed in some quarters as a new departure in thriller writing, but it didn’t really work for me because it’s biggest flaw, was this new departure, which placed it in the wrong media. It will make a better Audio book than it has a printed one. Even then it may struggle to hold its audience.

If this was made into a radio drama it would be one of the best and darkest programmes out there and ripe for a TV adaptation.

So, if you are looking for a new thriller writer and can overcome the unusual writing style of this book, then download it or hike down to your local bookshop and pick up a copy.